Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Mighty & the Tiny

In the off-grid back of the beyond, my friend, who lives high at the foot of the mountain told me this autumn cautionary tale, after I mentioned... bear scat:

Her neighbors come jostling out of bed; they hear commotion on their deck. It's still dark out and chilly. A visitor at this hour? An intruder?!

They peek around the curtains and see a black bear knocking over flower pots and such.

Their son looks over his mother's shoulder. A huge bear of a man himself, before anyone can stop him, he creaks open the door and steps out on the porch. He and bear eye one another.

Son does the rise up on toes, raise arms and look bigger routine trying to scare it off. The bear rises up, too! 
At which point, the family dog, a tiny miniature dachshund, sees his boy in danger and rushes out the pet door.

The bear bends down for a closer look at the tiny yapping ferocity. Morsel-worthy? One sweep of a clawed paw?

The wee dachel, defender of hearth and home, leaps up and nips the bear on his big black shnoz!  Frenzied barking, an ursine bellow, and bear goes galumphing off into the sagebrush and pinon.

Well, I laughed till my sides hurt...

And then thought about Darth Vader hot stuff stomping around, and small doings, down home and gathering force.

Thought about kids' lemonade stands, and bake sales to pay down a friend's medical bills, and communities building homes for families, and food pantries feeding the hungry, and the girl who co-won the Nobel Peace Prize giving the $50k to rebuild the UN school destroyed in Gaza.

We've got big dark and ugly smashing flower pots, and then, we've got good hearts and miniature dachshunds!

Animal stories read aloud:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bear Sign

Bears don't fear adipose tissue; liposuction is not a concern. I have a silly image tickling my fancy--a bear in bulging waistcoat turning to admire its reflection!

First Bollywood film I saw puzzled me. The male lead was not panther-lithe but chubby, verging on paunchy. I asked a Subcontinent friend about it. It seemed a strange aesthetic.

"No, not strange, not strange at all," bobbing his head side to side. "Consider beggars in the cities. Chubby is healthy; the star has had plenty to eat."

Plump then, as a prosperity aesthetic, which is troubling this day of harvest ending, the night of Samhain when the veil thins on All Hallows Eve.

Unprotected bee hives and bird feeders are a bear focus, for last blubber before hibernation. (While banksters eye savings and pension funds as last easy plunder.) Bear scat on the lane this morning is full of juniper seed.

Travelers into wilderness lands are warned not to leave food out, above all not to think bears "cute", and feed them. Bear claws can tear apart a bee hive enclosure or just as easily, a camping rig.

Governments have not prepared for winter, let alone hard times. Ones impersonating democracy have instead prepared with snoop-tech and crowd control weaponry.

There's a ghost and ghoulie feeling this Halloween, of jackboots rising from the grave. Note the guy in the gun turret, aiming at Boston citizens.

Boston, where 18th century outrage against British domination struck fire. Boston, where 21st century lock-down was launched--with a deft touch of irony and the macabre.

We have seen the enemy, Pogo, not in a cave in Afghanistan, but us. We're GMO-fat, dazed, and not ready for winter, with jackboots marching two by two.

I live out West now, where the Bundy Ranch Standoff was big startling news. Cowboys (it's a job description, not a fashion statement) ambled in with rifles on their saddles. Plenty of snakes in the desert, you know.

Lean and mean, they faced down a militarized federal agency, bent on confiscation and destruction:

There's a saying about rudeness and overreach: "Your getting too big for your britches."

Champagne for profiteers and cat food for the homeless...  Who are we at harvest moon?

Curl up with a good book:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Out of Gas; Good Neighbor

He held the little cardboard sign, "Out of Gas", at solar plexus level, a red gas can by his feet.

"So's the economy", I said, handing him a dollar bill.

As the light had just turned red, I asked what was going on for him. He thanked me and smiled a mouthful of rotten brown incisors. Apparently can't afford dental care either; extraction dead ahead.

He lives out across the Rio Grande Gorge in high bleak, unregulated country. Building codes do not apply, the dwellings range from off-grid efficiency and whimsy to dug-in squalor.

The poorest hitch rides into town and live on government dole, an electronic debit card, and food pantry staples.

The volunteer Food Pantries in town are valiant, dogged and working at capacity. The one with which I'm familiar is now serving 500 extended families each week, when societal crisis is still a stalking rumor.

I waved goodbye at the stoplight and then, in case I'd failed to notice, had a surprise rendezvous with a friend who also lives to hell and gone out on the mesa with no utilities and water catchment, if it rains. Otherwise spring water is hauled up switchbacks from the canyon floor.

He lives in the same area as the fellow with no gas and rotten teeth, but my friend is an eccentric retired medical professional and inventor. He lives comfortably and eats well from his hoop house gardens.

Still a steward of health, he looks after his poorer neighbors.

Those few who have solar collectors do not have sufficient an array to cook beans for eight hours, but my friend care-takes a posh solar home in the area with ample electricity.

He takes otherwise un-cookable food pantry beans and crock-pots them at the luxe house for the neighborhood, and then delivers glass jars of meal-ready beans around the community on his bicycle. Neighbors return the jars; he gives them fresh greens from his gardens.

He teaches people skills who are willing to learn any and is quietly preparing with antivirals, bandages, essential oils and stored staples, understanding that many of his neighbors will not prepare.

Meanwhile in another galaxy of experience far away, trader friends debate which stock to short and discuss millions in bonuses given to Wall Street parasites.

An asylum, yes, but it's ours to navigate and somehow retain or gain our humanity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thistles & the Wild Wind

Birdlets with slender beaks love thistle seed. I bought a thistle feeder to honor a friend, and it's full of birdsong and darting wings: goldfinch and pine siskin, a rosy finch and a redpoll.

That would be the purple thistle, emblem of Scotland the Brave where the seabirds keen and if you're very lucky you might hear a piper skirling to the wild wind.

I sit and watch the birds and sometimes tell my friend
about the day's small doings.

She so loved old-timey storytelling, asking for the "next book" when I was all but breathless from writing the last. For two months she had asked me to remind her about the date coming up.

But she wasn't there, at the Autumn Equinox when I read stories aloud. Nor will she see the jolly YouTube, though I send it skimming her way across a deep pool.

A horrid upbringing had haunted her; she never felt quite safe.

When I heard her story's ending, I sat up through the night singing rite of passage Hospice song, and as best I could held her hand on far journey.

In quietude she turned, seemingly, and said, "Do it now; do it while living. Forgive the unforgivable."

I woke at first light to birdsong and such a feeling of joy and freedom.

And so I remember my kindly friend, blithe and imperishable, old pain shot through the heart.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hootenanny Story-Telling!

Here we go and I hope you have a hoot of a good time at a cozy Autumn Equinox performance of Earth-Whisperers stories. It was filmed by a pro at a wonderful community bookshop.

Let's visit the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and stories told with sound effects and vigor. Come on in and set awhile.

You'll hear (one woman!) conversations of mountain dialect and get to know the matriarch who mentored me and tucked me under her wing.

Here's a chance for international readers to appreciate the sound of the local speech pattern, and wicked sense of humor.

The videographer, Bob Keeton, is some wizard and has interspersed surprise photos and video--critters & bringing in the sheaves & sorghum molasses making--and wait till you hear the Appalachian music!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pocketful of Rosehips

What to do if there's no Vitamin C, and high stress and a cold-house winter dead ahead? There's precedent.

Great Britain normally imported its winter citrus from balmy Mediterranean countries. (And from a few greenhouse orangeries on the old estates, a very small local crop!)

Nazi Germany blockaded the Brits, sinking Merchant Marine shipping. No citrus suddenly in foggy northern islands notorious for damp and horrid winters and no central heating; what to do?

British school children, many sent to rural foster families to escape the Blitz, went into the woodlands and hedgerows to gather wild rosehips, very rich in Vitamin C and other super-nutrients.

The rosehips were de-seeded (a bit tedious but do-able) and made into delicious rose hip jam, syrup, and dried for herb tea. European groceries and pharmacies still stock these delectables.

Wild rosehips are often elongated; garden varieties are more squat and fat. In Maine, I gathered quite large ones, from fragrant Rugosa roses which withstand coastal conditions, in brisk autumns on Frenchman Bay.

One year a home-schooled boy requested a unique birthday present. Would I teach him to make the Vitamin C-rich jam from start to finish? You bet I would!

We gathered baskets of the fruit with surf crashing on pink granite ledges and sea gulls crying overhead. It took us most of the day to our end product (boy became a little scarce through the boring parts!) and our winter of rosehip/honey jam.

At my organic farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia years ago, I'd stand in the snow and nibble frosty wild rosehips and spit out the seeds. Deer and I browsed!

I was reminded of this wild and nutritive bounty in harsher mountains of the American Southwest.

Hiking up into the shimmering autumn gold of quaking aspens this week, I was breathing in the fragrance of conifer resin when I spied wild roses along the mountain stream.

The scarlet to crimson to wine-red thin flesh is still succulent these Indian Summer days and nippy nights; we're expecting hard frost next week. The rosehips will shrivel, darken and dry into winter but remain useful.

I sat on a horizontal fir trunk, bent in its youth by heavy snows, which stretched across the cascading brook. It seemed bonsai'd of extraneous form by generations of gardeners, not Old Man Winter!

As I nibbled the sweet-tart rose fruit, I watched a chipmunk sip water from a pool and a hawk soar above the aspens.

Gathering a few fruit here and there, coming down the trail, I never stripped a bush: leaving bounty for wildlife and to re-seed. I'll dry this small harvest and hope to collect more for a rosehip and elderberry syrup.

With winter coming on and odd rumors of pandemic and perhaps bioterra-research run amok, let's step back a moment. We may come to value Grandmother wisdom and good neighbors as wealth indeed!

Gather ye roses while ye may...

Here's a recipe for syrup using a centrifugal juicer, which I may try: no de-seeding! In the comments section, a caution, however. One experimenter wrecked his juicer.

You'll find other country recipes in 
My organic farm book of stories: