Saturday, December 31, 2016

Of seeds and stuff and Happy New Year

Doin' it right
Doin' it wrong

Long story short: If you fill up a sealed plastic container with seeds and place an oxygen inhibitor in them, they will probably mold and rot over the course of a year.  Why? I have no idea. They just will. Or at least, they did.

If you save a bazillion seeds in an open gallon bucket, they will probably be fine.  Again, I have no idea why. It just works out that way. And I will have 80 botrillion marigolds next year, just wait and see.

And speaking of the new year-- and hideous post formatting aside - a happy new year to you and yours.

This is the time of year where I normally forecast doom and hope for the best. Being as how I am already well into my new year's allotment of rum and Coke, I will instead just hit the latter.

I really hope Trump can make America great again.  If I thought that such a thing was possible, I would have supported his campaign much more.  If I thought that the simple secret to American awesomeness was coercing corporations into preserving union jobs here in America, I would have been a Democrat from the 1960s up until they began to pretend that "trans" was a thing. It's not.* And Democrats have literally nothing to offer America but various ways for it to become not-America. Thanks, but no. Still, the GOP selects Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to leadership, proving they have no interest in American greatness either.

But as last year I offered divers and sundry prognostications to prove that I am not-a-prophet, it's rather expected that I will do the same in currentYear(), even if such prognostications would assuredly get me banned from alt-right sites across the fruited plain.

That being the case, let's do this:

What I expect in 2017, inebriation edition:

1) Obama's going to shit in our nest, but it will all come to naught.  There's been this meme floating around to the effect that, "as soon as you realize that Obama is not on America's side, everything he does makes sense." And I have unfairly ignored it for too long. Still, there is little one President can do that cannot be undone by the next. Maybe if Congress had not worked so hard to empower the executive; but alas, they have. So Trump trumps Obama. And that's fine.

2) The BLS will continue to publish fake statistics. And if you are sure government statistics are fake, a lot of other conclusions are simplified. Does Trump have the integrity to force his government to raise reported/official unemployment? I doubt it. Trump is pretty non-ideological, all told. And truth is an ideology.

3) We will not go to war with Russia. While triggered pajama boys across the fruited plain find this unacceptable, I actually revel in it.  But are we going to war with China over Taiwan? That's more difficult and more personal, as I have a daughter and grandsons there. I hope not. But you never know.

4) Globalism will be rolled back. Nationalism is on the ascendancy, especially in Europe. It will continue to win, and this is in general a good thing. That does not mean nothing bad comes of it.

5) The EU is hosed.

6) The alt-right disappears. Lots of reasons for that, most of which are based in the fact that it is a hashtag and little more. I have not heard a single person IRL identify as Alt-Right, and in a year without elections, I do not expect that to change.

7) Secession disappears.  Because I expect Trump to change nothing of consequence, I do not expect any state to seriously consider secession.

8) As for markets, there is a Dow crash coming and a bond crash (rising rates) coming. Do they come in 2017? Sure, what the hell? They have to happen some time.

All that said, I wish each of you a Happy New Year, safe in your assumptions and investment designations. And may 2017 trigger those who hated 2016, providing enough  nervous energy to boil a million lobsters. Or at least enough for me to gorge myself thereon. Because I live in the Midwest, where beef and (white) crappies rule. And I really like lobster.

* Celebrating sexual confusion is not a winning long-term strategy for any civilization.

Monday, December 26, 2016


I've found (sh)it!
Brown gold.

As you might imagine, one of the problems with running an ever-increasing number of raised beds is finding an ever-increasing amount of organic matter to fill them with.  Now, a brand new 2'x2'x1' bed is not so bad - that's about 4 5-gallon buckets of stuff, or a couple wheelbarrow loads. My chickens can produce that with ease.

But the Lovely and Gracious Rogue's newest bed is a different matter altogether, damanding more than 60 cubic feet to fill.  That would probably take the hens all winter*, even assuming I had that volume of leaves and paper shred for them to work with. Plus we have another bed in the planning stage that will be dedicated to flowers.**

And that's in addition to the mundane topping off of all the other beds.  Those 40 pounds of potatoes or 50 pounds of tomatoes are not made out of sunshine alone.  If you take a lot out of the beds, you've got to put a lot back in. 

The chicken composter and the compost cage are obvious ways to address that issue. And I have talked with a neighbor who has horses about hauling away some of his spare. But the problem there is that horses are famous for leaving seeds in their manure. This leads to a weedy fate I try to avoid if possible, which is why it has not proceeded past talk.

But I made an awesome discovery today that will cover this year and next, and maybe the year after that.  I have a different neighbor who runs steer in my north field about 9 months a year***. And that neighbor also occasionally drops a round bale on the edge of the woods. In fact, it turns out that he drops bales in the same place year after year, and the cattle stand around it and eat and crap and stomp.  So when I checked it out today I found a couple hundred cubic feet of rotted manure, mixed with straw that had been chopped by many hooves and lay open to weather for months and years.  There's probably 30 wagon loads all told, certainly enough to cover all of my foreseeable needs, even if it never gets added to.

So my mom dropped me a note to ask what I did this day-after-Christmas. I told her I spent the morning shoveling shit and could not have been happier about it.  Most people would think that weird. But she's a gardener, so she understood.

* they are back on eggs as well.  We got 5 today between 8 hens.
** and not just pretty annuals.  I'll be sneaking in a couple of medicinal herbs/flowers like feverfew and Kansas snakeroot (purple coneflower) that, in addition to looking pretty, grow a marketable product.
*** All I do up there is fish the pond, which has some monster crappies in it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Chicken Composter, loud edition

Nobody home
So anyway, after pulling about 70 gallons of composted win out of the coop last weekend, and since the ladies need something to do since they are not laying eggs, I figured it was time to give them some more leaves and shredded paper and the like to compost.

So I grabbed about six trash cans full of leaves from beneath the Lovely and Gracious Rogue's oak wall out front; the kind of leaves that crunch and crumple and that kids love to destroy big piles of.  And I dumped them all in and spread them about, while the ladies clucked and fussed and hid in the nesting boxes. Then I headed up to the house for about 15 gallons of shredded paper I was going to add to the mix.

When I came back, there were no chickens in sight. And there is that moment of panic where you wonder if you left the door open and they all ran out and got eaten by coyotes, or you wonder if you accidentally buried them all alive. You know the feeling. It turns out that they were all roosted in the rafters.  I'm not sure if I freaked them out while adding the leaves, or if the leaves are too loud, or if by covering up all the crap and pin feathers they are used to walking on I made them feel not-at-home. But for the rest of Saturday they were content to sit 12' above their beautiful new floor, clucking quietly.

They have to come down eventually. All that yummy cracked corn* I gave them to make up for it isn't going to eat itself.

* They actually get a mix of lay rations, hen scratch, crushed oyster shell, and deer corn, as well as all of our kitchen scraps**.  My hens are spoiled brats.
** Except egg shells, which go in the trash.  I don't want them to acquire any bad eating habits, if you know what I mean.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Muh beak!

Not so tasty as the real thing.
The frantic egg-laying season is about over*. My eight (no so) young ladies are now producing about 2 eggs a day between them. But all this time off from the hard work of production doesn't mean they don't get hungry, or thirsty, or bored, or whatever it is that drives them to punch a hole in someone else's egg and stomp around in the golden goodness found therein.

I have a solution for that, however. Pictured at the right is not an egg, but an egg-sized, egg-shaped egg-looking piece of Lake Superior granite, painted to look even more like an egg.  I put it in the nesting boxes, where one or two good pecks ought to break this nascent pecking habit.

If one of my ladies turns up with a bent beak and a migraine this week, we'll know who the culprit was.

* One could extend egg season by the simple act of adding a timed light to lengthen the "daylight" hours inside the hen house.  But I find we still have enough eggs even during the low production months.