Harvest 2015

‘Twas a year of not much planting, as other work during the spring took up most of the time.  I don’t like the phrase when one door closes one door opens – I think it suggests a balance that while it may exist in the aggregate, like flipping a coin, tells us very little about the likely sequence of events.  I could, were I to believe in what such a phrase suggests, believe that the not planting of the usual contingent of seeds and seedling led to this harvest of acorns.  I do not choose to believe that.

Many was the year I would gather acorns, never in great quantity, but always far more than for which I had use.  It was that each somehow seemed by itself a desirable thing, justifying the gathering.  I’ve had that feeling all my life – I don’t know why.  I romantically speculate that it has something to do with ancient genes.  They say that humans have eaten more acorns than all the crops ever grown since we became farmers.  Verify that!

In 2012 there were a lot of acorns where I live, and, compelled as I can be by them, I gathered quite a few, even taking my younger daughter out on a gathering mission.  What intrepid hominids we were.  We shelled them, leeched out the tannins with multiple soakings in water, roasted them, ground them, and made both acorn butter and acorn chocolate chip cookies.  it came out very well, but to say that there was little demand would be to radically exaggerate the demand.  Nonetheless, I wanted to do the acorn harvest/make food thing now that I have (since June 2013) a comfortable posting place.  I could be that demand was so low because the message really only got to about twelve disinterested souls.  Now it can get to thousands of disinterested souls and be memorialized forever wherever it is that internet bits go when they no longer live where first imagined, somewhere where some Spock in future times will say “Computer – tell me the first known internet publication concerning the harvesting of acorns and the making of acorn chocolate chip cookies” and of course, this will pop up like magic and the Federation will glide further toward glory.

Okay, okay – here is a bowl of them.  Gathered in about an hour.  Perhaps five pounds.  A post will soon follow where I take them them through the transformation to foodstuff.

Full Dish

On this gathering mission I took my faithful companion, to see if he had the disposition to perhaps train as an acorn hound.

Acorn Hound

To and fro he ran with great excitement, never once stopping for an acorn.  Even as I scrounged the forest floor picking up acorn after acorn.  Even as they fell at times nearly right upon us.  He was not interested.

Since this post is nominally about the harvest this year, let me also share the radishes, spoken of here originally.

Acorns with Radishes

For them a special fate awaits, to become half-sour Daikon spears.  Will advise on that.  Also I saved some 75 of their seeds, so next year is at least secure on the radish front. On the one hand, this is not the sort of a harvest that will contribute much to getting through the winter.  On the other hand though, well, perhaps this prototyping of fringe nutritional pathways will prove to be just the thing somewhere far down the road.





Dancing Mirror Cabinet

Because really, you did not know that you needed one, but is not the appeal to self-evidence sufficient?

Mirror Box Back

This is 100% upcycled.

Mirror Box Right

See how ready it is.  I think it more a dancer than a runner.  And it gives something back, like when you look it in the face it shows you something.  And it has ample payload capacity.

Mirror Box Left

It sees things too – notice how it reveals THE brass turtle spittoon.  You might have to click on the picture.  I close with an old poem referencing said turtle.

Melancholy Threshold
The day is waning where pomegranates,
lush and languorous, have blithe dominion
on sultry and indolent afternoons.

The hour is nearly past where languid decay,
like over-ripe fruit, sweetens the absence
of honest reflection and firm resolve.

The moment is fading in an amber
twilight where the imagined animates
the reality of the inanimate.

Now every stone that is thrown
is inseparable from the throwing.
Every intention nurtured becomes
the character of what is perceived.

Now the brass spittoon,
in the form of a turtle,
taunts the ghost of indecision.



Just emerging from a long run of regular work.  Wish I could say I’d made or done something of great purpose outside the work for a dollar channel, but not so much.  I did add a green stone and two tetradrachmas to the meager menagerie I maintain on my desk.


Some think it a distracting exhibition, but I find it fosters creativity.  Kokopelli plays his music.  The Sphinx has the head of Beethoven, so he listens, wishing he had the damn flute.  There’s a madrone root, some Kalahari jasper, you can see.  One of the shells has the opposite twist – I’ve only seen that in this one case.  It’s the gray one front left.

It’s late March and there’s still a foot of snow on the ground here.


Redwood Gobans

Alright.  This evening we have a happy turn, just a little bit of doing, one of those things one means to get to but of course years go by.

I’ve played the great and ancient game of go since 2001.  If you don’t know what it is I recommend it to you earnestly – it will sharpen your mind.  A wonderful website that is wide and deep can explain everything about it, the history, the strategy, the proverbs – yes, it has proverbs:  Sensei’s Library.

A goban is a go board.  There is a lot of history to this too.  The Japanese, who ruled the world of go in modern times (until recently) mandated that only certain woods be used, actually there was a hierarchy of woods that could be used.  I believe kaya was at the top. It’s quite a beautiful tree.  Bottom line it’s a big old evergreen.

Go boards are apparently divided into really good ones, with regular grain (masame), and less good ones, with irregular grain (itame).  The first board I made, just to be able to play, was of an outdoor plywood that probably was treated with arsenic.  Aesthetically it was a grave fail, but it did allow me to play.  After using it for maybe a year and a half I decided to make a real one.  This was 2003.  Massive hunks of kaya, though, are hard to find at any price, and if you do find them the price is quite prohibitive.  I scratched my head a bit and eventually came up with and appropriately American idea, why not use redwood?  It’s massive, available, beautiful, celebrates the game taking root on these shores.  Seemed like a plan.  Off to eBay and shortly I was the proud possessor of a 24 x 27 x 2 piece of quartersawn redwood – curly redwood no less, with flames, as they call them, a sort of chatoyance.  At that time I did not have any real working equipment, nor so much money, so I went to Home Depot to buy a sander, because I knew it would need a finish.  I walked over to the man with the big chop saw and had him trim it to the lines I had drawn.  Home I went and here it is, a redwood goban.

Old Goban Old Goban 2 Old Goban Corner Old Goban Detail Grain

What a lovely thing.  Even though it’s humble and rough in more ways than not, the wood ennobles it sufficiently, and that I took the trouble to precisely measure out – those are not squares mind you, but prescribed to be 7/8 by 15/16 inch rectangles, because that’s the specification.

Years go by.  This is a 19 x 19 grid.  The game of go is notoriously difficult.  Beginners falter.  The 19 x 19 dimension is daunting.  The culture of go recognize that the game is valid at any grid size, though the weight of particular considerations changes with board size.  I wanted to make a 13 x 13 one as a teaching platform.  Some like 9 x 9 for this purpose but I think at that point the relation between global and local is lost, and that’s such a key part of the game.

There I was on eBay one day and a piece of dawn redwood appears.  I’d not seen that ever commercially available as a wood.  Dawn redwood is a Chinese redwood, actually one of only three types of Sequoia in the world (these days) and the only Asian one.  This appealed to me conceptually, maintaining the redwood idea but gong back to where the game was born.  Can you say itame?  I don’t think it’s because dawn redwoods are necessarily of irregular grain, in fact I know that not to be the case, but the piece I’d beheld looked a little like the sky (ok, I exaggerate) in Munch’s ‘The Scream’  (marginally reminiscent?).  Since it was going to be itame I figured I’d just do it rough and quick, so here we are

New Goban 1 New Goban 2 Gobans End Grain New Goban edge and Face

This last shot shows the swirling sky I saw on the left, but gobans are so not supposed to be about swirling sky.  I figure for those who are not so serious that they bleed from the ears as they play that some light distraction is no great crime.  If they become serious enough to scoff at such lightheartedness, perhaps they’ve become too serious.

Anyway, this post was merely to share this creation and my feelings of happiness thereto pertaining.  I’ve played for 14 years now and the journey of playing and trying and learning has been deeply satisfying.  Mostly I’ve played online at the wonderful server DragonGoServer.net.  They keep all your stats for free and there’s a lot to be learned from a history spanning more than a decade.

Dragon Curve

If you ever have a yen to play go don’t hesitate to go there and invite Rusty2 to have a game.  Onegaishimasu.



Two Potato

or Potato Two, or second laminated wooden potato.

This genre – I am thinking of patenting, or, should I discover that there is a patent holder I’d be willing to buy, or if that holder is unwilling to part with it I don’t know, I’m lost, or, if I discover that such laminated wooden potatoes are an indispensable part of human history and archaeologists encounter them all the time, then I just have to re-think everything.

I don’t know why.  It is as if there is all this beauty sitting around, in the form of wood, and the act of specific representation would only detract – why a duck, why a leaping antelope (and one so poorly executed, at that), why even an egg, because an egg has algorithmic requirements – violate them and it’s not an egg.  But a potato?  It is hard for a simple man to violate the idea of a potato.


Behold that perfectly irregular yet vaguely oblong shadow.  Does it not have the potato je ne se qua?  Another wrinkle I wondered about, along the lines of whether the laminated wooden potato was already a thing of historical significance, was whether perhaps the National Academy of France perhaps had elevated the ‘stratifié bois de pomme de terre’ already to a place where my experience and remarks could never have any significance.  I’m just too afraid to research this point.


This particular potato, the second of my works in the genre after the now progenitor (Potato One), is made of a red gum eucalyptus, a spalted maple, some orange osage, and perhaps cherry but more likely butternut as the fourth wood.  I focused specifically on the irregularity on this one.

IMAG0604 IMAG0603 IMAG0602

and I think that part came out pretty well.  I’m sorry the photography here is only marginal.  If you click on an image I think you’ll find rewarding detail, but the composition is certainly inferior.

Why are wooden potatoes made?  What made the crater near the Yucatan peninsula?  Is there any connection?  How does the fate of the world as we know it depend on fundamental things that we do not understand?


Of Solanaceae, my experience with it, permit me to share.  Or better yet – of the perfection of a circle, let me speak! – but not really.  The Solanaceae family is very large, and in comparison my experience is very small, yet I’ve seen so much that connects the family and its members that speaking of them together unifies what otherwise would seem discordant potpourri.

Tomatoes I never remember disliking. My children liked ketchup but not tomatoes until unexpected mid-adolescent conversions overtook them. For me the first more detailed experience was my mother’s garden where for a few summers in my teens she had an abundance of plum tomatoes growing. For two months of these years there were reliably two dozen or more fresh ripe plum tomatoes on the counter in the kitchen. Being young and starved, although comparatively neutral to tomatoes at the time, I’d have few each day. They were sweet and fleshy and I evolved a game or ritual that caused me to know them much more closely. There were two goals – the first was to peel the skin off with the teeth without tearing the fleshy walls. This was a delicate act. Thoughtless nibbling would quickly fail. I don’t know that I even succeeded once the first year. Eventually I became good at it though, though I’m not sure I could do it forty years later with the same aplomb. The second feat was to then remove the fleshy walls with ones teeth without tearing the center to which the juicy seeds clung. Done properly one would have a little ball of gel-coated seeds, quite a thing to behold in the catalog of idle amusements. Probably it could be the subject of a photo-exhibition and captioning exercise. Here I’ve left some ground for the earnest seeker. It was never more than once a day that I could succeed at both challenges. How one holds the tomato becomes an issue, if the finer points are to be considered, and where one starts. The enhanced vitamin C intake caused by these exercises made them seem very bright.

I’d taken note, but hardly a special note, of the tomatoes flower. Small, white, with a yellow center, five petals. Any special thought about Solanaceae drop out here until my first shots at gardening, where peppers were a favored subject. By this time the internet had been born (not so in those early days) and one could gather all sorts of mostly true information and connections to persons who knew some things and from them obtain seeds. I had seeds of rocoto and fatalii and a Jamaican purple Habanero that I spent six years growing and have not since been able to find. The first year, observing the peppers grow, and seeing their small white five pointed flowers, and then considering their flesh, the thickness of their walls, the way that the seeds clumped and clung to the center, it was obvious to me that tomatoes and peppers were cousins – and the thing is, you don’t have to believe it – I did not read this, it just occurred to me. That’s something I so love about nature, that just by seeing one can gather so many true and meaningful associations.

The purple Jamaican Habanero – maybe it was not Jamaican – has a flower that can be white and purple, small and five pointed. The leaves are dark green/purple. The fruit is initially purple and stays purple and is quite edible that way until it approaches final ripeness where it turns a blazing red. The heat of these was hot for other peppers but not for the Habaneros of modern times.  It’s no ghost pepper or deadly scorpion or Comet Kohoutek pepper, for that matter. Very good chopped into a fish salad. I grew them in pots and would take them in for the winter. Doing this led me to discover how profoundly solanum attract aphids. I have pity for aphids when I hear the tales of their being cruelly farmed by ants. I’ve stumbled upon and watched such enterprises – I suppose it’s a symbiosis but not one I’d want to be part of on either side of the deal. Anyway the overwintering rate the first years was perhaps three of ten, and the ones that survived just barely. I don’t use poisons but will manually crush dense clusters of the aphids – perhaps I’ll spray soap, rinse them, but I’ve never really squelched and aphid infestation as effectively as putting them outside and letting natural predators do their job. Ladybugs. One year I was living mostly in a hotel in Syracuse. I’d had one of these plants in the suite I’d been given. Miraculously that year there were no aphids. It did well indoors in the fall and winter and when Spring came I asked the hotel staff if they’d plant it in their garden out front. Never have I seen a pepper do better. Daily care – a hundred fruits at least, and very beautiful with the green purple and red at ripeness. I picked bowls of them for the unwitting guests. These purple ones I kept around for several years but after a while one winter I was not quick enough in the face of the frost. I should have been more thoughtful about saving the seeds.  My first excellent specimen below, a really beautiful plant.


Of the rocoto in particular I must make a few remarks.  It has the thickest walls of any peppers I’ve known.  The seeds are black, also unique to them.  The leaves are hairy. Capsicum Pubescens, that’s how it got the name.  The heat of it is quite variable, gong from a low 7 to a mid 9 (for me 10 is 100K Scoville – anything more I’d put in the genre of stunt pepper). It’s flowers show a little purple sometimes. It has a quite different flavor, as peppers go, well worth growing. I grow these every several years. They have a long season not always fit for us north of Boston, in fact, I’ve never had them fruit unless I’d overwintered them. Were I truly thoughtful I suppose I’d start them indoors in new soil in January and thus thwart both the aphids and the shortness of light, but the ‘were I truly thoughtful’ is always chock full of rich possibilities. Dicing a few of these into a Thanksgiving turkey stuffing or incorporating them into a tomato/pepper base for a slow cooked short rib stew will certainly find admirers.

Here’s a picture of one of the first ones I grew.  The peppers themselves from this plant will eventually turn a wonderful red.  Other rocotos go out toward yellow or orange.



The Fatalii seems to be an African habanero, yellow, quite hot, with a flavor diverging from the standard habanero. One year I was able to grow these, seven peppers in all, to fruit in the same season as they sprouted. I made a hot Thai ginger scallop thing with them, snow peas too, a little coconut milk. I’m sure there’s a lot one could do with them. I now buy a puree that available of Fatalii only. Makes me lazy (as far as struggling to grow them).

Alright, so that’s the run of the mill. Remember the small five pointed flower and the fleshy walls and the seeds that cling to the center, sometimes dry and sometimes with gel? Walking around the yard it became clear to me – actually I first noticed it in potted plants I’d brought in for the winter, that there were these little tomato cousins, with a fruit the size of a pea, dark purple/black, born in little clusters of three to five. I squeezed one of the fruits and indeed, little gel coated seeds, fleshy walls – the joy of observing nature. Was it edible? Research research research – I know the solanaceae family has many poisonous branches (no pun) – mostly it’s solanine. It’s what makes green potatoes – oh, did you know, potatoes too are solanaceae – poisonous, but as they ripen the solanine somehow transforms into something else or otherwise diminishes and they’re just fine.  Tomatoes were thought poisonous. Of course this family too produces many utterly discombobulating alkaloids that no sane person would ever choose to court. The name nightshade and all – that’s what Solanum means in Latin. Solanum nigrum is what these little black fruits were from – black nightshade. The thing is that most people don’t know that these guys are just fine to eat if they’re ripe, and they’re delicious, tangy skin, sweet flesh. I’ve subsequently bought (over the internet) preserves made from them in Idaho. One day I’ll make my own, given time and grace enough. They’ve been called huckleberry, wonderberry, sunberry – great controversy arose in the early part of the twentieth century about whether they were the purposeful hybridization of a Luther Burbank or just a weed. Known in Hindi as Manatakkali. Every year five or ten of these will self seed somewhere at the edges of my gardens. I incorporate them in my harvest vegetable stew.

The hooded ones.  Here we drift over to the physalis branch of the solanaceae: Tomatillos, Chinese lantern plants and the cape gooseberry. Tomatillos are sour and slimy but they will grow in great profusion and supposedly add character to chili and other dishes. I grew them for several years, the green and purple and even a yellow kind, and attempted every kind of redemption I could conceive. Turkey tomatillo meatloaf? Tomatillo parmigiana (a la eggplant parmigiana – (you know the eggplant is yet another solanum)) but I have to say that even the a la eggplant parm approach, which would probably make cow flops pretty tasty, did not do so much for the tomatillo. The best was the chili verde angle with pork tenderloin – it’s not that they are still not slimy and sour, but it’s a little tanginess and thickens the liquid. Perhaps diced into ceviche? The cousins, the Chinese lantern plant for example, those berries are edible, but like the cape gooseberry aka peruvian goldenberry aka … I put those in the harvest stew when we grow them. The physalis peruviana is a lovely plant. The leaves can be hairy. Without aphids it would winter very well. The fruits are sweet and a little bit tart. I think I great pie could be made from these – I’ve had a preserve made from Hawaiian grown versions – I think they call it the poha there. Part of the familial relation between these solanacae is illustrated by this observation. One year I grew potatoes from cut up red potatoes I’d bought at the supermarket. The next year though it seems like potato beetles got wind (really) of my potato plantings and came and decimated the plants very early. Having done too good a job there they adopted the phys perviana – which was both a joy to see how the bug showed that these plants leaves taste the same and sad, of course, because what otherwise would have been a bumper crop of gooseberries was also destroyed.

Here, in succession, are pictures of an alluring cape gooseberry at dusk, a ravaging potato beetle on a gooseberry leaf, and a small chorus of ripe cape gooseberries, just before they begin to sing.

Cape Gooseberry at Dusk

Potato Bugs

Gooseberry Chorus

Before I get to the wonders of the kangaroo apple, I must first report on the sad frolics with the Tree tomato. This really is just more of a tale of unrequited desire. To keep it to the point, as this whole ramble is getting to have too many arms and legs, I’d always wanted a tree tomato, just because ‘how cool is that?’ – tomatoes, or almost, that grow on trees. Tamarillo seems to be what they are called, Solanum betaceum for you who are more formal, Tammy or Bettay for street dealers. I’ve ordered mature plants only to have them freeze on my doorstep, ordered seeds that seem never to grow. It’s not that ultimately there is anything so exotic about these, it’s just one of those things at the edge, wanted but never seen, chased but never overtaken, etc.

In March of 2009, at the Pasifika Festival in Western Springs Park in Auckland, I was very attentive to the flora, alert for things I’d never seen. After some browsing about I came across a bushy eight foot tall thing with purple branches and yellow cherry-tomato-like fruits. I quickly jumped to the conclusion that this must be an example of the tree tomato (tamarillo) that New Zealand had been trying to turn into a commercial crop for some time, so eagerly I took two of the fruits. I kept them on the counter in my apartment in downtown Auckland and watched them turn a rich orange as they ripened. After two weeks or so I sliced them open and indeed they were constructed just as tomatoes are, so I was confident of their identity. I let the seeds dry between a few papers in a notebook and eventually (accidentally) brought them back to America.

In June of 2009 I sowed them and 25 or so seedlings quickly sprouted. There was a bit of a heat-wave that July that killed the less hardy but I still had ten or so coming into the autumn. A few I gave to plant oriented neighbors, one to my mother and one to my sister, one to Maeve’s school and three I kept. Over the winter, in the dryness of the cactus room, they developed a nasty case of spider mites and I had to poison them several times to preserve their life. They came through into the spring just barely alive. I set them in the ground in late May and (it was very warm) they took off, growing new stalks, flowering, beginning to bear fruit. It was then that I had to address a nagging doubt, that despite the obviousness of the call that they were tree tomatoes, their leaves shape and flower color did not at all match the pictures of tree tomatoes I’d seen on the internet. I took a picture of one and sent it to an old woman I had met in New Zealand, and she confirmed indeed that these were not tree tomatoes, though she did not know what they were, though some grew near her house and she said she could find out but the thought they were poisonous. This confirmation goaded me to search the internet more vigorously for what they might be. Turns out the colloquial name is ‘Kangaroo Apple‘ – a.k.a. “New Zealand Nightshade”. Nightshades are funny plants, as are potatoes, being quite poisonous when green but entirely benign when ripe. It is said that Australian aboriginals quite like these kangaroo apples – and of course they’re smart enough to wait to eat them till they’re ripe. I tried a few in a salad – not exactly my thing, but bless biodiversity.

This aviculare also proved to be a trifle hardier than I expected – not that they could withstand the northern winters here – but one seed did sprout from a fruit that nust have fallen the previous year. Right now, at the end of 2014, is the first year I’ve been without them sonce that 2009. I recommend them as distinctly fun if you like watching plants grow. Especially the immature leaves, they have different shapes than the mature ones, almost like fingers on a hand.  Immediately following are pictures of a young one flowering one with fruits on the branch, and one selected by a beetle.

Solanum Aviculare Flower


Young Kangaroo Apples

Beetle on Kangaroo Apple 3

A few of the less common (upper here in the northeast of North America) solanace I’ve grown are lulo and pepino. Lulo – Solanum quitoense, also naranjilla, has some of the most beautiful leaves I’ve seen. A real delight to watch it grow. In three years though my three plants have never flowered, I guess i’m not puttng enough care into their care. The lulo is supposed to produce a fruit with a citrus flavor, despite not being of the genus citrus. The pepino (Solanum muricatum) is supposed to produce a fruit that is like a pear and a melon all at once, despite being a cousin of a tomato – I think this might be a good aspersion – “You cousin of a tomato!” – yet, like the lulo, for me, this plant has proven unvigorous, susceptible to pests, disinclined to bear flower or fruit. I’ll probably grow them till I get a fruitful outcome, but the journey will be far longer than I’d prefer.

A Lulo leaf below.  Some have thorns, some do not.

Naranjilla leaf


On the other side, quick to grow and fruit, three I can discuss. One year I ordered as many different kinds of solanum seeds as I could find from the internet. There were turkey berries, indian eggplants, I can’t even remember the many others. As with eucalptyi I lose track of the which is which with astounding reliability. Anyway one of these, I’m not sure which it was was deemed a no no by the US Agriculture Police. They actually came to my home because they had observed that I had bought one on the internet.  I think the problem was that if released into the wild it was very invasive – I’d bought monster seeds! Now inasmuch as I lose track of which is which I did my best to point out which the offending spawn was, and the good news is that I’ve had no outbreaks of evil plants, but the whole thing was strange. All sorts of plant material moves on thousands of channels all around the world. I certainly would not want their job.

Speaking of nasty solanums though, if you meet a Carolina Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense), do not indulge it. I saw a few of these a few years ago at the edge of the woods in Fairmont Park. I knew they were Solanum of some sort. Short and thorny with orange/yellow cherry tomatoes on it. Poisonous by every account. And tenacious- once you get a few growing they are not easly removed, as they propagate from their own roots, and so, unless fully dug out or poisoned hey will multiply.

The other nasty one, not because it’s invasive but because of it’s prickliness and poisonousness, is the porcupine tomato, Solanum pyracanthon. It’s actually a delightful plant to grow, very vigorous, very beautiful – just don’t touch it or eat it, and all will be well.  Watching them grow, especially for the first time, is quite a thing.

One Very Serious Baby Porcupine

Ornery Porcupines

I’ll close with one that sounds nasty but in fact has behaved very well – the cannibal tomato, Solanum Uporo.  As of December 2014 Wikipedia does not even have these yet.  They are from Fiji, are very like a tomato, are bitter, were supposedly favored by cannibals for adding to a happy homo sapiens stew.  I’ve grown them a few years, have not even gone so far as to try them with pork.

Ripe Cannibal Tomato

So there you have it, and thank you for your great patience if you’ve waded through all this.  This family of plants does fascinate me and with sufficient grace I’ll experiment much further with them.  Mostly though, it’s not even the prospect of what may be done but rather a sense of thankfulness at the wonder of them, that they are some sort of family growing in this tremendous diversity of ways across all of earth’s many environments and adapting to the presented conditions with such creativity.  Pretty awesome to me.

Horned Devil Seeds


Horned Devil Seeds

It must be ten years ago or more late one autumn that I was walking by a little lake and there were a ton of these beneath a tree by the shore.  Very curious, they were hard and black and the points were sharp and all in all these seeds just looked very fearsome.

I kept some in a cup and put them in the garage, not without reasonable misgiving.  For years they sat, never hatching, or sprouting, or doing whatever they were supposed to do. Finally a few years ago I decided to un-riddle the mystery. This might have taken a special research library when I was a child.  Knowledge is becoming so cheap – it’s like it’s not knowledge anymore, just facts passing through, available to anyone who has a moment, but what are facts but props for opinions anyway – be careful about getting involved with them.

Anyway, that picture is what I found at http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=trna_002_ahp.tif which lead me to learn it’s a water chestnut (though not the one known in chinese cooking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleocharis_dulcis), or water caltrop.  I had been fooled by the location next to the tree – these were underwater vines, underwater nuts.  The story is quite interesting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_caltrop.  Apparently in ancient times Europeans would eat these both as a famine food and where agriculture was still nascent.  In America they are pernicious, invasive, certainly not native.

Chalk this post up to sharing knowledge/information.  I used to think I could meaningfully differentiate between those things.  I remember hearing once that knowledge was the organization of information such that it became useful.  I never liked that definition because it made knowledge little more than a servant of purpose.  I still don’t like that definition.  I’d like knowledge to mean ‘the possession of information whose character will never need to be revised because it is true’.  But I ramble a bit.  Knowledge, as I would like to consider it, is decidedly out of fashion in the internet age.  We have lots and lots of information.  Just a bunch of bits passing through.  Of course they’ll be different tomorrow than today.  And we tend to prefer the most common.

I am still hoping that nothing untoward is born from those seeds, regardless of all I have read.


Corny Chirp

Chirp of Life.

I’ve not posted since May – much work for a dollar, but it’s always a blessing to have work, so no complaint there.  Despite the neglect though, the plants took good care of themselves – apparently I’m not on their critical path.  One stalk of corn has done a record bit of growing, pushing 18 feet I daresay – you judge –

Corn 1 Corn 2

I am waiting for the ears from this one save as seed corn.  I have a few ears from its stunted brethren.  I think they must be understood as decorative.


Now something I’d never noticed before, was that corn has additional, aerial roots at each of the lower segments.  I’m still dwelling on why, or is vestigial, how much so, etc.

Corn 3

And last, a leftover from last year, an escapee, if you will, from that harvest, a runaway purple carrot

Purple Carrot

The light ebbs here, but it does that every year.



I had just last written of hammers and it was pointed out to me that I had not mentioned their nominal patron god, Hephaestus.  Indeed too, supposedly Hephaestus is the patron of blacksmiths and craftsmen and all those who make things, and this blog in general is mostly about making things, so stopping for a moment to reflect on Hephaestus seems nothing short of proper.

Of course I’d read the basic mythology, and also having a natural predisposition towards blacksmiths, it was easy to conceptually favor a working god.  Something about the moment of impact though, impact as creative transformation, had and has a very powerful appeal to my intuition.  Let me offer a little show and tell.

I drew this a few years ago, thinking about the moment of impact


and realized pretty quickly that the core element – the striking of a lightning bolt on an anvil – came out of a brief scene in Disney’s Fantasia.  There the Hephaestus is a little needlessly doofy but nonetheless he still has mighty work to do.

Hephaestus Fantasia 1 Hepaestus Forging Art Babbitt

I think a fellow named Art Babbitt is to be credited with that art and I praise it highly.  It is very brief but conveys its message very powerfully.

The Greek gods in many ways were a bunch of immortal miscreants.  Neither had they wrought the universe itself, so much as they presided over it, nor did they serve it in a manner that rose much above capricious self-indulgence.  Myself having been born in an earthly monotheistic tradition, where God in addition to presiding was also the maker of the universe, its fabric and character, this brought about in me an imagination of an Hephaestus of cosmologically much broader authorship, as if the personified agency of God as maker.  Not so much the chooser of what is to be made, nor necessarily the maker all things such as our clay-like selves, but big mighty things such as the fabric of the universe and of time.  Blake uses the idea of the smithy of heaven obliquely in Tyger Tyger, citing the hammer and anvil and tongs –

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

but my imagination is not subtle.  This idea of the heavenly smithy though, in which the world as we know it was and perhaps continues to be wrought made me write, this is a long time ago, nigh on thirty years, this bit –

Hephestus on Hammering
Thwump utterly on the big drum
Shuddering pulses that shiver down
The ossified spine of history
Amplify, with irresistible euphony,
The pure and incomprehensible
Music of the void
Stretch the limits of desire
Past the love of control
And the poignance of pain
Quake the dormance of matter!
Quake the formation of substance!
Quake the making of time!

where thwumping of course is the hammering, the ‘thw’ being the woosh and the ‘p’ the impact – and calling it a drum because there is a rhythm and a music in these repetitions, but to get to the intent, what would a big Mr. H, charged with such a big job, think and be desiring in doing this work that took the fullest measure of his strength and spirit, that he would be trying to transform the dead mass into more than a shape, that by hammering to transform, but to transform into what, oh, the muse.

Hephaestus painting

I am not much of a painter, nor a writer.  When I look at what is in this universe and what this universe is I am filled with wonder and I wonder what hath wrought it and if any design or intention or struggle, as we who make things experience, was in the making of things how they are.  I can’t even decide if I want that to be the truth or not.  I just can’t help but wonder.  I do know the painting above is certainly filled with imperfections – I was on an airplane the other day for a few hours – decided to touch it up a little electronically.  Except that he looks a little too composed now, almost as if he just got up from his desk job, the glaring wrongs spots are mostly addressed.

Hephaestus painting 3

Early Spring 2014 – Many themes

To begin with, here near Concord, MA, we’re at April 5th and the snow is just leaving the ground.  The crocuses started to bloom a few days ago, buds are fattening, but it still freezes at night.

I saw one I’ve never seen be so bold as to come to the bird food on the deck.  I was able to walk pretty close to him before he or she decided to scamper.20140402 A

Now one of the great experiments over the winter was the planting of a previously potted Eucalyptus Neglecta at the feet of a brass statue of Ganesh in a small garden built for said Ganesha.  The garden was under snow until a week ago and now the eucalyptus is revealed somewhat the worse for the wear but with still a few encouraging bits of green.  Frozen string beans are green too, so this does not necessarily indicate abiding life.  We’ll have to see what does or does not spring forth, but this is just part of the wabi sabi journalism we do here.

20140405 A

Speaking of, we do have a casualty to report.  In his life he was an ebullient fellow, known to his friends as ‘bear dog’.  Here he is pictured in brighter days.

Bear Dog with Daisies2


He was born just after the turn of the century from the trunk of a wild cherry that had overgrown it’s location.  For many years he peacefully attended our comings and goings.  Never had he a cross word.  He lay in state for a few days (pictured below).  Plans for his final disposition remain private at the request of the family.

20140405 B


His friend Cat Pig, pictured below, said of him that he had never encountered one less inclined to complain of his suffering.  “He was a simple inspiration”, said Cat Pig.

Stone Cat 1

Whispers of his passing swept through the local community of artificers.  Just today there appeared what was described as a model of a burial mound.  Not many details were yet available but his impact on that community was clear.

20140405 C

Cat Pig went on – “While Hobbes, in Leviathan, said ‘For what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the artificer?’ I do not think that we need to work backwards as this logic does.  I would rather that we go looking for the bear dog equivalent of an homunculus and posit a sort of inverted formation path, of spirit arising from flesh.  I’d almost like to posit that while the artificer, whoever that might be, set forth bear dog in part from the imagination and in part from this manifold flux, that with such seeds new things arise, things uncontemplated previously, things that change the world.  Don’t be surprised if you read the newspapers and see reference to the doings of some seeming ursid/canid sprite – it’s just squarely in the realm of the imagination.

And so Spring begins.