Ongoing News

These three beautiful does are sisters. Seen from our north-facing living room window, their mother is partially visible far left center, obscured by the deck railing. The four of them come to visit us every day and are not terribly afraid of us if we keep our distance.

We don’t feed the deer, though I occasionally throw an apple core out there for them. The resident ravens know of these occasional apple cores and frequently get to them before the deer come around again. Our neighbor Defer does feed the neighborhood deer, which explains why many of them make his yard their base of operations.

Every year, save for one of the eight since we’ve lived here, the mother of these three does has given birth to twin fawns. One of these three young does gave birth last year for the first time. We have yet to see any fawns this year, but the time is fast approaching when fawns emerge from their nests to follow their mothers about.

 As reported in a previous news report, I am splitting rounds of bull pine and stacking them to dry. This is a view of the stack from the west.

And this is a picture of the second track of pine that will soon be as high or higher than the stack to the left. I stack firewood this way to create lots of air space around the pieces to hasten the seasoning process. We want that wood ready to burn when we move it into the woodshed six months hence in October.

This is the most recent jigsaw puzzle Marcia put together. I helped a little, and by a little I mean I placed three or four pieces where they needed to go. Marcia very much enjoyed assembling this jigsaw puzzle and I found it delightful to walk by and see our precious world coming together.

This is Vito the day before he turned five feeling happy about getting to preview his birthday cupcake, photo courtesy of Vito’s mom Clare. Vito is my story pal. We talk on the phone every day since I can’t visit with him in-person due to the dang virus. The phone visits started out with me telling him versions of stories we invented together before the pandemic and those stories have evolved in all sorts of surprising ways since the daily phone sessions began.

These stories all involve three boys who are best friends: Vito, Jeremy, and Doofus. Vito is quick to point out that the Vito in our stories is not him, but another boy who just happens to also have the name Vito. And purely by chance, I’m sure, the Vito in these stories is possessed of intelligence, strength, and magical powers second to none.

This is a picture of Vito’s dad Nick. For Vito’s birthday, Nick arranged a Zoom gathering. Vito’s aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfather and friends came together on a dozen computer screens in California and Philadelphia and England to wish Vito a happy fifth birthday. We watched Vito open presents and eat a birthday cupcake. We also watched each other watching Vito.

I took a picture or two of the screen during the Zoom party. I found the experience both sweet and strange. This new way of gathering holds little appeal for me, though I did enjoy seeing all those people focusing their loving attention on Vito.

Later on Vito’s birthday, Nick and Clare drove Vito over to get his birthday presents from us, those presents being two of the Vito-Doofus-Jeremy adventures printed out in large type for his folks to read to Vito and for Vito to read when he is a little older. They brought birthday cupcakes and a jigsaw puzzle of England for Marcia.

Vito was sequestered in the car and Marcia and I were wearing masks at the start of the visit, but eventually Vito negotiated his release and got out and ran around and climbed on things while we kept our masks on and maintained the required distances between us all. A fun visit, minus hugs at the end.

Vito and his mother and father are moving to Switzerland in a few months to live there for many years. They are eager to make the move, but enjoying their last few months here in Mendocino. We are hoping to have a few more in-person visits, however brief, before they depart.


More Big News

This is our three-year-old White Winter Permain apple tree. A few years ago I wrote a blog article entitled Of Apples and Accordions in which I mentioned the White Winter Permain by quoting from the esteemed volume Fruit, Berry and Nut Inventory.

“Permain, White Winter (Winter Permain)—Oldest known English Apple; dates back to 1200 A.D. Medium to nearly large, round to oval, light greenish fruit turning pale yellow with numerous dots. Fine-grained, crisp, tender, juicy flesh. Pleasantly rich aromatic flavor. Fine quality all-purpose apple. Excellent keeper.”

Our friend Susan Waterfall was intrigued by this description and bought two yearling specimens of the old apple tree and gave one to me. I planted the little beauty in the center of our orchard, and this year for the first time the tree has set some lovely blossoms. Whether her root system is developed enough to support the bearing of fruit remains to be seen, but we are hopeful of getting a little apple or two from her by summer’s end.

In other big news, my friend Max inquired about how I learned to play the piano. Rather than write a lengthy history involving the sadistic piano teacher who scared me away from the piano when I was seven, my reunion with the piano as a teenager, and my decades of teaching myself how to play without knowing how to read music, I wrote the following.

I taught myself to play by finding repeatable patterns of notes and chords I play with my left hand that I like the sound of. When I find a pattern I like, I keep playing the pattern of notes and chords until I get good at sustaining a steady rhythm with that pattern (often very simple), and then I try out notes and chords to play with the pattern using my right hand until I find combos of sounds (pattern and accompaniments) I like and then I play the combos until I can play them without thinking too much so I can then improvise with them or just repeat them and sing to them or tap my feet and imagine a drummer playing with me. As I continue to practice these “tunes” my mind seems to enjoy changing things up and variations emerge. Something like that.

 Love’s Body

Next up we have this amazing purple vine flower. The vine in question has been growing near the doorway of our woodshed for who knows how long, decades probably, but I never saw the vine’s flowers until today because every year since we’ve lived here, prior to this year, I would by now have weed whacked the tall grass in the yard and cut down the fledgling vine before I might have distinguished it from the surrounding grasses.

However, we had so little rain this past winter, the grass has not grown very high, and because I have tons of other yard work to occupy me, I have yet to do any weed whacking so far this year. Several morals to this tale occur to me.

From neglect may bloom astonishing beauty.

The late bird catches the gorgeous blossom.

Given time, hidden beauty sometimes stops hiding.

Nature knows what she’s doing if we allow her to do what she knows.

Finally in today’s big news, I have been repeating lately, “How can people be so stupid and shortsighted?” when I read about the truly insane and murderous things various states and countries are doing in response to the dang virus, specifically the loosening of restrictions and mitigation protocols when all known research tells us this is a very bad idea and will result in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

For some days I suffered from the delusion that this kind of willful disregard for all that is good and decent and right is proof of new and greater levels of ignorance and stupidity. But then Marcia reminded me of why I quit the Santa Cruz commune I was a member of in the early 1970s, and I realized that high-level ignorance and stupidity is nothing new.

To be brief, I lived in a twelve-person commune for two years and created for that collective an enormous vegetable and herb garden that produced a large portion of the vegetables we consumed. In those simpler times, I made my minimal living as a gardener and musician and intended to live in that commune for many more years until…

Two of our members moved out, thus creating two openings for new members. We had a large number of applicants. Two of those aspiring to join us were a brilliant charming creative woman and an equally brilliant and creative and charming man. They were not a couple and did not know each other. They were, in my estimation, the most ideal members we could ever have. Yet when it came to the final vote, my fellow communards selected two dimwits with nothing to recommend them except they were no threat to the fragile egos of the majority of those in the commune.

Yes, all the men in the commune voted for the brilliant creative woman, and all the women voted against her. And all the women voted for the brilliant creative man, and all the men, save for me, voted against him. I was stupefied and depressed by what I felt was the emotional idiocy of my housemates, and so resigned my place in the commune and took my dreams of utopia elsewhere.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe those dimwits blossomed into human marvels, and maybe it is a fine thing that thousands of people will die so a bunch of cranky impatient deeply ignorant people can get haircuts and go to pubs and tanning salons and spread the dang virus hither and yon. Who am I to say?

And that’s our big news for today.


Big News

I might have called this News, but thought the addition of Big would attract more readers.

These are some of the foodstuffs we recently purchased from our wonderful food co-op Corners of the Mouth. We scrubbed all these goodies with soapy water and then rinsed them as a precaution against the dang virus. We recently learned that hot water does not kill the dang virus. The soapsuds do the killing.

We have heard that many people do not wash their groceries. Are we overdoing our precautionary measures? Having seen people fondling avocados and bananas and cans of beans and then not buying them, I feel better about washing the food and canned goods and milk cartons rather than not.

This is the biggest and most prolific of the apple trees in our little orchard. She also produces our biggest apples. I’m not certain what kind of apples they are. Reddish green, greenish red. Sweet and juicy. Possibly a McIntosh variant. The number of blossoms promise plentiful fruit, but we have had some big blooming years that were not big fruit years. Fingers crossed.

The red flowers around the tree expand their range in the orchard every year. Passersby often stop to take pictures of them. Something about that red.

I woke a couple days ago with the idea to create tracks of split wood on which I’ll stack the wood from the rounds of pine I’m splitting. In the past I would make consecutive stacks, but making tracks like this for the base seems like something neato to try. A variation on a theme.

That’s my big news for today.


Life Goes On

Summer days and nights in Mendocino can be as cold or colder than winter days and nights here, so we heat our house year-round with a highly efficient woodstove. We buy tan oak firewood from Frank’s Firewood in Boonville and harvest soft wood from our acre and a half of forest. All the trees we’ve had cut down on our property in the eight years we’ve been here were trees posing a threat to our house or our neighbors’ houses or the road that parallels the west side of our property and leads to the six other houses down the lane.

Bull pines are often the kind of tree we need to bring down. They tend to grow fast and tall, develop some sort of internal rot, die, and eventually break apart or fall over. A few years ago we had an enormous 170-feet-tall dead bull pine felled, much to the relief of several neighbors who were feeling threatened by the tree. That behemoth and one lesser pine have provided wood for our stove for three years and counting.

A few days ago our neighbor Defer, who is eighty, came over and felled a 130-foot bull pine that was soon to die and eventually topple over and block the aforementioned road. Defer has been a professional tree feller for fifty-nine years and only stopped felling big trees for a local lumber company a year ago.

We considered waiting for the pandemic to end before asking Defer to fell the bull pine, but because we’ll need the wood long before the pandemic ends, we decided to go ahead with the felling.

Defer’s intention was to fell the tree so it landed a hundred feet from our house, but the tree defied Defer’s expertise and scared the bejesus out of me as I watched the giant come down just twenty feet from where I was standing on the north porch of our house.

When the big tree crashed down on the earth, I was jarred out of an emotional freeze I’ve been in since the pandemic took hold and we began our sheltering in place. The weather and temperature and seasons and tides and deer and mosquitoes and apple blossoms and honeybees and bull pines care not a whit about the dang virus. Life goes on.

Defer bucked up the pine into sixteen-inch lengths and I will now slowly but surely split those rounds and stack the wood near the woodshed to hasten the drying so we’ll have a good supply of seasoned soft wood for the coming winter.



One of the largest trees in our garden is a blossoming cherry, a tree that blooms for a few weeks every year but does not bear fruit. For our first couple of years here I was tempted to replace the blossoming cherry with a tree that produced things we could eat. However, over the next few years, I came to love those spring days when our blossoming cherry is the star of our little neck of the planet, and to love those days in the fall when her large leaves turn golden yellow and light our way into winter.

As we enter our second month of sheltering-in-place in response to the pandemic, I’ve been musing about which activities and businesses and occupations and things our government considers essential, and which activities and businesses and occupations and things our government considers non-essential.


Easter 2020

yellow farmhouse

can something be

too yellow?

young potato plant

buried half

sprouts and erupts

japanese maple

branches laden with

unfurling butterfly wings

new leaves

tender promise

of summer shade

young apple

is she strong enough

to bear fruit?


Haiku Breakfast

potato chunks atop

grated zucchini —

a promising start

three eggs with

a dollop of salsa —

mix well

skillet grows hot

squash and taters


egg and salsa meet

zuke and spud —

a fortunate collision

time and heat

and thoughtful stirring —

breakfast is ready!


Galaxy Rover Report #3

Star Date: April 9 Kung 127238

We are all feeling a bit chagrined today, and no one more so than our Chief Science Coordinator. Turns out since day one of our time here on planet Over Easy we’ve been eating only the males of the species sapien horribilis and not the females. Why? Because the females are so vastly different than the males in appearance, and so much more spiritually and intellectually advanced than the males, our most sophisticated sensors classified the females as a separate species sapien hermosa, and definitely not to be eaten.

We inquired of the super-advanced Gigantic Tree People about the incredible differences between the males and females of sapien horribilis. These huge and ancient tree people remember everything that has ever happened on the planet for the last million years. They assured us that if not for the female sapien horribiliss, the males would have slaughtered each other into extinction eons ago. Thus the question our biologists and psychologists are trying to answer is: why, if the females of the species are so advanced, doesn’t their spiritual and intellectual and emotional sophistication manifest in their male offspring? So far we are thoroughly baffled by this question.

In any case, this discovery has resulted in a temporary cessation of the harvesting of sapien horribilis males, which leaves us very little easy-to-find protein-rich food on Over Easy and may mean we are not long for this world.

We have had several requests for photos of sapien horribilis, but our information managers decided that because the males resemble the males of our own species to some degree, such photos might be too upsetting for our constituency. Ditto the females. 

And so before we depart Over Easy, I would like to introduce you to a few more of the outstanding life forms we’ve encountered on this verdant planet.

The Periwinkle People are outstanding singers and psychotherapists. They live in small groups yet are highly independent individuals. They speak in complex rhyming patterns and are fluent in hundreds of languages. Their particular shade of blue is a powerful antidote to sadness and despair.

The Rhodie People, symbiotic neighbors of the Gigantic Tree People, spend most of each year absorbing solar rays and ground moisture to create a spectacular show of colorful blooms that lasts a few weeks and illuminates the entire universe. In their pre-blooming state, their heads resemble pineapples and their leaves shine with promise. In their shiny pineapple state they are given to spouting love poems and exchanging intimacies with visiting insects.

The Red and Green Lettuce people live to feed others. Their humility is so profound that just a few minutes in their presence fills us with gratitude for the opportunity to be alive.

Parsley People are robust and clever and spend much of their time writing lyrics for songs sung by myriad other species. They are champions of collaboration and live by the motto We Go With Everything.

There’s the call to evening meal. Beans and rice and broccoli again. Oh well.

Until next time.


Galaxy Rover Report #2

Star Date: April 5 Buddha 2723

What an amazing planet is this Over Easy. Every minute of every hour our data collecting pods and sensors and communicators reveal new and startling details of life on this remarkable orb. The air is deliciously breathable, water plentiful, and many of the life forms are edible. Of course we are extremely careful not to eat the most spiritually and intellectually advanced life forms, but fortunately there are billions of a certain kind of large mammal entirely void of spiritual or intellectual traces that are quite delicious when prepared properly.

Strangely, this virtually senseless mammal thrives on the planet and is a constant threat to the more spiritually and intellectually advanced life forms, which are, by the way, as advanced as any life forms we have ever encountered in our millions of years of galaxy roving. Why the advanced forms on Over Easy have yet to eliminate this noxious inferior species, we have yet to determine, but our initial interviews with members of the more brilliant species indicate they feel they are close to solving the problem.

In the meantime, these slow-moving mammals provide unlimited tasty comestibles for us.

The most advanced beings we have yet to encounter on Over Easy are the White Bell People. These delightful creatures live in clusters on tree-like structures, sing in multi-layered high-frequency harmony, and recite stunning extemporaneous poetry at the drop of a hat. For much of each year, the White Bell People exist in a non-material state, resuming their transient physical forms every spring.

A particularly loquacious member of the White Bell People informed us with a hilarious extemporaneous monologue that the large mammal we’ve been eating with gusto is known as sapien horribilis and is dangerous, unpredictable, reproduces at an alarming rate, and is incredibly destructive. We also learned that there are rare individual sapien horribiliss who are more advanced than their general population. However, we have yet to encounter such individuals.

Nearly as advanced as the White Bell People are the Tiny Pink People. They are fountains of wisdom and their music is so reminiscent of the compositions of Mendelssohn, one has to wonder if good old Felix wasn’t doing some serious cross-dimensional borrowing when he composed his greatest hits. But once you hear the Tiny Pink People making their ethereal music full tilt boogie you won’t blame Felix for doing some creative borrowing.

When not making music and fountaining wisdom, the Tiny Pink People spend their days dancing with the wind and dispensing advice to the lovelorn.

I have just a few more minutes before evening meal—sapien horriblis tacos with guacamole, salsa, and refried beans—and will close today’s report with a few tidbits about the solar lava flows abounding on Over Easy.

Our sensors and probes and communicators have determined that these congealed solar power units are possessed, individually and collectively, of unique senses of humor and insight. One might call their humor wacky in the manner of the Marx Brothers, and their non-verbal insights thought provoking in the manner of Krishnamurti. As you can see from these pictures, their sense of the absurd combined with a mastery of juxtaposing elements in tension is truly awesome.

Ah there’s the evening meal bell. Yum yum. Until next time.


Galaxy Rover Report #1

Star Date: April 3 Hebrew 5780

Seen from afar, the planet is most attractive. Tantalizing glistenings and myriad gradual indentations and smooth surface flows suggest presence of copious oils, solids, and possibly digestible proteins. Oceanic textures indicate great deeps and possible aquatic edibles. Given how long it has been since we’ve landed anywhere (eons!) and how stir crazy the crew, our hyper-cautious commander has decided to take us into the gravitational pull for a closer look.

The beautiful land mass surrounded by the vast blue ocean is most enticing. Structural artifacts of advanced life forms (possibly still extant) indicate this planet might be able to sustain our kind of life. Our initial data probes indicate an oxygen-rich atmosphere, vast stretches of terra firma, and sounds resembling our kind of music, notably Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.

In a fit of nostalgia, our cartographer has named the planet Over Easy.

This view of a forest on Over Easy suggests tasty comestibles may abound. Given our need to undertake major repairs and stretch our legs and minds, we are going to enter the planet’s atmosphere and make landfall any minute now.