Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bathsheba Beckons

By Fred Owens

I wrote a short story called "Bathsheba Beckons." I will send it to you in the next newsletter. It's not very long, only 2,300 words. I expect most of you will find it tedious and laced with obscure literary references, but a few of you might enjoy it. I know I enjoyed writing the story. It is my first attempt at fiction.

I am drawing on persons from real life of course --- there is a character named Charlie Bones, an artist in Seattle, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Charlie Krafft.

The lead character is named Tom Blethen. Tom is the name of my older brother. Blethen is a Welsh name. The Blethen family are the owners of the Seattle Times, and I once dated a woman of that name who was a part of that family........Bessie Blume is the female character.... The name Blume comes from my friend Harvey Blume, the Tanned Lion of East Cambridge..... and so the story construction process goes.

I put Tom Blethen on a small farm in Ventura County. He is digging potatoes on a winter's day, working in the rain, working on Bessie Blume's farm. He is muttering and cursing his fate, when Bessie comes out of the house to give him some direction -- but I am giving away the story now.

The great joy of writing fiction is that, once you have set up the characters and the scene, you don't really know what is going to happen, even though you are writing the story. You see, a character, once created, has a mind of his own, he does what he will, not what you tell him to do. It all comes down to the truth. Even in fiction, you have to tell the truth -- because all good stories are true stories.

The title, "Bathsheba Beckons," comes from the Thomas Hardy novel, Far from the Madding Crowd, which is set on a farm in rural England. The main character in the novel is Bathseba Everdene, and she owns a farm, and so Bessie Blume is actually very different in character from Bathsheba but she does own a farm.

With Affection for Christopher Hitchens. Of course he did not say Merry Christmas, but can you imagine Hitchens greeting someone with Happy Holidays? He would have choked on his Scotch before uttering such a nonsense. He was way better than that and I miss him already. I heard him speak in Seattle several years ago, on tour to promote his book on atheism. He was a wonderful, witty speaker who converted no one to his belief. Half his audience in Seattle were Methodist ministers of a liberal stripe, attending as a display of tolerance. Hitchens couldn't win for losing in this debate. God loves a scoundrel.

He was a confirmed smoker and drinker. Had he reformed he would not have lived one minuter longer. Had he reformed he would have died of boredom. If one lives for the sake of "health" then one is rewarded with a long and stupid life -- I'm sure he would have agreed with that sentiment.

Hitchens was a fully enlightened being and he made the decision to dissolve upon death. He will not visit heaven nor hell and he will not be reincarnated.

Impossible to find a gift for my brother. I finished my Christmas shopping, having bought seven gifts for under $100 total. Except I don't have anything for my older brother Tom. Every year it is impossible to find him a gift. He has nothing and he doesn't want anything.

Not me, there are many things I want, and I'm working on a wish list for 2012, a list of things I wish to acquire, places I wish to visit, and experiences I would like to have. This is a secret list, of course.

Learning Chinese. I go to for a study of Chinese characters. It is easy to learn Chinese. Just say that to yourself every day. It's easy. Chinese isn't difficult. You learn one character, then you learn another character and you just keep going. If anyone says learning Chinese is hard, then throw water at them or call them a bad name.

No Farm News. The sun comes up, the sun goes down and each days passes in its time and toil.

No Politics. I'm biting my tongue, but I'm sticking to my pledge -- no politics here.

Merry Christmas. Cheers, happiness and prosperity to all. May the joy of the season spread across the globe even to North Korea.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Things Might Improve

FARM NEWS by Fred Owens

"Things might improve," said Andy Dunstan at Love House Dahlia Farm this morning. I had presented him with a problem while he was eating his cereal. He turned his head to me and said, "things might improve" and then he continued with his breakfast.

To Hell with Celery. Farmers in Ventura County grow over $150 million worth of celery every year, making it the celery capital of the world. So you would think I could easily find a celery farmer to interview, you know, ask him about his crop and his field and how he grows things. Nope. It's like pulling teeth to get these old boys to talk. They don't know me and they don't trust me. Well, to hell with them too.

I left a phone message with a local celery grower, but he won't call me back. They never do. I've been through this dance before. It's not really the farmer's fault. They're just not good at talking. They're out there in the field all day working with great skill to produce an abundance of good food for all of us to enjoy. But you tell them you're a reporter with a few questions, and they clam up tight. What did I ever do to them?

Maybe some other guy wrote a bad story about farming, I never did. I'm just trying to make a living.

Moo. Farming is a very interesting thing to think and read about. As you know, I have become an ardent straddler and fence riding moderate. So I don't take a pro or anti position about organic farming versus conventional, or agri-biz versus small farm, or GM food which is either a plot to control the world by Monsanto or a benefit to all mankind. No, I just hang out here with the cows. The cows go MOOOO, which is OM said backwards.

Dry Here in Ventura. It hasn't rained here in a month, and then we get those dry desert winds day after day -- wind sucking all the moisture out of the soil. Not a big problem except I have 12 50-foot rows of sweet peas trying to germinate, and then sticking up their cute little heads, breaking through a crust of soil and spreading out their tender baby leaves under December skies. Short days don't hurt the sweet peas, it just makes them grow slowly. And a hard frost at night doesn't hurt them either. But that dry wind is not good, so I water the sweet peas every day.

Digging Up Tubers. We have about 65 raised beds of dahlia tubers, beds being 25 to 35 feet in length, and full of dahlias, which have all finished their season, dying back to the ground and someone needs to dig them all up and get them to the greenhouse. Nate was a traveler and he dug tubers all last week, but this week it's my turn.

It's not such a bad job -- crispy cold in the morning so the boss said to pick a row in the sunshine. Isn't she nice to say that?

That's all for now. We're just "doing the kind of work that most Americans don't want to do." This is not really true, you just need to find a good farm to work at.