Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving

Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. It will be just Sue and me. We’re keeping it small. When I was at the grocery store today the clerk asked me if I was picking up last-minute stuff. I guess it was because I wasn’t buying very much. Olives. Prosciutto. Rolls. A small bag of beans. A ham hock for the beans. No, I said. One of the kids is in New York and the other is in Florida, so it’s just my wife and me. It sounded kind of pathetic, as the words came out of my mouth. Just a couple of people getting on in years, spending Thanksgiving alone. There’s more and more of that every year as both kids get older and on with their own lives. I remember my parents feeling the same way.

We’re ok. We don’t really do holidays that much anyway, except maybe for Christmas, but we don’t want to ignore them either. A friend of Sue’s called her the other day to see if she wanted to go for a walk tomorrow because her husband will be watching sports all day. I like the holidays, though, and this year it’s been kind of tough. Money is tight since we had to buy a new used truck, and I haven’t found any work since the beginning of the year. And the election seems to take a lot out of you. Just the sheer emotion of it all. The outcome makes you wonder what’s going to happen, and uncertainty is anxiety-making, though we do have plenty to be thankful for, just starting with each other. It’s just the times. Alley Cat Theater is coming along and I have high hopes for that project, but that’s a long way off, too. I’ll know in January when I’m in Vermont at the Vermont Studio Center if I got funding. If I don’t, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

I was going to make salmon but it wasn’t local at the fish store, so I bought halibut, which was out of Boston. I really support local farmers and fishermen, and it has to be wild-caught or organic. Our food chain has become pretty much compromised over the years, thanks to our bought and paid-for politicians in Washington and their lobbying friends. As my mother used to say, they’re all in cahoots, and it’s true. If this past election didn’t prove that, I don’t know what will convince the American people. They’ll just believe what they want to believe.

Bay scallops were $37.99 a pound. Is that normal? I asked, knowing full well it wasn’t. It seems kind of expensive. It’s a little high, he answered, in that understated way some New Englanders have. Martha Vineyards’ scallops are only producing about 100 pounds a day. I guess that’s not a lot to go around. I prefer bay scallops, but bought sea scallops for $20 a pound, and got a little over a half pound. I’m roasting brussel sprouts that came from our garden, and making rice, since we already have it and it’s cheap. I buy everything on sale. I told Sue I’d make French toast for her for breakfast. That’s her favorite, and I don’t usually make it during the week. It’s a holiday that’s all about food (and well, getting together with family, but that’s not happening) so I imagine if the rain holds off we might go over to the Blue Hills for a hike. My one knee has really been bothering me though from me pushing it one day over there in the Blue Hills, so a nice stroll in the woods would be fine to keep the sludge moving.

It almost seems as if we’re doing the holidays underwater, in that slow-motion way, going through the motions but it seems we’re in a dream. Next week is Sue’s birthday, then the week after we’re going to New York for Ferris Wheel Management’s Christmas party, then it will be Christmas, and then I’ll be in Vermont, working on Plank. There’s a few parties mixed in there, but again, it’s the election that I think is throwing us all. I called the election, and I hated the fact that I knew Trump would get elected. Arrogance on the part of the Clintons and corruption in the DNC gave the election away, coupled with the press not doing its job, which it gave up on a long time ago. They don’t report on the news anymore; its job is to just make money now, and that means pushing an agenda set by the advertisers. I keep working on Plank, and want pull up The New American, too. I just keep crossing my fingers that Alley Cat Theater will work and I can put these plays on. I guess what I can be most thankful for is just the chance to do this. Isn’t that what we used to say about the United States? The land of opportunity. Just give us the opportunity and we’ll take it from here?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

New England Festy 2016 Pictures

And read my review at No Depression. 

Old Salt Union

David Wax Museum

Mimi Naja of Fruition

Josh Ritter. And Boston-based musicians, Mark Erelli and Zachariah Hickman

Justin Townes Earle

The Wood Brothers


Jefferson Hamer of Session Americana

Sessions Americana

Greensky Bluegrass

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Post Road Trip Blues

We just recently came back from two glorious weeks on a road trip through Canada's Maritime Provinces: up the center of New Brunswick onto Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula and then back through Acadia, then over to Prince Edward Island and then back into New Brunswick. Two glorious weeks of stunning landscape, great food, and some of the warmest, most friendly people you can imagine.

Then back to Boston. We literally went from this... this... 24 hours. The picture of the deer and the images of Boston's Friday afternoon rush hour were taken almost exactly 24 hours apart. One day we were in a small, quiet woodlot by the side of a road in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, watching three deer forage (and they watched us, too) and the next day we were negotiating smelly, hot, noisy Boston.

I have a love/hate relationship with Boston. It's been my home for 35 years now. There are things I absolutely love about it. I appreciate that I live in a place and experience the architecture and history that people travel thousands of miles to visit. I love the nearby ocean and its smell. I love hiking the Blue Hills on a weekday, and being so close to Cape Cod, the White Mountains, and New York City. And while I may not actually love the the city's subway system, locally known as the T, I do like it a lot. But, my nickname for Boston is AngryTown. People here are always seem so angry with one another and the effect is not pleasant. In Canada I realized I was always leery about approaching a stranger, and every time I found the person to be friendly and helpful, willing to share and be open without a hint of malice. I've traveled the world, so I think I'm qualified to say that Boston is not a very friendly city. I will even go as far as to say I've found New York and New Yorkers to be friendlier.  And Boston drivers are abysmally aggressive and sometimes even dangerously so, but the kicker is they actually take pride in that. In Canada, while it only happened about three, maybe four times, but when someone learned we were from Boston, their response was, "Oh, I'm sorry", said humorously, but that's the way polite Canadians get their point across.

So, coming off a trip that was so relaxing because we constantly found ourselves in contact with not only some of the most stupendous natural vistas, but people and a society who right from the get-go shared the same values about the environment, socialism vs. capitalism, and the role of religion made me very nervous about crossing back over the border. Granted, we were mostly traveling in predominantly rural sections. But I honestly can't remember one store or restaurant where there was a television screen, which is so prevalent in the United States, even in rural areas. People, for the most part, eat in restaurants, like they do in Europe, sans phones and television. Occasionally you'd see a young man, withdrawn in his hoodie, hunched over a phone in a Tim Horton's, but that's really about it. And once I do remember in the town of Gaspe--this is the big city in that region, mind you--having breakfast at a delightful combination of store/cafe and a woman, probably coming up on her thirtieth year, upon the waitress placing her breakfast in front of her, pulling out her cell phone and taking a picture of her food as naturally as putting the napkin in her lap. But understand that these examples were definitely not the norm, which made them stand out.

So, I repeat, I can't say I was looking forward to being back in Boston and to a greater extent the United States after decompressing from American society where porcupines were as common as squirrels in the park.  There's the current election. "Three hundred and nineteen million people and those two are the best you could come up with?"asked a former Montreal police officer and a liberal who struck up a conversation with me while I waited to pay for gas. There's the violence, and the threat of violence that I feel everyday. There are the racial and gender issues that are so prominent in the news and my Facebook feed that I think are important but still generate so much fighting and accusation without seeming to resolve anything.

I wondered if what I was feeling upon re-entering the United States was akin to what a person feels upon leaving detox, now clean, but again out on the streets without any real defense against threat or temptation. 

The pace of life jangles my nerves in Boston. It's too fast, too loud, too argumentative. People don't discuss things. They wait for you to stop talking so they can poke holes in what you've said, a legacy of all the colleges and their Aristotelian culture, I think. I do everything I can to defuse it's effects, starting with traveling like we just did, taking road trips on backroads and camping along the way. Sometimes you just have to get away from it all.

In Canada I thought of all of things I do to slow time or create peace in my life. I realized the things I do to connect with my dead parents. The list sounds like a recipe for a commune or a Luddite or even a Buddhist. I don't own a cell phone, nor do I want one. I haven't owned a television for over 10 years; we get all of our information and entertainment through a laptop. I wear an analog watch, long before it was hip and fashionable to do so now. We drive late-model vehicles that are paid for, and I'm certainly not the most fashionably dressed person in the room with old Levis and cowboy boots being my "style", as one of our daughters put it. Sue buys most of her clothes in consignment shops. I run to relieve stress and to think. I bake our own bread, cook our meals from scratch, and air-dry our laundry, just like my mother used to do. I take the train into Boston to especially buy locally grown organic meat and vegetables at Boston Public Market. I shave with a double-edge razor, which reminds me of my father. Every day I offer incense to the Buddha, the minute or so it takes me to do that reminds me there's a spiritual life for me to consider.

Right before we left for Canada I realized I was spending a total of upwards of two hours a day on Facebook. More if you included other social media sites like Twitter and news sites. Two hours a day is 14 hours a week, which is almost two full work days. Imagine, I thought, of what I could have written if I had used that time more prudently. I could have finished a play, started a new one, or worked on short stories. I could have improved my music ability or written more songs.

It always happens after traveling. You try to hang on to what life was like when you were free, thinking this is the way life really should be. And we rarely do that. For now, I'm going to leave this post with that thought. Let's see what happens.

Thank you for listening. And please share your ideas for a more peaceful life, and for combating the day-to-day stresses in your own life.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Urban Garden And The Drought Of 2016

Acorn squash. Tiny fruit and hardy any foliage.
Six weeks ago the urban garden looked pretty good. Hopeful. We were getting rain, and the temps were staying in the 80s F. Then came July.

Now, I'm almost ashamed to post pictures. This blog post should come with a trigger warning, that the images might be upsetting if you're, say, a vegetarian. This is the worst garden I think I've ever had in my life. Weeks of 90+ degree weather and drought conditions can kill a garden, which is pretty much what happened. Zucchini is something that everyone can grow. First time gardeners: Grow zucchini to really boost your confidence. They will grow to the size of small baseball bats if you don't watch them. But I think we've harvested about three summer squash and one zucchini, and the rest might just get pulled and thrown in one of the compost bins, which, by the way, are heating up in the summer sun and cooking the beejesus out of the compost, killing weed seeds and decomposing the material.

Remember that the deal we have with our landlord is we would only use collected rainwater to water the garden to keep the water bill from going sky high. But, when there isn't water coming out of the sky to replenish the water collection barrels, well... I was at Boston Public Market on Saturday, and one of the farmers there said they dug a pond for water, i.e. they dug a hole to get to the water table to access a supply of water. We did just have about two days of steady rain, and of course that's all it took for the weeds to take off and start choking out the plants.

It's hard to watch a garden get like this. You feel helpless. You total up all of the money you spent on seedlings and take your loss, and you tell yourself, well, at least we're not depending on surviving this way. And of course, then your imagination does wonder what it would be like if you actually did count on this for survival. And in a way we do. We count every penny, and last year, we cut our food bill dramatically with this little garden, so we're going to feel it in our wallet in the coming months. Last year we were living on salads from our garden during the summer, and the squash and eggplant, and I think it was well into March of this year that we finally finished the tomato sauce we had in the freezer from tomatoes we grew ourselves.

Other urban gardeners in our neighborhood are showing varying levels of success. Some gardens are really struggling. When I see one that's thriving, I just assume they're watering every day. One garden I noticed was laced with soaker hoses.  The boxes on the porch, which I hand water sometimes twice a day--between the sun and reflective walls, the porch can really heat up like an oven--are doing fine.

Tomorrow I think I'll do triage, dig up what's not going to survive, and plant peas, just to get them in the ground. I'll pin burlap down over the seeds and wait for cooler weather. Maybe next year we'll put out more than the two rain barrels that we have. Put them under as many downspouts as possible for the inevitable heat wave.

The herb boxes on the porch hang in there with extra TLC.
Oregano (along the back) is very heat tolerant.
Peppers have been producing small, but very flavorful fruit.
Sad potato patch.
The zucchini is barely alive. So sad. We miss sauteed zucchini and onion over pasta, a low-cal summer favorite of ours. 
Summer squash are very small this year.
We're getting tomatoes, but the actual plant is very fragile. Fruit is small.
It's almost unbelievable that these plants can actually yield.
This thyme has been in the garden for a couple of years now, surviving that terrible winter two years ago and this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Lyrics I Wish I Had Written

Sometimes you just go, how did they do that? Where did that come from? 

For me, here's just a sampling:

Too cool to be forgotten

House rules, no exceptions
No bad language, no gambling, no fighting
Sorry, no credit, don't ask
Bathroom wall reads: Is God the answer? Yes.

Ninety-nine and a half just won't do.

Outside my window, I can hear the radio,
And I know that motor wagon is ready to fly,
'cause it's almost Saturday night.

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.

I wanna watch the ocean bend
the edges of the sun then
I wanna get swallowed up in
An ocean of love

I've lost count of the times I've given up on you
But you make such a beautiful wreck, you do
Ya, you make such a beautiful wreck, you do
You make such a beautiful wreck, you do

At the dark end of this bar
What a beautiful wreck you are.

It's better to burn out than it is to rust.

She said her name was Billie Jean and she was fresh in town.
I didn’t know a stage line ran from hell.

And feelin' good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
  You know, feelin' good was good enough for me

I wished I was in Austin
In the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinking Mad Dog margaritas.

Won't you share a common disaster?

Some people ain't no damn good
You can't trust 'em, you can't love 'em
No good deed goes unpunished.

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
Don't let 'em pick guitars or drive them old trucks.
Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such.

Don't think twice
It's all right.

Why'd you let go of your guitar
Why'd you ever let it go that far
Drunken Angel

Everyday is a winding road
I get a little bit closer
Everyday is a faded sign
I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.

Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night,
The first one's named sweet Anne Marie and she's my heart's delight.
The second one is prison, babe, the sheriff's on my trail,
And if he catches up with me, I'll spend my life in jail.

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find.
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Even God must get the blues.

God must hate me
He cursed me for eternity
God must hate me
Maybe you should pray for me

Did she make you cry
Make you break down
Shatter your illusions of love
Is it over now- do you know how
Pick up the pieces and go home.

Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

So I bought a guitar and I practiced real hard
I wasn't much good, but I was willin'
Till to my chagrin, my girlfriend came in
And she said, "Can you sing any Dylan?"

Out all night playing in a band
looking for a fight
with a guitar in your hand
with a GUITAR in your hand

We all got holes to fill
and them holes are all that's real
some fall on you like a storm
sometimes you dig your own.

I am just a poor boy
Work’s my middle name
If money was the reason
Well I would not be the same.

I love this town... like an unmade bed

I need a love to keep my happy.

It's a long way to Texas... it's a long way back home
It's a three hour flight on the plane when I go
... away from this snow from Boston to South Shore where the
Dreams roll and tumble... and bring the prose to the wheel...

If you're goin' through hell,
Keep on goin'.
Don't slow down:
If you're scared don't show it.
You might get out,
'Fore the devil even knows you're there.

It ain't wise to need someone
As much as I depended on you.

It's goodbye to all my friends.
It's time to go again.

Now that we come showin' up
Rumors bouncin' off of that truck
Just a let 'em stare at her and me
'Cause I don't care about anything but us

And there's nothing wrong with me
This is how I'm supposed to be
In a land of make believe
That don't believe in me

And when you said I scared you,
Well I guess you scared me too.

If I had possession of Judgement Day
I wouldn't have no right to pray.

Now I'm leaving Normal and heading towards Who Knows Where.

I've finally learned that there's good and bad
And that a guy can do some choosin',
Of that I'm glad cause this heart and face
Won't take any more bruisin'.
And the next time I fall in another's arms
There's one thing I'll be certain,
That she can bear the weight of the love I give
Without considering it a burden.

Living Life #9.

When you can't find a friend
You've still got the radio.

Livin' on refried dreams.

Guess I've got that old travlin' bone, 'cause this feelin' won't leave me alone.
But I won't, won't be losin' my way, no, no
long as I can see the light.

All I ask
Don't tell anybody the secrets
I told you.

I said "Mama, he's crazy and he scares me
But I want him by my side
though he's wild and he's bad
and sometimes just plain mad
I need him to keep me satisfied"

My Give A Damn's Busted

I got no friends 'cause they read the papers
They can't be seen with me and I'm getting shot down
And I'm feeling mean.

 I'm old enough to know better, but still too young to care.

Why is there one in every crowd, and why do I attract them?

Some rich men came and raped the land,
Nobody caught 'em
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus,
People bought 'em
And they called it Paradise
The place to be
They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea

You’re one of a dying breed who only takes what they need
And leaves the rest to the feast of the fools
When someone else along the way asks you to stop and stay
And tell them a story or two
Tell them the one about this old man from Blue River, Arizona
Who is tall and handsome in spite of his lazy eye
Never found no gold on the trail of old Coronado
Spent half of his life waiting on that quittin’ time whistle to blow

Is it too much to demand
I want a full house and a rock and roll band
Pens that won't run out of ink
And cool quiet and time to think.

Hung a sign up in our town
"If you live it up, you won't live it down"
So she left Monte Rio, son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With her charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
Oh, the moon was gold, her hair like wind
Said, 'Don't look back, just come on, Jim'

When you said you’d never heard of John Prine
Well I knew right away you weren’t worth my time

And the moral of this story
Is I guess it's easier said than done
To look at what you've been through
And to see what you've become.

Quivers down my backbone
I got the shakes in the knee bones
Shivers down my thigh bones
Like I'm
Shakin' all over

I dont claim a thing
Not a two bit clue
But somebody whispered
War kills the truth
You wait in the car on the side of the road
Lemme go and stand awhile, I wanna know you're there but I wanna be alone
If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you

Sometimes I get upset
When people treat me bad
Don’t have time to think
So I get real mad

And you can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won't forget to put roses on your grave

An old county road runs by my house and ends on the river bank
In '73 they shut the ferry down
Back up the road there's a church and a store with a bench full of lying old men
In the middle of a wide spot they call a town 
I'm just a young man living to make me old plowing these fields by the river road 
Where hopes dreams and my granddaddy lived and died 
They go as far as my eyes can see but they ain't far enough for me 
When I drive to the river and I look at the other side

I've heard that into every life
a little rain must fall.
If there's any truth to the saying,
Lord, let it be a southern rain.

Blow up your TV throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own.

Well, I sat there at the table and I acted real naive
For I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve.

So what in the world's come over you?
What in heaven's name have you done?
You've broken the speed of the sound of loneliness
You're out there runnin'
Just to be on the run.

I'm the PATRON SAINT of the denial with an ANGEL FACE and a taste for suicidal.

I recall once upon a time,
Livin' was so easy and I felt so fine.
But, my, my, my right before my very eyes,
Satan came with fire to burn me,
Wouldn't listen when they warned me.
A dagger in my back while she's calling me honey,
Wouldn't stand back, for neither love nor money.

The hotter it is you know the hotter it gets.

Every Friday, well, that's when I get paid.
Don't take me on Friday, Lord, 'cause that's when I get paid.
Let me die on Saturday night, ooh, before Sunday gets my head.

Why don't you cash in your chips
Why don't you call it a loss
Not such a big loss
Chalk it up to better luck

This old guitar ain't mine to keep
It's mine to play for a while

To live is to fly, low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes.

Well I been drinkin' again
And I know it's a sin
But I just can't refuse an old friend
Cause life is gettin' me down
And I been two times around
And there ain't nothing but pain around the bend.

Is there anything a man don’t stand to lose,
When the devil wants to take it all away?

Clouds of myst’ry pourin’ confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages, tryin’ to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the rain.

Well you stole it 'cause I needed the cash
And you killed it 'cause I wanted revenge
Well you lied to me 'cause I asked you to
Baby, can we still be friends
And I been from Tucson to Tucancary, Tahathapi to Tanapall
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed.
And if you give me weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
Then I'll be willing
To be moving.

I'd rather look around me -- compose a better song
'cos that's the honest measure of my worth.
In your pomp and all your glory you're a poorer man than me
as you lick the boots of death born out of fear.

May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel
May the wind take your troubles away

You took my joy   
I want it back.

I don't know what it means when he takes my pulse
And says that I'm a lot like him

Walking down Main Street getting to know the concrete
Looking for a purpose from a neon sign
I would meet you anywhere, western sun meets the air
We'll hit the road, never looking behind

Say that you were stranded on a desert island
What books you gonna bring what friends would tag along
Say you had a month and you knew you were dying
How would you spend your time
What goodbyes would take too long

Every lunatic must be well intentioned
Sets himself apart he's an instrument of God
Took her from the playground to the farmhouse cellar
Kissed her while he killed her like a good Samaritan
They finally found her body many Autumns after
Interviewed her mother who said "she'd now be 21
And although we lost her young
I know the good lord has a plan for all of us"

My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over it won't be long, he won't be around
I love my father, he could use some mercy now

Drag queens in limousines
Nuns in blue jeans
Dreamers with big dreams
All took me in

Sam Stone was alone when he played his last request
Climbing walls while sitting in a chair

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Urban Garden In The Aftermath Of The Orlando Shooting

This year's first strawberries.
It's all over my Facebook feed and all over the news--the shooting that occurred Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. And I feel totally helpless. Should I post anything on Facebook? What can I add or say that hasn't already been said? Should I record my outrage for eternity? Honestly, that's not different than clicking "like", and I'm getting tired of that pointless ritual. Sure I can write to my senators, but I already know they're pro gun control. There seems to be nothing a person can do in this country to elicit change, especially in the political process. One guy tries to blow up a plane with his shoe--his shoe!!--and suddenly we're all taking off our shoes before we board an airplane. But these massacres happen time after time after time, and nothing happens. Nothing changes in the way we buy or handle weapons. No legislation. No one is voted out of office. Nothing.

So, at least every other day I go into the garden where I can do something. In the garden, weeds are easily identified and pulled, one by one or sometimes even in handfuls. If a plant needs some special care, I can give it. I work barefoot and feel directly connected to the earth through my skin. My fingers feel so many feelings; rough sun-heated earth and firm ripe healthy fruit and I can feel pinpricks to my knees when I kneel because I'm getting too old to just bend over or squat. I know, I'm not changing the world. I'm not directly affecting human beings, except maybe this one, and maybe that's the point. When there's nothing we can do, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself so that abject feeling of helplessness doesn't eat you up. I can work there and there are no pesticides getting on our food, and when I cook and eat it and watch Sue eat it and enjoy it, I know I did that. In a small way, I helped the world become a better place.

Today when I go shopping, I'll buy flour, both bread flour and whole wheat flour, for our bread that I'll make with my own hands. I'll buy food that was raised organically and meat that raised humanely, and it will cost us more because that's the way our society is organized right now: you need more money to stay healthy and treat animals and people well, otherwise there's no profit in food and people, and I think that it's Sue who goes out to her job and works everyday, and it's not always enjoyable, but at least for her labor I can take care of us, and I give thanks for that. Not thanks to your God, not to anyone's God, but to something that I know it out there, I don't know what, but maybe someday in my life's journey I'll learn.

The front bed is responding to the rain we've had, and now the sunshine.

Already the view of the garden is starting to fill in.
The squash bed is established, and the Jerusalem artichokes are in their glory.

Either this rain barrel has a hole in it, or one night an animal came and took a long drink of water.

Potatoes are up, and the lettuce will be ready to pick soon.

Looks like tomorrow I'll be staking tomatoes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Urban Garden Has Peppers

For some reason, I haven't been able to successfully grow peppers in the garden in the back here in Quincy. If any fruit did develop, it would always be small and hard and measly. It's always been kind of embarrassing. Men here, gardeners, always talk--they brag--about their "peppas." They'd grow them then "throw them on the grill" with onion for their steak tips. It was typical. I'm not a red meat guy, which always makes me suspect in the male grilling world and I certainly don't do steak tips on the grill. I'd say, save it for your Patriots tailgate party but in my 35 years living in Boston, I've been to exactly two Patriots games. My specialty is a nice, thick salmon steak slathered with mayo/lemon/fresh dill served with new potatoes in the oven, or boneless chicken thighs marinated all day in a Caribbean jerk.

I've never had trouble with peppers before. I always thought they were kind of a no-brainer kind of plant to grow. But then, when we moved to Quincy, the trouble started. Maybe peppers are the teenagers of the vegetable world, their job is to push the envelope and embarrass their parents at every turn, and I never asked to move to Quincy in the first place.

But, like teenagers, you don't give up on them.

So this year, I thought I'd give them one more chance and planted them in the a box on the porch. I found three of these boxes last spring on the curb in the garbage. They're old packing crates, and this will probably be the last season I'll get to use them. They're made of thin pine and the weather is taking its toll on them. This past winter, though, we stapled some heavy plastic over them and turned them into cold frames. With the mild winter that we had, we had fresh herbs well into January.

As you can see, the peppers are doing great. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the intense heat they get on the porch, and the nice rich organic soil I've got them in. Maybe they're loners and introverts and just wanted space to themselves. Or maybe it's the chill environment they have, and they really love the sound of a wind chime.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Urban Garden After Two Days Of Rain

Clothes drying on a gorgeous late spring day.
Chronicling the day-to-day of a garden is difficult, some say as interesting as watching grass grow. But there really is always something going on. Remember when I planted the seedlings and I was worried about the heat and the water? Well, so far the late spring is proving to be gorgeous. Let's hope we can have a lot of what we've had for the past couple of days, which consisted of about 24 hours of heavy downpours, giving the garden a really good soaking and filling the rain barrels, and now a few days of mild, eighty-degree days with nice puffy clouds floating in the sky. The wash is drying out on the porch. We dry our wash outside as many days as we can, including the winter. We do it because it's cheaper; we wash in cool water and we're not paying for gas to dry the clothes. The sun is a lot easier on our clothes than the dryer that beats your clothes up, so you're extending the life of your clothes. And the sun and breezes give them that outdoor smell and kind of soft and at the same time scratchy feel. If you don't understand what the garden and doing laundry has in common, I'll explain it later in another post.

So, the garden seems established. The seedlings seem to have rooted nicely. Friday was our wedding anniversary, and if you read the blog that day you'll know I get Sue irises for our anniversary every year, so they needed planting. Some of the onions are flowering, and I'm interested to see what they'll be like. Onions are bi-annuals, which means they need two seasons to seed. Once they seed it's too late to use the bulb, but I've heard the flowers are good to eat, so I'm excited to watch these grow.

Last week I noticed a widow-maker up in a tree in our neighbor's yard. I kept an eye on it, not wanting to be anywhere near it when it came down. I told my neighbor, Tom, about it, and there wasn't much he could do short of calling an emergency tree service. Thursday night around 10:30 Sue got a call to go out on the hotline (Sue occasionally works the after-hours emergency hotline.) She had just left the apartment and I had come into the office at the front of the house and put on some headphones and started to watch a movie when I heard a rumble. I immediately called Sue and when she asked what I wanted I said I just wanted to hear her voice. It turns out the limb had fallen, and I actually heard it in front of the house with headphones on. It was just dumb luck that Tom or no one esle in his family were in the yard, because there wouldn't have been any warning. In a vacuum, this limb would have fallen at 186,000 miles per second. Here on earth, it would have been slower, but not much.

Irises waiting to go onto the ground.
Onions starting to flower. The flowers are supposed to be pretty tasty.
Well, let's look on the bright side: Tom has a nice load of firewood to sell.
The 40-foot limb just cracked off under its own weight and from the rot of the trunk.
Another bunch of irises added to the garden.
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