Saturday, January 30, 2021

Let there (not) be light

This is a street light.

It's a particularly annoying street light because it's located smack in our driveway, right near the house. (I believe the more accurate term is "yard light.")

It was annoying because we couldn't turn it off. It came on automatically at dusk and turned off automatically at dawn. This meant it illuminated the entire driveway area. In this photo, I caught a couple of deer going by.

The light also blotted out the stars, shone into bedroom windows, and probably drove the neighbors nuts. Why would anyone want one of these beasts in their driveway?

I had a friend in college who grew up on a dairy farm, and a bunch of us spent a week at his farm one summer. It was the first time I'd seen a yard light on private property, and in the case of a dairy farm, I "get" it. Nighttime light is crucial if you have situations that need immediate attention, such as farm emergencies.

But out here at the back end of nowhere? No way. We're not living in the city anymore. We refused to put up with unnecessary light pollution.

So we called the local electrical provider and requested it be turned off. The customer service lady was puzzled and wondered why. "It only costs about $8 a month to run," she said persuasively.

But we were undeterred. So about a week later, a couple of electricians came by and used what literally looked like a television remote control to turn off the light.

Now it's nice and dark. We can see the stars. We don't have light shining in bedroom windows. I'm sure the neighbors are happier. It's been delightful.

 Update: I went outside at night and braced the camera against the deck and snapped a photo. This was the result.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

RIP Cloris Leachman

Another sad note as 2021 dawns: the actress Cloris Leachman has passed away.

While her screen credits are numerous, I most fondly remember her as the incomparable Frau Blücher in "Young Frankenstein."


She also played Madame Defarge in "History of the World Part I," and who could forget her as Granny in the 1993 remake of "The Beverly Hillbillies"?

Rest in peace, Frau Blücher.

Seed shortages?

I stumbled across a video from Ice Age Farmer a couple days ago entitled "Seed Companies Warn of Shortages, Delays – So Find Them Locally!"

I don't normally follow Ice Age Farmer he tends to be a little too doom'n'gloom for my taste but there's no question he documents his statements up the whazoo.

What he said in this video was there are already seed shortages from major seed companies (he says the centralized model of seed production is breaking down), and to counteract that, backyard gardeners will need to look for local sources (friends, neighbors, seed exchanges, small seed companies, etc.) to get whatever seeds they'll need for this spring.

Sure enough, some of the major seed companies had disclaimers on their websites:

I don't pay much attention to seed companies (since we simply save seeds from year to year), but I found a few relevant articles, several of which state there is not a seed shortage so much as staffing shortages or other coronavirus-related interruptions:

Be Prepared for a Possible Seed Shortage: Mike Lizotte, co-owner and managing director of American Meadows and board president of the Home Garden Seed Association, said: “Get the seeds now and plan later. You’d be foolish to think you can wait until April to go to a big box store and still get all of the seeds you want; there might not be a seed shortage now, but that may not be the case two to three months from now.”

Staff shortages have Maine seed companies struggling to fill orders: "To prevent backlogged orders from getting unmanageable, seed companies have put a system in place whereby they will temporarily suspend customers’ ability to order seeds until the company has caught up at least somewhat with existing orders."

Starting the Year Off with a BANG!:  "The big worry is not so much seed supply we've got plenty of that. It all goes back to COVID and our people."

I touched on the issue of seed shortages in November, and last May I had a piece in the Organic Prepper entitled "Where to Get Seeds When Online Sources are SOLD OUT." It might be worth re-reading that.

Yes, I know it's January. But apparently it's time to Think Spring.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Me thinks Mr. Darcy is getting used to his new home.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Instant billionaire

I stumbled upon a recent study that noted "Making more money really does make people happier." It starts: "The old saying goes 'money can’t buy happiness,' but a new study finds that's not exactly true. Although previous studies find there's a limit to how much a person's income impacts their happiness, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania says the sky's the limit when it comes to money's influence over well-being."

Unquestionably a certain level of income will make people happier, as endless millions who have lost their jobs over the last year will attest. But I'd like to think the operative word in this study is "making." But what happens when money isn't "made" but won?

Hard on the heels of this study was the news that a winning Mega Millions ticket was sold in Michigan for a jackpot of are you ready for this? $1 billion dollars.

I don't know if the prize has been claimed yet – I'm not following this situation closely enough to care – but instead I've tried to wrap my mind around the concept of becoming an instant billionaire.

Statistically rich people don't purchase lottery tickets, so this sudden windfall has doubtless fallen on some Joe Sixpack-type whose life will never be the same.

Can you imagine being that person? Suddenly everything would change. The relationships you have with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, community, church it's all altered. You would be placed in a Fairy Godmother position, able to grant wishes with the flick of a wand. Distant relatives would materialize out of the woodwork. You would have legions of supplicants following you everywhere, wanting their share of fairy dust. If you refuse anyone, you will be branded with every possible curse (greedy, selfish, heartless, etc). And of course, you will have your share of Dr. Evils who want to rob, kidnap, ransom, or murder you for your newfound wealth.

There is a lot of tragic documentation of what happens to lottery winners for whom sudden wealth becomes the worse thing that ever happened to them. "Seventy percent of people who land a big windfall, lose it within several years," said one financial adviser. "Many are not prepared for such a massive change in lifestyle and they don't set a budget, (but) even millionaires need a budget."

I'm not even referring to squandering all the money; I'm referring to the corrupting influence sudden wealth has on those who aren't prepared for it (Jack Whittaker comes to mind).

People who earn a lot of money are presumably motivated to do so. Whatever their morals, they're at least equipped to handle wealth. But people who win huge sums of money out of the blue are suddenly and abruptly deprived of whatever motivating factors kept them going in life the motivation to provide for their family, or the satisfaction of building a business, or the joy of working hard to make plans and projects come to fruition. No matter how much we might hate our commute or dislike our job, being suddenly deprived of motivation to earn a living can be a tragic thing.

"A close inspection of how people react to the idea of winning a large sum of money exposes more than a few flaws in our values and the way we think," observes blogger Bruce Wild. "It seems that society has reached the point where it thinks the road to riches is not through the valley of hard work and savings and that we can by-pass the important area known as sacrifice. ... Huge sums of money from lotteries are unmanageable by the average man and often cause adjustment difficulties, resulting in pain and not happiness.  Large jackpots also result in a disconnect in true and associated values causing unrealistic expectations." [Emphasis added.]

So whoever is the poor sap who just became an instant billionaire, my prayers are with you. I hope you can handle it, and that nothing bad happens to you or your family.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Getting garlic in the ground

We're at that awkward juncture where we don't yet have a garden laid out here at our new house, but there are some things that must be planted to thrive. Specifically, garlic.

Garlic, as you know, must be planted in the fall (at least in northern areas) so it can overwinter in the ground and produce strongly in the spring. One year I planted it in the spring and had a dismal harvest. Planting in the fall produces amazing abundance.

In the chaos of moving out of our last home, I ran out of time to plant garlic. The new woman of the house is an avid gardener the tire garden was one of the attractions of the place for her so I left her 150 cloves of garlic so she could get them planted at her convenience. I also took with me one and a half heads of the garlic I've cultivated for so many years, so I could plant it in our new home.

Even though it's now halfway through January, I knew I could still plant it at least for propagation purposes. Except, I had no where it could go. I thought about just planting it in gallon-sized pots, but even those are still stashed in the barn at our old place.

But in front of our house, incongruously, is a water tank half-filled with dirt and topped with wood chips.

Don suggested I plant the garlic in here, which seemed as good a place as any.

From the head-and-a-half...

...I got 14 cloves.

Using a butter knife, I levered these into the dirt beneath the wood chips.

And there you have it, the extent of my gardening endeavors so far in our new home. Of course, whatever grows will be used solely for planting again next fall, as I rebuild our inventory of seed garlic.

After all, it's not like we're short of canned garlic in this house.

And a sentimental part of me is glad to have a connection with my old garden I spent so many years cultivating.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Pretty sunset

If there's one thing we thoroughly enjoyed about our last home, it was the sunsets. Seldom have I been in a place that had so many pretty ones.

Here in our new place, we've been socked in by a lot of fog (it's January, after all). But the other evening, the fog was gone and everything was lit up by a lovely orange glow. At last we had an idea of what kinds of sunsets we can look forward to.

Pretty ones.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Books as props

When I was a teen, a restaurant in the town where I lived had two separate dining rooms: a brightly lit room with lots of windows where most diners ate, and a smaller wood-paneled room with walls of books for business meetings or other situations that benefited from less chatter and distraction. The hostess would seat customers in whichever room they requested. 

Needless to say, the book room was always my choice. Even back then, I instinctively enjoyed being surrounded by reading material. It was fun to order a meal, then pluck a random volume off a shelf and dip into it. I wondered how the restaurant managers had accumulated such a collection, and commended their bravery in letting the books be handled by careless members of the public.

It wasn't until many year later I heard about wholesale book-sellers that would sell books by the foot (or yard) for decorating restaurants, coffee shops, offices, or other settings.What a concept!

Just recently I stumbled across an article entitled "Washington’s Secret to the Perfect Zoom Bookshelf? Buy It Wholesale." The article mentioned a company called "Books by the Foot," which sells books in volume by every criteria imaginable: subject, color, political suasion, size, age, genre, etc. everything except individual titles (they will direct you to their sister site for that purpose). Their slogan warms my heart: "Rescuing millions of books since 1980."

Once the province of movie sets, television studio sets, model homes, or the unread contents of executive mansions, volume books are becoming mainstream.

The article begins: "In a place like Washington small, interconnected, erudite, gossipy being well-read can create certain advantages. So, too, can seeming well-read. The 'Washington bookshelf' is almost a phenomenon in itself, whether in a hotel library, at a think tank office or on the walls behind the cocktail bar at a Georgetown house. And, as with nearly any other demand of busy people and organizations, it can be conjured up wholesale, for a fee."

Whatever the purpose of these wholesale books, I admire the ethos of Books by the Foot's president, Chuck Roberts: "Roberts opened the first of Wonder Book’s three locations in 1980, but Books by the Foot began with the dawn of the internet in the late 1990s. A lover of books who professes to never want to see them destroyed, he described the service as a way to make lemonade out of lemons; in this case, the lemons are used books, overstock books from publishers or booksellers, and other books that have become either too common or too obscure to be appealing to readers or collectors. 'Pretty much every book you see on Books by the Foot [is a book] whose only other option would be oblivion,' Roberts says."

How cool is that? Personally, it sounds like a place I'd love to work (a three-acre warehouse full of four million books!).

Apparently Books by the Foot has exploded in popularity since the lockdowns began as people realized the ordinary décor of their homes was insufficiently erudite under a pitiless Zoom lens. So, to project intellectual gravitas, everyone from politicians to businessmen to schoolteachers bought large volumes of books specifically curated to set the stage and reflect the persona they want coworkers to see. These are being called "credibility bookshelves."

It also seems Books by the Foot is seeing more orders for functional libraries rather than simply vanity props: "For most of the year, the coronavirus pandemic switched up the proportion of Books by the Foot’s commercial to residential projects. In July, Roberts said residential orders, which had previously accounted for 20 percent of business, now accounted for 40 percent. That was partly due to the closures of offices and hotels, Roberts noted – but a few other things were afoot, too. For one, more people were ordering books with the apparent intent to read them. 'We’re seeing an uptick in books by subject, which are usually for personal use,' Roberts said over the summer. Because many people suddenly had extra time at home but hardly anyone was able to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, orders for, say, 10 feet of mysteries, or three feet of art books, rose in popularity."

We're still waiting to get the majority of our books out of storage, at which point we, too, will be able to set the stage for our home with yards of shelves. But our books aren't hoity-toity props. They simply reflect our eclectic reading interests and favorite sedentary pursuit, with a secondary benefit of being beautiful.

And I still love to see large volumes of volumes.

Naturalist Gerald Durrell wrote, "To have well-stocked bookshelves cuddling you is like having a thousand sights, sounds, smells and sparkling ideas. Books are things to be cherished in the same way people cherish jewels, great paintings or great architecture. It is an honor to turn the pages of a book."

I agree.