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?

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.