Retired and Writing

Now that I’m somewhat settled in my new residence in Northern California, I am ready to turn again to blogging. I’m glad that we don’t have to register our blogs with the government as Edward Snowden says is required in Russia.

I will write about various thoughts from gardening, enjoying the wildlife here, practicing meditation, thoughts on current events, and my activities and hobbies.

I live in the area in Northern California often called “The State of Jefferson” since it is populated by people of Independent and Libertarian thought, living with community-
minded purpose toward establishing self-sufficiency in mutually supportive attitude.
If my neighbors are doing well, I am doing well.

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I live in northern California not far from the Oregon border. The USDA hardiness zone is 7b.

Living in a rural area means either fencing out the wildlife or experimenting with plantings to discover what they ignore. Of course there are lists online of deer-resistant and rabbit-resistant plants, but it varies by region and by animal and time of year. During the lean times one cannot be certain any plant will be avoided. Sometimes the animals simply seek moisture in this dry climate and I will find flowers, leaves, and plants that have been sampled then left on the ground. I’m assuming either the plant was new and the animal taste-tested the item, or it chewed the leaf or stem or flower to draw out the moisture, then discarded it.

Another tendency that the animals have is to investigate anything newly added, whether it is entirely a new species, or another of something you already have in the yard. They seem to have a spacial awareness of what is new in a location of the yard that previously was bare or had something else no longer present. Like a child the animals inspects the new plant and takes a taste. This is why young plants don’t do well; some are so small that one or two tastes ends the life of the plant. Although, I have dug up angelonia and hyacinth that the bunnies ate to the ground, transplanted the roots into containers and put them on my porch. They grew abundantly when left alone and the hyacinth have already produced new blue blossoms.

The most useful hints I can give to someone is to consider the following:
Make lists of deer-resistant and rabbit-resistant plants found on the Internet;
and if needed, make a lists of drought-resistant plants. If you have strong winds you should take that into consideration as well; for the dry and high wind areas you need sturdy plants with woody stems and hardy leaves, avoiding the delicate and lacy plants.

Make another list of native plants of your area as an idea what you may find locally and transplant to your yard, or seek at your nursery.

When you are ready to purchase your plants after cross-checking those that meet the categories you desire, look for well-established plants in the quart-sized containers. Often the animals will avoid the more mature plant, while finding the same plant as a young seedling or sprouts attractive delicacies. Your yard becomes an enticing spot for finding variety in their diets.

I look for deer-resistant, rabbit-resistant, drought-resistant, and wind-resistant plants. This means most of my selections must be mature plants, with woody stems, wirey or thorny branches, or rough or fuzzy or prickly leaves. Strong-smelling plants such as society garlic and marigolds are examples of plants that are sturdy for my climate, yet smelly enough to the animals that they don’t bother them. Although, I must admit I have seen some of the marigolds eaten, such as the “lemon” color marigold.

If you don’t want to use fencing or netting there are other options that I have found useful: I have purchased a “Scare Crow” motion-detector watering system for approximately $70+ and a solar-operated Owl figure which head turns due to wind action as well as the solar power. Now that the animals have these new deterrents to confront they are avoiding the yard more often, though not completely. It makes enough difference however that the plants that were regularly “pruned” by the browsing deer are doing better.

Rabbits (jack rabbits, where I live) are persistent and not as choosey as deer. Jack rabbits will sit and top tough grasses such as blue fescue or Pennisetum “Fireworks.” They also like Baby Tut grass. Oddly, the rabbits may completely ravish several plants and then leave the others like it alone. For example the rabbits gave “crew cuts” to four out of sixteen of the blue fescue (pint size containers) planted early in the season. Then they left the other twelve alone. I thought I would have better luck by purchasing adult blue fescue in quart size containers. I experimented with three. The jack rabbits chewed one down to a fist size, and sampled a second one. But now the plants are ignored.

The jack rabbits also ate one-third of a wormwood plant before giving up on it; since then I have added three more and these are being avoided. I was surprised that the dusty miller plants which are known to be both deer and rabbit resistant were completely demolished by the jack rabbits, an entire row of them. Meanwhile, the stachys (lamb’s ear) plant I put in as a test was, like the wormwood, eaten about one-third by the jack rabbits. Since then it has been left alone; therefore I recently purchased another four stachys and they have been sampled but not in danger of losing growth.

In a follow-up post I will list the plants that are doing best in my area (USDA hardiness zone 7b).

I’m retired now and fortunate to be living a rural, quiet life on two acres in Northern California. I have an exquisite view of Mt. Shasta and the Klamath River. In the evening I look up to the moon; it may be a fingernail moon, a half moon or in between, or a full moon. There is another land formation in my front porch view — a hill — no, more than that — a mountain — no, less than that. It is a large geographical feature that lends power to the valley. Beyond and to the southeast I see magnificent Mt. Shasta. The view from my house to the surrounding scene is clear, clean, uncluttered by fog or smog. This is one of the amazing experiences: realizing the clear and crisp imagery when beholding my surroundings. It seems surreal, like viewing a postcard. When there is fog, it is fresh, clean, and floats until the sun dissipates it. The views from every window often halt me with their clarity; I have felt overwhelmed with the “reality” with which I’m surrounded. Other senses which entrance me include sound: I can hear the river flowing, perhaps because there is a swift current, almost a rapids in some sections. I notice the birds, whether it is a meadowlark or little sparrows or finches, or the geese and duck returning north.

My new location is isolated and one of the first pleasures I dealt with (because it is a bit overwhelming) is the sparse traffic, and the lack of sirens and automobile horns. I’m four miles from Interstate 5. On windless days I can hear the trucks on the Interstate, but in the beginning I sensed almost an unsettling quiet. Yet I also knew this is what I had been yearning to recapture — a life closure to nature that I knew as a youth.

Just a side note: Writing of the Interstate and the big rigs reminds me how much I appreciate truck drivers; they keep us fed, clothed, and in receipt of our numerous purchases such as groceries and staples; gardening and lawn equipment, home furnishings, miscellaneous orders of all kinds. In amazing numbers they drive our interstate highways keeping us supplied. And since I have moved I have certainly relied on delivery trucks for my online orders as I furnish and update my new residence. So, I’m not saying that all transportation should come to a halt; I am saying that when we can return to nature it is a healing experience. I’m also saying that I respect the work of the truckers and I always give them room when I’m traveling and remember to appreciate their choice of labor.

Over the last year I have written about books on the subject of human happiness. I wrote about Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert, a psychological and medical attempt to track happiness. Basically, as the title implies, one stumbles upon happiness; it cannot be predicted nor can one actively plan to be happy; but rather it is a matter of being receptive and stumbling upon it. Rather discouraging, I thought.

In January of this year, I wrote about Tony Hsieh’s inspiring book, Delivering Happiness, in which he describes efforts to bring happiness to the workplace and to clients. I was so struck by the results Mr. Hsieh brought to his co-workers in serving clients, and making them happy, that I joined the “Delivering Happiness” website. [You will perhaps note that in my October 2010 post I also briefly mentioned one of many books I read last year on servant leadership. The thread of thought is harmonious: service to others, co-workers and others leads to real happiness.

I’ll just add here that if you are interested in developing your happiness and your strengths, and those of your co-workers, you may find books by Tom Rath superb sources for detailing how to bring natural talents to the fore resulting in well-being for oneself and others. I may write later in another post about one or more of Tom Rath’s books.

But for now, I want to focus on two books that have come to my attention this year, each giving more clues for bringing happiness into our lives.

First, The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra. Quickly, here are the seven keys: [Most of my notes are Chopra's words or my thoughts and summaries as I read through the book.]

1. Be aware of your body; in Hindu concepts practicing this awareness leads to Sat, Chit, Ananda, or in English, Truth, Being, and Bliss.
2. Find true self-esteem: This refers not to self-image or others’ view of you, but a connection within to All That Is. The qualities identifying self-esteem include being creative, fearless, and experiencing an unlimited connection to life that is enhanced by synchronistic and serendipitous activities and events, an effortless connection to the flow of life.
3. Detoxify your life, not just your body, your life: take responsibility. Release and forgive, and love.
4. Give up being right: [In my notes I find the following:] “Ask, ‘Am I awake? My goal is to be happy rather than being stuck on being right.'”
5. Focus on the present: Constant renewal. In timelessness is True Self. Again, Am I awake? Bliss. Things change, yet I AM remains. [My collection of Eckhart Tolle recordings comes strongly to mind.]
6. See the world in yourself: loving kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, and beholding the wellness & success of others.
7. Live for enlightenment: “A human being is a creature who has received the order to become God.” –St. Basil

Here are some summary notes from Chopra’s description of someone living a happy life: Life flows; love motivates; your are creative and imaginative; you are guided; your choices benefit all.

The Purpose of Life: Expansion of happiness, the goal of very other goal.

Chopra gives us a formula: H = S+C=V which translates to Happiness equals your set point plus conditions of living plus voluntary activities.

I leave it to you to locate this book and give it the thoughtfulness it deserves. In most all cases, the books I describe can be found in your local library.

The second book I want to discuss is Happiness Genes: Unlock the Positive Potential Hidden in Your DNA, but James D. Baird, with Laurie Nadel. In this book we return to a medical investigation of happiness, and one that is a delight to read. Let me start out with this phrase from the book: “Ask yourself how good can it get?”

The authors lead us to understand that rather than being at the mercy of a more or less whimsical chance at happiness, indeed we can actively cultivate happiness. You will read that emotions are stored as molecules in the limbic system and you can cultivate new thinking and acting that will elevate your baseline emotional state. p.71

For those interested in the scientific details of our genomes in relation to environmental impact, and our experience of happiness, you will find this book a treasure. As you progress in reading about the blueprint of our genes, to the cultural medium of our blood, to the “central voice” of our mind, and the magnetic field of the heart, I promise that you will think differently about happiness and your capacity to nurture it.

As a start to building one’s happiness, it is helpful to learn that a Mayo Clinic study concluded: “Those activities you choose intentionally, mindfully, and proactively, are likely to improve your baseline happiness…” p.58

I felt that sense of recognition one experiences of knowing the words are true as I was reading this: “Happiness is the word most frequently associated with unconditional love and compassion.” And, though no one finds it easy to live in dire poverty or illness, at the bottom of the Maslow hierarchy, after basics are met happiness is not reserved for the rich: “Sense of well-being is not likely to change much with a higher standard of living.” p. 111

“…love, compassion, and a universal sense of responsibility are the source of peace and happiness.” Dalai Lama p.118

The authors include a 28-day program to promote natural happiness that can be summarized with these key words: Release, Reboot, Relax, and Rejoice.

After reviewing Maslow’s hierarchy, the authors list characteristics of the peak experience, a state of transcendence, to remind us what is our potential: unconditional compassion; unconditional love; inner peace; detachment; living in the moment; peak experiences; universal unity.

Sounds good to me.

Reminds me again of those Eckart Tolle purchases I made and why I need to revisit them.

Funny, back in October of 2006 I wrote that I enjoyed watching Glenn Beck; he was on CNN I believe at that time. What I liked was that he had a good sense of humor, was a bit off the wall, and didn’t take himself seriously, or so I thought. What was I thinking?? I stopped watching him shortly after he moved to Fox News and began taking himself seriously. It goes to show that either I have changed or his court jester role has turned to a rant.

I watch very little television nowadays. I still enjoy History Channel on occasion and PBS. News of interest, but not watched as often as previously, includes: Lehrer Report, Travis Smiley, and whenever I can find Soledad O’Brien, (Where has she gone?). On the Internet: Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Max Keiser. Websites: The Real News, Media Gazer, Real Clear World, Watching America.

Below are hyperlinks to websites following WikiLeaks:

From the WikiLeaks page itself, a browsing arrangement, by country and date, of the Diplomatic Cables.

The Guardian has extensive coverage of WikiLeaks, from the War Diaries of Iraq and Afghanistan to the current Embassy Cables as they are released, and includes analysis and commentary.

The Wikio is a world news portal.  From their own description, Wikio is an information portal with a news search engine that searches press sites and blogs.With Wikio you can very easily create pages to follow the breaking news that interests you. Our info is continuously updated!

Der Spiegel includes a global map and indicates level of classification of documents; all appear to be low in classification, few “secret” and none “top secret” that I can determine.

Beta Search Engine for diplomatic cables already released. Linked from a tab on the WikiLeaks website.

The New York Times posts selected WikiLeaks.


I hope world governments are out-growing the political  machinations of the Cold War.  It is time to be bold and honest, transparent.  Private conversations between nations can still be practiced if the countries acknowledge that all conversations will one day be declassified and made public.  History will out all secrets.  Therefore, private conversations can be best entered into knowing that the” ears of the future”  are also sitting down at the table with the parties involved.   My hope is that WikiLeaks will help governments worldwide transition toward greater maturity in foreign relations — communication should be as transparent as possible, and private conversations kept to a minimum —  and secrets or shadow governments, no more.

The United States once was a beacon of democratic principles to the world but has fallen into greed, black-ops, invasion of privacy, and lawbreaking on a massive scale.  America is in a state of decay.   Our media is failing us; our journalists are caught up in the propaganda either by intent or by inattention.  It is heartbreaking. And it is heartbreaking to hear journalists and politicians attempt to shore up the crumbling walls of secrecy.    WikiLeaks is good for America.


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