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...

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.