Month: July 2014



I am told quite often to have patience, but I watch my tomato plants and they seem to grow inches everyday, but the fruit remains green. Large, green globs of fruit hang heavy on the vines. I can taste the fruit of my labors; I envision the salsa if only my peppers would hurry.


My peppers are bearing fruit as well, but the plants themselves haven’t grown much. They look healthy now, but only after some attention. I watch as peppers sprout from white flowers, healthy green, red and purplish. I watch the peppers and envision baskets of Anaheim, Joe’s Cayenne, Poblano, Jalepeno…, if only my tomatillos would get bigger.


The tomatillo plant was given to me by a friend of mine; the plant is beautiful. Small, yellow flowers wielding to pockets of green, sticky fruit. Spreading its spindly branches, I tie the plant religiously to the homemade stands I’ve built. Dozens of green bags hang precariously from the plant, and I check often for the fruit hidden inside. The green chili that I make from the peppers and tomatillos always taste good with a homemade beer, if only my hops would hurry.


The cascade hop plant is probably my favorite plant in the garden. It hangs heavy with sticky leaves and gorgeous, small green cones of goodness. The lupulin inside the cones await golden nectar. The plant is a fast grower, and the hops that spring forth (with a little help from the bees this year) are lovely light green and smell of the goodness that beer is. I plan to brew a honey porter, if only the bees would hurry with their making of honey.


I added a honey super to the hive two weeks ago. The last check on the super, the little girls had begun to make comb for the honey that I hope will soon be. The bees have been a favorite addition to my garden. They have done so well this year. I really didn’t get the bees for honey production, but out of curiosity. But I remember the addition of the second hive box. They filled it hurriedly and I worry about the bit slower production on the honey super. I have mason jars that I can almost taste the honey dripping from the spoonful’s that I ladle from them. Honey harvest is often in September, and only if the girls have enough for themselves. August is almost here.


August is almost here and with the end of summer begins the fall. I remember the times past in the fall as the leaves change and cool evenings bring the leaves to the ground. I’ll gather them and send them through the shredder for mulch over the winter. I always like that job because it is somehow calming, but it does make me wonder where the time has gone.



Simple Lessons


Sometimes I get angry and lash out, mostly at inanimate objects. Or, I complain, mostly to my wife. But four and ½ years ago I found a dog at the pound, and that changed a lot of things. I still get angry and lash out, mostly at inanimate objects and I still complain, mostly to my wife, but now when I am angry or frustrated my dog, Maggie, comes up to me, tail tucked and nuzzles me gently. Now I have to calm my anger and curb my complaining. It is difficult at times, but it forces me to reconsider.

I have to calm my anger and curb my complaining because Maggie does not understand why I am angry, frustrated, or generally grouchy. She simply knows that I am. She comes up slowly with her head bowed low and her tail tucked and she creeps up to me, nuzzles my arm and begs for petting. Without knowing it she reminds me that I have a great life and that most likely my anger and frustration while perhaps warranted is simply not worth it.

This is a hard lesson and I am a difficult student, but Maggie is a relentlessly patient teacher. I get mad and the tail tucks. I get frustrated and I feel a wet nose against my arm. This relentless reminder is irritating at times, but I cannot afford to let that show lest the cost of doing so is paid. That is, I must look into the dark brown eyes of my teacher, my pet, my companion and without being able to explain that it is not her that I am mad at, reconcile her worries the best I can.

I am reminded by my wife that I could give her the same respect and consideration, but I remind her that she understands my anger and frustration while Maggie does not. I know, and at times am reminded by Maggie, that this argument is not a good one, but like I said: I am a difficult student. I wonder why I do not react to people, my wife, the same way that I react to Maggie, but then the answer comes: people do not react the same way to others as dogs react to people.

There is a lot of honesty in a dog: it cannot lie. It does not have ulterior motives nor does it revel in its own ignorance proudly. I calm my anger and curb my frustration because I do not want my dog to be unhappy, and she shows me love and affection because she does not want me to be unhappy.

Such a simple lesson to be learned from a dog from the pound.

Nature Knows Best

yellow tomato leaves

I woke up this morning and enjoyed my morning coffee as I do every morning. It was early and the dew was still on the plants. The bees were not very busy yet; it was silent which is why I like early mornings. I took my usual garden walk, coffee in hand, and I noticed a few of my tomato plants had yellowing leaves on the bottom. All at once my morning was no longer peaceful. I wondered about that.

My garden is not doing so well this year (I think), and that worries me as well. I’m not sure why? Is it because I want to be perceived as a good gardener or is it because I want to be a good gardener? Maybe it’s the soil, the plants? My father-in-law chuckled at my worries. He’s been a farmer for some sixty years. His only advice: “it happens sometimes.”

That was not good enough for me. I knew better; better than a man who had spent his life growing things! That’s the thing with nature: it does not care what we want or why we want it. It simply is. I understand this even when I take my morning walk with my coffee: it only seems to me as if nature is pleasing. But nature knows best.

I don’t understand how my father-in-law is so nonchalant about something he has spent a lifetime doing. I tell him this and he brings back a conversation about nature that we had many years ago concerning the nature of, well, nature. He reminds me that nature does what nature does best: exist; this coming from a farmer of sixty years. After that, he adds, it’s pretty much guesswork and we don’t have much say so in the matter.

I don’t know why, but I can’t accept that explanation. It is not because it is not an answer, but because there are reasons for everything, even if we do not know what those reasons are. Also, I must admit, I expect a little more from a lifetime of experience in farming, which is what this man has. He seems to recognize my disappointment and chuckles again. I think he realizes that it is because of his experience and not in spite of it that he can laugh.

Killing Chickens

Description White chicken.JPG

I killed a chicken today. I say “killed” because I did not “take its life”; it did not “pass on”. I took a knife and I slit its throat. To kill and animal ought to be an act of respect, and I hope that I do the bird justice when I eventually put her in a pot and make chicken and dumplings with her. She was a nice looking bird if not a bit old. She’d had a good life, which is important.


I also think that it is important for everyone that eats meat to kill their own food at least once. It is never a pleasant experience until after the act of killing when it is easy to differentiate the food aspect from the living creature aspect. Somehow in that split second it is easy to understand how fragile all life really is and the cost that is paid for living. This is perhaps one of the greatest personal motivations that I have for trying to become self-sufficient.


I’ve killed a number of animals over the years, all of which I’ve put in my freezer and eaten, except for a few sheep that I helped someone kill in order to put in their own freezer. Death is certainly part of life, and is no doubt a part of becoming self-sufficient: we have to eat. Self-sufficiency is in some ways self-realization and in the bigger scheme of things, the realization that we are part of a greater cycle which will continue with or without us.


I thought about that I was a part of; the cycle that would begin with the death of the old bird. The owner of the chicken had bought four new pullets to replace the doomed chicken. I would eat the chicken and eventually the cycle would come full circle with my own death. This is not morbid or odd; it is beautiful actually.


More and more, as the realization of what it is to become self-sufficent grows along with my skill-set, I realize the beauty in the idea of self-sufficiency whether it is through my new found love for “Bee TV” (pulling up a chair with a cup of coffee and watching the bees fly to and from their hive), growing a garden, carpentry, mechanics, putting up drywall (I did that last week, one of my lesser favorite skills) or killing a chicken for a friend.


I thought about it and concluded that it would not show the respect due the old chicken had I simply referred to her death as a “passing”, or that I “ sent her to a better place”. I killed a chicken, simply put. But her death symbolizes something greater than can be described, pronounced or understood.