Thursday, July 25, 2013

Working man's rant

The world has changed, radically since I was a kid. My formative years occurred in the 1960's. Back then most families I was aware of lived in homes where Mom was the housewife and Dad worked, driving the one family car. Yes, I had what is now considered a privileged upbringing, but I went to public school and my Mom sewed all my clothes. This was middle class, a small Cape Cod house with one car garage in the suburbs, annual two week vacations at the local beach and casseroles on the table.

My Dad single-handedly supported our family with one job that also took care of him; weekly paychecks, a Christmas bonus, health insurance and finally a retirement package.There is nothing today resembling this kind of work life anymore. America, the profitable land of capitalism has finally managed to make redundant the human being within its business structure. Humans are now considered the unreliable machine, under performing against exorbitantly unrealistic production levels and then discarded. Companies hardly even need to choose from the starving, bill ridden throng waiting at the HR gate, hoping for any job, at any paltry pay rate and limited benefits. Lots of people work several jobs just to survive. Most never qualifying for any benefits because company policies restrict their hours to come in just below the number needed to meet the benefit threshold. How can that be okay?!

The bigger slap in the face comes when an employee gets discharged a month before his 55th birthday, you know some excuse about downsizing. No one hires a 55 year old. Especially not when there is a whole generation of 20-30 somethings with all sorts of college degrees and school loan payments that will work for less than their value, so as not to default on those loans. Capitalist America duped a couple generations of young people into that forever trap of debt. Many are "overqualified" for work with those expensive degrees, what?! Yeah overqualified, as if in depth knowledge and skills somehow makes a human not able to work... No, what overqualified means is, bottom line worshiping companies do not want to pay what the educated person is worth, plain and simple. Even though every corporate head swore the college educated candidate was the applicant they were looking for.

Here's an angle my company uses to ensure the bottom line is protected, they hire the most abrasive/abusive person they can find as a manager, then move her around throughout the company. Corporate bigwigs like to target departments with a higher percentage of long term employees (expensive wages) or those closer to retirement, then they send in their "rabid dog" manager. Work becomes miserable, seriously, really, really bad... there is no sense to the carnage that ensues. Schedules are randomly changed, work areas demolished and not to mention the rabid manager's talent for the public humiliation of workers. Nothing like being screamed and spit at, then being given the option to quit.... What makes this okay?! Upper corporate management obviously knows about the rabid manager, there have been numerous complaints, yet she stays and lots of good workers quit. So, perversely, this situation works to the advantage of the company.

Hey workers, help is coming... No really! This isn't a ploy.
President Obama is giving speeches around the country in an effort to strike a compromise with Congress by going public and personal with the American citizen. The Kansas City Star reports, "He called for a restoration of what he described as an implicit American bargain that rewards hard work with security and more fairly shares the spoils of the world’s largest economy. Further the President said, “We still live in an upside-down system” that rewards the rich for saving, but not the poor and middle class.

Well, these are totally obvious statements to anyone currently working at the employee level. I would venture that no one in the millionaire rich Congress has any actual working knowledge of life as an employee, hence they bicker and sit in their Congressional chairs with pay and excellent benefits, accomplishing NOTHING. You know if I did that, I'd be fired... Mr. President you can keep singing the dream of the "implicit American bargain," but if corporations and Congress aren't going to sing harmony, it ain't gonna happen.

Read more here:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beating the heat

With the blazing heat continuing outside, I have spent a bit of time knitting up some unfinished projects. I try not to have too many UFO's accumulate, but somehow they do. There is the occasional knitting project that "misbehaves" and needs a time out, mostly to allow me to become enthused about it again. As you fellow knitters know, there are any number of reasons yarn & needles get shoved into a bag in the back of the closet:  a wonky pattern, irascible yarn or simply enough, you lose interest. A little time in the dark and voila! I can face the knitting challenge again or at least, having become less invested in the project, just rip it out.

This cowl was a "lost interest" project, because the yarn was divine and the pattern was a simple four row repeat. I had bought the yarn, Classy with cashmere (70% superwash merino wool/ 20% cashmere/ 10% nylon) in the Bermuda teal color, during a moment of impulse attempting to ward off a funky mood post snowstorm this past Spring. The project started nicely, but then Spring really happened and I was outside playing in the yard all the time. Hence, about three inches of this lovely, one skein, Eyelet Lace Cowl languished in a bag in my closet for several months. (See my local yarn store at  from which I got the pattern). Well, now it's done and will be so cuddly and warm, perfect for the Fall chill. Which I so am looking forward to!

The dogs are so different in their responses to the heat. Wendy, the cocker spaniel, would just as soon stay inside and lounge in her dog bed. Emma Beagle, on the other hand, is out in the yard digging and hoping to chase a wayward cottontail rabbit. At this point, the backyard has enough significantly deep holes that we may need to do some extensive additional yard art to make it safe to walk across the lawn...

A couple of years ago we discovered Emma Beagle is very fond of digging for underground predators. Dogs generally have one of two digging styles in my experience, either large foxhole-like pits or trenching; long skinny holes. Emma is a trencher. She spent most of one day on this magnificent trench that extended about fifteen plus feet into the backyard. Rather than fill it with dirt, which probably would have been re-dug anyway, my son placed bricks in the hole. It turns out that Emma is quite an artistic trencher because we ended up with a lovely spiral in the back yard. We spray painted the bricks yellow and now possess our own "yellow brick road." Oddly enough, she has never dug another hole anywhere near these bricks, so the idea of continuing the yard art works in our favor.

Here's to keeping cool and enjoying the Summer!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Inspiring harvest

The heat is back on after a couple of days respite. We greeted the day with 90F (32C) and 59% humidity. There have been a few scattered mini showers lasting only long enough to dampen the soil and create the wonderful rainy, "wet pavement" smell. The pair of house finches displaced by a marauding raccoon came back to perch on the branch from which the birdhouse is hung. I assume they were surveying the damaged nesting material pulled and hanging out the birdhouse opening. They then spent some time eating thistle seed from the sock feeder, so I imagine they are not leaving the garden. Life goes on in nature...

I had a modest harvest of veg today. It is quite gratifying to actually grow your own food. The French radishes with their lovely pink and white tint, grow well in our heat and do not become so spicy they are inedible. The yellow pear tomatoes and the romas are starting to ripen. I am hoping to get enough to cook up and preserve as pasta sauce for use this winter. That event will surely make for an interesting blog post as my only caning experience is with apples for applesauce.The garden gives challenges as well as bounty.

The thunderclaps have started and it is now absolutely pouring down rain. Always a welcome garden event and at the very least cleaning the road dirt from plant leaves. The gladiolas have started to bloom, oddly enough singularly instead of en masse. Their colors are always a surprise and I tend to think they magically change colors from year to year. I know that is probably not true but their blooms are always a technicolor treat. The pinky-yellow one here by the knockout rose, which I swear has never been this shade before, is absolutely lovely. With my blog documentation, I can now keep track of these bloomin' glads and will definitely check color locations next year. Truly though, I love them no matter what color bloom they sport. Gladiolas grow well here with minimal attention, mainly just staking the droopy flower spikes with bamboo sticks and pipe cleaner twist ties. Even though our Midwest winters can be brutal, I do not pull out the bulbs, instead I just throw a little extra leaf mulch over their growing areas in the Fall. This year I'll probably toss around some bone meal too, for an extra bloom boost next season.

 As I've said in a previous post, I add new multicolored gladiola bulbs every Spring and purchase more bamboo stakes to add to my collection. The garden becomes larger every year with brilliant patches of color from the bulbs, daylillies and divided perennials. My initial goal was to feed the bees and hummingbirds with my plantings, but I also feed my soul with the beauty and amazing environment of the garden.

Garden philosophy

Well, it has been a while since my last post... Summer has truly blossomed here, both plants and the heat have come on in a big way. The balloon flowers are bursting with blue stars, echinacea flowers are swaying under the weight of honeybees and I have had to share the abundance of green beans with the neighbors. The intensity of life in the garden is amazing when I take the time to sit and watch. Creatures and plants are in their annual race to produce before winter; some make it and others do not. The circle of life is a tough task master and the garden is a perfect place observe and learn a bit from nature.

As humans, we usually have the luxury of a significant lifespan. Initially, we are cared for and play throughout our childhood; dance with passion through our teens & twenties; slow down to procreate by our third decade; then blurry-eyed, lose another decade raising our offspring. We spend close to forty years working for a master other than ourselves; doing tasks which do not necessarily increase our survival odds. Once we  manage to take time off for our own benefit, having saved enough money to retire, it is then we realize we do not have a significant block of time left to accomplish our dreams or"produce before our last winter." Shocking how the time flies, but consider the brief lifespan of the honeybee or hummingbird, we have so many more seasons than they, yet do we truly use this time as wisely?
House finch eggs (actual size) from media cache on Pinterest

In the garden life unfolds quickly and irreversibly. Last night, a raccoon pulled the finch nest out of the birdhouse in the sugar maple and a solitary, tiny, blue egg lay in the birdbath. There will be one less finch in the world and the loss of the egg was of benefit only to the ants. A small reminder of the senselessness of chance and the paucity of options. I am the only mourner for the egg...

The Dalai Lama discusses the human tendency to foster the illusion of permanence, which allows us to think there is always lots of time remaining. Instead, such as in my garden reality, life is changing from moment to moment demonstrating the overwhelming truth of impermanence. The Dalai Lama reflects on this truism of impermanence with the meditative analogy,"Ordinary happiness is like dew on the tip of a blade of grass, disappearing very quickly." He explains the dewdrop vanishing illustrates impermanence and demonstrates it is "under the control of other forces, causes and conditions."

Perhaps stepping out of the house and into the garden we may appreciate and experience these bold processes of nature and adjust our mindset to the precious impermanence of life. Dance among the flowers of the garden and take the time to direct our personal works to greater productivity.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Post holiday

Hoping all had a relaxing July 4th holiday, time off seems to fly by with the extra busywork any celebration creates. We had a lovely chicken & bratwurst barbeque; which fortunately I had remembered to purchase  at the meat market on Tuesday, avoiding the "elbowing lines" right before the holiday. I did have to run out, at the last minute, to pick up more asparagus for the chilled salad but the produce department is much less popular than the local meat and liquor departments here. The weather co-operated and the fireworks were beautiful. Today of course, it is back to work for most of us...

I am channeling the calm of the garden today before even thinking about my shift at work tonight. Temperatures are back at a muggy 84F (29C) with a slight overcast haze which might indicate some thunderstorms later. Today is my first picking of green beans, homegrown! I am very pleased at the size and quantity. I'm still learning about growing veg and this first harvest feels very successful. This bunch will be steamed and served with leftover barbeque chicken tonight for dinner.

The tomato plants are loaded with greenies but a few tomatoes have a bit of blush. I'm thinking it will be at least another week for their harvest. So far, no splits or black spots on the fruit. I have been carefully fertilizing every couple of weeks and have twice applied some ground egg shell for calcium. We save egg shells year round to blenderize into calcium powder for the tomatoes and compost heap. No sense in paying for a bag of calcium when I am buying eggs weekly...

The honeybees have made an appearance en masse, finally. I think the local wild hives are just now starting to recuperate from a tough winter and the drought last summer. They no longer cluster at the humming bird feeders and are happily visiting their usual food favorites:  balloon flowers, echinacea and lawn clover. The big wooly bumblebees have arrived too, so I am hopeful for a fruitful pollination season.

The hummingbirds have been somewhat scarce this season. The one female is still here, but there are only a couple of males. Nothing like past years when there would be constant squeaky, bickering fights over the rights to each feeder. I was lucky to get a photo of the drab female Ruby-throat hummer at her favorite feeder near the front porch. She had a nest in the neighbor's black birch tree and hopefully hatched a couple of baby hummers.

The gladiolas have started to bloom and soon I will have a riot of color. These solitary ones were bulbs from years ago I thought had rotted. I must say the garden always surprises me. I also thought glads were too tender to survive our harsher winters but they return annually. I enjoy their amazing colors and add about 60 to the yard every Spring. The bulbs are always mixed colors so every season gives the garden a different look. Frequently, I will have to stake the heavily laden flower spikes with bamboo and use craft chenille stems, cut into thirds, as twist ties. It's definitely a flower party in parts of the yard. Once the masses bloom I will post more photos.

This weekend I plan to work in the backyard. It has been a bit neglected with all the exciting veg gardening out front. Our fruit trees are bearing up under their load but the blueberries have been a bust this year. I will need to dig them up and replant them in a trough of peat for better production over the next few years. The lone surviving raspberry has produced three red berries, of which I ate two and shared one. I love raspberries but I am not sure I have any talent with them. I will have to do more studying about their culture. For now, I guess I will still be purchasing my raspberry jam from Aldi.