Malcolm X, Black Muslims, MJ, and Myself

This is a true story.

I was once interviewed for a position as a Professor of African-American Lit at the second largest University in Connecticut–I have a big list of publications on black writers . Two-thirds of the interview committee almost passed out when a white farm boy from Alabama walked into the room. One woman, who was a poet, thought it was funny as hell.

So here is my Black Muslim/Black History story. MJ and I were the only white people a big group of Black muslims from Chicago would even speak to, in Champaign, Illinois. We had to walk the walk, and we did.

One of my students in a class called “Intermediate Expository Prose,” –seriously–was the head of the black fraternities. His six room mates were Black muslims, who he said would never talk to a white person. Southern charm and brains can break down any walls.

Here’s some boasting here, but I blew it out of the doors teaching The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I choose as a text for the class. The frat head loved it. When MJ and I walked back to our apartment one day, six Black muslims were there to say hello to us, in the park nearby.

So soul food is our food. Collards are soul food, and our food. Black eyed peas are soul food, and our food. Macs and Cheese? French food brought here by the great James Hemings. Damned if we don’t have a fusion culture here. Salt and Pepper, black and white together, we shall over come together. We shall overcome.

Taters in the Ground, Precious

Taters Planted, now Grow, Little Taters

In true Appalachian fashion, we have gone from temps in the high teens last week, to approaching eighty this week. Time to get those taters in the ground.

Something of a note on climate here, and global warming (anthropogenic climate disturbance), in general. The USDA keeps moving us back and forth among hardiness zones, depending on which way the political winds are blowing. Therefore, I follow the thermometer, instead of the bureaucrats.

With the exception of one night, we have had a zone 9 winter, even though we are up in the mountains. Even that night was marginally zone 8, at 18 degrees F. We haven’t seen Zone 7 weather for 15 or 20 years.

The lowest forecast night time temp for the next week is more than ten degrees above freezing, so these jokers should get a good start. I have one row of sprouted tubers that we grew last year, some had sprouts that were a good foot long.

The other row is sprouted organic potatoes that I bought at our best supermarket. I was going to buy real seed potatoes, but no one here had them yet. WHAT! This is the South, dopesticks.

I buried them all in composted chicken manure. I’m going to try a new fertilizer this year, just because I love the name of it–Moorganite. It’s a combo of composted cow and chicken stuff. Strong to quite strong. That’s 45 garlic plants on the left of the pic. Taters and garlic, anyone?

In Praise of Danner Boots–Made in the US (sort of)

A Rogue’s Gallery

I will have to begin with a somewhat humorous story, about the time I walked two agents of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission into the ground, after I discovered a previously unknown population of wild brook trout. We were ready for a six mile hike, but as this was on the NC-TN state line, the Forest Service had randomly decided to lock off the access road on the top of a really big mountain into the Citico Creek Wilderness trailhead in the National Forest. Now we had to walk about thirteen miles.

The desk jockeys did not look pleased. I had various secret weapons–a one ounce fly rod, and two pairs of Danner USA union made boots. The ones on the left, which have been re-soled multiple times, and the wading boots with carbide spiked soles, on the right, were both there. I knew they were in for a world of hurt.

I caught them their trout, which increased the known wild brook trout territory in TN by more than one percent. Then we had to walk back up the mountain. I busted their butts, but had a reward waiting–a cooler full of really cold beer.

It was like Lazarus returning from the dead. They both snorted down a beer, and congratulated me on my discovery. All I did was go fly fishing, and have a really pleasant walk.

Danner Boot Company is based in Portland, and is famous for its quality. With one exception these are all US made boots. The second pair from the left is MJ’s hiking boots. The ones in the middle are my new Mountain Lights, a replacement for the ones on the far left. The next pair were called Rainer, but made in Italy, apparently by the Fabiano boot company. Fabio himself was not involved.

I accidentally started the best gripe session I have ever heard. I went to the outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake, wearing my Danner Boots, of course, and the Danner booth was almost all women. Union women rock. They saw my boots, and said, right, on.

Here was my mistake: I asked them if I could get some women’s Danner wading boots for MJ. I laughed for ten minutes as they launched into the finest tirade I have ever heard, about how all their workers were women who fly fished, and male management refused to let them make women’s wading boots. It was epic.

Danner is now making wading boots for the Patagonia company! Still no women’s shoes, but they are making much smaller sizes. Go figure on that one as well.

111 Year Old South Carolina Woman Reveals the Secret to Living Past 110–Eat, Drink, and be Merry

Maria Aulenbacher is my new hero. She received her Covid vaccine, and while drinking a giant glass of red red wine, gave up her secret to long life to CNN, during an interview. It fits in perfectly with my lifestyle.

The secret? Drink lots of wine and beer, and eat the best food you can. That’s been my philosophy for years. I can hardly think of a better.

By the way, she also has a great German name. And get your shots, please. If a 111 year old will do it, so should everyone else.

Hardy Cyclamen

Goodbye, Winter

Temps in the sixties for most of next week, but the hardy Cyclamen are like Honey Badgers–they just don’t care. This has been blooming for the entire month of February, and it is the species coum. It is not as vigorous as the next one, which is in the process of spreading over our entire five acres.

Cyclamen hederifolium

That is one or two twenty year old tubers, and if you look closely enough, there are tiny seedlings all in amongst the leaves. It is fall blooming, and usually pink, though there are white varieties. It has spread up some concrete stairs, and across a concrete patio. Ants are suspected agents of the dissemination.

White Cloud

This is a fancy variety known as “White Cloud,” which is white flowered, and was developed in the UK, the country of “gardeners and shop keepers,” as Napoleon said. Too bad they kicked his butt.

Vols

Volunteer seedlings will come up anywhere, including in cracks of rocks. The white cloud seedlings will have some crazy leaf shapes. Go figure.

A gardening “expert” on the interwebs said these things could not stand hot summers. BWAHAHAHAHA. These species come from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. I hear it gets kinda hot there, as well as here. We just happen to be at almost the same latitude as Tripoli, Libya, and Beirut, Lebanon. Geography is a terrible thing to waste.

Snow!

Snow Birds

We hardly ever get snow, or temps in the teens, and today we have–BOTH. I saw this coming, so yesterday I bought 110 pounds of bird food. Half was for the wild birds, and half for the chicks. Birds don’t even care about how cold it is, except for how hungry it makes them.

Today we have been invaded by the biggest flocks of finches and sparrows that we have ever seen. Our three feeders, two tube feeders with squirrel guards, and a wooden feeder that I repaired after it was squashed by a tree during a tornado, will have to be refilled a couple of times.

We have, in addition to the resident cardinals, flocks of gold finches and purple finches. They can seriously knock down some sunflower seed. The chipping sparrow flock is probably the lergest of all, and they prefer smaller seeds. Good thing I bought both.

The living part of the chicken coop is completely frozen shut, and it will take a lever of some kind to get it open. We did get them out into the pen, but it will be screwdriver time to get the small coop doors open.

It’s still snowing, and it is a regular Hitchcock film just outside my window.

The Birds!

Four layers of Patagonia expedition weight fleece kept me quite warm, however, when I went to gather eggs. Having been in the outdoor industry has its perks.

Feeding the Asparagus

Feed the Veg

MJ thinks my cardboard mulch is tacky, but after I read a “gardening expert” on the interwebs who said that cardboard is impermeable to water, which is hilariously stupid, I had to try it. It killed all the weeds around our Asparagus bed.

So I planted my thirty new Asparagus crowns, and decided to give the whole bed a banquet of Chicken manure–composted, of course. You have to feed the veg if you want the veg to feed you.

The next layer was composted crushed egg shells–aka, calcium. The chickens just keep on giving.

Last of all was something that I actually had to purchase–pelletized lime. The good news is that it goes for about ten cents a pound.

Spargelzeit (Asparagus time) cannot get here fast enough.

A Stropping Lad

No Pun Left Behind

Here we have two strops, one retail and one home made. The older I get, the more of a stropping lad I become.

The strop for carving tools on the left is still available from the excellent Flexcut tool company. It also comes with some super fancy stropping compound, and will eliminate the need for sharpening with a micro-abrasive, if used regularly. The back side has a flat surface covered in cork, and a wide curved groove to sharpen the backs of gouges. All around groovy!

The old school large strop is home made from scrap leather and scrap wood, and yes, have a scrap leather pile to go along with my scrap lumber pile. I just glued the leather on with Gorilla glue, and clamped it down with two large wooden Jorgenson clamps. The stropping compound is not as fine as the Flexcut compound, but it gets the job done. Great for everything from plane blades to kitchen knives. It results in a scary sharp edge.

Contrary to myth, a sharp edge is much safer than a dull one. And if you do cut yourself, it leaves a neater wound. The two walking staffs in the background were made by our local friendly beavers, who thoughtfully cut them exactly to the right length. The top one appears to be River Birch, and the bottom one with bright green bark is something I have never seen before. It must taste like yuck, because the beaver stopped gnawing on it about one-fourth of the way down. Which makes me wonder–do beavers strop their teeth?

Country Winter in the South

Snowed Under–Not

Today is my birthday, and its (irony alert) a frigid seventy degrees F here. So some landscape shots for you, from our little Appalachian river valley. That’s Garden City Mountain, on the other side of the river.

A River Runs Through It

Our little river can be seen upon close examination. According to popular myth, fishing becomes spectacular when the dogwoods bloom. Go trees!

Appalachian Spring

Crocus in Green Grass. Spring is practically Here.

With apologies to American master Aaron Copland for stealing his title, though I have read that dancer Martha Graham actually named it that, we will have a preview of Spring this week, with four days in the sixties F. My birthday in the middle of the week will be right at seventy degrees F. Time to really start planting.

First project–plant the thirty Asparagus crowns I just got from a seller on fleabay. Strangely enough, these one year crowns are larger than the alleged two year crowns I bought from Amazon last year. Bezos must be jealous of Elon Musk, to send such puny plants. Then the taters go into the ground, precious.

Next is seed starting, and I have plenty to do. Artichokes. which I usually kill by overwatering. and a real United Nations of peppers and tomatoes. I have seeds from several continents, and the total is this: fourteen pepper varieties and eighteen different tomatoes. Thankfully I have enough plastic pots and trays to cover an acre. Being an old farm boy has its advantages.

I’m going to have to make a list of the plants, as I have one seed package of saved seeds which just says “Funky Tomato.” I have to quote the great George Clinton from Pfunk, and my favorite song of his.

Old Uncle Sam, He had a Farm,

CIA-IO

And on the Farm He Grew Some Drugs,

CIA-IO

Then He Sold the Drugs and Bought Some Guns,

CIA-IO

George Clinton

Happy Black History month!