Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Came out last Saturday morning and found that an eccentric monkey had gotten into one row of my potatoes, but only slightly-- pulled up just a few plants, simply laid them down in place without even taking a bite of the egg-sized potatoes on them and went away, ignoring the much taller potato plants in the next row! I at once harvested the now exposed small potatoes, replanted the stalks and enjoyed potatoes in the soup I made for lunch.

Came out Saturday morning a week later and found that the thief had come again (as per his scheduler, he apparently comes on days when neither of us is home), pulled up just a few more plants in the same row, simply laid them down in place without even taking a bite of the egg-sized potatoes on them and went away, ignoring the now even taller potato plants in the next row! I at once etc. in the stew I made for lunch.

This odd monkey is apparently a stranger and, unlike your average marauding redfaced beast (who throws stuff everywhere after taking at least sample bites of everything just to spoil it for whoever has wasted their time growing it ha ha ha!), has some deja vuey obsession involving potatoes and fastidiousness (e.g., I don't like to eat them but I do like to pull them up and watch them in private). He's quite neat and organized, and maybe each week will do a few more plants until he's finished with that row, then he'll move on to the next row with the much taller potato plants and harvest some more tasty tubers for me on Saturdays.

I wonder what he does for a living.

Monday, June 28, 2010


After the long rains, on this at last sunny morning of blue sky filled with fine white clouds swelling their chests I was instantly out in the garden doing necessary tasks that didn't distract me too much from the beauty of the morning, such as slowly taking down the long net from the bush bean shoots. As I stood there rolling up the green length, I smelled on the breeze that musky fragrance that is the chestnut tree, engaged in the first step of chestnut creation-- taking advantage of this generosity of weather to put on its annual arboreal show. Now in full heat, it was thrusting all its catkins out into the air for maximum output of musk, the fragrance washing over me on the morning breeze.

It made me look up, and there above me like its own cloud beneath the big others rose the chestnut, resembling a big cauliflower, festooned with all its ivory catkins (great word, that), limbs outstretched to all the moths and butterflies, bees and beetles, flying bugs of every description that were practically lining up in the blue air to get some of that rare nectar. Even the scoldy bulbul broke off from his tirade about me being near his strawberries and began diving here and there into the big white waves after the wreaths of sweet blossoms and the swarms of bugs. I of no wings down there on the ground was fully pleased to just stand there on my own time, draped with green garden netting, and watch it all going on up there.

What richness of life was centered by that time-rounded tree, draped in a shawl of old lace, arms outstretched in the success of being, offering scintillas of its own sweetness in exchange for chestnuts it will grow and one day let go of, bright-coated treasures I will gather by the bucketful and be nourished by, as I am nourished even now by realizing that the old tree has always known these things...

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Folks who don't heat with firewood can't really appreciate all that goes into that bit of sunshine set loose in your woodstove, you think maybe its easy just because it's free (at least, the way I do it), but there are other burdens that come with the generally erratic supply of gleaned firewood such as I use. There's really no need to mention here the sectioning and hauling and splitting and hauling and stacking and hauling and burning and hauling and hauling and hauling, but I already did so it's too late.

Take 2: Say you've got four or five cords of firewood crowding out there in various locations around your house (as I do at the moment), wood from various periods of time in the past few years, some of it stoveready and some not, but in any case you've run out of stacking space and have just been given access to a whole new multicord bunch of bigwood to be split and stacked so it will be dry by the time you need to use it two or three winters from now, so you've got to put it somewhere on your land but you can't stack new green wood on top of fully ready or nearly ready wood are you crazy, so you've got to walk around, analyze your stacks and ponder your wood supply and various durations, juggling disparate concepts sort of like Einstein used to do with arrangements of numbers and symbols while wandering his theoretical woodlot, the space-time continuum at Princeton.

With these sylvan symbols as well, like Albert you've got to somehow bend time and space by combining a number (x) of similarly nearly ready pieces of embodied energy (E), i.e., photons+alpha as wood (W), into one or more taller stacks (S), thereby clearing a place for the new mass (m) of incoming atomic structures; then when winter comes, you unleash the power of those atoms inside your stove in the form of radiating heat (H) and so free up some space outside, thereby establishing a direct link between time, space and firewood, not to mention the speed of light (c), which can be squared if you want, but right now you have to match the mix of wood new and old.

Fortunately, last year you began to denote all the relevant data in numerical symbols on the end face of one piece of wood at the top of a stack, but unfortunately the newest wood is always on the top of the stack, so to get at the older wood you have to go to the bottom by for example turning the whole stack over, which is not practical (working in complete abstraction, Albert had it easier in this regard), and practicality is what we're talking about, so this approach needs work. Al's work led to atomic fissioning and nuclear power, which here in Japan has a bigly negative historic reputation but is now used in winter to power electric heaters, blu-rays and videogame consoles, among vast quantities of other things.

This is a universe, after all.

Friday, June 25, 2010


The other middle of the night I was coming downstairs fresh from dreams in the total dark like I sometimes do for a change of pace at that 3 o'clock in the morning of the soul that F. Scott Fitzgerald spoke of, only without the hangover, when my seeking eyes at the heart of the dark were caught by a gleam of light, in a sensation somewhat like having a small but bright idea.

How attracted was my gaze by that bright but tiny glow, that only point of absolute undarkness! I stood mystified a moment at the bottom of the stairs, studying the phenomenon of such a single dot of brightness in all that deep dark, wondering how there could be a reflection in the window when there were no lights on in the room; there were no stars for the clouds, there were no streetlights around here. Moreover it was a greenish reflection; even moreover, the light seemed to be moving!

There in that countryside mid-night dark and silence it was eerie, mysterious, suitably rural for the genesis of myth - the finest mythology originates in the countryside - I suddenly realized that yes, it is that time of year: it must be a firefly! Trapped in the house! I had to set it free, let it go outside!

I went over to the tiny light and saw that the firefly, shadowed by his own light, was walking up and down the lower part of the window, texting for any interested female that might be in the vicinity, but I couldn't tell whether he was inside or outside the glass, since he was turning himself on and off as he moved up and down.

Then as if to answer my question in the simplest way possible, when I tried to get some close perspective on the matter my forehead struck the glass with a suitable but unexpected bong in the night, like the forgetting of a small bright idea, the shock of which caused the firefly to lose his footing and fall to the deck-- outside, where he lay still turning on and off. I remember being that age. Problem solved, question answered.

And I just had a small, bright idea, about a myth...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Inevitably, there are times in life when one has to acknowledge inaccuracies in one's mental archives. Such a time has come again for me (ninth time this week!). But often such errors are understandable, and fortunately seldom have Titanic-type results. This one involves a mere garden matter, specifically the affairs of a single potted plant, as posted about yesterday, regarding which my conclusions weren't exactly Sherlockian; I was too ready to jump to conclusions, a big problem in those less than 100 years of age. 

On my own behalf, let me simply state that when one sees the fragments of impatiens leaves scattered here and there amid frenetic ants, it is natural enough to right away think: its them! The ants did it! Ants always look guilty anyhow, scurrying everywhere like that, all the while looking around like they're about to be caught redhanded; one can be forgiven for thinking them guilty or capable of just about any heinous garden act-- look at the way they Svengali those aphids on my peppers, for example. Guilty.

Well the laurel worked with the ants, but it turns out that the ants were not the culprits!

I had noticed incidentally among the myriad scurrying ants the many pillbugs who were partying big time in their own subdued way-- pillbugs love moist places too, and as everyone knows, pillbugs consume decayed organic matter. Turns out however that, unlike everyone, I didn't read the small print in the Pillbug Manual: pillbugs eat decayed organic matter and tender young shoots, such as my new impatiens plant, the lowlifes.

So my apologies to any of you ants who may have read my previous post; but just let me say for the record that I know you're guilty of something, so take a good long look at your lifestyle and try to turn your self around. You can start by getting those aphids off my peppers.

Now if I can find a cure for those little pills...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Last weekend I put a new impatiens plant in a pot beside the ginger bed for a little decor before the ginger comes up, and this morning noticed that the plant was about half its original size, when all things considered it should be heading in the other direction, dimensionwise.

A quick bit of plant forensics revealed pieces of leaves, buds and blossoms on the soil in the pot and the ground around. I thought at first it might have been a deer sampling the flowers, but, like me, deer don't throw anything away. What remained had been nibbled at, in a familiar, curvy way-- then I spotted the red, guilty-looking ants. Probably because of the heavy rains of the past few days, plus the irrational generosity of impatiens which gives away the farm by providing little droplets of nectar here and there on its person. Thus some of these ants, which love wet areas, had taken over and were having a party on my tab.

Went online and looked for a natural solution if there was one, found several sites saying spray the mothers, dust 'em, kill kill kill, but one site saying crumple up a handful of bay laurel leaves and sprinkle them on the soil around the plant, the scent of the bay leaves will confuse the ants as to the scent of the impatiens. The idea of confused ants had a strong appeal for me, plus I just happen to have a bay laurel tree beginning to tower again in my garden-- I trimmed it a year ago but it's taking over once more, being vitally evergreen and growing like crazy, a real life force, which is why the Greeks and Romans loved it so much as a symbol of highest achievement, but this one is a bit manic; what's more, it has been functionally idle, and in my garden it's earn your keep or move on, we're all working together here, no resting on your laurels. (Sorry.)

Fact is, I myself use few of my laurels, only now and then in winter soup and occasional other cuisines, and as gifts for the rare Japanese folks who know how to use bay leaves (even rarer than those who know how to use oregano). So I went and got a handful of the fragrant leaves and crumpled them (they crumple well), sprinkled them on the soil around the base of the plant and now the ants are running in confusion over and under the bay leaves, saying in ant: Where'd the flowers go? What happened? What's this sudden weird odor? Is this the end of our little community?

Very appealing. So far, so good...

Monday, June 21, 2010


I was out early this imminently rainy morning checking the firewood tarps and at one point during the process, as I rose to my full height beside a cord of oak I found myself close-up eye-to-eye with a frog the size of a chick pea, who'd been chilling out atop the tarp enjoying the gray dampness that was his day, on his rampart. I wasn't surprised to see a frog up that early, even though his crew had been up all night singing about the wonderful rain and this perfectly watery environment with prayers for more and suchlike, the common material of frog lyrics. He, however, drew back a millimeter or so in shock at the sudden appearance of this huge head before him, but at once he regained his composure and stood stock still in that haughty froggy way, so we just stood there staring at each other.

I don't know how often frogs get to see huge heads up close like this, but I thought him remarkably brave to stay in place; thus we got to see each other very close up. He got so see how I need a shave and should clean my glasses, maybe do something about those eyebrows and get a new hat for godsake, whereas I got to see how perfectly green his body was-- the perfect green, to my eye. I can think of no match for it really, a bit too light for imperial jade... I can't say I've actually seen this kind of matte green anywhere before, maybe in Aztec wall paintings, but it was deeply appreciable to me. The upper parts of his minutely greened limbs were dusted in gold powder, like you see on some old Japanese creations of urushi worth millions of dollars, but his was an older kind of masterwork he'd had done for free. His splayed and bulbous hands and feet were translucent, a nearly transparent cloudy green of beyond museum quality. He also had some neat black curlicue pinstriping here and there, most notably on his face and around his eyes, two tiny orbs of dark, deep onyx that just looked at me with that look the world gets on its face sometimes when you really stare at it.

We stood there gazing at each other in natural silence until I just had to say something, me being the bargee, so I said Wow you are a work of art, that design is amazing and those colors are just... His eyes seemed to say Maybe. I don't know. I've never really seen myself. Anyway, I didn't do any of it, so what can I be proud of? Don't praise me, or the next thing you know I'll be taking credit for it; you two-leggeds know where that can lead. Anyway, I wasn't always like this, I had a tough childhood. For a long time I wasn't even a frog. No legs, even had a tail, constantly morphing, it was all pretty traumatic,... Anyhow, none of it was my fault or doing, so I can't really feel guilty about it or take pride in it, can I. You look proud, I said, the way you stand there. No, that's just the way you two-leggeds look when you think you have something to be proud of. Which isn't too much lately, is it... Saying which, he hopped casually away.

Jaw dropped, gazing after him, my huge head was shocked at his wisdom and all that he knew about us.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


The list of fortunate gardeners is not a long one these days, but it occurred to me this morning that it's a really lucky gardener who lives next to a mountainside of bamboo perfectly sized for use in gardening to make stakes, lattices, trellises and, oh, large statues of Brigitte Bardot if you're of such a mind and have the time.

This is not the standard biggo kind of bamboo that you can make walls and pipes out of, this is the strong but slender kind, that for example is finely handcrafted into the world's best flyfishing rods for thousands of dollars, but I get it for free. So when I need to make a slender lattice to keep my pushy squash leaves from bullying my shy peppers, or a nice inviting ladder for my touchy cucumbers (a device of my own crafty invention that might even give the cuke-thieving monkeys a bit of well-deserved trouble), I just wade into the green whispering sea next door and select my bamboo stalks, much like Stradivari must have selected his viola woods.

The farmers down in the village have to drive all the way up here to get theirs, and small bundles of this quality item are sold for a lot more than nothing at the gardening stores in the city, where nature costs money, but I have the entire inventory right here at hand and I get it for free-- all the heights, all the thicknesses. So if you want to come and get some just let me know. Then after you cut your selection and start to trim them you can leave a few spiky branches here and there along the desired length for cucumber tendrils to cling to on their way to the sky. The climbing vegs - such as beans, squashes and cukes - naturally prefer a natural surface and don't really bond with plastic, just like human beings (there's a bit of climbing vegetable in all of us).

So this morning when I spotted my vigorizing cucumbers ignoring the plastic support poles (I left the winter snow supports in place), I went and Stradivariated several ideally sized, strengthed and lengthed stalks so as to provide the the optimal cucumber-appreciated tonal quality, and bound them into a cucumber ladder that the cukes are even now climbing like a little kid runs up a set of stairs in a new house, only slower.

I thank the bamboo grove, it just nods in return. Bamboo is so cool.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Some things never leave you. In our case, one of them is simple frugality. Back when Echo and I were traveling, before the kids were born, as I've mentioned a few times in these long chronicles, we made our living as we went along, lived many years at a stretch without such niceties as utilities, so when up here on PLM our old faithful kerosene-powered water heater blew a pipe the other day we almost automatically went into low-mode living and began making necessary adjustments for the duration until repair, during which time we'd be doing dishes/laundry/bathing a la our time in Spain when we had no hot water, and even in winter bathed each with a bucket of water heated over the fire. The body steam was impressive out there in the field. We'd also grab the soap and shower in rainstorms.

When we slipped so effortlessly into that mode the other day, even these decades later, it was heartening, comforting to know what we knew and could fall back on, regressing without regret, without negativity or stress, knowing that we could adapt, we've been there; and now that warm weather is here, no hurry to repair...

That's another of the treasures that simplicity bestows again and again on the long brown road that leads wherever we choose. Traveling on foot, of course.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Potatoes really love each other. Avoiding that whole homohetero thing, they get way intererotic when left alone in the dark, as I discovered even further than before when I opened my garden toolshed this morning and found the remaining unused half-bag of potatoes (I had nowhere to plant them) locked in flagrante delicto maximo. What's more, they weren't the least embarrassed, which is one of the benefits of being a vegetable; everything is 100% natural. Unless you get your potatoes from Monsanto-- they can probably blush.

Anyway, vegetables in general, despite their laid-back attitude, are a lot more passionate than we ever give them credit for; in fact, eros is the word, as far as they're concerned; it's their very reason for being. Not for nothing was the lascivious tomato called the "love apple" during insanely holy times, and in its flagrant prurience thought to be a deadly poison. Thus do we pull the wool over our own eyes; but upon opening the toolshed did I turn away in righteous disgust? Heck no.

Thankfully, we of today live in more enlightened times. Though many vegetophobes are still loathe to encounter vegetable acts in daily life, such individuals can get help; the barrier is lowering with each generation. As higher beings, we must learn to be more tolerant of the passions of nature-- in vegetables as in ourselves.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Interesting the way the new plums, all but invisible at first and for quite a while thereafter, are hard to spot among all the plumlike leaves, both leaf and fruit at this point being the same identical shadings of curly, multigreen curvature. Not yet ready, the plums are hidden even as they swell with growth, aren't easily discerned even when I try to filter out the leaves in search of the fruits so as to get some idea of what might be in store regarding the plummy cornucopia, as I often do at about this time of year, to maybe outfox the monkeys.

But then one day amidst the summer sweetness rising everywhere the swelling plums turn a see-me green, then a daily brightening yellow, then drift toward orange, then darken to a deep, sweet, frosty amethyst, in stark contrast to the still-green leaves. Time to be easily found, because at last they're ready. The sweeter they are, the more they stand out. In their own ways, people age in much the same way.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The cloud cover was densing yesterday as evening neared, whole slabs of sky moving up slowly and warmly from the south, bearing the hard Spring rains of the next few days of rainy season.

Ahead of time got all the new firewood covered up and the basil sprouts too, shielded from the hammer of torrential rain that debasiled me a few years ago when I was more ignorant than I am now. The straightneck and crookneck squash plants from US seeds are now big enough to do fine under the skybattering. To my surprise, they're feeling right at home, though the scallop squash is a bit cautious.

The US yellow wax beans, though (can't find those seeds here, same for the squashes above), are reticent - most of them anyway - even though they don't have visa problems. They're wary about sprouting, even the few who tentatively poke up, but the ones that do get used to it. Plus I replant, and word gets around, so maybe. The US green beans, on the other hand, recognize the place, to a bean. "Hey, this is Japan, isn't it! I'm from the States! They have soil rain and sun here too! Cool!" (Sprouts talk like teens, as you know.)

The wild ducks are looking forward to the rains though, a duck couple is just now flying down from upmountain paddies, practically holding hands, wings whistling in the dusky silence that is deepest just before the big downpour. They swooped downward over the Lake then climbed and sped south, as together as ever, into the coming rain.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Lying abed this sunny morning, gazing up through the skylight I watched an aerodynamically impossible bumblebee hover right there on the blue air, chunky silhouette held up by one small wingblur on each side, taking advantage of the air currents above the warming roof to hover with that great perspective, whirling and scanning the morning surroundings in a focused quest for nectar-bearing flowers, suddenly going WHOA and instantly veering radically away to safety each time a bird or large insect flew anywhere nearby, then quickly back on point hoverwhirling and scanning, scouting for the wherewithal of survival.

It occurred to me lying there below that my morning empty mind was feeling some sort of kinship with that activity up there, and that perhaps each of us humans has in our nether makeup such an ancient familiar, a spirit-bumblebee always hovering above the roof watching, scanning, scouting for wherewithal, every now and then going WHOA! How important then, to never lose contact with that bumblebee.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Upstairs yesterday in all the quiet of a sunny afternoon I looked out the window into the garden and saw what at first I thought was The Baron, browsing quietly on some potato shoots growing out of my compost pile. But his color was more tawnily intense, he had new velvet horns, and it looked like some white spots there along the sides: I went to get my glasses: Yup, it was not The Baron, it was a male that had been a fawn not long ago that we had seen following its mother around, it was Baron II, heir to these great estates. Unfortunately, however, he was even now eying my lettuce, and the garden gate was open.

So I headed downstairs to get my props and be ready to do the Deer Chasing Routine. I asked Echo if she'd seen the deer, she said no, looked out the window and said Son of Baron. Yup I said. He's just a teenager, which is why he's come into the garden so carefree in broad daylight. He sure is a beauty, but he's heading for the lettuce, so I'm ready to chase him: Why don't you go in the back room and make some noise through the screen door, maybe that will be enough. I was expecting some Echo shouting, some hand clapping, maybe some banging on the wall or something, as I prepared myself to go out shouting and making gruff Brady noises, but suddenly from the big speakers we have back there came the top-volume breakout hip hop beat of the Black Eyed Peas, doing Hands Up:

Coming with rhythms to make your head jerk
Hands up
We makin' the whole joint short circuit

Hands high
Touch the sky
Get 'em up
Get 'em up, get 'em up, get 'em up, get 'em up, get 'em up (get 'em up)

We goin' make you move
We goin' make it hot
Elbows above your heads peoples
We holdin' up the spot

and so forth...

Which is way over any deer's head, but an impressive choice for the purpose. That's Echo for you.

At the very first bass beat so alien to his life, spirit and environs, I thought for sure Baron II would leap straight up and prong for the nearest exit, like I would if I were a deer under such circs, or even myself suddenly at a rap concert. That's what he would have done if I had stepped out the door, clapped my hands and shouted-- but then I'm not the Black Eyed Peas, am I.

He wasn't shocked, even though hip hop must have been new to him; on the contrary, he looked more like pleasantly surprised. He raised his head with that natural grace we admire in our arts and gazed toward the source of the beat, that BIG beat, with the rhythmic voice-noises and the grip of the song; those big brown eyes with a look in them that I've seen in eyes before, of a hungry emptiness, a curious seeking, a question with some panic at its heart.

He wasn't familiar with music, let alone with the Black Eyed Peas, to say nothing of lyrics; he stared for a long time - in grazing deer terms - at the roomdoor whence this mysteriously rhythmic and apparently human sound was issuing at chest-pounding volume greater than anything he'd ever heard, excepting maybe thunder directly overhead, backed by Echo clapping her hands. Should he run for his life, or could he safely ignore this amazing new thing? Could he graze and listen? He stood there looking, big ears focusing, trying to figure this out: was it a threat, was this a human in new form, was this... what was this? And he just a kid, these wild grape leaves so tasty, those lush lettuces just there in his vassal's garden...

The first several bars of the Peas seemed innocuous enough, but by the time he'd heard the hook and was getting into Verse 2 I could see he was getting antsy, the feeling was growing that this was a danger of some kind-- not sure what and maybe not imminent, but the wiser course was to get some distance into the situation, so he turned and trotted off toward the deep forest and a more traditional kind of music.

Who knows, though: having heard that beat, maybe he'll come back to stand in our garden and hope for more... he is a teen, after all, and there's nothing like that on his Big Radio.

I'll just have to be sure and keep the lettuce gate closed.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Since the strawberry events of a few days ago as related in my previous post, whenever I'm out in the garden now, every once in a while an irritated brown-eared bulbul - a skittish, reclusive bird that normally doesn't talk much at all, and then always from a place unseen in the screen of the trees - flies low through the garden screeching a new call that sounds to my gloating ears a lot like "Strawberry thief! Strawberry thief!" I'm sure the previously mentioned animal scientists would rotfltao at this idea, though they should really get back to work, but the redder, sweeter and juicier MY strawberries get, the more the bulbuls come right out and yell whatever it is right toward me, one wing pointing at the strawberries.

There are, let us admit it, countless places where science cannot go...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Traditionally, my gardening opponents have been limited to the full range of insects and their countless friends, plus local deer, wild pigs, monkeys and crows, a bestial crew that has been more than sufficient to make the enterprise an entertaining one. My efforts to fence them out, threaten them with stones, scare them with snakes, shock them with bottle rockets etc. have earned me an extreme reputation among the local beasts, so I'm bothered much less than when I was just a new kid on the mountain. Plus the bugs and beasts themselves have taught me a great deal about their habits, dislikes and weak points, valuable information. So it's been a fixed range of opponents all this time. That's the problem with no strawberries.

This year, in a daring move to go where no me has ever gone before, I put in a couple of strawberry plants, much as NASA aimed for Mars. NASA got to Mars and I grew some strawberries that got redder and redder, which is a strawberry's line of work, so I put a net tent over the plants with the far end closed where it stretches all the way along the row to cover the new beans now sprouting (crows love bean sprouts, as I learned earlier in this history, and surmised that they would freak out over strawberries in the garden their human is planting for them).

With the nearer 'open' end screened by green pepper plants and tall parsley, I knew that crows, perhaps the least credulous creatures on the planet, who do not like nets at all, would not push their way through and walk along the ground into a netty underness, even to get at strawberries (if they could even spot them through the netting), but I did not know about the net-scoffing character of the brown-eared bulbul. Not growing strawberries can breed that kind of ignorance. Brown-eared bulbuls already know this.

I remained ignorant until I'd looked out the kitchen window a couple times while making lunch and saw a pair of brownears flying up out of the garden each time, which was strange, they never enter the garden regularly like that, sort of coming and going; what's more, there was something in the way the birds flew out of the garden that caught my attention.

The pair had that kind of furtive, purloiny look about them that science, cocooned in its latticework of logic, pooh-poohs as anthropomorphism, but that gardeners and pet owners know all about (for the record, let me state here that despite such shortcomings, science and its purveyors in many other regards deserve our respect and have a rightfully valued place in society). So, urged on by evidence of bulbul guilt, I went and looked at the strawberries and found that the reddest ones were pocked with brown-eared bulbul beak stabs and the soil below them was littered with strawberry banquet fragments.

The thieving pair stayed up in the cherry tree watching me and screeching their dissatisfaction at my fiddling with their strawberries - we found them, for godsake, bla-bla-bla - to the extent  of cutting off all the reddening ones and taking them into the house to ripen there, before securely netting the entire strawberry area.

So from strawberries I learned how to piss off bulbuls. Some kinds of knowledge are more satisfying than others.

Monday, June 07, 2010


pioneering a journey towards self sufficiency, one step at a time."

"Path to Freedom is a grassroots, family operated, original urban homestead located in the midst of Pasadena.

Surrounded by urban sprawl and just a short distance from a freeway, the Dervaes Family have steadily worked at transforming this ordinary city lot into an organic and sustainable micro-farm."

Friday, June 04, 2010


When freewheeling down the mountain on clear cool Spring mornings like this, I am rolling through a broad and accelerating river of warm air rising from the Lake as the sun begins to warm the mountainside. The tide of air is a rush of fragrances from the fields, the village and the lake below, a potpourri of tilled earth, new rice, lake water, garden flowers and morning coffee, countless other scents all mingling together that the nose knows but the mind can't rightly find, though it enjoys them all the same... Yes I know that scent, what is it -- It's gone, it was -- Now this scent I know; this is... There are some herbs in there, fishing boats and breakfasts, the wild and the civilized blending with the living scent of the Lake, rising toward the mountain summits and thence into the heavens, I down here descending through it all, head back, breathing in the gift...

Then when I come home at night and am wheeling up, the darkling sky is pouring down the mountainside as the land cools and the air above the daywarmed Lake is beginning to rise, pulling the mountain air down in the great daynight backforth that betides this time of year, but this cascade is a rush of scents entirely wild, a bouquet rich with the tang of cedar and pine, whole mountainside forests of sundrawn tree breath, blended with the essence of tumbling streams and the spice of native herbs, the wildflowers that work at night sending out their subtle musks on the moist air as I rise through it all, breathing deep with discovery...

Either way, it's real wealth.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Out this morning among the new pepper plants, wanted some slender bamboo stalks to use as props for when the peppers get too heavy, so went to the bamboo stash I'd cut earlier that was now dry and leaning between a couple of firewood cords, a perfect spot for the full morning sun to beam all its glory on for just that brief moment, so I couldn't go that way to get to the bamboo stash because there was a work of art there-- a web of impossibly fine silk, woven by a true master, who sat immobile at the center of her shimmering spiral of blues, reds, golds and greens in barely visible strands that rippled softly in the slight morning breeze, like the afterimage of a sleeve of a no longer visible goddess...

How could I barge through that to get the bamboo who cares about bamboo, I'd as soon spray paint the Mona Lisa, so I just stood a long while looking, there in the Louvre of the moment. An indefinite time later, back in the outer world recalling the minor matter at hand, I went the long way around, reached over the neighboring stack of firewood to the bamboo stalks and lifted them out. As I walked away I noticed that the Mona Lisa was sagging. It had been braced not by three invisible strands, as I'd thought, but by four, one of which had been attached to the bamboo.

Now if that creation had been mine, I would have been majorly peeved. But the spider, in her now half-perfect web - the other half of her world wavering and useless - wasn't wasting time and energy cursing whatever clumsy beast had done this to her life's work. She just stood there sensing the setup, then headed immediately out along the nearest intact support strand and doubled it, buttressed its end, then sped along the opposite one and so on, back and forth as I watched, back and forth across the new wasteland that would in time be restored; the past was gone, the future was yet, only she was now...

Gazing at masterworks is never a waste of time.