Let’s All Take a YouTube Break

Here’s a work song for finishing Harris tweed in the Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland. Filmed by Jack Cardiff of Powell & Pressburger in 1940/ 41

Behold this catchy musical sequence from Dil Se (“From the Heart”), a 1998 Bollywood romantic thriller. I haven’t seen the whole movie but if you’re interested it’s in Netflix.

And for readers who suffered through the Texas power crisis, Friend of the blog Eric of Garden Fork has a helpful playlist on how to use a generator safely.

Saturday Linkages: One Year Behind the Mask

In Japan, His Disaster Art Saves Lives

Dutch Oven Cornbread In Your Fireplace = Easy

La La La La La La

How grey was my valley: forgotten Welsh architecture – in pictures

Elon Musk declared himself ‘technoking’. He’s just a hyper-capitalist clown

Giving Up the Ghost: On the Legacy of Mark Fisher

Rick Roderick – Self Under Siege

Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things

Rain Garden Update

Root simple reader Julia requested an update on the rain garden our landscaper Laramee Haynes designed and installed in 2019. Laramee’s rain garden idea solved two problems by taking care of a confusing, unused area of the yard and sending valuable rainwater to our landscape.

We consider the rain garden both a success and a work in progress. As Kelly put it, “I’m still trying to figure out what plants work best.”  She adds, “The issue with our rain garden is the soil around the edges is different than the soil at the bottom. And also the light conditions are such that one side is in shade and one in sun.”

The soil at the top is loose and the soil at the bottom is a heavy clay. Kelly planted Douglas Irises (Iris douglasiana) and sedges in the bottom. Around the edges she started with Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa) but it struggled and faced nightly digging from the many skunks that drop by while we’re asleep. Bees Bliss Sage (Salvia x ‘Bee’s Bliss’) was another casualty.

Kelly says, “I also planted Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) but I’d didn’t work even though it’s supposed to be hardy. I’m also trying Seaside Fleabane (Erigeron glaucus). I thought it would like the sandy conditions around the edges but it’s been slow to establish and is just holding on.”

Mimulus ‘Jelly Bean Dark Pink’

What has done well? Kelly says, “I’ve placed my hopes in creeping sages such as Salvia sonomensis Mrs. Beard which is doing pretty well. Mimulus ‘Jelly Bean Dark Pink’ looks good sometimes but not all year round and needs to be intermixed with other plants.”

Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens)

Kelly says we’ll be heading back to the nursery soon for more Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), “It’s been under attack from the skunks but I’d like to put more in. It tolerates shade so I’d thinking of adding three more.”

To prevent the skunks from ripping up the bottom of the pit Kelly put down some pomegranate branches. Pomegranate trees have wicked thorns and that seems to have inhibited those pesky skunks. You can see extensive skunk damage in the top photo in this blog around the top of the pit. Maybe we need one of those motion sensitive hose gadgets?

A rain garden in a climate that gets year round precipitation would be very different than our dry, Mediterranean region where rain falls only during a short period in the first few months of the year. Kelly has thought about treating the rain garden as a kind of rock garden and planting succulents amongst the river rock but has decided to try to let the plants along the top, such as the sages, cascade over the sides.

Volunteer New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonoides)

She says, “Landscaping the pit is like 3D chess–it’s hard enough to plant a flower bed but this is harder because you have in the same space different growing conditions and you have to make use of this unusual space in a clever way. Is it densely or lightly planted? Is it like a rock garden or do you have plants that cascade down the sides? How do you balance all this and not look crazy? I’m worried ours is looking crazy.”

I’ll add that at the very least the avocado tree appreciates the water and we’re not contributing to pollution by sending our rainwater to the gutter where it just washes oil and brake dust out the ocean. And I like the little bridge I built over the pit. The path leads to Kelly’s shed and something about crossing the little bridge adds some interest to a stroll in the backyard.

Here’s our original post on the rain garden.

I haven’t mentioned this in awhile but it’s worth repeating. The reason I include the scientific names of plants is not to show off but because this blog has international readers and the common names for plants can lead to confusion and, worse, cases of poisoning.

Saturday Linkages: On hold

The best/worst house ever via Crappy Cheapo Architecture

Wealth and incarceration shown to scale

Green health: a tree-filled street can positively influence depression, study finds

Standstill Traffic May Be the Only Thing Keeping Crash Deaths From Skyrocketing

Return of the conversation pit?

The weird world of Bruce Goff

This is why Venice is the most beautiful city in the world – A series of 40 facades of Venice

More good urbanism this time in Malta

Bluetooth-Connected Rotary Payphone

A Pandemic Anniversary

Final scene of Tout Va Bien.

I suspect I’m not alone in reflecting back on the year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve been looking at the photos on my phone from February and March of 2020 and even went so far as to dig through credit card records to see where I ate out for the last time (Taix, at it turns out).

In February 2020 I was knocking on doors for Bernie and the last large public gathering I attended was the Bernie/Public Enemy rally on March 2nd. Alas, that brighter future that seemed possible was not to be, but I kept phone banking until the bitter end of the campaign. The triumph of business-as-usual combined with the untimely death of Michael Brooks were a source of considerable melancholy in the last half of 2020.

In mid-March the church secretary and I, on very short notice, helped put the Episcopal Cathedral’s services online when we could no longer meet in person.

In late spring through the summer of 2020 the one thing keeping me sane and occupied was rehabbing Kelly’s office shed. I redid the floor and ceiling and built a desk, bookcase and cabinets. Once we found out that Kelly had to go in for another round of risky open heart surgery, the remodeled shed gave her something to look forward to and something for me to work on.

While I was working on the shed, Slavoj Žižek’s managed to put out two books on the Pandemic that I read and enjoyed over the summer. Two observations from these  books stick with me. First, that we should remember that there are places in the world (such as Syria and Yemen) where things are so bad that COVID-19 is just a minor annoyance. Another point is that we need international solidarity, cooperation and mobilization to face crises like pandemics and climate change.

A lack of solidarity triggers, in me, moments of old testament prophet rage and foot stomping around the house. As Adam Curtis put it, we’re all just squealing individualist little piggies and that individualism isn’t working out well. I’ve lost the big-tent-homesteading ethos that led me to tolerate those who still cling to me-first ideology such as preppers, social media CEOs, corporate politicians of both parties, COVID denying wellness influencers and the local evangelical mega-church that decided to keep meeting during the worst of the pandemic.

At the same time I recognize that I was raised in the same culture and am susceptible to the same narcissism. I’m a squealing piggy with a blog after all. But let’s remember that this crisis has fallen disproportionately on poor and vulnerable people. We can’t forget the structures that perpetuated inequality and worsened the pandemic. Over 500,000 people needlessly went to an early grave in the U.S. and many of the people that cared for them are scarred for life while I sat comfortably at home.

I’ve also thought a lot about what works and what doesn’t during a crisis. A Buddhist friend taught me to observe my thoughts and emotions and that trick has been extraordinarily useful. Most of the time I noticed low level anxiety and fatigue caused by the constant risk management we all had to do. Sometimes I had COVID dreams and outburst of hypochondria. Observing these feelings helped to not get attached to them and kept them from spiraling out of control. I also came to the conclusion that it’s perfectly okay not to be productive all the time and recognize that the muses can be fickle in a crisis. Looking back I actually did a lot of construction work and beekeeping just not writing and podcasting.

I’m incredibly grateful to be financially secure, to have a roof over my head and to be fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, I’ve also eaten a lot of junk food and haven’t exercised like I used to. I took my first trip to the market in almost a year yesterday and am feeling optimistic and less anxious. But like Žižek, I hope that we don’t go back to the old normal but work towards a better, new normal.

What was the last year like for you?