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


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.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Joy in strange places

Peppermint is an
office favorite
It gives me this weird joy that every time I bring a flat of potted* plants to work, they disappear in minutes. Lots of people looking to expand gardens and add perennials this year, it seems.

I haven’t started in with the herbs yet; thus far it’s been tomatoes, peppers, melons, and various mints. But I just got some 6 dozen oreganos sprouted, and the rosemary, though it’s been slower to take off, looks just as promising.

Probably ought to think about bringing some to church as well...

* ‘potted’ in clear plastic beer cups. Dig a hole with your bulb planter, drop it in. Boom, you’re good to go.