Thursday, February 28, 2019


There are two farm stores in Charlotte.

They both have chicks.

This seems like good time to talk about optimum light for chicks and chickens.

Research on broilers has shown that blue and green LED lights enhance growth4. Research on layer pullets indicates that LED lights with a greater portion of blue and green spectra result in better body weights and uniformity compared to incandescent bulbs, although more data is needed (Settar, unpublished data).

In poultry, red light is vital for stimulating sexual maturity and egg production. Birds exposed to red light versus blue, green or white light consistently have higher egg production than the other color groups. Red light is able to penetrate the skull to stimulate the extra retinal photoreceptors. Red light (around 650 nm) penetrates the skull and brain (hypothalamus) four to 50 times more efficiently than blue, green and yellow-orange light2. The hypothalmus is important in regulating the production of hormones important for egg production.
Light intensity, measured in lux, clux or foot candles, is also important for poultry production. In general, light intensity below 5 lux is too dark to stimulate proper growth and production, while higher light intensity (above 50 lux) may cause nervousness and aberrant behavior. The standard recommendation for growing pullets is to brood for 2 to 3 weeks at 30–50 lux, and then dim to 10–15 lux until 14 weeks. Two weeks prior to the transfer, gradually increase the light intensity to match the levels in the layer house. Laying hens should be kept at an average of 30 lux at the level of the feed trough.  Source

The hot ticket is to raise the chicks under a heat lamp + 5000K LED lighting for three weeks. Then turn off the heat lamp. At 14 weeks have a 2700K LED light that you turn on in addition to the 5000K that you have been running the entire time. Start with the 2700K lamp three times farther away than the 5000K lamp and move it closer over the course of the next two weeks so they are equidistant at 16 weeks.

Seven Fat Cows 4.6: Wrong diagnosis, wrong medicine

The economy continued to crater even as Milo had more business than he could handle.

Federal officials attempted to twist arms to open up the US embargo with zero success. They were stunned.

Over drinks, one of the foreign envoys explained it to mid-level State Department official. “The only people who didn’t know about your Ebola problem were your own citizens. Every country from Bangladesh to Vietnam had copies of your internal documents thirty minutes after you generated them.” the envoy explained.

“Can you imagine what Ebola would do in a country like Bangladesh?” the envoy asked with a shudder.

“Don’t expect any concessions until you extinguish Ebola.” the envoy advised. “And given that the number of cases is doubling every three weeks, you have a long way to go.” The envoy allowed the State Department official to buy his drinks.

There were other factors in play.

Both sides of the aisle had been hawkish on war. The number of interventions increased from year-to-year and the pretext for each intervention was increasingly flimsy. The best way to distract voters is to turn their attention away from domestic issues. The United States' staunchest allies were not amused.

The final leg that was being kicked out from beneath the American juggernaut was the dethroning of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The US dollar was the hydraulic fluid in the world economy.

As the default currency, any growth in the world economy meant a free-pass for United States borrowers. The only way to obtain US dollars was to buy US bonds, essentially ‘giving’ products to the US consumer.

Losing the status of the world’s reserve currency meant that the tide that had been flowing in would flow out just as strongly.

The US economy was on uncharted territory. The last time the United States had not been in the cat-bird’s seat was before World War One.

The urge to do “something” was irresistible. Two generations of politicians had cut their teeth on creating demand. They were congenitally unable to recognize any other kind of problem. It was the classic case of the carpenter who only owned a hammer.

The solution, in their eyes, was to increase demand.

Every living person in the United States over the age of twelve was mailed an EBT/SNAP card. The amount per person had been almost doubled to $800 per month. Not only that, but the rules had been changed so half of that amount was now available for spending in restaurants and “hospitality” businesses.

Casinos, restaurants and massage parlors were swamped.

Kate sent each of her children an email.

To Mark and Gabriella who lived in Portsmouth, NH and Memphis, TN respectively, she sent the following: “If you think you might want to land here in the event Ebola is not contained, please consider mailing one of your EBIT cards to us so we can use it to stock durable goods.”

To Luke, Bro’ham and Janelle who she presumed were still single and somewhere in Lansing, Detroit and the west coast: “You might want to start thinking about how you will get here if this Ebola epidemic explodes. I know money might be tight, but it will be a convenience to us if you mail us your EBIT card...if you can spare it.”

She got two EBIT cards from Mark. Gabriella mailed one EBIT card and apologetically told her that they had already given one card to their church. Luke and Janelle mailed Kate their EBIT cards. She got no feedback from Bro’ham.

With her and Rick’s card, plus those of her kids, Kate had $5600 a month to stock her long as the tattered economy held together.

Rick and Kate’s first trip to the discount club “big-box” was disconcerting. The greeter explained the near total absence of customers, “They are all visiting the high-end boutiques.”

At Kate’s insistence, both Rick and Kate got dollies. She had a list of items that would be difficult or impossible to manufacture locally. They had corn and wheat in abundance so that meant there was no point in buying anything starchy. Kate’s list also took storage life into account. That eliminated most meat products.

Consequently, the carts were loaded with 35 pound jugs of partially hydrogenated soy and peanut oil, bulk tea and instant coffee, aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, vitamin tablets, iodine, bandaids, condoms.

The first time that Rick objected to what Kate loaded onto her cart was when she put 240, butane cigarette lighters onto the pile. “What are you getting those for?” he asked, incredulously.

“Do you remember when we were camping on South Manitou Island?” Kate asked.

Of course Rick remembered. It was the second summer they were married. South Manitou is a wilderness area in the middle of Lake Michigan. They hiked into their campsite and discovered that neither of them had packed matches or a lighter. Fortunately, a passing hiker had a spare lighter.

“Suppose it was thirty-five degrees and raining. How much would a working lighter have been worth to us?” Kate asked.

Rick said, “I suppose it would have been worth every penny we had in our pockets. Heck, it would be worth a thousand dollars, if we had it.”

“That is my point.” Kate said. Kate did not tell Rick that she had also invested in a device that refilled butane lighters from 20 pound LP cylinders. Repeat business is a wonderful thing.

Rick started to comment when Kate turned down the aisle that had toilet paper and feminine hygiene products. He carped that there was no way they could store enough toilet paper for their own use, much less supply the neighborhood.

Kate gave him “that look” and Rick shut up. This was Kate’s show and Rick not only trusted her but had learned the path to success is to let others “own” the process and outcome.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Budget quick-strike rigs

The traditional method of hooking minnows when using them for bait has some drawbacks.

For one thing, there is a lot of minnow and just a tiny bit of hook. You miss a lot of fish.

The only sure way to ensure you will get a solid hook-up is to let the fish swallow the bait. Then you set the hook. It pretty much guarantees a dead fish even if you release it as it likely has a perforated stomach.

Another alternative is to use a "quick set" rig. They cost about $10 if you buy them. You can make them for about fifty cents.

The makings to roll your own quick set rigs

Silver leaves were cut from pie tin to provide a little bit of bling.

Take one of the leaders. You can use 6" leaders for minnows as large as 8". Slide a couple of beads, the "spinner" and then another bead onto the leader from the swivel end.

Half way up the leader, put a sharp bend in the leader.

Slide the sharp bend through the loop on the clip end of the second leader.

Then pass the swivel end through the loop and snug it down.

Add more beads and spinner to the swivel end of the first leader.
A split ring and a treble hook go on the swivel end of the first leader.

This is what it looks like after assembly.

Use your imagination. Pretend the hot-dog is a minnow.
You will have about fifty cents invested and it will take you about three minutes to bang one out. You cannot find a parking place at the mall that quickly.

Good luck fishing.

Bonus video

Seven Fat Cows 4.5: Logistics

“The Heilers are moving to Lansing.” Kate said when Rick came through the door.

The Heilers were a sweet elderly couple who were struggling with a multitude of health issues. Being in your eighties isn’t for sissies.

“Why are they doing that?” Rick asked. Moving to an urban area seemed like shear insanity when an epidemic is threatening.

“They got a note from the drug store when they picked up their latest batch of prescriptions.” Kate said. “I pulled a copy off the internet.”

The notice read “In light of recent events there may be temporary disruptions in the distribution of critical drugs. Bright-Lad Pharmacies cannot guarantee delivery of drugs to outlying outlets. If you depend on drugs for life support, make a transportation plan so you can pick them up at outlets in core areas.”

“The Heilers decided to beat the rush. They figured it would be easier to find an apartment now than later.” Kate said.

“Whaddya mean?” Rick asked.

Rick was blessed with robust good health and was oblivious to how many people were dependent on drugs.

That is when Nyssa, the nurse piped up. “Well, you have all the people who are diabetic, you have folks on blood pressure meds and pulse-rate stabilizers. Then there are the asthma and COPD meds and the anti-psychotics.”

“That doesn’t even count all the drunks and stoners.” Nyssa said. “You know we have them out here. If they have to walk into Lansing to get their fix you know they aren’t coming back.”

“How many do you figure we will lose?” Rick asked, caught completely off-guard.

“Looking at just hard core alcoholics and druggies you could lose ten percent. Maybe another twenty percent of the people who depend on drugs to stay alive.” Nyssa said. “Then there are people who are going to move to Lansing because their spouse moved to Lansing. So my guess is you are looking at losing at least 1/3 of the people in the neighborhood if the epidemic keeps tracking.”

Rick’s first thought was that his labor shortage just got a whole lot worse. His 450 neighbors were going to drop down to 300.

After thinking about it a bit, he realized that the loss of the hard-core substance abusers was likely to be a substantial net benefit. The people who were dependent on drugs to sustain life were primarily elderly and while he would miss them dearly the fact that they would abandon their houses meant that the demand for firewood would also drop. Rick’s tight-rope act of ensuring adequate firewood without totally destroying the woods just got a whole lot easier.

The next surprise was when all of the state workers with rank, i.e., were provided with state cars, were inducted into the military and ordered to relocate to the Detroit metro area and Flint and report to FEMA. It was a surprise because high ranking officials figured that as "knowledge workers" they could work from anyplace as long as it had a solid connection to the internet. Unfortunately for them, FEMA is a boots-on-the-ground organization.

The remaining state workers saw that handwriting on the wall and would soon put their homes on the market. That was going to be another ten houses that would not have to be heated.

Kate said, “Rick, I had a thought. I want you and Nyssa to hear me out before you judge.”

Rick had never thought of himself as judgemental but he could tell from Kate’s voice that this is something she had put a lot of thought into and it was important to her.

Nyssa merely nodded.

“When you first started talking about an Ebola epidemic I thought you were crazy.” Kate said.

Rick said, “I know. You shared that and I thank you for letting me run with it.”

“What I see now is that this not only might happen, it seems likely to happen. After all, Bright-Lad would not send out letters like that if they weren’t worried.” Kate said.

Rick and Nyssa both nodded in agreement.

“What you haven’t considered is how you are going to get all of these supplies to the people who need them.” Kate said. “I can see the wheels turning in your head, Rick. The next thing you are going to do is to lay in a supply of drugs, if only for pain and hayfever.”

“Are you going to go knocking on houses door-to-door? No, I don’t think so.” Kate said.

“I think we need to start a small, country store and I think I should run it.” Kate said. “We have the small barn near the drive that would make a good, small store. It has lots of shelves and the office can be locked.”

The concept had a lot to recommend it. Rick and Kate did not live in the exact, geographic center of “the neighborhood” but they lived within half a mile of the population center-of-gravity. If things came apart at the seams then a one or two mile walk without having to leave the neighborhood was a lot more attractive than having to walk six or seven miles.

Rick was quickly learning that there was no way he could be at the center of everything. The only way things were going to fly was if he let people follow their own paths.

“Kate, I know you get tired of hearing this from me, but you are absolutely right on all counts.” Rick said. “How can we help?”


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The names of the Apostles written in Aramaic

The names of the twelve Apostles as written in Issa-Giliana True-type script.

Just because.

As requested by Jonathan H

B.F. Skinner's superstitious chickens*

Scientists abound in the Eaton Rapids Joe household.

We are replicating B.F. Skinner's experiment where he used random rewards as a "control" for an experiment.

The issue of a "control" for an experiment in behaviors is not trivial. At one point he explored simply dropping food pellets down the chute in a random manner...should be a GREAT control for the rest of the experiment, right?

A problem arose. Some of the birds developed bizzare behaviors like hopping up-and-down on their left foot or spinning counterclockwise or assuming fantastical positions like the 17th image on page 31 of the Kama Sutra.

The ERJ experiment
The experiment did not start as an experiment. Rather, it started as three people with differing standards of what a "healthy" dog looked like.

Roy Kaelin captured coyotes in gluten free traps and then shaved them. This is what they looked like.
I think healthy, domestic dogs should look like wild dogs with a few exceptions. Those exceptions are muscle-bound dogs like pit-bulls and such.

At the other end of the spectrum is Kubota who thinks dogs should be well padded as shown in the top image.

Mrs ERJ is in the middle. The dog's look at her with puppy eyes and tug at the ever beautiful and compassionate Mrs ERJ's heart strings and she gives them a treat. Did I mention Mrs ERJ grew up with spaniels. You would have thought she would be immune.

The rub is that the dogs ARE a little bit hungry twelve hours after they are fed.

Kubota gives them treats when he notices them but continues about his business when he doesn't.

The dogs learned how to be pests in lickity-split time: Prancing, dancing, weaving between your feet as you walk, flipping over the laptop with their noses, logging into Mrs ERJ's social media account and telling stories that are total fabrications.

Four legged attention whores and trip hazards.

In society
I wonder how many of the "brilliant", remake-the-world socialists ever owned a dog? Not just owned a dog on paper but cared for it and trained it and lived with the results?

I would guess that very few have. They would be wiser and their ideas would be more grounded in reality and less rooted in fantasy and ideology.

*Yes, I know they were pigeons but my fingers wanted to type "chickens".

Micronutrients, culture and cuisine

Red and dark red areas have soil that is very low in selenium.
Selenium is a micronutrient that is chemically very similar to sulfur. Selenium falls right below sulfur on the periodic table. A shortage of selenium results in white muscle disease and a host of other issues.

Plant species that are rich in sulfur are invariably richer in selenium than non-sulfur accumulating plants growing in the same soils. The roots cannot discriminate between the two elements.

How can you tell which plants are rich in sulfur and selenium? Well, they stink!

Cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips, mustard, onions, garlic, leaks etc.

If you were to name the cuisines that make the heaviest use of cabbage, onions etc., what regions spring to mind?  Northern and Eastern Europe.

How about Chinese cuisines from Shandong to Hunan and Sichuan?

I am not talking about the cuisine of the wealthy people. People rich enough to eat significant amounts of meat almost never have selenium deficiencies because animals are accumulators of micronutrients. I am talking about the cuisine of the common peasant.

How about Indian cuisine? If our hypothesis is that cuisines that evolved in regions with selenium deficient areas tend toward, well, smelly...then one would expect some regions of India to be deficient in selenium.

As you can see, most of India is as deficient as eastern Germany, Poland and Belarus and northern Ukraine.

Correlation does not prove causality but it is fun to speculate.

Seven Fat Cows 4.4: A change of plans

“I just can’t do it.” Rick said.

“Can’t do what?” Milo asked as he started stretching for the morning run.

“I can’t run today.” Rick said.

“What’s the matter? Are you sick?” Milo asked with concern in his voice.

“Nope. Its not that.” Rick said. “I just can’t run today. That interval training you started me on is breaking me down.”

“You will toughen up.” Milo said with the certainty of youth.

“You don’t understand. I CANNOT do it today.” Rick said.

“The thing you don’t get about being older is that it takes longer to heal.” Rick said.

“See this cut?” Rick said, thrusting out his left forearm. There was a scabbed over, three inch long scratch on his arm.

“Yeah. So?” Milo said.

“I got it two weeks ago. When I was your age it would have been healed in four days.” Rick said.

“We either need to dial way back on the intensity of the work-outs or I need longer than one day rest between them. I am sixty, for God’s sake.” Rick said. He was a little huffy because he didn’t like admitting he was getting older and slowing down. Especially admitting it to himself.

Milo’s mouth twitched a bit as he thought. “Well, I did tell you to listen to your body. I would rather have you keep working out even if it means making changes to the plan.”

“I am just throwing this out as a starting point for conversation.” Milo said. “What if we let you pick the intensity and distance and keep the one-day rest period, except for once a week we do intervals and you take as long as you need to recover?”

“So you are saying I pick the distance and intensity and dial it in so I am ready to go day-after. But once a week you kick my ass and then I get to lick my wounds.” Rick paraphrased.

“More or less.” Milo agreed. “I don’t want you to take a whole week off as a general thing. But that means I will be paying attention and won’t push too hard.”

“Thing is, I can’t work out today. I am just too sore in too many places.” Rick said.

“Can you walk a half mile?” Milo asked.

“Yeah. Why?” Rick asked.

“Got something to show you over at Kelly’s place.” Milo said.

Rick would have driven but then thought that walking might help him lose some of the stiffness in his muscles.

Once they got over to Kelly’s place Milo took him to Kelly’s junk piles behind the barns and asked, “What do you think?”

Rick was mystified. “Think about what?” Rick was not intimately familiar with Kelly's personal junk yard.

“The tractor. The farm implements.” Milo said.

For all of Rick’s redeeming characteristics, he was not an equipment guy. “What am I looking at?” he asked.

“You are looking at a 1972 Massey Ferguson 165 farm tractor with a 2.8 liter, Continental gasoline motor and the farm implements to drag behind it.” Milo said.

"It is ENORMOUS!" Rick exclaimed. "What are you going to do with that?"

"Its listed as sixty horsepower but that really means forty horsepower at the drawbar." Milo said. "The guy I bought it from said it can pull three, 16" plows behind it. Of course, he has sandy-loam." Milo said as if that would mean something to Rick.

Rick didn’t know much about machinery but he knew tractor tires started at $500 a tire. He walked over and looked at the rubber. “Nice tires.” he said. Then he looked at the hoses and belts. “Musta been stored inside.” he deduced.

“Got it for $4500.” Milo said proudly. “It got a full rebuild at four thousand hours and then the owner parked it in his barn.”

“I took Mr Pepper shopping with me.” Milo admitted. “He knows a hell of a lot about old tractors and farm machinery.”  Mr Pepper was one of the geezers Rick drank coffee with.

In fact, the farmers who Milo did work for were happy to sell him old farm equipment for little more than what they would have gotten at scrap metal prices. Equipment they sold to him for 25 cents a pound they had refused offers of five times as much from a big city antiques dealer. Milo had shopped hard and bought well.

“This is all very impressive.”Rick said, meaning it. “But I don’t know that I can help you with any of this. It is really outside my ‘wheel house’.”

Then it was Milo’s turn to be apologetic and shuffle a little bit. “I was hoping to ask for a favor.” he said.

“I was talking to an old Polish farmer a couple of weeks ago. He told me that they used to run tractors on wood and dried cow shit ‘back in the old country’.” Milo said.

“He said that I should get smart about something he called ‘producer gas’.” Milo said.

“I started to dig into it and quickly figured out that there is too much conflicting information out there on the internet for me to sort out.” Milo said. “Some of my problem is that I am looking at stuff on my phone and I don’t have a printer.”

“Then Nyssa said that you are a total rock-star at researching.” Milo said. “So I humbly ask you, hat in hand, would you consider researching ‘producer gas generators’ sized for fifty-to-sixty horsepower motors? Please.” Milo said.

“Oh.” Milo said. “The other thing the Polish farmer mentioned was using corn for fuel. Don’t suppose I could have you look into that, too.” Milo said. He didn’t know if he was pushing his luck.

“Flattery will get you almost anything.” Rick said, thinking ‘Nyssa called me a Rock-Star?’. Really?

“Since I am not working out today, what do you want me to research first: Producer gas generators or Corn as fuel?” Rick asked with a smile.

“Sir, if it is not too much trouble, Producer gas generators. All we need are plans and some dimensions, then Kelly and I will knock out a prototype and see what happens.”


Monday, February 25, 2019

Seven Fat Cows 4.3:Bureaucrats respond

Ebola cases were popping up at all of the DC and Baltimore hospitals. It was a mix of homeless people and members of the immigrant communities with epicenters in Bladensburg and Suitland.

Hospitals were hammered with absenteeism as personnel called in sick and used up personal days.

The only medical facilities that continued to run with anything approaching “normal” efficiency were the military hospitals where iron clad rules about AWOL and Dereliction of Duty kept the hospitals staffed.

The Beltway was in a panic and demanded that the Executive Branch “do something.”

A small rider was attached to an otherwise insignificant piece of legislation and rushed through both houses of Congress. The President quietly signed it into law that same afternoon. The rider enhanced the emergency powers act whereby the Executive Branch could press “critical workers” into the military, in effect, draft them.

Word was passed to hospital management to get their house in order or THEY would be drafted and inserted into the military two grades below the rank they would normally hold.

Absenteeism did not improve. The administrations were given orders to report. The majority complied. Bench warrants were issued for those who blew off the orders. When apprehended they were incarcerated in a military prison.

Law suites were filed claiming that forced indenturism in the military was involuntary servitude. The judges put them on the slow train to no-where. To a person, the judges had loved ones who needed medical services from time-to-time and had no truck for the absenteeism.

Then the union officials were contacted. They were told to get their house in order or their rank-and-file would be inducted into the military.

Absenteeism did not improve. Entire swaths of the medical community from Pennsylvania-to-Central Virginia were inducted into the military. Those who chose to not comply were apprehended and shipped to a tent city in the Arizona desert.

The exercise became the template for the centralization of the US economy. Private sector was "drafted" and assigned a rank two levels below what was normal. Local and state government employees were drafted and assigned a rank one level lower. There was going to be no ambiguity regarding chain-of-command. The very highest levels of government anticipated that enterprises would attempt to conserve human resources at the expense of the mission. Those attempts were anticipated and crushed.

Every rational response within the private sector and local government were seen as a threat in the battle against Ebola. Every threat was treated the same way.

The "Market" locked up under the triple threat of the frozen import/export sector, the credit markets vaporizing and the threat of Government take-over.

The cascading failures of the markets resulted in the metastasizing of government take-overs and they occurred at an exponentially increasing rate.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Wind power

The wind is blowing at sustained speeds in excess of thirty miles per hour today.

We had to drive around an elm tree that had fallen across one lane of M-50 on the way home from church.

Today is a good day to talk briefly about wind-power.

A windmill is a device that converts some of the kinetic energy of the wind that blows through its swept area and turns it to electrical power.

Consequently, it is possible to estimate the absolute, top-end of the power a given windmill can produce knowing only the diameter of the blade(s) and the wind speed. Note: the actual number can be much, much less than this.

Key things to be aware of:
The kinetic energy of wind goes up with velocity cubed (^3). The kinetic energy of each unit volume goes up by V^2 but you have to remember that the number of unit volumes also goes up by V^1.

The swept area goes up by Diameter^2.

Would you care to guess how much more energy a windmill with an 8' diameter blade in a 12.5mph wind will produce compared to a 4' diameter blade in a 7.5mph wind?

The answer is 18X as much. That is why you want to erect your windmill at the top of the hill or crest of a ridge. It is also why you want a large diameter. You might be able to squeeze 400W from a 4' diameter windmill but you might need 30mph winds to achieve those numbers.

If I were handy, I would strongly consider a 10' diameter wheel and construct the blades from 8' long, 5/4", Western Yellow Pine decking planks shaped to be air foils and cut to 4' lengths. The 2' diameter sans blades has negligible area.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Triggers and Owen sub-guns

This is about how a machinist would lay out the parts if he were going to cut them from 1/4", 1045 or 1137 steel bar with a 3/8", carbide mill. The use of a medium carbon steel facilitates the flame hardening of the sear surfaces to 55-to-60Rc.

My friend gifted me with the stock trigger from his AR after I installed his aftermarket trigger.

Three pieces, three springs. It is a very simple design.

The two biggest pieces are the trigger/sear in the top portion of the photo above and the hammer in the bottom of the photo. The original parts are both sintered metal in the model my friend bought.
Approximate orientation of the two pieces as assembled. The sear regions of both pieces are precision ground and the pivot holes are drilled but everything else is net shape. The third piece is not shown.

The third piece functions as a safety and to prevent auto-fire.

In thinking about the story, Seven Cows, I could see a time when a machinist might be tempted to knock out weapons to arm a militia. Given the limitations of the supply line and the retail prices of commercially manufactured components, he might be tempted to manufacture many of the parts in-house.
It hurts my eyes, especially the stock.  The Owen gun had extraordinary reliability as the spent shells ejected downward and the opening for the charging handle was in a separate compartment. That is why the receiver is so long.

He could do far worse than to modify an Owen Submachine Gun to accept commercially available magazines.
Line of sight two inches above the bore. Sighted in for 100 yards.

Since I have a hand in creating this parallel universe, I am pretty sure the machinist will rotate the magazine well 10 degrees to the right to put the sights two inches above the bore and he will probably put the stock more in line with the bore to minimize muzzle climb.

Oh, and the guns will need triggers. If he massed up the bolt to lower the rate of fire to 300-to-400 rounds per minute it would not be hard to launch single shots or two round bursts.

Increasing the length of the spur on the hammer would result in the hammer giving the trigger a little love-tap to return it to the not-fire position. It would take more finger strength to hold it in auto fire mode.

How long will Pelosi tolerate the loons?

Pelosi rules through intimidation.

All of the other Democratic Representatives are watching her, waiting for the loonies to get bug-splatted by the windshield.

If Pelosi does not smack them down then she will not be able to lead. There is much pent up resentment.

A few questions come to mind.

How much longer will the rank-and-file Democrats in the House give Nancy to smack them before running off the reservation?

How will she choose to do it? Will the guys in the back-room who advise Orbital-Crazy and others start having accidents and ruined credit ratings or will it be more overt? That is, more of an object lesson.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Hoot owls

Things are pretty good around the old homestead.

I woke up to the sounds of a hoot owl outside my window this morning.

"Who, who. Who who who?"

"Who do you shoot? Who?"

The mind plays tricks in that half-awake state called hypnagogia. Fortunately my Jedi training reminded me of the Fifth Amendment and I did not answer the question.

I finally got serious about trouble-shooting the source of the leak in the blue truck.

The leak sprayed coolant on the distributor and that is not a good thing.

The guy who sold me the truck claimed the leak was from the head gasket. That did not add up. For one thing a leak in the head gasket would not spray the top of the engine.

The nipple for the heater hose return looked like a promising source. The packing is pushed out.

The trouble-shooting method was primitive. A wrap of paper towel and then a wrap of aluminum foil to hold the towel in place. Then I drove around.

The first clue I had that I had found the source is that the truck started time-after-time. The diagnostic equipment knocked down the spray and the distributor stayed dry.

The truck has a new nipple.

In other, breaking news: I was able to install a new front sight post and an aftermarket trigger on my friend's AR. I think it is "done".

It has been a productive few days.

Seven Fat Cows 4.2: Milo gets an education

Milo had just finished up rebuilds on several pieces of equipment for a farmer south of Buchanan, Michigan. The case was unusual because the equipment had not broken first. The farmer noticed that corrosion had weakened the metal around several critical reinforcing patches and decided to address it before it broke. Consequently, the work went quickly.

Milo finished up a half hour after noon. Steve, the farmer, must have been watching him. “Why don’t you wash up and eat lunch with us?” Steve suggested.

That sounded like a fine idea to Milo. He had been smelling the food cooking as air currents wafted about the shop.

After washing up, Milo followed the smell to the shop’s break-room. Steve ran a medium sized operation of about 4 sections. The break-room was filled with aerial images of his operation with the images taken about five years apart. Steve walked in as Milo was inspecting them.

“I look at those a lot. Helps me see the big picture.” Steve said.

“What are those?” Milo asked, pointing to what looked, to him, like rows and rows of the kinds of awnings used to shelter carports.

“Solar panels.” Steve said. “Farmers harvest solar energy. Usually we use corn or soybean plants. I figured I would diversify. Solar panels don’t need rain. Plus, I get a check every month instead of once a year.”

Ladling out the soup, Steve informed Milo that there were “sandwich makings” in the fridge.

The soup was a rich and hearty ham and bean soup and had been brewing in the slow cooker all morning. The deli meats were fresh as was the bread and leaf lettuce.

“Did you make the soup?” Milo asked, surprised that he was being treated like visiting royalty.

“Yup. Sure enough.” Steve said. Then he pointed to quart mason jars on the shelf above the slow cooker. They were filled with beans, lentils and other dried ingredients. "Just add a gallon of water, meat and plug it in. My sister-in-law makes them for us."

“First time I have ever been served lunch by a millionaire.” Milo commented.

“About that:” Steve said “I farm millions of dollars of land and I have millions of dollars flow through my pockets each year, but I have damned little of it stop long enough to say 'Howdy'. It goes in one pocket and flies right out the other.”

“I keep hearing that. How does that work?” Milo asked.

“Not very well!” Steve said, glumly. “Not very well.”

Milo raised his eyebrows in the universal signal “tell me more”.

“Take, for instance, Federal loan guarantee program. The only way I can borrow money is if the Feds guarantee the loan. Every banker knows farming is risky business.” Steve said.

“That means everybody has the dumb farmer by the short and curly ones.” Steve continued.

“My maternal grandma grew up in an old farm house a half mile from this shop. She read ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' as a kid and planted a Tree of Heaven in the back yard.” Steve said.

“Last year, some Federal government weenie I never met before told me that I had to ‘eradicate’ those trees because they are an invasive, alien species.” Steve said. Milo could see Steve’s face was getting red. “Then he tells me that ‘Your loan guarantees are at risk if you don’t comply’.”

“Bastard. I may just be a dumb farmer but I know when I am getting jerked around.” Steve said."I'd have bulldozed the whole lot fifteen years ago if it hadn't been for granny's trees...and then he tells me I can't take out the other trees because its within five hundred feet of a stream."

"So I had to go in and hand cut Granny's trees and I still have to farm around the lot." Steve said.

“You are still in business.” Milo said. “That is more than a lot of people can say.”

Steve sighed. “Yeah, and some of that is blind, dumb luck.”

Milo pointed to the picture with the solar panels. “And a lot of it isn’t.”

“Would you like to see them?” Steve said. “I figure I can let the help run the place for a couple of hours. They are pretty good. I been training them since they were born.” meaning his kids, of course.

That is how Milo got a tour of Steve’s farm. It wasn’t a showplace in the sense that Martha Stewart would be proud of it. It was a showplace in the sense that everything worked together, supporting a common goal of industry, productivity and conservation.

Milo was impressed and he said as much.

Then he asked, “Why do farmers keep all of the old equipment? Even progressive farmers like you.”

Milo asked as they were sitting in Steve’s UTV looking out over the “scrap yard.”

“You never know when you might need something.” Steve said.

Milo pointed at an old tractor. “Why would you keep that?” Milo asked. “Surely, you aren’t going to be able to farm over two-thousand acres with that little thing.”

Steve chews on his lower lip, trying to decide how much to tell Milo. Normally he wouldn’t have bothered but Milo was an earnest young man with promise.

“My dad escaped from Poland in 1949 and worked his way over here. He told me how things were during WWII and afterward. Nothing was thrown away. What kept him alive was a tractor far more primitive than that one.” Steve said.

"What you gotta understand is that all the grown men, including my dad's pa, were taken away by the Soviets to work in the war material factories. They never saw him again." Steve said. "The Soviets also took the horses and mules. It was just an eighty-year old man and woman and my dad's ma trying to work the farm without horse or mules or oxen."

“Did you know they couldn’t get petrol to run them tractors? They figured out how to run tractors and cars and trucks on wood and dried cow shit.” Steve said. “Its called producer gas.”

"They woulda starved or froze if they couldn't run the tractor." Steve said.

“Thing is, you probably can’t get one of these super-smart, computerized tractors to run on producer gas. That old beast, however, you can start with gas...if you have any...and then flip over to producer gas and it won’t miss a beat.” Steve said.

Milo was intrigued. “Is producer gas just as good as gasoline?”

“Oh, hell no. If it was everybody would be using it. You only get about half the horsepower and you gotta keep it in low gear and the RPM up. You let the RPM drop and it takes a gentle touch to coax them back up. It is a pain in the ass to start and getting the wood to feed through the generator is a right bitch unless you bust it up fine.” Steve said. "Iffen it was me, I think I would try to run it on corn. Corn is easy to come by and it flows like greased ball-bearings."

Then, as an afterthought, Steve added “But there are a lot of jobs around the farm that it works for. Plowing and pulling, fer instance. You just have to use a lower gear so it takes longer. Just never let those RPM drop or the feed hopper ever get empty.”


Thursday, February 21, 2019

How do you measure biodiversity?

A friend sent me this image that purports to show the number of "vascular plant species per 10,000km". The automatic assumption is that this is a map is a reasonable proxy for biodiversity.

Looking at this map, I am suspicious based on the poverty of biodiversity in Florida and Texas. That just doesn't seem right.

Doing a reverse image look-up yields a website that also lists the number of genus and families per unit area.

Map of Genus diversity. If you expand this map you will find "specks" of super-diversity. They roughly correlate with Ann Arbor, Michigan, Columbus, Ohio...and other college towns. What a coincidence!
For those who are not familiar with the terms: Species is a cluster of plants with more-or-less fixed trait that easily interbreed with each other. Genus are clusters of species that share many fixed traits and can sometimes breed with each other.

Families are one more step up the hierarchy.

The density of species is roughly correlated to the density of Ph.D students needing thesis material.

It is not difficult find enough variation in a widespread population to justify a "new" species. In fact, it was rumored that two botanists "created" two new species of Hawthorn from the same specimen based on the location they were examining. Shade leaves vs. sun leaves and rainy year vs. sunny year will cause significant differences of appearance in many plants.

It is a much, much bigger deal to "discover" a new genus and it generates a serious amount of scrutiny.

Compare northern Georgia and northern Alabama. Look at the map showing the number of species per 10,000 sq-km map and then look at the number of families.

Look at coastal Georgia and Carolinas (current borne species), eastern Texas (flowing out of Central America), central Florida (confluence of sub-tropical and continental) and southeastern Arizona (same as eastern Tx). That is where the rubber hits the road for botanical biodiversity, not California and Calvert, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties Md.

A tip of the fedora to Lucas Machias.

Seven Fat Cows 4.1: Intervals

While Rick and Milo were doing their morning stretches before running Milo commented “You have been acting pretty peppy. Are you ready for something a little different?”

Rick had been running the same two miles out and walking the two miles back for the last three weeks. The first week was brutal. The second week was OK. The third week he was itching for more distance.

In the meantime his push-ups had grown from sets of five to sets of ten. Milo was letting Rick manage that himself. But Milo had been holding Rick back for the last week on the running.

“You bet!” Rick said. “How far are we going to run today?”

“Less than you ran last week” Milo said cryptically.

They started out at the same 11 minute mile pace they had been running all along. Then after running ten minutes Milo had Rick stop and stretch again.

“Here is the deal.” Milo said. “We can stretch the distance and you will get great at running eleven minute miles. Or we can add some speed in and you will use different muscles and, if you find yourself needing to sprint, you will not find yourself locked into running slowly.”

“But I can’t run a mile any faster.” Rick protested.

“You aren’t going to run a mile. You are going to run faster for a minute and then you are going to walk until you can run again.” Milo said.

“How fast should I run?” Rick asked.

“That is the beauty of this stuff. Just keep adding speed until your stride smooths out. If you can’t run a minute then run until you are really breathing hard.” Milo said.

“The how long do I walk?” Rick asked.

“Walk until you think you can run that faster pace for another minute. It might be thirty seconds. It might be five minutes.” Milo said.

“If you take one thing away from today, I want you to figure out how to listen to your body.” Milo finished.

Rick started out, still not seeing how it was going to go. He got up to the eleven minute mile and then slowly started increasing his speed. At first, his stride got choppy as he made his chubby legs move faster. Then, at about the nine minute mile pace Rick’s slicked up and his head stopped bobbing up-and-down.

“This good?” Rick gasped out.

“That is GREAT!” Milo said.

After about forty seconds Rick dropped down to a walk.

“Perfect!” Milo said.

Rick nodded, too gassed to speak.

“Keep walking.” Milo advised. It will help flush your muscles out and get them reoxygenated.

Two minutes later, Rick broke into a run and got to his target pace more quickly than before. This time he was able to go a full minute.

It took him three minutes to regain his breath and get his pulse rate back down.

Rick and Milo continued running, walking, running for the next mile. The segments of running got shorter and the walking got longer, but that was all to the good. Rick was paying attention to his body.

Walking back, Rick said “That wasn’t so bad.”

“Let’s see if you say that tomorrow morning?” Milo said with a smile.

“Hey, Mr Salazar, I could use some advice.” Milo said. His tone and the use of the formal ‘Mr Salazar’ indicated it was a serious matter.

“What is up?” Rick asked.

Milo explained that Farmer Don insisted on paying him for his work. Milo couldn’t figure out what to charge him and was inclined to not charge him, being a neighbor and all.

Rick said, “Let him pay you.”

Milo asked “Why?”

“A few reasons. One is that he wants to stay on your good side. He might have another piece of equipment break and he wants to ensure that you will come when he needs you.” Rick said.

“Another reason is that it will ease his mind. If you give him a bill and he pays it, then it won’t be hanging over his head. You won’t pop up later and ask him for he might not have.” Rick said.

“So, what should I charge him?” Milo asked.

“You might ask him what he would expect to pay in a shop. Then charge him half. If he kicks you can tell him that you don’t have to pay for a shop, and heating and lighting bills. I bet he will go for it.”

Looking at Milo after finishing a set of push-ups, Rick asked...”Something else bothering you?”

“Yeah.” Milo said. “A few days ago you said that money might not be all that useful if things fall apart. I was wondering if there was a way I could get paid in wheat.”

Rick was surprised. He thought that was a fabulous idea.

“Sure! Great idea. What is your hang-up with that?” Rick asked.

“Where would I put it?” Milo asked.

“Same place Farmer Don keeps it. In the elevator.” Rick said. “Don pays a small fee for them to store it. They keep it dry and bug free.”

“You give him a bill. He contacts the elevator and has them write some paperwork transferring title to however many bushels of wheat to you. Then you write ‘Paid in full’ on a copy of the bill and mail it to him. Easy-peasy.”

Farmer Don figured it would have cost him $1000. He contacted the elevator and had $650 worth wheat transferred to a new account in the name of Milo Talon.

When Milo mentioned that they had agreed on half, that is $500, Don pointed out that Milo had done the work in the dark. In effect, Milo had to pay for the lights. Don said he would have paid $500 if Milo had done the work in the day.

After that, Milo started getting texts from people he had never met. They came from as far away as Allegan County, ninety miles away. To save driving, Milo learned to ask for pictures of the damaged equipment. Once or twice a week Milo would drive over to Kelly’s shop, load up the back of his truck and the trailer with tools and materials and head out to a job.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Making history

Kamala Harris wants to make history as the first half-black, woman President of the United States of America.

Nobody has the heart to tell her that she is about 12 years too late for that.

Seven Fat Cows 3.9.9: Big Boy

Farmer Don called up Kelly and caught him just before he was turning in. "What do I owe you?" he asked.

"I reckon you owe me about $50 in materials." Kelly said. "But I didn't do any of the work. It was all Milo."

"Is Milo the kid you called 'Big Boy'?" Farmer Don asked.

"Yup." Kelly said. "He is Nyssa's boyfriend."

"Pretty incredible, what he did." Farmer Don observed. "Where did he learn to do that?"

"Well, he mentioned that his great-grand-daddy was a rigger for the railroad back in the 20s and 30s." Kelly said. "They got even more derailments then than they do now. Riggers put the locomotives back up on the tracks. Most times they didn't use anything but wedges, mauls and whatever materials they found locally."

"Nineteen twenties and thirties. Those would have been steam locomotives, right?" Farmer Don asked.

"Yup, some right big bastards too. And you gotta figure they usually had to move it up an embankment before they could flip it right-side up." Kelly said.

That is about when Linda, Farmer Don's wife showed up. Don brought Linda up to date on recent events. Then Farmer Don started unloading into the gravity wagon and Linda went over to the semi, started it up and put it into gear. She was taking it to the grain elevator. Looking at the clouds thickening up, it would be a race against time to get all the wheat harvested before the storms hit.

It may be different in other places, but farmers in Michigan don't get a lot of positive social contacts. Oh, there are lots of people who try to sell them "stuff" or people asking for "free" stuff. They get a constant stream of folks wanting to hunt on their property, or trap, or cut firewood. Some don't even ask, they just drive their four-wheel drive trucks over the crops and take what they want, figuring that nobody owns it.

There are not many people they can talk to as peers. The grain elevator is the one place they meet and talk to other farmers.

After getting weighed in and starting the unload process, Linda went into the elevator office. There were four other farmers standing around. Counting Linda they farmed over fifteen sections of land. On paper, that is $40 million worth of property. People assumed they were rich and that they "should" share their wealth.

Some years it was a struggle for the farmers to pay the electric bill.

Linda told the story of what happened the night before. Farmers rarely exaggerate unless it is about how much their bottomland yields or how much better green paint is than red paint. Linda pretty much told the story straight.

The other farmers asked if they could have "Big Boy's" phone number. You never knew when Lady Luck would turn on you. Linda texted Don. Don called Kelly. Kelly woke up enough to text Milo's number back to Don. In five minutes Linda was sharing Milo's number with the other farmers.

One of the clerks in the elevator office wrote the number down on the margin of her year-at-a-glance calendar along with a small note, 'Will fix in field.' The elevator was one of the first places frantic farmers called.

After a the farmers left the clerk called her sister who worked in the elevator in Lake Odessa. "Hey, I gotta number you should write down..."

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What is the color of evil?

What is the color of evil? Is evil blue or is evil white?

In ancient times the concept of “blue” as a color did not exist. Blue was considered a temporary surface condition like “shiny”.

Consider the sea. It is blue, right? Nope. Take a dipper of water out of the sea and it is clear...definitely not blue.

How about grapes? Are grapes blue? Nope. Squish them and leave it for a bit and grapes reveal their true nature to be red.

Perhaps you recall that Homer describes the sea as “dark wine” color in the Iliad. What is wine made from? Grapes. What is the most common color of ripe grapes? What we call blue. Given the inability to define “blue” as a color, the best Homer could do for an adjective to describe the sea was to call it “wine, dark”.

On the other hand, if you take most solid substances and grind them finely enough they turn white. The powder is white. Therefore the substance must be white inside. It's true nature is white.

Is it “...deliver us from all that is evil...” or “...deliver us from evil...”

Is evil a temporary surface condition like “shiny”? Is it a suit we put on and can remove with no effort? Is it a non-durable adjective or adverb that is subordinate to the object or action. Is evil blue?

"Deliver us from all that is evil...", “...deliver us from the blue house.” or “...deliver us from diseases that are mortal...”

Or is evil like Mark Twain’s observation, “Beauty may be skin deep but ugly runs to the bone.” That is, does evil permeate the entire nature of a person, thing or action? Is evil white?

The idea that evil is inherent suggests that redemption is difficult if not impossible. It also implies that inanimate objects can be inherently evil. Are guns evil? Are computer keyboards or rope or E. coli or castor beans inherently and irredeemably evil?

If you give it a little bit of thought you might come to the conclusion that evil starts out as a temporary a vine climbing on a brick wall. But over the years the roots sink into the mortar and the vine cannot be removed without destroying the wall. Over the years we let evil strike roots into us until the ugly reaches into our bone.

The good news is that with the grace of the Holy Spirit, goodness grows from superficial to becoming a part of who we are. When first married my wedding ring was loose. I had to take if off when swimming.

Over the years my fingers grew into the ring and now it is permanently riveted in place.

I need some help with research

Later in the Seven Cows series the characters are going to install a pirate radio station. This is illegal but the authorities are pinned down with other problems. Ideally, this station would be able to reach out ten or fifteen miles in the cardinal compass directions.

I know just a tiny bit about radios and radio waves. Tiny, tiny bit.

I suspect that I have readers who could whip off a functional concept while eating their Rice Crispies.

A few questions:
Which band? GMRS? Ham? CB? AM? FM? The FCC restricts "unlicensed" AM and FM stations to a transmission range of a few hundred meters.

The FCC also puts a minimum power requirement for licensed stations, I think 250W for AM and 100W for FM.

If something like GMRS what is the practicality of duplex repeaters on utility poles? Would they work by shifting privacy codes such that a listener could listen to channel xy and try privacy codes 13, 14 or 15 to find the best signal for their location?

If GMRS, what channels are least heavily used?

If GMRS, would the "network" also be able to function as two-way communication whereby one small patch of civilization can call for mutual aid?

If AM or FM, how much power would be required to transmit five miles? How about ten miles?

What questions am I not smart enough to ask but should be asking?

Seven Fat Cows 3.9.5: Big Boy comes to the rescue Part II

Milo’s background installing sea-walls was all about moving heavy items on soft, shifting soils...quick sand, sometimes...aligning them and welding them together. 12,000 pounds is not that heavy when you know what you are doing and have the proper tools.

Milo dug shallow trenches beneath the combine. He took great pains to scrape the bottoms of the trenches flat with the shovel. He used Kelly’s long carpenter’s bubble level to ensure it was square to gravity. Not satisfied, he scraped another inch of soil out of the far end of the trench beneath the body of the combine.

Then he dragged a pair of railroad ties into each trench and rechecked with the level. Satisfied, he shoveled loose dirt into the space between the sides of the trench and the sides of the railroad ties. He used the end of a spud to tamp it down hard, securing the ties in place.

Then Milo dug around in the lumber on the trailer until he found a couple of rough sawn oak. The planks were short...only three feet long...but they were a full three inches thick and ten inches wide. They were also shot through with dozens of pin-knots. He laid one across each set of double railroad ties.

After setting up the ties, Milo took a couple of hydraulic jacks out Kelly’s truck and placed them on top of the oak planks. As Milo pumped them up, Kelly could see that Milo had placed the ties beneath the places where reinforcing plates had been welded in the construction of the combine.

As one of the jacks got close to the reinforced clevis plate, Milo stopped and looked it over. He “Tsk, tsk, tsk.” clearly not liking what he saw.

“Mind if I temporarily modify the top of this jack?” Milo asked.

Kelly nodded his assent.

Milo cut a notch in one edge of a three inch angle iron with the cutting grinder. Then he cut a notch through the right angle. Finally, he chopped the three inch piece off the end of the length of angle iron.

“Mind holding this?” Milo asked.

Kelly could see that Milo had the short piece of angle iron positioned on top of the jack. As Milo unwound the cable for the MIG welder, Kelly deduced that Milo was going to weld the piece to make a “moose antler” on top of the jack to securely engage the clevis protruding from the combine. The notch in the edge was to engage the clevis on the combine and Milo planned to weld through the notch in the angle to secure the detail to the top of the jack.

After the welds cooled, Milo moved the jack back to the railroad ties and ran it back up. This time he grunted in satisfaction.

Going back and forth between the two jacks, Milo gently lifted the ass end of the fifteen thousand pound, fully loaded combine.

Once it was up in the air, Milo set about stuffing railroad ties and lumber pieces beneath it to ensure that it would stay up if one of the jacks shifted. Kelly figured out what Milo was doing pretty quickly and jumped to help him.

“Now what?” Kelly asked.

“Oh, that was the hard part.” Milo said. Pointing to the buckled struts. “They failed because they were bending and in compression. Alls we gotta do is cut out the worst of the bent flanges out and use a length of stout angle and C clamps and hammers to straighten out the piece. Then we weld the angle ‘splints’ into place.”

Put that way, it sounded easy.

When it was all done, Milo and Kelly pulled out the railroad ties and lumber and Milo bled out the valves on the jacks. The combine unceremoniously eased to the ground.

“How do you know it will hold?” Kelly asked.

“Oh, it will hold.” Milo assured him. "It is stronger than the day it left the factory, and judging by the chalky paint, it ran good for thirty years. Ought to be good for another thirty if he doesn't hit a pot-hole with the other side."

“Prove it. You might as well unload it.” Kelly said, pointing at the nearly empty semi parked beside the road. “And then fill it up again.”

“I never drove a combine before.” Milo said.

“But you have driven heavy equipment, right?” Kelly asked. “Just take it slow and figure it out as you go. Can’t be too hard. They hire high school kids to run these things.”

As a matter of fact, the hardest thing about driving the combine was the limited vision in certain direction. With a lot of fiddling back and forth, Milo figured out the mirrors and got the boom over the center of the semi trailer and then dumped his load.

Then he started harvesting wheat at midnight. What the hell, Nyssa wasn’t waiting up.

Farmer Don was disheartened to see the combine was where he had left it the night before and Kelly’s truck was no where in sight.

It took him a minute to realize that two-thirds of his field was harvested and the semi trailer was full.

The engine of the combine was idling.

Farmer Don got on his wife on the phone. “Honey, hook a gravity wagon up to the tractor and drive out to the combine. We are back in business.”


Monday, February 18, 2019

Some more tresspassin'

Today's adventure was to go tresspassin' with the Captain.

First we went over to his dad's. He plowed snow and I shoveled.

Then we went over to a place he used to hunt when he was a young man.

The drainage patterns changed due to land-use issues and construction. This area is very, very flat and six inch clod in a drainage ditch will cause ten acres of land to flood.

Consequently, there were many, many dead trees.

I am not being judgemental. Nature is always in a flux. The ten acres of drowned trees are counter-balanced by the fact that somewhere there are ten acres now dry enough to grow trees.

The fact that disturbances like flooding and fire create a mosaic that is actually GOOD for biodiversity is lost on most people. But then, most people are "feelers" rather than "observe and thinkers".

I think those newly flooded areas might be a good place to sneak some Nyssa aquatic seedlings.

Buck rub. 3-1/2 diameter Basswood. He sure fuzzed that one up. Generally, local bucks prefer 1"-to-2" diameter White Pine, aspen, willow or sumac in roughly that order. They seem to prefer "springy" sparring partners. Maybe that makes them feel like winners.

What is a native species?
If climate wobbles, then why would anybody expect the "range" of any species to stay constant?

Rottweil, Germany was a desert several million years ago and before that it was warm shallow seas. Would a purist demand that all currently native, temperate mesic habitat species be destroyed because they were not consistent with what once grew there at arbitrary points in time? Would those purists be willing to move back to western Kenya?

More trees
Later, the Captain and I toured a plot closer to home.

This was also very low land.

What was notable about this parcel was the tamarack (larch) and its fine timber form. The tree that is on the left side of the photo and is leaning is one of those trees. It has a very nice stem, for the species.

Also notable was the abundance of Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Southern Michigan is close to the southern limit of this species. It reaches farther south along the Appalachian Mountains but that is a special circumstance

There was an west-to-east streak where the majority of the trees were Yellow Birch and the Captain commented on the rarity of the tree and the oddness of the streak.

It is rare that I can contribute to the Captain's knowledge of the out-of-doors.

Birch is a pioneer species that is very intolerant of shade, especially as a seedling. The seeds are small and don't have much get-up-and-go. Consequently, they depend on fire to wipe out taller plants that would shade them or prevent the seeds from coming in contact with the soil.

That is the competitive advantage of small seeded trees. They produce brazillions of seeds that the wind carries long distances. When a burn occurs, whether by the hand of man or by lightening, those species can reach out and colonize those burned areas.

I suggested to the Captain that the west-to-east orientation of the stand was evidence of a fire that started and the prevailing westward winds created a long, slender burn. I also stripped a twig from a low branch and was able to detect the faint odor of wintergreen, i.e. methyl-salicate. This is the first time I had been able to smell the wintergreen.

As I get older I see that humans get trapped by their narrow sense of "normality". They think that their experiences are the "correct" boundaries for what is right.

The conundrum is that nature resents running-in-place. How do you trap a pioneer species in amber? Pioneer species are totally dependent on disturbance.

In the spectrum between control freak who worship an arbitrary snapshot of succession and Laissez-faire management philosophies, I lean past Fairly-Lazy and support the active injection of disruption and intelligent chaos.

Seven Fat Cows 3.9: Big Boy comes to the rescue

Kelly got the call from Farmer Don at 10:30 at night. Farmer Don was a little bit frantic. He had a record breaking crop of wheat waiting to be harvested. He figured he had been harvesting ninety, maybe ninety-five bushel to the acre.

It had been a perfect year for growing wheat. He got the seed in late enough to avoid Hessian Fly, then got a warm period that gave him good germination. The spring started out rainy and then warmed up. An inch-and-a-half of rain came through every week until mid May. Then there was a real ground soaking, 24 hour rain.

Since then, mid-Michigan had seen nothing but sunny weather and mild breezes with the occasional, clement warm rain.

The wheat mined the moisture stored in the soil and the stalks rose tall and the heads grew heavy with grain.

A wide swath of nasty weather was bearing down on Michigan. The storm system stretched from South Dakota to central Texas and was marked by storm cells, wind shears, hail and tornadoes. Farmer Don had less than twenty-four hours to get the 200 acres of his wheat crop off the field or it would be battered into the ground.

He was combining like gang-busters when he hit the woodchuck hole. He did not see it because he was blinded as he rounded a corner and turned into the setting sun. The rear, outside wheel dropped into the hole and the struts that supported it crumpled. The combine was nearly full and the back end of it dropped down and dragged a groove through the sandy soil, lurching to a stop twelve feet past where the wheel had collapsed.

Farmer Don knew that Kelly was a machinist and hoped that maybe, miraculously, Kelly could fix his rig.

Kelly made no promises.

Thinking a minute, Kelly called Milo.

“You busy?” Kelly asked.

As a matter of fact, Milo was. He was watching a romantic comedy with Nyssa and had plans for the evening.

“Whatchya need?” Milo asked, keeping the irritation out of his voice.

“Farmer Don has a crisis on his hands. He wants me to look it over. I could use a second set of eyes and maybe a hand.” Kelly said.

Milo knew that working in the dark is inherently dangerous and, depending on the crisis, might require a second strong back. “Yeah, I will be right over.” Milo reluctantly agreed to Kelly's suggestion.

Milo hopped into Kelly’s truck and Kelly drove the mile-and-a-quarter to Farmer Don’s field. Seeing the lights of the crippled farm equipment lurched sideways out in the field, Kelly drove across the wheat stubble.

Kelly parked the truck so his lights were shining on the destroyed rear suspension.

Milo and Kelly took a walk around the combine.

“Whaddya think?” Kelly asked. As far as he was concerned the rig was going to need at least a week in a shop, somewhere, to get it functional again.

“I can fix that.” Milo said.

“Be obliged if you tried.” Farmer Don said as he slapped his seed cap against his thigh to knock the dust off it. “I am heading up to the house. I’ll be callin’ shops to see if they can take it, just in case you can’t fix it.”

Frankly, Farmer Don hoped he could have it back working when he needed to run corn and beans. He was looking at losing $90,000 worth of wheat, but maybe the worst of the storm might miss his field and maybe he could rent a combine and salvage some of it. Might...maybe...salvage, thin reeds of hope.

“Well, Big Boy, why don’t you show me what you got.” Kelly said. “Let’s drive back to my shop and load up what you think we will need to fix it.”

Milo did not hear that Kelly had just handed the reins to him. Milo thought Kelly was just being polite. “Sure.” Milo said.

Back at Kelly’s shop Milo loaded up a generator, klieg lights, angle iron, cold drawn steel tubing, 3/8” and 11 gauge steel plates, grinders, angle cut-off wheels, cutting torches, a MIG welder and a cylinder of 75%-25% Argon-CO2 and a dozen other odds-and-ends. Looking at the full truck, Milo asked “Do you have a trailer.”

Of course Kelly had a trailer. He hooked up the car hauler and then Milo proceeded to fill it with dozens of railroad ties and lumber scraps.

“OK. That looks like a good start.” Milo said.

“Mind if I just watch. I wanna see how you do this. Just give a holler when you need another set of hands.” Kelly said.

Milo assumed that Kelly was pulling seniority.