Saturday, September 27, 2014

If it were that easy

"Dark Apple" just doesn't have the same ring...
everyone would be doing it:
Terrorist groups could get the capability [to launch an EMP] from any one of these countries or from a few other countries either directly or by theft. The weapon could be delivered by a Scud missile hidden under a tarp from a medium sized ship in the shipping lanes off the coast of the United States. Scud missiles are available in the weapons market for about $100,000. If the United States were attacked with this weapon the country may find it very difficult if not impossible to retaliate...
Part of the downside of DoomPr0n is explaining exactly how, if it's so easy to destroy the US, leaving us unable to retaliate, for less than the annual salary of a Midwestern state college CIO, why someone hasn't done exactly that. Seriously, whether we deserve them or not, we have lots and lots and lots of enemies, and surely most of them can scrape together $100k.  If the Russians could have Ukraine as far as Paris for the cost of a single nuclear missile, why are our lights still on? Maybe because it's a fake threat.

This is not, of course, to minimize the potential damage an EMP could do: I'm actually of the opinion that a Carrington-type EMP event is not a possibility or threat so much as an eventuality.*  But I do suspect that building a working EMP bomb that would fry electronics over 4 million or so square miles takes a little more engineering and testing than does cutting off the heads of reporters.

"Terrorist groups,"** whether they have cool acronyms or not, ought to rank very low on the average American's threat scale.  You are far more likely to be destroyed by Janet Yellen than by Akhbar Akmed al-EMPbomb.  Just sayin'.

* that burning orb in the sky really doesn't care if you live or die, so much. And he can turn your lights off forever with no more than a well-aimed root beer belch.
** by which we usually mean "garlic-smelling men more interested in killing other garlic-smelling men than us"

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Potatoes in a barrel - the disappointing finale

Our work here is done.
The year began with high hopes that growing a potato garden in a 55-gallon barrel would result in many more pounds of potatoes per square foot of ground space than planting traditionally.  I am sorry to report that this did not happen.

As you recall, the plants themselves took to the concept like ugly to a feminist.  A full three months ago they had already reached the top of the barrel and by my count had 97 days to do nothing but make tubers for us.

Where have all the taters gone?
It wasn't like there was anything wrong with the plants themselves.  I harvested my control group,* made up of a pair of plants in a raised bed, a few weeks ago. The result, while not impressive by Irish standards, was at least respectable.  I probably got a 10-1 return in that group.

And it wasn't like there was any lack (or surfeit) of water.  When I dumped the barrel I noted that the soil was moist all the way through yet none of the potatoes showed evidence of rot.  The healthy growth and color of the plants themselves is sufficient evidence that they were not lacking sunlight, either. And the plants seemed to suffer little or no bug damage.

That leaves the soil or the barrel itself as the main problem.  As it was nearly the same dirt as the control group, I am tempted to eliminate that as well. And the barrel itself should not have made any difference - we're left to blame the depth of the dirt or perhaps the temperature.

Spud, I am disappoint
So what the real problem is, I'm not sure. But the top foot of dirt contained almost no potatoes whatsoever. The middle third gave up but a half-dozen small ones.  In the whole bottom third waited only the tiniest of spuds.  In all, the 2 pounds of seed potatoes we started with resulted in maybe 4 pounds, not even enough return to cover their cost. Or even hash browns at Thanksgiving.

I'm still sold on the concept,** but next year I'm going to make a couple adjustments.

1.  I'm probably not going to use this barrel again. A couple of people I talked to use wire fencing or even old tires to the same effect, so I may try one of those or perhaps a shorter barrel. More gardens, but none will be as tall - or as heavy.

2.  I'm surely going to change up the soil.  While I was always careful to add it dry, it was still horribly packed by harvest time.  So a bunch more mulch and maybe even some chopped straw may help to lighten it up a bit.

If I were Irish, we'd be facing a long, hungry winter.  This is why I like to make mistakes while they still don't count.

* Because, science
** Like a government climate scientist, I'm not going to let facts get in the way of a good theory.