Wednesday, February 16, 2011


            Quiet is a commodity hard to come by in this world. All around us, noise rules. Machines whine and snarl and whuff and clatter. Traffic thunders. Horns blare. Radios blast music and advertisements: the reverberating bass lines emanating from adjacent vehicles rattle my brain and make me fantasize about owning a loaded bazooka. There are fire sirens, police sirens, ambulance sirens, and—in neighborhoods like mine, within the fallout areas of nuclear power plants—“growler” sirens. Bells ring. Buzzers buzz. Tim’s computer constantly startles me when music plays or people talk. (I keep the sound turned off on my Hewlett-Packard.) Snippy GPS ladies tell us where to turn, and when. Announcements and annoying music fill the air in malls, airports, train stations, schools, restaurants, elevators.

The end of polite society as we knew it

            The modern obsession with cell phones troubles me too, especially the ones with obnoxious ringtones to summon their owner/slaves. The owner/slaves answer as if trained by Pavlov himself, no matter the venue and without consideration for anyone in their vicinities. What’s with this need to be in constant touch from distance at all times, while ignoring the person across the table? People blab the most intimate details of their lives to anyone with ears, in banks, theaters, stores, checkout lines, restaurants, classrooms, churches, playgrounds, parking lots and on sidewalks. Sure, you only get one side of the conversation, but even that’s ’way too much information.

.           Ubiquitous televisions babble at us unrelentingly, keeping us abreast of the doings of celebrities not celebrated for anything in particular, and telling us what to think about politics, the stock market, our health, our children and our houses’ decor. It seems everybody’s talking, all the time. Nobody’s saying much of substance, but maybe the number of words trumps meaning.

            I wouldn’t know. I try not to listen.   

            Chez Fitz, we consider television-watching the equal of Internet browsing as a time-sink. We don’t subscribe to cable or satellite. Tim refuses to pay $100 a month for an antenna, and I can think of better ways to waste my time. When we travel and have access to hotels’ cable TV, it always strikes me that the quality of the programming is inversely proportional to the number of channels available.

Can you feel your blood pressure rising?
            The Grinch may not win any personality contests, but I totally empathize with his dislike of those rollicking Christmas-morning Whos—“Oh, the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!”

            All this surround-sound isn’t good for us. “Scientific American Frontiers” on PBS (it was an hour well-spent) recently addressed the consequences of the chronic stress our lifestyles engender in an episode aptly titled “Worried Sick.” High hostility levels predispose many of us to cardio-vascular diseases and gastrointestinal woes. No wonder Rush Limbaugh is addicted to prescription pain-killers. Stress also impairs immune responses and healing of wounds.

What can we do to turn down the volume? Scheduling time to practice breath-focused meditation and yoga helps. So does going outside to play in the dirt. Gardeners know the therapeutic value of their avocation.

The peaceable kingdom, Kowed

Gardening is such a peaceful pursuit, so solitary, so quiet. Just you, your hand tools, earth and plants.  Sometimes I hum, or sing to myself, often the same bit of lyric over and over. But mostly I listen. Birds call. I love the cardinals: they say, “myrtlebeachmyrtlebeachmyrtle.” Or “prettyprettyprettypretty.” And who knew tiny titmice could produce such piercing screeches? Squirrels scream warnings about cats on the prowl or chatter and quarrel among themselves. Wind soughs through the pine tree branches. The metal trowel-blade clinks against the odd rock or buried concrete shard. The wheelbarrow’s axle complains about having to work on Sunday. Kids play on the next block, a dog barks somewhere. The occasional car whooshes past. And, if the wind’s from the south, I can hear the ocean whisper secrets to the beach.

            I come back inside, when I must, refreshed and renewed.

* * *

HRH Prince Charles,
sustainable farming advocate

            Spent some quality time around the yard on Sunday. Mixed up a 100-pound batch of Kow-and-kelp and spread most of it on the vegetable beds. It’s about time to set out potatoes and peas, onions and beets. I certainly want to be ahead of the temperature curve with the spuds. Last year it was mid-March before I got them planted, and lost them all to heat-induced bacterial soft rot.

I’m particularly anxious to grow some of my own food this year: the more I learn about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the less I trust that supermarket produce won’t hurt me. Sustainable-methods farmer HRH Prince Charles wrote, “Science has tried to assume a monopoly—or rather, a tyranny—over our understanding of the world around us… We are only now beginning to understand the disastrous results of this outlook.” The latest Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company catalog warns, “Each year we have a harder time getting [corn] seeds that test GMO-free. It is getting to the point where most heirloom corn varieties test positive for GMOs; even growers in remote areas are having problems with Monsanto’s GMO [Roundup Ready] corn.”

Frankenfoods are here, and there is no legal requirement they be labeled as such. That scares the hell out of me.

Grey Boy supervises progress
on the new bed

Also worked some more on my new bed, continuing to clear around the edge, and spreading the remainder of the poop mixture on the east end. It’s coming along nicely. Over on the south side of the house, I noticed the red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) has some swelling buds already.

I ordered seeds for Malabar spinach (Basella rubra), castor-bean plant (Ricinus communis) and the totally awesome lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus) from Baker Creek in addition to all those packets from Renee’s Garden. Obviously, the it’s-almost-spring enthusiasm that’s grabbed me by the throat has no intention of slackening its grip. Which is as it should be.

Thanks for dropping by. No, really, I mean it: the blog passed the 1,000-pageview mark on Monday. It wouldn’t have happened without you.


Click at the arrow for newer posts
 A blast from the future: dateline 12 March 2011: Because Blogger has mysteriously stopped updating my new posts; and because this is the last post the cyber-forces-that-be officially recognize, I am here to state that, yes, there are newer posts, one arriving every four days. And here is how the technologically challenged (such as myself) can access them. Below the Comments section (still empty, by the way), you are given three clickable choices: Newer Posts, Home, and Older Posts. Click on "Newer" for the next chronological post; "Home" for the most recent post, and "Older" to go back in time to those exciting days of yester-month. My resident geek has taken a screen shot of the relevant area, edited for your, um, edification. Of course, you could always LEAVE A COMMENT if you're having trouble. I live in hope.