Saturday, January 25, 2020

What's growin' on?

This is the time of year when the garden catalogs start to clog the mailbox and I start thinking about setting up the greenhouse in my conservatory.

Years back, before they moved out of Yankton, my dad was a Gurney's guy and that stuck with me. But, now, the one I buy from is called Jung Seed Company ( I don't buy much from catalogs but I like Jung because they offer a different selection than most and I usually try a thing or two out of the ordinary every year. They also don't charge as much for shipping and handling (only $4.95 if you order seeds).

This year I'm going to try Autumn Star Kalettes (a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts). Also, an Everleaf Emerald Towers Basil, which is a more columnar plant, and some Super Heavyweight Hybrid Peppers that I will start in my hothouse. Supposed to be monsters. We'll see. My luck with starting peppers is spotty.

On the tomato side of things, I plant certified organic seeds around St. Patrick's Day and move them into the garden around Memorial Day weekend. I order those seeds from Gary Ibsen at During their sale in January, I get a buck off a pack. The packs go for $3-$4 each. And the seeds still have great germination rates 2-3 years later.

I usually don't mess much with planting peppers by seed (run out of room in the house and they seem awfully tempermental), so I buy plants locally at Nachtigal Greenhouse and/or Jolly Lane Greenhouse. That's also where I'll usually pick up few cucumber plants as well.

On the flower side of things, I generally plant seeds for native pollinators (coneflowers, daisies, Black Eyed Susan, etc.) and have good luck with an online place called They're cheap, as the name suggests, and they send you a million seeds.

As for trees, which I'm about running out of room to plant (oh, just kidding, I can always find room) I'm also a cheapskate. I've purchased bare root trees from a cool nursery in Belle Fourche and I buy trees in the late spring/early summer when the stores start selling them 30-40-50 percent off. Then I get them from anywhere, Menards, K-Mart (RIP), Ace Hardware. I also have a source who gives me some small evergreen trees every year, just because she likes me and thinks I'm cute.

This year I'm going heavy tomatoes and peppers again. Looking to expand the perennial plantings and another succulent area. I also anticipate going to war with voles and rabbits, as they seem to have overtaken the neighborhood despite the best efforts of my two dogs.

Looking forward to a good spring, plenty of rain, and heat when we need it. That perfect growing season seems to come about once every ten years, and we had that 2 years ago, yet I'm ever the optimist.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Like Harry and Meghan, another Brit calls it quits

The literary world was shocked a couple days ago as only a mystery writer can shock them. No, Lee Child didn't tweet something the literoti found insensitive. He didn't shake Donald Trump's hand and cause them to get the vapors. Nor did he astound them like J.K. Rowling by sharing an opinion of which they disagreed.

He announced his retirement. Child is hanging up the typewriter at the age of 65 and turning Jack Reacher's fists over to Child's younger brother.

I'm a little apprehensive about that but willing to give the guy a shot.

What astounded me is: I didn't know writers could retire. That's like retiring from breathing or from loving dogs. Writers write until they die of a drug overdose or are beheaded for blasphemy, or so I thought.

Among my favorite writers, Lawrence Block is still writing away at age 81. He looks like death on skates, but he's still churning out the words. Thankfully. Cormac McCarthy is 86. Larry McMurtry 73. Stephen King and James Patterson are 72, as is Salman Rushdie, who's stilling plugging away despite a fatwa on his head. Ian McEwan is just a pup at 71. They haven't wimped out on us.

I suspect Child's quitting has something to do with being a Brit. They've been waving the white flag since the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Not as bad as the French, but they don't have any popular writers now to even announce their retirement.

He joins other famous English quitters like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Now I could give a rip about them. Heck, I don't know if either of them can write. But I know Child can and I hate to see such a talented writer retire to the tea room.

Some, as proposed in this New Yorker article "Do Writers Really Retire?" from 2013, say even Shakespeare retired.

I hope Child "retires" like Conor McGregor retired. Maybe, like him, he'll be back after his net worth slips below $100 million. We can hope.

Come on Child, be a man. Reacher wouldn't quit on you.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Link-oh-rama 2020

Some notes, quotes and anecdotes:

*** I'm generally loathe to criticize the Catholic Church, because the media is usually gleeful to do it for me. However, they do love this Pope and are careful to separate their criticism from him. But it seems several Cardinals and Bishops don't have a problem criticizing him (as seen in this story), so I shouldn't feel bad disagreeing with him either.

I've grown quite discontent with the Church the past few years, for various reasons, and am making an effort to fix that. But it's difficult. As I told my wife a while back: "Right now, I feel like I'm a better Christian than I am a Catholic."

Check out this article that outlines one concern with the Pope: Here’s why authors, theologians think Pope Francis cooperates with the Chinese government despite persecution of religious groups
Francis continually denounces all Western efforts at border control even as he stays silent on the Chinese genocide against Muslims, persecution of Christians, and crackdowns on Hong Kong.
*** Along those lines: Is It Baby Boomers’ Fault Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Less Likely To Go Back?
“Democrats brought up in religious households are roughly three times more likely than Republicans to have left religion. Nearly one in four (23 percent) Democrats brought up in a religion no longer identify with a religious tradition, while only 8 percent of Republicans say the same.”
*** Good news. Looks like Jack Reacher is coming to an Amazon stream. And I didn't know Lee Child lives next door in Wyoming.

*** Another review came in for "Mustang Lang" (he heard about it from the Ace of Spades Sunday book thread. Four stars. I liked the previous five-star review better. But we accept four stars. It apparently didn't reach the heights of great "literature" like Haruki Marukami, Robert Bolano and George R.R. Martin - you know, the Oprah Book Club types. But not bad for a shlub from north of Hermosa.

"This is not great literature. Probably not "literature" at all. But it is a fun read with interesting characters and plot. I thought I'd figured out the ending but the author surprised me with a twist that made the book even better. This is a great book for what it is. I enjoyed it a lot and will look for more by the author. I hope there are more Mustang Lang adventures as he and Anna make quite the pair (that's a hint, Mark)"

And I'd be remiss in not mentioning this 5-star humdinger:

"If you're looking for an easy, light-hearted read that still makes you think, this is it. One part mystery, one part comedy you'll certainly enjoy Mustang Lang. Just when you think you've solved the mystery yourself, there's a major plot twist you can't help put be shocked and a bit amused with. Mustang Lang is the guy you love but sometimes want to hate. Just give it a try -- there's nothing better than support independent artists."

*** Not quite buying this, but apparently koala bears aren't the cute, cuddly things they appear to be.

*** Warren Zevon joins forces with me in promoting free speech and an unbundling of undies.
The past decade saw the rise of the woke progressives who dictate what words can be said and ideas held, thus poisoning and paralyzing American humor, drama, entertainment, culture and journalism. 
“The U.S. economy is fine…. The problem is the rest of the world.”
*** One of the many "best of 2019" book lists comes from the Guardian magazine. Their suggestions come from other award-winning authors. A couple jumped out at me.

Lee Child suggests "The Accomplice" by Joseph Kanon. It "concerns the hunt for a Nazi hiding in Argentina – and what to do with him when captured."

Ann Patchett suggests Kevin Wilson’s new novel "Nothing to See Here" (Ecco) and it sounds just crazy enough that I might like it: "about 10-year-old twins who burst into flames whenever they become anxious or angry. The fire doesn’t hurt them, but it burns down everything else. The adults who made these children want nothing to do with them, and so a governess is brought in to keep them hidden away. What starts off as an outrageous premise soon feels uncomfortably realistic."

*** This guy really likes chess and writes about it well. Concentrate!
The challenge of chess – learning how to hold complexity in mind and still make good decisions – is also the challenge of life. Flow experiences are deeply rewarding, and they arise when our skill level and challenge level are optimally matched; too little challenge and we get bored, too much and we feel anxious.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Count on this being the best story you read today

Piggy-backing on the previous post a bit, I've had this thing for many years. Can't remember when it started. It might have been when I quit drinking a couple decades ago. I call it a quirk; others call it a mental disorder. Tomato, tomahto.

The first time I noticed it was while running. I counted my steps (in my head, not out loud, THAT would be crazy), then I'd zone out and forget about it, until I picked it back up a few minutes later: 245, 246, 247. My brain was counting without me knowing it. I can also tell you the number of steps in staircases throughout South Dakota, if there ever becomes a need. Also, while driving I count those breaks/bumps in the road. I'm sure the construction workers can tell me what they're called, but your car hits them and gives a quiet "thud." I count the thuds. Yes, it gets annoying, but it explains why my music is cranked so loud.

Thankfully, one day, maybe 20 years ago, I was listening to the radio in the car and the Dr. Dean Adel Show was on. He took a caller who described exactly what I just described to you and I said "Hey! That's me!" in between "thuds" on the road. She asked the good doctor what to do about it.

He said it was a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that is debilitating to some people, but just a nuisance to others (like me). He told her to pick a number, any number, and when she was counting to just stop when she hit that number. Seemed dumb, but I tried it. I picked 40. Don't know why. Just seemed like a nice number, not too high, not too low.

Lo and behold, it worked! Every jog I take, I count the first 40 steps and then I'm done with it. Weird. Really weird. My niece, in college a ways back, wanted to interview me for a psychology paper. But I never heard back. Probably a well she didn't want to dive into. Can't blame her.

I made the mistake of telling this story to a friend in the neighborhood. Now when he drives past and I'm jogging, he hollers out his window with a big smile on his face: "What number you on?" I show him the number one.

There's even an institute that studies people like me. It's called Hogwarts. Just kidding. It's called the New England OCD Institute. I might visit sometime. See how many stairs they have.

When I ran across it while writing this post, I noticed this from The Institute: "Often people with OCD will have a primary subtype, i.e. sexual obsessions, but will have the numbers as more of a secondary problem. In cases like this, it is not as stressful or intrusive."

Hmmm. Explains all the dead chickens in the house. I kid, I kid. Nothing like some good sexual obsession jokes to get the tongues wagging.

I have some other OCD type symptoms, but they are more organizational. Like my color-coded shirt rack, all the soup can labels pointing outward. My wife drives me crazy with that. She can return from the store and toss all the canned vegetable and soups all willy nilly into the lazy Susan. No rhyme or reason. I think she does it because she knows I will organized it.

But none of these seem to affect my life in the negative, as far as I see. In fact, the counting thing comes in handy.

For example, just the other day: My wife likes to end her workout regiment with a set of planks. But she hates them and likes to have a hype man there for her. Junior has been working out with her lately and fulfilling that role, but he left a week ago so the duty fell to me.

So she got out her yoga mat and told me to start my stopwatch on the phone and to tell her when 45 seconds was up. I said, "I'll just count in my head." She said, "No, I want it exact." I said: "Trust me." She didn't. So I did the stopwatch thing for her. Happy wife, happy life, don't ya know.

Later in the day, I was in the kitchen, she was in the living room. I tossed her my phone with the stopwatch ready. I told her to press "start" and not to hit "stop" until I told her to. She did as instructed. I walked around the kitchen a bit, got a drink of water, looked at the rabbits outside the window, then said: "Stop."

I said: "45 seconds."

She looked at me with that amazed look on her face I'm so familiar with: "44.6. Okay, you don't have to use the stopwatch anymore."

I'd do track meets also, but don't think they'd recognize my super power in the event somebody broke a state record. I'll stick to planks.

You can count on it.