Back To the Day We Have

Let's play dirty.

The potatoes are growing like crazy. Pete says I dumped two full bags of soil into the potato towers in two weeks, but I’m not so sure. I think it might have been more. Today, we picked up another big bag of flower and vegetable soil and after he dumped it into the wheelbarrow Pete read the part of the bag that said it contained manure. “Wear gloves and wash your hands often,” he said. At the time, I was holding a bucket of goo I’d pulled out of the composter and wondering if those weren’t good instructions for me, you know, generally.

One: Before

I tried a couple of different ways to take these pictures so the height of the leaves above the level of the soil might be more visible, but you might just have to believe me. Some garden store soils feel dense as you shovel them out of the bag but that’s often moisture. The soil often compacts overnight or after a good rain, so while the plants are growing the soil also shrinks back. This has been driving me bats.

One: After

This is the same potato tower after the addition of a metric assload of soil mixed with compost plus some shredded leaves. Into the four potato towers I ended up adding about half the bag of soil, raising the height of the soil about five inches.

Two: Before

The last brand of garden soil we used turned out to be a lot more water than it at first appeared. I was having a lot of trouble reaching down into the bag on the ground, grabbing about a cup of soil, dropping it carefully into a tower and repeating the process forty or fifty times; I started to dread remounding the potatoes. Today, I asked Pete to dump the garden soil into the wheelbarrow rather than leave it in the bag. The wheelbarrow offers the distinct advantage of being just below hip height on me, and the mobility didn’t hurt either.

Two: After

The experiment with the potatoes has delivered a lesson daily. Yesterday’s was that potato-growing success might truly kick my ass. Today: we could use twice as much compost as we generate, perhaps more. The answer might be to get the tenant next door her own composter from which we draw more organic material. In the news: events too large, too terrible and too far away for me to act upon directly. Sometimes, the best I can do is shovel shit and banana peels.

A Mouthful of Red Kryptonite

This lilac is trying to tell you something.

The choir has been part of our lives for over a decade, maybe closer to two. Tom and his college glee club friends joined ages ago to sing for a director they liked. Tom is a large man, but he sings in a high, clear tenor that could break your heart. Mom joined after a few years’ voice lessons, though she developed the confidence some time later to become the choir’s president and grant writer. The choir took them across Europe and to the Vatican and tonight to St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Old Bridge, NJ, where in an auditorium the choir is singing and in the next room, a boozy high school reunion makes liberal use of a PA system. Someone in scheduling has really fucked up.

This lilac ha got your number!

After the choir completed Foss’ Behold! I Build An House, reunion celebrants began filing through a side door in the lobby to use restrooms. I sat in the lobby, directing. Periodically, and I mean that in its rhythmic sense, revelers fell through the door, shouting. I shushed them, speaking quietly myself. A monsignor and two women stood right next to me, gibbering loudly about the locked sacristy door. I asked them to please speak quietly. The monsignor asked why he should whisper. I said, “Choir concert,” and pointed to the auditorium behind him. He whined loudly, “I told them this door should be left unlocked for me.” One of the women produced a key just as I was considering how loudly he’d whine if I dragged him out the front doors, so I’m not under arrest. During Pärt’s Berliner Messe, the trickle of peeing partiers steadily grew to a stream, and fewer of them cared whether they were disturbing anyone else. At intermission, Pete reappeared and we decided to hand over the t-shirt concession to one of the young ushers and leave the lobby without a bouncer for Faure’s Requiem.

Mom really wanted us to help out tonight. Chances seem excellent tomorrow she will be singing a different tune.

You’re On the Move And Vanishing

Magic 8 Ball says: Yes! Definitely!

Pete and I are bicycle racing fans. A couple of days ago, we DRV’d a stage of the Tour of California and watched it later the same evening. As the broadcast opened, it was raining cats and dogs in Santa Rosa and so severe was this rain the helicopters and planes following the race could not take off. The commentators apologized that they could not show the race, but it was just too dangerous to fly in the rain. I kept fast forwarding, but nothing different happened. After one hour and fifty-five minutes, suddenly the sodden cyclists appeared under an overpass, rode hell bent for leather around a corner and crossed the finish line. The commentators breathlessly explained who won and who had yet to cross the line. Pete and I stared at each other. The program was suddenly over, so we erased it and flipped to the Giro d’Italia, where it was also raining, and yet, we could see everything from an aerial view.

Nobody Will Oppose

Aw man, my paws are all wet.

The fiddlehead fern season is about 10 minutes long. Pete and I had chatted about them a few times. He’d cooked them in restaurants a zillion times. I’d never even seen them. In any case, on a more or less annual basis, I’d see an article about how the fiddlehead season was over. I’d twist my mustache, shake my tiny fist at the sky and mumble about next year. Monday, I was in the grocery store, staring at the greens and when I pushed aside a few things, there they were! No price posted. No one nearby. I grabbed a bag and started picking out the firmer ones, just sort of guessing what would be good or bad about the things. A young produce guy appeared next to me – WHOOOOOOSH! – asking if he could be of help. I looked around for a cloud of smoke. NEVER in the thirty years I’ve been shopping there has a produce guy asked if I needed anything. I said I’d like a price, holding up the bag. He said, “Sure.” He looked at the bag. “What are they?” He went to the computer and came back with, “They’re not in there, but they’re like $4.99/lb.” He totally made up a price! At the checkout, the cashier was really curious about them and made me promise to come back and tell her how they turned out. No price turned up in her lists, either, so she accepted the $4.99/lb. guess. Siobhan found them online yesterday for $10/lb., so it may be completely beside the point that parboiled, butter sauteed fiddleheads have a consistency between roasted asparagus and steamed broccoli, and a flavor in the same range. But seriously, now that I’ve tried them, I’m glad we’re growing our own spinach.

If It Helps You To Sleep But Singing

Clean your ears or you'll find these.

Last winter, I shivered and plotted verdant revenge on an unpleasant season; in particular, I dreamed of planting potatoes in differing containers and learning as much as I could about the ins and outs of it. I read up. I researched. I pestered people who grew potatoes at home. I bought seed potatoes and schemed madly. Perhaps I was sitting quietly much of that time, but if I were a Batman villain, we’d be up to the scene with the buzzsaw and color-coordinated flunkies warming up the getaway zeppelin.

Potato towers: brilliant idea or putrid failure?

For two weeks after we planted the potatoes nothing happened. I worried. I fretted. I wrote pitiful laments. When bold green shoots suddenly appeared, I rejoiced; the shoots soon turned to leaves. The idea was to wait four inches, then cover the stems with dirt and compost so the stems turned into roots. I mounded. I re-mounded. Suddenly, I could not re-mound the soil fast enough and some leaves were almost level with the top of the potato bags and planters. Pete and I realized we had to add some vertical distance for our tubers to travel.

I am not obsessed with the potatoes.

So. We developed a plan. We have no experience growing potatoes, so we’re guessing. We stretched some chicken wire around the inside of the pots and the bags, securing the column with loose wire. Then we draped weed fabric around the sides so we can shovel dirt without it falling out everywhere. I set up the last column today and my arms are covered with wire scratches, but if it works, I’ll hardly miss my epidermis.

About What You’re Trying To Do To Me

Via everyone, proof that shit can be seen coming from a great distance:

Abortion opponents fought passage of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul to the bitter end, and now that it’s the law, they’re using it to limit coverage by private insurers.

An obscure part of the law allows states to restrict abortion coverage by private plans operating in new insurance markets. Capitalizing on that language, abortion foes have succeeded in passing bans that, in some cases, go beyond federal statutes.

“We don’t consider elective abortion to be health care, so we don’t think it’s a bad thing for fewer private insurance companies to cover it,” said Mary Harned, attorney for Americans United for Life, a national organization that wrote a model law for the states.

Abortion rights supporters are dismayed.

“Implementation of this reform should be about increasing access to health care and increasing choices, not taking them away,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate leadership. “Health care reform is not an excuse to take rights away from women.”

Sure it is, Senator. If you ask the men you work with, taking rights from women and making them cheer the process was probably half the fun.