Monday, April 30, 2012


Karen caught me up the ladder as I began decorating the totem. My thought was to get the high parts done and get things started before the gang arrives.

And, I took another last look around the yard, knowing I’ll be missing all the green of this spectacular spring, and my flowers.

Last minute chores and packing is my agenda for today. Have to get everything off this computer that I will need in the Motor Home computer and hope I don’t forget anything crucial. See ya down the road.

Beauty is its own excuse for being.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Flowers are equivalent to stars, as beautiful but earthly. The heavy rains brought bounteous blossoms, and leaves, too. Like this strawberry. The blossoms tell of the delicious fruits I’ll miss. Yesterday, while pulling weeds, Karen and I got the last of the asparagus hiding  in the weeds.  We ate the spears raw while we rested.

Red valerian, easy to grow, any soil, pot or in the ground.

Iris blooms the size of softballs.

At one time I had about 50 different varieties. Not all bloom at the same time.

Two days ago, this azalea had zero blooms.

Spiraea, too, has larger flower heads than usual.

The only Rhododendron I have left after moving them away from an ancient oak that didn’t like the water during warm weather. The others didn’t survive, but the majestic oak will live on to shade another generation or two.  (Several oak species die a slow death if watered in the summer.)

The bleeding heart and lily of the valley, along with a few others sit potted beneath the oak. This is the first time since I’ve  been ramblin’ that I’ve seen my daffodils in full bloom, my lilacs, cyclamens, honey suckle  and other stars of the earth. I do miss my garden when I’m on the road.  I enjoy other people’s gardens and public gardens I’d never see from home. It’s a good mix of two lifestyles.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


After heavy rains, I couldn’t mow or have weed eating finished. Had my guys repair fences and remove a huge spread of blackberry bushes around the property. They chipped away at a couple of old stumps I’m always running into. I like things to be ship-shape when I leave, but the maintenance here is heavy.
I caught up on the inevitable paperwork inside, while they worked outside.   Time to play picture roulette and see what comes up in my files.

A big hole in the ground.

My daughter and grandson in a haze of smoke around the campfire.

Not sure why I took a picture of this barn in Monroe, Washington. Maybe because the silo looked like a space ship.  I do like old barns, but, I think I’ll toss this one out of my files.

Sexy shoe?  Now, that’s more like it.

I grabbed this from a story about this famous painting having been recovered after many years of being “disappeared.”

The gate to an animal sanctuary. Just read a horrible story of the abuse elephants suffer. This, after an elephant shocked by an electric fence turned on her new rescuer and killed her. If it were up to me, no animals would be allowed to be used in side shows and circuses for profit. It all too often ends up in horrible misery for the animals. In fact, this recent episode about the abused elephant was that she was being cared for and calmed before being sent to this very sanctuary here in Calaveras County.

A Matt Bors cartoon. Whoops, hadn’t thought of anything political for a whole day. Well, it is pretty funny.

Another shoe picture.  Well, with that, I’d best hot foot it into the kitchen and get my house spruced up before I leave.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Yesterday was a long drive and a long day. I had an appointment in Modesto, a one hour and 30 minute drive,  with an Implant Periodontist, which is a dental specialist. But, before my appointment, I wanted to do two things in the city that I cannot do in Murphys. Go to an Apple Store and get help with my Ipod and go to an AT&T Store and get help with my new  phone.  Does the picture above look like a store?

It didn’t look like one to me, either. I learned you are supposed to go on-line and make an appointment. That’s a novel idea. I guess it makes sense, since I needed help, not a device. The walls are filled with items for sale, though.  I waited at this table with others who had appointments. They fit me in.

Jason was very nice and patient. He re-registered my device and saved my music. According to the woman I waited with, she comes down with 10 things on a list she wants to learn on her Ipod and they give her a lesson and she takes notes. Then, she returns with a new list until she gets it. If you live close to an Apple Store, that works.
No one pressured me into buying anything, but I did buy a charger.  And you can see, out came a drawer to make change. It actually is a store.
I got to my dental appointment, but didn’t make it to the phone store. I learned you must have an appointment for your phone, too.  I then drove on another 78 miles  to Oakland to meet my property manager and looked over my rental to see what work needs to be done.

It was pretty dirty, but I was glad I made the trip. Haven’t been there in several years. Decided to do away with the wallpaper. Looked on-line how to do faux bellagio, an Italian wall design.  Returned home by 7:00 p.m. for a late dinner. Phone has to wait for another time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


At Dinner, last night, with neighbors, the pictures of my friends turned out faded and mushy. This camera troubles me because my habit is to always take pictures without flash whenever I can. I’ve determined it does not do as well in low light conditions as the previous camera of the same  make and model?  When I used the flash on the cats, the pictures turned out  fine.

Suzy has bengals and one stole Jan’s keys off the counter and the cats examined them thoroughly, no doubt looking for a robotic mouse.

Then Shane decided to fish an ice-cube out of Jan’s glass.

She came close, but didn’t get it.  Honestly, we did have a great deal of party conversation before we became fascinated with the antics of the cats, including talk about our “famous” meteorite. It was quite a sensational event in our little corner of the world. A good article about the size and type and rarity of this meteorite was sent to me and can be read at this address:

Ron made a gigantic, man-sized meatloaf.  The picture didn’t turn out either, but it tasted good. I think he is planning to eat meatloaf for the next two weeks or maybe feed it to the horses.
I’m counting the days before I head back to the Motor Home and the life of a perpetual tourist.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Yesterday acted like rain.  The sun poked through late in the day. I walked to a neighbor’s for an early dinner and a board game, RummiKub.  All the talk surrounded the van sized meteorite that broke the sound barrier with a loud boom, then split into three pieces and fell to earth in a smoking fireball.  It was visible from Lake Tahoe to Turlock.  It was strange, it didn’t feel like an earthquake, it was just LOUD. I was inside and didn’t see it when it happened at about 8:00 a.m.   Its been three days ago and people are still looking for pieces of it in their yards.

Before the event,  Karen’s cat did some strange machinations, pulling open my screen door and whisking into the house.  Cheyenne, my host’s dog, is very sensitive and barked at “nothing.”   She does tricks on demand. Brian places a piece of dog food on her nose and when given the signal, she tosses it in the air and catches it in her mouth. She loves it when she gets to catch hot dogs.

When I worked as a feature writer many years ago, I loved doing pieces on men who cooked. It seemed they were few and far between, then. Now, most men like to try their hand at something. Brian outdid himself, with an eggplant parmesan sauce for spaghetti, and a salad.

But, the molded butters blew me away. Men who cook rarely achieve such fancy perfection. It was a wonderful dinner and such a treat as I wind down my home projects and get ready to return to my other life in the Motor Home. Brian beat me at two games of RummiKub.

This frog plate was full of  hors d’oeuvres when I arrived. It was so beautiful I couldn’t resist putting it in my camera to take home. I walked home through a star filled night. It was so dark I could barely find my driveway, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. It is a treat to live where light doesn’t pollute the night skies. Besides,  I was hoping to see  a meteorite.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I just happen to have an extra telephone pole hanging around at my rental which is near my house.  I had a new pole installed to operate the well, but the contractor didn’t remove the old pole. I  caught this freesia in bloom hiding among the grasses, but, I got so excited I completely forgot to take  pictures  as the new contractor cut it down and brought it to my house.

They trimmed it to twenty feet.

Dug a five foot deep hole.

And put it in the ground. It stands fifteen feet high and is ready to be transformed into a totem.  Today, I’ll start some preliminary decorating, just to see how it works out. The purpose is for a fun project at our family and friends reunion in July.

I was inspired by this totem put up by a local club in the neighborhood called The Barnies”.  They charge themselves an initiation fee to join. The money goes to keep the barn maintained in good shape, and pay the power and to use it as a meeting place  for a once a month pot luck. They invite a musician into play, barbeque, play bocce. In other words, just have fun.

the totem was one of their fun projects. Anything goes.

I’m posting this so everyone will bring their junk and we will find a way to get it on the totem. Jan will do a rain dance, no doubt. It will get well christened. We still like to flume, and play horseshoes and bocce, but for some of us, a new piece of art is just the right touch.

I hope you agree and get inspired by The Barnies  creation as I was.

You’ll have to admit it is a fun way to recycle.

Monday, April 23, 2012


What is fairly common knowledge is that beef cows, because we raise them by the gazillions, and raise mega amounts of grain and hay that need chemicals to grow  to feed them, and pump them full of steroids and antibiotics that affect the chain of healthful medicines, and increase cancer in humans, while they release methane gas enough to become a planetary problem, and everyone closes their eyes to how they are treated and killed, and a new law pushed through the quiet of the night makes it against the law to secretly video tape farm and other animal cruelty and expose them, and kids think meat  comes from a plastic tray,  and if the farmer grazes them near bluffs or rivers, they erode banks and…shoot.  It isn’t  the cow’s fault they are such a problem and everyone loves hamburgers.
But, an encouraging  piece in the Natural Resources Defense Council Magazine, Onearth has a blueprint for an agricultural revolution and a better burger.
Instead of stuffing cattle in feedlots, stuffing them full of expensive corn, grabbing calves away from their  mothers, hot-iron branding them, vaccinating, castrating, and dehorning them before shipping them off to  slaughter house, why not raise them on grass?
Back in 2003, a few contrarian farmers were doing just that and claiming they had better tasting beef. Will Winter and Todd Churchill decided to find out if it was true. They sampled grass-fed beef, some of it was inedible, and some of it was excellent.
Winter and Churchill have worked with companies that raise grass-fed beef, a sustainable farming practice,  that is profitable and growing. What they learned is that cattle are like teens at a buffet table. They only want to eat what tastes good. They wander all over the pasture and eat selectively. Shifting to grass-fed farming  is successful and tastier by rotational grazing.  A new kind of polywire  movable  fencing, allows farmers to force the cattle to graze  two-thirds of available forage, where they get a higher sugar content in the mix of grass species. Then, they up and move them to another fenced acreage.
Churchill now runs the Thousand Hills Cattle Co. in Minnesota. Theo Weening  who carries grass fed beef in all of his Whole Food Stores says the demand for it is growing.
You raise more beef, on less land, without chemicals. It turns  corn ravaged land into better habitat, promotes human health, humanizes farming, and produces a guilt-free steak.
Jim and I like a once-a-year hamburger. I occasionally cave in to a pot roast and some summer tri-tip.  Now we can do it without the guilt.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


The current issue of Smithsonian Magazine pointed out some of the wonders of discovery since the first Earth Day in 1970. Not all of them were negative. Ocean placed wind farms aren’t as damaging as many environmentalists thought they would be.  Birds are not as threatened and habitat for ocean creatures has improved under the platforms.
On the other hand, bio-fuels have turned out to be more damaging than not. Mainly because preparing them releases more methane than the burning oil would have.
And, several new and exciting species were found, an Australian dolphin, a neon gecko and several species of mice.  We think we have seen every living creature and it kind of amazes me that we have not.
Global warming has already caused food prices to increase and, that will likely get worse. Habitat loss for penguins, polar bears and smaller creatures is a difficult problem to solve, and it may be unsolvable in the end. The oceans are in bigger trouble than anyone thought possible.  And, eating meat warms the planet. Hmm. Now, that is something I personally wrangle with. More on that tomorrow.
A great result on bee colony collapse. Scientists now know with solid proof that colony collapse is caused by pesticides. And some positive progress on white nose bat syndrome fungus. The fungus is identified, it is better understood and now scientists are working diligently on a cure.
Did you know that some of our elected officials do not believe in science?  And that some religions and fanatical groups refute science. They are called Flat Earthers.  Science was always my favorite subject in school and my youngest daughter and son-in-law are both scientists and I love bragging about them.  So, if you like science, Smithsonian has a list of wonderful blogs you might like. This is only a partial list and I haven’t visited many of them:  I picked them because they sounded intriguing.
Skepcheck—Cocktail Party Physics—Real Climate—Science Made Cool—Geeks Are Sexy—Extinction Countdown—13.7: Cosmos And Culture.
And one of Smithsonian’s blogs:   Food And Think.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


My good friend Randy has challenged me to come up with some possible solutions to how we can fix some of our society’s ills.  That is a tall order, but I do have some thoughts on the subject.

It’s interesting that Colonial Africa, settled by the Dutch, and Colonial America, settled by the English, were defining how their countries would turn out at about the same time in history. The differences are startling. The Dutch government sent colonists to exploit and do business in African countries. The English came for freedom from oppression and freedom of religion to America. In African countries  the vastness of the continent and the difficulty for communities to communicate prevented social change.  No press.  American Colonists had an active free press from the very beginning.

Keeping the press honest, transparent, and full of truth or consequences,  would go a long way to help our democracy return to its better past.  Our so-called free press serves as such, inadequately, in small pockets, to this day.  For the most part, corporate interests decide what we read in our newspapers and news magazines, and what is dispensed to us as news on television.

You and I can do something about it. The first step is to  keep the internet open and free. Frequent attempts are made to regulate and change it. Adamantly resist, and spread the word to everyone you communicate with to do the same. Don’t concede to any tinkering no matter how small. It is the last bastion of free speech in the world. The internet is a predominant tool for change and must be protected against corporate dominance  and government intervention.

But back to the television and newspapers.  We now have a new growth industry in the media called Dirty Politics as in the Supreme Court Decision of 2010 that allowed for unlimited spending on elections.  For the best interests of we the people, the Federal Communications Commission is supposed to regulate the  public airways. In my opinion they’ve always done a poor job. But, if everyone got on their website at and filed a complaint, and pressed your current legislator to support clean communications, your voice in great numbers can leverage change. For instance, right now, the FCC has proposed a rule to identify Super Pac donors on the air or in print WITH the ad. Guess who is fighting it and sending their representatives and lobbyists to the FCC in droves?

Here is a partial list:  NBC, ABC, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Politica…and television station owners like owners of ESPN, Comcast, Gannet News, Belo (owners of 20 TV Stations.  Shocking, isn’t it?  They don’t want to give up all that juicy money.

And another thing you can do, is constantly harangue the FCC and your current legislators to provide a free election channel. That would stop much of the talking money instantly. Almost every industrialized nation has a free election channel. Here is how I harangue them.  Whenever I get a solicitation from a national candidate for money, I return the envelope with these words, or tell the caller to deliver this message: “When you (or your candidate) sponsor a bill insisting the Federal Communications System designate a national channel dedicated for elections, I’ll send you a donation. “These are public airways. We own them, not the corporations who now control them.”  Guess who has the money to buy our congresspersons on that issue?

And the 9th US Circuit court just ruled that Public Broadcasting (radio and tv) can air political ads. Brazen corruption of the purpose of public broadcasting's non profit position.

The best way, is to put your faith in non-profit organizations who tackle issues one by one, community by community. For a free press  try Public Citizen, Common Cause, The Sunlight Foundation,, Propublica, New America. These companies are fighting for transparency in political ads. Many of these non-profits have to fight our government to force them to obey the laws they have passed. A shame, isn’t it.

And, stay active in your community. In fact, this issue just happened in my neighboring Tuolumne County. Because of corporate money meddling in our government, a board member proposed that the county pass a law that any newspaper ads, or television ads that aired in their county, have to have the names of those who paid for the ad in large enough print to be read while the ad played. It was called the Transparency In Government Act. It failed on a two to three vote. People really have power at the voting booth, in your own community on local issues. You can vote out those who opposed it and publicize those that don’t want transparency in government by putting up signs, letters to your editor and by internet, or joining a group.

Each one of us can do something.

Friday, April 20, 2012


PBS programming has featured Charles Dickens programming  this month in honor of his 200th birthday, or some such hallmark of accomplishment, and they’ve proved to be very popular programs indeed. Maybe because there are parallels to today’s social and political system? From the early 1600′s, in merry olde England, destitute people were cared for with money raised by a tax on their neighbor parishioners. A parish was a unit of combined religious and political authority. The parish distributed money or food to the poor, who were allowed to remain in their homes and maintain some dignity. Parishes recognized that caring for their poor people was a public responsibility and that it was in the best interests of all to look after their poor neighbors.

Large estate owners always had the upper hand in things from Napoleonic times,  passing laws that favored the rich, keeping peasant people in control enough to just let them get by. (Middle class).  Even though wealth and avarice controlled  the legal system and always had, during the Industrial Revolution  the ranks of the poor grew steeply and the growing poor became an outrageous nuisance. Thus The Poor Law of 1834  was passed, and instituted  debtors prisons, and being poor became  a crime. (Not unlike our homeless today).   Dickens’ father, who temporarily fell on hard times, was dropped out of the middle class and locked up in a debtors prison along with thousands of others.  Oh, the wonder of   government at work. It didn’t reduce the number of poor, of course, but the cost of caring for them was reduced by 36 per cent. A great accomplishment!   Our prisons are full, too, but not from the ranks of  “white collar” criminals. That designation of  “white collar” is interesting. It is a division of class, where the rich and powerful are treated differently than the common man.  Not much has changed. Our prisons are mostly  filled with uneducated, poor black men.

The rich really didn’t care about the abject misery they had created, then.  And our current political climate is determined to stomp the middle class into the ground and make laws to keep them there. I know many people who vote against their own best interests. The purveyors of wealth and avarice can make you believe we can run this country today, on the same amount of taxes we paid thirty years ago, while our infrastructure is falling apart, our educational institutions can’t find enough doctors, nurses and teachers to fill our needs,  and immigration is blamed for our problems instead of the rich, congressional shareholders.  Americans pay billions of dollars over cost for their health care,  and our political system runs on a steady stream of corporate money. That money never trickles down to our pockets. The 99% are desperately trying to change that, but without a free press (you only think it is free), the battle they are waging is a drop of water in an ocean of contempt. Not much about government has changed since Dickens.
But, there was a time of honorable intentions, insisting that all men were created equal. Unfortunately, they aren’t, and they weren’t treated equally, either. Despite the fact the preamble to our constitution states in part that our government was organized for:  “…the general welfare of the people.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Pictures I’ve been taking lately have been lousy. Since I have a brand new camera, an exact replacement of the one I had, I couldn’t figure it out. The pictures are mushy, slightly out of focus. I have one disadvantage. I can read the small booklet that comes with the camera, but I cannot play the CD that goes into the advanced features. I’ve held to auto-focus, which is what I use most anyway. I took test photos around the house and yard and I threw out most of  them. The one above is not enhanced in any way and turned out well.

Nor was this one of my newly cleaned purse enhanced. It occasionally turns into a rat’s nest, somehow.

This one was blurry-still is. I had to enhance it  by saturating the color and cropping.

I did the same with this brave seedling starting life on a log, although, it could have stood alone. I liked it better cropped tighter and saturated a bit.

Then I got to playing around and turned this rather dull photo of plants against my brick wall with a reflective picture in the background into a pen and ink drawing. All with the magic of Picasa. It isn’t a great photo, either, but it is an interesting editing feature.

This tulip hadn’t bloomed in several years. It liked the strange rain pattern we’ve had this year. It turned out okay.

This Iris was gorgeous, not that the photo showed what my eyes saw.

This daffodil is a perfect specimen, but juxtaposed against a huge tree and distant background,  it seems to float as though it was pasted onto a drawing.  The light was weak and overhead and doesn’t illuminate the flower. Composition can make or break the photo.

In among the weeds, bright calendulas were hidden.

I concluded that the camera isn’t at fault. It is the photographer, that’s me,  who should  take  more thoughtful time to get decent pictures. Maybe the best part of my camera test was getting outside and enjoying my yard for a half hour. Or, as in the photo above,  just looking at everyday objects around the house from a different perspective.