Nature and Divinity

I’m starting to read a book, entitled ‘When The Trees Say Nothing‘, given to me by my aunt on Saturday…it’s a collection of Thomas Merton’s writings on nature. From what I can tell Merton’s life (1915-1968) and writings are rather extraordinary, or at least far from common to say the least. His life spanned a period of time that witnessed immense social change and world strife. He was a Catholic priest who, from what I can tell so far, had a deep connection with the natural world and understood it as a conduit to a higher power. Surprisingly to me, Merton spent some time at St. Bonaventure university in the early 1940’s which is personally interesting because I have a close relative who went to school there (well after the Merton years) and their family has lived there ever since. In a nut shell, Merton became a priest and prolific writer, and as far as I can tell he lived in the woods amongst the trees, taking a vow of silence for quite some time, and coming to an understanding that nature and god are interconnected fundamentally. It will be interesting reading ‘When The Trees…” and also reading more about his life.

Back on “our” land I tried to find the time today to reconnect with nature. Checking the bees and an after dinner walk did exactly that, as always without fail. I’m not one to write much about religion in my posts, but I’ll lend one ounce of my perspective that, as I read of Merton’s life and writing is likely in sync with his mindset as well. On a fundamental level nature is the purest expression of god (or whatever one believes in, in terms of a greater power or natural order) as far as I can tell.  Nature is free will, it is design, it is awe, beauty and wonder. It’s power, fascination, creation and destruction all in one.  Sounds like some god qualities to me. We’ve all been brought up to believe that man is at the top and nature has been created, or created itself, to be of service to the righteousness and order of man… I’m not sure organized religion has done much in the last 2000 years to dissuade this viewpoint with much fervor. There was a time when a tree represented god and all his wonder. Then someone decided we had to cut down the trees and goto a man-made building to visit god. I don’t know about you but if I want to talk to god, I figure I’ve got a better shot of him listening to me if I goto the house he built instead of the one I built. I’m no bible scholar but from what I can remember from Catholic school, Jesus himself spent most of his time (when he wasn’t eating at someone’s house) out on the water fishing, in the desert praying or gardens meditating.  The last time he went into a big city they crucified him. Regardless, the point is I like to think he, (or who or whatever you believe in) would want us to have a little more regard for the natural world around us other than seeing how quickly we can destroy it. I don’t know, I guess we’ll all find out one way or another someday. I know where I’m placing my bet.

We checked the bees today and thankfully the miracle that is a beehive was performing beyond imagination right in our backyard. We saw frame after frame of eggs and larvae, and we saw our new queen again.  The beauty and perfection of comb on frame is all the evidence one needs to know that man should be in service of nature and not the other way around. I showed a photo of a frame full of honey comb, capped brood and larvae to some clients and they implied that the entire comb is molded into the frames by a machine, as it looks so perfect. They couldn’t believe that bees can build all of that, and to such a level of perfection. And built essentially out of bee “spit” for lack of a scientific way to explain it (too lazy to get into the details here). I for one am humbled by the knowledge, work ethic and perseverance that honey bees demonstrate.

As we closed up the hive I took a moment and lowered my ear to the top of the hive and essentially hugged it. The hum of 10,000 bees literally vibrates its way into your soul. As I’ve said before, it’s like listen to the pulse of creation. If you could somehow reach into the earth and heavens at once, pulling into your soul every thought, feeling and dream ever sown…that is what it would be like. To hear one has to be willing to let go of everything that is predisposed inside of you. Grant yourself, or ask a higher power to grant you, the grace to free yourself from the chains of life and listen…hear. You have not lived, you have not seen or heard “god” until you do that. The mind and hands of man have yet to invent a conduit, in word or stone, that is as clear a connection to a greater meaning to our life. You want a pilgrimage? Hop in the car and ask to visit the cypress boxes stacked up in our back yard.  I listened for but a moment…it’s all I needed to set my mixed up world right again, at least for a few more days.

I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll stop shaving and go sleep on a cot out there from now on.

After dinner I took a break from painting in the studio and walked around outside; nothing heavy just a quick stroll. I hadn’t been down to the “pond” in a while. The berm has a ton of thistle and there is a little water retaining down there. I saw some cool canine tracks…maybe we have coyotes.  I wish I had one of those motion cams and I could capture them on camera  (most likely at night).  I looked and ProjectCam just does time-lapse.

Lastly I couldn’t resist so I snuck down to the front of our driveway and picked black berries.  They’re the plumpest, blackest I’ve ever seen. It’s a banner year for the wild berries. The good lord above would definitely enjoy taking a walk, talking and eating these divine culinary jewels on a cool firefly Summer evening.

Well with each day a new gift is given, not promised. The gift of this day is about over so I’ll leave it there and fall asleep with visions of berries and bees in my head, and the wondrous beauty of nature in my soul.

Unknown Stuff Around The Yard

Life is full of unknowns. Meaning, purpose…why bad things happen to good people….why can’t I clear level 65 of Candy Crush?  Who knows.

Our little swath of nature is full of unknowns as well.  I’ve noticed a few over the last week as we’ve been working in the yard. What we’ve been doing has been getting the front beds whipped back into shape. We were going to try to get them done for the cookout this past weekend but turns out we only got the smaller bed done. We started by weeding them, then laying garden fabric down to inhibit future weed growth and then spreading out a fresh blanket of eco mulch on top.  Weeding these big beds is like eating potato chips…you just don’t want to stop once you’ve started. I hate laying fabric down because I lack patience so the wife takes on that chore. You have to cut little holes for every plant and it’s tedious work. I stick to the dummy job of moving mulch and spreading it.

We also visited the plant nursery because black-eyed susan were half off this weekend. We picked up a dozen and planted them in the front beds. In places where the fabric was already laid down I just parted the mulch and cut the fabric, planted the plant and replaced the mulch.  They were really root bound so that’s probably why they were half off. Hopefully they’ll survive my massacring jabs to loosen up the roots as I planted them.

I finally plugged up the yellow jacket nest entry in our siding only to find them using the “back door” they created below the siding, through a gap in the termite shield. This shows how important it is to take the time to make sure everything is as tight as it can be when finishing a house with this remote wall system. If the metal termite shield droops down or isn’t up against the siding (tight enough to keep insects out but allow water to drain from the wall plane) then insects will have a field day with the rigid insulation, like they’re having with ours. Eventually if I don’t kill all the yellow jackets and seal up the termite shield I’ll have to rip my siding off and refoam that corner of the house. There isn’t a lot of blue foam dust on the ground but you can see it. And if it’s on the ground then it’s not in my walls…eventually a cold spot will form in addition to the fact that there’s a colony of yellow jackets living in the walls.

Also I’ve notice several wasps nests forming in the eaves, way up high.  No idea how to get those down unless I learn to levitate. Maybe time to call an exterminator…just don’t know if they can do it without randomly killing other stuff on the property like our honey bees or my kids.

Speaking of annoying things, when we went to the nursery, we saw oak leaf hydrangea – they were really nice looking and yes their leaves look like oak leaves. Well the plants we mail ordered from that were supposed to be oak leaf hydrangea most certainly are not. I don’t know what they are.  They’re the only ones doing well, but they aren’t what we ordered. We ordered and planted a bunch of shrubs from them last year. Most did not come up this Spring. In addition to the hydrangea, one plant that did come up was supposedly a New Jersey Tea, but once again that is not what it is. I suspect that one is a type of spiraea.  Essentially I wasted a couple hundred bucks mail ordering from that company. My recommendation would be to avoid ordering from them. I was optimistic when I spoke with another out-of-state nursery and the said that was notorious for sending dead or the wrong plants to people, but now I’ve learned first hand. Shame really but it’s the reality I’ve experienced. I’ll have to find out what plants I did receive, out of curiosity.

Walking around the yard I noticed other oddities that some time when I have a free moment I’ll have to look into.

  • bees “sleeping” on thistle at dusk. The bees and butterflies love the thistle, especially in the afternoon. We’ve seen at least four varieties of butterflies alone, some really big exotic looking ones too. The other night after dinner I was walking and saw a lot of carpenter bees snoozing on the thistle it looked like.
  • A weird tree by the play set with red and black berries. I need a botanist to come out and walk with me and answer my questions.
  • Discouraging rust spots on the leaves of some of the trees. I’ll have to google that one when I get a chance.
  • Strange purple plant that is growing in areas of disturbed soil…don’t recall seeing them last year but the bees seem to like them.

So there are more questions than answers. That’s part of the fun of living here. But finding time to explore and follow up with learning, is always an issue. Working from home affords me more informational foraging time, but that can also prove a distraction from work so I stay mindful. Of course for every answer I’m sure two more questions will pop up. That’s why nature is fun and interesting I suppose.

Well back to work.

P.S. I took the cover off the cistern filters to clean them out…woah, kinda weird so I called the water guy to help me out on Thursday. They were pretty green in there but not too bad. I don’t have enough water pressure to hose them out so I have to change the filter inside first to get the pressure back up….I never get ahead. Always so complicated. Ha.

Summer Flowers

My relationship with Mother Nature is a love hate one at best. Today I’m enamored with her as she’s in full bloom again and all her little plants and animals are loving our land.  We’ve got some family stopping by to see the place and I’m so happy that they will get to see all the great little plants enjoying our warm wet summer.

I took a quick tour before dinner tonight and snapped some photos for you to enjoy as well. So many amazing things we’ve been seeing, from a plethora of butterflies and bees to flowers to fruits and veggies growing in the garden.  I took a stroll the other day to locate all the blackberry bushes on our land and stumbled upon a huge buck and a baby deer, both in our tall grass that is up to my shoulders in places.  During my trek I found at least a half-dozen new blackberry bushes including one right next to the driveway. This is going to be a banner year for the wild berry bushes…I can’t wait for some home-made blackberry pie.

We’re anxiously awaiting to see how the bees are doing but we’re being good and letting them be so they can do their thing, or rather the queen can do her thing.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. Nothing fancy but you get the idea. Also you can see our new Harbor Breeze ceiling fan, on sale at Lowe’s for only $88. It looks great in our porch and helps take the edge off hot summer afternoons.



Honey Bee Queen 2.0

“How are your bees?” is the most popular question we get from people (i.e. family) who read the blog.

Well today we checked them again. And…..

…..wait for it….



Last week when we checked we had a lot of hatched queen cells but no queen. This week, in the upper box about the 5th frame I spotted our new queen.  The wife was franticly searching but I calmly pointed her out as soon as I saw her large body with tiny wings.  I’m kind of proud that on at least two occasions now I’ve spotted the queen, which is as close as you get to competitive bee keeping sports.  With out further ado, my I be the first to introduce you to our new queen:

Our new queen!

Our new queen!

If we didn’t find a new queen today we would have had to buy one. But for now we don’t have to. The next step is to see if she’s laying eggs. We think we saw one frame of eggs but we’re not sure. We’ll have to wait and see. We did notice that there was more activity in the third box up top so maybe they are preparing that for honey or egg laying. It was amazing to think that our little hive knows what to do and replaced our previous queen all on their own. Let’s just hope she does her job. Regardless, re-queening sets us back a few weeks but it’ll be fine all in all.

The hive looks really healthy and active in my un-knowledgeable  opinion. The bees were really buzzing when while we were inspecting the hive this afternoon.  One other note, the heat wave finally broke and storms just passed through so the hive was extra full today.  I did see one bee fully laden with pollen though so that was a good sign.

Our queen during her coronation.  We didn't see many eggs so we think she just got started. Fingers crossed she does a good job and they keep her.

Our queen during her coronation. We didn’t see many eggs so we think she just got started. Fingers crossed she does a good job and they keep her.

Two bees "talking" to each other. Look at how perfect the honeycomb is.  Not made by man made machine rather the ingenuity and perfection of bees.

Two bees “talking” to each other. Look at how perfect the honeycomb is. Not made by man-made machine rather the ingenuity and perfection of bees.

Bees on top of the frames.

Bees on top of the frames.

A frame full of capped honey.

A frame full of capped honey.

It's amazing just to look at the frames. If you never have, do yourself a favor, find a bee keeper and ask to help out next time they check their hive.

It’s amazing just to look at the frames. If you never have, do yourself a favor, find a bee keeper and ask to help out next time they check their hive.

Also today we celebrated Python Day in town. There’s an old legend that a large snake roamed the area so townsfolk have used it as an excuse to have a fun low-key festival day. There were a lot of activities for the boys including making various crafty snakes. For lunch we had ‘python dogs’ which are really just foot long hot dogs. I even took a stab at learning how to juggle. I wasn’t too bad actually.  After lunch the police shut down the main road and we witnessed the world’s smallest annual parade…or at least I’d bet it’s the smallest. Finally we got to pet live pythons at the old high school.  One neat thing about the school is you can see how worn the stairs are from a century of teachers and students walking up and down them. Was really neat. I love old buildings. It was a great way to spend the day, and get away from work.

The back of the Python Day parade.

The back of the Python Day parade.

The front of the Python Day parade

The front of the Python Day parade

Worn stairs at the old school.

Worn stairs at the old school.

Back at home, we checked the bees like I said. Afterwards I took a quick jaunt around our land. The wild black berry bushes are going like crazy this year. I noticed a lot of the berries on the neighbors’ driveway bushes were starting to ripen so I went back and checked ours.  I discovered a whole new little grove of bushes, but nothing is really blackening up yet….I picked one berry. But soon we’ll be up to our eyeballs in blackberries. Even my bushes are showing some berries and recovering from the deer eating the plants.

House-wise my brother-in-law installed a ceiling fan on the screen porch and moved an outlet so now Christine has a place to plug in her fridge in her studio. I also met with my carpenter to make plans for the studio storage units.  So a lot of good things going on around the house.

Well we’re really happy about our bees and everything is looking good. Now some time to relax and have a beer.


Long live the queen!

My Art Studio Organization Project

Today was a little break in the action, we ran some errands including ordering our cabinets for the laundry room. The simple white thermo-foil cabinets we selected will keep cost down but still look nice organizing laundry room necessities, like cleaning supplies and household life debris, out of sight.

Under the guise of organization I’ve been flipping out about the state of my art studio. It’s hardly a place to do inspired things like design work or art. Now it’s to the point where I can’t even move around. It’s fine if the rest of the family lives that way but I can no longer. So I took advantage of today’s self-imposed down time to work up a design for shelves in my studio. I want something that looks nice but they don’t have to be stained cabinetry quality. Rather I’m fine with tone on tone painted cabinets to match the walls and compliment the cement floor.  My brother is a master carpenter and cabinet-maker so I’ve got the inside track on getting them made to my specifications. His insight and design sense will be indispensable as well; I can already see a few minor challenges in my design.

I’ve got two full walls that I want to construct floor to ceiling built-in shelves. Right now all our art supplies are in a huge pile by the litter box. It’s a disaster trying to haul things in and out for art shows. Keeping “her” art separated from “his” art is random at best. And we’re not taking full advantage of our ten foot high vertical space that we have in the studio.

Here’s what it looks like now:

It's just awful really.  Makes me not want to be in there - this is where I work every day.

It’s just awful really. Makes me not want to be in there – this is where I work every day.

The storage I’ve designed will provide these functions:

  • store our artwork / and art show supplies – for every show I have to load up the truck. Having everything organized and easy to access is the primary reason we built the house and the studio with double doors in the first place. Waiting years to get organized defeats the purpose.
  • provide bookcases for magazines, supplies, books, knick knacks and momentos – I have a lot of garbage that has been sitting in boxes since we got married or at least since we moved last year, some of it will finally see the light of day again, including my car magazine collection (interesting note, the north wall of my studio will actually be further insulated by the thermal mass we’ll build against the wall by way of the bookcases and books.  Something to think about in your house. Essentially the wall will go from 10″ thick to 22″ thick in places, buffering the north wind and snow.
  • a small area for taking off shoes, coats and hanging up bee keeping suits – We use the studio entrance if we’re snowy or muddy, or if we’re checking the bees. We need a place to put on and take off clothes and hang up bee gear.
  • an integrated drafting board – I do hand sketches and drawings for my design business. You saw the impromptu stand I made for our drafting board.  I’ve got an idea that someday down the road I’d like to have my brother make me a heirloom quality, contemporary built in, one of a kind drafting board…maybe crafted from wood boards planed from cherry trees found on site. For now the old board will fit between the bookcases.
  • shallow drawers for storing misc. studio tools and items.
  • At 91″ from the floor a 3″ tall hardwood horizontal band to accept a future 8′ library ladder if deemed necessary.

Here’s what I came up with tonight:

Here's a rendering I created of my proposed studio design.

Here’s a rendering I created of my proposed studio design.

You can see some of the key elements of the design.

You can see some of the key elements of the design.

This would go a long way to getting my studio organized and working efficiently.

This would go a long way to getting my studio organized and working efficiently.

The bench flips down because the double doors are only 10″ off that wall immediately to the right. So we’ll have to flip-up the bench to be able to open the doors all the way. The book-case on the right is 10″ deep, the one on the left is 12″ deep.

Take a look and let me know what you think.


OMG Where Hath The Time Gone?

I don’t even remember when I posted on this blog last. It’s only Tuesday, I think, and suddenly this week is turning into a string of 10 hour days of design work. Any hopes of getting anything accomplished outside of paying work have fallen by the wayside. In all fairness though I still find time to talk incoherently to the wife, mumbling every third syllable, just to test our marriage and make sure she’s still interested. I bet it can go either way, really.

Seriously though, I figured I owe it to my blog reader to post an update on what we’ve been up to. Even though I worked all day and it’s 10 o’clock, I have grabbed the wife’s unopened bottle of chardonnay out of the fridge, unscrewed the top and poured myself a glass all the way up to the top (after all Daddy doesn’t get his recommended daily serving of fruits by just filling it halfway right?). Besides, what else am I going to do on a Tuesday night? Sit alone in the family room with the lights off, drinking wine and listening to ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’?  C’mon…I said it’s Tuesday, not Thursday.

So I settle into my hateful folding office chair and hope the wine quickly numbs my aching back and neck as I share more of my existence with you, in hopes that at least one of us will get put to sleep…I mean like you’d fall asleep reading (or writing if it’s me that falls asleep)…not that you’ll be euthanized. Which makes me think, if I fall asleep while writing it’d be pretty cool if I landed on my keyboard with my nose on the ‘z’ key…then you’d know I fell asleep cause you’d see a sting of ‘zzzzzzzzzz’…. (that makes me laugh….I really find myself funny).

Anyway I digress.

What have we been doing?

  • Covered the play set area in weed fabric and then new playground mulch. It looks awesome. The kids are loving it and hopefully I won’t have to mow the mulch anymore this year. I’ve got a load of mulch waiting for the front beds too in preparation for the big cookout in a couple weeks.  We’re going to weed, lay more fabric and spread mulch.
  • I got to use a chainsaw on tree branches that fell from the neighbors tree onto the drive during a storm.  I still have all my fingers and toes.
  • Went to the Greenfield Berry Farm with our friends and picked a bunch of blueberries. It’s right here in town and even had live music, ironically enough this Saturday featured our friend Brent Kirby playing with his band Hey Mavis. The kids enjoyed picking berries and the weather was warm and sunny. Later in the month the farm should have ripe blackberries hopefully. Suffice to say we had blueberry pancakes the next morning for breakfast.
  • Added fighting yellow jackets to my to do list. There’s a section of the house that wasn’t sealed up properly when it was built. Previously the ants had been getting in there. Then the yellow jackets came and kept the ants out. But now we saw the yellow jackets hauling off our blue foam!!!! Piece by piece, presumably to make a large nest in our walls. So I sprayed something nasty in there and now I have to figure out how to seal it up.
  • Started making a list of stuff we’d change or will change once we have any money. The latest is the master shower. The wife is now making me squeegee the floor after EVERY shower as the water doesn’t drain towards the center.  The grout on the shelf is falling out too. We’re thinking of ripping it all out and starting over someday. I’ve given up on squeegeeing….I’d rather rip out $2,000 the shower.
  • I’m trying to grow two baby apple trees from the branches the deer ripped off. So far the hot humid weather I think has been good. There are still leaves on them.

Oh, and you’re probably wondering about the bees. Here’s the lowdown: we checked them last week with our bee keeping friend and we’ve lost our queen. There are a ton of queen cells that have hatched but still no queen so we’re giving it a week. If the hive doesn’t create a new queen by time we check it next we’ll go buy a new one.  Otherwise the hive looks awesome and seems healthy. We checked for mites and no signs of mites yet. By the way, to check for mites our friend showed us how to jab a toothpick into the unborn drones and pull their little unborn bodies out of the cells to see if there are any little grain of sand sized mites on them. Guess who will get that job in the future? Probably not the gal who has a spider box to release house spider alive into the wild.

Okay, I’m tired and my wine glass is empty.  Here are this weeks pictures.


Today was sort of a waste. I didn’t get any paying work done really, instead I tried to get some monkeys off my back. Not sure what I accomplished if anything.  By 8:30 am thought I had cleaned the litter box and tied up my tomato plants in the garden. The wife and I were back out by 10 am laying down garden fabric in the play area. The single roll I bought didn’t go very far so we spread out some playground mulch to keep it from blowing away and then turned our attention to the veggie garden. That was fairly productive. We were able to weed most of the veggie garden and we had quite a first official harvest of the year. We netted almost a dozen cucumbers and several zucchini including the biggest one I’ve ever seen in person. Additionally we pulled the last of the radishes and started harvesting beets. The pea plants all died but we gathered a couple more pods that were left. We even got a couple of peppers and green beans.

This year peas did horrible after starting out from seeds so well. Maybe all the rain killed them off. The tomato plants don’t look that productive yet either. The cucumbers, zucchini and squash all look like they will be out of this world productive this year. I spent the afternoon looking up recipes and going grocery shopping for ingredients. For dinner we tried a great zucchini recipe found here. It was excellent. I also pulled a zucchini bread recipe from too.

Today's harvest was pretty good. Look at the size of that one zucchini. Half of it was dinner tonight, the other half will be bread. The mothers-in-law helped by taking some of the veggies off our hands.

Today’s harvest was pretty good. Look at the size of that one zucchini. Half of it was dinner tonight, the other half will be bread. The mothers-in-law helped by taking some of the veggies off our hands.

We tried to weed the front bed in preparation for laying down some weed fabric there too but it was just too humid and hot around lunch time, so I called it a day in terms of working outside. The afternoon found us getting hammered by severe storms and yet more rain on top of the too much rain we’ve already had. We literally have temporary creeks in the front and back yard it seems. There are a few spots, which are already landscaped, that need to be regraded some day, when we’ve got the money to do so.

I ran out to go grocery shopping, but I also stopped off at the lumber store and ordered some provisions for a couple of projects. Christine wants to make some toy bins for the family room so I ordered a 4×8 sheet of birch plywood ($68).  This sheet will yield three bins. She said if I cut the wood she’ll make them.  They will be covered in fabric of some sort and this should help clean up the family room a bit, maybe even provide some bonus temporary seating.

I picked up a 16′ treated 4×4 and bag of cement also so I can get that bat house mounted in the yard. Bats are endangered and they eat mosquitos so I like the idea of helping them find a place to live on the property.

For the screen porch ceiling I ordered some rough sawn cedar trim. Finishing the ceiling should be a quick project and the material should only cost about $150 for wood and nails. Once it’s done we can stain the ceiling and we should think about staining the decks too to protect them. The wood trim I bought is 1″x4″‘s which I’ll rip down to 1″x2″‘s and nail over the seams in the ceiling 4’x8’ plywood. I’m going to nail them in a grid pattern which will tie into our square motif for the house. Only bummer is the carpenters nailed up the sheets in an inconsistent pattern, so unless I go with at 16″ on center grid, I’m going to have some weird anomalies visually. I’ve decided on a 48″ on center grid and I’ll have extra trim boards to cover any leftover seams. It won’t look aesthetically perfect the way I want it to but the only alternative is to rip out the ceiling sheets and start over or do the aforementioned 16″ grid which is way too much wood and money, not to mention visually crazy I bet.

This is the ceiling with a 16" grid, and the orange lines are the grid pattern I'm planning on laying up. Because the plywood seams are all over the place, I won't have a perfect square grid like I wanted but it's not worth ripping the ceiling down to do it over.

This is the ceiling with a 16″ grid, and the orange lines are the grid pattern I’m planning on laying up. Because the plywood seams are all over the place, I won’t have a perfect square grid like I wanted but it’s not worth ripping the ceiling down to do it over.

Well today marks the 2nd anniversary of  my blog and two years since the bulldozer first ventured into the tall grass. We’ve come a long way and have a long way to go. My blog hasn’t amounted to much but hopefully I’ve helped a couple of people out. To this day my most popular topic I think is the “L”-shaped shower curtain I put up in the boys bathroom.

Stay tuned and spread the word. We’ve got some good Summer projects coming up including the laundry room and hopefully my studio soon.


Be The Voice

[Editor’s note: I’m just writing this off the cuff, and yes it’s a bit soapbox-ish but I’ll share with you no less. And no, I’ll proof read it tomorrow.]

I came across this ‘On The Brink’ site on today. I was going to check the weather to see if it was going to ever stop raining but I got sidetracked by the photo of the dead jaguar and figured I’d check it out. It looks to be a series of videos talking about endangered animals. I watched the first one and learned a little bit about Alan Rabinowitz and his crusade to protect wild big cats across the globe. Check it out for yourself. His organization is called Panthera and it’s mission is to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action. The episode one video highlights the plight of jaguars in Central and South America. To thrive they need contiguous plots of land to be able to move, find food and raise their young. Human intrusion though is destroying their habitat and the animals the jaguar needs to prey upon to survive. Additionally the killing of jaguars is obviously putting a hamper on their ability to survive as a species. Mr. Rabinowitz is just one example of the people out there who have dedicated themselves to being the “voice” of these animals which otherwise do not have a voice. In this case, large cats that are critical to the survival of all species on earth including our own.

I was moved enough to make a meager donation, join the mailing list and post up links on Facebook, all of which took me about 5 minutes to do. The point isn’t that “wow, look at me I’m great”, rather the point is it got me thinking. I never did check the weather by the way.

Anyway it got me thinking, about life and our purpose here. I think this is something most of us put off or don’t think about too much in the course of a day and I think that’s a shame really. I won’t get too deep down that road this evening but I will make two points in tonight’s post.

Point number one…we can make a difference.  Like each one of us can make a difference. Not just for this cause but all the worthwhile causes you can think of. Personally I try to focus on the organisms that don’t have a voice, as it was put in the video so to speak.  Also focusing on macro, irreversible issues….most of which deal with the long term health of the environment and subsequently human beings. Who wants to describe to their kids what jaguars, lions and tigers used to look like? Why not show them these beautiful animals in the wild. After all I’m lazy, by time I explain it to my kid I’ll have blown my brains out…far easier to show him something that exists I say.

Anyway, we can make a difference; I think we just get busy or lazy or whatever with the day to day life. And while I believe donating money or time is good, and you should do these things for causes you believe in and are good for the world, there is something more powerful all of us can do to change the world. It’s as simple as this, and you don’t even have to do much homework before hand. Next time you get together with someone…anyone…your family at dinner, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your accountant, the guys at the bar…ask a simple question, “what if the world didn’t have _____?” and fill in the blank with “jaguars” or “frogs” or “fresh water” or “women’s rights” or whatever moves you.  I’m talking about fundamental human things here, not Twinkies or religious ideology or political interests. Try to limit it to a five minute conversation if need be. Share a story or your perspective. Listen if they have a perspective or make it okay if they don’t.

You want to save the world? Get someone to think about something they’ve never thought about or don’t think about that often. Something that is happening right now, “out there“. The best part is it’s the most powerful way to enact change and it’s totally free.  Education, compassion, and thought are weapons we wield against a world that has little patience for vision, creativity and imagination.

If we don’t act, who will?

If not now, when?

Secondly, if you are young and in school and looking for direction, have the courage to change this world for the better. It’s much easier to do so when you don’t have mouths to feed at home. The world is depending on you, you just happen to have the luxury of not having to directly take care of us generally speaking. If you are young take the time to understand yourself, your interests and the world around you. Harness and nurture your optimism and wonder and use them as shield against everything that is bad in this world. Commit to doing something with your life. If a little change can happen in 5 mins, what can happen in the next forty years? And don’t be afraid to respectfully challenge the status quo. Learn, listen, think and invent. If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up (hint: I’m almost forty and have no idea what I want to be when I grow up) then gain an understanding of yourself and your dreams at a macro (i.e. really broad, high up) level…commit to what fundamentally drives you as a person. If you don’t know what any of the means, start to think about the world around you beyond what you are used to.

Also learn art, story telling, and salesmanship because if you’re going to change the world you’ll need a general understanding of these. Bonus points for natural sciences, math and psychology. Learn to lead, and learn to follow….and nurture a sense to know when to do which. Learn to listen. Guard optimism, open-mindedness, imagination and a hard work ethic as if your life depended on it. Bad news is you’ve got your work cut out for you. Good news is you’re stronger than you think. With a good map and a backpack of tools there isn’t a danger you can’t face head on. Don’t be afraid to be bold. And always remember, you can be the change in this world.

Look we’re all busy. I have so many irons in the fire it’s not even a fire anymore, just a bunch of red hot irons feeding off each other. What I’m suggesting requires little effort because it is compounded by the power of the individual (which I firmly believe is the most powerful entity in the world). I’ll use the example of my pathetic blog, which is mostly read by my family ’cause they feel sorry for me or just in case they need legal proof of insanity at a future date. But beyond mom, dad, wife, sis, John, various people named Pat and a handful of other people I know or know of, there actually are strangers who read my posts. Usually they are looking for ways to hang an L-shaped shower curtain rod on a slanted ceiling, but they land here none the less. And they are from all over the world like Malaysia, India, Ethiopia, Viet Nam, Germany, France, Thailand and other place. Places where big cats live. So if the 20 or so visitors I get a day each went out and talked for 5 minutes with someone about the plight of big cats in our world how much impact would that have? More than just me. What if they each ponied up $25 apiece to Alan’s cause, or some other cause…$500 a day…that’s not to bad. Or what if they all posted up on Facebook “Hey check this out, big cat’s will be extinct in the next 25 years if we don’t try and do something” with a link to the Panthera site.  You can get a sense for how powerful the individual person really is. And it’s not me…I only told 20 people…maybe another 57 on Facebook. And no, I didn’t have a face to face convo with a friend about it but I will. And no I didn’t have to go camp in the jungle or get eaten by a lion to prove a point. I just have to ask one of the most powerful questions known to mankind.

What if?

The cats are just one example. If that’s not your thing, no worries, we’ve got your back. While we’re protecting cats you go protect something else….with like 7 billion people you’d think we’d be able to easily protect everything but apparently not. So we’ll have to step up but together we got this.  Our kids won’t know what to do with themselves with us solving all the world’s problems – they’ll laugh at old timer “when I was your age we had to protect big cats otherwise there wouldn’t be any”.

Best part is you can probably have a beer, if you’re old enough, while you’re saving the world if you plan it right.

Be good kids, and I’ll leave you with one of my favorites:

“Oh if a man tried to take his time on earth

And prove before he died

What one man’s life could be worth

 I wonder what would happen to this world”

-Harry Chapin


Six and a Half Apple Trees

The deer, my resident bucks I suspect, have turned their voracious appetite on to my small apple trees. Yesterday I noticed one with a main branch broken and devoid of leaves. Now this morning three more were even worse off including one that I lost one of only two branches on it. Why they have to pick the week when I literally do not have time to go out and put fencing around the trees I have no idea. The trees have been there since April no problem, now they pick this week to massacre them seemingly overnight. And they don’t just eat the leaves, they rip the tree apart. They’ve browsed before and eaten leaves which I don’t have a problem with but this is ridiculous.

I guess after the art show today I’m going to goto Lowes and get 5′ or 6′ fencing and put a hoop around each tree. I suspect with the damage that is done though I could lose at least 3-6 of the trees I planted this year most likely to disease or outright death now that they’ve been ripped apart. Which means I’ll have to order new ones in the Fall and start the whole process all over again.

Once the trees are established it won’t matter what the deer do but now I’m not sure why they have to pick on my apple trees….

You can see in the background I used the last of my left over fencing to protect one of the nine. But I really need 6' tall hoops.

You can see in the background I used the last of my left over fencing to protect one of the nine. But I really need 6′ tall hoops. The middle tree on the left is down to one branch and about a dozen leaves….I bet it’s a “goner” thanks to the deer.

I cut off the broken branches leaving very little "tree" left.

I cut off the broken branches leaving very little “tree” left.