Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back to work

While my back continues to dampen my enthusiasm for outdoor activities, we have an order of plant starts to fill for tomorrow. The weather also insists on remaining an issue as well, peppering us with sleet and a fair amount of rain. With a couple Extra Strength Tylenol under my belt, I went out to the greenhouse to do what needed to be done.

I’ve been going a little stir crazy the last few days. Eggie has been a good distraction but I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself by posting a new chapter every day. The story needs to stew a bit more, plus the next few days will find me attending to other things, so you may not see another installment for a bit. We’ll see.

As soon as I stepped outside, my mood improved. There is something about the air here. Often just by smelling it I can tell what farmers are doing, cutting alfalfa, spreading manure, burning brush piles, and sometimes I think I can even smell the river a mile away. Other times it’s just plain old good, clean country air, and today is such a day, the rain doing laundry.

The order I had to fill is again on the small side, yet bigger than last week’s. Next week is the big plant sale, and a lot of what we have left will be delivered sometime next week for that event. The plants are filling out nicely, despite the lack of sun these last few days, with both the peppers and tomatoes ready to be transplanted. As is always the case, not every seed that was planted germinated, but I believe we have enough to make a good showing, and in some cases, more than enough. I did a lot of transferring starts to make full six packs for tomorrow.

About halfway through filling the order the rain started to come down pretty heavily, so I beat feet to the barn to wait it out. A local alternative radio station was cranking out some awesome jazz, so I just went with the flow. Meanwhile, the plants that were already outside on the draining rack had their first taste of non-well water. I’d say they tolerated it fairly well.

Here’s the order:

(left to right) One flat of Detroit Dark Red Beets; One each flat of Dinosaur kale and Russian Red Kale; one and a half flats of Blue lake Bush Beans; one flat of Tomatillos Verde; two flats of Jubilee Sweet Corn; one and a half flats of Nasturtiums; and one flat of Calendula

Chapter 3

Jim Thompson saw Eggie’s truck on the dirt lane between the fields of winter wheat to the north and clover to the south. It never ceased to strike him as rather comical that the young Van still rotated his crops the same way his father and grandfather had. To grow the clover just to turn it under in the fall was a wasted growing season. And that old manure spreader he insisted on using did little more than stink up the countryside, for his yields were no better, if not worse than liquid nitrogen. At least he wasn’t a pig farmer. One of those per county, thank you very much, and Pete Sellers down at Mt. Olive, was enough.

Jim knew what Eggie was doing at the ditch and wondered why the truck was facing the direction of home with the wagon still loaded up. He casually drove up to and down the lane. At about fifty yards from the truck he saw Eggie’s capped head resting on the steering wheel. He went no further. For the first time he wished he had one of them cell phones and cut a hypotenuse over the wheat to get back to the main road. He had seen Delmar out with the chickens and could use his phone.

As Eggie had grown older, the farm had become less about farming. He raised crops as part tribute, part compromise to the memories of Dad and Grandpa. He had turned most of the hilly pasture and some of the woods into a fifteen acre pond, and stocked it with bass, crappie, blue gill and channel cat. He loved to fish of a weekend and rotated his crops because he didn’t want all of that chemical shit running off into his pond. He took pride in his pond the way a gardener will talk to her rose bushes. The crops did little more than pay the taxes on the property.

The farm itself totaled about fifty acres. Apart from the four and half acres the County bought off of his dad for the new road, the size had stayed the same for three generations. Eggie himself had briefly entertained buying the next farm over when it came up for sale ten years before. He could have built another, still bigger pond but he didn’t want as much tillable as there was and there was no real way to divide it up where he could still get to his pond. And he couldn’t be bothered with buying it only to then rent the tillable to someone else just to have them fuck it up by taking out the fence rows or spraying. His one pond would have to do. Fortunately, a retired couple, the Shaws, bought the place and let it all go fallow, much to the consternation of the neighbors who were always looking for a few more acres to plant on. And they didn’t have any cats or let anyone hunt over there either. It was fine just the way it was for now.

Eggie pretty much hated cats. Or rather, he hated all cats except the neutered tom they had in their barn. One was good. And one dog. Any dog of size. And you didn’t have to go looking for a new one when one died. They found you. Still, if more than one showed up, the extra would have to be put down. Grandpa, Dad and he all used the shotgun for cats and ground hogs exclusively, except for the odd stray dog that looked like trouble. Farms, like Nature itself, had a delicate balance that those living on the land had a duty to maintain as best as possible.

Grandpa had a lived-through-the-depression-and-the-apocalypse-is-right-around the-corner attitude towards life. He read two newspaper every day, scanning for signs of the world’s demise, and he would announce to the room that which he would find, interpreting the absurdity of the situation related in an article to fit into his prophesy. In this manner, one could say he was self-educated, and knew the importance of any education as he himself attended school to the eighth grade It was Grandpa that had helped get Eggie through college, but he was also somewhat responsible for his own son’s laziness. Presented with his father’s vision of a doomed world for his whole life, Dad chose the life of a lay-about. Whereas Grandpa went off to a job every day of his adult life, Dad had done as little as possible, taking work when Grandpa could arrange for an extra guy on the job site, otherwise spending a good deal of his day up at the tavern playing cards. “After all,” he had said through the beer more than once, “I’ve been to Korea.” He had been, in 1958, for six months and before his general discharge.

“Shit,” Eggie remembered his Dad saying after Grandpa told the family about the rattlesnake he had killed, “there aren’t any rattlers this far north. Must’ve been a puff adder or somethin’. I ain’t never seen a rattlesnake out in them fields my whole life.”

“Well, neither have I,” Grandpa said but wasn’t conceding, “until today. And I’m tellin’ you , I killed a rattlesnake. It rattled!”

When the snake bit Eggie, he didn’t hear a rattle for his foot rested on it. Neither animal had sufficient warning to avoid the other. Through the initial pain he thought to himself that Grandpa had been right and, under different circumstances, that would have brought a little smirk to his face. The pain was like someone had hooked up a car battery to his leg and hand and the current had nowhere to go but through him, completing a circuit that burned its way slowly, creeping up the two extremities, meeting somewhere near where he imagined his heart to be. And, as he had struggled with the trailer, the burning moved on to through the rest of his body, efficiently paralyzing each newly effected area. He could feel his brain swell and hear his heart push the hottest of the blood past his ears. His vision became so blurred that he had no choice but to stop the truck and close his eyes. He was not waiting or hoping to be found and saved. He was not expecting to die. He could not will any conscious thought, let alone recognize that he was in severe shock and smirk again. Nor would he remember, except later, in dreams, what occupied his mind for the next twenty-four hours.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Truck Song, Chapter 2

Mind you, this is an early draft. All comments and observations are welcome.

Hilary Van had been a Nurse’s Assistant on the graveyard shift for three years in Memorial’s Post-Intensive Care Unit. She had started out as a Candy-Striper when she was thirteen, and now, at twenty-one, she was in her second year of the three year Nursing Program at Hawthorn Valley Community College. Her mother was a nurse at Memorial as well. She was named after her mother, Hilary Marie, and since her mother used Marie, she was called Hilary from the start. Her name pretty much described her, as one might determine how a ‘Hilary’ might look, even though it may be a bit unfair to make such an observation. Her hair was naturally blonde and fine. If she had to describe her face, she would say it was too boyish, too squared off and would say nothing about her complexion for it was rarely, monthly, a minor issue. If asked to describe her body, she would first say that she wished she were taller than her five-foot-one. She did not publicly talk about her boob size or hips, even when friends were commiserating about their own, looking for assurances all the while. But one could not say it was because she was modest, for she rarely crossed her arms when she felt a sudden chill and she did not worry about wearing a swimsuit, although preferred a one-piece. In high school, she had been the swim-team captain and still loved all water sports. Yet she never had a tan. She had the same boyfriend throughout high school, and when he went away to college, she wrote to him once a month. The letters were discreet and informational. They had agreed to see others, and he had informed her that he in fact was dating someone. She was not and wished him all the best. She studied and went to work. She spent her school vacations catching up with friends who still lived nearby. Everyone in her family and all family friends said she would make an excellent nurse, and as such a consensus was usually on the mark, so it would be for Hilary; and if she worried about anything, it was that many of her co-workers did not share this sentiment.

Hospitals are a lot like restaurants. Hilary had made this observation when in high school she went from Candy-striping to working part-time at the local cafe, “Puss’s.” (If people knew what went on in the kitchen, they would not order the liver and onions.) She had returned to the hospital as a Nursing Assistant with the expressed goal of becoming a nurse. Both her mother and father had encouraged her to become a doctor instead, and she hadn’t ruled out that possibility; but first things first. She could work her way up to med school after nursing.

But to be quite honest, while perhaps others thought of doctors having a sexy occupation, she believed that nursing not only did the patients a world of good better than prescribing and diagnosing, it was a more intimate, and therefore sexier and more sensual than being a physician. Doctors never spent much time with the day-to-day, body pains and functions. They never cleaned a patient, swabbed the upper quadrant of a butt cheek for an intramuscular injection. And the surgeon, while he or she can claim intimacy in a sort of violating manner, for the most part still did their thing while the patient was anesthetized.

In a way, it also took her a bit by surprise that her parents would encourage her to be an M.D. Both had advanced degrees, her mother an M.S. and her father a PhD., but both had few nice things to say about doctors as a whole. Mom always complained about their attitude toward the nursing staff, especially the male physicians (the gynecologists were the worst). And Hilary knew her Dad felt the rift between the status given to psychiatrists over psychologists. By and large she felt the same way about most doctors she had to work with as well.

The stories she could tell! The stories her mother told over dinner each night! The surgeon coming into ICU with horse shit on his boots. The post-op abdominal bleed that the Chief of Surgery allowed to go on so long that another doctor finally stepped in and took over the case. The liquor on the breath, the messed-up meds, the misdiagnoses, the list of complaints she took to the Administrator, only to see them diplomatically put aside with a casual admonishment of the offender.

Word came to Marie during a very similar administrative meeting that the ambulance was bringing her husband into the ER. “Unconscious” was all the information she could get from the nurse who paged her. She beat the paramedics and her husband to the Emergency Room doors. Once outside, she unconsciously took out a cigarette and lit it, for this is what she and the rest of the smokers at the hospital did when they went outside. It was a matter of efficiency because who knew when she’d get another chance to smoke.

Marie had been smoking since she was twelve, as did all of her friends who still lived in the area. Mistakenly, she sometimes thought it was a rural thing, but just like teenage pregnancy, she knew it really wasn’t. It went much deeper. Her parents smoked; but it went still deeper than that. Perhaps she hadn’t been breast fed. She had never worked up the nerve to ask before her mother passed. Eggie and Hilary did not smoke, and as grateful as she was for that, she could not see herself as a non. Besides, the smoking still kept her weight down, which she knew was probably a fallacy, and now in her early forties, even if it were to help, she also saw that it was beginning to lose its efficacy. She couldn’t help the tits sagging but her stomach and thighs were filling out despite her running around at work and pack-a-day habit. But there comfort was to be found. As long as she was putting on a few pounds each year, she used the weight gain as a sign that the smoking had not yet brought on cancer.

Someday, she had mused, when cancer is curable, people will use the disease as a weight loss program, letting the disease cells multiply to the point where a certain degree of emaciation occurs, say twenty or forty pounds, and then the cure kills off the bad cells. People will have cancer injected instead of liposuction. As absurd as it seemed, she saw the feasibility and also thought it humorous in a manner that is unique to medical personnel, social workers and cops.

Surrounded by death that much each day, she knew she had grown calloused and protected her humanity with the sick jokes. One just had to survive the suffering, the mourning and idiocy she was subjected to on a daily basis. And, perhaps because she saw death daily, she did not fear her own: and because she controlled her emotional responses to the smells, blood and other assorted horrors she had to relieve or remedy. Yet she knew she would not be prepared for her husband’s imminent arrival and, although still unclear as to what had actually happened, his physical condition.

She and Eggie had talked about how they imagined their deaths. It was a bit of an indulgence that had become more common since they had each turned forty. Eggie saw the consideration a natural, almost logical phase in life and the aging process. He had said, “When I can multiply my age times two and know that the odds are I won’t be alive when that number of years since my birth has passed, it is time to resolve that the second half will be better spent, and I will endeavor to live a fuller life. Marie, on the other hand, tended to think less about her own death and more about that of her loved ones. These were the people she knew without a doubt loved her as well, and she prayed to spare them the grief of her demise; instead she hoped that both Hilary and Eggie died before she. She could handle it better.

As the ambulance came up the drive, it turned off its siren but left its lights going. Marie thought that maybe today would be the beginning of the wish fulfilled. Yet, with the potential so close, she found that she was forced to revise. Hilary would be devastated if she lost her father. As the ambulance backed up to the entrance, she flicked her cigarette into its path and the back left tire smudged it out. If Eggie would have seen that gesture, she thought, he would have wondered if she was mad at one of the vehicle’s occupants. For a moment, she entertained the fantasy of having to kill her daughter.

The ER staff were ready for Eggie. Taylor V. Van, a forty-seven-year-old white male with what appeared to be snake bite wounds to the right leg and hand would be wheeled into cubicle four, and after vital signs and airway established, would be administered venom anti-toxin. This was the plan based on additional information they had received since Marie had been out on the ramp smoking and waiting. Stationed in North Carolina in the Navy, one of the EMTs had seen this sort of thing before. Otherwise, what Marie saw and was not prepared for, what she saw when the back of the ambulance was opened would have been misdiagnosed as a histamine reaction, perhaps to a wasp sting. Eggie was partly covered with a sheet, his clothes cut off and in a pile on the ambulance floor. His right leg swelled out over the boot top like a big shiny, dark eggplant. An IV had been started in the top of his left foot. His face was swollen with a succulent’s transparent stem of an endotrachial tube sticking between equally swollen, cracked and bleeding lips. The air bag was attached to an oxygen tank. Marie knew this scene indicated that the paramedics thought Eggie, although near death, was salvageable. What they really thought was that this was Marie’s husband and they therefore would go all out for one of their own.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Truck Song

This is the beginning of a little story I am working on:

No one from town knew Taylor Van Van as anything else but Eggie Van since he was two. A good fifty percent knew his given name to be Taylor, but only a considerably smaller inner circle knew that his middle name was the same as his last. In a small town, the certified identity markers get lost, put aside for something more descriptive, if simplistic, cute and clever nickname. His dad had put his to him because the boy pretty much started talking in full sentences. From ‘dadda” and ‘maamaa’ to “Mommy, can I have my bottle now?” All within the space of about two weeks. ‘Dadda’ figured the boy to be an egghead, which, to a degree he proved out, all the way through to his PhD. When he was married, the preacher asked, “And do you, Taylor Van Van take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?” there were titters throughout the church. His mother cried, for Taylor was a family name, dating back to when early pioneers of the midwest named their children after a local boy, Zachary Taylor, the twelveth President of the United States.

Throughout college, Eggie was known by his given name. College friends who had been invited to the wedding heard “Eggie” in toasts at the reception and stifled hard guffaws. He has not seen many of them since, especially since moving back home. Still, to his professional peers at conferences, he is known as Taylor Van Van. If pressed to choose, Taylor thinks of himself as a ‘Taylor’ yet responds to, and lives in, both worlds.

Eggie’s 1976 Ford F250 had only fifty-six thousand miles on it but the body was so badly rusted that the headlights were duct-taped into wooden frames that he had made. The bed was planked with treated two-by-sixes, and bolted four-by-fours made for bumpers. The wood was beginning to rot as well. Yet, the frame, suspension, drive train and engine were near perfect, and the tires brand new. Those things he kept up on. After all, it was a work truck, tacking up a muddy hillside with the best of ‘em, even with a wagon load of tree limbs, old tires and scrap metal hitched to its ass.

There was a culvert in the back eleven that had eroded pretty bad in the Spring rains and the load of junk Eggie hauled over was to fill it in. He’d been working on it all morning and each time he drove over the hill, he took a slightly different route, well aware that the gouges his tires took out could be next years gullies. He’d come back and sow some clover in tomorrow. Two days off, gone, just like that.

The lament wasn’t for his wasted days off but for the return to his regular job, teaching psychology at the local community college. Nursing students, business majors and car mechanics who pretty much approached to subject lessons from opposite ends of the spectrum. The nurses took to it like breast milk swelling their teats; the future lucre-lechers sought out a way to understand and therefore dupe clients; and the gear heads paraphrased the lessons into abusive transference on their spouses and girlfriends. He knew that this is what happened with that he tried to impart because he recognized it in its bastardized form a few years later when these same people, or their victims, sought counsel from him in his practice at the clinic.

It was this distraction from his task at hand at the culvert’s side that let him take that first step down from the truck directly onto the noisy end of a Timber Rattler. He was wearing boots but the snake came around high on his left shin and hung up in his jeans.


Startled by the jab, and his right arm and leg not quite out of the truck, he reached down with his left hand to grab at his leg. For a second he thought he might have stepped on some old bailing wire that slapped up against his leg. His curse was for himself, for if the wire was laying there instead of in the ditch, it would have been his fault for leaving it where it could flatten a tire. Changing a tire in the mud. And a tetanus shot. These weren’t thoughts for Eggie as much as a twinge, a tick in his brain developed from experiences forewarned by his father, the man who had this small farm before him. Had he known it was snake at that point, the remonstrances would have still been there, yet he might not have slapped the snake loose and his right hand wouldn’t have also taken a hit.

His right foot caught under the bench seat and he crumpled head-first, facing the edge of the ditch to see what he thought to be rattlers on the tail of the snake as it slipped away into the junk already in the ditch.

He had seen only one other rattlesnake on the place and that must have been thirty five years before and while filling another culvert just west of this one. And there was good reason for the two sightings because the culverts, filled with straw, old mattress springs and pads, tin cans and what-not, had become refuge for colonies of rats and field mice. Quite naturally, snakes of all kinds found the garbage habitat made for easy pickings. Eggie had to remind himself that he didn’t actually see the first rattler at all. His Grandpa was taking a piss along a nearby fence row and relieved himself on the head of the reptile as it cooled in the shade of a young sassafras. Grandpa came running back to the tractor, grabbed his homemade machete, went back and took off the snake’s head. He wondered then if his grandfather had worried about getting bit in his bid to off the snake, or why he even saw fit to kill it. Maybe because his penis had been exposed to danger the first go round. Anyway, his grandfather wouldn’t let him see the snake, and when Eggie walked back out to the field later on that evening, the carcass was nowhere to be found.

His great-grandma Cyd had once told him a story about a big Blue Racer she had killed with a hoe in the front yard. She told him that no matter if you cut their head off, they didn’t die ‘til the sun went down He believed it because when he was three years old he’d seen a headless chicken that was supposed to be that night’s supper run off into the woods. She also said that until sunset, the other snakes came to see the carnage. Years later when he thought of this tale of slow death and mourning, he equated it with the curiosity surrounding a house fire or car accident. He knew there was a literary term for finding human truths in Nature’s character traits, but because he intuitively knew them to more likely to be metaphorical, he didn’t bother to remember what it is called, exactly.

If the current situation had been any different — but wasn’t, and it was the trouble he was in just then that brought these things to mind — he would have indulged himself some time to reflect on the possibility of a theme of castration running throughout. Instead, a less subtle threat, the fear of his own isolated death had him completing his fall to the ground by loosing his left foot and twisted ankle from the truck. He rolled over and with his right hand, gingerly began to pull his pant leg up over his already swelling right calf.

There wasn’t much blood, nor the twin stab wounds he expected to find. A single, discreet puncture, and an adjacent graze wound with a clear fluid smeared around it. Maybe he didn’t get much venom after all. But the growing pain in his thigh and hip told him he had taken in enough. Leaving his pant leg up, he climbed back up in the truck, started it up, realizing he still had a fully loaded wagon on back. If he was going to get help quick, he’d have to unhitch.

A slight incline put enough tension on the trailer hitch so that it wouldn’t give. His left arm wasn’t as strong as his wounded right. He’d have to drive to level ground, but now his whole right side, leg arm and torso were burning. His eyes and groin too. His head was pounding. By the time he pulled himself up into the cab again, he was having trouble getting his breath. He knew that getting worked up would only make things worse, and although it may have been too late, he told himself to calm down. This thinking, not so much staying calm as thinking about the need to stay calm, saw him out to the lane.

He didn’t completely lose consciousness for another two hours, during which time the truck’s flashers had all but killed the battery, and, except when the pain blocked out thought altogether, he had plenty of time to think about his wife and daughter. Chances are, he thought, depending on when and if he were to be found alive, one of them would be working in the ER when they brought him in, just like the time he’d been hit by that ground-running lightning.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jammed Up

bastinptc a couple days ago: “As I write this, I become increasingly aware of just how out of shape I have gotten over the winter.”

DW this morning: “Are you going to write about your pain?”

It started in the lower back, and after a day or so moved into the middle of my back. Now it is creeping up to in between my shoulder blades. Spasms if I so much as shift in my seat. Heating pads, Extra Strength Tylenol and Tai Chi put a dent in it, allowing me to get a little work done, yet for the most part, I’d prefer not to move at all. A good slathering with Ben Gay is in my near future.

Consequently, I’m finding it very hard to get motivated to do much of anything physical. I’d lie down but that’s what I’ve been doing for the last ten hours. I have transplanting on my agenda today. The summer Steelhead are starting to run and I was supposed to go fishing tomorrow.


Where’s the massage therapist’s phone number?

No condolences, please.

“We have to find a way to motivate each other to work out more.” is the gentle reprimand I just received from the DW. She is much better about it than I am, doing her yoga and getting on the elliptical with considerable more discipline than I. Quite frankly, I find workout routines to be boring as hell, and I’d much rather be outside doing regular physical, manual labor.

Or maybe that’s just a rationalization, especially given the amount of time I spend at this computer.

Ah, the Tylenol just kicked in.

DW offers, “They do yoga at Persephone every morning.” and then counters, “Not that I think we should do yoga every morning.” Persephone is an organic farm twenty miles south of us. They are friends and great people. Compared to them, we are neither farmers nor counterculture types. Nor do they complain. But they also have upwards of seven interns helping each growing season. They might have time for yoga.

Another rationalization in the making, for it is what I choose to fill my day with that makes the difference. I spend two or more hours a day just writing this blog, another four hours playing poker, a couple hours in front of the tube as we eat dinner (time spent with DW), an hour of correspondence, and another three hours reading blogs and art periodicals, and twelve hours are gone with little or no effort. That gives me four hours or so to do the stuff that actually NEEDS to get done outside. If I add an hour of exercise, something else will have to give way. And what should that be?

Poker Academy Online #52,444,945 No Limit Texas Holdem ($0.25/$0.5 NL)
Table Demantoid
April 26, 2009 - 01:40:21 (PDT)

1} ubu roi $47.00 Qs Qh
2) RiverKillsMe $152.15 Js Ts
3) Hugo X $95.86 ?? ??
4) Zanshin * $49.00 ?? ??
6) Maxoz (sitting out)
7) Aces2 $66.55 ?? ??
8) Boomerang $50.00 ?? ??
9) sbstar $147.13 ?? ??
10) MAJOR $99.90 ?? ??

Aces2 posts small blind $0.25
Boomerang posts big blind $0.50
sbstar folds
MAJOR folds
ubu roi raises $1.25
RiverKillsMe calls $1.75
Hugo X folds
Zanshin calls $1.75
Aces2 folds
Boomerang folds

FLOP: Kc 8s Qd
ubu roi checks
RiverKillsMe checks
Zanshin bets $3.75
ubu roi raises $6.75
RiverKillsMe calls $10.50
Zanshin folds

TURN: Kc 8s Qd 6s
ubu roi bets $34.75 (all-in)
RiverKillsMe calls $34.75
ubu roi shows Qs Qh
RiverKillsMe shows Js Ts

RIVER: Kc 8s Qd 6s 7s

RiverKillsMe wins $97.25 with a Flush, Jack High
$3 raked.

Bigger raise up front? Jam on the flop? Does it matter?

Now, I am aware that a reader might find little sympathy for my plight. After all, what if I were to have a real job, and therefore less “free” time, what then? I’ve been there, and this is what I did: I woke up, went to work, came home, took a nap, worked in my studio until two or three in the morning, slept for four hours, rinse and repeat. But I was younger then. I’m older than that now.

To be continued. I have plants that need watering.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I have to confess that I have a thing for eights, just like BWoP, especially when it comes to Omaha. (However, I do not share her crub fetish.) Out of all the quads I have drawn, eights have come more often than any other value. (Queens hold the honor of second place.) They have paid well, too. So, when I get a pair of eights with a little coordination to back them up, I'll limp.

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.10 BB (5 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

MP ($2.70)
Button ($37.95)
SB ($4.55)
BB ($10.40)
Hero (UTG) ($10)

Preflop: Hero is UTG with J, 8, 10, 8

Hero calls $0.10, MP checks, Button calls $0.10, SB calls $0.05, BB checks

Flop: ($0.40) K, 9, 8 (5 players)

SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets $0.30, 1 fold, Button calls $0.30, SB calls $0.30, BB calls $0.30

Turn: ($1.60) Q (4 players)

SB checks, BB bets $1.70, Hero raises to $6.80, 2 folds, BB raises to $10 (All-In), Hero calls $2.80 (All-In)

I figure we're splitting, yet I'm freerolling a boat.

River: ($20.80) Q (2 players, 2 all-in)

Total pot: $20.80 | Rake: $1


BB had J, 4, 2, 10 (straight, King high).

Hero had J, 8, 10, 8 (full house, eights over Queens).

Outcome: Hero won $19.95

The villan's response was, "Of course."

Yes. Of course.

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.10 BB (8 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

CO ($4.95)
Button ($12.60)
SB ($9.80)
Hero (BB) ($13.40)
UTG ($15.45)
UTG+1 ($10)
MP1 ($4.20)
MP2 ($14.25)

Preflop: Hero is BB with 8, A, 5, 8

UTG calls $0.10, UTG+1 (poster) checks, MP1 calls $0.10, MP2 calls $0.10, CO calls $0.10, 1 fold, SB calls $0.05, Hero checks

Flop: ($0.70) 3, 9, 2 (7 players)

SB checks, Hero checks, UTG bets $0.10, 1 fold, MP1 calls $0.10, MP2 calls $0.10, CO calls $0.10, 1 fold, Hero calls $0.10

Turn: ($1.20) 8 (5 players)

Hero checks, UTG bets $0.10, MP1 calls $0.10, MP2 calls $0.10, CO calls $0.10, Hero raises to $1.75, 4 folds

Total pot: $1.70 | Rake: $0.05


Hero didn't show 8, A, 5, 8 (nothing).

Outcome: Hero won $1.65

Friday, April 24, 2009

Today's little project

Certain plants in the greenhouse, such as the tomatoes, are getting to a size that soon they will need to be transplanted into larger pots. That means I have to make room in the greenhouse and move more cool-weather tolerant plants outside. We are still having nights where the temperature dips to the upper 30sF, which is a little too cool for continued good plant growth, and encourages diseases that can hurt the young sprouts. So, today I built a little hoophouse, a miniature greenhouse, for some of the plants. I thought I'd share the process as this is a simple project that anyone can do for their plant starts as they wait for the weather to warm enough for planting in the garden.

In order to keep the grass at bay, I laid two pieces of ground cloth side-by-side with a little overlap and secured them to the ground with ground staples. This strip is about 4-feet wide and 42-feet long.

A few of the ground staples. Note the rust. They've been used many times and will probably rust through in the next year or two of use. As it is, the metal is not very strong, and a sub-surface rock will bend them, stress the metal, and render them useless.

If you enlarge this picture, you will see small pieces of 3/8" rebar sticking out of the ground in the left foreground. They will anchor the 10' lengths of 1" PVC that form the frame. The rebar is about 12" long, and I drive it into the ground about 6", provided I don't hit rocks. I hit a lot of rocks, probably buried gravel, toward the back of the picture. It figures.

Other 10' lengths of 1" PVC are connected together to create a top support for the hoops. I used 2- 1/2" drywall screws to connect the top support to the hoops. (Shorter ones will do just fine. I used what I had laying around.) I next tied a length of heavy twine to the ends of the frame where the top support and hoop meet, stetched it down to the ground, tied a piece of rebar to the loose end and staked it into the ground. This provides additional rigidity to the frame.

It's a lot easier putting the plants in the hoophouse before the covering is put on. A final hit with the water hose and...

Trying to put plastic on the frame in a 10 mph variable wind can prove to be a bit trying, yet I eventually got the job done. The plastic is 10' wide (very convenient since the PVC is 10' long), and is 6mm thick, which is perfect for this project, primarily because it won't break down from the UV light as quick as thinner plastic, so I can reuse it in the furture. A couple final touches and the hoophouse is complete. Note that I bunched and tied the plastic on the end and staked it down. Also, there are plastic clips at the base of each hoop. They are designed specifically to secure the plastic to the frame and can be purchased through a couple different gardening catalogs. This picture was taken before I placed additional clips about 3' up on each hoop to help make the platic more secure in heavier winds. (Rest assured, the wind will occasionally have its way with this structure.)

Believe me, it will get plenty warm in this little structure. So much so that I will have to lift up the sides during the midday sun. The clips come in handy at this point, for when I lift up the plastic, I can clip it down to the upper part of the frame so it doesn't blow around. And one final note: if you lift up the plastic on one side, you have to do it on the other side as well. Otherwise you might find that you have instead constructed on really big kite.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The potatoes arrived today.

All Blue, Red Lasoda (your store variety red) and Canela (a russet)

I cut the biggest Red Lasodas so I will have more to plant. The cuts will dry (heal) before I plant the spuds in a couple weeks. If I cut them right before going into the ground, I run the risk of infections.

All Blues spread out to begin getting eyes.

Eyes are already starting to grow on the Blues and Red Lasoda. All-in-all, I imagine we'll have two 75-foot rows of All Blues (our favorites) and a row each of the red and russet. We should get about 100 pounds per row, plenty for us, and we'll share our friends.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You have to start somewhere

As I mentioned yesterday, tomorrow I will be making our first delivery of plant starts to our client. It’s a small order, yet we don’t really have a lot of stuff that is ready to go, so it works out for the best. The client’s big plant sale will be in about two weeks, and at that time I anticipate a fair amount of our plants will be sold. Fingers crossed.

Left to right: Tray #1, Garlic Chives and Arugula; #2, Salad Burnett and Greek Oregano; #3, French Tarragon; #4, various mustards; #5, various kales.

Although what we are doing this year cannot be considered farming per se, at least on a scale that would pay the a bill or two, we will make enough to keep our farm status for taxes. It makes a huge difference in property taxes, and there is further incentive because if we were to stop farming altogether, the county could come after us for back taxes, and make us pay regular property taxes even for the years that we did farm. Insane, I know. So, we have to show farm income if we want to continue to live here.

And we do want to stay here, at least for a couple more years, or until property values start to go up again. We like living out in the country, and can’t imagine ourselves living in a city ever again. Yet, that day may come. I just hope if it does that we have room for a garden.

I tilled our garden area today while DW weeded our row of garlic. The ground is dry enough and the weather agreeable enough to start planting things like mustard and kale, and even potatoes, if our order of seed potatoes was here. (They are due to arrive in two days, but I’ll have to let them develop some eyes before planting.) Over the course of the next few weeks we will start planting some of the starts from the greenhouse into neat little rows, and rest assured, I will try to document the process for your reading and viewing pleasure, and hopefully even provide a few gardening tips along the way.

As I write this, I become increasingly aware of just how out of shape I have gotten over the winter. I go through this every spring as the chores start to increase in number and difficulty. For instance, today I set for myself the task of cleaning up one of the paddocks in which we used to grow veggies. And like so many tasks about the farm, this one was made harder by past procrastination or exhaustion, or a little of both.

The last things we planted in this particular field were grown primarily though ground cloth, with drip hoses under the cloth. The normal procedure would be to remove the cloth and hoses at the end of the growing season, which didn’t happen. And since that time, grass and weeds have grown to cover the edges of the cloth. It doesn’t take much for this to occur in this mild climate. So, instead of just removing the cloth and hoses, one also removes a lot of overgrowth that has taken root through the cloth. It’s back-breaking work if one does the whole job by hand.

Fortunately, I devised a plan that would involve the tractor doing most of the heavy work. The ground cloth was originally laid down in 125” lengths. All I had to do was pull up about 15” or so on the end, tie it to the tool bar on the back of the tractor, and pull the rest of it up with the tractor. Yet, even yanking up a relatively small portion of the cloth proved to be hard work, especially when having to do it numerous times. My lower back was happy when the chore was done. Now, the cloth lies out in another field, and after the sun has beat on it for a couple weeks to dry out the implanted grasses, I will clean up the cloth and store it.

The hoses will be another matter and for another day. I have about 5,000 feet of hose to pull and roll up. This task must be done by hand. Big fun.

As mentioned above, each spring I have a difficult time because of a comparably sedentary winter. Yet, by the end of each growing season, I could be described as being quite buff, and flexible. And each winter I tell myself that I will stay active so that the adjustment is not so painful. Doesn’t happen. Well, that’s not entirely the case. I did take up Tai Chi this year, yet faltered in making it part of my daily routine. So, now I must start again. Even so, with the little bit of actual heavy farming that will be required, I will probably still have a gut come September.

Or maybe not, for while we are not farming like we used to, I’ll still have to keep the garden free of weeds. Plus, there is another aspect of our property that has been neglected even more than the paddock I am cleaning up, and that is the yard and landscaping around the house. When we were farming 80 hours a week, we didn’t have the time or energy to take care of the front of the property. Over the course of the last five years bushes have died which need to be dug up and removed; flower beds have become overgrown with weeds; trees have grown out over the lawn making it difficult to mow; and, in the shade of those trees the lawn has turned to moss and dirt.

The truth of the matter is we have more property than two people can manage, unless, of course, that is all we want to do with our days, just as the size of our farming operation was too much for us to do without additional help but unable to afford hiring anyone.

And so it begins: the end.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The tree on the left is an Italian Prune. A lot of people out here have these trees. The fruit is about 2-inches long and oblong with purple skin and a orange-yellow flesh. I suppose they call this a prune because folks make prunes with them. We never wait that long to eat them, and any leftovers get frozen. The tree on the right is a Bartlett Pear. Judging from the blossoms, we're might have a substantial crop this year. The tree hangs a bit over the fence to its right, and our neighbor's llamas help themselves to the lower fruit. The picture doesn't show them, yet there are two smaller Bartletts behind these two trees, and away from the fence. We have another area with apple trees and more pear trees. When the apples blossom I'll take a picture. Should be any day.

A peak inside the greenhouse. This table has (back-to-front) Flat Italian Leaf Parsley, French Tarragon, Salad Burnett and French Sorrel. All are ready for the buyer.

These shelves are on the opposite side of the greenhouse. The plants on the left are various mustards and kales, except on the top shelves in back, which are beets.

Straight down the middle. Garlic chives are in the foreground, and the bigger plants on the right middle shelf are Greek Oregano. The table directly in front has Calendula, Echinacea, Basil and Savory (Winter and Summer) on it. You can also see the little space heater we used to keep the plants cozy at night. That little thing kept 550 sq. ft. tolerable.

I don't have the placement of each type of veggie and herb memorized, and the plants are small yet, so I don't suppose it matters to my viewers what is what. Suffice it to say that most everything that I've written about in the past has sprouted. In fact, many of the tomatoes can be transplanted into gallon cans in the next few days. I need to build the temporary hoophouse between now and then.

We make our first delivery Thursday.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So, whatcha been doin’?

DW chuckled and exclaimed, “You’re back in the fields again!”

I had been bush hogging, among other things. I had come in for a potty break, and as I passed the bathroom mirror, I saw the tractor grease and sweat on my t-shirt, the flecks of dirt on my neck, and the bits of dried weeds tangled into my hair. Yes, I was back at it, and it felt good.

The sun has been generous the last couple days, which means I feel more obligated than usual to be outside. The grass is growing like weeds and the weeds are growing like… well, like weeds. If I don’t keep up on them, all of this ground greenery will make it difficult to navigate our way to the outbuildings and fields. Already, hoses that I neatly rolled up last fall lie buried under overgrowth. In order to mow, they have to be moved, which means that they will come unraveled as I tug and rip away at the growth’s hold. Had I put the hoses away in the barn last year, I wouldn’t have this extra work to do, yet that’s not the way I roll. I stroll.

When one leaves piles of junk, or anything else that creates a pile, out in a field, Nature soon finds a way to make use of it. We have a woodpile in an adjacent lot that California Quail use as a nesting area. Tarps or ground cloths left on the ground become covers for vole runs. Yesterday I found a beautiful salamander under some rotting lumber that I was going to burn. When I saw the little bugger, I put the wood back down. It will be fully rotted away in another year or two anyway. Today, in order to mow an area, I had to remove a pile of compost that was sitting on a tarp, and as I pulled at the tarp, two small garden snakes emerged. I picked them up and moved them to a safer area, where the bush hog blade would not get them.

I have been mowing the better of two days now, and I still have more to do. This afternoon I will attack the lawn and a side yard that has a story of its own.

When we first moved here, it became immediately apparent that there was just way too much lawn. Over two acres of grass would need to be mowed if the place was going to look presentable to the outside world. I was not pleased with this prospect, and as I soon found out, six hours of my precious time would go to that chore each week. Yet, I diligently mowed, all the while scheming how to reduce the time spent on this Sisyphusian nonsense. The big side lot was easy: we planted trees and let it go back to meadow and wetland. (Yes, wetland. It was real fun mowing it, believe me.) Areas closer to the house would require a little more imagination…or not. I tilled up the area and planted native wildflowers. Right. That worked out well. Aside from Lupine, which needs no encouragement to grow, and blackberries, which are pernicious in these parts, the grass has returned. So, I’m going to mow it down and let the grass continue to have its way. I’m sure our neighbors will approve.

As the days get longer, I am finding that I have more hours of light to get things done around the farm. That is putting a serious crimp in my poker time, which may be just as well. Saturday night I sat at a very juicy 70% PLO table, yet, my sets and draws got clobbered and went nowhere. With one buy-in gone, I started listing within 20 hands. Normally, I wouldn’t hesitate buying in again, but knowing that I wasn’t in the mood, I chose to do something else, like edit video.

I have a video in a show in June. A young curator I met in Portland has been very receptive to my work, or at least some of it, and this has encouraged me to get more of the work that remains “in the can” into a presentable form. I’ll post a shortie, “Peaches!” here (Sometimes it takes a while for YouTube to post the vid, so check back if you don't see it.) that is to be incorporated into the series of work about “self” that I’ve been doing. It’s dark humor, to be sure.

I’ve also been revisiting videos that I did ten years ago. They’re on VHS, which is OK, yet they also need to be on DVD. It’s rather fun looking at old work, and if I have the time, I will edit them down to short segments I can post on YouTube.

OK, I’ve got to get back to work.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stuck like glue

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.10 BB (9 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

MP1 ($10.55)
MP2 ($6.80)
MP3 ($8.10)
CO ($2)
Hero (Button) ($11.20)
SB ($15.65)
BB ($10)
UTG ($10.05)
UTG+1 ($9.65)

Preflop: Hero is Button with 10, 9, Q, J

2 folds, MP1 calls $0.10, MP2 calls $0.10, MP3 calls $0.10, CO calls $0.10, Hero calls $0.10, 1 fold, BB checks

Flop: ($0.65) A, K, 8 (6 players)

BB bets $0.65, 1 fold, MP2 raises to $1.70, 2 folds, Hero calls $1.70, BB raises to $7.45, MP2 calls $5 (All-In), Hero raises to $11.10 (All-In), BB calls $2.45 (All-In)

Turn: ($27.15) 3 (3 players, 3 all-in)

River: ($27.15) 2 (3 players, 3 all-in)

Total pot: $27.15 | Rake: $1.35


Hero mucked 10, 9, Q, J (high card, Ace).

BB had A, A, 4, 3 (three of a kind, Aces).

MP2 had K, 5, 3, K (three of a kind, Kings).

Outcome: BB won $25.80

I'm 54% to win on the flop. I'm not looking back.

Smile and move on.