Juke Box

Juke Box – Cowboy Take Me Away

Too much to do in this short life. Time enough for a cover of this song though.

Living in Society

A Suppressing Rain

Seedlings in the greenhouse.

It rained overnight, just as the man at the fertilizer place in Monticello predicted yesterday. We had a long conversation about rain, as rural folk often do. It’s something to talk about, something to which we can all relate. I asked him to load the two bags of fertilizer in the back seat so he wouldn’t notice my Biden for president bumper sticker that read “Build Back Better.” I went there for fertilizer and for weather talk, not for a political conversation.

The other kind of rain is figurative. It’s raining Republican legislation to suppress voters going forward. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 47 states have filed more than 361 bills to restrict access to voting. Any state that signs such a bill into law will be sued, Democratic attorney Marc E. Elias said. Lawsuits are already pending in Iowa, Georgia, Montana and Florida. Republicans have determined they can’t win elections at the ballot box and are rigging the system to retain power anyway.

It was bad enough President Trump was impeached for fanning the flames of insurrection when the Congress was tallying electoral votes from the November election. Under normal circumstances, a president with as poor a record as Trump would be fading from view. Democrats gained control of both chambers of the legislature and the presidency on his watch. He is not fading. Republicans have a different agenda, though. It has to do with gaining and retaining power, no matter what. Any jamoke with autocratic tendencies will do, I suppose.

It’s not just me who thinks this. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney had this to say:

Trump is seeking to unravel… confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this. The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process.

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 5, 2021.

Cheney voted with Trump 93 percent of the time, so she is no liberal. Her punishment for making such statements and mounting a campaign for a return to law and order centered on the U.S. Constitution is expected to be removing her from her Republican leadership position in the House of Representatives. She’s in a minority of Republican colleagues regarding the future of the party.

The days after my retirement from outside work were supposed to be a time to take it easy. When it’s raining voter suppression, how could I? America is in dangerous times, with our Democracy at stake. Every person will be needed for the struggle against taking away the right to vote from so many.

I’d rather talk about the weather and our need for literal rain. That’s not the task that presents itself.

Kitchen Garden

Planting Annuals

Garden Plot #5, ready to plant.

Ambient temperature reached 38 degrees overnight, indicating we are not out of the frost zone yet. In Marion, just north of us, it hit 33 degrees. Despite this reality, the following appeared in the Saturday newspaper:

Mother’s Day has a twofold purpose in this part of Iowa. It’s a time to honor moms and it is time to plant your annuals as the fear of a late frost is over. I think.

At least it looks like this May is going to be sunny and warm without any dips to freezing.

So if you haven’t already, it is time to scope out the garden centers, find what you want, and a few more you couldn’t resist, and enjoy planting.

Judy Terry, Iowa City Press Citizen, May 8, 2021.

Gardening as consumerism? Blech!

I buy plenty of supplies for the garden. However, I haven’t been in a garden center since I worked at the home, farm and auto supply store. My work was to receive merchandise and set up display areas, not to shop. Things I need from a garden center makes a very short list.

People have to get their seedlings somewhere, so I don’t begrudge folks who frequent garden centers. I encourage people to plant something, even if in a container on a patio. I also understand newspapers appeal to a certain type of resident. The paper dipped below 10,000 subscribers and had to begin once a week free distribution to meet advertising contracts. They may need articles like Ms. Terry’s to prop up sagging circulation. I’m okay with that, too. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

My little greenhouse remains full despite planting yesterday. Into the garden went Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, spinach, tomatillos and okra. I planted the okra and tomatillos in drainage tile so they will be protected or easily covered if it does freeze. Everything else should withstand the cold.

My garden fencing is a mess driven by trying to recycle previous years’ mesh. I’m committed to reorganizing it because I need two rolls of the welded wire fencing for the tomatoes and a third, which is heavy duty, to make more tomato cages. That is a big project by itself.

For now, though, we wait for danger of last frost to pass.

Living in Society

Will the Pandemic End?

Plot #5 after Friday’s shift.

People are uncertain about resuming pre-pandemic social relations.

Yesterday on a Zoom meeting with 60 participants, the moderator took a poll of our vaccination status. About 93 percent of participants were fully vaccinated, everyone had a plan to get vaccinated, and they are looking to meet in person again soon.

Thursday my spouse and I attended a funeral service for a neighbor on line. No one inside the church wore a mask. The preacher mentioned it was the first time in a long time people could gather together for a funeral because of the pandemic. There were more people attending on line than in the image transmitted from the church.

During my shift at the farm we worked outside. All of us have been vaccinated, although we still wear masks when working inside the greenhouse. Outside, no masks are required. It felt good.

On a long telephone call with a friend, they said they wouldn’t go out again after the pandemic. At least not to the kind of event frequented before.

I organize our home owners’ association monthly meetings. Since the pandemic began we’ve held meetings via conference call. When the city library begins renting the meeting room again, that will be my sign it’s okay to meet in person again.

Uncertainty abounds in all of this.

The pandemic is real. People I know got sick and died from COVID-19. The same is true for almost everyone I know. Because of our pensions, our household can survive without outside work. We used to get so much of our lives from work, yet suddenly it wasn’t as important as staying healthy.

I like not being sick since the winter of 2019-2020. That’s a result of personal hygiene practices in play because of the coronavirus pandemic. I won’t abandon my face masks when going to the grocery store post-pandemic. If I take a job, it will be one in which I can avoid daily, random contact with people, or maintain proper protections when in person. It’s becoming a weird world for which I am not ready.

For now, the pandemic continues, and with it, social protocols. What worries me is not this pandemic, but the next one. People smarter than me say more are coming. Will we have learned anything from our time since WHO declared the global pandemic on March 11, 2020? The last year has not provided much hope we will.

Living in Society

Being Sexagenarian

Pears forming.

People don’t use the word sexagenarian much. Because of lack of use one associates it with being a sexpot or something related to youth. Let’s face it. After turning sixty aging accelerates. Most of us are not as sexy as we may think, despite genetics, efforts, and vague intentions. It’s more like we are clinging to youth rather than embracing our experience.

My sixties have been about life after the big job. During my last year in transportation and logistics I was tracking to make more than $100,000 annually. Since then, it’s been about making do on a much lower income. I turned 60 more than two years after leaving my career and despite a couple of bumps, have been okay financially.

A person who said being sexagenarian is about getting ready to turn seventy would not be wrong. Septuagenarians and octogenarians have to make do with less. Practice makes perfect, or rather semi-perfect. Life is what you make it, they say. I’m spending more time doing what I want. 70 is coming right up and I haven’t thought about life as a septuagenarian. Having given up on youth, I suppose I’m clinging to middle age. I need to let go of that, too.

In graduate school we studied aging in America and part of aging is being a survivor. Since 2018, too many friends, mostly younger than me, have died. More than a dozen neighbors died during the last couple of years and only one of them from COVID-19. Should I survive, being a survivor is going to get worse. Planning to survive is part of being a sexagenarian.

The decision to retire at age 58 was sound. Had I continued, the kind of stress I experienced would most certainly have led to a premature death. After losing interest in my career, I luckily recognized it was time to go and did. As a result, I’m here to tell about it and using my sexagenarian years to prepare for and live a more varied retirement.

However, the word sexagenarian just sounds wrong. I’d rather have no part of it even though I’m close to outliving those years. Like with anything, we believe the best is yet to come, regardless of the weight of an aging frame. A sexagenarian knows better.

Living in Society

Nominate Meghann Foster

A special election for Johnson County Supervisor is the epitome of insider political baseball. Both Republicans and Democrats must call a special convention to nominate their candidate for the June 8, 2021 election. Democrats meet on May 11, Republicans May 8. Individuals can also get nominated by petition.

Our county is heavily Democratic so the likely winner of the special election will be the Democratic nominee. There are at least three candidates, although we won’t know the final number until we get to the convention where floor nominations have been popular and relatively frequent. Recently, a Democratic nominee lost the special election, so anything is possible.

I’m supporting Coralville City Councilor Meghann Foster as the Democratic nominee. She’s solid, and the best of the announced candidates. Learn more about her here and decide for yourself.

I am an alternate delegate and will work to get seated as a delegate. Since the convention is in person this time, all delegate slots are not expected to be filled. Like the caucuses, getting to a specific place at a specific time excludes people. That’s how it’s done, however. It’s insider-oriented, like it or not.

Kitchen Garden

Rain Came

Apple blossoms after pollination.

The rain wasn’t much on Monday. Barely enough to wet the ground. Afterward, I did not water the garden even if it could have used a thorough soaking. The next rain is forecast on Saturday.

The greenhouse is full of seedlings ready to go in the ground.

Now I wait. Unlike when consulting the Toledan Tables, we’re not sure when everything will align.

Living in Society

Zany Times in the Second Congressional District

Woman Writing Letter

When Jim Leach and Dave Loebsack were our congressmen we didn’t have to lookout for daily zany stuff from our congressional office. Now that Mariannette Miller-Meeks is in the Congress, we do.

Her latest caper was in the April 30 Iowa City Press-Citizen. She sported a mask with a “6” to let folks know she won the district by six votes. She also threw out alternative facts in the article:

“Miller-Meeks said she felt former President Donald Trump wasn’t receiving enough credit for the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly Operation Warp Speed, which she said, “’miraculously gave us three safe and effective vaccines in just nine months.’”

As a physician, Miller-Meeks should know that creating a vaccine takes anywhere from 5-10 years. The scientific industry began testing a decade ago when SARS ravaged China. That is the reason we “miraculously” have three vaccines. Further, Pfizer did not join the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.  The pharmaceutical company self-funded. (AP Fact Check, 3/13/20, “Trump wrongly takes full credit for vaccine”).

Saying Trump should be credited for getting three vaccines rolled out in nine months is disingenuous and wrong.  Her misinformation can confuse folks.

We need better from Congress.

~ Published in the Iowa City Press Citizen on May 5, 2021.

Kitchen Garden

Hot and Windy Day

Sunny morning as apple blossom petals fall to the ground.

Ambient temperatures soared to the high eighties on Saturday with wind gusts over 25 mile per hour. It was an unseasonably hot and windy day. Pollinators continued to work the fruit trees and the backyard is covered with fallen apple blossom petals.

I worked outdoors, digging the next garden plot and washing garden tubs. The next plot will hold a large number of vegetable varieties, more than a dozen. As I spaded the earth and considered layout options, time passed quickly. How seedlings are arranged will impact production.

It was a day of anticipation, for soaking up sunlight, and being buffeted by the wind.

Kitchen Garden

Peak Bloom

Red Delicious apple tree in peak bloom. April 30, 2021.

Friday outdoors work included mowing grass and running the trimmer in the ditch. I worked up a sweat.

Near the curb box for the cable connection were two morel mushrooms. I didn’t harvest them. Hopefully they will propagate and next year there will be more. It’s the first time I found morels on our property.

I planted Rouge vif D’Etampes pumpkins and Sarah’s Cantaloupe in soil blocks. It’s my first time growing both of them. Once they germinate, I’ll put them in larger pots, then into the ground. They are the last of the new seeds to be started indoors. From here it is succession crops of lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and others.

The goal is to get initial planting done by Friday, May 28, which is the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend. After that, I can celebrate the holiday and turn to other projects.

April was a dry month with dry conditions persisting across parts of the state. “We’ve had a significant expansion of that D-O or abnormally dry category,” state climatologist Justin Glisan said. “As a reminder, that’s not drought but it is a sentinel for us to recognize that we are seeing drier-than-normal conditions, given precipitation deficits through late spring.”

May is to be a wetter month, he said.

Because ours is a home garden, the produce of which is used mainly in our kitchen, I don’t get carried away with watering. I make sure to apply some daily moisture, but feel it is not my job to make up for the lack of rainfall.

Even though I mowed, it didn’t produce a lot of clippings for mulch. Likely because I set the deck at four inches. This year, a larger part of the garden will have black landscaping fabric serving as mulch. It worked particularly well with peppers and tomatoes last year, and I saved the fabric to re-use.

Fruit is setting on apple and pear trees. Yesterday was peak bloom and fallen petals blanket the ground. Soon the bloom, with its sweet fragrances will be finished, followed by a long season to harvest. If good conditions persist, the harvest will be a great one. It is what a gardener works toward.