Earth Day 2015

April 22, 2015

Where are we? Or more clearly, were am I?

To the plus side:

Our two bathroom house finally has a second toilet and it’s low flow.

There is low flow in the shower.

Our property is an estimated 4800 sqft. Approximately half of that space is used by the house, carport and driveway.  We packed the remaining space with subsistence in mind.

In a neighborhood where most yards have traditionally sported dead lawns, ours is long gone. Instead we have a zoned front yard with drought tolerant plants near the street and  a mix of young fruit trees, veggies, berries and flowers  closer to the house. While this makes us the weirdest neighbors on the block, I think we have had an influence. the rest of the street has noticeably improved their yard care since I began grubbing around ours.

Most of the front and back yard are on timed nighttime sprinklers.

The below grade (ground) drain system was finished some time ago.  The roof scuppers no longer flood our downhill neighbors in a downpour. Nor does our uphill neighbor to the west flood us, because I hooked their downspout to our system.

We have gotten a good selection of foods from our yard over the last several years.

All the yard waste (except the rose stalks, and those will be soon) is returned to the yard.

We don’t use air conditioners, we do all the regular stuff like, collecting shower water, washing clothes off peak, etc.

To the minus side:

We are in official California drought. We still don’t have the allowed rain storage system in place.

We don’t have the gray water system in place, though that installation will begin this month.

We don’t have the potted plants on timed drip.

I have yet to install an air venting system for the house. I can’t decide whether to put the outflow on the roof or wall.

I have yet to reinstall a back porch roof, (the old one was dangerous) which would reduce home heat in the summer.

We no longer have a free supply of mulch, nor a means of delivery and will have to buy wood chips this year.

Because more of my time is now devoted to family care I have less time to maintain the yard systems. So this year, I have decided that I must depend on the local CSAs for more of my produce. This means I will have to rebuild my scheme toward more permaculture. Additionally, there will be the increased CSA cost.

Though we recycle, we are sending away too much paper product. This year we must find a way to use it ourselves, without violating EPA burning laws. Solano County is often under a burn ban as we are a pretty smoggy place.

The Arabs have announced that this will be their last year of wheat farming because of the status of their aquifers, and California is looking at a potential repeat of that scenario in their future. Locally Solano County is rated the worst for food deserts in the SF Bay Area, according to the USDA. We have too many in our county who don’t drive and are more than a mile away from a large grocery. In spite of the drought, or because of  it, water management is even more critical to our low income neighborhoods. Thus, learning how to use graywater systems where people can never afford to water their yard at all, is even more important. which leads to the next thing I haven’t done yet:

I still don’t have the curbside free library installed.  Passersby comment on the yard but often don’t know how to begin. Maybe a spanish/english library will help.













I am struck by the irony of October being National Domestic Violence Month, and that I failed to commemorate it in this blog.

I have been drawn into a neighbor’s struggle to begin her life anew due to domestic violence. Her lift to flight is occurring now and she will soar by the end of the month to a new county, and hopefully, a better life. Perhaps this is October’s best tribute.

If there is anything I have learned from this experience, it is that from the outside, a person’s struggle to break free can appear to be something very different. At various times many of us in the neighborhood, including me, have thought her to be a liar, thief, drug user, public resource manipulator, and certainly, an indifferent mother.

I came to know that “Jane” had a fifth grade education, a lifetime of abuse, internal and back damage because of that abuse, trouble with memory, a mood disorder requiring medication, a self proclaimed docility that disallowed her standing up for herself, a love for small furry things and a great desire to forgive her significant other and live peacefully with the man she thought he could be.

When the little family moved in to our CA neighborhood over a year ago, Jane, at 42, had left behind, in her wanderings across the country: a predator male relative and non responsive mother living a rural Carolinian life on SSI, and lost four other, now adult, children and an abusive husband to the system and her past drug abuse.  She had been with her significant other, “George” for seven years. Her youngest child, living with her was a daughter, an eleven year old named “Cathy”, and had known this man for all but three years of her life.

Jane was excited to be in our neighborhood, because it represented stability, had other children, and appeared safe for Cathy. It was her first home in CA with a yard and she was very interested in gardening as she had some experience with it.

They moved in on Section Eight, assigned to him with a family, on a special project designed to help veterans. This meant that though Jane and Cathy were listed as residents he had control over the housing. Though he worked, he required that she contribute to house finances and he was in charge of those.  This seemingly common arrangement began to abrade when Jane’s monthly welfare checks of $400 failed to arrive. He had purchased cable using the Cathy’s social security number, and he spent other money on porn sites.  She bought things too, a vintage sewing machine, a bike for Cathy.

One night there were noises of pain and a neighbor called the police. That week Jane took one of the days that Gorge was at work and came down to talk to me. It turned out that she couldn’t leave the house when he was home and had to plan the day to his return. She showed me bruises on her arm. They were the blackest I’ve seen outside of car injuries. The striking grouped lines of four fingers and thumb were in several places and it was clear he had spent some time twisting her arm.

She stayed however. Twice I saw Jane and Cathy walking out of the house and down the street in the middle of the night and the police arriving. They went to emergency housing and back. Cathy was acting up, and dressing in a questionable way. Other neighbors refused to let their children play with her. Jane or Cathy often came to visit me. Her stories about the household goings-on would change. As a neighborhood we were concerned and among us compared stories. Call it gossip, but we had prison guards, grade school cafeteria managers, Social Security administrators, and retired social workers on our street-all folks with public service in their soul.

On George’s workdays Jane contacted and engaged us as neighbors frequently. It was conflicting because it appeared as though she was doing the right thing to outreach and set up a safety net, even though she often told us different things and continued to stay. Jane barrowed things and didn’t return them. Cathy started coming more to my house to say hi and spend a little time. She was angry that her mom stayed.

He went to jail one night. When he came back she did as well. She received her back welfare and it was a great deal more than she expected. The check apparently had an extra “0” and so her spending it will probably come back to bite her. However, conditions with George improved significantly for a while. Then of course the money was gone, and her use as cash cow vanished. Additionally, Jane’s monthly allotment was reduced to half, because she said though a public service doctor confirmed she had memory problems, another public service was refusing to send her full allotment until she completed testing that she could not do.

George went to jail again and again, each time for a longer stay. Without him she and Cathy were surviving on $200 a month, plus food stamps, and the entire neighborhood knew that was impossible. Some things went missing in the neighborhood. I had ordered small plants and left them on the porch in opened boxes to let in the rain overnight. They disappeared. She liked plants. The inhabitants of the local drug house at the other end of the street were more suspicious, but who knew? We neighbors were disenchanted with the situation. That Jane had not put Cathy back in school for the year added to the disenchantment, and we were concerned for Cathy’s health and safety.

I called Social Services over Cathy’s failure to return to school, and relayed general information. They made note, but said the situation had not risen to the level where they could act. A neighbor called the school board and they said the same thing.

The third to last time George went to jail the DA herself put a three year restraining order on him for Jane. She moved back to the house from the emergency shelter and brought another woman with two children. The DA told Jane to get George’s name off the lease. Even though she was now squatting it was legally her address for the Court’s purpose. Jane said she hoped “Grandma” would help with the rent. Maybe that was a true sentiment, but at $500 a month for the kids, it wasn’t reality. Rent alone for Section 8 in our neighborhood is around $900, with full rent at $1200-$1400. Jane told me later that Grandma had been refused entrance to the emergency shelter because her letter from the children’s’ addicted mother, authorizing her as guardian, was not notarized. Jane had felt sorry for the children. At the first of the month an eviction notice was served.

George got out, and immediately went to the house, broke in through a back window and spent several days wooing Jane. Cathy came to my house, told me he was there and I called the police. He was gone. He showed up again, and another neighbor called the police. Jane went to visit him overnight at a hotel; friends saw the two of them together in the street. Cathy was terrified that her mother would be hurt and angry too. I think Jane was trying to negotiate for some money and the keys to the storage unit where he had placed her things. Despite all, she loved him too. Finally he was caught and went back to jail.

Jane found a few things out about George from the DA. It turned out he had done this before to another woman in 1992. He had violated parole and not completed mandatory counseling. Though in another city, Solano County still had it on the books. Then, George got out one more time. I heard him caterwauling on the sidewalk in front of her house and certainly inside the restraint zone for her. Jane called me and was clearly terrified. Grandma called the police as I did. He ran but was eventually re-jailed.

There are no clean endings. On the 22nd, Jane and Cathy went to court to testify, only to discover that George had pled guilty to receive 6 months, and was about to get out for time served. CA has an overcrowded prison system.  The travails of one woman and child (and their neighborhood) do not impact the overall scheme of planned prison releases.

On the 23rd, Jane and Cathy were forced out of their home. Not the eviction notice, but Grandma and her friends precipitated the move back to the shelter. Grandma allowed first her girlfriend, then the addicted mom, and eventually as many as ten people known to be drug users, and prostitutes to live in the house. I took in Jane and Cathy’s pets, drove her to another city to turn off the utilities, water and change the address at the post office. On the 25th we took the truck to pick up Jane’s things. Grandma’s friends had changed the locks and would not let Jane in. On the 27th, the new squatting occupants were selling her things at their garage sale. Grandma tried to tell me that Jane had abandoned her possessions, and also that George was out of jail. The window of safety had passed where Jane could come to the house. I called a friend who was familiar with the shelter and he rode his bike over to leave notice for her.

Hopefully Jane will be relocated in the next few days. The trick is in the timing. The shelter requires that occupants leave the site during the day, forcing Jane and Cathy to roam the streets. My house would not be safe. George is well known and has allies. Even though she is terrified of him and has come this far on her own, if she sees him she may fold because she is afraid of confrontation and is trying to fly without an adequate net of coping skills and support that she needs. It’s hard for anyone to give up seven years together, much less dependent ones.

National Feral Cat Day

Check out this link!

Did you know that rather than feral cats, environmental and habitat destruction are the primary  cause of declining bird populations?

Did you know that trapping, neutering and releasing (TNR) of feral cats is a better way to deal with population control? If you remove a colony, new un-neutered  or un-spayed ferals move into the vacuum created by the loss of the previous colony.

Did you know that the death rate for feral cats sent to the shelter is nearly 100%? Since most can’t be socialized they can’t be adopted. Individuals in managed feral colonies are healthier, quieter, less destructive, vaccinated against rabies, and have a life span comparable to pet cats.

Life, Posts and Kenya

Many years ago, I received a call from my father and listened to the sound of calm terror in his voice, when he told me that he he had been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Last month I heard that sound again.

This month has been a flurry of tests and appointments, planning and treatments to battle non small cell lung cancer.

Who knows the future? There is today and what is folded into life’s pattern.

One thing my analogic brain noted was that the Kenyan mall was reported on one news station as a Westfield Mall. In my experience, the Australian Westfield Corporation takes over other malls, rough shods contractors, aggressively nit picks pennies over larger long term savings, sucks what they can out of the malls and passes them on with superficial and minimal improvements. I imagine the corporate structure and  bottom line for them is similar in most locations, so I wonder how a tangential condition, like worldwide mall management similarities, plays into considerations of terrorism, anger and murder.

Life is not what is planned, grouped or imagined by one or a few. The outside or “other” always intrudes. What will this oligarch learn from this experience and how will it grow? Or should state/federal agencies have another look at mall security from an international perspective?

We pretend that life is linear, but it isn’t. We pretend that systems simplify our lives, but they only work until entropy takes them down. Even a view that is 360 degrees is only one dimensional. It’s hard to see wholly or even the layers upon layers, but our attachment to ALL is there.

Surely the mall was a victim just as those poor people were. However, I do have questions, like how did the terrorists manage to booby trap the building? Where did they decide to place the traps and why? If USAns were involved, what kind of familiarity might they have had with Westfield Malls generally?

What is to be done about the cancer of hatred and bigotry that allows one human to force another to recite the Koran or die? Surely International Westfield was chosen for a reason. They will either be a healthier surviving organ of that cancer’s treatment or they could be resected.

Cancer is never appropriate. It’s always rude, intrusive and mean. Deal with it.


This is a bi-partisan effort:

[This is BIG NEWS: Tomorrow, July 24, a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Rep. Amash (R-MI) that restricts the NSA’s ability to collect data on our phone calls will be up for a vote in the the House of Representatives.

This is our first real chance to get a congressional vote to roll back the NSA’s grossly broad spying program—and we need to let our representatives know right away that we expect them to vote for it. The Amash Amendment would prevent the NSA from indiscriminately collecting the phone records of most Americans, including who we talk to, for how long, and how often. Instead, it will limit the NSA’s ability to collect these records to people who are actually under investigation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (a pretty reasonable limitation!)..]

Click HERE for the site instructions!

July 20, 1969 – Apollo II lands on the moon. It was a time when every eye and ear was glued to the future unfolding on our TV set.

July 20, 2013 – As was noted on Bill Moyer’s the other night, most of the big channels failed to carry President Obama’s speech, June 25th, given at Georgetown University, on climate change, thought to be one of the most significant given to date. I suddenly realized I had only seen the notice of it. So here it is:

Remarks by the President on Climate Change | The White House.

Now that I’ve read it I agree, I think it was his best speech, full of facts, clear, clarion, and not wandering off at the end like he sometimes does.

His plan graphic  to fight climate change is HERE.

The layout is too big to show here, but the charts are simple and clear, indicating things like 2012 being the 2nd most extreme on record, and the warmest. It is really worth reviewing and downloading as a classroom wall hanging.

A pdf of his written plan is president27sclimateactionplan.


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