A handful of tomatoes, and a little bit of heartache.

Dear Sunaina,

While I planned for this to be an upbeat letter, and it still is in ways, nature has once again demanded depth and contemplation. It’s been a pretty awesome last few days, and now I start settling into a new space on the property while I prepare for the retreatant that will be here for all of April. I’m now sitting in a termite infested one room cabin, tucked away in an old gully, between a ridge created by a lava flow and the avocado orchard. It’s a pretty sweet little spot, actually. The termites add character.

The search for a good truck continues, and it’s taken me off the mountain a number of times in the unsuccessful searching. The garden isn’t suffering without my attention, thankfully, it might even be better off for the lack! All I have had time to do is slight improvements to the automated watering system, getting it to turn on very early in the morning when the roots wake up rather than at night when they are less active, some slug and cabbage moth assassinations, and a little bit of mulching with old grass clippings. The seedlings have sprouted, about 100 of them, but I haven’t yet been able to build the new garden bed that will host them. (Edit: A bed is now built, see last blog.) By the time I get home from runs to town I am wiped out, it takes all day and safely getting up and down Killer Hill takes some concentration. Luckily the Jeep is still running, and the beds will come in time. This week my focus is on preparing for the guests arrival, and then getting the beds done. Only one more town run in the foreseeable future, and that’s just for mail!

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Yesterday, after a quick (4 hr) run to town, as I walked in the door I got a call from a neighbor. They had a beehive in their roof, and had a bee removal specialist there to capture it and seal the roof. I took my time walking there, was a rough day for my body, and when I arrived the beekeeper had just opened up the first part of the roof. I joined him there to talk with him, and then asked if he had another suit and if he wanted some help. He did, so I went and suited up and got to work. We talked shop a good bit, both of us are trained in commercial beekeeping which is totally different than hobby beekeeping, and the conversation flowed well. It was fun, and we did a hell of a job with what nature gave us. The hive was very weak, and severely infested by small hive beetles , but we salvaged enough honeycomb with eggs in it that the bees will work hard to save their colony. We put the mass of bees on the doorstep of a hive box, and clean bees we put in the hive, hopefully the queen was among them. Last I saw, the workers were fanning scent to attract the colony to the new hive box. I wish I had gotten more pictures, but the bees were the priority. It’s great to make local connections through such uncommon interests, small world when it comes to bees.

When I started moving out of the cottage and into the cabin, nothing too interesting was going on until I saw a black shape move under a solar panel. That’s not uncommon really, the black cat favors that spot, but this was different and much bigger than a cat. I slowly approached what looked more like a goat than anything, gently talking to it, and suddenly the face of an old dog pops up to look at me. He wasn’t friendly, or otherwise, he just looked at me with his big brown eyes. I continued speaking to him, but he made no motions of that giving comfort, and my calls both verbal and physical had no impact on him. He was an old wild dog, and he came here to die. I realized this fact quickly, though I still reached out to neighbors to see if anyone knew of someone that had an old black dog, no one did. Animals understand fences, that they are boundaries, and he chose to come to this place to find sanctuary and peace. He won’t be killed by the horses, or deer, or ranchers, or harassed by a mongoose here. I put water near him, and a little bit of food, all of which he consumed, but he’s not here for that, and I will leave nothing else for him. There is no part of my presence that comforts him, but he still settled there as I moved my items and worked around the property. We both kept an eye on each other, curious of one another and neither trusting. As the sun uncovered the shade of the solar panel he nestled into a clump of tall grass, still alert to my presence. I’ve lived with and loved more animals than I can count, a love that in all honesty surpasses my love for most of humans in the world. I know there are people that would think, “you’ve got to catch him and bring him to the vet”, but what would that do? This elderly dog, whose experience is reflected by his white beard and mustache, whose body is riddled with tumors that are likely cancerous, who has no want for human touch or presence, and who would be euthanized after a terrifying car ride, would still be dead in the end, but with far less peace in that process. In reality I shouldn’t have fed him, but my emotional ego got the best of me. Sometimes compassion has an ugly face, and it doesn’t feel good, but it’s still the right thing. In the human world there are people who force life on those that wish to die, ironically incriminating them after they recover…for some insane reason, as if it makes their life better somehow. Who are we to do this? How could it be a crime to end ones own life? For as long as I can remember I’ve supported voluntary euthanasia, because I do believe that one should have the right to end their life for whatever reason they choose. Though it’s against my personal philosophy, ending one’s own life should be recognized as a right. I’ve had terrible battles with depression, but the greatest part of my day is waking up and being a part of this incredible world. Someone else may never feel that joy, or may be so devastated by loss, memories, or disease that they have no relief or peace of any kind. And with those thoughts, how could I force this dog to live? I don’t think I have the right to do that, for my own emotional comfort, and it’s clear that he’s just seeking peace so that he can comfortably perish. In the past I have had old cats that have gone off into nature to die, on their own terms, and when my time comes I will join them in the quest for peace before my end. When his time comes, should he remain here till his end, I will put his body away and it will continue into the earth. This is life, we didn’t ask to be born and though few ask to die, it is destiny.

A much lighter topic, and one more focused on sustainability, earlier I was talking to some people about weeding their gardens. I’m not a fan of weeding, they are rarely truly detrimental to a garden with healthy soil, and they have value in retaining moisture, loosening soil and yet keeping it from eroding, in attracting pollinators and predators, and often they have a symbiotic relationship with the plants we’re intentionally growing, or the soil itself. When we take these “weeds” out of the soil and discard, or even compost them, I feel like it’s robbing the garden. When I do pull “weeds” I generally destroy the root system and then place it all back from where I pulled them. That way, as the plant decays, it releases its nutrients back into the ground, while still shading the ground which helps to retain moisture and also protecting thephoto (3) soil from falling rain that can cause erosion. People have long seen the organized and weedless rows of monoculture crops and gotten from that the improper image of what a healthy garden should look like. Aesthetics are over rated. The key to a healthy garden is in the quality of the soil! Plus, if you let your garden grow you get some nice surprises. A volunteer tomato plant popped up in the garden here, and it was allowed to do its thing…now, a couple months later it’s so big that it broke the trellis, broke a stake holding the trellis, and it is now leaning over an old wheelbarrow. I’ve personally pulled a few pounds of sweet cherry tomatoes off of it, and its showing no signs of stopping production!

Sending much aloha,

Colin

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