Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

Sponsored Links

California Wildflowers


   Spring is usually pretty nice here. It’s not yet gotten hot.. most days are mild, and the hills are still green from the winter rains.     And the flowers are superb…. in their many shades of gold and yellow which gave the state the nickname “The Golden State”. 

Nature’s Pendulum


Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little,
and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick,
and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die;
so, let us all be thankful.


  There is no balance in nature…. it is more like a see-saw on a child’s playground. The populations of one animal might be affected by any number of factors. As the populations of one animal rise and fall through any number of years, they might open resources for another animal, or they may reduce the opportunities for another.

   Right now we are seeing a rise in the local coyote population… and I have seen no foxes for many months. The local foxes have been decimated in the last few years by a disease (distemper)… perhaps this opened the area to exploitation by coyotes who moved here after the large La Brea Fire this last summer pushed them from their wilderness areas that were scoured by flame. Those areas should be greening soon with the rains we’ve had…. populations of small mammals will rise and the area will be able to sustain coyotes again. Perhaps they’ll leave this area where the human presence though scattered is generally not well disposed to them. This will again open a ‘hole’ in the local ecosystem for eaters of rabbits and rodents, and surely one day it’ll be exploited by some predator.

   Like nature our emotions can run up and down…. try to keep to the middle… but occasional forays into sadness and happiness are to be expected.  If you journey outside the middle… upward is generally better.

   But people so often sabotage themselves….

The world is full of cactus, but we don’t have to sit on it. 
~Will Foley~

   I’ve heard philosophers debate the relative merits of seeking happiness…. some say that to aim for personal happiness is a falsehood…. that we are too insignificant in the grand scheme of creation to desire for anything other than existence… that to banish all perceptions of joy and sadness is the ultimate goal… existence on an even plane is the aim….


“Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus.”  ~Susan Longacre~

   I’ve heard others endorse an attitude of reaching for and pursuing happiness….. I feel this is a worthy goal as long as you realize that when you push a pendulum hard, it will swing back eventually…. so don’t go rushing for hard-to-reach goals that you’re likely never to attain.  Plan and work steadily for a wholesome life without a lot of anxiety and distractions.  Free yourself from needless worry by reducing wants and desires…. aim for simplicity…. and try to cultivate an even-tempered emotional state.  It’s fine if you don’t go reaching for the stars…. but do look up and see them, and know they are there…. but don’t yearn to be on them…. that’s not gonna happen. 

   I’ve heard it said that
“it’s not a disgrace to not reach for the stars….
but it is a shame if you have no stars to reach for”



Tao teh Ching
Chapter 23

Nature says only a few words:
To speak little is natural.
Express yourself completely,
and then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
a gale seldom blows the whole morning,
nor does a downpour last a whole day.
When the clouds pass, the sun shines through.
If nature’s words do not last,
why should those of man?
If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are at one with the Tao
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.
The Tao accepts this accordance gladly.
Virtue accepts this accordance gladly.
Loss also accepts this accordance gladly.
He who does not have trust in others
should not himself be trusted.


   Be happy for the good things that come your way… be grateful for the life you have… an attitude of gratitude is one of the most attributes to cultivate within yourself…. you are your own Master Gardener…. you hold the trowel and water can…. you must do your own digging…. others might counsel you where and how to dig…. but you will select the seeds of your future…. and you plant them daily with every action you take…. you cultivate them with every thought good or ill…. would that the seeds you sow grow strong and full, giving you beauty and strength within yourself.


~Kahlil Gibran~
‘The Prophet’

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.”
Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.

   I ran across the Gregorian Chants with the old song ‘Losing My Religion’.  It is a different way of hearing this song.



‘Losing My Religion’


I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you tryBut that was just a dream
That was just a dream

   Here’s the original REM video


Fire and Rain

  It’s been said that we live our life “one foot in the cradle, and one foot in the grave”.

  Here in these hills we live our lives around two distinct realities, fire and rain.

   One represents the killing off of all life it touches… and the other one represents the giving of life, and renewal, but is also a double-edged sword.


  Fire is the great leveler, bringing all down in a cataclysm of ash…. capricious, often passing one home over, and destroying those around.  It can be prepared for, and the home can be shielded somewhat, but you are still at the whims of a force of nature, as awesome, uncaring and terrible as a hurricane, tornado, or artillery, and the devastation afterward can resemble an apocalyptal moonscape.  There is not a whole lot more sad than to drive through an area of burned homes, steaming stumps and chimneys marking habitations.

   Rain can come as the great cleanser after a fire. While it gives life and renewal to the natural landscape… on fire-devastated land it is the affliction that follows the curse.  The heat-sealed soil will lock tightly after a fire, creating a ‘terra-cotta’ effect, sealing off much of the soil from the water.  The water will run down ashen slopes that were covered with chaparral and trees that previously shielded the soil, preventing erosion and allowing entry of the water reducing run-off…. as the water rolls down following the contours, it will pick up stones and rocks which will break through the locked soil surface…. as they all roll into the opened raw soil, they will scour the soil creating a channel, a gully, this can quickly open pulling many tons of soil away, washing it downstream to silt watersheds, rivers and creeks… and taking the good soil from the slopes.

   The rain we got the last two days came at a good steady rate for us… we did not have any creeks running, the dry soil took all the rain that fell.  We are glad it was enough to get the ground wet, and we’re glad is was not enough to cause run-off on our place.  We pray for the places that had burns, hoping they gain a cover of green before the big rains come in Jan and Feb.

   Here’s what the weather blogger Jeff Masters says about our latest storm:

The remains of Super Typhoon Melor dumped record-breaking amounts of rain over California over the past 24 hours, but the storm is now departing the state without having caused major damage. Mining Ridge in Monterey County had an extraordinary 21.34″ of rain, and several locations in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Santa Clara counties had over 10″ of precipitation. Downtown San Francisco recorded 2.49 inches of rain, which is the greatest 24 hour rainfall for the month of October (records have been kept since 1849). Monterey also set a record for the greatest October rainfall, 2.66″. Strong winds accompanied the storm, with the Twin Peaks in San Francisco recording a hurricane-force gust of 75 mph, Angel Island, 77 mph, and Los Gatos in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 87 mph. Sustained winds in excess of tropical storm force were experienced at several locations along the coast. The Point Reyes Lighthouseexperienced sustained winds of 46 mph, gusting to 63 mph, at the peak of the storm. The Sierra Mountains probably experienced hurricane-force wind gusts, and received several feet of snow. California was lucky this storm came early in their rainy season, since the ground was dry from a year-long drought and the soils were able to absorb a great deal of the rain. Melor’s Deluge in California will be a great boon for the state, helping it to overcome one of the most severe droughts in the past 50 years.





‘Fire and Rain’
James Taylor

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus?
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way

Oh, I`ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

Been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around
Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line
to talk about things to come

Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground


‘Good Morning Weathercock’

Good Morning Kokapelli

‘Good Morning Weathercock’
~Ian Anderson~

Good morning Weathercock, how did you fare last night?
Did the cold wind bite you, did you stand up to the fright?
When the leaves spin from October, and whip around your tail;
Did you shake from the blast,  did you shiver through the gale?


Give us direction; the best of goodwill,
Put us in touch with your fair winds.
Sing to us softly, hum evening’s song
Tell us what the blacksmith has done for you.

Kokapelli in our front yard

Kokapelli in our front yard

Kokapelli, the Zuni/Hopi fertility deity has a presence in our garden.
Kokapelli is also associated with chasing away the Winter,
and bringing in the Spring.

It is a good thing to remember that spring will come again,
even as we settle into the coming winter.

But Lord, we need the winter and some rain,
Just please, don’t give us too much at once, or any frost.


Bring a song for the evening
Clean brass to flash the dawn
across these acres glistening like dew on a carpet lawn
In these dark towns folk lie sleeping
as the heavy horses thunder by
to wake the dying city with the living horseman’s cry
At once the old hands quicken —
bring pick and wisp and curry comb —
thrill to the sound of all the heavy horses coming home.

Heavy Horses
~Ian Anderson~


Do you simply reflect changes in the patterns of the sky?
Or is it true to say the weather heeds the twinkle in your eye?
Do you fight the rush of winter; do you hold snowflakes at bay?
Do you lift the dawn sun from the fields and help him on his way?
Good morning Weathercock: make this day bright.
Put us in touch with your fair winds.
Sing to us softly, hum evening’s song.
Point the way to better days we can share with you.


On an Old Oak.. ‘The Two Trees’ by William Butler Yeats

Excerpted from a posting made in April 2007

‘Variety is the spice of life’ say the old folks….

   There’s some foods for instance that are great all alone…. tomatoes, watermelons etc…. but chop bits of them into a fruit salad, and you have nirvana in food.  Life is made so much more enjoyable by having varied interests and scenes…
   So too with the arts… weave poetry and tune together and you have a song….

   Match a peerless singer such as Loreena McKennitt with a peerless poet such as William Butler Yeats…. you have Nirvana in the audio sphere.

   This song by Loreena also has one of the most spectacular bagpipe intros I’ve ever heard.

  This poem is not one to rush through… each stanza is so full, so deep in symbology




The Two Trees
~William Butler Yeats~

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,

The holy tree is growing there;

From joy the holy branches start,

And all the trembling flowers they bear.

The changing colours of its fruit

Have dowered the stars with merry light;

The surety of its hidden root

Has planted quiet in the night;

The shaking of its leafy head

Has given the waves their melody,

And made my lips and music wed,

Murmuring a wizard song for thee.

There the Loves a circle go,

The flaming circle of our days,

Gyring, spiring to and fro

In those great ignorant leafy ways,

Remembering all that shaken hair

And how the winged sandals dart,

Thine eyes grow full of tender care;

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

Gaze no more in the bitter glass

The demons, with their subtle guile,

Lift up before us when they pass,

Or only gaze a little while;

For there a fatal image grows

That the stormy night receives,

Roots half hidden under snows,

Broken boughs and blackened leaves.

For all things turn to barenness

In the dim glass the demons hold,

The glass of outer weariness

Made when God slept in times of old.

There, through the broken branches, go

The ravens of unresting thought;

Flying, crying, to and fro

Cruel claw and hungry throat,

Or else they stand and sniff the wind,

And shake their ragged wings: alas!

Thy tender eyes grow all unkind:

Gaze no more in the bitter glass

- – -

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,

The holy tree is growing there;

From joy the holy branches start,

And all the trembling flowers they bear.

Remembering all that shaken hair,

And how the winged sandals dart.

Thine eyes grow full of tender care:

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart



California Live Oak

California Live Oak

This is the California Live Oak in front of our house.
It is covered in pollen laden male flowers right now.
This particular tree is probably a good one hundred fifty years old.

   This old Oak tree is about fifty feet across, and maybe forty feet high.  These oaks are respected by almost anyone who sees them. Few people can regard a huge tree without some sense of awe at the huge mass of life they represent. They are a slow growing species, their reactions to stimuli such as flooding, changing water levels or disease are slow also. therefore they can have their conditions change radically and take some years for that to become apparent in the appearance of the tree. That is why you’ll often find people installing a lawn under such a tree, and it might take a few years before the constant moisture makes the tree start to die. The homeowners will be dumbfounded as they will not associate the conditions they have given the plant for three years with the recent changes in tree appearance.

   These trees have adapted to and grown up with the prevailing California weather and soil conditions of the areas they inhabit. It is for this reason that they go into a short ‘aestivation’ in the heat of summer. This is a partial slowing down of processes so that the plant uses less moisture in the summer when we get no rain from May to October. But that same survival strategy can lead to death as the plant cannot tolerate constant moisture around their root zone through the summer.

   We try to keep this old tree healthy, we don’t water too near the drip zone of the tree, and neither do we plant any water loving plants near it. This ensures that the tree gets no supplemental water in the summer.

   The grasses under this tree are the ones that grow here naturally each year. We mow them down a few times a year, but they are annuals that will die down when the heat of summer comes. By July the area under the tree will be just the oak leaf mulch, the dried grasses, and the few cactus plants we’ve got near it.

The End of Rivenrock? Will the tin soldier ride away?

The Law in its majestic equality,
forbids rich as well as poor to sleep under bridges,
to beg in the streets,
and to steal bread

~Anatole France~

   Since 1993 we’ve been an organically certified small farm in California. I had a job with a contractor which paid our household expenses and kept us solvent even when the farm sales were less than our farm expenses. But two years ago when the factory in town closed down, and most of us were laid off, I decided to go into the cactus growing more full time.  We grow a unique vegetable which we’ve shipped throughout the country.  Initially we shipped the cactus leaves as nursery stock, then governmental regulations tightened and we became more aware of the laws and regulations of shipping nursery stock into other states.  So we switched to shipping the younger leaves for people to eat themselves as produce. Our goal has been to ship to Health Food Stores, and restaurants as well as individuals who might be interested in the leaves we grow. Through the years our customer list grew slowly but steadily at a steady 30% rate. As the years progressed the governmental regulations seemed to grow more onerous… and the last year we’ve lost many of our older customers due to the recession. Other businesses have quit, some people seem to have stopped their regular orders. Yet, due to aggressive marketing, our sales this year are the highest we’ve ever had due to many new customers. Yet this was done at the expense of any profit we might have had.  And again the government has come down on us harder. Now we have been notified that we must complete a fifteen hour ‘continuing education’ credits in water pollution and conservation. I’m all for education, but these government-mandated classes for all farms in the state are not provided for free… we must pay for them ourselves.  The worse part is that they are given in the major population centers of Ventura or Monterrey to which we must take ourselves, and pay for our own lodging for the three days of the course.

   It is this extra bit that has me stymied.  We don’t really make any money doing this cactus business. All of our money goes to shipping, governmental fees of several thousand dollars yearly in order to maintain our licenses, permits, and associated fees and overhead expenses.  Knowing that this trip will lead us into negative financial territory makes me reluctant to want to go.  Knowing that due to these regulations, we must take  a sample of our water and have it analyzed monthly at unknown costs…. I am seriously aggravated at the state of our laws and the level of compliance required even for tiny little micro-farms.

   We have some months in  which to take the classes, and maybe I’ll find some classes nearby, but this more personal posting than usual is to let the people know that governmental regulations are  a double-edged sword. While they give the USA good traceability in produce, and  what is perhaps the safest produce in the world, it also makes for stronger economy-of-scale issues that stymie the small grower… right at a time that we are needing MORE small farms, not less.  If we were a huge corporate farm, with many employees, still we would need just one person to go to the classes, but when it’s a one-man operation, the standards are the same. The costs are the same, but they are a larger share of the profit in a small operation like ours.

     My usual outlook is of hope and positive thoughts. Rarely am I dragged into this level of aggravation.    I am sure I will sign up for the classes in Monterrey, they seem very informative and interesting.  But people need to know that excessive governmental regulations strangle small business, they hamper the process of business formulation.  We need to seriously look at what we want for this country, a place where people can transact business legally and efficiently with little governmental interference. If the government requires classes such as this, it should place them within the reach of the people, if it requires monthly water sampling, it should have a method to make such sampling efficient and inexpensive, (the paperwork mentions some samples might cost $8,000 yearly).

   Excessive governmental regulations hamper small business more than the large. If due only to ‘economy of scale’.

    When my dad grew up on an Ozark farm in the thirties and forties, they raised corn and wheat, raised hogs which they sold every fall and winter, and had a hundred or so chickens from which they sold eggs daily. They had five or six milk cows which they milked by hand, using the milk for food and their dogs, and one milk-can daily which they left on the roadside for the milk company to pick up.  They also went to neighboring farms to supply skilled farm labor.  Nowadays they would have to have many more permits, and each operation would require specialized equipment and permits and licensing.  As all these regulations pile onto business, you must streamline your operations, drop aspects that have no profit and require permits,  then you start to specialize. Yet a small family farm should not be a specialist farm, it should have a wide variety of foods and animals to create the ‘loop system’ for bio-diversity.  Yet through the years we have had to drop livestock from our farm, first initially because we did not have proper butchering facilities,  so we stopped the breeding of animals, until we had no more. We stopped using manures for fertilizer years ago because the government is worried about contamination of the soils with bacteria from manures. We stopped bringing in mulches for weed control and soil building because we could not vouch for the exact trees the wood chips came from. We are now a closed system with no outside inputs, and only material going out at a rate of a ton a month. Yet even this production is priced so low, and the shipping and governmental costs are so high, that we make no profit.  One day, it might just get through my head that I’m better off just enjoying the property ourselves, and stop working so hard to make a business out of it.  Yet, I know I can’t, we have such great customers….

   While mulling these thoughts over in my head, I decided I needed to go for a walk. So with my camera in hand, I went down the road and took photos of the things I love about living here.  And it is when in the wilderness, when I am furthest from people and the government, that I am closest to God and nature.  These photos are my world, they are my daily activities and sights…. it is what is most in my heart.



‘One Tin Soldier’


    Listen, children, to a story
That was written long ago,
‘Bout a kingdom on a mountain
And the valley-folk below.
On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath the stone,
And the valley-people swore
They’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.

There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.
So the people of the valley
Sent a message up the hill,
Asking for the buried treasure,
Tons of gold for which they’d kill.
Came an answer from the kingdom,
“With our brothers we will share
All the secrets of our mountain,
All the riches buried there.”
Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.
Now the valley cried with anger,
“Mount your horses! Draw your sword!”
And they killed the mountain-people,
So they won their just reward.
Now they stood beside the treasure,
On the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it…
“Peace on Earth” was all it said.
Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.




Scorpions in Toys

   We have a pretty big Internet presence… links to animal sites, nature sites and produce sites mean we get a fair amount of e-mails trying to sell us anything from pots and pans to animals.  We don’t do any animal trading, but since we supply browse/feed materials to people in the animal trades business, we tend to follow it, and we get e-mails regarding aspects of that trade.

   Today I got an e-mail offering to sell us reptiles from Egypt. Now, while Egypt is interesting, and has a glorious history and environment,  I’m not interested in buying any animals from Egypt or anywhere else.  Regardless, I got an offer of animals today….

 Dear Sir,
 My Name (name withheld for posting) From Egypt,
We have best price, good quality of
 reptiles,mammals,scorpions and insects,tortoise,CITES…etc,
 We can give you shipments asap,
 if you interest please contact us,
 thank you very much
 Best regards,

   Well, he seems legit enough… he mentions CITES which is an endangered species agreement.  In general, people with the license are going to be pros (we possess CITES licenses that we use on occasion for plants).  So I wrote back that we don’t buy or sell animals nor trade in them, thanks anyway.

   He wrote another e-mail offering me scorpions….

Dear John,
How are you doing?If you are interested in scorpions ,
I can send you them in toys through post.
inform me about the numbers you need.
I send the scorpions in good
health and I hope to do business with you.
I wait for your reply.
we wait your answer.

   Well now, what part of “I don’t trade in animals” did he not understand?
   Then I got to thinking about the part where he says…. “I can send you them in toys through post”
   Eh, does this mean he will put the scorpions into dolls, balls and play cattle-calls? Huh? Anyone who’s shipping legally is going to put the animal into a proper container, with a hot or cold pack, shipped by overnight delivery and with proper documentation and permits. The shipping company must also be notified that they are transporting live animals, and any poisonous creature is covered under special requirements.

   No Virginia, you cannot just stuff a bunch of animals into toys and ship them… and anyone who is doing such needs to be stopped.  Any authorities who wish copies of the e-mails, can contact me…. upon proper verification, I am interested in passing them on.

  But yet… maybe there was a language barrier, maybe when he wrote it in English, it came out wrong… so I asked him if he sends them in toys,

 Hello,    Thanks for the offer. I do like scorpions but we don’t sell any
 animals… nor do we collect them. We have native scorpions here… not
 exotic like yours, although I suppose to you, ours would be exotic also.
 When you say you send them in toys… you mean,
it is a good way to get them
 through the Post without being confiscated?    Thanks,

   He wrote back….

Dear John,
this way has no problem .If you need ,inform me.I wait for your reply

  Yeah, usually I let others go about their own way, as long as they are not directly harming anyone or critters, leave it be….

   But this guy IS harming animals…. shipping animals in toys to the USA is not the proper way to go about this…. So in this instance, even though I feel a bit like a ‘snitch’, I can’t sit on this one…. this is wrong on so many levels. So I post this so folks will know that this does go on…. don’t participate in anything that hurts people or animals.

There’s another level of problems with shipping animals around without the licenses…. the licenses are to ensure that the animals are shipped humanely and with as little risk of injury as possible… but they are also to make sure we don’t have animals shipped around the world to be introduced into environments where they may have no natural predators and eventually take over an environment…. we have instances over the entire world where some introduced organism ends up causing all kinds of environmental destruction and has to be hunted down and killed at great cost before it displaces native species.

   Please, don’t buy animals or plants from unlicensed people. The licenses are hard to get and expensive, and the ‘under the table guys’ can supply cheaper, but we all pay when a species goes berserk in a  new environment.





Fire on the mountain



  I’ve been a bit pre-occupied with the nearby La Brea Fire, which is finally going to be put down due to the efforts of the firefighters and the co-operation of the weather.  We’ve gotten a rare occurrence… rain in August. We’ve had no rain since May… now while a firestorm is raging… in comes some rain to dampen the fire. I can relax a little now.


   Now I can listen to one of my favorite songs without breaking into a sweat and starting to catalogue our possessions and plan escape routes.


   The original lyrics are from the Marshal Tucker Band….
but I do like the banjo and mandolin in this version by the Roundhouse band.
Plus, the stunning visuals in the video are great.


‘Fire on the Mountain’
~Marshal Tucker Band~

Took my fam’ly away from my Carolina home
Had dreams about the West and started to roam
Six long months on a dust covered trail
They say heaven’s at the end but so far it’s been hell
And there’s fire on the mountain, lightnin’ in the air
Gold in them hills and it’s waitin’ for me there

We were diggin’ and siftin’ from fiveto five
Sellin’ everything we found just to stay alive
Gold flowed free like the whiskey in the bars
Sinnin’ was the big thing, lord and Satan was his star
And there’s fire on the mountain, lightnin’ in the air
Gold in them hills and it’s waitin’ for me there

Dance hall girls were the evenin’ treat
Empty cartridges and blood lined the gutters of the street
Men were shot down for the sake of fun
Or just to hear the noise of their forty-four guns
And there’s fire on the mountain, lightnin’ in the air
Gold in them hills and it’s waitin’ for me there

Now my widow she weeps by my grave
Tears flow free for her man she couldn’t save
Shot down in cold blood by a gun that carried fame
All for a useless and no good worthless claim

And there’s fire on the mountain, lightnin’ in the air
Gold in them hills and it’s waitin’ for me there
Fire on the mountain, lightnin’ in the air
Gold in them hills and it’s waitin’ for me there
Waitin’ for me there




   Europeans often say we in the US have no history to our country and culture. I disagree completely.

    My dad was a youngster in the early forties when his great grandfather was on his deathbed on a farm near Troy Missouri.  Each day the family would gather dressed in black, and they would all sit around the bed quietly. The boys of course were restless and fidgety.  One thing that always impressed my dad about the old man, who was born in the 1850′s was his revolver he kept hanging on the corner post of his bed. He’d kept it there always, even when civilization came to Missouri at the turn of the century. My dad says it was a huge gun… he was of course young and small.. and just like the snowdrifts over my head I recall as a child… when you grow up the scale of things changes.

   My great great granddad had told my dad that in the old days “life was cheap. Men would get killed in the saloons and alleys of Saint Louis, and every morning a wagon would roam the streets to pick up the men who had been killed overnight and thrown into the streets.”

  We’re all descended from people who’ve gone through hell. 

La Brea Fire photos

   The local La Brea Fire has gotten to some 48,000 acres. The smokehead rises over the Central Coast like a giant cauliflower when the white head shows…. other times it is a big grey smudge all over the sky. The winds change the shape on a minute by minute basis.

   You can find up-to-date news on the fire at local KSBY.

   One photo shows a field covered with plastic. This is commonly used in this area to destroy every last bit of life in the soil. The plastic is unrolled over the field… the edges sealed to make the cover one huge uninterrupted cover over the entire field…. then when the outside edges have been buried, a machine goes over the field poking a small hole into the plastic, it will then inject a deadly poison into the ground… a patch is placed over the plastic to seal it, and the machine will move a bit further down the field to re inject poison. The covers are kept on for a while so that the poison gasses will have plenty of time to destroy every last bit of life. Then the plastic is pulled off… whatever gasses remain will be released into the atmosphere, and strawberries will be planted. 


   What we’re seeing in this photo is common… the wind will often get under one edge and cause huge ‘bubbles’ of plastic to rise up… sometimes the plastic will even lift up on the windward side, eventually blowing across a road and causing real problems. The local recycle area has acres of these plastics in a huge yard… great heaps of this plastic piled high… probably coated with toxins.

   We can see that this cover has not yet been punctured for the poison….. we see none of the little plastic ‘patches’ that are put over the plastic to seal it after the injector has done its job.


   I worry that one day this entire valley will be seen as toxic.  Be assured that we live many miles up the canyon (near the fire), and our plantings are not affected directly by the toxins injected into this beautiful, productive and verdant valley.

   I’m not a strawberry grower…. and we’re organically certified, so I am naturally against this type of poisoning of the environment and the use of such a huge amount of plastic.  Yet being a grower and having to deal with bureaucracy and governmental and public dismay, I am naturally a bit hesitant to critique these foul methods (but I did it anyway).




The big huge firestorm head is called a Pyrocumulus….


UPDATE 081509:

The fire is now at 75,500 acres and ten percent containment.


New Photo Gallery

  We just put up a new photo album. It is arranged into twelve albums and has over 1,300 photos.


The photos cover some of  the beaches, hills, deserts and cities of California.