Ukraine and Gardening – Yet Again

Photo courtesy of NSSL

April 19, 2014

[My condolences to the family, loved ones and friends of Michael Ruppert. I didn’t know Mike personally, but his writings on peak oil and his blog, From the Wilderness, were among the handful of sources available when I first struggled to understand the implications of peak oil back in 2006 - 2007. I am very grateful for his work in this area.]

 

Well, those bad little boys, Obama and Putin, are at it again – despite telling Mom they’d behave themselves and “de-escalate tensions” just last Thursday at the meeting in Geneva between the US, Russia, the EU and Ukraine.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-18/russia-confirms-troop-build-near-ukraine-warns-west-more-sanctions-absolutely-unacce?utm_content=bufferd783c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

“For the first time, Russia has confirmed that it has built up its military presence on the Ukrainian border (according to Agence France Presse). On the heels of the de-escalation and the West’s threat of tougher sanctions (if Russia failed to abide by the new ‘deal’), Kremlin spokesman Dmirty Peskov told Rossiya TV that “we have troops in different regions, and there are troops close to the Ukrainian border. Some are based there, others have been sent as reinforcements due to the situation in Ukraine.””

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-18/de-escalation-us-deploys-troops-poland?utm_content=buffer40cea&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

“So what part of “All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions,” did the US not understand when they decided that deploying troops to Poland was in keeping with the four-party deal? As WaPo reports, Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine.”

None of this, of course, has anything to do with Ukraine, the country, or the wishes of the Ukrainian people, except as one more chess piece in the Great Game of Empire, to which: By the time this battle in the great game ended, Ukraine would be little more than another bug splat on the windshield of the Empire’s jeep, Russia, stripped of its naval base in Crimea, would be cowed – never again to regain empire status – the petrodollar, with all its perks to the Empire, would be safe from challenge once again and the corporations and financial institutions of the Empire and its European allies lackeys would be free to loot the guts of Ukraine, (once called “the bread basket” of the old Soviet Union,) the oil and gas fields off of Crimea’s coast, along with the wealthier industrial areas of eastern Ukraine.

At least, that appeared to be the plan.

Russia, however, seems not so willing to be cowed. While the neo-cons in Washington were slapping themselves on the back over their successful coup in Kiev, Crimeans voted themselves, their gas and oil fields and the Russian naval base back into the safe, loving arms of Mother Russia. Check.

The US and Europe began a series of sanctions against Russia.  Russia, in turn, hinted that, if Ukraine didn’t pay the huge gas bill it owed them, it might have to protect Europe from Ukrainians stealing the gas meant for Europe by shutting off that gas.  Check, again.

Last Thursday, at the meeting in Geneva, all parties agreed to de-escalate the situation.  Well, we saw how long that lasted.

Where will things go from here? I wish I knew. But, whether the final checkmate comes via the Empire or Russia, whether the next move in the “game” becomes an economic or a military war, whether one side “wins” the war or everyone loses, it will have repercussions for all of us.

Which, once again, brings us to the subject of gardens.

Plant one. If you can, plant early; if you can’t, plant late – spring, summer, fall, even indoors next winter. Whether you live in Berkley or Bangladesh, get some of your own food in the ground because food supply and food prices will be affected.

Keep reducing your dependence on fossil fuels and work to replenish your small corner of the earth. Conventional oil has peaked, climate change has not gone away and war – economic or military – will only exacerbate the effects of both.

While you’re at it, learn some oil-independent skills and do what you can to encourage your children, friends and neighbors to do the same. The Empire may win this particular battle, but it will have to fight others to maintain business as usual for as long as possible. Each one will weaken it further. One of them will inevitably bring it to its knees and this civilization as we know it will make its own passage into history, having squandered the very resources that built and maintained it. We will have to build a different one without them.

We have no guarantee that you and I will be among those builders, or that humanity itself will survive these huge problems, but as John Michael Greer pointed out, at the beginning of his blog post this week, http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-04-16/the-end-of-employment

“Nothing is easier, as the Long Descent begins to pick up speed around us, than giving in to despair—and nothing is more pointless.”

As far as I know, this is the only life we get. Live it as though you will be one of the survivors; savor it as if you won’t.

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Nothing Lasts Forever

 

April 12, 2014   flower_spring_flowers_purple

I miss the dog – her soft snoring as she slept beside my desk when I worked at the computer, the twitchy “running” dreams of her last days when her legs no longer followed her commands while awake, even the slobbering kisses as I buried my face in her neck or scratched behind her ears, knowing it was her way of saying, I love you, too.

I am relieved she’s no longer in pain from weary joints and wasted muscles. I don’t know that her consciousness survives death any more than I know that mine will, but it does comfort me to think that she has “crossed over the rainbow bridge” and now runs freely, again.

And with that comfort, I’ve put her things away, tucked her safely to sleep in my memory and turned my mind and affections back to Little, the cat, to the arrival of spring (which is quite lovely right now) and to all the chores it portends around the house and garden.

The cat relishes the extra attention, the yard needs it and the garden, of course, won’t survive and thrive without it.

The ornamental pear trees are blooming up and down the street, as are the red buds. The dogwood can’t be far behind.  The cardinals have begun
singing again after their winter silence, while the little black birds have returned to bob for grass seeds across the lawn.

My maples have budded and begun to leaf; the daffodils have come and gone; green grass has begun to cover the leaves and trash that collected in the corners of the yard through the winter. Time to rake the leaves and bag the trash.

The early vegetables, especially the peas, have begun to make their way through the straw covering their garden plot. Yesterday I planted some potatoes and onions and finished potting the seeds for tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons and okra to transplant in May.

Tomorrow and Monday, we’ll have some rain – followed by a cooler day or two – a good time to finish spring cleaning around the house.

If I’m lucky, the rest of next week can be spent catching up around the yard.

We live in a world without guarantees. I am at an age where tomorrow isn’t a sure bet (though I suppose it never is, for any of us). The economy could go through another collapse any time, now. Energy supplies are ever more expensive as we move past peak oil and supplies dwindle. Climate change continues to work its ravages around the world. The Great Powers play their dangerous games in an attempt to continue business as usual just a little longer.

We  can do little to avert the disasters that are ahead of us other than to prepare as best we can. Just as we could do little to avert those we’ve already passed through.

There are about a million “preppers” here in the US; no one knows how many, worldwide. Prepping for disaster is always a good idea – we humans seem to bring them upon ourselves with alarming regularity. But prepping is not a guarantee of survival any more than complexity is a guarantee of progress.

Spring is just nature’s way of telling us that we need to stop and smell the roses along the way.

It’s a time to clean up the mess left by winter, plant our seeds, work with our neighbors and live our lives with every ounce of joy we can wring out of them.

Nothing lasts forever.  Nothing should last forever.  We shake our fists at the universe and yell, “It can’t be so.”  The universe sends us spring to remind us that it is.

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Dancing in a Dark Room

April 5, 2014    1234263_10100863629511674_1909314683_n

On Monday, the veterinarian will come to the house, put the dog to sleep and make arrangements for disposal of her body. The choice, made more difficult by the fact that I didn’t expect to have to make it so soon, has left me feeling as though I’m dancing in a dark room without knowing where all the furniture is – torn between the rapid deterioration in her abilities and the thought, (at increasing risk to my own physical health) there should be one more thing I can try that would help her get around a little longer. If there is, I can’t think of it.

Even the cat seems to sense the changes in the dog’s health. The last two mornings, she has come to touch noses with Indika – something  she’s not done since Indika came to live with us this last time.

My son and I talked over the decision by phone, agreed it was best for both the dog and me and did our crying together. He was glad it will be done here at the house, where I can be with her at the end . My friend, Kathi, hearing that the decision had been made, volunteered to come over on Monday to give me moral support through the process.

So, with the details taken care of, I’m left with only two things to do – make this weekend as stress-free for both of us as is possible and, since this is my blog and I can write what I wish, to write a loving obituary for our dog:

Indika was born in Ozark, Missouri, in 2002. One of a litter of pedigreed boxers, and the only white boxer in the litter, she was adopted by Rob Easley soon after her weaning. Since she would not be bred, she was spayed shortly thereafter.

Her childhood was spent in various apartments in Springfield, Missouri, where she sometimes accompanied my son on camping and canoeing trips or spent frequent evenings with other dogs at my son’s friends’ houses – romping and wrestling until she and the other dogs were exhausted. As you can see from her picture, she was quite the looker in her youth.

In 2003, my son and I bought the house where she spent most of her adulthood. Although she continued occasional visits with friends, she became more of a stay-at-home dog, patrolling the perimeters of our yard while I gardened (even learning to charge the hose for a quick drink as I watered the garden,) visiting with neighbors that stopped at the convenience store next door, challenging strangers she thought might invade her territory, or racing back and forth along the fence with the dog next door.

When my son worked evenings, she spent the time upstairs in my apartment, looking out over the store and parking lot like a queen surveying her domain. When the store closed for a few months, between owners, she seemed genuinely distressed that her subjects no longer came to visit and was just as genuinely delighted when the store opened again under new management and her loyal subjects returned.

Throughout her life, she was a lady of the highest character – loyal, loving, (mostly) obedient and gentle. She loved my son (and, by proxy, me) with her whole heart, tolerated the cats as part of her family and gave us all that she could to the very end. We will miss her with our whole hearts.

She was the very essence of the Good Dog.

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Letting Others Tell our Story for Us

March 29, 2014   black-friday-2012-eugenejpg-f11ff4c9c0db4d4b

Last night, on the PBS News Hour, Jeffrey Brown interviewed Benin-born singer, Angelique Kidjo. During the interview, Ms. Kidjo said, she once asked her mother, “Why we women are blamed for everything,” and her mother said, “Because men have told our story for us.” Kidjo went on to say, “We need to tell our stories, all of us – men, women, everyone all around the world.”

Our stories define us. Well told, they anchor us – not only in the who, what, where, how and when of our lives, but in the why of our lives. Poorly told, they leave us adrift, to be captured by those who would tell our story for us.

Our stories have power. Well told, they make us unique in their individuality and, yet, one with each other in their commonality. Poorly told, they leave us at the mercy of those who would take that power for themselves by remaking us in their image of who we should be and isolating us –from ourselves and from one another.

We are adrift in a flood of competing story snatchers – corporations, governments, media, religions, even family and friends; some well meaning, some malevolent – willing to offer us a better version of our stories than the one we are living if only we will buy this, vote for that, swallow this, believe that, do this, love/hate that.

So how, in this cacophonous competition of voices, do we find our voice, our story to tell? And why bother? Maybe their story of me really is better than mine.

I guess that’s the first decision you have to make if you want to tell your story. Just remember that the power of your story goes to the person whose version of your story you’re telling – whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a corporation, a government or a religion.

None of us, of course, have a story that is solely our own. Although we are the main character in our own story, it would be a pretty boring story if we were the only character. We’re born into or become part of a family, make and lose friends, buy products, participate in political activities, choose moral or spiritual values. Our lives intersect with others by choice and by chance. We get involved with, pull away from, get mushed and smushed by or mush and smush others in a thousand different ways throughout our lives. We make choices, good and bad, that affect our own stories and those of others, just as their choices affect ours. The power of your story is not in the perfection of its main character, but in the honesty with which you deal with your own imperfections and those of the people you encounter.

The danger of letting someone else tell your story, of losing that power, is that you are at the mercy of whatever story they tell.  A good consumer must have the product du jour; a good citizen, hate the enemy du jour; a good Christian/Muslim/Atheist adhere to the belief du jour;  a good woman/man, be the spouse or friend or family member du jour until you can’t anymore. And when you can no longer live their story, you realize you no longer have a story worth telling.

Hopefully, this is where most of us find ourselves at some time in our lives – until we finally take the time and do the difficult work of digging out our own, real and unique story.

That’s the story worth telling. That’s the story that anchors us, the one that makes us both an individual and connects us to each other and the world we share. That’s the story we must live to deal with the problems we are facing as a species.

That’s the story no one else can tell for us.

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The Old Woman, The Disabled Dog and the Passive-Aggressive Cat

March 22, 2014  U.S. Geological Survey - Public domain image

Over the last year since the dog and cat came to live with me, we have developed an odd, but serviceable working relationship. They grew up together and were even friends; now, both are old and wary – the friendship tattered by their individual needs. The dog, crippled by hip dysplasia, lumbers around the house in a tottering gait or, for short distances, drags herself along by her front legs. The cat, though a year older, is still relatively lithe and limber. I am old, but neither (quite) so lumbering and disabled as the dog, nor as lithe and limber as the cat.

Early in the year that they have lived here with me, the dog, who is a large Boxer, made the mistake of lumbering into the cat and nearly squashing her. In retaliation, the cat hissed and spit and delivered a pretty good scratch to the dog’s nose. Since that time, they have developed a rather fragile dance of detente in which they avoid each other when they can. When they cannot, the dog raises up on her front legs and looks as big and bad as she can – to remind the cat, I suppose, that she survives only at the mercy of the dog. The cat hisses and rushes past the dog as fast as she can then, knowing she is faster and more lithe, sits down behind the dog – just out of reach – and grooms herself until the dog, deciding she is not a current threat, relaxes and goes back to sleep.

If that were the end of it, I would not be telling this tale, but as the dog has declined in her ability to get around, I have had to give her a good deal more attention than I do the cat. This doesn’t sit well with the cat, as she was my only charge for the few months before the dog came back.

The route from my living room to the back door is a narrow, carpeted hallway about thirty feet long. Since I have to accompany the dog to the back door (and since neither the dog nor I are exactly light on our feet,) the cat has taken to sprawling across the hallway in such a manner as to assure neither the dog nor I can get through without my stopping to shoo her out of the way. If this tactic is thwarted, she will wait until I prop open the back door for the dog, then sprint out ahead of her, lie down on the top step and roll around with joy until I pick her up and close her in the bathroom while the dog gets out the door.

The cat has also appropriated the dog’s water bowl. She ignores her own bowl of fresh water, to drink from the dog’s bowl and then lies down in front of it as if daring the dog to challenge her.

The dog, not above a little passive aggression of her own, will whine until I look up and realize the cat is misbehaving and get up to shoo her away.

And if I don’t attend to either of their needs in a timely enough fashion, they poop on my floor.

Nor am I above manipulating the situation. I lavish the cat with extra attention when she’s behaving appropriately (or at least not behaving like a cat) and encourage the dog to just go get her water. If the cat waits until the dog is out the back door, rather than charging ahead, I let her go out, too. I ignore their complaints against one another when I can, in order to steal more time for myself. And thus, I get my own needs met and kid myself that I am the master of my domain.

The truth is, we are all three old and set in our ways. We need what we need, want what we want and are not above manipulating the others to get it, though none of us gets our way all the time. And therein lays the danger of this delicate dance. We are all three old enough, unsteady enough and dependent on one another enough that one misstep could send us all crashing on top of each other in an orgy of broken bones or worse, with no one left to claim winner’s rights.

And, if this sad tale has reminded you of certain ongoing events between the Empire, the EU and the Russians in the news over the last few months, I will leave it to you, dear reader, to figure out who is the old woman, who is the disabled dog and who is the passive aggressive cat – because they are all old enough, fragile enough and dependent on each other enough that if they make that one misstep, we will all go crashing on top of one another and there will be no one left in the aftermath to claim winner’s rights from among those broken bones, either.

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Time to Get Busy, Doomers

March 15, 2014  from freepic.com

From what I’ve read in the news, this week, it looks like we may go to war with Russia next week. Not a shooting war, (not yet, anyway,) but an economic war that in some ways is just as stupid and dangerous. Yes, Putin “invaded” Crimea, undoubtedly, in response to our meddling in the Ukraine. (For a fairly coherent timeline of our meddling, I’d recommend reading http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/05/chronology-of-the-ukrainian-coup/) We’d done similar things in other former USSR nations and, in the decade since the breakup of the USSR, we and the EU have expanded NATO, offering membership to 10 former USSR nations, right up to the western border of Russia, (complete with missile batteries in two of those countries) despite our assurances to Gorbachev that NATO had no intentions toward eastward expansion. In addition, Russia has the right to station its Black Sea Navy at Sevastopol, in the Crimea,  its only warm water naval base, until 2042 under an agreement with the Ukraine that goes back to the 1950s.

It’s not that I think Russia is an innocent in all of this. But, when you constantly poke an angry bear, don’t be surprised when the bear bites back.

Tomorrow, the people of Crimea, a majority of whom are Russian, vote on whether to break away from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Most sources I’ve read expect them to vote to do just that. The US and EU have already declared the referendum illegitimate and will refuse to honor it. We have threatened economic sanctions against Russia if their government endorses the results, (which they have said they will,) beginning on Monday.

Russia, of course, has its own economic measures it can take against the EU and the US. In fact, some “foreigners” dumped over $100 billion in treasuries last week. Whether it was Russia or not, we don’t know. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-14/it-begins-past-week-foreigners-sell-record-amount-over-100-billion-treasurys-held-fe?utm_content=bufferc53fd&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

And I expect that, if an economic war ensues, other nations will take sides. The global economies are still weak, including our own – despite what we are constantly told to the contrary. If it goes on long enough, poor people everywhere will get creamed. And I’d suppose a fair number of rich and not so poor will get creamed, too – eventually. This can’t be a good thing.  And the longer it goes on, the better the chance that some fool will turn it into a shooting war, which I can’t see anyone winning.

So, being one of the poor people, I got out and planted my early veggies last week and covered them with some straw, knowing we still had some below freezing nights ahead. I purified and put away some more bottled water and tucked some more canned goods into the cabinets – just in case this thing goes to  that shooting war.

I know some of you are still eyeball deep in snow, right now. But I suggest you do what preps you can. Even if things calm down and nothing worse than a few hurt feelings ensue, tornado season is coming, fire and drought seasons can’t be far behind and hurricane and flood seasons will be here before we know it. Time to get busy, doomers.

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Ukraine and Gardening

March 8, 2014   Ukraine-2014-Photo-by-Mstyslav-Chernov-425x283

Ukraine, 2014   Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

Thank goodness for the blogosphere. Yes, you have to pick your sources wisely, but you can find news there that the corporate owned, mainstream media won’t touch. Such is the case with what is going on in Ukraine. The MSM bull hockey – US/EU good guys standing for democracy and “self determination” (unless you’re Russian Ukrainians in Crimea) against Russian “aggression” is so simperingly silly, it would curl your eyelids to watch it.

There just are no white hats in this situation, not in Russia and certainly not in our imperial government. We have been busy fomenting coups in former member countries of the Soviet Union along the Russian border, pushing them toward the EU and NATO, for a couple of decades now – even establishing a missile base in Poland. Something we almost went to nuclear war over, when the Soviet Union tried it in Cuba back in 1961. So, for those of you who watch or read only what the MSM says, here are some excellent blog posts to get you started:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26079957 (2/7/14)
http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/03/03/the-rape-of-ukraine-phase-two-begins/ (3/3/14)
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/06/ukraine-crisis-great-power-oil-gas-rivals-pipelines (3/6/14)
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-05/behind-kiev-snipers-it-was-somebody-new-coaltion-stunning-new-leak-reveals-truth (don’t miss phone conversation video at the end)

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-06/crimea-parliament-accelerates-crisis-votes-join-russia?utm_content=buffer34873&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/06/looting-ukraine-begun/ (3/6/14)
http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2014/03/john-perkins-to-follow-money-follow.html?utm_content=bufferd624c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer (3/7/14 not specific to Ukraine, but this has been the Empire’s pattern around the world for years, under Democrats and Republicans alike)
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/07/the-ukrainian-pendulum/ (3/7/14)
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/07/crimea-this-time/ (3/7/14)

Well, hopefully, you’ll get the idea. So, on to what I really want to talk about – gardening.

Yesterday, the temperature hit 62. The day was sunny and I went out to the garden, intending to get the early vegetables planted. Despite our being several inches behind (so far, this year) as far as moisture goes, when I raked back the straw on the bed I wanted to plant, the ground was soggy. So, I decided to leave it uncovered a couple of days before planting the seeds.

Today we had light rain and temperatures in the mid fifties. Tomorrow, I’ll check the ground again and plant the seeds either tomorrow or Monday.

Temperatures next week will be mostly in the sixties and maybe even a seventy degree day by mid week, with nights above freezing.

I’m eager to get started. It felt good to be out in the sun, working in the garden yesterday. The potato onions I planted last fall are up. Presumably, the bitter cold weather is over for the year and, if I can give the early vegetables a good start under a light layer of straw, they can withstand a few cold days as we go on into spring.

Over the last week, I’ve had a couple of lettuce and spinach salads from my indoor plantings (using tomato salsa for dressing and color). I’ve grown sprouts, off and on, through the winter just to nibble on as I work around the house. I still have some green beans and cabbage in the freezer from my first indoor planting, corn from last summer and the peppers and tomatoes I bought and froze last month. But nothing tastes as good as those first fresh vegetables from the backyard garden.

In a couple of weeks, beginning with the peppers, I’ll start the seeds for my May transplants. By April, the asparagus should begin to poke up through the soil. And by late April, I should be able to harvest some of the early vegetables.

Having a garden is a good thing, even in the best of times. These are not such times. In addition to the doomer’s trio of climate change, energy decline and economic uncertainty, we now have the situation in the Ukraine. I don’t see either Putin or the American Empire backing down on this. As with the sparks that set off World War I, one hundred years ago, there’s a lot of dry brush in that part of Europe left to burn. With sparks flying from both sides on this issue, prudence would suggest that we ordinary mortals prepare as best we can for a possible conflagration. Gardening is a good start.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-08/warning-shots-fired-osce-mission-crimea-russia-threatens-treaty-force-majeure-over-u?utm_content=bufferbe2e3&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

(Don’t forget to turn your clocks forward tonight.)

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