Category Archives: Hippie stuff


In case you missed the comments section of yesterday’s post, my sudden enthusiasm for dementia concretia has inspired a similar flurry of daydreaming by my mom and my sister, who are probably going to end up being next-door neighbors in the near future. They are now plotting all sorts of craziness, from an Indian medicine wheel to a faerie garden (CAUTION: Cutesy, twinkly music begins automatically) to a sort of enchanted bunny forest inspired by Kit Williams’ Masquerade.

To fuel their daydreams (and yours) this winter, I have assembled a little collection of links to various and sundry gardens, restaurants, museums, books, mythological beings, works of art, roadside attractions, and various other ephemera generated by some of the world’s most creative minds. Happy surfing!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan (includes sound effects, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to look busy)
The Venice Cafe
City Museum
Dave Dardis’ Secret Garden
Firefly Lights (CAUTION: Site features obnoxiously loud, automatic music.)
Fake fireflies, butterflies, infinity mirrors, fountains, and more
Faerie houses
Various mythical creatures
Jack O’ the Green
Sheela-Na-Gig (CAUTION: Images are a bit, um, “adult,” albeit in a weird-primitive-looking-stone-carvings-found-on-14th-century-Irish-churches sort of way)
Another Masquerade site
Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book
Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Address Book
Maurice Sendak
Pippi Longstocking
Elmer Long’s famous Bottle Tree Forest
The Watts Towers
Labyrinths (the concept)
Labyrinth (the first reason your favorite Hippie Chick utterly adores and desperately misses Jim Henson)
The Dark Crystal (the second reason your favorite Hippie Chick utterly adores and desperately misses Jim Henson)

Feel free to add your own links in the comments section. These are just the ones I thought of off the top of my head. I’ll probably tack on more as I think of them.

Hippie, artist, gardener, and overgrown 4-year-old


I had three water hyacinths blooming in the pond when I came home from work this evening. We had a gorgeous sunset tonight, too. A friend and I had dinner in Stroud tonight, and the whole way over there, we kept interrupting ourselves mid-sentence to say, “There’s another Maxfield Parrish cloud!” or “Oh, my gosh, look at that light!” or “Don’t you just love it when the sky is that color?”

It’s good to have a friend who understands about sunsets and doesn’t get offended if you stop mid-sentence to stare at a particularly nice cloud.

I hung up my Green Man next to the back door. He looks cool there. I have about a million ideas for decorating the house, garage, and yard. I want to paint the house white and the trim brown so it looks like a Tudor cottage. I want to design some window boxes for the south-facing windows that will serve as mini-greenhouses for flats of seedlings in the early spring and then convert to standard window boxes full of potted herbs in the summer. I want to build a Green Man sculpture like the one at Heligan. I want to build a gnome cottage and tuck it into the garden somewhere just for fun. I want to build an earthen oven. I want to plant a hippie-themed flower bed. I want to paint little trompe l’oeisls all over the house and garage for visitors to find and enjoy. I want to install a flagstone path so I can walk barefoot from the house to the garden without stepping on an unseen doggie bomb, cow killer, or other unpleasant surprise.

I have about a million ideas, and as soon as I clear my plate, I’m going to dive in and start working on them. Bit by bit, project by project, over the next three or four years, I want to turn my house and garden into a sort of living monument to unbridled creativity.

I’ll keep you posted on how that project goes. 🙂


Green Man


I taught mythology for a year and am quite fond of English folklore, so a Green Man seemed like an appropriate addition to my garden. Unfortunately, they tend to fall into two categories: A.) Ugly, and B.) Overpriced.

This evening, I was fortunate enough to wander into a store on 15th Street that had just gotten several Green Man items, including the plaque you see above, which came with a lovely little book about the Green Man and the legends that surround him.

The store was one of these places that likes to cover its bases: Crosses hang on the wall above a shelf of New Age books, and if you need a Tibetan prayer flag or a deck of tarot cards, you can get it here. One-stop shopping for all your religious needs, I suppose. It was just off-the-wall enough that I held out some small measure of hope that I might find the Holy Grail of Weird Crap to Hang on the Garden Gate: a Sheela-Na-Gig.

No such luck.

I’m not really surprised. I’ve never seen a Sheela for sale. I’m not sure there’d be much demand for them. They’re pretty grotesque, and rather risque. Strange figures, but the history behind them is fascinating — and mysterious. They’re often regarded as a sort of female counterpart to the Green Man. I think it would be awfully cool to have a Sheela hiding somewhere in my garden.

Ah, well. I’m just grateful to have a Green Man at last. And I have been inspired by the photograph on the cover of the book that came with my Green Man. The image shows a giant Green Man sculpture — sort of a topiary thing — that appears to be surfacing from the ground. The sculpture is found at the Gardens of Heligan in England. (Note: Heligan Web site contains chirping bird sound effects that start automatically, so turn down your volume if your boss thinks you’re working.)

Click here and scroll down to see a picture of the Green Man sculpture.

I have got to figure out how to build one of these in my garden, because this is the coolest thing ever. It looks like what you’d get if you commissioned Larry Baggett to design you a lawn ornament and then hired Edward Scissorhands as a subcontractor to actually build the thing.

Speaking of cool stuff in the garden, Ron had a little adventure today.

The bees had gotten a bit quiet lately, and Ron was afraid they might have been attacked by varroa mites. Wintergreen oil will get rid of mites, but you aren’t supposed to use it until later in the fall. In the meantime, I suggested that he look into the hive, check the bees’ condition, and sprinkle them with powdered sugar if necessary. (A dusting of powdered sugar will prompt the bees to groom themselves, removing any mites in the process.)

Ron opened the hive to find a colony of healthy, active bees. He went ahead and sifted some sugar over them anyway, just as a precaution. His report on the experience made me laugh out loud:

Note to self: If you ever need to p*ss off honeybees, sift powdered sugar over them.

Didn”t get stung, but my inspection of the beehive reveals that the girls are very much alive. They were behaving fairly well until I sifted powered sugar over the main brooder. Then that created a mess of angry, dusty honeybees buzzing my head. Now they know how Milton Berle felt when his sidekick yelled “Makeup!” and did the deed. Can’t blame them for being irritated, actually.

He went on to say that the super he added this summer is about three-fourths of the way full of honey. That’s pretty impressive, considering the drought and the fact that this is still a relatively young hive — we just got them in the spring of 2005, so this is only their second season.

Lousy year for tomatoes, but a good year for honey. I’m OK with that.


Scarlet begonias

I’ve gotten all caught up in my causes and my concerns and my career lately, and somehow in the midst of all that, I forgot I was a fun-loving hippie with an embarrassingly easy life.

I was sitting here sinking into a funk and feeling very sorry for myself Friday night when it occurred to me that all I really needed was to settle in with a cup of Red Zinger and some Grateful Dead tunes.

I made myself a cup of tea and realized abruptly that somehow my entire Dead collection consisted of a beat-up copy of Skeletons from the Closet on vinyl (which I’d bought for 99 cents last time I was at Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis) and an MP3 of “Truckin'” that I’d downloaded from iTunes.

Thanks to the magic of iTunes, I was able to remedy this situation pretty efficiently, and my instincts proved correct: It’s impossible to be depressed when you’re singing along with “Scarlet Begonias.”

I’ve been tentatively planning next year’s garden, and I’ve decided to turn at least one flowerbed into a sort of hippie garden. Now I’m trying to come up with a list of ’60s and ’70s songs that mention plants. So far, I’ve come up with:

Scarborough Fair (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
Scarlet Begonias
Strawberry Fields Forever
Sugar Magnolia
Incense and Peppermints (my friend Mike’s suggestion; I think I’ll plant patchouli next to the peppermint)
China Cat Sunflower

And of course I’ll have to plant daisies in honor of the famous “Daisy” ad.

I’m sure there are a million more plants I haven’t thought of. Feel free to add any that occur to you. (And no, I will not be growing a separate garden under a special light in the closet….)


Warming trend


We swapped our freezer to my parents for this woodstove, which Ron hired a guy to install this week. (Songdog had to investigate while I was taking the picture. I expect he’ll spend the entire winter curled up in front of the stove.) It cost about $750 to have the chimney modified so we could have a woodburning stove instead of a gas fireplace. The fireplace was pretty but terribly inefficient.

There’s some debate as to whether woodstoves are better for the environment than gas furnaces. Yes, a woodstove releases particulate matter into the atmosphere, which is not good. But the process of extracting natural gas from the ground causes all sorts of environmental damage, too, so I think it’s probably a break-even proposition from that standpoint.

What I like about the woodstove, more than anything else, is the fact that it gives me another option. If gas prices get ridiculous, I can heat my home with wood. If wood gets expensive, I can heat my home with gas.

And the woodstove brings fond memories. I grew up in a house that for many years was heated by a wonderful old Earth Stove. Mom would make a big Dutch oven full of chili or vegetable soup on that stove. I didn’t even like vegetable soup, but there was something wonderful about eating soup that was cooked on top of a woodstove. It made me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder or something.

It will be a couple of months before we get to build our first fire in our new stove. But the weather is cooling down a bit here in Tulsa — lows this week have been in the 50s — and this is the time of year when we need to start thinking about energy efficiency. Here’s a little free advice from your favorite hippie:

1. If you have a furnace, schedule a checkup for it now, before your heating and air-conditioning guy gets completely booked up. Regular maintenance is a matter of safety as well as energy efficiency. We discovered that our old furnace — which was here when we moved in — had never been maintained after I came in to find a strong gas odor in the house. We shut off the furnace and called the gas company. The guy who came out said that the furnace was spewing carbon monoxide into our home. Scary. We are very vigilant about having the furnace checked every year to keep that from happening again.

2. Next time you’re at the hardware store, pick up a water heater blanket. They cost about $10 and take just a few minutes to install. If the water heater is in an unheated space, a blanket will save you boatloads of money.

3. Start stocking up on weatherstripping and plastic film to cover the windows and seal out air leaks.

4. Consider installing a radiant barrier in your attic. It will help keep the heat in your living space where it belongs instead of letting it escape to the attic.

5. Check the insulation in your attic and your walls and add some if necessary. It’s a bit expensive, but it saves so much money in the long run, you really can’t afford not to do it.

6. Make your own insulation to go around electrical sockets. Remove the switchplate cover and trace it onto one of those styrofoam meat trays. Cut it out, stick the styrofoam shape between the switchplate cover and the wall, and reattach the switchplate cover. This little bit of recycling will keep a lot of heat from being lost around the electrical sockets.

7. When the weather cools down, change the direction of your ceiling fans. The fan should blow down in the summer to keep things cool, but in the winter, it should blow upward. Hot air rises. When the fan blows upward, it causes the heat to sink, which makes the room feel warmer.

8. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat for your furnace … get one. They’re cheap, easy to install, and really save energy.

9. Keep the furnace on a low setting. I have a collection of baja jackets that I am fond of wearing around the house. They are very warm. When I have them on, I can keep the thermostat much lower.

There are lots more tips; these are just the ones I thought of offhand. You can find great advice on sustainability and energy efficiency here:

Daily tips on saving energy

Tips on winterizing your home

Environmental footprint calculator

Happy winterizing!


Searching for Orion

It’s interesting to look at the search terms people use to find my blog. The three most popular are “Cars the movie,” “Cow killer wasp,” and “Orion is a-rising.”

Several months ago, I made reference to a song I’d learned in sixth grade that went:

Orion is a-rising
You can see his stars a-blazing
In the middle of a clear-eyed country sky
And it’s never too surprising
That the sky is still amazing
Way out here where nothing hides it from my eyes
And sleeping outside in a bag as a kid
It seems like the best thing that I ever did
And chasing the shadows and the tracks in the snow
Don’t you know?
The moon is on the wane
And it looks like it might rain
Or maybe snow
And how are we to stay here
If there’s no room left to play here
Or to grow? Don’t you know? Don’t you know?

Several people have posted questions and comments about the song, but nobody seems to know who wrote it, who originally sang it, or where to find the sheet music for it.

I e-mailed my junior-high science fair partner, who has been one of my dearest friends for more years than either of us is likely to own up to, and whose mom happens to be a music teacher. I’m hoping she’ll be able to track down the book that had the song in it and shed some light on the subject for us.

If not, ASCAP has an online database containing song titles and publication information. No lyrics, but I may just take some comp time one of these afternoons and start calling the phone numbers listed for the publisher of each “Orion” on the list and see if I can track down the information that way.

Search engines turn up a few references to the song — always in blogs or listservs, and always with the same theme: “I remember singing this great little folk song when I was a kid. Does anybody know how it goes or where to find the music?”

It seems to be the great mystery of my generation. If I can solve it, I expect my blog stats will go through the roof.

The bad news is that I still haven’t tracked down the song. The good news is that while I was searching for it, I came across a different song with the same title by an artist named Gary Moon.

I liked the song — and Moon’s voice, which sounds a LOT like James Taylor’s — so much that I went ahead and downloaded it even though it’s not the Orion I was looking for.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to search for the real thing. Stay tuned….


UPDATE: The composer has surfaced. Please click here to read what he has to say or to find out how to contact him.

UPDATE 2: Click here to hear the song.

Cucumber salsa

The main reason I garden is so I can make fresh salsa. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we planted 32 tomato vines this year, we have yet to bring in a big enough harvest to make a batch of salsa enormous enough to justify breaking out the canner.

We do, however, have a surplus of cucumbers, thanks in large part to the volunteer vine that came up in the middle of the garden. I’ve never seen a more productive vine than this volunteer, which is some kind of multipurpose variety that’s smallish and black-spined like a pickler, but firm enough to hold its own as a slicer.

Ron loves tomatoes and hates cucumbers, so I’ve built up quite a surplus, despite regular trips to visit friends, a grocery bag full of cucumbers in hand.

This afternoon, I took care of that surplus. I love cold cucumber soup. I love gazpacho. And while I had the food processor out, I decided to try something.

Home-grown tomatoes are infinitely more flavorful than the store-bought kind, and I have, in a pinch, made a respectable batch of salsa with tomatoes from the grocery store. I got to thinking about it, and I decided that if I could make decent salsa out of grocery-store tomatoes (which have less flavor than the average cucumber anyway, and roughly the same texture), I could probably substitute cucumbers for half the homegrown tomatoes in my salsa recipe and come up with something worth eating. I was right — the substitution worked fine.

When I’m talking about salsa, I use the term “recipe” loosely. But this is basically the way you make it:

Boatload of tomatoes
About half a boatload of tomatillos, if you have them
About half a boatload of sweet peppers (bell, banana, Nardello, poblano, whatever)
About one-tenth boatload of onion — preferably yellow, but anything will work
Bunch of cilantro
As much garlic as you want
Whatever hot peppers you’ve got on hand
Lime juice
Ground cumin
Chili powder
Cucumbers, if you have some you need to use up

Chunk up all your vegetables with a big ol’ chef’s knife. If the onion and garlic seem hot, saute them lightly in olive oil to knock off the edge.

Put the garlic, hot peppers, and cilantro in your food processor and whirl ’em at high speed until they’re minced very finely. The mixture will be stuck all over the sides when you finish. Add enough lime juice to sort of loosen it up, add your onion, and process again. Add your sweet peppers, tomatillos, and cucumbers, if you’re using them. Process again.

You’ll end up with a slightly chunky, light green froth. Dump it into a big bowl and add enough cumin to knock down the froth a little bit. Toss your tomatoes into the food processor and process until they’re whatever texture you like.

Stir the tomatoes into the pepper and onion mixture. The whole mess will look pale. Add enough chili powder to make your salsa respectably red. If it doesn’t taste right, add more of whatever seems to be missing. There’s no big secret to it; you just have to dink around with it until it tastes the way you want it.

Chill as long as you can stand to wait and serve with tortilla chips. If your grocery store carries those ultra-thin Tia Rosa chips, get some — they’re killer.

If you have a lot of salsa, you can put it up in pint jars (leave about an inch of headspace) and process in a boiling-water bath for 30 minutes. As canning goes, salsa is pretty idiot-proof, but read this article if you’ve never done it before. Call your mama if you still aren’t sure how to do it. If she doesn’t know, call the extension service.

Oh, and here’s a free tip: If you use habanero peppers, they can overpower all the other flavors quickly. To prevent that, pierce each pepper to keep it from blowing up, throw it in a dish of water with a chopped-up carrot, and nuke it until the carrot is soft. The carrot will draw a lot of the heat out of the pepper, leaving behind the flavor. Habaneros have a lovely, delicate flavor, but you have to draw out some of the capsaicin to get to it.

Happy canning!


Taking it easy

I have a glorious plan for this Memorial Day weekend: I am going to do nothing.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m going to replace the toilet, clean my office and my bedroom, and plant some flowers this weekend. But that shouldn’t take more than a day, and then I’ll have two more days to curl up in my papasan chair in my nice clean house and read in between naps.

I started my weekend by getting off work early this afternoon and coming home to take a nap. A couple of hours later, I got up and made plans to do some hill training with a friend first thing tomorrow morning … went out for some groceries so we can have a good breakfast after our run (omelets and fruit and cheese and bagels and orange juice) … cleaned the kitchen … picked up some junk in the living room … cleaned the bathroom … and applied a bottle of henna to my roots, which desperately needed it.

Yeah, I said “bottle.” God bless ’em, a company called Surya is making liquid henna. Anybody who’s dealt with henna knows that it’s the best red dye money can buy, but it’s a monumental pain in the butt to apply, because it comes in powdered form, and you have to mix it with boiling water to make a sort of mudlike paste that you work into your hair. It takes forever to apply and forever and a day to rinse.

I am hoping this liquid version works out. I’ll know in half an hour, when I rinse it out and see what it did.

If it turns out as pretty as the picture on the box, I’ll have Ron take a picture so I can post it here.

Hope you have a good weekend.


Earth Day!

Normally, I’d do something special to mark Earth Day, but I was tied up with an Oklahoma Route 66 Association poker run and meeting all day.

Before I go to bed, I will, however, honor my annual tradition of checking my environmental footprint and taking a peek at 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth to see how I’m doing and where else I can make changes to reduce my impact on the environment. If I come up with any good ideas, I’ll post them here. One thing I might do is tuck a new recycling bin into the corner of my kitchen to hold steel cans. Our curbside program won’t take them, but M.E.T. will, and we use a lot of canned goods, so we really need to start recycling them again. When we lived in Belleville, IL, we always saved steel cans and took them over to the recycling center in Fairview Heights, but it wasn’t until very recently that I found out where to recycle them here in Tulsa.

If you haven’t already, find something good to do for the environment this week. Given the current price of gas, you might start by checking the air pressure in your car’s tires. Improperly inflated tires will really drag down your gas mileage.