carnis resurrectionem – fiat vita

Blessed be the city water in un-metered abundance, according to what was freely given.

Blessed be the California sun.  Scourge of the green grass; anathema of the cold-blooded.

Blessed be the potting soil.  Rich and dark and dank with potential energy.

Blessed be the ants.  Their tunnels a holy sacrament of aeration.

Blessed be the Spring rain and Summer warmth.  Handmaidens of the Hops.

Blessed be the dormant life.  The stone rolled away.  The empty pot.

Blessed be the absentee caretaker, who did not labor or spin.

Blessed be the resurrected Hops.

something a little cooler

I’ve heard it said that there are three things which, in life, you should never want to see being made: 1) sausage, 2) hot dogs, and 3) laws.

I verified this yesterday by actually watching the House wrestle with this health care legislation.  Only, I watched on C-SPAN.  Minus all the commentary you get from the cable news outlets things become very procedural.  After watching the way these “adults” act, I can only imagine Mr. Robert rolling over in his grave.  Most people know that I’m one of those odd-duck, oil-and-water, socially-liberal, emerging church religious persons, so it won’t come as much of a surprise that I’m happy with the way the vote went yesterday.  And since I don’t want to mire us down here with politics, let’s move onto something a little cooler…

Lately I’ve been pretty enamored with a couple albums, my second favorite of which is a freshman effort called Gorilla Manor by Californians The Local Natives.  There is a brilliant track on the record called “Airplanes.”  Not only is it musically chill-inducing but the lyrics are poignant and relevant to what’s been going on lately for me.  The singer sings the song (I love that that’s a grammatically correct sentence intro) to his grandfather, who has passed away, and it’s basically a statement of loss and anticipation towards one day meeting again “in the sky.”  You lose the studio version’s strings in this live performance, but what you gain in rawness is more than an even trade in for passion and power.

Man, the tiny imperfections present in live-performed harmonies are always super endearing to me…  Anyway I predict at least some part of this song will be on a commercial by year’s end.  Seems to be a safe bet based on what’s gone down with standout tracks from word-of-mouth “indie” records of late (I’m looking at you Grizzly Bear).

And that’s all the writing I’ve a mind for this afternoon.  Sharaun’s got another one of  her pregnancy migraines and is laid-up in the bedroom so I’m on Keaton-entertainment duty.  Today we planted garlic, pruned the grapes down to the strongest vines, and trimmed the old growth off Pat’s hops to make room for all the new green that’s starting to show. We also spent some time hand-watering the planters because Keaton loves doing it (the drip system is cool, but nothing beats hand-watering with your girl).


green thumbs & cold bones

The sun came out for part of the day on Saturday.  And despite the still mostly-overcast sky and cold temperature I got a kind of daylight religion and hatched a plan to get outside.

I took the sandwich sized Ziplock baggie from my dresser, the one I put all my loose change into, up to the coin-counting machine at the supermarket across the street.  $70 dollars later and I had a gift card to the local  hardware superstore.  This coin-conversion process always feels like “free money” to me.  Or at least infinitely more spendable money, I suppose.  I drove up the road to the hardware store (we live in the thick of it, I tell you) and made my purchases: new fill materials for the garden, a few large plastic planter pots, some grape vine starters, some blueberry starters.  Yeah… free project money for a half-sunny day.

Back at home I worked a long strip of rocky dirt above our current planter box.  All the recent rain made for light work loosening things up a bit and removing the largest of the upturned rocks.  I dug four holes about seven feet apart and planted the grape starters in a row.  A couple different table varieties, for eating, not winemaking.  With the earth so soft I went ahead and used the breaker-bar to dig holes for the trellis wire posts on either end of my new grape row.  I didn’t string wires yet as there’s no vine growth from the wood at this point, but I made it easy enough to do once (and if) the things take on the hillside.  I’m going to put a small set of steps near the corner of the yard by the garden box so it’s easier to step up onto the hill behind the retaining wall and care for the plants.  I was pretty proud at my use of space.

I filled two of the plastic planter buckets with equal parts peat, vermiculite, and compost.  Watered them down good and put the blueberries in to start.  I put them in the backyard on the porch to either side of the sliding glass doors.  Near enough that I can easily tap into the drip lines that run to the planters under the windows there but I didn’t actually hook up the water yet as it’s rainy enough now and I was getting cold down to the bone being outside so long.  I put the other planter over by the existing garden box and filled it with the same mix.  In this I’ll plant random small things like herbs or whatnot, maybe flowers to bring pollinators, but for now I’m trying garlic.

Lastly I pulled out all the dead and decaying vegetable matter from the garden box itself.  Stuffed it into the green waste bin and gave the box a raking to turn the dirt over.  Since my fill material is nearly two-thirds organic I have to refresh it quite a bit after every growing season.  I didn’t fill the thing back up and work it around though, because I’m not ready to plant yet and there’s no reason for the bed to be super fertile and ready if I’m not using it.  It’ll just be a destination for weeds and I don’t need that.

Man it was a good day working outside.  Sunday muscles were sore from pitching the breaker-bar and dragging the rake and hefting 50lbs bags of compost.  My grip was all off and I could feel all those tendons or strings or strands of tissue ache as I flexed my hands into fists.  I like that feeling; makes me feel like I did something productive.

Now it’s a waiting game.  The fruit is always the payoff.


sun dried tomatoes

Today I write non-linearly. Or, every day I write non-linearly. But today I tried to write non-linearly. Happy Thursday.

I hate to say it because I’ll probably jinx it, but I do believe I’m back.

Writing is coming to me more easily than it has in months, and the blog has benefited from it with a return to the daily posting heyday of years past. Honestly, I think it’s taken me getting back between the pages of some good books for this to happen. When I read more, I want to write more. Seems backwards since both take time and time is scarce, but allot budget for both. I’ve come to conclude, then, that being involved in a good book is key for me in terms of my motivation to write. I read words put together so nicely, see concepts created with sentences, and I want to rush off to the keyboard and do the same. I’m fairly transparent, so you’ll see my “style” shift to the style of what I’m reading at the moment… but that’s OK with me.

Yesterday’s fog lifted today, made for a slightly warmer but equally as gray day comparatively. At night the solid blanket of clouds distributes the light from the moon (now waning gibbous and just slightly out of round) throughout the sky. You’d think that the diffusion would waste some of the brightness, but going to bed last night whole of the sky was like a pale lighted sheet. It was so bright, in fact, that I said something to Sharaun about it as we climbed into bed. She said something contrary; “It isn’t all that bright,” or similar. “Sure looks bright to me,” I thought silently, not rising to the moment.

In the morning when I woke up the pants and shirt I wanted to wear were in a crumple on top of the dryer. I had to pull out the wad of clothes currently in there, add it to the bigger crumple on top, and give them a ten minute whirl before I was even halfway comfortable wearing them. While I waited, I paced the house in my boxers.

I looked out the window in the front room, the one that looks out onto the garden box. I never did plant a winter crop this year. I even had Cynthia donate all her wonderful organic seeds to me before moving out of the country. She and I went as far as to pick out and bundle up a selection of winter crops to plant. Never got around to it. The garden is a massive tangle of dead dried tomato bushes. Amazingly, though, although everything else has returned to the dust from whence it came I spotted some green sprigs. Imagine my surprise when I pulled four well-developed carrots from the soil. Plants, they want to grow.

After getting dressed I roused Sharaun, my chauffeur at present. Keaton was in the bed with us so she woke too. Almost every night she calls from her bedroom and asks if she can come sleep with us. We deny her gently almost always, and she goes back to sleep. This is actually a vast improvement from her older M.O. where she’d simply wander up to the bedside and tap your shoulder to wake you, asking to join us under the covers. It was harder to say “no” then as “no” involved walking her back to her bedroom and re-tucking her in (I know, it didn’t have to involve that… but it did, to avoid complications). Not sure why she started calling from her bed instead, but she’s effectively solved that problem for us.

She got invited in last night because she called out around 3:30am saying, “Dad, I have to go potty!” I sometimes wonder how I’m always able to wake and post-process what I’ve heard when it comes to Keaton. Other noises and other voices would likely go by unnoticed. Must have something to do with what’s good for the species; genetics; God. But I do wake and my brain replays for me what did the waking. I sat up slightly and re-heard, “Dad, I have to go potty!” “Go ahead baby. Get up and go potty.” She was wearing a pull-up. “Just pull down your pull-up.” Light flooded into the hallway and I heard the tinkle and the flush and the faucet. When she was done the light flicked off and I heard, “Dad, can I come into your bed?” It was Sharaun who answered.

“Yes baby, come on in.” This surprised me a little, although not much in my half-awake state. Sharaun’s usually a big proponent of Keaton staying in her bed for the nights. She came to my side. I hoisted her under her arms and rolled her over me into the canyon between Sharaun and I. “I’m so proud of you Keaton,” Sharaun said. Now I get it. Maybe this is a reward for her waking to use the potty. “Yeah babe,” I said, “You woke up and used the potty just like we talked about. That’s great!” We snuggled us three. I took one last look out the window to marvel at that glowing fleece of a sky, the moon’s glow doled out even across the suspended droplets of cloud, before sleep took its revenge on us all.

Even though there was still pee in the pull-up come morning, I can’t help but see it as progress. Tonight we’ll reiterate the get up if you need to get up thing, see if we can provoke a repeat performance. One step at a time.


bring on the boo-boos

Wednesday, and the remainder of this week can’t go fast enough. I’m just ready to get to the weekend, work’s just not doing it for me lately. Luckily, a week from today we fly to Oregon to stay for a while with Grammy and Grampa. While there, I’ll go into the local sawmill so I’m not AWOL.  Should be a good long-weekend and at least give me something of a “break” from the regular here-and-now grind.

Let’s go ahead and do this blog thing then, not much in the way of continuity though, I’m afraid.

While I was out in the yard the other evening putting in some new plants, I stopped by the recently-planted garden to see if anything had began to push through the dirt. Sure enough, a couple of the cucumbers and most all of the beans have already sprouted and are making a charge for their share of sunlight. I was happy to see it, as I’d used year-old seeds I had leftover from last Spring’s sowing and wasn’t sure they’d be good to go, especially since I hadn’t taken any particular care in storing them. Hopefully the quick sprout is a good sign, and the garden will come in full and healthy again this year.

Sharaun called me at work today to tell me a funny story. I guess Keaton took a spill today walking out to the car, and skinned up her knees to the point of bloodying them both a bit. Sharaun wiped them off enough to put her in the carseat and clean her up a little better when they got home, but halfway there more blood had appeared. Keaton looked down at her bloody knees and said, “Hey look I have some jelly on there Mommy!” I don’t think she’s ever really drawn blood before, so why not think it’s jelly?  Suppose we should get used to bloody knees and scrapes and scratches, huh? The real fun of childhood begins.

May sound silly, but I say bring on the boo-boos.  I’m ready to nurse more skinned knees from climbing trees and removing training wheels and playing soccer and gymnastics – or whatever kinda things girls skin knees doing.  I’m ready to swoop in for a reassuring rescue, so let’s do it.



7:30am on Sunday night and Sharaun is in the kitchen stirring a beef stew she’s had in the crock-pot all day. It smells fantastic in here, and I’m glad I was out working in the yard all afternoon so I didn’t have to breathe the temptation.

This weekend I had a goal: landscape a little planter patch on our front sideyard. Way back when I did all the work on the backyard, I drove all manner of truck and heavy equipment over that side of the yard to get from the street into the backyard. In doing so, I ruined the minimal landscaping the builders had done (which really only consisted of some much, a few plants, and a drip system anyway). Since then, I’ve used the space (about ten feet by fifteen feet) to store a pile of mulch I had leftover from finishing the backyard. And, that’s how it’s been now for some three years or more – a pile of much. It’s always bothered me.

Oh, sorry, dinner break. Back now.

As I was saying, the pile of mulch never really worked for me as a permanent landscaping feature, especially since it’s in our front yard. You’d think, as anal as I am about the yard, I’d have done something with it by now. But, alas, the scales inside me that compare my desire to have a nice looking yard and my laziness are tipped ever so slightly to the lazy side. So, it sat there for years. Just last week I decided I could likely get the entire thing done in a weekend if I worked hard. And besides, I’ve always sort of had this “concept” of what I wanted to do with the space (build up some berms down the sides and make a faux dry-creekbed with rock down the center). So, overcoming the years of do-nothingness, I finally forced myself to do some work by ordering two and a half yard of dirt delivered to my driveway… which, if you’ve never had a huge pile of dirt in your driveway before, serves as good motivation.

Friday I came home early (half-day) to get started. I moved the huge pile of mulch onto some tarps I set out for the purpose, and began hauling dirt by wheelbarrow to build up the berms. I worked until dinnertime. Saturday I was out early shopping for plants, and worked all day again moving dirt, planting, picking up rock and building the creekbed, and running drip. Sunday I finished up. Below is the final project, still with some mulch on tarp in front because I’m not quite done with the pile. Looks OK to me!

Also on Sunday, Keaton and I planted the garden when she got up from her nap. I poked the holes in the dirt and she dropped in the seeds. She seemed to have a good time. Maybe next year she’ll actually “get” the magic of the seed-to-food thing, that’d be cool.

Man, I know that was boring, I’m sorry. Sometimes I just write about whatever. That was one of those times. I guess that’s what blogs are good for. Or, bad for… whatever. I guess I’m done for the evening, I have nothing better to offer. Maybe something funny will happen around here tomorrow.


the fastidious princess

Hey, guys… hope the week’s been good to you so far. We’re about halfway through I figure, so that’s something… I figure.

You think it’s easy to write this much every day and still be so awesome? Well, it is. Sometimes I look back on the tons and tons of words on this webpage and kinda freak out: “Good Lord, when do I have time to do ‘real’ stuff with all that writing?” Eh, I seem to find plenty of time. Surprisingly, even to me, it’s not as time-consuming as it looks – I guess.

Oh, before we get started, I updated Keaton’s picture gallery late today with some images from her 2nd birthday party here at home (at the kids gym with all her buds), and a few from Easter. Go ahead and go check that out now, this thing’ll be here when you get back – take your time even. (Yeah, I know, I said I might have some video… but man… that’s a lot of work!)

Anyway back to the writing/blogging thing if I may, I’m happy to say that overall daily readership here at sounds familiar has experienced a measurable uptick for 2008. That makes me happy, and I’m always excited to find out about new readers and get new comments – keep ‘em coming. Also on the rise are the spam comments the site gets, although thanks to the near-perfect filtering of Akismet very few end up getting through. Seems like just yesterday (it wasn’t, it was back in September of 2006) when I was exclaiming about my Akismet spam-blocked count breaking the 100,000 barrier, and here we are this week hovering just under 200,000. Amazing.

And, last on the blogging run of topics: You guys and your poll-gaming. I should’ve never said how easy it was to fool the poll by deleting cookies. Early Tuesday morning someone up-voted the “pants off” voting option by about ten votes. Turns out, however, that with this new polling plugin, I can actually see who games the system – and by how many votes. So, if I wanted to, I could completely discount “artificial” voting. Don’t think I will, though, as it seems to me that if someone wants to go to the trouble, they must really want to read something. Anyway, the poll for this Friday is still open, and right now the triple-X topic is out in the lead. If you’d rather see things turn out differently, make sure you flex your muscle of democracy and make it happen. I’ll post the poll again Thursday, but for now if you haven’t voted just cruise down the page and do it.

Yesterday after work I decided to get into the garden and prep it for the Spring planting. First job was to pull all the wheat from my failed “know the cost of a loaf of bread” project. Turns out wheat, I guess like any grass really, has a pretty extensive root network – guess that’s why they plant the stuff as erosion control on hillsides, eh? – anyway, pulling it took some time, after which I backfilled with more fresh compost/peat/etc. Since Keaton got some super-awesome toddler-sized garden implements as gifts for her birthday last month, I brought her outside with me to help. At first, she wasn’t having it. Being the fastidious princess she is, when I hoisted her up into the garden box she just stood there, rooted in her spot, looking down at her shoes with the most concerned look on her face. “Don’t like it, Daddy!,” she’d whine. “You don’t like what, baby?,” Dad asked. “Don’t like the sand in my shoes! My shoes are dirty, Daddy…” I tried to explain to her that getting dirty is part of gardening, but she wasn’t having it.

After ten minutes or so spent standing statue-still fretting over the dirt in her shoes, I tried to accelerate things by piling soil around her feet, completely covering them like we were at the beach. At first she whined some more, but soon enough she pulled her feet out and asked me to take off her shoes. Once she was barefoot, she seemed a little better and started walking around. Soon enough she was throwing dirt at me, it was quite a rapid progression. At some point, we found a worm while turning up soil, and I had her hold out her hand so it could crawl on her. She called it a “silly worman,” which is apparently what they are called on The Backyardigans (so sayeth Sharaun), and seemed to enjoy herself as it wriggled up her arm. We found a cocoon too, the kind where the pointy butt-end is still sort of alive and spins around to corkscrew the thing into the Earth. She held that in her hand and watched it move, and even knew, after I told her what it was, that it was going to turn into a butterfly.

We had a good time, and the garden is now ready for some new stuff. We were planning on planting tonight, but I got home a little late from work and the wind was up so it was a bit chilly (it’s looking like the amazing weather we’ve been having the past week is about to take a turn for the worse with the forecast showing rain and wind the next couple days). Maybe tomorrow if the weather holds and it’s warm enough as the sun goes down, otherwise we’ll have to wait till the weekend or something.

Well folks, that’s enough for me tonight… sorry it’s all over the place. Goodnight.