Friday, July 21, 2017

Partly cloudy today with isolated chance of showers. It is very muggy so I didn't stay outside long. I will go out in little segments to look at things and see if anything needs water. Some of the big plants might. I found four cucumbers that are about the right size for pickling and that the asparagus beans are producing. I found one bean about 20 inches long. I think I will be taking beans to freeze rather than can. I don't think I will get enough at one time for even a small batch. None of the tomatoes are showing red yet but I think I will have another half dozen plus of small eggplants by Sunday.

The gardens are getting frequent visits now from some butterflies and bees. We purposely included a number of plants they should like and a couple we didn't know they would like so much. I saw several little black bees wallowing in the purslane flowers and visiting the cucumbers. I wish the little humming bird would come back but we may simply have missed his visits.

Also spotted the first goldfinch on the sunflowers. I raise sunflowers just for them--and any other birds that might like to tackle the flowers.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It is light enough to see and it is wet with a solid cloud cover that promises more rain. We had some last night along with thunder. No gardening today but then I didn't really have much planned outside. A good day to do some clean up in the sewing/plant room upstairs. The pots of stevia and lavender I moved up there are doing well. I may do only a limited amount of outside work for the next four days which all are supposed to have temperatures into the low 90s with or without thundershowers.

Well, the thundershowers have hit. We are getting a monsoonal rain now which will take care of the gardens till tomorrow. Needless to say, no work outside today.

Proof of the old saying that "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change." We now have bright sun and blue skies. I walked through the gardens and most plants look fine. However, one of the dianthus isn't so I will take it out tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

We had a busy day yesterday. Took the car in for its oil change and check up, and then did a bit of shopping. By then the heat was building so I didn't do more than water the gardens. I don't know what I will get done today.

I found this because Mom read a headline about the death of one-stop shopping. The article focuses on Target with a couple of comments on Wal-mart and other chains. The article itself was published in 2014 so something has been going on for a while now--how long I am not sure. But it got me to thinking about my life pattern--especially over the last decade and a half. I remember when the giant shopping malls took off and when Wal-mart and Target expanded to gargantuan proportions. We had a huge mall with all of the major anchor stores (Sears, JC Penney, Wards) and a lot of small stores lining the corridors between. We went to that mall for two major shopping trips and several minor ones each year as well as amusing ourselves on a Saturday when we had nothing else to do. I haven't gone to that mall, or any of the others around here, for years. Shopping there was no longer worth the time, the goods were over priced for the quality, and the crowds annoyed me. When I was a child we couldn't go into one of the anchor stores without coming out with something or leave without buying from at least two or three of the small stores on the way. The last time we went into a mall we came away with nothing. When the Wal-mart in our town became a "super-center" we were delighted because everything we needed would be at one single destination. We quickly became disillusioned with the quality of the foods in the grocery and when the price of gasoline went up we decided to mitigate the pain at the pump by shopping closer to home. Besides the prices weren't low enough to make up for the increased cost of gas. We didn't shift our buying to Amazon. Instead we spread it around to a number of small shops: the local meat market, the farm market in season, the small hardware store, a couple of the dollar stores, a small tea/spice shop. Also we more carefully defined what we needed and have pruned our wants severely. The end result is we don't buy as much. We haven't eliminated impulse buying entirely but we don't indulge very often. We no longer go looking for ten items and come away with twenty-five. Our shopping habits are more complicated now and the old one-stop store doesn't really meet our needs. If there are more consumers like us, it is little wonder the big box, one-stop destination stores are in trouble.

I never worked as a librarian or library assistant but I have felt a nostalgia for the card catalogs. I attended two universities during times when they were phasing our their catalogs and felt a bit of sadness as they disappeared. I spent hours looking up specific books and then following the threads of adjacent volumes (by author or by subject) to other threads connecting other books. I felt a tactile pleasure as my fingers flitted through the cards. I have used the computer catalogs in those university libraries and in local libraries that have gone to computer catalogs but the "feel" simply isn't there nor the joy of following the path from one literary island to another and discovering another just beyond it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It was another nice cool day yesterday though the wind did kick up in the afternoon. I will check on the tall plants on trellises for any damage but I didn't see any from the door. I spent yesterday trimming, pruning and tying up plants. More general tidying up. I emptied the dehydrator and got that batch of herbs ground and put up. I saw some nice pickling cucumbers developing.

A long but interesting Tomdispatch article by Alfred McCoy on historical parallels and the decline of the American Empire.

I saw a different article on this yesterday. The only surprise in the article is the stunning amount of product recalled: seven million pounds. That is an incredible waste. I remember finding slivers of bone and cartilage in ground beef and sausage. It happened with increasing frequency until a few years ago when we began getting our meat from a small local market. They still employ butchers and grind their own. I would almost bet the company involved in the recall either mechanically separated their own or bought from suppliers that did so. That does get more of the meat off the bones but also gets more bone chips and gristle in the final product. The wonders and joys of our industrial food processing system.

Charles Hugh Smith has a few on point remarks on waste. In our economy it is a feature, not a bug.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Good morning on what looks like will be a cool and overcast but mostly dry day. Good day to get some work in the gardens done. Herbs to dry, herbs to cut, and plants that need trimming and watering.

Nimue Brown has a short post on the value of boredom. She is right on the issue of our eternally plugged in society. Everywhere we go we see people looking at their screens of whatever size. When I used my nook I sometimes carried it especially when we went for a medical appointment or to have the car serviced. Now my library is on an iPad and I don't take it along. Too expensive to replace if something happened. But I have noticed something and I don't know if it is simply me or or if the phenomenon is more general. The eternal stimulation is somewhat boring. We subscribe to Netflix and I haven't found much over the last few months I wanted to see or to see through to the end. The plots are pale derivatives of better movies I have seen before. Often the books are much the same. Every now and then I find something that puts an interesting quirk on an old theme. I find myself revisiting old favorites (Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, Miss Marple, Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, Heinlein's Time Enough For Love, Frank Herbert's Dune, Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede--you get the idea). It is amazing how well they stand up over time. They all take the time to tell a thought provoking story that we have to expend some time and energy to enjoy. It isn't a passive experience which is what most of the modern media gives us on our so very portable screens.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cool so far this morning though it is way too early to tell how warm it will be. It was deliciously cool yesterday and I got a number of trimming and harvesting chores done. Today is shopping and errand day so I probably won't get more done than watering. We'll see.

I found this almost first thing. Perhaps Ryan ought to get out of the "Daddy knows best" mode and scrap the "dress" code all together. I put dress in quotes because it always seems to be female "dress" that has to be coded. And by men at that.

I have been continually amused by the schizophrenic economic reporting that complains that American's aren't saving enough (for kids' college, for that new home, for retirement, whatever) while bemoaning their unwillingness to spend freely in almost the same breath. This article is in that vein. I love the notion that "saving" is now "hoarding."

Well, it seems that the Republican leadership is so desperate to pass that mangey dog of a "health" care bill they are resorting to bribery. Politics has always involved "horse trading" but I don't think it has ever been so blatant and to gain so little while screwing so many.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hoping it will be a nice day. The forecast predicts a temp that won't exceed 80 and not much chance of showers. I plan on some herb cutting and drying, and taking some cuttings to root out new plants--hopefully.

I have read quite a few articles and a couple of books on the effect Wal-mart has when it enters a community. Now I just read the first article on in a mainstream news source on the effect when it leaves. I did get some glimmering of what the might happen about seven or eight years ago(give or take year or two) when they closed out their fabric and crafts section. I visited a number of quilters' message boards and there were a lot of enraged quilters who had seen the company move in, run out the small shops, and decided to leave them high and dry by closing their fabric sections. The quilters had to go to mail order or drive ungodly distances. That was a pale foretaste of what has happened in towns and counties where Wal-mart opened with a promise of jobs and cheap goods, driven out the local small shops and now are leaving a big vacuum behind. We came to depend on this commercial system of which Wal-mart was a part for far too much. We depended on that systems for jobs to provide us with sufficient money to exchange for what we needed (from food to clothing, to social interaction) to daily survive. We never questioned our dependency.

I had read about China buying farm land in Africa while Saudi Arabia was doing the same and snatching up American farm land. China also made a splash with its acquisition of Smithfield Farms pork raising operation. This is the first I read about China buying chemical/seed agribusinesses. Question: what happens if (when?) China decides that they have to reserve all of the products of their agribusiness companies for themselves? Think Wal-mart closing and extrapolate.

I cut stevia, lemon mint, orange mint, sweet basil, spicy oregano, Thai basil, spearmint and peppermint. Several provided only half a tray of cuttings but the plants needed to be trimmed to remain compact in their spots. If we have good weather tomorrow I will concentrate on lemon balm, lime basil and peppermint.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The sky is overcast this morning. I hope it stays dry enough to harvest some more of the herbs that are growing like the weeds they originally were (and, in some cases, still are). I have six trays of peppermint to grind. Otherwise, we'll see what the weather does.

Charles Hugh Smith had a good piece about the "content free" news we are all subjected to nowadays. Mom used to joke (with more than a bit of sarcasm) that once we had seen the latest fire, vehicle crash, shooting, robbery and political fracas--none of which mattered a damn to us because we weren't any where near most of the incidents and the politics didn't concern matters in our area--we could turn off the TV. We have remarked frequently that we get more from reading news sources on line than we do from the TV and both are really long on the emotion and short on facts. It is little wonder we don't watch much any more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I did have a productive day yesterday but nothing worth commenting on. I ground the herbs I had in the dehydrator as well as the eggshells I had drying on old pie tins. A blogger I read frequently (sorry I don't remember which or I would give her a shout out) calls dried, crushed eggshells "slow release calcium" for the garden. I sprinkle a nice dusting into the holes I dig for my transplants in the spring. I hope the day stays dry long enough for me to collect more herbs for the drying and to check the eggplants.

I have six trays of peppermint drying and I am only almost finished cutting on the first container. I have another yet to go. I also picked a double handful and a bit of little eggplant fruits. The Japanese beetles have increased their presence and I drowned about a dozen in quick order as I watered the gardens. Our showers are hit and miss--mostly miss. Those that dump a good quantity of rain don't drop enough to keep the plants going for more than a day. I have looked at a monsoonal type of rain fall in the morning but found the plants wilting in the afternoon.

Interesting article on a youth culture in China that is disengaged from mainstream society. I remember reading about similar trends in Japan in the late 1990s and early 2000s and the article traces some of the connections between those trends then and the ones in China today. Many of the conditions identified as contributing to the "sang" culture are also familiar: lack of social mobility, lack of economic opportunities, the perception that striving to be successful by socially approved standards is futile so why try.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A bit of a household emergency--our fridge quit. I had thought it had been going out yesterday and was convinced of it  a bit earlier today. Naturally it was loaded because we went shopping Saturday. But our landlord just swapped it out for another. I think we caught it in tine to save everything. What a way to start a Monday.

We had thunderstorms and a fairly heavy rain for most of the morning so no gardening. The sun has been in and out since and I did get out to tie up some cucumber vines that were falling all over. But that was all.

Instead I put a throw pillow back together. It needed new and larger pillow forms and the crochet blocks needed washing. I have yet another but that is for tomorrow.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Every time I think the current administration has plumbed the depths of incompetence (or any other negative quality), they go lower. Case in point: #45 and wife are stuck in a government guest house because their people failed to book accommodations in Hamburg for the G20 meetings. Of course, they are blaming Obama and his people. My question: where were your people? Why didn't they coordinate with the previous administration?

What's the next step, Paul? Burkas?

It has been an unusual couple of days. Friday there wasn't much to comment on except the first comment above. Yesterday we spent the morning shopping. We arranged things so we didn't have to shop for groceries or anything else over the weekend of the 4th through yesterday. We did run out of milk only because it went bad before the original "sell by" date. But that didn't cause any inconvenience because we keep a small stash of canned, condensed milk just for such an occasion. We made a visit to our local branch of the Evil Empire of Wal-Mart. We actually found several items we needed and a couple that were under consideration but hadn't risen to the "need" level. But that was exhausting for two old ladies so I offered to treat Mom to dinner out. We tried a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican grocery and restaurant and were so pleasantly surprised we gorged ourselves instead of bringing half home for another day. We spent most of the rest of the day napping or playing on the computer.

This morning was a different story. We had two fair sized bags of cherries which we pitted, split and bagged into convenient parcels for freezing and Mom got a cabinet of our plastic containers cleaned out and reorganized. And, yes, we still have plastics though far fewer than we once did. Mom is cleaning up the kitchen and I hope to get out and harvest a few dryer trays of herbs. We'll see.

Well, I have three trays each of peppermint and lavender. That is about half of the lavender that I should cut and, maybe, a sixth of the peppermint. More to do tomorrow if the rain holds off.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ah, the scientific mystery of the day: a massive volcano erupts and they can't find it.

I am speechless--totally speechless. The American Way of War: the general population is clueless, and by following 700 steps of decision making the unit commanders can assuage their guilt in sending soldiers to die in conflicts we don't give a shit about, and, because we aren't paying attention, we can go shopping with a clear conscience. I would hope this is sarcasm but.....

Charles Hugh Smith has another good piece. I remember a cartoon from the election where a guy tells the woman he is sitting with that there isn't any real difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. She responds that he is right--except for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and so on down a long list. Unfortunately, those programs and many others over the last 30 or so years have been chipped and whittled down with few vocal protests but little effective action. The parties are obsolete if their purpose was to represent a broad base of voters and their interests. However, Smith is right. They both serve the interests of the financial class, large corporations and the wealthy. They will continue to do so until the system collapses.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A friend on Facebook commented on a story that I had to checkout further. Well, here is a transcript of the NPR piece that triggered the reaction. Back when #45 nominated Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, I felt we didn't need that nut job to screw up even more an already screwed up "industry." (And let us not deceive our selves--it is an industry that makes a lot of money.) Well, I have to wonder if there is anything left she can screw up more when people can't even recognize lines from the Declaration of Independence.

Here is one for the "Who Knew?" file. So arthritis is the price we pay for our ancestors surviving the ice age.

It seems a lot of people thought the same thing I did reading #45's comment on Kim Jong Un. One fires missiles; the other fires tweets. Oh, I forgot we missiles, too, as #45 demonstrated.

Charles Hugh Smith has a good take on our fragmented society. Our pundits decry our political fragmentation but rarely not how fragmented our economic reality is. No inflation? Well, we see it every time we go to the grocery store and I noted that this year the plants at the garden center we would have paid $1.99 for last year were marked $3.99 or higher. I know there is a technical definition of inflation the economists use but their definition somehow totally dismisses my lived experience.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I was thinking some nasty thought about our annual orgy of self-congratulation but I won't write them out. Most of our holidays have become annoyances with what ever meaning they once had erased. Today is just a noisier such day.

Perhaps we should ask for what we should congratulate ourselves. This perhaps. Well, I guess we can console ourselves that we are still, in some German eyes, their "most important partner" instead of their "most important friend" outside Europe. But are we any more reliable as a "partner" than we were as a "friend?"

From Patheos: the counterattack on the "war on Christmas" has begun early. Another holiday I don't really celebrate except for getting together with my brother's family. Otherwise it has been submerged into and recreated as an orgy of consumerism. Since I a) am not affiliated with any Christian group, sect or church and b) have seceded from the  "Consumerist Republic," it means almost zip.

I decided it was time to reorganize my herb shelf. Actually I shouldn't say reorganize since it was never organized in the first place. That took a bit and I will have to move things a bit more when I start harvesting the spicy oregano. I don't have a place for it yet. Otherwise, the gardens are doing well. I found and dispatched four Japanese beetles yesterday in a small jar of soapy water. I will definitely have to water over the next 8 to 10 days as we aren't expecting any rain and temps in the mid to high 80s. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

We had several minutes of a monsoonal downpour yesterday evening. I shouldn't have to water anything but some of the big plants really suck up the water and may need a supplement.

What happens when you mix poverty, a devastating freeze killing off valuable wild plants, a difficult to police border and international capitalism? Environmental degradation. Perhaps I should say "destruction." And borders don't matter at all.

I saw this headline and though: how petty can you get? The author quotes a British politician who is actually trying to make a serious point that Brexit, especially a "hard" Brexit, is already affecting the agricultural labor market which may lead to shortages of farm commodities, including strawberries. But going for a dramatic headline actually trivializes the problem.

Another good reason to get rid of triclosan products in the home. It is an antiseptic agent to which bacteria are becoming resistant and which facilitates the bacteria developing antibiotic resistance.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The neighbors across the streets on both sides were in full July 4th mode last night. The fireworks were plentiful for at least two hours. I wonder if our next door neighbors took their dogs visiting because we didn't hear a sound from them and they don't like fireworks. They normally make quite a racket when fireworks go off. There are times I really hate some holidays. Most I can ignore, especially since we don't watch much TV any more and don't get the barrage of ads.

This is a longish article which focuses on New York City but the really important part is summarized about half way through.
“By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states, which are also home to the overwhelming majority of the 30 largest cities in the country. By extension, 30 percent of Americans will live in the other 35 states. That means that the 70 percent of Americans get all of 30 Senators and 30 percent of Americans get 70 Senators,” Birdsell says.
 Question: what about the House where the members are apportioned by population? And does the author's conclusion that because the the largest urban areas didn't vote for #45 he has no incentive to deal with their problems follow? And what about those urban areas that voted for Clinton but which are in states that went for #45? And what about the states among the 15 largest who voted for #45? After all, California and Illinois are #1 and #4 respectively but sandwiched in between are Texas and Florida.

I harvested sweet basil, Thai basil, lime basil, lemon mint, chocolate mint, a bit of peppermint and orange mint. All are drying now. In a couple of days I can take another cutting of lavender. I think my peppers are a bust this year. All of the seedlings I started failed. The seedlings I got from the garden shop are producing few flowers and no peppers I can see. I have no idea why.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Welcome to July.  The year is now officially half over. I have herbs to grind which I didn't do yesterday because I got lazy. I took my usual very early walk through the patio planning a couple of little chores and drowning a couple more Japanese beetles. July is the peak month for those pests so that activity will continue for a while more.

I found this bit of humor this morning. Enjoy!!