Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lest we forget

A friend sent me this link which goes along well with Memorial Day and expresses how many of us feel: Thank you, soldiers

Monday, May 03, 2010


Assuming all has gone well with sheep hoof trimming, worming and we don't lose any more cattle (lost two for different reasons last week), we are driving south to Tucson to get some work done on our house there followed by a short vacation in the red rock country of Northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Our time for any of it is limited as we have to leave the cats and all livestock here. Hopefully the fences will hold as our neighbor, who will keep an eye on the farm, would appreciate it as would we.

We also hope the new alfalfa feeder works that Farm Boss designed and made to feed the sheep alfalfa by a kind of a system that lets it drop down as they eat. The key thing there is that it lets fresh alfalfa drop down. The tallest bale is above my head and weighs 125 lbs. Since I hadn't been there when he put it up, I asked how he did it. When he said the old-fashioned way, I was impressed. If he expected anybody else to fill it (as in me), he'll have to come up with an easier loading system. It does look good though.

One drawback to turning our Tucson house into a vacation rental has been we now (tax laws) can only spend two weeks a year there for pleasure which is one reason we aren't taking the cats (the other is they hated it last time). Other than that, any trips have to be for maintenance. There is plenty of that to go once or twice a year but then what fun is it when it's all about work? Actually even before it became a vacation rental, we did seem to spend most time there doing maintenance.

This particular trip originally had been planned to get the air conditioning working as the evaporative (affectionately known as swamp) cooler is fine for most of the year (actually I prefer it), but no good at all come June through sometime in September when the high humidity makes an evaporative cooler not evaporate and swamp cooler becomes an unaffectionate term.

With our budget limitations, we had hoped that repair wouldn't be too costly; but from phone calls, it looked like it would require replacing the unit which is four times what we had available to spend. With all the talk about people boycotting Arizona we decided we cannot afford to put anything into the house that isn't required until we see how that all falls out.

Originally we had figured next year we'd get the same number of renters we had this winter and spring which would be enough to cover repair cost (plus property taxes, insurance, pool upkeep, and whatever else might be needed). But with all this talk of boycotts, what if nobody comes? What if current reservations are canceled? Responsibly speaking and because we don't operate on credit with anything, we had to cancel the job.

So the boycott talk has then already accomplished a goal of hurting an Arizona air conditioning business. Now the fact that those business owners likely had nothing to do with the law or that it might even be owned by Hispanics, well who cares. Boycotts are about making somebody else feel righteous who has no real interest in whether it accomplishes anything beyond that. I've read of plenty of them from right wingers; so only fair that here comes the left wing with one.

From a standpoint of someone who has had a hard time getting reservations at the Grand Canyon, I had at first thought selfishly the boycott might have some advantages for me; but then I saw one writer suggesting ways to visit there (federally owned and all the feds have done on the immigration issue is ignore it leading to our current situation) and not spend a penny in Arizona thereby punishing business owners and making sure state tax revenue takes a drop. Way to go!

Since, as an Arizona property owner but Oregon resident, I have no vote if this law is put to a referendum (which seems likely), there is no point in getting myself bent out of shape over what happens. I can see where some Arizona businesses though might not be so sanguine about now.

From what I am reading I think (besides those who are angry at Arizona) there are some who now fear Arizona is the Wild West which actually it kind of can be and always has been. You know it's a hard terrain, a land that has always known violence and traditionally at least demanded a tough people to hold onto it. I have said it's a land held by blood, and historically that's not far off the mark especially where it comes to the border.
[As an aside: There has been a lot of media hype over Arizona right now. It sometimes sounds like the rest of the country has come to believe Arizona is made up of racists, bigots, and those eager to abuse innocent people.

So for those of you who don't know the state, 28% of its lands are owned by Native Americans which includes many tribes but the largest reservation is Navajo in that red rock country which l will soon be enjoying again. Incidentally, such reservations regard themselves as separate nations with their own set of laws and regulations for who can be where. They do have real borders that are enforced. Approximately 42% of Arizona is federally owned, 13% state owned and only 17% privately owned. (These figures vary a little depending on where you see them but that is the general breakdown.)

Today, Arizona's population is estimated to be 6,595,778, but that won't be known for sure until the 2010 census comes out. It had also been estimated to have almost half a million people living there illegally (although with our employment problems, that might be less today). Of its population, most are white and by that I mean 60% of non-Latino descent and 30% white with Latino or Hispanic ancestry. (Hispanic/Latinos have, at least in the past, been considered white for purposes of census).

This issue is not about legal immigration as last year one million people, from all around the world became naturalized citizens. Most of those were from Mexico.

One could logically ask what Arizona was trying to do with this law. [Frank Rich did], but the facts are that there is a violent problem along its border with Mexico. Some compare it to our border with Canada, but how many gang shootings of police officers happen in Vancouver, BC? What is going on in Mexico is very different, and a lot of it does relate to drug traffic but not all of it. Unfortunately for America, the two problems are difficult to separate because those who bring up the illegal drugs also bring up those hoping for jobs. If you don't stop the traffic in one, you cannot in the other.

Americans have ignored a lot of this. Even some Arizonans haven't paid much attention if they avoid the rough border country and stick to their safe neighborhoods-- at least for now safe. Those who do understand what has been going on in neighborhoods closer to the problem sometimes see it otherwise: [An Arizona Hispanic's opinion on the Immigration Law].

I feel a little irritated with the view of Arizona that other states appear to be getting because most Arizonans peacefully live and work with those of other descents and cultures more than likely those naysayers. You go into any business in at least my part of Tucson and it's as likely to be owned or managed by an Hispanic as anybody else. Sure there are bigots in Arizona. Do you know anywhere there aren't?

When Farm Boss was going to Graduate School at the University of Arizona, we lived in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood (Barrio), attended a Catholic Church there, at night walked down for 19 cent hamburgers (which was a dinner out). None of it was different than living in any other neighborhood. But that was back before the border problems erupted, before those same homes had to put bars on their windows and fence even their front yards. It was back when you could visit Nogales, Sonora for a day of fun and not worry about being shot.

What Arizona has today is for now a small extension of what is going on in Mexico with the drug cartel wars which have led to killings, shooting police, beheadings and kidnappings-- just across a line that is still pretty porous too many places. [What led to this for those who haven't been keeping up on the news].

Now, not being an Arizona voter, all I know about the Arizona legislators who passed this law is they were all GOP (and most also voted for a birther bill until they backed off on it after the national outrage over their papers bill). If these Republicans were reacting to keeping their constituents safe or they were haters of all people not like themselves, I don't have any way to know.

The fact is that something is badly wrong in Arizona when you have things like this: [Smugglers found after shooting deputy]. Not many states would look kindly on having a gang that size shooting it out with their police using AK-47s. I have talked before about how the border region has changed and how much more careful you have to be when going there.

One example is a rugged, beautiful desert area a bit northwest of Tucson which, over many many years, I have spent a lot of time exploring arroyos, looking for photo ops, sketching, finding interesting rocks, or just driving the gravel roads. We were there with our children when they were small as we wanted them to have a love of the desert also. That was before it became a corridor for the illegal traffic. A couple of years ago, in that same area, I read about the executions of a 'cargo' of humans probably in a dispute between rival coyotes. (And cargo is how coyotes regard and treat humans-- just like the drugs they also bring across.) As you can imagine, when I go there now, as I still do occasionally, it's with a lot more caution.

A Pinal County (between Tucson and Phoenix) police officer spoke on a news program saying that about 16-17% of the illegals his county detains have criminal records. I frankly do not think that would be anywhere near that high in Oregon which means a lot of the traffic in that area is about the drug trade and its community.

If the Arizona law is either repealed by voters or overturned by the courts, which seems pretty likely to me, will the nation then do something about the problem which as it stands is unfair both to Arizona and the workers? Or will it feel sanctimonious as it continues to profit from the unfair situation that it has helped create through its illegal drug use and desire for cheap labor? ]
For those who don't know it, Tucson itself is multicultural. Its heritage is Native American (Tohono O'odham, Yaqui, Pima, Apache, and prehistorically Hohokam), Mexican, and the Old West all of which it proudly celebrates whenever it gets a chance. I love it and have called it my soul home; but one that I may have to release because of its distance from Oregon. It's just so far to drive and leaving a vehicle there didn't prove to be practical due to predation-- pack rat predation that is.

Anyway our reason now for going is taking down a rug that we purchased through eBay to replace the living room rug which has sadly deteriorated from age and maybe the heat. The new one is also an Oriental rug but should last better. We hope. The other one has been putting red dust from its weave all over everything.

We will also make sure the drip irrigation is working well, as best we can with javelina and rabbits that can so easily disrupt it, work on the xeriscape desert landscaping, and try to get the ducting in the house thoroughly cleaned to make it easier for our neighbor to do the cleaning between guests in the future-- assuming there are any.

After that it's indefinite where we will go except for one for sure destination--Monument Valley. We may stop at Kayenta and see Betatakin also but that will depend on the available time. Everything will depend on how fast we can get the work done and maybe whether anybody actually canceled their reservations at Bright Angel Lodge, you know, the rim cabins with a fireplace, looking out over the Grand Canyon where they are booked up years in advance. Actually I'm kidding. It's out of our way, over our budget, so we won't really go there; but not kidding I'd like to stay in one of them someday.

Although I will take desert photos when in Tucson, because of being busy with work, and uncertainty about internet access, I plan to take the next month off from blogging. I wanted to let regular readers know that all is well, but I feel I need a break.


When I wrote what is above, I thought I was done with this topic and then along came something else which some may rant about as further evidence of Arizona's bigotry toward Hispanic/Latinos: [Arizona rules regarding Ethnic Study Classes]. Since I don't want to repeat it all here, please read it, and then come back.

I understand the value of teaching people to be proud of their heritage; but typically, other than world and United States history, that used to be done by the family and community. I don't remember any classes in French heritage when I was in school or Irish when my children were. How many such classes would it take considering that most Americans, like myself, are cultural mongrels.

Of course, in this case, we are talking about probably the largest minority in the United States which could even someday become the majority. I heard Bill Richardson, ex-governor of New Mexico, who is Hispanic, discussing the Arizona immigration law (which he didn't like) and citizenship rules which he said should include the ability to speak English. Some probably would disagree with that. Well, if someday the Spanish speaking community is the largest, they can rethink the rules of what the dominant language is. For now, it's English and it does not help children to stop them from learning to speak it fluently. If someday it's Spanish, I will think then everybody should be able to speak it.

The questions being raised in all of this though bring up a more salient point for Americans. What does it mean to be an American? We have always had a great pride in coming from many places but then becoming Americans. Is that still true? Should a public school teach separatism or encourage revolution? If your answer is, it is fine to do that or it doesn't matter as youths explore many things, would you say the same thing if it was coming from tea partiers?

What Americans need to consider is a cultural question for us all. Is it really xenophobic to want to have an American culture made up of many cultural dynamics but predominantly an American one? Is it even possible anymore?

Then in this particular order from the governor, can someone teach an English class who cannot speak English without an accent difficult to understand? Is such a rule onerous?

The questions raised by Arizona in education is one not just for them. Is there an American culture anymore? Should there be one? Do we want to be one nation or do we want to be a series of cultural enclaves where we all feel safe? Can schools impact any of this? If we don't want to break apart as a nation, we maybe better figure out how we avoid that because the desire to separate isn't just coming from one sector.

Personally, I think too often schools are not spending enough time on the basic subjects that youths will need to compete in the world (whatever ethnicity they are). Yes, I also understand the need for children to feel cultural pride; but I'm an old woman raised on the idea that we should be Americans first and our cultural pride in our ancestry comes after that. It's why our families came here, isn't it? Or it is really just about money?

You could make a case that Arizona even having such a rule for ethnic classes shows how xenophobic they are. I mean why would anybody even think teachers would be encouraging revolution? Except, for a long time I have read, and pretty much dismissed, the concern regarding a separatist movement within the Hispanic community where the talk was supposedly of taking back what they feel was theirs and forming a nation called [Aztlan]. How likely this possibility is might be debated, but the issue here is should such thinking be promoted in any public school? If you don't think it should, then there is no problem with Arizona's rules.

Anyone who raises questions like these is being called names like bigot, xenophobe, or hater. I know I am not. I consider all people to be just people; and they prove their worth by what they do, not by skin color, accent, or who their parents were. My own family is proudly multi-racial as are many American families. I want for all children a good education that enables them to someday support themselves with good jobs-- assuming our country gets those back.

Anyway on this topic, there can be no debate from readers, at least not here, because since I will be gone a month, I am going to temporarily turn off comments. This is to avoid my email being swamped by spam requests when I get my few chances to be online and because of my inability to respond here on this topic or any from the past). So I posed these questions simply as something for readers to think about. Deciding where we stand, once we get past the hyperbole, is important for our country.

I know most of you already know this, but most media is there to get ratings. Newspapers and those on the air generally care more about those numbers than whether they help us improve our lives. Since they are advertising based, they must. Sadly, they profit from rage. It's up to us to recognize hype when we hear it, use our commonsense, and sometimes just turn the anger talk off.

In the month ahead, I am looking forward to spending time in nature, taking lots of photographs, maybe doing a painting or two, listening to good music, digging in the dirt, planting some plants, hiking, cleaning a house, and seeking hozho. I am going to try hard to forget about politics because for now there's not a darned thing I can do about any of it except get mad and that only hurts me. I am sure I'll get online off and on, read emails, check Facebook, and read a few blogs even when not posting here; but if you are writing about politics or anger, I'll skip that as, especially given the horror of the oil spill in the Gulf, I am sick of it all.

And one more thing that I don't say as often as I think it. I appreciate all of you who read this blog, who sometimes comment here. If you have a blog of your own, you know how much the comments mean whether they agree or disagree. But whether you comment or not, it's that you come and check it out that makes me feel good, and I thank you. Hopefully see you in June with some photos of the Arizona I love. Hasta luego.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Something to read

Not that I want to come across as consistently spreading a negative message, but I had this one scheduled for awhile before I realized I should write about the one before it. They actually do go together.

The following link is a comparative history of what happened in the Soviet Union with what appears, to the author, a Russian immigrant who is now a citizen of the United States, to be happening here. If you don't have time to read this entire essay, skip to the end as it has some possible suggestions to consider if the worst happens. The way we are going-- left and right, the worst might well be here sooner than we might have wished.

People who think something like that could never happen here are those who have never studied the history of other cultures. It seems to me that a lot of our country has not only gone soft but nutty without a real grasp of what it takes to survive in the world. People think they can live forever on past techniques for prospering.

Chaos from our information sources is almost total. You can choose to listen to somebody who will tell you exactly what you want to hear (Fox & MSNBC equal opportunity anger machines), but can you get real information?

Some folks are counting on a cosmic Santa to provide for them (and that isn't just among believers in a god). People feel removed from a more elemental time of cause and effect where consequences were more apparent or came faster. It's kind of amazing how fast this happened, how few generations it took to get here. If you assume the way it always was is the way it always will be, you are unprepared for change.

Politically, I think there is a lot wrong with our system for dealing realistically with any problem. Everything is phrased in partisan terms which makes it hard to fix anything which means most of it won't be fixed even though it will publicized that it was-- until the next catastrophe. The divide between rich and poor grows. The divide between left and right has widened. Frankly I am not thrilled with for what either party stands leaving people like me in a kind of unmarked territory-- political orphans.

Ignoring the current political paralysis, just think about the economic travails, climate shifts, possible pandemics, natural disasters, violent bomb attacks, and who knows what could come. I hope Orlov is wrong, but he's worth reading just in case he's not. It's not about paranoia. It's about preparedness, a practical awareness that sometimes we have to look after ourselves and nobody else will do it for us.

Most people are woefully unprepared for any kind of difficult time. They count on grocery stores always being open, gasoline in plentiful time, safe water from their tap, mass communication, banks supplying trading cash, electricity, police showing up to protect them, and medical care that works. It has not always been that way. For an assortment of reasons, there might come a time ahead where it won't be again.

I know people prefer reading something more upbeat. It can be enervating to think on how vulnerable our way of life might be; but not facing things won't help if bad times lie ahead. Having a plan, being prepared might make the difference between sitting and waiting to die or surviving, and it doesn't do a thing to ruin today.

The pair of geese at the top have been coming (or their offspring) to the farm in the spring for years now. Last year there were six of them but this year I have only seen this pair. They are always so alert to danger even when seemingly resting. If one does nap, the other watches. The cattle and sheep mix with them and no problem; but they know where the real risks might come-- and it's from humans.