Tuesday, December 31, 2013

She Died in December

I worked for Glenn and Charlotte Johnson a few years ago -- their organic farm on Fir Island. They were a loving couple. Charlotte complained about Glenn all the time, and right in front of him too. Charlotte was largely disappointed in all of us. We never worked hard enough -- not as hard as she did..... I just loved her, she was so warm and beautiful.... and her complaining -- it all fit together..... Glenn would have been in a mental hospital or in prison if he didn't have that farm and Charlotte to keep him balanced. He is or was the most manic individual on planet earth, but working 18 hour days on the farm used up most of his energy, and he was able to be peaceful.

One day Charlotte drove the step van to Anacortes for the market. The van broke down on Highway 20. She called Glenn to come and help her. He was not near his phone. So she called me and I drove out there. Meanwhile the tow truck driver came, but the van was too big and heavily loaded for the tow truck to handle. Charlotte was mad enough to spit. "I have to get to the market, there are people waiting for me, my farm depends on it," she said.

The tow truck operator heard her cries of anguish, and he said, "well, I can't tow you, but if you off load your produce to the back of my truck then I can bring you and the lettuce to the market."

Charlotte said wonderful and gave him a great big hug. Working really fast, we moved all the produce boxes from the broke-down van to the tow truck and off they went. Charlotte got to the market a little late, but she sold all her produce to her loyal customers.

That's how things worked on Charlotte's farm. Everything was always breaking down, but she never gave up, and that's what I tell young people when I talk about farming. I say, it's not like farmers know how to grow things better, it's more like they just never give up.

A good life for Charlotte, and I hope the best for Glenn.

This photo shows the Snow Geese flying on Fir Island near Glenn & Charlotte's farm.
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Career Choice -- Advertising or Short Stories

My Dad showed some promise as a short story writer when he was a young man. He could have pursued that as a career and ended up living in a shack with a bad drinking habit. But he avoided that calamity and went into advertising. From advertising he made a good living, and found a pretty wife and had a nice home and five children and he put them all through college.

Advertising or short stories -- what would you have done?

(Fred E. Owens, Sr., born 1904 in St. Louis. As a young man with ambition he moved to Chicago some time in the 1920s. That's when he wrote the short stories, and that's where he later found work in advertising, first at Grey Hound Bus Lines, and then as advertising sales manager for the Sporting News.)
Speaking of Short Stories

Raymond Carver was quite the best short story writer. Here is the opening sentence to each story in the collection titled Where I'm Calling From, 1989.

Read Them Aloud and Slowly.

I could hear them out in the kitchen.

He had been reading to her from Rilke, a poet he admired, when she fell asleep with her head on his pillow.

Earl Ober was between jobs as a salesman.

This has nothing to do with me.

I am sitting over coffee and cigarettes at my friend Rita’s and I am telling her about it.

Jack got off work at three.

Bill and Arlene Miller were a happy couple.

The telephone rang while he was running the vacuum cleaner.

I was out of work.

Fact is the car needs to be sold in a hurry, and Leo sends Toni out to do it.

That morning she pours Teacher’s over my belly and licks it off.

Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water.

Vera’s car was there, no others, and Burt gave thanks for that.

My friend Mel McGinnis was talking.

I’ll tell you what did my father in.

My husband eats with good appetite but he seems tired, edgy.

I was getting a haircut.

I had a job and Patti didn’t.

After a lot of talking—what his wife, Inez, called assessment—Lloyd moved out of the house and into his own place.

L.D.’s wife, Maxine, told him to get out the night she came home from work and found L. D. drunk again and being abusive to Rae, their fifteen-year-old.

It had been two days since Evan Hamilton had stopped smoking, and it seemed to him everything he’d said and thought for the two days somehow suggested cigarettes.

Carlyle was in a spot.

This friend of mine from work, Bud, he asked Fran and me to supper.

Saturday afternoon she drove to the bakery in the shopping center.

I was in the room one night when I heard something in the corridor.

My mother is packed and ready to move.

The call comes in the middle of the night, three in the morning, and it nearly scares us to death.

I have some business out west anyway, so I stop off in this little town where my former wife lives.

I knew it was a mistake to let my brother have the money.

This Collection of Opening Sentences. I did not copy and paste this selection from some source on the Internet. I had a copy of Raymond Carver's book and I typed in the first sentence of every story. It was an enjoyable exercise.

Happy New Year !

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Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Syrian Refugees in Our Midst

There is a community of Syrian immigrants in Santa Barbara where I live. I talked to one of them at the local convenience store where he works. He said he came from Syria on a tourist visa in January, 2011, before the war started. Now he says he can't go home. His wife and his small son are left behind in Syria. He can't get them a visa. I said, can you send them money? He said yes, but what is money? He is my son and I can't seem him, I can't go home...... I couldn't say much after that, I shook his hand and wished him the best and then I left.
The Best Defense Against Terrorism. Organic gardening and farming is the number one defense against international terrorism. Evidence? There has never been a successful terrorist attack against an organic farm or garden in the United States. And this has been done without SWAT teams in armored vehicles or surveillance cameras.

What is there about a garden, a farm, or a ranch that makes it peaceful? What is there about a shopping mall, a public school, or an airport, that makes it dangerous? I can't tell you in so many words what the difference is, but the facts speak for themselves.

I suggest spending more time in your garden, or go to work on a farm. It's a good place for you and your children. The farms and ranches and gardens in America make us a strong and free nation.

Message to Ronald Reagan: The government does some things very well. We sent Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969 -- the federal government did that....... I mean, it does happen, now and then.
Message to the Democrats. The moon shot succeeded because it had broad bi-partisan support. What that means is that you need to gather widespread support before plunging ahead with a major initiative.

This is a Short Story ---- The Title is "Major Accomplishments."

Men are judged by their accomplishments, which is kind of tough for men who haven't accomplished much.

Like Larry. He said, There's nothing wrong with me, but I guess I really haven't done much. I tried out for the basketball team when I was a sophomore in high school. They said for a short guy I was pretty slow, so I didn't make the team. But it was the effort -- doesn't that count?

I don't know. I can't get a date. I try to impress women, you know, like I don't smell too bad. My personal hygiene is pretty good. But I haven't got a story or anything. Maybe I ought to make stuff up, like the time my car broke down in the desert, except it was only a ten minute walk back to the gas station and I got the guy to come and give me a tow, so it's not really a good story.

And I try new things. I'm actually not a boring guy. Like movies, I might go and see something different. Not Chinese food, I tried those noodles you can see through. I didn't like them -- but I might try other things … sky diving, something….

People say be yourself. That's me all right.

My mom says to be confident and have good manners. I like my mother. I mean, we don’t hang out, but when I’m back home for a visit, it’s okay. She doesn’t run my life. But you can’t talk about that. On a date, don’t talk about your mother. Which is weird. Because everybody has a mother, and if you like your mom, who is a woman, maybe some other woman would say you were all right. But that doesn’t work, so drop it.

When I go out on a date I don’t talk too much. I mean, I talk a lot, but then I stop and wait a little bit. Like if we’re eating, I go for the salad and keep quiet a bit, or I ask her a question so she can talk if she wants. I figure that’s good manners. Or what we’re going to do. They usually want you to say what you want – see a movie, or what movie you might like. So I say what I want, but in a way they can say no, and then we go and do it.

I don’t like it when they make me sweat. If she asks me a question like what kind of job I have, and then she asks my another question like she didn’t believe me the first time, like she’s checking up on me, and then I start to sweat -- who would like that?

I understand she wants to be sure, but I’m not some kind of hustle guy. I’m in no hurry. Maybe I am in a hurry. Maybe I want to find someone to love, if that’s not too corny. I just want someone to believe me. I don’t like it when they make me sweat. I’m not saying it’s her fault, but it doesn’t work.

I said I can’t get a date. I can. What I meant is I go out with one girl, maybe a second date, or even a third, but nothing happens. There’s no girl friend. I go back to the Internet and start again. I put on a smile. Hi, I’m Larry…. I’m getting tired of it.

I have a Mom and Dad, a brother, teachers, good friends, I read books, and I used to go to church. A lot of influences that I can think about. I can have a conversation with these people and they don’t even have to be there, I can just talk with them in my mind and figure things out.

I’m not some kind of hard-up case or desperate guy, no way. I have friends, people like me. I’m on the softball team in the summer, kind of a utility player. I play position in the outfield. I mean it could be left, right or center field, but I come in close or go back toward the fence depending on the batter. I go by my instinct.

I don’t have such a strong throwing arm for an outfielder, but it’s just a game. Anyway, I’m not a loser.

I take business courses at the community college part-time. I have an aptitude for business, and I expect I will be a success some day. My intelligence is better than average.

I have some ambitions, only I don’t feel like I should talk about that -- because I don’t like a bull-shitter, you know, some guy with big plans, all talk, and the next day he has another plan. Not me.

I guess you got me talking about myself. You’re a good listener.

I want to tell you about Mona the next time we get together. She’s a girl I met last week.

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Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Minimum Wage

Mr. Obama said in a speech on the economy and the widening gap in national income that he will devote the rest of his presidency to the crucial issue of social mobility.

I agree that this is a serious problem. It is observable at many levels. The people who "earn" 100 times more than I do are not 100 times smarter and they do not work 100 times harder. It doesn't even make sense.

I put myself in one of the lower income tiers to offer as an example. So, I must quickly add that my life is not a living hell. I do not need the Food Bank, although I know it is there and recently they had so much food that they ran out of storage space. And during some times of low unemployment this summer, I put in extra volunteer hours at the community garden which donates its produce to the local Food Bank.

We are getting by, those many of us who are statistically broke.

Even so, I want to put the hammer down on those rich bastards..... and I soon as I typed those words I realize that I ought to manage such a harsh sentiment.

Anyway, President Obama has raised the issue of inequality. It is a problem. Government initiatives are dubious, but raising the minimum wage is a workable partial remedy.

If there is no solution, there is no problem.

Say it again. If there is no solution, there is no problem. I composed this sentence recently and I had a chance at a Thanksgiving dinner to launch it into the public sphere. I was sitting next to a planetary researcher from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena -- a genuine rocket scientist.

We were talking about asteroids, large ones, hurtling toward us from outer space, on a collision course that will end all life on Planet Earth. He said it will happen, it's only a question of when.

This gave me an opening. I said, "If there is no solution, there is no problem."

The scientist paused for a moment and replied, "You're right."

The Frog Hospital assignment this week is for readers to come up with other unsolvable situations which, therefore, are not problems.

Why the Dutch Love Black Pete

Washington has the Redskins and the Dutch have their Black Petes. These are old-style ethnic monikers that may have served their time.

But I don't react one way or the other. Do you know what I really want? I think I would like to go to Amsterdam -- ....... Go there for a week, and then two or three weeks in France, and some time in Italy and then come back.

Actually, I could skip Amsterdam and just go to France and Italy -- that would be on my way to the Middle East. Of course, if I go to the Middle East, which country would I visit? Not sure about that just yet.

Anyway, here I am in Santa Barbara (can't complain) reading about an important social issue in the Netherlands, and realizing that I have such a poor understanding of Europe because I have NEVER been there -- except for three weeks in 1969 which was such a short trip and so long ago that it doesn't really count.

I hear people say Europe this, Europe that, and how can I respond? I need to get there and soon.

Subscriptions. Your subscription money keeps the editor from getting cranky. Your dollars keep him on an even keel. He needs to maintain a sense of detachment and keep his sense of humor. Help him out. Send your check today or hit the PayPal button...... Just follow the instructions below.

Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Talk about Bullying

By Fred Owens

If you got your ass kicked in 3rd grade, it's because you were a twit.

There are no solutions here, but some honest talk about real experiences.

One of the talkers asked to have his name withheld, so I decided to withhold all the names.

And, without further ado, let the discussion begin.

Avenger. If you got your ass kicked in 3rd grade, it's because you were a twit.

The Nice People are rampaging across Facebook in the new war against bullies. I instinctively take the opposite side. It is time to, judiciously, blame the victim.

Little Sister. Don't even joke about it.

Garden Man. I was always the victim - nerdy, lacking social skills and uncoordinated, I had to sneak to school and sneak home or risk being assaulted. It was not funny. In some moments it still hurts unbearably.

Avenger. I have always felt that way -- to not pick on people, to not let people pick on me. Yet I distrust this current fad, as if some people just last week discovered that some of us are not as nice as we could be....... There is a generic Facebook social media movement against bullying. I oppose it. It is totally phony. I am not nice, and I don't care to associate with people who are.

Garden Man. "Not nice" and bullying are two very different phenomena! Very different!

The Avenger. Lately there has been a lot of media hype on this topic -- and it's crap. Facebook/social media creates false hope and pushes phony agendas. What you can expect from this is that someone -- at a school or business -- will create a program and set up guidelines and require students and employees to attend workshops on the issue. And I say all this is crap. I am not joining. It's a waste of my time.

I suggest instead that we deal with individual situations as they arise....

Garden Man. Well, I WAS a twit, but I don't think THAT justifies beating someone up! It didn't make me less a twit and it didn't improve my grades, my self-esteem or my popularity. It increased my fear, which was the story anyway, and ruined any chance I had at enjoying my years in school from 3rd grade to 8th grade. I wished I could die every day I was in school and the adults who knew about it did nothing. I was left to my own wits about how to make the one mile walk from home to school and back and not get beat up again.

The last day of school in 8th grade I had to leave the town, walking through fields to the south east, and walk a huge arc through fields to arrive at home hours later from the north west to not be beat up by half dozen football players. I have no problem against pulling against the viral crap of Facebook, but you have provoked a nerve. I verily wish that someone had been there for me, viral or not. Being tortured like that is not anything that any child should endure. Come to the garden with me as the middle school students wait for the bus. They are vile and cruel. I hate them.

Hawk Woman. We have created a society of victims. Pointing blame, passing the buck and developed dependency to the degree of LEECHING. Garden Man, I feel for you and know your pain. Because I too, experienced "bullying" and not by any cause of my own. From the age of 12 until nearly 19, I suffered from SEVERE cystic acne all over my face. I kid you not, cysts and boils the size of small eggs, dozens of them all over my face and neck. I am not exaggerating in the slightest and the scars that cover my entire face are plain proof, I look as though I dipped my face in a bowl of flesh eating acid to have the scars that I do.

As you can imagine, I was horribly made fun of, bullied, teased, and the feeling of hopelessness that there was nothing I could do to change my face. There were no products available to cure me. I am so grateful beyond words for one person, my mother, whom loved me more than I can ever know, and showed me what life is all about. What I did in the most important years of my youth is that I learned the value of heart. I learned the value of kindness, and of silent healing. I learned the value of encouragement. I learned compassion, not pity. I moved forward, that is not to say I didn't have moments of staring in the mirror at an unrecognizable, deformed face wondering "Why me?" I learned from this...

Instead of creating hate and anger, bitterness and victimization, I learned great strength, mental discipline, compassion, motivation, determination, spirituality, mental exploration, seeking out knowledge, I was not consumed with beauty any longer, or fashionable clothes, or fancy cars, or being a cliche teenager often consumed by material possessions, appearances and boys. I learned raw confidence, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, and the VALUE OF A HUMAN SOUL, far beyond what your eyes can see. Much too often people see with their eyes. See with your hearts. ONLY THIS, only this love will prevent bullying. Not pink t-shirts and silly slogans.

Love your children unconditionally, love your family unconditionally, love your neighbors, your enemies, your allies, your foes, earth, creation and all things... When you can do those things, you will see beauty at its finest as you've never imagined it.

Love conquers all, indeed.

Garden Man. This thread has been very difficult for me to respond to. Obviously you had a good parent to intercede on your behalf. I did not and many victims do not either. After a bullying incident in high school, I was institutionalized to prevent suicide. All through my life, I have struggled with suicidal ideation and depression, even to this day (I'm 61). I was released from the institution when I overcame my fear; they did not know I had found drugs and alcohol. I finally had to get sober some 20 years after the fact and have had to face these demons. It is STILL not easy for me, I still fight with the fears burned into my face and body at their hands. I learned nothing from my time in school except to FEAR. If you think it's OK for bullies to persist, I can only vehemently disagree. No child should have to fear for his life or want to take his life because he cannot bear to suffer along alone. Sadly, I would imagine that more bullying victims have experiences more closely tallying mine: no parent, no adult to intercede on their behalf and a shattered life because there were no lessons to learn except self-worthlessness.

Hawk Woman. No, no, no I did not imply bullies should persist. I feel for you, and have compassion for your journey. I believe bullies should be brought to justice when these instances occur, there should be available help that you can feel comfortable talking to, and that will be able to provide tools for legal intervention.

I know that apologizing to the plate after it has been broken does not make it magically reform itself back together. These bullies had something happen to them to make them angry, when we come out of the womb we are not born with hate. The first, and only thing we feel at that moment is love. My point being, it is up to the next generations to help extinguish these fires by the means I explained prior. If a child is shown love, it will only know love. If there are no bullies, there are no victims of bullying.

I suppose I am a rare case to have come out what people see as "unscathed", that is not true. But it did take a lot of work on my part and comprehension of mental discipline at such a young age. I am 22, and aside from my work with birds of prey, my mission in life is to love everyone unconditionally, provide encouragement, and find the peace within all of us. I don’t say these things for my own glory, I say these things because we have forgotten our true purpose here. We have forgotten the balance. We have forgotten unity, strength in numbers, and serenity.

I am, because we are. We are all in this together, the superficial and material society has divided us. It has caused division, hate, anger, depression, mental instability, physical ailments, anxiety, and ultimately death. We were not born hating, we were taught. We can learn to love, too. I feel for you, Garden Man.. There are still some of us who really care.

Avenger. Well said, Hawk Woman ---- I don't mean to suggest I have any special experience to relate here. I've just been reading stories on the Internet lately and it all seems like the latest hype, so my aim was to make it real, and I feel that you and Garden Man have done just that....

Big Sister. While I find meaning in both Garden Man and Hawk Woman's stories, on the whole I think kids today are being trained to be overly sensitive on the one hand to too immune to abuse on the other hand. I cannot find the balance. My understanding for boys is that you are not really a man until you have survived a fight, I am not sure about girls.

As a high school teacher, I can tell you that frequently I had students say so and so is mean to me, or says things about me. First of all there is very little a teacher can do, especially if she doesn't actually witness the abuse. Secondly, with all that a teacher has to do, that is almost beyond the realm of possibility to protect kids from meanness. I really don't know what the answer is, but being overly sensitive sets you up for a lifetime of hurt feelings, while being hardened to meanness makes you, well, hard hearted and insensitive. Life is always in the balance.

Hawk Woman. Great to hear it from someone who is on the inside of it all, a teacher. I see how your position can be limited. It is a lot of he said, she said and is difficult to determine. I would suppose that I put too much expectation on the youth to bring a serious situation to light with someone who does have the authority to implement justice in the situation.

Granted, in my mind I am thinking of those that are being physically abused. As I stated before about my past, mine was indeed only verbal abuse and I agree with you that we have become too sensitive to one teeny tiny little fact, that the world is not fair, nor is it kind. Instead of simply consoling their emotions, I think it is greatly beneficial to equip them with the ability to move forward against all odds. By having it nice and easy at school, you will have a rude awakening when we must grow up and realize that the people in the real world aren't always bright and shiny, nor do they have our best interests in mind. Teach the children to be strong and confident, full of ambition and the motivation to fulfill that ambition. Teach them kindness, not to let these experiences harden their hearts, crush their dreams or make them bitter and reclusive. Life is what you make of it, push forward and enjoy it. Your energy is not worth being spent on the negatives. As for the ones being physically abused, stand up for yourself as best you can, stand tall and do inform someone who can help you. I love to hear honesty from the classroom, the ones who are actually witnessing what is transpiring in our children today, the future of our world. Thank you very much for sharing.

The Lone Ranger has been listening to all this with great interest, now he has to jump in with his own tale of childhood abuse.

Lone Ranger. Oh, so all the times that I got waylaid on the way to the park by roving gangs of chicano kids who slapped the shit out of me and threw my lunch in the street? That was all my doing? Thanks, Avenger. I feel so much better.

Little Sister. There is just no excuse for bullying!

Avenger. Lone Ranger, you were not a twit, you just grew up in the wrong neighborhood...... When did this start? My Dad grew up in a tough neighborhood in St. Louis, that would be 1915-1925, give or take a few years. He was treated roughly and he didn't care to talk about it. But he made it his life's ambition to get out of that place and he did get out.... Just saying this is not a new thing, but saying that I do not trust the current interest in the problem.......... It smacks of a trend. It's phony and it will produce phony results. Committees will be formed. Regulations will be passed. Politicians will get on the bandwagon. The whole thing is going viral, and nothing will happen........ As for bullying, I did not suffer from it. I don't understand why it happens, and I don't know how to prevent it...... That's a good place to start.

Little Sister. Also, remember that the bully will grow up to be someone's parent, someone's spouse, or someone's boss.

Lone Ranger. I agree that the new emphasis on bully-awareness is just one more way for the hover-parents to act as if they discovered children. But I do think I know where it comes from. It's a status behavior. Old as the species itself. And we won't ever eliminate it entirely. But, I do have to say that I think it is LESS prevalent now than when I was a kid. It was really Lord of The Flies back then.

The Avenger. The bully in my class in grade school was Leroy -- that was his real name. He was big, dumb and mean -- he had a grin on his face like Ernest Borgnine in From Here To Eternity. He lived right down the alley from my house, but I think he found easier targets.....

Big Sister. I remember Leroy, dumb and bad. I suppose we should feel sorry for dumb kids, how else are they going to get any attention?

The Avenger. I liked Leroy, but he was too stupid to hang out with.

Subscriptions. Your subscription money keeps the editor from getting cranky. Your dollars keep him on an even keel. He needs to maintain a sense of detachment and keep his sense of humor. Help him out. Send your check today or hit the PayPal button...... Just follow the instructions below.

Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In November

I was going to write about November, 1963 when I was in high school in Wilmette, Illinois and we rode to school every morning in Billy Anderson's 1962 blue Chevrolet convertible....... With the top up. The top was always up because it get's pretty cold in November on school days mornings at 7 a.m. We got in the car and rode to school, three miles.

But a story about high school is too depressing, so I have picked a much better November, one of my very best -- November, 1995, in New England, in the western suburbs of Boston -- Concord, Acton, Lexington, and Lancaster -- those old colonial towns.
Neil Jorgensen. That year I was working for Neil Jorgensen, the best landscape designer in New England. Neil was a geologist by education, so he knew his stones, and New England is practically built out of granite. More stones than soil -- I knew that from getting my hands on it. Neil could look at a hillside and describe what the glaciers had done to it.
Neil had won the Silver Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. He had customers lined up waiting for him to come and do their gardens. And when he came, Neil would tell his customers what he was going to do. You paid him well and you agreed to his overall plan. He was at the pinnacle of his profession.
Neil had vision -- he could see five years ahead. He could see in all four seasons. So if we planted a small tree in a certain place, it wasn't because of how it looked now, but how it would look in the springtime five years from now.
Neil had reached the highest stage of creative energy. You could hire a landscape designer and get a grade A design, and your friends and neighbors would praise the new garden and comment knowledgeably on this rose and that rhododendron and how the new path fitted the curve of the hill.
But that's not the highest level. Neil was above that. When you walked into one of Neil's gardens, you didn't notice the design. You just started to feel good. You began to have wonderful thoughts. You took a kinder attitude toward your family, you felt a blessing to mankind and all of nature. That is a good garden.

And Neil's gardens looked lovely too -- just not overdone, surprisingly simple in fact.

We worked through August, in the heat and humidity, swatting mosquitoes, dodging poison ivy. In September the weather got better and we felt new energy. We laughed and joked all day. We had beers and ate Reuben sandwiches for lunch. October was too glorious to even mention. October in New England is like heaven on earth, and we kept working.
By November it was grey and the leaves were down. Mornings were cold and stiff, but we kept planting, working extra hours, using all the dwindling daylight. We worked on Dr. Patel's garden until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was snowing when we finished on the last day of the season, but the garden was done.
That was the best November I ever had.

Neil is retired now. He lives in Kittery, Maine by the sea, tending his favorite maples and English primroses. I might call him some day and see how he's doing.

Subscriptions. Your subscription money keeps the editor from getting cranky. Your dollars keep him on an even keel. He needs to maintain a sense of detachment and keep his sense of humor. Help him out. Send your check today or hit the PayPal button...... Just follow the instructions below.

Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Friday, November 15, 2013

I am at my sister's house in Venice

I am reading the Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. It was published in 1860. I've decided to stay in the 19th century for my reading pleasure. With all of time spread before me I choose this period. I like Dickens, Austen, Hardy, Tolstoy, and Trollope.

I like Joseph Conrad and Balzac. I don't believe I will read anything written after 1914.

Health Care. It's kind of a mess. I wish I could say or do something to make it better, but I am quite at a loss.

Drought. I'm beginning to hear this word around Southern California. For a while I was hearing "It sure has been dry this year" and "I sure hope it rains pretty soon," but now I'm hearing the "d" word -- drought. Lake Cachuma is very low. Leaves are falling off the sycamores a little early.

I can't do anything about that either -- can't make it rain, can't fix health care.

Let's Pep it Up. The problem is that I have been sitting in this over-stuffed chair here at my sister's house in Venice. It has influenced my mood. I am reclining into a state of utter passivity. I don't actually need a plan. I just need to get up and get moving.

What can I do? What I can do is walk down the street to the Abbot's Habit coffee shop and sit down with Eric. He comes there every morning. I will talk it over with him -- Eric is a pretty smart guy. He might know what to do.

So I got coffee and sat with Eric. Sky walked in. She's a California babe with cascading blonde curls, wearing light blue slacks and a tank top cut low. She has a figure like a Barbie doll. "Hi, I'm Sky." "Yeah, we've met, I'm Fred."

They all come into the coffee shop and sit with Eric and tell him about their boy friends, or their work, or their real estate problems. Eric is the godfather. He listens, he might say something or he might not say anything........ Sky said she is going back to New York for a while and she is going to put her house out for a vacation rental. "I can get $500 a night."

In Venice, if you're near the beach, you can get that kind of money.

Eric nodded his head. "This is what people are doing," he said.

Sky made some inquiries about my gardening work, but she's all-city and not really interested. Then she got up, gave Eric a big kiss and said "I'll be back in six months."

So I left the coffee shop. Health care is still a mess and the drought continues in Southern California. But if you know people like Eric and Sky -- this is the greatest place on earth.

Later for Lunch. I bought one container of egg salad and one of potato salad before I left the coffee shop. This was to bring to the pot luck lunch at the Learning Garden.... They have this every Friday. And lots of people came -- a women from Bulgaria, she said her name was Mimi --- like that wasn't actually her name, but you could call her Mimi because that was easier to pronounce than her Bulgarian name. She brought potato soup. Julie brought a warm dish of baby bok choy and mushrooms. Others brought salad and pumpkin pie...... By the time Mel got there, the food was almost gone and he started to get annoyed. "How come you got all the food?" he whined. And David King, the master gardener, said, "Hey Mel, that's why they call it pot luck -- you gotta be lucky."

But more people came and someone brought a big tub of spaghetti and someone brought a sack of Halloween cookies, so Mel got his plate full.

Then the fellow who lives across Walgrove Street from the Learning Garden, he brought an entire wheelbarrow full of avocados from his back yard tree, hard and green, he dumped them in a pile and said help yourself. So I snagged a dozen and went back to my sister's.

Dinner. I have dinner reservations at 7 p.m. at Piccolo's on the Venice Boardwalk, with the person who wishes to remain anonymous. She said don't mention it. I said fine, nobody needs to know. But I will not be conspicuously curious and ask her why she wishes to remain incognito. No, that's not my style -- to ask questions.......

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm driving back early to Santa Barbara because Amanda wants me to clean up her yard -- she's having people over for brunch on Sunday.

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Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Friday, November 01, 2013

paths of glory

Paths of Glory was filmed in 1957, directed by Stanley Kubrick as an anti-war movie, starring Kirk Dougle at his fiery best and Adolphe Menjou as on Old World Cynic. The story involves the trial of three enlisted soldiers who refused to go over the top in a trench warfare battle, refusing to risk certain death. They were arrested for cowardice and put on trial. Kirk Douglas defended their actions as the reasonable thing to do, that is, the four soldiers did not want to die.
Nevertheless they were found guilty of disobeying the order to attack. At the end of the movie the three soldiers are executed by a firing squad.

And there is one final scene, which you can watch if you click on the link below. The song is an old German folk tune and it brings the rowdy soldiers to tears.

Paths of Glory. I love this movie and I will make two points.

1. Anti-war movies have the opposite effect from what was intended -- they celebrate war even if the "message" is against war.

2. The German people are hopelessly sentimental -- listen to the song.

Paths of Glory -- Hugo's Version
We had a kind of hobo gang in the 1970s, avoiding useful labor and riding trains. Hugo was trapped in the Hare Krishna Temple in Gainesville, Florida, but we helped him escape.
Then Hugo joined us romping around the country for a few months. One day Hugo I and were smoking cigars in a camp near Santa Cruz on the West Coast. The cigars were a cheap brand called Swisher Sweets, but they smoked pretty well for the money, which we didn't have. That particular conversation with cigars -- sitting on a rock, by a stream, under the redwoods -- was memorable for some reason.
Forty years passed and I got a letter from him, catching up. He's a doctor in Florida now, has children and grandchildren, living well enough, and then he told this story which I share with you...... He talks about the people we knew -- Bartholomew was our unofficial leader -- a lanky man from Tennessee. And Selma the beautiful Egyptian woman. And Gabriel from Brooklyn and Susan Simple. I was Frederick the Great.....

Dear Frederick,

Do your children know about our old times on the road?

Like you, I have spent 40 years moving around, have gone to all continents. My great fortune was to find a very strong and independent woman who has put up with all of my eccentric behavior for many years.

She has her own spiritual identity, completely different than mine (whatever that is), and we never discuss my history on the road, she knows very little about it.

I met up with Barthalomew, Gabriel and Selma, many years later, a few years before Bartholomew left this earth. It was depressing for me, because the magic was gone, Bartholomew was a shell of a person impressing very lost people with the same old stuff. I discovered that there were urban legends formed around many of our own experiences. We did live out a miracle, I have no doubt about that. There were too many unexplainable events.

You know, I have often thought about you, and what became of you. So glad to read your blog, and see all you have accomplished.

There is one thing I've been dying to tell someone, but every time I try, it just doesn't come out believable. So here it goes.

A few weeks after we smoked those cigars near the creek under the redwood trees we went in different directions. Just outside of Santa Cruz , I was crossing a bridge alone, and there was a girl climbing over the rail, apparently she wanted to jump.

She was very pretty and pure looking; I slowly approached her and said, “Sister , please don't jump , I want to share something with you.” She was crying, and asked me not to come any closer. So, I put my bed roll down, and sat on top of it about 6 ft. away from her. I noticed she had on tulasi kunti on her neck; remember I had just come out of a Hare Krishna temple when you found me in Gainesville. And what I never told you, was that the day before I met you and Bartholomew and Selma I wanted to take my own life. You know Frederick, you actually saved me from that, and I never found the way to thank you. So, thanks brother.

Anyways, back to the jumper on the bridge. Noticing her neck beads, I said, “You know Krishna is just another name for God. Just because you didn't find peace, doesn't mean it's not there for you.” She said, “How do you know about my confusion?” I said, “because I am just like you. I wanted to just stop thinking about God, and Krisna, and chanting and deities, and people telling me what was right and wrong. A million light years ago, about 4 months ago, I left the Gainesville Hare Krishna temple, and was on that same rail your on. Somehow I was saved by brothers and sisters that opened up another gate to heaven. And that's what I'm here for. The heavenly father has sent me to tell you that he loves you, and that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. But you cannot end your life, because your body is just a horse that you' riding. You are eternal, and will just keep suffering in another world.” She asked me if I was an angel, and I said yes, I'm your brother and you must choose to live in this world, but not be of this world.”

I told her that I was going to walk in any direction she wanted, and all I wanted was for her to walk a while with me. I would not preach to her, give her any more advice, not even talk. I picked up my bed roll, and sure enough she followed me like a stray cat. Not sure how far we walked, or how much time went by, but we never spoke. Then she said, “I will never be able to re-pay your kindness, but I have something to say to you.” So, I listened. She told me she knew who I was, she had seen me sing with a traveling Hare Krisna group called Radha Damodar in Atlanta about a year before. Now this really blew my mind, because I did travel all over the country in a greyhound bus with no seats and just Indian instruments. She had my undivided attention. Suddenly she had strength, and I felt like jumping off the bridge. She told me in a very matter of fact way, “Your family needs you, go back to them. I am going back to mine, thank you.” And she turned around and walked away in the opposite direction.

That night I could not sleep, and had visions of a woman, fat and old, extending her hand full of bangles, for me to grab. Like if she was a gypsy or something. The next few days I did not eat or smoke. It was like a demon had left that girls body and jumped into mine. But it was not that. Somehow , I don't know now if it was a day, a week later, I ended up in Chico, California. When I rolled into town, all I could think about was that girl saying go home, your family needs you. I started to cry for the first time in years, and was sobbing like a little girl on a corner, with a dirty robe on, bare feet, and no desire to move from that curb. I prayed to God, and told him how confused and lost I felt, that my life had no meaning without love and people to share it with. I asked for a sign, a direction, anything! Then I was suddenly very hungry, but there was no peanut butter or money, so I went to look for a salad bowl. I passed an old house with a big palm on the front lawn, a palm readers advertisement. And out of a screened front door came an old fat hippy woman with bangles and tie-dyed robes, I was shocked because she looked just like the fat lady in my dream several nights before. I was paralyzed and just stood there looking at her.

She went inside and came back and walked over to me and put a silver dollar in my hand. She asked me to get off of her front lawn. I walked about a block, and there was a garage sale. Out near the side walk was a mannequin about my size, wearing a black suit, white shirt, and penny loafers with a sign on the headless top saying $1 dollar. I looked at my new silver dollar, gave it to a kid inside the garage, and he removed the suit, shirt and shoes from the mannequin, put the clothes in a brown paper bag and gave it to me.

I followed the yellow brick road on our usual magic carpet and there was a church. I walked into the empty church, knelt down and prayed. A young priest approached me, and asked me if I was hungry. "Yes, father."

He led me to a courtyard and brought me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk. I ate it, and he asked me, “So, what's going on?" I told him the short version, like...I grew up in Evanston Illinois, went to Catholic schools, attended Loyola Academy, joined a Hare Krishna Temple, then I traveled the states and rode the rails with a hobo gang, searching for truth....and now I just want to go home to Chicago. He asked me for my parents phone number, went inside, and came back about an hour later and said, “I booked a flight back to Chicago tonight, your Mom is picking you up at the airport. Let me get you some clothes, and you can come take a shower."

"Father , I have my own clothes in this bag. " I pulled out my $1 dollar outfit, took a shower, shaved, cut my hair, and went back to Chicago." That was 1975, August 17th.

So Frederick, I've been holding this completely unbelievable story inside of me for almost 40 years. You might be the only person I know that might believe it.


It's nice to hear from you, Hugo. Sometimes a good cigar is all you need.

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Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Saturday, October 26, 2013

a letter from Africa

Themba Sibanda sent me this message from South Africa:

Hello Mr Fred Owens I need your help I am Thembe Sibanda, Precious Sibanda she's my aunt, I am staying in South Africa its hard cs I am a foreigner and both my parents past away I am 21years and I want a good life and make my family better its hard Mr Owen please help me to come to America please help me I will help you in the name of jesus & I beg you Mr Owen.

Thembe is my relative by marriage, so it is appropriate that he comes to me for help & advice. I was married to his Aunt Precious. Thembe is the son of her brother Lawrence who has passed away. Thembe grew up in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Hardship and political turmoil has driven many young Zimbabweans like Thembe into exile. They go south, across the Limpopo River, they swim across the river and hide in the bushes from armed patrols, and they make their way down to Johannesburg where they can find work.
But the immigrants are not welcome. They are nothing but cheap labor, to be exploited, to be robbed, to suffer in the worst housing. Even so they can make money, and if they hold fast, then can improve. So I wrote back:

Thembe, you must pray for strength and carry on as best you can. Never give up! You are young and strong, you will survive, and someday your dreams will come true. Make the best of what you have --- and listen to me -- you must stay away from bad people. Choose your friends carefully. Only chose friends who are honest and helpful..... do not choose friends who steal and lie and fight -- this is my advice for you and I will pray for you every day.

Johannesburg has a high rate of violent crime and immigrants from Zimbabwe are so vulnerable. Thembe's father Lawrence worked as a security guard at a jewelry store and he was killed in an armed robbery -- this is much too common in Jo-burg as it is called. For that reason, my strongest advice to Thembe was to choose his companions carefully because in that way he will increase his personal safety. Running with the fast crowd in Jo-burg can quickly lead to death and prison.
I could have also said "read books and pursue any opportunity for education" -- but to this young man, I wanted to say only one thing and that is to choose your friends wisely -- because you have a choice in that regard. Other circumstances -- the poverty and violence of the immigrant community -- are beyond your control.
Even so, to be young and strong and brave and have a little hope for the future -- isn't that most wonderful?

Here is the photo he sent me.
Inline image 1

Thumb's Up, Thembe

Thembe Sibanda and his family come from Bulawayo in the southern region of Zimbabwe. Bulawayo was not prosperous in 1997 when I lived there, but it was decent -- there were no hovels or shacks, people lived in small brick houses with cold water taps and a flush toilet. The electricity worked. The water was potable. And all the children went to school and learned how to read and write.
But disaster struck in the form of two evils -- the AIDS epidemic struck down thousands of vital young people. I can recall the lineup of fresh graves at the Luveve Cemetery, and the reluctance of Zimbabweans to name it -- they would say of some deceased family member, "otherwise he had cancer" -- but he was only 32-years-old!
And the great political evil of Robert Mugabe who drove out all the white farmers and seized their lands for gifts to his corrupt henchman and they sold off the cattle, and ripped the fences and tore down the greenhouses and barns and ruined some of the most abundant farmland in southern Africa -- leading to near famine conditions in a country once well-fed.
It was these two disasters that drove hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans across the border to South Africa, which is where Thembe struggles with his hopes today.

Barn Paintings

My barn paintings feature the moon, the leaves, and the fishes in an underwater garden.

Subscriptions. Your subscription money keeps the editor from getting cranky. Your dollars keep him on an even keel. He needs to maintain a sense of detachment and keep his sense of humor. Help him out. Send your check today or hit the PayPal button...... Just follow the instructions below.

Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Learning Arabic

But first the garden news. I was gardening yesterday at my sister's house in Venice Beach in Los Angeles. It was hot for October, a bit sweatacious for working in the sun. I cleaned up the front yard -- pulled out some grass that keeps popping up under the shrubbery. The soil was very dry because this part of the yard does not get watered and there has been no rain for six months -- but still the grass came up easily because the soil seems to be free of clay...... Gardens with clay soil are bound up like concrete this time of year -- you need a jack hammer.

I figured out why more people are calling me for gardening work these days -- because after 3.5 years working in the Southern California landscape I am finally getting tuned into the local ecosystem and plantscape. I kinda got the feel of it.

It's like if a carpenter moves from one state to another state, his work methods don't change very much. But you take a gardener (me) from the Pacific Northwest and move him to SoCal -- boy, it is way different down here. So many new plants to learn -- that is the fun part, but the inexperience makes you a doubtful hire in people's gardens.... Anyway, I am over the hump and kinda know what's going on, so I have more work.

Learning Arabic. If I was a cool guy I would be learning Chinese. Being able to speak even a few words in Chinese is cool. Learning Spanish is cool too -- that makes you a part of the multi-cultural vision. If you learn Chinese or Spanish you're fulfilling the principles of diversity.
Or you could learn Gaelic, the language of Ireland and Scotland -- going back to the Olde Country in Europe. That's cool too, in a retro way.

If you're really cool you could learn an indigenous language, like Quechua, which is spoken in Bolivia, or Coastal Salish which is spoken in Puget Sound.
But who needs to be cool? Not me, I'm learning Arabic and people think that's weird. They get kind of an uncomfortable look on their face when I tell them, like saying "Can we talk about something else?" Or else they say, "Isn't that pretty hard?"

People don't like Arabs for one thing -- I mean in general. And the Arabs -- what they think about us I can't print, so it's not cool.

Returning to my mention of the Chinese people and our Spanish-speaking neighbors -- they don't hate us at all. We're not even at war with them. Well, they might quietly despise us and they might plot to overwhelm us economically, but they don't hate us. But we can't say that about the Middle East -- the Middle Eastern people hate us, some of them do.

So an unspoken fear is don't learn the Arabic language, because you might unknowingly besmirch the reputation of the Prophet, and then Al Qeada operatives will capture you and have you beheaded and the videotape of your execution will be sent to your nearest relatives.

Or worse, if you study the language of this hostile culture, the NSA -- which might be looking over my shoulder right now as I type this message, and if you're reading this message then they might begin watching you too because they have flagged certain words such as "Arabic" -- the NSA might want to talk with you, at a safe house, after a long car ride........ No, better to learn Chinese or Spanish.

But what do I care? I'm old and I'll do what I choose to do. So I'm learning Arabic. I have engaged a tutor. She's very smart and I've learned a lot from her. I have become friends with Arabic-speaking people who have immigrated to the United States. I have made Facebook contacts with people in Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- they're very nice people, and I'm very glad to be friends with them. And they don't hate me, although it's possible that they might find me somewhat annoying at times.

But this does nothing to solve the intense political problems that set their culture against ours. I can't fix that.

There's another reason to avoid learning Arabic. Classic Arabic is the language of the Koran, the foundational text of Islam. Islam is a patriarchal monotheistic religions -- like Christianity and Judaism -- and that's not cool. To learn Arabic is to learn the Koran either directly or indirectly. This is just the way it is and likewise with the study of any Western language we will encounter the Christian heritage, like it or not.

We have our own fundamentalists whom we despise for their dogmatic fanaticism, and the Moslems have their fundamentalists (and the Jews too have their fanatics, except they are not dogmatic), and the only interesting question is whether their fundamentalists are worse than our fundamentalists.

To which I answer undoubtedly -- their fundamentalists are worse than ours. But I don't want to start a debate on that topic. I only want to say that learning Arabic has been a wonderful, stimulating, emotionally-satisfying experience. The language, written and spoken, is rich beyond measure in poetry, music, rhythm, depth, and beauty.

The political problems fester in a climate of sustained mutual hostility. "What you did to us! We will never forget!" The image of mobs of unshaven men shouting with anger in the streets of Cairo and Baghdad. I can't do anything about that.

Except to say that the war will end. Wars always end. And this war will end someday and I hope that day is soon.

My Arabic Tutor Responds

I study with Miranda Zora. She is a Middle Easterner, a native speaker of Aramaic and Arabic. She is also an undergraduate student at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In her response, Miranda points out the positive aspects of studying Arabic.

I really like your essay. It's true, a language is related to the history and politics of the countries/cultures that speak it.
I like specifically the part about language and religion, because that's mainly why people don't like Arabic; it's the language of the "terrorists". Moreover, English is based on Christian traditions. Expressions such as "Thank God," "Bless you" and "Oh my God" express that idea.
However, the main benefit and positive thing for me is that the only way you can understand the culture behind something so controversial and so different is by learning its language. People are afraid of Islam because it's so different; or at least they think it is. However, once they learn the language they will realize that it's in fact not that different and they will be able to relate better to the people who speak the language, AKA Middle-Easterners.
For me, as a linguist and polyglot, I know that language is the reason why I can relate to so many different people and cultures in the world. I can relate to people who speak all the languages that I speak; Aramaic, Arabic, English, French, and Spanish; and even to people who speak languages similar to these. When I meet people who speak Hebrew for example, we end up comparing our languages because they're very similar -- Hebrew came from Aramaic, and that's the basis of our conversation.
Therefore, when I do go on further with my passion and learn more languages, I definitely don't want to learn something that is so similar to what I already know. I'm not going to learn another romance language, I already speak three. I'm not going to learn another Semitic/Middle-Eastern language, but I'm going to learn something that is so different and alien to me; also taking into consideration what will help me in my career later. I want to learn Greek for example, because I love the culture and it's nothing like what I already speak. My other choices are Chinese and Russian, because they're different and would help me in my career later on.
So I actually think it's a smart choice for you to learn Arabic at this time, because it is one of the main languages in the world right now and it's especially important because of the political situation between the US and the Middle East. Plus it opens your horizons and helps you relate to and communicate with so many more people in the world than what you can now without speaking Arabic. 150 million people speak Arabic, and you can relate to them now because you're learning Arabic.
My point is that learning what is different for you is what will make you a global citizen that can survive in this world in any situation and in any country/culture, because I think that that's what's required to survive in this extremely diverse world that we live in today.

Subscriptions. Your subscription money keeps the editor from getting cranky. Your dollars keep him on an even keel. He needs to maintain a sense of detachment and keep his sense of humor. Help him out. Send your check today or hit the PayPal button...... Just follow the instructions below.

Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fresh Local Music

People love fresh, local food. They say it tastes better than canned or frozen produce that was grown a thousand miles away and shipped by long-distance truck and then stored in a huge warehouse for who knows how long. Fresh, locally grown food is better -- everybody knows that.
But isn't it the same with music? Why do you listen to canned music? Why do you listen to the radio or iTunes, hearing music that was recorded last year in a studio a thousand miles away. Turn off that canned music for a while, and listen to the fresh music of your habitat, listen for the sounds in your life -- a dog barking, a door closing, footsteps, traffic, the rustle of paper as you turn the page on the book you're reading, the song of birds, the sound of wind, and that most blessed silence.
After a while you will begin to prefer "fresh, local music" and you might sing a song out loud now and then. You might carry a harmonica in your pocket. You might ask your co-workers to join you in a song, a work chanty perhaps, as the work gangs did in days of old. Turn off the canned music -- listen to the fresh sounds of your real life, the sounds of where you live and who you live with -- that's the true beautiful music that makes your soul sing.

Obamacare. Obamacare is a powerful medicine with deleterious side effects.

Let me try a metaphor.
Obamacare is a good and useful medicine, but it has a serious side effect -- the dosage drives a substantial minority of Americans bonkers.
To say that it is not supposed to have side effects is no argument in its favor. What an objective observer from outer space would surely notice is that when the medicine of Obamacare is applied, the result is that a large number of people break out in a rash.

Obamacare. "Obamacare" is the wrong name and unfortunately everybody uses it. It bodes ill to call this program so wrongly. "Obamacare" personalizes a law and an issue that effects all Americans. FDR established Social Security, but we did not put his name on it. It is a bit of a mouthful to say the Affordable Health Care Act, and I won't use that longer, correct term, but we are stuck with "Obamacare" for now and we urgently need a better name.

Bernie Sanders Respectfully Debates His Right Wing Foes. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a through and through socialist and yet he manages to debate and challenge right-wing foes without resorting to gutter language. He treats his opponents respectfully and for two reasons -- because it is the decent thing to do and also because in the sometime future he will be working with them on other legislative projects.
Look at the language he uses -- the underlined phrases
From a recent interview
And how worried are you that there actually would be a debt default?

"Well, you’ve got a lot of factors going. Am I worried? Yes, I am worried. I can’t tell you that it will happen or not. But you really have people who live in another, in an ideological world which is very far removed from where I think most Americans are. And they believe so strongly, they hate Obama so much, and they believe so strongly in their views that if it means driving this country or the world into a recession or a depression, that from their point of view is a small price to pay to continue their efforts."

I maybe making too fine point, but Sanders does not describe his opponents as insane, deranged, mentally ill, anarchist, bomb-throwing, reactionary Neanderthals. Instead he uses language that we can live with.
Invective is an important part of political strife, but it needs to be respectful, and it if it's not respectful then it must be funny or creative.
There's no point in calling someone a horse's ass unless you can say it with a certain flair.

Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois. We could really use a man like Dirksen now. There was a time when senators looked like senators -- before the tanning lamps, before plastic surgery and hair weaves. Dirksen was a man who know how to hand out gov't. contracts. Rewarding his faithful supporters and often taking care of his foes as well, he got things done and made few enemies.

Inline image 1

We'll Meet Again. Johnny Cash sings it just right.

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when
But I'm sure we'll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through, just the way you used to do
Till the blue skies chase the dark clouds far away.

Subscriptions. Thank you --- Subscriptions can be paid at PayPal on the Frog Hospital blog for $25. Or you can mail a check to the address below,
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Thursday, October 03, 2013

You Can't Close the Grand Canyon

I need to say this -- Yes, the national parks are "closed" but they are still there. It's sort of like the sun on a cloudy day -- it's still up in the sky, but you can't see it.

You can't actually close the Grand Canyon.

The shutdown, we might explain to overseas visitors, is a constitutional ritual. There has been no illegal usurpation of powers, it's being done by the book. The shutdown will take as long as it takes, and the varying parties will resolve their differences.

Or you might think of it as a party game -- to see who can hold their breath the longest.

A National Day of Non-Action. I call for a National Day of Non-Action. The gov't is not working, why should we? Join me in doing nothing, or as little as possible.

I have the novel notion that this so-called "shutdown" is really the tired wheezing of a worn-out overloaded piece of machinery called the federal govt. Maybe we should just give it a rest and don't use it for while. And give yourself a rest too. Take a walk in your neighborhood -- you will quickly find somebody who can use your help.

And let's face it -- for most of you, what you do is not essential -- if you put it off for a few days no harm would come.

No Cause for Panic. Let the major media journalists and the high-powered politicos make their grandstand plays, but do not heed their dramatic warnings. Our country is not facing utter ruin. We are actually doing quite well. To confirm that judgment, I suggest that you look out the window -- Do you see madness and mayhem?


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Leaving California

FROG HOSPITAL -- Sept 29, 2013

Leaving California

By Fred Owens

Not me. I'm not leaving. I love it here. The weather is great and the people are friendly. I was at Dodger Stadium last night watching a game -- beautiful skies in the city. My girlfriend, a native, was telling me how polluted it used to be downtown, when she was a kid, but there is far less smog now.

Look, I'm not selling the place. If you hate California, good for you, stay away.

But what mystifies me is why all these people left. Many thousands of people of have moved out of California in recent years -- gone to Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and other Western States.

Why did they leave? They just gave up and quit -- where's the gumption? I can understand the common complaints about California -- the high cost of living, bad schools, terrible traffic, too much government, and millions of immigrants, not forgetting moral degradation and a state income tax.

All these complaints are valid. So what did millions of Californians do? They quit. They left. They gave up..... Well, good riddance. We don't need you. We're going to fix a few things around here and make it better than it ever was. You just wait and see.

Gov't Shutdown

I'm expecting my Social Security check on Tuesday, so if they shut the gov't. down on Wednesday, it won't be a problem for me. I wasn't planning to go to the national parks, and I hope nobody starts a war in the next few weeks.
Uncle Ted

I promised my cousin Trish a story about her grandfather who was my Uncle Ted. I have thought about this story a good deal but I have only gotten two paragraphs written. Here it is.

What I remember most about Uncle Ted -- and remember this is me as a ten-year-old -- is that he had a very big nose. It came way out from between his eyes and then circled downwards toward his mouth. Uncle Ted's nose was an event in itself...... Also he never talked very much and we didn't see him too often.
Aunt Bee was his wife. I liked her but I thought it was funny she was named after a bug. I didn't know her real name was Berenice -- nobody ever told me.

That's as far as I have gotten.

Tom Robbins at the White Trash Food Festival

I like the title of this story, stepping off on a famous man, author Tom Robbins, and his real life role as Supreme Judge at the annual White Trash Food Festival.

The story is about Tom Robbins and how you can know a man. By his relations you shall know him.

It goes like this. Every year Tom judges the festival, along with co-judge Danny Jensen, aka "Danimal."

There's a lot of Jensen's in LaConner. Danny is probably related to Sybil Jensen who is one of the chief funders and docents at the Quilt Museum, which was founded by Art & Rita Hupy. Art was a well-known photographer who sometimes worked at the old Puget Sound Mail back when Bonnie McDade was the publisher. Bonnie was helped at the newspaper by her sister Maddy Free ( now married to Dan O'Donnell). Later Maddy got a job at the LaConner Post Office, and that's where Tom Robbins goes to pick up his mail everyday and, as many people in LaConner know, Tom loves to keep up a good old-fashioned non-Internet, snail-mail correspondence.

That is just one link of relations in a small town, and that is how you know people. I have notes and can spin out these relations for many pages.

Starting with Ralph Meeks, for example, dead 20 years now, an old fisherman who signed the protest pamphlet that objected to the jetty between Goat Island and McGlinn Island that was built in 1936 to benefit the Dunlap Towing Company but which also ruined the local salmon runs.

Ralph is somehow related to Bud Moore, who know lives in Ralph's old house. Bud is the son of Milo Moore who founded the Moore-Clark fish food company along with his brother Vernon Moore, who is somehow related to Gordy Bell, a longtime town employee, who is probably related to Sharon Bell, a close friend of Barbara Cram, who is no relation to Herb or Sally or Sam Cram. But Sally Cram is the sister of Mary Lam and the daughter of Pat O'Leary who used to own the Puget Sound Mail before Bonnie McDade owned the newspaper, whose sister is Maddy Free, who delivered the mail to Tom Robbins.

So it keeps going around -- for many more pages, but you get the idea.

Trust Your Dreams
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I did this calligraphy from my Arabic Studies. It is two words from a poem by Kahlil Gibran. It reads "Trust your dreams for in them is hidden the gate to eternity."

Kahlil Gibran was from Lebanon, when it was a peaceful and beautiful country. Now it is ravaged by war and flooded with refugees from Syria, but you still trust your dreams. What else can you do?

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Sunday, September 01, 2013

do the right thing

An important moment in the history of race relations in our country was the last scene of Spike Lee's 1989 movie Do the Right Thing.
The key moment is when the character that Spike Lee plays -- Mookie -- decides to hell with it and throws a garbage can through the window of Danny Aiello's pizza stand. Danny Aiello's pizza stand was one of the few functioning businesses in Mookie's neighborhood. And Danny hired Mookie to deliver the pizzas.
But Mookie couldn't stand it. He erupted in violence -- he threw the can, broke the window, burned down the building, a riot broke out, everybody got arrested, and Danny and his two sons left the neighborhood and there was no pizza for anyone and no more work for Mookie.
My reaction, reviewing the film last year, was that Danny Aiello liked black people, he just didn't like them very much. And Mookie was insane to start a riot over this.

Martin Luther King had a dream and Mookie set it on fire.
It's an incredibly good movie.

Family Planning

"Family planning" is quite a contradiction. Not to say plans are wrong, no, plans are very good. But children are much more important than any plan. How many and when you have them -- subject to a certain amount of planning and that's good -- but there is ample evidence of children showing up unbidden and children longed for but not appearing. And that's just the start. Once you have them, despite all the work you do, and more planning of course, you don't have much control over how your children turn out. A family is, in essence, not a plan.

Over and Under Population -- family planning on a much larger scale

Alan Archibald writes to me:

We humans have actually fulfilled a biblical command and are now in full compliance with Yahweh's command to "multiply and fill the earth."

I respond:

It is the only biblical command we have fulfilled -- the earth seems pretty full at this point, but there is limited value in purely theoretical discussions, as you point out, especially when it comes to children. Children are incredibly messy. They poop on theories and make scribbles out of your most careful plans.

When it comes to having children, how many is always a wrong question. Have as many as you want.

Think of a party, a room full of people, everyone having a good time -- who would bother to count how many people are in the room? Introduce disharmony and the room is instantly over-crowded

The goal is harmony. To fear or even consider over-population or under-population is more than a waste of time, it is actually a harm. Such thinking about numbers impairs the judgment of young people who are about to become (or not become) parents.

When parents make their best choices about having children we will have the best possible population --- the actual number is less important.

Seriously, we need to retire this word "passion" when used to describe our daily struggle to make a living. "What is your passion?" -- Ugh! Please, not at work.

At work, we have dedication and ambition. We strive. We are enthusiastic, energetic and determined. We pursue goals.

But we are not passionate -- I visualize someone panting heavily at a meeting of the board of trustees -- that doesn't work.

Social Science proves what we already know


"The study relied on five experiments involving roughly 900 men and women on college campuses and websites."

I don't dispute the conclusion of this study. What amazes me is that people actually waste their time and money proving what the average idiot ( me, perhaps ) already knows.

As for the conclusion of this study, of course it's true -- I have yet to hear a man brag about the status or income of his female partner. I don't spend too much time with younger men however, so my sample is not age-balanced.

Social science is bogus. It impedes the natural flow of human progress. The behavior of men and women, in how they treat each other, is evolving --- we don't need social science to prove that.

I save griping for the end of this essay. I am such a crank. I should just get over it.

Here's my gripe:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am a foe of inclusive grammar and the way it butchers the majesty and cadence of language like this. Should I point out the errors in Dr. King's sentence and suggest the correct terminology according to current standards?

Sons must be changed to children, of course, but that changes the rhythm of this phrase. English speech is full of strong one-syllable words, like "sons" and "red hills." Words like these are one of the glories of our language, but sons must be changed to children.

And brotherhood. I'm afraid there is no easy substitution. Personhood? Brotherhood and sisterhood? You might more broadly alter the text and say "at a table of harmony and good will." That doesn't sound too bad.

But I do miss brotherhood most of all. If only we had achieved it!

This whole essay is one long gripe.

I'm sorry about that. I will leave you with a poignant song -- about what might have been, about the dreams just beyond our reach.

Old Stewball was a race horse,
And I wish he were mine.
He never drank water,
He always drank wine.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I have been reading a lot of books, mainly history, about Syria and Egypt, plus taking Arabic lessons, plus I have a working knowledge of Hebrew -- but I have not actually been to the Middle East ....... Anyway, you add that up, and I feel like I know a little bit, but way short of someone who lives in that region and also short of various Middle Eastern experts -- academics, state department people, people with business interests over there -- those are all people who know more about this than I do......

Studying, learning, traveling, doing business over there -- all those things increase your knowledge but you can STILL be completely wrong. To me, the ancient countries have many layers, and the more you delve into it, the more layers you discover, and there's always more layers.

I feel it is worth the effort to learn about these countries, although I cannot point to any tangible benefit.

Pres. Obama will make a decision about what to do in Syria and we will be living with the consequences. Let's hope for the best.
Willie and Joe

When I was a kid, I wanted to be like Willie and Joe when I grew up. Willie and Joe were the chief characters in Bill Mauldin's book, Up Front, about American combat soldiers in Europe in World War II.

I used to look at the cartoons over and over again. I thought it was really cool that they got to dig holes and didn't have to take baths.

As an adult I have spent a great deal of my working life digging holes and moving earth around, so this became my life. I do bath regularly however.

As for fighting the war, which is what Willie and Joe did -- I didn't do that. I could have gone to Vietnam -- that's an issue men my age still debate.
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Dancing in Your Underwear
I saw Miley Cyrus dancing in her underwear on TV last night. Then this morning there was furious discussion about whether this was a good or bad thing -- a debate between the prudes and the libertines.

Rather than take a side in this, I look at her performance from the vantage of being a trend watcher and this is how to explain it.

What happens when people dance around in their underwear?

It's a trend, and trends are started by attractive young people who look good when they dance around in their underwear. But then trends start to grow and spread across the land, even to places like Nebraska. Then old people and funny-looking people and people-who-aren't-the-least-bit-cool-or-attractive begin dancing around in their underwear -- it doesn't look that good. Next time you're in a crowd someplace, look at all the people. Imagine all of them dancing around in their underwear. Is that a good movie?

Trends start in places like Los Angeles and they die in places like Nebraska..........

In LaConner in 1980 the Town Council met around the Ping-Pong table at the Volunteer Firemen's Rec Hall

I didn't look this up, I am reciting from memory --- Mary Lam was the mayor. Council members were June Overstreet, Judy Iversen, Neva Malden, Roberta Nelson, and Don Wright. Kathi Ernst was the Town Clerk, The town attorney was a woman named Goddard, I think. Pat Sherman was the town treasurer, but she did not sit at the table on a regular basis.
So what we had was an all female govt. but for Don Wright as the Lone Patriarch. What this proved was that it didn't get any worse or better under female leadership.

A few years later Mary Lam persuaded the town council to approve bonds to build a new meeting room across town where the sheriff's dept. is now.
That cost around $180,000. I was opposed to this venture because I thought the ping-pong table was big enough for the council and there was room for 20 or 30 chairs for the citizens, so why spend all that money.
Mayor Lam did not like being a guest of the Firemen however, so the ping-pong table era ended.

What I realized years afterward was that people like Mary Lam and Roberta Nelson, who grew up in LaConner, got kind of tired of the town's rundown condition and hoakee-finokee reputation. They wanted something new and bright and beautiful, something lively and fresh. So the Town Hall Annex, which Mary Lam built for Council meetings, was in fact a very nice building, historic in architecture, but modern in construction. Maybe it was worth the money.
Note: The council meets today in a room at Maple Hall no bigger than the old Fireman's Rec Hall. So maybe I was right all along -- we could have just stayed at the Ping-Pong table.

Back in Santa Barbara. Laurie and I visited LaConner for several days and had a wonderful time. She had not seen LaConner before but she liked it quite a bit. Now we are back in Santa Barbara -- it can get hot and dusty in Septemver in this country, often the hottest time of the year. But, you know, Santa Barbara, it's like they passed a law against having bad weather. It's nice almost all the time. Harsh climates build character, but I believe my moral fiber will survive the easy breezes around here.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Monday, August 26, 2013

the Ghost of Syria

President Obama has been positioning naval vessels off the coast of Syria. Is this a good idea?
The use of chemical weapons seems to be an understandable trigger point.

Obama can look to the example of Clinton who bombed the be-jesus out of Belgrade with great civilian casualties, but without the risk of American troops on the ground -- and that worked. We can hardly remember the dictator's name -- Milosovic -- he has been blotted from memory, and peace, or an ugly calm, pervades the Balkans.

Or Obama can follow the example of Geo. Bush who invaded Iraq, but not to the benefit of the Iraqi people nor to the benefit of regional security.

"It could be worse" -- we sometimes say that in our country. But they don't say that in the Middle East, they make some bitter joke instead.

Still they survive these wars and the olive trees still grow. Read a history of the Crusades or a history of the Roman Conquest, and the names of Tripoli, Homs, and Damascus are mentioned as battle sites. Syria recovered then, it will recover again this time.

"Syria" as a geographic entity has often included Lebanon, Palestine, and what we know call Israel -- with more trouble per square mile than any place on earth. And still it is beautiful. It must be worth fighting for. Nobody wants to leave, or if they do leave they make desperate efforts to return.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Flat Tire foils Thieves

We're getting on the train in Santa Barbara on Monday and going up to Seattle to visit my daughter, then up to LaConner for a few days to see old friends and enjoy the country.

We might stop in at Rexville for the White Trash Food Festival next Saturday, or walk the beach on Guemes Island -- whatever seems like fun.

Flat Tire Foils Scrap Metal Thieves

I sent Jack Rice an email, but he didn't respond, he might have been out of town or he just didn't want to talk about this.

I often visited Jack at his office at the Texaloy Foundry, just to get away from all those women at the Wilson County News where I worked as a reporter. That was 2006 in Floresville, Texas, near San Antonio.

This excellent weekly newspaper was staffed by 21 women and 2 men -- which was okay, but sometimes I just wanted to get away, and I might go over to Texaloy and have a visit with Jack.

He had a comfortable couch in his office and a picture window view of the foundry he owned and managed.

We talked about deer hunting and other things.

The story is about how one of his employees was stealing scrap metal, driving it right out the door on a trailer and selling it. The thief and his outside accomplice overloaded the trailer -- got greedy! -- leading to a flat tire by the side of the road, which excited the curiosity of a local cop who might have noticed their nervous attitude, and then asking questions, found out the goods were purloined -- were, in fact, the property of Jack Rice, and he was a generous man and a fair employer but he did not give stuff away especially if you didn't ask.

They were arrested. I wrote the story. That was seven years ago. I hope the two arrested men have realized the error of their way. I hope they made amends for the theft and have gone back to making an honest living.

That's why I sent Jack Rice an email on Friday -- to find out about that. But it was seven years ago and it doesn't really matter too much by now.

Except for the morality tale --- how the thieves got greedy and overloaded their trailer and that's how they got caught.
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Art Suit in LaConner

Art Suit worked for years at the New England Fish Company underneath the Rainbow Bridge in LaConner.

Art retired and the fish company went bankrupt at about the same time.

He lived with his wife in a modest home on Maple Street. We moved in across the street in 1980, into the double-wide, which was still there last time I looked.

So Art was my neighbor -- him and his happy wife. My kids were pre-school age then and they could wander over to visit with Mr. Art in his garage workshop.

Elaine Dubuque was our other neighbor and Herb Cram, the Cookie Man, lived down the street.

Eugene, being 4 or 5 years old, used to run away from home and when we couldn't find him anywhere, we would walk down to Herb's house, and there was Eugene sitting in front of the TV eating cookies.

Getting back to Art, he had his retirement and his workshop. He owned every tool that I ever dreamed of owning. It was like he walked into the hardware store and said yes, I'll take it. Not that he bought it all at once, but he built up his shop one tool at a time.

He reached the point where most of us only dream, and he had the time and the good health to take on any project from welding, to carpentry, to garden-growing, to electric and plumbing repairs.

He had a few good years like that after he retired.

Art is not with us anymore but he's a was a kind man and a very good neighbor.
The Weather. We had the Greek Festival in Santa Barbara this week and I had the lamb dinner. It was wonderful.

Naturally I called John Kagouras to tell him about the fun we had. He's Greek. He said he was glad I had a good time.

John grew up in Colorado Springs. I didn't know they had such a large Greek community in that town, but John said he did not learn to speak English until he went to school.

John is a retired architect in LaConner. I asked him about the weather. He said it's been warm this summer.

I told him that I was coming to LaConner in a few weeks with my girl friend Laurie and I might see him at La Crema, the coffee shop.

Then I called Jim Smith and Janet Saunders, also in LaConner. Janet answered the phone, she agreed -- it has been pretty warm this summer, with lots of sunny days.

She put Jim on the phone. Jim is recovering from a serious illness, but he sounded a lot snappier than when I called him a month ago. He said he felt much better and he was getting around more. That was good news.

On Facebook I saw a lot of photos of Swinomish people in the tribal canoe journeys. It is a colorful and meaningful annual journey. Try not to get too wet!

Young People. Here in Santa Barbara I share a house with people who are less than half my age. But they're not ready for Frog Hospital so you won't hear about them here.
Egypt. I am studying Arabic and watching the news from Egypt and Syria -- The language is beautiful and the Arabic-speaking people I know seem very good and happy in their ways, and yet the whole place is a bloody mess. I can't explain it. I guess it's not my job to explain it, but I know it's good to pay attention and learning a few words in their language is a way to help.

In Cairo many thousands of angry young men are rampaging through the streets -- educated and unemployed. There are no jobs, there never will be jobs. They must learn to create opportunity. The government can only give them bread, exported from the US and paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar....... I would tell them kindly, someone raised you, some one taught you, now the rest is up to you. Your ancestors built the pyramids, what about you? ...... "create opportunity" -- you start by picking up sticks, you start by looking around at what you have, and what you can do and what somebody else needs...... The Arab Spring was started by an educated young man in Tunisia who was selling fruit because he couldn't get a job.......so that's what you do -- sell fruit -- what's wrong with selling fruit? I've done it, it's fun and you can make money..... But jobs, forget it, there will never be enough jobs.
The Nanofabrication Facility at the University of California at Santa Barbara. This week I'm taking a tour and writing a story about the clean room at UCSB where researchers attempt to discover a more efficient way to produce LED lights. I have been studying in preparation for the interview. Learning about Gallium Nitride, which is a wide-band gap semi-conducter, and how the researchers "dope" the GaN with Indium or Aluminum in an attempt get it to work more efficiently. I love science. To make the effort to understand the research, to have the opportunity to see people make discoveries about the nature of things -- this is such a good thing.

Research, finding a way to build a better light bulb, is not about learning. It's about learning how to learn. We know how to do that here and they don't know how to do that in Egypt. That's the problem.
Otherwise I spend my spare time at the beach reading and swimming.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mesa Harmony Garden

We are harvesting nectarines and plums at Mesa Harmony Garden. The Mesa neighborhood gets the cool ocean breeze and the morning fog. Not the best place for growing tomatoes because of the cool breeze, but it’s awfully nice for garden volunteers working among the fruit trees.

That's what we planted on this one-acre plot -- about 100 fruit trees -- plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, and pears mainly, plus a small banana plantation. What people are realizing is that you can grow bananas in Santa Barbara -- this one variety that tolerates our warm and dry but not tropical climate. It will grow little bananas with orange-flavored sweetness, really excellent and toothsome, and banana trees are no trouble -- except they need water and plenty of room.

At Mesa Harmony Garden, we say that "Labor is Free, but Water is Expensive." It's all volunteer work and nobody gets paid, but the water bill comes every month and we are determined to get that monkey off our backs. We spread large quantities of leaf mulch under the trees to delay evaporation and save water. The city gives this leaf mulch away -- the end-product from the green waste containers. You can pick it up free at several locations. Mesa Harmony Garden, because we are a non-profit, can ask for a truckload -- 10 to 15 yards of mulch, and we can use it all.

Also, the mulch smothers weeds, then breaks down and becomes an organic soil amendment. Good gardeners love mulch.

The other thing we do for water conservation is collect water off the parking lot and the roof of the Parish Hall. I need to backtrack and explain "Parish Hall." The garden occupies a one-acre fenced lot, property of the Holy Cross Catholic Church, but the Mesa Harmony Garden is a separate organization, a formally organized non-profit corporation with a 15-year lease on the premises, which gives us the freedom and time necessary for planting an orchard.

The parking lot, almost as big as the garden itself, is slightly uphill from the garden, so we capture all the runoff at the lower end and channel the water into a biological swale that will clean it up a bit before it flows onto the fruit trees.

Rain falls on the gutters of the Parish Hall and then flows into an above ground tank and that water gets piped downhill to the garden. Rain water is free and why waste it.

We do not rent plots to individuals as many community gardens do. The prime directive for this orchard is growing fresh fruit for the Santa Barbara Food Bank. We planted the orchard three years ago and this is the first season we are getting a decent harvest. Last week we picked 50 pounds of white-fleshed nectarines and plums. Next week we can begin harvesting peaches.

The trees are young and the fruit is small, but by next year we might be harvesting quite a volume of produce.

And we have gophers -- it's a constant battle. You know what the trick is for dealing with gophers? There is no trick. The only thing I can say is Never Give Up. This is nature in the raw, an endless struggle.

But I always want to believe what I hear about gophers, like someone said they never bother with the pepper plants, so when someone donated some habanero pepper bushes we planted them without gopher cages, and so far the gophers haven't touched them. That makes sense -- would you munch on habanero roots?

Mesa Harmony Garden has volunteer days twice a month. Go to the website and find out how you can help.
Too Much Empathy

What I have noticed about the Middle East is that they are in a time and place of complete empathy. Everything hurts. It is a culture that is all poetry and utterly lacking in science, industry and technology. It's totally out of balance. No wonder we say it's our oil underneath their sand. They didn't even know the oil was there, and when it was discovered they did not know what to do with it.
Now they are using imported smart phones to foment a revolution. But I would say, instead of waving the bloody flag, they might put up posters of the medieval Arabic scholars who had a balanced stance of poetry and reason and who guided our European ancestors toward this balanced vision.
I continue to study Arabic and find it very revealing. Here is my practice sheet for today. It says "the beautiful city" and I mean that to refer to Cairo -- may the beautiful side of this great city come to flourish. This is a two-word poem, and it is an act of empathy, but I would wish for those young fellow fighting in the street that they would go home or to the cafe and study chemistry and physics and mathematics, and devise state-of-the-art solar energy projects and construct highly efficient desalinization plants.Inline image 1
This practice sheet has not been corrected by my tutor and may contain mistakes.

If I were a Rich Man. I have no desk, no place to work. We saw Fiddler on the Roof last weekend, an outdoor summer theater production -- just a lovely old thing. At the end of the play, Tevya and his family have to leave their village and head for a new home. Gotta keep moving.

But, seeing the play, it made sense that I had studied Torah at Beth Shalom for three years. Participating in this Boston-area Jewish community was like living in Anatevka. So when I saw Fiddler on the Roof, I said to my girlfriend, yeah, I used to live there. Pictured here is Rev Moshe Holcer, who grew up in a place like Anatevka and who taught me so much.
Fred Owens's photo.

So I said to Rev Moshe one morning, "I don't have a place to work, a place to stay, a place to live, it never lasts, I can't even unpack." So Rev Moshe said to me just a few words. "Keep your hat on."

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Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

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Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001