Posts Tagged With: Life

Of Life Events and Gardens

It has been a rather long and rather eventful month here at Transient Ranch (I should explain that I briefly considered calling it Mustang Ranch, but the implications were…less than ideal). People in the hospital, friends and family with relationships ending and beginning, legal issues that demanded our attention and the myriad of everyday things we call “life” all conspired to keep me away from the keyboard, though not from acquiring more projects. Anyway, I’m back and I want to share the progress of one of those ongoing projects with you.

The garden is in, finally, and it doesn’t look, at this point, as if we’re likely to lose anything with the possible exception of the asparagus.

Last year, I did not plant a fall garden, so the beds were a little overgrown when I started work on them for this spring. As you can tell, everything was left in the beds from last year, including the landscaping cloth and stakes for some of last year’s plants. They looked like this:

Needs work

Needs work

After cutting grass and weeds and removing the leftover stuff from last year, it was time to lay down new landscape cloth in the beds and mulch the walkways in between them. You’ll note that except for two smaller beds at the top left hand side of the picture, the beds run the full length of the garden. That makes them 34 feet long.

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Here it is, the walkways almost all mulched and with every bed ready to receive plants and its own mulch.

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Finally done, or close to it (still need to mulch that area to the left side of the garden). Plants in and homemade tomato cages in place.

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In a few days, I’ll go through and weed even the walkways and place the pavers, both for aesthetics and to keep my feet from getting quite so muddy if I have to go out there right after watering or rain.

A few other things. So far, I have placed 2 cubic yards of mulch in the garden and walkways. I estimate another yard will provide the cover I need as I add it to thin spots and “mulch out” a walkway on the left hand side of the garden. This year I purchased a new, state of the art, mulch transportation and delivery device. It’s been very useful.

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The pavers that will go in, shortly.

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Last year we grew, well, a lot varieties of everything, especially tomatoes and cucumbers. We discovered that as much as we like Italian food, we can’t grow enough Roma tomatoes to make sauce and adding other varieties to the sauce makes it far too wet. When it comes to cucumbers, the non pickling varieties are also too wet. This year, we are being more selective and limiting our varieties. Our plant selection looks like this:

PLANT VARIETIES
  • Black or Russian Krim tomatoes x 9
  • Red Brandywine tomato x1
  • Boston Pickling cucumbers x 8
  • Black Beauty zucchini x 2
  • Crook Neck squash x 2
  • Serrano, jalapeno, ancho/poblano, Anaheim, cayenne and bell peppers x 2 of each
  • Hale’s Best cantaloupe x 2
  • Asparagus x 18
  • Carrots, lettuce varieties, arugula, spinach and kale x a lot of each (we have rabbits, okay?)

Now comes the hard part…waiting for harvest.

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Of Life Postponed

As an Executive Life Coach there are some things I emphasize to a lot of my clients: The power of choice, the importance of accepting responsibility and accountability as the keys to being truly free and the absolute necessity of knowing what matters to you and what you’re all about if you are to truly live your life. Some get it and some do not, much like the population in general. Many times, we fear doing what we want and, in fact, need to do. We abandon what often truly matters for the illusion of security. A friend of mine, who enjoyed a very high-paying position is a multinational corporation noted that “all positions are temporary.” He understood that security, especially absolute security, is an illusion. While it has certainly been misused, the oft quoted words of Benjamin Franklin come to mind:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

With due regard to Franklin and the context in which he wrote those words in 1755, I nevertheless find the words force me to ask myself what I have given up to purchase some temporary safety (security).

Sometimes, I find it necessary to examine my own life and see if I have been taking my own advice. What do I need to do? What risks have I avoided, or from which risks have I fled, in the interest of a position of security that is temporary at best? How much of my life have I postponed?

I’ve recently written several posts about travel and boats, here, here and here. The need to travel, and more, to live in a vibrant and vital way, grows with every passing day. While it may take a while to realize, the dream, I understand, will not go away until it is either fulfilled or I die filled with regret about what the things I did not do.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Mark Twain)

Sterling Hayden put it this way.

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… “cruising” it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

What is it you need to do? What dream calls to you? What is that thing that will not leave you alone, that wakes you in the middle of the night. What is it, the very idea of which fills you with both unspeakable dread and an almost palpable anticipation?

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The Most Important Lesson

I wrote earlier about the 11 things I’ve learned from traveling. It was fun to write. I got to include some things that I learned on fun trips and a few not so fun ones. For the most part, it was pretty light-hearted, I think. That was deliberate. Who wants to read a blog where the blogger pontificates all the time? Not me. My kids tell me I tend to lecture, so I try to avoid lecturing when I write. After all, you aren’t one of my kids (if any of my kids are reading this, you still get lectures). All that said, there is one thing I’ve learned from traveling that isn’t all that lighthearted. That’s what this post is about. The single most important thing travel has taught me is that life is not about how much stuff you can accumulate. As one much wiser than I noted, “life is not measured by how much you own.”

In my previous post I mentioned that I’ve moved a lot. In spite of the distinction I made on the “About Ken” page, moving is a form of travel. It’s just travel with the specific goal of relocation. Because we moved so much, my family often had very little money, though my parents, like most Depression era folks, worked hard, really hard (far harder than the hardest working people I know today). We just didn’t stay in one place long enough to accumulate much. A lot of what we did accumulate would get lost or damaged in a move.

I’ve met a lot of people, traveling around. Some of them have a lot; some have very little and most fall somewhere in-between. What I’ve learned is that none of them seem to be happy or sad based upon what they have. I’ve seen plenty of happy, and sad, people in all three groups. That’s what I want to dig into for a bit.

We have some funny ideas in America, when it comes to money and possessions. On the one hand, we have this tendency to think we’d be happy if only we had X (pick the possession or possessions of your choice). And yet, we also tend to look at those with a lot whose lives fall apart or end in despair and say “see, money can’t buy happiness” with an almost gleeful sort of relish. Here’s what I’ve come to realize. From wealthy people who are still pursuing more and more to the poor who look at them jealously and long to be wealthy under the belief that then they’ll be happy, we have largely accepted a lie. Both fail to understand that if we depend on things for happiness, there is no end of chasing after stuff. I get stuff. I feel happy for a bit and then life happens. How can I regain my happiness? I know. I’ll go get more stuff! But then, life happens again. So, I go get some more stuff. Then, life happens…

We have accepted, almost without question, the idiocy of “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” As I said above, it’s a lie. Stuff doesn’t bring happiness. Things don’t provide a rich and fulfilling life. To think they do is foolish. Think about this: Biographies of the great and respected people of the past spend little or no time talking about what they had. Instead, they spend time talking about what those people did, what they accomplished and how they impacted others. Broadly speaking, happiness (especially in the sense of joy and contentment) is about experiences, both alone and with others.

I’m self-employed these days. I haven’t always been. Between my military career and time in the corporate world, I have about 40 years of trying to find happiness with the wrong formula. I grew up accepting the formula that our culture says brings about both success and happiness. That formula has been characterized as “study hard so you can get good grades so you can get a good job with good benefits and a good salary.” This has been touted as the formula for a successful and happy life for longer than any of us have been alive. More than that, it and the ability to acquire stuff, has almost become what our culture accepts as the purpose of life. The result, I believe, has been a society of people who are increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Before I go any further, let me say that I don’t believe there is anything wrong with earning a significant income (however much that might be to you) or with having nice things. Nor do I think there is anything wrong with planning or plans. In fact, in spite of the romance of a life spent in perpetual rambling with no specific goal, the old saying “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” is still very true. What I am saying is that we have largely not only accepted the wrong plan and goal, but we’ve done so because we’ve accepted the wrong definition of a happy and fulfilling life. A happy and fulfilling life isn’t lived because of what we have. It’s lived because of what we do, what we experience and the lives we touch and that touch us.

Travel offers us the opportunity to do more, experience more and touch and be touched by more people than almost anything else. When you are in your later years, sitting with those you love and who love you, it is almost a guarantee that you’ll reminisce about the things you and they did, together and individually. Likewise, unless it’s connected in some way to your experiences, it’s also almost the same guarantee that you won’t reminisce about that car you drooled over and eventually bought. You aren’t likely to speak fondly and at length of the Rolex on your wrist, though you might talk about the person who gave it to you. You probably won’t talk about flying first class…except in terms of what it was like. It’s all about experiences and people, not stuff. The stuff is incidental. The experiences (including relationships with people) are the story.

Travel isn’t magic. It’s just that it if we travel and do more than stay in insulated places that are as much like home as possible, it forces us to experience more. It exposes us to real people who aren’t simply faceless staff members at an over-priced resort*. Travel, in a real sense, exposes us to life the way others live and experience it. How cool is that?

Travel a bit. Experience more. Meet people. Touch lives and let other people touch yours. In the process, you just might find yourself living that rich and fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of for so long.

*NOTE: Resorts aren’t inherently bad. They’re just artificial. They give the illusion of having experienced a place while insulating guests from a significant part of the local culture. Does anyone seriously believe you can “experience the islands” (or anywhere else) at a resort that’s too expensive for the vast majority of the locals to visit?

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11 Things I Learned From Traveling

It was maybe 15 years ago that my dad came to me and told me he knew it hadn’t been fair for him and my mom to move around so much when I was a kid. I guess that’s true, in some ways. I never had that experience of living in a place for a really long time, putting down roots and being firmly ensconced in the community. I don’t know what it’s like to live your life in close physical proximity to your siblings and cousins. I’ve never gone to a family reunion. When I die, it’s unlikely anyone will speak of how I was a fixture in the community. Those are things that simply aren’t part of my life. I do wonder what it would be like to have lived that sort of life. I’ll never know. There was one major thing I learned from all the moving around. I learned to associate moving with making a “new start.” Because of the circumstances surrounding most of our moves prior to getting married, it took some effort to learn that moving does not solve problems and running away is not the answer. Still, it wasn’t all bad.

Here are 11 things I learned from travel, both as a child and as an adult:

  1. People really are the same, pretty much everywhere you go. Oh, the cultures and subcultures vary. People eat different things. They wear different clothes. They sing different songs and they “talk different.” On the other hand, they would all rather be happy than sad. Parents everywhere tend to love their children and want them to have a better life than they (the parents) did. They work hard. They grieve over life’s pain and rejoice in life’s joys. They prefer peace to war and plenty to want.
  2. Trying new things will not kill you…probably. I still have some doubts about bungee jumping and swimming with sharks.
  3. There is a lot of really good food in the world. My goal is to try at least most of it. To do that, I have to be okay with the occasional bad meal, too.
  4. I despise mosquitoes on every continent on which I’ve encountered them.
  5. Camel spiders ought not to be.
  6. If you aren’t prepared for rain, you will experience a deluge, especially if you’re on motorcycle.
  7. Crossing the continental divide on a motorcycle in the winter, at night, is not the brightest of ideas.
  8. Take extra socks and underwear.
  9. Imodium is your friend.
  10. Saying “please” and “thank you” will often get a better response than offering more money.
  11. If you’re really convinced that everything is so much better where you’re from, you should probably stay there.

There’s a lot more to be learned from traveling. I’ve probably only learned a little of it. I know this: travel has taught me things that have really enriched my life. If you haven’t learned these things, yet, don’t take my word for it. Get out there. Go, see and experience. Your life will be far richer for it. Mine certainly is.

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