Thursday, December 31, 2015

So maybe next year sux and that's fine

The man formerly known as Bruce
Woman of  the Current.Year()
Or maybe it doesn't, and that's ok, too.

I must admit, despite the observable fact that the world political economy is turning into a level 5 shiteburger, life's been good to me so far.  And at the risk of turning this blog into a poor man's Popoli, I'll just say that part of the reason for my neglected posting has been that I've become the primary writer for Chapter Four Games' upcoming RPG Sodality*.   Plus Swords of Darkness comes out tomorrow, and my story for that took some time.  Plus I'm almost to the point on die sales where Paypal is going to tell Uncle Sam on me.  I'm not saying this to brag, but to illustrate that, although I expect the financial SHTF any quarter now, I'm not sitting in the basement polishing my 1911s.** Nor should you be. You get ready, but you live your life as well. Make hay while the sun shines, or so the old farts say.

But it's a happy new year and all that, and I'm well into my allotment of Bacardi and Coke, and everyone else is asleep, and the heavens declare the glory of God into my dark and quiet sunroom, and so how about we lay out what I expect will happen this currentYear(+1), so we can all see what fools these mortals be? Or at least this mortal.

1. Martial law, Obama cancelling the elections, They're Coming For Your Guns, fuggetabout it. The Elites do not tell you of their plans through TV programming. There's no Planet X or secret comet coming our way. If we get hit (we won't) it will be by something coming out of the sun that we do not see until hours before impact. But sunspots are disappearing, the Earth's magnetic shield is weakening, and Jupiter's centuries-old storm is dying. Something is happening, and it's bigger than 50ppm of CO2.

2. Europe is about to come apart. Really apart.  The EU is a manufactured product of the elites, losing a battle against mathematics and the diminishing returns of technology.  Multiculturalism as a strategy was designed to avoid war in Europe by eliminating national and cultural distinctions that allegedly cause it.  It won't work.  Once the nationalist stormtroopers drive out the sand people they will go back to hating one another, and that with a fury. Merkel will never wear a burka. But like her model Il Duce, she might wear a noose before it's all over.

3. I don't know if The Donald will win the presidency. If he holds tough until the end, I think he can. He has made this election about him in a way no non-incumbent ever has, and it's a fight he has every necessary tool to win.  I just don't know if he really wants it***. If he gets it, I suspect he'll be less successful than anyone can imagine, though through no fault of his own. America is simply ungovernable at this point, and a nice Depression will make that fact obvious even to the Democrats.

4. 2016 will be a losing year in every market that matters - stocks, bonds, gold, and non-USD currencies.  Looking at the absolute slaughter taking place in the developing world debt-wise, there is no way the BRICS or their third-world barnacles pose any threat to the dollar. The USD may end next year another 20% higher; it will certainly not end 20% lower. People who shorted the dollar to get a higher yield elsewhere are hosed. That trade will not unwind quickly. But it's going to unwind mercilessly.

5. We may see 2008 all over again, with broken markets and panicked rulers and rules - and dollars - made on the fly. In fact, I expect that we will. But since the Fed is already levered up to the stars, this may be the year that the manageable crisis becomes unmanageable, the year that the elites lose control. The good news is that their ultimate response will be to give you free money. Spend it wisely.

But if not, that's fine.  If nothing bad ever happens in America again, I'll still grow the best horseradish in the Midwest and sell rebuilt dies on ebay for almost nothing and give of my profits to ship bibles to India.

Because no matter what happens around you, if you're not doing what you like to do and what you ought to be doing, you're doing life wrong.

Happy New Year.

* you haven't heard of them or it, but if I have anything to do with it you will.
** Well, not every day.
*** It's been my belief for a long time that Trump is the world's richest troll. I am not certain that he has wholly come to grips with the electoral tsunami he has created.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A zombie paragraph

Cremation used to be against our religion. All of God's people were to receive a proper burial following the custom of Abraham, David, and Jesus. Then one night our late pastor returned with his favorite deacons in tow, ripped the church door off at the hinges, and killed old Widow Punkard while she prayed.  We cremated him for his own good as much as ours. When Jesus rose from the dead He did it right: with His mind clear and His wounds closed up tight. No one since has pulled it off half as well. So we wrote pyre into the hymnals where grave used to be, and we all sleep better for the change.
Not sure if that paragraph is going to make the zombie story, or even if there will be one.* It just came to me and made me laugh.

* Who am I kidding? Now it's a challenge.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

MOAR raised beds

On the lookout for partial-shade crops
There's a beach on the north side of my house.  Not a peaceful Hawaiian beach relaying the dulcet sounds of an ocean nearby, but a 15x20 sand pit, surrounded by chain link fence, that at one time was a children's playground.

Fifteen years ago, we dumped about 20 tons of sand there to provide a great place for the kids to dig and bury and frolic.  For the last 10 years or so it's served as a huge litter box for the cats the infest that barn on the top left.

So now it's a beach made of sand and cat crap, which means it grows weeds and not starfish. The lovely and gracious Rogue had started to grow sunflowers there, with mixed results. I tried some strawberries, which attempt failed miserably, at least if producing fruit is the goal.  This area as it exists today is worthless for kids and gardening both. Plus the pipe from the well runs just beneath the surface, making wholesale soil replacement problematic. What to do?

It seems that if we're going to plant anything here, we're going to need some raised beds.

I mentioned before that I prefer to make my raised beds from cinder blocks because I like the opportunities for companion planting. And I like the permanent nature of the blocks combined with the temporary nature of the beds.  And I hate that wood rot means that the clock is ticking on your wooden beds, even as they attract every slug in a 10 mile radius to feast on your seedlings.  But once the deck was finished I found that I had enough lumber sitting around to build the 4 2x2 beds in the front of this pic, as well as the 3x3 on the left. That left a big hole in the middle, so I broke down today and bought enough pressure treated 2x12 to build three 4'x8' beds.  So I guess I'm in the wooden raised bed business*.

I don't know how long they'll last, though the fact that they sit atop fast-draining sand may give them a few more years than they would enjoy in the back yard. But for the meantime, I have a brand new place to dump shredded paper: in the boxes. And I have a place to dump cardboard: in the walking areas. And I have a place to dump the hundreds of gallons of wood chips produced by my birthday present: atop the cardboard.

So by spring, the former cat crapping grounds should be transformed into 150 weed-free square feet of walking trail surrounding 150 cubic feet of raised beds.  The fact that it lies on the north side of the house limits what I can plant there. But whatever the area produces will be better than nothing, which is better than a sharp stick in the eye or a bunch of sandy cat crap, all things considered.

* What is in the beds already is a cardboard or shredded paper base to prevent weed growth, topped by a foot or so of compost, topped by leaves.  I have garlic planted in one bed, the rest lie dormant for the winter.  As I gather enough cardboard to cover the areas between beds, I lay it atop the sand and cover it with wood chips. It makes a very pleasurable walking experience. We shall see how well it controls weeds.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's your one way ticket to midnight

For the ears, not the garden...
When a comment becomes a post.  JN asks:
[Do you compost] paper with ink on it?
TL;DR:
Yes.

Long answer:
Before I started, I looked long and hard at that, because I had read that inks weren't safe, newspaper was bleached, all that fun stuff. But while everyone was saying it, very few people actually linked to a source. It was just one of those things that everyone knew. Or at least said.

Having worked in a print shop, I was suspicious of the claim that modern inks are dripping with heavy metals just waiting to kill you. The vast majority of inks today are made from soy, and the 'glossy' paper is generally covered with kaolin clay, not plastic. Kaolin is inert and will break down easily if your paper is shredded.

BPA in the ground has a half life measured in hours: An important result of the degradation study was that, independent of the soil type, 14C-BPA was rapidly dissipated and not detectable in soil extracts following 3 days of incubation. So shredding that Walmart receipt is probably ok.

As one of the few articles that actually uses sources noted about PCBs: Since all carbon sources take up PCB 11 from the air, and it is present everywhere, that really leaves us with no uncontaminated source of carbon-rich material. Like cadmium, PCBs can be found in inks in small traces, but because it's in the air, it's found in small traces in everything, including your garden plants, which take it up through the air much more easily than they do through the roots*.


Is there risk that something bad for you is going to get into your shred through inks?  Absolutely. 

But as there's no way to completely avoid pollutants, it's really a matter of risk management. I look at it this way: if you don't worry about your kid chewing on a magazine page, there's no need to worry that he'll be harmed when that same page is shredded, rotted, run through a worm or roly poly**, mixed in with a ton of other things, then used by a plant that then goes into his mouth.

If you don't mind that the melted cheese from your pizza touches the box, why would you mind if the box ends up in the garden?

I strip out plastic windows, plastic tape, obvious metal inks (magnetic and fluorescent), but otherwise I don't worry about it too much.

UPDATE: On a completely related subject -- and going the other way -- is the prospect of what David the Good calls killer hay. There are herbicides used in agriculture that even once they pass through plants, then animals, then compost, will still kill your garden.

That stuff is probably in your super-meat pizza: in the sausage, the cheese, the tomato-based sauce, and the dough. You might just be safer eating the box.


* So if you want to keep PCBs out of your garden, bury the newspaper paper instead of burning it.
** Which bugs remove heavy metals, like cadmium, from the soil.

Fall Garden

Mr. Charisma pulling up the radishes
You might notice that white glob on the far left beneath the original cuke ladder. That's shredded paper that I used as a mulch on a few of the raised beds.  It worked great.

As I mentioned before, I shred paper and thin cardboard* and then let it soak overnight in a bucket. In addition to adding it to the compost pile, I also tried using it as a  mulch directly around some of the bigger plants, like tomatoes.

It worked very well. The wet paper matted together and stayed matted even after it dried, so I didn't have paper blowing all over the yard.  But it let the rain through while keeping weeds from going the other direction. When I pulled it up, the bed beneath was crawling with the kinds of bugs you want in your soil.

Once I cleaned out the beds, I threw most of the half-rotted paper on the compost pile, while some I left on the beds to see what it will do over the winter and what it will look like in the spring.

Because Science.

*The thicker cardboard I'm using directly on the ground around/between these beds, as well as in a new, partially-shaded area on the north side of the house that's becoming a garden.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Compost Cage

As I've discussed elsewhere, composting is the process of speed-rotting organic material to make the perfect garden nourishment. And while you can follow formulas and build lidded wooden bins and fuss and fret over your compost, the truth is that it's very hard to screw up. Still, even with a regular-old rotpile, you'll probably need to turn it on occasion if you have lots of grass clippings.*  The compost cage eliminates even that little bit of work.

My compost cage is made of:
One 20' x 6' section of chicken fencing 
One fence post

Drive the fence post in the ground, zip tie one end of the fence to the post, then attach the other end of the fence to the first end by wrapping the loose end wires around it**.  What you end up with is a round, vertical 'cage' about 6' tall and 4' across.

I set mine up last spring and put exactly two ingredients into it, grass clippings and shredded paper. Both can be problematic, because when wet they tend to pack, making an oxygen-proof mat that can force a slower, anaerobic rot in your pile.  But the tall, slender cage keeps the whole inside oxygenated without mixing. 

The clippings I just raked up from around the cage after mowing and tossed them in. It takes surprisingly little to fill 6' of cage.  It does settle pretty quickly, so there's room for more every time you mow.

The shredded paper took a little preparation.  I shred everything I can: newspapers, junk mail other than the little plastic envelope windows, Taco Bell boxes.  Once I get a 5-gallon bucket-full, I fill it up with water and let the mix soak overnight. The water gets soaked up by the paper, which helps break down the fibers. It also helps the pile stay moist.  I don't add any other water to the pile.

All through the summer, the cage looked like a greenish-brown pillar at the back of the yard. It was even taken over for a month or so by red-flowered trumpet vines. But worms and rolly-pollys were working the whole time.  When I removed the cage this morning and knocked it over I got about 20 cubic feet of compost, enough to fill one brand new 4'x4' bed and to cover the 4'x10' bed I'll be planting with garlic this week. What you see in the picture is all that had not rotted, plus a new bucket of paper.

The compost cage is a slow-rot, also known as "cold composting." It's not going to steam in winter.  It's not going to drop noticeably over the course of a few days. But if you have lots of materials and lots of time to wait for them it's the easiest way to get wheelbarrow loads of good compost with almost no work at all.

* Composting works best when you have a mix of "browns" (like leaves) for carbon and "greens" (like grass clippings) for nitrogen. One problem you might face is that it's hard to have both at the same time.
** You could use zipties here, but I don't because I want it easy to disassemble.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Great Gonzos

It was full when I started, I swear
The lovely and gracious Rogue insists that the whole house smells like a Nugent concert. To me, it holds the bouquet of an Algonquin sweat lodge, at least before everyone starts sweating.  The  culprit, of course, is sage.  And it kicks out a heck of a fume.

This hearty perennial has found a semi-permanent home in my sand pit, and while I dried but a single plant tonight*, I have about a dozen left to go.  Needless to say that we are not going to spend the next dozen nights with all the ladies fussing about the atmosphere.

So while drying them in the dehydrator is probably the easiest and fastest method, the rest are going to be hung like tobacco in the barn on a long string for a couple weeks, in hopes that the leaves dry before they freeze.**

It's probably best that way anyway: I'm going to need to get used to drying things the traditional way.  But I really, really love the smell kicked out by my dehydrator. Now, if only I can figure out what I'm going to do with so much sage leaf before I double the number of plants next year...

* Technically, it's not dried yet. It's just been banished to the pantry so Rogue can get some well-earned sleep.
** Freeze warning has been kicked back from Halloween into November, so there is hope.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day

Aztec doctors harvest cells for embryonic stem cell research.

This life-saving technology destroyed by the Spanish, 1492

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The "wild" forest floor

The ragweed had to go.
To boldly grow where no man has grown before:
The small, shade-loving perennial [American ginseng] is cultivated for domestic sale and export in the U.S., but wild ginseng is prized as a superior crop. Found growing in forested regions, harvest and export is big business, fetching hundreds of dollars a pound, but is heavily regulated and competition between foragers is fierce and often operates outside the law. Because the slow-growing plant is destroyed to harvest the root, those who illegally harvest ginseng can face stiff fines or imprisonment...
Out back there lies an area some 600 square feet, fenced off, of pretty much bare dirt. To the east, the back barn blocks the rising sun. To the west, the Mother-in-Law house blocks the setting sun.  Above it stands a 60' pecan tree that keeps out the rest of the sun most of the time. It was a chicken run years ago, but because chickens eventually learn to fly over the fence, I gave that up quickly*.  So there it sits, year after year, growing a few scraggly weeds and grasses and gathering leaves and, for some reason, big Legos of divers colors.

However, this year I bought an ounce of ginseng seed and I'm going to try to grow it wild, if that's not an oxymoron.  I didn't spade up the area.  I didn't clear the underground roots. I didn't prepare the bed to ensure maximum germination or speedy growth, if such a thing is possible for a plant that can take a decade to fully mature.** I merely scratched lines in the dirt, buried the seeds under about an inch of soil, and watered.

That's not the way you're supposed to grow American ginseng.  But that's the way it grows in the wild, and wild ginseng is a much more valuable crop.  So I broke the rules, and if it works I'll be far ahead of the game with lots of 'wild' ginseng and no trespassers to contend with***.  If nothing grows, I'll have lost $20, a couple hours of labor, and two years' growth from a plot of dirt that grows nothing worthwhile anyway. In the worst case, I'll spade it up in 2017 and plant it "right."  Sounds like a can't-lose bet to me.

* They learned to fly out quickly.  Flying back in seemed beyond their capabilities.
** So it's a good thing the world didn't end this week or I'd never get a crop.
*** If they did get into the yard, Digging Dog would surely slobber them to death.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wake me up when September ends, the (almost) final tally

Predictive Programming* fails again.


So anyway, with the Pope talking about the Death Penalty instead of welcoming our new alien overlords, let's run down the latest End of the World that wasn't:

Elul 29:  Rabbi Jonathan Cohn had called Sept 13th (Jewish date Elul 29, the Jubilee day debts are wiped out under Mosaic law) as a date of potential financial wipeout. The last 2 Elul 29s that were also Jubilees (2001, 2008) both marked +6% stock market drops, so this seemed like something of a reasonable bet. Maybe. Stocks are not debts, and so probably don't fall under God's laws of Jubilee. And the market is still going to crash. Just not on Elul 29, which was a Sunday in 2015.

Jade Helm: Obama's secret military takeover of entire Southwest with 1100 soldiers ended on September 15th.  It was so successful that the people of Texas, California, and every square mile between still have no idea they're under martial law.

"500 days to avoid Climate Chaos": People have been counting the days since French Foreign Minster Fabius upgraded Climate Change to Climate Chaos in 2014.  Today is Day 500. We have successfully avoided Climate Chaos and so now the Pope can shut up about it, right?

Some of my best friends are Green: the Pope was supposed to reveal the existence of the other aliens today. Congress already knows about the Mexican ones.  I mean, really. Who does he think roofs their mansions?

Well to hell: CERN's Large Hadron** Collider was today supposed to open a portal to the Abyss and free The Destroyer as per Rev 20:1.  I don't have word on whether that's happened yet.  Check Drudge for updates.

Blood Moons: We still have 4 days until the last of the current tetrad of Blood Moons.  This periodically-repeating natural phenomenon is supposed to mean something or other.  Maybe it will.  Anyway, a lunar eclipse is still scheduled for Sunday, visible in some parts of the world.

Bill Haley, call your office:  While a 2.5 mile wide magical comet or asteroid*** is supposed to land off the coast of  Puerto Rico sometime between the 22nd and 28th, I'm not holding my breath. Besides, it's not really an asteroid, but a false flag nuke designed to break the New Madrid fault line open.

So while September looks like it's going to pass away relatively uneventfully, just like most other End-of-the-World months do, I'm still a little confused.  Not by why all these "insider revelations" and Christian numerology failed to produce any meaningful results, but as to why certain months just seem to collect this sort of lunacy.  And maybe more important, when will the next one be?  

My suspicion is that it might not be as long as the 30 or so months from the last panic.  People can feel something in the air. It's real and it's heavy and it's foreboding. They have just failed to recognize that it's not one huge event: it's a future filled with tragic little events that are going to grind their post-modern, trans-gendered, safe-space world to dust. Save your brass.

* The theory that the world is completely under the control of elites who reveal their plans through popular culture. This video was just one example used to "prove" that September 23rd was The Day. Evan was in Pennsylvania and Jerusalem is half a day ahead.  So September 23rd in Jerusalem started September 22nd, mid day, just like in the movie.  See? See?
**  H-A-D-R-O-N.  I've seen it spelled the other way, but that's just wrong. In more ways than one.
*** The one that we know exactly where it will hit but not what or when. It's almost as if someone doesn't know how these things work.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Prepping throwback: The Greek Strategy

I spent a couple hours tonight watching Youtube vids about prepping. It's not completely out of nostalgia, for while I have blogged less about prepping here in the past year, I've not lost any interest. There's just less left to be done and therefore less new stuff to share.  So this is going to be more a philosophy post. For those of a more practical mindset, instructions for the salsa and jams I canned today are available in the Recipes tag.

One thing that never seems to change is the preppers' obsession with storing enough stuff.* They want more canned green beans and more ammo and more gold, as if once SHTF hits, there's nothing left to do but live off your stockpile. Here's the short answer to that obsession: if we're not going back to the way things were, you can't store enough stuff. Ever. So stop trying, and plan to produce what you need rather than consume all the stuff you've stored.

I noticed that approach especially in a vid by a former marine explaining how to inform your family that they oughtn't show up at your house on SHTF +1 because you can't support them. Even aside from my biblical responsibility to support certain folk**, this is, IMO, wholly the wrong approach. It betrays the wrong mindset for one trying to prosper, rather than merely survive, in a new world.

Now, obviously I can't support folks coming to eat Fritos and play Minecraft all day.  But we will not be eating Fritos or playing Minecraft at Casa d'El Borak, and not just because I'm not storing any Fritos. I won't support adults who produce nothing.*** But can I support them if they are going to be feeding animals, trimming plants, digging beds, and hauling wheelbarrows full of coal up an abandoned US69?  Of course, as they will be supporting themselves. If we really expect that when SHTF comes, the shit is going to hit the fan, then we need to realize what every ancient society realized: every mouth comes with two hands. And we are going to need a lot of hands, because there is going to be a lot of really hard, nasty, backbreaking labor to be done. Serfs are wealth. Enrich me.

But thinking about those ancient societies, I was reminded how the Greeks managed to get so rich and powerful. It wasn't because they were great subsistence farmers: the poverty of Greek soil is legendary. In fact, you can't even grow some of what they grew in good soil. Yet the ancient Greeks built an incredibly wealthy and powerful society on that soil.****

The lesson isn't that shitty soil is better. It's actually a bit more obscure, though it becomes obvious when you look at it straight. The lesson is that if you want to produce more value, you concentrate on high-value products. The Greeks grew herbs and grapes and olives - items that could grow in shitty soil and that held a far higher unit value than grains - and concentrated on small manufactures, which they then traded to the Egyptians and Syrians, who grew plenty of grains.

Think about it this way. You can generally get 2 pounds of potatoes for $3 m/l. A third of an ounce of rosemary leaves costs 3 bucks retail, while a pack of rosemary seeds, enough to grow 100 plants, costs half that.  So better than saving #10 cans of dried potatoes is planting your own. But even better is planting rosemary, which has a high unit value, and trading that for potatoes.  Sure, grow some spuds of your own, for you never know what the market will do in the short term. But find a high-unit-value crop or learn how to make a high-unit-value item; you can then trade that for all the potatoes you'll ever need on really good terms.

In the ancient world, certain societies prospered, while others always seemed on the edge of starvation. Some lived in luxury, while others slogged along in poverty. It was not at all related to soil, nor was it always related to government nor trade rules nor slavery nor culture. The people who lived well were almost always those who produced items they could trade on favorable terms.

If we are going back anywhere near that world, then the rules that ruled then will rule again.  You're likely not going to live well growing corn by hand.  But lots of people will be growing corn by hand. Produce something that people who grow corn need, and you'll have plenty of corn to eat.

Then put all those slackers at your door to work doing the grinding.

* I'm by no means immune to that approach. After watching Patriot Nurse hits the Dollar Tree, I have a shopping list that I plan to fill on Monday.  It's a small list and if I didn't fill it, that would be fine as well.  You can have enough to get by.
** Parents on both sides first, then other family.
*** 2 Thess 3:10. Family and friends who have no intention of contributing will be invited to leave.  But I will have met my responsibility.
**** That they burned up most of their wealth fighting each other in idiotic and futile wars helped their success to be historically short-lived. Word to the wise.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The kitchen smells like pizza

Yo, where's the pepperoni?
Those awful-looking things to the right are actually oregano leaves that have spent the last 2 hours in the dehydrator.  As it's barely 8:00, I suspect they'll get two more, then an hour to cool, then I'll mash them to bits before storing them in a little herb jar.  Since I'm making salsa and spaghetti sauce tomorrow, I should have saved a few fresh for that, but I guess I'll just have to go cut more.

As fall closes in, so does harvest, so tonight you get a quick little post about what's being harvested and what I've learned about it.

Oregano: You're gonna need a bigger boat. I originally planted oregano as a companion plant for my pumpkins.  But as the pumpkins, zucchini, and squash all collapsed like the 1940 French Army before Nazi Squash Bug Panzer Divisions, I ended up with a few plants standing alone.  A few plants are either not enough or too many.  They are not enough if you want to harvest your own oregano for sauces and the like, and too many if they are just taking up space.  I have seven out back, two of which have gone to seed already* and the other five of which went into the dehydrator. So I've already decided to add another raised bed** next year dedicated to oregano, because I'm loving the smell and the fact that they are perennials. But I'm also planning a possible switch to Greek oregano instead of common, assuming the 7 Greek oreganos I've got going now survive this winter better than the 7 commons I have already established. It's a test. Like science, only tastier.

Green beans: Little kids can't pick green beans properly. Their hands just aren't big enough.  So if you ask a kid to pick green beans, prepare to suffer some vine damage.  It's ok, though, your vines will be fine.

Tomatoes: I mentioned earlier that this weekend was already dedicated to canning the 25 gallons of pears that the lovely and gracious Rogue collected last weekend.  But as my tomatoes have decided that this is the week to ripen en masse, we'll also be doing salsa, spaghetti sauce and probably ketchup as well. In addition to the fresh oregano I hope to find for the spaghetti sauce, I have some purple bell peppers that, while a disappointment***, are still prime candidates to dump into the salsa. And maybe some of last year's jalapenos as well.

Cilantro: after harvesting a full load of coriander, the spicy seed of cilantro, in June, I have another full load of this lovely herb ready to harvest, this time for adding to salsa. Of course, the nicest thing about growing your own is not that it tastes better than store-bought cilantro, but that's it's usually not carrying any nasty Mexican diseases into your kitchen. Cilantro grows like crazy here, so long as it's kept from the worst of the heat. Which we didn't have any of this year. Because global warming climate change progress, or something.

Tomorrow night, in addition to canning, I'll be harvesting and drying a bassload of sage leaves, close to 20 plants' worth. But as that won't make the kitchen smell like pizza, it will be dried down in the workshop.  The lovely and gracious Rogue can't stand the smell of drying sage, and if I want her to help with the canning, something's got to leave. I need her, so sage it is.

While great at canning, I'm afraid she would not have made a very good injun.

* So I gave them the basil treatment, but didn't harvest the leaves.
** and I may do a real, actual, wooden raised bed.  but only because I have some fitting lumber left over from last year's expansion projects and I'm tired of it taking up room in the barn.
*** Purple vegetables are a story for another day.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saving basil seeds

My life will be forever autumn.
So with temps in the 40s now at night, autumn seems to be closing in on us.  And that means those plants that had been producing leaves and fruits* for us now turn their attention to producing seeds.

The plant on the right as the herb basil, a sexy annual that works hard all summer producing fragrant and edible leaves, but which eventually flowers and then calls it a life.  If you look closely at the stalks there, you can see the flowers on top.  Those brown spots are dried flowers, which also happen to contain the seeds we need to re-grow basil next year.  Each former flower contains 3-4 seeds. Getting them out is of utmost importance.

Or is it?  Since I plan on growing basil in this particular herb garden again next year, I purposely left a few that I hope will just fall to the ground and re-grow. So we'll see how that goes.

But the accepted harvest method is to snip off those flower stalks, mash them by hand in a bowl, then carefully separate the tiny seeds from the browned chaff.  I've done a bit of that, at least enough to cover planting for next year.  What a pain. One will never grow rich harvesting basil seeds.

So I'm also trying something that I hope will work better: I cut all these stalks off whole and rammed them top-down into a 1/2 gallon canning jar. Then I left them on a sunny counter top. The idea is that if/when they dry, they'll drop their seeds to the bottom of the jar, making them simple to collect. You just pour them out.

So anyway, I'll let you know how that goes.

UPDATE: On another note, the cuke ladder, replanted with blue lake beans, is a smashing success - we blanched and froze a ton of beans today, plus had some with dinner.  My original planting, now almost dried up completely, got jealous and kicked in one more picking of beans.

So I'm wondering.  I fully plan to plant cukes again in the spring in this bed. And they will have had a planting of something else between them.  So does that qualify as 'proper' crop rotation? Inquiring minds want to know...

* Utterly ignore what I said about the pear season being over.  While I was lopping off pear tree branches wasted by fire blight, the lovely and gracious Rogue quietly picked 25 gallons of pretty sizeable pears. So next weekend is already scheduled to be spent canning .

Monday, September 7, 2015

How does this newfangled forward pass work?

#ChopBlocksMatter
Coach Juan Williams plays it old school:
#BlackLivesMatter is fast becoming its own worst enemy.
It lacks an agenda, it is antagonizing the black community’s top white political allies, including Democrats running for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, and it is not finding common ground with any of the Republican majority in Congress...

When BlackLives activists denounce the Democratic National Committee for issuing a resolution in support of police reform, they are hurting themselves with party officials. When they say that all political parties try to “control or contain” black liberation, they are also damaging faith in the political system, especially among young people...
Blah, blah, blah, these protestors need to stop because they might hurt the Democrats.

I used to find Williams one of the more insightful liberals around. Of course, that was a couple decades ago, when a liberal could still speak the truth on TV*.  Today, it's obvious that he is calling his plays straight out of the dog-eared, old-school Black political playbook. According to those tried and true rules of political action, Blacks are supposed to act up and then immediately seek concessions** from politicians, usually white ones.  That's how the game was played by the men of Williams' generation. And he seems genuinely confused that the protesters don't seem to appreciate the subtle beauty of that particular drop kick.

For better or worse, #BlackLivesMatter is not playing by that book. There are lots of reasons for it, but I suspect the main one is that the protesters realize that Democrats have nothing to offer them. Baltimore has a black Democrat mayor, a mostly-black, all-Democrat city council, a black (surely Democrat) police chief, a black Democrat State's attorney.  Even two of the police charged in the death of (insert felonious martyr du jour here) were black, and probably Democrats as well. The problems of Baltimore's residents, to the extent they are not self-inflicted, are today inflicted on them by black Democrats. Only old-school black Democrats like Williams have trouble coming to grips with this undeniable measurement of black progress in America.

Which is, of course, why #BlackLivesMatter won't actually solve anything.  The angst of Rand Paul*** aside, the problems of America's black underclass are not problems of law. They are not caused by white hooligans driving through their neighborhoods with guns blazing, but black ones. They are not caused by bad schools; they have bad schools because they are filled with bad students and run by bad (usually black) administrators. The problem is not that black people can't, but that too many of them have decided not to, do the things that bring peace and prosperity, not in their families, not in their schools, not in their neighborhoods. They relied on the old school playbook for too long; now they are throwing it away in despair.

Piles of dead young felons - some at the hands of police, most at the hands of other young felons - are not so much a bug in that playbook as a feature.

* Long gone are those days.  Thankfully, no one watches TV anymore.
** Or, as Williams so charmingly puts is, "where is the list of solutions to the injustices [BLM] so often decries?" Don't forget to include price tags.
*** “I see an America where ... any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed,” he says.  Better get to work tossing those oppressive rape and murder laws.

The girls of summer


On their final vacation of the summer, TK and Molly visited the grave site of the last surviving member of the Union Army, Albert Woolson, who died in 1956 at the age of 109.  When my mother was in elementary school, her class used to visit Woolson in his nursing home and sing Happy Birthday each year. We are not so far from the past as we think.

And speaking of cemeteries, in this one my dad showed us his favorite boyhood sledding hill, from which the cemetery caretakers would chase him and his friends on snowy Saturday mornings.  It turns out that his great grandfather, for whom he is named, is buried at its summit, and he never knew*.  Weird how that works out.

* On the other hand, my mom knew exactly where the marker was. But that's mostly because she spends much of her spare time cataloging cemeteries.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Into the Valley of Death rode the 15%


Let's hope cooler heads prevail:
Now, Black America is surely as sickened by this horror outside Roanoke as was White America by the Charleston massacre.
But it is hard to see how and when we come together as a people. For racial crimes and race conflict have become “the story” that everyone seizes upon — since Ferguson in the summer of 2014. 
Pat Buchanan rightly notes that the press and both parties have an interest in firing up a race war: the press because it sells papers* and the parties to energize their various bases for the 2016 election.  But it only goes so far. Republicans want their law-and-order voters to vote, and have little worry they'll take the law into their own hands. Dems might want to scare blacks, but it's only to motivate them to vote, i.e. to work inside the system.

But a rising number of people are voicing a desire to step outside that system for a redress of grievances real or imagined. This bodes ill for America, especially as we enter an economic downturn so long and deep and transforming that it will radicalize nearly everyone. If such a war is incited in a newly-impoverished America, then we are simply going to have one, at least in certain areas. Best to move to an area where it is far less likely to take place.

I'm going to skip over why white Americans would call for such** if only because it's a less interesting question than why a group that makes up <15% of the national population would be willing to call the other 85% (or even just the white 70%) to war.

Over at Vox's, some opine that it's related to the alleged aggressiveness and short time preferences of blacks. But while both sound plausible on the surface, I suspect that the more barbaric/savage/uncivilized blacks are assumed to be, the less likely it is they would start a war with an enemy 5-6x their size. If you read the Roman historians, you'll find that they always faced barbarian hordes that outnumbered them. This is not just because the Romans wrote history to make themselves look good, but because barbarians never attacked unless they had an overwhelming numerical advantage.  Making blacks stumble into a race war because they are 21st century Cimbris doesn't hold much water.***

So then why do some blacks seems to act so irrationally, even going so far as to incite their weaker-minded brethren into blindsiding cops and reporters?  I think the answers are four, three rational and one irrational:

1.  They are posers.  A lot of what you see on the streets and in pulpits such as those of Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakan is just showing off.  It's grasping attention by claiming that one is just a little more pure, a little more angry, a little more radical than one's competitors. The competitors are not in this case whites, but other blacks. They are doing it for money, for attention, for ego.

2. They trust whites to respect their rights.  This plays in a bit with #1.  Blacks who seemingly relish a race war trust that Whitey is not really going to go there.  When they taunt a line of white cops, they are certain that the cops are not going to open up on them with automatic rifles. When they get arrested, they are confident they'll be cycled right back to the streets within hours.  Even when protesting over the death of some black kid at the hands of cops, they know that cops are not going to do that to thousands. White America would not stand for it.

3. They are doing it to get stuff.  Since the current oppositional black culture was established 50 years ago, black acting up has been answered by whites paying them off. If saber-rattling always gives you what you want, why would you not occasionally do it? 

Those are the rational ones, even though they make plenty of noises that might seem irrational.  That said, there's also:

4. They are bad at math.  There are, I'll confess, a growing number that simply don't understand what 15% of x means.  They have never been to Kansas or Texas or California, places where you can drive for days and meet no one but whites and Hispanics.  They live in a city governed by black people, went to schools run by black people, and see no one but black people around, every day, on every corner.  The only white people they see are cops whom they fear and squirrely liberal metrosexuals**** whom they despise, and only those in small numbers. From their perspective, it looks like they have an overwhelming majority.

For these latter, inciting a race war is surely as irrational as it looks on the surface, for once it kicks off in earnest, as one black leader noted, yo ass is getting up in the truck.  It might be a good idea to visit the Cheyenne or Sac and Fox reservations to see what happens when Whitey really decides to go to war.

While I share Buchanan's hope that we blacks and whites and citizen Hispanics can come together as a people, I no longer think it's going to happen without a plausible external threat.  I noted before that once the Romans defeated their main rival, Carthage, they immediately turned inward and ripped themselves to shreds.  It was not the end of Rome, but it was the end of the Republic and of domestic tranquility. Waves of political bloodshed lasted nearly 200 years until Augustus crushed them without mercy, leading Rome into the Imperium.

America since the end of the USSR has hurtled itself down the same path, just much faster and with much, much more crazy.***** An all-out, unapologetic race war may or may not be the end of America, but it will surely be one act in the drama that transforms America into something unrecognizable altogether.

* It's a figure of speech.
** Most will say it's for the saving of Western Civilization or some such, as if the real danger to Western Civilization is poor blacks in Atlanta rather than white PhDs at Harvard. Others just don't like black people and would be perfectly happy if the whole lot moved to Liberia so they could go back to despising Slavs or the Irish.
*** One could argue that feral blacks do attack in overwhelming numbers, whether they are attacking a random guy on the street or a convenience store.  But that makes it less likely they will openly attack those superior in arms and numbers.
**** In their defense, I'm sure they wonder how, if most whites are like the latter, how whites ever managed to conquer anything.
***** Smackdown Hand of God sold separately.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Six plum jelly day

#diversity
So anyway, in seeming defiance of my complaints about the lack of fruits harvested from Rancho d'El Borak this year, the lovely and gracious Rogue, in addition to picking 30 gallons of pears this weekend, somehow acquired a short case of plums that included the following strains:

Apricot (USA)
Autumn Honey Pluot (USA)
Black Cat (MEX)
Black Jack Pluot (USA)
Dino Egg Pluot (USA)
John W Red (USA)*

None of them is a prunus americanas, but that's not going to keep us from recycling last year's plum jelly recipe.  Except instead of using one wild plum, we're going to use six domestic ones.

Blackberry jam to the front
The results were in some ways the opposite of last year. The most obvious difference was that using fat, ripe, domesticated plums resulted in lots of juice. So much so that I had to adjust the recipe's other ingredients up by 50% to keep everything in balance.  That's not a problem, it's just a factor.

The second difference was taste.  Last year's, I thought, was awesome, but no one joined me in that conclusion.  This year, TK and Molly, who don't normally eat jelly, ate a 1/4 pint that I had left over.  So the recipe is already a proven winner, vastly improved by the quality of the plums used therein.

We also did a bit of blackberry jam, from berries (and the recipe) left over from last year. You might remember that last year's effort resulted in a rather syrup-like jam, so this year I cut out a bit of sugar, added some pectin**, and cooked it longer. It jelled well. In fact, it jelled much more than jam ought to. To be honest, I might have bricked it. I won't know until I open a jar sometime next year. But it sure smelled good.

* No, I don't know which is which.
** the half box left over from increasing the plum jelly to a box and a half.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The other thing missing

Historical fiction
The Archdruid explains how the Climate Progress Revolutionaries wound up against the wall:
So the climate change movement entered the arena with one hand tied behind its back and the other hand hauling a heavy suitcase stuffed to the bursting point with middle class privilege. Its subsequent behavior did nothing to overcome that initial disadvantage...

climate change activists allowed the other side to define the terms of the debate and then whined about the resulting defeat rather than learning anything from it. Of course the other side used every trick in the book, and then some; so? That’s how the game is played. Successful movements for change realize that, and plan accordingly.
 
As is the habit of His Archness, it's a well-written piece, and one that provides valuable insight into the delegitimization process so necessary to undermine power structures.  I recommend it.*

But aside from the obvious shortcomings of the Global Climate Progress revolution that he points out, there is another factor that explains why that particular revolution** could not have succeeded even had they done everything right.

Let's imagine Churchill promising blood, sweat, toil, and tears to the roars of adoring crowds, but then let's posit that the Germans never came.  Not one bomber. Not one V1 rocket.  Month after month, year after year, the threatened Kraut invasion never makes its lightening way across the English channel nor appears anywhere else.  For how long could the great orator Churchill, by the mere force of threats and promises, keep Britain in a fighting fury?  As another great orator, Dr. King, would say: not long.

Now, apply that to the Global Climate hysteria. If you lack memory of what they promised, go back and read the global warming predictions of the 1980s, the 1990s. Look at the charts. Ponder the confident assertions and measure the specific prognostications. Now recognize the fact that we are well past the date we should have been roasting marshmallows in our refrigerators.  Had the temps risen as was threatened, inexorably, year after year, had the cities flooded and the bears drowned, the revolution would have succeeded. Mankind would have been panicked into anything the scientists asked for.

That The Revolution failed was not a function of the opposition playing dirty, but of reality not cooperating with the manufactured "scientific" consensus***.  So now that their predictions did not come true, Climate Change revolutionaries are reduced to lying about what we see:  Look the ice caps are melting! (they do every spring, then they re-freeze). It's Britain's hottest January ever! (amidst record snow they said we'd never see again).  The oceans are rising! (as they have been for 500 years, and no faster). And when the temperature stopped rising almost 2 decades ago, they simply began to cool the past. That particular scientific fraud is not common knowledge yet, but will one day place climate science in its earned position, right next to eugenics, as that ugly one night stand everyone in a lab coat pretends not to remember.

People rightly laugh at Climate Change because it, not the order it is ostensibly trying to overthrow, has lost credibility. It was not a matter of tactics, but the experience of the very people they were trying to win over. It is literally 65 degrees right now, in the third week of August, in southern Kansas.  The climate may be changing, but this was never in the models or the charts.

Had the Global Warmists been right about reality, they would not have needed a well-planned revolution, just as I suspect the Peak Oilists will not need a well-planned revolution: they merely need to be right about geology and the future will fall into place.  But since the warmists were not right, since rather than being Churchill they were The Boy Who Cried Wolf, they ought to forgive the rest of the world for ignoring their erstwhile revolution.

* especially for those who may be curious about why I spent much of today mocking one of the heads of #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter.   It's the same reason that those who oppose global carbon taxes should post pictures of Al Gore's mansions at every opportunity. See Alinsky, Rules 4-6.
** One must also realize that Climate Change "solutions" do not make a revolution. Those proposing this and that to fight it ARE the power centers. They ARE the governments, the foundations, the insiders. They are the System. Thus their revolution is not a fight to gain power so much as to centralize that power gained in the past century and a half.
*** I suspect that Climate Change Revolutionaries will never grok even half the damage they did to science by dressing their rain dances up as meteorology.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

LOL @ her


I told the lovely and gracious Rogue, "Tonight we can salsa together."  She thought we were going dancing.

#winning

An (almost) fruitless endeavor

 Rogue hit the sauce a little early today
So anyway, this year's apple harvest was not off the charts.  It was actually on the chart, represented by that flat line right down near the bottom.  I picked a whole tree last night and received a single 5-gallon bucket of malformed, pockmarked apples for the effort, many of which had moths smugly lounging on them while I was picking. They are not pretty.

Even though the pears are not yet ripe (I was canning already during the second week of August last year) they are similarly anemic. I'm sure it's not just the fire blight, as this year we had very few blackberries or grapes, and no plums to speak of.  And ants ate both the strawberries.

Veggies met expectations, and I have a second planting of potatoes now coming up, along with a second batch of green beans. Herbs did better than I had hoped. But there will be no new jellies this fall* unless we hit a bulk sale on something**.

But I do wonder if the second plantings are even going to get going before the climate weather shuts them down.  61 degrees when I left for work this morning, supposed to be 62 tomorrow. Second week of August. Where is your global warming now?

* Which is really ok. Since last year was such a banner year, I have a couple mixed cases remaining.
** Something not jalapenos.  Of the 7 jars I made last year, I managed to give away one and have 6 remaining. It would need to be a really bad year before those got eaten, I suspect.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Like a mustard harvest

This would be "the chaff"
While many have heard of the mustard seed, very few have actually seen one, much less harvested one.  So in the interest of providing a little background to Jesus' usually-misunderstood parable*, here's a little bit about mustard, and especially how to harvest it.

Mustard is a rather small seed that grows into a grass-like self-seeding annual shrub.  It's incredibly easy to grow, and because it's so tall and bushy, I like to use it around my tomatoes to shield them from insects that are looking for, well, tomatoes.**  Some people chop the young leaves into salads while others save the seeds to make Dijon mustard.  I'm going with the latter, as I had enough beet greens this year that I never even tried mustard leaves.

Over the course of its 4-month life, mustard can grow 6 or 7 feet high. But it won't grow straight up: rather will tend to fall over toward the end of its growth, when it shoots out what look like a million little pods that weigh it down.  Each pod contains a half-dozen seeds, maybe a few more.  Yeah, you're gonna need a lot of them.

There are a couple ways to harvest.  You can wait until the entire plant turns brown and yank it all.  That's probably the most efficient way, and you'll drop enough seed that you're guaranteed to not have to plant in that spot next year. I prefer to snip the dried stalks right down to the main stem with a pair of scissors while leaving the maturing ones in place.

Once you get a bowl full of those, twist and smash and roll and crush the plants with your hands.  If the pods are dry, you'll soon hear the seeds rolling around the bowl.  Twist it all again and throw anything that smells like hay onto the compost pile.

"the smallest of all garden seeds..."
That will leave you with something like this. Yeah, they're small***, and it seems like a lot of work for a few seeds.  But takes only a few minutes to get a 1/2 cup or so of seeds. In good ground, they really do return an hundredfold.

Now, get a second bowl, and in a light wind or in front of a fan pour the seeds a few times from one bowl to the other. This will blow away the remaining chaff, leaving you only the seeds.  If your pods were dry enough to crush easily, your seeds are dry enough to store immediately.  I just put them in a recycled vitamin bottle and mark them with the year.

This will not only be my seed for next year, but my base for this totally bitchin' Dijon recipe I'll be trying this winter.  But next year I may move the mustard away from the tomatoes, as once they fall over they make it impossible to mow anywhere close to the raised beds.  OTOH my tomatoes look great so far.  We'll have to see how they prosper now that the mustard is no longer hiding them from the bad bugs.

* If you need to get straightened out, El Borak the bible expositor can help.
** I'm not sure if it works, but it makes it hard for me to find tomatoes, so it must be hard for bugs, right?
*** Jesus said as much.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

You'd think they'd grow weary

Fans of the Toronto Dolphins celebrate.
of being exactly wrong:
Those of my readers who want to see a fine example of this sort of blindness to the obvious need only check the latest headlines. Within the next decade or so, for example, the entire southern half of Florida will become unfit for human habitation due to rising sea levels, driven by our dumping of greenhouse gases into an already overloaded atmosphere. 
Now, as much as I love reading the thoughts of America's favorite Archdruid, I grow weary of short-term climate progress prophecies.  Not because they're scary and all that, but because they're always wrong.  Not "sometimes wrong".  Not "close-but-no-cigar". They are always wrong.

All one needs to do to test this hypothesis is to read the newspaper from 5 or 10 or 20 years ago*.  Snow was going to become as legendary in Britain as St. George's dragon. Ice was going to disappear from the arctic and the antarctic.  We were going to have hurricanes every 15 minutes or so along America's flooded East Coast. The temp was going to rise and rise and rise** until Denver was forced to host the Super Bowl every year because the rest of North America was under water.

None of them happened.   Yet Albert Gore's traveling circus and subsidy vacuum rolls on, sucking up tax monies like a feminist collecting regrets. And if people still live in south Florida in 2020, enjoying weekends beside oceans that stubbornly refuse to rise, this prophecy will join the hundreds, thousands, of scary amusing prognostications proffered by those who mistake hysteria for reason and politics for science. 

But you don't have to take my word for it.  All you have to do is live ten years.  Because no matter what anyone says, no matter what anyone does, we're not going to collectively do anything about this alleged problem.  Prince Charles and the Pope and Bill Nye the Science Guy are still going to fly all over the world to warn of the dangers of flight. China is still going to pump more shit into the atmosphere than the rest of the world could conceivably cut, even if we all moved into caves and held our breath 12 hours a day. And the snow is still going to fall and maybe we'll get a hurricane eventually. When it does come, it'll be blamed on global warming.

But the main thing that's going to happen is, when the prophecies don't come true, they'll be renewed faster than Tom Brady's contract, without even a little cotton tag bragging that they are made of 100% recycled materials***. And no one who is wed to this idea that a change in atmospheric CO2 from .03% to .04% must kill us all will pay the slightest attention to the fact that a hypothesis clung to in the face of contrary evidence is not science, no matter how many scientists join in the clinging.  It's still just religion.

* You will note that the proponents of anthropogenic global warming are certain about the future, which cannot be tested scientifically, and mostly ignore the past or present, which has been.
** What has happened, ironically, is that the temperatures of the past fell instead. Now that's some powerful science.
*** if hysteria can be considered a material.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The problems with Greater Appalacia


are two:

1) It's militarily indefensible
2) Not controlling the lower Mississippi or another ocean port, it has no way to get its product out.

This 'nations' map from Tuft's Magazine should look familiar to long-time readers, and I do like the county-by-county approach even though that makes it less useful for positing what USA v3.0 might look like*. But as a map of cultures it's still misleading: the differences between Dearborn, Detroit, and Houghton, Michigan, are far greater than between the Tidelands and the Deep South or between Yankeedom and The Midlands. We have a whole slew of what might be called "microcultures," many too small to map, but even more distinguishing than the differences noted above.

They loom larger as well, because we no longer expect there to arise any synthesis between them and the macro culture.** That's an unavoidable byproduct of our modern, multicultural ideology. A century ago, the ideology of the day was that every day and in every way we're getting more and more American, even as what it meant to be an American changed over time. That's simply not the case any more except among immigrant populations, and only a small minority of them. Modern American multiculturalists certainly don't expect Salvadoran or Sardinian immigrants to celebrate Flag Day or even to learn English.

For obvious reasons, such an approach results in growing numbers of microcultures increasingly isolated from the surrounding majority. But if culture is important, then multiculturalism is necessarily a devolutionary and destructive ideology because it's impossible for people of very different cultures to live peacefully together over the long term.*** So we can look forward to a future of increasing cultural isolation and occasionally violent struggle, with the map growing more and more granular.

Still, such a change doesn't mean 4GW sits upon our doorstep.  If Mr. Lind is to be believed, the necessary and sufficient cause we are missing is something to replace America as our collective primary loyalty.  In the Middle East and North Africa, Islam and its various divisions demand primary loyalty.  But neither denomination**** nor states nor regions nor races***** are in any such position here.

Not yet anyway. I've long been of the opinion that no such thing will happen so long as the dollar retains any semblance of value. After all, a fed and entertained population is not one longing to go to war with itself. So at least for the medium term, we'll muddle along hating those Yanks or Rebs or granolas just as we have always done.

We just won't secretly hope they get their stuff together and join the rest of us real Americans.

UPDATE: Along those lines, an interesting aside from Vox regarding Greece: [the elites] had better remember that their whole plan depends upon keeping the masses fat and happy. This is absolutely true: there is no population so radicalized as a newly-impoverished, hopeless one. Once mass poverty arrives on our shores and it becomes obvious that the government can't or won't fix it, all bets are off.

* We are on v2.35 presently, but it's a bit buggy and is still based on 1860s-era technology.
** As crappy as it is. But that's a separate issue altogether.
*** Well, maybe it's not impossible, it's just never happened.
**** As 5 Boys' Mom points out, Baptists are not even content to remain Baptist. They are pretty unlikely to start suicide bombing Catholic churches.
***** There's plenty of flag-stomping and "America is racist" crap being tossed about, to be sure. But it's a tantrum, not a change in primary loyalty. #BaltimoreRiot marchers don't want to leave America, they want America to give them something.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Three ugly sisters

The taters did fine
And other tales of Garden 2015.

So anyway, first harvest is in something of full swing, with the cukes replaced by green beans and the taters replaced by peppers and (maybe) carrots.  I'm also harvesting a bumper crop of mustard, coriander, and dill seeds.  Dried some sage this week, along with some peppermint and oregano*.

But I nuked The Three Sisters today.  The corn I harvested; what little the ants didn't get, anyway.  I didn't harvest the green bean, because he was so pathetic I could not bring myself to pluck him. The squash, which showed a world of promise as little as two weeks ago, is gone, utterly devoured by the world's largest outbreak of squash bugs.  So I reluctantly turned in my organic gardener card and nuked the bastards with Sevin dust.  If I get home at a reasonable hour tomorrow**, I'll rip the whole bed out, which will give me two empty beds in which to start the fall garden.  But I'm not sure what it's going to feature.

I know it's not going to be anything of the squash family. I don't eat squash and see no reason to feed my greatest insect foe***, even though such a crop will eventually provide the emotional satisfaction of poisoning them by the thousands.  It's probably not going to be more cukes or green beans, because the ones on the ladders are doing well enough that I won't need more.  That leaves three options: tomatoes, peppers, or a new planting of potatoes.

We had sirloin and boiled potatoes tonight, with enough of the latter left over to dice and fry for breakfast tomorrow.  With sunny side up farm eggs on top. Mmmmm. On second thought, I'm pretty sure I'll be planting potatoes.

* The lovely and gracious Rogue and I share a difference of opinion about how good said herbs smell.  So for now, I'm drying them in the man cave.
** have to drive to Ames, Iowa, for lunch. No foolies.
*** chiggers, my greatest foe, are technically arachnids.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Song of the South

Actually, it was about
ethics in games journalism.
Chuck Baldwin says it really wasn't about slavery:
The State of South Carolina was particularly incensed at the tariffs enacted in 1828 and 1832. The Tariff of 1828 was disdainfully called, “The Tariff of Abominations” by the State of South Carolina. Accordingly, the South Carolina legislature declared that the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were “unauthorized by the constitution of the United States.”
Think, folks: why would the southern states secede from the Union over slavery when President Abraham Lincoln had offered an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the PRESERVATION of slavery*?
To start. let's click off the places where Baldwin (and everyone else who denies the obvious fact that the South seceded over slavery) gets it right:

1) Yes, other states had threatened to secede before. 
2) Yes, the South had every right to secede.
3) Yes, Lincoln acted illegally in "Preserving the Union" by force.
4) Yes, Lincoln would have kept every slave in chains forever to save the Union.
5) Yes, Lincoln was racist. Just about everyone in America except John Brown was racist.

Everything Baldwin (and other libertarian types) says about Lincoln is true. But there is nothing you can say about how awful and terrible Lincoln was that will change the fact that South Carolina and the other slave states seceded in order to preserve slavery, not to escape taxes.

How do we know? Well for starters, they said so in the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.

South Carolina had long been a hotbed of secessionist talk and was, not surprisingly, the first southern state to pull the trigger. What follows are excerpts from the resolution they adopted on December 24th, 1860, and that laid out their reasons for leaving the Union. Spoiler alert: the word "tariff" is not found in it, while "taxes" is found but once.  And that is a complaint over the government "burthening [slaveowners] with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves."

Here's why the Palmetto State seceded, in their own words, interspersed with commentary from yours truly:
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume[d] the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
This opening salvo, based on the complaints list in Declaration of Independence, presents an interesting challenge for those who say that the South seceded over "states rights."  Are they not here complaining that the northern states denounced slavery as sinful (whence goes free speech?),  and allowed anti-slavery societies to exist (whence goes freedom of association?)  People in other states even wrote books and drew pictures that the South found offensive (whence freedom of the press?) and the federal government refused to stop them.  The horror!

The truth is that before the war the southern states did not give a damn about states' rights except when it came to preserving slavery.

But let us continue:
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction...
Read it again: "...the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction."

We have a bingo.  SC noted that every state north of the Mason-Dixon line went for Lincoln. For all their noise about "the forms of the Constitution" and "a sectional party" (Disqualify!!!) their complaint is simply that their guy(s) lost the election and a northern-based party won it without the electoral votes of a single southern state. Whether Lincoln was actually against slavery or not (and we'll assume for the sake of argument that he was not**), Lincoln would not be the last president.  With the failure of slavery in Kansas and the continued growth of northern population, the writing was on the wall: the North could henceforth elect any president it wanted. The South would never again control the presidency as firmly as it had since the nation's founding.  And therefore slavery would become extinct in the United States, if not by the hand of Lincoln, then by the next Republican elected, or the next.
Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.
It is underappreciated exactly how much it bothered the South that so many in the North called slavery sinful.  The legislature of Georgia placed a bounty of $5000 on the head of minister William Lloyd Garrison for that very reason. The South's rhetoric had moved over the course of a century from slavery being a necessary normal, to it being a necessary evil, to arguing, by the 1850s, that it was a positive good, both for the slaveowner and the slave.  A widespread belief, promulgated by a growing number of northern Christian ministers, that chattel slavery was evil to its core and that people who took part in it were horrible awful sinners, was something they could not, and would not, stand for. Nor did they ever think such a religious difference could be overcome.
We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved...
Blah, blah, blah, so long and thanks for all the fish. An overbearing federal government was fine so long as it served the interests of slaveholders - Southern politicians complained long and bitterly about personal liberty laws in northern states*** and used every power in the Federal arsenal to subject these states to central control. It was only when they realized they would no longer control that power, when they feared it might be used against slavery, that they decided that Union was a bad idea.

To sum up:

1) The South seceded to preserve slavery. They had every right to secede, but they did it for the shittiest reason imaginable. It's no wonder their modern defenders try to make it about taxes or states' rights.

2) The North invaded because bankers and politicians foresaw that the US could be a world power if it remained in one piece. In other words, preservation of the Union was necessary to increase the power of Washington, DC. It's no wonder their modern defenders try to make it about slavery.

3) The Civil War was not about slavery or taxes or states' rights, though all of them played a part in how the morality of the war was presented to those who fought. This was necessary because the Civil War was mostly just a fight to decide whether the rich, powerful men down South or the rich, powerful men up North would get their way.

* I can think of four reasons right off the top. 1) The South asserted that the Constitution already preserved slavery. 2) There was no guarantee that 2/3 of both houses would approve, much less 3/4 of the states. 3) There is no way Lincoln could guarantee the preservation of anything - any amendment can be rescinded. 4) Because Presidents don't get to vote on Constitutional amendments. In other words, they had the good sense not to believe Honest Abe.
** The Republicans were not even abolitionist as we think of it today.  White workers and farmers were growing tired of having to compete against slave labor.  In fact, while Kansas came into the Union as a free state, it is little known that it almost came in as a state where black people would have been forbidden to live by law.  Opposed to the expansion of slavery is not the same as opposed to slavery.
*** States' rights? LOL. Give us our slaves back. Without even making us prove they were ever slaves.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Nuke 'em from orbit

The implacable foe
It's the only way to be sure.

So anyway, after a couple months of fighting squash bugs 'naturally,'* it's time to fall back on an old strategy: nuke the bastards.

There are apparently a couple ways to use Sevin dust that do not endanger bees and all the other good bugs, while still taking out most of the bad bugs.  The one I'm going to try is sprinkling it around the base of the plant and ripping out any flower within 18".  So we'll see if that works.

But if tactical nukes don't solve the problem, there are always bunker busters.  

* Mostly spraying the plants with a Dawn mixture.  I suppose there are people who have time to go over every leaf in the garden squashing eggs by hand.  I'm not one of them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pickles


Tried a bag of dried Ball dill pickle mix, even though it does not seem to have a whole lot of dill in it.  I was going to throw some of my own in, but that was vetoed by the lovely and gracious Rogue, who has this crazy idea that we ought to taste the original recipe before modifying it.  She gets her way. This time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

End of the line


Well, the cuke ladder did its job, keeping the cucumbers up off the ground.  The vines actually climbed it themselves with only the slightest help from me.  So I'm pretty sure that's a setup that I'll keep going forward.

But I'm not sure the cukes still have their hearts in it.  I planted National Pickling, an open-pollinated variety famous for its quick start and heavy yield. The start was no problem, and there were days where I swear I could hear the fruits growing. We've been in cukes all summer and I'll be doing up a big batch of pickles tonight.  Last night I harvested two  orange/yellow monsters - more than a pound each - so we are in seeds for next year.  That all sounds great, so what's the problem?

Well, I'm not sure.  About a week ago, the vines started turning yellow and production all but stopped.  A few shriveled fruits remain up high, and some of those are turning brown.

There are a couple of things that can cause such yellowing. It could be aphids or spider mites, though I've sprayed it down with Dawn a couple of times and while I have bugs, I don't have all that many*.  It could be downy mildew, as we had a really wet spring, but we've been pretty dry for the past few weeks. It could be a magnesium deficiency, but I've sprayed epsom salt in the ground a couple times, plus this is an area that was never planted before; it should be good for a single season, no matter how heavily cukes feed.

Or it could just be that the season is over for them.  I planted a 50-day variety in early April, so we are about 90 days in. I'm rather leaning toward this answer, as some of my other early plants, like the potatoes, are starting to show signs of exhaustion, and the mustard and cilantro are well into seed. And as much as I'd like the vines to produce right up until the frost arrives, sometimes the world ignores my desires.

So I'm going to watch it for another week, kill some bugs, pull some weeds.  If things don't turn around, I'll pull them up and maybe plant more green beans there.  After all, you can't get two crops per season if you're not willing to rip the first one out**.

* On the cukes. The pumpkins are another story.
** Or if you live in Minnesota.