Orange Monsters*

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“The morning of the Weigh-Off. Carefully lifting a giant pumpkin.” Taken on October 1, 2010 by David Politzer, via Wikimedia Commons. This photo was under the categories: “Giant Pumpkin exhibitions,” “Agriculture in Ohio,” and “Fairs in Ohio.” 

(*No, the title is not a reference to our president.)

I’m going to be crotchety today. Since Halloween is on the horizon I thought I would post about kids and jack o’ lantern carving (with super-cute photos, if you don’t mind seeing kids with knives, which I don’t), but then that seemed too “ordinary” so I thought I’d do a little research on giant pumpkins.

What I discovered is how much the idea of “giant pumpkins” has changed in recent history. It used to be, if a baby could fit inside of a pumpkin, that was one big pumpkin! Now the pumpkins have to be picked up by forklifts to qualify as giants. Now, at pumpkin competitions, the pumpkins lie there like beached whales looking all flat, deflated, and, to me, forlorn. 

I think it’s gone too far.  

Sometimes when I’m at the gym, I see that “My 600-lb. Life” is airing on a few of the dozen TV monitors. (Yesterday, it was “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.” Hmmm. I sense a theme.) When I see “My 600-lb. Life” playing, I feel a little heartsick. Some days (most days?) it seems that our whole society has turned into a freak show. Affliction as entertainment.

Maybe it’s crochety-ness, but I thought of “My 600-lb Life” when I saw these pumpkins–and I can’t help seeing them as another affliction. They make me think of the madness of over-competitiveness and about obsessions, especially obsessions with all that is

BIG.

But mostly, with these pumpkins, I thought, Where does it end?

Last year the largest pumpkin in the world (grown in Germany) was 2,624.6 pounds. Congratulations go to  Mathia Willemijn, the prize-winner, who seems to wear a very satisfied look that says (to me, anyway), “Look at me, I am the KING of pumpkins!” 

I blame Howard Dill, in part. Dill’s famous ‘Atlantic Giant’ seeds are what really got the super-sized pumpkin competitions going. Dill patented his seeds after breaking a world’s record in 1981 for a pumpkin that weighed 493.5 pounds (rather petite by today’s standards). I found it interesting to note in the description of the seeds for sale: “These pumpkins aren’t suitable for much but novelty, though some do attempt to carve them, they make a spectacular and fun addition to any garden (if you have enough space)!”

Aren’t suitable for much. As a gardener, I always think of the water it takes to grow one of these monsters. (Yes, another bah-humbug! Apologies to all of you who love the idea of giant pumpkins.)

As to,”Where does it end?”–more research took me to a Smithsonian article where I learned that the potential for size (for a round pumpkin) is 20,000 lbs. You read that right, twenty thousand pounds. The article also explores one grower’s desire to mess with the DNA to go even bigger.

Now that’s scary!

Here are some, IMHO, ugly giant pumpkins for your contemplation, all found through Wikimedia Commons.

(If you have some thoughts on this issue, I’d love to hear them in the Comments!)

I would name this photo “Gee, Those Porta-Potties Look Small!”  Another by David V. Politzer – “A view of the line-up at the Weigh-Off, pumpkins at an Ohio county fair,” October 2, 2009.

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“Giant Pumpkin,”  by Alex1961, dated October 8, 2004.

“Twin contestants at the Weigh-Off,” October 3, 2009, by David Politzer.

 “Pumpkin Exhibition, Jucker Farmart in Aathal-Seegräben (Switzerland),” October 13, 2002, by Roland zh.

 

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“Giant pumpkin fan and Weigh-Off spectator’, October 2, 2010, by David Politizer.

“A giant pumpkin in the patch, early morning,” David Politzer, October, 2, 2010. (I have to confess, I LOVE this photograph.)

A Twist:
After posting the photos above, I discovered that David Politzer was not a farmer (as I had assumed after finding the first photograph) or simply a man obsessed with giant pumpkins who takes great photographs.

Nope. David V. Politzer is an artist in Houston, Texas, a photographer obsessed (for a while, anyway) with the monsters. I agree with critic Kelly Klaasmeyer, who describes Politizer’s photographs as capturing “views of ‘nature’ that are decidedly unnatural.”

I love it. 

 

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“Documentation of David Politzer’s ‘Heavyweights’, an exhibition of Giant Pumpkin photographs at Houston Center for Photography,” January 12, 2018.

My daughter Lily, who just read this post, thinks I am a party pooper. She also argues that pumpkins-as-monsters is fitting for Halloween!

I guess it depends on your point of view.

I hope you all have a fabulous “Pumpkin Day”/Happy Halloween on the 31st.

— SK

 

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Strawberry Fields Betrayal

The post below is from a local woman I greatly admire. Sue Spengler’s a local middle school teacher who for many years ran her own school. She’s so many things to many people, one of those members of society who adds intellect and heart and sparkle every day of her life. She is also one hell of an activist. This year (and last year) she’s been very involved in trying to save one of our open spaces, a park  right next to the mountains where the people of Colorado Springs can hike, bike, and enjoy Nature.

What she worked to save this land from was a billionaire (x 10.5), by the name of Philip Anschutz, who moved to our city some years ago. He bought the only local daily newspaper, bought a famous 5-star hotel (The Broadmoor), bought several of our biggest tourist attractions, like the Cog Railway that takes a couple of hundred thousand people up to the top of Pikes Peak every year, and Seven Falls (another attraction) . . . and then decided that wasn’t enough. He wanted our public park that happened to be right next to his hotel.

I don’t know how exactly the deal went down. He owned some land that the public was already using on a daily basis for hiking, so his lawyer-minions finagled a “swap”: The land (that we were already using and which would have created a public relations nightmare if he took from the public) in exchange for some pristine parkland that he wanted as place for picnicking and pony-riding for his rich hotel guests.

I don’t know what kind of razzle-dazzle went on to make the people of our city (who are supposed to be in charge of protecting our parks and our properties) make a swap/deal with this billionaire. But once word got out, the taxpayers, the people who have lived in Colorado Springs for many years, even for generations, became furious. How dare they swap our land without a public VOTE? These are our PARKS!!! They belong to us ALL!!! This has been a public park since 1885!

A group got together, and protested publicly, making their voices heard. To no avail. There was nothing to do but gather the money and sue. They did, and they lost (a District judge named Michael McHenry ruled against the people of our city). And so the people appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

This week we got word that the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.

— SK

Now that you’ve heard the backstory, here’s Sue’s “Master Plan”:

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“Panorama at Strawberry Fields” from KRCC.org

 

Well, heck, I finally did it. It took me all day. I’ve been crafting a letter to the editor about the North Cheyenne Canon Master plan in my head for weeks, trying to figure out how to pare it down into something digestible and understandable, when the Plan itself is a 130-page behemoth of a hodgepodge of ideas with no real substance that is basically a “blank check” of plans with nothing specific — it just has a “tool box” of things that they can choose from if/when they’d like, including: paving Gold Camp Road (so shuttle buses can drive on it), closing Mesa Avenue to only Broadmoor shuttle buses, closing down all the pullout parking at the picnic areas along S. Cheyenne Creek and making people walk in from a brand new trailhead/parking lot, and closing S. Cheyenne Canon Rd to all traffic. There ARE some good trail ideas up around Stratton Open Space, and plenty of carrots for our high-level mountain biking community (making the Chutes downhill only, e.g.), but overall, it’s a plan with a premise of: “How can we cram more people IN?” (yes, it includes a “Marketing Plan”… !!), instead of a plan with a premise of: “How can we make our city park great for the people we serve?” Anyway, I finally sat down to write my letter today. But what came out was a poem…

My Master Plan

I sit with my notebook and write at a wobbly,
splintery picnic table, one of many under
this public pavilion.  At least some underpaid
city employee was told to paint them brown.
Through the scrub oaks, I see:  four
old ladies with hiking poles and sun hats,
three hardcore mountain bikers, a snake
of multi-generational hikers, two deer grazing,

a young couple from Palmer Park stringing
up a hammock, an elder couple with binoculars,
a mother and teenage daughter looking for a trash
can in which to place their pooch’s poop.

I scramble up a short social trail to the mesa
above the pavilion, and there it is: a spectacular
view of Strawberry Fields, where King Philip
plots his Broadmooresque stable and bbq party venue.

Up here, I watch a hawk hover, hear a bluebird
call, and discover a decomposing coyote.
Below, in the south canyon, I watch white whales shuttle
up and down, as a blaring ambulance struggles

upstream towards Seven Falls. The trails
on this wild and unnamed mesa below Mt. Cutler
are slated to be closed in the new Master Plan —
a plan meant to deflect from the city’s neglect.

What should a Master Plan have?  What does a City Park need?
Closed public roads? More trailheads and parking lots for tourists?
Private-public partnerships where somebody profits?
Ideas that will never be funded because we can’t even afford to take care of what we’ve got?

Nah.  What we really need is simple and more cost-effective than that:
picnic tables made from those newfangled recycled weather-resistant materials
pullout parking areas that make the creek and its coolth easily accessible to all
trail systems that respect and reflect the needs of the locals who use them
a limited number of cars, but only during peak summer weekends
a regular maintenance crew to keep the picnic areas beautiful
friendly city park rangers to enforce the rules
a budget that reflects our values
trash cans near picnic sites
clean, open restrooms
and above all else…
that playground
you promised
the children
in 2003,
but never
built.

 

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Bee Mine

If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s a bee-youtiful story. ❤

When Fiona Presly found an injured bee in her garden, she took her in and helped her live out her life. The bond that she and “Queen Bee” developed —  so soulful!

Here’s a link to where you can learn more about saving bees.

And here’s another story, from Scotland (where Fiona lives) on her Bee friend.

It’s amazing to me how scientists are “scratching their heads” – can’t they see and feel our interconnectedness, the intelligence in all things, and know we can communicate?

Sigh . . .

— SK

 

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Autumn Days Come Quickly . . . (and an update on my memoir and garden)

 

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Colchico d’autunno” (Autumn crocus), taken on 23 September 2006 in Limana (Valmorel) Italy, by Enrico Blasutto. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.
 —Irish proverb

For weeks, friend and Flora’s Forum contributor Virginia (Ginny) Gambardella and I have been sending emails back and forth about my upcoming memoir, a collection of “Stories about raising kids, crops, and critters in the city” (actual subtitle). For those of you who have forgotten, this is a book that I thought was very close to being ready to be published . . .  in June! (Ha ha ha, she laughs, the frustration showing a little.) The Chicken Chronicles, which is no longer going to be titled The Chicken Chronicles (more on that in an upcoming post), has undergone a round with beta readers, a semi-pro editor, and a professional editor. I’ve also been working on the cover. Now the manuscript is back in my hands for a final rewrite. I’m adding a much needed “origin” story to the beginning of the book, I’m also rewriting the Introduction, and making a few other adjustments.

Creation can sometimes take (so much) longer than we expect! 

Absorbed in this work and other concerns, the connection to my garden has been very different this year. For the first time in over 25 years, I decided to take a break, to “let it go” in a big way. At first, I felt shame and disappointed in myself. I wasn’t doing “what I was supposed to do.”

It took me a while to realize: Who is the creator here, anyway?!

Now, several months later, I’ve learned that the things we love the most can become yet another master. This is not how it is supposed to be! Gardening (to me) is not meant to be about control, but about joy, about communion

This disconnecting from the garden, painful at first, taught me valuable lessons, and it’s still teaching me. As I kept my distance, all the beautiful creatures who rely on this space for food and shelter and a place to raise young (a significant amount of pollinators and birds!) were not affected negatively by my decision whatsoever! On the contrary, they have been happier than ever with the wildness and the extra weeds in bloom! I have seen more hummingbirds, more goldfinches, more bees of many species, than I ever have before.

Video: ‘American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Pair Feeding on Sunflowers,’ by Katja Schulz, National Botanic Garden, Washington, DC, USA. 9 July 2010, via Wikimedia Commons

 

THIS is also what gardening is about. Discovery! 

Wow. That’s a long way to getting to the point of this post: Ginny informed me that September 1st is actually the first day of fall! (Not astronomically, but in accordance “to the meteorological definition of seasons, which is based on temperature cycles and the Gregorian calendar.”)

Did you know that?

I thought autumn officially began with the equinox, which this year in the northern hemisphere arrives on September 22nd. Of course, there are some leaves changing colors and falling here in Colorado, and the nights are cooler, but it feels like “late summer.” And, of course it is (I’m just now getting some ripe tomatoes!). And yet . . .  it isn’t.

The fact is, time is relative. Oh, and here’s the informative link Ginny sent me.

We all have our own timetables, for learning and growing. 

And, it’s an in-between time for sure.

Looking forward to the harvest season (and all that “harvest” means!), and wishing you a happy 3rd day of fall. ❤ 

— SK

 

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Monthly Museletter – August 2018

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“Lunar Libration” by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons

Hello everyone!

Karla sent me her wonderful newsletter well over two weeks ago, yet I’ve only now published the bits that I feel connect the best to the Flora’s Forum audience. For this delay, I apologize.

I also had a realization. Instead of going through the whole newsletter and creating an online version once a month . . . why not just parcel out these videos, quotes, book reviews and other interesting tidbits, through the month and post more often?

(Why didn’t I think of this before?)  I think it will be more fun to do a few posts throughout the month, and then I won’t be late, and perhaps you won’t be overwhelmed with too much content at once.

That is what I shall start in September. For now, the last Museletter!

(Today, I’m especially excited to share “The Death Cafe” video, which I found to be both heart-wrenching and beautiful.)

Thank you, Karla, for once again sharing your Wisdome News!
❤ —SK

P. S. If you’re from Colorado Springs and would like Karla’s full newsletter that includes local events, you can write her at karlaann45 @ gmail.com.

Love to you all,

Sandy

* * *

“The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I’ve been blessed with. I choose to be happy.” —Charles Schulz (Peanuts creator)

Designed with the Earth in mind, the gentle washer, Monono (Japanese for “empathy for all”) washes the equivalent of 12 tees with 5 minutes of hand-cranking, uses no electricity, fossil fuels, or dry-cleaning chemicals, and much less water than our washers (only 18 liters).

Two Colorado College students who came to Death Café last winter made this 10 minute documentary film. Everyone’s welcome to join the conversation; FMI contact Susan Coffey goingmywaydeathcare (at) gmail.com.


Also pertinent: THE GREEN BURIAL GUIDEBOOK by Elizabeth Fournier (2018) is in libraries now. It includes information about non-toxic “green embalming fluids” and alkaline hydrolysis, a non-fiery way of cremation that produces earth-friendly cremains.

Sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith of Appalachia Rising sing “Resilient.”

“Realigned and on point,
Power to the peaceful,
prayers to the waters,
Women at the center,
All vessels open to give and receive,
Let’s see this system brought down to its knees.”

You can read more about their music here.

What are “STRANDED ASSETS” & why do they matter? They appear to be a mirage, a Ponzi scheme on the part of big oil/coal/gas companies.

A wiser approach?
“The biggest problem for the climate change fight isn’t technology — it’s human psychology.”

Ecological oyster shell “living shorelines” restore habitat and build up beach edges!

Good News for Colorado! 
Sierra Club got Denver mayor Michael Hancock to commit to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. 

Shea Moisture (established 1912!) is an ethical, fair-trade, family-owned, women-supporting business that will leave you soft, clean, and smelling great!
(I love their Peace Rose soap!)

Another by Charles:
“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” —Charles Schulz

BRILLIANT!
Biologist Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry movement champions the idea that we should take cues from the natural world, because what better teachers exist? This hour presentation, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, is worth listening to — the only thing that would make it more exciting is if we could see the pictures she sees.

A final note from Karla:
“I’m ‘guerilla gardening’ golden raintree seeds in alleys & empty lots in memory of my little sister Elise Marie Clarke. Soon I’ll harvest bee plant seeds to scatter around on my morning walks, then marigolds, cosmos . . . To me, SEEDS are symbols of the ‘unstoppability of Life’.”

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling), via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Until next time . . .

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Wordless Wednesday: Bees

I LOVE this. Every day we should send a word of thanks to our pollinators!

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Trees, Trees, Beautiful Trees

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“Bamboo and Tree Canopy”, October 19, 2015, by Kazuend, via Wikimedia Commons

My friend Karla (who supplies all the great links and quotes for the “Monthly Museletter”) sent me a poem last week that she’s turned into a song. (We were corresponding about how happy the trees were to finally get some much-needed RAIN!)
Karla shared that, “on morning walks I often sing this to honor the Trees.”:
Trees, Trees, Beautiful Trees
Trees, trees, beautiful trees,
They sway and they bend in the bountiful breeze.
In summer they shade and in winter they freeze,
Make new little homes for the birdies and bees,
Make new little homes for the birdies and bees.
The sap goes up and the sap goes down,
The trees turn red, orange, yellow, and brown.
The seeds fall off and stick in the ground–
Make new little beauties when spring rolls around,
Make new little beauties when spring rolls around.
I asked Karla if she’d created the song. She said no, it came from a BC cartoon strip she’d kept from years ago.  “Then,” she said, “my friend Judy Feeney wrote a song called ‘The Ants Dance’ (on her CD of the same title).  Out walking one morning, I realized the tree poem perfectly fit the melody of the ants song!”
Thank you, Karla, for sharing this poem and your story!
—S.K.
(Note: I tried to find a link to Johnny Hart’s BC strip with this verse, but had no luck.)
 
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