Saturday, June 25, 2016

Views from Woodpecker Flats

                                                 Views from Woodpecker Flats

There are seven trailers,an RV and a bus on Woodpecker Flats in various stages of relative habitability. Five trailers and the RV are lived in and the bus is a semi-lived in workshop.

                                          This hand points the way to the garden.
                                                            My Victory Garden

                                                          A Garden Trail    

                                           Now legal in an Oregon Garden

Remains of old art projects, beginnings of new projects or just junk. Sometimes it is hard to tell.

                                                             A Stoned Bear
Big Ben Meets Salvidor Dali in the Garden
                                                   Direction and Orientation

                                                Garden art or artful garden?

                                This is how the garden looked during last winter's rains.

Our Backyard

Friday, May 20, 2016

An Open Letter to Democratic Party "Regulars"

   An Open Letter to Democratic Party "Regulars"
by Zvi Baranoff

I am an American, born and bred. Like most Americans I know, I have a healthy distrust of the political process in general and professional politicians in particular. Nonetheless, I take part in the process, as flawed as it is. I have voted for Democrats. I have voted for Greens. I have voted for Libertarians. I have actively worked on campaigns for candidates I could really get behind. At times I have passively supported candidates because they were not as bad as the "other guy". I have sat out elections when not voting seemed to be the best choice.

The Democratic Party's unofficial slogan - We Are NOT Republicans - really is not appealing enough on it's own to get my whole-hearted support. I am an independent, free thinking person. I'm a lower case "d" democrat. Democracy is a pretty good idea all told and in a more perfect world perhaps the Democratic Party would reflect democratic values in a way which would encourage me to be a upper case "D" Democrat, but that's just not the way it is. In the world as it is, the Democratic Party is an odd coalition and I am, uncomfortably at times, an on again, off again, member of that coalition.

I am currently registered as a Democrat and I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Oregon Primary. I like Bernie and respect Bernie. If Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination I will certainly be a passionate supporter and probably vote for most of the Democratic ticket as well. If things turn out differently, I will keep my options open. Bernie Sanders may influence my vote but he will not control it.

The pundits and analysts do not seem to understand either Bernie Sanders or the nature of his supporters. Try as you might to write Bernie Sanders off as some sort of Utopian, but he is not. Sanders is strategic and pragmatic. I am a Sanders supporter but I am not particularly pragmatic. I am a Utopian and perhaps quite a few other Sanders supporters are Utopians as well.

The Sanders campaign has stirred me enough to catch my interest and give me hope for political progress but as a Utopian my loyalty to strategy will only go so far. My support for Sanders is contingent and nontransferable. The Democratic Party wants my vote, but cannot simply assume to have it. I need to be convinced one election at a time. I have other choices. Utopians have the freedom to act unpredictably, disconnected as we may be from pragmatism. We are motivated by passion and vision. And we are a disorganized element with no leadership. I can speak only for myself because that is what it is like to be an independent, free thinking individual.

I do understand that in the upcoming general election, the next person elected President of the United States will be the person at the top of either the Democratic or the Republican ticket. I am pragmatic enough to know that the "Not Republican" is probably a better option than the Republican. That said, we survived Republican administrations before and four years of Trump would certainly be unfortunate but it would not be the end of the world.

Is the Democratic Party pragmatic enough to understand they have no lock on my vote? I won't be voting for Trump but I always have other choices than voting for the lesser evil. I could just stay home and bake cookies. That's an option you know. Or I could join together with other independent, free thinking individuals and actively rock the vote by supporting an alternative to the Two Parties That Are One. When it is time to place the final bets for this election, how much is the Democratic Party willing to gamble that folks like me will fall in line?

When the Democratic Convention takes place in Philadelphia neither of the two candidates will have enough elected delegates to gain the nomination. Super Delegates are faster than a speeding bullet and can leap tall buildings with a single bound. The Super Delegates will decide which candidate will be at the top of the ticket. The American voters however will choose who is elected in the General Election come November and the Democratic Party cannot win without the support of a significant number of independent voters.

Democratic Party Regulars, you don't know me and probably don't know many like me. Certainly you don't think about folks like myself often, if at all, but you really should. Independent, free thinking individuals ultimately make or break any organization and independent, free thinking individuals determine the outcome of elections...and there are millions of us!

So the Democratic Delegates will meet in Philly - elected Delegates and Super Delegates - but there will also be the Delegation of the People in the streets and the Democratic Party would be wise to pay serious attention to that unelected, self-appointed Delegation of independent, free thinking individuals because they may be the Delegates that ultimately count the most. The Super Delegates can help choose Bernie Sanders to lead the Democratic Party through the election, win the Presidency, gain control of the Senate and improve the Party's position in the House. Or they can place a dangerous bet that may backfire beyond the Party's worst nightmares. The Delegation of the People will be there to remind the Super Delegates - all upper case "D" Democrats - that they need the lower case "d" democrats with them in November.

Democratic Party Regulars, you need to get out your best divination tools and conjure up the spirit of the ultimate insider and true Machiavellian, Lyndon Johnson, because LBJ understood how to build winning coalitions and learned firsthand what happens when a coalition unravels. Here is the question to ask the ghost of LBJ; Concerning the unaffiliated, the independents, the outsiders, the rabble, is it better to have these people inside the tent pissing out or outside the tent pissing in?

LBJ knew all about the big tent and what it feels like when folks like me decide to stay out and piss in. That is how his administration came to it's unfortunate end. That was a long time ago but as Democratic Party Regulars, you must surly know your own history. Now is the time to determine your future. Philadelphia may be the sight of a great Democratic Party or it might just turn into a pissing contest. It is really a matter of choice.

See you in Philadelphia.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

New Mythologies and Musing from the Garden In Oregon

Any comparison to Thoreau's Walden need be colored by this fact. In 1844, on a camping trip, Thoreau accidentally set fire to 300 acres of the Concord woods. What a screw up! I have never done anything like that! 

The photos were grabbed off the Internet. I have asked for and received no permission to use them

Oregon Musing 

“Let us cultivate our garden.” 
― Voltaire 

We arrived at Woodpecker Flats on April Fools Day. Dave was fool enough to invite us to stay and we are fools enough to have taken him up on it. How we got to this place at that time is open to interpretation. The story cannot be told in a straight line. The myths that we choose to live by are the myths that we create for ourselves.

So, this is the story about how Alachua Habitat for Humanity in Florida made us homeless and how we came as refugees to Oregon and became pioneers ending homelessness and hunger through direct action. O.K. It's more complicated than that, but we can elaborate further later on. First, these musings from our Oregon garden.

Too much water or not enough? The same question for fertilizer and sunshine.

The real garden question is: How do the deer prefer their vegetables grown?

We are living at Woodpecker Flats located on nine acres in O'Brien, Josephine County, southern Oregon, near the junction of Loony Mountain Road and No Way, not real far north of the California borderline. It is largely wooded - predominantly pine, manzanita (which I am told is related to the blueberry) and more - with some clearings.

The manzanita fruit is edible and has a pleasant tartness, but it causes gastrointestinal upset if eaten in large quantities. It is not much like a blueberry.

The property owner is an esoteric artist. There are some random sculptures and the remains of some old projects including a tree-house that has fallen out of the tree and the Bus Stop to Nowhere.

I began my share of tera-forming with some trails and garden patches. The ground is hard, iron rich and very rocky. I have "harvested" piles of rocks and have incorporated them into garden walls, terraces and a sculpture entitled Big Ben Meets Salvador Dali in the Garden.

Inspiration for my sculpture.

We received some seed packs from a local food bank and some more from a friend in town. Liz had a tin with a variety of seeds marketed as a "Survivalist supply. So, veggie and flower seeds in hand, we are off and running...

My initial garden idea was to create a living art project. Nice, comfortable strolling paths with artistically placed edible plants and flowers along the way. The local deer seem to appreciate the effort. They like to eat the tops off of plants. Marigolds - yum! So now, we have wire fencing around and over everything with the hope that the deer, the bugs, the birds, the wild monkeys (just seeing if anyone is still paying attention) will leave something for us to harvest...and clearly not enough protection. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Fourteen tomato plants decapitated. Peas nearly annihilated. More wire.

I have been told that this region has one of the largest concentration of deer in North America. This may be true. I had an extended conversation with a fairly large deer one recent morning. I asked him if he didn't have enough other things to eat without messing with the garden. He scoffed.

Summer was hot and dry which I assume is about normal. One day, as we sat outside discussing deep thoughts and abstract philosophy we hear a clunk from inside the camper. On examination we find that a glass bottle of olive oil - extra virgin, organic - exploded from the heat. Glass particles and oil everywhere. Glad we were outside.

Josephine County has almost no local government. There is a volunteer Fire Department. The library is funded by donations - it receives no County money - and, the local branch is only open 13 hours a week. I heard recently of a (non-fatal) shooting with a Sheriff Department response time of two hours! Don't know if that is true but it seems plausible. I was told this by a woman who claimed to be a Volunteer Sheriff and Fire Fighter. (She had a handgun on her hip.) She also told me that a tiger had escaped from the local Wild Cat facility, mated with an indigenous cougar and now there are two cubs (tougars?) wandering around. Hmm...seems unlikely to me. What about you? Which reminds me of the story about the guy who walks into a bar with a giraffe...

This police car is parked at the blinking light.

I have yet to see a cougar or a bear although I am told that both are present. We have had close encounters with deer, hummingbirds, a jack rabbit, snakes, lizards and other sorts of flying, buzzing, hopping, squirming and crawling creatures. And oh yes, that rattle snake certainly got my attention and respect.

The night sky here is incredible! Stars, stars, and more stars. Star travel? Alien visitors? Why not? And it is quiet. Not much traffic in the daytime and even less at night. There are sounds of wild creatures. Also sometimes you hear a neighbor's rooster and there is a donkey nearby that likes to bray. And there is the occasional gunfire - pop, pop, pop - I guess because they can, There was a large amount of helicopter summer traffic. There is a forest fire out there...

July First something miraculous happened. In gardens all over Oregon tomato plants metamorphosed into cannabis plants. According to a new Oregon law, every household MUST grow four marijuana plants. I think that's the law. I know it is something like that. Anyway, glory be, we found four marijuana plants growing in our veggie plot. Thank God for marijuana.

I have begun dismantling an old trailer, saving parts, particularly windows. I have a pile of old tires and a collection of bottles and jars. We intend to build an Earthship greenhouse. It is possible to grow even tropical plants year-round if you get it right. I saw a video of pineapple growing in an Earthship in Canada! Commercial greenhouse? Starter plants? Exotic vegetables? Indeed, why not? Well...have you ever filled even ONE tire with dirt? It is very labor intensive. For labor we have one old man and for tools we have a wheelbarrow and a shovel. We had a few filled before the rains start.   

And then October came and as it went it began to rain. It hasn't stopped yet and Woodpecker Flats has become a river. Much of the garden and all of the paths have washed by our door and our camper has become Huck Finn's raft. We shall see where it floats to. The deer still find us charming and amusing and it is time to start the spring garden.