Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cheri's New Guitar...

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Friend and neighbor Cheri Williams playing her brand new Martin guitar for us on the deck this afternoon.
Cheri's soulful bluesy voice and tasteful rhythmic guitar are a real treat for us when she has the strength to play.
Cheri has a terminal disease of the pancreas which makes these impromptu performances even more special.
Cheri and Kenny Hamsley (see the entry below) have met only twice, but they instantly clicked, belting out several spine-tingling duets here during those two encounters.
We're working on the idea of making another CD, this time featuring duets with Kenny & Cheri, and they both would love to do that, but each has serious health problems which overshadow the scheduling of rehearsals and studio time.
So we'll just take it slow and see what happens.
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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Kenny, Live On The Deck...

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Our friend, singer & guitarist Kenny Hamsley, came over and played for us today.

The photo on the left was taken on our deck this afternoon, and, on the right, is the cover of the Georgia Boy CD I produced with Kenny in September of 2003.

I met Kenny at a bus stop in December of 2002, and, after inviting him over for dinner to hear him play & sing, I just had to get him recorded.

We recorded 18 songs (most of them in one take) during three sessions at Superchief Studios here in Big Bear at a cost of about $400.

Kenny has sold several hundred of these CDs at local clubs in the past 2 years and I was able to realize one of my lifelong dreams, to conceive, design, and produce an album with an unknown musician.

It was a great experience for both of us and the CD turned out great.

Below are the liner notes I wrote for the CD.

Kenny Dale Hamsley was born on January 6th 1953 in Unadilla, Georgia---42 miles south of Macon---where highways 41 and 230 intersect.
He was the 13th of 15 children born to Melvin and Alice Hamsley, and, at the age of 6, was given his first guitar---a gift from older brother Herman.
Kenny has 11 brothers and 3 sisters, all but one of which play musical instruments or sing, yet interestingly enough, neither of their parents were musically inclined.
Kenny's mother Alice gave birth to the first of her 15 kids when she was only 13 years old, and reached the ripe old age of 84, even after her husband Melvin died at 59, leaving her as the sole parent, and loving matriarch, of their very large family.

In his teens, Kenny fronted a 'Future Farmer's Of America' sponsored string-band, which he named the K-Hams Band, while attending Unadilla High School where he was also a notable quarterback for the Unadilla Blue Devils until 1970, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, training to be a Navy Seal.

By the age of 22 Kenny was back with a new version of the K-Hams Band, playing all around his part of Georgia, as the band cooked up their own steaming renditions of the best 'Southern Rock' of the day, adding some original songs to the mix as well. Reveling in the music of bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Alabama and the Doobie Brothers, the K-Hams Band worked all the local towns, including Cordele, Warner Robbins and Perry, where they were regulars at places like the Flamingo Club, The Commodore Lounge, Mount Chalet and numerous VFW halls.

Kenny also sang and played piano in church and, at his mother's insistence, performed often for the elderly at various nursing homes. "Those nursing home performances are among my best memories", Kenny said, "seeing the sparkle in the old folks eyes when we came to play for them".

Life, and the circumstances of reality being what they are, Kenny wouldn't find a lasting career in music, but he never stopped playing or sharing his rare natural talent with all who would listen. And while living in Big Bear City, California for the past two years, Kenny, when he's not pounding nails at some construction job, is still at it, gracing the front porches of a few fortunate mountain friends as he sips his vodka, plays guitar, & sings the hours into sweet oblivion.

Kenny is old school and his sensitive handling of songs by the likes of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and George Strait can melt even the hardest of hearts, but he can pick the hell out of a guitar too, so just when you think you've had enough of them sad ol' songs, he'll lay into some old-time country pickin' or classic southern rock wicked enough to raise the dead.

Finally, after more than four decades of playing & singing, Kenny Hamsley is on CD, his first recording. I hope you enjoy this heartfelt down-home front-porch music as much as I do. Straight from the heart, this good ol' Georgia country boy, dedicates the CD to his daughter, Angelica Christina Hamsley.

What we recorded through musical kinship, is now passed along to friend and family, especially Kenny's siblings. So here's to the rest of the Hamsley clan!

Frank, Bob, Mary, Nell, Herman, Willy, Carolyn, Horace, Melvin Jr., Roy Elbert, Floyd, Larry Eugene, Ronald (Terry) and Benny (Butch).

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Beneficial Red Wood Ant

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I've been fascinated by the behavior of this species of ant since we moved to the mountains 22 years ago.
They thatch large mounds in the forest out of pine-needles and wood debris, usually in a dead tree stump or fallen log and these mounds, which shelter the colony, are sometimes 3 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide at the base.
I often see the ants carrying large sections of pine-needles, or even entire needles, back to the colony where they carefully place the pieces into the ongoing construction.
Three years ago I discovered one of these colonies in a vacant city lot that was about to be developed, and not wanting to see the colony lost, I dug it up and transplanted it to the native plant section of Earth Home Garden.
My son helped me dig up the rotted wood & pine-needle mound, shoveling the whole mess onto a tarp in the back of his pick-up, in hope that the queen might survive and the colony could continue on in our yard.
The transplant was successful, and after moving themselves to a different, apparently more suitable log, the colony is thriving and the mound growing larger each year.
It was suggested to me that these might be Carpenter Ants, which could eventually destroy the frame structure of our house, but after researching Carpenter Ants on the internet, I couldn't find a species of Carpenter Ant that resembled this one.
So I e-mailed photos of the ants to the legendary E. O. Wilson---Professor of Science and Curator in Entomology, Museum of Contemporary Zoology, Harvard University---probably the world's foremost ant expert, author of 'The Diversity Of Life' and, with Bert Holldobler, 'The Ants'.
Dr. Wilson generously took the time to identify the ants for me, and e-mailed a very kind reply.
It turns out that these ants are not a pest, but actually a species of Formica rufa ants (or Wood Ants), a very beneficial insect, one species of which is used for pest control in some forests of Germany, where they transplant colonies much as I did, into pest infested forest areas.
Now that I know what type of ants they are I've found more info on the internet, and some studies seem to show that native plants growing in the vicinity of Wood Ant colonies are healthier because the ants feed on insect pests, and there is also evidence that the presence of Wood Ants increases soil fertility.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Don't Worry, Bee Happy... ;~)

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A very large Bumble Bee collects pollen from Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla) this Sunday afternoon in the native plant garden Posted by Picasa

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Just Before Sunrise!

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I took this shot at 5:59 AM this morning just as we began hiking out of historical Spotted Owl territory on the north slope (desert side) of the San Bernardino Range.

We were overlooking the Mojave Desert town of Lucerne Valley with Rabbit Dry Lake in the distance, and while we didn't actually see any owls this trip, the crew leader did hear a Spotted Owl respond in the distance with a "crow bark".

Doug dropped into the drainage and called for another 45 minutes or so with no further response.

The Spotted Owls that were once considered stable populations in these north slope canyons have been somewhat elusive and rarely encountered during the past few seasons. Posted by Picasa

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My Morning Vista!

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Dawn arrives at 6:13 AM during our steep hike out of Spotted Owl territory this morning.

Not a half bad way for a near 60 year-old coot to start his day I might add.

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Spotted Owl Crew Leader

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Spotted Owl Project Crew Leader Doug beside forest road 3N14 a few miles from the town of Fawnskin during our drive home this morning. Posted by Picasa

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On The Way Home...

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A view of Big Bear Lake at 7:00 AM this morning along our drive home from today's owl survey.

We are on the north shore of the lake heading west toward the dam which we'll drive over as we head into the City Of Big Bear Lake on the south shore. Posted by Picasa

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005


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I was on the porch just now having a glass of wine when this knot caught my eye.

This one's for Georgia O'Keeffe.

Talk about Yoni art in nature!


...or maybe it's just the wine and my Scorpio nature.

Jeeze, I may need to report myself to blogspot about my posting of questionable "adult content" material...

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Human Mountain Goat!

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Peggy already warned me that Doug, our lead field biologist for the owl crew, is actually a mountain goat, but I found out for myself tonight on our first "walk-in" together.

Here, I'm just trying to keep up with him, and we haven't even gone off trail yet (note his blurred foot in the enlarged photo).

Once we got into steep climbing and bushwhacking I also found out just how aerobicly challenged I am after two months of sedentary confinement.

We didn't find any owls in this territory but, after we hiked out and all was said and done, I felt exhilarated & renewed from the exercise, scenery and experience.

Besides, Doug and I seem to have much in common, so we had great conversations on the drive home (yes, we do need to use vehicles on this job, but I think the work is important enough to justify that).


Doug may be 20 years younger than I, and capable of leaving me in his trail dust, but I still have more hair than he does;~)
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Ten Foot Tall Hollyhocks?

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Hollyhocks aren't native to Big Bear, but they're very hardy perennials, drought tolerant and gorgeous, which makes them one of the more commonly grown ornamental flowers here.

We have them planted along some fences in the non-native parts of the garden where they often grow to over 10 feet tall.

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Flowering Cascade Hops

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Hops are flowering right now on our Temple Of The Lost Civilization pagoda.

The idea was for my friend Bill to brew some of his great beer using these hops, but so far their quality hasn't been quite up to snuff for brewing.

One of these days maybe... Posted by Picasa

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Thunderstorms & Wildflowers...

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Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla), a super fragrant sage (suitable for culinary purposes) blooms in a wet and lush Earth Home Garden with Sulfur Buckwheat in the background.
The continuing thundershowers in today's forecast are very welcome here after nearly seven years of drought.
Our past winter broke the drought as the third wettest year in recorded history with 77.12 inches total precipitation for the season.
The record years were 1884, with 94.10 inches, and 1889 with 87.35 inches.
The official rainfall for this season stands at 2.12 inches so far, more than double the average for this early in the year, but rainfall varies widely throughout Big Bear Valley, and here at our place we've had somewhere between 4 & 6 inches since late July (we need to get an accurate rain gauge, our wheelbarrows, wagons and buckets only give us a ballpark guesstimate).
It has rained nearly every day for the past two weeks, in fact rain is beginning to fall right now.
Just a beautiful mountain summer! Posted by Picasa

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Sunrise Silhouette

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Peggy & I silhouetted by the sunrise at 6:16 A. M. today beside Stanfield Marsh.
I can walk!
It's sooo nice to be out here in the mornings again!
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Early Morning Stroll

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Peggy & Dallas at 6:19, moments after sunrise, on Stanfield Marsh during our walk this morning. Posted by Picasa

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A Fallen Tree

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Dallas climbed up the side of this fallen tree at Stanfield Marsh to explore it with Peg this morning.
The big old Ponderosa blew down during a windstorm earlier in the year when the ground was already saturated from the wet winter.
This same tree was struck by a small airplane a few years ago, an accident in which the pilot was killed, and that event possibly weakened the roots.

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Nine New Ducklings

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A mother and her nine ducklings this morning on Stanfield Marsh.
These ducklings don't appear to be more than a few days old as they paddle along under the watchful eyes of their mother while casually snatching bugs from the air. Posted by Picasa

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Spotted Owl Survey

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Please excuse the low quality picture, but I thought it was legible enough to be of interest, and the zombie eyes are caused by my flash of course.

On May 15th Peggy took on a temporary summer job helping out some friends with the 2005 Spotted Owl Survey here in The San Bernardino Mountains, and in The San Jacinto's as well.

I've been a bit envious of her hiking around the woods all night while I was laid up with my sciatic nerve problem.

But, my recovery seems well on the way, and now, I too have been drafted for owl surveying.

I've been out in the field twice assisting Veronica, one of the biologists we work with, and both nights we found a pair of owls.

The first pair, found during an evening walk-in, weren't at all interested in taking our mice and didn't appear to have nesting juveniles.

The female of the second pair we found, on an early morning walk-in this past Thursday, was very interested in the mice, eating three of them in rapid succesion, and then caching a fourth at the base of a California Black Oak.

Above is a very poor quality photo of the female who ate the mice Thursday.

I took this shortly before sunrise, after she was done with the mice and we were preparing to hike out of the canyon.

My little camera is obviously not suitable for this type of low light photography (it was still dark) and I had to manipulate the photo extensively with brightness and contrast adjustments just to make it legible. Posted by Picasa

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The Long Hike Out!

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This is Veronica, the biologist I've been assisting, hiking out of the owl territory we surveyed Thursday morning.
We began our hike in about 4 A.M. and the male owl of the pair responded to Veronica's calls at 5:04.
After following the male up a canyon we heard the female call at 5:37, and within minutes she was taking mice.
This photo was shot at 7:15 A.M., about an hour after the owl photo above was taken.
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Thursday, August 04, 2005


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For those few of you who've waited patiently for another of my cranky rants, and especially for you new visitors, here's a little glimpse into the heretical philosophy that Earth Home Garden is rooted in.

While we primarily strive here to share our enthusiasm for nature, gardens, crafts, music, and simple sustainable living, every so often I feel the urge to vent (my excuse this time may be the back door appointment of John Bolton to the U.N.), so here's a little introductory bio/essay I have posted elsewhere on the world-wide web.


59 year old long-haired bearded California-native tree-huggin' nature-centered species-diversity-loving auto-free TV-less dissident eco-activist egalitarian luddite feminist son husband father friend neighbor organic-gardening chicken-raising pine-needle-basket-weaving corporate-cussin' beer-drinkin' mountain-dwelling music-loving walking bicycling incurably romantic retired postman & all around ornery ol' crank with omnivorous hunter-gatherer DNA & a long term goal of becoming very nutritional worm food.

Stumbled into Greenwich Village & Harry Smith in 1964 (see Harry Smith's Anthology Of American Folk Music-Smithsonian/Folkways SFW 40090/A 28746-51). Became Harry's friend, assistant, & co-conspirator, but soon, finding city life way too crazy, moved on to Topanga Canyon Calif. to skinny-dip Topanga Creek & play volleyball naked on the beach with peace loving brothers & lovely fuzzy-legged earth sisters amidst Vietnam rage, police brutality, & great music.

Our cozy hippie hamlet--rife with musicians--included members of Canned Heat, Spirit, The Eagles, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, The Seeds, Spanky & Our Gang & Jo Jo Gunne, as well as Taj Mahal, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills & Barry (Dr. Demento) Hansen--plus every sort of subversive bohemian gypsy artist writer beatnik craftsfolk imaginable.

Swept away in the fleeting intensity of a sweet enchanted time & place, I soaked it up, living, loving, listening, learning, & began to assemble, share, & pass along collections of blues, folk, jazz & rock recordings--a bad habit persisting for nearly 40 years now.

Retired these days in the San Bernardino Mountains--after 30 years of public service--I do my best to make a full-time career of Earth/Life/Love worship.

Like everyone, I find that sorrow & suffering tempers the joy of being human, yet, with an awareness that loss & transience measure our days, I live a charmed life, treasuring the beauty in rare & fleeting moments--and wishing you good fortune in your moments--I propose a toast!

So here's to a human future! A world of symbiotic pluralism, where regardless of gender, race, species, or elemental content, all matter of evolutionary creation is perceived as sacred & sentient, valued for it's intrinsic worth as part of our living body, planet Earth.

A time beyond the cultural homogenization of Global Imperialism, beyond the all-consuming Western model of rampant cancer-like growth.

Where woman, by her native strength, generosity, & beauty, wields the power inherent to the role of mother, nurturer, lover--& where man aids community while tempering his bravado with humility, respect & awareness.

To heavenly bodies, spherical harmony, seasons, cycles, life, death & renewal.

And here's to today, another awe-inspiring moment of magic on Earth of the Milky Way.


A utopian fantasy?
Well, consider the alternative--the blind arrogance of a single vain species who would appropriate entire ecosystems--belonging in common to millions of complex & fascinating species--overpopulate & poison them, re-making this heavenly planetary home into a nightmarish broiling war zone of sprawling concrete subdivisions, crap-factories, garbage pits & misery.

That's simply belligerent anti-social behavior, the psychopathic fantasy of a rogue species out of balance & blooming toward bust!

The Corporate State is virtually dead, an ideology & myth proven obsolete by nature, science, & life itself.

But we--the perpetrators of this brutal dominant culture--won't face reality until we've forced the inevitable calamitous crash.

Still, as rigormortis looms over industrial civilization, some of us might try living simply, with care & kindness, & however possible, resisting the machine.

Love, Jim

'Be the change you wish to see in the world'

Mahatma Gandhi
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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More Rain & Hail Today...

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Rain & hail pelts the deck at 4:32 Wednesday afternoon.

As you can see, Big Bear is turning a thousand shades of green as a result of all our recent thundershowers.

The thunder rolling through the valley every day is music to my ears as surely as the moisture is nurturing to the flora and fauna of the mountains. Posted by Picasa

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My Sport Utility Vehicle

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This is my wheels, my 12 year-old DiamondBack Topanga, also known as "The Jeep"!

I stopped during my ride today for a scenery break and "The Jeep" looked so good I just had to take some pictures of her!

A hard working, sturdy and reliable bike this one.

Long Live Chrome-Moly Frames!! Posted by Picasa

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Bike Rack Bumper Sticker!

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This sticker was brought to me by our friends Deb & Mer, who found it when they were on vacation a few years ago and knew where it belonged, because my other car IS a pair of boots! Posted by Picasa

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Sixteen Weeks Old

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Our nine Black Australorp hens are now 16 weeks old and should start laying in the next 4 to 6 weeks.

We're currently getting about 6 eggs a day from the old birds but we should be up to our knees in eggs by late September.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Green Onions

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Green onions in their raised bed at sunrise today in Earth Home Garden. Posted by Picasa

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