A Place Of Inspiration:

Eileen is an author! She was inspired by the almost spiritual aura that seems to permeate this valley in Joshua Tree. Out of nowhere, she just started writing. I would often see her sitting on our bed, which is kind of our living room, writing, or on the deck, in the car, on a rock - wherever. She had always been very business oriented so this sudden side of pure creativity, including the thoughtful subtlety of some of the words and phrases, pleasantly caught me by surprise, though I could honestly say that I have seen the same in the hundreds of arrangements that she has created in her shop week after week.

There have been a lot of creative individuals around here in recent history; painters, sculptors, musicians, photographers, writers, actors, etc., some of whom have become rather well known - Rick Nelson, James Dean, U2, Verne Gillespie, David McChesney, Dave Jessup, perhaps Eileen Kerr Blakeman.

The first time I heard of this Joshua Tree mystique was in 1967, just after i got out of the Marines and was attending Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. I had a place on Balboa Island in Newport Beach. One of my many roommates was Jim, who participated in a writing club that I was a member of. When Jim moved out, he said he was going to a place called Joshua Tree because it was known for its spiritual aura. He said that it was on the exact opposite side of the Earth from Tibet. I knew that Jim was a rather spaced out hippy, probably doing drugs, so I did not think anything more about it.

Coincidentally, a couple of months later, I noticed an ad in the paper for ten acres of land in Joshua Tree for a reasonable price. I had always wanted to own some land, just as something to call my own, so why not now. I decided to drive up there and check it out. Rocks! Everywhere! I liked the feel of it. I got an HFC loan for the deposit, bought it, and got a job as a noon supervisor at a local junior high to make the payments.

The Author:

She pulled these creations together into a book named " My Thoughts And Sayings From The Desert And The Cape" and had it printed locally at Quaker Process Printing north of Sandwich, in Sagamore. She was hands-on during the printing process, working tooth and nail with Fred Sozio (a US Marine of the Chosin few) and his son Jeff. She submitted the book to Barnes & Noble in July 2012. In November, they accepted it. In December it was for sale on their Nook Books web site, only as an 8x6 paperback.
A synopsis:
"A random but rhythmic collection of momentary observations, often discoveries noticed along desert trails and around Cape Cod bogs, interspersed with fleeting memories of childhood moments and family. Overall, a thoughtful gratitude for the moment, gently influenced by those who guided her and joined her on the paths to these moments of quiet beauty."
By then she had already submitted her second book, " My Life in a Barn", also printed by Quaker. It showed up on the Nook Books site in January 2013 as an 8x6 paperback.
A synopsis:
"A mother buys a barn for her children's enrichment. It happens to include a 200 year old house on 'Historic Route 6A'. Together they buy and raise farm animals who become family. As the children grow and move on, the barn evolves to host her small home grown and successful enterprises. This is a lightly frolicking continuum of short personal essays, pictures and whimsical poems."

These books can also be found at:
Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, MA
The Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons, MA (508) 539-6985
Mary's Bookstore in East Sandwich, MA (508) 833-2986
Titcomb's Bookshop in East Sandwich, MA
Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley, CA
Her third book, " Seeds Through the Air" was submitted in February 2013 to Archway Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster, as an eBook and as a 5x8 paperback, which does not get printed until somebody actually orders it. After numerous refinements by the editors and Eileen it was completed and published in June 2013.
A synopsis:
"69 occasional Fall and Winter days of introspective thought over something that occurred on that day, tangible or intangible, immediate or far away:
   September 11: In Memory I shout and scream ...
   October 13: Warm Feelings The dancing flame Heats up my mind ...
   December 20: Blank I have an awful urge to write, But nothing new comes to sight. I guess it's time to take a break. It's Christmas time, for goodness' sake.
   February 10: Friday the Eighth   The blizzard of two thousand and thirteen ... "
This book is available through:
goodreads.com with links to sixteen sellers
and more ...

Molly's Arthritis:

Unlike us, Molly is getting old. The vet's X-rays actually showed the arthritic deterioration of her bones. In a search online for something that could ease her pain I discovered a totally unexpected source, DesertUSA.com. In my occasional research over the years about desert flora and fauna, I have come to trust this web site for accurate and thorough information.

So it was interesting to find that they were recommending something that had nothing to do with Birdfoot Deervetch Peas or White-Tailed Antelope Squirrels. They were recommending Nimble by Adeptus for dogs with arthritis. We ordered three bottles then and have just ordered three more (three for free shipping). It definitely eases Molly's pain and she likes it. It is not a medication; it is a "joint supplement with unique synergistic ingredients". Adeptus also makes them for cats, horses and people.

Eileen Leaves Too Early:

Eileen and Molly flew out early February; too early. We spent the preceding day and night in Laguna Beach. We arrived first thing the day before at The Cottage Restaurant, our favorite breakfast place since 2001. In fact it had been one of my favorite places since I discovered it sometime around 1967.

It was gone. It was there but nobody was home. Down the street at a gas station I learned that it had sold out to a chain, which had not yet moved in. I do not remember the name of the chain but it did not sound like a breakfast place; we will see.
This was heart breaking.

We checked into the Hotel Laguna.

The next morning I dropped them off at LAX, first Molly at Cargo, then Eileen at Departure.

I returned home.

Two days after they arrived in East Sandwich, MA, a blizzard knocked out the power, heat and phone. We were able to stay in touch for awhile but decided to cut that out in case she needs her phone in an emergency. Its battery died anyhow.

She managed to bring in a good supply of the firewood that was stacked out back under the chicken house. She and Molly settled in on the kitchen floor next to the wood stove and basically stayed that way for 46 hours until the lights came back on and the furnace kicked in.

I stayed glued to NSTAR Electric's Twitter messaging. They were great; very informative, including re-tweets from other utility companies, police departments, the Cape Cod Chamber, etc., so I really had a good feel for how things were going moment to moment. I also tweeted with Verizon about her land-line phone.

On the second day, I called the Sandwich PD. An officer went right over, climbed through the snow and asked her how she was doing. They called me back to say that she was just fine.

Meanwhile I was calling every snow plowing service in the area that I could find online, with no luck. They were all flat-out booked, until I got ahold of Gibbs Rubbish & Brush Removal about a half mile down the street. They also said that they were booked but within the hour they were plowing out her driveway. Even Mrs Gibbs was there, hand shoveling a pathway to Eileen's door. They have not yet sent me a bill. We keep talking about going down to their place to thank them and to try paying the bill. We have got to do that.

Our tenant, Frank Hitchens, a Verizon lineman, had already shoveled the snow away from her car to the street where she had been wise enough to park before the storm.

There are a lot of really good solid people in this land of ours.

Something To Read On:

I finally decided that I needed to upgrade my book mount. Notice that I did not say "book holder", since it does not hold the book. In fact the book has trouble staying in place on the mount and I usually have to use a butter knife, salt shaker or such to hold the pages down while I eat. The only reason I have been using this half-log is that I like the look and feel of it. That is not a good enough reason.

I discovered it way back when Darby and Brianny were toddlers. I was in back of our place in Monmouth Junction, NJ cutting up a dead Tulip tree for our Ulefos wood stove. I had cut everything to 8" and was splitting one in half when this interesting sculpture fell out of the loose bark. I have used it to support my book of the moment ever since. Time for a change.

I researched book holders online and found one that looks like it will do the job; it has straps that will hold the pages down. It also has knobs and legs for every which-away, kind of like a good drafting board. I ordered it. This was after Eileen had departed.

The Able Table arrived and I set it up. It does everything it is supposed to do, but it is about twice as big as I had expected. I guess the book they used in the picture was a lot bigger then I thought, and I guess I didn't bother to study the stated dimensions. My bad. For myself I would just live with, but I suspect that Eileen is not going to appreciate that it takes up nearly half the dining table. Space is precious in the trailer so there is nowhere to just set it aside when not in use. I will probably have to try again.

To All Eyeglass Owners:

I want to say something about my eyeglasses. In December of 2011, I bought five pair of eyeglasses from the local Sears. One is for general usage; it is with me at all times. Two are prescription sunglasses, one for each car. Two are for working on each computer; east coast, west coast. My general usage glasses do not work with the computer; they slightly distort the view.

A year and a third after I bought them, one arm fell off of the general usage glasses. This of course has occurred with other glasses in the past. Those I could fix, either with a new screw or a light touch with a soldering iron or with super glue. These new ones, I could not; there is no screw and glue did not hold. In fact, nothing broke; they just fell apart. A little hinge-clip of sorts came out of its hole and will not go back in. To me this is planned obsolescence. Most normal people would just pay for a new frame, especially since the warranty has expired.

When I returned East, I took it to Sears. They offered to repair/replace it for $50. This is reasonable, I guess. So why did I say No; I want it done for free. I guess it may have had something to do with their having been way too expensive to begin with, $280, and because something else was stuck in my craw.

I had recently seen a 60 Minutes documentary about this. An Italian monopoly had bought out every manufacturer that they could buy, including Ray-Ban and others, and then jacked the pricing way up. They supply Sears and the big name eyeglass chains that you see everywhere. Sears! The traditional all-American company was getting its glasses from a very non-American monopoly. This bothers me.

Consumer Reports shows that basic glasses selling for $220 at Sears are way more at Pearle Vision and LensCrafters and private eye doctors, slightly less at Wal-Mart, way less at Costco and $176 at BJ's. Some of BJ's glasses do appear to be made in the USA (Beverly Hills Polo Club), some with parts made in China, and some made in Italy. However, CR shows Costco getting the best reviews.

Lighting The Way:

We have something of a cobbled driveway of relatively flat stones of various widths. "relatively" is the key word here, meaning that some of them have edges that can be tripped over. When Eileen and I return home after dark, I get out and feel my way to the deck until the lamp on the utility house 'sees' me and kicks on. Then Eileen gets out of the car and walks safely to the deck. This gets to be a nuisance.

I concluded that we need another automated lamp over the driveway. It had to fit into a rather constricting space under the overhang at the end of the carport roof. Most just would not fit. I did find one that looked like it would fit and I liked the style so I ordered it. That was over a year ago. It arrived shortly thereafter, but broken. It was broken by FedEx handlers somewhere between NY and CA; not by the local people. In fact it was the local delivery girl that heard the faint rattle and asked me to check it out. She took it away and returned it to the sender.

The replacement arrived after my departure. My neighbor Stephanie found it on the deck and put it inside the shower room. That is where it remained until the day before my departure this year, which is when I wired it into the carport gable. Through the cameras I have seen it kick on now and then, so it works. I am sure we will appreciate it on our return. I could not see what triggered it; probably a bird.

These automated lamps do go bad. The six year old lamp on the utility house became erratic. Cleaning the lens and pushing the Reset buttons did not help. Eventually I just went to Home Depot and got a replacement. It looks sharp and it works.

Wanted: Pond Plants That Live:

The plants in the pond did not survive. The packrats cut up and dragged away the Burgundy Red Louisiana Iris stalks and the regular pond plants just died. I suspect that our cleansers killed them. We had recently switched to 100% biodegradable everything, but probably not in time to save these guys.

Add to that the surprise of discovering that the gallon of concentrated Seventh Generation detergent that we store in the washing machine had expanded during the summer heat and burst open. Running the first load in the machine flushed all of that down into the pond which would have eradicated all forms of bacteria in the pond including the good bacteria that help the plants grow.

I guess this is a loosing proposition. Even biodegradable soap is supposed to kill bacteria and get things clean. I guess that includes the potted soil that the plants are trying to draw nourishment from under water. I had kind of hoped that it might reach some sort of symbiotic relationship, with it being constantly recirculated in the daytime and with the bottom fourth being pumped out twice a week to water the trees and shrubs, with fresh water replacing it.

I grew up across the street from two small Michigan lakes in the 50's, four years at each, which had plenty of thriving lillys and other water plants, and I am pretty sure that everybody's septic lines had to be emptying directly into these lakes, including the high powered chemical detergents of the day.

I decided to give it another chance with something that even thrives in polluted water and I think helps clean it - Duckweed. I can recall seeing plenty of it floating on those Michigan lakes. I ordered a bag of it.

I removed the old dead plant boxes and put them around back, out of sight. I then removed and cleaned the pump boxes, cleaned the filters, reassembled and put them back in the pond. I am contemplating removing the filters from the tree pump's box. Maybe they work too well. I would rather have that stuff nourishing the plants instead of stagnating the bottom of the pond.

When the Duckweed arrived, I dumped it into the pond. It looked good; something green for awhile. There is no sign of it now.

Of course the pond is still serving its original purpose as a repository for all sources of water from the sink, shower, washer and gutters; and then directly from the water tank when the former do not provide enough. This waters the plants, which all appear to be doing well except for possibly the Jasmine. I heard that it was not looking good.

Water! Need Water:

Thursday: I am realizing that I have not looked at the pond recently through the camera. It is August 15 as I type this and August is usually when the water tank empties out. So I just took a look and I see that the pond is almost empty. The tree pump would have run yesterday, Wednesday, and will try to run again on Saturday. I have sent an email to, and called, Doug at Wonder Water and requested an ASAP delivery. Waiting for him to respond ....

Doug has responded that he will bring a load next Tuesday. The trees look healthy and even the Jasmine looks green. By the depth of the pond water, I would guess that it has been through at least two waterings since the tank emptied out. I should be paying better attention. In fact, I have just added an annual reminder to my Thunderbird Calendar.

Friday: This afternoon, our neighbor Stephanie dragged her hose over and filled the pond. According to Google, it has been nearly 100 degrees there.
Forty minutes later the camera shows a Bobcat drinking from the pond.

Saturday: The pump watered the trees and plants successfully. Stephanie refilled the pond within the hour.

Tuesday: The water was delivered and the tank is full.

Re our Bobcats, some time ago I signed a petition asking the state of California to ban trapping in the Joshua Tree National Park area. It looks like 2200 good locals also signed and it is before the legislators now. If you are a resident of the state, you are urged to contact your reps and ask them to vote it through. You can find out more about it at The Project Bobcat Facebook page. Also, "Like" that page. Any smart politician is going to look it over, so we need the numbers.


The Following Are Stories That Were Not Told

Filling a Zen Water 8 gallon purifier with
a 2.5 Gallon Arrow H2O Dispenser

The Mr Heater 'Buddy'

Long distance shot of 3 coyotes

Traveling Desert tortoise, April 28, 2013

Sunrise over Palm Springs from I-10

Walmart supercenter, December 15, 2012

The 29 Palms Inn restaurant

Marienne Uy, previous owner, The Country Kitchen

All liquids etc into the fridge for the summer

United flightdeck before Palm Springs departure

Copyright © 2013, Van Blakeman