Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Catfish, a documentary

When I ordered 'Catfish' from Netflix, I thought it'd be interesting because it's about the internet and how easily relationships and identities can be faked. I knew a lot of such stories from years of being in chat rooms.

Spoiler
will follow after the Netflix blurb; so if you expect to order it, don't read more here but please come back after you have seen it as I'd like to hear your take. It is not everyone's cup of tea though; so I won't say I recommend it even as I will say I, Farm Boss too, enjoyed it a lot, more than especially he expected.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman document the strange series of events that unfolds when a gifted 8-year old painter named Abby contacts Nev, a 24-year-old photographer (and Schulman's brother), through Facebook. After Abby sends Nev a remarkable painting based on one of his photos, Nev begins corresponding with her family -- including her seductive 19-year-old sister. Realizing that something's not quite right, Nev sets out to uncover the truth.
As the film, to begin mostly interviews on a webcam, unfolded, I thought I won't write about it here because it's simply too sad, too upsetting as a story, but then it went beyond that to a human connection with need, with the desire to be appreciated, and how our yearning for that can lead us to both create and believe things that aren't what they seem. It can lead to creating a reality that doesn't exist and with the internet, it is possible to bring someone else along for the ride.

First of all the gist of the story is as the blurb explains. It's hard to say for sure but it looks like the beginning idea of the filmmakers, Henry and Ariel, probably was to show relationships online and how it was impacting the life of Ariel's brother, Nev. Some think the whole thing was created to make this story exciting but it didn't seem that way. If it was a fraud, then Nev was a better actor that it appeared.

In the beginning there is a painting sent to Nev by a child protege. He's very impressed with the art and begins to chat with the girl, Abby, at Facebook. Abby's mother, Angela soon is chatting with him. Abby shows him a painting she did of her mother. Then he was introduced to Abby's older sister, Megan, someone younger than Nev but not too much younger. Megan is living a life the opposite of Nev's where she is buying a horse farm and fully involved with family, friends, art, and nature where Nev's is the bustle of the big city and the push to become a successful photographer.

The words flew between the two young people. Soon the feelings grew. Nev, all on Facebook, meets more and more of Megan's friends. These people post things on their walls that Nev could then read. A possible love but definitely lust begins to grow between the two as Megan is beautiful and innocently very seductive.

If the original goal was to show how love can grow online, something Nev wasn't thrilled to have recorded but was going along with, it soon developed a change of direction as there came suspicions that Megan, possibly Angela and maybe even Abby were lying about their accomplishments and what they were doing.

At this point, I could so relate to this story as I have heard of this and seen it several times online. People create stories, use photos that are old or not even of themselves, and they pull in another who falls in love with a person who doesn't really exist. In those cases usually the person did exist except they don't look like what they are suggesting and saying. They aren't doing the exciting things they are describing. They are using those things as bait.

In this story as the three young men grow to understand the characters on Facebook have been embroidering their lives, they decide the only way to find out what is real is to go to where the family lives. They must follow through for real.

Here is where I thought I will never write about this. It's too harsh and cruel on both sides. I had read about this documentary in the fall when it was at Sundance. I knew what would happen. I figured I would watch it all but no way I'd write about what Nev found when he got to Megan's supposed home base.

First the three young men checked out the address of a supposed building that Abby was remodeling from an old building with the money she was making off her paintings. Fraud. Next they checked out the supposed horse farm and found it deserted, postcards from Nev in an unused mailbox.

The next morning, set up with a wire and being filmed, Nev headed for the home that the family was supposed to live in. He didn't know what to expect other than exposing a lot of lies.

What he found was Angela, a 40-year old woman, who had created all of the characters. Yes, she had a daughter named Abby but Abby didn't paint. She had a daughter named Megan but she didn't look like the pictures and didn't live with her mother, hadn't for a long time. Angela was overweight, and probably could have, at one time or in her imagination, looked like the supposed painting of herself that she had given Nev.

Here is where the story could have turned cruel and instead evolved into a sort of sad beauty. Angela had painted a world she wished existed. She was married to a man who seemed very nice (looked nothing like the image she had posted) but was a little slow developmentally. He looked about 10 years older than Angela. There was no answer given as to how these people survived but guessing the next thing they discovered explains that. Angela was caring for her husband's two sons who were so severely developmentally challenged that they could not possibly function in the outside world. She did all of this with love and gentleness.

Angela's life had few options for escape except one-- to paint and to create an imaginary world for Nev after she likely fell in love with him. Nev was who he had been presenting; so this sad love was not about to ever have a reality. The film makers photographed her again and again as they interviewed her and finally got the story from her.

Instead of revealing ugliness, it revealed sadness. She was a gentle and sweet person who had created an elaborate web of lies. That is a bad thing. If she had been a different person, the story would have had have had no value. It is a story of deception, need, love, and a desire for something that isn't in one's own life and the search for that is finally revealed to have been on both sides of the experience.

I will be writing more about what it made me think about with the next blog as there is too much for one blog. It went way beyond the events to something more about human needs.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Bit of Life and Death


Lately I've been having an occasional dream that seems like it's not a dream. The setting will be exactly as it is where I am sleeping. It will feel like it's a happening and I am awake.

In one of those I looked over and saw a man sitting on the bedroom step. Farm Boss was standing in the bathroom-- I think, trimming his mustache or beard. I knew he didn't see the man who I knew wasn't really there. I decided clearly this was a ghost visiting, no threat to it, just there. The face I didn't recognize, but he was dressed in pants, a jacket of some sort, and I think a kind of cap but not a farm hat. It was working man garb and seemed from an earlier era.

Some other spirit beings flitted by, and I guessed I was probably going to be seeing ghosts now. That was not particularly thrilling or scary to me. It was just a fact and one I hadn't asked for but there it apparently was. When I woke up later, I saw no ghosts.


The day preceding it had been all about farm stuff, my writing, Farm Boss and I playing Quiddler and taking turns being swamped by bad luck, and watching a delightful little DVD that we had gotten through Netflix-- Tortilla Soup.

If you haven't had a chance to see that one, check it out. Funny, lovely, about a Hispanic family in the LA area, widower father trying to do the best he could for his grown daughters, love not always where you expect it, tradition, cooking (all the wonderful food will make you hungry, want to cook, or both), and watching people living their lives fully at all ages.

The farm activities here were several-- one a gang of small lambs who have figured fences are for going through. This always happens about this time of the year as one gets out and their friends go with them. They ended up once out on the road when I heard one that had been left behind bleating plaintively. His friends had left him. Maybe he was the obedient lamb who didn't want to get into trouble or maybe they got out while he wasn't looking. Anyway I got them back and then we managed to maneuver them all down the driveway and to their regular pasture that is tighter. No more out there until the 'leak' has been fixed.

Just after we had driven into town on Friday, Farm Boss got a message on his cell phone from our neighbor at the farm that we had a dead cow in our pasture. They see the pasture better than we do as they drive down the road from above. We figured it probably was the old one, the one who had lost a calf two weeks earlier.

Hearing that kind of news took the edge off wanting to be in town because you always feel some sadness when you lose an animal, but it also meant there was no reason to cut our trip short. What was done was done. We had come to celebrate the birthday of one of our grandsons and we did that.


This time my youngest grandson was particularly interested in my face, very cuddly which he hadn't been the last times I'd been with him and I very much enjoyed that. It was funny though as he studied my face, put his fingers on my cheek and asked why I have cracks.

Laughing and thinking only a three year old says stuff like that, I answered they are the result of being old and having lived 67 years. I said they aren't really cracks. First I thought to say they were lines, which is how I have seen them, but then told him wrinkles. After I was back at the farm, I decided actually cracks is a better word than wrinkles. They are kind of cracks, like cracks in the earth, my earth. I suppose I should dab a little more moisturizer on them, but I doubt it'd change anything. They are a product of both age and a lot of time outdoors. Since I won't be staying inside, won't be having a laser peel that would flatten them, they are staying. It's amazing what children observe.

Then came a special moment of the week-end, at least for the farm, even though it was also a bit of a sad one. When Farm Boss had pulled the carcass of the dead cow to where he planned to dig a hole with the backhoe, our horned cow, another of his favorites, came over to the body. She nuzzled it a little and then licked it. It was her mother.

I believe the old cow died of a heart attack although it's possible she had had internal bleeding after such a difficult birthing, but I really don't think so since she had been eating and active. That night she had gone to the back with the herd, and they slept under their favorite tree. She looks to have died in her sleep.

Can anyone creature or human ask for more than she had which was a long life fully lived on her own land, having some of the calves she birthed grow up to still be with her. She was born on that land. It was hers more truly than ours. Then with no fear of death, she bedded down that last night, slept with her herd, and died there before morning.

Add to that the last thing, the one that made it a piéce de resistance was where loving respects were paid to her with a last gesture, but one where the horned daughter didn't stay to grieve. She then went back to the herd and on with her own life. Once the cow had been buried, the herd went on as if nothing had changed... and it hadn't.

(Photos of the cattle are some old ones as it's been raining and gray too much to get good color in any photos right now. Soon though. Spring is here and summer not far behind! I hope.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Consequences


Do you ever stop to think about consequences and that sometimes even good deeds can have negative ones? I would like to believe every good thing we do will have a good result but truth is-- not so much. So why is it that we can do what looks like it should be good and has been good in other situations but this time, it's not? Can we build anything into our lives that reduces the number of times that happens?

This blog started out with just that question and went into politics and many other examples of how consequences play out. It was a fine blog as far as it went; but then I had the dream about entropy.

After the dream, how entropy plays into consequences grew on me to the point that I divided this blog and you can read the global and political end of it in [Rainy Day Things]. The subject had grown until it became too much to put it all here, and it changed pretty much everything I had intended to write because I began to see not just a problem but an opportunity.

Considering consequences will begin with two scientific theories which although they are about science, they also can be used to help understand consequences.

First, although not necessarily any more important to this discussion, comes Newton's laws of motion (I like how wikipedia not only explains things but for the layman). This applies here because it is true in human life as well as science when we apply an action one place, it will often lead to something somewhere else as a reaction. Those reactions are not that predictable in humans. Which takes me to the word in my dream and the thing that changed how I decided to write about consequences-- entropy.

Once again I liked how Wikipedia scientifically explained it Entropy and energy. For anyone who wants to go deeper into what entropy is than what I intend to pull out, I recommend reading that. It has some interesting conclusions at the end, but it's not where I am going with my thinking. I am interested in how entropy impacts consequences.

Most of us pretty well know that we cannot totally depend on something that worked with one person working with another or even with the same person at a different time. Humans are not tidily predictable (actually animals aren't either). We can be trained but sometimes that training has unexpected counter results so that the consequences aren't always clearly obvious in the beginning. Anybody who has raised children knows all of this.

This is where entropy comes in. It's the energy that is lost or more accurately that went somewhere we didn't expect. It explains why a home, if anyone lives in it, will naturally head toward chaos without discipline being applied to what is happening within it.

If you turn your back on your house for a month, become totally involved in say a creative job, you clearly see the results of entropy when you turn back. The natural result of doing nothing tends to be chaos and accidents-- which might even explain how life on earth came to be, but as much as it can lead to life becoming, it can lead to it ending. Consequences

Some examples: say we help out a family that is destitute. We feel good. Then when they are stronger, we find them brutalizing someone else.... or we don’t help them and same result. We gave them money and they used it to buy drugs. We gave them food and they sold it to buy drugs. We do something good, like buy a car for someone who then has a tragic accident with it. Consequences.

We develop a friendship with someone we think will be good for our life. Then we learn they are not good and are even more so energy suckers. We start out with the best intentions but everything goes askew. Consequences.

If we could always weigh this fact and that to come up with the right choice, kind of like a chemistry experiment, life would be much simpler or maybe not. Maybe some of what entropy does with its unintended chaos is actually a positive thing for our life on many different levels.

The issue of consequences is one of the life issues with which I have wrestled. It's especially tough during the child rearing years, but the questions arise many different times. If I do this, what will be the result? For me, the conundrum of doing what seems to be good but seeing it turn out to be bad arose as soon as I could see the complexity of human action and how results are often unintended. We control actions. We don't control reactions. Something sounds good and ends up causing something else that is not so good. I got it drilled home when I had children where I had the responsibility for directing their lives but in what ways?

In life there are times we must make choices and act. We have to vote. We have to support certain actions. We have to help or not help a friend. Whenever we do that, we apply that first law above-- one action tilts things in a direction they were not going. Then comes the second law that unpredictability is part of life. Will that be good or bad? Consequences

The concern for consequences could literally cripple a person on so many levels that they would become hermits and do nothing involving anybody else. So how do we deal with consequences in a healthy way?

An obvious solution is not think of anything once we have done it. We could do the things we think are good but avoid considering what happened afterward. Was it good and worthy of praise? We don’t notice. Was it bad and deserves blame? We don’t notice.

Up to a point, that sounds good. I mean guilt does us no good and praising ourselves for possibly something turning out well, where we may have only had part of the impact on it, that isn’t very effective either for the next time.

AND I think the next time is the reason why it’s good to think about consequences and try to learn from them—especially when it’s supporting something our nation does which might end up with an unintended consequence but where we have seen something very similar play out historically time after time.

The thing is we cannot really ever know the full consequences possible to any action we take nor that we support in others. We opt to take a walk on the very same road a drunk driver is turning down. No way to evaluate that ahead of time.

There are things though where we can look at what has come before, the usual result of such actions and evaluate what we should do to improve our chances of it being the right choice.

With an awareness of entropy, whether we call it that word or not, we recognize that chaos is a part of life. We can though do what is possible in our own lives to reduce its impact by discipline, developing skills, keeping things reined in because if we don't, more and more or our energy will be lost.

Although I will be writing much more about Libya in the other blog that is linked above, one thought seems to belong here. There is a zeitgeist blowing through the Middle East. It is the desire for people to improve their lives. This is all very positive. Except...

I think in too many people there is a lack of understanding that you build one thing on another. An educated populace yields a disciplined people (or has a shot at it). When we try to jump over the skills, it might work one time out of a hundred thousand but won't keep working because one thing builds on another; and in this case there is nothing to build on.

An example is our own personal lives when we look at someone else who has this energetic personality, full of seeming energy, constantly creating, always working toward what seem good things to us. We look at that, want it but have seen the superficial part of what got that person there.

In the Middle East, the people are demonstrating, rioting and finally rebelling as a way to get what they see other nations having. They have every right to want that but they are trying to skip steps to get there. We have to watch out that we aren't also thinking we can skip steps through things like bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, missing the point that when the bad guy leader is gone, the people won't be ready for an improvement. If we worked through negotiating, building, it'd take longer but in the end, it's more likely to last-- out there or in here.

(One of my digital paintings at the top.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dreams and Entropy


Lately, probably due to a combination of influences, my dreams have been absolutely spectacular. Even better, I am remembering them. I always dream, usually pretty good dreams, but I don't always remember anything about them. Last night's were a combination of story dreams, ones that relate to my personal space, and then one that related to something I was going to write for the blog.

The first dream was a kind of mythological love story of a prince who fell in love with a very ordinary serving girl and was willing to give up everything he had, including his life if needed, to be with her. It took place mostly on ships and at sea, had some characters to create obstacles. I am thinking the people were from India and back in history to the 1800s or maybe even further although it did require there being big ships. The story was lovely and ended happily which was good as not all myths do that. My imagination did a good job on this one.

Then came a dream about looking out my window (the one right here beside where I am typing) and seeing buffalo in my yard. Although I had no idea where any buffalo would have come from in this area, my problem was how do I get them out of the yard before they break down the fence to mingle with my cows, possibly taking my cattle with them when they go merrily on their way. Obviously you don't just herd buffalo as you would cattle. That'd be a good way to get killed. About the time I thought of all that, they did knock down the fence and were in with my cattle. That didn't resolve itself before something else came along.

Finally came the dream that rearranged when I was going to write the next blog. I had one all set to go for today and it was about consequences. After the dream, I moved it as I really liked this dream and how it fit with the subject of consequences.

It was kind of an ordinary dream but I was having an argument or rather a debate in it. The argument was over whether you could predict human behavior, whether there was any sort of grid that really laid out what people, or even anyone particular person, would generally do in any set situation. (This is assuming there is no god pulling the strings, of course).

My point was that whatever humans had done before, how many times they had repeated the exact same behavior, you could not be certain they would do it again because humans don't have a scientific predictability built into them. Other things can happen that change what they can or will do. Even a whim can rearrange it totally. This was all true because of entropy.

When I woke up, I asked Farm Boss what entropy meant as the word was very clear to me in the dream but not the exact meaning of it. He said, keeping it simple, that it was about the scattering of energy and unpredictability.

It turns out (still keeping it simple) that entropy means the measure of uncertainty associated with a random variable. It is a measure of disorder or more exactly-- unpredictability. So no matter how many times you flip a coin, it doesn't tell you what the next coin flip will be. Some things have very little possible entropy to them and with some it's totally what it is. The argument of course is how does that apply to humans... or does it?

It related very much to the thinking I had on consequences but I had never thought of that word as part of it. Entropy, however, was at the heart of my whole line of thinking. It's not a word I use.

Before I went to bed, I had not asked for a dream that related to what I was writing, but I always appreciate it when it happens and especially gives me a great word that certainly wasn't in my routine vocabulary even though I'd heard it used before. The dream brought it as really a gift. The question of whether that is random chance or a pattern that cannot be seen is, of course, up for debate.

Exactly what has led to my dreams being so good right now, I am not sure. I have done a lot of things that could be playing a part from editing that fiction story (which is proving challenging on multiple levels), watching a very thought provoking movie the night before but one that had absolutely nothing to do with any of the dreams, doing some drawing which requires looking for and at something I want to draw, sorting photos to put into a family slide show of a recent beach trip, the super full moon, and looking through old art magazines to clip out what inspired me before I sent them off to be recycled.

Actually I guess I should have been expecting some very full and lush dreams given all that. In a way dreams are a kind of scattering of energies as they aren't at all predictable at least not for me. They come as they will and not at all as I might want them to do. And yet... and yet, that dream fit something else and how do I explain it coming as it did especially with a word that I would never think of using in my waking hours-- well before this?

Possibly I should work more on lucid dreaming and sometimes I have as I finish up a dream in that twilight of barely being awake. Why I remember them or don't, that I can't explain. Possibly I am sleeping a bit more lightly with the full moon although I feel I am sleeping pretty well.

Currently I do realize I have been feeding the imagery more than is usually possible for me even as the dreams were totally in other realms-- well except maybe the buffalo herd in with our cows...

Out of curiosity, because I haven't had a dream about buffalo herds before, I checked my favorite online [Dream Dictionary] which said to see a herd of buffalo in your dreams signifies tranquility and plentitude. To see a buffalo in your dream, symbolizes survival, strength, and power. That all sounds good unless of course, they are mingling with your cows and your concern is they will lead your cows off. I'll have to give the possible meaning of that a little more consideration.

(The sketch is from Tuesday and the sketch a day challenge. Finally we have daffodils blooming. The sketch is based on two that the lambs picked and dropped. Sheep don't actually eat daffodils but lambs don't know that until they try. Farm Boss brought them in and they were a good basis for pretending I was outside where if I had been, I'd have had raindrops all over the paper which some might like but with an ink drawing, not so good!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few favorite quotations for life

If you love something, set it free.
If it comes back to you, it is yours.
If it doesn't, it never was.


On my home front, I've been concentrating on getting rid of debris in my life, editing a fiction manuscript from over 10 years back, to see if it has worth for today (not to mention the difficulty of bringing it to date for things like technology. Stories based in another time period avoid this problem), doing a daily drawing practice, all mingled together with regular responsibilities

As I was cleaning out a drawer of my desk-- a job that took me most of a morning due to the meaningless odds and ends that had been shoved into it (by someone, not sure who)-- I came across a pile of small post-it notes on which I had written some of my favorite, inspiring-to-me quotes. I liked rereading them and thought someone here might also. I combined them with some of my favorite photos from 2010 which were taken by either me or Farm Boss. It's often hard to tell who took what, but they came from what we were doing last year.

If I knew the author, I included it. Some are by well-recognized names. Some words have many who claim authorship. The one above, which is actually a magnet on my refrigerator, is said to be anonymous as might be some of the following. If I have one without an author and you believe you know who wrote it, I'll be happy to add that.

Also if you have a life quote that is especially meaningful to your life, please add it in comments. The following are in no order of importance to me but just as the little papers came out of my desk.

Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a winged bird that cannot fly. --Langston Hughes

Knowledge is awareness, and to it are many pa
ths, not all of them paved with logic. But sometimes one is guided through the maze by intuition. One is led by something felt on the wind, something seen in the stars, something that calls from the wasteland to the spirit. -- Louis L'Amour


Don't we all die someday and someday comes all too soon
? What will you do with your own wild, glorious chance at this thing we call life. -- Mary Oliver

Don't lose hold of your dreams! Dreams are birds in flight, oceans at high tide. Dreams give life wings and let us fly high.
-- although this resembles what Langston Hughes said, it's slightly different, might still be his, but I am not sure where I got it. I liked its additional imagery.

Go confidently in the direction of your dream. Live the lif
e you have imagined. If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. --Henry David Thoreau


And the day came when the risk it took to rema
in tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. --Anais Nin


What would it be like if you lived each day, each b
reath, as a work of art in progress? Imagine that you are a masterpiece unfolding each second of every day, a work of art taking form with every breath. --Thomas Crum


Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken! Take heed-- do not squander your life. --Zen night chant


Don't let someone else create your happiness
. Your joy lies within you.

Feel your feelings. Stand out in the rain-- naked and let the rain wash your soul.

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment sparkling like a star in our hand -- and melting like a snowflake. --Sir Francis Bacon

I hope I have found myself, my work, my happiness -- under the light of the western skies. --Zane Grey


Dreams are necessary to life. --Anais Nin

I do not unmarry ____. But I marry myself. I take my fate as within. --Sena Jeter Naslund


Where we choose to be-- we have that power to d
etermine our lives. We cannot reel time backward or forward, but we can take ourselves to the place that defines our being. --Sena Jeter Naslund


The final piece of paper that was in my desk is a bit different. I think now its meaning has changed for me and what it means is surrendering to the power of life, letting it take me wherever it might go. It is surrendering to the experience of life and our own place in the creating of it. Grace is the fact that we were gifted with life at all.
Om Namaha Shivia
Surrendering to God. The power of God is within me. The grace of God surrounds me.
There is one more that stays in my memory, after many years on a paper in my wallet that finally disintegrated but not before I had memorized it. It was particularly important to me during the child rearing years.
Let my love like sunlight surround you and yet give you illumined freedom. -- Tagore

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crow moon


Because we had gotten a pretty nice set of full moon photos Friday night, because it was sooooo cold outside, I decided it'd be silly to go outside again just because the moon was 'actually' full. How much difference could there be in the photos, right? We settled down to watch a video although I kept one eye on the moon as it came up through the firs.

On an impulse, since I've been doing that sketch a day thing, and because I had told Parapluie that it didn't make much sense to draw this particular moon because anybody could make a moon bigger anytime, I got out my ink pens (by now it's Sharpie fine and medium) and began to draw it as it came up through the firs.


Watching it rise like that was a mistake. When I saw it in all its awesomeness (favorite Jack Black word from the kid movie, Kung Fun Panda which we weren't watching mainly because we loaned it to our grandsons), I knew we (note the we part) had to go out again.

We had left the camera on the tripod. Farm Boss took a series of photos of which I liked three best. If you enlarge the first and last ones, you can see the craters. We were by then using the largest telephoto.


The sky was very clear last night with a few clouds drifting around but the stars and moon were sharp. Every time I am out in the night like that, when I actually can see so many stars, so clear and sharp, I think I should learn their names. I never have but it's not too late. When Farm Boss and I were first dating, we'd go out to a big farm where he worked and we'd lie in the grass and look up at the stars and he knew some of their names, the constellations. I was impressed. He still knows them and I still don't.

I only know a couple of the planets when I see them and regularly determine that I will change that and learn the names of at least the closest stars to us and which stars make up which constellations. I've bought several books with that intention in mind. Except you know the sky moves around... Actually we do but anyway the end result complicates it as I can't just learn one sky pattern. I have to learn it for different seasons. Right then and there it gets into the too much information category.

If we got a hot tub again maybe I would spend more time learning which one is which as this time we want to get it to be out in the open, not under the oak trees. (that was such a mistake when the raindrops fell off the limbs right onto us, not like a gentle rain at all but like a plop plop plop and there's way too much rain in the Pacific Northwest to not take that into account in positioning a hot tub).


Back to the subject, this is the moon the Farmer's Almanac calls the Worm moon because the worms are beginning to come up and make tracks on the ground. Also known as the Lenten moon to Christians. Or the Sap moon to those who tap maple trees for syrup. But I prefer one of the names the Native Americans used-- the Crow Moon when the cawing of the crows signaled the end of winter.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

a perigree full moon


Saturday is what is called by astronomers a perigree full moon. Since the moon is on an elliptical orbit around the earth, this is the closest part of that ellipsis. If you get a chance to see it, take it as they say we won't see the moon this large for nearly 20 years. Friday night, we had to wait until it was up in the sky a bit to get these photos of it almost full. We'll try again Saturday night.

Other than beauty, the perigree moon doesn't mean much to astronomers for having any 'weight'. The tides are impacted just a bit but it has absolutely nothing to do with things like earthquakes.


Now astrologers, well they have other opinions on it and feel this full moon is a particlarly powerful time for putting intentions to what we want in our life. Who knows. I only know it's very pretty to see it out there and makes for quite bright nights even with the heavy cloud cover we in the Pacific Northwest have been having.

Usually with a full moon though the clouds break away and that was what happened this time but for brief moments as the clouds raced on by.

Then comes Sunday and the spring equinox. Which means yes, spring is here and about time. Even if it's still cold and windy, raining so much that the earth is more than saturated or even snowing, we know we are midway between winter and summer and the days are getting longer and longer.


The rainbow was from our home looking across our creek down the valley toward the nearby river. It is also a promise of better weather to come... or so they say. Not sure about the pot of gold though...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Farm Update


Once in awhile I feel I should write not just about the farm but also the downside of small ranch living. Often I suspect I make it sound pretty idyllic which parts of it can be. They are the ones I prefer to think about the most. It is a way of life that isn't possible everywhere and that's too bad as despite its problems, it teaches a lot about life which means it's often not very easy. I think it also provides a service in terms of food for those who don't want what they eat to come from corporate farms.

When I take photos of this place, I am always careful how I position them because there is a lot of 'stuff' around that's a long way from picturesque. This is not a hobby farm. It's one that raises livestock for someone to eat which does include us; but if we were the only ones eating it, we'd be soon out of the business-- and it is a business as well as a lifestyle.

I grew up living such a life and seeing the downside as well as the up. When my parents felt that long drive for my father, to the job that paid for the farm, was simply too much to keep the farm, I was very unhappy. I loved that place and for years dreamed I had bought it back right up until the day we drove to the end of that road, found out it now went on through, was no longer dead-end, and the whole farm had been broken up into rather ritzy ranchettes. Depressing but it at least ended the dream of having it be mine again.

So when we moved here, I understood a lot of the problems that go with small ranching. I won't go into all of what they were because it depresses me to even write about it. Some we learned and moved on from having to experience again. Some are just part of the life; and if someone doesn't like it, they literally move on.


Much as I enjoy the beauty of these cute little lambs, I can never forget that they are mostly raised to be eaten. The food they provide though is healthier than anybody can get in a regular grocery store since it's without antibiotics or hormones. The cattle are totally grass-fed while the sheep only get grain right now during the time they are producing babies and milk for them. In past years we haven't had to do that but since the coyote attacks have limited what is safe pasture for them, we are supplementing.

The jobs on a place like this are never done. Absolutely never. The mud only ends when it gets dried out for the summer which means irrigating starts. It's the only time I can really walk across the barnyard without going nearly to my knees in mud and getting stuck. I know it won't really suck me clear down. It's not quicksand but walking through it is something I don't do unless I absolutely must until it dries out.

What we more or less know we would like to get done here, say on a week-end like the last one, is apt to get changed in a heartbeat. That week-end as we were in the house, Farm Boss said get a camera. A bobcat just walked down the driveway. Sauntered actually sounded more like it.

I said, camera nothing. Get a gun. We must dissuade that bobcat from returning and the best way is shoot without aiming for it, just to scare it. I didn't see it at all, but he said the squirrels, which had been busy raiding the bird feeder, froze where they were on the side of the trees until it went out of sight.

Given a choice I'd love to see a bobcat on my property. I find it wonderful when I am in Tucson. I'd like to see one up here and not have to think-- it will grab the smallest lambs. The thing is though that it would and that's just nature at work. Can't blame it but do recognize the tiny ones would be tempting fare for it to take home to its probable kittens.

Well I did get the camera and he got the gun; but before we got outside, the bobcat had disappeared downstream. Seeing it right by the house though rearranged our week-end plans.

We recognized we had to fence the sheep away from the area. They were out there a lot with those tiny lamb chops. Animals like bobcats have a circuit, and we are at least for now part of this one's hunting territory. Small lambs are not on any menu we want to provide. We also don't want to have to kill a beautiful predator that is doing what it should to survive.

After the fence was put up, I missed seeing the sheep around the house but hope this will mean we won't hear a ewe calling for a lamb who will never be able to come.


Right now I am feeding the sheep cob which I mentioned before and that's kind of idyllic sounding with them all coming for it-- except the way they come for it is more like an attack. The only way it works well for me is, after getting on muck boots, waterproof pants (it has been raining and wet wool is not a good thing for continuing to wear a pair of jeans), filling the bucket, I have to wait a bit.

Seeing me fill the bucket (on the side of the fence they cannot reach) arouses their interest to the umpteenth degree. So I let them get bored, remember something they wanted to eat elsewhere, and leave. My horned ram is a lot of why I do that as he gets very aggressive when food is involved and being butted by those horns is not my idea of a good time. It's not that he would do it purposely but he's like the bobcat. It's just instinct but instinct broke one of Farm Boss's fingers last month.

I like putting out the grain or I wouldn't have to do it. I don't like being rushed by sheep at knee level intent on knocking me over to get what is still in the bucket.

This week-end besides the fencing problem, we also lost a calf and might lose its mother after a disastrous birthing. We have a second calf whose first-time mother rejected it-- leaving it to be bottle fed until we can sell it.

From the this could happen anywhere category, we experienced quite the storm that broke off the top of one of our small trees. Farm Boss and I were playing [Quiddler] when that hit which was good as I had just come back in from putting out grain and he wasn't quite ready to put out hay. We both hoped it wouldn't knock out our power as it was quite the blow. I think he beat me at the game. He's very very lucky at it which only really irks me when he says-- I have nothing, can't make a word, and then comes up with two complex words using Js, Zs and Xs, thereby getting 60 points and going out.

This will never look like a hobby farm or city person's country estate probably until the time we prepare to move from it. Sometimes that bothers me as I see the piles of this or that, a roll of wire, fence posts, old baling twine, pieces of wood, wire panels, feed bins, etc etc. Sometimes I think well at least people know this land is really used to produce.

Oh and the geese are back. We saw the first vulture this week. Spring really is almost here; and for this summer, we have a plan to reduce the mud-- if nothing else gets in the way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

earthquake planning

For anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest and is trying to find information on what a big quake here might mean-- and a big one is expected in the not so distant future which could mean tomorrow or fifty years-- I thought this link would be helpful.

Government never likes to scare us unless they can profit from it. Where the right wing wants us to think government is good for nothing, doing anything about these kinds of problems just isn't on their agenda. Everything costs money and if you read the link below, you see that money is a lot of why retrograding say bridges is not happening all that fast.

For us ordinary folks, facts are facts. We can assess their impact on us when we know what they are. People should all be sure they know what those issues might be for their area.

We think about it out here because we are so many miles from town and have often counted the number of bridges we have to cross to get there. Some have been retrofitted in recent years, but it's realistic to recognize we'd not be able to get to town -- or back from town-- after a big one. We have even thought of getting a horse for this reason but that opens a whole other set of issues. Cows don't like to be ridden.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Earthquake aftermath


One thing about earthquakes is that there is no way to know when or where the next one will come. There is the knowledge of where they have been and where they are likely to hit. Fault lines can be known; but when a big one like hit Chile, New Zealand or Japan will happen, that cannot be determined at all.


and it is but it might not be in San Francisco. It might be in the middle of the United States where the New Madrid fault led to one of the worst in US history, with loss of life minimized because of how few people lived in the area as it was when the disastrous one hit off the coast of Oregon over 300 years ago.


Pretty much anywhere humans live there have been quakes and will be again which will vary as to how damaging. It pays to have some preparation in mind knowing that in some cases it won't be enough. We just have to do what we can. Suggestions from-- Be Red Cross Ready.

I have been in a few quakes and dropping to the ground is exactly what I felt the need to do. Awhile back there was an email that circulated from a supposed safety expert about what he called the triangle of life which was that you don't get under something but instead beside it as say an automobile might be crushed but alongside it would be protected. I wondered about that as what about debris falling but then checked it out on [Snopes] before writing this and from their research, it sounds like his credentials (as happens so often with emails) are suspect.

Definitely if someone is near the ocean (which can be as much as 60 miles inland on estuaries) and a big quake happens, you do not wait but as soon as the shaking stops, you head for higher ground. In Japan, where that quake hit, there was none. Then, there really is nothing anybody can do except wait. For the rest of us though, having water on hand, emergency food supplies, those are the things we should do and keep up to date. Disasters don't wait for invitations.

Each person probably has their favorite charity for such a time as this. Ours has been Mercy Corps. They are forwarding donations for Japan to their long-time partner-- Peace Winds. The main thing is to get help to people as soon as we can because it could be us next. The world pulls together at such times US Troops, USS Ronald Reagan arrive in Japan .

Japan and its people are special to so many in the United States with the exchange student programs, travel, business, and sister city programs. Almost all of us know someone who lives there, has lived there, has family there. From being a one-time enemy, they are today a partner and friend; so across this country our hearts go out to them and what they face to recover from this disaster. It's not even just the earthquake and tsunami, which are tragic enough, but also the nuclear plants which even if there is no major meltdown, there will be a huge loss of power for all their industries and homes.

AND as an addition to concerns here, one of the regular commenters, Robert the Skeptic, to many blogs including mine, who has his blog in my blog roll alongside here, (who Farm Boss and he had lunch not that long ago) will be having heart surgery tomorrow. Plead Ignorance-- The Skeptic's Leap of Faith.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

the ever present unknown


Once again the world is rocked by a disaster such that anybody who hears about it or sees the photographs is horrified and instantly concerned for the people who live where it has happened. This time it is Japan who was hit by a natural disaster of the sort nobody can predict. We can know earthquakes will happen but not when nor how bad they will be when they come.

It is frightening for the lack of control since humans like to think they have a grasp on everything. Not only do we not have a grasp on nature but we can't even really control human interactions. We can though as humans send whatever help we can to the people who have suffered the latest example of the power of nature. In the end, we just live on this planet and if we forget that, frequent reminders come along to let us know the real situation.

When we were at the beach last week-end, we were staying in a house in the tsunami zone. Oregon has these signs to let you know all the way along the coastline. I wondered what the horn would sound like if we were to be there and get the warning. I had earlier read an article about the quake that the Oregon coast expects which could be the same magnitude as that which hit Japan. The writer said you have half an hour from the time of the quake to get to higher ground. If any is anywhere nearby, you are better off running for it than trying to drive as the roads are likely to become clogged and nobody gets out that way. I did look to see where that ground would be... just in case.

Wherever we are, whether we live where we have warnings or not, we need to be alert, pay attention to signals, and live each day fully because we really do never know.

Photo from last week-end, by farm boss, our last evening at the beach for the family trip. It is looking out at the Pacific Ocean where the vastness always awes one, the power, the majesty and the devastation it can wreak when it turns on us. I generally like to wade in it at least once when I am down there. I never turn my back on it for long or take it for granted. We should keep that in mind about all of nature.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beach week-end

We (Farm Boss, our kids, kids by marriage, and grandkids) had one of those week-ends at the Oregon Coast where the weather was all of what is possible over a three day span. It was a new moon which meant low tides. The weather forecast had predicted a rainy week-end; but when you have a reservation for a beach house, large enough for everybody, you go with it. Rather like the thing Rumsfeld said about you go to war with the army you have not the army you wish you had-- except in the case of going to the Coast, the army you take, when you have children ranging from 3 to 12, are things like DVDs, art supplies, books, and games. And frankly you could head down for a week-end predicted to be wonderful and have it suddenly turn stormy. It's just the ocean.



We arrived on Friday to what felt like gale force winds. The gulls were sitting it out except for a few hearty souls. At times the winds seemed to rock the beach house which sat out at the end of a spit, only the river and ocean were beyond. Dunes made for blowing sand that definitely discouraged time outside.

Still there is nothing quite like an ocean storm. They make the sea into a wondrous, turbulent, awesome place as the waves pound against the rocks. After an hour, the large windows were so covered in sand that it was as though someone frosted them . Getting up the driveway, because of all the layered sand, required four-wheel drive although we were expecting that part as the dunes had been destabilized during an earlier storm.


We woke Saturday expecting to have more rain as the forecast had been for 80% chance. Evidently all the wind, which they had not predicted, pushed through the rain because there was nary a breeze, and the grand kids were outside almost all day as they dug holes in the sand, built sand castles, climbed up and down dunes and generally did everything kids could possibly want to do at the beach.

Now it's not like I want to go racing up or down dunes, but it's rather satisfying to watch children pitting their strength against the elements. For the relief of adults, those dunes challenging the children were high enough to be a challenge but not that high.


The weather changed again Sunday for even more sunshine and about as warm as it often is during the summer. Somebody in our family had very good weather karma is all we could say about it. When you book a beach week-end, in advance, on the Central Oregon Coast, you really never know what you'll get. We got as good as it gets.
The seals were in the waves and on the banks. This little region, on the spit out of Waldport, where the Alsea River runs into the ocean, has a rich ecosystem. I looked on the beach for shells. Unfortunately most of the sand dollars were in pieces and likewise the razor clam shells. I am not sure who had been eating them as it doesn't seem seals could dig them out of the sand. A few starfish had been knocked off their rocks also.


For me it was a very good time with the family. Even better, all the cooking was done by somebody else which is fun mostly as a chance to taste different recipes. It's always good when it's our kids who are more into healthy, gourmet cooking than I am.


This was our second chance to all be together since the New Year and I hope we get many more in the coming year as it was a very enjoyable, low key time and fun to be with my grandchildren again for hearing what they are doing. There were good conversations with the kids, and enough time for everybody to have some alone time if they wanted it. There was time to just BE and that is my favorite kind of vacation.

I took soooo many photos that the only hard part is winnowing them down to something reasonable to store.

If I was wanting spring, and I was, I got it on the week-end. I brought home good memories, photos and one old shell that had been knocked off the rocks. Going to the beach after a storm is always a time to find treasures.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A drawing a day


After listening to me whine through the month of February (I'm depressed. I don't have a dream. It's winter. It's gone on too long. Nothing matters, etc.), Parapluie said she had an idea for us both which was to be a challenge to do a drawing every day.

Hmmm I thought. This is kind of an interesting idea. not so much because of the artistic end, but more how when we do something like a painting or a drawing, it requires looking, some quiet time to see the lines, the shapes of things. I used to draw a lot. I remember many many times with her where we both had our sketch pads and were drawing often something very different from the exactly same subject.

This sounded pretty simple in a way. No big usage of materials. Just a drawing. I said okay.


So since the beginning of March (actually from February 28, I have done a drawing a day-- with one miss. I have learned a few things. One is that I am not as good at drawing as I used to be. I saw, in the first drawing that my proportions were off. Now what was that about? I thought of something else.

I might be doing sketches not drawings.

What is the difference?

I asked Parapluie if she thought there was a difference. I draw but I am too impatient in drawing to do anything but sketches.

She thought a bit on that and you will see her answer in her blog-- [Drawings versus sketches and cartoons].

I am a few days into the challenge and really liking doing this whether any sort of product comes from it or not. In fact, that's what I like best about it-- not having to worry about a product at the end of the process. Doing it reminds me of many many yearsin my past where I 'sketched' often. So far I have done drawings of the sheep, the family, the ocean, the farm, and will be open to what comes next.


What I like about a drawing is what I like about plein air paintings. You are there. You look. You see things. For a bit, you become one with something as you try to decide where the lines and shapes should be. I don't care about legally producing a drawing but I like doing this. I like what it does for me emotionally. Parapluie had a good idea!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Matter of Life and Death

Sometimes when I am talking to a friend or reading a comment from someone here, I get a tip for a movie to order from Netflix. That happened when I did a recent review of a movie I absolutely hated about the mysteries of life.

Naomi, who writes the blog Sittin' in the Hills, put in a comment and said to give a try to a 1946 film starring David Niven and Kim Hunter on the same general subject. She was oh so right about 'A Matter of Life and Death' which in this country has also been called 'Stairway to Heaven.'

The story is a bit of a mystery about what is really happening. When you begin, assume nothing. It is all put together in such a way that the viewer goes along for a very enjoyable exploration of what is real and what might not be.

The blurb from Netflix says:
Royal Air Force pilot Peter Carter (David Niven) is forced to jump out of his plane without a parachute only to wake up alive and unharmed due to a heavenly mishap. He must then stand before God (Abraham Sofaer) to plead his case for a second chance at life. Kim Hunter co-stars as June, an American operator with whom Peter has fallen in love, in this British romantic fantasy by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
The plot is not simple for what might be fact as it explores not only love, the mysteries of heaven but also a historical look at British and American relationships to each other and to the worl. I really do think anybody who sees it will not only enjoy the film but take away with them some things to think.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Creating a problem

Have I mentioned winter went on too long this year?


Don't bother telling me it is not supposed to end until the Equinox which is theoretically the 20th of March. I am not ready to use logic where it comes to weather. I am ready for bad weather to have ended yesterday or rather two weeks ago yesterday.

It's hard to get imaginative for the blog when I am not feeling imaginative. The only thing that occurred to me that I would enjoy putting photos out are of this year's lambs. I keep thinking I can get a photo of a few of them running and leaping in the air but about the time I think it'll work, it starts to rain again and the only running they or I do is for shelter.

Yes, I know sheep should be fine on open range, do not need barns. That's all true... But not ours. The first drop of rain and they head for the barns. Spoiled? You don't know the half of it.

It turns out where it comes to the sheep, I have created a monster and as with all such monster creatings, it started so innocently. Right now I feel a little like the female character in Hatari when they played the theme Elephant Walk and she had all the baby elephants following her. Well what follows me when I go outside are not the babies particularly. It now is all of the sheep.


It all began in the fall when the apple season was subnormal, and I had one old ram that I began to sympathize with as, day after day, in all kinds of weather (well most kinds), he would wait out under the apple tree hoping one would fall. If I was going out to get the mail, I would stop and shake some down but this was a bad year for apples out here and not many ever landed.


The mistake multiplied when I added to this by buying him apples. This sounds crazy even to me, but it's what I did when I could get them at say 87 cents a pound. That's not cheap given the weight of an apple, but I told myself I wouldn't do it for long. Is long up yet?

Well added to the apples, that I am still buying, was something else-- Cob. It's a mix of Corn, oats and barley with some molasses which adds to a good smell and helps the ewes and the lambs during a time when there is much demand on both. So I'd put out some... and some more... and ... Well you get the picture.


To put it out, I pour it on rocks or whatever I can find that is off the ground and they maa for it... Cute not-- as sheep maaing can be quite loud. It's more like MaaMmmmaaamaaMMMAAAA multiplied by many voices. If I go outside, well they are all after me as the fact that I have no bucket in my hand doesn't mean a thing to a sheep.

Thrilling especially when I am sitting at the computer and do not want to hear the complaint and most definitely do not want to go out with more Cob. It's raining. Who created this problem? *looking around*

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Critters and Snow

When it snows I do like some photos of the animals that share this farm with us. They have a way of looking at us as though-- and what is this all about? Most of them choose to spend the nights under the shelter of barns but a few prefer the trees.




The youngest calves and lambs, born within the last month, have never seen it before, but ones like these two yearlings ewes below have but don't look any more impressed this time than the last. There are no snowball fights to make it fun. I will say though that four legs on the ground do give for better traction on the ice.


I consider us to be one of the critters albeit the ones who have the responsibility for the others because snow or no snow, feed has to be provided. Water is no problem for the cattle as they have a place to access the creek, but the sheep have to have their water carried from the house when the outside lines freeze.


If our power goes off (it didn't this time), with small lambs, we don't want them going down to the creek and risking one falling in; so we must carry buckets from down there up to safer ground. We cannot have the ewes who are lactating suffering from lack of water. That would be a real disaster. Farm Boss had a nasty cold but that didn't change the routine out there.



In this case, we happened to also see one of the Oregon Coast Range's elk herds as we were driving back from Corvallis. They were down from the hills for obvious reasons. Fortunately for them, this part of the valley had less snow and melted quickly off the grass.