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.
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.
So a couple months ago, Dexter Jones built a friendship gate in his back fence connecting his yard to his neighbors’ yard. Those neighbors happen to be siblings: Godfrey and Melody. And now Godfrey is one of Dexter’s best friends and Melody is Dexter’s girlfriend, though she and Dexter have yet to physically touch each other because of the dang virus going around, but they’re enjoying the suspense, if you know what I mean.
One late afternoon Dexter is weeding the broccoli
patch in his burgeoning vegetable garden when someone asks, “Are those
Looking up and around, Dexter espies a little boy
peering over the solid wood fence between Dexter’s yard and the neighboring yard
to the south. The little boy is standing on something enabling him to look over
the seven-feet-high fence, but Dexter can’t see what the boy is standing on.
“Yep these are broccoli plants,” says Dexter, gesturing to the big plants sporting numerous heads of broccoli. “Who are you?”
“Larry,” says the boy, frowning. “I thought broccoli grew on a tree.”
“Nope,” says Dexter, smiling. “More like a little bush. How old are you?”
“Five, but I’ll be six in three weeks,” says Larry, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. “How come you put a gate in your other fence?”
“I’m good friends with Godfrey and Melody who live back there, so we made a gate for easy visiting.” Dexter sighs happily as he thinks of Melody and how he’ll be seeing her soon for an evening visit on her patio. “Hey what are you standing on, Larry?”
“I nailed some boards to the fence,” says Larry, matter-of-factly. “Kind of like a ladder and I climb up them.”
“Why did you do that?” asks Dexter, impressed by the little boy’s inventiveness.
“To look at things,” says Larry, nodding. “I made one on each fence so I can see other things besides our yard. I like your yard the best now that you have a vegetable garden. Your beans are growing really fast and you get lots of bees and butterflies. The yard behind us is just blackberry bushes and the yard on the other side is full of junk.”
“Do you have a garden?” asks Dexter, feeling a pang of sympathy for Larry and all the children confined to their little spaces because of the dang virus.
“No, we just have a patio and a lawn,” says Larry, shaking his head. “I wish we had a vegetable garden, but my mom says she doesn’t know how to grow vegetables so we can’t have one.”
“I can help you put in a vegetable garden,” says Dexter, smiling at Larry.
“Wait a minute,” says Larry, disappearing.
“Uh oh,” says Dexter, laughing. “Now what have I
What he’s done is get Larry to go get his mother
who comes out into her backyard with a little ladder and stands on the third
rung up so she can see over the fence into Dexter’s yard. Her name is Harriet.
She’s thirty, divorced, single, works at Safeway, and would love to replace her
little patch of lawn with a vegetable garden, but she knows nothing about
Dexter and Harriet chat for twenty minutes, decide they like each other, and a couple days later Dexter and Godfrey knock out seven planks in the fence between Dexter’s yard and Larry and Harriet’s yard, and they build a second friendship gate.
And just a few weeks after they build that gate,
this being the height of summer, Larry harvests his first radish from his new
vegetable garden and calls Dexter on the phone to make sure it’s a good time to
Dexter steps out of the shower, having just gotten
home from work, answers his phone, and tells Larry to come over in ten minutes.
Larry watches the clock on the kitchen stove until
ten minutes have gone by and then he rushes out into his backyard and goes
through the friendship gate into Dexter’s backyard to show him the radish.
“Wow,” says Dexter, admiring the radish from
several feet away. “What a beauty.”
“I know,” says Larry, gazing in wonder at the
beautiful red radish. “I think maybe I have a green thumb.”
“No maybe about it,” says Dexter, imagining giving
Larry a hug. “You’ve definitely got the knack, kiddo.”
When Dexter and his neighbor Godfrey finish building the gate connecting their backyards, they decide to hold a celebration. Dexter invites one of his best friends, Luis, who is fifty-three, and Godfrey invites his sister Melody who just turned sixty. Dexter is forty-six, Godfrey fifty-seven. Because of the dang virus going around, four is the maximum number of people allowed for outdoor gatherings of an hour or less, and participants are asked to sit or stand at least six feet apart for however long the gathering lasts.
As it happens, Luis caught the virus, or the virus caught Luis, four months ago and he is now fully recovered. Even so, there are now multiple strains of the virus, so he is taking the same precautions as those who have not yet been infected with any of the variations on the dang bug.
Dexter is an Anglo Saxon UPS delivery person. Luis is a Chinese software designer. Melody and Godfrey are the children of Ashkenazi Jews, Melody a high school Home Economics teacher, Godfrey a spiritual counselor at the nearby Presbyterian.
The day sunny and mild, they sit in lawn chairs in a circle on Godfrey and Melody’s patio adjacent to their beautiful old farmhouse, their chairs eight feet apart. They sip lemonade and talk about life in the era of the dang virus and what they think and hope is going to happen sooner or later.
“This has to be the end of unregulated capitalism,” says Luis, a cheerful fellow with black hair and black-framed glasses. “And unless we start putting most of our resources into saving the environment and creating a comprehensive global medical system dedicated to eradicating this and other dangerous viruses, things will only get worse.”
“Capitalism used to be regulated,” says Melody, lean and pretty with short brown hair. “And medical care was excellent and inexpensive. But the super selfish guys got in after Jimmy Carter and they’ve been wrecking things ever since.”
“I think this is the start of a swift decline of civilization,” says Godfrey, tall and angular with short black hair. “Greed and selfishness and cruelty always beget decay and death. I don’t think we’ll see much positive change in our lifetimes.”
“Maybe so, maybe not,” says Luis, smiling at each of his three companions. “In any case, we need to counter the negativity and despair by becoming activist messengers of positivity and hope. Or so I believe.”
“Right on, Luis,” says Dexter, a robust fellow with brown hair caught in a stubby ponytail. “And now that the virus is better understood and proper protocols are in place, I think we should get together like this more often and encourage other people to meet like this, too. And maybe from these outdoor quartets good ideas for new and better ways of living on earth will emerge.”
“Four is my favorite number,” says Melody, smiling shyly at Dexter. “How’s your new vegetable garden doing?”
“Pretty well,” he says, seriously smitten with her. “Lots of babies coming up, the tomatoes taking hold. And so far anyway I’m keeping ahead of the slugs and snails and sow bugs.” He blushes. “Four is my favorite number, too.”
“How’s the package delivery business?” asks Godfrey, who counsels people via telephone these days, though when the warmer weather takes hold he intends to see people outside on the church terrace.
“The package delivery business is busier than ever,” says Dexter, gazing admiringly at the friendship gate in the fence that used to keep him apart from his wonderful neighbors. “Everybody’s buying everything online now. Everything. We’re adding drivers all the time.”
“I feel so sad for the young people and the little kids,” says Melody, shrugging. “All their natural instincts thwarted.”
“Trust in the resiliency of youth,” says Luis, pointing a triumphant finger to the sky. “Trust in the inherent goodness of people.”
Dexter looks at Melody and has a vision of being in a really good relationship with her, and she looks at Dexter and imagines the same thing.