Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day Shall Come Again

Winter holds us fast in his grasp.  2011 breathes its last.

2012 is upon us.  A new year, rising from the ashes of the old.  I have little doubt that it will be only a little less apocalyptic than the Maya foretold.  But we shall see.  I make no predictions tonight, other than this:  whatever darkness lies ahead, there will be another dawn.  It may not be sunny to some, but dawn it will be.

I vow to see it. 

"Last of all Hurin stood alone.  Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time that he slew Hurin cried:  'Aure entuluva!  Day shall come again!'  Seventy times he uttered that cry..."  -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Chapter 20:  "Of the Fifth Battle:  Nirnaeth Arnoediad"

Wassail, friends, and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

CANZUSUKI, and Why I Sleep Fine Nowadays

Last week, at one of those Eurozone-y meetings that seem to take place once every 26 hours, British Prime Minister David Cameron kind of told his Continental peers to suck it.  Bless his heart!  Now, the Brits had never adopted the Euro in the first place, but they became part of the trade zone anyway.  Now, with the seemingly imminent breakup of the Euro -- or its morphing into some kind of Franco-German Reichzone -- we see which way the UK leans.  With its usual detached-ness from the Continent becoming more marked by the day, it mirrors the detachment of the US and its other close (read:  English-speaking) allies from the rest of the Real World.  The unofficial nations of CANZUSUKI (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland*) are quickly becoming a bit irrelevant on the world stage, as history unfolds.

It's beginning to look a lot like the 1930's.  Or, at least feel like it.  There is a sense of futility and dread behind all the headlines.  We don't need the media to tell us that there's a shitstorm of global proportions brewing.  (Well, maybe some people do.  They're fucked.)  We're well past the beginning stages of the next Fourth Turning -- that is, the next Crisis.  The last was World War II; the one before that, the Civil War; before that, the American Revolution.  Eighty-year intervals, without fail.  So yeah, it's time.  How's it going to happen?  I believe war with Iran will start it, with either Israel acting unilaterally, or a NATO attack to knock out supposed nuclear sites.  This may have the effect of drawing Russia and China in on the side of Iran, and, well... there you go.  WWIII.  Easy-breezy-Ja-pa-nesy.  Won't that be fun?  I love to hear those of a hawkish bent boast about how we'll be able to mop up the Iranians before you can say knife; it reminds me that they said the same thing before we invaded Iraq, and before we invaded Afghanistan.  Will the country as a whole be able to make that same connection, when Hillary Clinton comes on TV to justify attacking Iran (which has not attacked another country in two or three hundred years, unlike ourselves)?  Yeah, sure.

I'm too old to fight in their wars now, thankfully; and by the time my daughter gets old enough to serve, the Crisis will be over, and whatever's left of the United States will begin a new era under a new paradigm.  You know, that is extremely comforting; and I am also comforted with the knowledge that I have done all I can humanly do to prepare for the changes currently under way.  I sleep more soundly, knowing that it's the fate of my generation -- Gen X, the modern equivalent to the Lost Generation of Hemingway, Tolkien, Patton, Truman, Eisenhower -- to do the hard work of managing our country through Collapse; to keep the Baby Boomers from destroying everything, and to keep the generation after us -- the Millenials, the next "Greatest Generation" -- from destroying the Boomers (though the latter may deserve it, as a whole).  It's what Gen Xers, the underprotected latchkey children of the 1970's and early 1980's, were raised to do, albeit indirectly.  We're survivors.  The events of the larger picture are out of our hands; we just have to make it through to the other side, and shepherd through some of the younger folk along with us.

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.  Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again." -- Robert Jordan

Wassail, friends.

*I included Ireland, though like as not they will go off on their own, as is their wont.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Literally "north-man."  Here, the meaning is more Winter-man.  Sindarin, of course.  Simply Sindarin.  I did not bother to look up the Quenya.

The trees slip deeper into sleep with each passing day.  Some still hang on, mainly the younger ones.  Their green leaves will be frostbitten soon, and they will not forget it.

I slow down as well.  I am done for the year.  No more big projects, aside from getting through this month's madness, to quiet, contemplative January.  I am Foradan, withdrawn as the December sun.

I realized that I have given myself a divorce from my country.  I hardly recognize it any more.  I am more familiar with the natural world:  the ebb and flow of natural energies, natural rhythms, sighing earth, listening trees, seasonal suns, and my own place within the great Ring.  Doctrine, dogma, rhetoric, debate, are all rendered pointless, insignificant, by the whir of a chickadee's wings.

Wassail, friends.  And bon hiver.

Friday, September 30, 2011

No Other Path to Wisdom

(Note:  This comes from Dave over at his Decline of the Empire blog (link provided at right).  I read Dave's stuff on an almost daily basis, and while it is never a waste of time, a recent posting of his regarding the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests was particularly good, and gave me pause.  I have lifted some paragraphs, giving the Red Font to lines I found especially noteworthy. -- Chris)

I am not going to belabor the point that nothing tangible will be accomplished. Eventually these protests will wither away, and our elite-ruled society will not have changed one iota. This is simply obvious, so there's no need to defend this view. Here at DOTE I refer to this kind of thing as Reality. Don't get confused about what is possible and what is not.

Then why do I say, agreeing with Salon's Glenn Greenwald, that personally, I think there's substantial value in these protests? Well, it's a lot like the difference between breathing and not breathing. The Wall Street protesters are alive, whereas most Americans are not. Most Americans I've known or met dwell among the Walking Dead. They sleepwalk through their miserable daily routine, clinging to this illusion or that, watching Fox News or The Daily Show, vaguely hoping tomorrow will be a better day. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Every two years, about half of them vote for Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum. I don't call that living. I call that incarceration. In Thoreau's famous phrase, these people endure lives of quiet desperation.

And what about the "successful" ones who presumably don't have miserable daily routines? The ones who benefit from the status quo? Those in the elite, or those who got prosperous serving them? Watch the money pile grow in the morning, hit the links at two, a dry martini with filet mignon in the clubhouse, and then off for some blow and Dom Perignon on Buffy's boat. Well, these assholes are in jail too, only they don't know it. They, too, are asleep. Deeply asleep.

In fact, the more "successful" a person is in this corrupt, unjust society, the more hopeless they are in my eyes. I do not say this out of some sort of pathetic envy for their social success or riches. I say this from a position of absolute contempt. So, you're a Big Winner in Dante's Inferno (above, left), you're the "hottest" guy in Hell! Congratulations! How many people did you step on to get to that exalted position?

If I'm going to talk with somebody, I'll choose an occupy Wall Street protester every time. Screw these so-called "successful" people, their casual immorality, their tedious conventional thinking, their self-serving or corn-pone opinions. They don't know anything important, and never will. They do not represent an ideal others should shoot for. Wisdom is born out of suffering. Success gets you nowhere. There is no other path to wisdom.

Protesting an absurdly corrupt, unjust society is not the only way of taking life seriously, of acheiving a critical passion for living that goes far beyond merely breathing or achieving conventional success. But it's one way, and a good way too if it's done consciously. I would certainly hope that those occupying Wall Street are not delusional, that they already know (or will soon learn) that such protests are futile as far as getting anything accomplished is concerned. The Empire is in Decline. The relentless March of History is not on their side (or ours).

However, practical results are not the only things that matter in life. Abandoning the stifling status quo makes psychological breakthroughs possible, and might (ultimately) give birth to a sense of humor (albeit dark humor) about the Human Predicament. This engenders some healthy contemplation of the meaning of life itself. Getting outside the box is liberating. I'm talking about aiming toward The Good Life, where you make your own choices and don't take shit from anyone, at least not if you can help it.

(Wassail, friends. -- C.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Surfing through the various contrarian economic news sites, one cannot help but notice the large number of articles with the words "depression" and "recession" plopped here and there like cow patties in a pasture.  Everyone seems to recognize that either (a) the economy is relapsing into a recession (implying that we actually got out of the last one), or (b) that the economy is in a depression (implying that it wasn't in one already).  This kind of talk, to quote the character Maurice Minnifield of Northern Exposure, "makes my butt tired."  What precious few seem to realize -- especially the sociopaths in the Two Towers (Washington and Wall Street), it goes without saying -- is that neither the word "recession" nor the word "depression" can describe what is going on.  Those words were only appropriate for an economic paradigm that no longer exists.  The paradigm has shifted, is shifting, and will continue to shift, despite the ridiculous machinations of Orthanc and Barad-dur. 

Without getting into traditional definitions, both words imply a slump in economic activity -- and the word "slump" implies an upcurve at some point.  But there is no real upcurve on the other side of this:  there is, indeed, no other side.  What we have here -- failure to communicate aside -- is a general, civilization-wide  Leg Down.  Words like "depression" and "recession" limit our abilities to fathom the collapse at hand, effectively throwing up a mental barrier, so that our minds do not have to deal with the infinite darkness (literal and metaphorical*) that said collapse entails. 

I do not think this collapse is going to be a permanent thing, mind you, but I think that the socioeconomic paradigm that replaces the current one will be more recognizable to Laura Ingalls Wilder than it would to an American citizen of my own generation.

Wassail, friends.

*Prof. Em. Guy McPherson speculates "Stone Age by 2012."  I tend to think it will be more akin to the Dark Ages -- specifically, the early Middle Ages, between the fall of the last Roman Emperor in the West (Romulus Augustulus, early fifth century) and the Norman Conquest of England (1066), with some of the technology reminiscent of the early Industrial Revolution.  The political turmoil which will mark the world for the next few generations may give way to a more stable system, mirroring that of the High Middle Ages of the Crusader period.  Shit, now I'm just daydreaming, really...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Worthy of Success

The Fam and I drove over to the Confederate Cemetery located 1 mile south of Quitman, in Clarke County, MS.  I'd been wanting to take some pictures, to help me in finishing a short story which ends at that cemetery.  'Twas a wonderful Sunday morning for a drive.

Wassail, friends.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Whither the Warriors?

Those who know me -- you know who you are -- know that, buried down beneath all the built-up cynicism, the feigning self-deprecation, and the creeping contrarianism, lies a hopeless romantic.  This makes me unsuitable for many things, and suitable for few, but no matter.  Somehow we romantics manage to make our way in the wide world, despite the machinations of smaller men and women, who do not understand us, and as a result, both marvel at and fear us. 

Yet as we live in a world of small men and women, the romantic must needs find a way eke out a living, and maybe even to become comfortable (a dangerous thing for the romantic).  As I enter my third month of unemployment (in the conventional sense), I find that comfort eludes me, the physical needs of life outweighing everything else.  In order to live in this society -- which I mostly dislike -- I must, again, allow myself to become subservient to it.  And so, with the aim of making myself more "presentable" -- that is, only an individual up to a certain point -- I shaved my beard today.

What does this mean?  For many, or most, I suspect, shaving a beard elicits little if any real thought about meanings.  I can grow a full beard in about two weeks.  But cutting off this symbol of masculinity, this symbol of wildness, this symbol of defiance -- a fawning Celt conforming to his Roman conquerors -- I feel should only be done if the man feels the need to express himself thusly.  The cutting of the beard due to societal pressures and mores, well... that not only speaks volumes about that particular society, but about the ability and willingness of the man to stand up to it, to defy it.

I caved.  I cut the beard.  No doubt this will garner much approval from the brainwashed, eager as most of them are to see others conquered like themselves -- misery loves company.  This is not to say that all who shave are craven; many men choose the clean-shaven look because they like it that way, not because of any societal pressures.  I salute them. 

So today my inner barbarian rails, but knows there are other ways to sing the song of defiance, to walk the warrior's path in this wretched, wicked country.

     Nay, look down on the road
     From the ancient abode!
     Betwixt acre and field
     Shineth helm, shineth shield.

     And high over the heath
     Fares the bane in his sheath;
     For the wise men and bold
     Go their ways o'er the wold.

Now the Warrior hath given them heart and fair day,
Unbidden, undriven, they fare to the fray.
By the rock and the river the banners they bear,
And their battle-staves quiver 'neath halbert and spear;
On the hill's brow they gather, and hang o'er the Dale
As the clouds of the Father hang, laden wtih bale.

     Down shineth the sun
     On the war-deed half done;
     All the fore-doomed to die,
     In the pale dust they lie.
     There they leapt, there they fell,
     And their tale shall we tell;
     But we, e'en in the gate
     Of the war-garth we wait,

Till the drift of war-weather shall whistle us on,
And we tread all together the way to be won,
To the dear land, the dwelling for whose sake we came
To do deeds for the telling of song-becrowned fame.
Settle helm on the head then!  Heave sword for the Dale!
Nor be mocked of the dead men for deedless and pale.

                                       William Morris, The Roots of the Mountains

Wassail, friends.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sights of September

I always welcome September.  It is the last month of summer.  Shadows lengthen as the Sun's course shifts.  The first leafy casualties drift earthward.  Cardinal flowers bloom in weedy bogs.  Cattle egrets can be seen winging their way in small groups southward.  Garden annuals -- those that survived the searing August -- settle in for their last months before frost.

It's a month for me to reflect on the year that was, a year usually spent trying to bring to fruition plans made the previous year.  I almost never compete my projects, but this year I have come very close, and may yet wrap things up as I had forseen.

I grew this young brown turkey fig from cuttings made back in April or May.  I'd never tried propagation of figs from cuttings -- my only experience with that method had been with hydrangeas -- but it worked well.  I made four cuttings:  two from woody stems, and two from green stems.  The woody stems took, while the other two died.  I watered it nearly every day, keeping it by the back door so that I could both get to it easily and be reminded of it every time I went outside that way.  It's done well in the mixture of mulch and topsoil I fashioned for it; I added a sprinkling of chicken manure for good measure.  The surviving cuttings have doubled in size since they rooted.  I will not set the plant out until late October or early November, when the last of the hot, dry weather is past. 

The parent fig in the foreground, now going on four years old.  I got it in a two-gallon pot, along with its mate behind it and to the right.  The one behind it made a very small crop this year; the bigger one, none at all.  I suspect it was due to the drought we suffered through in May-July.  The few figs we had took a long time to ripen.  Turkey figs can have both spring and autumn crops; looks like we will not be having an autumn crop this year.  A third, much smaller turkey fig is hidden about 15 feet behind the large one, at the bend in the L-shaped bed. 

Our tomatoes did... poorly this year, with the exception of a lone cherry tomato plant that sprung up all by itself back in March, and has produced several pounds of sweet, flavorful little tomatoes all summer.  The others, which my daughter and I propagated from seed, struggled to survive through this wretched June, and though they have a good, vibrant growth now, there are only about a dozen fruit on them, which will hopefully give us some nice flavorful late-summer tomato sandwiches.  I may skip the seed propagation next year, and just go with a flat bought from Wal-Mart or Lowe's.

Having a strawberry bed has been a goal of mine for many, many years.  There was one at one of the houses we lived in when I was growing up, and while it was a really pitiful, puny affair, the idea of having fresh strawberries growing in my own yard stuck with me.  This is a raised bed, attached to the main garden bed (it had been our vegetable garden area the year before), with a mixed medium of pine straw mulch, topsoil, cow manure, and chicken manure.  The 9 plants did well, producing some sweet fruit, and to my great satisfaction have spread over their square and established other strawberry plants.  Since this was their first year, I expect that much of their energy went into getting established; I hope that next year, if the weather cooperates, we'll see a nice harvest.

What a damned mess.  Two types of pumpkin -- white Luna, and orange Jack-O'Lantern -- yielded three embarrassingly small pumpkins and a host of vines that threatened to overwhelm any living thing within 20' of the garden.  They nearly crushed the cucumber plants to death, grabbed hold of the bell peppers and invaded the tomatoes.  I will never plant pumpkin so close -- no, make that "anywhere near" -- to the vegetable garden again.

After over two years of adjustments, fiddling, and general incompetence, the Citadel is complete. 

The Rammas Echor completely encircles the Pelennor and the Citadel.  Height varies from 5' to 5 1/2' due to the uneven terrain; this has so far prevented any flights out of the enclosure, which had become an issue before it was completed.  As far as I know, no hawks or owls have attempted a landing within, though I expect this to happen at some point, as the Polish are small enough for them to be carried off by a GHO or female RT.  About 85-90% of the wire fence is partially buried at the base, and secured with bricks that are themselves staked into the ground.  This assures that it is nearly predator-proof; our foxes do not seem inclined to even try to dig under it, or to attempt other types of seige warfare.  Perhaps they will resort to flinging chicken heads over the fence, in hopes of drawing out the defenders.

The Gate is a seemingly ramshackle affair, but upon closer inspection it reveals its sturdiness.  An old indoor pet-gate serves as the lower 2/3, which (due to its construction) can easily withstand the paws and claws of any carnivore less than a Gray Wolf, Warg, or Black Bear.  The top 1/3 is simply an extension of the fence, which is secured at its end on a hook from the T-post; I only have to simply draw the wire back when I want to open the Gate.  The top 1/3, when latched, also serves to keep the lower 2/3 in securely in place; a brick at the bottom gives added peace of mind.

I purchased the boards and have extra wire for a "proper" Gate, but until this one proves unserviceable I'm going to hold off.

Most of the T-posts are reinforced with a bamboo stake, which increases the stability of the Rammas, and also helps take out some of the slack of the top half of the fence.  I do not like a saggy fence.

One of our "girls," probably Thelma Lou.  We can tell who is who among our Dominicker hens by the shape of their combs and wattle size.  Helen has the longest comb, while Aunt Bea has the biggest wattles.  Bea is not very sociable, but Helen and Thelma Lou are very sweet birds, and will sit on your knee or shoulder if you get down to their level.  Hand-raising will do that. 

I have two feeding trays set up for their mash.  I had only one until recently, but the bickering and fighting in the mornings (when I feed them) was too much, causing all 18 birds too much stresss.  So I added another tray.  Plus, I think they enjoy getting in it and scratching around, which they could not do with a more conventional feeder.  I got these long plastic trays from my father-in-law; I don't know where he'd gotten them.  I use only Purina Layerna; the other brand offered at the feed store, while cheaper and produced in Mississippi, has too much chaff and dust, and the birds didn't take to it too well.

Until the Fraggles (the Polish Cresteds) were nearly grown, I relied on 1, 3-gallon waterer, plus two small "chick" waterers.  It soon became apparent, especially when it began to get really hot in early June, that more was needed, so I got another 3-gallon waterer.  These are not cheap, by my miserly standards -- they run around $25 at the farm & garden -- but they are easy to clean.  And cleaning they must have, at least once every two days.  They still have to be filled at least once every 2 to 2 1/2 days in the summertime, but that will decrease during the winter months.

We average 1 egg per laying hen per day.  Some days are better than others.  We always thank them when we collect the eggs.  May sound odd; but then, we are an odd folk.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I've had enough normal to bore me till our Sun goes supernova.

Two 5-gallon buckets hold about 47-48 pounds of feed.  I keep the buckets suspended by bungee cords from the rafters, both to discourage pests and to give the birds a little more room to move around at night.  Roosting space is at a premium.

During the heat of the day, when temperatures in and around the coop flirt with 100 degrees, most of the flock moves to the Catacombs beneath the coop, where it is much, much cooler. 

I had initially blocked off the Catacombs with chicken wire, fearing eggs would be laid there in the darkness, and I would not find them or be able to get to them, and sanitation issues (always a concern with poultry) would result.  But the Doms literally beat down the wire to get to the coolness, and there have so far been no problems, so I've decided to allow them this small concession.

Our rooster, Lionel, named after Lionel Luthor, Lex's father on the awesome TV series Smallville.  Lionel is a Barred Rock, and was the "free rare breed and exotic" mystery chick included with the Polish back in April.  Lionel is easily twice as big as the Polish, and stands taller than Juan, our Dominicker rooster, whom I recently murdered.  Unlike Juan, who was a dirty bastard of the worst sort, Lionel is so far shy and retiring and (most importantly) non-confrontational; this is probably due to the fact that, unlike Juan -- who was hand-reared, like our Dom hens (his sisters) -- Lionel has not been held or hand-fed since he was a chick and old enough to get away from me; thus, I suspect, he never lost his instinctive fear of humans.  He is, I must say, an impressive bird, and much better-looking than Juan, who had a crooked tail.  (Note the regular comb on Lionel.  Doms have a "rose" comb.  That, plus the more defined "bars" of his plumage, marks him as a Barred Rock, and not a Dominicker.  They are very similar otherwise.)

Still wondering about the choice of "Lionel" for the rooster's name?

Compost pile, begun in May.  Wish I had started it years ago.  The posts are for wire that will keep stuff from spilling out -- wire that will probably not get installed until stuff actually starts spilling out.

Ouachita thornless blackberry.  We have 5-6 of these.  They are vigorous vines and produce big berries, but the berries are not as prolific or flavorful as wild ones.

Tifblue variety of blueberry.  Of the four types we have here -- the others being rabbiteye, premier, and homebell -- tifblue probably has done the best, with homebell being the worst.  All seem to take a year to get established, putting out most of their growth in the second year.  Our blueberry crops have been tiny, so far.  I hope our eight bushes will be producing lots of berries in 4-5 years.

One of two "muscadine grape" vines I bought last winter from Lowe's.  I think it's more of a grape than what we traditionally call a "muscadine" here in Mississippi.

"True" native muscadine, the biggest one on our property.  This one has taken over a mountain laurel bush, but has not killed it.  The mountain laurel blooms in early spring, before the muscadine leafs out in April.  The vine has not yielded any muscadines yet; I hope next year it will.  I love muscadines.

Jackson pecan, about 4-5 years old.  It only puts on around 3" of new growth per year.  The only mature pecan on our property -- it was really still just an adolescent, honestly -- was smashed by a water oak uprooted during Hurricane Katrina.  This pecan draws some of its nutrients from the decaying root system of a 60-year old hickory that I watched fall down during Katrina.

One of the best investments we made in recent memory:  our Fiskars Momentum Reel Mower.  Back in April, when I realized that I faced another season of misery and expense at the hands of our aged Snapper riding mower, I followed the example of my good friend and co-contrarian, Jeremy Williams, and purchased myself one of these mowers off Amazon.com.  It is similar to the old conventional reel mowers, which are making a comeback, thanks to higher gas prices and growing environmental awareness; but the big differences are the crossbar beneath the reel, which works with the rotating blades to "snip" grass blades instead of gnawing them off, and its four-wheel system, which allows for greater maneuverability and general ease of handling.

Of course, I've gotten a bit of wonder from friends and family members regarding my mower.  After all, around half of our 1.33 acres is grass, so it's a lot to cut by hand.  All I can say is, it ain't for sissies!  But I enjoy no engine noise or fumes, no gas and maintenance costs, and an incredibly intense workout of my arms, shoulders, and legs on a regular basis.  It stores easily, within the confines of our sunroom.  I will never, ever go back to a gas powered mower!  I still use our small electric push mower for the dogs' yard, which is usually chock-full of dog shit that I don't want on my reel mower.  But, other than that:

I cut the front yard about once every 1 1/2 weeks with it.  The far corners of the back yard only get trimmed once a month or so. 

This weekend, we are expecting much rainfall from Tropical Storm General Lee, which will be welcome.

Three weeks to go until Autumn.  I'm looking forward to the cooler months, fall colors, the return of winter birds, and hunting the wild DeSoto with my brother.

Wassail, friends.
Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"