200 WORMS & NEWSPAPER AND FOOD SCRAPS — and — SPEAKING OF JACK-O’-LATERNS…

This was a great weekend, and I’m a couple hundred worms richer.

Some of you may know that a wonderful purveyor of hardware and desert appropriate plants exists on the south side of Highway 62 just inside the Morongo Valley.

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The place is CACTUS MART, home of the famous “Dig your own cactus for just 59 cents” (I still think they should do some subliminal marketing and raise that to 69 cents. Talk to any marketing expert. It would be bound to increase sales).  Not only do they offer the most amazing plants and hardware, they’ve got a nice collection of art from local artists, as well as books with loads of information on desert gardening, the local area, and sustainability.

Yesterday they hosted a workshop given by Kathy, a master gardener from the Morongo Valley. For an affordable $5 she spent two hours with us (about 15 attendees) to talk about composting with worms, otherwise known as vermiculture. For another $20, we could walk away with our own worm bin and about 200 worms! Sign me up!

So now I’ve got a worm colony who will work hard and fast to help turn kitchen scraps, paper, and plant material (think dead flowers from the garden, or from the vase you keep on your kitchen table, or that potted plant that just “didn’t make it”) into rich, organic and aromatic soil. And these aren’t your normal earthworms that come to the surface of your lawn during a heavy rain. These are select RED WRIGGLER WORMS, hard workers of the composting elite.

You can view a video from GardenGirlTV.com that explains what a worm bin is and how to assemble one. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=TLyf823QHbjVsLSZ7cii9Nhv5U098ND7BX&feature=player_detailpage&v=JjjuYNilM60

For now, here’s a picture of what a worm bin looks like and a simple chart that explains the concept:

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No matter where you live, you too can have a worm bin. Kathy told us about one woman who kept one at work under her desk. She would put the scraps of her lunches inside to “feed” the worms.

“Keep it under your desk?” you say. Absolutely. Or in a closet, or laundry room, or garage, or outside under the eaves. The point is the worm bin done right doesn’t smell bad. It doesn’t really smell at all. Genius.

And since it is Halloween season, did I tell you that worms love pumpkins? Apparently they do. Kathy insists. So the first of November is a perfect time to pitch those fading Jack-o’-lanterns into your nearest compost pit or cut it up into pieces and deliver it in style to some worms in a bin. That’s All Saints Day. Be a saint and don’t just pitch your used pumpkin into the trash.

For more information on Cactus Mart, visit their website here: http://cactusmart.net/

For more information on the California State Master Gardener’s program (which I’m seriously considering because even though it’s headquartered at U.C. Davis they have courses throughout California) visit: http://camastergardeners.ucdavis.edu/

For more information on vermiculture and worm bin composting try these great links:

PUTTING WORMS TO WORK AND KEEPING THEM HAPPY at http://www.ucanr.org/sites/scmg/files/29954.pdf

INTRODUCTION TO WORM FARMING at http://www.working-worms.com/

VERMICOMPOSTING WITH RED WRIGGLER WORMS (these are the types of worms that I’m using in my bin): http://www.worm-farming.org/vermiculture/vermiculture-composting/

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AND SPEAKING OF JACK-O’-LANTERNS…

I love my mom for the surprises she often has for me. When I saw her for my October 15th birthday she brought me an unexpected gift. The plastic Jack-o’-lantern that I always trick-or-treated with as a child. This thing is 40 years old and still bright orange, tho’ as you can see, his black mouth has flaked off a bit. She even wrote my name on it to distinguish it from the one my brother Ted used. I bet she’s still got that one too.

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Mom was about re-using way back then and instilled those values in me. Why have a new plastic pumpkin every year, or a plastic bag to collect your candy? Just get ONE plastic Jack-o’-Lantern and hold on to it through life. It’s not going to go away in a landfill – better have it “not go away” and get some repeated use out of it. 

After I grew up Mom used it regularly as decoration every October 31st. Now I’ll be using it in the same way too. This is a great use of quality plastic — the kind that holds up over decades and can be passed down.

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Thank you mom, for the values you taught and still perpetuate today. You really touched my heart with this unexpected gift.

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Finally, what did I find USED but in good condition at a local thrift store? A DVD of SLEEPY HOLLOW, the 1999 film starring two of Hollywood’s most talented actors when it comes to playing creepy: JOHNNY DEPP and CRISTINA RICCI. It’s the perfect thing to be watching this week, and the couple of dollars I spent on it went to a non-profit organization that is helping others in my community. I’m sure I could have found a NEW copy at WALMART in one of those “$5 DVD BINS” but what’s the point? I like directing my money locally AND saving it whenever I can. A DVD for a couple of bucks is a good find. And it will last as long as my childhood Jack-o’-Lantern. So now I’ve got a new Halloween tradition – the annual “screening” of SLEEPY HOLLOW at my place. Creepy!

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NEEDLES AND THE NINETEEN SEVENTIES: GREAT ART and “THAT SMARTS!” ALTERNATIVE HEALING

Yesterday I was in Palm Springs to receive acupuncture. I do it from time to time to restore balance in my body and help recover from chemotherapy. I haven’t experienced anything like it. There’s a pinch at the start (“That smarts!”), followed by 40 minutes of relaxation as needles tend to various energy points in my body. It leaves me feeling renewed and remade. After a session with my acupuncturist Askat, I felt revitalized enough to do some shopping. Feeling revived, I headed over to Revivals, a “thrift” store whose takings benefit the Desert Aids Project.

First the well-being. If you are in the Palm Springs area and need acupuncture, want to explore options in Chinese Herbology, or just lie down for a restorative massage, be sure and check out the Desert Wellness Clinic at http://desertwellnessclinic.com/. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

And next – Revivals. They’ve got everything under the sun, but I was interested specifically in previously owned artwork to adorn the walls of Second Chance Homestead.

I collect artwork that is graphic – mostly posters, prints and lithographs with big, bold type and rich, expressive hues. I always want “text” with my imagery. A recent gem “find” came into my collection for just $10 – a framed poster from a shop in San Francisco circa 1973. 

note: I’m not a professional photographer but I’ve tried my best. Also, my home was pretty dark and I needed to use the flash! I know…I know…

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“Goines Posters: 1968 – 1973,” by David Lance Goines. Designed for a 1973 exhibit in a San Francisco gallery. Reprint featured here (1977) by Portal Publications Ltd. for an exhibit at the Thackrey and Robertson Gallery, also in San Francisco. 20″ by 28″.

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Detail from “Goines Posters: 1968-1973,” by David Lance Goines.

Maybe Revivals had on its shelves some good pieces to go with the Goines poster. After only a few minutes perusing their stock, I found not only companions but two true “soul mates” from the same shining decade.

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“Broadway,” by Hilary Knight for the Triton Gallery, NYC.  1974. Number 3 of 150. 

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Detail of “Broadway,” by Hilary Knight.

I love discovering amazing pieces that were once loved but have fallen onto hard times and found themselves in thrift shop stock. They are like orphans that need to be adopted. And with my recycle/repurpose/renew/re-use Homestead ethos, I LOVE to give a great work a second chance to be displayed and continually admired.

 I also love the fact that I’m able to buy truly amazing and often original artwork at affordable prices, and that the money that leaves my pocket goes to an important cause.

Affordable? How much do you think I spent on “Broadway”? Just five dollars and twenty-five cents, thank you. Money well spent.

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“George Berke,” by Michael P. Smith. 20″ by 27″. 1977. Number 599 of 1000.

The second print,  “George Burke,” depicts a reveler at the 1977 Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. It cost me all of nine dollars.

Total three pieces: Under $25 (twenty four dollars and twenty five cents to be exact).

 Could I have come away with even one cheaply framed mass-produced unoriginal print from Ikea or Walmart or Target to hang on my wall for that small amount of cash?

Even better – I never have to fear someone walking into my place and saying, “I LOVE that print! I have the same one at home!”

 The God of Second Chances. That’s MY curator. 

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Detail of “George Berke” by Michael P. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FURTHER DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

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We have two dumps in the area, which are run by the county and city respectively and both charge fees for dropping junk off at the landfill. In the Morongo Valley (the larger region of the hi-desert that Joshua Tree is a part of) many people avoid paying these fees by just driving a few miles down a dirt road and dumping their unwanted refuse in the middle of the desert.

Take a look at the photo above. Those are roofing tiles that were obviously refuse from some construction site. And whoever didn’t want them thought they would do just fine down a dirt road just a few miles from my place.

I could lament the further decline of western civilization, but instead I go out hunting for trash that needs a second chance with the hope of giving it one at Second Chance Homestead. I’ve been loading these tiles into my truck, taking them home and breaking them into much smaller pieces with a hammer (I can work out a lot of anger with a hammer and both my arms are getting a workout as I take turns pounding). I’m going to use the small pieces which have a lovely color and texture as ground-cover on my property. I’ll post a pic when the project is done.

Further signs of the decline of western civilization: look off in the distance in the photograph. That huge monstrosity of a building? It’s the new Super-Walmart that is opening July 17th.  I expect several local family owned retailers to be put out of business over the next year as Super-Walmart becomes the “vendor of choice” for people who value low-prices and convenience over EVERYTHING else.

Did you know that Walmart workers are attempting to organize and striking at Walmart stores across the country? There is a movement of Walmart workers building. They are asking for three simple things: Full-time hours, benefits, and a minimum salary of $25,000 per year for that full-time work. Walmart is notorious for keeping people’s hours at part-time levels so they don’t have to include benefits in their compensation. And working part-time, many of their workers live below the poverty line. Yes. Seriously. That’s how those prices get so, so low.

If you’d be interested in signing a petition in support of these workers please click on the link that follows and sign a petition to show your support. Representative workers are heading from across the country to Arkansas to deliver the petition to Walmart execs at the annual shareholders meeting this June 7th. Add your voice to their plea at http://action.changewalmart.org/page/s/stand-with-strikers?source=20130530_rfr_em_2Image