Monday, June 19, 2017

Good onions, bad onions

You know I've had my share
Out of the ground and done:
  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Strawberries
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Red onions
  • Cilantro
  • Snow peas
  • Elephant garlic
Just about finished:
  • Red potatoes (already started harvesting)
  • White onions (tomorrow)
  • hard-neck garlic (Thursday and Friday, assuming we get no more rain)
 I'm still planting bush beans even though I'm also harvesting them, and the raspberries are going nuts. Not sure on the pears -- the fire blight of 2015 has returned -- but apples and peaches are off the charts.  If I had cherries this year, I never saw them. 

But while we are eating healthy here* on Rancho d'El Borak, one little problem has arisen.  The onions you see on the table are full, fist-sized beasts that will store quite well, but they all came from the north end of my raised beds. The onions from the south end, both red and white, are about half-sized and are good only for chopping up for this weekend's burgers. Why? Because the maples that a decade ago shielded crops from the harshest of the Kansas sun now smother about half of the beds.  Rather than cut down the trees***, I'll be moving the beds this winter to a sunnier place on the south of the house.  So it's a good thing I built them to be uprootable and easily moved.

But there's additional reason I'm moving them.  Given the various excremental objects being thrown at our national rotating oscillator as we speak, I've decided that the beds need to be doubled in size again, and I really can't do that where they are.  So I've located 2 pallets of cinder blocks and a nice open place where I hope to a) grow as many vegetables next year as a family of nine can eat, and b) create at least two marketable products as part of our local CSA/farmer's alliance.  I'm reading old USDA brochures on growing horseradish as an annual and will be saving all my big garlic bulbs for seed.  I have a greenhouse/hoophouse in my sights****, but I will only buy it with money I earn from selling crops.  If I can't accomplish that, I don't really want to farm bad enough to need one.

The plan, which involves a lot more work on important things that I hope will lead to less work on unimportant things, is called Luke's Tower. We'll see how it plays out over the next 36 months...

* I'm convinced that once I turned 50, my doctor instituted a conspiracy against my health**.  Every time I see him he finds something else wrong with me.  Most of it has been fixed by getting as much wheat as possible out of my diet. I haven't lost much weight but I had to buy smaller pants, my belt is about to be downgraded again, and my blood pressure and cholesterol are back to human levels.
** And Billy Connolly is not really joking. I've forgotten what he looks like.
*** If it were my decision, I'd lose the trees. But the lovely and gracious Rogue likes them right where they are, and alive.
**** Actually, I have two coming.  The 8'x6'x7' hard-sided greenhouse is a done deal. I'll be using it to stay in spinach and lettuce and radishes all winter. The other is a 20'x48' hoop house.  We'll see on that one.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Muh death threats

Trump bullying Kathy Griffin
A crybully has them:
Kathy Griffin accused President Donald Trump and his family of launching a campaign to destroy her life in response to the image she posted earlier this week in which she appeared to be holding the commander-in-chief's severed head. 
The comedian* broke down in tears as she detailed the torrent of abuse she has been receiving online, and the constant death threats which she described as detailed and specific**...
Later in the interview Griffin said that her career was likely over now as a result of this incident, and that President Trump had 'broke' her, moments after she declared: 'There's a bunch of old white guys trying to silence me!'
Is there a name for that judo move in which SJWs effortlessly turn from brave, edgy warriors speaking truth to power into helpless victims of Muh Patriarchy? We've seen it now more times than the Stone Cold Stunner and every time it's pulled off flawlessly.

Well, almost every time.  In this case, it appears that Little Miss Victimhood might have really stepped in it -- she's been fired from a couple shows, lost an endorsement or two, and even Al Franken doesn't want to be seen with her. And if you're an embarrassment to Al Franken...

She is even muttering that her career is likely over.  We can hope, though I doubt that's the case. There always seems to be plenty of room for bitter, liberal harridans on TV. I would not be surprised to see her show up on ESPN as a hockey analyst in 18 months or so.

Wait, yes I would. But only because I don't watch ESPN.

* You keep using that word...
** but alas not effective. Whence do all these incompetent would-be killers arise?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A dog's life...saved by technology.

It's a lifesaver
So anyway, I've mentioned before that DiggingDog works the graveyard shift for our local canine signal corps.  Every night, for hours on end, she passes directives to and from the neighbor dogs. These other dogs are at least a quarter mile away, so she must put considerable effort into passing these messages.  Sometimes her efforts are so strenuous that I can feel the sunroom frame vibrating. Obviously, this condition is not conducive to human sleep.

Such was the case Friday night. I went to bed about midnight, two hours or so after the relay began.  In order to make sure I knew she was working, DiggingDog moved directly outside my window. Bark-bark-bark, in groups of seven or eight, depending upon the messages being transmitted.  By 2 am I, still awake, was contemplating various accidents she was going to be involved in, most of them ending her miserable life. But it would probably just be easier to leave*, so I moved to an empty bed in Mr. Charisma's room on the other side of the house.

DiggingDog apparently decided that were I not within barking distance, I would not appreciate how hard she was working. So she parked herself immediately outside Mr. Charisma's bedroom window. By 3am, I had developed a very long list of exquisite tortures for her, but I was too tired to kill her at that point.

Instead I moved upstairs to an empty bedroom and put in some ear buds so I could listen to storm sounds on Youtube. I lay there wincing and twitching as I heard her barks even over the thunder. Unable to fly up to that bedroom window, she wasn't actually within hearing distance and probably had given up at that point. Yet that rhythm -- bark bark bark, 7 barks, now 8, now only 3 -- remained with me until I finally passed out from pure exhaustion.  At 5am, Mr. Charisma's little brother, Dino Baggins, awoke and demanded his morning bottle. Saturday was a very long day.

But at a family picnic yesterday, my newest brother in law mentioned an ultrasonic dog trainer he used to quiet his neighbor's terrier.  I, not being a TV watcher, had never heard of such a thing. But I brought up my handy dandy WalMart app and quickly located the First Alert Automatic Bark Genie, a 9v-driven electronic speaker that emits a dog-hearing-level squeal every time it detects a bark. I'm not sure whether it distracts or annoys the barker. Nor do I care, so long as the result is no repeats of Friday night.

I hung it outside of the sunroom last night just as DiggingDog was warming up for her shift. Thirty minutes later she climbed to her observation post atop the picnic table and cut loose with a double-bark. Then she stopped and looked around. She hit another note, then stared accusingly at me through the sunroom window. Finally she padded away, confused.  As I was putting Mr. Charisma to bed a half hour later, I heard her again just outside his window. Bark bark. Pause. Bark. Then nothing.

I saw her last when she came slinking across the deck at about 10pm. She stopped to look at me through the sunroom window, her face the most forlorn I had ever seen it. She was utterly defeated, her beloved signal corps destroyed. With a shrug of resignation, she moped into the silent night.  I slept 8 hours without moving.

Highly recommend.

* Plus, the kids really like her.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Black dirt / Red ants

So anyway, I finally got the lovely and gracious Rogue's tomatoes transplanted to her new raised bed this weekend. We're doing beefsteak raised from seed, so that ought to be an adventure, though not as much of an adventure as last year, when Mr. Charisma mixed several different types of seeds together giving us a random selection of tomatoes in every garden.

However, there were a couple of surprises once I pulled off the very-unrotted layer of pine needles that had been the last item I added to this bed.

1) The rot took 5 months. Manure, ground oyster shell, yard clippings, shredded paper, clayish soil, and sand, all of it melded into a beautiful black dirt that sticks together just as it ought. It's full of worms and pill bugs and all manner of good critters.

2) I got about half the volume of dirt I expected, so we'll have to do it all again this fall. I've already started actually. All around the tomato cages, I laid down a layer of wet cardboard, some fresh-cut comfrey leaves, and started to pile shredded paper on top. That ought to suppress the weeds while retaining moisture and providing the pill bugs and worms with plenty of chow.

3)  At one end, it was also crawling with bad bugs: ants.  Billions of them. And when I tried to drive in the tomato cage, I realized why. Maybe.  Back when I first set up this bed, I used it as an opportunity to dispose of a large number of bones collected by DiggingDog. I simply buried them under the refuse I was dumping in and hoped that she would not discover them.  She has not. But perhaps someone else has moved in to take advantage of the yummy calcium goodness of deer and cattle bones.

Either way, once I research whether it's safe to use borax* in a tomato bed, I'll get to removing the ants. These 10 plants ought provide enough to keep us in salsa and pasta sauce for another year, assuming they all survive the upcoming ant holocaust.

In the meantime, after getting the lawn tractor stuck in my field while trying to get more manure, I'm at something of a loss as to with what I'm going to fill  the new pepper containers with.  I don't have 5 months to wait around for a new batch of black dirt...

UPDATE: apparently, you make a paste with borax, sugar, and water, and the scout ants carry it back to the nest, where it poisons them all. We shall see. Lots of things sound easy on the internet.

* Borax is a mineral salt, not the plural of Borak.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Global warming strikes again

The fire this time
This time it burns up the Kansas wheat crop:
Blizzard conditions and heavy snow swept western Kansas, including 14 to 20 inches in Colby in the northwestern quadrant of the No. 1 winter wheat state in the nation, said the Weather Channel. 
“We lost the western Kansas wheat crop this weekend. Just terrible,” tweeted Justin Gilpin, chief executive of the grower-funded Kansas Wheat Commission.
I suspect that over the coming months and years it's going to become much harder for acolytes of Albert Gore's Traveling Circus and Subsidy Vacuum to keep claiming that currentYear() is the hottest year ever. Eastern and southern Europe have been getting freak snowstorms one after the other this spring and the good old USA just got one in my neck of the woods*. While it will be weeks before the final damage is counted, it's safe to say that there are fewer acres of wheat and more dead baby cows in the world than there were this time last week.

But what do snowstorms have to do with global warming? Very little, I suspect.  About 18 months ago, I dropped a cryptic little note in my year-end prognostication:
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.
Obviously, I don't know for sure, but I suspect that we are on the cusp of a grand solar minimum, a naturally-recurring phenomenon that humans neither cause nor can avoid.

It's been long-noticed that our sun's activity is cyclical, up and down, noisy and quiet, on about a 12-year cycle.  But it's less well-known that those cycles also have cycles. Every 200 years or so, the sun gets really quiet, the global temperature drops, crops are destroyed in large numbers**, people starve and suffer and overthrow their entire social order. A good time is had by all once it all washes out a couple decades later.

For the record, Cycle 24 looks like we could be getting ready for that kind of a quiet period:

The NASA Website is good for something.

But, you might wonder, if we are on the cusp of such a minimum, won't that get in the way of the Global Climate Progress that we have been allegedly enjoying for the last 40 years?  "Fear not," says peer-reviewed science, the great god CO2 has a wonderful plan for your life: A grand solar minimum would barely make a dent in human-caused global warming.

So who is going to win the royal rumble between that big glowing ball in the sky and and an extra 50 ppm of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere?  I suspect that we will find out for sure in the next 5 years or so.

* Rancho d'El Borak didn't get snow, but we did get about 8" of rain over 3 days. Five Boys' Mom will have a more accurate count, I'll bet.
** Not from lessened x-ray or ultraviolet directly. A quieter sun allows more cosmic rays to reach the lower atmosphere from space. Those cosmic rays instigate cloud formation. And those cloud formations do the darnest things to stuff on the ground.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rogue solves the pepper problem

So anyway, as soon as I finished supper last night, the lovely and gracious Rogue rolled up with a few somethings she found for sale on Facebook: a whole vanload of used cattle tubs, four bucks each.  These once held salt blocks or minerals, except for that row of two, which held buckwheat.  They're sturdy, thick, food grade plastic and hold about 10 gallons each.  So of course the first thing I did was to drill six 1" holes in the bottom of most of them.

You see, I have a pepper problem. Not one like last year where I couldn't get anything to grow past the dog-digging and cat-pooping stage.  This year I simply have no room for them.  Every bed I have except for Rogue's long one is full*.  So I have nowhere to put all these cayennes and chilis and bells** I've got popping up.

Well, had nowhere.  As soon as I figure out where to put the these new planters, and as soon as I figure out what soil I'm going to fill them with, they'll each get three or four pepper plants***, which should produce enough to keep me in peppers for a couple years.

* That one gets tomatoes, which are about 2" tall right now.
** But no jalapenos.  I've still got two cases of them from 2015.
*** and I may get to try one bucket in tobacco. Thanks, Tom.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why we keep our guns

Not a tough fight, hardware being equal
Because loyalty has its own rewards:
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias, providing guns to as many as 400,000 loyalists.

The announcement came as Maduro's opponents are gearing up for what they pledge will be the largest rally yet to press for elections and a host of other demands Wednesday.
It would be easy to feel bad for the long-suffering people of Venezuela. But it would also be unkind, for this is the future they chose. Not even twenty years ago, they freely elected socialist Hugo Chavez, who ran on a platform of "I'll steal all the gringos' money and capital and give it to you." Now that free stuff has all run out, and the people are still hungry. Too bad.

But the lesson here is not that democracy is often an idiot, nor that socialism only works until you run out of other peoples' money.  It's that when the chickens come home to roost, the government is not going to protect the average person, but those in power. The operative words in the story quoted above are not guns or even armed militias, but loyalists.

Those loyal to the government get guns. Those disloyal do not.  Unless you already have your own, that is.  The solution may still be messy, but at least the mess won't all be on your side of the street.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Go west, old man

El Borak doesn't actually ride a horse
Well, I took Tom Bridgeland's admonition to seek a bigger platform seriously, and as a result I will now be posting semi-regularly at Men of the West under my given name, El Borak.  My first piece will be up tomorrow before noon.

Some of my early stuff will not be original to y'all, as I intend to update a number of older pieces from here and Myopia for more generic and broader distribution.  Garden stories and the like will still appear here, as will shorter pieces.  Well-thought out longer pieces will appear there, though I may link to them from here.

There won't be a link back here from there, as this is not an attempt to garner more readers in this place. They just look like a bunch of good guys doing a good thing and I'm going to help them out.

UPDATE: And there it is.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bring on the bees and the potassium

Flowers in picture are larger than they appear.
In late 2015 I received a dozen scraggly, shriveled up 'buttons' via ebay. I had ordered some Russian comfrey roots, and apparently the person who sells them thought it good for business to send as little root as possible, along with a note extolling the strength of said buttons. Well, apparently that works, as I now have two beds of comfrey growing. They are also abuzz with visitors from my neighbor's hives. And the seller got positive feedback.

But other than giving CNN another Russian conspiracy to expose, why would someone want Russian comfrey growing about the yard or garden?  There are actually a couple of uses for this plant besides getting the bees in the habit of visiting your place in early spring.

The first is, as I've mentioned here before, as a mulch.  Comfrey has a very deep taproot, through which it pulls up lots of vitamins and potassium, storing all that minerally goodness in its broad leaves. Broad leaves make great mulch, keeping the weeds at bay and the ground moisture in place. The one downside of comfrey leaf mulch is that the leaves break down so quickly that you have to constantly re-apply them unless you mix them with other leaves and stuff. Then again, re-applying often means you're getting more good stuff in your soil.

That quick breakdown helps the second use: comfrey tea. Not for you to drink, mind you, but for your tomatoes and other nightshades. When comfrey leaves break down, they liquefy* and release all their potassium goodness in a form that gives tomatoes a boost.  I don't like using commercial fertilizer, so any time I can create lots of natural if stinky fertilizer I try to do so.

Comfrey also grows like crazy, creating lots of seedless** bulk for your compost pile. But if you don't chop it down for compost it grows into a very tall and decorative flowering herb that's often featured in flower gardens. It's nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing.

One final attribute that I have not personally verified is that it has lots of medicinal uses -- one of its alternative names is 'knitbone'. Comfrey has long been used as a bandage for external injuries and a poultice for internal ones.  While I'm not expecting to have to knit any bone together myself in the near future, it's always good to have the stuff on hand to do so, I guess.

* and putrefy.  You wouldn't want to drink comfrey tea anyway. 
** Comfrey actually has seed, but the Russian variety is sterile and spreads via root only.

Monday, April 17, 2017

It's gonna be so damp

Could you direct me to teh internets?
when NATO memes 4Chan:
...if the most powerful political-military alliance has the real battlefield on lockdown, some worry it’s floundering in the battlefield of the internet, where ideas go to clash, Kremlin trolls go to spread half-truths, and ISIS goes to recruit foreign fighters.

The answer, some experts argue, lies in memes — those strange jokes and references that come out of the internet’s woodworks from seemingly nowhere, and seem to end up everywhere at once. A small contingent of academics and experts want NATO to get in on the action to confront pro-Russian, anti-NATO trolls, or to push back against internet jihadists in the cyber space.

“It’s time to embrace memetic warfare,” wrote Jeff Giesea, a widely-known social media and tech guru, in an article in 2015. “Trolling, it might be said, is the social media equivalent of guerrilla warfare, and memes are its currency of propaganda.”
Imagine how well NATO would run an actual guerrilla war from Brussels and you can imagine how well they could run a memetic one. It is the nature of meme warfare to be decentralized to the point of anarchy. It's leaderless and directionless and organic. There is a reason it's referred to, only half-jokingly, as "weaponized autism." This is simply not something that a military alliance of 17 countries, 6 ethno-states, and a dozen unaccredited chiropractic institutions can organize.  Because it's not organized.

One 2016 campaign meme* illustrated the problem perfectly.  Frame one showed Hillary Clinton tweeting, which tweet was run though three committees and approved by a handful of campaign officials before it could be posted. The result was safe, bland, and accomplished nothing, as you might expect.

Frame two showed Trump sitting in front of a computer.  "I've never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke," he typed. Thus is encapsulated the difference between organizing a meme campaign and writing a meme.  NATO organizes campaigns.

Memes may be the currency of propaganda**, but they are not simply propaganda. They are not a cartoon version of VOA or of anti-communist leaflets dropped into remote villages.

Nor are they merely a matter of creating a catchy phrase and using the power of the press to broadcast it. The term Fake News was memed out via a plethora of mainstream press outlets last November. All of a sudden the term was everywhere, complete with big, professionally-compiled lists of Fake News outlets to avoid and experts tut-tutting about its danger to democracy.

Within eight weeks the Washington Post was begging people to stop using the term and CNN was cutting Bernie's live feed for applying it to them, even as a joke. Chris Cuomo said that Fake News had become the equivalent of the n-word for journalists. That's what happens when you try to push public opinion via manufactured memes: your whole profession winds up in therapy.

Given NATO's topheavy organizational structure, its bureaucratic inertia, and its insulation from the actual world much less the anarchic world of social media, it's not hard to imagine what NATO memetic warfare might look like. It would be like Poe's Law come to life all the time:

NATO Meme (working prototype v1.045556a)

Which is why I cannot wait for them to get started. The memes that arise in response will be glorious.

  * which I have since lost. My dank meme stash is not what it used to be.
** If that phrase means anything at all, which I doubt.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Is it supposed to be smoking like this?

The lilac at sunset
So anyway, I decided to take advantage of this week's lilac bloom by making some lilac oil. Some people call it lilac essential oil, probably out of habit or a healthy sense of marketing. But it's not an essential oil, it's an infused oil.

The difference is significant in one sense and not in one other.  As far as use goes, there's very little difference: you put the oil in your diffuser or however you use it and use it.  But as far as what the oil is, that's the difference.

An essential oil is distilled from the plant alone.  If I make mint essential oil, for example, I am taking the oil from the mint leaves. The oil is there, I'm just sucking it out.  But for an infused oil, I'm beginning with a base oil, usually a light one like grapeseed oil, and then infusing that oil with whatever smell I want by 'cooking' a bunch of flowers in it.

So with that non-important distinction clearly in mind, I may have screwed up this batch.

The recipe is simple, you just place your flowers* in the oil and cook it on the lowest heat you can for 6-8 hours, 'bruising' the flowers every 2 hours or so to release the smellies. You then let the oil (with flowers strained out) sit for a couple weeks.  I added two steps: I froze the flowers for an hour**, then put them in the dehydrator for half an hour to remove excess moisture.  But that's not the problem.

The problem is that I put it in at 6ish last night, intending to turn it off at 10 and have Rogue finish the cooking this afternoon so I could process it tonight.  Instead, at 10 I washed up the dehydrator but forgot to turn off the crock pot with my concoction in it. The lovely and gracious Rogue turned it off at 5:30 this morning and reported that it was boiling and bubbling like no one's business.

So while it cooked too long, it's also likely it cooked too hot.  When I get home tonight, I'll extract the oil by running it though the jelly strainer, then put it away for the required two weeks.  At that point we'll know if it's good or if it will make the house smell like an engine fire.

Unfortunately, at that point it may be too late to do another batch, as the flowers don't bloom forever. I may have to do another batch tonight, just in case. I know, what a shame.

UPDATE: That was a fail. I don't even need to store it two weeks to realize that I cooked the gentle flowery goodness right out of it. Time to start over.

* how many? a whole bunch.
** because bees and ants.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Never got to the jelly

The other 'hood
I ended up reading a book last night on the recommendation of Five Boys' Mom: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.  It's a memoir of sorts of a poor mountain kid who graduated from Yale Law via the USMC. Good read, quick read, and a very enlightening read.

What I found more interesting than the author's very interesting life* were the similarities between Appalachian white poverty and inner city black poverty.

There are some pretty obvious parallels: broken families, drug abuse, interpersonal violence, poor diet and hygiene, and the instinct to hide problems from strangers/outsiders. Two that I found to be the most intriguing and tragic were the scoffing at intellectual accomplishment and a belief that one's actions don't really matter.

The first is hidden within 'public' rhetoric about the value of education.  While everyone says that education is important, when black kids are calling out other blacks for "acting white" when they work hard, and when whites are calling other whites "faggot" for doing well in school, public rhetoric matters very little.

One interesting personal story related to that: Last Friday we got a talk from our university diversity officer**, who told us of a meeting she recently had with one of "her kids".  The soon-to-be grad was a black girl from one of Kansas' more prosperous counties, graduating cum laude, and with a bright future ahead of her.  Our officer asked her if she would be willing to go to lunch with the officer and a couple other black students as something of a mentoring opportunity. The girl refused, first quietly and finally quite adamantly. It took a few questions to get to the real issue.

"I don't like black people," the student finally said.  The officer was taken aback. The officer's black, the student's black, her parents are black, what's this rubbish about not liking black people?

It turns out that while her family was comfortably middle class, she grew up on the edge of a poorer area and attended inner city schools.  For years she suffered the insults and fists of her black classmates because she studied hard and spoke standard English.

While she was in middle school her family moved to a richer, whiter area where she excelled both academically and socially, but she neither forgot nor forgave those she left behind. Like JD, she managed to escape a really bad situation and make something of herself. Also like JD, those she left behind likely never will. And they will teach that learned helplessness to their children.

Which leads into the second problem: these people - poor whites and poor blacks alike - believe that what they do doesn't matter.  They lack what we might call 'agency,' that feeling that they can control (and are therefore responsible for) much of their current and future position. Instead, they revel in their mostly imaginary oppression and feel put upon when called to do something about their lot in life***. Nothing is their fault - not their life, not their drug abuse, not the wounds they are passing down like an heirloom set of china to their own children.

The poor in this culture are not honest with themselves about themselves.  They report going to church and work far more and doing drugs far less than they actually do. They look down on 'welfare queens' while trading their own food stamps for cash or smokes.  They have hidden away self-reflection because it's too painful to bear.

And if you're not honest with yourself about yourself, and if you don't believe that you can do anything about your situation, and if you insist that those people expecting you to get your shit together are "blaming the victim," then you are going to be painfully poor until you die at 55 of congestive heart failure while watching Rachel Ray in HD and eating Fritos dipped in ketchup.

The underlying problem is not that the poor have no money; they have plenty of money for smokes and sneakers and pot and iPhones and rims. It's not that they don't have dental care, but that they put Pepsi in their babies' bottles. The poverty problem in America is primarily cultural: the poor are poor in the midst of plenty because for whatever reasons, because of whatever fears, they avoid the kinds of actions that might bring them out and revel in the kinds of actions that press them down.

The tragedy is that there is almost nothing that anyone but the poor themselves can do about that.

* If you can call living to 31 a life.  The kid was born the year I graduated high school, for crying out loud.
** It wasn't a bad talk at all. Diversity in rural Kansas is not like diversity at Oberlin. Here it's about giving those who grew up 'out' a way 'in'.
*** from "casting lots," it's a euphemism that teaches that what happens to you is random and totally not based on your own decisions and actions.  And if life is just a throw of the dice, why try hard?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Redoubling the preps

Canning season has opened early at Rancho d'El Borak. Because reasons.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Well, that didn't take long

Running the world is a temptation every US president must face:
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that it is now his responsibility to resolve the humanitarian and political crisis in Syria as he opened the door to military action in the country... 
Trump took ownership of the conflict at his Wednesday press conference, proclaiming from the White House's Rose Garden, 'I now have responsibility. And I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly.' 
It's going to be tragically ironic to hear people say, "They told me that if I voted for Hillary we'd be at war with Russia within a year.  Well, I voted for Hillary and now the sirens are going off..."

All I can say is, redouble your preps.

UPDATE: About last night...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

You're gonna be a hat, buddy!

I owe my daughters an apology
So anyway, it appears that while DiggingDog™ is working her shift with the Nocturnal Canine Signal Corps*, someone has been sneaking into her pen and making off with her food.

At first I thought it was just the girls leaving the lid off of the can when they fed her.  After all, it was dark in the morning when I left for work, so I'd not see the can but I'd notice on the weekends that the dog's food was waterlogged. Obviously, the girls did not replace the lid some time during the week and it got rained on.

They assured me that they did and always do and maybe the wind is knocking the lid off. Unlikely, thinks I, but I got a bungee to secure the lid on anyway.  Press the lid down hard. OK, Wind, do your worst.

Well, the other day I arose to find the lid upside down, and today I found that it had merely been pushed to the side.  Obviously, we have a critter getting into the food even with the lid battened down.

There are some easy solutions and one cruel one.  One solution is to move the can to a location where the racoon** can't get it, like the barn.  A second is to get a container with a better lid, or better secure this one. I could close the pen door at night, locking the dog out -- after all, she's elsewhere all night anyway.

Like I said, those are the easy ones.  Or I could live trap the bugger. Except I'd be more likely to catch one of my own barn cats, I suspect.

But I there is one solution guaranteed to catch only the critter doing this and to be rid of him once and for all.

1) Get another trash can, fill it with new dog food, put it in the barn.
2) Fill this can 3/4 full with water.
3) Throw enough dog food in the water to disguise it.
4) Secure the lid.

Mr. Racoon knocks the lid off and climbs in to get some dinner, only to find himself in about 2' of water and no way to climb out. After all, it works for possums***

On the other hand, if he's big enough standing on his back legs to reach the can lid, he could just climb out.  If he's not quite so tall, I'm most likely to have a wet angry raccoon on my hands in the morning. That's not an optimal solution either.

And I'm certainly not going to sit outside at night in hopes of shooting him.

Maybe I'll just move the can inside the barn after all.

* She stands on the deck and barks south, then a dog to the south barks, then a dog to the east barks.  She barks east, then a dog to the east barks, then a dog to the south barks...  Lather, rinse, repeat all night.
** I'm assuming we're dealing with a racoon rather than feral cats or armadillos or really long weasels.
*** Only it's best to use chicken feathers rather than dog food on the water. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

You can still distill in America*

Not available in Arkansas
So anyway, I finally got around to buying that essential oil distiller I was thinking about last summer to exploit my abundance of mint leaves.  The nice thing was that by waiting a year, I came across a hand-made one at a quite reasonable price.  Add some wine-style tubing and a seperatory funnel and we'll be distilling mint essential oil as soon as the plants take off. They're already coming back in just as thick as last year. And in more places, too.

To recoup my costs, I figure I just need to produce $150 worth of essential oils that the lovely and gracious Rogue would otherwise buy over the course of a couple years.  The only problem is that she doesn't buy mint essential oil. Nor oregano, nor sage, two other distillable herbs that I have an abundance.

But she does buy lemon balm and lavender and a couple other herbs that I have grown in small quantities over the years**.

So what a great excuse, I'm thinking, to add a couple more beds...

* Except Arkansas, I understand, where the mere possession of a still is still counted a heinous crime.
** If you think about how much dried rosemary you use over the course of a year's cooking, it's obvious that even a single pack of 200 seeds is tremendous overkill. One plant is generally sufficient to handle one's culinary needs.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

He will be barely missed

Classy to the end
Following a brief but courageous bout with his calendar, Dick Charleston is no more. An early combatant in the Great Meme War, he served a tour as Colonel of GamerGate, defending the honor of KFC, which was inexcusably blocked by the infamous Literally Blue GamerGate block bot.

During the late Washington Campaign, Charleston was blocked by scores of termagants, beldams, slatterns, even an occasional harridan. However, he has decided the garden must come before the triggering of feminist writers and members of the religious left. May his memes never grow salty.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A potato home companion

Three blocks short of a full wall
So anyway, when the lovely and gracious Rogue bought me a second deck for my birthday last year, its placement created an unwieldy area that managed to collect weeds, rideable plastic toys, and chunks of dead rabbit over the course of last summer. What better place to grow potatoes? But I've decided that it's not going to be an ordinary potato bed; it's going to be a companion-planting extravaganza.

Just for fun, this bed's going to get just about every companion that promises to help potatoes: thyme (already planted, though you can hardly see them in the picture), onions, garlic, marigolds, even clover.  I already have two beds each of onions and garlic, so if these produce anything, that's just a bonus.  And I'm wondering if (or hoping that, actually) adding clover once the potatoes come up will smother out the other weeds*.  As you can see, this might be a rather difficult bed to keep weeded without having to climb into it. Unwieldy it began, unwieldy it remains.

The only companion I haven't decided on is horseradish. Horseradish is a great companion, as it allegedly helps increase the disease resistance of potatoes**. But horseradish is forever, so if I add it here, here it will remain until the end of the age. It already grows in a number of places outside its original bed, like all the other beds that have previously held potatoes.

On the other hand, even should I never be able to rid myself of it, there are worse problems than having food growing all over the place. Like having chunks of dead rabbit rotting all over the place.

UPDATE: I gave in and did two rows of horseradish, one inside, one outside the upper wall.  Plus, since DiggingDog™ decided that the center of the bed would be a capital place to dig a nice hole to lie in, I've stuck about a dozen tomato cages all over the bed.  It doesn't look as nice now. But nice isn't really what we're shooting for, is it?

* Also, since the bed is not flat, I hope a thick cover of clover will control any erosion issues that arise.
** I cannot testify that this is true, only that my potatoes have not had any disease issues in the past.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The lost sense of tragedy

Won't that be fun?
Seeing our new SecState threatening North Korea reminded me of these words penned by Robert Kaplan a couple decades ago:
Avoiding tragedy requires a sense of it, which in turn requires a sense of history. Peace, however, leads to the preoccupation with “presentness”, the loss of the past and consequent disregard for the future. That is because peace by nature is pleasurable, and pleasure is about momentary satisfaction. 
In an era of expanded domestic peace, those who deliver us pleasure are the power brokers. Because pleasure is inseparable from convenience, convenience becomes the vital element of society.
Folks are always at a loss to explain how the world stupids its way into tragedy every so often.  Try to get a well-read man to explain the logical steps from the assassination of an Archduke in Sarajevo to 1.2 million casualties in the Battle of the Somme 24 months later and he will throw his hands into the air.  Human actions are on occasion too stupid to understand in retrospect.

But that's because humans do not make decisions in retrospect.  At the risk of oversimplifying, the logical progression was that two sides saw opportunities to be gained by fighting and neither side really considered the costs of either losing or of not winning for a very long time.  Had you told the Germans that the ultimate result of declaring war on Russia would be 10% of their population dead or maimed, Turnip Winter and hyperinflation, and France occupying the Ruhr, they would never have gone along.

But neither the German rulers, nor the people who cheered the headlong rush to war, had a sense of tragedy. Instead they had the intoxicating confidence of being a newly-industrialized, newly-unified power that had kicked France's ass 40 years prior and been itching for another fight since.  The same could probably be said for the Allied nations - the end price was not considered at the outset*.

We are in exactly that same position today, and the position that Kaplan warned about in 1995. Convenience and living in the present have been the two vital elements of American culture for the past 20 years.  In all earnest, what can be said of the two-spirit, gender-non-conforming, or androgyne*** except that they have completely discarded the historical human experience?**** What can be said for the government that casually threatens other nuclear powers over social media?

We have absolutely no sense of the tragic, or even of the serious or real or true, because it's been so long since we were forced to be a serious people.  There is no penalty today for the individual acting in a foolish or discivic manner any more than there is for a congressman or president who does the same, only much more expensively. After all, at zero interest rates, new fighter jets are free. If you can be anything you want, why not be a non-binary pangender demiboy? When food, rent, health care, and education for all of them are underwritten by someone else, why not have a dozen kids with a dozen different partners? Why not drill, baby, drill on funds lent by retirement funds desperate to put off a demographic tidal wave?

Because there's no penalty for stupid, and because stupid is more fun than is serious, the stupid will accelerate until we are very painfully reminded what it is that makes certain actions stupid in the first place.

Trump seems to want to blunder us into a war in southeast Asia just as badly as Hillary wanted to scheme us into one in eastern Europe.  No one, most especially those whose job it is to consider these things, counts the costs of such lunacy. It's been so long since we've paid costs that we've forgotten that they exist.

They do.

* Except the US.  We jumped in so that we could centralize political, eceonomic, and cultural power in Washington. There is a reason today that most of what's called "the news" is about government**. Wilson would have killed a lot more than 100,000 doughboys for that.
** the rest, of course, is about people who sing, make-believe, or play games for money.
*** three of the 58 gender options available on Facebook.
**** Well, you could say that they are batshit insane, which is doubtless true of the few that are not simply pretending to be for attention.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Calling the top

Hang on Janet, hang on tight
Peter Thiel says the voters' bull's got a long way to run:
Investor Peter Thiel— who stumped for President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention and has remained close to the president ... is beginning to agree with a colleague on this thesis: "We're now in a bull market in politics," he said.
"I'm not sure this is a good thing," said Thiel. "But it is a fact that maybe politics is becoming more important, it's becoming more intense, the range of outcomes is becoming greater, and that we're in a world in which there's a bull market in politics that's getting started."
While I agree that politics are becoming more intense and that the range of possible outcomes is growing, count me as one who thinks those facts imply we are a lot closer to the end of a bull market in politics than the beginning.

It's always interesting to watch larval historians come to grips with the ubiquity of religion in the Late Middle Ages. In some ways it's completely out of their experience.  You had mandated feast days and fast days and tithes and special diets and all manner of demands on the people to do this and pay that and go see this and support this vagrant.  And few questioned the system's legitimacy even as they loathed or mocked the corruption of nearly everyone involved in running the system.  But then you have them compare it to democracy and the lights come on.

That religious superstructure of authority grew and grew and grew until we reached what might be called "Peak Church" a couple decades before Luther.  Finally, it broke out in heresy trials, subjugation, complete economic and social control, and then finally all out war that devastated whole nations. Ubiquity marked the end of the bull market in religion, the whole creaking edifice was eventually destroyed.

Today we find ourselves scratching our heads over how our Catholic next door neighbors would have ever burned us at the stake for not putting ashes on our foreheads the fortieth day before Easter. I suspect that in a few centuries, more than a few people will wonder the same thing about our democratic politics.  Replace 'tithes' with 'taxes' and 'priests' with 'lobbyists' and it becomes obvious that our modern society is as saturated with politics as the Middle Ages ever was with religion. Our nation's richest counties all lie around our national capital. Our companies pay billions of dollars to hire people to ask for indulgences, or fund the campaigns of those who can grant them directly. We don't make pilgrimages to Rome to hear the Pope, but our hairdressers must make annual pilgrimages to Topeka to hear some social work graduate drone on about diversity -- which we call continuing education -- lest they be legally forbidden to practice their art.

We spend hours every day thinking and talking and arguing about what we ought to collectively do about this problem or that. We think it ludicrous that theologians might have argued over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, yet computer programmers sit around a table and in all earnest argue about what to do about North Korea's nuclear weapons - even as they forget we "did something" about them 20 years ago - or how to keep the polar ice caps from melting.

We are in politics as Medievals were in religion: like a fish in water.

And the religious system went on and on and grew and intensified, sucking more and more of the wealth and production from society until it could not be collectively afforded anymore.  Its peak is the place where the range of outcomes became greater - i.e. where a break in its steadiness and consistency became evident - and they got a few centuries of religious persecutions and wars, and the Pilgrims got Plymouth Rock and the Indians got casinos.

Politics in the modern sense - defined here as the assertion that "politics is the art of the possible" and we need to collectively do something about everything - really got rolling in the Progressive Era of the late 1800s. It was then that we as a nation consciously decided that we were going to mold ourselves and our environment into something new through legal incentive and coercion*. We were going to professionalize our barber shops and de-worm the Southrons and civilize the Irish**. We were going to apply the principles of science to society***, and ban alcohol and buying a car on Sunday and make all the children go to approved schools for 186 days a year from the ages of 7 to 16. And we have been growing the beast, tax by tax and regulation by regulation, ever since.

Our government - the voracious product of our politics - has bankrupted our nation, our people, even our money. Still it announces grandiose plans to make us even greater than before using money it creates from nothing but upon which our children will make perpetual interest payments to those who did nothing to earn them because the law, passed by representatives of the people, says they must.

That sounds a lot like the bell ringing at the top to me.

* The Pilgrims, of course, did the same on a smaller basis, but they didn't ask the peasant pilgrims for input.
** and use a few dozen poor black men for syphilis experiments.
*** Progressives are understandably loath to claim eugenics as their baby, but in the first third of the 20th century, eugenics was a progressive idea with intellectual cachet.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Prepper Fail, Volts and Amps Edition

Out of date, out of luck
Our power went out even before the storm arrived.

Which is actually no big deal.  The kids were in bed, so we really didn't need it*. And our electric service is much improved over the past 10 years. When we first moved in, if someone farted in Redfield our power would be out for 12 hours.  Now outages are few and far between and seldom last as long.  So I went to sleep thinking it would be back on by morning. It wasn't.

And that's no big deal, either.  To deal with such a case, we have half of our house** wired for generator power.  I have a big long cord that plugs into my electrical box on one end and the generator on the other, and a couple switches to flip, and I can run the house that way so long as I have gasoline.  Which I do.

So I got up with the sun, put my hoodie on, flipped all the switches, plugged the cord into the electrical box, fed the other end outside, filled the generator and started it, then went to plug the cord in.  Nope.  The rounded prong that's supposed to point inward is facing outward and the others are all too close together***. I turn the plug this way and that. Nope. Stare stupidly at it as if that will change something. Nope. It appears that that I am undone. We will not be running the well pump via generator today.

The part of the story I have neglected is that I burned up my 15-year-old generator last summer and we bought a new, bigger one. And as the Lovely and Gracious Rogue was looking it over in the store, I asked if it had one of those round plugs.  Yup. Buy it. Assemble it. Run it.  But I didn't hook it up to the house until 6:30 this morning. Why bother?

Well, apparently in the last 15 years or so, the style among electricians has become a 120/240V 20A plug instead of the 125/250V 30A that my electrical box, my cord, and my old generator use. So I need to get my box rewired (probably) to match the new standard. Fail.

But I hear now that a pole has snapped somewhere near Redfield and the power should be back on by noon. And if that's the case, no harm will come to my steaks, or at least no thawing.  So if nothing untoward comes of it, I guess we'll just call it a dry run, a test.  And stuff is allowed to go wrong in a test.

It just needs to be right on the final exam.

* I enjoyed re-reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with a flashlight no little bit.
** The half with the freezer, fridge, pellet stove, well pump, etc. 
*** Not unlike the guy in Johnny Cash's One Piece at a Time, who tries to assemble a car he has stolen bit by bit over a 30 year career at GM.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Winter Grapes revisited

I awoke Saturday morning to find that five of those seven or eight pathetic sticks I stuck in the dirt five weeks ago had suddenly sprouted. So working from the assumption that what is happening above the soil is being mirrored beneath it, I will have at least 5 new Concord grape vines to transplant in a few weeks.

So the lazy way to start grapes from cuttings is working at at least a 60% rate. I can live with that, especially since I've got another experiment (cuttings in water) running a couple weeks behind, and another batch of 8 cuttings I just planted yesterday.  By April I expect to have at least a dozen new vines that can start making the makings of jelly.

And not a moment too soon, it seems.  The original concords are about 20 years old, and one of them all-but-died last year, which led to me looking for ways to propagate it. Well, the other looks to have the same issue this year -- its main stock is completely rotted in the center.  So those two will probably get ripped out this fall, or even earlier if it looks like they won't produce this year.

And that's ok. Even though the younguns won't produce anything until next summer, we've got enough jelly on hand to get by until they do.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Catching up on the mail

I'm Spicy
Might as well share a few items, since otherwise it's all quiet:

What do you think of the Milo situation?

I don't really.  Having not mentioned him before doesn't mean I don't know who Milo is, I just don't see the attraction of right wingers to him, unless it's in the same sort of "he's our shield*" as their attraction to Herman Cain. I guess I lack the political celebrity gene or something.

What he said is no different from what others say, including Bill Maher, who is claiming credit (I guess) for taking him down. And in this case our modern lack of perspective works against Milo - it was not long ago that good European peasants were married at 12 or 13 and often because of pregnancy. He's being dogpiled because the Safe Space crowd hates his guts, but I suspect he'll be fine in the end.

Is Pizzagate real?

Doubtless the Podestas have bizarre taste in friends and art, but it's hard to tell if they are just being "edgy" or if it's indicative of something worse. Lots of people play with secret evil - you remember how every respectable man used to be a Freemason?  I'm glad the home gaming console killed that organization.

Someone with an actual torture chamber in his home would not likely call it by that name in an email. You call your torture chamber "the fun house" and your home gym "the torture chamber." Especially if you're old, fat, and fighting hypertension.

Does that mean that there is or isn't a pedophile ring being run from the basement of a DC restaurant? I have no idea.

Your memes are so dank and spicy.

Thank you.

Why did you remove Vox from your blog roll?

I don't read him all that much anymore.  Vox is a genius. And by that I don't mean we always agree (we don't) or that he's never wrong. By genius I mean that he'll say "because X, Y" and most people will go "Dude, that makes no sense." But it makes perfect sense, you just have to skip ahead 10 steps like he's doing.  You never see that sort of thing from "really smart" people like Obama. Obama never surprises you, because he's not really that smart. Vox is really that smart.

Still, having read Vox for 15+ years, and not having much interest in his current intellectual trajectory, I removed the link because I don't use it anymore.

We saw leaves on the trees in Kansas.

You should have dropped in. I'm planting potatoes, onions, and peas this weekend.  Spinach and lettuce are already coming up, as are the HR and the garlic.  We may get frost in March and so I may need to cover them a couple times, but my yard turned green this week and so I might as well go for it.  I really hope frost does not impact the pears and apples, as they are flowering as well.

Have you read Gorilla Mindset?

Son Lupus really liked it and bought it for me.  I've started it a few times but really can't relate to it. I've just never told myself I couldn't accomplish something, and so have no need to talk to myself in the mirror. Weird like that, I guess.

Are you still a  fan of Trump?

I was never a fan of Trump. I very much like some things he's doing and some of the people he's surrounded himself with. Others, meh.  People who think he's a moron are the kind of people who think Obama was really smart (see above).  I do hope that he's able to accomplish a lot of what he wants to do. And I am in awe at his ability to trigger snowflakes. The man is truly a god-tier troll. His party, however, remains a den of snakes.

Why aren't you "alt-right?"

I'm not a fan of identity politics. If we disagree on policy, we can possibly reach a compromise.  But if I'm to believe x because I'm white and you believe y because you're black, then there's nothing to do but fight it out.

I did rather laugh at one tweet, however, that illustrates the left's horrified reaction to alt-right:

>Progressive left: everything is about race.
>alt-right: OK, everything is now about race.
>Progressive left: Nooo! We don't mean for you guys.

Alt-right is the natural reaction to the SocJus left stuffing all white people (especially normal white men) into a box. And then hitting that box repeatedly with a stick.

Alt-rightists would argue that identity is the wave of the future, that it's inevitable. But if that's the case, it does not need my support**. I also suspect that there are some surprises coming that will make the best-laid plans of both left and right come to naught.

Like what?

We still have a financial collapse in our future, possibly combined with an energy crisis and few cold and rainy decades. I do not think we'll be all that worried about 'safe spaces' in a few short years, though systemic oppression may pass from the fevered imaginations of liberals into cold, hard reality. Nobody fusses about being misgendered in Argentina.

Have we reached "peak trans"?

Dear God, I hope so. There is no doubt in my mind that our collective confusion and hysteria about gender and race are supernatural. But count me as one who thinks it can only prosper because a critical mass of people have literally nothing they need to be doing.  If that changes, they'll change (or die, I suppose).

How many people are in your house?

Nine at the moment. Four with my name and five (aged 4, 3, 2, 2, 7 mo) with other names. That number will probably decrease by two in the near future. The lovely and gracious Rogue is a saint.

What is your favorite holiday?

The Feast of St. Dagobert.  It's a history thing. you wouldn't understand.

* "I'm not racist/antisemetic/homophobic. One of my heroes is a gay, Jewish homosexual who tells me about all the foam parties he throws with Ugandan rentboys and once pointed out that MyFitnessPal has calorie counts for semen." 
** nor does it mean that identity will be primarily racial, rather than linguistic or religious or, if things get bad enough, clan-based. And even if it is racial, it does not mean that the generic American "white" is going to remain a race.  "Let's not kill these Slavs because they're so white," said no German, Celt, Latin, Greek, Finn, or Iberian ever.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A battle of wits, a studied apathy

She finds this humerus
So anyway, I have mentioned before how Digging Dog(tm) consistently manages to find cattle bones, drag them home, and then half-bury them in my raised beds.  For the past 2 years, since the failure of the Potatoes in a Barrel experiment, I have been patiently tossing said bones into the white, plastic barrel.  I now have enough bones to build a cattlepede in my yard, should I choose.

However, with the discovery of the poopmine in my north field, I've decided to give the potatoes another chance, using the same barrel, but using 55 gallons of rotted manure instead of topsoil.  But what to do with the bones?

I buried them about 3' deep under the Lovely and Gracious Rogue's new bed, then covered them with manure.  Digging Dog has not discovered them yet, and I'm hoping that, should she be able to smell them through a yard of crap, she'll be too lazy to actually dig them out. This is an experiment that will either end very well or very poorly.

It reminds me no little bit of the shenanigans taking place in Washington at the moment.  You might have concluded from my lack of postings on things political that, now that Trump is president, I've lost interest in the place*. And you would be right.

That's not because America is suddenly Great Again, but because the problems have not gone away, and we have now introduced a lot of new stresses** that amplify the existing ones. We have another debt-ceiling fight coming up in the next couple months.  We have rising interest rates, which means a blown-out budget, even before we add a few trillion for shovel-ready Stimulus infrastructure. The Deep State is at war with itself and with the elected government, the courts are at war with the Executive, and Congress might be if it had any balls. Europe is becoming an inter-ethnic war zone; Chicago is an intra-ethnic one. The next grand solar minimum is probably here, Peak Oil might be. There are good and necessary things happening to be sure, most notably on immigration.  But they do not solve the fatal things. That's why they are fatal things.

Now, one would think that with such monumental happenings occurring and about to occur, it would be time to pay attention, dig into the nitty gritty, and to develop strong, well-supported opinions about everything. But I look at it much like the Oroville Dam situation.  The partisans are taking shots at their opponents, coming up with all sorts of creative reasons why the situation is others' fault, because that's what partisans do.  The press is fulfilling its normal, deceptive role by renaming the Emergency Spillway - the name it's had since the dam was completed in 1968 - to the Auxiliary Spillway***. We have experts discussing dam design while helicopters drop little bags of rocks into big holes that were not part of the design. Meanwhile the rain is scheduled to start again in 6 hours.  You can immerse yourself in all that minutia, or you can get out of the valley.

Rain is coming, and it's probably not going to stop this time.  Time to get out of the valley.

* Not, however, in triggering liberals about it. The salt must flow.
** The resignation of Gen. Flynn is one example.  I have no opinion on whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. It's surely both in different ways. But it's obvious that there are a lot of people in government who are going to great - and illegal - lengths to be rid of him.  This is probably going to be a common occurrence going forward.
*** because we would not want anyone to consider 100,000 FPS of water overtopping a dirt pile at the head of a valley an emergency.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Winter grapes

The hopefuls

After any number of grape tests, it turns out that the Concord seems to work the best here.  Not for wine, obviously - who wants to drink a wine that tastes like jelly?  But it grows and produces better than any of the other half dozen varieties I tried.

Frontenac comes in a close second - it grew and produced a few grapes a year.  Cabernet grew a little and produced nothing.  All the others burned down, fell off, and then sank into the swamp.  So Concord it is, and here comes the jelly. Expansion time*.

But who wants to buy a bunch of grape vines? Not I, so I'll be trying a couple of different ways to clone my favorite vine from cuttings.

Everyone, it seems, has a surefire way to start new plants.  One guy makes his cuttings, lets them sit for a few weeks until they callous on the ends, another puts them in water to root.  But I saw one dude who is a slacker after my own heart: he dips his cuttings in rooting hormone and just sticks them in the dirt.

In fairness, he seemed to have a little less success with this method than some of the others.  Also in fairness, I have no problem planting twice as many cuttings as I'll need grapevines, so long as the process is simple. Also in fairness**, he did his cuttings in the spring, when the growth had recently kicked in. I'm doing it in winter, which might work or might not.

But last night I made a few cuttings, stuck them in some left-over potting mix, and left them in a kind-of well-lit spot in the workshop.  If they take root, great, and I'll do it again.  If not, I'll try it again in the spring.  But one way or another, that 60' of fence line I cleared yesterday is going to be populated by grapes, raspberries, and blackberries soon.

* Of course, none of my renewed emphasis on food production this year has anything to do with the civil war being waged within our federal government.  And by none I mean all
** My, aren't we being fair today?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Welcome, liberal preppers

It's almost a Poe:
Colin Waugh bought a shotgun four weeks before November’s election.

An unapologetic liberal, he was no fan of firearms. He had never owned one before...Last month, Waugh added a 9mm handgun to his arsenal.

With Trump now days away from assuming the White House, Waugh’s preparing for the worst. He’s made “bug-out bags” stuffed with ammo, energy bars, and assorted survival gear for his wife and their three cats*.
Hmmm... Never owned a gun before - never liked them - but now owns two because he's concerned about possible government tyranny.  I'm betting he is suddenly very glad he was able to buy them with a minimum of fuss. Send in your NRA dues, buddy.

But be that as it may, I welcome the multitude of cat-herding, granola-storing nuevo preppers to ranks of the almost self-sufficient.  I mean that in all earnest. If Mr. and Mrs. Waugh and their cats are not prepared for SHTF, then when it comes they will be a burden on others.  To the extent they are prepared, they can be a blessing to others. I would rather live in a land full of self-sufficient liberals than in a land of conservatives whose children are on the brink of starvation.

Do I believe that there are going to be hordes of liberal preppers hoarding food and guns alongside their more traditional counterparts?  Not really.  Liberals are people of emotion, and emotions pass. They are scared now and trying to assuage that fear**.  But I don't really think that they will make a long-lived attempt to get and stay small-town or rural, to become more self-sufficient, to re-learn lost skills and to do the things that normal preppers*** do.

I do hope, however, that they do one thing normal preppers do: get some training with those guns, especially the 9mm, before you kill yourself or one of your cats. You are now a gun owner. Be a responsible one.

* Perhaps the only way Mr. Waugh could be a more stereotypical liberal would be for him to be storing up granola bars for his husband and their cats.
** I make an obvious exception for liberals who are long-term specialty farmers, permaculturalists, and the like - you know, the kind of liberals who are already doing things because those things are important. These people are preppers without even thinking about it.
*** if "normal preppers" is not an oxymoron.

Monday Randomness

Well, it feels like Monday.

I sure liked the old Golfing Obama better than the Let's-see-how-much-shit-we-can-break-on-the-way-out-the-door Obama. I seem to remember the Democrats did the same thing last time, too, including the Lizard Queen herself purloining a quarter million dollars' worth of artwork and furniture. Stay classy, Democrats.

Fortunately, Mr. Obama can make all the pronouncements he wants, and they will simply be un-pronounced on Friday. And it's not like Federal bureaucrats are going to be working extra hard this week to make changes they'll be ordered to unmake.

Since Trump won and his GOP now holds the national reins, I have found that my interest in politics has plummeted pretty much to nil. Yes, they're going to take the blame for a lot of crap that is still baked into our national Burrito of Comeuppance™.  But I sure feel a lot better about eating it with a right-wing government than a left wing one.

After careful consideration of the upcoming move from "picking berries" to "producing berries", I've decided to invest in a few thornless blackberry plants. Yeah, it would be easier and cheaper to simply transplant a bunch a wild blackberries from the field to the new trellis*, but the idea of fighting those thorns in an even more compact area just doesn't appeal.

On that subject, and I know it's January, but I may have to cook up a batch of blackberry jam this week. Though with as much jam as I already have lying about, I might just try to make syrup on purpose this time.

Even with water in various states of matter falling from the sky for the past 4 days, I didn't get time to clean out the barn.  But I did get the workshop mostly done and the garden planned.  I'm gonna need more beds, I think.

I'm also thinking about de-converting DiggingDog's ossuary into a potato barrel**. I'm not sure what to do with all the bones currently therein, however. Maybe build a cowapede skeleton from them.

And speaking of Irish, my mom sent off her spit-kit a few weeks ago and is awaiting the results with bated breath. It apparently bothered her no little bit that I was a lot more Irish and a lot less German than her asserted heritage would lead one to believe.  As the old saying*** goes: never, ever do genealogy unless you like surprises.

* Which is actually just an old fence, so don't get excited.
** I heard this really cool idea about how if you plant potatoes in a barrel, you can get a lot of them in very little space.
*** Well, I say it and I'm old, so it's old by association.

Friday, January 6, 2017