Urban Farmers

Monday, May 30

Nobody told a dirty joke. Nobody tried to one-up the others. We just got together this morning to enjoy each other — the Urban Farmers.

We’ve been meeting for years, third Saturday of the month. Guys who know how to get dirt under fingernails. Guys who make a worthy living in medicine, ecology, education, counseling, engineering, administration and bus driving.

Two have died, wonderful chaps — Mark Smucker and Donovan Miller.

Today’s was a $675 breakfast. That is, we bid up a meal offered by Mil Penner, a donation to Mennonite Economic Development Associates. This year’s projects are two: a city garden and a women’s project in Myanmar.

Here is Mil over the coals.


Bacon crisps.


Buns baked over the coals.


Conversation after breakfast …


conversation about

  • MEDA in Myanmar
  • Mennonite Disaster Service in Detroit
  • SOOP (Service Opportunities for Older People) in Colorado
  • Myanmar residents in Indy
  • The Indianapolis 500
  • The nasty effects of the one percent residential tax cap
  • Blue Indy, Uber and the mass transit proposal

I am grateful for these guys.


A different environment

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In my most recent blog I praised my near environment — a place I fondly call home. The day after I wrote that blog, my wife and I headed to midwestern Michigan to attend a festival at Interlochen Center for the Arts that preceded commencement (today). Our grandson Adrian graduated after two years of studies in theatre.


Adrian being congratulated by Interlochen’s president the one who is wearing shoes.

Joy and I had enough free time to explore the region — loveliness to the fullest.


Sleeping Bear dunes to the west. And then on the peninsula ending at the Mission Lighthouse …


vineyards aplenty …


back roads not plowed in the winter


orchards of apple, peace, cherry and apricot…


and finally the lighthouse and its beautiful old lens.


The next day (Friday) we traversed the larger peninsula jutting northward from Traverse City, ending in Leelanau County. Again we saw scores of vineyards, orchards and farms. We stopped, turned around to get a photo of lilacs against a barn.

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I asked a senior who was working in a garage whether was OK to enter his premises so that I could take a picture of his barn. “That isn’t a barn,” he responded. “That is an old flour mill” which as we subsequently learned was in the family for several generations. The mill wheels, when still in operation, were propelled by water from a pond that he showed us.


In Leelanau State Park we searched the beach for Petosky stones. The shoreline was beautiful …


but Lake Michigan itself seemed moody.


By the time we got back to our B&B, a storm was in full force.


We did get to see a gentler Lake Michigan.


The four days reminded me that I’m not the only one who lives in a pleasant environment.


The near environment

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

So much of my own sense of the beauty of this earth comes not from exciting trips to far away places but from the near environment — let’s say an area that goes no further than a quarter mile from our house. Or even better, what I can see from the patio.

Here is looking south


This is north.


And to the east.

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My mind and heart need home, this place, this chair, this window and so important, this patio. By the way, we live in Irvington, once a little town separated from Indianapolis but now a vital urban community. It is not a wealthy spread; most of us are middle, middle class. But Irvington residents do indeed like green.

I hope your near environment nurtures you.

Rich and poor

Sunday, May 22, 2016

When you pursue political theory far enough you discover the troublesome dynamic between the have and the have-nots, or, stated somewhat baldly, between the rich and the poor.

I do not write with authority, just with a conscience that is raked regularly when I stop to consider or am stopped to reconsider.  Yesterday our breakfast conversation (Urban Farmers) was at times jolly, but the agenda pulled us to sobering facts.

  • There isn’t enough money in this fair city — this place celebrated for its downtown, its museums, art and culture and successful sports programs — to fund a thorough rebuilding of its crumbling infrastructures (streets, sidewalks, bridges).
  • There isn’t enough money — we are a population of 800,000 within city limits and double that in the county — to pay for adequate city park maintenance.
  • There isn’t enough money — what with the conservative push to encourage private and charter schools — to pay for quality public schools.
  • There isn’t enough money — at a time when incarceration is shockingly high — to provide adequate and humane quarters for prisoners.
  • There isn’t enough money — here where literacy is relatively high — to keep public libraries open full time.
  • There isn’t enough money — during years of record-breaking homicides in the city — to pay for more street officers.
  • There isn’t enough money to provide reliable bus transportation to people in poorer sections.

All of this at a time when our governor, at the National Rifle Association meeting in Louisville, touts the glories of Indiana.

What is the problem?

A sector of the community believes that the government should stop providing many of the services that have been assigned to the government:  public schools, the water system, prisons, highways. Let these be privatized.

Another sector argues that government-run operations gradually grow less and less efficient, since profit no longer drives day to day operations.

An apparent majority of the population fights against paying taxes of any kind.

This blog is titled “Rich and Poor.” I’m just getting to that topic. In this city there IS enough money to pay the rich owners of professional sports teams to stay here. There IS enough money to give superb maintenance to streets and sidewalks in well-to-do communities. There IS enough money to give tax breaks to companies wishing to start businesses.

As I said, my farmer buddies were rather intense on Saturday.


YouTube Music

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Once upon a time we had a great music system, accessed through the graces of Glick Audio. Eventually I gave the speakers to a grandson. What became of the receiver I can’t remember. We then entered a period of cassette sound. When our cassette player went kaput, I gave away a box of classical cassettes. I migrated via FM radio to Minnesota Public Radio, classical streaming.

Now I’ve come upon the next “system.”  On my MacPro I bring up YouTube. Its music sounds tinny until I plug in earphones which puts me on the first row balcony to my choice of classical music.

Tonight, after a day of work in the garden, I listened to Camille Saint Saens Requiem Opus No. 54; then Faure’s Requiem; and concluded my concert with Samuel Barber’s Agnes Dei. No, I’ve not learned a vocabulary to convey what I hear and experience in great music. Just take it from me, music connects my heart and brain and soul.


Wednesday, May 18, 2019

It’s a privilege to pull weeds at Indianapolis Museum of Art on Wednesdays, and a pleasure to share photos.

My work begins at 8, but I try to arrive early to look around.


The vegetable garden demonstrates what can be done with a small space.


Today I came across a type of dogwood that won my heart.


We spent half the morning planting wildflowers. Here is Greg planting Virginia blue bells.


During our weed pulling John stopped by with his dog. It’s a daily trip for him.  Steve chats with him about the trail.


Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to adjust the camera to capture two herons flying in opposite directions.


DSC_0257.jpgLots of school kids were on the grounds today. Steve edges past one group eating lunch on the bridge over the canal.

I look forward to next Wednesday.


An ambience barometer

Monday, May 16, 2016

Some years ago — perhaps as long ago as my grad school days, someone suggested the need for an ambience barometer. She imagined a device far more sophisticated than a thermometer that reveals the temperature, something more thorough than gross national product (GNP) to measure well-being, and something far better than public opinion about best beaches or best cities to retire in.

She wanted a somewhat magical device that when placed at any one spot on earth, would make a comprehensive reading of material, cultural, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

I’ve never forgotten about this imagined tool. When traveling to Malta, Thailand, Chile and elsewhere, I’ve tried to coax my brain and all of my senses to make my own informal appraisal of environments. I remember in particular a visit to an island on which there was, in my opinion, a lot of garbage along the roads and on beaches. I tried to extrapolate social meanings from this plethera of garbage.

Now, is this moment of widespread consternation about the candidates slated for our next presidential election, I think about my own nation and culture, our economy and material wellbeing, our communitarian spirit, our physical health, our level of hope and confidence, and indeed our moment in the ever-moving tide of earthly life.

  1. The gap between the very rich and the very poor is extremely wide.
  2. The definition of work as well as the availability of jobs has left a substantial segment of the population inadequately employed.
  3. University education continues to rank high among developed nations; however the cost of attending college has risen far faster than national cost-of-living increases.
  4. Despite the equal rights amendment to the Constitution, racism continues to destroy equal opportunity and respect.
  5. Violent storms have increased both in number and severity.
  6. An increased life expectancy is due in large part to medical advances although good medical care is expensive, taking up an increasing portion of earned income.
  7. The infrastructure, much of it built in the post World War II boom, is overdue not only for repairs but also for redesign and rebuilding.
  8. The so-called war on drugs has not succeeded. The latest suggested strategy is to legalize drugs in order to control their use.
  9. Our incarceration rate is four times higher than the average of all other nations on earth, even as the rate of major crimes has decreased.
  10. The definition, role and importance of the family has changed dramatically in recent decades, introducing questions about  the principal source and quality of child rearing.
  11. The omnipresence of hand-held computers and related electronic gadgets is modifying not only how we get information, but also how we relate to each other.
  12. It is beyond me to define the religious moment in our country, due to the Americanization of some denominations, the splintering of other religious groups, the increased number of other-than-Christian religions, the statistics that reveal a rising number of non-participants in church life and changing social mores.

I got to twelve!  And I didn’t even remark about the amount of paper thrown from car windows, left in parks or strewn even on our own property. If I stayed at work, gazing at the ambience barometer, perhaps I could list one hundred and twelve blips. But enough for now. But just this: my list as shown above seems rather negative doesn’t it? What calls my attention to this negativity is the contrast with how I myself feel about my life, my friends, my activities, my environment which is strongly positive. Why the discrepancy between my perception of my self and of my nation?