Sunday, May 31, 2015

A day of rest

Today has been a recovery day. 

Walking out to the road I saw some work that will need to be done in the near future.

I finally have enough potato plants out of the ground to "find" the rows and till between them.

We had 2" of rain on Saturday.  The ground should be dry enough to till by Tuesday afternoon.

Time windows

Gardening teaches us to appreciate time windows. 

Weeds that are crisp and small rooted today will be woody and wiry rooted in two weeks.

Potato plants that are short and petite this week will be too tall and floppy to hill up in three weeks.

Depending on the soil, slope and drainage, I must let the ground dry out before I can till.

One cannot schedule the rain.  So that means I must jump on this next "window" when it comes around.

Its 5 o'clock somewhere

People who buy food at grocery stores lose touch with the seasons.  Our food production system makes all of those vexing details invisible.

I plan my gardening using a portfolio approach.  I like to have a substantial portion of it in vegetables and fruits that have a very wide harvest and storage time horizon.  Potatoes, fall/winter apples, winter squash, cabbage fall into this category.  I like having a smaller portion of the more perishable fruits and vegetables.  Raspberries, apricots, lettuce, tomatoes fall into this category.

There is a pulse within each season.  Late-spring/early-summer's pulse is tilling-planting-tilling-weeding-weeding-weeding......

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Belladonna placed better than her "seed"

God is good!


Individual "States" competitions in Michigan are structured around "Seeds" and "Flights".

Athletes earn their "seed" in the Regional competitions when they qualify for "States".  The athletes with the least promising performance are grouped into the first "flight". The athletes 11-20 are grouped in the second flight, and so on.   In the case of discus there were four flights of 10 athletes each.

Each flight is run as a mini-competition.  The flight is given 15 minutes for warm-up.  This year each athlete made one throw at a time as they ran from the bottom of the flight to the top of the flight.  Then they made another throw.  And then another throw.  The best of the three throws is recorded.  Each flight takes about 45 minutes to transact, 15 minutes of warm-up and 30 minutes of throwing.

After all four flights are thrown, the top 8 athletes were identified and they formed a fifth "flight" regardless of their original "seed" for a shoot-out.  The placing in the competition is based on each athlete's best throw of the day.

Déjà vu all over again.

Belladonna was in the fourth flight by virtue of a pretty good performance in Regionals. 

It started raining while her flight was warming-up. The intensity of the rain picked up.  It was not a monsoon but it was heavy enough so that there was run-off from the gravel access drive.

It was a train wreck for Bella's flight.  Half of the girls were not able to put any of their three throws in bounds.  In general, the disc was slipping out of their hand early.  And the harder they tried to throw the disc the uglier the throw. 

I had to walk away for a little bit.  I hate to see my daughter get hurt.  Part of me still thinks of her as an innocent, three year old girl who trusts in happy endings and the absolute curative power of hugs and ice cream.  I was really struggling with letting her be an adult.  I was dropping back in defensive mode.  I was thinking about minimizing pain.

Belladonn's response was different.  She made the butterflies fly in formation.  She focused on what she needed to do next.

Perhaps by virtue of having experienced this very thing on Tuesday, Belladonna was able to make adjustments and threw one disc that was "in" and was long enough to qualify her for the fifth flight.  That bought her three more throws.  Only two girls from Bella's flight qualified...and Bella was one of them.  All of the girls who were more highly seeded than Bella scrubbed.  It was a very, very ugly thing.

The rain abated during the fifth flight and she was able to get off a couple of throws that were more typical of her ability.  Consequently, she was able to claw her way up a couple of places and ended up "placing" better than her "seed".  That, in my book, is a victory.  Especially under adverse conditions.

Jo McCreery

Jo was the secretary at the High School.  Unbeknownst to anyone, she had an aneurism.  It burst in early March.  She died.  She was 53.

Jo was one of those radiantly, effervescent souls who magically convinced each of the 768 students at Eaton Rapids High School that they were her most favorite student.  Belladonna was no exception.  She fell under Jo's spell.

In some ways Belladonna is like a guy.  She thrives on people giving her "crap".  Jo would tell her, "Bella, you gotta throw good today.  I can't make it to the meet...but you gotta throw good for me."  And Bella would throw just a little harder because Jo told her to.

Bella wanted to throw well because Jo could not be there.  It wasn't about Bella.  It was about honoring Jo.


I am proud of my daughter.

I would be proud of her even if she had been 40th out of 40.  But I am really stoked by her selflessness.  I am impressed by her ability to overcome.  She is like an A-10 Warthog:  she is not the personification of "beauty" in the classic sense.  She is not sleek of line nor airily graceful.  But I cannot imagine a more welcome sight were I pinned down in the mud with a multitude of unfriendlies in the near down-range.

Rough fields? problem.

Rotten weather? problem

Mud? problem

Need another half hour of hang-time? problem

Need five bushels of lead flying down-range and on-target? problem

THAT is my daughter.

The "Parking Meter" function of pricing

---Grumpy old man alert---

Committees planning High School Graduations are in a no-win situation due to the perversity of human nature.

This year Eaton Rapids opted to have "first come, first serve" for seating.  "First come, first serve" is poorly named.  People show up and "reserve" sections of bleachers for their friends and family.

We showed up an hour early and this is what I encountered.  Some family spread multiple bleachers at the mid-court line with blankets to "reserve" them.  Other families used duct tape.

The weather was hot and muggy.  Notice the number of people fanning themselves in this short video clip.  Also, the young lady pinning up her hair immediately in front of the camera.  Everybody was cranky. 

The most aggrevating thing was that people saved seats for friends who did not show up.  Even sadder were the cases when their friends were in the gym and also saving a block of seats for their "posse".  Parents were denied good seats because of the lack of an orderly market.  A finite resource was poorly allocated.

A good economist would not complain.  He would see this as an opportunity.  He would show up when the doors opened with as many blankets as he could carry.  He would "reserve" the prime sections of bleachers and then auction them off.  In effect, the entrepreneur would create an orderly market and would put some money in his pocket at the same time. 

That is, he would would fill a function when "government" failed.  Some folks call these entrepreneurs "scalpers" but they are really resource allocation arbiters.  

I suspect that Mrs ERJ will not let me do this next year.  People get testy when they are denied access to "free stuff" that they assume they are entitled to.  The scalper runs the risk of getting punched in the nose....although even that can be a revenue opportunity.

No win situation

The committee cannot win.  If they place a nominal price on the seating....say five bucks a seat, they will get howls of protests from the entitlement crowd.  And I freely admit that those of us who are retired and on fixed incomes are the loudest howlers.

If they continue with the "first come, first serve" policy they will have pissed off parents and working folks.  Parents are pissed off because they typically juggle the needs of multiple kids and they are not in a position to arrive 90 minutes early...especially when they have small kids.  Working folks are often hard pressed to get out of work, commute home, take a shower and get to the event on time. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Pictures from grafting season

Belladonna commences this evening so this will be a quicky post.

In the order they were grafted.  All pictures taken May 29.

Red Leaf Plum.  Selected because it appears to have viable pollen and produces many plums.  As you can see this is growing at a right, smart clip.
Shenandoah Pear grafted on Birchleaf Pear.
Szego Chestnut.  Tree tube was pulled of and is on ground.
This guy was clinging to the Tee post that was holding up the tree tube.
Mayhaws. This is a southern fruit.  It may have difficulty with flowers freezing due to spring frosts but growers claim that the tree is cold hardy well below zero F. Scion wood is very skinny, almost like match sticks.
Hay #1 Black Walnut.  Paper bag is a "Poor Man's" tree tube.  Bag partially torn open to acclimate emerging shoots to the sun.  Scion wood is stout....almost like grafting broom handles.
Illinois Everbearing Mulberry.  Silvery tape is Parafilm.
None of the persimmons have pushed yet.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

2015 Grafting season is winding down

Szego chestnuts.  Picture from HERE.  If you know anything about chestnuts you know that these are big, honking chestnuts!
I finished grafting the Szego Chestnut scion wood.  Michael Nave, a Chestnut guru who lives in Elverta, California (near Sacramento) claims that Szego is an eager grafter and is not fussy about bonding to a wide variety of rootstock.   I think he is correct.  My grafting success with Szego is as good as my grafting percentage is with apples.

Lucky Pittman claims that grafts knit together from the top down.  It is entirely reasonable to believe that some varieties might store larger amounts of carbohydrates and to callous under less than optimum conditions than other cultivars.  I started following Lucky's advice to use a fairly long scion piece (6 inches or so) on difficult-to-graft species to ensure the top has sufficient resources.  Since I started doing that my percentage of takes took a big jump upwards.  Before listening to Lucky I was trying to squeeze the maximum number of grafts out of my scion wood and my pieces were often 2 inches long or less.

I am also experimenting with some tree tubes that were gifted to me.  Chestnut grafts seem to really like tree tubes.  They are not something I would have bought as they are pretty spendy at almost $3 a piece.   It is warmer in there and the emerging shoot is less exposed to the desiccating  effects of the wind and sun.  I believe that I will be recycling these tree tubes over-and-over.  They become much more cost effective if you can get multiple uses out of them. 

Wuldumar Nature Center.
The trees on the left side of this photo are Persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana).  Somebody planted a persimmon seedling beside their main building about thirty years ago and it formed a thicket.  It was a male persimmon.  That probably worked out because the trees canopy over the handicapper access ramp and fruit would make a slippery mess.

There has been so much personnel turn-over in the last thirty years that they had no clue regarding the species of tree.

I called them up and offered to graft some "Lena" (a female) onto some of the suckers.

The current director thought that was OK.  I was doing it for free and one of their star volunteers is named Lena.  He thought she would get a big kick out of that.

Nature centers can be tricky places to do guerrilla gardening.  Depending on the language in their charter,  cutting a twig the size of a match stick can almost require an act of Congress.  It is my impression that Wuldumar has one of those highly restrictive charters.  As a "tree guy" the place is over-run with junky and invasive species.  I made six grafts and they will probably hang on but they will not thrive until somebody trims the Box Elders that are shading them.  Maybe Lena can nudge those Box Elders.

Black Walnuts

None of the Davidson grafts took.  The Hay #1 grafts are pushing so I doubt it was technique or aftercare.  I think I had dead scion wood.

I have a dilemma.  I can either regraft with my unvalidated "Sparrow" scion wood or I can wait a year and try to get more "Davidson" scion wood.  Most likely I will split the difference.  I will graft until June 1st and then I will hang up my grafting knife until budding season.  However many trees I get by then is how many I will get.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Brigid over at Home On The Range wrote an outstanding blog essay:  If John Wayne Were Here Today

It is worth popping over for the read.

I want to add a little bit to what she wrote.

Why do societies collapse?

Actually, we have a pretty good idea of why certain societies collapsed.

I want to call three books to my reader's attention.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (Professor at UCLA)
Multiple interlacing reasons are given for why societies collapse.  One major theme involves the dynamics of depletion.  Many factors are outside of an individual's control but some are not.  For instance, as individuals we can take steps to ensure that we do not eat our "seed-corn".  Another dynamic is to not become completely dependent on long logistical supply trains delivering "necessities".  We can also strive to maintain lines of communication with neighbors.

Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches and Cannibals and Kings both by Marvin Harris (former Chairman of the Anthropology department at Columbia).  Professor Harris believes that nearly all conflict can be made explicable when viewed through the lens of access to scarce resources, whether the resource is a square meter of tillable ground in Rwanda, an inn in Bosnia or salvage rights for plumbing fittings  in Belfast.  Historically, the keystone resources were protein and fat.  The in-group/out-group dance is all about cutting out enough of the population to ensure that you....the in-group....has access to enough protein and fat to ensure future success in both war and reproduction to fulfill the biological imperative.

Individual responsibility

I own about ten acres.  I select superior garden vegetables and save seed (and seed potatoes).  I have a few acres of woodlot that I manage for poles, stakes, firewood and game.  I like nut producing trees and bushes.  Nuts store well and are nuggets of protein and fat.

As a family, we are very visible to our neighbors. We spend a lot of time outside and we are a mixed-race family which is still rare out here.  I will be judged because I am so visible.

In 2001 a neighbor who I knew casually bent over backward to do me a favor.  I was blown away.

He insisted on telling me why he helped me, "I run a salvage yard and a lot of people look down on me for what I do.  I see you and your wife out walking and you wave to me EVERY TIME.  That might not seem like much to you.  But out here we pay attention to those kinds of things and we remember them."

That stuck with me.

Addendum:  Marvin Harris's message is, in the end, hopeful.  Technology is the process that defines new resources.  Consider coal.  As a rock it makes very poor walls and even poorer chimneys.  Coal was not a resource until somebody redefined coal as a fuel.

Or consider Japan, a nation poor in traditionally defined natural resources.  They learned how to take sand, make  chips with embedded software and then charge premium prices for those devices.  Sand!

The elegant thing about defining technology as the father-of-resources is that every human is born with a brain.  There are no guarantees that technology will keep apace of population and its demands.  But there is hope.

Merchandizing, Part II: Small business report

The University of Michigan ran an experiment to study how people make "hiring" decisions and to assess the effectiveness of those methods.  Their base hypothesis was that more information always resulted in better outcomes.  They used admissions to the U-of-M Graduate school of Psychology as a proxy for the hiring process and they used academic success (GPA, graduation rate) as the proxy for a successful "hire".

Their hypothesis was wrong.

They split the incoming class into three groups.

The first group was admitted solely on the basis of documentation, that is, transcripts and standardized test scores.

The second group was admitted solely on the basis of  four hour interviews with multiple Psychology Professors.

The third group was filtered using both selection criteria.

Their hypothesis was  that the third group would trounce the first two groups and that the second group (interviewed by Psychology Professors) would beat the first group.

In fact, the second and third groups were in a dead-heat and they were both trounced by the first group.

What happened?

While it is easy to dismiss documentation like GPA and standardized test scores, one must remember that both items cover a carefully designed, wide "span" of knowledge.  In the case of the GPA, it typically condenses four years of performance as assessed by approximately 30 instructors over an absolute minimum of 1800 hours of "work".  A four hour interview cannot cover the breadth of knowledge that underpins a solid undergraduate course of study.

Nor is it likely to fairly assess how we handle ourselves when we are struggling with illness, lack of sleep or other distractions.   Nearly everybody looks like a star when their game is "on".  Champions are the ones who turn in a solid performance even when working through a slump.

The dead-heat between the second and third group was more difficult to figure out.

 Humans have very limited "buffer" in our thinking processes.  We tend to solve difficult problems iteratively, like combing knots our of our hair.  Each time we iterate we tend to amplify the graphic information (like face-to-face interviews) and discount the pallid information (like any form of text).

Lets assume we have to comb through the problem 20 times to sort through all of the candidates as we assess them on a criterion-by-criterion basis.  Further, lets assume that we amplify the graphic information by 10% and discount the pallid information by 10%.  After 20 iterations we are left with the ratio of =(110% divided by 90%)^20  If you run that calculation you will find that the graphic information is weighted 55 TIMES (5500%) more than the pallid information.  That is, the pallid information is discounted into irrelevance.

As a merchant...

Most academic literature is oriented toward supporting the decision maker to produce the "best" decision.  The typical advice is to pre-filter all of the candidates on the basis of the pallid information so the decision maker could literally throw a dart and select a suitable "hire".   Then use the interview process to select solely for "chemistry".

As a merchant, we want the customer to choose our products even if they are not the absolute, most mathematically defensible optimum.

As a small business we often find ourselves competing against competitors with greater economies-of-scale,  supply chains that are more robust and a willingness to engage in loss-leader pricing for tactical and strategic reasons.  While those prices provide short-term optimums for the customer it is suicidal for the smaller merchant to attempt to match or beat.  Staying in business involves engaging the customer's emotions before their intellect.

The way to make that happen is to make your offerings more graphic than your competition and to parade those offerings in front of your customer before they start their selection process.

What is graphic?

This is probably best shown with examples.  I will use "seed catalogs" as examples.

This is a picture of....text.  This company is in business in spite of their catalog.  Great customer service.  Great prices.  Weak graphic presentation.

This is a "mug-shot".  This example has great production characteristics.  It shows three dimensionality.  It has vivid colors and sharp lighting and focus.  But it is a noun.  It shows a static subject rather than an active verb.

This is an "implied verb".  The viewer can script a mental story around this picture.  Most importantly, they can easily fit themselves into the narrative of that story.
This is a "fantasy anchor".  This is Holy Grail of images.  It gives the viewer a ready-made story.  It emphasizes relationships.

Lex Wexner

In the mid-1960s Mr Wexner was a successful business man who owned several discount stores in the Columbus, Ohio area.

Like all of the other discount stores of the era, his stores were cavernous barns filled with folding tables.  Clothing was folded and stacked on the tables.  And, like all of his competitors, he knew that the key to selling more product per square foot was to have more product stacked on the tables.

European vacation

He was successful enough that he was able to afford a vacation in Europe.  One day, while walking past a butcher shop he experienced a change-of-plans.  He  stopped walking, turned around and entered the butcher shop.

Lex Wexner is a man who candidly admits that  every person in America has enough clothes in their closets to last a hundred years.  The key to success is " to create a demand to stimulate people to buy."

Mr Wexner had sufficient self awareness to realize that he was not hungry nor had visiting a butcher shop ever been on his itinerary.    Something had, out-of-the-blue, stimulated an instinctive "buy" impulse.

Mr Wexner took many, many pictures of that butcher shop.  Once attuned, he started taking pictures of shops every time he felt even the tremor of a buy impulse.

It turned out that the critical signal at the butcher shop were the strings of sausages and cured hams hanging from the rafters.  Other butcher shops had trays of raw meat nested down in crushed ice.  Compared to the raw meat, those hams and sausages looked like food, which is a little bit amazing since Mr Wexner is Jewish.

Mr Wexner ran an experiment after he arrived back in Ohio.  He took one of his discount outlets and eliminated the folding tables.  He hired a local firm to custom-make racks with spacers that allowed him to evenly space product at approximately 1/6 then product count of a typical clothes storage rack.  He also experimented with racks that displayed the product from different angles so the customer could see the product from several different perspectives. That reduced density allowed the blouses to "poof-out" and look almost as if somebody were modeling them.  The customers could simultaneously see the neckline, the buttons, the hang and the sheen of the fabric.

All of his competitors thought he had gone stark, raving mad.  After all, everybody knew the way to sell more product was to have more product on display.

His customers thought he was a genius.  They could suddenly visualize how that blouse or pair of slacks might look on them.

Mr Wexner's low density displays allowed his customers to put the "I" in the picture.

Mr Wexner blew his competition out of the water.  Not only did he slay them on a sales-per-square foot basis, his carrying costs for merchandise was less than 10% of theirs.

Graphic pictures are images that show your customer the "I" in the pIcture

 Index of Small Business Reports

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Rhetorical question:  If the Federal Reserve and this country's major Investment Banks are doing such a bang-up job, then why aren't counterfeiters lauded as civic heroes?

They both stimulate the economy and they both enrich a very small sub-set of the general population.  From a functional standpoint, is there really any difference between the two?  Why are members of the first group considered honorable members of society and members of the second group considered criminals?

Just asking.

Yard Sale bargains

I picked up a few items at yard sales this weekend.

I bought another potato planter and a roofer's hatched for $5 each.

I also bought a set of cast iron bench ends.

Each slot is sized to accept a 1X3 and the tie-bar at the bottom sets the ends to accept 4' long pieces.
I thought I had cut a fat hog in the posterior when I haggled the guy down to $5.  Today, I am not so sure.

I took Mrs ERJ to one of the local Big Box stores to shop for boards and such.

Kubota is north of 250 pounds and he has the teenager tendency to drop down on furniture.  We decided it would be prudent to go with clear grained oak for the bottom boards ($27) and we went with cedar for the back ($15).

Then, since it is going to be out in the weather we opted for marine grade spar varnish ($15) to seal the wood.  And we opted for brass hardware.  Because of packaging, it was cheaper to buy 25 bolts/nuts/washers ($25).

My $5 bench is rapidly growing in price.  I wonder if I have a future as an F-35 sub-contractor.

Hazelnuts revisited

The NY 398 hazelnuts I grafted are showing signs of life.  I moved the pots to the nursery and sunk them without unpotting the plants.  The pots will not dry out as quickly due to reduced sun loading and I can split them when they go dormant this fall.

Random bug picture

This bug landed at my feet while I was cutting the deer cages to put around the potted hazelnuts.

My Google-fu tells me that  this is an "Eyed Click Beetle", (Alaus oculatus)  It is a big rascal.  He/she is almost an inch-and-a-half (35mm) long, not including antennas.  I was very impressed with his faux eyes.  As always, readers can click on the picture to embiggen.  This insect is listed as a "beneficial" as it eats the larvae of wood borers.

Belladonna update

Bella competed in the Lansing Area Track and Field Honor roll.  She was the second-to-last thrower for discus.  The rain started coming down in buckets when the thrower before her was throwing.  The "pit" is an 8' diameter, 1" sub-flush concrete filled up with water.  She threw two wounded ducks.  Wet discs are slippery.

Her second set of throws went better but were still way short of her norm.

She took her misfortune like a good sport.  She knows that nobody will go to bed hungry due to what happened.  Nobody suffered a compound fracture or a closed-head injury.  She will get to compete again on Saturday at "States".

"At least I did not fall  on my butt!" was her comment.

Out of curiosity, I asked, "What would you have done if you had fallen on your butt while throwing?"

"I probably would have laughed.  Oh, and I would have gotten wet, of course."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pumpkins, Watermelons and Rattlesnakes

Gardeners have an issue with rotating crops.  The ERJ system is to lump vining crops (melons, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers) into one group, cabbage type crops into another group and nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, etc) in another  and so on.

This year the plot closest to the road is scheduled for pumpkins and watermelon.  Both of these crops are magnets for vandals.

One strategy for discouraging vandals is to grow heirloom varieties.


One must grow this large fruited watermelon with the striking pattern on the rind.  It is obvious how it got its name, "Georgia Rattlesnake Melon".  Saving seeds is one way that gardeners can help conserve heirloom varieties.


The ability of this melon to repel vandals and thieves is greatly enhanced by posting ample amounts of the proper signage.

These are not bad kids.  One just needs to learn how to speak their language.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Three Bulls

Three bulls were basking in the sun atop a grassy knoll.  Word came that the farmer was buying a fourth bull.

The old bull, the one with the most cows, said, "He can't have any of my cows.  They are MINE!"

The middle aged bull said, "Well, he certainly can't have any of my cows."

The youngest bull, who had just a few cows, said "He cannot have any of my cows.  I'll fight him.

Several days later...

Several days later a semi tractor-trailer pulled into the barnyard.  It was clearly visible from the knoll.

Horns protruded from the top of the trailer.

The new bull, smelling the cows, bellowed.  The sides of the trailer flexed in-and-out like a trampoline.

The bull kicked and a dent the size of a garbage can lid appeared in the back of the trailer.


The old bull, raptly watching, said "Well, I started going to church and I think the only Christian thing to do is to let him have a few of my cows."

The middle bull said, "I suppose the only neighborly thing to do is to let him have a few of my cows.

They looked over at the young bull.

There comes a time...

And he was snorting and pawing at the ground.

The older bulls were astounded.

"Are you out of your mind?  He will kill you!"

The young bull looked up from his three point stance.  His expression was hard and opaque.

He said, "There comes a time in every bull's life when he must decide if he is a bull or a cow.  That bull may kill me....but he will do it knowing that I am a bull."

Have a blessed Memorial Day.

Foster Kids

Adversity does not build character.
Adversity reveals it.

One of the more entertaining aspects of family reunions is to meet the "Significant Others" of the nephews and nieces.

One of my nephews was cause for despair in the family.  He is edgy and very eager to share his opinions. He wastes little time recoding his opinion into something the listener can synch up to.  Rather, the opinions come across as an "in your face" challenges.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.  He showed up with a girl friend and she looks like a keeper.

Study Abroad Thesis

 She was telling me that the topic of her Study Abroad thesis was to compare and contrast three different countries (Australia, New Zealand and United States) regarding the dynamics of how the legal system interacts with foster children of Indigenous Peoples.

I asked her, "What motivated you to choose that topic?"

She responded, "I was a foster kid."

Adversity does not build character.

Adversity reveals it.

And multiple pulses of adversity amplifies the person's natural inclinations.  We regress to our comfort zone in times of stress.  Each pulse of adversity creates "evidence" that the individual's preferred coping mechanism works.  Multiple reinforcements result in increased intensification.

  • "Rabbits" become more rabbity.
  • "Yellow Jackets" become more aggressive.
  • "Foxes" become more clever.
  • "Possum" become more debased.
  • "Beaver"" and "Honey Bees" become more industrious.

I think she must to the later.  She is holding down two jobs and is carrying a 3.7/4.0 GPA at Michigan State as a Junior.  Four percent of the kids who "age out" of foster care graduate from college.  And she is going to be part of that four percent.

She can handle him

This gal can handle my nephew and they seem to be a good pair!

My nephew is a hard worker.  She is a hard worker.

Neither has any tolerance for whiners, snivelers, lazy people, bullies or victims.

They both have a CPL and both carry.  Every day.  She believes in simplicity and has a single handgun: a Springfield .40 S&W.  My nephew believes that a gentleman ought to have a handgun for each day-of-the-week.....accessorizing makes the gentleman.

She does not take any crap from him.

He better hang on to this one.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lovely Agnes

Our family event is in Luddington, Michigan.  Luddington is a beautiful town founded by Luddites on the shores of Lake Michigan.

"Lovely Agnes" is the song that runs through my head when I drive to Lake Michigan.  This song was written and performed by a semi-local girl, Sally Rogers.  Her voice is crystal clear and very beautiful.

I hope you enjoy this music as much as I do.....this is wonderful stuff to have bouncing around in your head during a three hour drive.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Weekend blogging

Blogging will be off-and-on this weekend.

I am taking Kubota and his buddy Wild Willie "up-north" to a family event.  I will squeeze in blogging as WIFI availability and down-time permits.

The women of the family will be sticking around the house to get ready for graduation and the open house.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Refrigerator Hybrids

I am done grafting the persimmons.  I still have some scion wood in the fridge "just in case" something comes up.  But for all practical purposes I am done.

Refrigerator hybrids

I belong to an organization called NAFEX.  It is the North American Fruit Explorers Association.  They publish a magazine four times a year and have an email list.  Some truly outstanding writers contribute to the NAFEX publications.

One of the authors wowed us with his discovery that the common, kitchen refrigerator can be used for advanced genetic engineering.  He dubbed the creations spawned by this process "refrigerator hybrids."

The only requirement is that the grafter, or the person collecting scion wood for the grafter, harvest two or more varieties of the same species and to store them in the same refrigerator.

Through some mysterious, undocumented mitotic process, the scion wood of the one variety takes on many of the characteristics of the other variety(s).  In fact, it has been known to take on so many of the other variety's characteristics that it is virtually indistinguishable from the second variety even into adulthood.

Home hobby growers

The refrigerators of home hobby growers seem to be the most prolific generators of "refrigerator hybrids".  The author speculated that the cozy spaces of the bottom shelf are more conducive to snuggling than large, commercial refrigerators.

"Refrigerator hybrids" are not a big deal for precocious fruits like peaches and plums, nor Liberty or Golden Delicious apples.  The genetic drift is caught soon enough, while the trees are still short enough, to easily top-work them into the non-refrigerator hybrid cultivar (cultivar = cultivated variety).

Nut trees, however, are an entirely different kettle of fish.  They are usually much slower to come into bearing and mistakes in identification throw a much longer shadow.  More time is invested in the tree.  Top working them to correct the problem usually involves working from a ladder.

The lack of precociousness has another implication.  A collector will likely be collecting scion wood from a tree that has not born nuts....and is therefore unvalidated.

That is why I was top-working some trees with some trepidation.  I cut the scion wood from a tree that has not borne any nuts so there is no verification that "refrigerator hybridization" had not effected this tree..  It is supposed to be a variety called "Sparrow"....unless that funky genetic shift thing happened in the refrigerator.

The top of the ladder leaning against this tree is 16 feet above ground.  The tree is about 2" in diameter at that height.  I wanted to work this tree up high because the trunk is LASER straight for the first 20 feet.
I hoisted my 200 pounds up that ladder and made three grafts.  Grafts are marked with green surveyor's tape.  I topped out the central leader to help push the grafts.
Was I wearing my anti-gravity boots?

Nope.  I had the ladder tied off about half way up.  The rope on the right side is black and the rope on the left side is white (and much thinner).

I plan to do some grafting on some more "whippy" trees later next week.  This was a good test of tying off the ladder.

I sure hope the scion wood I am throwing on those trees really is "Sparrow".  Check with me in four years.  I should know by then.

Merchandizing: small business report

Merchandizing is a challenge for every retailer.

Perhaps the primary challenge is to cut through the clutter and to register in your customer's minds as a viable option for their custom.


This essay explains how customers use information filtering heuristics to manage their lives.  Then it attempts to explain some basic merchandizing tactics to avoid having your message filtered out.  Finally it offers a simple, flexible, medium priced option to implement those tactics.

Information filtering

We are besieged with information.  We are drowning in it.  We develop heuristics, simple rules or behaviors, that help us ignore the trivial information so we can process critical information efficiently enough to function in real-time.

Consider the last time you went on a date with your beloved.

You were sitting in a booth at a popular restaurant and having a pleasant conversation.  Much of what you talked about was inconsequential...sort of a preludes to the critical few items that were on your mind.

What heuristics did you use so you could pay attention to those critical items and not be distracted by the ocean of extraneous information?  The successful merchandizer must be aware of those filters, otherwise the customer will apply them to his/her merchandizing message.


Spatial breaks down into two components:
  1. Cone-of-vision
  2. Focal plane


On our date, we focus around our beloved's face.  That is how we are able to not-attend to the swirling maelstrom in the center of the restaurant.  That is why serious daters like booths.  There is less distraction.

This is the display that is directly behind the cash register at the Eaton Rapids Burger King.

As a retailer, don't queue your customers up to the cash register and expect them to see any menu that is more than 20 degrees away from the customer's line of motion.

There are four displays behind the counter, but 90% of the customers don't read the three that are outside their cone-of-vision.  Some other fast food restaurants deal with this problem by having the customer queue snake around in gentle arcs along the length of the counter.
Savvy used car dealerships solve this problem by locating their lots on the outside of wide, gentle bends of well traveled roads.  As commuters drive down the road, their cone-of-vision slowly sweeps across the dealer's offerings.

Focal plane

On our date, we do not attend to the people sitting behind our beloved even though they are in our cone-of-vision.  We are programmed to ignore items that are closer (flickering candle) and further away than the item (person, in this case) that pinned our attention.

Eric Mergener keeps track of sales on a rack-by-rack basis.  Customers seem to look past rotating racks when they are placed in front of flat, wall mounted displays.

The overwhelmed, overloaded, overtrained American consumer is hopelessly brainwashed to look at flat printed material, flat computer screens and flat information kiosks.  Either go with the flow or be prepared to offer ample cues to the customer to look for 3-D information.

Dynamic information

The Heuristics scholars call this Vivid/Pallid and Salience heuristic.

Customers see what moves.  They notice what changes.  "Different" tweaks their attention....within reason.

You knew when your beloved was going to broach an important topic by the changes in the tone and cadence of their speech and by the changes in their facial expressions and posture.

The used car lot mentioned earlier exploits this heuristic by rearranging their vehicles.  They move a few from the back of the lot to the highly visible area near the road.  They shuffle the vehicles within the row.  They vary the colors.  They vary the size of the vehicles.  They change the aspect of the row of parked vehicles; quartering towards the road, perpendicular and quartering away.

The "within reason" means that any given configuration must be in place long enough to register as "normal".  Otherwise, the car lot simply registers as a swirling pool of chaos and the commuters will ignore it because the dissonance causes psychic pain.

"Within reason" depends on the amount of information embedded within, or busyness of the display.  A workable range is between three "looks" and twenty looks.  Our car dealer would probably schedule the display rearrangement for once-a-week, likely on a Wednesday evening to maximize the contrast between "Before" and "After".

Flat screen TVs

This display is actually a flat screen TV and the information is fed to it from a computer via a video cable.  It is used as a static display but all of the pieces-parts are there to make it dynamic.
At this time (May 21, 2015) a customer can buy a 40" flat screen TV for $230.  Flat screen TVs offer vivid colors and a constant focal plane that is important for customer's easy of viewing.

A slide show tickles that Vivid/Pallid heuristic and helps your customer see your offerings.
The last computer your kid threw out probably had Microsoft Powerpoint loaded onto it.  Microsoft Powerpoint has the ability to produce looping slide shows.  Eaton Rapids High School offers classes in Digital Media and Practical Computing.  If you live in Eaton Rapids, you can contact Erik Smith (Send Message button in upper, left corner) at the High School and he can give you a list of names of students who can help you out.

 A slide show tickles that Vivid/Pallid heuristic and helps your customer see your offerings.


This is two loops through a Powerpoint slide show that displays the four "panes" from the Eaton Rapids Burger King.  Remember, most customers only see the first pane and are unaware of the products/prices shown on the other three panes.

* Each pane is displayed for 20 seconds.  Transitions are "fade" and set to 1.0 second and "Effect Options" is set to "Through Black".

What would I change?

First I would increase the font size.  Whoever specified the font size on this pane was brain dead.  It is not readable on the static display.

Most people who present from Powerpoint slides figure one minute per slide to talk through the content.  Based on the defaults Microsoft programmed into Powerpoint, a slide with a title and no pictures can hold about 70 words and still retain maximum readability.  Most people can read much, much faster than a presenter can talk.

The other things I would change would be to beef up the title.  Customers are able to process the information more quickly and more easily when they are prepped by a descriptive, easy-to-read title.

Finally, I would show fewer items at each look but make the item shown much larger and try to incorporate an "implied dynamic".  For example, the picture of the French Toast sticks shows syrup dripping off the end.  That is an implied dynamic.  Our minds "animate" that kind of picture.

Work arounds

You must have pictures.  Pictures are Vivid and tickle that Vivid/Pallid heuristic.  You must have pictures.  So how do you have excellent pictures and still keep the text readable?

You use time.  Time is your friend.  Don't show them everything at once.

You have many options with a dynamic medium like the slideshow.  Like the used car dealer, you can change the picture you present with the text each time you roll through the loop**.  You can show ONE item each time.  You can change which one item you show each time you loop.  Or you can change the perspective of a single (high profit) item each time through the loop and give the customer multiple looks at it.  You can show the product in the hands of a happy customer.

The owner of the Mesquite Riverbend Junction was one of the best merchandizers I ever met..  He took pictures of happy patrons, especially on Valentine's Day, Prom Night and other landmark occasions.  He asked for, and generally received, permission to use those pictures to advertise.  He used a projection TV to display those pictures on one wall of his restaurant.  He understood that people buy High School yearbooks because their picture is in it.  They came back to his restaurant for the same reason.  He made his customers his stars.

* Parameters for the Powerpoint slide show were given so you can tell that High School student where to start.  Also, you can watch the video and decide if it is too fast or too slow for your products and your customers.  And you can adjust accordingly.

**Powerpoint has the option of continuous looping.  Changing a loop to include a different "look" at a product involves copying the entire loop and swapping in different pictures.  There may be a more efficient way to do it using objects but I don't know how to do it.

Index of Small Business Reports

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


All ideologies or systems will eventually find themselves painted into a corner unless accommodations are made to "relax" the macro rule-set during times of constipation.

From my recliner in zip code 48827, it looks as if the current Administration is sorely in need of "relaxing" of their rule-set on the topic of ISIS.

Cutting to the chase, there are no innocent bystanders in ISIS occupied territory.  ISIS, as a matter of policy, routinely slaughters not just "hostiles", but "neutrals" as well.  By definition....ISIS's definition, there are no non-ISIS, non-combatants in ISIS held territory.  ISIS killed or converted them all.

If we find ourselves sucked into this mess, a mess we could have prevented had politicians not made cheap, grandstand plays, it should be with the understanding that ISIS defined this as total warfare.  There is no such thing as collateral damages or collateral casualties.  There need be no concern for cultural heritage or historical artifacts.  ISIS, with their loutish behavior took those constraints off the table.  They are destroying them more quickly than TNT.

If it is inside ISIS controlled territory and it moves....destroy it.  If it has a heat signature at 4:00 AM local time....destroy it.  If it is a crop....burn it.


Siege has a long history as a military tactic.

Iraq can only grow 20% of the calories needed to sustain its population.  That number will be closer to 7% after they lose access to fertilizer and pesticides.  In the longer run, that number will drop to 2%-to-5% as irrigation equipment fails.

The four horsemen of the Apocalypse ride together for a reason.  A famine where calories are cut by 90% does not mean that 10% survive.  It means that nobody survives.  Very few will go quietly into the night so "some" other anonymous person can live.  Starved bodies are vulnerable to disease and pestilence.  At some point burying the bodies becomes too much work.

The mirror image of the Golden Rule is "Do unto others as they have demonstrated they will do unto us."

ISIS has provided us with ample evidence of what they will do unto us, given the chance.

Don't spend it when you don't have it

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or, do without.


These little, $99, point-and-shoot digital cameras are a marvel.

But they are not without faults.

Based on multiple Monte Carlo simulations, the ERJ consulting group determined that there is a 23% chance that the camera will land on the battery access door when dropped.

This is a photo of the battery door on the official ERJ Blog camera.

This is the second ERJ blogging camera to experience this failure mode.
The polymer used for these cameras is chosen for cost, surface finish, moldability and paintability.  Impact resistance and fracture toughness are pretty far down the list of selection criteria.

This problem would be solved if the "factory" used polycarbonate, high-impact ABS, polyamide or polycarbonate. 

So it was necessary to splint the battery access door.

But what to use for a splint?

You may recognize this.  It came from a beverage can.
After much consideration, the winner was a piece of formed aluminum alloy.

I glued it to the battery access door with Shoe Goo.

I will keep you updated.  If I have to do it again I will try some other adhesive.  Shoe Goo has a very short pot life.

I love it when I can put a $30 (price, used) camera back on the road for the price of a pop-can tab and 2 ml of glue.

Getting Belladonna out the door

Belladonna has "Senioritis".  Increasingly desperate measures have been required to wake her up and get her out the door.

Today, I had to play some inspirational music to roll her out of bed.

I knew it was working when she started singing along.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hazelnuts and pears

The weather turned today.  After five days of temperatures in the mid-70s and low-80s it is back to a more seasonal 58 degrees.  And it is windy.  And it is cloudy.

It is a good day to transplant.

I had outstanding germination on three of the seed-lines that Tom Molnar sent me from Rutgers.

National Arbor Day Foundation #3 and #10 germinated well.  That is not surprising because NADF uses them to produce seedlings for mass distribution. They would have been culled if they were shy germinators.

The other strong germinator was a Russian selection, RUS H3R07P25.  Not only did it come bounding out of the ground but it eagerly produces adventitious roots.  That means it will be easy to propagate by layers and/or cuttings.

Chinese Trazel was an "OK" germinator.  I am still waiting, mostly, for the other seed-lines.

I suspect that the seedlines that did not germinate well, yet, may have needed a longer stratification time.

The vast difference in stratification requirements suggests that one might be able to practice mass selection based on germination rate.  It would be a great convenience to produce vast numbers of hybrid hazelnut seedlings and to be able to cull based on some visible trait from the pollen parent that manifests early in the seedling's development..  Early germination or red leaves are possibilities.

Tying up fruit trees

It is well documented that securing fruit trees to a post hastens fruit bearing.  The presumed mechanism is that wind-whip generates growth regulators that cause the tree to devote more resources, i.e. carbohydrates, to increasing the thickness of the trunk.

Each emerging bud on the tree makes a decision regarding whether to be a fruiting bud or a vegetative bud.  The primary signal for this decision is the Carbohydrate/Nitrogen ratio.  High Carb/Nitrogen ratio tips the bud toward fruiting.  Low Carb/Nitrogen ratio tips bud toward vegetative. 

The carbohydrates that are sunk into the trunk growth become invisible to the bud and increase the likelihood of it "choosing" to be vegetative.

The stem that needs help is on the left side of the picture.  It starts vertically but then the mass of the new shoots and the prevailing winds bent it to the right side of this picture.
It does not take much.  The pole is about 8' long and 2" in diameter at the butt.  In this case, it was a Black Locust sucker culled from a thicket.
This is what it looks like after tied up to the stake.

For the record, this is on a tree that was top-worked with "Tennis Shoe"* pear scion wood donated by frequent commenter "Lucky in Kentucky".  It grew 4' the first year and had no tip die-back.  That is excellent considering the fact that this was another test winter (two-in-a-row!) and "Tennis Shoe" was selected in Harris County, Texas.

*Actual name is Tenousui.


Fruit trees in California.  They are dying from the drought.

The drought in the western United States keeps getting worse. 

The latest news is from Washington State, article HERE.  Many still do not "get it".  Washington State grows the vast majority of "eating" apples (as opposed to "processing" apples).
 A quote from the article

"State agencies are already ramping up work to relieve hardships from water shortages..."

 What can they do? 

According to this article, it takes almost $100,000 an acre to bring an apple orchard into full production.  That is $60,000/acre land cost and an additional $40,000 in inputs.  Oh, and it takes six years before production peaks. 

One conclusion is that fruit will become more expensive and the choices more limited.


Image from HERE

I was talking to one of the owners of a local, commercial orchard about the marketing opportunities the western drought was making for them.  There is very little they can do in the short term to bump up the production of tree fruits like apples and pears because of the amount of time it takes for the trees to mature.

But they plan to plant melons. 

Melons are some of the most delicious, aromatic, luscious, juiciest fruit that God blessed this earth with.

Melons like warmth and sunlight, but otherwise are quite grower friendly.  And most of them will produce within 90 days of planting.  Some of them even sooner.

I think I will be planting some melons in the garden this year.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ladder and rigging work

A twenty-four foot ladder.  Falling from fifteen feet is not on my agenda.

Lots of good stems to graft on once I get up there.

Ladder work is not my favorite thing.  But sometimes it must be done. 

I am top-working this persimmon tree.  It is currently "Morris Burton", a variety named after a pig farmer from Indiana.  He noticed that his pigs raced to a particular tree every time the wind shook it.  He tasted the persimmons and decided they were the best tasting ones he had ever wrapped a lip around.

It is a delicious persimmon.  It is not a very heavy bearer under my conditions and I think I can do better.  This tree got scion wood of "I-115", "K-6", "Szukis" (pronounced "Suitcase" in my mid-Western ignorance).  It may also get some scions from "Lena" before I am done.

I stopped after "Szukis" because I had to tie-off the top of the ladder due to the wind picking up.  That is not much fun.  The other thing about top working trees from a ladder is that the grafter must work from some unorthodox ladder positions.  My thighs are talking to me.

Dog house

The dog house sat on four cinder blocks, one is each corner.  The dogs tunneled beneath the house and undermined two of the blocks,  one in the southwest corner and one in the northeast corner.  I rolled the house off the two remaining blocks so I could work on the foundation.  The house is top-heavy so it was easy to roll.

While I was at it, Mrs ERJ wanted me to do some drainage work.  I ran a drain tile beneath the kennel fence and up to the basin they excavated around the house.

I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to roll the house back into position.  The last time I did this I had Belladonna and Kubota to help me roll it back.  They were in school.  Fortunately, I was able to recruit Mr Tow Strap and Mrs Come-Along.

A quick check was made to ensure the house was rolling and not sliding.  Looking good.

Hmmmm!  Not very square on the blocks but I can drift things around and shim to make everything happy.
That should last them another year.  I threw a bunch of Black Locust cribbing beneath the house as I back-filled their cave.  I hope that slows down their tunneling.

Does anybody know how to block WWII movies on Netflix?  Damned German Shepherds.