Thursday, March 31, 2005

Then & Now - 24 Years Later

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On the left is really poor photo of our cabin and yard in 1981, shortly after we bought the place, and on the right is another taken today, from approximately the same spot.
The big Sequoia on the left of today's picture is one I planted 22 years ago.
I've posted some before & after, then & now pictures today so people can get an idea of what goes on around here, at least in the native plant gardens.
There are a few more below, and enlarged they show halfway legible comparisons. The posted pictures are much smaller than usual because of the extra width of two photos side by side.
Some of the trees I planted years ago are not native here, like the Sequoias and Colorado Blue Spruce, as I hadn't yet developed my passion for native plants.
But they are from similar climates and elevations and they help screen our small property and give us a sense of privacy.
Other than these trees, and two or three other plants that were already well established (like the Oregon Grape), everything in the habitat part of the property(seventy-some species) is native to within a few miles of here.

The rear 25% of the property is set aside for our food garden.
There is also a small 8' X 12' area with a pagoda-like structure we call the 'Temple Of The Lost Civilization' where we grow hops and a few non-native flowers, like oriental poppies, iris, daffodils, tulips & hollyhocks.
Posted by Hello

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Early Spring/Early Summer

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Two similar views of a small part of the native plant habitat. The photo on the left was taken this afternoon during some post-winter cleanup, and the one on the right was taken last June. Posted by Hello

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60 Days From Now!

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Looking to the east from the west side of our habitat.
On the left is how it looked today, on the right is how it should look in about 60 days.
The photo on the right was taken in June of 2003. Posted by Hello

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Drought Tolerance Supreme!

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Grape Soda Lupine seemed to thrive on the seven year drought we just came out of and had a banner year last summer.
The patch on the right is blooming in our habitat last June, and to the left is the same spot during today's post winter clean-up. Posted by Hello

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Organic Food Delivery

Peggy checking in this months food co-op order. Posted by Hello

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Winsome Wednesday!

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Looking west from the north shore of Big Bear Lake Wednesday morning at 6:17.
The sunlit tree covered slope jutting into the lake from the right is Juniper Point and the shoreline facing us from there is a popular fishing spot.
Note the moon still high in the sky in the upper left corner.
Posted by Hello

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Willow Catkins At Sunrise

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The willows know it's Spring, they're bursting out in catkins, like these beside the Alpine Pedal Path at sunrise this morning, 5:58 to be exact. Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Morning Has Broken

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There is probably nothing so beautiful as a new morning breaking.
I hate to miss one.
Posted by Hello

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If Dogs Run Free...

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Dallas playing in the lake this morning.
Arnold the Roosternator, Dallas, and I all seem to be on the same page.
4:30 A.M. arrives, my eyes open, Dallas pants at me from the bedside, and Arnold starts crowing.
It's time to get up!
Life Is Good! Posted by Hello

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Food For Thought...

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My favorite breakfast served up in my wooden bowl out on the porch this morning.
Organic oatmeal with hemp hearts, wheat germ, wheat bran, raw sunflower seeds, pepitos, dried cranberries, walnuts, banana, organic soy milk and a little honey.
MMmmmmm, the good things in life...

But to keep me in touch with reality, and the everpresent evil going on around us, I had my orange juice in a Du Pont mug.

Better Living Through Chemistry!
How much Du Pont Teflon is in your bloodstream?

Americans hear a lot of rhetoric these days about family values, but what kind of people allow corporations like Du Pont (Teflon), General Electric (PCBs) and so many others to get away with concealing test results which reveal their products to be toxic to us, our children, and the rest of the species on earth?

Why are these companies still in business?

Where are the voices of people who really care about their families?

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Looking East at 5:56 A. M.

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I went out extra early this morning hoping to catch a colorful sunrise.
There were lots of great clouds today but not much color to them.
I did see a beaver in the marsh though, the first one I've seen since the lake refilled.
There used to be two of them in permanent residence here before the marsh dried up several years ago.
Beavers aren't native to Big Bear, they were introduced during the past century by white men like me, who aren't native here either.
For me, the beavers are a nice addition to the Bear Valley habitat, but I have yet to find anything else worthwhile about the white man's contribution to this ecosystem.
I haven't seen any eagles the past couple of days, but there are still some pelicans around, and I saw a cormorant this morning too.
Posted by Hello

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Hauling The Goods

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Peggy showing the load of groceries we stuffed into the Bob trailer at the supermarket in town this afternoon.
There's 41 lbs. of cat litter and pet food for the animals, and 1.5 liters of Cabernet Sauvignon and a nice assortment of veggies & mushrooms for us. Posted by Hello

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Here's A Suburban I Like!

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Me pointing to a beautiful vintage Schwinn Suburban parked in the bike rack next to us at the Vons supermarket today. The bike belongs to one of my old Post Office customers, Mike Kilian, and he paid $20 dollars for it at a yard sale. Mike had to replace the tires, handgrips and added the collapsible basket.
But for me, the most important part of this picture is in knowing that the site of this shopping center, which is smothered under incredible tons of concrete and asphalt, used to be a lovely mountain meadow at the edge of a wetlands, and was home to countless numbers of native plants and animals.
photo by Peggy Posted by Hello

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One Stitch At A Time...

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Peggy works on a pine-needle bowl at 8:00 this morning which reminds me that I need to go out and collect needles from the yard today because we are running low with all the basketry going on lately.
The first step is collecting the needles off the ground, and then we bring a large pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat and add the pine-needles, letting them sit for 1/2 an hour to soften them up.
Then we'll strip the caps off the ends and the needles will be ready for use.
We use hemp twine for stitching and wax it with beeswax first. Posted by Hello

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Square Foot Gardening

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Peggy lays out the new seedbeds for planting today. We are using the raised bed, square foot gardening method in these boxes.
Each box is four sq. ft. divided into four one sq. ft. sections.
Behind Peggy you can see the progress of the greens we planted March 7th.
I spent much of the day weeding the Native Plant Habitat. Posted by Hello

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Goodbye Moon!

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The full moon of March 25th, known by Native Americans as The Full Worm Moon (because earthworms are moving to the surface of warming soil) or The Full Crust Moon (because of melting snow re-freezing to a crust in the morning), sinks between a Jeffrey Pine and a Western Juniper just before sunrise at 5:35 on the morning of the 26th. Posted by Hello

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Still Winter Here...

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Windblown snow stuck to the west side of the Jeffrey Pines this morning at 8:02.
It may be spring somewhere, but it's still winter here.
With the cold wind blowing like it has been the past couple of days we've taken to covering our veggie seedbeds with an extra layer of protection.
After sunset we lay black plastic trash bags over the fiberglass panels to prevent any wind from coming in around the edges.
If you try this method make sure you remove the black plastic before the full sun hits the beds in the morning. Posted by Hello

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The Roosternator!

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Big Bad Arnold in the chicken yard today just waiting for me to make one wrong move!
I've had some roosters in my time but never one like him.
Arnold stands over a foot and a half tall with 2 1/2" spurs on his legs (more like curved bayonets).
He was given to us by the owner of the local feed store where someone had abandoned him in a cage on the front stoop early one morning.
For the first couple of days Arnold seemed docile enough, but on the third day when I went in to collect eggs (in my shorts) he came up behind me and buried one of those spurs about a half inch into my calf.
Luckily, I had the galvanized lid to the feed bucket in my hand and smacked him out of startled reaction.
I hit him so hard I was afraid I'd killed him, but he just bounced off the chicken wire fence, coming back at me like Mike Tyson.
I backed out of there real quick, with blood spurting from my leg and protecting myself with the can lid, which is now so dented it looks like it was shot up with a pellet gun because of Arnolds rapid fire spurring.
When he charges you the feathers on his neck stand straight out like a 12" dinner plate and you can see fire in his eyes!
We had to rig up a system of gates just so we can safely collect the eggs after Arnold goes out into the chicken yard.
I'll feel sorry for any chicken thieving critter that gets caught in the coop with Arnold!
Posted by Hello

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Who Are We?

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This home/habitat weblog is intended to focus on the good in life, on positive things we can do in our everyday lives to make them more sustainable, thoughtful and enjoyable.
But I'm going to stray from that purpose here for a few moments hoping you'll forgive (or at least tolerate) my transgression into things non-habitat.

Questions often arise about why Peggy and I make certain decisions or come to conclusions at odds with the more common trends of our society.

Hopefully, this post will address some of those questions without alienating too many of our friends.

Our perspectives are radical and contrary to mainstream thinking, but there are a lot of folks today who share our ideals as well as our frustrations about the direction of modern civilization.

Those ideals and frustrations are what have guided us and the people we've been most inspired by are also experimenting with alternative lifestyles because they're not happy with the options available in the current dominant culture either.

Some have called it a movement, consisting of millions of human beings seeking paths toward a new kind of civilization, a loosely defined group of "Cultural Creatives" who are probing the darkness for guiding lights to a sustainable human future.

There are numerous books on the subject.

You will find links to some of these individuals, families and organizations here at our blog.

The 'Path To Freedom' website promotes sustainable living through urban food production, self-reliance, and alternative energy sources among other things.

The very informative 'Culture Change' website is an offshoot of another group, 'The Alliance For A Paving Moratorium' who published 'The Auto Free Times' for several years and was instrumental in our decision to become car-free and remove our concrete driveway.

'The Corporation' website deals with the reality of how corporations consolidate their power by subverting the democratic process while undermining the rights of ordinary people, and was established to support the award winning documetary 'The Corporation' .

A common characteristic of these groups is the continuing dialogue on how we effect change, and I've decided to include an essay here which I wrote on July 14th of 2004 and posted at 'The Corporation' discussion forum under the topic 'Can You Help?

The following piece is an edited & updated version of my contribution to that dialogue.
My original essay was also posted at the Z-Net Chomsky Chat forum.

America Inc., a mirror image of ourselves...

There are no rights without responsibility, and, until we, as individuals, stop pointing fingers and try to understand our own responsibilities---in our lives and lifestyles, and begin interacting within our own families, workplaces & communities in educated, informed and responsible ways----not much is going to change.

The empowerment of the corporate elite is the direct result of individuals not fully participating in their democracy and it's not getting any easier for the average person to make informed decisions---or to even discern between right and wrong---so that we might participate constructively in our government, to create for ourselves a more fulfilling existence, a sustainable culture, and a future for our children.

We're in the midst of mass species extinctions and much of our oxygen producing forest canopy has already been destroyed. Our oceans are becoming sewers of sludge and many world fisheries are nearing depletion. Global temperatures are rising---melting glaciers and polar caps---and holes are being blown through our protective ozone layer, so, what do we do?

We spew ever more tons of carbon dioxide from the tailpipes of our Hummers, SUVs, mini-vans, OHVs, airplanes, boats, motorcycles, lawn mowers, Jet-Skis & snowmobiles into the rapidly warming atmosphere, as we demand more drilling, more deforestation, and more bombing of innocent people to sustain our plunderous excessive lifestyles.

All this in the name of comfort, consumerism, and the freedom to do as we damned well please.... so we have only ourselves to blame.

Over the past 500 years, millions upon millions of innocent human beings have been murdered and now much of the surface of our living earth has been rendered into concrete & asphalt, suburban sprawl, automobile factories, parking lots, oil refineries, chemical & weapons plants, toxic waste dumps and bombed out napalmed war-zones.

Capitalism has been the major tool, greed the motivation, and---with unlimited growth as its definition of progress---today’s Corporate State will ultimately destroy our entire eco-system and probably us too...if we allow it to continue.

Any given corporation only exists because we buy its products!

Most of what we are taught as children, and everything we are spoon-fed through the corporate media, is designed to make us believe that our system is the best and only system possible. The incessant drivel spewing from television certainly won't teach us any alternatives worth knowing about. Mainstream media today is simply a corporate-owned and controlled tool for manipulation, distraction, and mind-control of the people. All the major newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations are now owned by just a handful of absurdly rich capitalists. The very same capitalists which designate who will become the candidates to lead America's only political party.

There is only one political party with any substantial voice in America today and the politicians who make up that party are bought and paid for by the corporations who own the country, and increasingly, the world. I call it the Corporate Party and it has two factions, an ultra-right faction who call themselves Republicans, and a somewhat more moderate right-wing faction who call themselves Democrats.

This was made fairly clear in our recent election campaign where we had a choice between Bush, who's ultra-right agenda has always been obvious, and Kerry who, from a slightly more moderate position, said conservative Republican John McCain would've been his "first choice" for a vice-presidential running mate.

In real life the Kerry's & Bush's are friends who schmooze with each other in the same elite social circles. Kerry's wife Theresa was, until just recently a registered Republican, and is worth about a half billion dollars as the heir to the Heinz (as in pickles & ketchup) fortune. I doubt we'd have seen much of a change in the corporate structure of America under a Kerry Administration. Granted, almost anyone would've been a welcome relief from the Bush Oiligarchy, but the problem with America isn't George W. Bush. The problem is fascism.

If we can understand that we really have only one political party in America, and that it should be named the Corporate Party, which also happens to be the Board Of Directors of America Inc., then we can more easily realize that what we call free elections in America are really only a formality that takes place when America Inc. periodically replaces its CEO with another member from the board.

These directors then dictate who will be sufficiently funded to become their candidate, and when he's 'elected', of course, they will dictate what policies he will initiate or reject.

America Inc. is now involved in the hostile takeover of several smaller companies (called countries) and is re-incorporating as GlobalWorld Inc. But an annoying number of us common American shareholders (citizens) still like to think we live in a sovereign nation with democratic principles, and we are sympathetic to these other "companies" who wish to remain independent as well. So America Inc. exploits fear and encourages mis-informed reactionary patriotism as tools to incite belligerent nationalist hatred for all those who would not embrace its global vision.

A global vision that replaces citizens with consumers, and rewarding livelihoods with cheap labor. A vision that cares nothing about rights, responsibilities, or democracy.

For centuries an organized crime-wave of pro-capitalist terrorism has obliterated countless lives and ruined much of the beauty of our planet, yet we now claim it's the only tool we have to fight a growing terrorism of the anti-capitalist kind.

Can we even envision a world free of organized crime? How would we take responsibility for our future and throw the greedy fascists, thugs and despots of the world out of power? First we must understand who we are and how we got here.

America has been imperialistic since it's inception (just ask a Native American), a refined but obvious continuation of the European empires preceding it. Throughout their conquests the ruling corporations have evolved into monsters by merging, consolidatiing and granting themselves ever more fascistic & totalitarian power, as the gap widens between the working or starving masses and the privileged elite.

...from The American Heritage Dictionary (1978);

fas-cism "1. A philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism." this, the 1980 edition of Webster's New World Dictionary adds;

a. "forcible suppression of opposition"

Remember Women's Suffrage, the Labor movement, the Civil Rights movement, the Viet Nam War protests, Kent State, or more recently, Seattle WTO dissent and the Iraq war protests? But American suppression is more often systematic, as in thought manipulation by the corporate media or the electoral college voting system where winner takes all, leaving the rest of us with no voice.

b. "private economic enterprise under centralized government control"

By the way, the current editions of Webster's have now conveniently eliminated any reference to the 'merging of business and government' in their definition of fascism, apparently because it might resonate too clearly in some people's minds (what a difference 25 years of corporate influence can make to language). And below we share a quote from a famous fascist, who, along with Benito Mussolini, was financially supported by many American Industrialists (including dubya's grandpa, Prescott Bush) right up to (and into) WWII;

"We stand for the maintenance of private property... We shall protect free enterprise as the most expedient, or rather the sole possible economic order."

Adolph Hitler

America too believes in the maintenance of private property and free enterprise. Has anyone followed the news lately about how free-enterprise driven corporations are buying off city politicians all over America, using 'eminent domain' laws as an excuse to displace tens of thousands of citizens from beloved old family homes, so developers can replace them with shopping centers, golf courses and planned luxury communities. My question here is, who's property is protected?

Does the average citizen really have any property rights in a so-called "free-enterprise" system where money is the bottom line for every decision?

By the year 1900, ably assisted by president William McKinley, an extremely repressive America was under the control of a handful of nasty robber barons, monopolistic corporate thugs, who's fascist agenda was significantly delayed by the Great Depression (a disaster of their own causing). But fascism only suffered a setback in America while our titans of industry continued their efforts elsewhere, literally paving the way for the European variety.

So today, George W. Bush's fear-mongering war-mongering human rights suppressing unilateral pre-emptive strike monopolistic corporate run oiligarchy makes former president McKinley look like an amateur fascist.

American citizens have been told that big government is evil and I couldn't agree more. We have also been told that government regulation of corporations stagnates the economy and stifles growth.

What we're not told is that big business owns our so-called democratic government, lock, stock, & barrel, and that the 'rule of law' has been reduced to an impossibly bureaucratic system of mumbo-jumbo gobbledygook voo-doo legalese which simply enables the Corporate State to further its fascist agenda.

Our government today is barely more than a police force in service of the interests of its corporate ownership.

We need to throw these bastards out and elect leaders who tell us hard truths, people who will speak honestly about the destruction we are causing to our planet, to our society, our children, and our future as a viable species.

Obsessive compulsive consumerism is destroying our physical and mental health as surely as it trashes our environment. We're losing the quality in our lives and replacing it with a gross quantity of junk designed to occupy us in the absence of any real meaning to our livelihoods or the places we live. Each of us might re-examine what our basic requirements for a good life are. Plentiful and healthful food, clean water, a roof over our heads, the love of our families. These fundamentals, combined with rewarding work and enough leisure time to nurture quality relationships should be enough to meet the requirements of almost everyone. But we all seem to want so much more.

My wife & I are retired and live in a small 950 sq. ft. cabin in the mountains. We raised two kids here and, today more than anything else, enjoy working in our organic vegetable and native plant gardens. We tend a few chickens for the eggs and don't own a television.

Because of global warming, air pollution and the ever present ugliness of freeways, parking lots and traffic congestion we don't own a car.

We sold our beast eight years ago and now ride bicycles, walk, or use public transportation to get around. Our jobs as postal workers enabled us to make a decent living in a relatively benign industry delivering peoples mail. Enabled us to have health benefits and see the importance of labor unions and employee involvement in the management of their workplaces. We were also able to interact through our jobs with the members of our community and build lasting relationships.

Our decisions about how to make a living, choosing a community where we could live affordably, and living in close proximity to our workplace have allowed us comfortable, simple, and rewarding lives.

We built our life together on simple dreams, trial & error, and common sense. We make mistakes, we learn, and we move forward. We are just average folks with no special privilege or education. I'm a high school drop-out and, my wife has but a high school diploma, yet we wouldn't trade lives with anyone.

If we can educate ourselves to the urgent realities of the world we live in, and try to adjust our needs so we might live more sustainably, anybody can.

This is not to say we live anywhere near 100% of how we'd like to, and we still consume more than we are comfortable with (too many books & CDs, too much beer & wine etc.), yet we always strive toward our goal of living closer to what we believe.

At this point you may think I'm hypocritically pointing fingers at those who, for some reason, can't or won't simplify their lives to reduce their consumption. But I'm only sharing ideas and experience, and the finger I point is aimed directly at me, in asking me what more can I do to make a difference. This essay is one of the results.

We don't need most of the garbage that corporations tell us we can't live without, we don't need corporate sports & celebrity worship, and we certainly don't need anymore Nike Shoe factories or Walmarts (as two prime examples) to bring the world's working people down to the lowest common denominators of corporate abuse.

I don't claim to have the answer as to what kind system we should adopt, but I do believe we need leaders who are deeply educated in socially responsible, scientifically sound, and ecologically sustainable, economic alternatives.

I also believe that---until we reject the monied interests of Capitalism, reaching outside of the corporate world for truly independent leadership, for honesty and integrity untainted by money or privilege---we, and future generations, will face increasing impoverishment and suffering at the hands of a very elite minority, and the worsening inequities of a dysfunctional self-destructive empire ruled by the almighty dollar at the cost of everything else.

It's all up to us, each and every one of us...

Posted by Hello

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Insulating Blanket

A light blanket of snow covers the new seedbeds at 7:02 A.M.
It's hard to believe there are hundreds of tiny young seedlings thriving under those frozen panels of fiberglass to the left, but there are!
We won't plant the beds on the right until we can expect a few days of sunshine.

Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's The Little Things

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A nice fat earthworm makes his way back into the soil after I uncover the seed-beds this morning. Posted by Hello

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Monday, March 21, 2005

More Raised Beds

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Peggy working compost into our new beds and if you look closely (enlarged picture) you can see the seedlings we planted on March 7th coming up in the beds on the left.
I made four new raised bed boxes today out of scrap wood from the new deck (the boxes on the left are made of salvaged scrap from another of our sons jobs) and we placed them in their permanent home next to the existing boxes, leaving 18" of space between the beds so we'd have plenty of room to work them.
We are hoping to get these planted in the next few days but that will depend on the weather and right now it looks like snow for a couple of days.
Yesterday was the first day of spring and I decided to spend as little time indoors as possible so no pictures were posted. Posted by Hello

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Seana's First Basket

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Just over a month ago our friend Seana came to visit bearing gifts and a bottle of wine.
She was to spend a few days with us while she did her volunteer work with the adaptive ski program here where she helps disabled people learn to ski.
She also wanted to learn pine-needle basketry so her first night here we prepared the needles, the kitchen table became the craft table, the wine was opened and we went to work.
Seana took to it automatically, she's twice as fast at stitching as I am, and made great progress that night.
Way past midnight when the wine was gone and we were fading Seana was well up the sides of her basket.
When she left for home the project was maybe 20% completed and I wondered if she'd stick with it.
This is a very busy single mom, a fireball of energy who is always on the go, and I tried to imagine her sitting at home stitching a basket together.
Well, as you can see, she not only found the time & patience to finish it beautifully, but she's already started another, and the world is now a richer more interesting place with the addition of one more basket weaver. Posted by Hello

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Basket Case #1!

The First Graduate Of Jim & Peg's School Of Basketry.
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Our friend Seana with her first pine needle basket. Constructed over a period of 30 days Seana estimates the she spent approximately 80 hours on the basket. Posted by Hello

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It's Snowing!

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Snow begins falling in our yard at 9:36 this morning.
Posted by Hello

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Home Is Where The Hearth Is...

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Nothing like a nice warm fire on a snowy day.
This small airtight Vermont Castings woodstove keeps our 950 sq. ft. cabin warm as toast all winter long.
Load it up at bedtime, stoke it a bit, and in the morning all you do is toss in another stick of wood and she fires right up.
Posted by Hello

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