Sunday, June 26, 2011

Resting in the scintillations of fireflies,

Cooling skin 'gainst purpling night,
Each hair, sentinel 
to breathy kiss of mosquito wing.

This one, 
settles on for blood-theft,
and with slow and practiced skill, 
I murder her and future millions.

I kill a dozen ardent mothers,
and drop gray bodies 
for morning's ants to take away.

Then no more come,
or I fail to notice.

And darkling night 
is flecked and flashed with greenish gold
by beetle assignations.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Yesterday was rainy and today is cool and damp again.  The garden plants seem to like the wet and I think if we get some sun things will pretty much explode.

I checked on the bees this morning and there was only a trickle of traffic at 10, but by noon when I checked again there was a steady flow of bees in and out.  If it's sunny this weekend I'll take another peek at the frames to see their progress.

The potatoes continue to grow, and I hope all the herbage actually translates into tubers, because they're striving to 4 feet high.  I think I read somewhere that too much nitrogen can result in big plants and small potatoes.  But I didn't fertilize unless letting the vetch get out of control counts as fertilizing.

I waded through the potatoes looking for any pests, but mostly I found predators that seem to have made the place their own jungle haunt -- harvestmen, lightning bugs, wasps.  I tipped a few tortoise beetles, and a little slug into my little freezing jar, but the plants looked pretty well patrolled.  Still feeling benevolent, I didn't molest the pair of pretty katydids that were munching one of the plants.

When you see a patch like, with all your busy predator-allies you really have to wonder why people are so quick to coat everything with pesticides.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Georgia's illegal immigrant law fiasco exposes some cracks in the Republican coalition of working class and wealthy. 

Somehow, when it comes to illegal immigration, employers and political leaders suddenly pretend that they don't understand what a labor market is.  When it suits employers to give people crap wages, then it's all about the natural discipline of markets, like it or lump it.  If you don't take the wage, then somebody else will.  But when companies can't get people to work for crap wages, then they forget about how markets work and all of a sudden Americans are too lazy and greedy to work for a "reasonable wage".

The labor market idea is pretty straightforward.  You raise the amount offered until there are people willing to take the job at that wage.  It might mean that a pint of blueberries costs $3.75 rather than $3.00, but hey, markets.  We don't just make up a price like we were the Soviet Union.

For years, our savvy capitalists have gotten around that pesky downside to markets by encouraging labor from Mexico and Central America, first because these people were poor and ambitious, and second because they arrived conveniently as second class citizens (undocumented immigrants) who couldn't insist on niceties like wage and labor conditions.  If they did get demanding it was easy enough to have them deported.  (Then employers had the gall to say that they had to bring in Mexicans, since Americans wouldn't take these jobs.)

Of course, this was enraging to many existing US citizens, in part since they rightly saw this whole game driving down their wages and "taking jobs".  There was a potential conflict in the Republican Party between popular anger in "the base" about this illegal importation of cheap labor, versus employer enthusiasm for the same.  This conflict could be successfully defused as long as the popular rage could be directed at the illegals themselves, rather than the employers and politicians benefiting from the situation; and as long as political leaders could pretend to care about it, without actually threatening the status quo.

Under popular pressure, however, Arizona and Georgia have broken that compact and passed anti-immigrant legislation that actually does threaten the status quo.  Apparently, Georgia has successfully scared off undocumented workers and outraged employers are claiming they are face a labor shortage, and will have crops rotting in the fields.  Although, the governor hopes that another convenient set of disenfranchised, second class citizens, (e.g. former prisoners and probationers) can fill the gap, there is panic that employers might find themselves exposed to the legal labor market.

It's unfortunate that it took xenophobia and racism to break the logjam that the Republican Party had engineered to prevent immigration and labor reform.  And it is unfortunate that some farmers are going to let their crops rot in the field because $3.75 berries picked by Georgia high school students can't compete with $3.00 berries picked by illegal laborers in North Carolina.  But it may be this implosion of Republican hypocrisy that finally makes room for some version of reform.  It's up to us to make sure those reforms don't just require businesses to stop gaming the labor market, but also bring some justice to working people, whatever the state of their documents.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The honeybees are busy drawing comb on the foundations.

I'm still not sure where they're flying off to for their nectar and their pollen

The queen came out onto the tops of the frames,
mobbed by her attendants.

I hope she's doing well.

A click beetle with eyespots
landed on my white shirt.


Monday, June 20, 2011


I found some retsina, 
so Monica

found some ground lamb
 and garlic
 and pine nuts 
and I gathered sorrel from the woods.

And with some olive oil that a Greek lady
who's smitten with Monica 
gave to her from Greece,

 she made Kebabs 
and tzatziki

for the warm bread
and olives, black and green.

And there was a 
happiness of food.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I got my bees last night from the beekeeper, and this morning, when they were stilly dozy from the cool night, I moved them to the hive.

Within a couple of hours foragers were already returning with golden pollen, and they stayed busy with it all day.

I tried to see where they were going, but they would spiral up into the sky until I was too blinded to follow them.

I'll give them a few days to settle in before I open it again to meet the queen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I've sometimes wondered: Do we love flowers because they are beautiful and colorful, with perfumes and sweet nectar?  Or do we just happen to love color and nectar and floral perfume because they are the signals that plants have used for a hundred million years to advertise their proffered concentrations of food and nutrients - and so we have been hardwired to quiver in delight at these signals.  

(And honey, as literally the distillation of this entire seduction, is the ultimate in nature's foods.)

I've wondered:  If a hundred million years ago plants had chosen the carrion flies, rather than the sugar sippers, to be their pollinators, would the world be full of plants reeking of rotting flesh?  And would we be happy connoisseurs of decay and the smell of fly-beloved shit, and would we surround ourselves with gardens decorated with "flowers" comprised of fleshy petals of meat and offal?

I've always liked that idea of the path not taken - of a humanity where grandmothers send each other cards not of saccharine violet bouquets, but decorated with careful, lovely illustrations of rotting flesh-roses.  

The colony of octopus stinkhorn growing on a pile of discarded charcoal reminded of those wonderings. Here's a creature that took that path.  It puts out its fleshy tentacles and attracts the flies with a heady odor of dogshit.  And the flies do come.

And I'm sure the flies find the orange and stinking fungi beautiful and even quiver in delight.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Milkweed in June

The birds have been fledging.  The chipping sparrows and carolina wrens have pushy, noisy youngsters in tow.  It's hard to tell how many phoebes there are in the yard, but it's more than the two.  And yesterday afternoon in the overgrown yard there was a turkey hen with 4 tawny poults scampering around her.  The catbird looks harried and distracted, but I haven't noticed nest nor nestling.  The 4 eggs in the robin's nest are gone - raccoons maybe?  do we have snakes that will climb into a low-lying pine?

I will set the computer aside and see what else is happening outside.

The Potato Patch


Friday, June 10, 2011

One of those weeks gone in a blur.  Last week of school for the boys, so that rattled the schedule.  Beach day (each class goes off to a different beach), field day, "lower school rising" (when the students cross a little bridge to their next year's classes).  Monica writing up her teacher's comments and putting together DVD's of the kids singing and showcasing their Spanish language skills.  And she's starting to get sucked into the Nature Center's world for the camp season - meetings, forms, CPR training.  At work I was bouncing between rebuilding the website, editing video that we shot in Ohio on privatization, and helping finish the draft of the report due out today.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mrs. C said she wanted a picture of all the 4th grade girls, 

and they all clamored that Nico needed to be in the picture, too.

So they ran to find him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Most of our work this winter and spring has been, in one way or another, about the U.S. economy and the efforts to get people to do something about it.  Nothing I see there dissuades me from my pessimism.  We're entering the post-prosperity era, and no one, not regular people, not the elites, not advocates, not politicians, seem prepared to engage with that reality.  The U.S. middle class has been duped and betrayed by the cheerleaders of market capitalism; the poor are consigned to their dead ends with that same righteous contempt that Charles Dickens portrayed so vividly; the rich are spinning out their ponzi schemes, and the clear-thinking ones are no doubt trying to time their exit jump.  The government is on the verge of being destroyed as a functional institution; the mass media have discredited themselves with each new debasement (and left people to find their place in the archipelagos of a fragmentary and polluted internet infoscape).

The politics of the moment are summed up by a joke making the rounds among liberals:  "A Tea Partier, a Union member and a Wall Street Banker are sitting around a table with 10 cookies on it.  The Banker grabs nine of the cookies and gets up to leave.  He pauses, and says over his shoulder to the Tea Partier, You better watch out, that Union guy wants your cookie."

I wonder about the declining number (and quality) of the cookies we will squabble over.  The U.S. has all the symptoms of a declining empire, but we may not decline alone.  The era of cheap, concentrated fossil energy is drawing to a close, climate destabilization is meeting or exceeded the worst-case scenarios of the climate scientists (and still we continue on the same path, undeterred), and there is no political will or vision to do anything at the scale necessary to change things.