Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dog Daze

Look what crashed in our backyard! Aidan had bought this on eBay years ago. It's missing some pieces and appraised at zero value. Aidan doesn't want it anymore, so Sarah planted the big ass Millennium Falcon where hopefully it will rise and engage the turkeys that have come home to roost. There's a metaphor in there some place. Things have been extremely happy around here. Ike and his girlfriend now have an apartment close by. Lovely Sarah and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. My mom celebrated her 81st birthday. I've been writing a lot (just not in this blog). Our grandkids are cute, happy and healthy. Their parental units - Kirk and Sarah - amaze me every day by what fine parents they are. We are surrounded by loving family and friends. I'm about ready to do some painting again. The garden is kicking ass. The beer brewing is good. Work has been great. Wow. Last year, I was busy writing poetry for my book - Spokane Summer. This year I have taken up a project that I abandoned as a child and that has been taking up some time. Hopefully more on that later!   

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Yes, more camping.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I camped at Outlet Bay at Priest Lake. There was no hiking and no running. It was great!

This place is great. Paved all the way to the campsite. The firepit had been vacuumed out. Very clean.
There were some riffraff animals protesting, which was a shame.
A deer.
Relaxing with decaf coffee. This is what I do now.

And then, a few days later, we decided to go backpacking in the Mallard Larkins. This was going to be a two nighter, but my shift at work changed and we could only do an overnighter. The road up to where we started was some kind crazy. It took over an hour to go the last 15 miles. We hiked about 18 miles. 

There was a good sized fire here last year, I would guess.

There were a lot of great vistas.

We took a side trip to the lookout shack on Mallard Peak. Lots of snow still up there.

We crunched our way through some piles of snow.

Sarah is signing the log book inside the lookout. Pretty cozy place.

The view from the lookout.

We got into camp just before the sun started going down. The fish were jumping like crazy!

 It was a beautiful lake, with tons of mosquitoes. But, we didn't stay for very long. Time to get up and hike out!

Quite a bit of the trail had deadfall that we had to hike around.
 That little white dot on the top of the highest peak is the Mallard Peak lookout.

18 miles and less than 24 hours, we're back at the car.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Big old garden

I feel like I am pretty far behind on blogging. Lots of stuff going on. Right now the hail is pounding the garden, so maybe it is time for an update/historical-perspective on the garden?   I took these pictures a week ago:
The plants on the far left are tomatoes. They are about six feet tall with some vines about the size of a marmot's shank.  The box next to it has three (3) different types of basil blasting out of it. The third box over has lemon cucumbers and some pumpkins. It also grew peas but they have all been eaten. The pumpkins were some volunteers that were sprouting in a different box. I transplanted them thinking they were cucumbers because I never grew any pumpkins in the box from which they were sprouting. Maybe some renegade compost? The big tangle of plants in the lower right hand corner are cantaloupes. All the stuff I am growing was sprouted in my basement or planted directly by seed.
Lower left corner are watermelons. Continuing up to the upper right corner is a box with cucumbers. Then a box with beans, carrots, parsnips, onions and shallots, then another box by the driveway with zuchini. I put googly eyes on a large zuchini so as to spark conversation between parents and their children. Behind this mess are raspberries up against the garage. Then working your way back to the left is a box with lettuce, kale and collards. I am working on a second planting for that one. In the middle is a box with with more beans and eggplant. Next to that one is a box with zuchini and beets and that brings us back to the pumpkin cucumber box. Right up against the house, between the two windows are more tomatoes. There are various peppers growing throughout the garden. Here's what the garden looked like 12 year ago.
If you want to watch a YouTube video on the garden, and really who wouldn't,   here it is with some bonus haiku

Monday, July 11, 2016

More More Camping

This is my fifth attempt at posting this using the app BlogPad Pro. The last one was probably my best. There was drama, humor, pathos, but at this point I have to get on with my life. Here are the pictures I featured in my previous attempts at posting. Make up your own story because I've had it. In fact, I am probably doing myself and you a disservice by even continuing. Turn back. OK. Here are the pictures. Not worth it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Biking to the Garden of Ignorance

Six new beds and a deck to drink whisky upon, that is what I built. 

I realize I have always been a little more drawn to creating spectacle than utilitarianism. When utilitarianism and spectacle converge, I get really excited. I am no expert in my recreational pursuits, but I have fun.

Look at my biking experience. Yes, I like to ride my bike to work. It is a fun thing to do. It is a good thing to do for me, my community and the world at large. I like lights, I like music, I like spectacle and I like it all on my bike. I don't know what kind of gear ratios my bike has. I don't even know if "gear ratios" is really a thing for bikes. I barely maintain my bike. When something breaks, that's when I really get serious about doing "maintenance." The Xtracycle has always been good conversation starter. I have added and then subtracted so much weirdness from it over the years, but I put on a new cable when the cable breaks. I change the brake pads when the brakes break. When I am down to about four usable gears, I adjust the shifting. But music, lights, stickers, spoke cards, a mobile BBQ trailer? Hell yeah! Serious bikers would note that I am not a serious biker.

My latest sound system - a repurposed Bluetooth shower speaker. 

My garden is the same way. I water my plants with a hose when the dirt gets dry. I pull up stuff and eat it right there. I don't know the types of tomatoes I am growing. I bought the seeds because they had funny names. One year I grew Charlie Chaplins, the next year it was Bloody Butchers. If it has a funny name, I will buy the seeds. This year, I've already forgotten what they were. Sophie's Choices? Golden Goiters? Turbo Blechs? I find that I plant plants together that are good "companion plants." How do I know this? Because someone told me I had done this.

I built this "patio" to sit and watch the garden (and drink whisky) in about three hours. I could've done it in two, if I didn't use a level. That's right. I used a level. 

This garden patio now supersedes this patio:

You might walk by my garden, and think me a "serious" gardener. Maybe just by the sheer volume of my efforts. The new beds  almost doubled the garden. Here's a gardening tip - I like to weed my plants until my plants are bigger than the weeds, then after that, if the weeds win, my vegetables deserved the loss. I know nothing of soil Ph. When something starts killing my plants, I kill that something (slugs). I do this only for vengeance.  

When beautiful, unfamiliar poppies started poking up in my vegetable beds, I let them grow with the crops because they looked cool. Every year, there seems to be fewer of these dandy interlopers. It makes me a little sad to see their numbers dwindle. 

I grew radishes until they almost went to seed and now I am going to pickle some, so I can delay the guilt of discarding them - until I throw the jar of their undisturbed contents away, probably around Halloween.

I have a lot of people stop by and tell me they really like my garden. I know that often they are referring to the flowers Sarah has grown. Either way, I take credit and it makes me feel good. I, in turn, get to ask about their garden, or their bike, or their baby in a stroller. 

My garden is a spectacle just like my bike. It's not whimsical, maybe a little ramshackle. Yet the garden pumps out the produce, which like biking seems to do me some good.  

There are things I like to have expertise in. Those are the things that pay the bills. Any expertise I have in biking or gardening is overshadowed by the fun I have, the people I meet and the show it creates.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Saying Yes

I have had some weird stomach pain for the last few days. It was so bad one morning, I had Sarah pick me up from work and I left my bike at the station. Had a lot of things planned for the weekend, so I was bummed when I got sick.

And so with aching stomach, on Friday, we headed over to Heyburn State Park in Idaho for another Trail Maniacs half-marathon trail run. We made camp at Lake Benewah. As soon as we put the awning and the tent up, it started to dump rain. It rained really hard for an hour or two while we huddled in the tent. After the weather subsided, Sarah made a great dinner. We sat by a very warm fire and had a little wine. Went to bed early and slept great.  

In the morning, I did one last stomach/digestive-tract check. It was still hurting but I thought I could still do the run. Wow. I am so glad I did. It was beautiful. Awesome views, magical trails through meadows with grasses that tickled your elbows. Dark forests, streams, arduous climbs and rickety descents. 

We met a young couple and their four kids at the campground, and Mandy, the matriarch, was running the route and taking pictures - what a great idea! I never take pictures on these runs and always wished I had. Mandy's husband Joe won the race and their kids did really well in some of the shorter runs.

So many times, I was almost overwhelmed by the beauty of the trail and realized how much of that beauty was in the actual act of running and being ingrained in the landscape. Just an amazing time. I was so glad that I decided to run. I'm glad I said "yes" to something that I could have easily avoided and probably should have avoided. Bagging out of a half-marathon full of mountain climbs when you are sick seems like a pretty logical thing to do. So glad I ran instead.

After the race, there was the usual good food and fellowship. I had one beer and decided that was all my stomach could sign up for. Besides, it was about an hour's drive back home.

After unloading all our camping gear, we went down to the Pride Festival and really enjoyed the entertainment and being with so many people who were enjoying themselves and each other. It was great to be there. In a way, I felt honored to be there. Thanks to all those who could have stayed safe and not participated, and I'm not just talking about the LGBT community but all families, couples and individuals who came together to celebrate - not tolerate - but celebrate diversity and beauty in our town! Thank you for saying "yes."

And then Sunday's news of the shooting tragedy in Florida. I would imagine some of the folks celebrating that night were "out" for the first time or were friends supporting friends, or just people wanting to have a good time with people having a good time. And then the senseless violence. Another very sad act by another angry person - a person angered that some people said "yes" to not hiding, or "yes" to not-hating/tolerating/celebrating/loving.   


I am beginning to realize that saying "yes," to the beauty of something, the challenge of something, the rightness of something, saying "yes" to who you are, and loving your neighbors when they show you who they are, is a risky proposition, but it may be the only thing that will move us all forward into a much greater, much more beautiful, place. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

I was in the Air Force between 1984 and 1992, pretty much the peak and then the deescalation of the Cold War. I had a front row seat as a bombardier on B-52s.

You've seen how worked up people get about ISIS and how Conservative politicians today try to outdo each other on stating how massive their military response would be to this "threat" to America. Well, during the 60s, 70s and 80s America had a little more to contend with than a ragtag group of extremists. We had another nation, armed as well as we were, ready to destroy the world if we made any aggressions against them. We held the same philosophy. And every day both nations stood on the brink of doing just that. Yet, we Americans continued to go about our daily lives, go to work, go to school, get married, have children. And governments went about their daily business - making treaties with enemies, providing a stage for economic/medical/educational security for their citizens the best they could. It was a different time for the United States.

When I sat on alert, ready to bomb the Soviet Union, I knew my job really well. If I had to do the unpleasant task of sending all corners of the earth back to the Stone Age, I would have done it flawlessly. Here's the thing, I pretty much knew I wouldn't have to do it. Why? Because the United States (and I suspect nations that were enemies of the USA) were governed by rational people. Indeed, the citizens of the United States were a rational bunch. I felt safe in my job knowing that only in the most dire circumstances would I have to do the terrible deed, a deed which would have, more than likely, killed me and my crew in the process. I should add, "thankfully killed me in the process." My family, my friends, my home, my city - all that I knew would be vaporized or dying a terrible death before I ever released my first bomb on the Soviet Homeland.

At the end of my Air Force career, there seemed to be a new bunch of guys entering the service. They were in the vanguard of a new political movement. They called themselves "ditto-heads" - followers of radio talk show host Rush Limabaugh. I was introduced to a new way of "thinking" about our nation by these new guys who were very emotional about their cause.

When the twin towers fell, I was now working as a firefighter. 343 of my brother firefighters died simultaneously in collapsing structures trying to save lives. All firefighters,the entire nation and most of the world, mourned their sacrifice.

Not long after, plastic American flags started going up on cars, sometimes dozens of flags on a single car. Talk radio was sizzling with the excitement of retribution. To step back and formulate was a sign of weakness - if not traitorism. We invaded Afghanistan, and when the emotional frenzy here at home swelled, we invaded Iraq. I spoke out against the pending Iraq War at a rally and got heckled by young guys in loud cars. They didn't want anyone to imperil the emotional high they were enjoying from the prospect of either having a clear direction in their lives or just the enjoyable prospect of killing other people.

We all know where it went from here. I suspect that few among the most ardent supporters of a rush to war with Iraq would admit, today, that they supported the war in the first place.

When I was in the military I felt assured that I would only be asked to die or to kill in the most dire circumstance. I felt that way because our leaders were rational. Our leaders were a reflection of the people of our nation. Our citizens were rational.

I believe the majority of we who call ourselves "Americans" are still a rational bunch. There aren't as many of us as there used to be, but we're still the majority.

This Memorial Day, we thank those who have died in the service of our country - in the service of us. You can say, they died for our freedom, if you like. But, it's bigger than that. They died because we asked them to. We asked them to for all sorts of reasons. Each of us have to look into our own hearts for that reason. Love of country, fear, personal failure, anger, conquest, moral certitude, survival, love of others - all motivations good and bad to ask another to die for you. You will have to be the judge of that.

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If, for whatever reason, you vote for a president or a congressman or a senator who promises you a war, you should believe what he or she says. You can't feign ingnorance at the outcome of your decision.

Some will get a sentimental rush today, thinking about those who did their duty and paid the ultimate price for all of us. It is a sweet, sad thing. Most of us know, maybe even served with, those who have bravely fallen. How many of the folks who led the charge to imperil our servicemen and servicewomen will realize their role in the deadly transaction, as they enjoy the sentimentality of the day?

I used to trust that rational people kept our country, it's people, its treasure safe. It's time for the rational to assert themselves again.

God bless our fallen. Let's make ourselves worthy of their sacrifice.