Miffed about Muff


A few years ago, I surveyed a group of my female friends who train capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts. At that time, my mission was to discover their fellatio turnoffs. Collectively, they came up with twenty-eight objections. I compiled the data into a charming little essay called “How Men Blow Fellatio.” I’ve read it at several venues, including the Austin Feminist Poetry Festival, where a lesbian couple laughed the most. At the end of the festival, a male poet challenged me to write a companion essay, after surveying guys about their cunnilingus turn offs. I assured the male poet that I probably couldn’t do that since I’m not one of the guys. I invited him to host such an evening himself, write an essay and then we could each read our findings at an upcoming Austin Writers Roulette.

            A week later, I ended up at a house party and conducted the research over drinks around midnight. Since there were fewer participants than in the fellatio research, this essay is even less scientific. Plus, there were other women present while the guys responded, which added to the challenge.

Lastly, the whole experience proves that the universe conspires with me to write about things that need to be written!


The Findings

            Unlike their female counterparts, the men I surveyed about their oral sex turnoffs only came up with six objections versus twenty-eight from the women. Yet I had to tease the relevant data out of the conversation flow. Looking back, I should have recorded the conversation on my phone and typed up the transcript afterwards. Instead, I used my sparse notes and fiction writer’s talent to recapture the gist of discussion.

The first turnoff was not being warned that a woman was on her period. A woman who was present during this conversation defended the women’s side. “Sometimes, a woman starts her period during the act of having sex.” Another woman objected. “You can feel that coming on.” The debate among the women concluded with not all women experienced menstruation the same.

Then one guy mentioned how a woman once said to him, “I’m on my period; so we’ll have to have anal sex.” From there, the conversation digressed to how, among very religious women, anal sex was popular since their hymen remained intact for marriage and they still considered themselves virgins.

I got the conversation back on track by asking the guys if there was anything else that turned them off from cunnilingus. “No stink puss,” one guy answered. They also preferred for a woman to have groomed pubic hair.

One guy confessed to using a depilatory once around his genital area. All the women shouted, “It says right on the bottle you’re not supposed to do that!” One woman advised him to get laser hair removal since a few sessions provided a permanent solution.

Considering we were already talking indirectly about testicles, another guy shared how he gently tugged on his during sex to delay ejaculation. Although this was off topic, I had to ask a follow up question, “Just how much pulling tension should one use?” He told me that men had to decide that for themselves and women can’t do it for them.

Around this time, another guy asked if they could talk about the other side, the worst things about getting a blowjob. One guy screamed out, “No cheese grating!” All the women laughed. Even though the women agreed that teeth shouldn’t mostly be involved, one woman questioned if guys didn’t like some teeth thrown in. The guys winced and reported that only about 30% of the blowjobs they’ve received had been pleasurable.

At this point, I reread the cunnilingus turnoff list: not when a woman’s on her period, no stink puss, no excessive pubic hair. One guy added women shouldn’t choke a man with her thighs or kick him in the back. The conversation shifted into cunnilingus techniques such as massaging a woman’s feet, caressing her nipples and even reaching up to gently tug on her earlobes all while orally satisfying her.

One woman questioned the need to fondle earlobes and confessed that she didn’t like a guy going down on her since it just took time away from “the real act.” The other women said that they had no problems with a man making an effort to satisfy them.

At this point, one of the guys took his own survey when he asked the women, what was more important, length or girth. Unanimously, the women answered girth. The conversation splintered into penises that could be too big or small and the tallest, most massive man could have the tiniest penis. One woman pointed out that her best lover was smaller than average, but he made up for it with his creativity in bed.

I reread the list: not when a woman’s on her period, no stink puss, no excessive pubic hair, no thigh choking, no kicking in the back. One guy added women shouldn’t fart during the act although queefing is OK since that doesn’t smell bad. As a matter of fact, the only drawback to queefing, according to these guys, is when a woman overreacts to it.

The conversation returned to bad blowjobs. The guys expressed annoyance when a woman’s performing fellatio and just starts toying with their penis as if she’s more fascinated by examining it rather than pleasuring it.

For a final time, I reread the list: not when a woman’s on her period, no stink puss, no excessive pubic hair, no thigh choking, no kicking in the back, no farting. The guys looked at one another and agreed that the list was complete. At that point, around half past one in the morning, I said my good byes.





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Visionary Demands

For the October 2014 Austin Writers Roulette, “Visionary Ideas,” I imaged myself as the future global leader of the world. Not too far fetched, considering that most of the world’s population is female, brown-skinned and English-speaking (as a first, second or third language). There were ten changes that I wanted to see in the world. Before reading them, I informed the audience that they could applaud after I’d read each one.1.1 hostess


Here is my list of demands for the future of this world:

  1. Women will hold 51% of all leadership positions in government, businesses and religions since we represent 51% of the world’s population.
  2. Religion will stop being used to justify violence.
  3. Violence will stop being used to resolve conflicts.
  4. During conflicts, we will listen to what the other side wants then propose an offer to our mutual benefit.
  5. Men will no longer treat women the way they do not want their own daughter to be treated. (And no, gentlemen, I don’t give damn if you don’t actually have a daughter; you still know how you’d want her to be treated if you did.)
  6. We all will treat others the way they want to be treated.
  7. We will stop cutting funds for programs and education for under resourced children, but rather invest in them now to reap the benefits of their skills when they’re adults instead of imprisoning them later on at a greater expense.
  8. Underage youths will no longer be charged with prostitution since they cannot legally consent to sex, do not control the money and realistically are being trafficked by their pimp.
  9. The police will reaffirm their vows to serve and protect the public through collaboration and positive participation with the community versus militarized intimidation tactics and brutality.
  10. Women will no longer spend money on elective surgery to alter their goddess bodies, but will invest their money in pursuing a lifestyle that maintains their physical, mental and spiritual health.

20 As CleoA few weeks after debuting my list, I was featured at another poetry event. This time, I dressed up as a famous female leader, Cleopatra. For some reason, people kept referring to me as “Nefertiti,” but at least she was another powerful African queen.

The next day, I finally watched the movie “Lincoln,” where, among other things, I saw the reenactment of white male politicians going nuts over the thought of freeing the slaves. And what would be next, franchisement for Negros (referring only to black men, of course)? Franchisement for women? Oh, how they grumbled and gnashed teeth!

After watching “Lincoln,” I was fired up to attend a meeting where the three mayoral candidates and two pairs of district candidates answered five preselected questions.  Since the district candidates weren’t running for the district where I live, I was far more interested in the mayoral candidates’ answers, which are listed below unidentified since, at this point, I’m more interested in the brainstorming of solutions.

Question 1: (Environmental Justice) Many Austin families with low incomes–both renters and homeowners–are struggling to pay their utility bills.  What do you plan to do to weatherize their homes, make their utility bills (electric and water) more affordable and create living wage green jobs in the process?

  • Subsidize weatherization; save and reuse water (only 3% is done now)
  • Improved customer service over 18 years, including demand-side management; partner with agencies
  • Fought hard not to raise rates; customer service for SNAP; need a mayor who will fight for people who need the help since all want help

Question 2: (Transportation) The rail proposal serves a limited area, but its cost is shared by the entire city. South and Southwest Austin traffic concerns negatively impact thousands of people in regard to safety , neighborhood quality, and the environment.  The “Y” in Oak Hill has been a massive problem for decades.  How do you balance our investments to address the transportation needs of all areas of Austin?

  • Pushed for roads and rail; this proposition is a down payment for funding from the federal government; the railway will go from Georgetown to San Antonio with five stops in Austin
  • Sidewalks need improvement; community depends on public transportation to be viable; needs environmental study to evaluate impact to transportation changes
  • Austin went from 16th to 4th most congested city in US for cities of its size; Austin needs staggered work times and increase telecommuting; less ridership on CapMetro now than earlier years; bring back free passes for senior citizens.

Question 3: (Affordability) Despite the fact that businesses continue to move to Austin and thrive, homeowners pay more property taxes than businesses.  If elected, what will yo do to make sure businesses pay taxes based upon the actual value of their property, keep home ownership affordable and promote more affordable and available rental properties?

  • Make point-of-sale information transparent for businesses; help people lift themselves out of poverty to have living wages with benefits; keep renters in mind since they are the most vulnerable
  • 150 people moving to Austin every day and 40 people leaving; can’t wait for state legislature to start the conversation; tax exemption for homeowners; help renters become owners
  • Collaboration needed to lower tax rate appraisals; examine policy of appraisals for commercial and residential property

Question 4: (Healthy Neighborhoods) What will you do to invest in libraries and parks for low-income neighborhoods? Specifically what will you do to increase staff, programs, and facilities to provide safe and healthy alternatives for our children and youth?

  • Increase spending for libraries and parks; people can choose to tax themselves to improve communities; better engage community; need to make the spending pie bigger.
  • 4 million dollar push for libraries/parks; look at other funding sources; look at underfunded/utilized libraries and parks
  • (attacked other candidates) states more dollars to be be invested in parks and libraries

Question 5: (Living Wage) The city of Austin has a living wage policy so that the City does not pay for workers that end up needing to use City social services to survive.  That living wage rate has not kept up with the cost of living in Austin and is now lower than other less expensive cities in Texas.  What will you do to make sure City employees and its contract workers earn enough to live in the City and how soon will the workers start receiving this true living wage?

  • Study on cost-of-living needed; move people to self-sufficiency with progressive programs like CAP Idea
  • Worked construction for 4.50/hr; went to ACC and took CAPMetro; pushed for living wages and benefits
  • (Civil rights lawyer) 160,000 in poverty and under skilled people. Almost 60% of jobs brought to Austin don’t pay a living wage

Interesting debate! I learned about issues I wasn’t even aware of.  Also of note, there was an inverse relationship between a candidate’s experience in city politics and the candidate’s optimism of what s/he could accomplish.


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Night of Interactive Installations

For my first stop, I experienced art through all of my senses, starting with smell. Given a small satchel to sniff, I immediately recognized the barbecue scent.1 smell Then the lights were raised and I saw how the the smell of barbecue had inspired the photographers. 2 smelly photos For the next sensual stimulus, I touched the items in a tray. When the lights were raised, I saw that I’d correctly identified a fretboard and keyboard through my fingertips.3 touch Then I examined the music-inspired photos.4 touchy photosAt the next station, I wore headphones and listened to music playing.
5 hear When the lights were raised, I viewed the music-inspired photos.6 hearing photos Yet my favorite station was the last one. 7 tasteI cradled my barbecue pork rib like receiving an early Christmas gift.
8 taste I didn’t get into it like the guy in my favorite taste photo though someone had teased me of getting sauce on my shirt.9 tasty Another favorite photo showed a guy proudly displaying his burnt hot dogs while the woman in the background put out a fire. Typical!10 reminds me of Mom & Dad This interactive installation consisted of one famous photographer and two local photographers. I spoke with the local photographer who was present. Turns out, I’d selected one of her pictures as my free gift.11 one of the photographers The second event took place several hours after the first one of the day. I thought it was supposed to be interactive, but after the fact, when I looked at the invitation again, I saw that it stated “video installation.”  Amazing how my mind had added the “interactive” part. Nonetheless, I finally got my chance to try a speciality bloody mary.  12 Bloody Mary

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Eat, Drink & Volunteer

1 20th anniversary display

One of our local, upscale grocery stores recently celebrated their 20th anniversary.  This is the type of event I love to volunteer for. Not only that, but the icing on the 20th anniversary cake is that they really did not need outside volunteers. After their own in-house paid employee help, there were no gaps in the 8-month event planning to pull this shindig off. After three impromptu orientations, which turned out to be more ceremonial than necessary, we were given the green light to stroll among the preparations to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land.2 fire pits

I made a beeline to the fire pits. Although I’d been to this grocery store several times since moving to Austin 5 years ago and this was the first time I’d stepped off the deck onto the lawn. 3 smoked salmon

The first fire pit had smoked salmon.4 moisturizing the pig

The middle fire pit had smoked whole pigs.5 chicken & pumpkins

The third fire pit smoked had whole chickens.  All three pits had pumpkins at the bottom. These pits were the bulk of the dinner,  which was served later in the evening when the paying guests arrived.6 dancefloor & stage

I’d been accustomed to dancing to live music on the deck, but a bigger temporary dance floor and stage were constructed near the pits.7 paella in the works

Of the three appetizers that were being served, the paella was the one I was most excited about. I took this picture while the rice and vegetables were still cooking and prior to it being decorated with mussels, jumbo shrimp and sausage. When I returned to this food station, which was run by a local restaurant, one of the owners recognized me from bikram class. Talk about small world. Of course, I gave her one of my business cards. I passed those little gems out like candy during Halloween.8 covered dining area The deck had been transformed to an elegant dining space, unlike anything I’d been used to in the past 5 years of eating, dancing and listening to music. There was a coffee, tea and dessert station in the back and a bar, featuring bottled water, beer, wine and soda to the right. 9 team mtg I witnessed the team orientation, which confirmed that my presence, along with my fellow volunteers, would be totally unnecessary. Yet, I had no complaints. I absolutely love volunteering for special events where I can eat, drink and socialize first before doing any other duty. (I’d like to think that as an interesting conversationalist, I enhanced other people’s evening.)10 the chef & I

After four hours of schmoozing, I finally fulfilled my volunteer duty. The Argentine chef, who was in charge of the fire pits and main meal, had a 15-minute book signing. In reality, my presence was not necessary and I noticed that the other book signing volunteers had not bothered to show up. Being the staunch Virgo I am, I wanted to follow through with my commitment, regardless of its duration. 11 signing

Technically, the chef had already signed every single cookbook that was for sale. So, he added a little personalization to the signature. For most, he chose to encase his signature in a large apple outline and add the person’s name.  For one guy who had a crew cut, the chef drew and outline of the guy’s head.

12 group shot

Toward the end of the evening, champagne was passed out and group pictures were taken. I didn’t take part in either, but enjoyed the festive close to a flawless evening.

13 parting giftsIn addition to enjoying the evening’s libations, I took home two commerative glasses. I tested out the wine glass the following day and will test out the miniature beer glass when I attend an Octoberfest celebration later in the month.

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Spoken Word for Insomniacs

0 the venue During the first day of the 2014 Austin Feminists Poetry Festival, the rain poured down. Despite the inclement weather, I’d prepared 30 booklets for my “Spoken Word for Insomniacs” workshop just in case.1 Book Display I also took the opportunity to set up a stylish display of my book and Austin Writer Roulette business-card-sized fliers.2 before the workshop The space was an art gallery, which displayed vibrant-colored paintings. 3 BookWoman displayIn addition to my book, there was a display of feminist poetry.
4 my calling card I left no stone unturned in order to promote the Austin Writers Roulette, which conveniently took place the day after the festival ended.5 magnets I loved that among the feminist poetry, these four kitchen magnets were all together.6 workshop participantsAs I’d suspected, the rain or the traffic kept the crowd away. Nonetheless, I enjoyed taking my participants through the steps of their insomniacs booklet.  First, they wrote a list, in words or phrases, of what kept them up at night. Then,  they wrote a one-sentence “elevator pitch” of each insomnia-inducing item on their list. Next, they visualized and wrote themselves as the hero. They could have had superpowers, a sidekick, cool gadgetry, and time-travel. Lastly, they used the remaining time to develop at least one of the ideas with themselves as the hero.
7 Thom

I gave them the most time to work on this part since I wanted them to walk away with at least one tangible thing.8 doorstop(Speaking of walking away, the doorstop caught my attention, along with the persistent rain.)9 satisfied customerWhen I returned to the group, I saw at least one of my participants had been cured of insomnia. More proof the process works!

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44th Birthday Celebration

1 Scoot Inn sign

My 44th birthday prequel started on Saturday with the Brazilian Day Austin celebration. I’d never been to the venue before, but knew I was in for a treat when my fellow capoeiristas mentioned “outside” and “barn.”
2 start of show

Despite the tiny, well-lit stage, we played in the small loose gravel-covered ground, which gave our performance both an authentic feel and raised the element of danger and surprise to the endeavor.

3 puxada de rede

We started with “Puxada de Rede,” which was a fisherman’s dance.

4 puxada de rede

This was the first time I’d ever danced it–I’d only been part of the chorus in previous performances.

5 puxada de rede

Given the recovery of my ankle after breaking it a year ago, I freaked out a little since this time last year, I was on crutches.

6 puxada de rede

Even with the less-than-ideal ground, I enjoyed the simple joy of being ambulatory.

7 puxada de rede

Good thing my spirits were so high; we messed up the choreography, but apparently only we knew that!

8 banguela

I missed most of the roda de Angola since some genius rearranged all our stuff and I couldn’t find my regular capoeira shirt.

9 banguela

Thank goodness I’d handed off my camera phone to another capoeirista who was not performing that night.10 banguela

She took over 100 pictures! Not that I’m complaining. I know that it’s challenging to catch a clear shot of capoeiristas playing even a slow game of Angola-style capoeira.

11 maculele

If I had been previously irritated with not finding my T-shirt in a timely fashion, I was doubly pissed that I couldn’t find the grass skirt I’d picked out for maculele.

12 maculele

We did mostly the same choreography we’d done back in May for the batizado. The only thing this time was at all three rehearsals, we’d had a different combination of people participating.

13 maculele

The only thing this time was at all three rehearsals, we’d had a different combination of people participating.  14 maculele

That ill-fitting grass skirt fell after a couple of moves. 15 maculele

I just kept dancing like the semi-pro I am!16 regional

For the last dress change for me, I could relax since I’d completed my part of the performance other than continuing to clap, sing and relieve someone on the pandeiro (tambourine). 17 regional

I was quite impressed at how fast my fellow capoeiristas played regional-style capoeira. After our performance, I got a yummy jalapeño drink, danced samba and forro, then left–all before 11 PM.18 yoga Originally, I didn’t think I’d have too much fun on my actual birthday since it fell on a Sunday. I wore my tiara the entire day to liven things up a bit. Although I merely posed with the tiara before yoga class, I learned after the fact how bad this idea was. As I removed it, my rambunctious dreads latched onto and would not surrender until a friend who worked at the studio cut it out. She was very empathic about the minor surgery.19 me & Cholula

Then, I met a friend for brunch. With my hair up and the tiara merely placed on my head, I suffered no more hair loss nor wardrobe malfunction.20 mimosa toast

I hardly ever imbibe fizzy drinks, but I figured a mimosa once a year or so wouldn’t hurt. 21 brunch

I’d never ordered this dish before, Sonora enchilada, but it was a wonderful call together with one of my favorite hot sauces.22 Mieca & meLater that evening, I went to an open mic, where I knew several of my poetry friends would be. To my birthday surprise, I saw one of my salsa friends from years ago who just happen to come out to listen to poetry.
24 me reading

When I finally got my turn to the mic, I was tired, but figured since I’d made the effort, I’d do my best.25 me telling a joke

I opened with a joke about my dress: “My mom gave me this dress since it’s my birthday. One guy told me that it looked like a table cloth. I told him that he’d not be eating off me tonight!”26 pitching my book

Then I made a shameless plug for my book, Tribe of One.  27 me reading

I read an excerpt from the book that dealt with the main character’s extensive search for the perfect vibrator. 28 holding BD cake

At the end of my set, I received a piece of a very rich chocolate and coconut cake.29 blowing out candles

Believe it or not, I’d had a little trouble blowing out that third candle. I thought it was a trick candle, but turns out I was just out of practice blowing out birthday candles. Then again, since I’m the upstart third daughter, perhaps it was appropriate.30 BD cake

I dove into that delicious cake! I had to put the fork down just to take a picture of it.31 Thom & the crew

My three poet friends graced the stage with their creative collaboration.32 TJ & me

The featured poet that night happened to be another sexually-explicit black woman who had been outside selling and signing her poetry book during my reading.
33 TJ me & friendAfter my set and birthday song, she ran in to tell me that she really enjoyed my reading. We exchanged books at the end of the night.


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Writing on the Air Interview

group shot
For my first radio interview ever, I was part of a four-artist panel. Three out of four of us where there because of our participation in the upcoming Austin Feminist Poetry Festival. The lone duck artist with the second best hair, only to my dreaded head, was a documentary filmmaker, searching for his birth mother. I figured there was no need to be dressed up since it was radio. Instead, I dressed for capoeira dance rehearsal, which was immediately after the interview.  All I can say is thank God I looked half decent since the filmmaker came flank with his crew.

radio shotI found the microphone a bit awkward, but that didn’t stop me from posing as if I was reading for this picture! I wanted to get all the “tourist” shots out the way before our segment began. I wasn’t nervous about the interview itself, but all the restrictions: no curse words, no graphic sex, no explicit descriptions of genitals, no calls to actions, no fart jokes. Out of all of them, only the last one had no chance of slipping out of my mouth.

I briefly recounted how I started writing poetry to remedy reoccurring bouts of insomnia. So when I was asked to teach a workshop for the Austin Feminist Poetry Festival, I agreed on the condition my workshop be called “Spoken Word for Insomniacs.” Then I read a rated G spoken word piece, “A Circle Has No Corners,” that was inspired by a conversation I overheard one of my capoeira teachers having and a recent bout of insomnia. I started reading it at 16:37 minutes into the interview.

I’ve never taken pills to sleep nor drank coffee to wake up, choosing first to exercise my stress out then later, writing it out. Writing had opened so many doors for me, given the flexibility the medium affords.

Listen to the interview:

Read “A Circle Has No Corners”: http://www.mathdreads.com/?p=886

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Hamilton Pool

For an area in perpetual drought, the city of Austin and its surroundings have a surprising number of springs. When one of my friends invited me to visit Hamilton pool, she described it as a natural spring in a cave.  Of course I was in! I did a little research just to make sure I could take the proper precautions with my recovering ankle. One of the first and most reoccurring warnings that other visitors to Hamilton pool had recommended was an early arrival.

1 the parking lot

As we cruised near the entrance, I celebrated how we weren’t trapped in a long line of cars. A mere two seconds later, we joined the line of cars. The pool opened at 9 AM and we were confident we’d get one of the 75 available parking spaces. Otherwise, we’d have to wait in the car until another visitor left in the great one-out-one-in scheme of things. Just as we were the next car to enter the lot, the parking attendant stated that the lot may be full. She said she was waiting on the count from the other attendant. I was prepared to mentally curse every oversized vehicle when the attendant asked for our $15 parking fee.2 the restroom

Another suggestion I’d read online was to use the one and only bathroom near the parking lot. From the distance where I took this shot, it smelled pretty ripe. Yet, I bravely approached the composting toilet shack and it stench actually lessened. No trip to the women’s bathroom would be complete without first waiting in line. For a facilities that only had two stalls, as least the line moved swiftly.3 the trail head

From the glorified outhouse, which had no plumbing, just composting toilets and a dispenser of hand sanitizer, we couldn’t see the trail head for the trees. I love when places have signs that direct you to something once you’ve already found that something. I guess the reassurance was nice. 12 hiking shoesWith my ankle brace on and men’s size 8 Tevas (I dislike the women’s since they’re usually pink or flowery), I hiked the rocky .25 mile trail with no problem. If there had been any moisture on those rocks, then the trail would have been dangerous, but this is summertime in Austin.
6 the trailThat trail was bone dry!5 me hikingAnd crowded with everyone who had the foresight to arrive early. Although I knew we weren’t spending but a few hours, I’d packed a camelback and carried my bamboo mat, which folded efficiently small, and some snacks.4 sitting on bench I wasn’t actually tired…just wanted a shot of one of the benches that dot along the quarter mile hike. I figured that some visitors may need it on the way back up the trail.7 Luna & Liz My friend and her daughter posed in front of some impressive foliage and a rock formation.7a the river Some parts of the trail truly made us feel like we were in a jungle.8 cenote crowd Then it opens up to a small, crowded beach on what was touted as the “last free weekend” before most schools in this area began.9 cenote crowd On this day, the water was 78.2 degrees–a full ten degrees warmer than the famed Barton Springs, which is surprising since the water is partially shielded by a cavern.10 waterfall

Some people holed up in an area in the back of the cave. I actually took this shot to capture the “waterfall,” which I had to get really close just to see. It’s easier to look just a centimeter in front of the rocks where the water surface is white. That’s where the water splashed into the pool. We all waded into the pool up to our bikini bottoms. I mostly read where we camped out. Nothing too physically tasking.13 sleeping Luna

Yet the long car trip to our barbecue lunch destination proved to be too much for some people.  We woke her up once we got there!

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Permaculture Food Forests

1 permaculture audience

Permaculture is a sustainable way to grow food. With sustainability in mind, people interested in permaculture think about getting the biggest bang for their buck. The key is to figure out multiple functions for everything, including back up redundancies.

One of the cornerstones of permaculture is to take care of the Earth by conserving soil and water. One way to conserve both soil and water is by making modifications to the surface of the Earth that work with its natural contours. The most common way to do both is to build a series of flat-bottom swales to stop the flow of water to recharge the ground water. Adjacent to a swale is a raised mound, which benefits from irrigation supplied by the swale.

As the name implies, a “forest” calls to mind a variety of plants. So in a food forest, a variety of plants grow together in an area. This is a rethinking of the “modern” monoculture way that food crops are grown. If only one type of plant is grown in an area, then the soil is depleted after a while. If a variety of plants are grown, the soil can maintain its richness. Of course this takes planning. Interactive diversity, planting a variety of perennials and annuals, allows for the maximum productivity for the minimum amount of work. To boost crop productivity, people can do a little more maintenance.

The type of soil, amount of sunshine, average temperature, and amount of rainfall must also be taken into account. Additionally, chickens play a role in preparing a permaculture area. Chicken scratching helps aerate the soil. Chickens pick out the seeds and mix in their manure.

Weeds repair the land since weeds are symptoms, not the problem. If there are soil deficiencies, then weeds will recover nutrients. Weed roots gather nutrients from the surrounding area, making them available for other plants.

After watching the highlights of a video about permaculture, where all the examples showed much larger areas than my sister’s back yard, I asked about what could be done on a smaller scale. The speaker told me that a moat could be dug around the garden. My follow up question concerned squirrel prevention.  Everyone laughed, but I got a couple of good suggestions. The first was to plant “squirrel bribes,” which are things that squirrels love to eat around the garden perimeter and plant the stuff my sister’s family wants in the middle. Another suggestion was to put a mesh fence enclosing around the garden.
2 moringa sapling

Toward the end of the meeting, an audience member announced he’d brought saplings of the miracle plant, moringa.  Unbelievable!  I went from never having heard of this plant two weeks ago to hearing about it for the third time at this meeting. This nutrient-dense plant is a great source of protein, among other things. The best thing, for growers in Texas, is that the moringa plant thrives in hot, desertlike conditions. I’d asked him so many questions about how to grow the plant on an apartment balcony, I felt disappointed when I drove away without one. I’d circulated around the room to talk to people, missing my opportunity to take a plant. The good thing is I have his contact information and spoke with him about presenting information about this miracle plant at the upcoming Austin Writers Roulette “Visionary Ideas” show in September.

As a matter of fact, I invited around five people from this meeting to speak at the September roulette. I feel that if more people heard about an alternative way to obtain food, then we can change the way things are done.

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Water Update

water delivery

The importance of water and the state of my apartment complex is such that I keep at least one 2.5-gallon of water in my laundry room for just such emergencies as I find myself in right now. When I flushed the toilet and didn’t hear the familiar sound of rushing water to refill the tank. A sound that my conscious mind ignores or rather dismisses as “background noise,” where I only acknowledge its absence rather than its presence.  

Seeking a second opinion, I quickly turned on the bathroom faucet only to hear the gasping, dying breaths of plumbing that brings forth no water. On route to the laundry room to retrieve the stored water, I paused for a futile moment to check the kitchen sink, knowing before I turn the handle that dry faucet breath, rather than water, will spew. 

I retrieved the stored water, carried it to the kitchen sink and washed my hands, followed by washing my dishes. About 40 minutes after my discovery of temporary water loss, the Ozarka natural spring water truck arrived to deliver one of my neighbor’s two large containers of water. How convenient!  The delivery guy’s arms were ripped with well-defined muscles. My former Tanzanian students could teach him how to carry it on his head.

Was it just 72 hours ago I’d preached about the importance of water? Less than 24 hours ago I’d shared an excerpt about my Peace Corps experience, which ended with my dilemma that there was no running water. Life is imitating art. Reality means a trip to the grocery store to buy another 2.5-gallon of water. I’ve still not learned to carry it on my head.

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