Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bad Dog

Photo courtesy Flickr

(Here’s a copy of an E-mail to a regular reader.)

Hi, Betts, I've been thinking about that pooch that's guarding your hiking trail, and if you'll bear with some comments, here they are...

Larry clued me to the seriousness of undisciplined dogs: when he was growing up in the South, owners were advised to keep their pets indoors on certain summer days so that the authorities could shoot any wandering animal they ran across.

The animal you're concerned about is a danger to itself as well as to others. It's not unheard of for someone to set poisoned bait. The owner, if any, may not be aware how the animal is behaving when it's not supervised.

That you're letting yourself be intimidated is not good. You have a right to pass on public property. I'd be worried that a child could be disfigured, traumatized, or killed by an aggressive animal, and that could bankrupt the owner. Insurance policies have become carefully worded about not covering behaviors that are outside the law.

Fortunately, the technology that makes personal privacy such an issue is also an ally in a situation like this. If you or a buddy have a phone that records location, time, and date, and, ideally, a little video, you'd probably be able to provide Animal Control and/or park authorities with what they need to bring the owner under control. I'd have someone stand by with pepper spray-for the dog. It may be that others have complained and your input provides a tipping point.

That's my official worrying for the day. Good luck with this one.

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More after the jump.

Chicory


Photo courtesy Flickr

Roasted chicory root was originally used as a cheap substitute for imported coffee beans. I associate chicory-blended coffee with soul food, hot weather, and very good rock and roll music. Now and then, I realize I’ve been chicory-deprived and start adding it to the house blend. Chicory produces a strong brew that is not nerve-shattering. On a really soulful day, I’ll lighten it with canned milk and add far too much sugar, in honor of a senior neighbor’s ever-welcoming percolator.

I happened to have some chicory on hand The Day It Got Warm. That was Saturday. Half the pot was left to cool while I got busy in the garden. On a break I discovered that cold chicory coffee is delicious with half and half and homemade vanilla, beans aged six years in a good bourbon.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Fish Finder

Photo courtesy Flickr

My old pal Dusty Dan lives to fish. He bought property a few miles from his favorite streams so the commute wouldn’t be too bad. Now he mourns that he no longer has time to pester the trout.

Pay the most for what you use the most, they say. It’s an underlying principle that transforms buying habits. An even deeper principle is the idea of cost per use, one that turns bargains on their heads.

If you divide the price of transportation and twenty acres of rural farmland by the number of pounds of fish caught per year, you get a unit price that makes truffles look like fast food.

Most of us have trout streams beckoning that are out of reach. Every decision I make that simplifies inventory and makes life greener takes me closer to my creeks.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stomp the Comp


Photo courtesy Flickr

The title comes from a graffiti artist. (Comp is commercial art speak for composition.) While I can’t condone street art’s effects on property, I have to respect its impact on the writing community: graffiti vandals set the bar of competition very high.

The opening scene of the DVD It Might Get Loud shows Jack White turning a porch into a single string slide guitar using one string, two nails, a pick-up, and a Coke bottle. Later, there’s a scene in the upholstery shop where White worked as a teenager, learning music from the owner. The camera closes in on a power saw cutting through a sofa cushion.

That, I maintain, is stomping the comp at its best. There comes a time when patience is no virtue. If you’re canny, you can design your life so that being patient is never an issue. Keep things where you use them first, leave them ready to use again after you’re finished, and it’s amazing how the pace of life picks up.

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More after the jump.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Glorious Day in the Weed Patch


Photo courtesy Flickr

Actually, I think it looks like quite a pretty Victorian front yard. Last Saturday was the first week-end warm enough to indulge in a dawn to dusk visit to the back yard garden shelter.

I’ve been determined to present the landscape at its best, because the local music festival is in full swing. Many visitors stroll past the front bank each hour. I went out the front gate to inspect and was floored to find that the recent rains, a day or two of sun, and nearly ten unrelenting months of cool drizzle have produced a very beautiful crop of native plants.

Inspired by the Great Big Hiking Co-op’s flagship store just down the hill, about eight years ago I decided to shift the emphasis in the garden to local flora. I stopped watering anything but vegetables and fruit trees, carried out the dead, and meticulously weeded and mulched what remained. I planted a few starts of rosa Nootkana, a native that opens single magenta blooms in June, has no pests or diseases, goes to eight feet, and has foliage that smells of apples and honey.

When the Nootkana got up, the state bird moved in. We now have wild canary serenades when we're loafing in the hammock. I began to tolerate plantain along the margins of the lawn, fostered a Queen Anne’s lace that volunteered, and distributed the fluffy seeds of a fireweed that I carried home from the woods. A dock appeared, and I left it alone because the autumn seed stalk looks like a sophisticated sculpture made of rusty steel.

I planted an elderberry in what apparently, and accidentally, is elderberry heaven. Five years later it towers like a tropical tree on English pottery. A cascara, too, has found its place, and I hope to see its elegant blossoms, that are far more subtle and delicate than imported lilac. The newly dominant plants echo the delicate textures characteristic of late nineteenth century ornament.


During yesterday’s morning break outdoors, I glanced at the front garden and found several families of birds with newly fledged young. There must have been three dozen birds feasting on “weed” seeds, a bird feeder that requires no attention. Several robins lay about like obese men in tank tops while the ants groomed their parasites. The long, narrow sunny area seems to be an ideal place for the kids to learn how to fly.

The dynamic in the garden is radically changed from the days when I spent every spare waking hour weeding and watering. We use a little garden house on a corner of this urban lot as a week-end retreat with a thirty-second commute. The birds, it would appear, have become the landscaping crew. They control bugs and plant the elegant, no-maintenance annuals on which they feed. All I have to do now is mow the slowly contracting areas of turf and edit invasive species.

Many of the native birds are adapting to life in town. The block becomes a giant outdoor aviary of a summer morning. There was a moment Saturday when I thought of Edward Hicks’ “Peaceable Kingdom” as a finch perched a few feet away to check us out and, apparently, say hello.

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More after the jump.