Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Price of Truffles doubles to $3200 a pound

Mrs ERJ inspected the new windbreak west of the orchard today.

She commented on the lavish application of white powder.  It reminded her of the first time I tried to line an athletic field.  "What is it?" she asked.

"Limestone." I replied.

"I didn't know hazelnuts needed high pH soil." she commented.

"They don't."  I said.

"So why did you throw so much lime around them?" she asked.

"Truffles." I said.

"But you don't like mushrooms all that much." she observed.

"Nope.  But I like money."  I said.


Truffles like hazelnut roots.

Truffles like high pH soil.

Truffles like lots of calcium.

Research suggests that Burgundian Truffles (Tuber aestivum) has a wide range of adaptability AND can fix nitrogen.

Truffles, once established, produce for centuries.

Truffles are actually complex microbiological communities.  The hazelnut (or oak or hornbeam) roots are the landlord and provide "utilities".  The Tuber aestivum is the primary renter and sublets niches to a wide range of other fungi and many species of bacteria.

The last of the hazelnuts that I am moving out of my nursery will be planted beside this old foundation.  Seventy years of leaching guarantees an abundance of calcium in the soil.

Now, if I could just get my hands on  a few, tiny slivers of peelings from a Burgundian Truffle to "seed" the site or a few thimbles full of dirt...

Kubota's new ride

At a full 240 inches in length, Kubota constipates the traffic flow in our driveway when he does not pull far enough forward when he parks.  Mrs ERJ suggested that the green swim noodle and the tire blocks were too subtle to use as cues for where he needs to park.  She was right.

We have a new granddaughter.  Her name is 'Sierra' and she was born in 1999.  Ironically, 'Sierra' was the name of Kubota's first girlfriend.  Something Freudian, there.

She is not petite.  She has a curb weight of 5900 pounds and a gross vehicle weight of 9400 pounds.

As adults we learn that the best process is to NOT fall in love with merchandise before buying.  It is better to coldly and clinically research, winnow the field down to where you could blindly throw a dart and hit a great candidate...then let 'chemistry' take over.

Kids, of course, are much smarter than adults.

Kubota fell in love with this truck before he even saw it.  It had all of the amenities that define "Coolness".  Tires large enough to shoe open-pit mining equipment, speakers that can crack windows in the next county, four-wheel-drive, a V-8...

Most important it was priced at the exact point that was his maximum budget.

It is not the years.  It is not the miles.  It is the KIND of miles.
It is not currently sitting in our driveway.  It is in the shop.

Kubota drove his new truck to school the other day.  One of his buddies asked, "Hey Kubota, what do you call that?  The 'dust control special?'"

Kubota asked, "Whaddya talking about?"

Buddy, "It is gushing fluids."

Yupper-doodle.  Kubota bought a leaker.

Mrs ERJ commands
Mrs ERJ ever mindful of contaminated drinking water commanded "Hie thee down to Wilder's shop of Mechanics and Chancre Lancing and have him fix it."

We had, of course, recommended that he do this before he bought the vehicle, but as noted earlier, kids are much smarter than adults.

The vehicle that was EXACTLY at the limit of his budget is now $2000 over it.  Tennessee Ernie Ford had it right.

The upside is that it has fewer miles on it than any of the other vehicles in the ERJ fleet.  Once the leaks, wobbles, grinds and shimmies are sorted out it should be good for another 200,000 miles.

Monday, October 30, 2017

CALEXIT, The Anthology

...and others
  • Bob Poole
  • B. Opperman
  • Kimball O'Hare
  • Eaton Rapids Joe
Old NFO was gracious enough to include story I wrote in the anthology.  If you read the comments of any of the blogs listed on his sidebar you will notice that he frequently comments and is extraordinarily encouraging to fledgling writers.

Thanks Jim!

The Storyline
The premise of the story is to show how Socialism morphs into Totalitarianism and how that might look as seen from a farm far from the halls of power.  It is a story of a couple who works with young people ages 16-through-25 who have been indoctrinated by the system and how that couple introduces them to traditional values.  It is also a story of how the system tries to grind that couple down.

In the interest of full disclosure, it is necessary to share that "zombies" make a cameo appearance near the end of the story.  You will have to tell me if you found them believable in the comments.

I chose the town of East Orosi based on geography even though I have never had the privilege of visiting it.  Visiting East Orosi is now on my bucket list.  I hope the town does not resent the attention and any liberties I took with the town.

Link to the Paperback edition
Link to the Kindle edition

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Should have looked at a map first

The pollinator was planted near the yellow star.  Existing Grand Traverse hazelnut bushes are circled in red.  I am dubious about the more southern bushes getting much pollen due to the prevailing winds.  I should have looked at a map before I planted!
I talked with my friend Larry today.  I suggested that he put a stake in the ground where he wanted the super-pollinator planted.

He told me that was going to be difficult.  He has been working seven days a week for the last two weeks and is scheduled for seven days a week for the next four weeks.  It is dark when he leaves for work and it is dark when he comes home.

I suggested that I just stick it in the ground where I think it should be.  Larry thought that idea was "OK".

Mrs ERJ and I road-tripped over to his place.  It is very scenic driving from Eaton Rapids to Bellevue, Michigan when you take the back roads.

This is the more southern of the surviving Grand Traverse.  They are sixty feet away from the pollinator.

These are the Grand Traverse that are due east and they are 100 feet from the pollinator.

The hole went here.

This photo shows the bush with Mrs ERJ as a back-drop to make the catkins more visible.

As seen from 10 feet away.

As seen from the road.  The cage with the surveyor's tape is on the left side of the photo.
Then we made a date of it.  We went to Cornwell's Turkeyville for a  late lunch.

Friday, October 27, 2017

I started planting my orchard windbreak today

Orange circles are approximate locations of hazelnut bushes.

One of the advantages of getting a little bit older is that I rarely jump when an idea first pops into my head.

That worked to my advantage in the concept of how I laid out the windbreak for my orchard.

I was originally trapped into the thinking East-West-North-South.  The problem with that thinking was the slope of the land.  The southwest corner of the property is about 15 feet below the rest of the orchard area.  I was concerned that the wind would blow right over the tops of my windbreak and whip the apple trees.

The other issue is that the prevailing winds are from the west-southwest.  Planting square-to-grid was not the best way to shield my trees.

I may be a slow thinker but in this case I gave myself enough time to recognize the obvious.  The windbreak "wanted" to be planted with the contour of the land.

That allowed me to stitch in a couple of existing pear trees.  I also had to put a gap in the windbreak for a path but that presented little difficulty.

Once I divorced myself from square-to-grid thinking, I had the presence of mind to extend the windbreak south of the orchard to more fully shield it from the wind's preferred quadrant.

Some pictures
It is easier to move stakes around than to dig up bushes.  Photo taken looking north-ish.  You can see a long piece of surveyor's tape blowing in the wind in the background.  That is in one of the pear trees.
Looking west from the apple orchard.  You get a feeling for how this plateau is significantly higher than the flats where the wind picks up speed.  Stakes are about 7' apart.
A closer look at the Box Elder that a windstorm knocked the snot out of.  This tree provided a little bit of windbreak for my orchard and now it is gone.  The upside is that there is much more sun hitting the ground and I can replace it with species that are more effective windbreaks and will produce food.
It took about an hour to move the eight hazelnut bushes.  If I get ambitious I may plant more bushes between the ones I planted today.  The top of the stake is belt high.
What do hazelnut bushes look like?

This is a typical shape for a hybrid hazelnut bush but I expect mine to only reach 12' to 15'.
Here are some hazelnut bushes in either Wisconsin or Minnesota.  Image from Badgersett Farms.  Clones that bear large numbers of nuts tend to have their branches dragged down.  That makes the bushes shorter and wider.
Here are some ancient hazelnut bushes.  Obviously, these will not make very good windbreaks because there are not enough branches down low.  Fortunately, these bushes have a lot of "plasticity".  They will cheerfully grow as bushes or single-stemmed trees depending on what material you trim out.

Fake News Friday: Part II

Braveheart reincarnated as Trump

Fake News Friday

Winners of a recent United States Spelling Bee.
Professor Dassa Fak, Dean of South Dakota State University's School of Urban Studies and Director of Diversity, Imogene campus  recently made national news when she published:
Convenshunnal spelling promotes white male privlege and is a tule of opresshun used to kepe pepel of coller in there place.
Media swooned.

The University gave Professor Fak a pay raise.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

And a hat-tip for Dennis in Iowa

Dennis in Iowa is a first time commentor and he pointed out a really cool product:

Now I wonder if a fellow could paint a ball with a strontium aluminate based paint and have it glow brightly enough to attract bugs.  I would hate to have the DNR get after me for the electric wires near the water.

Good call, Milton F. Good call

Frequent commenter Milton F wrote

What was the failure mode- did a starter overload open the motor circuit? That would be common, indicating too much heat in the motor wiring, usually from excess drag or load
on a recent post about an electric motor overheating.

I went into work today expecting to be in production.  Instead, the start of production was delayed for two hours while Old Timer replaced a idler roller.  Apparently he fired up the system to ensure everything was ready and the idler seized up after two minutes.  Since the belt had 180 degrees of engagement with that roller the belt locked up and the engine stopped RIGHT NOW.

Good call, Milton.  Good call.

31 years ago today

I looked at my watch today at work and noticed that it is October 26. 

Hmm!  Seemed like there was something significant about October 26.  It took me a minute to remember.

Thirty-one years ago I proposed to Mrs ERJ and she accepted.

Probably the best thing I ever did.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Light traps for bugs

Thailand seems to be at the forefront of using water/light traps for insects
Different light sources can be used, ranging from simple oil lamps to different types of electric bulbs. Special light sources called black-light have been developed and are particularly efficient because of the type of light they emit. They should be considered in situations when other light sources (houses, street lights) are competing with the traps.

While the light source attracts the insects, the traps need another device to kill or capture them. Often this is a container with water that is placed under the light source. The moths that circle around the light will drop in the water and can be counted the next morning. It is recommended to add a bit of soap to the water.  -Source

I reckon a fellow could cut this fellow into steaks and serve a family.
It begs the question, could light/water bug traps be combined with aquaculture or poultry (ducks) in a useful way?

Signage for U-Pick Orchards

Many neighborhoods look like this in late October
One of the challenges of running a U-Pick orchard operation is getting the pickers to the correct row.  A 40 acre plot with rows 15' apart and a lane running through the center of the operation will have about 170 rows.

A brief window of opportunity for inexpensive signage will soon present itself.

This is a font called "Bubblegum"

Political yard signs can  be recycled.  A coat of inexpensive, white latex paint can be applied and then custom printed bumper sticker applied to the sign.  A small tweak would be to punch a hole in one corner of the sign to make it easy to add a balloon to the sign when the apples in that row are ready for picking.

Bumper sticker printing stock can be had for as little as $0.27 each and the stickers can be printed off on any laser printer.

Tilting the signs as shown by the red line segments allows them to be read by people walking down the lane (tan strip) and while standing immediately in front of the row.
Not counting time and the cost of toner for a laser printer, an enterprising person could place a very functional sign on each end of his 170 rows of trees for about $90...but they have to hustle to collect the signs.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


I have a friend who lives in Bellevue, Michigan who as a beautiful row of hazelnuts.

His problem is that they are all the same kind, Grand Traverse and hazelnuts are not self pollinating.

He knew this and, at one time, had several varieties of hazelnuts in his orchard.  And then the Eastern Filbert Blight wiped out all the other trees.

He gets very, very light crops of nuts.  Larry may not know it, but I am about to give him a gift.

This bush is about 36 inches tall.

Same photo but with the bunches of catkins circled.
One of the healthier bunches of catkins.  I count twelve on this branch.
This little bush has almost one hundred catkins on it.  There is roughly an 80% chance that it can pollinate Grand Traverse.  There are 14 documented "alleles" and two of the alleles are manifest in the female flowers.  Based on random chance, there is at least one-chance-in-seven (14%) that the two cultivars will not be compatible.   Flipping that around, there is about an 80% chance that it will be able to pollinate Grand Traverse.

I have no idea if this seedling will be compatible with Grand Traverse but it is from an extremely different genetic background and so I am optimistic.

These hazelnuts are ready for winter.  They are dropping their leaves and fully dormant.
These seedling hazelnuts were purchased from the National Arbor Day Foundation.  Their seedstock is from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa and is a mix of European and American hazelnut species.  The precocious catkin production of the one seedling is likely to be a gift from Corylus cornutaC. cornuta may be the hardiest hazelnut in the world.  It has been collected in central Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada.

Grand Traverse is a cross with Turkish Tree Hazel and European Hazel in it bloodlines.

These hazelnut seedlings are in the very next row and you can see they still think it is summer.

Monday, October 23, 2017

ERJ is a fly on the wall

Cobwebs on the roof of a barn
I am sometimes fortunate to be able to listen to successful people talk through their thought processes.  Today was one of those days.

The person doing the thinking is a very successful, local livestock producer.  He was buying some high efficiency lights from John Hulinek (517-230-1600) for a couple of his barns.  Mr Hulinek had loaned him a couple of working models which the farmer had taken out to each of his barns and tried in various positions and was ready to place his order.  He was buying several that looked like this:

This is the top of the unit.  Retail price is somewhere between $100-and-$200 depending on Wattage and whether it is residential or industrial grade.
And several that looked like this:

Price is somewhere between $250-and $325 depending on Wattage.
As the farmer was shopping the cords, brackets and other mounting hardware, you could see the wheels turning in his brain.

He asked the merchant about mounting options for the top unit that would discourage birds from building nests on top of the unit.  His concern was that bird nests would cover up the slots that allowed cooling air to convect through the unit and cool the LED drivers.  Hot LEDs are not happy LEDs.

The merchant suggested various mountings, including mounting it at a 45 degree angle so there are no horizontal surfaces.

The farmer was initially good with that solution but a brain in motion tends to remain in motion.

He started thinking about other "biologicals", specifically bugs.

We have Asian Ladybugs which over-winter in warm, dark spaces like the top of that lamp.  Barns tend to be rich in flies.  Where you have flies you have spiders.  Where you have spiders you have spider webs.

The top unit is vulnerable to clogging up with Ladybugs and cobwebs.  The bottom unit will happily churn out high efficiency Lumens even when it is 3/4 full of seagull poop due to the aggressive, heat rejecting fins.

When he whipped out his pen, he bought all of the deeply finned, more expensive lights similar to the one shown in the lower image.

This guy did not become successful by making stupid decisions.


The risk is in the rage
I believe that media figured out that outrage is as addictive as highly spiced food.  Both start out as a form of virtue signaling.  Eating Thai food confers a certain man-of-the-world aura while outrage on behalf of others confers a certain nobility.  Then  it becomes an addiction as we crave the rush and the peppers burn out the taste buds making regular food seem tasteless.  
And like highly peppered food, outrage is rarely conducive to peaceful digestion.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Three Ss

A perfectly ordinary Jeep in mid-Michigan.

And you never know when you might need a shovel.
According to the owner, the clamps are cam-shaft bearing caps from a 2.4 liter Ecotech engine.

The rack itself started life as shelving in a beverage cooler that the owner welded together.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Indian Corn

Corwin Davis of Bellevue, Michigan was an old-style truck farmer.  He sold sweetcorn, melons, squash, nuts...and "Indian Corn".

He sold directly to customers so he had constant and concrete feedback about what his customers found appealing.

Corwin said that the "magic" mix for Indian Corn, now known by the more politically correct term of "Ornamental Maize" was between 60%-and-80% yellow kernels followed by white, red and blue in decreasing amounts.

For example, 70% yellow, 15% white, 10% red and 5% blue would meet his formula.

Indian Corn is a "flint" corn.  It is primarily a hard, horny starch with a tiny nugget of puffy, opaque starch in the middle.  The horny starch is pearly/translucent.  The opaque starch is white and reflects light back through the pearly layer.

Blogging will be light this weekend due to family commitments

Friday, October 20, 2017

Another Thursday in Production

We were flying along producing about 400 units an hour when, after four uneventful hours of production, the system started faulting out.

The closest maintenance person went through the usual procedures.  He laboriously unloaded the work-in-process, lowered operating parameters to process initiation values, re-instructed the operator (me) to slow down.  After four or five minutes of effort, he got the machine fired back up.  And it promptly faulted out again.

The process was repeated and the machine faulted out AGAIN.  The old timer was at lunch.  He was called.

Over-load vs Over-temp
If you are like most folks you are going "Ah-ha! They overworked the machine.  They kept focusing on increasing throughput and broke the machine."

There are two pieces of evidence that make that root-cause unlikely.  The machine worked fine for four hours!  Why didn't the machine fault out in the 14,400 seconds that we were pouring the coal to it?

 Modern machinery measure load as current.  Approaching stall causes "in-rush" current because the inductive component of the load disappears.  In-rush currents are typically two or three times operating current.

The other piece of evidence was that the machine did not take off under zero load.  All the material had been pulled off the system.  All start-up parameters were set to zero.  And the maintenance guy still had to fiddle with it another four or five minutes.

The other possibility was an over-temperature condition in the motor.  The reason the maintenance guy's routine worked is because it gave the motor some time to cool off.

How to check it out

Well, for one thing the case of the motor was hotter than a popcorn fart.
This is a typical industrial, electric motor.  Notice that the cooling air does percolate through the stator and rotor.  Rather, it cools from the one end and through the case.  Also typical of high duty-cycle, industrial motors, this motor has cooling fins cast into the motor casing.

Another thing was that it was kicking out almost no cooling air.

The motor is in an inaccessible position.  It is difficult to see this end of the motor.
The motor in question is not in an optimal position.  Organic mud collected on the air intake and probably gummed up the fan blades.  Air flow was still weak, even after the air intake screen had been cleaned.

A couple of longer term fixes would be to clean out the cooling end of the motor, re-orient the motor so the cooling end was farther way from the cruddy mist.  A nice touch would be to find a collar of clamp-on, extruded heat sink material.  I did not measure the OD of the motor can but it looked like about 8".  Any leads from my readers will be much appreciated.

The final part of the puzzle is "Why did it run four hours?"  The probable answer is that the organic mud shrank when it dried out.  Four hours of soaking up mist caused it to swell enough to drive the final nail in the coffin.

This motor is plenty of motor, it just needs some TLC and to be spun away from the dirt.