LOCAL VIEW –Blighted Spring–

It’s been a drudging sort of week, full of duties one doesn’t plan for. Not much is blooming, but perhaps clouds of pollen from southern lands blew north, and everyone began sneezing. Or perhaps it was the common cold passing through town. In any case, who plans for that? It complicates things, and makes you make mistakes. Who plans for that? In your hurry you leave your key in the ignition, on the “on” position, as you are only hurrying inside for five minutes. But five minutes becomes two hours with phone-calls and other stuff, and when you hurry back to your car with an armload of other stuff, and are ready to rocket off, the battery is dead. Who plans for that?

We got by. Yesterday my battery was dead, but I wasn’t late to open the Farm-childcare as I got a quick jump from my wife’s car. Today her battery was dead at the Childcare, but she got a jump from me. To me it seemed very symbolic of how we get by, when we are not at our best.

Personally, I blame the delayed spring. Not that I wasn’t expecting it. Why? I think it was a queer mix of science and intuition and memory. I just noticed how a band of colder weather gave colder winters to places like Mexico and Syria and Thailand, even as places further north got a warmer winter, and I figured that band of colder weather would retreat north and get us. Meanwhile I recalled warm early springs in my past that got clobbered by May snowstorms, the worst being in 1977. Lastly, when you live as far north as New Hampshire, among Finns who immigrated here from much further north, you own a certain caution about warmth in March. Call it pragmatism or call it cynicism, I planted peas earlier than ever, but wasn’t surprised when snows followed, with record-setting cold.

But it needs to be said that such flip-flopping of weather is cruel. I am not being a selfish human, as I say this. It is not merely humans who get blighted. I can offer photographic evidence of the day-lily leaves with brown points, and the daffodils broken by frost.

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Of course these are imported species, (as are Finns and even Yankees like myself), but what really impressed me was a local swamp maple that seemed to get fooled. It formed a purple misted tree, in the post I did about frogs singing early, back in March. Currently it looks like it isn’t even going to start budding. I may do a post about what happens with that tree, but I’ll have to wait and see.

In any case, though spring seemed ready to bust out in March, here it is a month later and the treeline looks pretty leafless.

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However though the spring can be delayed, it cannot be denied. On the blighted lawn purple splashes.

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And a few daffodil were more cautious, and now stand proud for being cowards.

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And the grey fur of the pussy willow suddenly is yellow with pollen.

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And the wiser, more cowardly swamp maples now venture to bloom.

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And these tiny flowers, softening the treeline with a haze of reddish purple, always are worth a closer look.

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However, though my heart is softened by the loveliness, I will not be a sucker and a chump. I remember snows in May. So I look to the black cherry trees. In Washington DC their cherries may be fools, and come out only to be blasted by frost, but I like to think our northern cherries are smarter. And even this late they are only budding.

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So here I stand, betwixt and between. Spring will not be denied, but will not be a dunce.

The trees are distrustful; the very buds
Are reluctant; yet sneaking through the brush
Is a quickening of all creature’s bloods;
A hope that makes the grayest banker blush.

Who are you? Elf or zephyr or angel;
Invisible dancer swirling dead leaves;
You put us all through a long, slow, strange hell
Where the more one doubts the more one believes.

Logic dictates we distrust, and yet you
Seduce us with memories of past times
When you beat back that logic. Can you do
It again? In the face of this world’s crimes
Can you undo the loss of virginity?
Do that, and Oh! What a spring it would be!

LOCAL VIEW: DO SCHOOLMARMS DESERVE PENSIONS?

 

Because I raised five children, and coached teams, and now run a Childcare, I have great sympathy for anyone who has had to deal with children. There is nothing sillier, in my opinion, than a person who has never raised a child, or experienced a classroom full of unruly children, who writes a book advising people how we should deal with our youth, (for example, certain economists.).

Despite my sympathy, I do have a bone to pick with many schoolmarms, for I was once a boy, and feel some schoolmarm’s understanding of masculinity can, at times, resemble a fish’s understanding of what it is like to walk and breath air. Some schoolmarms have even less understanding of what it is like to be a man than most men have of what it is like to be a woman. Where a man can at least see physical evidence of a woman going through menstruation, schoolmarms can see no physical evidence of what makes a man a man, and in their ignorance they often attempt to nip the very buds of masculinity. So awful and blind is their ignorance that, in my exasperation, I have even suggested that certain schoolmarms are living proof that it was wrong to ever give women the vote.

Perhaps the most damning evidence has been the way schoolmarms have allowed perfectly normal and healthy young men to be drugged with Ritalin. Some day these schoolmarms will die and stand before God, and have to answer the question, “How could you allow this to happen?” They will spread their palms and whimper, “What could I do?” And then they will be asked, “What alternative did you seek?”

I am not God, but I have asked schoolmarms these same questions. It is not an answer to simply whimper and spread your palms, but many do it. Years ago it became apparent to me that few tried hard to do anything but walk on eggs and never make waves, and to merely serve their time and retire and collect their teacher’s pension, (a pension which I note is, in part, funded by the Pharmaceutical companies that drug children). In my humble, anti-schoolmarm, school-boyish opinion even the teachers that claim to be Christian have in fact worshiped Molech, and participated in the sacrifice of our children.

Now the young boys they once couldn’t bother to truly help, and instead only drugged, have grown up. They are a very real social problem. The army, which is where troubled young men traditionally went in order to be slapped into shape, absolutely refuses to accept young men who spent their youth on Ritalin. Why? Because such men never learned even the rudimentary basics of a certain disciplines, because schoolmarms were too lazy to do anything more than drug, drug, drug them. Now such men are damaged goods.

If the boys were such a problem in classrooms, then teachers should have gone on strike, and demanded society deal with the problem. Teachers didn’t. Instead they meekly went along with the poisoning of bright young men, and now their retirement is not as serene as they hoped it would be. Bitter, snarling, surly, thirty-year-old men lurk about the edges of gated retirement communities, and retired teachers might get mugged. Is this any way for our elders to be treated? Yes. What goes around comes around, and if you treat helpless children badly you may expect to be treated badly when you are a helpless elder.

My rural town is facing a heroin epidemic. Enough heroin to get high all weekend currently costs less than a six-pack of beer. Young men do “sow wild oats”, but where drinking whisky once left youth horribly hung-over, playing with heroin now leaves youth horribly addicted. Therefore we warn our youth against heroin, but some don’t listen. I can’t help but notice that the youth who are deafest to good advice are the same ones who spent their entire boyhoods drugged on Ritalin. Obviously Ritalin didn’t make them smarter. In fact it seems to engender an attitude wherein the use of drugs is acceptable. And the use of drugs is acceptable, to schoolmarms, is it not? In fact some schoolmarms demand little boys be drugged, do they not?

The exception to this rule is tobacco. Since before the time of Tom Sawyer schoolmarms have been dead set against the small Winston Churchhills of the world smoking fat cigars. But make a fiery, defiant young Winston complacent with Ritalin? Oh, that is fine and dandy.

Now we are facing the consequences of our worship of Molech. Some schoolmarms feel it is horrible to send our youth off to war, and that sacrificing our youth in battle is a worship of Molech. However when danger invades our land it might be nice if elderly, retired teachers had a few healthy young men around to defend them. Are there many such young men left? Or have the schoolmarms crucified them all?

Some schoolmarms say it isn’t Ritalin that maims our young men, but rather the maiming is caused by a social problem that Ritalin was attempting to deal with. This is a lame excuse, and fails to recognize the damage such drugs do. It accepts the propaganda spewed out by the pharmaceutical companies, which suggest such drugs are not addictive and have no side effects, and which make the old Tobacco Lobby’s evil antics look minor, in comparison. Even if there was and is a social problem, the problem is not solved by drugging perfectly healthy little boys. In fact that ignores the problem, and the problem gets worse, like a cancer growing but hidden by painkillers.

In my opinion nothing is more degrading to manhood than addiction. The addicted cannot stand up and be a man, because they cannot worship anything high, (such as God if you are religious, or Truth if you are an atheist), and instead they are tortured and physically driven to worship their next fix. It is a “monkey” that rules them, and for their next fix they will sell their grandmother’s teeth. No promise they make can be trusted, for they will break it if it gets in the way of their next fix. They are reduced to being liars, for their next fix. It could happen to anyone, including people put on heroin against their will: Once addicted nobody can trust you. Your word is worthless. You are not a man; you are a junkie.

I’ve seen some young men pull out of this downward spiral, but they are a minority. They somehow have the guts to go through the nightmare of going “cold turkey”, (which few schoolmarms can even imagine), and then have the will to resist the attractive beckoning of friends who want them back, even though going back is death. However I’ve also seen pink-cheeked young men die of overdoses, even early on in their addiction.

In my Childcare I sometimes deal with the children of such addicts. Usually the grandparents have stepped in, because the parents are so focused on their next fix that they worship Moloch, and sacrifice their own children. The children have a certain air of sadness. They cannot understand why their parents care more for heroin than for them.

Schoolmarms need to be asked the same question. Why did you care more for Ritalin than six-year-old boys?

High up in skyscrapers the sleek executives of pharmaceutical companies preen and chortle and send out the blood money to the Teacher’s Union, so old teachers can receive pensions. They think they are above it all, but outdoorsmen built the very box they gloat in. Once their high-rise office was merely I-beams, high above city streets, with a cold wind whistling through, and the only people able to work in such scary circumstances were stoic Navajo and Sioux. In other words, the sort of outdoorsman their drugs destroy built the very perch such executives prattle upon.

The simple fact of the matter is that many boys are not born to be indoors. It is unnatural to ask them to sit for long hours at desks or in cubicles. It is even crueler to drug them for complaining about being cramped, especially when they are small and helpless, only five or six years old.

What I say is, “Lets go outside!” It is not merely the little boys that then jump for glee. Lots of the little girls don’t want to sit indoors at rows of desks either. Nor do they learn less by being outside. Can you tell the difference between checkerberries and partridgeberries? Between yellow vetch and crown vetch? Kids only four year old at my Childcare love to tell their parents about such distinctions. Furthermore children who may be the worst learners at rows of desks are sometimes the best students, when romping through the fields.

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Is it so hard to do what I do? Obviously not, if a bumpkin like me can do it. So why didn’t schoolmarms do it thirty years ago, when they first became aware boys were a worsening problem in their classrooms?

Either they didn’t respond to the problem because they lacked the brains to see a solution, or they were too damn lazy, or perhaps too scared. None of these excuses justifies drugging small and helpless children. Rather than seeking the solution they complied with the problem, and became part of the problem, and included the problem in their retirement portfolios.

How strange it seems to me that these same schoolmarms now think their retirement should be free of the problem, which is looming like a thunderhead in our social skies. Did they really believe they could destroy our future, and then somehow retire into a future that wasn’t a wasteland?

Do schoolmarms deserve the fat pensions we pay them? That is not for me to decide. I suppose we each earn our respective rewards and punishments, whether they be in this world or the next, however I fear schoolmarms  will soon see a different sort of pension, when hyperinflation renders their fat checks too small to buy a loaf of bread, and they face streets full of the thugs they unwittingly created.

Old men and small children don’t do well
In wars, for in such madness a crazed greed
Casts songs of innocence into a hell
With songs of experience. War’s sick need
Is to mutilate both Truth and Beauty,
So old men and small children best lay low
And have nothing to do with loot or booty,
And own nothing worth taking, and never show
The true treasures that Truth and Beauty are.
Keep those secrets private, as the kings rave
And shake their fists at the evening’s first star
Because it dares shine and fears no brute’s knave.
That star glimmers Truth unseen by madmen
But seen by the old men walking with children.

 

CONTEMPLATING CRABGRASS

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CONTEMPLATING CRABGRASS

            Yesterday the sun beat down with the peculiar yellowness that seems to go along with a heat wave.  It is as if you are seeing the world through sunflower-colored glasses.  The yellowness is more than a tint; it is a stain, and the process of staining is ongoing, drenching the green leaves, the wavering asphalt of the potholed country road, and the madman out there jogging doggedly down the side of that road under the lead-like weight of the heat. Even the spots of shade seem yellowed, as if seen through a honeyed haze, or as if the shadows existed in a photograph fading before your eyes.

The golden oppression was also drenching me, another madman with a big straw hat, walking very slowly out into the garden to contemplate the crabgrass, amazed at how a plant as big around as a teacup can spring out to larger around than a dinner plate, seemingly overnight  To add insult to injury, each leaf on a growing stem forms a joint on the round stem, such as you see on round stems of bamboo or corn, but where bamboo stays straight and forms a useful stick, and where corn has a nice ear of yellow kernels to munch at upper leaf joints, crab grass simply produces another stem at each joint, so one stem becomes two, and two becomes four.  What was as in innocuous weed with five legs like a starfish becomes a ten-legged and then twenty-legged creature as it sprawls sideways like a crab, but, unlike a crab, in all directions at once. To make matters worse, at each joint it also can start a new system of roots.  This means if you rip a big plant up, you may leave the tip of one stem behind, and it is rooted and ready to ramble, as soon as you turn your back.

The plant is amazingly good at sucking water from soil you would swear is bone dry. Two days ago there were thunderstorms rumbling all around us, however all we got was a misting that didn’t even drop the temperatures. Other plants, wilting in the heat, didn’t revive, but crabgrass guzzles such slight mists and drinks deeply of dew, looking lush and vigorous and vividly green, even as other plants fade.  Even when you rip them up, when you return to the pile of uprooted weeds a week later you find several crabgrass plants survived, and re-rooted, and are enjoying the compost made by former neighbors decomposing.

What is particularly annoying is that they are perfectly capable of growing straight and tall like other, more well-behaved grasses.  When they are warring other weeds a single root may form five stems, but they all shoot straight up without any dividing at leaf joints, marshaling all energy to escape the shade and pop above all other plants and catch the sun. I’ve seen stems six feet tall. Even in a well-weeded pumpkin patch, where the established plants create such a shade weeds can’t thrive, you will see a crabgrass stalk or two sticking up like little flags a midst the squashes’ thick and overlapping umbrellas. Therefore, considering they are perfectly able to be upright and civilized members of the vegetable kingdom, it seems sheer greediness that, given the slightest chance, they sprawl, and are like hogs or like dogs-in-the-manger, sucking every bit of dew and nutrients from an ever expanding circle. If they had voices they’d likely crackle like crazed misers hugging their heaps of coins, “Mine! All mine!”

Of course I am not all that spiritual myself, when I see one of these twenty-legged spiders exploding green a midst my pepper plants. I am supposed to love my enemies, but when I drop to my knees it isn’t to worship. It is to grab that sucker by his neck, and rip him up, to shake him savagely until his roots are gasping for dirt, and then to sadistically lay him roots up, so he can only wither in the burning sun. And then, down on my knees, I look ahead, and see another, and another.  One I get started I don’t care that the temperature’s ninety and my skin is a shiny, slick sheen that catches the shaken dirt and dust and makes me look very tanned until I shower.  I just go crawling forward like some primitive ground sloth, rooting and ripping and shaking pattering showers of dirt.

After a while the motion develops a tempo, much like the plodding motion of jogging, though it strengthens the upper body more than the legs. Weeding is good exercise. Furthermore, it occurs outside, and blue skies and bird songs are more beautiful than machines at a gym, and rather than costing you anything it pays you with bigger vegetables. Much like jogging, as you rip up weeds you hit walls of exhaustion and then get second winds, and as you plod along you watch your moods go through a kaleidoscope.

Today my mood spun off onto an interesting tangent as I contemplated the crabgrass. It was based upon an interesting tangent I had a long time ago, when I contemplated how much better life would be if I was trying to grow crabgrass.  It is such a sprawling, greedy, spreading plant that the only competitors that stand a chance are the plants that start earlier. (Clover, vetch, lamb’s quarters, pig weed, ragweed and many grasses germinate at colder temperatures.) If you tilled the garden once the weather was warm, and planted crabgrass seed, it would basically overwhelm all other plants, and you could sit back and never need to weed.  You’d have to go to a gym for exercise.

Therefore, some time ago, I decided to see if crabgrass has any use, and what I did was to check to see what Indians did with it, for it had been my experience that if a plant had any use, Indians made use of it. To my surprise I discovered Indians made no use of crabgrass, because it didn’t exist in North America until it was introduced. Furthermore, it wasn’t introduced by accident. It was an actual grain crop, promoted by the USDA in the 1800’s. (You can still buy seed, but only to seed pastures, to create rich forage for cattle.)

Crabgrass  is a type of millet, called Fonio in Africa. One plant can make 150,000 seeds. (I’m glad I wasn’t the guy who had to count them.)  However it is a bit of a bother to husk the tiny seeds. (See  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fonio ) In Africa they pound the seeds with sand.  Then what?  I don’t know; perhaps mix it with water and the sand sinks?

In any case, Corn and wheat had bigger seeds and replaced crabgrass as a crop in the USA.

However, as I weeded in the hot sun my brains began to fry, and I began to imagine plots for disaster movies. After all, that is one reason to grow a garden. You imagine some event occurs, and the supermarkets are empty, and your broccoli, carrots, potatoes and corn save the children, and you are a hero for weeding.

The plot that went traipsing through my imagination involved something you often come across when roaming the internet: The fact corn is genetically modified and the modifications may at some point cause corn become susceptible to some smut or corn virus we don’t know about, and in a single year vast crops could vanish world wide. Vast populations would then be in shoes of the Irish, when their entire crops of potatoes abruptly turned to inedible slime in 1848.  The face of famine would loom and leer across lands where people can’t imagine such a thing.

And what might save the day?  What could we eat with corn withered away? Crabgrass. Crops of crabgrass with itty bitty seeds. Cotton picking Crabgrass!  My worst enemy might become my best friend!

Oh! The irony of it all! However at least I’d be learning to love my enemy.

HERE COMES THE SUN!

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HERE COMES THE SUN!

If you compare the above radar shot and the above weather map with the ones posted a couple days ago you see we are still drenched, but there is a big difference.  In the second weather map there is a nice dry high approaching.  Or I should say, as the maps are from this morning and it is now evening, “a nice dry high has moved in.”

As dawn came the sky barely brightened to deep purple, and the rain just poured, but by seven the rain stopped and by eight the sky was bright and the clouds were high, and then the sun peeked down at nine.

The world never looks quite so fine as it does after a long gloom breaks into a sunny spell. They say rain is good for plants, but you can’t see the lushness until the sun enlivens it.  Then it jumps out at you, and the wildflowers speckling the green seem straight from the painting of an impressionist.

It’s hard to be serious even if you are trying.  Even the smells improve as gloom gives way to gold, shifting from fungal to fragrance, my favorite being the fragrance of partridge-berry flowers so small you have to stoop to see them, but which can form a heady pocket of ambrosia that floors you, as you walk through wet woods.

Someone, somewhere, must have been very good for the rest of us to deserve this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj1AesMfIf8