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Today

is Memorial Day.

Today, in just a few moments, I will fire up the smoker and smoke a brisket. Today, with friends and family I will enjoy not only brisket but also the traditional sides, like baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, and pickles. There will be music and conversation, all enjoyed with generous portions of various cold beverages of choice. All those things will happen today.

None of them have anything to do with Memorial Day.

Today, at some point, it is almost a guarantee that someone will see fit to say “thank you for your service.” Someone will almost certainly mention how much they appreciate the folks currently serving in the military.

None of them have anything to do with Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is not about barbecues, cookouts and picnics. It is not about people like me who served but came home.

Memorial Day is to recognize and appreciate the service of those who served and did not make it home. It is to honor their service and mourn their deaths.

This poem is Memorial Day

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This picture is Memorial Day

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So, too, is this one

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And, of course, this one

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My brothers and sisters who did not come home, thank you for your honorable and faithful service.

Spring garden 2020, ch. 2

Do you recognize this?

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No? Okay. Here it is a few hours later.

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Still nothing? Okay. It or blossoms very similar to it will eventually produce this.

black-beauty-eggplant

Yep. Black Beauty eggplant. Which will ultimately become something like this.

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Another reason to love gardening!

Spring garden 2020

Vegetable gardens never cease to amaze me. You might think that a person who spent so many years living on farms, and whose parents always had a vegetable garden if at all possible, would be a little jaded about them. In my case, you would be wrong. There’s something about the creative process (far more than the science that is also needed) of planting and properly caring for a garden that fills me with both anticipation and enthusiasm.

I last planted a spring garden just over two years ago. I’ve mentioned my experience with depression more than once, so I see no reason to pummel that deceased equine beyond noting that Effexor XR has been, for me, a life-changing medication. This spring, I finally had the energy to plant one. Some observations seem to be in order.

  • Letting the land lie fallow for two years makes a significant difference in how well things grow. It’s like those old farmers stretching back for generations knew something about that sort of thing. Weird.
  • Letting the land lie fallow for two years and not bothering to till it at all during that period makes for hard work when prepping the garden beds. I recommend not doing that if it can be avoided.
  • Many people will not share your (childish) enthusiasm for your garden. Inflict it upon them, anyway. If they want any of your produce, they’ll sit still and listen.
  • Mulch is your friend. The only thing I don’t really enjoy doing is weeding, and even that’s not too bad until it gets hot. Mulch, properly chosen and applied, makes this essential task much less onerous.
  • If you’re going to garden and produce more than you (and others) can eat in a season, learn to can and preserve your harvest or sell your excess at a farmer’s market (or both).

I actually got plants (and seeds) in the ground later than I should have, this year. So, it is with great joy that I share the following:

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That’s my thumb for a sense of scale. So, though I got in the ground later than I wanted, it has begun. To put that phrase in perspective, let’s talk about zucchini. This year, because some dear friends of ours (friends as in “family in all but name”) also like veggies in general, including zucchini squash and yellow squash, I planted three zucchini and three straight neck yellow squash. Experts say 1 plant per person. My experience is that Black Beauty variety of zucchini will, with three plants, produce more zucchini than we will collectively want to eat this year. Then, of course, we add in the yellow squash. Those aren’t quite as prolific, but they too produce a lot of food. I planted three of those, but only two survived transplantation. “It has begun” then, relates to the fact that if I harvest regularly when the squash are six to eight inches long, I will be picking squash almost every day for the entire season. They add up quickly, like that, so we’ll can some, too.

Maybe that’s part of what motivates me to plant a garden. The ability to make myself and those I care about less dependent upon others, including what is in many ways an increasingly intrusive government, appeals to me even if that independence gained is small. I simply do not like being dependent. There is something within me that says dependence, when there is another choice, is not a good thing (interdependence is something else and not part of this post). Being able to depend upon others when you have to, knowing that they will come through if they possibly can, is good. Depending on them to do for you what you can and arguably should do for yourself is not good. It’s not good for you, for them or for whatever sort of relationship you have.

***

There is a tendency for people toward either end of the American political spectrum, those who are part of the RCB,* to post a photo or story and proclaim that “they don’t want you to see/read/watch/know this.” Not to be outdone, I give you the following. They don’t want you to see this picture. You have been warned.

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Raccoons are saddle-breaking feral hogs and riding them into battle against the opossums. Government and the media don’t want you to know this. Share this, before it’s too late. Wake up, America!

 

*Reynolds Chapeau Brigade

The things we learn

They can be odd, the things we learn that we never quite saw coming. For instance, I have learned that people who fundamentally disagree on a large number of things, including the current pandemic, can be equally stupid. I find that odd.

Regardless of what you think about the current pandemic, if you’re going to wear a mask, why not wear the thing so it provides whatever benefit it can? If it doesn’t cover both your mouth and nose, it isn’t protecting anyone.

Fighting over items in a grocery store? Really? Is it your belief that you’ll be better off in jail?

No, a lock down is not going to significantly reduce the number of people who are ultimately infected. No, the virus that causes Covid-19 is not a hoax. It really exists and it really makes some people very sick. No, we are not likely to have a safe, effective vaccine in a few months, or even in a year. In fact, there is no guarantee we will every have one at all. No, vaccines do not cause autism and they are not part of some vast conspiracy.

No, the corona virus is not part of a plan to reduce overall population and you sound like an idiot when you suggest it is. No, there is not a one-size-fits-all response to the pandemic and you, too, sound like an idiot when you suggest there is.

***

I have learned another odd thing. I was not as prepared as I thought. Better prepared than a lot of people? Absolutely. And yet, there were still some rather significant holes in my general preparedness plan – holes I had simply been unable to see. We got lucky here at RM Ranch. Had the predictions of the RCB (Reynolds Chapeau Brigade) come true, things would have been…inconvenient. Fortunately, those folks remain consistent in their ability to be wrong and we have recovered nicely. Still, it lead to one of those “I will not be caught short like this, ever again” moments. Lessons learned and all that. My spring garden this year is larger than it has been in a while. If production is as high as I hope, there will be a lot of truly fresh veggies over the summer, along with a lot of canning.

 

 

And now, I wait…

Yesterday, I emailed my entry for the 2020 “Baen Fantasy Adventure Award.” The entire process has been…interesting. Certainly, the experience of having multiple beta readers and a real editor was challenging in ways I did not expect. It was amazing the way what had been simply words on a screen became dear friends when someone suggested I change or eliminate them. “No, I like the way I wrote it!” surprised me as my first response. It got easier, though, with each revision. Microsoft Word was helpful in that regard. It let me track changes, so I could see the story improving as I made many of the suggested revisions. It was a lesson learned. At least I was no longer so attached to the words.

Yeah. Right.

My plan had been to let the story sit for a few days, or even a couple of weeks, before giving it one, final review. What I found was that I kept putting off that final review. Fortunately, I had made sure I told enough people about the story that I was finally forced to do the deed (in the not too distant past I had missed a deadline with a promised contribution – that was so very not good, I never want to do that again). There I was, yesterday, sitting at the computer. The story had received its final going over. It was properly formatted. It was attached to the email message, the body of which contained all the required information. You would think that at that point, it would be easy to hit “send.”  You would be wrong. It’s funny, when I think about it. As a nurse, and as an EMT before that, I have had my hands wrist deep in human abdomens and chests. I have placed and removed tubes in pretty much every place they can go in the human body. As a hunter, fisherman and farmer’s son, I have cleaned, field dressed and butchered things ranging from tiny to enormous. And I couldn’t bring myself to send the story off to the publisher. I didn’t want to. What if the words weren’t good enough? You know what I tell people to do in similar life situations? I tell them to do it anyway. Just like when I was learning to rappel, once you take that first step off the cliff or platform, you’re committed and it’s easy. So, I hit “send” anyway, and just like when I took that step off the platform, the world did not come to an end. Weird, huh?

Once more, to all my beta readers and to my editor LC, regardless of outcome, you guys helped me write something far, far better than I could have written without you. Regardless of what Baen says, if ya’ll will keep reading and making suggestions, I’ll keep writing. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll actually get one of these things published.

Ooph, life is like that, but gardens are great

Things have been a little, uh, hectic here at RM Ranch. Between some family sickness and various things related to the current pandemic, I’ve had to be away. For today, I think I’ll limit any further comments to garden stuff.

I like to plant my Swiss chard six inches apart, but I don’t like to waste time. To avoid that, I use this:

chardstick

Yeah. I have a chardstick.

 

Voices in my head

How much is too much, or how much is not enough, when it comes to a response to the current pandemic? That’s only an easy question to answer if we take a one dimensional view of things. If a single goal, whether that is controlling the spread of the disease or keeping the economy running (or any other single thing) becomes the goal, then decisions are easy to make. Clearly, they must not only favor one over the other, but must do so overwhelmingly. Real life, though, is seldom so simple.

As of three days ago, four states,  Texas, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Florida, have, as Politico puts it, “ordered 14-day quarantines for some or all travelers arriving from other states.” There is a problem with such orders.

Look, I am a registered nurse. I recognize the importance of limiting exposure to potentially infected people as we attempt to get a handle on this thing. Ask me to stay home and limit my travel as a means of doing that and I will almost certainly agree. In fact, I was already doing so. But that’s not the entirety of the story. Stopping people based on their license plate(s)? Really? Is there some belief that such a thing will survive the inevitable court challenge?

I am a Christian. Even so, I understand that holding services is not a good idea. I support the decision by the congregation of which I am a part to go to online services at this time. But telling churches and synagogues that if they defy orders to not assemble they face the possibility of being permanently closed? Again, really?

Locally, there is a “limited shelter in place” order in effect. Fine. Like I said, I’m inclined to do that, anyway. Reports, however, are beginning to arise that suggest the mayor has said failure to comply could result in not only fines, but ankle monitors and police parked outside the homes of the non-compliant. Really?

Politicians are discovering, once again, that Americans do not always respond well to being ordered to do something.

All of which gets me to the voice in my head. The basic concept of limiting exposure so as to slow the spread of the virus makes sense. It’s the application that’s the problem. Government, by its very nature, backs up laws and emergency orders with the threat(s) of force. Failure to comply seems to bring out the inner authoritarian in a lot of people. Maybe that’s why, when I read or hear comments by various government officials, that much of what I hear sounds like this: “You vill now comply with ze orders und stay in your house. Failure to comply vill result in…consequences.”

As with many things, the devil is in the details.