Master Lieabout von Housebound, Esq.

A few times today and once last night I heard thunder; even saw lightning. I enjoy hearing it; it reminds me of the rainstorms we’d get most summer afternoons back in Florida. Back now from Hawaii, I settled right back into my pre-trip alter-ego, Master Lieabout von Housebound, Esq.. Today was spent reading, listening to music, wrestling with Keaton, and monitoring a few choice IRC channels. I know, I know… you (nor I) haven’t used IRC since, like, highschool, or something… but I have decent reasons (all legit and legally kosher, mind you). Anyway, Sharaun’s at the gym now and Keaton and I are dancing around to In Rainbows (I didn’t get to jam to it much in Hawaii and was getting the shakes). We like our alone-time, it’s good for our relationship and stuff.

If you’ll cast your memories back with me for a moment, you’ll perhaps recall that, before leaving for a week in the Pacific Islands, I had torn down my summer tomatoes and sown in a goodly sized crop of “winter” wheat – all part of some idea I got in my head about wanting to “understand” the real “cost” of a piece of bread. While I was away, modern suburban scheduled irrigation dutifully watered my crop for me – and, while drinking coconut-infused cocktails astride the pool in Maui, I often wondered if there’d be any noticeable growth upon my return. I hoped for growth, of course, results from untended efforts are some of my absolute favorite results, but I was careful not to get my hopes up. When we had finally pulled into the driveway, fetched the luggage and baby, and were walking towards the front door, however, I made sure to get on my tippytoes for a second so I could peer over that little dip in our fence where the gardenbox is visible. I was ecstatic the view greeting me home:

Not bad. Now we’ll see if it’ll make it to seed.

Moving on, I feel I would be remiss were I not to note the fact that today is All Hallows Eve Eve. If you’ve been following my blog here at sounds familiar for any length of time, you know I’m an absolute nut for Halloween – have been since I was a kid. Every year since we bought our house, I’ve constructed and displayed elaborate props for the occasion, and we’ve thrown an annual bash for the past four years. Originally I figured, with Halloween falling during my sabbatical this year, that I’d have even more time to repair the brokenness of last year and maybe even make some super fantastic new props. But, the way things landed: our week in Hawaii right up against my favorite of all holidays, the run-down state of the existing props, and me being worried about repeat thievery with a yardful of props and no one home – I just decided to blow the whole thing off. It sucks, and I’ve had three neighbors ask me what’s up… but I vow to be back next year with a vengeance. It just doesn’t feel like Halloween without all the preparation and work, I’m a beaten man.


that’s what i do

Ouch. My hips are still sore from last night’s sleep – a product of getting old, I fear. Never before did the “activity” of sleep take any toll on my person, but, with age, it seems that, on the wrong mattress, I can wake up feeling like I’d slept on a pile of rocks. It tells me that, sooner or later, I’ll be unwilling to put up with it, and be willing to part with the dosh for a new bed – but, until that day comes, I’ll keep that money in my wallet and deal gingerly with the hips that result. But, we’re not here to talk about my less-than-graceful aging… or, are we? Huh. Maybe we are, after all.

Keaton’s awake, after a long afternoon nap – she’s currently taking her books from the wicker basket I use to collect them, one-by-one, re-littering the floor I cleaned a few hours ago after putting her down. It’s been a good day for me. While not breaking the chain of sabbatical do-nothingness, I at least took a pry bar to the weakest link and made show of an effort. I mowed the lawn, something I’d been needing to do – and that needs to get done before we leave for Hawaii. I also finally got around to razing my summer garden to make way for the makings of a winter one. I tore into the viney tomato plants with gusto, sad to see them go, but amazed that the bumper crop they decided to leave me with. I pulled off a couple pounds of ripe red fruit, and paper-bagged another six pounds or so in hopes they’ll ripen off the vine (the internet says they will, and who doubts the internet?). Yes, I expended all that effort today – before noon even. Don’t worry though, I spent the next few hours lounging on the couch alternating between reading and napping. Just as it should be.

Sharaun is out picking up the last few ingredients we need to make tonight’s experimental dinner. See, while at Oktoberfest, I happened to eat a bowl of delicious “Deftige Gulaschsuppe mit Hausbrot” at the Schottenhamel tent (that’s goulash soup with house bread, for us ‘mericans). So did I love the hearty stuff, that, upon returning home, I scoured the net for a recipe that looked faithful to my memory of its awesome flavors. In time, I found a recipe which looked about right – and even had some historical text prefacing it which mentioned Bavaria and Oktoberfest. Seemed right to me, so I printed it up and asked Sharaun to give it a try. I’ll let you know how it comes out, since I know you must be keenly interested.

I swear I’m uploading pictures tonight… but until then, here are some pictures Jeff posted from our time at Oktoberfest – I think anyone can view them. Enjoy.

Until later.


Well, back from Oktoberfest and seemed to have picked up a small bug in the process. I started feeling iffy on the plane back, my head getting congested and just feeling altogether drained. Saturday I was OK, friends came over and we watched football all day, but sometime over Saturday night into Sunday I awoke with a fever and felt worse. Sunday I spent the entire day wasting away on the couch nursing a fever and seeming only to sleep and sweat. Sunday was the peak though, it seems, as yesterday the fever was gone – leaving only the fatigue and that I-was-sick “weak” feeling in its place. This morning, Tuesday, I feel nearly 100% – and so I figured it was a good time to step back into the blogging circle. Lucky us. Let’s do it then.

Anyway, I’m currently starting off the beginning of the first of two chunks of much-looked-forward-to sabbatical “home time.” With a mere month left in my extended time away from work, I’m happy to say that nearly all of that time is un-booked, un-reserved, un-planned. If you can’t tell, I’m quite happy about that. This morning I got up around 7:30am, readied for the day, and was in the living room with all the blinds pulled open and morning sunlight streaming through the windows while XM’s “Deep Tracks” station served up classic nuggets from the likes of Santana and Stones. Yesterday I lounged around to classic rock and read hour upon hour upon hour, finishing some 300 pages of my current tome to lilting guitar and frenetic percussion. I’ve got the house open for the breeze, and a pot of coffee brewed. I could, and quite possibly will, do this all day.

Well, that’s a bit of a fib, as I do have “plans” for some of my time today:

#1: Figure out how to “mill” (or “grind,” as most would say) some percentage of the winter wheat seeds I bought into flour. I plan to turn some portion into flour now, plant some, and save some. I know it may seem silly to make flour from the purchased seeds, as it pretty much seems to bypass the whole grow-wheat-to-make-flour thing, but I want to go ahead and try to have a sourdough “starter” ready and active by the time I (hopefully) get my grown wheat to seed and eventually milled into flour itself. That way, I’ll have a bread starter that’s 100% from the crop (in my mind, at least). The goal here, as a reminder to myself, perhaps, is for me to understand the “cost” of a loaf of bread. From cradle-to-grave, so to speak. What all goes into making bread. I’ll let you know sometime in the new year how it went; before then if it tanks completely.

#2: Turn the five pounds of tomatoes I yanked yesterday from the gardenbox into fresh marinara/spaghetti sauce, which I’ll then freeze and save for later use. I went out and picked everything remotely red or reddening yesterday, and gave a sad pause at the rampant growth I’ll have to tear-down to make way for my next experiment in agriculture and times-past: winter wheat. And, because this is turning into a new paragraph…

I can’t help but feel a bit of pride. Sure, for all the things I planted, I really only got a decent yield on the tomatoes (not counting a couple smallish cucumbers, one tiny bird-ravaged crop of strawberries, and the two or three okra buds I caught), but, overall, I’m happy with how the plants took off. The corn died, the watermelon did nothing, and the peppers grew and never fruited – but I still somehow feel good about what did grow and thrive. Maybe it just shows that any black-thumbed jackass can grow tomatoes, eh? Anyway, here’s a side-by side to give you an idea of just how awesomely (some of) my garden fared:



I guess that’s about it for today…

This was probably a little boring… sorry about that. Look for new pictures from Oktoberfest and of Keaton to be added to the gallery pages later this week. Until later, love y’all.

smells like fall

Being back at home with nothing to do, I’ve taken to sitting around reading, occasionally doing a little “housework” here and there. I do believe, in this time of having absolutely nothing to do, that the true spirit of “sabbatical” is finally starting to set in. I’m still sorely disappointed about having to call off our hike midway – but I am glad we did it, as the weather did indeed prove out our fears: with close to a foot of snow in the Sierra high country over the weekend (check out this post’s accompanying image, which was the light snow already on my car when we went to pick it up last Thursday, at only 7,000ft). We would’ve been in a spot of trouble had we been caught in that, I suppose. Anyway, we’ve vowed to try again next year – and the disappointment is waning quickly the more I sit around and enjoy that do-nothingness joy that can make a man so content.

Even the weather is changing to suit my mood. Fall moving in right on cue with rain, clouds, and a dip in temperature here in Northern California. I’ve often said, here and elsewhere, that Fall is my absolute favorite time of year – and it’s still true now. It’s funny, but, because we have houseguests from out of state staying with us this week, Sharaun went out and bought some new plug-in air freshener things – the kind with the little reservoirs of scented oil. She had cleaned up and had them all plugged in and freshening when I first arrived home from our abbreviated mountain trek, and the whole house immediately struck me as smelling perfectly “Fallish.” I’m not sure what they’re called exactly, but they smell like some heady mix of cinnamon and other wintery spices – and the scent reminds me of holidays where all sorts of tasty treats are being cooked at once, filling the air with an awesome mixture of spices and smells. Between the new smell of our house, the grey skies and rain, and my abject loafing – it’s the best Fall kickoff I’ve had in years.

I’ve decided what I’m going to do with my gardenbox for winter. I had considered all sorts of winter crops, but, truth be told, I’d like to do something a little lower maintenance (the lazy gardener, I suppose). So, I decided that I’m going to take my homemade bread fantasy to the most basic level possible, and fill the box with red winter wheat. It’s supposed to be good for the soil during the off season, it’s about the right time to plant now, and it’s a hardier variety than spring wheat. My plan involves cultivating my miniature wheat field, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, and, finally, milling it into my own flour. After that, I’d like to have make a sourdough starter with it, and eventually turn it into a real, live, rising loaf of bread. I honestly think, if none of the hundreds of things that could go wrong do go wrong, it could be a really fun experience to get an idea of just how much effort used to go into making a loaf of bread – something I ultimately take for granted. Anyway, I ordered my “hard red” winter wheat seeds yesterday, and I plan to get them in the ground after I get back from Germany, early October. I have no illusions about it being easy, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

I leave next Saturday for Germany, and, while I do look forward to the trip, I also feel just a bit sad that I’ll be once more leaving Sharaun and Keaton. I did miss them both a lot on the hike, even though I was only gone for a mere five days.

Well then, until tomorrow. Have a good week at work 🙂

global… or something

Today I sent out a pretty informal e-mail to a group of friends, inviting them to join Sharaun and her sister and brother-in-law and I for a weekend camping trip later this month. One of the responses I got was from a friend of ours who works for a major shipping company. Unfortunately, he relayed, the weekend I had chosen was the very weekend that the new, and presumably series-ending, Harry Potter book is released. Due to this, he had to work Saturday and would not be able to make it.

It struck me, then, how things effect other things. Because a British author wrote a wildly popular series of young-adult novels, demand for the final installment is unprecedented. This means that a friend of mine here in Northern California has to pull extra hours to manage the glut of book shipments to various outlets, presumably for both one-off private and bulk point-of-sale. Funny how that whole cause-and-effect things works, and how second, third, and even latter-order effects impact the daily routines of regular peoples I know. Kinda cool… global… or something.

We got together with some friends tonight for a leisurely walk over to the local ice cream parlour and some post-ice cream beers. At some point, Kerry, one of said friends, mentioned that she’d read the blog today (which is, as you read this, yesterday’s entry here) – and had a suggestion for my ongoing problem with birds in my garden. Backing up, I came home today to find two more tomatoes ruined – cherry this time, something they’ve previously not gone after. You can see them as the inline-image associated with this post. Anyway, Kerry suggested I offer the birds an alternative – an actual bird-food alternative. Now, I can immediately see this in two lights: 1) Having “real” bird food out for these beasts may sate them and ultimately keep them from my fruit, or, 2) Having “real” bird food out may invite even more hungry beasts into the yard – making me a regular avian all-you-can-eat buffet.

In the end, I decided to go ahead and give it a shot – as it seemed infinitely more implementable, not to mention humane, than my impulse-idea: A massively-charged “bird zapper” designed in the spirit of a “bug light.” Something that would find me coming home to piles of dead birds heaped around my planter box, all killed instantly the moment the dared flutter near my yummy tomatoes. I had also seriously planned to wall the entire thing via with some large-scale fine mesh box, but wasn’t going to be able to expend the time and effort until this weekend – which, at the current bird loss-rate, would cost me four to six more pieces of fruit. So, anyway, I’ll hang the seed-block thing early tomorrow morning… and see what happens. Wish me luck.



This weekend, I read an article about the baby from the cover of Nirvana’s classic grunge-flashpoint, Nevermindhe’s sixteen now. Nothing can make a dude feel old like the infant on an album he loved when he was fifteen turning sixteen. Man, that’s a bummer.

Also in the bummer department, the birds in my garden have me really exasperated lately. I’ve done a good job keeping them out of the strawberries, for the most part. Well, actually, the protective cage I built over my berries caught another winged devil today – but that’s not what I’m here to write about. It seems that, having been denied my berries, the birds have developed a taste for my tomatoes.

Over the past months, I’ve been attentively watching my larger tomatoes grow fat and plump, and have been particularly happy over the past few days (before leaving for Oregon) as they started to get some color. I knew, upon returning home, I’d likely have several large ripe ones for the picking.

However, the birds once again robbed me this glory. I don’t know how they know, but it seems like they’re tuned into my brain. It’s like the day I tell myself, “Tomorrow, I’ll pick that one, it needs just one more day on the vine,” they attack. I’ve yet to be able to pick a full-size tomato before it being ravaged by beaks. Seems I can only get the cherries off before they get to them. They’ve gone through five tomatoes so far, completely gutting them on the plant. I can’t describe how frustrating it is to tend a tomato for weeks in anticipation of literally tasting the fruits of your labors – only to have the dang thing ruined right under your watchful eyes. It may seem trivial, but I want to taste one of my own tomatoes so bad.

Writing that last sentence, I couldn’t help but feel a little empathy. For whom?, you ask. Well, I’ll tell. Imagine you work hard on something, like, growing tomatoes from seeds, for instance. You sweat and work and toil over the infantile fruits as they take shape from the dirt. You watch and tend them, pulling weeds and giving them water, making sure they have enough sunshine to thrive, etc. Then, right as you’re about to pick the ends of all your work, something comes along and steals it away.

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Those “farmers” whose “tomatoes” are albums. Albums grown from chord progressions and words thought up randomly, worked and reworked and polished, finally perfected and fit for public consumption. And know who I am? That bird that I loathe so much. That bird that swoops in just as the tomato/album is ripe and ready to enjoy, and glibly consumes it – with nary a thanks nor a dime. All their work and effort, pecked into bits by a punk thief with no regard for the work that went into the things he consumes.

Sorry, musicians. Maybe one day I’ll learn. Or, maybe you’ll end up shooting me with a BB gun the way I plan to take care of the birds who are “torrenting” my fruit. Seriously though, check out some pictures for the heck of it.

“Knee-high by 4th of July?” I got that and then some. From seeds too!

Just look at that thing, inside my strawberry cage.

Three of the fallen, two more were too brutalized for photos.

I read online about this thin tight-woven netting stuff that you can supposedly “drape” over your plants to protect them. To me, though, draping something over tomatoes just means all the bird has to do is peck through the netting. I think, in true over-engineered fashion, I’m going to use some sort of netting to build a huge cage around my entire planter box. OK, maybe that’s extreme… but I’m open to suggestions. And, I’ll stop talking about birds and tomatoes now.

Let’s do the wrap-up paragraph now.

Got some vacation coming up next week, and I couldn’t be more ready for it. It’ll be nearly two weeks, although not taken consecutively. Vacations are always iffy for writing, sometimes they’re good for it, sometimes they’re bad for it. No promises (other than to have a rockin’ good time not-working, that is). And yes, folks, I know, lots of you have been bugging me for new pictures of Keaton. I wanted to wait until we were back from our Oregon visit before posting them, so I expect to have them up this week. Trust me though, she’s only getting cuter.

Before I go, in music news. Check out this exclusive feature on the Arcade Fire’s upcoming follow-up to Neon Bible. Also, the new Interpol has been floating around in sketchy quality, and from my first listens it sounds better than some of the other recent leaks. Oh, and, the six leaked tracks from the new Animal Collective have really grown on me. Still under evaluation: the new Thrills, the new Super Furry Animals, the new Editors, and the new Vanderslice. Oh, and, Ben got it right on his blog, the Los Campesinos EP is downright fun.

Team Campesinos trick or treating on your driveway in the middle of August; one of us dressed like a zombie, one of us dressed like a pirate, one of us dressed like a ninja and four of us dressed like schoolgirls.


you see the balls on that thing?

Oh man it’s great having a blog that works. Or, I should rather say, it’s great having a host that works. I can write with ease, I can preview with ease, and, hopefully, you can enjoy the end result with ease (or, at least you could not-enjoy the end result… but still with ease).

A long, long time ago, I wrote a blog wondering about how penguins “do it.” This was a genuine question on my part, albeit passed off for laughs for the blog. The question had stemmed from a curiosity that I’ve had since I was younger: Where are birds’ naughty bits? I just took it to the extreme form of bird in an extreme environment for the sake of the blog because I thought it’d be funnier. Actually, I looked it up, and it’s a pretty decent entry – you can read it too, if you want. Anyway, this is a relevant opener for my blog today – because I finally figured it out.

Today, folks – today I saw a bird with huge balls.

I got home from work around five. Stopped on the way home to see the Saigon Turtle (I love this guy now, every time he cuts my hair I just sit there and marvel silently at his backstory). And, of course, my slight OCD requires that I must take a shower post-haircutting, lest those little unseen bits of shorn mane find a way to burrow into my skin and sprout more of the evil stuff I’m cursed with (which I clearly do not need). Anyway, my dome’s tightened-up, I’m home, and I’m showered – that’s where we were.

Fresh from the shower, I step into the living room to Keaton smiling as she toddles towards me chanting, “Dada!, Dada!” My heart melts, and I scoop her up and whirl her around a bit. Then, I ask her, “Wanna go outside and check on Daddy’s garden?” Not really giving her much time to answer, I assume she does, and crook her in my arm to head outside.

And now, I’d like to switch the narrative voice here to Sharaun, and write the next sentence as I like to imagine she would recount the tale:

Then I heard, “Oh my God! Quick, get the camera!”

There. Done. Now back to me.

As I turned the corner to inspect my garden, I could hardly believe my eyes. There, inside my less-than-twenty-four-hours-old “Fort Knox for Strawberries,” was my arch-enemy: the dang bird. One ripe strawberry, folks… one dang berry. I had intended to pick it today, and was happy that the dang bird hadn’t even touched it yesterday (must have been full from eating the one that prompted Fort Knox or something). And here, flapping madly, I had my quarry penned. Keaton “oohed” and “ahhed” as we approached the increasingly frantic berry whore. I still couldn’t quite believe it, it was almost too good to be true – and my mind immediately went to how fun it would be to write this very entry. “But, it’ll be nothing without pictures,” I thought as I once again hollered to Sharaun for the camera.

A full thirty seconds went by while Keaton and I examined the trapped beastie… fruitlessly (well, depending on the definition) flapping around looking for a way out. I laughed. Sharaun finally arrived with the camera, and I edged in to get a good shot. As I did, Mr. Berrybeaks became even more agitated – obviously sensing his impending doom. He threw his winged body wildly against the confines of For Knox for Strawberries. I snapped one picture:

As I reviewed the image, I was unhappy with it, and moved closer for a better shot. Then, out of luck, Berrbeaks found a weak seam in Fort Knox and was free. You’d think, harried from such a terrifying experience, he would immediately fly fast and far away. Oh no, not that bastard Berrybeaks – that bastard has an image to maintain.

He instead flew to the fence, alighted there, glanced down at me, shat, and then casually took wing.

OK, so I made up the part about him crapping – but I bet he tried and just couldn’t make, knowing him. Alas, I only have the one picture. But, I’ve gone to the trouble to go extreme-closeup for you:

I don’t really know what I was going to do had he really been trapped and at my mercy. I’d like to think I would’ve wrung his little bird neck. But, then again, I am the guy growing delicious berries outside in full view. So, feeling incredibly defeated, I set about fortifying Fort Knox for Strawberries. I think I found my flaw, a weak front-flap opening I designed specifically for picking access. After being so handily beaten though, I doubt it will work. I guess I’m just not meant to have strawberries… dang bird.

Moving on.

Sharaun lost her keys again today, she called me as I was sitting down for lunch at home. Called while performing a CSI-style grid-search of the local grocery store where she and Keaton were now stranded. I asked her if she checked with the counter to see if someone may have turned them in – she had, and no one did. I asked if she’d checked the parking lot between her car and the store – she had, and they weren’t there. “OK,” I said, “I’ll be right there.” I hastily finished my food and jumped in the car. As I pulled into the parking lot I spotted her and Keaton standing around. I parked, used my key to open her trunk and loaded her bags, then lifted Keaton from her buggy-seat for a hug. Eventually, when I got to opening her driver’s side door, I ended up finding her keys there on the floorboard.

Something wrong with that girl… but man do I love her.

Wow, I’m quite proud of all the linking I did in today’s blog – I have back-references galore, huh? To me, if I was a reader, that’d be key. It’d be like getting several more paragraphs than there actually are (y’know, by virtue of the old stuff you can go back and read?). Yeah, well, I liked it.