Sunday, March 29, 2020

This might be shorter than we thought

It is worth noting that these curves tend to lay over and become more horizontal as people change their behaviors and the virus burns into more resilient populations. For instance, look at Washington's numbers.
According to the New York Times, the number of deaths due to Covid-19 in Michigan is doubling every day.

Assuming a 3% fatality rate and assuming everybody in Michigan gets it, then a quarter-million Michigan residents will die in another two weeks.

And then we will be done. 3% of nine-million is a bit less than 300,000 fatalities.

Bella informed me that we have two positive tests in Eaton Rapids.

There are plans to "spill" Covid-19 cases to out-state hospitals as Wayne and Oakland County hospitals get pinned. I can see why they are doing it but it increases the exposure "pressure" in our area.
Oakland and Wayne Counties (1018 and 2316 cases respectively) contain 30% of Michigan's population and 70% of the Covid-19 positives.

It boggles the mind to think that we will be popping out the other side in two weeks. It is far more likely that Covid-19 is picking off the low-hanging fruit, health-wise. The people dying today were probably exposed ten to fifteen days ago.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the growth curve lays over as a result of social distancing and the freezing of the economy. It is entirely possible that closing the schools might temporarily accelerate the growth as kids who were exposed then expose grandparents or other elders pressed into kid-care duty.

Bella is planning a run to the grocery store tomorrow morning. Both Kubota and Bella have birthdays next week. It will be Kubota's 21st birthday. He is currently planning a campfire with two friends coming over. Not hermetically sealed but by no means an epic blow-out.

One of the details the Seven Cows was accurate about was Little Wedgie Stubert as a vector.  We saw this times a million with college kids and spring break. Large urban areas are noted for out-of-control Yutes. We have them too but they are spread thinner across the landscape than in legacy cities.

Windfall planning

Suppose $2000 of money parachuted into your budget.

Suppose you expect prices of items to increase. More money chasing fewer goods and all that. And if nobody is working then nobody is making goods...right?

Suppose you want to "invest" the money in durable items that will throw a long-shadow regarding making life more livable over the next 6-to-60 months. Ideally, it will be items (or services) that will not be oversubscribed in the first round of helicopter money.

A few thought provokers:
-Have a will written or updated
-Housing up-grades
-Garden seeds or orchard trees
-Livestock
-Fencing supplies
-Mineralized salt
-Bicycles, motorbike or other transportation
-Exercise equipment that will actually get used
-Motorized lawncare equipment
-Cans of fluorescent paint to paint the equipment I lose on a regular basis
-Staple foods like beans and rice and sugar
-Food processing equipment like vacuum sealer
-Home brewing supplies
-Durable clothing like jeans, Carhartts, work boots
-Firearms
-Molds for casting bullets
-A new computer or other consumer electronics
-Medical supplies, whatever those may be
-Odds-and-ends like tarps, duct tape, chains, hinges, deck screws, framing nails, motor oil, filters, belts, electrical switches and outlets...

Please leave your thoughts in comments.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

When your children care for you

Belladonna expressed concern about my health today.

It is the start of allergy season and I was clearing my throat more than usual.

Bella walked behind me and sniffed.

"I think you need to go to the Emergency Room." she said.

"Why?" I asked, slightly confused.

"One of the early symptoms of Covid is that you stop smelling" she informed me.

"I took a shower." I told her.

I appreciated the thought, though.

Friday, March 27, 2020

It has been a good day

The ERJ reloading bench is back in action.

The ball bearings showed up a couple days ago. I popped them into the balance beam then verified it by weighing a 55 grain bullet. It measured out within 2% and measured high, which is safe. A load that measures 25.5 grains will actually be 25 grains, which is on the safe side.

I found some .223 Rem brass but the primers were crimped. The good news is that I found an RCBS Primer Pocket Swager-2 while looking for the powder scale.

It took a while to get the knack. It was a pain to get the anvil through the itty-bitty .223 opening. I finally figured out that rattling the press handle created the optimum wobble for the pin to find and walk into the neck of the case.

I have powder. I have primers and projectiles. Life is good.

Pasture
Belladonna helped me throw fence posts into the ground. I am breaking the pasture into six paddocks.

There are basically four-and-a-half schools of thought regarding optimum place to put the water tank in a paddock.

One theory is to not move it and let the cattle walk back through paddocks they have already grazed to get to the water.

The second is to use the shortest possible hose and have the tank as close as possible to the water source.

The third is to have the tank at an intersection of paddocks to minimize moving it.

None of these three schools of thought consider what is optimal for fertility distribution.

Water into the control volume quickly results in an equal amount of materials leaving the control volume. Those materials transport fertility.

The fourth school-of-thought is to put the tank on the baldest spot in the paddock. The deposited fertility helps the bald spot and the opportunity cost of having the bald spot pounded into mud results in less wasted grass than if it were put on the lushest part of the paddock.

The 4.5th school-of-thought is to put it in the middle of the paddock if there is not clearly delineated "bald spot".

I am going to need at least 600 feet of poly hose to pull off option four.

Covid-19
Mostly I am trying to not repeat stupid stuff. There are plenty of other people filling that niche.

The Governor of Michigan sent out a memo to doctors and pharmacists regarding off-label use of Z-packs and Chloroquinine.

One reading suggests she is threatening to jerk their licenses if they prescribe those drugs for any Covid-19 patients.

A more generous reading of the memo suggests that the Governor wants to avoid hording behaviors as seen with toilet paper. The amount of AZ and ChQ in the pipeline is finite. There might be enough to administer prophylactically to critical medical personnel and high risk Covid-19 patients. There is not enough if every entitled person demands to be on AZ and ChQ prophylactically.

I am not going to hyperventilate about an ambiguously written memo. It is difficult to believe any bureaucrat would want to take on a doctor for going "off-label" and using a therapeutic material to save a life. By the same logic, the bureaucrat would have to jerk the doc's license for giving water to somebody dying of dehydration because the FDA NEVER LABELED WATER for treating dehydration.

The only way to tell is to let it play out. If the governor of Michigan wants to practice medicine I am sure the electorate will help find the time to pursue her new career.

If the memo was to throttle ghost-demand for AZ and ChQ, well, it will probably work...mostly.

NOTE: The Gov "clarified" the poorly written document.

Kabuki Theater?

Representative Massey, representing the people in the Great State of Kentucky who elected him, kicked sand in Emporess Pelosi's face.

I applaud from the cheap seats.

We have been reminded countless times that the moron from the Bronx does not represent the United States. She represents the people who put her into office.

Massey calculated that his constituents would be unimpressed with the hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled into pork in places that they would never benefit.

The thing about bullies is that they  cheerfully visit violence on victims as long as it can be done freely without cost to the bully.

It stops being fun and the bully picks a different victim after there is a price and they have actual skin in the game. It has always been like that. It will always be like that.

Pelosi held the process hostage. Remember, that is the process we are told to respect.

Then Massey held the process hostage and forced congressmen to fly back to Washington DC and swim in the cesspool of the national capital rather than telecommute from their gated communities.

Suddenly, Pelosi's bullying came with a cost. They screamed.

I reply, "Trust the process. If you want to stick crap in the bill then be prepared to come back to Washington DC to defend it and vote for it. If you are not prepared to pay the price then stick to the business at hand."

Massey may get primaried next election cycle, but he sure put our would-be masters on notice. That process works both ways as long as somebody, anybody, has the cajones to use it.

Puppy!




A reader in Arizona got a new puppy this week.

The litter was exceptionally large and this little guy's mother rejected most/all of them. He was sent to his forever home about seven weeks earlier than is optimal.

The reader is making the best of it.

Make that a Rottie-o-matic.

Quest: Third Day

The third day started out like the other two except tea was served instead of coffee and one of the men from town had dropped off some sausage. If it ain’t broke, then it doesn’t need fixing.

Cairo and Lucky were harnessed and Joyce was trailing to give her a day to recover.

Sally took the first shift walking.

Unlike the other days, though, Sally was able to keep up with the wagon.

Steve would shake the reins and get the speed up but the horses quickly slowed down. In fact, Sally had to slow down lest she get ahead of the wagon.

After ten minutes, Sally pointed out that they were averaging less than three miles per hour compared to the four-point-five miles per hour of the previous two days. Steve knew they were not going as fast but without keeping an eye on Sally, he didn’t have a frame of reference to know just HOW slow.

The horses did not defy his commands to speed up. The problem was that the increased speed dissipated like a fart in a windstorm.

Two hours later, Steve hopped down and Walt drove. Walt was no more successful than Steve.

By lunch they had only covered twelve miles versus the eighteen they had covered on the previous two days. Clearly, they were not going to make another thirteen miles in the remaining two hours.

As Steve was bringing the horses back from where they had been grazing, Sally asked Steve “Is it physically possible to hitch up just one horse?”

Steve looked at the double whiffle-tree and said, “Sure, but I don’t see your point.”

“I want you to hook up just Lucky” Sally said. She expected scathing criticism.

Steve, very reasonably he thought, pointed out “We are behind already. I don’t see the point in hitching up just one horse when we can’t make time with two.”

Sally had a hard time putting her thoughts into words. “I don’t think it is a physical problem. I think it is an attitude problem.”

“You can laugh at me, but I think Joyce was kicking Cairo’s ass because she can’t stand slackers. She knew the second he started sandbagging and wasn’t going to let him get away with it.” Sally said.

“Yeah, that might be so, but the horses need to rotate through their day off.” Steve said. He had forgotten his anger as he was trying to get a handle on Sally’s proposed solution.

“They will all get their breaks if this works. We run Joyce and Caire together for two days and run Lucky solo for one day. In fact, Lucky gets two ‘off’ days.” Sally said.

Lucky had no issues with being put in the trace solo. He was a sociable animal and slowed down because Cairo did. As long as Cairo was tied in back where he couldn't see him and as long as his humans stayed right behind him, he had no issues with pulling the lightweight wagon at a snappy 4.7 miles per hour. He didn’t even mind pulling an extra ninety minutes. He really was a moose.

That night Walt slept in the wagon and Sally and Steve slept beneath the awning.

*

“What is the matter, Honey?” Dysen asked.

Quinn had stopped his scooter beside the road. Of course, Dysen did the same. Quinn had pulled out his binoculars and glassed the surrounding country. Quinn had kicked at a rock before hopping back onto his scooter. That was not the best move for a guy with scabbed over ankles.

“I shouldn’t take it out on you” Quinn said. “It is just that I get frustrated. I want to go hiking to get the lay-of-the land, but it is just too big and I can’t get around like I used to.”

“So you can figure out how to defend it?” Dysen guessed.

“Yeah. I don’t know any other way to get started.” Quinn confessed.

“That, and just don’t see any way to stop 5000 hostiles.” Quinn said.

“What is the worst that can happen?” Dysen asked. She once had an academic counselor who called this “reframing”. Put boundaries around your fears and then start driving wooden stakes through them.

“The hostiles feign an attack and draw us out of position. Then the main attack comes after we are pulled out-of-position.” Quinn said.

After thinking another minute Quinn added “With 5000 fighters, hell, they could attack in two places and blow through us at both of them.”

“I didn’t hear Chernovsky say he expected you to stop them. I heard him say you had to put some pain on them.” Dysen said.

“Suppose they did attack in two places. What would you do to put the most pain on them?” Dysen asked.

“I don’t know” Quinn said. “If I move too many people to the first attack then I will leave second avenue almost defenseless.”

“OK then...If you were attacking, how far apart would your main attack be from the feign? They wouldn’t be right next to each other, would they?” Dysen asked.

“No, I would spread them out. Having them right next to each other would defeat the purpose. They would have to be at least three miles apart and six would be better.” Quinn assured her.

“But it could be three miles, yes?” Dysen persisted.

“Well, of course.” Quinn said.

“Did I ever tell you that I played basketball?” Dysen asked.

At five-foot nothing, that seemed improbable to Quinn but he wasn’t going to say that.

“When we played a team where we could not match up player-for-player, our coach had us play zone defense. We usually got beaten, but the games were closer than if we played man-to-man.” Dysen said.

“I don’t know anything about combat, but what if the defenders played zone defense. If the hostiles attack at Mason Road, for instance, all of our fighters who live on Mason Road and the roads one mile north and one mile south are tasked with defending the attack. Everybody else provides logistic support but does not reposition.” Dysen proposed

"So at ten fighters per square mile, that would be 150-to-200 fighters. How much pain could 150 fighters put on an invasion of 2500 or 5000 fighters?" Dysen asked rhetorically?

Quinn turned that over in his mind. The concept had promise. The plan was simple and local lines-of-communication were likely to be fast and difficult to compromise. From what Quinn had seen of the fog-of-war, those virtues could compensate for a host of shortcomings.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Basking in the glow

Sorry, no pictures.

We struggled with getting the 6" diameter, corrugated, stainless steel chimney liner past the damper.

Looking from the bottom, the chimney appeared to have two ledges. The one to the west was about 15 inches higher than the one on the east. In retrospect, the one on the east was the damper. Getting the end of the liner to miss the higher ledge caused it to be trapped behind the flue i.e. the second ledge.

Mrs ERJ and I tried about four times the other day. Me feeding from the top and Mrs ERJ guiding as best she could from the bottom. It was a losing proposition. Mrs ERJ could not reach up far enough into the chimney to grab the end of the pipe and snake it through the obstacle course. The pipe was simultaneously too stiff and too springy and too slippery.

We aborted the effort when the wind velocity picked up.

We talked it over on our daily walks. We waited until Belladonna was not studying for a test.

I dropped a rope down from the top.

We brought in a coil of 4" diameter, corrugated plastic drain pipe that I happened to have in stock.

I cut a small hole in the side of the drain tile about a foot from one end. Then I ran the rope inside the pipe to where the hole was and then threaded the rope through the hole to the outside. It was much like tying a leader onto fly line although the scale was much, much bigger.

I went up the ladder. Mrs ERJ fed the 4" drain tile up from the bottom. I pulled on the rope. In a thrice we had three feet of plastic drain-tile sticking out of the top of the chimbilly.

Then ever lovely and handy Belladonna was called into play. She stabilized the chimney liner assembly while I slid the stainless steel liner OVER the plastic tile. Mrs ERJ, who was inside the house, secured the plastic tile by sitting on it where it spilled over the hearth.

We had one snag. Bella went down the ladder to assist Mrs ERJ. Bella had to wiggle the flexible, telescoping pipes around to tease them past the obstacles. Fortunately, the plastic pipe had enough rigidity that she could horse both of them. Then.....the stainless steel pipe was within her reach.

She donned a pair of gloves, gripped the end of the pipe and smoothly pulled that puppy down.

Did I mention that Belladonna wants to be a midwife?

There was other fiddly stuff. I had to glue the top-plate to the tile flue liner. I ran a ratchet strap around the top of the brick chimney and lashed the top-plate down so it would not whip around in the wind before the RTV cured.

It was a totally backazzwards way of solving the problem. We couldn't get the steel pipe through the obstacles but we could push it over a smaller pipe that we could snake past the damper and ledge.

I am sure the professionals have some easy-peasy trick, but that was the best we could come up with.

And now I am basking while Mrs ERJ is savoring. And Belladonna is back to studying.

Quest: Second Day


The second day of travel started out with cornmeal mush drenched in butter, applesauce and real, instant coffee. Sally whipped it up so efficiently that the breakfast seemed to make itself.

Steve made himself scarce. He did not trust himself around Sally. He felt it was safer to be distant than to open his mouth and be cutting and hurtful. As it was, Sally saw what he did as silent and hurtful.

Steve made a note to give Lucky a longer stretch of picket line and Cairo a shorter one. It could have been an artifact of Lucky working the yesterday and Cairo just walking along behind the wagon. Or it could have been that Lucky was just that much bigger.

Anyway, Steve could see that Lucky had closely grazed his 30’-by-20’ rectangle of grass. In fact, Lucky had stretched the picket rope and his closely grazed patch was barrel-shaped.

Cairo’s, on the other hand, appeared to be only 2/3 grazed.

Depending on how thick the grass was and how deep the snow, they might have to increase the length of the lead ropes. Steve was loath to do so at the start of the trip. Given too much rope, they can do incredibly stupid things. Better to let them figure things out with the short rope, then increase it.

Steve measured out a half gallon of corn into a five gallon bucket. Then he shook it to make the bucket rattle. Then he poured it out on a small square of carpet for Joyce to eat. He did the same for Cairo and then Lucky.

Vernon had been very clear: Feeding a bit of grain first thing in the morning made catching horses a snap if they became free of the lead ropes or pulled off the picket line. Grain is like candy. They come running once they associate the sound of grain rattling in the bottom of a bucket with Halloween.

The second day’s hitch was Joyce and Cairo. Walt took the first shift of walking since the last shift of the day was a short one.

Sally immediately noticed that Joyce DID NOT LIKE Cairo.

Joyce was nipping at Cairo and giving her a horsey dressing-down.

Sally frowned and stated, “Joyce is a mean bitch, isn’t she?”

Steve shared the opinion but wasn’t about to agree.

Sally found it more pleasant to pay attention to the horses and her puppy than to give Steve’s sulk any energy. She found that it was easy for her to tune into the horse’s emotional energy. She attributed it to her stage sense. A good actor can sense the shifting moods of the audience and will unconsciously make adjustments to their performance to strengthen their connection to the audience.

Sally picked up that Joyce had a large-and-in-charge personality and there were reasons Joyce did not like Cairo. It wasn’t clear to Sally what those reasons were, but once they got moving, Joyce’s meanness dialed way down. It did not disappear. It was less frequent and more focused.

Sally took the second shift of walking. To Steve’s dismay, she was perfectly at ease running to catch up with the wagon when it was more than 200 yards ahead. The only hiccup was when the pup cut in front of her and tripped her once. Sally didn’t complain but Steve saw the road-rash on the palms of her hands.

The break for lunch went more smoothly than the first day. With Sally preparing the food, both Steve and Walt were available to stake out the horses.

They took their lunch behind a McMansion so they were out-of-sight from the road.

“You know” Steve said to Walt “it is a darned shame that they have such big front yards and such small backyards.”

Walt agreed. “Makes for a long driveway to plow’”

“I was thinking that there is all that grass in front but I don’t want to stake out the horses where everybody and God can see them.” Steve said.

Walt nodded sagely. “Guess they wanted to impress the neighbors more than have a private space to themselves.”

The two men talked about the former residents as if they had lived in the time of ancient Greece and Troy and were to be viewed through a telescope.

At dusk, a delegation came from the town of Reading, Michigan a mere half mile away. “What is your business?” the leader of the delegation asked.

Sally was watching Dog and Pup. They clearly heard something just out-of-sight. Sally was glad that Steve and Walt had secured the horses within a few yards of camp and within sight.

Steve took the lead and answered. “We are going to see family.”

The leader of the delegation took his time eyeballing the camp. “Mighty fancy rig to go visiting family.” he observed.

“They are in Iowa” Steve informed him.

“Why ya going now?” the leader asked.

Improvising, Sally said “We got word over the shortwave that Granny was sick. We want to see her one last time and say good-bye.”

Sally noticed a pronounced change in the man’s demeanor when she said ‘shortwave’.

“So,” the man said “do you have any news about what is happening out there? The only radio stations we can pull in are Ed’s Coffee Hour and Peppermint Candy Mandy out of someplace called Capiche.”

Walt Shaw nodded and said “That would be Uncle Ed. We are from Capiche.”

The man lost no time in waving his snipers in from the wood line. Fresh news was a highly sought commodity.

They had heard rumblings of a warlord in Washtenaw County. They had not heard of Ebola making a comeback and were very distressed by the news.

Most surprising to Steve and Walt, they wanted to know details about Ed and Mandy. No detail was too trivial. How old were they? What did they look like. Ed and Mandy were a big part of their lives and they wanted to have a mental picture of their radio-wave neighbors.

Sally was the hit of the evening as she demonstrated how Mandy held her hands as she flounced and minced about when she thought a cute boy was watching. The men roared and made mental notes so they could share the moment with their spouses.

Sally knew the power of connection. While the men were still there, she wrote a letter to "Uncle" Ed and Mandy. In the letter, she took requests from the men for dedications to people who were important in their lives. She also included a few lines of personal information so Ed and Mandy would know the letter was legit should it find its way back to Capiche. After signing the letter and sealing it in an envelop, she handed it to the leader and asked if he could get it back to Capiche.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A few pictures

Nicotiana seeds

Cuttings. The ones with little bits of green are elderberries.

Violets on the south side of our house where they get the reflector oven effect

Daffodils. Flowers are still sheathed but they are taller than the leaves.

Apricot

Garlic. Somebody missed a few when harvesting them.

To be separated and replanted where I want feral garlic. Garlic is a tough plant that can fend for itself.
Chickweed is edible

And even this early it is blooming

That faint streak of hair down one side of the stem is a key characteristic in identifying this species.
Witchhazel. Not sure if it is Vernal or Chinese. It smells divine.
Incidentally, I received my first email telling me that my order of trees has been cancelled due to Covid-19. Hopefully, it is not the start of a trend.

Trump's handling of Covid-19 up to a C+

Let me start this post by telling a short story.

Thanksgiving, 1996, my grandmother had fallen at the nursing home and was scheduled for emergency surgery. The surgeon informed us that the surgery was a complete success. Three days later, my grandmother died of complications from the surgery.

From the veiwpoint of the surgeons' silo, she was completely right. Granny did not die during the surgery and the surgeon had been able to screw together all of the tinkertoys and reconnect all the plumbing.

Hyper-focus
President Trump and Dr. Fauci do not appear to see eye-to-eye on the quarantine/economic shutdown.

Some of the tension is because Trump, by inclination and job description is a generalist. Fauci is a specialist.

Another axis of chaos is that it came to light that Fauci is a great admirer of Hillary Clinton and (inappropriately) fan-boyed her Here and Here

While Fauci's fawning admiration of Trump's competitor probably does not direct his advice, it does create a wedge in the trust between the two men. That is the definition of unprofessional behavior, any behavior that reduces your ability to do your job.

FDR
FDR was President through most of the Great Depression and WWII. He become notorious, in retrospect, of giving different minions conflicting orders and creating chaos.

Decades later, we even have a name for that mathematical method for optimizing a solution. It is called Simulated Annealing. It is similar to throwing a bunch of dominoes in an oatmeal canister and then shaking it to settle the dominoes so more can be fit in.

From a purely Covid-19 standpoint, Trump could be doing a better job. Trump's challenge is that he is responsible for the rest of the United States as well and he appears committed to adhering to the US Constitution.

I have a Sister-in-Law who strongly dislikes Trump and her heart palpitates whenever he talks about cushioning Wall Street's steep glide path. "People are dying and all he worries about are the damned millionaires"

Public pension funds are heavily invested in public equities, That is, two-thirds of the typical public pension fund is invested in the stock market. The median public pension fund is approximately 60% funded. When the S&P 500 lost 30% of its value those pension funds became 42% funded.

Without Trump jaw-boning the economy, pension funds will be swirling the drain in 60 days. The vast majority of people collecting pensions are NOT millionaires. Rather, the are among the nation's must vulnerable because, in many cases, we are not fit enough to go back to work.

So...I am operating under the assumption that Trump's words are 80% jaw-boning and 20% "in case a miracle appears".

As always, follow several different news sources. Confer with experts when available. Use your best judgement. Miracles do occur, but even Jesus needed an hour or so to feed 5000. Like a rose, this will unfold in its own time.

Quest: First Day


A small group showed up to see the New East India Company’s maiden voyage depart. It was an hour before dawn. Two inches of light snow had fallen the night before and the temperature was in the low twenties. If the day was anything like yesterday, the snow would be melting by mid-morning.

Vernon Blastic was giving Steve Straeder and Walt Shaw last minute horse advice. “There are shoes and nails in a tool box blah, blah, blah...”

Little of the advice registered with Steve or Walt. Both men were learn-by-doing kind of guys.

Kelly and Di were there. The two Wilders. Kate and Rick Salazar. The two men were given letters of introduction to friends and family who might be along the way, who might be in a position to lend assistance. Most important, Dr. Samantha Wilder gave Steve a letter of introduction to the team in Ames, Iowa.

And Sally was there. Sally and Steve did not talk. The silence was frigid.

Joyce and Lucky leaned into the traces and the wagon effortlessly started moving forward.

Sally started walking beside it but was quickly left behind. Dog was riding on the wagon between the two men and he barked at Sally and her new pup.

Steve would have yelled at her but he was loath to make a scene in front of the creme of Capiche's society. She would doubtlessly stop following when the wagon was out of sight.

Except she didn’t. The wheel tracks were impossible to miss in the snow.

Sally wasn’t afraid of the dark. She had the pup and she knew Capiche and the area to the immediate south like the back of her hand.

Steve and Walt stopped for an early lunch. They screwed three mobile-home anchors into the unfrozen soil and tied off the three horses. Lucky, who was a moose, quickly got down to the business of cropping the overgrown bluegrass. That was part of why he was an easy keeper, he grazed at every opportunity.

Steve and Walt were breaking their lunch camp when Dog started barking like a maniac. Steve grabbed the pump shotgun and Walt picked up his scoped, silenced .22

That is when Sally and the pup rounded the corner and came into view.

There comes a time when a man is beat. Steve knew that Sally was just stubborn enough to walk all the way to Ames, Iowa. He also knew that a single woman walking alone was prime pickings for all manner of bad men.

Silently cursing, Steve delayed breaking camp long enough to make three more burritos and to give Sally a boost into the shotgun seat.

Then Steve started walking behind the wagon. Be damned if he was going to ride with her. The physical act of walking and jogging was a good complement to his anger.

*

Riding with Walt, Sally said “I appreciate you staying out of this.”

“Yep” Walt said.

“No, really. Most people would have stuck in their oar” Sally persisted.

“My dad told me a long time ago. Married folks are like a pair of scissors. They might look like they are working at cross purposes, but never get between them unless you want to bleed.” Walt said.

Walt held his counsel as Sally chattered away. He learned that she had stowed her pack in the wagon the night before. He heard about notable acting and singing gigs.

Walt deduced that Sally was the kind of person who talked to work off stress. He and the other fighters had talked about women on many long, lonely night watches. Some of what they discussed was true. He could see why being left alone was hard on her, what with nobody to chatter at.

Walt swapped with Steve after two hours. The difference in the atmosphere of the wagon was marked.

The expedition broke camp after six hours of travel. Steve’s original plan was to start at day-break and knock off while there was still two hours of light left. At 25 miles per day of travel, he figured it would take about 35 days if they had one lay-over day every week for rest and equipment repair and then he threw in a few extra in case of storms.

They could have pressed on farther on the first day but they had already clocked their twenty-five miles and could use the extra time to sort out equipment they were unfamiliar with.

The horses were staked on a hundred foot picket line. The 12 foot long lead rope on each horse terminated in a chrome-plated ring that slid along their third of the picket line. The ends of the picket and the two dividers in the middle were screw-in, mobile home anchors.

Sally opted to sleep inside the wagon.

Steve and Walt opted to sleep under the awning with the wagon and bat-wing extensions closing up three of the four sides.

It was a long night for both Steve and Sally. Walt snored.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Extracting cattle scratching posts

Cattle like to scratch. And if they don't have anything better, they will find an isolated T-post to scratch their itch.

Over time, they can drive a six-foot long T-post so deeply into the ground that only fifteen inches is sticking out. Then they go find another post because that one will not reach the best parts for scratching.

If you raise grazing animals, you never have enough fence posts. Not only that, but random, steel T-posts sticking 15" into the air makes mowing the pasture an adventure.

This is a good time to pull them up because the ground is soft. The problems are that I have to lean way over to get a grip on the top of the post. That is poor ergonomics. The other issue is that four feet of the post are buried in the ground.

There is a solution.

If you look at the common, ubiquitous fence post driver, you will notice that the rebar handles have a tapering gap between them and the body of the driver.

Either center the fence post beneath the widest part of the gap or turn the driver 90 degrees relative to the T-post. Slide the driver to the ground. Then turn or slide the driver so the handle of the driver engages the lugs on the top of the "T".

Slip another T-post beneath the intersection of the driver and the stubborn post.

Then lift up on the long end of the post you are using as a lever. Depending on how far you choose to insert the lever post, the scratching post might be lifted two-to-six inches.

Disengage the driver. Reset at ground level. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Yeah, I know it is a small thing, but it felt good to rip that sucker out of the ground.


Minimizing risks when introducing new reloaders to our hobby

Reader and all-round good guy Old NFO commented:

How will you teach him (Kubota) the attention to detail required to actually produce SAFE loads? That is something that comes with experience and NOT having any interruptions.

There are steps I can take to dilute the risk of reloaded ammo producing a KABOOM! Essentially, I am trying to follow Bruce Kelly's rules for developing a ROBUST PROCESS.

As a reloader, we must consider the following failure modes:
  • Improper propellant. Sadly, many propellants have similar names and vastly different burn rates. Example Reloder-5 and Accurate Arms 5. Grabbing AA-5 and using it in a Reloder-5 recipe guarantees a KABOOM!
  • Too much propellant. Cartridges that were designed for black powder are vast compared to the volume of smokeless powder needed. They are vulnerable to double and triple charging. KABOOM!
  • Too little or no propellant. Squib loads can leave a projectile lodged in the barrel. The next round creates a KABOOM!.
  • Substituting projectiles. In general, heavier and harder projectiles create higher pressures for a given powder load. Different projectiles from different manufacturers have different profiles. One bullet might be contacting the rifling while another is comfortably 0.020" away from the rifling.
  • Projectile seated too far back. Projectile can also migrate if insufficiently crimped (called "set-back"). Short, non-bottleneck cartridges are most vulnerable. 9mm Luger, I am looking at you. Reduced volume with full charge of powder can result in KABOOM!
  • Projectile seated too far forward. Projectile engages rifling when chambered and the delicate dance of projectile moving forward as powder combusts is thrown out-of-kilter. Usually results in locked-up action rather than KABOOM!
  • Old propellant. Propellant (smokeless powder) is energy dense. It has buffers added to it to enhance shelf-life but heat, humidity and time gradually use up those buffers. Once the buffers are consumed, the propellant quickly degrades.
  • Wrong primers.
  • Brass too long
Set-up errors
Operator errors

Eliminate gratuitous variation
Start with just one chambering. In today's environment, .223 Rem is the single best starter cartridge. The demand is unlimited and it is forgiving cartridge vis-a-vis the errors listed above.

 Powder errors
If you look at the maximum load, Grs column you will see some numbers with the letter "C" after it. Those are compressed loads and they crunch when you seat the bullet. Compressed loads are somewhat self-limiting on a powder over-load. Source

Pick ONE bulky powder near the slow end of suitable powders, preferably one that is a "compressed load" at the maximum. Don't have keep any other powders in inventory or, at a minimum, don't have any other canisters of powder outside the powder locker.

And here is a novel thought: The starting powder load can probably do everything the shooter needs his rifle to do. Does it cycle the action? Can he shoot it well out to 200 yards? Simple fact, expanding bullets penetrate better when they are going slower. That is not a bad thing.


Single-lot processing
The potential for double powder charges increases a hundred-fold when processing blocks of ammo. The best way to reduce that risk is single-lot processing. 
  1. Pick up one primed case.
  2. Drop the measured powder charge into the case.
  3. Immediately move to the press and seat the bullet.
Single-lot processing slightly armors against interuptions. If interrupted between dropping the powder and seating the bullet, immediately dump the powder back into the hopper. Don't even try to guess where you were in the process. Just do it.

Bullet errors 
Pick one, general-purpose projectile in the middle of the generally accepted range of projectile weights and buy a metric boat-load of them.

For example, you can buy 30 grain .224 projectiles and you can buy 95 grain projectiles. The 5.56mm NATO was released to the civilian market with a few modifications as the .223 Remington. The 5.56mm NATO was designed around the 55 grain bullet. It is still a good weight choice and any .223 Rem rifle or 5.56mm NATO rifle will stabilize and shoot most 55 grain bullets with ease.

Pick a general purpose bullet. 

You can buy extremely frangible 55 grain bullets and you can buy 55 grain target bullets and you can buy 55 grain softpoint bullets that expand, but not explosively. You can kill prairie dogs and starlings with softpoints even if it does not turn them into red mist like the super-frangibles. You can even harvest Whitetail deer if you poke them in the ribs or shoot them between the eyes.

You can shoot holes in paper with softpoints. You might not be able to beat your competitive shooter buddy using special-purpose bullets, but is that why you have an AR?
 
Typically, the rim of the case is crimped into the cannelure which provides additional bullet retention. The cannelure also provides a handy visual reference for bullet seating depth.

Pick a bullet with a cannelure. That is a major reason for reloading  .223 Rem instead of 9mm or 40 S&W. 9mm and .40 bullets don't come with cannelures because the case headspaces on the rim of the case. The cannelure is insurance that the newbie cranking out ammo won't make ammo that is too long, too short or ammo that will set-back under recoil. Not a guarantee, insurance. From a terminal ballistics standpoint, the cannelure mildly restricts the bullet expansion thereby increasing penetration.

Primer errors
Primers make a difference. The two "preferred" primers for AR style rifles are CCI 41 primers and Remington 7-1/2 primers. Or use what your load-book calls for. Pick your primer and buy a thousand or five.

Brass prep
Brass too long: This is where reloading stops being fun. Yanking on a handle is fun and you have a finished round as a reward. Trimming brass is tedious and does not feel like you are actually doing anything.

Here is an idea. Take a pair of verniers and lock them at the maximum allowable case length. Then have the newbie sort the brass. Too long goes in a red bucket and not-too-long goes in a green bucket. Then charge him 3X for the not-too-long.

Testing the set-up
Don't start cranking out production. Load up a few. Cycle them through the intended weapon without firing. If all looks good and the Overall Length is good, then shoot them over a chronograph and see if the velocity is in the expected range.

In closing
Not every cause of KABOOMS was addressed, but I think I hit the high-runners. Reloaders, if you can think of one that I missed, PLEASE make a comment.

No, the newbie will not be an expert reloader when he is done. A reloader sets-up and runs the reloading process. The newbie merely ran the process the way a factory worker runs the equipment on the factory floor.

And while you, the experienced reloader, made most of the critical decisions you still want the newbie to verify that the label on the powder jug matches the powder specified by the load-book. You want the newbie to verify that the brand and weight of the projectile matches the load-book. You want to show the newbie how to visually and/or tactilely inspect the brass, the thrown powder load and the finished round for every round.

Quest: Preparations


Straeder’s name was at the very top of Salazar's short list.

Chernovsky had three minutes of his sales pitch out of his mouth when Straeder said “I am in.”

Sally had been listening in. The apple pie she had been carrying over to the window sill to cool dropped from her suddenly, nerveless fingers.

Steve Straeder said, “I learned a few things from our trip to Howell. For one thing, sleeping in people's houses is dangerous. I need a way to sleep outside. It will take a couple of months. That means some serious shelter.”

Chernovsky said, “The plan is to send a couple of men and have them stick together. Nobody can watch their own back 24/7.”

Steve nodded in agreement. His thinking had not quite caught up to Chernovsky’s. Carrying shelter meant draft animals. Once you committed to animals, adding a second person was not a big step. Furthermore, the problems in Howell happened after the team had split up.

“How far is it to Ames, Iowa?” Straeder asked.

“About 600 miles if you chip the south end of Lake Michigan and head due west” Chernovsky said.

“I am allergic to big cities” Straeder said. “How far is it if I stay fifty miles south of Chicago?”

“I don’t know. I suppose it could add maybe another hundred miles or two to the trip.” Chernovsky guessed.

“If you lead the trip, you plan the route. You tell us what you need to make it successful. We do what we can to supply those needs.” Chernovsky concluded.

*

Shad Shaw had a conversation with Vernon Blastic and his new wife, Pamela. Shad convinced them that this venture was the opportunity of a lifetime. It did not hurt that Shad was Blastic’s largest customers for hay.

Blastic Farms supplied three horses: Joyce, a fifteen year old mare. Lucky, a seven-year-old gelding who was one of Joyce’s offspring. The third horse was a gelding of indeterminate age named Cairo.

To the best of Vernon’s ability to tell, all three animals were easy-keepers with good feet and a fast walking pace. None of the animals were particularly young or photogenic nor were their coloring the least bit unusual. As much as three, rangy horses could be, they were anonymous and unlikely to attract attention.

Vernon suggested that they hitch two and rotate a fresh one in daily and let the one who had been pulling for two days have a break.

*

Kelly was faced with the task of fabricating a robust, lightweight wagon capable of conveying two people through unknown hazards.

He opted to use a 12’ long, aluminum jon-boat for the body of the wagon. Wheels were lifted from dirt-bikes with pneumatic tires, knobby and tough. The cover was rip-stop canvas and an awning was “borrowed” from a camper to extend the covered area when camping.

Kelly also built-in a “rocket stove”. Straeder did not anticipate much cooking. They needed to move fast-and-light. But two months was too long to pack food. They would have to find provisions along the way and there was a high need to cook somewhere along the way.

For his efforts, Kelly had a "share" in the venture.

*

Shad did not see how he could leave the family business. Sending one of his younger siblings was not an option. Shad did have an older brother, Walt, who was one of Chernovsky’s fighters.

Shadrack Shaw went to Chernovsky, hat-in-hand. “I hope I am not out-of-line, but is there any way you can spare Walt to go on this expedition?”

Chernvosky rolled the idea around in his head. Walt was well known to Chernovsky. His nickname was “Preacher” and had been part of Chernovsky’s forces since the very beginning. Losing him would leave a big hole.

The longer Chernovsky thought about it, though, the better the idea looked. Preacher, in spite of his name, was a seasoned fighter who did not hesitate in applying Old Testament solutions when needed. Preacher was also rock-steady and congenitally cheerful and resourceful. As much as Chernovsky would miss him, having him be the other man on the expedition made all the sense in the world.

*

Straeder was not thrilled by the prospect of the trip. The weather in December and January is unpredictable. His plan for the winter had been to take short, looping trading trips and not be gone from home for more than five or six days at a time. It is not good to be far from home when blizzards are likely.

Straeder was impressed by the plan and gear that came together in half-a-week. He was starting to get excited about the trip. It would be an epic test of wits and stamina.

And then it all went sideways.

Sally said “I am coming with you.”

“Don’t you think that is something we discuss?” Steve said. He had no intention of taking a third person, much less Sally.

“There is no discussion needed” Sally said. “I am going.”

“And what if I say no?” Steve asked.

“Then you better move out, right now” Sally said. “If you say ‘no’ then I will burn down this house while you are sleeping. I swear to God I will burn it down with both of us in it.”

Steve stared at Sally. She was as serious as a heart attack.

“This last time, when you did not come home, it ripped the heart out of me” Sally said. “I am not going through that again. If you don’t come back then I don’t come back. We either live or die together.”

Steve’s emotions were at war with his rational-self. His emotions said “No, no, and NO!” There was no way he wanted Sally to face the risks and privation that he would face on the trail.

A small part of Steve’s rational-self said that a third person would slightly increase the mission’s odds of success. One more set of eyes and ears. One more set of hands to do chores. And Sally weighed just an eyelash over 85 pounds. The horses would not notice the extra weight and she ate almost nothing.

Steve said “Absolutely not. Taking an attractive woman on this kind of trip is a recipe for disaster.”

And then he did the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. He turned and walked out the door.

*

Sally went on the trip anyway.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Kubota is Mr Popular this week

Kubota was driving the chase truck when we moved the tractor from Jackson County to Eaton County. I was riding shotgun.

Then, suddenly, at the intersection of M-50 and Vermontville Highway, Kubota's phone blew up with calls.

Sharing a truck with Kubota as he drives and talks on the phone is disconcerting. The calls stacked up on each other.

Listening to Kubota's side of the conversation, I learned the reason for Kubota's sudden popularity.

"Dad, do we have a set of dies for .45 ACP?"

Then, the very next call "Dad do we have dies and components for .223?"

The rest of the ride was like that.

I reload for a very small and very select group of family members. I give the ammo away in small quantities and it is given as gifts.

When I got home, I went to my favorite websites that sell reloading supplies. The cupboards were bare except for a few niche products like .477 bullets made from Minotaur foreskins and depleted Uranium.

I cringe at the liability of giving John Q. 22-year-old home rolled ammo. Another thing is that they burn through it in an easy-come, easy-go manner while an adult can make sixty rounds last fifteen years at three-rounds-a-year to verify function and zero plus fifteen rounds on tap if the dance music actually started

On the other hand, I am not adverse to moving the reloading plank to the picnic table outside, letting the young man pick a recipe from a legitimate handbook and letting him manufacture his own. Then he can see the amount of work and maybe take up reloading as his own hobby.

***Edited to add***
I found most of the parts to put one scale together. I need a 7/16", steel ball bearing to serve as the counterweight. If all goes well, one should be here in a week.

I can also use Lee Perfect Powder Dippers. The chart suggests that the 1.6cc dipper will measure out 24.8 grains of H-335 while the book-max for a 55 grain softpoint is 25.3 grains. Given the variation in volume mass density and burn rates, I may make my own dipper with a discarded .38 Special shaved down to be a little bit less than 1.6cc.

Second update:

1.5cc does not look like it is even close to 24 grains. This is a .223 Rem case cut at the shoulder. My memory, which can be faulty, remembers 24 grains getting close to the bottom of the shoulder.

Time to prep brass and wait for goodies to show up in the mail.

Decoding political language

It is not uncommon for politicians to say one thing but mean another.

It is a code.

There are some "third rails" that must not be approached because even the looniest of voters will call 'Balderdash' and you will not be reelected.

The key is to use language that is meaningful to those people perched on the third-rail but is obscure to the vast majority of the electorate who would oppose the measure.

An example
Why would the Democratic leadership oppose the $1200 helicopter money being proposed to help out-of-work cooks, waitresses, buss boys and others make their rent payments? Helicopter money is the realization of their wildest, leftist dreams.

The un-translated code is "...the bill gives too much to corporations...".

I propose that if translated into everyday English the real reason would read "None of this money goes to illegal aliens."

The point is that helicopter money will go to documented people. That is, those of us who have paid taxes and filed 1040 forms. Those 1040 forms, by the way, are the only source of "number of dependents" information.

Those who don't exist as Social Security Numbers will not get any money.

Anybody want to guess who doesn't have Social Security Numbers? Anybody? Beuller?

That is right. Illegal aliens. They don't have Social Security Numbers because they are not here legally. They don't pay income taxes.

I get that they pay sales taxes. But those are at the point of transaction and there is no record.

So what would the looniest of voters deduce: Illegal aliens broke laws to be here. They don't pay taxes. The Democratic leadership wants to give illegal aliens big money...money we paid as taxes last year...so they will tip several states their way...including Texas, an enormous electoral prize.

Pelosi is holding up relief for millions of tax-paying Americans who are hurting so she can be seen handing it to illegal aliens. That is Russian Roulette. The waitresses who have a percentage of their sales receipts withheld from their pay based on imputed income, that is, tips they might have received, would be particularly angry with Mrs Pelosi if they ever figured that out.


Quest, a Seven Cows sequel: 1.1 East India Company


Steve Straeder chased the wagon south. Pulled by two horses and trailing a third, the lightweight wagon moved an honest 27 miles every six hours. The horses had been chosen for their speedy walk.

Steve’s anger warmed him as he walked, flaring like heat-lightning on the horizon of a hot, summer evening. That, and the fact that his fastest walk was nearly one mile per hour slower than the wagon. He walked until the wagon was a couple hundred yards ahead. Then he caught up by running a quarter-mile.

The original plan had been for the travelers alternate the drag position on-the-hour. Then everything went sideways.

*

Chernovsky visited the Straeders on the third day of Steve’s return. Chernovsky had been very interested...and alarmed over the resurgence in Ebola.

In short order, Chernovsky shared the news with Wilder, Salazar and a few others. They convened a war counsel in the back room of Gabby’s Pub to determine what, if anything could be done.

Both John Wilder and Dr. Samantha Wilder attended the war counsel.

After letting the men wrestle with the fear and the denial for better than an hour, Sam banged her mug on the table.

“I hesitate to mention this, but I was following the development of vaccinations in my last job.” Sam said.

“We all were.” Wade Hawk said, sourly.

“The difference is that you were listening to CNN while I had access to what was really going on.” Samantha said. “CNN watered down the news and, in fact, were not privy to most of the research going on. Heck, the main stream media had proven they could not even do simple division with a calculator. Do you think we were going to tell them about injecting people with Frankenstein DNA?”

“So you are telling me there is a lab with vaccine somewhere?” Hawk demanded.

“No, I am telling you that when things shredded there were labs close enough to a vaccine that there were experimental trials.” Sam said. “The CDC was on its ass so the trials were...well, more casual than pre-Ebola.”

“Don’t do us any good, even if they found a vaccine.” Hawk said dismissively. “Ain’t no factories to make vaccine anyway.”

“You don’t understand. Vaccines are biologicals. If you can brew beer or hatch eggs, you potentially have enough technology to make vaccine.” Sam said.

That piqued everybody’s interest.

“Where was the closest trial that you think was far enough along to be worth visiting?” Shadrack Shaw asked. At just-turned-17 he was by far the youngest person in attendance. He was also a natural-born entrepreneur.

Sam anticipated that question. “Ames, Iowa. There was a team that had injected viral material into bacteria and it expressed on the bacteria’s cell walls.”

Hawk snorted in derision. “Might as well be the moon.”

Shaw pressed. “So the vaccine exists as a strain of bacteria?”

“If, and that is a big if, the modified bacteria still exists and any of the scientists from the team are still alive...it might be possible to use the bacteria for some kind of vaccination.” Dr Sam equivocated.

Hawk had run out of patience. “So you are telling us that there might be a germ that might be a vaccine that might still exist in Iowa...what, 600 miles away.”

“Stop wasting our time. We are barely able to scrape by, much less bop on down to Iowa to chit-chat with your buddies and pick up germ soup.” Hawk said.

The meeting broke up although a few of the participants stayed in the back room at Gabby’s Pub.

Shaw, Chernovsky, both of the Wilders and Salazar stayed. They held a second, smaller private meeting.

John Wilder, Dr Sam’s husband started the conversation by noting that the East India Company was the historical antecedent to the modern corporation. It was created as a way to dilute the risk of ventures exactly like a trip to Iowa in post-Ebola America.

Like Dr. Sam, he had been blessed with time to think about the problem and the outline of a solution had crystallized in his brain.

“How did the East India Company work?” Chernovsky got right down to the basics.

“Investors pooled resources” Wilder said. “A trip to the far East was so lucrative that even if two ventures failed, the third one could be successful and pay for the losses of the previous two AND provide a tidy profit to boot.”

“Before the East India Company developed the concept of shares, two shipping companies would go bankrupt for every one that was successful. There weren’t enough companies to sustain that rate of failure” Wilder said.

“I’m in” Shadrack Shaw said.

Dr Sam looked at John and nodded. “We are in” John said.

“I am spread pretty thin, but I will do what I can” Chernovsky said.

“The question, though, is what does a modern East India Company to Iowa look like?” Salazar said. “I don’t have the kind of money you have, but I can operate as the general partner and put together a plan.”

“You are going to have to hustle. It will be December in a few days” Shaw pointed out the obvious.

“Every plan has a Who, a What, a How, a Where, a Why and a When” Salazar said. “The most important part is the “Who” because they have to be comfortable with the other Ws and the H.”

“Before we break for tonight, I need a short list of possible ‘Who’s” Salazar said.

***Note to my Readers***
 I decided that keeping you entertained was more important than protecting my delicate ego. I launch into this story much like we live life. I don't have a grand outline beyond a few over-arching needs. One situation will naturally avalanche into the next. As the writer, I will be as surprised by events as you are although my surprise will happen one-or-two days before you read the piece.

Given that I will be living hand-to-mouth with this story, and that peak gardening season is approaching, I want you to expect air-bubbles in the story.

We all have our priorities, right?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Buying another man's problems

A M-F 85

The problem with buying used equipment is that you are often buying another man's problem.

What does a rancher sell when drought hits his range?

He sells the brood-stock that lose their calves or lambs. He sells any animal that ever thought about jumping the fence. He sells the ones with bad feet, can't keep weight on, wormy or simply have a bad disposition.

Downsizing can be a good thing. Put rubber beneath your problems and send them down the road. Sell the ones that take money out of your pocket and keep the ones that put twenty-dollar bills into your wallet.

All too often (at least for those of us shopping for used equipment) the same is true for tractors and such.

I bought a tractor today. It is twice as much tractor as I really need. It weighs 5300 pounds and is rated for 60hp on the PTO. It also shares a birthday with me. It will be brush-hogging, pulling boats out of the lake, dragging dead ash logs out of the swamp and dead deer out of the woods.

The man selling the tractor was very clear and up-front about his problem.

He had done some excavation work for the tractor's previous owner. When presented with the bill, the previous owner was about $2500 shy of being able to pay the bill.

I put the equivalent of 120, $20 bills into that excavator's pocket today.

Recycling N-95 masks

One of the local oncology wards is running out of N-95 masks. They are cutting masks out of cloth (to a pattern supplied by the CDC!) for the folks not in direct contact with patients.

I asked my contact if they had ever considered sterilizing the nominally disposable masks by placing them in a refrigerator with an ozone generator running.

Virus is relatively fragile. Ozone is a gas and permeates.

I believe it comes down to a time-concentration-temperature calc.

I volunteered the ERJ ozone generator if they want to give it a try.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Too good to leave buried in the comments

Guest post by Cladosporium:
Note from ERJ: This showed up in the comments section under the post about moving events outside. It is too good to leave buried in comments. Also, comments tend to be first-draft documents. Evaluate the piece for the information and overlook any grammar hiccups (if any).


We are dealing with presumably a virus. If the virus is present you have a ~13.8%* (Worst stat I could find) chance of contacting it and having severe symptoms. To reduce that chance of contracting the virus we are told to wash our hands. This is true...do that, it doesn’t kill the virus, soap makes it so the virus cannot stick to you and gets washed down the drain, remember that.

A sneeze puts microscopic droplets (aerosols) in the air, when the moisture evaporates it can leave a charged particle behind call "drop nuclei" which float around in air, then settle on surfaces. Cover your mouth to limit this.

We are told to limit close contact, also good. Cleanliness is incredibly important, maybe next to godliness. Your shoes bring in an incredible amount of foreign material into your household, leave them in the garage, outside, or in a specific spot, don’t wear them around the house, pretty simple. Work clothes, if they are dirty, take them off outside your living area. Dirty clothes, clean them, don’t let them pile up in your bedroom. Counters and horizontal surfaces, keep them clean, put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or clean them, don’t let them hang around in the sink. These are some of the things you should consider, here’s why.

Have you ever sat near a window and a ray of sunshine beams through and you see all the tiny particulate in the air floating around? Assuming you have, my specialty is analyzing and telling you what you are seeing and what it is composed of. Generally, this stuff flying around is the general wear and tear of your house, clothes, you , others and life in your house, outside stuff coming in your house and so on.

Generally we find cellulose and synthetic fibers (clothes ) lots of skin fragments (you) Mold, danders from pets, combustion products, pollens and so on. We have been breathing this in since the day we were born, it’s normal and our bodies can handle it. If one of these categories becomes overwhelmingly large or a foreign particulate becomes added to the mix, odds increase of a possible reaction and we are all about decreasing them. For example, mold counts go up because a leaky waterline to your fridge and it soaks your drywall in an area you don’t normally look at. You feel different, something is not right, you begin researching on the internet and you conclude you may have a mold problem (sometimes at this point people think you’re crazy) along with a dose of fear many websites thrive on.

Some people panic and are told to move out of their homes and they do. A legal mess usually ensues. A reasonable investigation will find the mold, remove the stuff, clean up, and things go back to normal.

I tell you this because the one thing you cannot do is remove all possibility of contact with particulates but with reasoned thought and actions you can minimize risk. Minimizing airborne dusts can help minimize possible contact.

Change your furnace filters, if you’re especially concerned about indoor air quality get a HEPA air-cleaner at a home project store. You will notice the clarity of your air increase dramatically. These are simple solutions, known to be true, and will help minimize risk and alleviate the fear of the unknowns.

Here in Michigan there are Ad Council billboards telling people to prepare for an emergency and they have been up for years. Folks I have seen in the stores are not panicking, they are prepping rather quickly. I think they look a bit sheepish knowing they should have listened and done this sooner. Good for them. My hope is that this is the beginning of a great awakening. Eyes open and ears hearing.

Jesus said fear not, he also said beware of the scribes. He also said be confident in his word, that is truly the only thing we can be certain is true.

Subsidies increase supply and prices

If there is anything I hate doing more than the taxes, it does not immediately spring to mind.

One advantage of procrastinating and dragging out the agony is that I have time to think and reflect.

Our tax code is very kind to parents of students who are attending college.

Let me rephrase that, the tax code is very kind to the parents of students who are attending "academic" tracks in college. It is significantly less kind to parents of students attending "vocational" tracks in college.

For example, one juicy tax credit applies to students who are attending more than 12 credits per semester. 12 credits on an academic track means the student can attend one class a week and catch the remaining three-or-four sessions on-line.  Or, they can just speed-read the instructor's Powerpoints the night before the test.

The vocational student faces two hurdles. First, much of what he/she is learning does not translate to the on-line pipeline as Medieval French Literature. The other hurdle is that much of the class-time is in the form of labs. Typically, three hours of lab time represents one hour "credit". Imagine a student trying to collect 13 credit hours all in labs. They would have to attend 39 hours of labs and none of them could be done virtually.

And so I ask: Do we need more graduates in Medieval French Literature or do we need more pipefitters, tin-knockers, mechanics and machinists? If we need more people in trades (who will be paying taxes rather than sucking out of the public trough) then we should stop this silly bias against learning-by-doing.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Beef or milk?

The purpose of livestock under austere conditions is to expand the resource-net that humans can cast.

That is different than modern, "efficient" animal husbandry.

Modern husbandry often involves feeding livestock human-quality food to maximize rates of weight gain, egg production or milk production. That results in animal husbandry being a net protein and energy sink...less protein and calories are available for humans.

Consider a pig, an animal much like humans in its food needs. A 240 pound hog (pigs become hogs when they pass 180 pounds of weight) can easily eat as much as four people. If human-quality food is limited, than fattening that one hog deprives (starves) four humans. That is part of what makes the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son so haunting. The prodigal son is feeding hogs human-quality food while he, himself is starving.

There are some ecosystems where hogs make sense. An environment that produces large amounts of acorns, for instance. It is not particularly energy efficient for humans to gather acorns especially when there are other agricultural tasks competing for their time. However, it often makes sense let hogs free-range and fatten on acorns. The key is to time the growth-curve for the majority of the hogs hit peak food consumption so it coincides with acorn drop.

In general, animals that produce milk or eggs are more efficient converters of protein supplying the eggs/milk than slaughtered to supply meat.

Cattle
Cows are ruminants. They have enormous stomachs (four of them!) that ferment cellulose (which humans cannot digest) into short-fatty acids that provide energy. They can eat non-human quality food and turn it into delicious food that is very dense in the nutrients needed by hard-working humans, that is, protein and fat.

Beef
Consider raising cattle for meat.

Let us say, for instance, that you have a mama beef cow. You have an accommodating neighbor who supplies the services of a bull so you don't have to feed one.

Under austere conditions, you are not feeding grain and you decide to go "seasonal" to maximize the availability of grass.

Your cow drops one calf on March 15 of every year and you slaughter that calf on November 15 of the following year as a 1350 steer or 1000 pound cow.

The hanging-weight will be about 700 pounds and the lean, boned meat will be about 550 pounds or about a pound-and-a-half of beef per day assuming you have enough power to run a freezer and can meter it out over the following year. That assumes you will eat the liver, heart and tongue. 550lbs of beef is about 140 pounds of protein.

But what did it take to make that happen? You had to overwinter 1600 pounds of beef-on-the-hoof. You had to have enough hay or stockpiled pasture to provide 4% of body weight of feed a day. That is a very honest bale-and-a-half of small square bales of hay a day or three, 800lb round bales a month.

Another consideration is that you had a 1100 pound mama cow, a 1200lb 18 month old calf and a 500lb 8 month calf grazing on November 1. That is 2800 pounds of cattle on pasture and that really cuts into your ability to "stockpile" pasture.

Milk
In 2010, New Zealand averaged 250 pounds* of milk protein per cow and they do it all on pasture. As a secondary data point, a typical American Holstein that is fed large amounts of human-quality food produces about 750 pounds of protein per year.

For the most part, the New Zealand milk was produced by Jerseys, a smaller (900 pounds) dairy-breed well suited for production of milk on pasture. It should also be noted that New Zealand is blessed with an extremely clement climate and absolutely world-class farmers. The American Holstein weighs about 1400 pounds.

Suppose for the moment that our austere farmer is milking a cow that is 3/4 Holstein and 1/4 any beef breed. In general, beef breeds are better at foraging and the genetic diversity adds hybrid vigor. That is, the cows won't die if you look at them cross-eyed.

Your milk cow might weigh 1200 pounds and produce 60% of what a New Zealand cow produces in a year. I am trying to be realistic and not paint pie-in-the-sky fantasies. You might do much, much better than the 60% number.

Your cow produced 150 pounds of protein (pretty much a wash for the meat cow) and 180 pounds of butterfat and she ate 3/4 as much hay/stockpile through the winter as the beef cow and calf.

And with your milch cow, you have a much greater ability to "stockpile" pasture. Instead of having 2500 pounds of cattle grazing the pasture in September and October, you only have 1200lbs so the grass can take advantage of the autumn rains and get ahead of the animal's consumption.

Stockpiling is where you don't cut-and-dry the grass into hay. You leave it standing and let the cows harvest it. 

An additional consideration is that your milk cow will produce milk from mid-March until mid-October. That is seven months of protein that does not rely on refrigeration. And, if you make cheese, it converts to a form that is available for the rest of the year.

Beef or milk?
Milk production should be the default under austere conditions because it produces the same amount of protein per mama cow on less forage-per-year than beef production. Milk production is also less sensitive to lack of refrigeration especially when paired with cheese production or fermented milk products like yogurt or viili.

It is not a total slam-dunk. Milk is more labor intensive and does not tolerate "vacations".

If conditions are exceptionally dry and forage is scarce, then beef adapts better to "extensive" agriculture.

*Milk solids are approximately 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% lactose.

Spring peepers


The current temperature outside is 58 degrees and the spring peepers are singing.

It is sleeting in Big Rapids and snowing in Petoskey, Michigan and a low of 19 is predicted for tonight.

Welcome to spring.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Work progresses

Before Lee cleaned up.
Pictures added because of the first comment by Uninformed

The close-out around the insert measures 44" wide by 29" high.

One concern is that I have is that the collar for the stove-pipe is only a 1/4 inch high. The corrugated 6" chimney liner came with a funnel-type adapter. Perhaps that is supposed to drop into the hole rather than clamping the liner onto the flange.  I am going to let the mortar set for three days before I start messing around with it.