Homestead Happy Snaps

We mustn’t let the tyrants and clowns get us down
Joy and laughter can still abound
Mantras and cliches can spout the latest crazes
But it’s Nature that always amazes!

Praying Mantis living on Wandering Jew, seems somehow apropos, no? He really does live there and he’s pretty good company. 🙂
I’ve heard of bats in the belfry, but in the umbrella?!
How about a cuteness contest—goats or sheep? I know my opinion! Share yours below?
It’s very zen to watch the bees, I find. Next time I’ll figure out how to add sound—I love that soothing buzz of what appears to be such well-ordered chaos—Such miracles in nature!

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee update on the wee homestead during our current Sweltering Season—that runs from about mid-July to October here—where you thank Man every damn day, and especially every night, for inventing A/C, and refrigeration.  As miserable as it is, especially when the weather makers continue to steal our rain, this has been the best one yet for me.

When we first came here I swore I’d travel every summer at this time.  HA!  After that plan failed, I’d give up on the garden by this time, because who really cares about okra and eggplant anyway?  I’d ritually whine to Hubby we are over-producing.

Recently pulling out a hot sauce from 5 years ago, with pickles and marinara still left from 2 years ago, Hubby made an astute (yet annoying) observation.   “Aren’t you glad now we were over-producing?”

Yes, indeed I am.  I haven’t had to don a face diaper yet, and I’ve no intention to.  I’ve got a freezer full of grapes and tomatoes to process, a fridge full of peppers and a living room full of pears awaiting the same fate, fall seedlings started, a pack of dogs at my feet, and the plan to take a serious ‘home vacation’ very soon.  More details on that forthcoming.

In the meantime, look how the girls have grown!

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We’ve established a favorite snack station!

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Not for sure if all the sheep are pregnant, but clearly the majority are, fingers crossed.

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The hummingbirds and bees are happy with my offerings and don’t even notice the heat, it seems.  6 colonies going strong so far, or so it seems from their activity at the entrance, because I never mess with them in the Sweltering Season.

The old piglets are getting fat while Mamma & Papa Chop are getting reacquainted in the Back 40, planning for more piglets soon on the way, we hope.

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I’ll leave out the part where friends and I are complaining about the mysterious lack of butterflies this year.

 

Homestead Happenings

Just another loungey Sunday on the wee homestead.  I’m so grateful I don’t have to go to the grocery store, or venture to town at all or anywhere near where masks are apparently now required, and witness the ‘shitf**kery’ (Decker’s choice expression from Dispatches from the Asylum, highly recommended for anyone who might wish to choose a few minutes of lucid reality) happening all around us, apparently, like a super-creepy episode of the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.

Here we have problems, who doesn’t.  Even if might be completely unmanageable problems, at least they are sane, rational problems.

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Another 20 pounds of wild grapes, whatever to do with them all?  And melons harvested a bit early due to disease, no where to store them but the living room as they ripen, so problematic.

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Girls gone grazing!  Whatever to do, what if the kids flock with the sheep and forget all about me?  This is what keeps me up at night.

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Why are some of my very favorite plants considered toxic and are pooh-pooed by ‘science’ and most of my modern-day neighbors (and certainly NOT by my ancestral ones!)?  Like this gorgeous castor bean, the ubiquitous pokeweed everybody wants to kill, and especially my most beloved Datura?  These heat-lovers belong in the South!

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A gorgeous volunteer Datura growing here in the background.  No poultry have died from it, though we’ve lost more than usual to something mysterious, about 20 now, one or two at a time, with no clue as to why.

Here’s a wonder: why do Lowe’s, Walmart, and all the other shills of the Corporatocracy sell the same zucchini and yellow squash seedlings that are nearly impossible for organic gardeners to grow according to everyone I’ve talked to, including the Master Gardeners to whom I once was a member?  Get out there with your hand-vac at dawn, they all said, to gobble up all the squash bugs and vine borers they attract, meanwhile this gorgeous heirloom squash (Trombetta) takes it all, virtually maintenance-free, with the stamina of a giant, even in our crazy summer heat?!

Bubba & Buttercup: “How to stay cool in incessantly manufactured weather, we wonder?  Don’t worry, we’ll find a way!”

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And here’s to the countless ninnies and nitwits claiming Trump is solving the weather modification/geoengineering issue.  Come on now, do I have to go back to photographing the sky every damn day?

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“Mamma, we’ll follow you anywhere, just save us from the chicanery and chaos of civilization!”

You’re Kidding Me

Oh my, I suck again.  Of course I already knew goats are notoriously mischievous.  And as a habitual novice, I expect mistakes and steep learning curves, but a nearly fatal accident before my new kids are here even a week?

Don’t worry, the story has a happy ending or I wouldn’t be writing it right now.  I’d still be sobbing, watching chick flicks, eating popcorn, and overindulging in kombucha cocktails, like I did all afternoon yesterday.

I don’t handle this kind of thing well at all.  In fact, even that expression ‘to handle it’ is too generous, because I barely do.  What actually happens is I panic, get hysterical, panic some more, act out of sheer desperation, and then sob, whether or not I was successful.  I have so much awe and admiration for real farm folk, the kind that grew up with livestock, so that all this life and death drama is second nature to them.  But I grew up like most Americans, very sheltered from death and the other common dramas of nature.

I woke up yesterday morning and went directly to the corral where I have the new kids penned up, for their safety, of course.  No, not at all of course.  Phoebe, once the tamer and more exuberant of the two, had wedged herself in the feeder, she was on the ground not moving, I thought she was dead.  Panic ensued immediately.  I left the gate open as I rushed to her, and out bolted Chestnut, who then also panicked as the dogs began pursuing her eagerly around the corral.

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Guard or chase, we’re getting mixed messages?!

Phoebe’s neck was twisted in a horrific way, but she was still breathing.  And I couldn’t get her out.  I struggled for what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably more like 2, absolutely beside myself.  I thought for sure if her neck wasn’t already broken, I was breaking it without a doubt.

I did at last get her out, she tried to stand, head and neck terribly deformed, and fell right back down again.  My mind was racing and whirling and the very thought that I was going to have to put her down had me collapse in a heap of sobbing.

She barely moved all day.  Miraculously though, she’s now recovering.  She doesn’t have her voice back at all, she’s more skittish, but she’s eating, and I am so grateful, and so lucky that my ineptitude and panic didn’t cause nearly as much pain as expected.

Something good in fact came out of it—I realized the wild grapes are ripe as I tore at the vines to bring the kids.  Today’s a new day and there’s no time to keep crying over milk not even spilled.

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Grapes for the adults and vines for the kids. Now get busy crushing, woman!

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2 huge tomato plants found dead, mysteriously, full of unripe fruit. No time to cry or wonder why!

Boasting & Roasting

A warm thanks to those kind souls who click like on my weird poetry.  I really appreciate that, because I consider them like word salads. I love making salads, but I’m consistently better at the edible type. Both of these salad varieties I make from true love of craft, which is really the only way to go for me, because then failures become almost meaningless.  I can’t imagine what might stop me from always trying again.

But poetry is just fun for me.  What I really do for (a) living is create delicious beauty and abundance under pretty tough circumstances and often alone.

What I actually mean is:
I coax and nurture nature to feed our bodies, minds and souls!
What’s your super power?!!

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Welcome to my office!

I’ve had loads of failures already in the garden this year, and it’s still early. Under the constant attack of man in the way of weather warfare and in the terms of nature, who feels the assault as well, of course, but takes it out on me, personally.

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Mexican sour gherkin, normally a heat-lover and such a cute plant to grow, but showing stress already.

Just as the first crop of melons were coming ripe voles or moles took out 6 of 7 plants. I out-smart them this time by planting melons in a few locations, and at different times, but some sort of mite has just found the second patch and their population is exploding practically overnight.

Then they took over the cucumbers and are feasting on the eggplant leaves too! Greedy pests out to torture me vicariously.

I always avoid spraying any manufactured chemical in the garden. Sometimes I have to do something though, or it will all be dead in a fortnight, and right before harvest after so much hard work. The bees are all over these same plants too, which is why I tend to wait too long and hope the problem will just go away.

When I do finally cave, I go for an oil/dish soap mix that’s actually pretty effective on the mites but gentle on the bees. I do it early in the morning on an every other day schedule between overhead sprinkling. We do not (but will, I hope!) have a well, so that is treated water going all over the garden constantly, because the weather terrorists have stolen our rain, again.

Someday, when there are more folks growing their own food, weather will matter to them again, and they will realize it’s being manipulated and they will join me in finding this practice completely unacceptable. That’s my big dream anyway during this best Apocalypse ever.

My current nightmare is the drip irrigation and the grasses. We will be evolving our design, again. Boxes lined with heavy duty wire mesh everywhere. Probably no grass at all, eventually. Those damn rodents also got a bed full of jalapeños, the parsley and some lettuce. We’ve lost countless young fruit trees to them, too.

It’s a really good way to teach and learn strategy and problem solving, and it never ends. Gifts of Ba’al, as James True likes to say.

My current paradise is in the salads—growing them, crafting them, sharing them. I’m getting a bushel full of cucumbers every day. I got so sick of processing green beans I’m letting them go now for fresh and dried beans. That’s another reason I love these gorgeous ‘Blue Coco’ beans, they are so prolific and can be eaten for months as young, mature, or dried. Unfortunately they are also showing signs of great stress, which considering it’s in the 90s every day and there’s been no rain for about a month, it’s not surprising.

Blue Coco

I always let some of the greens and herbs go to seed. Not only do the bees love the flowers, but the tips have loads of flavor and add an attractive addition to salads and soups.

The blackberries are still coming in heavy, and, drum roll please, we’re days away from salsa season!

Trombetta squash flower

My new favorite garden addition is Trombetta squash and I haven’t even tried the fruit yet. I love it just because it’s so beautiful and it’s still flourishing, even though all the zucchini and yellow squash died before producing anything. I’m convinced after years of failure that they cannot be grown here organically without far too much headache than they’re worth. That makes it all the more thrilling to find a squash that just might make it into the rotation.

Trombetta squash vine

If you’ve never experienced going grocery shopping in your own garden, crafting it up your own unique way in your kitchen, and sharing it (even if it’s just with the pigs because it didn’t turn out that good) you’re missing out on what I consider the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.  I’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming back into the office, or the classroom, ever again.

And that’s another reason why this is the best Apocalypse ever!

For any of y’all who want to talk real weather, meet Mike Morales.

Homestead Happy Snaps

Just another loungey Sunday on the wee homestead and sharing some of the love with y’all!

The dogs are off for a swim in the pond, their favorite time of day, right after breakfast and dinner.  The pastured pigs come up to greet the group, hoping we brought treats, no doubt.  They are looking much more slender now that they are only foraging.

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Papi’s back on track, thank heavens!  After a big scare, where we were planning for his death, a great resurrection now follows.  We took him back to the vet, they replenished him with fluids by IV, and coaxed out a football-sized hardened stool.  I know this issue was caused by the prescribed meds, so this time when he got home with a new set of pills, we threw them all in the trash.

He’s again his old sassy self and it really does seem like a miracle after how despondent he was—wouldn’t eat or drink, was vomiting and not pooping, would hardly move, wouldn’t even whine or bark, though he’s normally very expressive—we really thought he was checking out for good.  He’s back and still trying to lead the pack.

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The garden is growing great, the green beans and melons are looking particularly impressive this year (so far that is, never count your melons before they hatch).  I’ve just harvested our first cucumbers, with tomatoes soon to follow.  The bees sound as pleased as me!

Speaking of bees, I can now confirm with a fair degree of confidence that my high-risk hive split last month was successful.  What made it high-risk, in conventional beekeeping protocol, was that there was no queen, I didn’t re-queen at all, rather I intended that the small split-off colony should raise their own queen themselves.  There was not even queen cells present in the brood I transferred, only capped brood and larvae.

My beekeeping goal is replicating genetics that suit our needs and desires here on the wee homestead: semi-feral colonies whose first purpose is pollination, second purpose is sustainability and study, third purpose those glorious products—honey, wax, propolis, pollen, etc.

For this goal I choose to split from our “ninja” hive, but don’t let their nickname fool you.  They are not ‘mean’ like the nickname might suggest, and two other hives here are FAR meaner.

Rather, they are natural warriors.  Maybe this is because during the ‘tornado’ last spring their home was turned upside down.  Or maybe because I experimented on them with a screen bottom board, which meant they had to fend off attackers constantly from multiple fronts all summer, the warm winter and early spring.  Or maybe because they are right next to our house, where there is constant traffic from critters, mowers and us.

All I know is, this team is tight, because they’re so busy with all their other tasks, they leave me in relative peace in order to meddle in their ranks.

And speaking of queen bees, at least in the canine kingdom, Buttercup is exercising her own maternal instincts, on our new chicks.  It seems she doesn’t trust her brother, Bubba.

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Buttercup: “Don’t worry Daddy, I got your back.”

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Bubba: “Mmmm . . . Snack size!”

Whereas once upon a time Buttercup crawled in submission from 20 paces, then rolled over immediately once within sniff-range of current Queen Tori, I expect there will soon be an active rivalry.

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I wonder when someone will finally come to rival this old queen?  Someone once asked me when we first moved rural, “Why do you need so much land?”

Seriously?

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Life & Death

Natural is the cycle of life and death.  Normal is civilized man believing he can control all aspects of nature.  There is little natural about normal.

This big turtle might have met my tires, if I wasn’t such granny driver.  I haven’t seen one quite like him before around here, so I turned around to try to catch him with my phone camera.  I tried a dozen shots, he was so stealth and so well camouflaged, this was the best I could get.  I have a great new respect for wildlife photographers!

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Spot the butterfly enjoying the vetch I planted.  The bumblebees and honeybees like it too.  The hummingbirds visit the salvia all the time, but I can never get even a remotely decent shot.

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This baby cardinal flew the coop where he was nesting in the veggie garden.  His parents keep close watch on his effort, which I assume was successful after this first fall, because they were all gone by the next day.

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The making of our fruits and vegetables requires the repeated exile, territory confiscation and/or downright murder of rabbits, voles, squirrels, deer, feral hog, wandering cows, untold number of stink bugs, aphids, cabbage worms, hornworms, ticks, fire ants, snakes, scorpions (and occasionally spiders, by accident).

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The reason the gardens look so awesome right now is because they’re getting loads of poop.  Well-managed grazing livestock work in far better symbiosis with nature than vegetable gardens do, but don’t tell the vegetarians that, they might pout.

Speaking of poop, our dear Papi, who I recently rushed to the vet because half his tongue was paralyzed, made a turn for the worse once he got back home.  Seems the pharmaceuticals I agreed to give him hardened his stool to such a degree he would hardly eat or drink, for nearly a week.  Why would I allow such a cocktail of drugs be ingested by our dear pooch when I’d refuse them myself for sure?

Out of fear, ignorance, and the misplaced trust stemming from those apertures.  I’m quite ashamed of myself.  I love him so much, I made his life worse.  Sounds like I have something significant in common with our current political tyrants, except that I really do care about him.  But, I have little confidence in my pet healing capacities, and that must change.  Another gift of Ba’al—that giver just keeps on giving.  Our old buddy’s back at the vet, fingers crossed even tighter.

Our prized borrowed ram has already lost interest in his harem and is apparently pursuing a bromance with the car.  He spends hours leaning against it each day while his girls are nowhere in sight.  I suspect he’s not missed too much by them anyway, as his primary deed’s surely been accomplished by now.

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In the land of milk and honey co-exists more death, disease, disaster and drama than any man could ever wish for, so why, oh why, I wonder, would he ever need to recreate it all through so much media?

 

 

 

 

 

Homestead Happenings ++

++ Why this is the greatest Apocalypse ever!

This is so hard, because it is so good.  Kinda like when Elon Musk says, “It must be real, because it looks so fake.”  OK, never mind, hopefully the opposite of that.

It’s just, well, here on the wee homestead things are really good.  But, it’s hard to talk about that when I know so many are really suffering.  I don’t want to boast, or say I told you so, or wag a shaming finger, because it’s not like that.  It’s really not.  I don’t want, like, intend, wish, prefer, or otherwise conspire to see others suffer. 

Well, maybe once that happened.  But he totally deserved it.

But, it’s not hard at all to talk about how good things are with many of those in our local community, because they get it. 

(Or with the crew on James True’s livestream, whoever and wherever they are.) Lord, or God, that is the question.

We still greet with hugs and hand shakes.  We’re not wearing, or home-making, masks, for the most part.  Few noticed the restaurant closings or curb-side only service, because most of us can cook.  Folks miss their churches, sure.  Some miss the libraries.  Some get annoyed at the grocery stores. 

But otherwise, those I know mostly think this is all much ado about nothing.

And just as I refuse to pretend it’s good when it’s bad, I also can’t abide saying it’s bad when it’s good.  That would be like pathological empathy.  Been there, don’t intend to go back.  It’s a road to nowhere.

Hubby’s employer has delivered their second round of layoffs, so he’s probably next to lose his job. (Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.)

Our nearest neighbors finally started a garden of their own, and even got St. Croix sheep, like ours.  And livestock guard dogs.  On our one little dirt road there’s now about 12 dogs, that’s about four per household.  How fun is that?!

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One local friend just gifted me three high-quality top-bar hives, since she’s decided to go full Langstroph after an overload of frustration. Lucky me!  She has the cutest kids I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, homeschooled, unvaxxed, growing their own gardens and whipping through the fields on 4-wheelers at 5 years old.  Beat that, Gates of techno-hell!

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She also lent us her prize, papered, top-notch breeding ram, for free.  He’s just been introduced to his latest harem, ours, and he was ON like Donkey Kong.  We’ll have a meadow full of little lambs in no time.

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Ladies, check out my Fruitful package! (her girls named him Kiwi, hmmm)

Another nearby friend sold us her little old stock trailer for a good price and gave me seeds of a squash she loves that I’ve never tried before, Trombetta.  Can’t wait to taste them.

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I gave a SCOBY to another nearby friend, and now she’s as totally into Kombucha as I am, and along with the ram-lending friend, we are trading tips and recipes as excited as girls of the old Matrix trading Charlie’s Angels cards.

Sunday here is same as it ever was. 

A walk in the woods.  A gander into what’s coming out good this year (berries are abounding!)  A dip in the creek.  A tour through the gardens.  

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Got some great heat-loving greens going: Arugula, Oak-leaf lettuce, Malabar spinach

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What else is growing on? Tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, herbs, okra, eggplant, etc.

A lounge in the hammocks.  A full scale effort to exhaust the dogs.

Mission accomplished.

  

Wheel of Fortune III: My First Swarm

What an exciting day, indeed!  I can hardly contain myself.  Not only did I catch my first swarm, but it was in my own garden!  Soo, another miracle?

Like I said in my first Wheel of Fortune posts, I think miracles are mostly amazing synchronicities that turn out in one’s favor.  The distance between it becoming a tragedy or a miracle is 33 degrees, give or take.  Or so I’m guessing.

What had to come together for the easiest, beginner’s luck swarm experience, perhaps ever, in the history of East Texas?!

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First, Handy Hubby had to be not only home, which happens only half the year, but also helping me in the garden, which happened this morning for the first time in months.  He’s been very busy finishing the fencing for the expanded pasture, which he did just finish, and it’s a beautiful accomplishment for which I’m also excited and sending him big applause.  Then, he outdid himself, once again, in his usual non-chalant manner.

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He said something incomprehensible to me from the back of the garden, I said what, he said, again, something incomprehensible, followed by ‘swarm’, which I did hear, but that was still confusing because the likelihood of a bee swarm at the back of the garden didn’t register at all, so I assumed he meant more ants, that is fire ants, that are so bad this spring we’ve succumbed to poisoning them, with manufactured chemicals. No, I’m not proud.

“Just come here,” he urged, which made me think it must really be an exceptionally impressive ant hill, not that surprising.

But no!  A decent sized swarm, right there, ripe for the picking.  And, Handy Hubby right there to help, and their discoverer.

 

We maneuvered them from the fence to the hive without a hitch.

Might it have been from one of our own hives?  Possibly, but that doesn’t diminish the joy even slightly.  They are now happily re-nesting in a top-bar hive which had mysteriously died a month ago, very much to my disappointment.  I never found the time to post about that, though I’d planned to.

What a difference a magical month can make!

 

Take Control of Your Soul

“Don’t let them take your mind, man.”  Conspiracy Music Guru (aka Flat Earth Man)

That tablet, that TV, that hand-held radiation device.  Put it down.  Take a walk.  Let me try to inspire that action.

A68FCAFD-D6B5-4566-826B-5C44594BCB59Texas squaw weed, the bees like it, stop mowing it and spraying it with poison, please.

This sh*t, my greatest garden/forest nemesis, I pull it, smash it, dig it up, even spray it, with sadistic pleasure.  Luckily, sheep and goats love it, so soon it will go from invasive weapon of torture to practically eradicated effortlessly on this wee homestead.

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Poison ivy, run for your life!

Don’t let them take your mind.  You think Flat Earth theory is weird?  What about that which you are living right now, seem weird at all?  Natural?  Normal? Do you like the world you’re co-creating all around you?

There’s another world.  There’s another way.  It doesn’t have to be like this.  Trade your prison walls for a glimpse of what’s really REAL.

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Serviceberry, Juneberry, Amalanchier arborosa, ‘discovered’ on our property for the first time, always something new!

Pretend for one hour the earth is flat, right beneath your feet, the screen is an illusion, cyberspace is just that, space.  Walk on the flat earth under your feet and feel what life on a flat earth feels like, just for an hour, just because, really, what else of consequence are you really doing right now?

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Vetch, another spring-blooming so-called ‘nuisance’ weed the bees like, but the farmers don’t.

Mullein makes great toilet paper, fyi.  Try shopping your local forest.  😉

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