My artistic Nietzche

Friedrich Nietzsche: "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Just as I paint in negatives and complimentary colors.


I put my blog out there knowing anyone in the world can read it. That is pretty much the role of the blog, but I do get pretty intimate on here. Nevertheless it felt kinda stalker-like to find out someone in my neighbor's circle has been reading this. She said she was adding me to her prayer list.

So I kinda feel sick from that. But then I remember the most important thing my good lawyer said to me the other day, and it stops feeling like my neighbor violated my privacy, an instead like she just cares.

When I was feeling that I cannot do anything to act on my wanting to care, my friend lawyer said something really important. She said she feels like that a lot too. But then she said she remembers about Christian Contemplatives and Buddhist Contemplatives, people who just by thinking and focusing on a problem or a solution turn the tides and change the world. I remember the fact that the composition of water can change when it is surrounded by different words.

And I believe in prayer. I do not believe that one kind of prayer is the only way. I believe prayer does heal though. And contemplation heals and helps too. Sometimes I define contemplation a little to close to "thinking" and a little too far from magic.

Magic is real too though, and that is one thing I just need to always remember.

So what is the harm of a prayer list anyway?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Varroa mite count 2015
August harvest

The mercury dropped to 49 this past week, scaring me into thinking fall may be coming along a little faster than usual. Time to double down on preserving basil (the tenderest summer crop) and time to make sure the bees are ready for the winter.

Varroa mite test

I'll delve into the hives to check on winter stores next week, but for now I started with a varroa mite test. I expected the news here to be good since splitting and swarming both lower mite populations dramatically. So I wasn't entirely surprised to find only 5 mites beneath the daughter hive and 11 beneath the mother hive after 48 hours. Looks like our high-class bees came through for us again! (Now, if they'd just make some honey....)

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Hay bale barrier
covering hay with tarp

The goats have been bad again.

Somehow they figured out how to pull down a hay bale and use it to jump up to the remaining pile of bales.

Maybe this tarp will keep them out?

Joey chatter
still under construction

Construction equipment and even orange cones in the street in front of the Internet Archive.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Choosing a homestead broiler
Homegrown roast chicken
"Meat birds, I assume? I am contemplating a small batch, but not sure I want those cornish cross due to all the problems common for them, but is it economical to feed other breeds for a longer time before processing? Red Rangers look good, but the hatchery is out."
--- Deb

It sounds like you and I are on the same wavelength, Deb. Mark and I weren't very impressed with the Cornish Cross we raised last year. Yes, they were economical, but they barely foraged and I felt their meat was only slightly superior to store-bought.

Day one chicks

We've raised Australorps as broilers in the past and felt like their meat was extremely nutritious. But dogs and ducks and other problems meant we didn't have a large enough flock to hatch our own eggs this year. And when I pondered the hatchery catalog, I decided that if I was buying broilers, I might as well try something that would be a bit meatier and (hopefully) more economical. So, like you, we chose Red Rangers, which we reserved in midsummer for a fall broiler run.

Day three chicks

The previous photo showed the chicks the day we brought them home from the post office --- they already looked pretty big and spunky! But the comparison to the photo above, taken two days later, shows that the baby broilers are also growing fast. I plan to let them out on pasture this weekend and will keep you posted on how they fare.

​It is true, we are butterflies.

As part of our transformations, we pass through blocks of denial. If you're like me they last as long as we can keep bottled up unchanging. Then when we pour rain tears and our shirts get soaked with our own snot and tears if we lacked pockets or foresight to bring a handkerchief.

Last night I shared a Ted Lecture on facebook about how mentally ill people were the earliest shamans and artists who made the world better with their cave paintings and other art. I watched that thinking for a half second, maybe I should go off all my meds and let the visions come, let the crazy madness in, because when I was utterly mad it did have a message, an insight I might have not known without it.

It is not safe to do though. And I probably have developed such soothing routines of medicine taking and therapy going, and it is probably so much a big part of my life now that I might not be able to go off meds long enough to be crazy enough to hear voices even if the future of the world depended on it. Medical compliant is just what I am.

Over the past two days though, I have cried a significant lot. Yesterday I wept significantly because I felt so inconsistent people must not want to have anything to do with me. I called a friend and he said I shouldn't feel guilty because my moods are rough on people if I am not doing things to hurt anyone. But I see every step I take as consequential and painful for someone. So I cried a lot over that.

Today I cried for the simple reason that it is so so hard to be disabled, mentally ill, and in poverty. Thrown into that was the feeling that in my early and mid 20's I cared so much about causes and making the world better. Now I feel that due to poverty and disability and mental illness, I am incapable of acting on the feeling that I care. That hurts as such a big loss that it is so hard to explain.

I went to talk to an old friend who was my lawyer. She said I am the only disabled person she ever worked with who reported my earnings as faithfully and honestly I do. She said I also it is very rare for mentally ill people to be like me and never abuse or use drugs or alcohol. She and I both know that can really make illnesses harder to manage. My poverty and these afflictions will not go away. I cannot lock myself in a cave and go off my meds and hope to create beautiful art. Most of my art is ink blotch material at best.

But I am a butterfly, I can transform, I can improve my life. I can get better and quit getting worse. I am not doomed. Mostly I am a butterfly and you are one too. So munch down on some milk weed - these tides of wind just keep on changing.

Joey chatter
Beautiful walk across golden gate park this morning, by the lake and rose gardens and up to the Internet Archive for lunch!
Joey chatter
Lost a usb gadget 3 days ago. Woke up this morning and found it in my shoe.
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
For sale: Your new homestead
Your new homestead

Do you want a beautiful, isolated homestead with the world's best neighbors? Two friends of mine --- Steve and Maxine --- are selling 90 acres and a house for $225,000. If that's too much for you to handle, they're also willing to split the land apart into two parcels, like so:

  • House + 5.4 acres --- $123,000 (Includes fields, woods, pond, spring and fenced yard)
  • 85 forested acres --- $102,000 (Heavily forested land above house to top of Clinch Mountain)
Property closeup

This property belonged to Maxine's mother and is a quarter of a mile from Steve and Maxine's beautiful homestead. Having neighbors who've homesteaded for as long as I've been alive is an invaluable resource that should really be factored into the already low price tag. And even though I can't promise they'll teach you everything they know, I have a feeling the couple would quickly take anyone with an interest in farming under their wings. (They're some of the nicest people I know, are very interested in folks of all shapes, colors, and creeds, and are much less introverted than I am.)

Clinch Mountain

The location is on the Clinch Mountain in Snowflake, Scott County, Virginia, a ten or fifteen minute drive from Gate City and less than half an hour from Kingsport (one of the towns we consider "the big city"). If you're planning on working in the area, chances are you'll be looking in Kingsport or Johnson City, and these towns are also good spots for shopping and entertainment.

Hiking in the fall forest

Land features:

  • Land extends to the top of the Clinch Mountain
  • Pristine forest with old-growth trees, abundant birds and wildlife, rare and endangered plant species. (Editorial note from me: This is a truly beautiful forest! Very steep, though, so you'll be in good shape if you go walking.)
  • Conservation easement on forested acres – protecting forest, mountain springs & reservoir (water supply for the house). This covers Steve and Maxine's property as well, so you won't suddenly be next door to a subdivision or a clearcut no matter how the land changes hands. The easement agreement is available upon request.
  • Three mown fields totaling about 1 acre in combined size – could be grazed or converted to garden space
  • Pond & dock
  • Private road
  • Fenced yard w/electric gate
House for sale

House features:

  • 6 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths  (1,164 sq. ft.)
  • Custom-built manufactured home (standard building materials)
  • Contractor-built large front porch and one-car garage
  • Red cedar siding
  • Hand-laid field stone over permanent block foundation
  • 30/yr shingles on roof (reroofed about 10 years ago)
  • 10” fiberglass insulation overhead; 4” fiberglass in walls and under floors
  • Heat Pump – relatively new Carrier w/digital thermostat
  • Windows – double glazed w/tilt-in feature for cleaning
  • Handicap assessable 36” doorways
  • Vaulted ceilings w/ceiling fans
  • Sheetrock walls/ceilings throughout
  • Hardwood floors in living room, dining room, hall and closets
  • High-end major appliances – stack washer/dryer, glass-top stove, large refrigerator
  • Tiled kitchen counter; oak cabinets
  • Bathroom #1 - Tiled floor w/ large tile and glass walk-in shower
  • Bathroom #2 – bathtub and stall shower
  • Porcelain sinks & commodes in bathrooms
  • High-speed internet access
Mountain stream

At only $1,200 per acre for the non-house portion, this property is a great deal (and if you get the house, it's move-in ready). So if you're looking for an inexpensive homestead in an area that I consider one of the most beautiful in the world, this might just be it! Contact Steve and Maxine for more information:

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Using (almost) fresh manure on the garden
Manurey straw

This year, our garden has subsisted on 95% homegrown manure. This was more of an access issue than a planned experiment, so I ended up behind and unable to compost the bedding before application. I needed that fertility now rather than later.

As you might expect, my results have been affected by that shortcut --- I figure we're at about 75% productivity compared to previous years when I fed the garden well-composted horse manure. But we're finally caught up, so winter bedding will be composted and hopefully next year we'll be back up to speed. And, just think, homegrown manure means 70% less hauling work, 80% fewer weed invasions, and 100% more control --- a definite long-term plus for our farm!

Germination comparison

Interestingly, there have been some areas in which the uncomposted goat bedding trumped well-composted horse manure. My plan over the summer has been to apply the goat bedding two weeks to one month before planting to ensure there wouldn't be any seedling burn from fresh urine and goat berries. Then, if I was planting something large (like sweet corn), I raked back the manurey straw when I was ready to make planting furrows. If I was planting something smaller like carrots, I raked all of the bedding to the side of the bed, to be pulled back up around seedlings once they sprouted.

The photo above shows two beds planted with carrots on the same day. The bed on the right was topdressed with the last of my stockpiled, well-rotted horse manure. The bed on the left was treated as explained in the last paragraph with goat bedding. I had almost zero germination in the horse manure bed, which has been a common problem in previous years when getting the fall garden going --- small seeds fail to sprout during dry spells, despite what seems to be sufficient irrigation. So perhaps putting horse-manure compost on the surface was the issue all along. I assume the compost sucked up water and made the beds drier on the surface since the bed next door sprouted quite well. In contrast, goat manure on top of the soil kept the ground moist until planting day, then didn't get in the way of seedling germination since I raked the straw to one side.

Mulching asparagus

For new annuals, it's pretty easy to incorporate a waiting step between bedding application and plant growth. But what about when fertilizing perennials who are already in place? I was a bit leery when topdressing fresh goat bedding around our strawberries and asparagus, but I ended up seeing fewer issues than expected. The strawberries, actually had no complaints, presumably since there was already a layer of straw beneath the goat bedding to sop up any high-nitrogen effluent that floated down toward the ground. The asparagus was a bit less pleased, with the youngest fronts showing wilting of the top four inches or so, a clear sign of nitrogen burn.

Since my test asparagus beds showed issues with the straight goat bedding, I'm now trying out plan B on my other asparagus planting. I laid down a section of newspaper (for weed control), then a healthy layer of fresh straw (to buffer the nitrogen), then Mark and I scattered chicken manure from the spring brooder lightly over top. Hopefully the nitrogen will be more asparagus-friendly by the time it reaches the asparagus root zone this time around.

Bowl of beans

The other good news on the manure front is that most of our garden soil is now so good that we're moving out of the renovation stage and into the maintenance stage, meaning that some crops don't need pre-planting doses of manure at all. We no longer feed our beans or peas, and in certain beds I also skip feeding before planting leafy greens. I'm actually starting to imagine a time when the composted manure from two goats, a flock of layers and an annual round of broilers, plus the contributions of our composting toilet will provide more fertility than our farm needs. What a change from the eroded soil that required truckloads of manure before anything would grow at all!

Joey chatter
only in haskell

Found myself writing a function that takes as input a list of sizes of partitions. Which partitions? Whatever ones are included in the output of the same call to the same function!

[MegaBytes] -> ([MountPoint], PartTable)

(This technique exploits Haskell's laziness and is a form of "tying the knot".)

then and now

It's 2004 and I'm in Oldenburg DE, working on the Debian Installer. Colin and I pair program on partman, its new partitioner, to get it into shape. We've somewhat reluctantly decided to use it. Partman is in some ways a beautful piece of work, a mass of semi-object-oriented, super extensible shell code that sprang fully formed from the brow of Anton. And in many ways, it's mad, full of sector alignment twiddling math implemented in tens of thousands of lines of shell script scattered amoung hundreds of tiny files that are impossible to keep straight. In the tiny Oldenburg Developers Meeting, full of obscure hardware and crazy intensity of ideas like porting Debian to VAXen, we hack late into the night, night after night, and crash on the floor.

sepia toned hackers round a table

It's 2015 and I'm at a Chinese bakery, then at the Berkeley pier, then in a SF food truck lot, catching half an hour here and there in my vacation to add some features to Propellor. Mostly writing down data types for things like filesystem formats, partition layouts, and then some small amount of haskell code to use them in generic ways. Putting these peices together and reusing stuff already in Propellor (like chroot creation).

Before long I have this, which is only 2 undefined functions away from (probably) working:

let chroot d = Chroot.debootstrapped (System (Debian Unstable) "amd64") mempty d
        & Apt.installed ["openssh-server"]
        & ...
    partitions = fitChrootSize MSDOS
        [ (Just "/boot", mkPartiton EXT2)
        , (Just "/", mkPartition EXT4)
        , (Nothing, const (mkPartition LinuxSwap (MegaBytes 256)))
 in Diskimage.built chroot partitions (grubBooted PC)

This is at least a replication of vmdebootstrap, generating a bootable disk image from that config and 400 lines of code, with enormous customizability of the disk image contents, using all the abilities of Propellor. But is also, effectively, a replication of everything partman is used for (aside from UI and RAID/LVM).

sailboat on the SF bay

What a difference a decade and better choices of architecture make! In many ways, this is the loosely coupled, extensible, highly configurable system partman aspired to be. Plus elegance. And I'm writing it on a lark, because I have some spare half hours in my vacation.

Past Debian Installer team lead Tollef stops by for lunch, I show him the code, and we have the conversation old d-i developers always have about partman.

I can't say that partman was a failure, because it's been used by millions to install Debian and Ubuntu and etc for a decade. Anything that deletes that many Windows partitions is a success. But it's been an unhappy success. Nobody has ever had a good time writing partman recipes; the code has grown duplication and unmaintainability.

I can't say that these extensions to Propellor will be a success; there's no plan here to replace Debian Installer (although with a few hundred more lines of code, propellor is d-i 2.0); indeed I'm just adding generic useful stuff and building further stuff out of it without any particular end goal. Perhaps that's the real difference.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Fall chicks
new chicks

We picked up our new Fall chicks today.

The Post Office always calls us as soon as they arrive off the truck.

Lucy never gets tired of smelling a new poop filled box.

Joey chatter
fandom is best avoided

Cannot describe how weird it is that George R.R. Martin is referring to some old friends of mine as "the Moen faction"

Joey chatter
Burning man for billionaires

Burning man for billionaires. Analogies to Open Source, Contributor License Agreeements, etc left as exercise for reader.

No plans or expectations just me doing what I love and choosing to be involved in any way i wanted. my only reason to do anything was simply because i wanted to do it for the experience of doing it. there was no sort of expectation of a return. My efforts were merely gifts given to others for my own enjoyment.


I spent an entire day not entering the city that I came to be part of. An entire day dedicated to people that built tall walls to separate US from THEM. This event is meant to brings people together and it felt like it was invaded by a wall of money and power there to make sure we would be separate.


15 laps

"Go back to your cell,"

words come through me

too early to put ideas back to bay.

"Dreams are our closest to the dead."

These phrases echoing solitary confinement

here swimming forward hopefully still kicking.

The disconnect of dying is not hell itself

just a dream,

a place far from origin or body,

a time however short or permanent

comfortable as air gusting from nowhere on my back.

We can't rise from it's waters to chit chat with another swimmer

or sing praise of a lifeguard steadfast on her stand.

So while we can enjoy, embrace, jump up and down in life

now is the time to shrill that thrill we too often forget.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Back on the nest
Song sparrow nest in raspberries

It's not as if I go hunting song sparrow nests throughout our yard. But I seem to have found each of our resident pair's nurseries this year.

The newest eggs are secreted away amid the raspberry canes, which I think will be a safer location than round two in the tomatoes. Because I'm pretty sure that my tomato-leaf pruning opened up the former nest too much and allowed a cowbird to lay one or more parasite eggs, which is probably one I found a chick pushed out of the nest and another disappeared days later.

Here's hoping three's the charm for our sparrows and Mama Bird will have a more successful hatch this time around.

Joey chatter

Teaching propellor how to partition disks and format partitions today. I have quite a lot of code, which I've never run. What could possibly go wrong...

Hess III

I am

where shooting star

makes great impression.

I am Hess.

Mile 2

Writing pool poems

I reach for metaphor

through goggled eyes.

I want to compare

goggles to something,

say they're the students I teach.

36 times down and back

my water lenses keep my eyes ahead

what is a teacher with no one to learn?

Until finished I come up breathing in

greeted by a peer

"think deep thoughts" she inspires me to lap another.

We all were pupils once.

Now a whole school of us


Joey chatter

nice to be back in Berkeley! ;)

Learning through Teaching Poetry

Poetry class is really wonderful, for making me grow as a writer. Because I am explaining to them that much of the writing process happens in the mind, I have started adding poetry writing to my mile swim routine. I bring a journal in to the pool, think the poem into genesis during my laps, detail the line breaks in my mind, then when I get out of the water, before really even drying off, I compose the poem on paper. (Mile 1/ To splash your way forward/your motion propelled by/kicks and pulls./ What is the purpose of the pool?/ Formulaic held next to the ocean./ Together/ lappers/ sow/mechanically/seeds/of love./ We've circled the globe/ together.) This week I teach my third class, so I am early in my career. I was surprised at how many in the second class volunteered to read their poems. I am learning how much of teaching really is preparation just as writing really is connected to thinking and pre-written poems have more hope that they might hold the test of time. The teacher has said I am a great, enthusiastic, candid, humorous influence on her and her classes.
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The Market Gardener

The Market GardenerI kept hearing good things about The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier, but I put off picking the book up because I have no inclination to sell any of our homegrown food. Having now consumed this easy-to-read and gorgeously illustrated text, I now recommend it to just about every reader on this blog. If you're interested in producing food for a CSA or farmer's market, the book is a no-brainer. But it's also invaluable for intermediate-level home gardeners who want to streamline their production by focusing on techniques that really work.

Fortier's thesis is simple --- those of us gardening or farming on less than two acres need to minimize our startup costs, to focus on hand tools and light power tools, and to plan for high productivity in a small space using intensive methodology and season extension. He explains that you can expect to net between $30,000 and $50,000 per acre per year by working (long hours) for ten months selling directly to the public. His CSA, located in zone 5 of Quebec, for example, feeds 200 customers off 1.5 acres and pays his family's bills while also employing 3.5 workers in the process.

I won't go deeper into Fortier's methodology because the book is such a delight to read with its extensive drawings and short, punchy chapters that you're really better off going straight to the source. However, you probably will hear more about caterpillar tunnels here in later posts since The Market Gardener explained just the method I think I've been looking for to protect crops a bit more than quick hoops do, but without the permanence and expense of high tunnels or a greenhouse. So stay tuned to follow along with our experimentation in that direction this fall!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Universal plug polarity damage
trail camera trouble

We had some more deer damage that's starting to threaten our Fall garden.

I dug out the trail camera, didn't have batteries but noticed an external power hole, found a universal plug, selected the proper voltage and turned it on. The screen powered up, but then went blank with a slight burning smell. I'm pretty sure I got the polarity wrong on the plug and burned it out.....Ouch.....

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
How much hay do goats need for the winter?
Goat straining for hay

The world is green, the grass is lush...and now's the time to stock up on hay for the winter. But how much will we need?

You'd think that my relentless recordkeeping would have the answer to that question since we've already enjoyed one winter with goats. But we bought hay a bit at a time last year, and I have just a vague memory of using two bales per week for our herd of two during the peak of winter's cold. That was before we lowered our hay-wastage with a better manger, and I don't have solid estimates on hay usage during the shoulder seasons, though. So I'm not really sure how many bales we went through in the end and how that will relate to years to come.

Stacking hay

Luckily, the internet is always willing to come to the rescue. Various websites suggest that a full-size goat will eat about 5 pounds of hay per day and a dwarf will eat about 3 pounds per day. Since our goats are semi-dwarfs and I figure we have to feed them hay for about 6 months out of the year, I'm guessing we might need about 29 bales (roughly 50 pounds apiece, $6.50 per bale from the feed store).

On the other hand, good hay is much easier to find at this time of year than if you run out in March, so I'd really like to have more like 40 bales on hand for safety's sake. We've learned that our kidding stall holds 27 bales...but that the girls like to nibble down the edges (far more fun than eating out of the manger), bringing the actual stored total closer to 25 bales. Time to find a dry, accessible place to store another 15 bales of hay!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Peeing on the compost pile
Covered compost pile

One of my favorite things about having a traditional compost pile this year is that it makes it simple to use up all that high-nitrogen urine that often goes to waste on our farm. I figure about half our pee has made it onto the piles this summer, which has probably pushed the compost a little on the higher nitrogen side than was optimal.

How can I tell? When I forked through one pile to consolidate it with another, I found lots of black soldier fly larvae. These grubs usually show up in compost that's not quite optimally balanced, and they mean I probably should have added some extra ragweed or other carbon source to even things out.

On the plus side, the pee has made our compost piles decompose fast. Our two oldest piles, now merged into one, are in their final cooking stage, covered by plastic to keep excess rain at bay. I figure the summer's weeds (and pee) will result in maybe two to three wheelbarrows full of compost when all's said and done, or approximately 5% of the vegetable garden's needs for the year. Yes, it's a drop in the bucket, but a satisfying one!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Our first significant hazelnut harvest
Nibbled hazelnut

Last year, our hazelnuts weren't ready to pick until early September. But when I was weeding around the bush on Friday, I noticed a few clusters had fallen to the ground, and several of those nuts were gnawed open on one end. That's a classic dining pattern for flying squirrels, so I figured I'd better bring in any nuts that were ready ASAP!

Harvesting hazelnuts

Our hazelnut bush is now six years old, and this is our first significant harvest. After a little handpicking, I realized that the easiest method was to clear away the few weeds that had grown up through the cardboard beneath the bush, then to shake each limb vigorously. About half of the nuts dropped and were easy to pluck off the ground. I'll go back next week to try to beat the squirrels to the remaining clusters.

Hazelnut katydid

(Look who joined me in my harvest morning --- a beautiful katydid!)

Dehulling hazelnuts

Back at the trailer, I decided to dehull the nuts right away. Really, I would have been better off waiting for the hulls to dry since some required prying action to get the leafy lobes apart. But it's been so wet that I was afraid the nuts would mold in their shells, so I went ahead and dehulled, ending up with about a cup of hazels in the shell for this first batch. Not a whole lot, but pretty exciting since we only got five hazelnuts total last year!

Next year's hazelnut flowers

Meanwhile, back in the garden, our bush has already created proto-flowers to produce next year's nuts, as you can see if you look closely at the photo above. Except for the multi-year wait for the first harvest and the possible squirrel problem, hybrid hazels seem to be an excellent low-work food plant. I'm glad we set out three extra bushes last fall!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Rough girls
stanchion repair close up

I had to repair the milking stanchion again today.

Our girls can be rough when they want to be. The damage usually happens when they fight each other for what treats are left after milking.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Fall rains
Tickseed sunflower

The fall rains have come.

Wet feet

1.6 inches over the course of a week is close to average around here. But we'd enjoyed a couple of dry months this summer, so the returning water feels like both a relief and a surprise.

Mushroom in the rain

Of course, given how wet it was last winter, our soil never really dried six inches below the surface. But as a gardener starting fall crops, it's the surface that counts.

So hauling gets pushed back into the maybe-it'll-dry-again future and planting takes a front seat. Time to cover the compost piles so those nutrients don't leach away!

The mutual tooth: Voluntary Poetry Teaching Day One

Visiting poets are just not a big part of your average public high school experience. I'd extend that to say most private schools do not have us either. We exist here and there, volunteers who wish to spread enthusiasm for poetry with young people. After one day on the job I do recommend it with all of my heart. The experience is a win win. I plant seeds like a tooth fairy - ok mixed metaphor - and now I am sitting here thinking what beautiful things are going to grow where I put those (teeth?) New teeth of greater size? Flowers maybe.

My goal here is to expand the literacy of these students, but also the joie de vivre for writing, particularly for poetry. To my great fortune, I have so many good things going my way for this. A. The teacher is so exuberant, connected with her students, thrilled to have me there, yet steady and ready to steer us out of tangents or to find the lesson there. B. In the two classes I got exposed to so far, the students were ready already to read their poems aloud. C. I have this clear pristine faith in the poetic process magnified in a classroom and I see already growth occurring in my little seeds/teeth. D. I misspelled Whitman on the white-board. I just thought that was funny.

Not everyone is devoted to poetry the way I am but there are really enough poets in the world that any confident published poet reading this might be able to do the same thing I am. I feel so fulfilled, so ready to continue this semester of tooth planting. :) The amazing thing, the thing about education and literacy, is I know I am touching lives the way I feel somehow different. Maybe it sounds like I am jumping the gun in this sort of a celebration of my effect. But I believe in the mutual art of teaching. Maybe someday I will be the teacher, welcoming you into my room of twenty years, open to the ideas you add to it.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
When to plant a garden in zones
Tossing weeds

From a biological perspective, I prefer a patchwork-quilt garden. I don't like actual companion planting because I feel like the companions always compete with each other. But a bed of one vegetable surrounded by a bed of four other types of vegetables tends to break pest and disease cycles and also promote pollination (especially if you slip in a buckwheat or flower bed here and there).

Weeding between the tomatoes

On the other hand, there are issues with the patchwork-quilt approach. Watering can be tricky if you use overhead irrigation, so I already pull my tomatoes out to live in their own dry patch with drip irrigation. Major runners like winter squash and sweet potatoes often fare better if given a compound rather than a single bed since you can let the vines intermingle rather than begging them to stay on their own side of the garden. And I've Goats eating oatslearned the hard way that it's very difficult to graze goats on an oat cover crop if that grain is next door to overwinterers like garlic and kale that you don't want nibbled.

So I'm setting aside entire zones of the garden for goat grazing this winter...which means weeding under the current plants and scattering oat seeds this month. I've had good luck with this technique in the past amid tall summer crops like tomatoes and corn, so am pretty confident I can turn the entire forest and back gardens into goat-forage zones. But there are only two weeks left to plant if I want the oats to have time to grow before winter cold sets in. So for the rest of August, oats are a top priority!

Blogging Poetry

One of the best writers I ever met was a student at my alma mater. She was taking Appalachian Studies, but I never had met anyone with as much raw uninhibited quick talent as I saw in her. Why say but anyway? People can have talent beyond the borders of their major! We called her Sam. I got to know her through a poetry workshop writers had on Wednesdays. I hope she is pursuing her gift.

Anyway, the advice she gave me was to not share my poetry with my family. I would extend that to say don't share with the people the poetry is about. I have read so much lately I forget where I read this next thing. If there is some subject you shy from thinking about, that is what poets should write about. Also, I met Dorothy Alison around them, and she told me to write something to skin my teeth.

I have been writing a lot off of this blog. I have shared some of it with my family, but not all of it. Just good advice to pass on. And if you are interested in some grit, email me, or comment and I will pick one and pass it on.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 314 pre trip catchup

Did some work on Friday and Monday to let external special remotes be used in a readonly mode. This lets files that are stored in the remote be downloaded by git-annex without the user needing to install the external special remote program. For this to work, the external special remote just has to tell git-annex the urls to use. This was developed in collaboration with Benjamin Gilbert, who is developing gcsannex, a Google Cloud Storage special remote.

Today, got caught up with recent traffic, including fixing a couple of bugs. The backlog remains in the low 90's, which is a good place to be as I prepare for my August vacation week in the SF Bay Area, followed by a week for ICFP and the Haskell Symposium in Vancouver.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Tithonia, soybeans, and goats
Goat and Tithonia

Now's a good time to go out and look at experimental crops to see if they're worth growing next year. I started out my exploration by tethering Abigail between our little patch of Tithonia diversifolia and a big patch of weeds. Since Tithonia was meant to be a cover-crop/goat-fodder-crop, I didn't give the cuttings the TLC I usually offer this spring (although I did plant them in a very damp spot as instructed). Given my neglect, it's no big surprise that only about a third of the cuttings took off. The other two plants are much smaller, but you can see our largest Tithonia on the far right side of the photo above.

Did you also notice how Abigail has wandered off in the totally opposite direction? She preferred ragweed, red clover, and plantain within her tether-circle to the Tithonia, completely ignoring the latter's leaves after one taste. So while this cover crop clearly has potential in the tropics, I'm going to have to say it isn't worth babying as cuttings over the winter in a temperate climate. (At least not if you have spoiled goats like we do.)

Goat eating soybeans

Soybean podSoybeans, in contrast, have proven themselves to be not only a great cover crop but also a goat favorite. At first, Abigail picked off all of the high-protein leaves in the patch she was tethered near. But soon our smart goat learned that if she delved a little deeper, she could daintily pluck the half-filled pods off the stems instead.

While you're supposed to cook dried soybeans in some way before feeding them to animals (or people) due to phytates, our doe seems to love the raw-soybean treat at the endamame stage. I'd be curious to hear from someone more knowledgable than me. Do you think phytates in young soybeans are problematic, or are these more like green beans and snap peas --- pretty harmless and delicious when young?

Inside with _Poetry in Person_ on a Rainy Day

Reading a book listens in on a conversation

the longer you listen you are sucked into the scene

still as a picture on the wall

hoping they don't notice you there

poets in their natural environments

the metaphor would dud with your awkward interruption

no matter how charmingly you tipped your hat to them

or pretended to stare

into your period correct newspaper.

Ode to Listening

To read is to sit idly

observing others you do not know

until you understand them

better than their husbands

better than their daughters

better than themselves.


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