Saturday, July 26, 2014


One day there was this guy working in a field, chopping weeds all day, hot work, tired and thirsty. He had a big field, chopping weeds day after day, and he got tired of it. There must be a better way, he thought. He's the guy who invented Round-Up....

But there are other ways to avoid the problem of chopping weeds all day. Like hiring poor people from 3rd world countries to do it for you......

Or you can keep chopping weeds but make it more fun with better pay, nice clean field bathrooms and shady rest areas.

Or you can plan your tillage and planting to avoid the worst of the weeds.

There's actually several ways to solve this problem. And none of them work too well.

None of them work too well, so we go back to the Bible and read that we are condemned to work by the sweat of our brows. And dream about gardens where there is no work to do at all. Besides the Bible you have several visions of paradise to work with, depending on your religious and cultural persuasion -- a favorite of mine is to imagine it was so much easier when we were all hunter-gatherers in small tribes wandering --- "the fish just jumped into the boat!" .... "the fruit fell off the tree" ..... "there were tasty roots in the meadow" ....

Penny Jennings, from her farm in Oregon, responded. "We're experiencing the weed issue here on the farm. But I refuse to pollute the land with Round-Up. Instead, we are putting about 5 inches of compost and bark mulch and planting plants that eventually will replace the weeds. But they are relentless. It may just be my fantasy...."

I wrote back to her -- "The key to understanding the weed problem is that nothing works. We face this hopeless moment and then we move on."

The Reaper.

Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper in 1837. It was soon widely adopted. You can make a nice nostalgic painting of happy workers reaping the grain with scythes and sickles, but a million farm boys and farm girls were pretty happy to be relieved of that labor when the mechanical reaper came along......

Round up and Reapers are some of the machines and chemicals that do the work for us --- you can say that's good or you can say that's awful -- it depends on who you talk to.

It Might Have Been Different

David Ben-Gurion attempted to enlist in the Turkish army at the beginning of World War I. He and the other Zionists hoped to form a Jewish regiment that would fight on the Turkish side. But their offer was rejected..... Imagine how different history would be if Ben Gurion had fought for the Turks. With Jewish help, the Turks would have defended Jerusalem and Damascus against the British invaders...... But no, the people of the Middle East consistently and stupidly reject the potential of Jewish "help." And what good does it do them? We in America had the good sense to welcome millions of Jewish immigrants - to our benefit.

A History of Hovels.

My life in a shack. I hope I never live in sub-standard housing again. I guess that's what I remember most about the Skagit Valley -- slum housing amid natural splendor........ Other people excelled in shack management -- you know, chop wood and carry water, all that lovely vision of back to the land.

Not me. My experience was blowing into a funky wet fire on my hands and knees, trying to get the fire going in some damp cabin...... You think I could even heat a wood stove -- lots of people did good at that. Not me.

And work. Menial manual labor. You think I might have picked up a marketable skill, like the friends I knew who became carpenters and boat builders and made decent money. Not this space case. Unskilled minimum-wage labor -- that was my specialty.

Loading the truck. I was good at that. Once me and Jim Smith unloaded an entire railroad box car full of surplus government cheese.

Once Singin' Dan and me dug a 200-foot long 18-inch deep ditch to put in a water line -- at least it wasn't raining when we did that.

And not forgetting the natural splendor of the Skagit Valley.

But other people did better, just fit into the landscape better. Years ago we camped beside Steve and Katy Philbrick on Illabot Creek. They lived in a warm and snug two-story tepee, with clean glass kerosene lanterns, sitting next to a carefully stacked and dried pile of alder wood.

They were cozy. We were cold and wet. And Steve and Katy still live up there. They moved out of the teepee, bought land, built a house, had children -- the whole nine yards.

What I'm saying is that the Skagit worked for them and I'm glad for their happiness, and I'm sure they had tears and tragedy along the way.

But it leads to my saying and this is it. "You don't pick the place. The place picks you."

You might want to live in some place very badly, but that doesn't mean it will work out. Then you end up somewhere else and things start to click -- and that's where you belong because that place picked you.

Santa Barbara. It's festival season in Santa Barbara. The Greek Festival is this weekend. Next weekend is the Fiesta -- celebrating Old Spanish Days with lots of parties and dress up and the grand equestrian parade with hundred of horses. I love the parade and seeing all the horses. There might be a few hundred thousand visitors and no place to park, but it's a lot of fun. and if you don't like parades and parties, you can always go to the beach.

Here's my toast Santa Barbara, Viva la Fiesta!

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