Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How I Spent 30 Minutes With Rachel Ray

Yesterday evening I was exhausted, having just ended the weekly newspaper cycle. With election news and related material, as well as our special preview edition of the town’s annual festival, I logged about 73.5 hours.

A good portion of those hours were on the weekend. I stayed up late and woke up early.

The result: Sleep deprivation.

Last night I sat like a vegetable in front of the boob tube before falling asleep early.

I was a little loopy, and watched some programs that are not part of my normal viewing.

At one point I found myself enthralled by Rachel Ray on the Food Channel. She was explaining how to marinate a big piece of meat.

I’m not sure the point of these cooking shows. The host always proclaims the dishes a success, but how do we know? Maybe the dishes are cold, burnt or rancid. I’ve tried several FoodTV.com recipes. Some were nice, but some were clearly not thought out or tested.

But there I was – eyes wide open, watching Rachel dice some scallions and grate a lime.

I watched the show from beginning to end, flipping to the Memorial Day war movies during the commercials. (SPOILER ALERT: Although the Germans have much better looking uniforms, the Allies ultimately win.)

Back to Rachel.

CP, who was passing by, said “Why do guys watch this show? Do they imagine that she’s their girlfriend and she’s cooking for them?”

Ummm...Well... maybe so.

Rachel Ray could come to my house any day and make a nice meal – something she claims she can do in 30 minutes (cook a meal, that is, not come to my house.)

She has an over-the-top quality. She’s kind of loud and silly – the kind of girl you’d take to Chilis for margaritas and chicken wings. She’s easy on the eyes and that steak she was cooking – a real beautiful piece of meat! It looked juicy and delicious, especially when she carved it against the grain and plated it with a spicy hot Korean coleslaw followed by a pineapple-kiwi dessert toped with toasted coconut and drizzled with a ginger-infused simple syrup.

If Rachel ever came to my house, I'd point to the kitchen and say, "You've got 30 minutes baby! Make it good."

Speaking of food, I think there’s a real upside to both illegal immigration and the bird flu – cheap chicken!

They’re practically giving it away.

A few weeks ago we bought a whole chicken for about $2. Toss in an additional $1.50 worth of ingredients, and this is what we got out of it:

• 3 chicken dinners
• 4 chicken salad sandwiches
• 8 bowls of chicken soup

That’s about 25 cents a serving. What a deal.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What happened tonight (Words, no sentences)

11 p.m. tonight. Dark. Quiet. Working. Desk. Computer. Pages. Editing. Layout. Same old same old.

Pages 2, 10, 11, 12 done. Steady progress. Weather report. Files. Download. eMac. Eudora. InDesign.

Cat. Window. Moths. Paws. Lunge. Playing. TV in background. Snoring dogs. Purring.

Man’s castle. Comfortable. Cozy. Safe. Home.


Strange sounds. Screeching tires. Revving and roaring engines.

Getting louder. Pedal to the metal.


Talking. Yelling. Profanities.


Drag racing?

Open door. Investigate. Neighbors. Talking. Excited. Across street. Over fence. Listen....

“Marks in road...” Pointing. “Gas station.” “Followed.” “Almost hit me.”

Young man. Agitated. Scared. Disappears.

Lights out. Inside. Me too.


11:10 p.m. Scanner. Call. Anderson Avenue.

Followed. Threats. Blue truck. Drunk driver. Booze breath.


Cop cars. Lights. More talk.

Suspect. License plate. Name. Address. Description. Directions.

Located. Questioned.

Scanner: Code 4. Not as reported.

Confusion. Questions. No answers.


Computer. Screen. Keyboard. Write. Lazy. Break time. Experiment. Fast. On deadline. No sentences. Words. Type. Post. Blog.


Thursday, May 25, 2006


I may find myself part of a news story in the coming days.

If anyone actually visits this blog, I hate to disappoint. It’s nothing salacious.

I never visited the Watergate complex for poker and hookers. Then again, I was never invited.

I haven’t adopted any Third World babies with Angelina Jolie and that thing about Jennifer Lopez... well, I’d rather not talk about it.

Instead, it involves a “scandal” of different sorts.

There’s a local candidate running for office. As is customary, I asked a reporter to write a feature about the candidate when he announced that he was running earlier this year. The reporter made a call. Then he called again. And again.

He kept calling for a few weeks and never got a call back. After awhile, I told my reporter to stop calling. It was a waste of time. If the candidate didn’t want to submit to an interview, then screw it. (Note: The three other candidates called back and articles about them appeared on the front page. I was careful to treat them equally.)

So we went about our merry ways, covering the news and putting our a paper every week. Babies were born, old people died and the Mad River flowed unabated into the sea.

Earlier this week, the candidate who didn’t return phone calls sent me a short “bio” and asked that I print it on the front page. The other candidates’ “press releases” were on the front page earlier in the year, and he wanted the same for himself.

I explained we hadn’t printed press releases on the front page. They were articles written by reporters. He had been given the same opportunity for an interview, but failed to return phone calls. He missed the boat.

Besides, the next issue of the paper comes out exactly one week before Election Day. It’s really the final election edition, because most people will have voted before they receive the issue that comes out June 6.

To print a feature article, and especially a press release, about him at this point would be grossly unfair to the other candidates.

But that doesn’t mean that Mr. I-Don’t-Return-Phone-Calls can’t get his message out. As I do with all candidates, he can write a 400-word column explaining why he should be elected. Plus, I offered him space to respond to letters critical of him.

Basically, he’s getting a butt load of free space in the paper to advance his ideas. I’m paying for that space with my own nickel, and will provide it irregardless of how much crap is tossed at me. This ain’t personal, it’s politics.

In addition, he can purchase advertising space. But I didn’t bring this up. I feel uncomfortable selling political advertising. He knows it’s available and I leave that up to him.

It all seemed very logical in my little mind.

Then came the email, sent to me and several other media outlets (and school administrators, for some reason.)

It was titled “Media and Political Games.” He denied that he had ever received any phone calls, except for one from me when I attempted to obtain a photo. I was playing games, essentially part of a media conspiracy aimed to preventing him from being elected and protecting the reign of the incumbent candidate.

Hell yeah! It was good stuff – thoroughly enjoyable reading except for the fact that I was the one painted as the villain.

Naturally, I started to feel somewhat defensive. But then I thought about it and started laughing.

My newspaper has all sorts of deficiencies. I wouldn’t even want to begin to list them.

But when it comes to fairness, I feel I’m on solid ground. I’ve even been fair to people who I thought were real miserable SOBs. They got front page features written about them, with smiling mugs!

I’ve known candidates that seemed to be really dumb, really stoned, or in some cases downright crazy.

But I still treated them equal. Articles were written and column space provided.

As for the candidate now making the accusations, I don’t really know enough about him to make a judgement. Well, I guess I could based on his emails. But as for the issues, who knows?

Anyway, emails and conversations are taking place. Is the candidate’s email just whacky nothingness? Will a paper cover it? How will I respond in my own paper?

I don’t know, but full disclosure is available upon request. Just don’t ask about Jennifer Lopez. We ask that you respect our privacy during this very difficult transition.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


(SPOILER ALERT!!! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Sopranos, stop reading this blog right now. Capish?)

Sopranos is by far the best show on television, bar none.

Of course, some episodes are better than others. I’ve lost interest during some of the extended dream sequences, and I was irritated by an episode last season that involved a marathon bitch-fest between Tony and Carmela. It was just plain unpleasant. As Tony often says “Enuff already!”

But all is forgiven after watching a great episode like the one this week.

It was densely layered like a big, thick cheese and mushroom lasagna. There’s so much going on.

There’s comedy and tragedy, poignant moments and belly laughs, beauty and butchery. And lots of psychological stuff.

I have a prediction – Carmela is going to become either the family boss or, at the very least, she will co-manage the operation with Tony.

But before this can happen, Carmela needs to change. The gross reality of the Mafia business conflicts with her value system.

Sure, she’s a hypocrite. She knows where her money comes from and she doesn’t plan to give it up. But when it comes to the reality of the business – such as the killing of close friends – she’s in denial.

Carmela is different than Tony. Tony has his issues, but one thing that is NOT an issue for Tony is the fact that he is destined to be a Mafia boss. That’s his fate.

Tony appreciates the history that has brought him to his current state of being.

But Carmela has a different family background – a different history.

Enter the trip to France. Carmela has an awakening. She’s developing an appreciation for history – the monuments, plaques, etc. But it’s more than just the “History Channel” type of history. She’s coming to grips with herself and the fact that she’s in “the business.”

But it will take more than this revelation to push her to the forefront.

In future episodes, events will unfold that force Carmela to take a more active roll.

That’s where Phil comes in. As he said in this episode, Johnny Sacks is the boss in name only.

Phil killed “Gay Vito,” a made man. Sil and another character “accidently” killed a made man, who I assume was part of Phil’s crew.

It’s only a matter of time before war breaks out between the New York and Jersey families.

In such a war, it’s anybody’s guess who will get killed. Plus, there’s a rat in the Soprano crew. And then there’s Christopher, who is back on the smack. And there’s the ever-looming threat of the feds. Who is snitching? What do they know? Is Chris really attending AA meetings?

When the blood starts to flow, Carmela may have to rise to the occasion and take a leadership role. She’s certainly nasty enough and smart enough. I also think she’s evolved to the point where she won’t have any moral qualms about doing so.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

YE-HA! Let’s form a committee and create some policies

I’ve sat through a lot of public meetings. I’ve covered planning commissions, boards of supervisors, city councils and several special committees.

When it comes to my local town board, I’ve attended the regular monthly board meetings for nearly 12 years.

That means I’ve spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours listening to discussions on issues ranging from proposed amendments to the prior month’s meeting minutes to whether to spend millions of dollars on important infrastructure projects.

One side effect from the experience is that you begin to view problems and solutions through a certain prism.

It’s not just the end product that’s important, it’s how you get there. Is the public properly notified? Is there ample time for input? Are questions being answered? Does it conform or conflict with existing policies? Are all the parties being treated fairly? Is there a plan? Does that plan need to be amended?

And so on and so on.

With regard to my previous blog entry about a “Confidentiality Agreement” that I opposed, I argued with station officials over the merit of the agreement. That didn’t seem to get us anywhere.

But then I got thinking about the process. How was the Confidentiality Agreement developed? What is the policy? Was a draft policy circulated among volunteers before it was approved? What exactly is the language in the policy?

So far, there are more questions than answers. Heck, I’m not even sure if there’s a policy. Or maybe I’m unaware of the policy regarding policies.

But I think progress is being made. It appears as if my input and that of others has resulted in the issue being sent back to a committee for further consideration.

So who will discuss the policy? The Policy Review Committee, of course.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Signature NOT forthcoming

Once a week I record a short news segment for the local public radio station. It’s about three to four minutes long and includes some of the headline stories from the week’s newspaper.

Because I record these segments, I’m considered a station volunteer. Although technically accurate, I hesitate to use the term “volunteer,” especially when you compare me to the other people who donate hours upon hours of their time to the station. They’re the ones who deserve that designation. I feel more like a very small contributor, at best.

But on paper, I’m a volunteer. So this week I got a packet of forms to fill out because the station is apparently updating its paperwork.

It is pretty mundane stuff, except for one form which is an “Agreement” I must sign to be continue to be part of the station’s “listserve.” That’s basically an e-mail list that goes out to all the volunteers. You can respond to topics or create topics and everyone on the list receives a copy. It’s a good tool for communicating between large groups of people.

Most of the “Agreement” form is boiler plate material – I won’t be an inconsiderate asshole, I’ll refrain from posting naked photos of Jennifer Lopez, and I won’t use the listserve to solicit victims for a Ponzi scheme.

But then, in bold letters, the agreement reads “Additionally, I agree to keep the list content confidential.”

That jumped out at me. This is a public station funded with taxpayer dollars. The “listserve” is paid for with tax dollars. It’s hosted at a public university, paid for with tax dollars.

About 99 percent of the material on the listserve is boring and not even worthy of much conversation or response – people look for subs to host their shows, complaints about garbage being left in the studio, kudos or mild complaints about different programming.

It’s the kind of material that remains confidential due to the mere fact that nobody cares.

But what if a sinister plot was revealed on the listserve? What if there was material regarding a misappropriation of public funds? What if there the listserve revealed an abuse of power?

I can think of hundreds of different scenarios that could be revealed on the listserve that would require me to violate the confidentially agreement.

Some of them may seem farfetched. But consider this: The fellow who was in charge of the same station several years ago was arrested for felony embezzlement! He was exaggerating pledges and donations. He stole money and apparently used some of it finance sex romps down to the Bay area where he rendezvoused with his lover.

Something scandalous not only could happen, but it has happened.

To suggest that a similar situation won’t happen again in like saying that a White House intern will never again give a president a hummer again, and a Commander in Chief will never again lead the nation to war based on bogus reasons.

Let’s not be naive. These things happen, and will happen again.

And I’m supposed to agree, no matter what, to keep the contents of this listserve confidential?

Bullshit. Ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve informed station management of my thoughts. The responses have been vague and almost non-responsive, although I'm not revealing them here

I suspect I will soon be removed from the listserve. My participation will cease.

The next music and fashion craze?


Time to dump your Coca-Cola shares! Yerba Mate is sweeping the nation and will soon be beverage of choice.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Transcript of message on my answering machine today, probably called in with a cell phone:

“Hi..m... name...Ste... ham...paper...last week... Get...friend...Cask & Fla...there...get. Call me...83..54..1...Bah.. Gel...Thank....Again...Call..m.. 8.3...5..Thanks.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Guarani Invasion of the United States

(A gaucho drinks yerba mate. From www.yerba-mate.com)

After my trip to Paraguay in 1986, I thought about how it would be interesting to import goods to the United States. Perhaps there would be demand in the United States for some hand-crafted Paraguayan items and native artwork. Pottery was one possibility. The other was high-quality hand-made linens like table cloths.

One item that was definitely NOT on my list of possible imports was Yerba Mate, a tea popular in Paraguay, Argentina and parts of Brazil. Although I like Yerba Mate and have consumed it on and off since 1986, it’s an acquired taste. To some it taste like a tea made out of alfalfa, with a splash of boot polish and cow dung. This is especially true when you drink it properly with a gourd and bombilla.

Back in 1986 and up until recently, my opinion was that Americans would NEVER drink Yerba Mate. Importing it would be a really stupid business idea.

Or would it?

I was surprised when, several years ago, it started showing up in some of the local hippie markets. I figured it was a specialty item, like Che Guevara T-shirts.

But last year a sticker appeared on the front door of a local, mainstream coffee shop advertising “Mendo Mate.” A few months later I asked the owner of a local drive-through coffee shop if she carried it. She did and reported that it was growing in popularity.

That struck me as odd, but not nearly as odd as what I saw today. I was delivering papers in Fieldbrook and stopped at the general store. As is customary on Tuesdays, I went to the refrigerator case to get a beverage.

There in the case alongside Coca-Cola and Red Bull was “Guayaki Yerba Mate” in a bottle similar to Snapple. There were two different types – “traditional mate” and a mate infused with mint.

I couldn’t resist, so I bought one – the “traditional” kind. In the parking lot I examined the bottle. I was fascinated. A teenage punk in a nearby car looked at me like I was a nutcase. In his defense, I was standing there for a long time reading the bottle and examining the small print as if it was sacred text.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always considered anything Paraguayan to be WAYYY outside the mainstream. It’s hardly a popular tourist destination or world player. It’s the kind of place that Hitler’s henchman went to hide.

It’s rumored that Dr. Josef Mengele spent time there. When we took a short boat trip up the Parana River, I kept thinking of that scene in the movie “Boys of Brazil” when Mengele is still conducting experiments in a secret location and developing Hitler clones.

(Photo of Gregory Peck playing Mengele in Boys From Brazil. From some Japanese website. I can't read Japanese, so I don't know what the heck it was.)

Germany and Paraguay have deep roots. Alfredo Stroessner, who was the dictator from 1954 to 1989, is the son of a German immigrant. During my visit in 1986, I recall seeing anti-Semitic fliers with swastikas on telephone polls. Disturbing. But there were also some excellent German bakeries in Asuncion. What were all those aging blonde-haired women with pasty white skin doing in South America?

Once on a bus ride in a rural part of the country, I came across an old white guy who spoke English with a German accent. He claimed to be an immigrant from Canada who came to Paraguay to farm.

That’s weird. How many Canadians wake up one day and say “I think I’ll move to Paraguay and start a farm”??

It sounded suspicious. Or maybe he was on to something – move to Paraguay, buy an enormous number of acres for nearly nothing, start a farm, use your German to get in good with the dictator and watch the money roll in.

To dream up such an idea, it would help to be naive. You’d have to take a risk. Maybe you’d have to be a little crazy.

Like someone who would import Yerba Mate and sell it to Americans.

The Guayaki Yerba Mate company, based in San Luis Obispo, imports the tea from Paraguay. It’s grown in the Itapua Preserve in southeast Paraguay.

If the company’s claims are true, it’s a pretty neat idea. They help preserve the rainforest and help the natives by harvesting a sustainable protect, which in this case is basically the leaves from the mate tree.

While still in Paraguay, the mate is dried and processed. Then it’s shipped to the United States.

The company sells mate in a variety of forms – loose, bagged and bottled.

Personally, I like mate the traditional way – hot in a gourd and sipped through a bombilla, which acts as a filter – kind of. The first two or three gourds are usually “extra chunky” and leave a green stain on your tongue.

(Gourds and bombillas. From www.miyerbamate.com)

Mate from a tea bag, which I had for the first time a couple weeks ago, is also good. It’s like a really weak version of regular mate, minus the chunks and green tongue.

As for the “Snapple”-like version of mate from the general store, there’s something truly disgusting about because it’s “lightly sweetened.” I guess you could say that, quite literally, it’s not my cup of tea.

That said, I hope the company does a booming business. There’s something pleasurable about knowing that a Paraguayan product with a Guarani name has invaded the United States.

It takes me back. It’s almost as if I’m in Paraguay circa 1986 – everyone is drinking mate and a tyrannical president with a total disregard for human rights is in charge of the country. No passport required.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Well, at least by McKinleyville standards. My thermometer reads 83 degrees. Toasty.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Vegetable

I have two dogs, three cats and a menagerie of peeves – my pet peeves.

Just like the animals, some pet peeves are big and some are small. Today’s pet peeve is very small – kind of like a pet gerbil.

The peeve: the vegetable side dish that comes with a restaurant meal.

Don’t get me wrong. Although you may not suspect this based on my appearance, I’m a big proponent of vegetables. When your mother told you to eat your vegetables, she was right. She was right about a lot of things.

My complaint is the choice of vegetables and how they’re served. I’ve ordered expensive steak or seafood dishes that came with a side of boiled, limp broccoli. Or maybe cauliflower. They’re mushy and lifeless.

If you’re “lucky” the veggies are carefully steamed. But they’re still just plain old vegetables like you’d eat at home when you’re too busy to be creative.

That’s lame, especially when you’re paying good money for the meal.

At home I eat boiled vegetables. Heck, I’ve been known to scarf corn nibblets right out of the can and wash them down with a lukewarm beer. The other day I even ate some “Beanie Weenies” because I was rotating food out of my survival kit. (Note to self: Never buy “Beanie Weenies” again. They’re almost inedible.)

When I’m at a restaurant, I expect more. Just as the restaurant owners expect me to wear a shirt and shoes, I expect them to take care with all the dishes and serve something delicious.

Happily, I had a very positive experience with a vegetable side dish this weekend. I got a “to-go” order from a local eating establishment. (In the interest of full disclosure, I do business with the restaurant. We do some trading. My “to go” meal is part of that trade. I’m not naming names here because I’m discussing the concept of a vegetable side rather than endorsing a restaurant.)

Along with my prime rib and garlic mashed potatoes was a vegetable dish consisting of sliced squash, julienned carrots, thin strips of red bell pepper and sliced green beans. Everything was lightly cooked (probably sauteed). There was a hint of vinegar and an herb that I suspect was rosemary.

I’m not very adept at breaking down a dish and identifying non-visible elements like herbs, oils and vinegars, so this is just a guess.

The result was a delicious and nutritious vegetable side dish with a varied and pleasant texture. The squash and beans were soft, while the carrots and bell pepper provided a light crunch. There was enough rosemary and pepper to give it some spunk, but it wasn’t overpowering. Overall, it was a nice mix.

My utensils attacked, stabbed, slashed, shoveled, pierced, skewered and scooped the vegetables almost as much as the garlic mashed potatoes and prime rib.

Eating the vegetables wasn’t a chore, it was a pleasure. It was the kind of dish that, after you eat it, you think about preparing it yourself at home.

That’s how it should be. It’s difficult not to sound snooty when writing about food – or sound like a contestant on a food cooking show – but good food really should provide some inspiration.

On a somewhat related note, the garden has sprouted. It’s just little sprouts right now, but vegetables are on their way!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Big Stink

Hopefully we’re coming to the end of what appears to be random, unplanned convergence of fishy odors in our household.

It began with the aforementioned sardine snacks and subsequent sardine juice spillage. That was scrubbed and cleansed – repeatedly.

I thought the problem was solved. Then I pet the cat. Fishy. I was talking to the dog. He smelled fishy (and his conversational skills were lacking.)

Turns out CP was giving the animals some sort of awful fish oil supplement to help their fur coats.

We had a talk. Fish oil supplements are now discontinued. But the smell lingered. Then it went away.

I opened the microwave to heat a slice of pizza and smelled an overwhelming fishy smell. It was back! But how?

I looked inside. There, in the corner of the microwave, was a lone scallop. A couple days before I made “Scallops Florentine.” When reheating leftovers, a single scallop apparently climbed out of the dish and jumped to his death. His carcass was removed and the microwave was scrubbed clean.

I thought it was over, but today the sink smelled like fish. Why?

I washed and scrubbed the pile of dishes. The smell was gone. Perhaps something was in the dirty dishes that was contaminated.

As of this evening, no fish smells.

Except... I made the mistake of ordering something called an “Ahi Burger” from one of the businesses I trade with. This was one of two meals I ordered “to go” tonight. The other meal, a prime rib, is great. The Ahi Burger is just too fishy for my tastes. So it’s sitting in the fridge – which now smells a little fishy....

Friday, May 05, 2006

Something fishy

WARNING: This is a delicious product, but don't get it on your keyboard. I prefer not to release too many details at this point, but I've created a small problem. More to come.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Home & Garden

I was planning on a major garden expansion this summer, but those plans are now thwarted. I’ve got too much on my plate.

First is the business. As I previously wrote on this blog, we’ve had some staffing changes. I’ve taken on more duties.

Second, I’m trying to complete some much-needed home repairs. I need to devote a few hours a week, and later I’ll need to devote several full days.

All of these tasks need to be squeezed into the existing weekly newspaper routine.

So instead of a giant garden, I decided to keep it small. Earlier this week I planted a 4’x8’ plot, which is inside a raised bed. Crops include two different types of lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, turnips, beets, green onions, parsley, basil, beans and broccoli.

A few feet away is another raised bed the same size. Half of it is under a greenhouse covered in plastic. In a week or two, I’ll buy some tomato starts and plant them.

And that’s it. That’s the garden for this year.

Not much. But by late June, I should have an abundance of salad fixings. About an hour before dinner, I’ll walk out, pick what we need, wash it and make a salad. That’s about as fresh as it gets.

This is how it was last year. Even in that small space, there was often too much produce. Some of the lettuce couldn’t be picked fast enough.

It’s amazing what you can grow in a small space. I’ve heard people complain that they can’t garden because they don’t have the space. In all but a few cases, that’s nonsense. If you have room for three of those half barrels, you can probably grow enough salad makings for one person.

The key is what’s called “The Square Foot Method.” Check your local library. I don’t know if it’s still in print, being that the guy on the cover of my edition is wearing a Le Tigre shirt.

I was working this evening on an unrelated project – clearing soil back from the garage. I live on a slight slope, and whoever built the addition to my garage had his head stuck up his ass. He did everything wrong. The plywood on the roof was put on there in the wrong direction, so that it sags in the middle! Had he rotated the plywood 90 degrees, this would NOT be a problem. He also used regular shingles on a flat roof! That caused leakage. This was repaired, but problems persist.

I recently pulled the ceiling off. I was trying to make sense of his framing technique. Weird. It works, but it doesn’t make sense.

The addition was built with the foundation at a lower level than the rest of the garage. Soil is up to the level of the siding! More problems. So this evening I began the process of clearing the soil away. It’s good old fashion shovel work.

After completing one side of the garage, I had a nice, even, smooth strip of soil with southern exposure.

This is when I got an idea. Why not plant a flower garden. So I cleared several other areas around my two shacks (house and detached garage) and then marched on down to the Kmart.

For about $12, I was able to purchase two bags of wildflower seeds. One bag claimed to be a “hummingbird & butterfly” mix that would attract these creatures. The other bag was just “wildflowers.”

Heck, the bags probably contain the same ingredients. Either way, the two bags together contain about 11,000 seeds. That’s a lot of flowers.

They were planted and watered.

It’s hard to say how much progress will be made on these repair projects. I may get them done in a month, two months, or maybe five years.

But the flower garden should bloom in a month or two. It’s kind of like Queen Elizabeth’s jewels – they distract you from her face. Hopefully the flowers will do the same to my house. It will look sweet and homey – never mind the peeling paint and termite-infestation.

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