Thursday, December 22, 2011

Over the Hump

Happy Solstice!

The sky was pale pink this morning and we are having very mild weather.  I'm making progress with the pruning and outside clean up.  I've got plans for the greenhouse when it gets wet and cold.  That's when I'll attend to inside tasks.

Inside the greenhouse this morning, I noticed Spring-like activity.  There is the start of new growth on some of the plants which died down at the end of Summer.  Jade trees and klanchoe are ready to bloom just as the Christmas cactus has just about finished.  Odd, as this is the first day of Winter here.

Something I witnessed this week that touched me deeply:  an octogenarian was getting out of the motorized shopping cart and stood up with the aid of her aluminum walker.  Her husband extended his hand and they slowly exited the supermarket hand in hand.  Everyone around was patient and gave them room.  I walked to my car, wiping away a tear.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hey, Moon!

Rosy fingered dawn, my eye!  'More like a burglar's flashlight shining in to my window at 5 a.m.!

The moon's sitting out in the northwest in the blackness staring at me while I type at my desk.  Soon, the sun will make an appearance and take away some of the chill.

Yesterday morning, I noticed (for the first time in my life?) that all the shadows cast by outbuildings on the farm were frosty.  What a revelation.

I've continued my manure hauling each dry day, placing the non-hot goat manure around trees and in flower beds.  All the buds are already on the trees prefiguring the Spring to come.  Nature is an optimist.

Friday, December 02, 2011

December: Bright and Chilly

There was a  heavy frost this morning, but the sun was shining as the geese walked on water briefly.  They broke through the ice and by mid-afternoon the ice was gone.

Suddenly, most of the trees are leafless.

Tomorrow, we will work on winter-proofing the big barn by covering the gates with plywood to keep the drafts down.

I've been hauling buckets of half-composted goat manure up the hill to act as mulch and fertilizer for the fruit trees.  I've got to transplant some of the many butterfly bushes which planted themselves in my vegetable garden.   There is also, mysteriously, a beauty berry bush. 

It's good weather for this work.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weather See-saw

Today I raked the barn in a T-shirt, no jacket.  It is 68 degrees F. and the weather will be mild for the next week.  It's overcast, but there hasn't been much rain since last week, when it was also much colder.  We are on the weather see-saw for now, so I'll try to take advantage of the milder temps.

The cows moved to the next pasture, fence repaired.

There are less and less leaves visible on the trees.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Golden Days

This is one of those posts made to tuck away for frigid winter days or blazing hot summertime.

These Autumn days are golden, with warm, sunny daytime temperatures and cool nights. 

The goats race out of the barn in the mornings to see what yummy leaves have fallen since yesterday.  The views are spectacular and it is possible to do as much physical work as I can in a day.  The cows seem content to graze and rest with their little calves.  They need to be moved to the next pasture soon, but some fence repairs need to get done before that.  I'm confident that this will get done this coming weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Crisp and Cool

Click on photo to enlarge.

Rain last night and cooler temperatures this morning -- I pulled out my camera to capture some of the views from my window.  It was almost impossible to take a bad picture.

We've made some progress repairing a couple of old outbuildings this past week, getting the foundations re-poured in preparation for shoring up the walls and re-roofing to keep out the rain and snow.  This will provide more efficient animal housing and storage space.

Dinky, our little Hereford cow had a calf a few days ago.  We drove the mule out into the field to check on cows and came upon the newborn snoozing in the sunshine.  The first day or so, newborn calves do not run away, so we were able to pet and admire her.  I looked up to see Dinky steaming over.  If I hadn't noticed her, she surely would have knocked me over -- she was that agitated over our handling of the new baby!  She's moved the baby into the high brush and is hiding with her for now.  I expect we'll see the baby running with the other calves in a few more days.  There are three others frolicing in the crisp Autumn weather.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Autumn Equinox occurred on September 23rd this year.  We've turned a corner.  It's been raining a lot, thankfully, although it's more humid than cool.

Leaves are just beginning to turn color.  It's a very subtle change.

We have a bumper crop of figs ripening.  I picked a big bowl today and am looking around for recipes on the Internet.  There are quite a lot of intriguing ones.  For today, I'll peel and cut up the last of the apples and mix in some chopped figs, cinnamon, and maybe a little sweetener with vanilla, although the figs will likely add all the sweetness you'd want.  The mix will go into a casserole and in the microwave for as long as it takes to soften up the apples.  After it cools, I'll freeze it in pint sized containers.  It will be a lovely applesauce for wintertime or an ingredient for cakes and other desserts or an accompaniment for pork or chicken.

Something tells me I'll also be canning some fig chutney during the cold months, as there are many containers of dried and fresh figs in the freezer.

We said goodbye to six prime young breeding goat does today.  They will be the start of a new herd for someone in the area.  Our herd is getting thinned out a bit before winter sets in.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cool and Gray

It barely got up into the 60s yesterday.  Today looks like it will be rainy.  It will warm up a little next week, but I'm enjoying the cooler weather.  I can get more physical work done.

Fat green walnut pods are dropping onto the ground in all the pastures.  The goats are munching some acorns and we are mowing and cutting the stupid, useless stickweed that is taking over.

I'm picking the last of the apples and lots of nice red tomatoes.

We are definitely on the last days of summer.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's Been an Interesting Year

Yesterday afternoon, I drove through a pasture to our cabin to do some general clean-up outside and pick up a load of old wood. 

Overgrown bushes beckoned.  I was pruning a forsythia when something caught my eye.  I turned and looked at the path to the cabin and saw what I first thought was a black heifer ambling up the path.

"What the h...?" I said aloud when I realized this was not a heifer.

The big black bear looked startled to see me and turned to run into the woods.

Another first.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

September -- Relief!

Today is the first cool day we've had for months.  I wore a sweater all day.  It's been raining pretty much steadily since yesterday.  The parched earth is absorbing all the moisture and things are already greener and less crunchy.

The cows seem relieved.  The goats are bummed because they do not like to get their feet wet.  Some of the braver ones were on the hillside this afternoon.

Our ponds are getting refilled, which, naturally made the geese happy.  I am happy, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Whew! Ahem.

So, we had an earthquake and a hurricane all in one week.  Well done.

Actually, although the kitchen shook a bit, it wasn't a big deal.  I was listening to my Ipod with earphones while cutting up apples, and stopped momentarily when it happened.  I did make a mental note to call the FAA about the MedEvac helicopter flying too close to our house, however.

It wasn't until my mother called from New York State that I learned that it was "the" East Coast earthquake centered in a small town in the general area.  There's been a lot of talk about it since, so I thought I should mention it.

Hurricane Irene barely caused some wind and, unfortunately, very little rain.  We were at the outer edge of the path.  I'd say that New York and Vermont got much more effect than we did.

That's the big news.

The little news:  sizeable flocks of birds touch down to rest and refuel on their way to somewhere.  The daytime temperatures are now in the low eighties.  The late-planted red tomatoes are starting to ripen.  A bumper crop of figs have eluded consumption by critters, so I'm drying and freezing them.  There is a cow nursing twins -- a first for us. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nooks and Crannies

I heard a radio announcer refer to "late summer" and I became aware that we are nearly through the sweaty time of year.

There have been some lower humidity days, but it's up and down.  I'm waiting for weather conducive to weeding and pruning.  Rain has been elusive for us.  It's evidently soaking nearby areas, but we are either in a nook or a crannie of the Blueridge which is being overlooked by the rain fairy.  The lawn crunches when you walk over it.

If you go down the hill early enough, there is a contingent of wild turkey that walks the lower hay field.  They are pretty bold, knowing that it's off-season for hunters.  A gray crane flies to the goose pond each morning.  There is so little water that frog gigging must be a breeze.

The geese, who ate little feed during the mating and nesting season, now wait expectantly at the gate in the late afternoon.  They are fattening up for winter already.

Apples and figs are ripening quickly and I am straining to keep up with the processing.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Today is the day the heat and humidity is supposed to break.

We got a little rain over the weekend, which was most welcome.  Many July Bugs are lying on their backs with their legs up in the air.  Is their life cycle over for this year?  The blackberry bushes have suffered from the intense heat and lack of rain.  Most are browned with shriveled berries.

I've got two carboys of blackberry wine brewing.  There are enough berries in the freezer to prepare a third.  'Not bad, considering that there was NO blackberry wine at all last year.

I planted three cucumber seeds in July and have picked far more cucumbers than we really need.  I hope to restrain myself from trying to make cucumber wine!

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to more rain, reduced humidity, and lower temperatures.  I've got plans for outdoor jobs that need attention.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On Picking Blackberries in July

(To be tucked away for December reading.)

Three days of low humidity and relative coolness allowed me to concentrate on picking for wine.  I was able to pick late into the mornings and since the blackberries are at the height of ripeness, I pulled in gallons which are now in ziploc bags in the freezer.  This morning, the humidity and heat are back and we are in typical July weather.

I was drenched with sweat by 8 a.m. and hadn't really accomplished all that much.  By ten thirty the animal chores were done and I'd cut down weeds and picked another gallon of berries.  I was aware of the scent of catnip as I picked around the goose pond fence.  A big old bull frog was sounding the alert:  "Watch out, that berry picking lady is at it again!  She might take a notion to gig for frogs -- so watch out!

I moved to patches up higher where bergamot abounds and its distinctive scent dominated.  There are also places where the honeysuckle is the predominate scent.  The crazy July bugs were hanging all over the brambles.  Occasionally, I picked one along with plump berries and it gave the impression of one of those trick hand buzzers, startling me and making me jump with surprise! 

The dopey July bugs are harmless and I guess after years of observing them, I'd miss them if they didn't show up to announce that the berries are ripe and ready to pick.  It's the gnats and stinging insects that are irritating.  I'm covered with insect/sunblock spray in order to survive.  Even so, I'll have to spray anti-itch stuff on insect bites by early evening.  Bugs fly in my eyes and ears.  Brambles grab at my skin.  Berry picking is not always fun, but worth it anyway.

This is prime time to pick.  Blackberries will be done by mid-August and the window of opportunity will close.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

June Bug Report

Today, I picked a decent amount of blackberries for wine.  However, they are less abundant than in years previous to last year.  The drought last year pretty much decimated the crop.  I'm hoping to get at least one carboy of blackberry wine.  The heat, even early in the morning, made me feel sick.

As I picked, I had to deal with the drunken June (or July) bugs.  They are now bombing the house roof.  At times, it sounds like a steady rain.  They are definitely connected with the ripening of blackberries.  I also saw them milling around the fig tree, which has started producing.

We got an actual heavy storm yesterday.  We got wet in the evening while tucking in the goats.  No complaints there.

Guests did me a favor by picking more purple beans, chard, rhubarb, and shallots -- all of which were volunteer crops.

Friday, July 01, 2011


It will be hot and humid today, although we've had some low humidity days this past week.  I managed to do some outside work, like pulling weeds and checking for berries.

Wineberries are ready and I've picked a bunch.  Unfortunately, we don't have large stands of them.  The blackberries are just starting to ripen, but so far most are bitter.  If it rains some more, we may have some sweet plump ones.  I noticed that, probably due to last year's drought conditions, large stands of blackberry have disappeared or significantly shrunk.

Blooming now:  Rose of Sharon, daylilies, hosta, butterfly bush, larkspur, soapwort. and lavender.  Chard, fennel, beans, and shallots are ready to harvest.  Asparagus are done for the most part.

Biting and stinging insects are active in abundance, but not a single June bug was spotted last month -- just for the record.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

The sun is up around 5 a.m. and so am I.  It stays light until around 9:30 p.m.  Today is the longest day -- meaning the day with the most light -- of the year. 

Lucky for us, the day started with thunder and light rain.  It appears it will end that way, too, although the middle of the day was overcast and dry.

Happy with rain yesterday, I quickly plugged in tomato seedlings in the plastic garden.  Two more blueberry bushes which had been sitting on the porch were also planted in the garden.  I'm thinking I'll concentrate on perennials and self-seeding plants.  Shallots and fennel are prominent in the garden.  Yesterday, I processed a big pot of purple beans.  I didn't plant a single bean.  I've already got enough frozen to last about two years. 

The apricots are ripening at a rapid rate.  I'm racing the birds and other critters to get my share.  Processing is tedious but well worth the effort.  I'm freezing the peeled and pitted fruit until the day I'll make jams.

Here is an idea of how the landscape looked after the recent rain:
Click on the image to enlarge.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Good Life

We're easing into Summer.  We've already had a few days in the high nineties and then gotten a little rain with impressive lightning and thunder which took us back to lower temperatures and less humidity.  It seems we're in for more hot days this coming week.

This is all fine for the continuing haying.  High temps bake the grass dry and little rain doesn't really affect the process of raking and baling.

I'm in my normal Summer mode -- getting out early to do chores and whatever gardening I can manage and then retreating to the house until evening.  I got my own battery powered chainsaw, so can cut small trees to neaten up the landscape.  I cut up much dead pussywillow and wild grapevine this morning.

During the day yesterday and today, I bottled the 2010 wines which were stored in carboys in the basement.  I taste a small bit of each one before bottling so as not to waste time if the wine isn't up to par. 

Not a single wine was spoiled.  Some are very good, others just good.  Those of you who might be wondering about the yellow tomato wine:  It has a slightly tomato-y taste with lemon and ginger supporting.  It's what you'd call an "interesting" wine and one that may improve with age.  It's a lovely golden color.  'Not something you'd normally expect in a wine.  It does pack a punch, however! 

The tomato wine made me think of the potent peapod wine made by the Goods in the PBS series, "The Good Neighbors."  It was a 1975 series about what we now call Urban Homesteaders.  They lived in a middle class neighborhood and when Tom Good lost his job, they decided to become self-sufficient by raising fruit and vegetables and even acquiring chickens, a pig and a milk goat named Geraldine.  Tom managed to figure out how to generate power using the methane from animal manure.

Everything old is new again.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


"May" rhymes with "Hay" and every year it's a game of dodge the raindrops while surviving extreme heat.  Today is June 1st and the heat is on!

All around us, farmers are making hay.  The weather may cooperate this week, but dealing with equipment malfunctions is trying and delays progress.  Same old same old.

The first golden daylilies are blooming.  Asparagus is plentiful and requires daily picking.  I blanch and freeze as quantities require.  I never got around to planting the vegetable garden, but chard, tomatoes, and beans have volunteered.  The beans have grown to the top of the trellis.  There is much fruit on the trees, but the black raspberries are late this year.

The cows are happy to be in deep grass and the goats are fat and finding plenty of browse under the grass.  Baby goats are growing.  Some are already half the size of their mothers.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

"It ain't over till it's over"...

...the immortal words of Yogi Berra.

Yes, folks, just when I "graduated" the last class from the maternity barn and we started getting back to normal (whatever that is) I found a little orphan screaming her lungs out.  No tag.  This was two days ago.

Was someone playing a joke by dropping off goat babies in our barn?  No.  I found her mother that evening.  She'd had the baby and gone off to graze for the day.  They are now in the maternity barn and yard.

Today -- you guessed it!  Baby boy.  Baby #111.  This defies my understanding of gestation since the buck wasn't here longer than a month.  Are there more to come?  Stay tuned to this channel for the answer to that and other perplexing questions.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tempus Fugit

It seems impossible that my last post was in early April. It is now May. Iris have just started to burst through their paperlike buds. Spring rains grow grass quickly and it is nearly time for the first mowing of hay. The lawns have been mowed several times already.

Tiny apricots, pears, peaches, figs and apples are on the trees, foretelling a good fruit harvest. I've been picking and freezing asparagus and eggs are plentiful.

We ended up with well over a hundred little goatlings. Today, I "graduated" the last bunch from the maternity barn to graze the pastures. I decided to put the four bottle babies in that enclosure, as there is a refrigerator and microwave in that barn and it will be more convenient to keep milk there and warm it up. There is also soap and water and I'll be able to de-gunk when they splatter me with milk. Since it will be in the 30s tonight, that is a good warm place for them to stay.

I call them the gang of four, AKA the howling banshees. Bottle kids can be thugs, especially the males. Their cuteness makes them tolerable. They guzzle milk like it is going out of style. They run to greet me and trip me by winding around my feet. Little goats seem to have the impression that humans have milk somewhere in their legs, but it is not precise just where. They love, love, love milk and they love, love, love attention and cuddling.

We've achieved a sort of system and I actually manage to cook meals and am catching up with cleaning in the house. The vegetable garden is unplanted. I've considered just seeing what I can glean from the perennial crops and berries this year, as we have plenty frozen and canned from last year. I'll likely relent and get things in the ground soon.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Redbud in Bloom

I saw one redbud ready to bloom in the woods on Saturday.  Today, they are prominent on the edges of the pastures.

We're having a little respite from goat births for the past few days.  I think there will be another wave before the end of the month -- and then it will be over, because the buck was only here for a month.

All is pretty copacetic in the barns.  In the big barn, which is maze-like, fifteen or twenty babies will play a breakneck game of follow the leader.  They race through the barn from end to end and through the fenced pasture.  Sometimes, they are so intent on the game that they run into me as I try to make my way to do one task or another.

Baby goats are happy to be alive and full of energy.  Mothers' milk is making them strong and heavy to pick up!  The life force is strong.  They can now leap atop tall buildings in a single bound.  Well, at least they are jumping up onto the top of the little plastic dog house in the hallway.  Eventually the sudden need for sleep will hit and they will pile inside for a nice, warm nap.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

March Went Out Like a Lion

We even had some snow flurries yesterday morning -- April 1st -- no joke.  I am UDDERLY (and utterly) exhausted.  We are up to well over 70 new kids, but it seems to be nearly over.  We had a single newborn yesterday afternoon.

To think that I was under the impression that kidding would just be starting about now!  I guess I need to be a little more careful about counting days.  We were caught a little off guard and the small pastures need fence repairs before we can turn them out on a dry day.  I'm hoping that will be addressed today while we have our Saturday helper.  Now, if we could just have a dry, warm, sunny day...

I sold one of my last Nubians with her two fat baby doelings yesterday.  There are two Nubians left.  We are nearly all white with brown heads now.  'Get 'em while they're hot.  By the way, Brambleberry Farm will be a good place to purchase new breeding stock this year.

I hope to start tagging, worming, and wethering, but need courageous and strong helpers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Speedy (Goat) Delivery Service

When you've survived another day on this goat ranch, you know it by the back pain, extreme fatigue, and inability to string sentences together.

I've been working pretty much twelve hour days for the last week.  My little UTV is outfitted with two vented plastic picnic baskets, lined with clean towels and a dog leash.  I bought those picnic baskets many years ago in a Big Lots in Orlando, Florida.  I had no idea what they'd be good for, but at five dollars apiece, it seemed like a good buy.

My little UTV travels uphill and down and all around the pastures, picking up mothers and babies who have been born al fresco and delivering them to the barns where mothers get food, hay, and water and semi-private digs.  Mothers are usually tied onto the handhold of the UTV and I slowly proceed with them in tow.  Babies naval cords are iodined; the date, mother's tag number and the babies new herd numbers are entered in my little notebook; paper collars containing the same information are placed on little baby necks and kisses and congratulations are given all around.

There are also a good number of overnight births in the barn.  This morning, my husband and I worked to sort out a dozen new births, clean out the biggest space in the bottom of the barn and figure out a strategy for housing all in some sort of orderly fashion.

I've just done a count from my notebook.  We have had 64 live births so far.  Many sets of triplets and two sets of quads so far.  Most births are twins, but today we had a couple of singles -- all bucklings.

So, those of you who love baby goat time at Brambleberry Farm and want to help out for a few hours (you know who you are), come on out or give me a call or email to set up a time.  I figure we are only about half way through.

The picnic baskets were a great buy and the UTV was a great buy in terms of useful tools.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Sprung

The apricot trees are in full bloom, as is an early Magnolia.  I decided to "Spring Up" the blog in celebration.  There is some rain in the forecast, and I'm glad of it.

The briar project continues, but I'm nearing the end.  Huge piles of cut brambles have been generated and await removal by tractor or truck. 

Jonquils are blooming, but not all yet.  Restraint is good.  I see tulip leaves up, but no buds yet. 

Much of the pre-baby work is done in the barns.  Maternity checks are daily events.

Meanwhile, I struggle to learn to use Open Source Software on the theory that exercising the brain is good.  Mostly, I get a mild headache and smoke comes out of my ears, but some progress is being made.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I Love Puzzles

My current project is cutting down a large stand of brambles near our front gate. It is a complicated and treacherous puzzle. You could really get hurt unraveling this puzzle.

It's not the first time in fourteen years that I've done this, but I swear it will be the last time! I've got plans to keep this stuff in check. There are lovely perennial bulbs planted there which, some years, are never seen and appreciated.

I work for an hour or just a half hour and then need to rest. This is not for the faint of heart. I'll work outside as long as I can each day and tackle the pruning and cleaning of flower beds during Spring. When the Summer heat comes it'll be all over!

I planted some peppers in the greenhouse yesterday.

The newborn calves run like crazy when I drive down the hill. The interesting thing is that they run to Papa Tom, our horned Dexter bull. He's been known to lay in the pasture with a group of young calves all around him. How do they know he's the pater familias? Is it instinct? He is a lovely boy and I am fond of him

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

March Came in Like a Lamb

Will March go out like a lion?  Stay tuned.

Severe thunderstorms and possible tornados were predicted on February 28th.  It kept me on edge the whole day.  Thankfully, they never materialized.   We did get some nice rain.

It was up in the 70s F.  The next day, March 1st it was 20 degrees cooler.  Good.  That's more normal.

I'm aware that France near the Swiss border is experiencing much the same Spring-like weather, with daffodils and tulips starting to bloom.  The drive to prune and weed was strong yesterday.  I tired myself out just calculating how much work needs to be done.  I managed to plant some tomato seeds in the greenhouse -- but I would have done that no matter the weather outside. 

Meanwhile, the logistics of goat kidding is taking up some brain space.  The maternity barn is pretty well fitted out, but it won't hold all, so I must start strategizing how we will use the big barn stalls. 

'Bet you city dwellers didn't know that farmers have to do so much thinking and planning.  Don't plan and you'll reap the consequences in terms of chaos.

I'm reading Bringing It to the Table, by Wendell Berry and just at the point where I may learn the secrets of large herd management of sheep, which are close enough to goat herd management.  I'm hoping there will be some gems of wisdom included.

Monday, February 21, 2011

False Spring

It is predicted that we'll be in the 70s today.  Spring bulbs have begun to emerge and I am getting nervous.  If the fruit trees blossom out, we are sure to get zapped when winter returns.

Rain is predicted again, although we've seen precious few raindrops this February. 

All in all, this is the strangest February I can remember.

Two new baby cowies were born last week.  It was good that they were born in temperate weather and got to see some sunshine for their starts in life.  There is no grass growing to speak of and big round bales are being delivered to the pasture daily.

We've been hard at work in the goat maternity barn, getting ready for Spring births.  We put three new storage cabinets together and moved the refrigerator to the upper area near the sink and cabinets.  It will be good to be able to find things with the expanded storage.  If you need a towel or a rag or meds quickly, it will be possible to get hands on stuff.

Today, I'll sweep up and maybe even put sawdust in the birthing stalls.  We'll get some help and move square bales in so that we are ready.  I am fully expecting snow in April -- that will demonstrate that Mother Nature will not be thwarted.

Friday, January 21, 2011


We were watching a movie last night where someone was dreaming that he was flying.  I know that dream has all sorts of positive interpretations.

I said to my husband, "I've never dreamed that I was flying, have you?"

"No," he said, "but I've dreamed I was trapped in a sleeping bag."

That should tell you all you need to know about us.

If you'd like to search for the meanings of dreams on a site where you can actually type in the dream, go to .  I cannot vouch for its reliability, but it is a fun site.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year

Here in Gringolandia the glacier seems to be receding.  I may get my car back up the hill and tucked into the garage.  The White Christmas storm kept me up here for lack of a four wheel drive vehicle which could actually get up the ice covered driveway.  My husband graciously took care of the farm animals because he drives a heavy four wheel drive truck.

I got to read The Lacuna, a book I highly recommend.  It concerns many things which I am interested in:  politics, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, class struggle, Mexico, Appalachia, and the dark side of human nature which will manage to destroy reputation by bullying.  Luckily, some of us have a lacuna through which we can escape.  The leisure to read was a great Christmas present.

Now, I'm on toThe Jungle, which purports to be about the evils of the meat packing industry in the early 1900s, but which will, I think, give me more insight into the lives of immigrants who came to the major cities on the Great Lakes from Europe and struggled against exploitation and deprivation.  Class struggle figures in again, as does the dark side of human nature.  Although my grandparents didn't live in Chicago, Buffalo was close enough.  My grandmother told me some stories of what it was like to be a child in those times, but perhaps I was less aware of the desire of the rich to exploit masses of workers for their own selfish gain.  This seems to be the aim of the current would-be "Masters of the Universe." 

The stories of unlimited opportunity in the New World were also sold to the peasants in Europe by agents of the meatpacking and steel industries to lure a nearly unlimited supply of workers so desperate to make a living for their families that they were willing to work for wages so low that many suffered and died while their employers got richer and richer.

Of course, Cortez mercilessly exploited the Azteca for much the same reasons.  Tell, me, will we ever learn enough from history to break the cycle?