Friday, April 29, 2016

The Conundrum of Consultants

So today we had a consultant on-site.

We get consultants from time to time.  This one seemed to be a good one:  knew the material, had plenty of experience, spoke the language, had a plan.

The individual in question also went through our current program:  strengths, weaknesses, changes we will need to make.  And therein lies the issue.

After the suggestions, the "you will need to do this", the "this is what my experience indicates", there were nods around the room, agreement.  Senior Management present of course indicated that this was the course that we would need to take, immediately and with all effort.

The frustrating part, of course, is that a great deal of this has been previously suggested.  And ignored.

Suggested by internal employees of course. By us, those charged with trying implement such things a a basis.

What is it about organizations that completely value the same advice if it comes from an external person than an internal person?  Presented with the same facts, the same rationalizations, the same justifications, the one at the task day in and day out is ignored and put down, while outsider - for whom one is paying a considerably larger sum of money - is taken as almost god-like in their advice.

It eludes me, this willingness to pay more for advice and guidance that already exists.  Are companies so lacking in trust in their employees that they must validate those opinions outside?  Or is that employees are only expected to be able to X, while consultants do Y?

I am not completely sure.  But I am reminded of two things:

1)  To treat employees as if their experience is irrelevant and useless is to suggest to them they have no value where they are.

2)  To bring in consultants and see what they do and how they are treated is to suggest to employees that there may be other options.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Weather Watch

So tonight we are sitting under the mother of all weather watches.

The weather today was hot.  And foolishly humid the sort of weather I call "Voodoo Weather" for no other reason than that it feels wrong and mysterious, the sort of weather in which bad things happen. The weather extended into the evening, in which the clouds were a sort of misty color lit by the sunlight in a way that I cannot fully describe and have certainly never before seen.

The wind is whipping along now (around 10 PM) blowing the humid weather through.  The expectation?  "Severe Thunderstorms, possible grapefruit sized hail, damaging winds, tornadoes (not likely for us)".   Add fun with lightening strikes and we have all the making of "fun" around 3 AM, when the first front blows through.

This is not the weather that I grew up with at all.

It is all vaguely concerning of course - the thought of hail being the most exciting (or concerning, take your pick).  Tornadoes are unlikely and, given the rain we have had of late, the chances of a lightning strike starting a fire are pretty minimal. Wind is a concern of course, but most of the big trees (maybe three) would fall away from the house; the fence would be toast (but that is an insurance item).  Hail remains the single largest danger.

I will let you know how the weather goes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Of Dream Jobs and Scut Work

This popped up in my Facebook feed:

It made me think a lot.

On the whole, I am a fan of Mike Rowe, or at least what I have read and seen of him.  He espouses a good work ethic and the value of labor and skills, not just college.

And his quote spoke volumes to me.

I am, I suppose, like Millennials in at least one way:  I want to have a dream job.  The engaging career.  The thing that lifts me out of bed in the morning and drives me to work all day.  The job that pays more than enough and allows for the time to do the other activities that I truly want to do.

Sounds great, does it not?  The operative word in the phrase "dream job", though, is "dream".

The reality is that I, like lots of others in my age cohort, have a career.  Perhaps not the one we had dreamed of.  Perhaps not the one we planned on when we were children ("When I grow up, I want to work in a cubicle farm and sit in front of a computer screen all day" - said no child ever).    But it is a a career.  It pays the bills - it may even leave us a bit to fund what we want to do.

My problem - my own, not anyone else's - is I have allowed myself to believe the idea that there is that dream job out there, that perfect career that I have somehow been denied and forced instead to endure the lesser thrill of necessity.  In the back of my head, that career is out there for me - if I just search a little farther I can find it.

The reality, though, is I am rapidly running out of time - in fact, it may be too late.  As I have written years ago, if I am very fortunate I will be able to finish out my effective working life working in the career field I am in without having to "start over" in a new line of work not of my primary choosing.

The one change I need to make, as I sit here vaguely disappointed with the oncoming train that is Reality, is how I spend my time.  The reality is this:  I spend most of my time desperately trying to not do anything remotely related to work.  The reality is - especially in this global environment - it is necessary that I spend at least part of my time on tending to that part of my career, to continue to make myself at least employable if not promotable.

There is the rub of course - by doing that, I invest more of my precious time not at work in  work instead of in the things I really want to do - in some cases, on the things that in my mistaken belief I think will come to replace the work (maybe, someday, in a retirement pocket money sort of way).

But - and this comes back to Rowe's statement - it is part of the scut work.  And while it may not be magnificent, it at least fills the time in a way that might result in an improvement to my bottom line.  Which indirectly pays for me to do the things I really like to.

It is called growing up - something which almost, constantly, I seem to struggle with in my work.

Time to hang the dreams up with the nightshirt.

Monday, April 25, 2016

All I Needed To Know In Life I Learned From Rabbits

1.  There is never not a good time for love.

2.  When you are out, run like you never intend to be put back in.

3.  Always be grateful for the little gestures like snacks.  Even if they are the same every day.

4.  Sometimes we are meant to be with others.  Sometimes we are not.  Never force the issue.

5.  Always kiss the hand that feeds you.

6.  Remember to groom.  Look your best at all times.

7.  Hopping is a perfectly acceptable means of locomotion.

8.  Always eat enough roughage.  Good dietary health is very important.

9.  Sleep - be sure to get enough of it.

10.  Everybody loves a snuggle bunny.  If you do not have someone that fills this role, be someone that fills this role.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Rain in the morning
sun and heat in the evening:
Rain coat or sun screen?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Of The Small And Silent

Today as I was driving to work in the rain, I got to thinking about all of the great things that I was supposedly going to be and do in my life.

I was, at various times after college, destined (I use the term loosely) to be a performer, a professor, an import/export business owner, a pastor, a real estate broker, an elder/deacon, a writer. When I say “destined”, I mean that this was the thing that was going to be the focus of my life, that would be the vehicle for my success. Big things, public things, visible things. I was to be important and respected, a man of parts in a world that sorely needed one, to set policy and solve problems and be the visible leader of great things and great change.

None of that, as you know, worked out. Every one of those avenues ended up leading to a dead end and the thing that I had chosen after graduate school, the industry that I am currently in, – mostly for desperation of a steady paycheck and benefits - became the one that has essentially been my constant companion for 90% of that time.

This thought wove itself in and out of my head until, at work, a small discovery was made. An error, an oversight -not vastly significant but one that should have been caught by several (including me) but was not.

And all of a sudden I realized my life has become of the small and the silent, of the details that underlie the main focus of activity – critical work, necessary work, but the quiet work of the backstage at the play, of the editor on the author's work, of the lineman that provides power to the coder.

I have resented this role, to be sure. This is the role not of the great, of the mover and shaker, of the significant but rather of the shadowed, the small, the silent. But if I look at all the time past since I graduated from school, every road that lead to a cliff forcing me to retrace my steps, my life keeps coming back to this.

There is a message here for me, I think. And not necessarily a message I have always wanted to hear.

Maybe this is really is my role. Maybe the path to my success or influence, to whatever degree it will exist, is to be based not on being grand and doing the great things but quite the opposite: the filling of small gaps, the completion of the silent tasks, the completion of the minor tasks that make the thing complete even when no-one else realizes that those are the things that made it happen. Maybe it is less about how that success or influence is achieved and a lot more about my ego in the whole matter, the fact that I may be effectively invisible and largely unacknowledged except as part of the grand summation, not as the great individual.

But that is really my problem. The question is, will I let my perceived need for greatness and recognition get in the way of actually doing the sorts of things I was perhaps put here to do?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why My Focus Is Hard To Communicate

Sometimes I forget, in my constant world that seems to always focus on the alarming and the final failures of civilizations, that not everyone focuses on the same thing.

It probably does not surprise you that (for the most part) the individuals I interact with on a daily basis have little idea of what my concerns are about the nature of things - one or two perhaps, but I suspect many have simply departed in the frantic pace of life into other things.  By and large, they are concerned with things in the here and now - entertainment, sports, the goings on at the places where we congregate, occasionally a natural disaster or two.

But the proposed and ultimate goals of my life are, for the most part, invisible.  Why is this?

It is not (I hope) from some sense of lack of concern for those around me.  These are individuals whom, on the whole, I care about.  And certainly not from some misguided attempt (again, I hope) to conceal any knowledge of upcoming events - of which I have none - from them in a sort of evil twisted genius plot.

I suspect that it is mostly because it simply takes too long to explain.  And it too often seems to veer into matters political.  And even if you make it that far, it is even more difficult to explain how that impacts what you are doing.

Think about it:  without being a "tin foil hat" guy, it is hard to make an argument that the world is getting to be a better or more stable place.  That involves no thinking that there is some sort of giant government cabal, simply an admission of the fact that the world is a very complex place that is inter-related in ways that impact us all.  Instability somewhere really does create issues elsewhere and economies of trade and efficiency assume populations that are able to buy and earn money.  The one thing - the only thing - I really learned in Macro Economics is how true fragile the economic system is - not fragile from easy breakage but fragile from the sheer number of factors that can impact it to its detriment.

Without that assumption, the idea that people would consciously seek to pull away from any part of the system seems less of a calling or necessity and more of a personal interest sort of thing:  "I like soccer.  You like building a complete gardening and making things from wood.  I just buy the things of wood.  Why do you waste your time?"

It is difficult in such moments to verbalize the words  "I do it now because I can, before I have to because it is all I can do"  without sounding like a completely ungrounded fool, a wild eyed fanatic looking for the end of the world to come.

But it is not really the end of the world so much as the end of our world, at least the world we know. Always hard to communicate in a surrounding of climate controlled comfort and with coffee and snacks so close at hand (was it the same in June 1914 Austria?  Rome in 409?  Constantinople in 1452?)  So I generally sigh, give a little self depreciating smile, and am thankful for the comments on cheese or whatever else I have made.

It is, in the end, much easier.  And perhaps it is the actual only meaningful way I can communicate such things, not in what I see but in what I do.

An Eternal Purpose I Cannot See

Deep, abiding sadness.

Clicking on the keyboard,
Hit "Enter".
Watch the circle spin, waiting for the next step to complete.
Click over two tabs, see if the document moved on.
Sigh, and start the process over.

E-mail flashes:
"Can you do this?"
"Why did you do that?"
"I need."
"I want."

Endless brake lights,
creeping along a wet road.
Turn the radio on, then turn it off:
Get drawn into an issue you cannot solve
then resolve to turn it off again.

Deep, abiding sadness.

It is not that I question that You are here, Lord,
it is that I question how any of this accomplishes Your will:
how a day spent in the trivia of information
that will be useless in five years,
and sitting in traffic that moves slowly
does anything of eternal meaning.

Deep, abiding,

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Are You Willing To Surrender Everything?"

So I think God spoke to me last Friday driving home from work.

As I have explained before, this sort of event when it happens - and that is rarely - is not the Thunderous Voice From Above or Pillar Of Fire experience.  It is that simple moment where something comes into the mind and soul and one knows - definitively - that God has spoken.

The question was really "Are you willing to surrender everything?"

This is an ongoing discussion I have had within myself for some time, mostly with staying here where we are now.  Not just the usual discussion about schools and churches but rather things about my own personal life and the activities I am in: Highland Athletics for example, or Iai (especially Iai).  The thought has been "I can endure or even should stay in place because these activities make certainly other elements of my life bearable."

But I got a very direct challenge to that concept last week.  And all of a sudden, my intense need to think I should do these things forever is challenged.

Do I need to immediately give all such things up?  I do not think that was the point of the question.  What I do think it involved was my tightly holding such things to myself and perhaps not being open to what God is asking of me.

In response to someone who asked about holding things tightly in their life, Corrie ten Boom replied "...I've learned we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!" (Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity)

Not a bad piece of advice for myself, either.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

An Amicable Dissolution?

Some three years ago or so, I posited (on a now defunct blog) the concept that perhaps it was time for the United States to seriously consider the idea of peaceful dissolution.  Now more than ever, I am convinced that this is an idea worth considering.

The reality is not only that we are a nation deeply divided.  The political atmosphere alone should show that.  The more concerning issue, at least from my position, is that we no longer have much holding us together.

We do not really share much in common at all.  We happen to live together.  There is that.

But in reality, we are really not the same any more.  Much like a married couple that has grown distant over the years, various groups within the country have found interests far more compelling - in some cases, they have verbally said things to other members of the union that they would never say to outsiders.

Were this situation to exist in a relationship or marriage, we would urge our friends and loved ones to leave it before things got out of control.  It happens in a political entity, we simply sigh and say " Well, we are one people."

But we are not any more, not really.  We are sets of groups that define ourselves by our differences, not by our similarities.

A break up need not be angry or disastrous, you understand.  Countries in recent memory have done so peaceably - The Czech Republic and Slovakia, for example, or even the greater separation of Scotland from Great Britain.  These were peaceable enough separations.  Sure, there would be disruption and undoubtedly many people would choose to relocate to a place which more reflected their political and social views - but ultimately would not everyone be happier if this was the case?

I do not have specifics, of course.  No sense in trying to plan for something that has never been done this way before.  What size political entity would choose, for example?  What would we do with the debt we all accumulated as well as the assets to be disposed of?  What do we do about things in which we may still share an interest, such as defense?  All legitimate questions of course - but no different than questions that any married union seeking divorce has to resolve or any dissolving business has to confront.  These are not new problems, this separation after being together - we have at least 40 years worth of experience of doing it on the individual level.  We just need to apply that to the nation-state level.

People may think me crazy of course, or even foolish or dangerous.  But they should ask themselves:  Have you dealt with people that have been in a marriage in which each hated the other?  How did that work?  Were they happy?

And did you wonder why they did not try to make themselves be?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Reflections On Rain And Water

Rain is crashing on the rooftop as I write this (last night).

I have to admit that one of the things I enjoy about New Home is the fact that we are far more likely to get rain throughout the year.  Old Home had a very definitive rainy season:  End of October to the beginning of March or even possibly April.  After that, pretty much dry until the end of October again.

Here things are different.  Rain can come throughout the year - good heavens, one year since our arrival it actually rained sufficiently during the summer that we did not have to water at all (on the other hand, for two summers it did not rain at all and left nothing but beastly heat instead).  Most of the rain is not of the sustained variety (day long storms of gentle rains) but mostly hard spots which can be interspersed with calm sections.

(Rain getting even heavier now)

We have gotten up to 5 inches in a single rainstorm.  Five inches!  Growing up, that was probably 1/6th of the total rainfall that fell during the entire year.

There are downsides, of course.  Erosion can be a serious problem if things are not sodded up.  And the rain in the summer only leads to humidity of the rather gross, nasty variety.  And the rain is not regular every year - some years it is heavy, some years we are in significant drouth.

I could use  a better rain caching system - and by better system, I mean "a system at all".  I have played around with some test versions (plastic garbage cans) but the amount is not such that I could make a longer term go of it without an actual collection vessel (and honestly, this is another reason I am working on reducing water needs in general around the yard - the less I pay to water ornamentals that could die on me and serve no purpose, the more I save).

And all of this, of course, points out the requirement of living somewhere that getting to water is not an incredibly difficult process.  I do not know that I would ever relocate again to somewhere that did not have sufficient rain to supply some level of needs.

All of that said, listening to the rain at night is peaceful.  And certainly makes for a pleasant white noise to go to sleep by.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Vague Plan At The Point Of Inflection

The vaguest outlines of a plan are starting to come together.

The whole thing is quite nebulous, you understand.  In many ways our situation has not substantially changed from the beginning of the year.

But taxes are done - and with taxes done, certain questions and thoughts start to arise.  Such as if I cannot get a deduction for parts of my home loan, why am I paying them?  Or more fundamentally, if I pay a certain amount of my income if I make over a certain amount of money, why am I striving to make more money?

This sort of thing is dangerous, you understand.  Potentially revolutionary in one's own life.

No, we are not at the place that we could take a large hit to our income simply to avoid taxes (although having done my in-laws taxes, the number is much higher than I would have thought).  But it is certainly a thing which can start to be looked at.

A house payment is the largest thing, of course,  If I had that money back a  year alone, let alone what we pay in other debt at the moment, where would we really be?  Add ways to cut down on other parts of life - debt of course, but food and utilities come to mind - and we are talking about a very great change indeed.

We are not there.  We are nowhere near there.  But we are almost at an inflection point, if only we cna see it through.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Sudden Flash Of Understanding

So I have been trying to work on my skills outside of my career.  Call it work, call it "handyman", call it trying in baby steps to start to practice some of what I want to do - I am trying.  It is a bit hard though, as opportunities seem to be few and far between in my real life.
Today, at the Shelter, I was asked to help build some wheeled bases to replace some that were either undersized or simply not fit for purpose.  Initially I was doubtful - after all, it involved power tools and measuring and cutting and putting things together, things that I am not usually comfortable with.  Still, the animals need the help (after all), and that is what we are there for.

So I measured and cut and screwed boards together.  Put casters on the bottom to allow them to roll.  Had a young man helper who I am pretty sure had never seen a power tool in his life, so I got to show him how to measure and cut and screw things together.

Bottom line:  Got two new bottoms completely built and converted two to smaller units.  Cleaned up, put things away, and carried on.

And then suddenly the thought occurred to me:  I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing.  I was using knowledge that I had to accomplish putting something together.  They worked.  Heck, I even got to show someone else how to do it.

I do not know that I could make a living at this and still have a very long way to go.  But it is kind of a nice feeling to realize - even accidentally - you are on the road you intended to be on.

Friday, April 08, 2016

More All I Needed To Learn In Life I Learned From Iaijutsu

1)  All the force in the world without the correct angle of the blade (hasuji) will not make a clean cut.

2) Be ready for change.  A kata can change at any time because Soke changes it.

3)  All things have combative application if only we know how to use them.

4) A defender that can attack is more dangerous than the attacker.

5)  Small things make a great difference.

6)  Form can be as importance as substance.

7)  To truly understand something, teach it.

8)  It easy to train as part of group.  It is hard to train alone.

9)  Faced with a longer weapon, you need not lose.  Simply be quicker and get inside.

10)  It is not enough to be effective.  Be elegant

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Nine Things

So my friend John at Of Brambles and Bears is apparently my older twin sibling that I never met.  We seem to share a lot:  an interest in outdoors and gardening, the owning of allotments, the fact that we fight with depression ("The Black Dog" as John puts it), and that we both labor to stay sane in our current lines of work
We also share another characteristic:  We tend to over commit to what we want to do.

John wrote recently about about his own habit of taking on more than he could do or, as he put it, " take on a project, task, or the like when I already have one thousand and one things on the go. The usual result of this is for me to either not complete said projects, tasks, or ideas or to to finish some off but to a totally, for me, unsatisfactory level which then leads me to berating myself and becoming disillusioned with myself."

Hey, I thought, that sounds familiar.

All of a sudden my despondency makes a certain amount of sense to me.

I have the same pattern year after year:  I set goals in December and January and start making crazy amounts of progress towards them.  I am constantly busy working towards them, perhaps even achieving some of them.  And then suddenly, right around March or April, I lose all steam.  I have interest in completing none of them and precious months slip away while I sort of muddle myself into doing nothing at all.

So it got me to thinking:  what if I have the same problem that John so clearly enunciates, and if so, what can I do about it?

Giving things up is not so hard - after all, it is not giving things up so much as it is simply deferring certain things to another time.  That I can deal with.  The thing I am troubled with is the same thing John mentions, "berating myself and becoming disillusioned with myself."

So if I had to revise the list, what would it look like?

1)  God
2) Family
3)  Work (Sigh, but there it is)
4)  Throwing/Conditioning/Training (Lumped together because they are all involved).
5) Iai
6) Japanese (Need to get more vocabulary now that I have the certificate to match).
7)  Writing
8)  Ichiryo Gusoku (which could encompass gardening, cheese, quail, and some other secondary skills).

And that is without trying more than two minutes to think about things.

Am I okay with this?  If I just kept the eight things there (and gave myself the illusory 9th item for fun) that would certainly more than fill my life - and give me time to do things like read for leisure and not rush to do things.

But I have to, as John said, get past the barrier: that letting some things go for the short term does not mean I have failed in the long term.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

A Quiet Of The Soul

Did you ever have a quiet of the soul?

A quiet, almost like the stillness of pond
with no ripples on it?

A quiet of the full moon in
a field of stars?

A quiet of the hare silently bounding
through the night-swept graa?

A quiet of where thoughts do not stick
to your mind but simply dissolve?

It is an odd thing,
when my head is so usually full of things
to simply feel the quiet:
a soft dark blanket that quietly drowns
all else.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Emotional Distance

Sometimes it surprises me how emotional distance can develop.
To be honest, I am not really even sure how it starts.  Irritation, perhaps, or perhaps even a smoldering anger  just below the surface that makes things difficult to discuss.  Or perhaps things happen less dramatically.  Less shared interests with anyone lead to less shared time and less shared conversations about those things.

And then all of a sudden, you find you are emotionally different.

It happens across all relationships.  It happens with family.  It happens with those who are friends, sometimes even with those that have been friends for long periods of time.  And certainly it happens within the closest of relationships.

It is odd, if you sit and look at it clinically.  At one time you find you were the closest of people:  you spent part of every day together, shared interests and weekends, dreamed dreams and made plans.  This person or persons were an integral part of not just your life, but your everyday existence.  You could simply just not imagine life without them

But then you wake up weeks or months later and suddenly realize you have not spoken or thought of them in a very long time.

I understand that people change and perhaps we underestimate the impact of that upon relationships.  if the relationship does not grow as the people in it grow and almost natural chasm seems to develop.  If conscious effort is not made to bridge that chasm, it drifts farther and farther apart until you almost seem like strangers that never met.

It makes me melancholy, this ending of things.  Perhaps it is simply a part of living.  

But every time it happens, a little of the magic of life seems to disappear.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Heavy Weight For Distance

Making the weight fly,matter breaks gravity's bonds
for a brief instant.

(And I swung a 7" PR out of it as well.  Huzzah!)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Of Asparagus and Onions

The task before us today - in what will hopefully become a better trend of sunny weekends and time - was the planting of Asparagus and Onions.

 Here they are. ready to go.

 Asparagus.  I have been promised six per bag (only got ten total).

This is where the planting occurred.  This was a space I originally had identified for a mandarin orange tree but realized it would perfectly for asparagus (and would keep my garden along the fence available).

 Tools of the trade. I made a go of it with just a pick and hoe (to my surprise, honestly):

 The asparagus roots removed from the bags.  Look like little octopoid aliens, right?

 This point of the program is where you see pictures of me digging one trench and then two, measuring them to make sure that they were at least six inches deep, then laying the asparagus roots flat in the trenches eighteen inches apart and covering them with three inches of dirt. You would see pictures - if I had not deleted them.  Take my word for it that this is what happened.  All have is the final result:

 Red Onions and Yellow Onions:

This is where the use of the essentially composted wood pellets has become a blessing.  I merely pulled my hand through and made a trench and then we planted.  First red:

Then Yellow:
 (Hey Look!  It is me!)

Final look after three rows:

The most surprising thing about this whole effort is it took me a little over an hour to achieve.  I constantly think it is going to take so much longer.  

Here is to hoping I see sprouts soon!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Going Grey In An Urban Setting: The Front of The House

So the short term reality is that for a number of reasons (largely related to my current job field and schooling) we are living, and will probably continue to live for the next 3-5 years, in an urban environment.  It is certainly not ideal in some senses, but in other senses it is rather tolerable.   That said, I have two working philosophies:  one is the concept of Ichiryo Gusoku ; the other is of not standing out in the process of doing it.

So I thought - as more of an exercise to myself as much as to anyone else - to discuss the art of "going grey" in the urban environment.

Some starting facts:  We live essentially within a major urban area (although oddly enough, we are just out side of the city limits and in the county, wedged between another municipality.  We are a family of five.  We purchased our home and are approximately 3 years into the repayment period.  It has a backyard - not a huge one, but it is equipped with some areas that lend themselves to growing crops.  The surrounding neighborhood was built in the mid 1990s.  We are surrounded in the near sense by a large church, a school, some open land, apartments, and some light commercial.

The goal of going grey, of course, is to not stand out.  And this begins with the street facing side of your house.

Our neighborhood is a mix of homeowners and lessors; therefore there are really 3 types of yards:  the very well kept, the not very well kept at all, and the somewhat maintained.  The reality in any neighborhood is this:  the elaborate and well maintained as well as the not very well kept at all stand out like sore thumbs.  The one indicates (more than likely) a homeowner; the not very well indicates (more than likely) a lessor.  And you know exactly where these folks are.

I strive to fall into the third category, the somewhat maintained.  Our front yard is raked and grassed but not fully lush.  Our shrubberies and flowers are not elaborate (a fine stand of lavender out front, though).  The sides of the house are essentially just grassed in with an outdoor location for the trash cans on one side (and little else).

(A side benefit:  maintenance time is low and watering is lowered as well.  And as we live in a drouth prone area, that makes a difference in our pocket book.

I want the house to just blur into the scenery as people walk or drive by.  There should be nothing that really sticks in their mind (not like the uber-trimmed grass or the desert overgrown wasteland, anyway).

We are also fortunate (and by fortunate, I mean by design) that our house is such that the wood materials are not much in evidence.  Trim and under eaves are about all the wood.  Why does this matter?  A little maintenance will go a long way and (contrariwise) the outside will maintain for a long time without issues related to decay - again, making the house simply blend in with those around it.

The Garage:  This is an area where I need to put in more effort.  Our garage is the compilation of three moves over eleven years with not a lot of removal of items going on.  That is one of those things that sticks out whenever it is open - and something we need to correct.  Do I think we will ever reach the point of being able to park both cars inside?  That would be ideal, of course - one less thing to catch the eye as folks go by and make them curious.  Unfortunately I am not sure if that will ever come to pass (its one of those "two car" garages - if the cars both suck their sides in as are parked there) - but it is something worth trying for.

The goal is to simply make the house unremarkable.  Not sticking out in any way from the houses around it and in fact sinking into the background.  An house which, as people walk by and drive by every day, will not cause it to stick into their brain or get a bit more curious about what may or may not be there.  Ideally there will be a lot going on there - but nothing that would cause anyone prima facie to stop and enquire.