Archive for July, 2011


Hello again.  I know this is a Bible blog and I should try to stay on subject but well… What the hell.  To illustrate the other things that have kept me busy, I decided to offer a photo montage of our garden.  When we bought this house eight years ago we thought we would never have enough room for a real garden.  Oh, my wife has always been into flowers and plants but due to a shortage of backyard space, edible gardening has always been a thing she thought wasn’t in our future.  Then I worked on her.  And worked on her.  And again.  You see I’ve always considered the front yard of most homes a waste.  I’m not sure what it is like in other contries, but in the US an expansive front lawn is simply something to look at, a middle class status symbol ranked by how perfectly uniform it is.  Unbroken by variation it generally sits there unused.  Seldom trod on, rarely played on and virtually never sat on, So much money and effort go into American yards which serve as pristine but useless frames to houses.

I’ve never been a fan.

Now while our backyard is too small for a garden, our front yard had plenty of space that was doing little save for creating a mowing job for Reilly.  He has always resented this too (still does) as we only have a hand-powered reel style push mower.  Can you imagine this? An American kid forced into slave labor without even the support of an internal combustion engine.  Sigh. And we don’t have either cable or broadcast TV… Has there ever been a child so deprived?  Frankly I’m surprised social services hasn’t been called.

Anyway, I digress.  So here is our useless front yard combined with a couple who would love to grow their own food.  All one needs to do is set aside some standard conventions and voila!  Instant garden… well not really instant, quite the contrary actually, but you get the idea.  BTW, click on the pictures to get clearer and slightly larger photos.  Wordpress’s photo compressor has a blurring side effect.

Our front yard garden looking south.

As you can see my very talented wife loves to mix both the astheticly pleasing and practical side by side so we have garlic growing next to Asian Lilies, tomatoes ended by pansies  and the entire garden overlooked by a massive Honeysuckle. Oh, how I love this place.

Here's the middle looking back north.

And south again.

South looking north. Ornamentals at the corner and beans down the east side along with plenty of radish, lettuce and other greens.

Here's the far west looking east.

As you can see from the last two photos, there is a bit of grass left.  Within a couple years this will all be torn up too replaced with some fruit bushes and grapes, perhaps. Maybe just strawberries.   Since I don’t have a tiller and prefer to do everything by shovel and fork, it takes time to get it all done.  I’m looking forward to when the only thing we have to mow is the boulevard.  Secretly, we’re trying to see what the city will allow us to change there too, but they get a little weird about those things.

Peas and cabbage

Our first garden pea... I did have to share it, but it was damned fine anyway. Tomorrow I'll sneak out before Renee gets up.

Which of course, brings me to my favorite plant in the yard, this wonderful Honeysuckle.  Unfortunately, the blooms are mostly gone now but this is an incredible plant, healthy, strong and determined to conquer everything in it’s path.  It’s everything life should be.

The honeysuckle, planted when we moved in and going strong ever since. Awesome.

Backyard with ornamentals and herbs. It's our little shelter.

The reading, writing, eating and relaxing area.

The hammock. Simply the best thing we have ever bought. Ever! I'm not kidding. Laying with a pillow and book in the hammock with a beer to the side... This is what life is all about.

My wife cannot let a corner go without something growing there. Can you believe the color? Isn't evolution wonderful?

Like I said above, every corner. It amazes me what a little junk off the farm and some flowering plants can do.

And to end our little garden tour we’ll give you some rooftop shots.

Our backyard combined with the neighbor's over the fence. She has a great pond with amazingly large fish! Reilly also does the mowing there but she does pay him. Unlike us.

Aerial views of the raised beds. Hands off the peas!

And my son, Reilly. He and I are now convinced that we should build a small deck up here. Great view and we could spy on the neighbors ;). That's our very art deco capital building in the background. P.S. His mother had a bit of a fit learning he had been up there. Um... yeah.

I was going to end there but upon coming into the house I was presented with this incredible relaxing view and simply couldn’t resist.

Cat's have a great ability to make the most uncomfortable positions look like heaven. This is Granite, a master of her trade, doing what she know how to do best.

And there it is.  My wife and I are a study of opposites in this garden.  She loves the plants.  I prefer the soil.  She arranges the flowers.  I arrange the beds themselves.  She nurtures growth.  I dig dirt.  We are opposite but complimentary.  The thing we both share is an absolute fascination with life in all it’s varieties.  We worship life and how can one not?   We can stare at a single flower and wonder at its beauty for many minutes.

And there has never been a better time to stop and smell the roses.  Think about it.  What an age to live in.  We have plants from nearly every spot on the globe at our fingertips.  Species and varieties that people actually died to bring back and labored to cultivate, I can buy at the grocery store for pennies.  Oh what a life!  I live with a woman I’m devoted to and a child whom I adore.  People, this is truly a golden age, and I live in paradise.

Again, I’m not kidding.

Flood Update

Hi.  Yeah… Where the hell have I been?  Hmm.  Let’s just say that parts of my life continually get in the way of the rest.  I have been teaching, studying on what I should be teaching, trying to figure out where our apprenticeship should be going, gardening, landscaping, assuming my new duties as trustee of our local union, applying for the board of our state’s worker’s compensation department, keeping our secular group meeting, and maintaining a decent relationship with my wife and son.    I’ve done fairly well on the last one.  Everything else, including this blog, has taken a lower priority… as it should.


A brief bit of news.  The Missouri River flooding has turned out to be better than we hoped.  There is a tremendous volume of water in the river, over twice the previous record, and no one really understood what would happen.  Turns out that having a mass of water moving at speed through the channel has eroded the 60 years worth of sand bars far more quickly than anyone had thought possible.  This has left us with an overall lower level to the river than had been predicted, about 18 inches lower.  The dikes are holding well and it looks as if only a few hundred houses are going to be severely damaged.  This is good.

Now for the bad.  This eroding of the river bottom has been far more dramatic than ever imagined.  Parts of the river that were 30 feet deep before are now approaching 100 feet.  A few houses along the bank have collapsed entirely and more will likely follow.  One disappeared overnight, and last I heard no one witnessed it at all.  This erosion may have repercussions, some as serious as losing several more houses, some more ironic in that many of the houses built on filled in land and sold for obscene amounts of money may not have backyard river access when normal flow rates return.  A river channel deeper than before and in a different spot may subtract a bit of value from those million dollar houses.  C’est la vie!

Perhaps the worst element of this flood will be the likely death of all the trees in the flood plain.  Although these trees are flood resistant and often were underwater for part of the year before the dam was built, that was always in the spring when they were still dormant and using little oxygen.  This late in the season, most cannot take having their roots submerged for months on end.  We are looking at the deaths of tens of millions of mature trees, many nearly a century old.  This saddens me most of all.  When you live on the Great Plains, trees take on a near mystical preciousness.  In a state where trees are rare, every loss here will be felt.  Next year the river, a wonderful and underused resource, the best thing North Dakota has, will likely be a wasteland of dying and decaying vegetation.  Shit!

And while Bismarck has fared better than we expected, our sister city of Minot in the northern part of the state has done for worse than anyone imagined possible.  They had a spring flood scare and were forced to evacuate a quarter of the town, but that receded and most people had returned and picked up their lives again.  Severe rains in Canada in the upper reaches of the Souris River caused an unstoppable surge of water a month later that they had little chance of defending their homes against.  Their joy at surviving the spring flood, turned to despair when the news hit.  There was nothing to be done.  Sandbagging or dike building was so inadequate as to be worse than useless.   This flood beat the previous high water record in 1881 by nearly 6 feet in places.  It was eight feet over the present dikes. All they could do was to save the most precious and leave the rest.

One quarter of all the houses in Minot were flooded, some 3000 to 4000 of them, many with water right up to their rafters.  No one wants to predict how many are going to have to be razed completely.  It’s unfortunate.  I have several friends who live in this area, and none really know how bad it is yet.

Importantly, few deaths have taken place.   Trees and property are when put in perspective, well,  just trees and property.  Compared to the tragedy that Japan is going through our flood can rank no higher than an inconvenience.  We still have our wives and husbands and children.  You could take everything else I have and I could sleep well that night.  I could burn my house to the ground and still laugh until my stomach hurt over something Reilly had said.  But take those we love?  A worse loss could not be contemplated.

Thinking of those coastal villages and their incredible loss of life will put whatever me and mine suffer into perspective for a very long time.   Loss is only loss if it can’t be replaced.

Be safe all.

Here are some pictures Reilly and others have taken around town.

Flooded houses on the Mandan side of the river

South of town

More mess

A house collapsing into the river. The other one just wasn't there one morning.

This is the area where the housed collapsed into the river. The rest of the people out here are a bit nervous.

This is our favorite park, Pioneer Park just to the north of the city. Most of these trees aren't going to make it.

These are pictures from Minot.

Going home?

Minot from above.

How is the electricity still on?


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