First off, I'm doing this on a tablet while recovering from the flu; not the best composition scenario. But in case the flu kills me I want to get this off my chest.
J.J. Abrahms ruined Star Trek.
That's right. Ruined it. And I'm not talking about his time-traveling re-boot. That was genius. I'm talking about his either being completely tone-deaf to the characters. Or nonchalant about changing the characters to suit perceived tastes.
Last year before I ditched my Netflix account I watched all 79 episodes in order. What a revelation! I'd grown up watching Trek, but I had never seen whole episodes before, much less all at once and entire. (Older tv episodes are edited down to accommodate longer commercial breaks.) plus, I'm 20 years older; I pay better attention to what's going on onscreen. So imagine my surprise and delight when Kirk turns out to have been super-studious and serious about his career as a cadet and young officer. He was known for it. He was teased for it. He got to where he was--the captain of a fucking starship, one of only 12--by being super-smart, super-driven, and gung-ho about the Federation. In the Farscape universe Kirk would've been a Peace-keeper. In Serenity he'd have been Alliance. Kirk was willing to blow people up to preserve Federation ideals of Centralization, Darth Vader-style.
I was a little shocked. What an asshole! He also, and I couldn't tell if Starfleet practice was to dump cadets from the same class into assignments together, or whether Kirk worked it so his (few) friends got posted to the Enterprise, but he did start the series with a handful of Academy friends. He was not pals with Spock, McCoy, or Scott; theirs was a working relationship of captain and officers.
So here's where Kirk turns from a one-note asshole into a character: the writers start killing off his friends. All of them! And remember, he doesn't have that many. It takes about a year and a half, but midway through the series, he is fucking alone on that boat. He doesn't even have a plant--or hobbies. It' just him and the Enterprise. Oh! and his bickering officers...
No one likes or trusts Spock. He's an alien! You're in the Federation--a group to which you were introduced by Spock's people. Why no love for the Vulcan?
Kirk admires his intelligence and contributions to the ship, though whenever a conflict comes up between Spock's desire for scientific study or furthering Federation diversity and Kirk's desire to protect the status quo, Kirk wins. And the universe loses another last-of-its-kind creature or being, again and again.
So on the series, when things go poorly and Kirk is missing and/or presumed dead, and Spock is in charge? You can see the sharks circling. The other officers, McCoy in particular but all of them, go after Spock! Damn. It's so bad that Kirk makes a special video to his officers in case he ever is declared dead...He has to tell them to knock it off, to accept Spock as one of them and their new captain, to play nice.
Of course after they watch the video Kirk turns up alive, but after that there are small changes. There's no more turning on Spock when Kirk disappears. Spock only has to be rebuffed once before the unique creature gets a death sentence, though now Kirk admits that if they can spare it, they will. And Kirk starts relying on his senior officers for friendship.
Other than both being human and working for the same employer McCoy and Kirk don't have a lot in common. And Scott's an engineer and gear-head while Kirk, though talented, is not. But Spock...
Spock's family is bitterly disappointed that he's chosen a career in Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Academy of Science--geez, even a Federation career like his dad would be better. Kirk's family...we don't know a whole bunch, but Kirk's bro and sister-in-law are both scientists, and it seems easy to believe that maybe Kirk's family was disappointed when he chose Starfleet over the sciences. His parents dis drag him around the galaxy to different research posts. And nothing turns on Kirk like a scientist lady, preferably blonde, but certainly brainy.
So these two have some things in common, and it was so satisfying watch the friendship develop--until NBC killed it, anyway. Thirty years and a handful of series and movies later comes the J.J. Abrahms reboot. And while he cleverly liberated himself from the events that came before, we now have a J.D. Kirk who is brash, brawls, doesn't study or work at it or for it, a rigid Spock, a buffoon Scott, and a one-liner McCoy...I want my old series back. Hey, Netflix!
While I have a soft spot for Tiburcio Vasquez, yeah, gotta agree that naming a school after him isn't the best idea. What's next, Juan Soto Elementary or Joaquin Murrieta High?
(And, speaking like the article does of cultural pride, cultural citizenship, and "the question of who writes history," no one's in doubt about Vasquez being hung for the murders during the Tres Pinos robbery. The doubt comes from whether he, or his lieutenant Juan Soto, did the shooting.
So rather than name your school after a bandito, why not, oh, the first California-born governor of the state? Or Jose Limon? Medal of Honor recipient Alfred Rascon? Dolores Huerta? Astronaut Jose Hernandez? And on and on.)
Happy New Year, all! We celebrated Humboldt-style by spending the day outside; in this case, in the Bad Garden:
Ladies a'gleaning, January 2013.
After all the clearing and prepping of 2011, it's a real shame that I spent almost no time gardening in 2012. By August or September—usually prime harvesting months—I threw my hands in the air and opened the garden up to the chickens, who immediately took it down to the dirt.
But in November my neighbors Steve and Sheba, knowing that they were moving soon, gave us their recycled glass-window greenhouse. Score! They even disassembled it and hauled it down the street to our driveway and I dragged it piece by piece into the back yard. Steve said I'd have no problem figuring out how it all went together...uh-huh.
I am not good with carpentry. I couldn't even tell what piece was the floor, though I did eventually figure out that the piece made from an old door was in fact the door. Point for me!
I also had to figure out where it was going to go. If I took the lazy way out and put it somewhere already flat, it would, at 10-feet-by-five-feet, seriously be in the way, and I would end up doing a lot more work rerouting paths around the greenhouse than I would ever spend by just leveling out a random patch of the Bad Garden.
Well, yesterday, New Year's Day, turned out to be one of those beautiful California winter days, with a clear, blue sky and no wind, just sunny and (for us, anyway) warm at 53 degrees. Shirt-sleeve weather! So once the frost had melted I went outside and surveyed my little farm and chose a spot.
Yes, we do collect a lot of scrap-crap in the Bad Garden.
It's not level. And, there's a berm of strawberry-covered dirt in the way. But otherwise it's perfect. So I started shoveling while the ladies milled around, gleaning.
And, as is typical of me, as I was piling up rescued strawberry plants I thought what a shame it was that I was shoveling all this dirt that I would only end up re-shoveling into a raised bed later...As if I have not done just that, shoveled and re- and re-re-shoveled dirt these last five years. But soon I had scrounged up bits of lumber from odd corners of the yard and started adding a raised bed off the one successful bed I have so far managed to build and plant. Needless to say, my site-leveling work stopped.
Assorted scrap-crap laid out.
Then I shoveled some dirt into it, which is I suppose working on site-leveling, too, but...then I looked at the Long Bed and decided to rearrange some of the plants in there.
Upper left corner are the hardier-than-I-would-have-guessed chives,
lower left is a sage that never thrived in its original spot in the Long
Bed, and in the center is a pile of dug-up strawberry plants waiting
for a new spot.
And still having lumber left I decided to encapsulate the old straw bales marking the edge of the hopefully future patio, but I couldn't find an end-piece and the blade on my pull-saw finally gave up the ghost after 12 years or so.
So, progress on the green house was limited to site selection (and staking!) but I did get one bed and one partial bed in. And did I mention it was sunny?
I went out this morning to feed the porch cat and saw that somebody had left a copy of Urban Farm magazine on top of his little house for us. So after making a cup of coffee and breezing through the Times-Standard I picked up and took a look.
Five years ago when we moved to the Mighty Small Farm and got our first pair of chickens, I was struck by how few resources were available for the very small-scale farmer or animal husbander. The books and magazines I did see treated 5- or 10-acre plots as small, and a backyard flock of poultry was 25 or 50. And the tone was definitely for-profit industrial, not cottage scale.
Well, that was five years ago, and the interest in cottage-scale farming—permaculture, sustainable agriculture, urban farming—has surged. Same with heirloom varieties and heritage breeds. Good timing on our part!
Yet...yet. Well, let's look at Urban Farm. The Nov/Dec issue's features are fermentation, homemade kombucha, homegrown sprouts, goats, practical backyard design, urban wineries, and a Portland, Oregon, urban farm road trip. Columns are winterizing your beehive, egg-laying in winter, heritage turkeys, and a grab-bag column called Green Thumb.
The magazine starts strong with a touching piece by the editor on Christmas oranges, and a time when winter fruit was a special treat. Very nice.
And I enjoyed Kristina Urquhart's "Wintering Your Hive" column even though we don't yet keep bees on the Mighty Small Farm.
Ditto the features on fermentation, though I'll come right out and say how glad I am that Elizabeth Millard did not pursue her hints about fermented meat. Cheese and rice!
But "Sustainability and the City," about Stones Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantino Hills, New York, isn't, at 30 acres of cultivated land and another 40 acres of woodlands, exactly urban. The last feature in Urban Farm, the Portland travelog, talks about Zenger Farm, but doesn't go into much detail as to location or acreage, and it's the last bit of the article, behind curbside recycling and a music festival.
Kelly Wood's "Egg-laying in Winter" does a good job explaining why the ladies don't lay in the dark months of the year, and how to change that if so desired by adding artificial light to your chicken coop. What she doesn't discuss is breed selection for winter layers or broodiness, which also affects egg production. Since she's been raising birds on her 1/2-acre farm (yes!) for over 8 years, maybe it was an editorial choice to keep the focus general and light.
Which leads me to "Urban Feast: Let's Talk Turkey." Yes, let's! What I as an urban farmer would like to know is, which breeds for the table? How compatible will a turkey be (or turkeys? do I need to raise them in a group, or is one okay?) with my chickens, the mini goats you told me about a few pages back, cats, or children? Is processing my turkey for the table much different than killing and plucking a chicken? Do people raise turkeys for eggs? How much room does a turkey need? Bedding, coop, feed, what do they need?
But what I got was four pages on buying a turkey at the store, recipes—like I need another gravy recipe—and...oh, wait. That was it. Total bust.
So was the insipid "Practical Backyard Design." My favorite practical backyard design tip was to make time for contemplative practices such as yoga in order to "catch personal energetic resources and store them up for another time." That sound you hear is me gagging.
So, I don't know if you remember the old Organic Gardening magazine; it was full of articles on digging, and making compost and bins, and weekend projects like sheds and potting stands, and selecting the best wheelbarrow. Then they redesigned it to be more...woman-friendly? I don't know. But all of a sudden Organic Gardening was filled with recipes and articles on selecting flowers (but not how to construct a raised bed or lay out a flowering border) and there went a good magazine right down the drain.
So while I'm happy my neighbors love me enough to drop magazines (and egg cartons!) off at random times, I can't see myself ever subscribing to or purchasing an issue of Urban Farm. Too many photos of pretty landscapes and plants, not enough dirty hands or really, advice on dealing with a big issue on any urban farm: waste. Where does the poop go? You bought your mini-goats, who's going to deal with their manure? When I think of my chickens in the winter months, yes, the drop in egg production is indeed on my mind but so is the issue of odor control—well, that one's always on my mind; I have neighbors—and pest control. Those are really the issues: how to be productive on the little space you have, how to use what you grow and to recycle, how to be a good neighbor without those 40 acres of buffering woodlands, how to set a good example.
Now I must get up from this computer and go make myself an omelet with some home-laid eggs and local goat cheese before putting my work clothes on and getting my hands dirty. And maybe a little poopy.
It's the start of a glorious new year, folks. Hope you had a happy and healthy Halloween/Day of the Dead! Time to crack open the Kitty and see how much spare change we scooped off the streets.
Wow...slightly underwhelming. No paper money at all. However, look how clean that carpet is! Thanks, G-man.
2009 —$12.57 with just me collecting 2010 — $30.44 and an iPod 2011 — $119.47 (year of the Hundred Dollar Bill)
2012? — $14.33!
So this year the two of us found 22 quarters ($5.50), 50 dimes ($5), 20 nickels ($1), 283 pennies ($2.83), and, L to R in front of the Kitty in the photo above, one mutilated penny, one quarter-sized slug, one nickel-sized round of metal with a pretty leaf design, one Canadian penny, one 5-baht Thai coin, one game token for Country Club Lanes in Sacramento, and a Pope John Paul II medallion.
Therefore, for 2013 the Kitty says, if you can print your own money do so, otherwise, stick with tangibles. Greece is only the first.