It was meant to be a joke present. “I think it’ll be a great joke on Claude. The little fetish doll with the pin stuck right into his you-know-what.” “Say it, Denise, it’s not the 1950s anymore – stuck into his penis! Do you think a little doll dressed up like Claude will send a message to that rotten cheater? Women, to him, are disposable treats.”

I sat quietly, picking out a melody on the guitar. Unfortunately, the tune was easily recognizable as one of my repertoires’s more “adult” selections. The two women began to laugh. Denise looked over to me and said, ” sing us that chorus, Wes. ” 

Willing to play the bard, I began the song’s chorus:

Take your fingers off it; don’t you dare touch it, 

you know it don’t belong to you.”

 Denise’s friend Claire smiled, “Damn, woman. You need a great big needle for that jerk!”

Claude didn’t care much about his birthday present or the knitting needle stuck in it.

Seed Catalogs

The catalogs started piling up in December, but by a long-standing rule, they stayed by the door until after Christmas. Then they were dropped without ceremony onto a pile of other catalogs until after the middle of January. That date has passed, and now the gardening catalogs are displayed on the table in all their immanent colorful glory.

OK, I’ll admit on the eleventh, I broke down and bought one of those “herb gardens on your kitchen window” kits. I just couldn’t bear it anymore – wait! Let me Italicize that for emphasis I just couldn’t wait any longer!

Things are going to be a bit different this year. I mean it! My hip surgery last August left me evaluating how I use the spatial limits and advantages of the garden and how my physical inabilities butted up against those. So instead of tearing through pages of colorful flowers and veggies, I’ve been looking at elevated planters. I think the days of spending lots of time on my knees may become strictly rationed.

The websites and catalogs are full of goodies promising to make my gardening life easier. But, after an initial viewing, I cut to the chase and went to the many reviews on how these stack up. There are lots of reviews of these products. I am looking at their esthetics, potential longevity, capacity, and pricing. I haven’t made any firm commitments.

For many years I was an advocate of grow bags. They are cheap, economical on water ( rather than watering the whole bed, you just water the bag), and very friendly to be placed in useable but odd locations around the garden. However, their principal problem is that they are ugly and don’t age well. Also, I still have to stoop to weed them. I want to limit stooping and kneeling. Some of the grow bags will go into the further reaches of the garden. Those in poor condition will be repurposed. They are made from heavy-duty landscape cloth, so cutting them up and using them as landscape barriers is a good repurposing.

January tends to be my month for planning and exploring new options in both the shop and the garden. It’s a strategy I’ve found helps me get through the worst of this part of the winter. In February, I’ll start more plants inside, ordering and assembling what I need for spring, and get busy making maple syrup.

If you have the winter blahs, having a plan is essential.

Cold, Slow, and Rotten

January doesn’t last forever; it sometimes just feels that way. But, just so you know, the “normal” New England January is like its comrade in arms, February, a severe period of cold, storm, and darkness. Except, as we all know, that seems to be changing. The end of December was warm, and instead of having a day or two of an affable January thaw, we seem to be having an extended Winter thaw.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that January is not my favorite month. So you might think this extended period of above-freezing weather would make me rejoice. Nope.

I’ve lived in New England for most of my adult life, and if it’s one thing I’ve learned, trusting our climate is an invitation to be sucker punched. It’s not like I’m lacking gratitude for the warmth, so much that I worry that this climatic shilly-shally will result in huge snow drifts in late February, March, and April.

Looking at the seven-day forecast on January fourteenth was like looking at the perfect weather for tapping my maple trees for sap, which made me pause. The season has been erratic for several years, and I’ve tapped as early as January twenty-seventh. But I wonder if the premature tapping of the trees hurt them.

A slow, cold, rotten January is not a nice thing. But it’s what we are used to having. I hate to say it about January, but am I beginning to miss how it used to be?


We were good over Christmas. As a family, we kept the vow to reduce wrapping paper, buy less, and consume less. As a result, trash day at our home had the average volume, or maybe less—no highest volume of the year due to cardboard, plastic, and wrapping paper. As we all know corporations are involved in diabolical plots to choke the planet with clamshell plastic packaging.

My wife, however, insisted that I did not have enough tools in the eight-by-ten greenhouse/shop, which has been past its limit on devices for a few years. I noted that most of the stuff from Lee-Valley seemed to come in cardboard that went right into the recycle. Somebody in Ottawa must be listening to our requests for recyclable packaging.

January is a time for tool companies to send flyers, catalogs, and junk emails. Having behaved for the holidays, they now seek a reversal of my vows to be good and get me to spend on more tools and clamshell packaging. I have a strategy to fight this; all tool company catalogs and flyers are automatically put into recycling. I don’t even look at the covers. Likewise, all emails from tool vendors have been flagged as junk and consigned to the trash bin automatically.

There is a certain amount of warmth of feeling, and yes, I feel vindicated and superior about this. I have behaved in the face of great temptation.

But the seed catalogs are arriving, and I feel my seed lust growing. Will there be room in the garden for the new varieties of tomatoes I want to grow?


If you had a freeway billboard, what would it say?

The famous, and some would say infamous, P.T. Barnum owned a popular emporium of the absurd and mysterious in New York City. For a paid admission, one could see all the wondrous items he had gathered for the gullible and easily led. In fact, it was too famous. Once inside, people refused to leave, and no more could enter. Seeing this as a cramp in his ability to make money, Phineas T chanced upon a solution. Near the rear of the exhibition, he placed a large sign and arrow. It read: This way to the EGRESS. Assuming that it was the next fantastic object to be viewed, people streamed through the door only to find themselves on the street. Seeing so many go through the door others followed. Want to get back in? Pay another admission.

I think a Freeway sign is needed for this society: this way to the EGRESS . We need to get off the particular highway to hell we seem to be driving on. And do a serious reset.

around four Am

Four AM is the best time to catch me playing guitar these days. And I just remembered that it was around four AM that my “day” used to end when I was performing as a folksinger.

So, since August, I’ll have these waking periods while it’s still dark. Then, unable to get back to sleep, I’ll slip into my office, pick up my old guitar and start practicing.

I used to distinguish between practice, which I did daily for two or so hours, and rehearsal, which I did to prepare for a gig. When I lived in Boston, I liked to practice in the kitchen but rehearse on the apartment building’s roof. The two things are similar but different. Practice was playing the guitar. Rehearsal was that, but it was also planning how each set of a gig should be structured because warming up was a lot different than a more mellow set when many in the audience had heard the first set and were interested in what you had. The final set was for winding down, relaxing, and sending home. There were variables you planned for if the house you were playing had a lot of inter-set churn, was rowdy or drunk.

Then there was the patter, the amusing, sometimes dubious stories and anecdotes you told while tuning or just for fun between songs. One of the old goofy ones was the ancient ( among folksingers, anyway) monolog about there being three ways to remove peanut butter from the roof of your mouth. This one was golden if the house was in a goofy mood that evening. Don’t try it in a bar room.

When I traveled, practice and rehearsal happened wherever I was staying. I often stayed with married friends, so “Uncle Wes” was a source of merriment. Dave Van Ronks’ children’s song “Oh Mister Noah” was a hit with many, but I rarely performed it in a set unless there happened to be kids in the audience. Kids in the audience made my life hard because I had a lot of “adult” material in my repertoire.

So here I am, coming on like some Folkie guru of folk music. But that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ with it.


Exploration. That’s why I write. The keyboard is a sort of gateway to new and old experiences. A long time ago, I discovered a curious thing; I can verbalize something, and one stream of consciousness comes out, or I can write about it, and something divergent is the result. So writing is a sweet way of exploring my thought process, history, and world views.

This is not always without tears. Over the years, I have swept much out of sight and consideration. In lots of my writing, those things come oozing out of the dark corners, and I must come to terms with them. This is where driving comes in. I’ll be driving on a back road, and my mind is keying in on something I’ve written – say, my time on the road in the 1960s. Suddenly I’ll view an event differently as my understanding of that time shifts.
I also startle myself with how many idealistic views of youth remain intact. The abrasive nature of time has not been able to eradicate it – knock the corners off, perhaps – but not destroy it.

There’s a touch of surprise about what I write. It’s new to readers and new to me. So yes, I write to explore and a bit to wonder.


When we purchased our home in Central Massachusetts, we asked the previous owners to do a clean sweep before the sale. So the day we moved into the house was reasonably pristine. However, they left some things they were confident we’d need. In the basement was the giant bag of some “weed and feed” products.
Looking outside at what passed for the lawn, I realized that for many years the owners had been committed to creating a European-style lawn on the top of a hill that was ninety percent glacial till. As a result, there were barely three-quarters of an inch of soil before you hit gravel and sand. The lawn was a straggling bunch of grasses mixed with invasive weeds. Behind us was a wildlife sanctuary that shaded the rear third of the lot. That back section was choked with invasive vines.

Moving in late fall, just before Halloween, meant I had more immediate issues than dealing with the yard. So we started on wallpaper stripping, painting, and the usual stuff that needed to be done in a new old house.

It was March before I began to tackle the mess outside. I started by removing the weed and feed, removing all the vines, and clearing a sunny garden area. The rear of the lot needed significant work, but we weren’t exactly sure what type. It was so shaded and had been covered by vines for so long that almost nothing grew there. Beyond our property line was a typical New England “Old Field” succession that had filled in an old orchard and pastureland.
I did a lot of sitting on an old stump fretting about the future of this land.
It was a depauperated woodland border. Elsewhere a semi-shaded area like those would be full of a mixture of plants that thrived on the edge of the woods. On hiking trips with the Appalachian Mountain Club, I’d walked through thousands of small glades like that. So I decided to recreate a typical woodland border.
Local nurseries, the local conservation district, and mail-order plant providers have figured large in this effort. It can’t all be done in a year or a decade. Some plants don’t succeed, and others do too well. There is no font of knowledge readily available for data on this process, but if your community has a knowledgeable conservation agent, they might be able to guide you.

Although it’s January as I write this, and an ice storm is on its way, my mind is already turning to how I can repair the damage that last year’s severe drought did. I won’t know until April which plants merely went dormant early and which plants didn’t make it. As I said, there is no textbook available. But I have restored a more regional and natural woodland border where only invasives thrived before.

  • Trillium
  • Canadian Ginger
  • Anemone

Apocolypse Now!

I can be brazen in putting down conspiracy theories. There is something about the repetition of themes that irritates me – the world is going to end because of :

  •  the godlessness of society;
  •   the worldliness of society;
  • mind control chemicals put into the chemtrails by the deep state;
  •  the greed of corporations

Just enough fact is in the recipe that otherwise sane people get drawn in like iron filings to a magnet. At holiday gatherings, it can take courage to argue with uncle John who has generously purchased the high-tech equivalent of tinfoil hats for each family member. These cost eighty dollars on the same site that offers AR-15 rifles, doomsday shelters, survivalist supplies, and dehydrated food to see you through your choice of the apocalypse or the rapture.

These tactics offer simple but frequently expensive solutions to complex problems – You and your dear ones will retreat to your basement and wait out the Final Days – to emerge in two weeks and repopulate the earth. Noah didn’t have it this easy.

For people falling for this brand of fantasy, there should be some prize for magical thinking. 

Most of us know by now that the problems facing our continued existence can’t be solved by stop-gap measures or mere hunkering down for a week or two. We’ve lost the treasure of pristine earth, and actual work, not magical BS, will be required to regain some semblance of what was lost – in a hundred years.

But instead of working to reduce our use of fossil fuels, plastic, or other things, it’s easier to seek an easy way out.

And considering our societal penchant for shopping, what could be better than buying a solution on our favorite online store?


What are your biggest challenges?

Acronyms have a nasty way of creeping into our daily language, nestling in, and, poof; we forget the original meaning, and they are a word of their own – if they are pronounceable. This happened to radar and other terms. You’ll have to Google the meaning because I’ve forgotten. There see what I mean?
A university puts out an annual list of words that should be retired because of overuse. This year GOAT, the acronym for greatest of all time, is leading the list. They seem to think that we’ll all obey just because they say so. That’s not the way language operates.

Perhaps we should be more reserved in constructing these selections of letters, so they don’t trip so well off the English-speaking tongue. The inquisitive mind will find thousands of snappy acronyms popular in print but not easy to pronounce as a word in English: WYSIWYG( what you see is what you get) comes to mind. In English, it does not trip so smoothly across the tongue. Which raises the question, what about acronyms in other languages? would WYSIWYG fluidly flow from the tip of a tongue speaking another language?

Pursuing this a bit further, if WYSIWYG became an overused word, would it wind up on the banned word list? Or is there a rampant preference for banning only English words here? Prejudice?

OK, WYSIWYG is indeed just one measly little acronym from the Trans Voltaic Urdu family of languages. But dammit! the sheer ” English privilege” of this list bothers me. Can we sanction such linguistic exclusivity in a world seemingly growing smaller every year?
I say no and shall spend the year fighting it. It will be my biggest challenge of 2023, but I will persevere.

Justice and fairplay for all – JAFFA!

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