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 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

send mail to:

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