24 Steps

Twenty-four articles. Sometimes it's fun to get lost in Wikipedia. Start at one article, follow a link, and before you know it, while you started with California Redemption Value, you ended at Indo-European copula. How exciting is that?

Do you think you can reproduce the path? Along the way, I visited a drug store and the world's oldest operating amusement park.

Somewhere in Arizona

Not really sure how we missed the painted desert, but we did, so this Wee Toaty Explorer has to do his painting here in Sitgreaves Pass.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.

The Abbey Garden: Part 6

Measure twice; cut once? Ha! I forgot to even measure once. I knew the width of these things, because I had to make an end piece, but I never measured the length. I just assumed they were 8 feet.

Turns out they're 11 1/2 feet long. Ah, well. More space to produce. I think I'll put the pumpkins in the big irregular spots in the middle.

This is part of a series. Go back to the start or continue on to the next part.

By the way, I'm cheating by not buying the book or reading anything but other gardeners' blog posts about Square Foot Gardening, so don't take anything I do as an example of the canon.

The Abbey Garden: Part 5

Well, we had a little detour since the last installment. I haven't been home more than three days in a row since then, I don't think, but I guess that got us through the last possible frost.

So today I got back in the saddle. The left bed is filled with dirt it had before, plus dirt from the other bed. I don't know the content of that dirt, but I assume it's pretty much local soil. There doesn't seem to be anything interesting in it. The right bed, I'm going to try the Square Foot Gardening thing in. To do that, I had to go down to Peaceful Valley and buy a bunch of bags of stuff.

The goal is to mix all of this together: 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 little tiny rocks. It was a bit more expensive than I was hoping, but we'll see this summer whether there's a significant difference between the two beds.

I'm not sure why I chose to mix it up on the tarp (which I'm using to kill everything in the third bed). It did mean that I mixed it twice -- once on the tarp and once as I shoveled/dragged it into the bed.

All of that pile filled up one half of my bed.

After a couple of hours of work, I now have two finished beds ready for planting. I like the color of the special mix bed.

Now it's time to square off the one bed and plan both.

This is part of a series. Go back to the start or continue on to the next part.

By the way, I'm cheating by not buying the book or reading anything but other gardeners' blog posts about Square Foot Gardening, so don't take anything I do as an example of the canon.

Four Corners

So, I wanted to drop one in the middle of here:

I gave him a lot of legs, but it was much too crowded to let him free among the feet. So, we went out back.

This really must be the oddest monument in the world: a marker for four invisible lines that happen to intersect in the middle of the lands of a people who were not asked to make the lines.

So maybe it's not so weird to have an octopus sitting on a grill in the desert.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.

Room With a View: Barstow, CA

I forgot to take a picture at Tuba City, Arizona, dang it.

People in Glass Houses

I really like abandoned structures. The Southwest is riddled with ancient abandoned structures, but in Grants, New Mexico, there's a more modern one:

This was an attempt at growing tomatoes, I believe. It's a huge greenhouse in the dust.

It's situated next to the municipal golf course.

What was surprising to me: there are a few broken panes, but I would have expected a lot more broken glass from local hooligans.

I like the innards, too.

And there are giant tanks out back.

Oh, look, here is a picture of it when it was in production.

Room With a VIew: Grants, NM

Visitor Near Boulder City, NV

On the outskirts of Boulder City, near the Hoover Dam.

Someone seems to be in need of directions.

Maybe he can get a little help from the locals.

I figure he's looking for Area 51, or maybe just a good spot to watch the eclipse.

Turns out, this was a visitor center, so it's the perfect place to look for directions. Sadly, the center was closed. Even worse, there wasn't a good sign that I could include in my shots. But I did almost get caught, so that's something:

I don't think they even looked down!

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.

Room With a View: Gallup, NM


This isn't going to become a maudlin blog, I promise. I have a set of wee toaty explorer pictures to push up here in a minute.

But as I go through my mother's stuff, I keep finding these things hidden all over the place. Under chairs, in closets, on a bench. They seem to be bound pieces of paper with writing on them.

For a person who couldn't hold her head up to read since some time last year, my mother had a lot of books just lying around.

It reminded me that as a child we didn't really have bookshelves. There was one set in my room, I think, but nowhere else. However, in the middle of the living room, instead of a coffee table, we had a large wicker rectangular cube-shaped basket. It was filled with paperback books of all sorts. There were horrible horror novels and Kurt Vonnegut novels, and I don't know what all. I remember for sure there was Flowers in the Attic and Venus on the Half-Shell. The only hardbound works we had were the complete short stories of Sherlock Holmes, the complete plays of William Shakespeare, and a set of Time-Life books about the west.

The TV might have always been on, but someone was always reading, too.

Iva Patricia Taylor 1947-2012

I was riding in the car on a rural Tennessee road when Mom pulled the Maverick to the shoulder and told me to get out. I was fifteen. Nothing in the conversation up to that point had led me to believe I had done anything to deserve being kicked out of the car. I had no idea what was on her mind. For all I knew, she meant to abandon me there.

But I got out of the car.

My mother was a strong woman. She was not terribly violent or anything, but she had a will and it was always the easiest course to take to simply do what she said, even if it meant being left on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

And the road was in our blood, I guess. I grew up in ten different schools, in more different houses/apartments/trailers. I've kept that wanderlust to this day, though for Mom, I think she had less choice in the matter. She was a single mother of two who went to nursing school while getting us through our early teens and took up the backbreaking work of LPNing. She weathered a lot of storms back then and was always my model for strength and tolerance.

Still, I think she had an affinity for the road. Every summer during my high school years, she and my stepfather hopped on the back of his motorcycle and drove out west, cruising through the desert and getting up to who knows what sorts of mischief. And when I left home to go up to college in New York, they packed their bags and moved to a tiny little town in New Mexico.

For three months, I had no contact information for them -- phone or address. Can you imagine in this day and age not being able to contact someone for three months? The Brunette is in Africa, for goodness sake, and I spoke with her on the phone just a few minutes ago.

Life wasn't easy for Mom at any stage, even in the little New Mexico town, but she weathered every storm that blew across her, and tried to ask for as little help as she could. And you have to give her this -- she never did that comedian mother passive-aggressive thing. If Mom said she didn't want help with something, there was nothing you could do to change her mind.

You were always better off just doing what she said.

So, my Mother. She taught me strength and independence. She is also the source of my love of reading and writing, my enjoyment of narrative jokes, and my belief that the right thing is to treat everyone to an equal amount of respect. And that in a storm, usually bending is better than breaking.

Except there was one final storm that Mom couldn't survive. In January, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and it has been a steady ride downhill since. She handled it with the independent and strong spirit I've always seen in her, but in the process I learned something else: friends are important. Mom was determined to keep from being shipped 85 miles away where her friends wouldn't be able to visit her. And her friends stepped up in an awesome way to volunteer to help her stay at home while she went through this. They were simply amazing, and I'd like to believe it's because Mom was such a dedicated and constant help in her community.

If I were mystical in the way that Mom was when we were younger, I'd ascribe the advent of this eclipse to her passing tonight. I started this road trip to come to see her off, in a way that has always been soothing to me -- driving the back roads -- and in a way that I hope honored her adventurous spirit. And about 7:30, I pulled to the side of the road, dug around for a shoebox and made a quick pin-hole viewer for the eclipse. It was spectacular, just like my mother.

And I was reminded of that time when she told me to get out of the car. I'm glad that I did what she told me, because she scooted across the bench seat to the passenger side. That's when she started teaching me to drive.

Room With a View: Las Vegas

Not the sparkly part of Las Vegas.

Road Trip

We have this American story of the road trip, where our hero takes off in a car to get somewhere and along the way has fascinating adventures and meets interesting people that help him re-evaluate and reassess his life.

Not me. I'm driving from Nevada City, California, down to New Mexico, and along the way, I'm having trouble figuring out when I would possibly meet some sort of roadside shaman. I glide along in my sealed metal bubble listening to podcasts and I see faces in the rocks:

And sometimes I see butts:

And there were a lot of dead people. Unknown people:

And people who did good things:

But mostly it was just miles and miles and miles of nobody:

Of course, that just might be what suits my state of mind right now.

I did come across this curious thing:

That cattle grate is just lines painted on the road. Are cows reaching the level that they only need symbols now?

Room With a View: Moore, OK

Room With a View: Grants, NM

When I started this little Room With a View project, I had no idea I'd be returning so often to this little town.

I wish it were otherwise.


Today, I'm jaunting off to yet another hotel. I'm pretty sure that the next one is going to be full of shampoos and mouthwashes that drive me to distraction with their aggravating ways. Not like the mouthwash from the last hotel:

Room With a View: Fremont/Newark, CA

It's a nice hotel, except for the fact that they you have to beg them to turn off the music blaring into the pool area at night. And except for the shower head coming out at your chin. And except for the owl or whatever it is hooting in the porch all night.

Otherwise, it's a nice hotel.

Where in Nevada County: Lighthouse

Haven't done one of these in a while.

Where in these pine-filled mountains, six hours from the sea, can you find this lighthouse?

The Abbey Garden: Part 4

I was thinking that one thing that makes gardening better than biking is that I can safely listen to my podcasts while doing it.

Granted, that might be the only thing that gardening has over biking. I need to get back in the saddle now that the weather seems to be approaching its annual stabilization point.

At any rate, I spent hours and hours today cleaning up the second bed, so it now looks like this:

I'm glad I got to listen to podcasts, because today, Neil deGrasse Tyson gave me something huge to think about. Everybody knows that the square root of 9 is 3. Do you know what the other square root of 9 is?

I shoveled a bunch of the dirt from the new bed into the old. My plan is to work one with old soil and one with a prepared mix similar to the Square Foot Gardening recommendation. So we end the day with what once looked like this:

now looking like this:

As I was shoveling, I got lost in thinking how I could use the square root example in my classes and got my shovel tangled up on my earphone cord so that it yanked them roughly from my ears. I guess it isn't all that safe gardening while listening to podcasts, either.

This is part of a series. Go back to the start or continue on to the next part.


Stopped by the Briar Patch this morning. Briar Patch is a food co-op in our area. They have a quilt hanging from the ceiling; it is one of three that is made from t-shirts from co-ops around the country.

Is your co-op up there?

Thank You For Understanding

The Brunette and I went over to the Del Oro to check out The Avengers tonight. It was packed, so we sat in the front row. A three year old brat behind me kept kicking the chair and climbing all over everything. At one point, it grabbed my head when it pulled itself up to stand, so I turned around and gave it my best You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry look.

That kept it quiet for something like 15 or 20 seconds. Then it started up again. The three year old kicked my seat pretty hard, so I turned and said, "Seriously. Stop."

I might have been a little loud.

At any rate, the whole family decided to leave, which was fine by me. But it was not really fine by the mother, I guess, because a few minutes later, she cooked up the courage to come back over and snarl sarcastically, "Thank you for understanding about three year olds." Then she stomped out.

Boy was I put in my place. Still, I got to watch the rest of the movie in peace. It's like Dr. Banner says, the secret is to always be angry.

Industrious Bears in Oklahoma City

Somewhere in South Oklahoma City, I found these bears with a penny.

I have heard that my ancient Midlothian ancestors invented wire: they were fighting over a penny.

I'm glad that these bears are keeping busy.

But I'm pretty sure what they're doing is illegal.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.