Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Coyote Ate the Cat

Got a phone call from a friend in Nebraska, he said, "Retirement is like being unemployed until you're dead."
The guy got retired by his firm of long-standing -- shown the door.

"It really hit me last week. I had my tires rotated. I never did that before, never had the time. And I don't have hobbies. I hate hobbies."
You could travel.

"I might travel. My wife wants to go to India. I want to go someplace with good plumbing."

What are you going to do otherwise?

"I'm going to start feeding stray cats until I get 2 or 3 dozen crawling all over the place. Then I'm going to sit on the front porch and glare at people walking by."
Sounds like you have a vision.

"Just a way to pass the time. I enjoy pissing people off."

Edward Snowden. "I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker," Obama said, giving new meaning to the phrase "feigned indifference."

This is a classic Obama head fake. I suspect his minions are striving with great effort to secure Snowden, but until Snowden gets caught Obama pretends he doesn't care.

Likewise, Putin denies having his agents debrief Snowden at the Moscow airport -- sure.

Snowden makes a case that the USA operates an oppressive surveillance regime, but his case was weakened, to say the least, when he fled to China and Russia...... Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Feelings. Men don't express their emotions -- women say that. Actually men express their emotions to each other, which is why I know how other men feel about things....... But you didn't talk, the woman said, I didn't hear it...... Well, that could be that men express their emotions to each other, but not to you, dear sister. We have our own ways of communicating...... But you didn't say anything, the woman said, I don't see your point.....And he said, Exactly, that was my point.........

Men express the emotions they have, not the emotions they don't have. Men don't have the same emotions that women have. A man might be expressing a feeling, and a woman might not understand that or even hear that because she has never had that feeling.

Men express their feelings to other men who have had that same feeling. They understand each other.

Women have feelings that men don't have. Men understand that. That's why men say, without embarrassment, "we don't understand you."

When a men has an emotion that is similar to a woman's emotion, then he can tell her about that, and she will understand.

When a man has an emotion different than what a woman has, she will not understand it.

I think that pretty much explains it. Did I leave anything out?

Master Gardener. A well-meaning relative suggested I take the Master Gardener Training Course. This confused me. "You think I should take the course? Gosh, I think I should be teaching the course."

I am a Master Gardener. I have had my hands in the dirt as long as I can remember. And I do things strictly by the book -- because I wrote the book.

And you can read it and you can learn from me. But it occurs to me that if my own relative thinks I need to take a course, then I must be presenting myself poorly. I need to receive a certificate at some kind of ceremonial conclave. The American Society of Horticulturists with the Best of Intentions awards Fred Owens with their Gold Medal, then I will be acknowledged as a Master Gardener.

More like Old Gardener. I'm an Old Gardener. But still learning. I can say I'm a gardener in Arabic. انا فلاح Ana Fellah -- when I get to the Middle East I will say that, and they will invite me to their homes and we will discuss the growing of things.

Laughing. I think this Frog Hospital essay is very funny. It makes me smile. Have a good weekend.

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Garden News

But first a comment that few people will appreciate.

Woman walks in coffee shop, slathered head to toe in hideous tattoos. Not much point in saying anything. Lovely skin, too bad she smeared ink all over it....... Land of a thousand dragons...... They always do dragons and butterflies..... Or else they try to be different, by inking a 1947 Packard or something odd, so then they will be the only guy/girl in Southern California with a 1947 Packard tattooed on their posterior....... Occasionally I see a tattoo that is mildly interesting, but most of them are gross and the despoiling of a beautiful body raised by loving parents. You put 18 years into raising a kid, and then they want to scribble on your masterpiece and rub your face in it...... It's a way of registering adult freedom, of course, but there are better ways to do that.

Write or call me for a list of better ways to establish adult freedom in your life -- I will be glad to help.

Tattoos are popular among people who are looking for permanence and security. A tattoo is something you can keep forever. No one can ever take it away from you, and in this changing and frightening world, it is understandable that people want something of their own that will stay with them. You can lose your teddy bear, or somebody might steal it, but the swan tat on your shoulder blade -- you can always have that, a friend forever who will never change or betray you. A flower that will never fade.
So there I was, sitting in the coffee shop, minding my own business, when the woman walks in with so many tattoos that it was LOUD, like she was wearing a dozen chipmunks on her shoulder and had a small alligator wrapped around her waist, and a banyan tree twining up her left leg, and perched on the tree was a flaming-red salamander. Kinda hard not to notice. But that's my annual tattoo rant, so, until next time, think before you ink.
Now We Have the Garden News. I'm going to harvest the red onions today. I planted them last fall and they should have gotten big by now, but I'm tired of waiting. Just dig them up and plant something else.
I will check this bag of seed packets and think about what to plant in place of where the onions were -- more cilantro maybe -- except we're coming into hot season, and it doesn't seem like a good time to plant anything.
The front yard sweet corn will be knee high soon. This is a lovely 5 by 12 patch right in back of the mailbox. It's an advertisement for the splendor of home gardening. "Grow Local, Eat Local" it says in a bright neon-green message to cars driving by. We will harvest the corn sometime in August and have a BBQ party, إن شاء الله (that's Arabic, "Insha'-Allah" which means God Willing, not strictly a Moslem saying but used by most Arabic speakers).
Next I will check the gopher trap I set early this morning. I have been serious about this lately. I go out first thing and look for fresh sign of the little dirt mounds they make. Then I dig it up and look for the tunnel and place the trap in it. I don't bother to bait it, or wear gloves to disguise human scent, or cover it to keep out the dark.
What I do is get 'em mad. Dig up their holes and let them know whose garden it is. Often enough they'll come right back to plug up the hole where I set the trap. Then they get caught.

I don't hate gophers -- All God's creatures have to make a living after all. But they can't eat my tomatoes.
Meanwhile we are harvesting nectarines and plums over at Mesa Harmony Garden. This is in a Santa Barbara neighborhood called the Mesa because it sits on a mesa -- a table top hill right near the beach that gets the cool ocean breeze and the morning fog. Not the best place for growing tomatoes because of the cool breeze, but awfully nice for garden workers among the fruit trees.

That's what we planted on this one-acre plot -- about 100 fruit trees -- plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears mainly, plus a small banana plantation. What people are realizing is that you can grow bananas in Santa Barbara -- using a 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.
Water. At Mesa Harmony Garden, we say that "Labor is Free, but Water is Dear." 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. 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.
Spreading mulch thickly under the trees delays evaporation and saves water. 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 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 will 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. The harvest is not for sale or for trade, but we do get to munch on quite a few ripe nectarines as we pick them -- and this can be rationalized. A lusciously ripe and juicy peach may just as well be eaten on the spot, because it will never get to the Food Bank warehouse in time. Instead we aim to pick and deliver the firmer fruit to get a little shelf-life and allow for handling.
And we have gophers -- don't get me started. 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, because those little buggers will never give up either. 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. Makes sense -- would you munch on habanero roots if you were a gopher?

Happy Summer,


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, June 10, 2013

The Class of 6T8

The Class of 6T8. At St. Michael's College at the University Toronto, alumni gathered to celebrate their 45th reunion. I wish I could have come. Classmates sent me photos after the party. I can pass those photos on to whomever.
At another time I might tell stories of old times, but I have only a small taste for nostalgia. Better to share a tune. Joan Baez had such a sweet voice. The lyrics live in our souls. One Too Many Mornings.
And farewell to Fr. Madden, CSB, he made us a family.

That's enough, on with the news.

Riding to Damascus. Paul was riding to Damascus when God struck him down and made him a preacher..... Those were Roman times, then came the Byzantines, the Arabian tribes, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the French and the British.
Always riding to Damascus, but will we ever get there?

The war rages, but the writer of this letter cautions us to not so easily describe it as Sunni versus Shia. We want to take a side, we want to help -- our intentions are good. But it's an ancient puzzle and we are not ancient people.
Read this Letter to Damascus

Learning Arabic. I have begun to study and learn the Arabic language, spoken by 240,000,000 people. To speak it, read it and write it. I have so far learned the 28 letters and their pronunciation. My teacher is a college student at UC Santa Barbara. She is Chaldean -- you have to look that up. Her home language is Aramaic, plus the Arabic.
I believe that one hour studying the language is equal to 20 hours of reading the history and the news about Syria.

I say a few words, I recognize a few letters, and it feels like my head will explode (in a good way).
Being able to communicate with people -- that takes effort, but it is rewarding.

Below is Syria spelled out in Arabic letters. Five letters starting from the right -- sinn, waw, ra, ya, alif -- those are the names of those five letters.


My teacher, after three lessons, said, "Which kind of Arabic do you want to learn, Classic or Levantine?" I was on the spot. Classic Arabic is the language of the Koran, of educated folk, of Al-Jazeera broadcast TV, and is widely understood, but it is the formal version of things. How people actually talk is the Levantine dialect in Syria -- quite different from how they talk in Egypt or the Gulf States or the Saharan countries, all of which have their own dialects. I choose to be thrilled by this complexity.

Farm News. In addition to delving into the Syrian mystery, I will get back to reporting the farm news from California. Here's the egg story.
Prop. 2, passed in 2008, requires California egg producers to make bigger cages for their hens. And here's my opinion -- well-intentioned consumers who want to be nice to chickens have passed a law that requires real chicken people to act in a good way. This is ignorance, but it's also typical of California voters to pass judgment on issues about which they know nothing.
Instead, I tell my fellow Californians -- you should get your own chickens and spoil them rotten if you wish to, build them palaces, fix them gourmet snacks. I'm not kidding -- that's a good thing to do. Or buy your eggs from people who spoil their chickens like you think they should be spoiled. Spread your poultry gospel of good will across the land.
But don't pass a law. We have far more regulations than anyone can even remember.

Set a good example -- you will accomplish so much more than attempting to control the behavior of other people.

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Fred Owens
35 West Main ST
Suite B #391
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Fred Owens

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