Circa '68

Show ‘em don’t tell ‘em is the writers’ rule

Why keep on coming by, unless you see this site as cool?

Journalese, Ecologese, Free Enterprese, Philosophese

Loggerese, Psychologese, I’m at ease in all of these

Bureaucratese, Intellectualese, neither bring me to my knees

Marketese, well that’s a breeze

And Pollenese will make you sneeze

I like to think that what I’m saying isn’t said in vain

That in any of these languages, my meaning will be plain

So drop on by once in a while, for more than just one date

You never know, you might find that we can communicate

Lions In the Den

Posted by on April in Jest Thinkin', Making Music, Pagin' the Agin', Sagas and Serendipity | 0 comments

Lions In the Den

Our past is never past, it’s said

Be it brief or long.

The beauty that informed it

What was dire

That made us strong

And the fortunate song-writer

Can save much of it in song.

For the most part I don’t think of what has come my way lyrically over the years as time-linked. Mostly I experience it as generated by some kind of universal resonance having more to do with simply being human than being a particular one in a particular place and time?

Scenery changes, and props, but for the most part the range and color of individual psychodrama seems much as has been remarked upon generation after generation, age after age. The forms evolve; the substance….not so much. Ergo…again…the past is always with us, just in its present form.

So….’Lions in the Den’….what’s that all about anyway? ‘Too wild to lure into the pen?’

That it was my head the lyrics popped into doesn’t make my take on them definitive.  However…..to me the song and these lines are about what exists unexpressed in our consciousness, in our emotional depths, that we strive to be able or brave or open enough to allow into the light.

It is the lament of a young man for his own sadness, for it’s pressing in on him despite his loving and being loved, regardless of the profound beauty to be experienced in all of his circumstances and the adventurous life upon which he found himself so fortunately embarked…..all precisely as hoped for.

What was that? What has it been….over the years….over centuries? Is it Adam, still itchy in Eden?

And what is this particular evocation of it now….in its present form? Well….hopefully, at least an engaging song.

Our Cabin at Herbert Arm 1970

Lions In the Den came into being as the love of my life and I absorbed the pearly evening twilight from the beach pictured here.  It is one of a couple of songs that stand up for me regardless of the inexperience I brought into the Inner Ear Studio on the Sunshine Coast back in the eighties to record an album called Land of the Tree. This version, recorded last fall, benefits from the technological advances since those days and the multi-faceted contributions of musician, producer, engineer and arranger Bill Buckingham. Enjoy.

[audio:http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Lions-in-the-Den-.mp3|titles=Lions In The Den]

A Gate For More Seasons

Posted by on April in Garden Delights, Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

A Gate For More Seasons

The New Deck

A cedar-plank deck I built a dozen years or so ago gave out as they can if one is disinclined to stain them and are otherwise less than assiduous with annual maintenance. Some cedar lasts regardless, some does not.

This deck was of the latter sort. So I pulled it apart and bought a load of fresh planking from a long time friend who runs a small mill. Great looking stuff. So much so that assigning it to a new deck didn’t seem right somehow

As it happened, due to the vicissitudes with which small mill operators are often faced, my friend needed to find another location for his….and to get rid of a big pile of cedar sawdust.

About then that new planking, nicely stacked and separated, seemed to want to become a gate. A pair of them actually, spanning an access to my shop about 16′ wide. The existing gate, not a bad one all in all, had been built of cedar slabs over a frame of rough fir 2”x6”.

Taking it apart left me with a pile of cedar slabs….with still a fair bit of life left in them.

That, together with a ready supply of cedar sawdust and an open space in need of finishing in some fashion formed almost alchemically into a concept. It seemed that laying a thick bed of sawdust over conveyer belting and setting into it slabs cut to length might provide a simple, ground-level deck sufficient to the purpose.

And it has, really. Oh the slabs warp some and rock a little underfoot at times, a minor agility test of sorts, requiring some not unhealthy foot-to-ground awareness. But this is not a high traffic area or a staging platform. It merely provides shape and access to some flower beds. It’s different. It uses what was in need of a use. It provides visual contrast. I like it.

The old decking? Some of it was trimmed and racked for some future rough use elsewhere, the rest was made kindling.

The New Gate


The Many Facets of Cattle Panel

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The Many Facets of Cattle Panel

Cattle panel, as its name suggests, is primarily manufactured for penning cattle. But it is great for re-purposing in the garden. What I use comes in 16′ lengths 52” wide. The mesh is 6”x8” with one run of 4”x8” along one side. The wire is galvanized and heavy…about 1’4” thick, giving each panel a substantial degree of stiffness that allows it to hold shape independently when sprung into an arch or a curve.

It is easily if noisily cut with a cutting blade on a grinder and less easily with a heavy-duty bolt cutter.

It makes a quick and dirty gate, hinged to a post with a couple of wood staples.

You can throw it up quickly for fencing that serves well to support tall growth or vines.

You can cut it to make long ladders to arch over to your house to support climbing roses, as here with similar but ungalvanized material.


Oh Babe, You Got Me Reeling

Posted by on April in Garden Delights, Jest Thinkin' | 2 comments

Oh Babe, You Got Me Reeling

These are quite cool. Not certain what mounts on them. TV cable perhaps. They are made of a fibrous, rubbery material. With a couple of wrenches it’s asy to separate the ends from the heavy cardboard core. Not particularly pleasant to cut with a saber saw but, short term pain, very long term gain…..they may never disintegrate.

You can use them with the sectioned side up, as full circles, joined half circles or use half of a whole one or simple half-circles of the centers up against the back of a bed.

The sections can be filled as one wishes. I was fortunate to be given a local artist’s collection of beach stones.

Flat-side up they facilitate mowing around a small round bed or, say, a firepit.

I never really found an appealing use for the heavy wooden spool ends associated with logging cable, but these are fine.

Light In the Shadows

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Light In the Shadows


People do throw away some wonderful things, for all the efforts we make to recycle. Think for instance of how wonderful a piece of glass is, particularly of the tempered sort….of the mining that went into it…of the manufacturing. But for this short piece it is mirrors I am thinking of.

They show up in the share-shed at the solid-waste site hereabouts and have done for years. And yet it is only recently that it occurred to me to pick some up (mirrored, folding closet doors are great for this) and place them in shady spots so they can reflect light onto the plants there and their images once grown, doubling the visual impact of them.

So I have some under the hedge adjacent to the pond and will add some behind it should I come across more. There’s an overhang on my house under which I grow flowers, herbs and salad greens, that would much benefit from a backing of mirrored glass. Even smaller pieces, perhaps colorfully framed with something like plasticine. Lots of possibilities.

Run Chicken….Run

Posted by on April in Garden Delights, Jest Thinkin' | 1 comment

Run Chicken….Run

No, my sky is not falling. But conceive of a moat as a protective barrier rather than a water feature and you’ll understand why I went to the immense trouble of arching a long, four-foot-wide chicken run across much of my lot, detouring it around the greenhouse and extending it with another, somewhat-wider run beneath the trees hedged for privacy along the east side of it.

I had long wanted a garden protected by a surrounding chicken moat. Such a practical place to toss garden waste and bugs for daily conversion into eggs. And to have the garden perimeter patrolled so willingly, even eagerly by assiduous hunters of bugs, tillers of soil and producers of organic fertilizer. Add a duck and the early morning can be about bird song and ever-brightening skies and warming air….and not about the steely-eyed stalking and ruthless dispatch of invading forces of slugs sneaking up through the surrounding grass.

And in the summer you can hardly see it, the high inside mesh serves as a support for fruit trees, berry bushes, phlox and roses, as it does.

Square would have been easy. Curves made for far more wrist-twisting and wire-cutting….but an infinitely more pleasing layout. With two-inch stucco wire over 4-guage steel mesh the birds needn’t fear the voracious raccoon, the foraging bear, the bobcat, the coyote or the cougar.

If one satisfaction can be isolated from so many to be had in a garden, the chicken moat is perhaps the thing I am most pleased to have actually got together in all my years of horticulturing.

The hens have nest boxes in the garden shed and winter access to the greenhouse running off it to the south, once I complete the harvest there. They deter the arrowroot from invading it and the sowbugs from occupying it.

It works in every way intended. The ladies are happy and safe and glad to join me when I’m breaking ground or to hunt and peck eagerly and at will across the uncultivated southern third of an acre if I’m working outside.

A symbiotic quartet in every way, that’s us.

God’s Joinery

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God’s Joinery

Is there a more obviously structural element in a garden than a tree? Strong and yet so maleable. When my lady and I moved to where I have no lived for some seventeen years there was a plain, rectangular house and a couple of small sheds on a half-acre lot pretty-well stripped of vegetation but for three large cedars.

As we filled in with hedges and gardens, a greenhouse and a shop those cedars, lovely as they were, became….mmm…problematic. Too much shade, too thirsty, the roots of one too likely to damage the septic field.

So, reluctantly, one at a time, I decided to ‘deal with them.’ Doing so myself would allow me to implement the decision more thoughtfully, more creatively than hiring someone to do what is usually done and what they are optimally equipped to do.

I realized that I didn’t want to immediately eliminate everything the cedars offered. The pure mass of them had some appeal, likewise their rootedness.

They could serve as core fence-posts or supports for vines. They could be carved. Salal loves to grow around them and salal berries can u ‘real nice’.

I had to bring it down in sections of thirty-feet maximum to avoid incidental damage…..to the house for instance.  So, starting with a ladder I worked my way up the first cedar, leaving stubs to climb and descend on and the odd branch long as hand holds.  I chose to do it in late winter to avoid damage to new growth if I happened to hit one of the garden beds. Unfortunately, with the sap not yet running, stripping the bark was a major chore. So, I wanted to avoid that when taking the second tree down.

It had also occurred to me, while up the tree, that leaving the branch stubs longer would have given me some interesting options.  So for the second cedar I waited for the sap to start running, left the branch stubs about eighteen inches long, stripped the bark from the standing tree and limited damage to the ground by dropping sections of about sixteen feet in length, leaving a stump paired to that of the first cedar at about twelve feet high.

I cut the downed lengths  into sections four to eight feet long and ripped each in half lengthwise with the chainsaw, optimal branch-stubs retained. With the flat side down I trimmed the branch stubs to what struck me as reasonable lengths for legs, flipped the sections up onto them, went back and forth a few times to get everything level and found myself with several sturdy and interesting garden benches featuring God’s joinery.  They should easily hold up longer than I will.

Hit ‘Em With Your Wet Spot

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Hit ‘Em With Your Wet Spot

There are many watering systems on the market. I use, with slight success, permious hose made from recycled tires. It functions as a barely adequate when I have no time to hand-water. But I did come up with this simple means of spot-watering that has worked consistently well.

It consists of plain old inexpensive 1/2” pvc pipe, hooked up to water of course, and laid to reach whatever you want a spray of water to get to. At each location drill a 1/8” hole downwards right through the pipe. Turn a #12 (I think it is) stainless-steel screw right through the top hole and seat the tip into the bottom one.

Back it off to allow the water to spray out, screw it back in to reduce the intensity of the spray. Screw it down further before backing it off if you want more water flow to your shrub. Screw it in and back out to clear the hole if it gets plugged.

Needless to say, it’s a cinch to add new jets wherever you need them.

I prefer screws with Robertson heads.


Espalier Me This

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Espalier Me This

Appreciation for good ergonomics got me into espaliering: the training of fruit trees, grape vines, berry bushes, shrubs and roses along flat vertical planes to optimally expose blossoms and fruit to sunlight, observation and harvest.

In the best of outcomes the plants become part of the structure, the more substantial ones eventually replacing or eliminating the need for posts.

This currently works very nicely in the form of a postless fence of concrete reinforcing mesh free-standing between parallel plashed hedges. (Plashing strikes me as a form of espaliering). (http://www.btinternet.com/~rob.martin1/fort/plash.htm)

The mesh is of heavy four gauge steel (1/4” thick). It is high enough at 7.5′ to deter deer. It is wobbly enough (because unposted) and formed of an open 6”x6” grid awkward enough for bear paws to so far keep their owners out once fruit begins to form. This gridding comes in 20′ foot lengths, the steel heavy enough to have a degree of structural integrity. Small cable clamps secure the lengths end-to-end.

It will take probably a couple of decades to oxidize away and meanwhile the rust color will render it virtually invisible within the plashed evergreens.

In more visible but still to me pleasing form I use this steel mesh to espalier fruit trees and exclude wildlife from the area close to the house in which more tempting things grow. It also forms the interior structure of a long run that spans most of the inner sanctum and allows my two chickens and one duck to patrol for slugs and insects migrating in from the long grass and surrounding woods. The outside of the run is formed of 52” by 16′ lengths of mesh, similar in weight but galvanized. Stucco wire over this keeps the birds in and smaller predators and raptors out. The birds have plenty of room even when penned and are let out to peck and forage when I’m working outside. I get a couple of eggs a day and diminished insect and slug predation.

Once everything starts to leaf-out and blossom the mesh pretty much disappears.

Even in winter you hardly see it against the background of vegetation and snow on it actually makes for an interesting change in the visuals.

A hedge of plashed alders allowed me to quickly create privacy when first we moved to this property, which was pretty much stripped but for a few fair-sized cedars. I eventually replaced most of that with evergreen hedge, but have retained a stretch of it around my deer-resistant ground-cover garden. People like it. I like it. It’s a great way to use alders, which generally are not seen in the kindest light here in coastal B.C..



Living Well Enough Alone

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Living Well Enough Alone

Let me just wave away some of the miasmic predictions of depression for those flying solo through later stages of life. For me living alone seems equivalent to the solo practice of any art.

A solo musician for instance, can’t be assumed to lack interest in the output of other soloists, ensembles or symphonies and can hardly have avoided learning from them: Joining others on occasion can be a particular and refreshing pleasure. Playing solo merely allows you the freedom to discover new voicings, lyrics, flavors and delights spontaneously, without compromising the flow of it.

Equivalents of the metaphor can be found in the garden, workshop, house or head.

Living alone can be an opportunity to become more self-sufficient in both practical and creative ways.

The sheer number of my similarly-liberated chronological peers represents, for me is a substantial practical and emotional resource base. Get the lonelies on occasion? Pick up the phone. Offer what you are moved to when called upon in turn.

A friend needs a hand, the loan of a vehicle? Offer it. Be satisfied in return for the shift in your continuum and the pleasure of their company and, for that matter, of being of assistance. Don’t burden yourself by keeping a ledger on it.

Are you going to get down at times? Well, yeah! A low-pressure system sliding in over the land-base will do that. We’re delicate creatures in that regard. The trick is to keep it at bay, remind yourself of the various ways in which you remain fortunate, and reason or finesse your way out of it.

So….fie on a recent study linking ‘increased risk of depression’ to ‘a growing trend of solitary living in much of the world.’ (Not to quibble, but to my knowledge the world is getting ever-more crowded on a shrinking ecological support base, so I suppose this is.…. as usual… all about the developed world)

Riddle me this. How is it useful to presuppose depression for those dealing with circumstances unlikely to change? How is it not disabling, disempowering and tending to delete from our array of tools the inborn capacity to adapt.

Get enough age on you and the biological imperatives for cohabitation disappear, as do the triggers for them, even when the raw capacity remains. Add to that the complex social, economic and family circumstances most of us generate over a lifetime and the challenge of integrating them with someone else’s becomes contra-indicated. We’re not twenty-two and headed out into the world to form a life together. That’s not intrinsically depressing, folks. It’s just different.

If , to quote one William Hazlitt, “Rules and models destroy genius and art”….ceding the ground to depression will certainly do that.

We are a unique generation in the history of the species, apparently to live en mass twenty to thirty years beyond the biological need to do so, most of us intellectually intact and likely to remain substantially so. We have the opportunity to create our own ways of being, unfettered by existing norms.  There aren’t any.

It’s a fine thing to be a soloist and to work on being an ever more skilled one: Artists playing life as we are moved to; stick-handling around our limitations, not sulking on the bench. (Yes, hockey can be art….even if not always practiced that way).

So….Here’s a little song on the topic:

[audio:http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Living-Well-Enough-Alone.mp3|titles=Livin well Enough Alone]

Some might fuss over the idea of settling for ‘well enough’, as if only constant ecstasy will suffice in life. Ecstasy, in my (yes, direct) experience, is by its nature exceptional….ergo, it aint an every day kind of thing.



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