LOCAL VIEW –Daring the Frost–

I should be a sort of poster-child farmer for Global Warming this spring, for I’ve never had my peas up so early. Usually you “plant peas on Patriots Day” (April 19) but this year mine were up and growing by then. (Don’t complain that the rows are not straight. When you run a Farm-childcare, rows are never straight.)

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Having my peas up this early (for this far north; I’m sure people in Virginia are laughing at my vanity),  doesn’t actually mean I’m smart. I’ve just been lucky. I got them in and they likely had sprouted roots, but had not stuck their heads up above the soil, when we got this:

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What’s more, we got temperatures down in the single digits, (below -12.2° Celsius), and if my peas had emerged, they would not have just been discouraged. Though peas are tough, they’d be dead, dead, dead. All my work would have been wasted, and I’d have to start over from scratch. I’d be singing the blues, but that didn’t happen, so instead I’m smug, smug, smug.

Actually I threaded the needle, and the timing of planting those peas was timed perfectly. In truth you can either say I was lucky, or “to God goes the glory”,  but I so seldom have a chance to swagger that I prefer to think I did it all myself. After years of bungling and doing everything wrong, I have been so trained by misfortune that I’ve started doing things right, as a sort of intuitive reflex (which gets me off the hook of having to intellectually explain my success to scientists.)

Like a gambler “on a roll” I’ve decided to go with my instinct, and am planting other things a little early. I had to look hard to get my onions in, as they hadn’t even appeared in some stores, and in like manner I also got carrots, bulb-fennel, beets, turnips and lettuce planted this weekend.  (I might have planted potatoes, but at the hardware store they hadn’t brought them up to the showroom from the back warehouse.)

This could all be a complete disaster. This far north we can get frosts right into May. In fact, (to discredit Global Warming), we even had a frost on May 29 last spring. However I know how to handle such calamities. You wet everything down in the evening, (as it is harder to freeze wet things), (due to latent heat involved in the phase change, for you scientists), and then you put all your grass from mowing the lawn over the plants, but in a fluffy and thin manner (because the heat generated by wet hay can kill plants, if it is too thick).

The old-timers couldn’t be bothered planting early. They might plant a few things like peas on Patriots Day, but then they kicked back and waited until Memorial Day (May 31) to plant most everything else. Even though beets and carrots and turnips are hardy, and can stand a slight frost, old-timers had seen a few, late killing frosts. It wasn’t worth all the effort of planting a second time, or else rushing about wetting things down and fluffing grass over them. Why? because if you plant on April 24 your carrots take forever to sprout and then grow very slowly. Quite often, though you planted them five weeks ahead of Memorial Day, they have grown only to a height that plants planted after Memorial Day achieve in ten days. By July you can hardly tell the rows apart.  So why bother?

I suppose I bother because I seems to get slower as I get older. My garden is pretty big, and I can’t put the whole thing in on Memorial Day any more. So I pace myself, and do the same amount of work planting over weeks. In other words, I’m just as lazy as the old-timers.

Also, when you get to my age there’s not much you can do that is all that exciting. (Let’s skip the subject of sex.) (Also my finances.) Maybe I’ll drive forty when the speed limit is thirty-five, but the police officer just yawns as I speed by in my old, puttering pickup truck. Where’s the fun in that?

Therefore living-on-the-edge, for me, is to plant too early, but to get away with it.

Wisdom’s just a chance to show you’ve learned
From all you’re bungling, and to demonstrate
Old dogs aren’t dumb. Oh sure, we still get burned,
But flinch less. We’ve seen it’s never too late
To get things right. Although all of the clocks
Say time’s running out, we drive more slowly
Than frantic youngsters. The school of hard knocks
Has shown us speed kills, but the dawdler sees
The sunrises and smells the sweet bacon.
Do old dogs waste their time chasing their tails?
No, for they once bit their tail. Forsaking
The truth they learned would mean old dogs lie.
They don’t. So, if you’ve got things to fix,
Heed the old dogs. Don’t teach them new tricks.

P.S. (For Young Poets)

Yes, it is most definitely true that the young know more about computers and cell phones, but one big solar flare might set all that technology back on its heels, and make it difficult to even start a car. At that point an old geezer with a garden might suddenly seem to have values that are more lasting.

Not that it is wrong for young poets to spend time chasing their tails. It seems to be part of the process.

One way I chased-my-tail when in my late twenties was to be so determined to write that I did so even when I should have been living life, (and thus learning things worth writing about). My writing seemed to just get worse and worse. The worse it got the harder I tried, until I recall being on my knees and pounding the floor, shouting “I will write!  I will write!”

Then, exhausted, I made a liar of myself, for rather than writing I read, and what I happened to be reading was Huxley’s novel, “Antic Hay”, and I happened to get to the part where he has a character acting very much as I just had, pounding the carpet and fiercely insisting he would write.

This made me feel I wasn’t all that special, and was behaving like a character in a comic novel. So I got a job. It didn’t last, so I got another. And another. And another.

I’ve never sat down and counted the number of different jobs I’ve held, but it is over a hundred. Often they felt like they would ruin my ability to write. They never did. They enhanced it.

Eventually you wind up an old dog who knows lots of tricks. Keep the faith.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Details, details…–

Spring can get to be an overwhelming time on even a toy farm like mine. You can’t ask anything or anyone to wait. The Time to Plant is the Time to Plant, and you can’t tell it to wait.

Even if you do plant on time, there are all sorts of things that can mess up your plans. Late frosts, hail, plauges of locusts, fat groundhogs, annoying environmentalists and the EPA may descend and cut down your seedlings. However you will not even have seedlings to be cut down, if you tell the Time to Plant to wait.

You have a chance, and you had better not blow it.

Of course, as a writer, I am always begging for mercy. It may be Time to Plant, but please, please, please give me Time to Write.

There is such a beauty in the Time to Plant, that someone should write about it. Someone should sing a song of praise. Someone should pen a sonnet. Someone should shout thanks up to the top of the blue sky. However it has been my experience that, if you actually do take the time to pen poems, you wind up forgetting to actually plant, because you are too busy thinking up rhymes for “forsythia”.  Next thing you know, it is another time.  It is Time To Pay The Bill Collector. He wants your harvest, and he seldom accepts payment in poems. If you haven’t gotten around to planting anything, then facing the bill collector becomes one of life’s darkest moments.

“But surely”, you naively ask me, “If you sing a psalm like King David, you are offering flowers to your Creator, and His benefit must be clear.”  Alas, I tell you, offering flowers doesn’t always make one a hit.

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Therefore, as I am old and wise, I have learned I had better damn well take care of God’s business before getting around to praising God. I’m sure this seems a very pedantic and pragmatic thing for a poet to say, but, if the Time to Plant is worthy of praise, it is also worthy of enacting.

For, if you really want to see the beauty of planting, and really want to be remotely considered an authority on the subject, shouldn’t you actually plant?

And, if that means you have less time to write, so be it. It will make you a better singer and poet, in the long run.

Not that I don’t pity my fellow poets. We are not appreciated and helped, in a materialistic society.  And there surely will come times that it is true that

Every poet always wishes
That his muses did the dishes

However it is the poets that wind up dishwashers, doing lots of dishes that are not their own. It is part of the process. You need to get down and dirty and plant. In order to write poetry you need to know “you got to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues”, and you cannot harvest without facing a Time to Plant.

 

Therefore I will have little time for posting. If I was more pragmatic than I am, I’d close down this site for a couple months. However, as I own an impractical side that bill collectors don’t like, I think I’ll opt for very short posts.

Today’s post would be, “Planted some onion and garlic sets. The peas are already sprouting, though most years they wouldn’t yet be planted.”

Then there would be a bit of Haiku, and perhaps a photo of onion and garlic sets.

However, because this is a longer post, I’ll post a longer sonnet.

It is strange how some demand I prove
What only happens once. They cry, “Replicate!”
I bow to their science. And I remove
Once-in-a-lifetime love, and then I wait.

You see, the Red Sea parted only once.
To replicate that is asking too much.
By asking too much some wind up the Dunce,
And rather than wise they wind up out of touch.

What is touching? What has moved your heart?
What honeymoon made the child that you spoil?
Can you replicate that? Can you even start
To explain the illogic which science will foil?

Science wants logic. Does it want hate?
Or does it want love? I still sit and wait.

LOCAL VIEW –Rejoicing Over Wrinkles–

While looking at the ravages time carved onto the face of Robert Frost I decided plastic surgery is for fools.  I suppose some, who are maimed, might require such surgery, to avoid repulsing people with an unpleasant superficiality, but most of us are strangely improved by the battering of our features time gifts us with. This seems especially true of people who retain their sense of humor, and of beauty, despite hardship. Crafted into each wrinkle of their face is a hint that God is real, and death is not.

Robert Frost knew much about desperation, despair and darkness. He outlived his wife and four of six children, and had witnessed those dark landscapes made of a pain far worse than physical pain, misnamed “mental illness”, even experiencing a son’s suicide. How he got through it all is his secret and his triumph, and is written in his face more clearly than in any poem.

The best and most beautiful poem is but an attempt to express the self that already exists. I have no idea why it feels so sublimely satisfying to do this, for it is merely to copy. In fact I was always scolded for copying, when in school. However there are few things so fulfilling as speaking your heart, in a sense tracing what already exists with a tracing paper called “poetry”. Later, when the tracing paper is removed from the Truth you attempted to copy, you see all the imperfections. However when you first are focused on what the Creator has already created, it is completely absorbing, and you forget all your problems, even when you are tracing a problem called a heartache. That is why there is such a rhapsody in singing the blues.

An old face is no different from any other old object; it has a sort of patina that gives it value, as an antique.  A young face is sort of raw, in comparison. It lacks something very beautiful the old have earned.

I was looking at my face critically the other day, noting how amazingly aged a couple of hard winters have made me, and I started to stretch my skin smooth, making the face in the mirror look like those bizarre old people, quite common in Florida, who have paid money that might have fed the poor to make themselves look weird.  I burst out laughing. And when I laughed all the wrinkles gathered and made my face have far more character than I had when I was young, and was little more than a pretty boy poet.

Call it sour grapes if you will, but I suddenly felt sorry for the young, and glad to be wrinkled. Usually I cut off my beard when the weather warms, and a free scarf is no longer necessary, but this year I may keep my scruff, for a gray beard makes me look even older, and age is no disgrace. It is a badge of honor, given by the Creator. If nothing else, this attitude will save me a lot of money, and my boycott may put plastic surgeons in the position where they will have to save lives rather than egos.

One reason my attitude towards wrinkles has changed is due to sitting my granddaughter in my lap, and seeing her attitude toward wrinkles. I gather you have to become older than she is to be scared by age, for she finds wrinkles fascinating, and her observant eyes search my face as her little fingers poke. In a sense she reminds me of a student probing a poem, searching for the meaning in the lines.

Another reason may be that spring is absurdly early this year. I’m not fooled, for I’ve seen many a warm March give way to April snows, but one seed that can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked is peas. Usually we plant them on Patriots Day, April 19, and I’ve often planted them in snow, but this year I thought I’d see if it was possible to kill even a tough plant like peas, by planting them more than a month early, on March 16.

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Of course there is something about spring and planting seeds that seems alien to wrinkles. Maybe it reminds the old of sex, when they were young, and tempts them to gobble that plastic surgery of the penis, Viagra, popping some Prozac as well to plasticize the brain.  However here too I burst into laughter, which was what Abraham and Sarah named the child they made in their old age. That is the only real reason for sex: Procreation. All the other reasons people give are proof they are using sex as a poor excuse for genuine poetry. If you really want the sublime self-forgetfulness of creation, make a child if you are young, but write a poem if you are old.

I never really wanted to be worldly.
I wanted to space out, and be away
From schooling that abused me, and then hurled me
Out onto a world of greedy gray.
My teachers had no clue of how men make a buck.
They dwelled in ivory classrooms, stuffed with must
And never dared depart from muck, when stuck,
And clung to coins that hoped, “In God we trust.”
Me? I roamed a world which didn’t pity me
And toiled with bleeding hands and bleeding heart
Facing worldly responsibility
Though I disliked this world right from the start
Until now, life ebbs, and laughter stings
For I’ve become a man of worldly things.

LOCAL VIEW –Peas and Patriots–

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(photo credit: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/fp.php?pid=6688362#b )

Yesterday, with the help of my eldest daughter, we got 75 feet of edible podded peas planted. (I don’t bother with the ordinary peas any more; too long a run for too short a slide.) With God’s grace we should be getting crunchy pea pods to munch around June 15. They are incredibly popular with the kids at the Childcare, often to the amazement of parents who can’t get the same children to eat vegetables at home.

Actually it is a double row, (and therefore 150 feet,) with the two rows around a foot apart and a four-foot-high fence running between them, for them to climb on. Last year they grew two feet above the top of the fence, and formed a pretty hedge with snowy white blooms, and then began producing more pea pods than we knew what to do with. I became a pea pod philanthropist, and resorted to freezing them in a way I read about on the web where you don’t bother with blanching, (not bad, but the texture was a bit fuzzy when they were thawed and boiled up in February,) and still I had too many. It turns out that picking them just stimulates them to make more. So finally I just set the kids loose to graze on them, despite the fact they tended to rip up some plants by the roots, when picking pods.

There was something about grazing that made munching vegetables much more attractive to even the most fussy child. Some, who absolutely insisted they hated all peas, would start out merely hanging out with the others, and then I’d see them sneak a nibble, when they thought I wasn’t looking. I tried not to rub it in when they joined in with the others, and grazed and munched their way down the row. Others were not officially grazing. They were officially “helping me pick”, but more went into their stomachs than the baskets they carried.

You’d think they’d get sick of eating the same thing. (Actually, come to think of it, one little girl did get sick one afternoon, but it partly was due to failing to chew, and she went right back to munching a couple of days later.) There may have been a few days when interest slacked off, and they were more involved with building forts in the woods, but right to the end of the season, when the heat of July makes the lush plants wither and dry, the children would bring up “pea-picking” as a thing they desired to do.

Not that it will happen again. If children have taught me anything, it is that what works one year may not work the next. However I figured it was worth a try. So, today, my muscles all ache in the way they do, when you put in a garden. When I was younger I would tell myself the ache meant I was getting stronger, and meant I would look more attractive to women at the beach. At age 62 I tell myself it is likely either killing me, or keeping me alive. In any case it is an old, familiar ache that walks hand in hand with Spring.

Less familiar is a sort of post-taxes ache in my brain. I find myself trying to keep books concerning the profit and loss of my pea patch,  and imagine facing a highly suspicious government auditor, who assumes any private business is selfish and greedy, and that only the government has the best interests of children in mind. (The funny thing is that government officials make more, and spend more on themselves, as I make less, and spend more on children.)

I think an ache in your brain is far worse than any ache in the body. It is easier, for me at least, to tune out physical pain. The government is involved in a sort of psychological torture, and it is harder to tune out mental pain, for the tuner itself is involved.

In any case, I find myself muttering to myself, involved in needless justifications of being the being I am, and doing the doings I do. I mean, why should the government care a hoot about a pea patch on a remote farm? Haven’t people got better ways to spend their time than to make me nervous, when I write down “pea patch” as a business expense?

I actually feel the pea patch was a profit, over all, last year, but my measure-of-profit is beyond the ken of needle-nosed bureaucrats who measure with money. When my books show that I spent $5.00 on seed, and didn’t sell any produce, they wonder what happened to the peas I planted. Lord knows what disaster could befall me if they found out I ate some myself. I’d wind up like Al Capone, who could not be arrested for what he did, so they had to get him for “tax evasion”. But what is my crime?

That is the psychological torture, and the cruel and unusual punishment, our government is guilty of. It makes people feel guilty for breathing and being alive.

Or that is what I was muttering to myself today, as I walked about achy. There is so much the government inflicts upon its people that is needless. For example, why shouldn’t I simply pay my employees with cash? Why does my government make me responsible for collecting nine of its ridiculous taxes, and doing all the paperwork? I simply don’t have time for such nonsense, and actually pay a firm called “Paychex” to do all that paperwork for me. It costs me $70.00/week, week after week, and after a year that adds up to $3650.00/year I have to pay, when I could just as well be handing my employees cash, and paying nothing.

The government makes you pay in other ways as well. It adds up, and it isn’t merely taxes. It is tantamount to a sort of endless haranguing that makes a nagging wife seem gentle. It is a psychological torture that either so weakens people that the government sees its people collapse, and has killed the goose that laid the golden egg, or else its people rise up and revolt, being driven mad by the government’s psychological torture, and its people are driven to bizarre behavior, such as dressing up as Indians and throwing tea into a harbor.

Here in New England we celebrate our forefathers going nuts, and throwing perfectly good tea into a harbor, and forcing the authorities to respond, with a holiday we call “Patriot’s Day”. We also have a saying, “Plant your peas by Patriot’s Day”.

Well, I have planted my peas. I also enacted a minor rebellion by burning more weeds in my garden without obtaining the proper burn permit.

There was no wind, and you can only burn weeds when it is dry, but if I had tried to get a burn permit yesterday I know darn well I would have been told I had to wait until it was raining, in which case you cannot burn weeds. The government is idiotic. Farmers have burned weeds in gardens ever since the land was first gardened by Indians, (and likely the woods were burned before that, by the pre-agricultural Indians, to keep the glades open and clear for deer), so I just did what needed to be done without a permit.

The fact of the matter is that the government has created so many laws that the average American commits between two and five felonies each day. (Not misdemeanors; felonies.)The laws are seven stacks of paper, each seven feet tall. No normal person has read them all,  and many laws contradict, (so you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t), and they have reached a sort of tipping point where the Law, which is something we should honor and respect, resembles the raving brays of a jackass.

In the face of the government’s psychological torture, it seems civil disobedience is only natural, however I loathe the violent kind. Blowing up spectators during the Boston Marathon is not my idea of a proper celebration of Patriot’s Day. Rather I prefer the peaceful disobedience of Henry Thoreau, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. Therefore I burn weeds and plant peas, and have business expenses that put love ahead of profit.

A bit of rain came through this morning and dampened the dust, but by afternoon the sun was back out and the dryness was returning. The radar shows a front passing through, but the government could not bother to put a front on the maps.

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LOCAL VIEW —A Spring Unseen—

It is somewhat amazing to me to think back two springs, to March 2013, and to realize the soil had not merely thawed, but dried enough to allow me to plant peas at this time. Now I look out across a garden that could well be a landscape at the Pole, except for the few objects that poke up.

2013 was an unusually early spring, and (as I recall) it later got colder, and I couldn’t be in such a hurry to plant the more tender crops, such as tomatoes or squash. However peas are tough, and several times I’ve planted them even as snow swirled. (One of these years I’m going to try out planting them in the fall, to see if they notice the difference.) Planting peas tends to result in red, chapped and raw hands, but there is a joy in being able to get the planting started. There is also a wonderful moderation of ambition, the next morning, when muscles ache. Some of the more grandiose plans for giant gardens become more modest, once muscles are allowed to voice their views.

This spring there has been little of that moderation, so far, and my middle son, eldest daughter and wife are coming up with some gardening ideas that make my head spin a little. I blame the snow, which still stretches over the garden like a blank sheet of paper.

A blank sheet of paper holds the promise of great things; poetry to rival Shakespeare. It’s when you start to write, and the paper isn’t pure white any more,  that you see less great things.

Of course, I’m just an old geezer who has less ambition than I had when younger, especially as I’m struggling to get over a nasty cold that sunk down into my lungs and had me wondering if this might be the spring I won’t see. It is likely best if I keep my mouth shut about a lot of the ambitions others have, because there is nothing worse than a wet blanket who smothers others fire.

Anyway, when I look back over my life a lot of the fun was due to attempting things that failed. Afterwards not everyone points at you and laughs, “Loser! HAHAHAHA!” There are a few who quietly tell you. “At least you had the guts to try.”

The snow is shrinking, as we’ve been in a sort of drought this March. Usually a late spring is due to late snows, and a final pool of arctic air that swings down over New England. I recall one year we had a January so mild people were saying it proved Global Warming was occurring, and then the first week in April was colder than any week in January that year. However this spring we haven’t had a late storm (so far) and in fact the snow has been steadily shrinking under the power of the March sun. We’ve had amazingly cold blasts of arctic air, but the sun keeps shrinking the snow even when it is below freezing. However the snow was so deep to begin with that even though three feet are gone, we still have a foot.

It is a solid foot, too. When the snow was four feet deep is was all fluffy powder, and even snowshoes sank nearly a foot. Snowmobiles tended to bog down if the driver ever slowed. However now the snow is crunchy stuff I can walk across without sinking.

The first day we could walk on the snow the kids at the Childcare were euphoric. For over a month they had been limited, but now they could suddenly run free. My dog had a similar attitude, dashing about in obvious delight, freed from weeks of plunging and wallowing through the deep, white powder.

I have the urge to go on a long hike in the woods, crunching over the snow.  I’m going to keep my eyes open for signs of how the animals fared. I’m fairly certain the coyote didn’t fare well. They’d have to go around a month without food, at sub-zero temperatures. There’s no way they could hunt in snow so deep. The foxes also likely suffered. The deer basically live off their body fat, and twigs, and from what I hear they are gaunt but alive. Coyote and foxes can’t live on twigs, however. Perhaps they are the ones who won’t see the spring.

It was down around 10° (-12.2° Celsius) both yesterday morning and this morning, but now a milder spell is due, before the next arctic blast comes down over the weekend.

Even if it only lasts a day, mildness feels like pure ambrosia, this year.

I asked the little children if they’d like a storm with sticky snow, so they could make snowmen, if the snow would all melt away in a day, and they all agreed it was a bad idea, and that they were sick to death of snow. It is time to barbecue.

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CORRECTION:  The spring I was recalling was actually March, 2012.