Retired and Writing

[This is a front page “sticky” post; newer posts follow.]

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.

I do not endorse any advertisements shown by Word Press on my blogging page.

What Survives in the Yard?

I’ve written previously of the challenges growing plants in my yard due to heat, drought, wind, deer, and rabbits.  I’ve been experimenting with plants since April of this year and now have a good idea of what may survive without fencing.

First of all, if you insist on growing most anything in my zone 7b, and in a location where temperatures can reach 108 degrees in the summer, and the deer and rabbits abound, you will need fencing and lots of watering and shade for vulnerable plants.  My intention is to avoid fencing and experiment with as many native plants, or other plants suitable to the zone —  that the deer and rabbits ignore.

Below I list what I will plant again next year;  these are best purchased in quart-size to 1/2 gallon containers. The more mature the better since the animals will taste everything and it is best if the plant can survive these taste tests, especially by the young animals who are learning what is in your yard.  Also, a plant deer have tasted and now ignore may be tasted again if you plant the same species in another location.  Like children, everything is tasted and tried.  If the plant is a seedling one taste may be enough to destroy it.  Purchase as mature plants as you can afford; or grow your plants to a mature size before transplanting.  Deer browse and walk on leaving things to recover for their next visit; rabbits on the other hand pull up a chair and sit down to dine, eating things to the soil and reducing the plant’s capacity to recover.

My list for next season includes plants that have survived everything: wind, 108 degrees, drought (though I water regularly the first year allow them to establish themselves), deer, and rabbits:

Pennisetum “Fireworks,” a lovely red grass that matures with tassels.

Dwarf Russian Sage, looks lovely and is not bothered by either deer or rabbits; I will definitely purchase more.

Society Garlic, Tulbaghia Violacea, a garlicky smell keeps the critters away although I did see a young deer taste it’s leaves. I plan to dig up to split the bulbs and plant around the yard.  I love these plants, watching them dance in the breeze, with lovely little lavender flowers.

Beards’ Tongue, has been nibbled but basically left alone.

Creeping Rosemary, looks lovely and provides erosion control on the hillside; neither the deer nor rabbits bother it.  I have a half dozen or more and they are doing nicely.  I’ll see about taking cuttings and growing more.  Size won’t matter as the animals completely ignore them.

Gaillardia are completely ignored as well.  They are a wild looking plant about a foot tall from the sunflower family that produce colorful small flowers.

Erysimum (Wallflower, “Bowles Mauve”) is doing well and has not been bothered by deer or rabbits.  I like the unusual looking spires that extend from the leafy base.  I usually stick to perennials, but I learned after purchasing that it is an annual or biennial.

Marigolds, annuals that are worth adding because they are so colorful, hardy, and stinky enough the animals can’t be bothered… although during the most flora-meager time of the year, I’ve noticed the animals get a bit desperate.  Sometimes I think they take a bite of anything to suck out the moisture and drop the flower or stems thereafter.

Cana Lillies do well and produce lovely flowers that brighten the yard even though the 100+ degree heat does damage/darken the leaves and flowers.  I’ll plant more next year in any case because they are sturdy.

Peruvian Lilly (Alstroemeria, “Dandy Candy”) seems to be surviving though I started with a small plant.  I’m hopeful that it is another of the lilly species that are sturdy and avoided by animals.

Stachys (Lamb’s Ears) are generally left alone, although the lacey ones I planted early in the spring were too young and eaten immediately by the rabbits.  The rounded-lobed ones  (Stachys “Von Stein”) of larger size have done well.

Penstamon, in colors Ruby, Blue, Grape, are tasted frequently and flowers eaten.  I purchased too small and will try larger sizes next year.


I like Coneflowers, and related Rudbeckia (“Black-eyed Susans”) and others,  Daisies (deer like the flowers), Lobelia, Cosmos, Salvia, Sedum, Ajuga grouncover, Blue Fescue, Borage, Campanula, Delphinium, Liatris Kobold (“Gayfeather”), Crocosmia Crocosmiiflora (Montbrieta “Orange Lucifer”), Helianthemum (“Wisley Pink” Sun Rose), Hollyhocks, Nasturtiums, Coreopsis, Whirling Butterflies & Rosy Jane (both species of Gaura Lindheimeri), Japanese Anemone, Blue Flax, “Baby Tut Grass” (Cyperus Involucratus), Potentilla, Lupin, Cosmos, Oenothera, Angelonia, Oriental Poppy, and Lavendar among many other so called deer-resistant and/or rabbit-resistant plants, but I have failed to keep one or the other or both from completely demolishing the plants.  It is mostly rabbit damage when they are so completely eaten down to the soil.  I may try the Whirling Butterflies next year in gallon-size containers.  Next year I’ll also plant Foxglove (poisonous, and the animals avoid) next to the Hollyhocks.  It may deter the deers from eating the Hollyhocks if they are surrounded by Foxglove.

Uncertain Results:

I’ve also planted Japanese Barberry plants, very thorny and hard to handle because of the thorns; but the rabbits have nearly killed them.  I finally gave in and surrounded each plant with flexible, but sturdy netting.  The plants appear to be leafing out again.  I’ll keep them netted until they reach about two feet high and wide.

I tried Peonies with woody stems (Paeonia suffruticosa) and I thought they would do well, but they appear damaged from either too much heat or from the animals stripping the leaves.  Next year I will place them in a shaded area on the deck and see if they leaf and flower.  I love peonies and roses.  I do have one rose bush, the “Peace Rose”, which I keep on the deck as the deer eat the buds otherwise.

I have plans to place an 8′ x 12′ walk-in greenhouse on the property where I can experiment more readily and grow plants to a more mature state before transplanting them into the yard.  I also want to experiment with straw bale gardening and avoid the labor of cultivating the soil, as well as saving my back by working at a more knee-high level.

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 inspect the new plant and take 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 a blue flower i thought was delphinium 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 ones I thought were delphiniums have already produced new blue blossoms.  [edited Sept 24 as I’m still uncertain of the blue plant… I’ll research my notes and update.]

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.


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