Urban Balcony Irrigation From A Rain Barrel – Look No Spigot!!

Poetry hasn’t come so easy for me lately so In absence of exercising my poetic creativity, I have worked on other projects; I love nature and Texas/Dallas living hasn’t done much to satisfy my need to connect with nature.  In my attempts to find something to suffice, I took up growing plants on my balcony.  While Balcony gardening isn’t as rich in as a backpacking trip through Yosemite Park, I have  found it to be rewarding and have received much enjoyment and satisfaction growing plants on my balcony.  Since I found the hobby to be a positive step in the right direction, I decided to turn it up a notch or two!  This year I acquired a bonsai tree, some gorgeous dwarf Japanese Maples, a flower bed and have planted Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, and various herbs. Growing these plants in containers through a hot Texas summer equates to a commitment much like owning a dog, only, you can’t take the plants with you when you want to get out-of-town. Texas heat can dry a container plant out in 1-day if it doesn’t get water a couple of times daily. I attempted to alleviate the water requirements by purchasing an automated watering system. After many internet searches, I learned they don’t make anything like this for a large Apartment or Condo Balcony that lacks a patio spigot.  I wasn’t going to let that stop me. After more research, I decided to engineer an automated drip irrigation system that would have the ability to water my containers for 2-weeks so I can leave town without worry if the plants will be watered.

It took many nights studying ideas to gain an approach to how I might make the idea come to life. I set my sights on a pump driven system that takes water from a pre-filled rain barrel. I learned that understanding irrigation, flow, pressure and pumps was like understanding Algebra.  Finding the right pump was a chore.  The pump turns on and off automatically using a battery operated irrigation timer. I can set the watering intervals based on the climate for any particular time of year. On days where the temperature climbs above 100, I will set the timer to open two times a day for 1-minute at a time.

In a perfectly green world, I would harvest the rainwater from the gutters, but I am renting so I was not able engage that fantastic technique. I actually fill the rain barrel, which I placed in an inconspicuous area on my patio, with a hose I connect with an adapter to my kitchen faucet.

I created the embedded video to document the finished product. I love this irrigation system. I really enjoyed figuring it out and making it a reality!!  Now I am free’d up to write some poetry…


2012 SPAH Convention – All about Harmonica!!

In addition to doing some writing, art, and photography, I play harmonica. I have played for over 35 years. I was actually able to take a few lessons with Tommy Morgan when I was a youngster. Tommy Morgan is one of the most heard harmonica players ever, yet one of the least known. He has played harmonica scores for the television and movie industry since the late 50’s through the 90’s. His contributions to the industry are innumerable. He was the harmonica in the Sanford and Son theme song, Rockford files theme song, Gun Smoke, Bonanza, Paint Your Wagon, and a myriad of other movie and television scores. Tommy mentioned to me that I should Join SPAH and attend a SPAH convention if I ever got the chance. SPAH stands for Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica. Well, thirty years have passed since then and I finally was able to attend my first SPAH convention. The SPAH Convention is the largest society of musicians who gather together to share camaraderie for any one instrument in the world. The full gamut of Harmonica players were in attendance accompanied by there harmonica’s of choice. There were Chromatics, 2-foot long Chord Harmonicas, Bass Harmonicas, Tremolos, and my favorite, the 10-hole diatonic harp. Seydel, Hohner, & Suzuki were all there with the latest greatest harmonica models on display. Every genre of music ever played on a harmonica, was being played all day and most of the night throughout the Westin Hotel in Arlington Tx; Jazz, Blues, old standards, Classical, Polka, Cajun, Country, Celtic, Bluegrass, etc.

During the five convention days, there were jams, seminars, teach-ins, both scheduled and my favorite was the unscheduled ones. Often I would run into a celebrity harmonica player and ask questions – Each and every one of them were there with attitudes to give back what the instrument has given to them. I received some memorable lessons during quaint discussions in the halls of the hotel.

Each night there were great performances and on the fifth and final night there was an award dinner with amazing entertainment. The performances the night of the dinner included; Stan Harper, Jia-Yi He, The Sgro Brothers. The coolest part of that evening was that I was a table away from James Cotton, and Charlie Musslewhite – These guys are legends. If you wish to read more about the SPAH convention, I suggest reading the article on the SPAH page titled Harmonica Players Share The Heart of Their Music.

This post is full of links for the celebrity names mentioned. Please click a few and get a feel for the talent that graced the Hotel halls.

As always, thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the pics.

Here is yours truly playing my rendition of Shakey Blues

James Cotton & Charlie Musslewhite and some crazy fan.

Will Scarlet famous for his work with Hot Tuna back in the day.

Winslow Yerxa — SPAH President

Todd Parrot – Giving lessons on a cool country lick he picked up from Charley McCoy

Joe Spiers(Below) – An in-demand harmonica Customizer with a 6 month order lead time. I spent some time talking with Joe, a great guy by-the-way. Joe gave me some vague leads on how to make my harps better. It really is an art that takes years of experience to learn accurately.

Me with Charlie Musslewhite

Jimmy Lee

Grant Dermody Grant Tours with Eric Bibb and is a growing name as an amazing harp player. Grant is a purist. I was able to sit at a table with him during the convention – a great and brilliant musician. He has a love for old time violin tunes.

Dave Barret (Below)- Transposer, writer, harmonica player/teacher extraordinaire

Joe Filisko – below, is playing guitar for a late night blues jam. Joe Filisko is the most renowned name in Harmonica Customization. His harps start at about $250.00 or so. He builds for the pros. He is also an amazing blues harp player – a purist who is true to form.

This jam was a bit spiritual as we sat in a circle and took a bar to solo by. As the night grew old, there were a hand full of pros left and me. It was great being able to hear all the different styles and talent levels

When it was all over, silence was golden, if I could only eat a meal without hearing a harmonica, there was a sense of heavenly peace. The biggest lesson I learned was to be patient, gracious, practice and enjoy…Practice makes perfect and I was mingling with perfectionists that made something great and amazing of a unique obsession – playing that silly little instrument that offers so much with so very little.

After Algebra (revisited)

This is an older post. I actually wrote this poem when I returned to college at the age of 30. That was over 20 years ago. I was a High School drop-out and lived on my own since the age of 18. While I was attending college full-time, I was also the sole provider of my family of 3-small children and a wife.

Funny, some things rarely change, and right-brained gravity seems to be one of my favorite themes.

Algebra and English Comp were two subjects that taught me that I wasn’t book dumb after all, I just had a very uncoordinated focus that needed some discipline. After learning how to apply my focus, I did exceptionally well. This lesson of sticking to something, never quitting, was the best lesson I ever took with me from college. I learned there is a lot more for us to discover, sometimes it just takes clear determined focus to break through to the other-side.

At any rate, the human mind is amazing, those of us who are strongly right-brained, can become balanced in the left, and those in the left, can become liberated creative thinkers. With persistence we can become far more than the limitations we so often allow to define us. I was able to acquire my HS diploma and finished 2-years of general education with some additional courses of Art and Poetry to satisfy the hungering right brain. The poem renders the true challenges I had from switching from natural creative side to the extraneous work of analytical focus and boring process memorization. Focus has always been major work for me.

After Algebra

My fears are multiplied
By unknown factors
Step by step I am searching
for the undefined variables

The variables are better left
to efforts of desire, colored life,
X-equals my joy to live;
Purple sunsets
I bend against my better judgments
to allow myself
to be yanked from my heaven,
this freedom flesh
I levitate in pastels of soft nature
I dance in a landscape
that changes by factors
of emotional reaction
But the quotients of my efforts,
are reduced to penciled structures,
black bones on a white background

I tell you, I am dead tired!
I have exercised the parts
of my faculties that makes my
neck crawl, fire between the blades
of my shoulders,
I am so right, in this world better left…
I would run for summer meadows;
Sunshine, grass, and sky,
Yet, I am in the fetters
Of methodical deductions
for another semester

The anxiety increases
by exponential leaps;
Plus, minus, minus, minus –
The negative moves
From outside in

I could care
to marvel at a dry honeycomb;
perfectly structured hexagons,
raising powers,
intellectual perceptions —
Just leave me honey of a bee
like after Algebra,
when I go to Poetry.

Nasher Sculture Center Poetry Lab & Photo Shoot.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of participating in a poetry Lab at The Nasher Sculpture Center In The Downtown Dallas Arts District. The Nasher is one of the cool places in Dallas to visit on a weekend, or once a month on a Friday night when they have concerts in the garden. The poetry lab hosted by accredited Poets Lauren Berry and Glenn Shaheen began with the poets each reading a few of their poems. For me, a poem takes on the full breadth of its life when read by its author; the personal tones, voice dynamics, and controlled meter complete the poetry receiving experience. After the poetry readings, the lab organizer lead us to different exhibits in the museum, and in the museum garden where Lauren and Glenn read poems they wrote prompted by particular art pieces which inspired them. After the last prompt and reading, the lab opened up for us to share thoughts on how the unique art pieces influenced our thinking and our writing. Some of us read what we wrote, while others asked questions directed to the poets about their writing process.

Lauren and Glenn are delightful people to meet and it was a real treat to spend time with them in the lab. Their poetry was amazing. I purchased Laurens Award winning book The Lifting Dress, and Glenn’s award-winning book Predatory. I hope to see them reading their poetry again soon.

When the lab was over, I spent a couple of hours of free time participating in another lab of one of my other favorite past times. Photographing in the garden was my way of completing a perfect day. The ambient light in the garden was friendly, even though full sunshine was beating on the streets just outside the garden walls. The trees and landscape are arranged in such a way to allow the light of day to compliment the sculptures.

The slide show is the result of my shooting fun. See if you can see me in one of the pics. Notice the sculture of the deer carcass has scrimshaw on it’s exposed bones. I hope you enjoy as much as I did photographing. Feel free to use a pic for a prompt, write a poem and link back to this blog. The slide show lasts about 4.5 minutes. Cheers!

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Journey into Poetry

I recently wrote an essay that featured on tweetspeak. I would love to share the story and the blog site. I believe in what they are doing as I have greatly benefited in finding and participating on the Every Day Poetry site. It was there I began my latest journey in writing poetry. I was encouraged to start a blog and to take to pen and keys once again to write, and this time, share my poetry with other lovers of the craft.

When Author and Managing Editor Laura Barkat asked me if I would be interested to write a 500 word essay. I jumped at the opportunity, with a little nudge of encouragement:)

“The rare moments I was able to engage my imagination and creativity, time seemed to suspend. Though my parents argued ritually, I found escape and joy through the creative bond I had with my mother and the artistic imagination she was able to foster in me.”

Photo by Fiddle Oak. Creative Commons, via Flickr.

Not Forgetting the Rest

I am sitting in my apartment allowing the cool spring air to flow freely through my opened balcony slider and through a few opened windows. The sun is brightly shining in a blue sky absent of clouds. A mockingbird is cheerfully sending various and repetitive calls into the morning air. I am lollygagging on my computer, in blogging forums, reading, and not accomplishing much at all.

I rarely respond to author LL barkat’s challenge to write something about On, In, and Around Mondays, yet this time, in my dazed tiredness, I feel the want to do something productive since all my morning plans have dissolved.

I wanted to be out cycling around the lake early, running errands, mailing letters. I am mentally and physically fatigued from the previous stressful work-week. Right now, in this moment, I don’t feel like doing any thing.

There is a heaviness in my morning step that keeps taking me back to the sofa. The laziness I feel now isn’t old age or laziness at all. It is me tired and needing rest; The plan to cycle this weekend must wait, the chores, the research for my poem about Jesus walking on water must wait, the drawing of my son sitting on a tranquil shore, harmonica practice, all must wait – The mental and physical fatigue dictating my day is nicely asking me for a response, right now, not tonight.

Inspiration, energy, and initiative will come as a reward once my body gets what it needs.

I often push myself to accomplish more, yet, I know better. For me, the secret to priming productivity is in balancing. I need to prioritize my time for optimal performance; Spiritual balance, eating well, sleeping well, are the main three that lead me into making time for the other necessities; exercise, engaging in the creative process, charity/community, connecting with nature, being accountable to the love I share with family and friends.

I need them all, but now, I seem to need rest the most.

I feel guilty when I don’t do as I planned, yet really, I need grace to just lay still, rest, perhaps nap it off. I know if I do, the genius in me will awake again, taking me forward with excitement and ambition into another productive adventure where I can do my best within the challenging limits of my time and humanness.