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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
we want YOU to think...if you dare...


Friday, June 22, 2012

The Greening: Flower Power

Tiger Lilies with a  Swallowtale Butterfly        r.a.kukkee

I am turning green.  

Green with envy, that is.
Why, you ask?   It's the power of flowers.  Flower power.  No, not cool retro hippie daisies,  and Are you going to San Francisco  in an old VW van  to put flowers in your hair.  Not that kind.
  Regular flower power and gardening is a  greening, growing force in North America.  Why? Demographics? Survival? Fear of greedy powermongers controlling food supplies?  Think about it, Remove your fear and  their power by growing your own food.

Readers of Incoming Bytes are always encouraged to think for themselves. That includes serious efforts at attempting to grow food for yourself.  Survival is more than a hobby.  Maybe to some of us  it's just a wonderful, relaxing, and productive hobby,  and there's more to the greening of gardens than just vegetables for  food. It's about better food, better nutrition, a healthier lifestyle --which includes a fine frame of mind and the appreciation of beauty.
 Flower power meets the eye and stimulates the soul itself. There is a quantum leap in beauty available to you, wherever you are.  Let's talk beautiful first. 

Like  most serious gardeners everywhere,  I admire beauty,  and that sure includes the wonderful pictures of flowers that our  gardening genius Glory Lennon regularly shares, interesting, at times even stunning photographs of all things floral. Somehow, somewhere, our clever gardener genius successfully takes pictures that make everyone that lives in a geographical area colder than zone 5 just a bit envious.
Living in N.W. Ontario in zone 2-3,  our growing season is colder, slower, less predictable,  a few weeks later, especially with weird weather, but we persist and insist on beauty anyway.    I offer a few pictures to show that growing 'beauty'   is not impossible, even in N.W. Ontario --in cool Canada.

A small,  early double Peony

White Roses
Giant Lupins Multi-coloured

 Tiger Lilies ready to Open

Even  Wild Roses !
So what is life about if we don't go for it?   We may not be able to  grow tulip trees or flowering dogwood, citrus trees or pineapples,  but we have flowers not to be sneezed at unless you're an allergic type. Think that's all the flowers we have?  Not by any stretch of the imagination. We have many others that come along as they may. We'll bring some more to you later.  

What  about veggies? Food?

 I  envy Mac Pike's gardening acumen when he shows us  rutabagas, grows collards and cabbages, busts onions, and  keeps Farm Girl on the alert for squash bugs, interlopers  and old fossils.
 Some gardeners do seem to have  green thumbs, garden better, and  weed faster out behind the shed somehow.
Encouraged by Mac's calming, continued words of encouragement and assured success,  I hereby examples some of  my own garden stuff for Mac's highly successful and critical garden-eye complimentary wordoodling, praise and doggerel.

 Here's the beanery, with no weeds in-betweenery:

The Beanery,  heavily mulched!

 Hang on, Mac, I can see you're conspiring and winking at Farm Girl.
 You must want to see the peas'ery-pleasery too. These are Green Arrow peas that have been up for only a week or two. They will be heavily mulched after the pea trenches are topped up for additional  root growth potential and a better yield.  The two rows are actually on a raised bed that's kind of narrow.

Peas complete with Pea trellis

And now I bet you want to see the only perennial potato in Canada.  In Mac's gardening fidoodle dictionary, that would be called a pertato, and this is the third year it came up in the the same spot, this year it's in the baby cabbage-plantery since we rotate our crops on the raised beds.

Perennial Potato growing in the baby-Cabbage-plantery

And here's the tomato patch!  It's heavily mulched to preserve moisture and suppress weeds!  As Mac knows,  "Termaters they are,  when you get to hoe,  the far end of the row,  can look like it is more than far"

Tomatoes Grow with a Helpful Scarecrow.  Dangling Cd's make a Laser Show for the Deer

 And  those be mulched, --- lest we be drygulched by weeds,  quite merry, trying to steal a sweet strawberry!
The first Two Strawberries of 2012 --a bit LATE

Now  you have to know that everything has to grow FAST here because of the short season. Look at what happened  to the peonies!  They are even  bowing politely so you will come visit again!

The front Peony is 10" across and very heavy
Glory, you gotta see these, too!They are just too beautiful!

More Lupins!

So there.    I'm always wondering if everyone thinks  the grass is greener in other growing zones. Is it greener on the other side of the fence?  Do vegetables grow better?
 Maybe this one isn't so bad after all.  Should we be turning green as a bean  with envy?  I think not!   *Mac and *Glory, what do you think? 

Is that incoming I hear?

*Loyal readers of Incoming Bytes are encouraged to visit  Mac Pike's  www.unclemacshed.blogspot.com   and  Glory Lennon's   www.glory_garden.blogspot.com  for  enjoyable reading,  gardening knowledge, and  their weird and wonderful sense of humor.   ~RK

All Photo credits:  r.a.kukkee 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Slacking: How to Pull a Mule

How NOT to get stuff done

It seems I've been slacking. Yep.  Really. For anyone that knows and understands me, that's procrastinating with cause. Fidoodling.

I haven't posted since June 15th.   Why? Better read that again, yep,  I've been slacking.

Here's a list of fidoodling  excuses I made up thought up. Some might even be  real or justified applicable. They aren't in order either, who needs order? How NOT to get stuff done comes to the fidoodling alert mind.
  • The weather. It has been dull, raining, foggy, cold, and wet. We can't write when we're wet, the paper gets soggy.   Never mind the flooding of previous weeks, we received 55mm of rain  in the last 24 hours, too,  with continuous thunder storms.
  • The power.  It goes off and on *We're conserving energy. How to lose files also comes to mind. Shut down the computer or watch it die  fry, sizzling  it's last file.
  •  *Just in case.
  • A splitting headache. The air pressure must have done it  if it wasn't the continuous thunder storms or the sizzling files..,,,you get the idea.
  • The dogs don't like the thunder storms. Tilly the Tall and Ebony the Short  (T.T.T & E.T.S.)  are edgy and out of sorts. They're smart enough to shut down and hide to protect their hides.  
  • It's coffee time.  'Ya gotta have caffeine to write stuff.'  And muffins. Cranberry. No power,  no muffins, no writing. Cookies may be an acceptable substitute.
  • Computer trouble. A plague of  Word.doc file failures,  opening with indecipherable garbage code. NOT a VIRUS either, unless you wish to re-label Microsoft-based Office2010, which has now earned the the Official title of  "Pariah of Pariahs" in computer stuff-- a 'virus'. It's just greedy mean-spirited, badly-designed fluffware.     It insists on "converting" everything with a nuisance, sneaky  program called "Wordicon.exe"  and messes everything up, even modern Word.doc pages,  formatting and all.   Now we officially despise MS Office, period. Windows 7 is in on it.  Wordicon.exe does NOT come up in any searches.  No wonder it's hiding, I would kill it immediately and promise to bring thunder and lightning down upon it  if I ever find it.   It must be  a conspiracy --but then, maybe not......
  • Deleting files.   I  have vigorously deleted all "MS Office 2010 blah blah" program filesGuess what?  Not a problem in sight.  Imagine that....All  Word.doc files are now opening properly. MS and Windows just struck again,--- no wonder people buy Macs.  Just saying...ho hum... --and digressing. 
  •  It's a jungle out there.  I looked out the window. The grass is tall enough to look IN the window right back at me. And laugh.   It's raining. Too wet to formulate any cutting attacks. I make cutting remarks  instead.  I am willfully forgetting the invectives.   I shut the blinds.  I cannot look. Well, fact is,  I also cannot see, the grass is in the way.
  • Fixing lawn and garden equipment ( because it's a jungle out there. )
  • That only included fixing a broken rototiller, which took off across the garden in high speed, running over some current bushes  like an insulted mule being towed by an old walking tractor
  •  Reviving a second  old rototiller just in case. It smokes and leaks a lot. Wonder why. It's older than dirt, hasn't been run for 20 years, and has too much oil. Put a new carburetor on it. It even runs. Broke the pull rope 3 times. Changed the pull rope. We wonder why.  Smoking almost stops, and now the gearbox leaks. It starts. It works.   
  • Repairing a broken mower deck mount on the riding tractor. The grass is growing exponentially as I figure out how to fix it.  Remove broken mower deck.  Preliminary engineering suggests welding or brazing required!  Done. Brazed.
 " Scotty here, Captain Kirk, she should hold, but I can't promise anything, Captain, beam me up..."
  • Sharpening the blades on the mower deck on the riding tractor. They split rocks better when sharp.  
  •  Replacing a broken belt on the riding tractor transmission drive which broke when the deck broke. No belt, no go.  It only took 3 trips to the city to get the right belt. Don't these belt suppliers know anything? I need a vacation. *sigh
  • Replacing another broken belt on the mower deck on the riding tractor. Wow, only one trip for this belt. There must be some kind of mistake. Are we sure it's the right one, first trip? How can that be?  Impossible. It is a mistake. *sigh  Another $38.95.
  • Reviving an 80- year-old mechanical walking tractor.  Antique and quaint but efficient. Will tow a mule or hill potatoes. Tires are rotten and split.  I cross my fingers and turn on the air compressor.  The tubes still hold air enough to get it off of the ground; I can see those noble, ancient tubes, because the tires are  split,  smiling like a pair of happy faces under pressure.   They're a weird size. Uncommon.
  • Getting Tires:    Local tire supplier laughs raucously.    Gotta buy new ones somewhere . Find them in the Ozarks or someplace, that is.  Helpful son actually finds'em, too, it seems I can get them on order, on line. Otherwise I'd have to ride the mule to Iowa or the Ozarks or someplace to get them. 'Ya gotta love technology when it actually works.
  • Replacing the carburetor, coil and pulley on a replacement motor for the walking tractor so it can actually run and make the walking tractor tow a mule or hill potatoes, mostly the latter.  Amazingly, the ancient motor mounts fit the "modern" Honda motor. 
               " No wonder," I said, scratching my head, " it's a 30 year old motor too!"  *sigh   
  • Testing the old walking tractor.  Halleluleah!  The new-old motor  fires up and runs like a Cesium clock.  It makes the old antique move,  a bit too quickly. *Note to self, optimize pulley sizes...  It makes the split, smiling, rotten tires roll up and down the driveway..... I'm a mechanical smartass, so I mount  a tool on it and carve a couple of long, deep  trenches in the gravel in the driveway just to impress the wife.  She laughs. 
  • Filling trenches in the driveway.    I get to fill the trenches  up again, you know, the ones made  testing the old walking tractor....I should have tried towing the mule instead. 
The Antique Walking Tractor  Circa OLD

Admiring the old walking tractor. It's the real deal. It's going to work, too. 
I think I'll have to paint it and put new handles on it too, the original wood kind.  Varnished. 
The 'replacement' Honda motor is 30 years old too.

 How about fixing the old LawnBoy now, you ask?  The one I dug out of the weeds behind the garage.     
 Now that's a lawnmower. It's 60 years old too. I'm just a bit curious,  so  I just put a few drops of gas in the spark plug hole, and second pull, it fires.  Twice for good measure.  It still runs better than the new ones.
 All it took was...well, that will  be another post, with pictures too.   That jungle better watch out.

 oh...about *Posting? 
 Frankly, I'm having too much fun doing stuff, doing REAL stuff. With new tires I might even be able to pull a mule.

* Posting? Well...er....in a few days,  the tires are coming and I'd like to see if the old Lawnboy will run too --and. .... well, okay, I have to be a slacker and fidoodle around  procrastinate  sometime, don't you think so?
 Coffee and muffins comes to mind....

Is that incoming I hear?  

Friday, June 15, 2012


We walk twice a day;  it is one of the things we do, regardless of the weather.
Today there is a storm moving in, the air is dark and restless, trees waving, stopping, waving halfheartedly.   A disturbed  state of agitated greenery surrounds this place. Grass is on the move; waves  race across a field like seawater driven in turmoil.
 Here in N.W. Ontario it has been weird; the weather, the feel is one of discomfort somehow. It feels different,  perhaps only because last year was much drier, almost  to the point of being dangerous.  You don't live in the same place for 33 years and not notice change.  Something is afoot.
   The leaves of poplar trees flip back and forth, trembling in an acrobatic, aerodynamically- choreographed trick of nature designed to assist in cooling and transpiration --or some other tricky  biological secret we have not been fully instructed in.  In nature there are many things we do not understand. We listen and observe. The leaves chatter

We walk.   The pups sniff ahead.  A long, quiet path among balsam fir, poplar, spruce, and white paper birch trees, Trillium, sticky-weed and three colours of violets.
 The needles on the balsam fir trees are uncharacteristically  orange-brown, the path in places is littered thickly with a curious needle drop previously unknown.  Clumps of white paper birch trees, now lifeless, huddling ghosts,  die from the top down. White spruce trees are off-colour, slowly browning,  dropping needles.

White Spruce, April 30th 2012:   Needles dropped.

A few stressed, soft green conifer needles  have become visible on some trees--but only at the  tips of  otherwise brown, naked,  surreal branches. Something is  afoot

The same white Spruce June 15, 2012  Note weird needle growth
On this day the boy, a mere child explores the trail with us He discovers a piece of shed birch bark, maroon mosses growing from  damp leaves and soil that adhere to the underside of the bark. He  turns it over, pinches and feels the soil.  He looks up at us.
 "The earth  is sick"  he says. 
 I have to turn away. I am speechless. How does he know?
The boy is not yet five years old.  What am I to think?  
What kind of world have we left him? Tears come to my eyes.  There are no words possible. We walk. 

Is that incoming I hear?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Alberta Oil Spill: MAGIC Cleanup


Seeing Red

 There has been another oil spill in Alberta...and for the record, here at Incoming Bytes, yes,  I am seeing red. A very old pipeline that crosses a river has conveniently spewed some 3000 barrels of crude oil into the pristine waterway.  That is, of course, if  anyone should somehow believe it is "only" 3,000 barrels, or a half million liters of dirty, black oil.

 All Canadians should be aware of this latest mess courtesy of the petroleum industry.  The residents of Red Deer, Alberta, soon will be  aware of it since they,-- all 100,000 of them, obtain their drinking water from the Red Deer River.    

 We expect that Alberta premier Alison Redford, and her "Environment Minister" will quickly don designer Hazmat suits, rubber boots and rubber gloves, and get VERY busy scrubbing up the LATEST oil spill FROM A LEAKING PIPELINE  contaminating the Red Deer River. This is yet ANOTHER ugly oil spill from pipelines operated  by Plains Midstream Canada 

We expect Alison and oil friends will clean up EVERY DROP, since she reportedly said, in famous last words:

“In Alberta, this does not happen very often, and when it does we’re able to get a handle on it quickly” 
 She also apparently believes “the situation is in hand.” 

Doesn't that give us all a warm and fuzzy feeling? The residents of Red Deer, Alberta, who get their drinking water from this river must be delighted with this latest environmental disaster.

We suggest that Ms Redford should take EVERY executive from this irresponsible industry WITH her and clean up this " impossible to clean up" MESS-- and for once, face the consequences and reality of their responsibility, close up and dirty.

Which part of "Dirty oil can not be completely removed from a pristine environment" do they not understand?  Which part of "Oil is a systemic poison to plants, fish and wildlife" does this whole industry not understand?  Which part of "It is not a matter of IF, but WHEN a pipeline will fail" do these people not understand?
Canadians should be outraged and demand a review of all pipelines in the country.  With hundreds of leaks, incidents, and accidents,  the fact is, the oil industry is out of control and reckless governments continue to allow MORE pipelines. 
 The sad fact is, like all dirty crude oil spills, ad nauseum, this mess will never be cleaned up.
Oh, wait, Ms. Redford and her government have a magic way of cleaning up oil spills. How comforting. 
Our "governments" want to allow these people to build the Northern Gateway pipeline, and the XL pipeline --and knowingly gut environmental regulations to enable, and speed up the process?   Readers of Incoming Bytes are encouraged to pay attention. We clearly have a problem.....
*--and no, I will not be posting any pictures of this sickening environmental stupidity. I do not wish to make loyal readers of IncomingBytes sick to their stomachs. We already know what oil-coated wildlife looks like, courtesy of the oil industry.
Meantime, we'll just issue dunce caps and magic wands to all concerned.
 Is that incoming I hear?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Weather, Pinfeathers and Foxes

We observe. 

The sun is shining brightly in a mild morning breeze. Dry winds. It is warming.   Finally. After a week of heavy rain, it was getting to be a bit much.  Overcast, chilly and hardly springlike. Even T.T.T. and E.T.S.  (loyal readers know that would be Tilly the Tall and Ebony the Short,  the resident pups extraordinaire ) were getting tired of being wet and  traipsing through endless muddy puddles. They began walking around them.   (They like water, but not that cold dirty wet kind apparently.)
With weird, severe  weather, lives are disrupted and economic costs can be staggering.  Here the Trans-Canada Highway is still closed and supposedly will be for a couple more days.   Recent flooding in Thunder Bay, Ontario is expected to cost  $50 million in Thunder Bay alone--or perhaps a lot more with thousands of insurance claims.  It is no longer news.  Flooded basements. Ruinous loss. Big cleanup.  Official Disaster. Geographically we didn't quite dodge the bullet this time. We thank our lucky stars for our higher elevation and observe.  

 It didn't take a quantum leap to recognize that some of Mother Nature's own little critters out there-- in the same quirky weather- inevitably end up in challenging circumstance too.  The robin in our temporarily  untrimmed cedar tree hunches down into her nest, staying perfectly motionless if anyone gets too close. The nest had two  blue eggs.  A pair of robin baby blues in their perfection,  imagine that.
A couple of days ago a judicious look revealed a single,  naked chick,wrinkles dried off, homely as only a hatchling an hour old can be. The tiny one was sporting only a pinfeather or two.  Let's go with the idea that early birds get the worm.  Was hatching a day early smart, wearing only two or three less than adequate pinfeathers? Somehow it seems not.
 The second egg was still unhatched. Maybe a genetically superior, wise egg?  Was that yet-to-be born chick waiting for warmer weather?
 Was  that natural selection in a hurry, or just a thinner shell?
 Mother robin returned to keep the nest, the remaining egg, and the naked little one warm. She came right on time too.
   The temperature dropped to -5C the same night.  It made me question how anything as tiny and helpless --and buck naked-- can survive.

How does anything in nature survive?  Two red fox pups, barely bigger than small domestic cats, try  to cross the highway, playing chicken with highway traffic.  They race across the road to join a very anxious adult, waiting helplessly,  watching them gamble with their very lives.  We gamble with our lives for the same reason as foxes do don't you think? Crossing the road of life to get to the other side. 

1.0   Baby Foxes
Nature does play games with us, whacks us sometimes, surprises us once in a while-- but always challenges wildlife that seemingly cannot provide itself with the most basic protection at times. 
Are we better off than animals and birds when it comes to Mother Nature's whims? Have we grown our own feathers and learned to dodge traffic?
That's a good question.

What were we complaining about?   Oh, nothing... it was raining. Cold. The sun is shining to make up for it now. It's one of the reversals we can expect in life.    Let's do something else.  In the garden we planted cabbages first. They appreciate life. They don't mind cold and wet, they don't need feathers either.  Trenched the peas in.  Besides, it really is warming, little by little.  It's also drying out, bit by bit.  Rain, shine, rain shine!   We survive, by contrivance, with rubber boots if necessary-- but will the little ones out there survive too?
           2.0  Baby Robins   June 07 2012           

A couple of days later back at the nest, mini- robins display big, open yellow beaks and equal amounts of ' fashionable-minimalist outdoor feather-wear'-- for adverse weather and flying trials soon to come. Small wing-feathers are already visible, clearly preparation for the next big test. That was fast.
In observing, -- what is the bottom line?  What is the big hurry for?  A test of life itself?   
 Oh, wait....I was in a big rush to have coffee and get out and  plant the garden even though it was still cold and wet, wasn't I?  
Perhaps we are in a hurry to grow in thought process too, another  lesson in survival.  At Incoming Bytes we're learning to go around the puddles.

Is that incoming I hear? 

photo credits
   1.  baby foxes     www.sodahead.com
   2.  baby robins    (c) r.a. kukkee