The Au Naturel Native American Way To Protect Your Garden From Pests

From The Song of Hiawatha, Chapter 13 (“Blessing the Corn Fields“):

     Once, when all the maize was planted,
Hiawatha, wise and thoughtful,
Spake and said to Minnehaha,
To his wife, the Laughing Water:
“You shall bless to-night the cornfields,
Draw a magic circle round them,
To protect them from destruction,
Blast of mildew, blight of insect,
Wagemin, the thief of cornfields,
Paimosaid, who steals the maize-ear
     “In the night, when all Is silence,’
In the night, when all Is darkness,
When the Spirit of Sleep, Nepahwin,
Shuts the doors of all the wigwams,
So that not an ear can hear you,
So that not an eye can see you,
Rise up from your bed in silence,
Lay aside your garments wholly,
Walk around the fields you planted,
Round the borders of the cornfields,
Covered by your tresses only,
Robed with darkness as a garment.
     “Thus the fields shall be more fruitful,
And the passing of your footsteps
Draw a magic circle round them,
So that neither blight nor mildew,
Neither burrowing worm nor insect,
Shall pass o’er the magic circle;
Not the dragon-fly, Kwo-ne-she,
Nor the spider, Subbekashe,
Nor the grasshopper, Pah-puk-keena;
Nor the mighty caterpillar,
Way-muk-kwana, with the bear-skin,
King of all the caterpillars!”

I’ve encouraged my beautiful wife to try this method, but to no avail. Of course, our gardens don’t have corn since it’s a little dry for corn around here in the late summer time, and she is probably right to be doubtful about native methods since my attempt to use the “three sisters” method of growing corn, beans, and squash together did nothing but leave us with a harvest of more spaghetti squash than we could eat (which, to be honest, is any).

New Hat Day at Nogglestead

Whilst in Traverse City, Michigan, my beautiful wife pointed across the street as we where on the way to our car at the parking meter into which we’d dumped all our available change. Traverse City, Michigan, has a hat store.

Friends, it’s been six years since I replaced my cover with something I bought off of the Internet because most of America lacks a hat store. So although I was quite concerned about the parking meter situation, I agreed to go in to look for something to replace my hat with. It’s starting to pill in spots, especially on the top of the crown. My hats tend to wear out there, where I grab them and where they get set upside down to hold sunglasses or whatnot.

At any rate, although I tend to buy pants from the top of the stack at Walmart and don’t even try things on at the department store, I tend to be fussy in choosing a hat. I have to try on candidates multiple times and look at myself in the mirror with them from various angles.

I mean, I know what I want: Fedora, crushable/packable, C-crown, classic brim (not the little contemporary brim), a thin hat band. This time, I was hoping for a lined hat because I was feeling luxe. Which took us from the hats on hangers to the behind-the-counter selection. I tried on some of the nice hats, but so many of them were made from some very thin felt. Eventually, though, I didn’t find something that suited me quite right, and the concern over the parking meter situation won out, so I left without buying anything even though I was in a hat store, dude.

Still, when I held my current hat against other black fedoras, I learned exactly how much it had faded in near-daily wear for six years. So I immediately ordered the same hat I did previously on the Internet.

It arrived yesterday.

Every new fedora comes with a feather in it. Friends, I might like a liner in my hat, but I’m not so swank as to want a feather in it.

Ah, that’s better.

So I’m inventing reasons to leave the house so I can wear my new hat. Not that anyone would notice because it’s the same as my old hat, but darker and a bit stiffer. But I know.

Also, I don’t want to leave you in suspense with a cliffhanger: We got a ticket, but overstaying your meter in Traverse City is apparently only five dollars, which is not bad considering a city parking lot or garage runs more than that in a bigger city. But I could have tried on even more hats and wasted more of the saleswoman’s time.

Five Things To Do In Michigan If You’re Brian J. (Checklist)

Well, it sure was quiet around here last week. That’s because unlike some people, I don’t have a variety of smart people to step up and keep you occupied while I’m on vacation. As it happens, my family and I travelled to the upper part of the lower penninsula of Michigan.

Here’s what I did in Michigan:

Visit a Walmart.

Did you know, gentle reader, that United Airlines has a little trick it calls “Bulk Out”? Neither did I until last Sunday.

Storms in Chicago led to delays across the board. Our flight to Chicago was a couple hours late, and then our flight from Chicago to Traverse City itself was a couple hours late. So United cancelled the next flight to Traverse City and split the people between our (late) flight and the next. Then, after we were all boarded, the cabin attendant said the plane was overweight and could not take off, so they were looking for a couple volunteers to take a later flight, but she offered no incentive. Then here supervisor stormed aboard, already angry with the passengers since no one volunteered, and threatened to just pull some random bags from the hold to lower the plane’s weight if no one volunteered. But she offered no incentives, and no one volunteered, so United Airlines removed checked baggage–which comes with an extra fee, remember–until the plane was light enough to dance lightly upon the sensitive runways at Traverse City’s airport.

It turns out, my bag was one of the chosen few. And by “few,” I mean “Most of the checked bags were taken off.” I had to file a claim at the counter in Traverse City and wait for them to (maybe) deliver my bag to my resort an hour and a half away.

So we went to Walmart to buy me a complete set of clothing and the toiletries I’d need for the coming days. The closest one to our resort in Boyne Falls was in Petoskey, 20 miles away. So we went late on a Sunday evening and pushed a laden cart through the only (Express) checkout open at that time.

The “Bulk Out” isn’t the only reason we hit a Walmart–as we often stay about a week in a well-appointed room, we also like to stock up on basic groceries and whatnot. So wherever we go, we end up at a Walmart or a Publix or something.

But it did give me an opportunity to remind you that, to United Airlines, you’re just cargo, and they’ve got fine print and procedures for ensuring you know it.

Try to convince the locals to call it the UCLP.

St. Louis residents often refer to the hinterlands as UCLA–the Upper Corner of Lower Arnold (Arnold being a small municipality in the extreme reaches of St. Louis County). I tried without success to introduce Upper Corner of the Lower Penninsula into the local idiom.

Wear Packers apparel in enemy territory.

Apparently, the lower penninsula is full of Lions fans who suffer from some false optimism this year, as in many years. Of course, I did not wear my Packers shirts outside of the resort. Not because I was afraid, mind you. I just tend to wear collared shirts and khakis along with my signature black fedora out.

Buy the latest copy of Ideals.

The book store in Traverse City had the latest issue of Ideals so I bought one.

As you know, I associate the magazine of popular poetry with my youth, but it’s still a going concern. It’s a different publisher in Tennessee, but apparently the target market is still upper Midwest old ladies and middle-aged men trying to recapture something they didn’t actually capture in their youth.

Smell lilacs.

I’ve mentioned before how much I lilacs, and how I’ve tried to grow them wherever I go. Well, spoiler alert to that post from 2012: The lilacs don’t grow so well in southwest Missouri. Or when I try to grow them in southwest Missouri. But when we got to the resort, it was the height of lilac season, and as a matter of fact was during the local lilac festival. So I got a snootful of lilac on the balcony while reading or on the pool deck while reading or in just random places while perambulating. It was very nice.

It was a five day trip if you lop off the travel days. A couple quick one hour flights, and I was back up north where people talk right (although on the east side of Lake Michigan, people don’t talk all the way right like they do in Wisconsin and Minnesota). We visited Mackinac Island, which means I’ve now been on two of the five Great Lakes. We drove down to one of my beautiful wife’s home towns in Michigan (she has many). And we hit the fashionable Front Street in Traverse City. A pleasant trip, and I got some reading done as you’ll see in the coming days.

(See also Things To Do In Wisconsin If You’re Brian J. (Checklist).)

It Makes Me Feel Like I Live In The Country

The neighbor calls me up; she has a message for her son, could I drive down to the back pasture at the Jones place where Warren is raking hay and give it to him?

I did, of course.

Even though I live in the country, I spend a lot of my time in my home office connected to a computer or driving into Springfield and doing things in the (small) city. So I forget where I really am.

I must need to sit on my back deck a couple more nights and watch the luciernagas or the wah-wah-taysee at sunset, when it’s quiet and the wildlife come out. Although clearly I’ve done that, since I learned the word wah-wah-taysee from “The Song of Hiawatha” when I was reading it last night at sunset. Luciernaga I learned some time ago.

Both words mean “firefly.” But the one from Sesame Street is not my favorite firefly song, as you might guess.

What was my point? Probably that I shouldn’t be sitting connected to a computer right now.

“In Game Purchases Are A Waste Of Money,” I Said.

Trying to teach my children about the value of things you buy, I strongly discouraged my child from spending money on something in a game that would help him out. A game that he would probably not be playing in six months.

This, from a man who as a boy spent plenty of money on these:

Probably more than my son wanted to spend on his latest in-game need. Which he could use for however long he plays the game at the level where the purchase would be helpful, which is far longer than the twenty seconds it took me to play each card.

Still, I encourage him to buy personal relics which can trigger memories, unlike soon-to-be-forgotten collections of algorithms on his borrowed video gaming device.

(Earlier musings on video game cards here.)

This Montaigne Is Aging Nicely

I’ve reached an age where decades are a drop in the sink beneath the mirror in which my face suddenly sags. You know, a couple years ago (six being “a couple,” where ten is “a few”), I started a category on this blog called DeRooneyfication, which covers projects I’ve completed after the passage of time. It’s not a very big category, sadly, as so many projects remain incomplete.

But what’s rather striking to me today is the copy of Montaigne’s essays atop my dresser.

You know when I set it there?

I carried that book on one of my trips to Kansas City the beginning of last summer. I read a couple of the essays in the beginning, and then I laid the book aside for later reading.

And a year has passed. I’ve moved the book to dust (infrequently), but it’s been atop my dresser for a full year. It sits there with the rotating cast of carry books that I put in my gym bag when I make my (infrequent) trips to the martial arts school, (weekly, mostly) trips to church where I can read the book over the Sunday School hour, or to various sports practices where I sit in the bleachers while my child or children run around. A book of poems that I take out to read on the deck sometimes at night joins the stack. But the Montaigne? That’s been a year.

I don’t know what it says that books that I pluck from my shelves to read sometime languish on side tables or dressers for years before I pick them back up or, in a fit of cleansing, put them back on the to-read shelves. But a year.

The vertigo of passing time that I get from these realizations might explain why I don’t open my nightstand drawer. Within it, a couple of poetry books I started to read to my children when they were very young, when I would read poetry to them while they played their toddler games, reside. Pablo Neruda and Ogden Nash en media res. I haven’t lived in this house for a decade (yet), but these books might make it a decade in the nightstand before I find them or before an estate sale appraiser looks them over and marks them fifty cents.

So, How’s That Reading Of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Coming, Brian J.?

As I might have mentioned, I’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance off and on for a bit.

How far am I in reading it? Well, I took apart a small engine today and cleaned the carburetor.

So I’m about three-quarters through the book.

Frankly, I’m hopeful that the next chapter covers reassembling the carburetor. Because I’m afraid I’m going to lose parts if I have it disassembled too long.

The Spider Flowers of Nogglestead Are Blooming

A heavy fog laid some dew upon the spider webs stretched between the canes of defunct butterfly bushes around our well head yesterday:

They sort of look like ethereal flowers, ainna?

I was going to look for a photo contest to enter the shot into, but the iPhone camera isn’t that good for that thing. I used to carry a pocket digital camera just for that sort of moment, but I’ve stopped because I didn’t encounter that many moments. Perhaps I should stick it into my pocket again nowadays, especially as I’ve discovered oversized carpenter jeans in the days where I’m not going Grant.

The Edge of 12: A Photographic Study

A mess of hair care equipment and a Transformer.

I remember when I was about that age, a friend told me the story of a kid he knew who (this being before the Internet, you had to trust the stories of a guy who knew this guy who) took all of his toys and put them in a pile on his thirteenth birthday and lit them on fire.

That was taking Paul a little far.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I thought of my G.I. Joe collection at the time and rebelled against the thought. But that time would pass, as will that time for my children. Someday, they might not have toys by their sink. And, if they’re like me, no hair care equipment either.

The Blues Song of the Wisconsin Existentialist

Sometimes, when I try to say:


Nitschke

It comes out sounding more like:


Nietzsche

This actually happened to me on Saturday, when I threw an elbow that was more like a forearm club, and I tried to say, “Just like Nitschke.” But it sounded like the philosopher.

Which was just as well. The white belt was not from Wisconsin, but was familiar with the philosopher. And if you’re in a martial arts school, you’re supposed to spout off on Eastern philosophy, but Existentialism? Truly, I am a black belt, and studied in alternate forms of thought.

Word of the Day: Chautauqua

So I started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance this week, and the narrator keeps mentioning a Chautauqua, which is his lesson he’s trying to impart in a chapter. I kinda meant to look it up, but I didn’t.

The Green County Commonwealth, currently the only paper I subscribe to, has a throwback history article every week, and Wednesday, it talked about circuit Chautauquas in the Springfield area in the early part of the 20th century.

Apparently, a Chautauqua was a summer camp like thing for education, where common people could go listen to lectures and hear great music. Circuit Chautauquas were kinda like traveling carnival versions of the same. They were started by an organization that held the first on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York, and they got the nickname from that.

Man, I hope that’s a question in a forthcoming trivia night since it’s something I learned and will probably retain.

When You Get Your Statistics From Facebook Ads

Apparently written by thirteen-year-olds.

For the record, $100,000 in utility bills, specifically electric bills, would take, what, thirty years if solar reduced my bill to absolutely zero and. Of course, the cost of installation and maintenance of said unproven systems would extend that thirty years by a, what, decade or so? So I think this claim might be a little, erm, speculative.

Oh, and add more onto it for the interest if you go $0 down.

Brian J. Goes To The Comic Shop

Yesterday, I had a couple minutes before my guitar lesson, so I stopped by the comic shop nearby. The Comic Cave has a good selection of comics marked a buck, and I have had some luck in picking up titles recently with actual stories in them. So I rummaged through the dollar boxes for a bit and picked out five books.

I paid cash, and the guy asked me if I needed a bag.

“No,” I said, “I don’t have to hide them from my wife.” I paused. “But I’ll put the Gamora on the bottom.”

It was an amusing little quip, but in the interest of transparency, here is the salacious comic in question:

Not salacious at all.

The guy behind the counter smiled, and my beautiful wife chuckled when I recounted the story. So perhaps I should tag this post as Humor instead of merely Life. Also, perhaps I should create a category for comic books since I’ve started talking about them from time to time over the last year or so.

I know nothing about these new Guardians of the Galaxy aside from what I’ve seen in the movies. I’m used to the old team, mostly because I’m an old man.

Brian J.’s Interior Monologue At The Gym, As Read Dramatically By Professional Actors

Pretty much, it’s this for an hour or so:

I guess I’ll continue getting to old for it until I’m too dead for it.

I don’t know if the exercise will lengthen my life at all, but it will sure make blocs of it more painful.

In another note, I was at my martial arts class, complaining about my creaky hinges (elbows) which might have a slight strain and might prevent me from doing any upper body work for a couple of weeks (returning to upper body work after a couple weeks off is what caused the achy), and I referred to this moment from Lethal Weapon 4:

I’m only…. (distressed arithmetic….carry the one to the decades column….)

I came to exercise and athleticism late in life, and I often feeling like I’m bumping into a ceiling.

But maybe it’s only a drop ceiling, and I can break through it to do some chin ups on the plumbing and girders I expose.

I’m just kidding. I can’t do chin ups.

But I would totally rock the elementary school Presidential Fitness Medal test now.

At least the girl’s test, maybe.

Brian J. Finds The Loophole

We signed up for the Camp Barnabas Run this morning a couple months ago, anticipating that it would be warmer than our last run (The Christmas Run in December, where runtime temperature was 27 degrees). Hey, it’s April, right? It should be a nice day to start the running season off right.

Oh, but no.

Runners brave the cold, snow in Camp Barnabas half-marathon in Springfield:

Runners from around the Ozarks braved temperatures in the 20’s and snow to compete in the Camp Barnabas half-marathon Saturday.

When it started with the freezing rain last night, I decided I’d awaken at 5 am, the time we’d need to be up to get ready, and gauge whether to go or not. So I did, and I looked out the window. There was snow on the ground, and it was still snowing, so I called off our trip into town and went back to bed.

If I had been thinking, though, I would have exploited the loophole in the rules.

Although roller skates and inline skates are prohibited, ice skates are not.

Perhaps I can exploit this loophole next year. Or in any 5K we sign up for in May.

Know Your Lutheran Countersigns

As you might know, gentle reader, I’ve attended a Lutheran church for about five or six years. I’m not a Lutheran, per se–I am half Catholic, being that my father was Catholic (but as my mother was not, the Catholic term for this is bastard), and I was baptised into a Church of Christ (I think–I was rather young).

But I’ve learned the Lutheran countersigns so when I walk amongst them, they don’t know that I’m a stranger. For your benefit, should you ever need to infiltrate a Lutheran church, I present this list of signs and countersigns so you know how to respond when challenged.

Sign: Countersign: Comment
The Lord be with you. And also with you.  
May the Force be with you. And also with you. Lutherans sometimes reply automatically even though this is not the traditional Star Wars response.
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  
He is risen! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah! Especially prominent on Easter.

Join us next time when we discuss the proper identification tokens to present. Hint: At the potluck dinner, the answer is not Lutefisk in Missouri: You should, in fact, bring a dessert to ensure that the proper balance of four desserts for every meal item such, as meat or vegetables, is maintained.

The Story of the Easter Tie

Many people have Christmas ties with snow, snowmen, Santa, or other seasonal imagery on them. Some involve lights and music.

But, friends, I have an Easter tie.

It looks like it’s made from an old bed sheet, and it feels like cotton instead of a more silky tie material. I’ve only worn it a couple of times prior to before making it the official Easter tie, but now it’s an annual tradition.

I bought this tie, what, 26 years ago? I was at the university, and I worked at a grocery store on the northwest side of Milwaukee that required its baggers to wear shirts and ties–along with slacks and nice shoes– every day. Why, when I started, they also required a blue vest with your name tag on it, but a bagger rebellion and the cost of replacing them eventually led that to go by the wayside. So I needed ties when I was nineteen years old.

On Fridays, we could cash our paychecks right there in the store, and a friend and I would hop the 76th street bus (Route 67, which is weird because it was on 76th Street, but I am no mass transit expert) to the local mall (Northridge). Where, too often, we (and by “we,” I mean “I”) would blow a whole week’s pay (around $100 in the days of $3.65 minimum wage).

One day, we were in J.C. Penney’s. My aunt had given me a gift certificate (not a gift card), and I wanted to buy something inexpensive because the store gave refunds in cash in those days. And I was a poor college student prone to blowing his whole paycheck on music and movies and video games, so I always needed extra cash. So I found this tie marked down to $1.98, and I jumped on it.

As I was checking out, I told the cashier I was lucky because it was the last one. He didn’t realize I was joking.

Not to be confused with the Easter Chewbacca.