Tuesday, February 28, 2006


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Last year's Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) nest from the nestbox I cleaned out in January.

Last night we finally got the first significantly measurable precipitation of the winter, but not as snow.

It rained heavily all night long, and, by my reckoning, we must've received 4 to 5 inches.

It's still raining today but trying to turn to snow as I write this.

The rainbarrels are finally full, the chickens are tucked away in the coop with fresh food & water, and the eggs collected (we now have 5 dozen in the fridge and I need to pass some around the neighborhood today).

Peggy and I split some more of the pine we have stacked up around here on Sunday and it's nice & dry under a tarp. The woodstove is stoked, keeping our own little McNest warm & cozy while, at the moment, Joan Baez is singing 'One Too Many Mornings' from the iPod.

Outside the windows, Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, Western Bluebirds, Stellar Jays, Red-Shafted Flickers, American Robins, House Finches and Gray Squirrels are among the critters dashing between raindrops in their quests for food.

And now, on this last day of February, as the sounds of the Kentucky String Ticklers drift from the iPod in the form of an ancient field recording of 'Leaving Here Blues', I'll be leaving here to go downstairs and browse the new seed catalog that came in the mail the other day.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

I'm But A Leaf On The Tree Of Life...

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A native California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii) leaf found in the yard on Friday, February 24th, 2006.

This entry is an edited version of my response to comments on my last two posts.

Thank you all for your thought-provoking comments and ideas, but please hear me out thoughtfully before you judge this post as negative, hopeless, or, on the other hand, naively optimistic.

Honestly, I don't believe our challenge today is to be optimistic, I believe it's too late for the optimism of ‘best possible outcomes’.

There is nothing optimistic in the inevitable human population crash that is coming, or in the mass extinctions upon us now, but I do believe our challenge as individuals, is to survive.

Hope and optimism are words with two completely different meanings.

Evolutionary biology has shown us that life is self-perpetuating, and that each individual, of every species, has an intense desire for survival.

So, it's only natural that I feel a responsibility, as a human being, to use every tool given me, through evolution, including language and communication, in finding a way toward survival, for me, my family, and ultimately, my species.

What I've learned from the challenge of being a human, and, as an individual who desires to continue living, is that the long-term survival of any species depends upon the individuals of that species cooperating within the laws of nature.

I'm hopeful because I'm alive, because there is much beauty in the world, because we are so adaptable, and yet, even in death or extinction, I see hope.

I'm not religious, and have little interest in the dominant theological fairytales & myths of our time. I believe mostly in what I see. But, at the same time, I do have a deeply spiritual nature and don't dis-believe what I can't see.

What I do see though, is that all life is interconnected, that the earth we walk upon, the food we eat, the very air we breath, is the living embodiment of all the lives that came before. That we are literally eating and breathing our ancestors, and that everything alive today, is in fact, the living culmination of all those lives that preceded us.

And I see clearly, that when I die, my atoms, and my molecules, simply rejoin this marvelous stew in some other form, contributing to the ongoing processes of life and evolution.

But science can't teach us everything, and I also sense, in the evolution of life, a universal consciousness and a passionate desire, that, in the constant struggle for survival, tends toward diversity, so that, even in death, I can envision being part of some eternal mysterious journey over which I have absolutely no control, and I find that liberating.

Right now I'm just Jim, a member of the Homo sapiens clan, and my job is to survive, to live, and, seeing how I've been given a voice, to speak.

But actions still speak louder than words…

…and believe me friends, I haven't accomplished so much.

I live on a Civil Service pension, not from a sustainable life on the land. Yes, I've made some progress toward a more realistic lifestyle, but I’m still a consumer, I pay taxes and enable corporations, and my government, to wage war and destruction upon the world, and I struggle daily with my own shortcomings and failures.

Here are some thoughts from Albert Einstein;

"A human being is part of a whole, the universe. Our task is to free ourselves from the delusion of separateness, to embrace all living creatures, and the whole of nature".

And, from the book , 'Microcosmos', by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan;

"Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking. Life forms multiplied and complexified by co-opting others, not just by killing them".


Today is our one-year bloggiversary!

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

We Are Not Helpless...

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I would like to repeat the closing words of my previous post/rant.

"...there is an 'ism' that might help us find our way out of this abysmal mess.


…a profoundly sustainable and democratic idea, and all we’d need to do is live under the laws of nature."

Yes, life will continue, with or without us, yet living in the time of the sixth great extinction brings a hefty burden of responsibility to the individuals of the so-called self-aware species that is causing it.

And, regardless of whether or not we deserve it, I do believe there's hope for our survival as a species, but not in anything resembling our current numbers, or in anthropocentric systems.

We haven't yet relegated ourselves to the fossil record as of one of the shortest-lived species in earthly evolution.

Again, "where there's life, there's hope".

Dialogue today, about how we got ourselves into this predicament, may contribute sustainable ideas for tomorrows world of far fewer humans, our surviving descendants, who will certainly find themselves facing tough decisions about what kind of future they'll have.

We're capable of critical-thinking, of doing end-result analysis, of learning!

We made mistakes, we've chosen the wrong models and wrong paths, but many would say it's simply human nature to be stupid and self-destructive.

If I believed that I'd rename this blog 'Earth Home Garden Sanitarium - a forum of hopelessness for the chronically deficient'.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Schism In Our Isms - A Rant!

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The above knit cap (beanie), which illustrates and inspired this rant, is for sale at the corner liquor store and reminds me of the wondrous democracy we are trying to spread around the globe (The object in the embroidery, to my eyes, appears to have been designed to resemble some creature that is part human female and part wild animal, down on all fours, wrapped in Old Glory, and waiting for something to be done to it, doggy-style).

I saw it there the other day and found myself thinking about a certain young hotel-chain heiress and the fame her home-made porn-video brought her---especially among teenagers, about the graphic images of naked female porn-stars adorning popular hot-selling name-brand snowboards, about superbowl game half-time shows, and a female performers' “wardrobe malfunction”, about the pornography smeared all over the internet, about the name of my corner liquor store, ‘Liquor Junction’, and the t-shirts they once sold with the message, "Liquor Junction – Liquor In The Front - Poker In The Rear".

Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not prudish or puritanical, and I'm certainly not offended by nudity, sexuality, or humor. What I do find offensive is a culture where everything (including human beings), is seen as a commodity with a price. Our so-called democracy, and the capitalism it is based on, reeks of exploitation at every level (
American Heritage Dictionary-exploitation: 2. The utilization of another person for selfish purposes.), and yet many people can’t understand why there’s so much crazed religious fundamentalism in the world opposed to such a system.

Exploitation, enabled by elitism, has been utilized throughout "civilized" history, most obviously as racism, classism and sexism.

We are, at the moment, The Superpower Of The World, possessing most of the Weapons Of Mass Destruction, and hell-bent on having things done The American Way, whether the rest of the world likes it or not. Yet no amount of power, technology or dollars can save us from our own myopic narcissism, the human elitism that allows us to exploit and plunder every beautiful fragment of existence.

I argue below that only a fundamental change in our thinking, a complete ‘paradigm shift’ so to speak, will allow humans to continue for much longer as a viable species.

The Schism In Our Isms

There are no political voices that speak to my earth-centered non-anthropocentric, supposedly radical, ideas (
American Heritage Dictionary - radical: 1. arising from a root or source; fundamental; basic.).

The words that resonate in me come from nature-writers, deep ecologists, 'back to the land' self-sufficiency types, and indigenous people who still live off their land.

Capitalism, socialism and communism have all put human needs far above those of the biosphere. All this 'humanism' has fostered the concept that we are somehow different, above the laws of nature, and most absurdly, that we are the masters, 'the stewards of the earth'.

I believe this 'elitism' in our thinking is the root cause of racism, sexism, classism, ethnocentrism and nationalism.

Human elitism, in my humble opinion, has invented every religion, every political system, and every fundamental division between them, resulting in thousands of years of subjugation, torture, murder, wars and genocide.

But the elitism we use to divide, classify, subdue and murder humans only affects one species, and is nowhere near as destructive as the
anthropocentrism we employ in the appropriation and destruction of habitat required for the lives of every other species on earth.

This is
ecocide, and where genocide is the destruction of ethnic or religious groups, ecocide is the destruction of entire ecosystems. All of this stems from elitist thinking, and this elitism coupled with our human capability for tool-making (and weaponry), is likely to be our complete undoing.

But nature is my true passion, not politics or religion!

However, I believe that the greatest threat to the natural systems of earth (of which humans are only a part) comes from global corporations and their agenda of world domination, from corporate-sponsored
fascism disguised as free-market enterprise and democracy. Anthropocentrism, elitism, and greed have now brought us to a state of perpetual war, continual destruction over increasingly scarce resources, until the whole nightmare blasts reason to some cataclysmic oblivion.

Through our collective humanism we not only allow all this to proceed, we encourage it, by paying dearly with our labor, and our dollars for the false comfort of consumerism, for our prejudices, our wars, our weaknesses and our self-deceptions.

Tyrants exist only because we continue enabling them to exist. They do our elitist dirty work for us, in keeping the ‘undesirables’ (the poor, the hungry, the crazy, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the foreign, the different), from our doorsteps. They keep the goods rolling to Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and 7-11, the televisions blaring, and the infernal-combustion machines clogging the highways.

Meanwhile, someone pays for each bomb or bullet that claims a victim of elitism.

Someone, such as myself, who allows their tax dollars to be used for such atrocities.

We allow it because we’re selfish and afraid, fearful of death, of poverty, of imprisonment, or of finding ourselves hungry and homeless.

If we stop paying taxes to tyrants, for killing and destruction, we’ll no longer be the elite, with nice homes and cars. We’ll just be impoverished victims and we can’t have that can we?

So, in fear, we simply delay and worsen our fate, because finally, when all is said and done, the tyrants will fall and the empires will crumble.

And when the lovely world we evolved from is but a bombed-out toxic wasteland, it will be each one of us who was to blame. In our humanist ignorance and fear, in our weakness and insecurity, we are causing it all, and we will, eventually, reap our just rewards.

For me, humanism has revealed itself for what it truly is, and "You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train"
(Zinn), so I find myself compelled again to speak, at odds with my own species, for the rest of nature, for those who have little or no voice in the greedy temples of mankind.

I feel there is no sustainable future for humans through anthropocentricism, humanism, elitism, racism, classism, sexism, nationalism, fascism, capitalism, socialism or communism, but there is an 'ism' that might help us find our way out of this abysmal mess.


…a profoundly sustainable and democratic idea, and all we’d need to do is live under the laws of nature.

As Edward Abbey once wrote, “Where There’s Life, There’s Hope”.

I thought I felt a rant coming on…
…and many thanks to Denny at LJ for the loan of the obnoxious beanie for scanning.

This rant was simply another attempt at dialogue, hopefully with a less human-centered compromise in that dialogue, about what real change might require.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Sweet Lazy Sunday...

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His Laziness, 'Neo The Freckle-Nosed Cat' dozes on the couch in his typical fashion, and, to be perfectly honest, this is what Peggy & I are doing today too.

Intermittent snow flurries are causing the scenery out the windows to be almost winter-like as we sit by the warm cozy fire reading, and relaxing on this very pleasant day.

But please don't believe for a moment that I've grown too fat, complacent or lazy, like Neo up there, because I'm mostly reading about peak oil, the coming Iranian Oil Bourse, which goes into effect on March 20th (the Iranian New Year), and all that might entail on the world stage, including possibly, the eventual collapse of the dollar.

So I've been boning up on Petro-Dollar Warfare and the likely military strikes to be waged against Iran by the U.S., or more likely, by Israel, and the inevitable retaliatory strikes throughout the Middle East which could effectively halt the flow of oil to world markets.

These real possibilities for our very near future make this warm moment in time & place something to especially cherish.

Wherever you are today friends, I hope you're appreciating and enjoying the lives and comforts you share with your loved ones, because our world may be unrecognizable tomorrow, the next day, or the day after...

I think I feel a rant coming on.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

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Looking For Breakfast...

We spotted the above Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) scanning a sage covered field near Stanfield Marsh where we often see rabbits. This could be the same hawk that's been hanging around our yard as we were only 3 blocks from home when I took the photo at 7:45 this morning. We got about 1 1/2 inches of snow last night, you can see a bit of it on the branches just in front of the bird, whoooboy, what a winter!


After comparing this photo with the previous one of the Cooper's Hawk watching our yard I can see that these are two different birds. I also thought that perhaps this is one of a pair of hawks we observed exploring a nest a few days ago in the top of a very large pine near the marsh, about 3/4 of a mile from here, but we're not sure those were Cooper's Hawks, we didn't get a close enough look at them, and they may have been somewhat larger. And besides, this one is a juvenile, unlikely to be thinking about nesting yet.

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American Robin

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An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) drinks from the boulder birdbath on Thursday, February 16th.

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White-Headed Woodpecker

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A male White-Headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) at one of our suet cages on Friday. This bird is on British Columbia's 'Red List' as a threatened species.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

It's Monday...

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...and a fine Monday to you too!!

This pigeon is watching Peggy & I as we sit on a bench drinking coffee and the bird appears to have had a couple of double-shots of espresso itself!

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Very Important Birthdays!

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The most important person in the world to me, my wife Peggy, is 54 years old today, and every bit as lovely as she was at 27 when we met.


Another important person in my life, a great influence on how I view the world, is Charles Darwin, who also shares his birthdate with Peggy.

Darwin, who gave us an alternative to fairytales, is 197 years young today.


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Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Red-Shafted" Flicker

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This very handsome woodpecker, the "Red-Shafted" Flicker (Colaptes auratus cafer), is a constant presence here in Big Bear and I very much enjoy their "wikka wikka" talk, their high-pitched "klee-yer", and their daily hammering upon steel chimney spark-arresters and power line transformers around the neighborhood.

Flickers are rare among woodpeckers in their love of ants and you will often see them hopping about on the ground in search of this delicacy.

I caught this male (the females look the same but without the red 'malars' on the sides of their faces) at one of our birdbaths this afternoon and photographed it through the double-pane glass of our front picture window.

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Number 37

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I took this photo in the Stanfield Marsh this morning at 10:34 and cropped it quite a bit so you can see the bird close-up.

This immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is originally from Catalina Island 26 miles off the Southern California coast.

The following is a quote from The Big Bear Grizzly newspaper which carried a similar photo and story about this bird last June 15th.

"Catalina Island has a bald eagle re-introduction program led by Dave Garcelon of the Institute for Wildlife Studies. Number 37 was part of the program and was fostered in the Seal Rocks nest on Catalina Island in 2003. It left the nest on June 22 of that year. Speculation is 37 was in Southern Arizona before being sighted in Big Bear".

This bird will be three years old in June so maybe, the next time I get a picture, ol' 37 will be wearing its white crown.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cooper's Hawk

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I've been noticing an unexplainable dearth of birds in our yard lately. The suet cages are full, the birdbaths too, yet there's been very few woodpeckers, nuthatches, or chickadees and almost no finches hanging around.

Very odd, I was thinking, until I scoped this Cooper's Hawk in a tree about 200 feet from our deck. I saw it in another tree a few days ago just sitting and staring at our yard.

Now don't get me wrong, the hawk is quite welcome, simply another member of the neighborhood, and I've seen them here before, actually swooping down through the yard sending the rest of the wildlife into instant hiding.

I was thinking maybe it was attracted to the chickens, but I can't imagine this smallish hawk, about the size of a crow, actually taking one of my huge hens. But if it thinks it can manage that, I say, more power to it.

If it actually did get one though, I guess I'd confine the chickens inside the coop for awhile until the hawk moved on.

Many birds visit our yard and there are also some field mice about and I suspect those are more of interest to the hawk than my giant Black Australorps, but then again, maybe even little hawks dream big dreams.

Ed Abbey often speculated that Turkey Vultures hovering over him during his desert treks were possibly thinking, "Where there's life, there's hope".

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

We're back, for the time being anyway...

I'm not sure what caused our blog lockout and the Yahoo page being stuck in time too, for yestersay at 9:21 A.M., but all I had to do was go up to the view tab in the menu bar at each page and click refresh.

And don't ask me how I knew to even do that, I just stumbled on it.

I reposted the manzanita post that I accidently deleted during this little blogger episode, but the comments for it have been lost.

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