Friday, October 25, 2013

Why Do We Dress Up for Halloween?

Is Halloween the same as Day of the Dead?  And why do I dwell on such questions?  Maybe it's because I am trying to avoid figuring out what I'm going to be for my office Halloween party.  Every year the benchmark is set higher and higher.  No pressure.  What else would you expect from people who work in the entertainment industry?

Since I don't have any brilliant costume ideas (yet), I'll instead tackle these other pressing questions.  Of course, food is common between the two celebrated holidays.  What differentiates the two is the goal of attracting good souls and avoiding the not so-good-souls.

Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos occurs over a three day period, October 31-November 2 around All Hallow's Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.  It's a time where families build private altars honoring the souls of their dead ancestors.  The altars are decorated with sugar skulls, brilliant orange marigolds and favorite food/drink as on offering for their dearly departed.  On those 3 days, families will clean, decorate and set up the altars at the cemetery with the intent of encouraging visits with the souls of their loved ones.  We'll call them the good souls.

Halloween on the other end of the soul spectrum, also known as "All Hallow's Eve," began as a Christian feast influenced by Celtic harvest festivals.  Harvest festivals falling at the end of summer's bounty and going into the darker half of the year was seen as a time when the spirits could more easily pay a visit to the world of the living.  If one didn't want to encounter the evil souls, they would costume themselves as a way to disguise their identity.  The costumed came to be known as guisers.  If guisers wanted to frighten the evil spirits away, then jack-o'lanterns were carried to deny those spirits entry into heaven or hell.  Turnips, yes turnips were the original jack-o'lanterns.  By the time the North Americans got a hold of the tradition, they used the much softer pumpkin to make their point. So, the trick or treaters coming to your door today are carrying on the very old tradition of guising.

Turnip Jack-O'Lantern, courtesy Wikipedia
Now that I know guising was supposed to scare the evil spirits away, I'm not so sure of my past costume choices.  But the one I've been most proud of was the year I went as Jack I. Box or simply  Jack. I'm not sure I'll ever top it and I'm pretty sure I didn't frighten any souls except for maybe myself when I looked in the mirror.  This year, I now know what I need to focus on when I create my next great costume....the fear factor!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Horse is a Horse of Course ...... But a Horse Trough is Perfect for a Vegetable Garden

No one can talk to a horse of course, but if one could go right to the source and ask the horse he'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.  Save your back when you build your next vegetable garden and get a horse trough.  Thanks Mr. Ed.

Looking back in my pictures, it was exactly three years ago this weekend, we had just completed our first raised vegetable garden.  I was just coming into appreciation the effort it takes to grow food...Super Size Me, My Way.  If you check out the original garden below, you'll witness how often I would have to squat or bend over to attend to my patch.

The squats and bending are all fine and dandy today, but what about as I grow older?  I don't want aches and pains to be an obstacle in doing something I love.  Thanks to a recent visit to a friend's home in Vallejo, she planted ideas in my head for ways to plan ahead.  Best start this project now while we're able to do hard labor. 

All those little red dots in the picture are cherry tomatoes.  Millions of them!  This trough idea is a producer.

You noticed I said "we" in the hard labor comment?  No way could this weekend warrior do a project of this scope by herself.  My knight in shining armor came to my aide.  He too was inspired.  While he loves the homegrown produce, he doesn't love the digging and bending required.  I had a willing participant.

First order of business, where to find a trough.  All the Googling in the world didn't land the obvious retailer except for Amazon.  I asked my girlfriend where she purchased hers; she drove to Petaluma.  Not a practical solution for this So Cal girl.  Giving it more thought, we remembered there's an equestrian center in Burbank.  Surely, there will be a feed store nearby that could give us direction.  Not only were they able to give us direction, they carried various sizes of troughs.  They probably thought there goes another set of yuppies using serious equestrian material for some grand gardening scheme.  So what if they did?

Having gotten over that hurdle, our next challenge was irrigation.  This last summer proved to me our lack of gardening success had everything do with our lack of available time to attend to the garden.  We needed to automate.  This is where my knight was truly amazing.  He tapped into our existing sprinkler system and created a separate line to our revamped vegetable garden.  But first we had to tear apart the old garden.

Another good reason to go to a trough system, pressure treated wood only lasts so long
Trenching for the new irrigation line.

A great find, a solar powered timer installed.  Everything tests out.

Determined to make the area look tidy with as little maintenance as possible, we laid out weed barrier fabric and topped with mulch.

With the area prepared, we were ready to install the troughs.  Because the troughs are enclosed, drainage needs to be created.  Here's where having the right tools makes the job all the easier.  John used a steel drill bit.  Holes created with ease.

Not wanting the feet of plants and soil to get water logged, we added drainage gravel.

So that the premium potting soil doesn't slip out through our drainage we just prepared, we added a layer of landscape fabric.  

Bags and bags of premium potting soil added.  Learning from my past successes and failures the quality of soil is everything.

Installing the drip lines up next.

My knight

Ready for planting now and all those future years ahead.

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