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We love to garden and enjoy nothing more than hanging out in our gardens or being on the back deck looking out over them. It's so lush right now but very soon the heat of summer will become a tough burden for the plants to survive. Besides enticing you with all the wonderful plants a garden has, you also need to be drawn to explore it, and that's what garden paths do. They're what really makes you want to wander through it all. Here are some paths in our gardens. Don't you just want to walk along them to see where they'll take you next? What's around that curve? What's down there?

garden path_01
garden path_02
garden path_04
garden path_07
garden path_10
more pics after the orange huggie thing

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What kind of watering system do you have?

I've written plenty about the drought situation here in California. Most of my musings about this subject I've made into my Monday Kitchen Table Kibitzing diaries. Things are still in flux as the more than 400 different water districts here have different ideas about what they'll do or not. Naturally law suits are springing up all over the state regarding water usage.

Typically orchards and farms either simply flood their land entirely or have big pipes they move around with an army of industrial strength rain bird water sprinkling heads which put out lots more water than the ones you can buy to use at home.

In the area around where I live, orchard flooding is the preferred method. Those who've I've spoken with that own orchards tell me they flood their fields 1 1/2 feet deep in water twice each week. In central and southern California they water more frequently than that using up to four times the water as we do in the northern part of the state. Believe it or not, flooding vs. using sprinklers uses less water due to evaporation.

One way a ton of water could be saved is if orchards had drip systems that put water right at the tree roots instead of flooding or watering the entire ground. Since so many orchards are owned by companies from foreign countries or owned by giant investment firms, maximizing profits is what matters, not saving water. I really don't see how orchards can be coaxed into paying to upgrade to drip systems unless the cost of water becomes so expensive it becomes worth it. Currently this is not the situation.

They are finally starting to build homes in California that have systems to make use of water used to bathe, shower, wash clothes and dishes (but no toilet water of course). All this used soapy water goes into a system, which each home has, that treats the water so it's safe to reuse for watering gardens or to flush toilets (but not to drink or cook food). It's something every home should have in truth. The cost for these systems is currently around $10,000 per home and the price will drop as more of them are installed. Eventually they may become cheap enough that folks without them will want to get one installed.

Anyone who has a garden at home can install a drip system to cut down on water use. We have one. When we bought this home 25 years ago, it had some gardens started. Only one small garden had a drip system. I pounced on that and put drip systems in everywhere we have a garden. Over the years as we've expanded our gardens I expanded the drip system. I actually really like doing it all.

You buy the main tubing at any hardware store or garden shop. You can get it in different diameters. Using larger diameter tubing will get you more water pressure. I use 1/2-inch x .700" OD tubing which refers to the diameter. Here's a link to a site selling drip system supplies that explains it all quite well. I don't use valves, filters or back-flow preventers. I've never found any of that fancy stuff to be necessary at all.

You get end caps and threaded caps (for screwing onto hoses or spigots). You roll out the main tubing in your garden and use looped metal stakes to stake it down. I make my own stakes using thick wire (pig wire) that I cut (tin snip or hack saw) into 12 inch lengths then bend into u-shapes. This main tubing is rated to last 10 years minimum if it's in full sun. It you bury it a little bit or have it hidden under plants it will last much longer. I have some that's been here for 25 years.

Drip system threaded onto water spigot

Drip systems take some effort to put in, but it's not difficult at all. I find it to be fun to do because I can design it anyway I want and can reconfigure it anytime. You buy different sprinkler heads to place at various places within your garden. Where we have individual plants growing spaced apart I put in root watering drips. Where we have a bunch of plants covering an area, this won't work. In those areas I've installed little sprinkler heads that water just the area you want.

You buy a "punch" to attach your feeder tubes to sprinklers off of the main drip system tubing. This stuff is 1/4 inch in diameter and is flexible. You put a barb in the end of the feeder tubing then push the other end of the barb into the hole you punched in the main tubing. In this way you can get water to any place you want at any distance you need it from the main tubing.

1/4 inch in diameter feeder tubing with root-drip head off of main tubing

Some of these sprinkler heads fan out water in 360 degrees, others 180 degrees while others water 90 degrees. It gets really fun as you can buy sprinkler heads that water 45 degrees, 60 degrees, 30 degrees, even 15 degrees. The challenge is to water only what you need.

No matter what kind of sprinkler head you use in your drip system, you can buy them not just for the size of the area they water but also by how much water they spray per hour. I have some that water roots that put out 1/2 gallon an hour, others are rated for 1 gallon per hour, while others put out 2 and 3 1/2 gallons per hour. The same is true of my sprinklers that spray over areas. Being able to know just how much water you are using over time is a real help.

180 degree adjustable sprinkler head on drip system

There is yearly maintenance involved. I always need to clean out some sprinkler heads. To do that I simply remove them and blow and suck air through them to dislodge bugs and debris. If that doesn't work, I replace the sprinkler head itself. I do get leaks from cracks in old parts of the main tubing. If its a small leak I wrap it in electric tape and then wrap that with duct tape. That works sometimes for years. If part of the tubing is really shot I replace that whole section. It's not hard as you can buy all sorts of parts to connect one piece with another.

360 degree sprinkler head that puts out 3.5 gallons per hour

It gives me a real sense of pride to have my entire garden fixed up with a drip system. I actually enjoy making the little fixes that need doing. It's kind of fun to figure out how to water an area specifically without watering areas that don't need it. If you are putting in new gardens or replacing an old one, I strongly recommend putting in a drip system. It will save water, it's fun to do and makes you feel good!

Do you have an efficient garden watering system?

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I wasn't going to plant tomatoes, squashes, peppers or beans this year due to the drought and the fact we took one week at the end of April/beginning of May to to go Mexico and I knew any starts we'd planted would die from lack of water while we were gone.

I couldn't stand it. I had to plant some veggies just because we always do. I found a couple small tomato starts at the nursery. I bought one Roma tomato plant and one red cherry tomato plant. I also discovered some pole bean starts they had. That was strange. Who gets bean starts? You buy seeds and germinate them which takes a week.

Well, finding pole bean starts inspired me. I bought a six-pack of Cherokee Wax beans which are yellow and string-less. We also bought some Blue Lake pole bean seeds and are germinating six seeds right now. We'll be doing that in two-week increments through the end of June so as to be able to have new plants to grow every two weeks to supply us with a continual crop of beans. We love beans.


Sidepocket put in a super duper new bean pole garden this year. I mean it's Sonoma County cool. While I didn't do anything as extensive, I believe I've made something that will work well. I also like to make things out of stuff I have about the place. I used some old 3/4 inch PVC pipe I had and some old rebar I had laying around to make the structure for the beans to grow up. I then tied trellis netting on the thing by hand.

Using a hacksaw, I cut the rebar into four foot lengths. I pounded them 2 feet into the ground leaving 2 feet above ground onto which I slide the PVC scaffolding of my trellis. I also had some left over trellis netting from last year. All I had to buy to complete this simple project were two 3/4ths inch PVC coupling pieces. You can see those two pieces along the top bar of my PVC scaffolding. Total price of this project was $3.12, including tax. The two rebar pieces and the entire trellis can be moved to any location with ease.


Several years ago we started planting garden plots on the small patch of grass we have out front. The only reason we have even that small bit of lawn in for the dogs to do their business. I built smallish boxed fenced structures. Two are about 6 feet by 6 feet. The other one is 4 feet by 8 feet. Why did I build them? To keep deer out, that's why.

Deer are habitual creatures. They have a daily and nightly round they trek to forage. Once your garden is on their schedule, it will be visited every day and/or night. Using a product called "Liquid Fence" keeps them off stuff they'd love to eat. Liquid Fence is organic and is really just concentrated rotten garlic and egg that you dilute and then spray on the plants you want deer to avoid. Deer hate the smell. You spray in on once a week for 3-4 weeks which "trains" them to skip your garden. After that all you need  to do is spray once a month to keep deer from coming back.

Another thing deer won't do is get into a small enclosed space. By building smallish little square garden boxes, deer are simply too afraid to jump into those spaces because they feel trapped and confined. Deer only will allow themselves to be in open spaces so they can run away when they want to. The small garden boxes keeps them from eating plants below the fence line. I made these things all within one day using cheap pine wood and 1/4 inch chicken fencing material. I made little gates to be able to get inside to do what needs doing. The deer don't ever enter these spaces, though they will eat stuff that grows over the top, but Liquid Fence takes care of that problem.


The earth I grow stuff in is super duper rich. I've written about how I make my soil before. It consists of Fox Farms Ocean Forest potting soil which is totally organic and includes stuff from the forest and ocean and amazing nutrients for long feeding of plants. It's superior and is exactly what I use (then amend) to grow anything I want to be the best it can possibly be. And you can grow anything in it including flowers, fruits, veggies and medicinal plants. It's totally ready to go. I add lots of worm castings (30 pounds per 100 gallons of soil), home-made bone meal, blood meal, green earth, bat guano and powdered granite just to make it super duper duper.

The beds are dug about 10 inches deep and lined with galvanized 1/4 inch metal mesh to keep moles from digging around. We don't have much in the way of gopher problems due to the soil being hard-pan clay, but moles are another story. Moles don't eat plants or roots. They tunnel through loose soil to get at worms and grubs, but their tunneling through your garden harms plants as the roots get really messed with. They are easily dissuaded from tunneling anywhere there is wire mesh.

The PVC structure is held steady by cotton ropes as it's more than 8 feet high. this whole thing is simple and easy and ready for pole beans to grow. The part that took the longest to do was tie the trellis netting onto the PVC poles. I wanted that stuff snug.


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A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

The orange pinpoints are the location of each organized group of Daily Kos readers.
If you'd like to join a group, click on a point and a box will pop up showing contact links.
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Do you see colors correctly or not?

A bunch of months ago I did a diary about color blindness which is caused by a faulty gene on the X chromosome that results in a lack of properly working cones in the retina. Since it's on the X chromosome, men are afflicted by it in far greater numbers than women. Because women have two X chromosomes a faulty gene on one X chromosome is usually cancelled out by properly functioning one on the other.


I was driving back from my office last week while listening to a fascinating show on our local NPR radio station. It was about cones and color. Different animals have different numbers of cones. The more types of cones an animal has, the more colors can be seen. Humans have three cones. They are called red, green and blue cones, but that is actually a simple way of talking about them.

What our cones do is let us see the differences between colors. Normal human eyes can differentiate between red and green, between blue and yellow, and between black and white. Being able to distinguish the colors within each continuum of these three color axes allows us to see all the colors we are capable of seeing.

Color blind guys have fewer cones working properly. Most commonly they can't distinguish the differences between reds and greens as well as folks with normal vision and are therefore dubbed "red-green color blind." Rainbows to humans have seven colors from red through orange and yellow to green and blue to purple because our three cones can differentiate the wavelengths of light that make those colors visible to us. But there are a lot more colors out there than we are capable of seeing.

rods and cones

Dogs have only two types of cones. They have blue and green cones but lack red ones and so dogs cannot see any shade of red. A rainbow to a dog looks green and blue and possibly a bit purple. It has no red, orange or yellow. Dogs see the world as blacks, grays, whites, blues and greens. If you had a plate of tomatoes that ranged from being green to being red, a dog would only see various shades of green tomatoes from yellow-green to blue-green. Most mammals see the world the same way dogs do.

Cats see the same color as dogs since they too have only blue and green cones. Both dogs and cats do see many more shades of greys and blacks than humans because they can see in about 1/6th the light that humans need to see. Another thing about dogs and cats is they have better peripheral vision. Humans can see about 180 degrees of the world in front of them. Dogs and cats see up to 270 degrees around them. Birds can see up to 360 degrees around them. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Birds have four cones and can see colors far beyond what humans can. They have the best vision of any vertebrate being able to see well into the UV range. So the world is a lot more colorful for birds than it is for mammals including humans. Some colors glow for birds.

Butterflies have 5 cones. We can't even imagine what the world looks like to them. The sky is likely not simply blue but a myriad of different colors. Flowers look totally different to butterflies than to us. For instance, to us a Black-eyed Susan flower has yellow pedals and a dark brown center. To butterflies they are bright, glowing silver and blue with a lot of variation of those colors. They may very well be able to see color differences in flowers that have nectar vs. those that don't when to us they all look the same. We can only dream of all the colors they see because we have no capacity to even imagine colors we can't see ourselves.


The animal with the best vision hands down is a type of snapping shrimp. You've seen them in action I'm sure on some nature show. They snap their huge claw so forcefully that the shock waves stun little fish nearby which they then consume. They have 16 cones. The world has got to be made up of countless colors to them. As a matter of fact they are so attuned to color that an individual color causes them to mate while another color causes them to fight and yet another color causes them to hunt. Apparently they are slaves to colors of the world. Seeing certain colors causes them to just instantly react without thinking.

snapping shrimp

Here's an very interesting thing. They know we evolve as does every creature (sorry you non-believers of evolution). Humans should be evolving to having a fourth cone. They looked for that in women since women have two X chromosomes and thus have more capacity to visually evolve compared to men. They can do a simple blood test and check the chromosomes to detect it. They found a couple women in the USA and even more in Britain that indeed have four cones in their retinas. Since we normally have RGB cones (and hence the reason TV's and computer screens put out color in the RGB mode) they needed to call the fourth cone something. They've named it the yellow cone. So these women have red, green, blue and yellow cones (RGBY).

What do they see? Here's the problem with that. The entire world of humans is made up of colors for normal-seeing eyes with RGB cones. Every paint color, every piece of clothing, every manufactured item is made in a color that we can see and not in colors we can't (duh). It turns out these women with a 4th cone see the same colors as all the rest of us because the entire human world is made of those colors. They didn't see anything differently in the world around them compared to normal visions folks. Why?

Seeing is dependent both on the machinery we have to see and how our brain processes what our eyes see. Every one of these women saw only the same colors as RGB folks with one exception. The exception was a women in Britain who's career is interior decorating. Her whole life is about color. She was the only one they found that could literally see colors normal humans can't because her brain worked differently in interpreting colors compared to those of us who's lives don't revolve around being able to really see subtle differences in color.

The way they tested for this was by creating cloth swatches in various shades of brown. To normal RGB eyes, all of the shades of brown look exactly the same. Only a person with the 4th yellow cone would be able to see differences. This women saw every single swatch as being a distinct shade of brown different from all the rest. So they proved that indeed women with a yellow cone have the potential of seeing the world in more colors than us regular RGB models.

What color is your world? How about your parachute?

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It's late spring/early summer here

It's really interesting, I suppose, to see what's blooming now around here because it's all wacky but's it's clearly the new normal now. Rose Campion is in full bloom. It didn't used to bloom until the last week of June. We always expected it to be the way it is now on Independence Day. Well that was normal for the first 15 years we lived here, no longer.

Another thing that now blooms way ahead of schedule is the last-blooming iris. We have several different types that bloom at different times with small purple ones coming in first followed by tall white ones. Then later on the tall yellow iris blooms. That last ones to bloom are short white ones. Well the short white ones are blooming now. They used to do that in mid-June, so they are a month ahead.

Other plants in full bloom far ahead of what used to be normal are English Lavender, Hydrangea and Valerian. I'll include pics of all of these. I'm including a picture of a yellow rose that wasn't eaten by the deer. You can see the rest of the rose plant has been consumed by them. Why they left one rose is beyond me. Another pic is of the heavenly smelling "Fragrant Cloud" rose. I'll even throw in a picture of a Tiger Swallowtail feeding on California Buckeye.

rose campion
short white iris
english lavender
yellow rose
perfect moment rose
tiger swallowtail on buckeye


So Jerry Brown is lowering the boom. He recently said that those opposed to building the Twin Tunnels Project should, "shut up."  The Twin Tunnels are slated to take essentially all the water from the Sacramento River and send it to Central and Southern California farms with some of the water also going to Los Angeles County and several cities in the East Bay.

Another very disappointing development is that a huge water project we just voted for in the last election has been modified by Jerry. To get Californian's to vote for a proposition this last election that authorized money for building another reservoir near here in Northern California (plus potentially a second new reservoir in Central California) there was a stipulation that a good part of the money would be used to rehabilitate the environment of watersheds all over the north state. 100,000 acres of land were to have been helped in this way.

The new reservoir that will be built in Northern California is called the Sites Reservoir. It's going to collect rain water from the east side of the Coastal Mountains before it gets into the Sacramento River. This water just rages into the Sacramento River during winter and then into the Pacific Ocean. It's seen as just being largely wasted as it's storm runoff water. Collecting it in a reservoir is not going to really do anything to harm the Delta or fish but will help a fair amount during the dry summer months.

Unlike other proposed reservoir projects in California, Sites would not directly affect fish migration because it is not located on a major river, and could be a source of additional cold water for fall-run chinook and coho salmon.
Well, there are always going to be environmental considerations no matter what and that's why so much money was going to be spent on protecting it.

I voted for this proposition as did the majority in the state. I personally voted for it hoping it would thwart the Twin Tunnel Project from happening. The Sites reservoir will hold up to 640,000 acre feet of water each year while also restoring significant watershed habitat. Had this project not been given the go ahead, the Twin Tunnel Project was a certainty, IMO. Also, the Sites Reservoir isn't a new thing as it's been in the works for decades and basically just needed the public to pass the funding of it.

Well, locally farmers were outraged that any of the money is to be spent on the environment. For days in my local paper the editorial page just viciously went after that part of it stating the entire money should be for water for farmers not tree-hugging environmental crap or water for salmon and other fish. Apparently the farmers got to Jerry (they always do). He now has decided to slash the 100,000 acres of environmental improvements down to just 30,000 acres. Heck that's about the same amount of land as the 29,000 acres of new almond orchards planted in the last couple years. Sheesh!

Poor little 'ol Paradise. I've noted the state wants each city and town to save 25% of the amount of water they used in 2013. Many towns complained that that simply wasn't fair as different places did a good job last year while others did not. For instance in Paradise we were exemplary as we were in the 94th percentile of municipalities that saved water last year. Other places like Coachella, CA didn't even try.

Paradise is an interesting place. It has a total area of 18.3 square miles and over 99% of it is open land (i.e. not buildings or homes). Mining and lumbering were the first main economic activities here due to the Gold Rush starting in this very area. It wasn't even incorporated as a town until 1979.

As the gold rush days dwindled, farming and livestock became the main economic mainstays. In 1916 the farms and orchards created the Paradise Irrigation District to get water to them. Apple orchards were planted and Paradise became known as the apple center of California. In October 1937 the first Paradise Fair and Apple Show happened and lasted 5 days. In the center of the dance floor of the Memorial Hall was constructed a pyramid of 15,000 apples.

There are still several orchards and farms within the city limits of Paradise to this day including Sawmill Creek Farms, Noble Apple Orchards and KG Orchard just to name a few. There are bunches of places with horses and livestock and also two large Christmas Tree farms within the town limits.

So Paradise isn't a real town or city full of homes and businesses. It's still like living in a forest dotted with homes with a good number of farms, orchards and ranches with livestock. We all get our water from the Paradise Irrigation District which supplies homes with water now too. When Paradise became an incorporated town, boundaries were drawn for the area supplied by PID, not just residential parts.

This has now come back to bite us in the butt.

SO, the state of California has looked at how much water is used per person in Paradise and has decided to ding us. We will be required to save 36% of the water we used in 2013 which is the most water savings of any place in California. Paradise has tried to appeal that by letting the state know we aren't a typical town because we have farms, orchards and a couple Christmas Tree farms that really skew the stats in water consumption per person. The state says it doesn't care. They are looking at water used per person and that's that.

In Paradise we use 241 gallons per person during the months of July-Sept (the hottest driest months). Of course this includes what the farms and orchards use too. Here's a map of the state showing how much water is used by communities. Just scroll your mouse over the areas:

This sucks, but it is what it is. Personally I believe the state should actually look at what property is zoned for and decide water usage accordingly. Paradise as a total, even when including the farms and orchards, still did a magnificent job of saving water (94th percentile!) Oh well.

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A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

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What's retirement going to look like for you?

Some of us here are retired, others not. As you all know smileycreek and I have an Acupuncture practice, but I wonder if I'll ever retire. Should I? Can I afford to? I don't know. This is something I probably should consider doing in about decade or so from now. What would it look like? The most important thing for me is how would it feel? I want to be able to live simply and be content and that's it. For that to be I need a place to live and food to eat. On top of that I need to be able to get medical help when needed.

I'm under no illusions about the money I've put into social security my entire working life being drained away into the bank accounts of the rich as is the wish of the GOP's policies (being self-employed I must pay 15.3% of all I make each year towards social security). And I'm also fully aware that if there is anything akin to medicare, when I'm eligible for that, it will be almost surely be some sort of voucher of some few thousands of dollars that I'll then be expected to pay towards buying an insurance policy from a for-profit health insurance company.

You know there was a contract I had growing up and working my entire adult life. I put money into social security and medicare all along, however since the GOP has been gutting the government's ability to collect revenue, that contract is being rendered null and void. That chart of how the middle class (that's me) has been doing isn't looking good. It's been going sideways-downward for a long, long time.

I'll never see anything remotely close coming back to me to support me in my retirement years compared to what I've paid into the system. It just won't happen and that chaps my hide. To think I would have been much better off if I'd hid that money in a mattress simply irks the crap out of me because I played by the rules and rules have been drastically changed during the past few decades.

Yeah it ain't fair, but life ain't fair. Jimmy Carter was honest about that and told us the way it is. So this most likely scenario of what my "retirement years" are gonna look like causes me to really look at alternatives to living in the USA. I just don't want to simply struggle to survive (rice and beans again?). I want to be able to enjoy living as much as I'm physically able to during those years.

We had a week-long vacation in Mazatlan which is always restful and relaxing. It's a week-long fantasy. Really, it is. Most folks at resorts are rich. I get a hoot hearing some of the conversations going on because they just blow my mind. There is no where else in my life I get to rub up against the truly rich...only at a resort. A small percentage of us are middle class folks, or what I call normal people. Every time I go to Mexico I always talk with folks. Most of them, obviously, are on vacation.


Some people I talk to however are Americans living in Mexico in retirement. These are the people I always hope to find. They aren't rich but they did well enough. What I learn from them is quite fascinating to me. It costs about 1/2 as much to live in Mazatlan in retirement as it does in the States and that's one of the reasons they are there. Obviously they are getting their full social security payments and will continue to since they are in their 70's for the most part. Who are these folks?

One guy had we talked to worked for the CDC his whole life. Another gentleman was the vice president of Kelly Services (that company that provides temporary workers). A women had taught english literature in the East Bay. Her family came to California during the Gold Rush days. That ancestor was friends with Levi Strauss and they worked together. Levi made pants from canvas for gold miners while this women's ancestor made boots for the miners.

Why are these folks living in Mazatlan? They love it. They love the culture. They love the ease and lack of intensity. Some live there year-round while others live there half the year and split in May because the summer there is hot and humid since it's the rainy season. But the thing that always strikes me is how open and honest they all are...always. These are my kind of people. They are accepting, gracious and generous. They live an incredible life filled with art and music and community. In the old part of Mazatlan about 40% of folks are Canadian and American, which is truly amazing to me to be honest.

We met musicians playing in a sweet little restaurant owned by Americans. One guy was a famous keyboard player from Nashville. Another was from Chico, CA (small world). The women playing guitar and singing (what a voice!) had a mother-in-law who lived in Magalia, CA (that's right here next to Paradise). The husband she divorced lives in Magalia today (freaky small world!)

One thing you have to get used to is time is way different there. Family comes first...always. In the States people are expected to show up for work on time and do their jobs. In Mexico time is fungible. All the folks we talk to always tell us if you expect things to happen in a timely fashion, don't live there. You can hire someone to work on your house and you have no idea if they'll show up or for how long. They may not show up for days. They might show up and leave in a few hours. Family and friends comes first. Everything else including work is secondary.

Well, this is all I have to write about today. I'm just thinking out loud really. If we stay in the States after our mid-60's, I'm pretty sure I'll keep on working. I don't know how I'd be able not to. The days of what retirement looked like for my parent's generation is so over. Being able to depend upon a pension, social security and medicare to live a comfortable life in old age is not going to work for us like it did for dad and mom.

We all know what we're really doing and have been doing since Ronald Reagan was president. We are fighting to slow the degradation of what once was the "contract" we all had growing up, living and working in the USA. It continues to be changed and taken away, yet fight against those taking it we must. Being old and living in Mexico would be a serious challenge, but it would be affordable to be able to have a roof over our heads, eat well and enjoy living. We'd also be able to get health care when needed as well. I wonder about it a lot.

What do you want retirement to be like?

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Tomorrow morning at 3 AM we leave to take a one-week vacation. I won't be doing next Monday's KTK (I can hear the throng cheering!).

Here's something kinda fun. Go to the link below. When the page loads, put in your info and see what's happened since you've been born. It will ask you your height in centimeters. Just go to google and type in, "what's [your height in feet and inches] in centimeters?" and it will pop right up. Once you've entered your specifics see what's happened during your lifetime in so many different areas. It's pretty cool.

During my lifetime so far, there have been 126 solar eclipses. Australia, South America and Antarctica have been pushed more than 28 feet farther apart due to tectonic activity. A typical redwood tree has grown 73 feet and 5 inches. The sea has risen 5 inches.
There are so many more facts. Check it out!

Water wars news. Well those of us in California are experiencing the problems of being in a drought with quite different situations from various parts of the state. Really, California is so different in the north vs. the central and southern parts. With over 400 different water districts with distinctly different needs and no oversight of it all by the state, we are having real "water wars."

Last week I reported that there is water missing from the Sacramento River that should be there in the midst of this historic drought. It was discovered that farms along the river are sucking water out in amounts like never before because they simply can. There are no restrictions or limits on how much they can take, so they are taking it. It kinda boggles the mind, but it is what's happening. I suppose they fear they'll get cut off somehow one day and are making hay while they can.

Also, new almond orchards are being planted like crazy. The latest stats I've seen state more than 29,000 acres of new almond orchards have been planted last year and this year. Almonds have been made out to be the "bad poster boy" of the drought because 10% of all California water goes into just that one crop (all 38,700,000 people that live here use 20% of all water). But the problem is almonds are so lucrative and make huge profits.

almond orchard
Almond orchards in bloom in February

What folks don't generally know is there are huge financial interests in growing and selling almonds. The second largest almond farm in California is owned by Hancock Agricultural Investment Group, a subsidiary of Canadian insurance and financial services giant Manulife Financial. They make a whopping 30% profit each year on their investment.

The retirement fund TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund) has California almond holdings of more than 18,000,000 pounds. As they say in their literature "enough to circle the world more than nine times." This company was established way back by Andrew Carnegie and is the leading retirement provider for people who work in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields. TIAA–CREF serves 3.9 million active and retired employees participating at more than 15,000 institutions.

These are just two examples of the players in California's almond industry. My point being that foreign investors and giant retirement funds are wanting to make money (of course they do, it's capitalism). Do you think a retired teacher in New York state or a retired researcher in Indiana gives a rip about almonds and drought in California? NO, those folks wants their retirements to be safe and secure. Do you think a Canadian investment firm cares about almonds and drought in California. NO, they are a corporation who's sole purpose is to make profits.

As long as these forces are in play from outside the state of California there really won't be anything to stop increasing almond production in the state. It's all very corporate.

Sprinklers watering crops in a California desert-like region

Several weeks ago Gov. Jerry Brown ordered all municipalities to use 25% less water. It's the first time ever in California's history that's happened. Later the state looked at how well towns and cities did last year and adjusted things because some places did great while others didn't even really try to conserve water last year when we were "asked" to save 20%. So some places are going to have to save 36% (Coachella, CA is an example. It's out in the desert and a very wealthy area. They didn't conserve last year so they are having to do better than 25% this year)...other places are being asked to save only 9% because they did so well last year.

Unintended consequences. Life if full of them innit? Back in 1996 Californians passed a law to thwart privatization of municipal water districts, which was beginning to happen. The law that passed doesn't allow a water company to charge more for water than it costs to produce (including infrastructure). This would disallow a private company to take over and simply charge "whatever the market could bear."

We have tiered water pricing where I live as do most places. You pay more for water as you go from tier one usage into tier two...and more if you use so much you end up in tier three. A man in San Luis Obispo, CA successfully sued the state claiming charging more for higher water usage was unconstitutional. His reasoning is it doesn't cost any more to provide the 12,000th gallon of water he might use compared to the first gallon of water he uses. The courts agreed including the 4th district court of appeals in a 3-0 decision. This man actually thinks the charge should be higher for the first tier of watered used and should become cheaper the more you use. This is logical if you put it into the perspective of diminishing costs per unit used. The more of something you use technically does result in the cost of the infrastructure and procurement of that product to be less per unit. If you use 1000 gallons of water and another uses 10,000 gallons of water but the cost of the infrastructure to get it and deliver it is the same for both, then he's got a point to which the courts agreed.

Jerry Brown isn't happy because this really takes away any financial disincentive for using as much water as a person wants. So the price paid for any and all water must be the same in any given city or town. Water wasting hogs rejoice! The only thing a water district can do now is to fine folks for using excessive amounts of water, but several of them won't do this.

This has emboldened San Diego County to sue the state using the same reasoning. Why should the state be allowed to charge any one area more for water than they charge for water in other areas? Does it cost the state any more to obtain water and provide it to San Diego County than it costs California to do so for farmers? I doubt San Diego County will win this one, but if they do all water under the control of California itself will have to be sold to everyone for the same price. Right now farmers get water super, duper cheap as compared to cities and urban areas. Stay tuned.

But, all things aren't equal as we found out where I live. Paradise, CA was in the 94th percentile of ALL towns in California in saving water last year. We did great! I'm proud of our little town. Because we did so well, we have much more water in our one lake fed by one creek that supplies all our water. We have more than 3 million gallons of water more right now than we did last year due to our little town doing such a bang up job conserving water.
Why is there such a large lawn to water?

Last week that state ordered Paradise, CA to use 36% less water than we did two years ago. This is the most amount of water they are ordering any place to save percentage-wise. Our little water board is totally blown out and will appeal. Apparently because we did so good last year (94th percentile) we are being "punished" so it seems. Fairness apparently isn't in the cards.

So it seems if you were selfish water hogs (like Coachella) you get dinged and if you did really great you also get dinged. It makes no sense and I'll admit I'm not pleased. We let so much of our garden die off last year. Our town did it's part and yet...

What do you want to kibitz about tonight?

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Heard of Fetal Resorption?

We've all heard of pregnant lady syndrome. That's the term used to describe once you become aware of something you see it every where. For instance, if you buy a blue Subaru Outback suddenly you see them all over the place when before you never noticed. It's a funny term but refers to the fact that when one becomes pregnant they start seeing other pregnant women everywhere because they are really aware of it like never before.

OK, I've had a weird one of these lately. It's kinda semi-creepy too. It all started about six weeks ago when a person came into my office for some treatments. As we got to know each other a bit she let me know she had "eaten my twin." Hearing that would get anyone's attention. This person let me know she was a maternal twin but the other one disappeared in the womb. She, the surviving twin, was told she "ate" the other one.

Of course that doesn't literally happen. But what is it? As the fates would have it, during the past six weeks this same subject has come up twice more so that's my current "pregnant lady syndrome" that's been popping up for me lately. I always take that as some sign I should become much more knowledgeable about the subject because for some damned reason the universe wants to keep bringing it up to me.

So, last night I ended up having a dream about this. Why? I dunno. I blame it on my subconscious and stuff I've been watching lately on TV. That's always my explanation for strange dreams because, of course, I have no idea. It's an easy cop out. It's better to believe that than to believe I'm deranged. I'm not saying I'm not deranged, just that my derangement isn't what gives me weird dreams. At least that's what I tell myself. I certainly can't blame it on anything I take to help me sleep because I don't take anything.

And then on Wednesday morning, as I'm thinking about what I was going to write about for today's CUA, I was reading stuff on the internet (yep, I do that a lot with DailyKos being where I hang out the most, naturally), I came upon an article about the very thing. That was it. I simply had to get this out of my subconscious by writing about it which is a sure fire way to put a stop to this situation. It's like when you have an ear worm the only solution is to play that damned song to get over it. If you don't it keeps haunting you.

Here's that article I read which was just the last straw:

"Vanishing twin" is something I'd heard about over the years. It was thought to occur extremely infrequently. It happens when twins are in their mom and one just disappears. The old explanation was that one twin basically "ate" the other one simply because they didn't really understand what actually happens. The person who told me her twin vanished in the womb is an old lady now, so back in her day it was assumed something akin to cannibalism must have happened in the womb.


With the advent of ultrasound it's now known to be something that happens a lot more frequently for a whole number of reasons. It happens more frequently the higher the number of fetuses there are in one womb. The most common reason seems to primarily be due to something not quite right during the pregnancy such as each twin having it's own amniotic sack. However, it also happens without any good explanation. It's all weird and creepy.

I'll link to what they have to say about it on wikipedia because what they have there is quite sparse. I've been researching this a fair amount over the past month or so to be more educated about it. There is a hell of a lot more to know about it than what wikipedia has to say about it. I'm not going to go into any more detail about it here.

Glad to be done with that. What's up today?

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I'll bet you thought I'd write about the 420 Celebration taking place in Denver, didn't you? I'm actually going to just mention things are going great there. The police have handed out citations for smoking in public, but say things are mellow. Of course it's mellow.

I'll put a link to an article that has a link to a scientific article that goes quite in depth about drugs and health safety (should you want to read that linked-to article, it's deep). Scientifically speaking, smoking pot is 114 times safer than drinking alcohol. Link to that article with the link to a lot of science:

Denver Police tweet


What I really want to talk about tonight is something that happened over the past few days that is really serendipitous. Last Friday some folks were in my waiting room discussing climate change (they totally believe it's happening). They wanted to know if there was anything that could ever possibly be done to get all the CO2 out of the air that we are spewing into it. I said only photosynthesis does that in nature.

This led to my office manager asking me why? I explained that animals and combustible engines use organic carbon molecules to get energy from the bonds between the atoms of those molecules. Engines get it all in a single instant which causes an explosion by igniting gasoline, while animals get that stored energy in controlled steps. No sudden explosions take place. The end result is the same. When you take all energy out of an organic molecule you end up with CO2 which has no more energy in it's bonds to be gotten.

I told her the only way to change CO2 into something else was to add energy to create a new organic molecule that then has energy in the new bonds being created. Animals and engines take energy from organic molecules while plants add energy by using sunlight via photosynthesis. In this way molecules of CO2 are bonded together along with hydrogen atoms to create longer organic molecules (starchy or oily) that have energy in those bonds that can then be used by animals or engines.

The only possible solution to what we are doing is to somehow either grow all our forests back (riiight) or mankind would have to develop some type of large scale process that mimics photosynthesis. I let her know there has been research into this but nothing has panned out yet that could really make a difference.

artificial photosynthesis

And then just yesterday I read an article about a real breakthrough. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley have developed artificial photosynthesis that captures carbon as it's being made before it escapes into the atmosphere and then has the potential to turn it into practically anything you could want organically speaking. Serendipity! Here's the link to that article:

If this could really be made into a viable technology, then what a boon. We still have to do something else to get the carbon out of the atmosphere that's already there. Perhaps they'll figure a way to do that. No matter what we do, climate change is happening and can't be stopped. In the mean time, plant trees and plants. Grow some veggies. Not only will you feel great eating stuff you grew yourself, you'll also be taking some CO2 out of the air and having plants turn it into food to boot.


Of course there are those who'll oppose anything rational like this. Pope Francis has angered conservatives with his "green talk." He believes we need to get serious about green house gasses, the planet and regular people. He seems to think these things are all tied together. This guys is on the beam! Here's a link to that:

Whatcha wanna kibitz about this very night?

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A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

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Did tax day scare you yesteday?

It doesn't scare me. Since we have our own little business, April 15th is just one of the days we pay taxes. We pay federal and state taxes four times each year and pay payroll taxes equally as often.Then there are sales taxes we pay the state all the time. There's always some "tax day" right around the corner for us all year long so April 15th ain't nothing but just another one.

I know lots of people get really anxious about April 15th. They even lose sleep over it which simply sucks. For shits and giggles lets find other things to freak out about instead of paying taxes. Wanna look at giant animals and insects instead? You know the things of nightmares and B-rated science fiction movies from the 1950's. Why not?

Here are a couple of beauties that should keep you awake at night, but only if you live in places like Australia or Southeast Asia. The first is the Goliath Bird-eating Spider and the second is the Giant Huntsman Spider. Goliath Bird-eating Spiders make webs strong enough to catch small to medium birds. It's seems wrong to see spiders sucking all the blood out of a struggling bird. These two spiders are the largest on earth. The Goliath Bird-eater being the heaviest while the Giant Huntsman by total diameter with legs extended.

Locally we have much smaller Huntsman Spiders than that giant one in the picture below. Here they are the size of big Wolf Spiders (about 2 inches across) but the only way to tell them apart is by watching how they move. Huntsman Spiders are super fast as they don't build webs but rather charge to their prey. Wolf Spiders on the other hand are slow lumberers. Fortunately, I've only seen a couple Huntsman Spiders in my home. Wolf Spiders are found in our home quite often in winter, but are just big hairy spiders that don't pose a threat. They like damp and medium temps so they live in the pipes that allow air to flow through the plumbing system most of the year. In the winter they are drawn to the warmth of the house so crawl into our home from the drains. I scoop them up and put them outside.

goliath bird-eating spider

It seems the creepiest things have lots of legs or slither. I'll leave snakes out of this diary because I know snakes are off limits here and will get me HR'd. So lets go to the ocean or beach to see what we can find. The first picture below is a Japanese Spider Crab whose pinch can really damage you. I've heard they can actually kill a person, but I don't know about that. The second picture below is of two Coconut Crabs that have been known to eat cats meaning that dog should stay back.

japanese spider crab
coconut crab

Big bugs of any sort are super creepy for most of us. The first picture below is a Giant Weta Cricket the biggest crickets on earth. They can eat an entire carrot in one sitting. Below that is a Titan Beetle which can break pencils with its pincher.

giant weta cricket
titan beetle

There are giant frogs, giant salamanders, giant fish and giant snails. I'll end with some slimy things which have both creep and a ewww factor. Look at escargot like you've never seen before in the Giant African Snail. One could feed two or three people. The picture on the bottom is of the only big slimy things we have around here locally. They are banana slugs. I've seen them a long as my forearm. Their slime is really sticky stuff that's pretty tough to wash off.

banana slugs

What scares you more than tax day?

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Where I live food is grown. Lots of different foods are grown. Each little town around here is the capital of some food. Gridley, CA is the Kiwi capital of the world. Corning, CA is the Olive capital of the world. You get the idea. Tons of rice is grown here. All types of melons and fruits are grown here including pit fruits such as prunes, peaches, avocados, nectarines, pears and apricots. Lots and lots of tomatoes too.

Tons of almonds and walnuts and pistachios are grown here too. As a matter of fact the largest concentrations of these nuts are grown right here in my neck of the woods and to celebrate that we have an annual California Nut Festival which occurs next Saturday on April 18th. It's subtitle is Tree to Table - Farm to Fork - Locally Produced Edibles. It's always been held at the Patrick Ranch in Chico, CA. You can check it out at

Chico Nut Festival

The reason so many nuts are grown here is this area has the most water of anywhere in the state and we're "upstream" from central and southern California. On top of having the most surface water, farmers are graced with being on top of an aquifer as well as having the Sacramento River run right through the area.

This festival is a biggish deal. It goes on for 5 hours. There are a bunch of musical bands that play. Local wineries and craft beers are sold. Locally roasted coffee and local juice companies sell their wares. Of course you can buy nuts of all sorts. The whole thing is in recognition of the important role agriculture plays in the North State. It's a salute to local agriculture, farmers and the entire history of it. It's a way for farmers to show off their harvest.

The official mission of the Chico Nut Festival is "to connect consumers and farmers and to cultivate an understanding of nut production in the state of California and to teach consumers how California nuts fit into a healthy lifestyle."

Nut growers will be there. Nut processors will be there. Nut marketers that sell them locally and all over the world will be there. You can see demonstrations of it all including equipment used.

There will be locally famous chefs doing cooking demos and food sold by 11 restaurants (well 10 restaurants and the local hospital selling it's food too. I've got to see what our local hospital does with that). Five local breweries will sell there beer with the biggest brewery Sierra Nevada being conspicuously absent. Eight local wineries will sell there wines. Local honey will be sold. Several local olive oil companies will sell their oil. (BTW, the olive oil here is world renowned. We are so fortunate and only use local olive oil which simply has superior flavor.)

And of course there will be everything nut related you could possibly want. All in all 24 different nut growers will be selling their nuts.

Of the nine different bands playing during the day indoors and outside is Swamp Daddy featuring smileycreek's brother in-law Dean. He plays sax, guitar and dobro. He's on the far right wearing the hat in the bottom picture.

swamp daddy logo

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A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

The orange pinpoints are the location of each organized group of Daily Kos readers.
If you'd like to join a group, click on a point and a box will pop up showing contact links.
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Exciting isn't it?

Stuff like this makes me proud. The world of politics is something we all passionately care about. But it's also a never ending grind for all of us that do passionately care. One thing's for certain. You have to have persistence and resolve. It's sisyphean. It also feels great when each little effort we all make adds up to something really significant. The effort is always worth it for things like this:

Liberal groups are pushing Senate Democratic leaders to deny Republicans a veto-proof majority on legislation that could potentially derail the nuclear agreement with Iran.

In an open letter to Democratic leaders obtained by POLITICO, progressive groups MoveOn, CREDO, Democracy for America, Daily Kos and USAction say that the left will fight back if Senate Democrats supply 13 or more votes for bills that allow congressional review of the nuclear framework reached last week or ratchet up sanctions on Iran. Both bills are opposed by President Barack Obama, and the liberal groups warn they will “hold accountable” Democrats who back them.

“Senate Democrats are now faced with a choice: Support President Obama’s diplomacy or vote with Republicans to potentially start a war with Iran. There is no third option,” the groups write. “A historic vote on a nuclear deal with Iran is coming. Like the 2002 vote to give President George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq, Democrats who end up on the wrong side of it will have to answer for their decision for the rest of their careers.”

Read more:

And then there's the email Will Rockafellow sent all of us which also makes me happy and proud to be part of this place. I'm really looking forward to the new DK5 and all the regional meet-ups.

The first three months of 2015 are our three biggest months ever and Daily Kos reaches three times as many people today as we were just two years ago.

January was our biggest month ever. February and March are our second and third-biggest months ever. And last Thursday, March 26, was our best day ever, with more than a million unique visitors.

Daily Kos is the go-to place for progressives to get their news. This puts us in a unique position heading into the 2016 election.

We have big projects and some new ideas that we want to test in the months ahead that could make Daily Kos not just one of biggest voices in the Democratic Party, but one of its most effective organizers.

Our tech team is putting the finishing touches on a new version of the site that will empower activists and writers, providing them with new and better tools and data about the work they do on the site. We’re launching a new project to hold Democrats accountable to the bad votes they cast. And we’re emphasizing our commitment to long-term campaigns that seek to make major institutional change, like we did with our year-long net neutrality campaign.


Don't you love it? Feels just like HOPE!

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