Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wood Paneling and Wainscotings

As per usual, I was early, so early that to show up now would be to send all the wrong signals, the very same impulses that found me looking for a distraction to kill some time, like a Guiness over the literary mag I had just purchased.

There was only one seat at the bar, a nice joint, an uppa crust seafood joint DW and I had eaten at before, back when the world was our oyster. Truth be told, I needed the can more than a beer, so piling three things on top of one another would eat up three quarters of an hour or more, easy.

The john

Then DW called. I walked outside to take the call. (In the past I’ve decided to quit banging a broad because she yakked on the horn over dinner at a nice restaurant, and I’m nothing if not principled.) The call was all about the bee thing. I handled it by securing a forty-foot ladder for the next morning, called her back to stroke her forehead from sixty miles away, went back to my beer. Checked the time: loads.

Yeah, I have a magazine, and since I’ve parked my ass behind the wide selection of drafts, the Keeps don’t even notice the Jefferson I’ve left straddling the drain of said apparatus. (No, I don’t play the ponies. Don’t ask.) Still, the guy to my right is chatty enough with the two behind the bar that I figure should I so desire…but I don’t, because I’m reading Robert Bly for chrissakes, and all I want right now is to drink my beer, slow the fuck down and read fuckin’ howl-at-the-moon, man-is-made-of-steel, beat-that-drum-like-you’re-killing-off-six-generations-of-shitheads-that-came-before-you Robert-Bly.

This place is hopping and the waitresses are calling out orders for shit I’ve never heard of, all Rachel Maddow’s fault, for sure, XY ChromoCosmos and dirty bacon martinis, because don’t you know every fuckin’ glass has to be shaped like a ‘V’ these days. And still this guy’s chattin’ up the help like his single aspiration in life is to sling gin and pontificate on the tender-yet-firm prawns in the offing, not coincidently, for which he just dropped a double saw for a smattering, and exclaims, “No such thing as a poor man’s beer these days.”

Like the guys serving could give a shit, but give him the same kinda grin to tally 20% and I can’t help myself.

“There’s always PBR.”

Nothing. He doesn’t even glance my way. I don’t exist.

He has my full attention: white hair and beard, and no more than a couple years my senior; rheumy blue eyes, not from drink but from middle management in a Fortune 5,000; the matching beard an afterthought, or because he is in the Pacific Northwest; and I have to slow myself down again before I start speculating on how much bleach it would take for the grout to match his hair color after they connected and he was hauled away.

And then it all becomes crystal clear as he drains his glass, wipes his mouth, stands up, and fishes in his pocket for a single.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Salem World Beat Festival

Gary (left) gets top billing because he invited DW and I to come watch his troupe of Irish dancers perform. DW couldn't make it. The short, dark-haired woman in back is Asian, and was one of the more enthusiastic, if not better dancers.
A big draw for what is, I suppose, first and foremost a music and culture festival, is the dragon boat races. Team from all over the state assemble annually for this competition. And from what I gathered from some overheard conversation, some participants spy on the other teams' practice sessions.
Another big attraction is the food. As one might imagine, a large number of cuisines were represented.
How could I not take this photo?
Volunteers at the festival walked around with the flags of the countries represented at the festival, eventually gathering for the Parade of Nations. People dressed in clothing representative of their country of origin or ancestry for the parade. The elderly watched from shaded areas, one which you can see a corner of on the right. Remembering how certain elders in my extended family feel, here's the story I made up for myself before I took the shot: Uncle Ray calls the bearer of the US flag over and gives the kid $5 to go stand over by the Japanese contingent and follow them for the next fifteen minutes.
Again, how could I not take this picture? Yet, this was not at the festival, but in the stairwell of a parking garage downtown. When I first came down these stairs after parking, only the sunflower seeds were there. I thought about taking a picture then, except it lacked a certain je ne c'est pas. Same goes for what was in the cup.


As I came into the kitchen from the dungeon, DW asked from the dining room, “Can you come here a minute?” She was standing at one of the windows with a jar placed so that the mouth surrounded a honeybee. She was looking for suggestions as to its safe removal.

A magazine slid between the bee and the opening did the trick and it was quickly and safely outside. “How do you suppose it got in?” she asked. Before I could hazard a guess, we noticed our youngest cat playing with another one on the living room floor. We had been here before.

Not too long after we bought this place, we noticed some honeybees flying around in an unfinished dormer that runs the length of our house. After a little investigation I found a small cluster of bees in one corner by an eave, The floor board was missing in that spot, so I found a piece of insulation, brush the bees back into where I imagined they had come, and filled the hole with the fiberglass. I then went outside to see if there was a corresponding hole in our siding. There was. It was rather small, yet it was immediately clear that it was a very active hole. I went to confer with DW.

After a few minutes of conversation, she wanted to see for herself this hole, and I took her to the front window so that she might get an initial idea of the hole’s location. We pulled back the curtains to a scene we did not quite expect. Like a 1950s C (!) movie, the front yard was swarming with thousands of bees. I knew enough about bees to know that I had most likely separated the queen from the bulk of the hive with the insulation.

We had only been living here for a few weeks and knew hardly a soul. A few moths later and we would have called a beekeeper we met; yet when no such profession is listed in our phone book, Fearing who knows what beyond getting stung a zillion times should we go outside, we looked up listings for the only other folks that deal with bugs. We didn’t like it, but we didn’t know what else to do.

The exterminator came at dusk, when the bees had settled down somewhat. He drilled little holes into the eave and, determining the necessity with a stethoscope, into our siding, and poisoned the hive. A few stragglers remained for a day or two, and eventually all were dead.

We did have a name for a contractor and called him the next day, for we would have to get the hive out of our wall and attic dormer. He was a Russian emigrant whose uncle, as we came to find out too late, was a beekeeper.

When the siding was removed it was determined that the hive was no less than three years old. I called the previous owner, who, as I began to understand over the coming months, has less of a clue about country life than we did. I let him have it over the phone.

Unwilling to relive such an episode, I nonetheless returned to the attic. Nothing. As I came back downstairs, it was evident the cat had a new toy. This one was covered in a fine layer of ash. The chimney!

Of course, how that bee escaped the closed system of the chimney and wood stove leaves me dumbfounded while at the same time adding an element of urgency to the situation. I went outside to look up at the flue and cap, and sure enough, we had activity. I called our beekeeper friend.

The news was not good, or so she ventured, and a bit unsure herself, gave me the phone number for her mentor. Same thing. “I tried smoking ‘em out before and ended up with a bunch of bees in the house. The only way to get bees out of a chimney is by burning them out.”

To complicate matters, I could not remember if the flue on the right led to the wood stove or pellet stove in the basement. Fires in both took the guesswork out of the task, and it took a couple tries for some reason, but suffice it to say that this tale ended in the previous paragraph.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Barnyard Humor


I wasn’t looking for it, rather looking at it, and didn’t really know what to make of it, all of the information not at hand, and then some simple math that would put it into a nameable context. So I did a little rummaging.

A couple days ago I posted my 800th piece on this here blog. I was both impressed and confused, for while I had no idea I had been doing this that much, I was unclear as to how long. The answer: three weeks shy of two years. Of course, the word count lacks in some instances.

I played a little poker the other night. Nothing special. Poker Academy with a few of the regulars, and a batch of newbies without much more in their accounts than what they had at the table. One such short player in the CO raises my BB. Not a lot, but nowadays I’m seeing a flop with anything connected or the like if I’m getting 2-1 HU. Not that it’s paying off; I’m just doing it because I can afford to experiment and I want to see just how infrequently it works out.

So, anyway, I have 89h and I call. The flop comes 8c9c6h and I bet the pot. He calls. Turn is 5c, I bet half and he calls. 5s on the river, he has pittance left and surely better two pair. Eh.

Yeah, eh. Next. These days I only get excited when I can run a bluff. That’s good, right? Better? Like the guy was going to fold his Aces.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

The new compost pile is coming along nicely, steam rising this morning before the sun broke, and I weed-whacked enough of the long stuff to add another 25% to it today. I’ll be mowing the quarter acre adjacent in the next week or so and add that as well. The bucket on the Kubota will push a sizable windrow, don’t you know.

Haying has commenced. Picture this:

I pull onto our gravel by the full moon.
In the cooling air the sweet smell of fresh hay
And coyotes coming up from the river bottom
To see if I brought bunnies with me from Portland.

It doesn’t have to be rabbits.

Sometimes I like to just sit in my truck. Try writing this shit while driving.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Where old film goes to die

Who knows how long in a hot truck, a damp basement and sitting on a shelf before that? Still, I like it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cliff Swallow

Western Kingbird

Cedar Waxwings and DW


I’d have liked to get a haircut two weeks ago about this time but I seem to recall I had more pressing impressions to make than clean cut. Nose too, kept just so.

I found myself a bit early for today’s appointment, yet no one else was getting trimmed so I was immediately sat and draped. The phone rang. There was talk of tequila, and when he hung up, there was more talk, for we both had stories. Mine will be kept off of this site even though it happened well more than thirty years ago, except to say that I might use it in a forthcoming series of stories about small town furtive glances emboldened.

The barber’s was much tamer, as it involved a bottle gulleted during a round of golf before lunch, the sickness that followed, as a matter of fact three days of the heaves, Sisyphusian carpeted stairs, plus skinless knees and elbows.

Yes, there should be my book. It’s not so much that I see things as I blend what I see. Right now there is one story, or maybe just a sketch. Ask elsewhere.

And a stitch:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Making do

With a list to check off and items to disperse, I left home with plenty of time to attend to the dash brake light warning me that the slow leak from the master cylinder had reached that point where the reservoir float wasn’ting. I had to get gas anyway.

I wasn’t prepared to see antifreeze outside of the radiator. Looked like it might have been a cap issue, but I wasn’t willing to make that call, this the third radiator for my rig in less years. I called my mechanic, the gentleman from whom I happened to have bought the rig.

—Bring it by. We’ll take a look.

—It’ll have to be quick. I’m on my way to Portland.

It wasn’t quick, and I began to put on hold a list and stash items behind the seats. Yet, thoroughness is better than breaking down thirty miles from coming or going, and as a bonus I was told a story worth retelling.

But first, I told one of mine during the examination and diagnosis, brake related, driving from the far northwest side of Chicago to the near west side without brakes, a considerable distance of side streets, coasting and timing lights. I stressed the distance more than the strategy, the big picture easier some twenty-five years later, and therefore knew the telling suffered.

Still, my mechanic’s memory was stirred, which I recognize happens; when one story is told, another’s can be sparked.

The journey started somewhere in the high desert in Eastern Oregon, yet the adventure began midway between Burns and Bend, some three hours from home for him and his admittedly heavy foot. His gas pump ceased or seized (couldn’t help myself but won’t bother to draw out the finer distinctions). What to do?

He emptied his washer fluid, siphoned gas to fill that reservoir, rigged his washer fluid line to his carburetor, and using the little washer fluid button on his steering column, fed gas to the engine, stopping to ‘fill ‘er up’ every twelve miles or so, through the remaining desert, into and over the Cascades, and on home, much of the last part downhill. Total time: seven hours.

It was determined that my radiator cap was faulty, and after a short search on the back shelves, a new one was found, even though he had no idea where it had come from. No charge. I thanked him and said my goo…

I believe he has plugged a leaky radiator with black pepper as well, but I’ll have to get back to you on that one for I cut that tale short. And, as I learned when I first met the man, the second story surely would have led to another.

I am conscious that in the past I have detailed a fair amount of my health status, and even though much of it was duly deleted after a period of time, for those who have endured it and retained it, more of the same may get tedious, as, I assure you, it has been for me. Yes, thumper still kicks a bit, even after shot and thrown into the game bag; but not to mix metaphors, the wing is still clipped from tossing a piece of firewood, though not as bad as once thought, and has in fact shown some improvement via a series of treatments. This last determination was made today by a professional with whom I am extremely impressed.

As he treated and we talked, I learned that he too is a blogger. The subject arose from the type of treatment I received, so unusual that I thought I might mention it here, and said so.

—So, you write about things that happen in a day, like a diary?

—Yes, pretty much. And you?

—I haven’t put anything on my blog for a few months, but I post articles I have published.


That’s my initial reaction, something engrained or in the code, that impulse to peeny wag or know when one has been out-wagged. Except for this guy knows his shit and explains what he knows in terms one can readily understand. Hell yes, I want him published! He’s treating my shoulder. Same goes for my mechanic.

So, the treatment:

As he explained it to me, after the lower priced spread didn’t work to the degree he had hoped, namely a steroid ‘pulsed’ into the skin “like a soaker hose” (see?) via a DC current over a fifteen minute time period, I now am wearing something ‘spendy’ (‘pricey’ in every other part of the U.S.). It is a double pad that has its own little embedded battery that will power a 24-hour dispersal of meds. He spoke of it in hushed tones and related personal experience with the treatment for his own damaged shoulder.

—Oh yeah? What happened to your shoulder?

—I used to be a firefighter and part of a burning building fell on me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

And the water


I went up into the hills today to revisit a waterfall I want to make flow backwards. On the way back into town, DW called and asked me to see if the strawberry stand was open.

Twas. Sharon and Connie were delightful. Their berries are delicious, and I'm not just saying this because they now have the blog's url.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A little touched up

A couple weeks ago I was shopping for a glass cylinder-type vase into which I was going to transfer the core sample from the Beuys Mound. I went to several florists without any luck finding one. However, I found something else of interest and made a mental note to return.

I asked the elderly woman if it would be alright to photograph her dolls. I was prepared to be turned down. Instead, she was tickled pink, although her daughter had some questions about my intentions with the photos.

There's a story associated that would be colored by my disposition toward a sore tooth, yet I am content to merely post some photos, grateful.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm thinking a 1967 Fairlane


A certain video game came on to the market a couple months ago that has a character who shares a name with a post of mine from a couple years back. Our tuxedo cat is getting a lot of exposure because of this game’s popularity. “Oh, cute kitty in an outdoor enclosure!” Back click.

And now that grass seed isn’t as profitable or practical as it has been in the past, a picture I took of a field of a new crop to the region has been doing quite well with the locals. Back click.

Today I mowed a field, got sunburned arms and started a new compost pile, and my google analytics numbers are going up for the first time in a long time.

I mowed the field with a purpose that will make for a farm story in a few weeks; the sunburn just happened with eight hours of exposure; and the compost pile does not have anything out of the ordinary in it.

There’s always that temptation, the repeat performance.

By and large, the attendance at last Friday’s opening wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, yet my pieces were well received from minds whom I trust. Now comes the hard part, spreading the word.


That was three days ago. The weather has cooperated for the most part to begin facilitating the rehabilitation of what used to be a well-kept farmstead. Consequently, I’m outside for a good part of the day now, sort of like old times, except very few vegetables are growing. The good news is that a little hard work has been uneventful, so it is time to lose the gut that I’ve acquired over the past eighteen months.

The downside, perhaps, is that I am finding myself with less time to write for the blog. I have mixed feelings.

That is not to say that we’ll be fading off into the sunset anytime soon, but rather I’ll make believe that I am writing daily on Mars (not that big of a stretch, eh?).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Feels like tomorrow

OK, first things first because, to be honest, I don’t know how much spunk I can muster for a run-down of two days when I am. Who sleeps well away from home?

The twelve year mark passed without incident, dinner and a movie, the former not as good as we had hoped, the latter better than the title, “Hot Tub Time Machine.” We laughed despite the heavy meal.

I have pictures. A lot of pictures, yet just a few of my video and dirt mound, and this is what I intended to get out of the way a full paragraph ago. The bulk of the photos will take a while to get through.

Can’t write or type for shit right now. Therefore editing doesn’t have much appeal either, if it is a ‘therefore’ kind of situation. Could be collateral. Or just a case of piling on like another heavy meal.

I Love Art but (Part 1) and Back Issues

Back Issues

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Accompanying materials

Maybe some would like to read what I've written for the exhibit.

The artist's statement:

I Love Art but (Part 1)

Coyotes kill a lot newborn lambs in our neck of the woods. Therefore, it is always open season on the canines. Most are caught in wire noose traps. Picture wire. Not pretty.

I don’t remember exactly why I asked for the dead coyote. Maybe I just wanted to see one up close and personal, like Joseph Beuys in his piece I Like America. America Likes Me (Remix), the difference being, of course, mine was dead.

Schooled the way I was, but more importantly, already predisposed, there was no getting away from Beuys.  Just pulling the carcass from the bed of the pickup truck made it art; yet, now that I had it in my possession, and seeing how it was already starting to stink a bit, if I didn’t do something with it soon, I’d have more than just the animal to contend with.

Most dead animals on the farm get put in the compost piles. Still, Lord knows I didn’t need the coyote to make more compost, as we already had a couple of deer, a few ducks, a feral cat or two, and any number of gophers rotting away under two different piles out in the pasture. That’s a lot of flesh, and too much can make compost go bad. The only solution seemed to be to start a new pile.

What transpired was an homage, complete with visual and auditory references to Beuys’ 1974 performance. Just as I Like America, America Likes Me is his response to the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, I Love Art but is a ritualized protest of sorts for this artist. Beuys’ coyote urinated on stacks of Wall Street Journals brought in fresh every day; my coyote decomposes amidst ten years worth of Art in America and ArtForum magazines. Beuys was working his mojo; I am purging an aspect of my PoMo.

About the next phase:

Beuys Mound, and its role in I Love Art but (Part 2)

Seed companies typically go to great lengths to avoid cross-pollination of any two varieties, thereby assuring that the plants’ genetic strains stay pure. Such efforts are not always successful, as was our experience with Armenian Cucumbers one summer. While some of the fruit was as it should be, on other plants I found fruit that did not resemble any other cucurbit, and it tasted bitter. Likewise, in order to avoid similar incidences, and because there was certain to be cross-pollination in our small growing area, we never save seeds, and instead purchased new seed every year.

Still, we live in a rather mild climate, temperate enough that potatoes will volunteer amongst the next year’s rotated crop of lettuce. Likewise, cantaloupe, summer squash and radishes all pop up come springtime, and a lot of those uninvited plants have cross-pollinated with other plant varieties of their ilk. Two years ago we grew an amazing patty pan summer squash that was striped like the Delicata winter squash we grew the year before. Voila! Another new squash variety was born. We sold it to a restaurant and they served it up yet saved the seeds for their personal garden the next year.

I detail this history to set the stage for what the future holds for the compost pile in the video I Love Art but (Part 1). (That pile will hereafter be known as the Beuys Mound.) The compost used to build the Mound was not quite mature. Yet, once it had stopped its conversion process, primarily because it was never ‘turned’ again, a fair amount of uncomposted material remained, including Spaghetti and Delicata winter squash seeds. Both varieties emerged last spring and I cared for the plants for the rest of the growing season. While the deer got their fair share of the squash, I did manage to harvest enough to have a couple meals, and save the seeds of both varieties.

Those seeds, some from the Delicata and some from the Spaghetti squashes, began sprouting in the Beuys Mound this spring. However, after the first month of growth it became apparent that the seeds from the Delicata had germinated into what promised to be stronger plants, so the seedlings from the Spaghetti squash were culled. We currently have six plants growing in the Beuys Mound. I will document their care and growth  throughout the summer and early fall until we harvest fruit and can offer the world seeds for a new variety of winter squash, the Beuys.

Close to opening

Today marks twelve years for DW and I. We have known each other for twenty. How and why she has put up with me... Only one answer.


Below are stills from I Love Art but (Part 1), the video that will be presented Friday in Portland. DW operated the camera. Bless her heart.  It's 1:30 in the morning and I have just put the finishing touches on the artist's statement and the introduction to I Love Art but (Part 2).

See you in a few days.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yee haw/hee haw!

The preliminary land use change hearing was tonight. The neighbors won the first round by a unanimous decision. Congrats go out to the group for putting forth both a relevant and cohesive argument against the proposed changes from relative peace and quiet, and actual farming practices to sporadic yet daily gunfire just so a guy can make a buck while others shoot hand-raised birds.

Oh, how I would love to go into details, yet I am fully cognizant that the world is google-able and I’d rather not SEO until after the final hearing. Yet, let me say that if it weren’t for DW’s outstanding organizational skills, I doubt the group would have been as well-prepared nor the word spread to such a degree that the hearing room was packed, and all three local newspapers carried the story.

Oh, and I must tell you ('tell' being the operative word), my poker friends, I knew the votes of four out of seven commissioners long before their hands went in the air.

OK, here’s a little sample for you: Who runs a test for how close someone must be to startle horses with the retort from a 12-gauge on the neighbor’s horses without asking said neighbors, admit to doing so in the hearing as part of their evidence, and then when questioned about it, defend the action by pointing out that the gun discharge took place on the applicant’s property, and the horses were across the road?

Monday, June 7, 2010

May 10, 2012

He was mad. Even angry. He was pissed because he presumed I was unreceptive. Not would be. Was. But he told me anyway.

Having forgotten the newspaper was for peddling, not wielding, he wasn’t going to leave until the situation escalated. So I obliged him with proof there was no such thing as ‘because’.

Sometimes a rocket

When a review of an artist’s work cries out to be put within the context of a story, woe to that artist, for the work is certain to get short shrift in the deal. In this case, it is a story of gallery hopping in Portland’s southeast side on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

One takes a chance visiting these sometime shoestring operations, hoping that spaces will be open the day after the First Friday beer parties. If a phone number is made available, it is wise to call ahead. Launch Pad Gallery advises such, and they return missed calls.

It may be unfortunate that this writer has not been to Launch Pad before; yet it is not always a bad thing to be surprised, even a bit overwhelmed when a gallery as a physical space is an experience in itself: Nina Simone’s satin voice is blasting onto the street; a gentleman with a little tight and trim handlebar mustache is preparing to roll a cigarette at the doorstep; a table is set up just inside the double doors in a manner that is reminiscent of a garage sale; and the interior, just as inundated with Simone as the street, has the feel of a boudoir crossed with a warehouse. There are large, unusually shaped couches — more like beds, actually — about the perimeter. Several people are folding a big brown tarp in the middle of the floor, a couple of others are roaming about with coffee in-hand, while still others are sitting on the floor examining what looks to be an old record player from the 50s. Quick greetings are exchanged with one young fellow as I make a beeline for the art on the back wall.

Just as I begin to focus on the art, an attractive young woman approaches me. After an enthusiastic greeting, with an equal amount of enthusiasm she points out some representation of crystal formations at the bottom of one of the artworks, remarks on their awesomeness, and getting a startled response that might have been interpreted as a half-hearted agreement, prances away. Or she might have had delicate little diaphanous wings that propelled her dainty frame across the floor, for this farm boy was left with the impression that he had just been visited by a wood nymph — either that or the opening night party was still going.

Well, now I can’t concentrate on the work any more than I can fully explain the increasing level of awkwardness and discomfort I feel. Context has been shifted. All that I see on the walls thereafter is imbued with adolescent memories driven by a blend of scenes from Ferngully and Fritz the Cat. The blue crystals become phallic, a number of other artworks become nothing more than vaginas, more penises, and women’s buttocks and torsos. I have been smitten, bewitched, and I can think of nothing else than to run for my sheltered, rural, monogamous life.

I know the artist’s work demands more than the psychosexual meanings I have initially ascribed. I grab a card with his name on it and think I might return another day after I have steeled myself a bit for the environment. I hastily mutter a farewell to the young man who initially greeted me and I head out the door.

Ten feet down the sidewalk I hear a voice coming up quick on my left. It is a female voice but I understand not a word. I turn to see the same young woman holding up one of the artist’s cards. I flash her the one I already have, she makes some sound that might be described as disappointed and turns back. The people in the gallery are all at the door watching, chuckling.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


The exhibit (scroll down) opens this Friday.

Something in the water

Working late on a review of art seen yesterday yet knew I had to get this on the blog ASAP.
I haven't had a PBR in ages. They must have changed the formulation.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


(a bit long)

As DW will remark on occasion, when I set my mind, not much else gets through. While problematic at the dinner table, it can be a good trait when shove has bypassed push. It is the time of the latter, for Saturday I am headed to Portland to drop off my piece for the show on the 11th, and aspects have not turned out as planned. Specifically, the core sample looks like nothing more than dirt in a glass cylinder vase.

And, as I’ve suspected for the past week, it’s not a very good sample, meaning that it is not a good representation of all that went into the compost pile at the onset. Or so I suspected; yet I was disinclined to attempt another sample closer to the middle of the pile, not because I might bring up some unfinished coyote, but because the first sample at a shallower part of the pile was difficult enough to core. The pile was another four or five inches deeper toward the middle, and I didn’t think the additional grunting and groaning would provide me with any better of an example of dirt in a jar, even if I were to find bones or the spine of a decomposed art magazine.

That is assuming that the magazines have decomposed.

Before I dug the first core sample, I was pretty certain that were I to remove the top layer of compost, I would find all of the magazines intact, and perhaps only stained by canine effluence. When I retrieved the sample, I was surprised to see no obvious evidence of the magazines. Could they have decomposed? Or had I not gone in close enough to the center? The pile has shrunk to about 40% of the size it was two years ago, so even though I thought I had picked a good spot, there was still a nagging feeling that I missed my mark.

The core sample had some other problems, namely missing portions from a messed up initial attempt to transfer it from PVC to glass. The first vase broke and a portion of the soil was impregnated with glass shards. I successfully removed the glass, but a good deal of the soil went with it. The core, then, was in essence a misrepresentation. I thought I might be able to live with this, that is until I was nonplussed with the final product.

It had always been apparent that the idea of a core sample was more appealing than the retrieval and display process. (I still like the video of the process.) That is not to say that there is undoubtedly a better way to go about it than the way I did it, yet I had none of the resources to accomplish that task. I made do with what I had available and how my feeble mind could conceive of a plan and came up with meh. But as indicated, knowing that the project was not going well, I made contingency plans.

As I was removing the broken glass from the compost and the core began to crumble, I began to think of other ways to display the compost. Test tubes crossed my mind. Then book ends. Ah! A pile of the dirt between two bookends and call the piece “Back Issues.” I liked that.

At dinnertime I told DW of the difficulties I was having with the core sample and shared my other ideas with her. She had a couple ideas herself, particularly with the bookends idea: perhaps ornate bookends, or maybe one of those boxes that one uses to archive periodicals. I knew exactly what kind of bookends I wanted to use, and if I couldn’t find them, I liked the idea of the archival box enough to put it on the back burner.

What sort of bookend? You know the type. The simple metal ones used in libraries. Now, where to find such a thing… The library!

I almost got ahead of myself in the chronology. I was going to relate my trip to the library before taking one more look at the core sample. I looked, still found it inadequate for my needs and to my eye, fetched a spade from the barn, and commenced to digging closer to the middle of the compost pile. My boot pounded the shovel blade deep into the pile, time and again until I hit something hard. Clearing away the soil, I could see pieces of pristine magazines had been torn off by the blade. I had a true sample!

OK, so I walk into the library. Our town has a beautiful library, and it is well used by those folks in town. (Those folks. As we live outside of town, and in fact in another county altogether, we are not supposed to have access to the library, at least for checking out books, so there is little need for us to go otherwise. But I could be wrong on this point, not having checked out the other resources it might have.) The front counter is staffed by two people, neither of who I know, yet I catch the eye of a friendly looking chap in a casual short-sleeved button down and purple tie.

“Can I help you with something?”

“I have what might be an weird question.”

“Well, I’m weird, so fire away!” I shook his hand as a comrade and made my request for two bookends that I might buy or have if in some state of disrepair. He could not accommodate me, nor had an idea where I might find such things, and away I went, for I had little time to spare and a bit of a drive to the office supply store in the city.

Long unaided search short, I found the bookends. Except they weren’t the bookends. These were modern, meshed, not quite what I had in mind. Nevertheless I bought them, because, as I mentioned before…the shove. I might have to settle, or find a way to make them work and be content.

But I was not content. These new bookends were too fancy, and a lot more expensive that the ones in the library. Hell, I could probably buy 20 or more library bookends for what I paid for these.

And then it hit me. It was worth a try anyway.

“Now you’re going to think I’m even weirder. Will you trade two of your bookends for these two?”

We made it a little adventure.

“Do you want tall ones or short ones?”

“Short ones, please.”

The piece is going to look great with red wigglers crawling in the dirt and over the pieces of magazines, all loosely contained by the bookends.

Now I can relax.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I'm soaking in it

A lot of rain in the last 24 hours, and with the higher air temperatures, I imagine the freezing level is at a higher elevation than that of the nearby mountain peaks. The last of the snow melt is going to put some pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers to release some of Detroit Lake, and the river is about to crest as it is. Should be interesting; and it sure has killed the fishing.

But we still manage to squeeze out a nice sunset.

I have a text piece to write for the upcoming exhibit, plus a photo grant to put together.

The forecast is rain through the weekend.