Friday, April 24, 2015

Needing A New Challenge

Sometimes you reach the point where you simply need a new challenge.

It occurred to me again today as I sat through the 50+ visit from an outside company at work.  I began to make a tally of all the things that I had done over the time at the job I currently hold.  As I went through the list of activities that I had done over my time here, I realized that I have hit the point that more is not necessarily mean more challenging.

It is time to find a new challenge.

This is a theme of my life, if I honestly sit and think about it.  I am always seeking challenges - for me, it takes the form of trying new things.  I often fail at them of course - my success with cheeses is overall okay and there was the unfortunate Lemon Beer incident - but at least I am always seeking to do something new and different.  The challenge is in the doing, not always in the succeeding - I can always become better at something (and if one does not die until one becomes a Master, I will around for a very long time indeed).

If I were to stay another 10 years where I am the reality is that I would simply do more of the same.  More visits.  More review.  More documents to sign.  But always the same, in the same orbit, around the same issues.  No challenge.

The time soon approaches, I think, that new challenges will have to be discovered.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Pettiness of Minor Tyrants

There is nothing so annoying as a Minor Tyrant.

You know them.  You have worked with them or stood in line with them or have sat next to them.  We all have at one time.  The person who takes great delight in the minor amount of power that they perceive themselves to hold - and exercise on everyone around them.

You shudder when you hear their voice.  You cringe when you see an e-mail with them titled.  You desperately try to master your anger and disgust when another diktat comes down.

Why?  Because of the nature of the exercise of power.

Minor tyrants major in the exercise of pettiness.  It is what they know.  It is their only claim to fame, this small amount of power that wield about as if it were a lightning bolt. Everything, from the greatest to the smallest, must be exercised and viewed through their lens of life and area of responsibility.  If not, they go to great lengths to make one pay, endlessly seeking ways to undercut the authority of others, always probing for the weakness (no matter how small) that will allow them to feel they have claimed the upper hand.

Oddly enough, those in power above them do not always see their destructive ways.  They may see them as idiosyncratic and possibly as loyal people - after all, many Minor Tyrants always try to ensure that they are well thought of by those above them and and are perceived as valuable.  But those in authority do not see - or maybe choose not to see - the seemingly endless cycle of anger and powerlessness they leave in their wake.

How to deal with Minor Tyrants?  A difficult proposition at best.  There are only two ways I know.  The first is simply to master one's emotions and tongue when one is in their presence or range of power, always seeking to be calm and courteous and work with them - and finally around them to accomplish that which must be done.

The second, of course, is simply to be patient.  More often than not, the Petty Tyrant will eventually overreach themselves in their exercise of pettiness.

And while patience is often difficult to master, it is always quite rewarding in the end, especially in such matters.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Garden: You Have To Start Sometime

So yesterday I started my 2015 Spring Garden.

I have been delaying, to be honest.  Two reasons really:  one is that I have a tendency to plan too early (or with my luck, too late - but that is a separate issue entirely).  The second is a challenge that I face with many of the projects that I have going on:  I convince myself that it will be such an onerous task that it will take too much time to do it unless I have a large block of time to invest.

But I have had to deal with the fact (at least for reason two) that large blocks of time simply do not exist and I will have to take the bite size chunks that I have, even if that means I only plant one vegetable a day for two weeks.  So yesterday was my first carving out of time.

Today was grain day.  I have actually come to enjoy grains a great deal:  they are satisfying to grow, can be used in a variety of ways, and add a certain beauty to any garden.  The actual cutting and threshing are no more difficult than  working with most other items in a garden - with a couple of buckets, an electric fan, an aluminum bat, and a drying pan one is ready to go.

Today I planted four kinds of grains:  Alfalfa (for nitrogen), a Gazelle rye, Sonoran Wheat (also fast growing) and Sweet Sorghum.  All of these are an experiment for me in one way or another:  the Alfalfa is to put nitrogen back into soil (and maybe get a little hay for the rabbits - who knows?), the rye and wheat are my attempt to find a grain that will grow in the short spring and early summer we have here (water conservation and potential quick turnover of the real estate is the goal here), and the Sorghum is an experiment in trying to grow an alternative to commercially available sugar (if the stuff actually grows, I will have to quickly develop a method of extracting the syrup - another potential adventure waiting to happen).

I never know if  I plant it right - I am too impatient to make straight rows so I just hand sprinkle (or, as turns out, seed packets work even better!), cover with soil, and water.

We will see how it goes - I always temper my enthusiasm with the acceptance that many of the things I plant do not make it and really I am just trying to understand what I can grow at this point.  Still, grain is one of the more forgiving of garden items: give it enough sun and rain and something is sure to grow.

So for better or worse, the gardening season is upon us.  Huzzah!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quail Sprints

So the permanent housing for the quail has not been determined yet, let alone built.  I am trying to balance out the fact that it needs to be easily portable, both for some kind of "quail tractor" as well as the fact that occasionally it might have to move into garage as we can get terribly cold, and yet sturdy enough to survive our local "critter" population.  As a result, they have been in a large cage - or separated a  bit, as the case is now due to 4 males and two females.

Occasionally, like today, I put out on of those low pens one sets up for puppies or rabbits (maybe 3' high) and cover it with a sheet in the garden area.  The quail love to burrow into the dirt and shavings and the top serves as a pretty good block to anyone getting out.  The set-up has worked pretty well.

Until today.

I was out in the front yard cut out little oak seedlings when Nighean Dhonn comes tearing out the front door.  "One of the quail got out Dad, and I think it is between the houses!"  Sure enough, the dog had nosed open the cage (I had failed to attach it with clothes pins like I usually do) and one had slipped out and flew over the fence.

Quail are not great flyers.  Ours can get maybe 7' in the air and go for about 10' - enough to get a quail out of danger but not enough to let them fly away.  But the hops, combined with their sprints, are enough to save their lives.

For a small little bird, quail run quickly.  They are small, so they fit into places that larger birds like chickens cannot - like under bushes or even under fences.  Their lack of size also makes them hard to grab, and learning to corral them as they get ready to fly is an art.

Our quail moved from between the houses to a flight up and almost to the roof next door before coming down back down and then slipping under the neighbor's fence.  The gate was next door and they have always said come in if we needed to get something out of their yard.  We slipped in and found the quail in their garden, hiding between plants.  A couple of quick darts and a grab and the quail was headed back for his pen.

Just in time for Nighean Dhonn to come tell me that a second quail had flown over the fence into the other neighbor's yard.

Got to meet my neighbor finally (I sure this added to my allure - "Hi, I am the guy that practices sword and runs rabbits around in his yard.  My daughter's quail is running in your yard - mind if I hop in and get it?").  The second quail was a bit hard to corral - I have learned that if I can get them under something they are less likely to fly away and, with my neighbor's help, Number two was captured (got to introduce the neighbors to quail) and on his way back to his cage as well.

One of the cardinal rules of weightlifting (one which I consciously break) is that one does not do much cardio (e.g. running) beyond sprints.  Today I got my fill of wind sprints in chasing quail:  back, forth, up, down, short spurts of speed.  For a such a small bird, they are quite the evader.

I shall need to make sure whatever cage design I end up with has no gaps...

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Irritating Moment of Self Honesty

There is nothing more irritating than a sudden piercing moment of self honesty.

Oh, it is certainly a worthwhile thing. Self honesty leads to self awareness and self awareness leads to action.  And that, of course, is a splendid idea.

But it always comes at a price.  And self honesty charges a very high admission fee indeed.

Because to be self honest is to have the willingness to constant assess one's totality - actions, thoughts, emotions, intents - and be willing to call out and accept when one is wrong or misses the mark.  Following on this, one has to have to presence of mind not just to become aware of these facts but to be willing to take action on them - it is not merely enough to know; we need to do.

But these moments of self honesty seldom come at convenient times for us.  In a happy and perfect world they would come when we are relaxed and calm, fluttering into our consciousness like happy little butterflies that softly land on our hands.  Alas, this is seldom the case: instead they more often than not come crashing into our heads like anvils falling from airplanes, catching us unaware as we are in the midst of some crisis or conflict.

I say "irritating" because on one hand that is exactly what I mean:  the moment that such insights come find me seldom grateful for them as I am usually dealing with something else that needs resolution and suddenly realizing where I miss the mark or a personal weakness I had previously not analyzed is hardly what I need at that moment.  And so I am having to train myself to take those moments of self awareness and honesty and embrace them even in the midst of my conflict and chaos, because it is precisely in those moments that I am most in need of the truths that they offer.

Sudden moments of self honesty can be irritating.  The trick is to make sure that the irritation does not keep us from the truth of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


So first of all, a little administrative business:  thank you for your patience while I traveled and I apologize for the short posts.  It is a burdensome for me to travel as I am sure it was to keep reading haikus.

Now on to business:  eggs!

(or rather to start out with, egg).

I got up yesterday morning (after the aforementioned travel) and was rushing around to make sure that all was accomplished prior to leaving for work, including checking in on the mob.  I have a small litter pan in the large quail cage with wood shavings (quail love to give themselves dust baths) and saw what looked like a rather large pile of brown in there.  I thought is was a large pile of bird droppings; I was wrong.  The even better part was that when I got home last night, there were an additional two eggs there as well.

This is fairly exciting.  I had thought that we were not going to get any eggs - after all, we have had the quail since September and nothing.  Turns out (I think) that the two Coturnix quail we have are females - why they started now, perhaps we will never know.

Quail eggs are small - about three of their eggs are the equivalent of a chicken egg - but the size of the egg in relationship to the size of the bird is much more impressive than the size of a chicken egg compared to the chicken - one wonders how those little birds can do it.

We are not going to be setting any egg records, of course - even at two eggs a day for 7 days a week divided by 3 we are getting 4 full chicken eggs or so, which we easily eat in a week.  But the excitement of having something like this happen - good heavens, of having something like this work out once - is very gratifying indeed.  It makes me believe with enough planning and foresight, one could actually approach a higher level of protein generation even within the confines of an urban environment.

Now if I just had an incubator to hatch more quail...