Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Important Questions (Warning: Political)

The political animus seen in the streets is a tug-of-war between two paradigms.

Much of history can be summed up as a boat sailing into the wind.  First it tacks to the starboard and then to the port.

One paradigm, call it the tack to the port starboard, holds that the whims of the passengers are more important than the orderly function of the lifeboat.  They point to other country's nearly insatiable willingness to provide credit (i.e., buy our bonds) to the US so we can deficit spend.  They point to China and Mexico's willingness to supply us with "stuff" at 25% of what it would cost us to make it domestically.  They see no need to tack to the starboard port.  Why should they change?  We have proof that no matter how much we want it will somehow be gratified.

I believe that this would be a defensible position if I had confidence that this happy state would continue for a thousand years.  But I fear that our "data" is similar to the turkey's proof of the eternal benevolence of the farmer the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The other paradigm, the one that seems to be ascending, holds that the robust function of the lifeboat is  more important than any one person.  For example, you don't want to pull too many more passengers into the boat or it will capsize and everybody will be swimming.   They (I) believe that productive capability is perishable.  It amazes me that we were able to rebound from the Great Depression into the enormous productivity of WWII.  But it also bears repeating that the Great Depression only lasted 12 years.  One would expect 1/3 or 1/4 of the skilled tradesmen and engineers to "tap-out" during that time period.

Others point out that people who are given "stuff" are usually not all that happy.  Their sense of identity is hollow and they have no sense of "value" because there was no sacrifice to attain.
Dreadlocks would be considered "Cultural Appropriation" if Ann Coulter wore them.
Listening to the millennials chatter about being anti-Fascists, the largest attraction seems to be the possibility of fame.  They chirp about somebody who chained themselves to a piece of construction equipment and garnered 20,000 looks.  Somehow they conflate looks-and-likes  with dollars-and-cents.  Maybe I am stupid, but I fail to see how 14,000 "Likes" or having the latest app puts one penny in my checking account.

I can understand their angst.  They just ran up $50,000 of debt earning a degree in Interdisciplinary Video Studies and now they are learning that they won't be given a stipend for producing podcasts about ________fill in the blank.

Dwarf Tossing

Belladonna had a good weekend.

Neither picture is of Bella.
She PRed twice.  Her best throw was 48.26".

I don't see that it will improve her employability unless she wants to be a bouncer in a bar.  She actually considered that for a while.  It was when she was waitressing in a dueling piano bar.  The bar had three bouncers and they were pretty busy on weekends.  And yes, they would sometimes toss (former) patrons into the street just like the old western movies.

Her thinking was that sometimes a girl can talk a fellow out of doing something stupid.  Sometimes not. 

I think she put the idea of being a bouncer on hold...but she still gets a great deal of satisfaction out of tossing dwarfs and the dwarfs do not seem to mind the attention.   I expect she will continue to compete through the end of May.

At least she is not playing rugby.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

387 Growing Degree Days (B42) report

I don't know if it is the tag end of my chest cold or allergies, but I fall asleep when I stop moving.

Mrs ERJ has been picked up the slack.  Belladonna has a bunch of things going on in Allendale (near Grand Rapids, about 90 minutes away).  Mrs ERJ has been the point of the spear while I have been staying home.

"Do you know what your husband is doing when you are in Grand Rapids?"  I can tell you what he is doing.  He is eating sardine-and-onion sandwiches and roto-tilling the garden.

Just because I am not driving doesn't mean I am not working.  It just means I cannot sit down without falling asleep.

While I was outside, I noticed my shoe was untied.  I propped my foot up on the water tank and was tying my shoe when I noticed an unusual shape.

It was necessary for me to call my brother and tell him about my find.  I knew he was out in the woods looking for these rascals.  He asked where I was finding them.  I told him, orchards where apple trees had died and where the sun was hitting the ground.

May God forgive me, but I cannot see what is so special about these mushrooms.  People look at me as if I were handicapped, as if I could not hear any sound over 400 Hz.  "You don't know what you are missing!!!  You have never really heard Beethoven's Ninth Symphony!!!!!"  Well, neither had Beethoven.

The irony is my brother is spending hours and hours looking for them.  I trip over them and leave them to sporulate.

Tilling the garden
I am about two weeks behind schedule.  I like to get the first pass done by the middle of April so I can make a second pass around May first and start planting.
This is the "south" garden.

A couple of "before" photos.  Nettles.  Canadian Thistle.  Quack Grass.
Three hours later

My audience.
Dealing with encroaching raspberries
This is the northwest corner of the "south" garden.  I lost about 10' in front of this barn. 
It is mostly due to the raspberry bushes.  I have a tough decision to make.  Whack back the raspberries and recover the real estate or let the raspberries win.  I like eating raspberries but dislike picking them.

The correct answer is to move a few of the bushes to a more appropriate place and to recover the space.

A pleasant surprise
Mrs ERJ will be pleased.  She is addicted to asparagus and I am her dealer.  It might be an unfair advantage on my part, but homely fellows like me need every bit of help we can muster.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Captain Hardass visits the Assembly Line: Industrial Engineering fiction

Subtitle:  What smartphones tell observers

The new Plant Manager's nickname was "Captain Hardass" and I learned why during his first visit to the Body Shop.

I may have been the first member of "management" in the Body Shop to see him.  He walked into the shop fifteen minutes before the monthly dog-and-pony show.  He walked over to the production line and watched each station for about two minutes (two cycles).  He was watching "Metal Finish" which was six stations long with two operators in each station, one on each side of the line.

He was notable for three reasons.  One was his deep, Brazilian tan. He had just transferred from the Corporate operations in São Paulo. It was February and everybody else in the plant looked like uncooked bread dough. 

The second reason was his crisply starched, brilliant, white shirt.  Nothing stays white in the Body Shop.  Even the fluorescent lamps are dingy.  Paper gets a patina within a week of being exposed.  It is from weld dust, vaporized oils and burning, PVC-based sealer.

The third reason was his shoes.  They were extremely fine, leather, Italian loafers.  

Plant Managers seldom visit the Body Shop.  Body Shops are loud and dirty.  Body Shops are not labor intensive so there is less potential cost savings compared to, say, Final Assembly.  "Body Shop" issues never show up in the top 25 problems.  A happy combination of over-speed and large buffers meant that the Body Shop never impacted throughput.  It was a great place to work if you wanted to be ignored by top Management.  I loved it.

I was invited to the dog-and-pony show. I stood in the back. Raymond was in top form.  Raymond had twenty, densely packed Powerpoint slides and he could drone on-and-on-and-on over each one.  Raymond's voice was not exactly a monotone.  It was more like the buzzing of a blue-bottle fly sniffing out potato salad at a picnic.  His voice rose-and-fell in a random manner that bore no relation to the content. I think a teacher once told him it made presentations more dramatic and it was advice he took to heart.

It was exhausting to listen to Raymond, so nobody did.  We sat there, in the overly warm conference room and went into a state of suspended animation for thirty minutes until the Area Manager (the boss of the Body Shop) would cut Raymond off (usually on his seventh slide) and dismissed the meeting.

That is not how Captain Hardass rolled.

Sixty seconds into the first slide Captain Hardass raised a hand and interrupted:  "Excuse me."

Raymond blinked.  "What?"  He had never been interrupted in the ten years he had been giving this presentation.

"Has anybody in this room used this slide to change the way we do business.  That is, has anybody, in the last month, looked at this slide and used the information to change our process?"

Everybody looked around the room at each other, shaking their head "No."

Captain Hardass said, "Throw that slide in the trash.  Show me the next slide.  Same questions."

Raymond was through all twenty slides in about five minutes.  He was in a cold sweat because he had never had to speak extemporaneously.  He had no need to worry.  It was no longer his meeting.

Captain Hardass said, "If you are not using this stuff to run the business then don't waste my time showing it to me.  It means you are trying to blow smoke up my ass.  We have more important things to talk about."

Jim, the Area Manager (and two levels below Captain Hardass on the org chart) was the model of decorum and graciousness.  "Well boss, what do you want to talk about?"

Captain Hardass said, "Your Metal Finish line has too many people on it.  I will give you two weeks to fix it and then I want the Social Security numbers of the six employees you put out the door."

Jim said, "I don't mean to dispute you but I look at our conversion numbers every week and we are competitive with every other factory in the Corporation."

Captain Hardass replied, "I don't run the Corporation.  I run this Plant.  I will fix this Plant and maybe someday I will run the Corporation.  In case you have been sleeping for the last two decades we have not picked up a single percentage point of market it is not like you are comparing yourself to the best. So don't compare yourself to the Corporation."

I have to hand it to Jim.  Everybody else was sitting in stunned silence.  Jim was the first to regain his wits, "Captain Hardass, you are going to have to teach me.  I just don't see it.  What do you see that we don't see?"

I could see Shane out of the corner of my eye.  Shane was the supervisor of the Metal Finish line and he was starting to bristle.  Nobody likes to be publicly embarrassed and Captain Hardass seemed intent on making an object lesson out of him.  Shane is a big, Irish good-old-boy and his face turns bright red when he is getting close to blowing a cork and his face was flaming red.

Captain Hardass said, "Jim, I am glad you asked.  I watched each station in Metal Finish for two cycles.  The first time I watched a station was when I was one station downline so the operators thought I was watching somebody else.  The operators invariable finished their job ten-to-fifteen seconds early and then went over to play on their smartphone.  Then I watched them while I was in their station and they took the full sixty seconds."

Captain Hardass continued, "Ten of the twelve operators had a smartphone on their table and the phones were running.  That tells me that these jobs are 20%-to-25% underloaded because nobody leaves their phone on when they can only look at it for five or seven seconds.  20% under-loading over 12 jobs means you have two people per shift too many."

"Anytime you see a production line and smartphones together you have evidence of overstaffing.  Guaran-damn-teed.  Whenever we see an operator playing on their smartphone we should thank them for the information and immediately give them more work."

"Any questions?"

Shane could not keep quiet.  "They can have their phones on the line.  They only use them when the line is down!  They were using that time to make secondary checks."

Captain Hardass looked at Shane as if he was a stinkbug caught swimming in his soup. "That tells me one of two things.  Either you never spend time on your line or you are a liar.  Neither one is much of a recommendation."

Shane took it like a shot to the jaw.

The action plan
Captain Hardass laid out our marching orders.  "I will give you a week to rebalance the line (move jobs around) to eliminate the two jobs.  Then I want you to run it that way for a week.  I want you to put stools at the end of Metal Finish and have the two low seniority workers sit on those stools all week long.  Those are the two guys who are going to lose their jobs.  I want everybody on the Metal Finish line to have to look them in the eye for a week, knowing that their unwillingness to do the job-as-written cost them their jobs."

"At the end of the two weeks put the low seniority guys on indeterminate layoff.  Send me an email with their Social Security numbers.  Trust but verify.  That is my motto."

Shane replied, "We cannot do that.  That is not our process.  We just can't move work between teams."

The temperature of the room dropped about thirty degrees.  Captain Hardass said, "Work does not belong to 'teams'.  It belongs to Management.  That is us.  That is me.  We can move the work anywhere if it gives the customer better value or the shareholders more profit.  Not only can we move it, we have a fiduciary responsibility to move it."

"And this sudden concern for process has me baffled.  I assume you are talking about all the secondary checks you used to pad out the work cycle?  The "process" is to improve your quality and then to remove those checks.  Your employees figured out the checks are not needed because they are not doing them and there have been no negative consequences.  Don't try to stand behind 'process' when you are not following it."

"I only require six Social Security numbers.  If you cannot do your job, or if you refuse to do your job then I will be very happy to have your Social Security number be one of the six.  And if I don't need you, then I don't need your counterparts on second and third shift.  Incidentally, it will be YOUR job to tell your counterparts how you screwed the pooch and got them fired.  Your call."

Then he looked around the room.  "And I am not picking on him (pointing at Shane).  I think I would have found the same thing if I had visited any other functional area in this shop.  If I can walk into this shop and see it in fifteen minutes then you sure as hell ought to be able to see it.  Next month, when I come in, I will look around and I won't be nearly so polite next time.  If you won't manage then it is clear that I can run this shop without managers.  Either use the next month to fix your lines or start putting out resumes."

Captain Hardass stood up and left the room.

I understand he was gentle with us compared to how he was in Final Assembly.  There he went off like a hand grenade in a barrel full of frogs.

That is what happens when employees use their smartphones on company least in some places.

Cider Press; sizing calculations

I am going to use the cider press discussed yesterday to introduce readers to some of the fundamentals of industrial engineering and Theory of Constraint.

It is inevitable that some step in any given process will become the metronome that paces the output.  Sometime it is a random station (meaning the industrial engineer did not do their job).  Sometimes it is a malingering worker.  Sometimes is due to an incapable process that requires much rework (painting is an example).  Sometimes it is inspection when defects saturate the repair capacity and the amount of "re-inspection" bogs down the system output.

It is desirable to use some intelligence to select the station that will be the bottleneck.  That way the person sizing the components in the system can configure it to "armor" the bottleneck station.  "Armoring" entails doing everything economically possible to protect the bottleneck's run-time and quality-of-output.

In this case, the most expensive piece of equipment is the centrifuge (washing machine) so it makes sense to configure the system to make this the "bottleneck".  The intelligent solution is to do everything possible to ensure that the centrifuges receives "service" at the expense of all the other stations.

Suppose the engineer (you) assumes a 10 minute spin cycle and 5 minutes to unload-reload.    Further, assume that 9 cubic feet will hold 6 bushels (240 pounds) of crushed apples.  That means that  at a minimum the crusher must be able to shred 240 pounds of apples in 10 minutes.  Since the crusher is inexpensive relative to the centrifuge, it makes sense to buy significantly greater "over-speed" to recover from hiccups.

One possible sequence of operations, starting from when the centrifuge finishes its 10 minutes spin cycle is:
  1. Open lid to centrifuge
  2. Hook rope loops of bag with cherry picker, lift and rotate away from centrifuge.
  3. Slide pre-fill hopper over opening of centrifuge (probably need some kind of roller track, it weighs over 240 pounds.
  4. Drop bag out of pre-fill hopper into centrifuge
  5. Close lid
  6. Start centrifuge  (Does that look like less than five minutes to you?  It does to me)
  7. Push pre-fill hopper back into place
  8. Insert the mesh bag.  You will need two because the first one is still hanging on the hook
  9. Start grinder
  10. Dump spent pomace (crushed apples) out of the used bag.
  11. Shake bag.
  12. Rinse bag
  13. Hang bag on hook near grinder for next cycle.
  14. Load six bushels of apples into the hopper feeding the crusher.
  15. Stand next to centrifuge waiting for it to finish its cycle.  This is the "loafing" position.  Physically it saves walk time (which is dead-time) after the centrifuge finishes cycling.  Psychologically it reinforces the idea that the entire process is "serving" the centrifuge.
So how much cider might this set-up produce an hour?

Using three gallons of cider to the bushel, you would expect 18 gallons of cider per cycle (remember, you are processing six bushels a batch).  At fifteen minutes per cycle you should get 4 * 18 gallons per hour or about 70 gallons of cider an hour. 

Just to illustrate the significance of details like the pre-fill hopper:  The person engineering the system might be tempted eliminate the pre-fill hopper and have the operator load the bag into the centrifuge and have the grinder deposit the shredded apples directly into the centrifuge.  The point is that the centrifuge cannot be spinning when the operator is inserting the bag.  The centrifuge cannot be spinning as the grinder fills the centrifuge's drum.  Realistically, eliminating the pre-fill hopper will add another 10 minutes to the 15 minute cycle time and will lower the output to about 45 gallons per hour.

With this kind of capacity, it might make sense to mount it on a trailer with a gas generator and do custom processing. At 24 bushels to the hour, it would take about 15 hours (two work days) to process the apples from a 100 tree orchard, figuring 3 bushels to the tree.  The cider pressing season is about four months long, mid-September to mid-January.  That would be a lot of cider!

Fake News Friday: Waters for President

Fake News Friday: National Endowment for the Arts to fund Bass Fishing

In a move widely seen as an effort to widen their political base, the Democratic National Committee now wants to partially de-fund PBS, dance and fine arts and support bass fishermen, expectoration artists and country music artists.
Darius Rucker, Country Music Artist
"Clearly" Bernie Gravely stated, "there is such a huge amount of support for Sesame Street and some of the PBS news shows that the enterprise could be self-sustaining if they simply dumped shows aimed at the tiniest niches.  And let's face it, 99% of all Classical Music, Ballet and Fine Arts are Euro-Centric.  We need to set an example and be more diverse, more inclusive."

A coalition of the Less Common Genders (Numbers 5-through-58) met at a local Starbucks and wrote a strongly worded memo criticizing the move.  It is estimated that 85% of America's (and yes, that includes Canada) LCG population was able to crowd into the Starbucks and sign the document.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cider presses

One of the gentlemen who attends the same church I attend has a commercial orchard.  Not only is it a commercial orchard but a significant portion of their profit comes from certified, organically grown fruit.

I asked Steve if he had any advice for anybody who might wish to follow in his footsteps.  His advice was succinct.  "Get a cider press."

He went on to say that even with the best of culture, organic practices will produce a higher percentage of blemished fruit.  A cider press gives the orchardist a marketing channel for those ugly fruit.

Personally, I am a bit skeptical about the taste and nutrition advantage of "organic" foods.  But I will gladly concede that organic cider is head-and-shoulders above conventional cider.  Conventional cider typically routes the small, green, low-sugar fruit from the shaded regions of the canopy into cider.  It also routes the bruised and damaged fruit.  As the programmers say, Garbage in, garbage out.  The organic cider is made primarily from full sized fruit with balanced sugar/acid and fully developed aromatics.  The fruit's only flaw were unsightly blemishes.

Orchards over 20 acres can purchase turn-key cider mills.  They use a continuous process.  Fruit is poured into a grinder.  The grinder places a continuous pile of ground fruit on a coarsely woven, mesh belt.  The belt carries the ridge of ground fruit between two, closely spaced wheels that look almost exactly like the tires on your lawn tractor.  There is a scraper that cleans the de-juiced pulp off the  belt.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Those of us who have smaller operations are not as lucky.  The equipment is about as efficient as the printing press Ben Franklin used.

So, I have a modest proposal.  I will suggest certain pieces of equipment as conceptual thought-starters.

Picture a raised platform.  A cylinder, call it a pre-fill hopper, of approximately 20" diameter and 40" of height sits on the platform.  A bag of coarsely woven mesh lines the hopper.  The bag has a line around the rim.  A fruit grinder (like a garbage disposal) is positioned above the hopper.  The goal it to fill the hopper with ground up apple, pears...whatever.  Provisions are made so juice that drains out of the ground up fruit is collected.

Now picture a 9 cubic feet centrifuge capable of spinning 1000 RPM (340gs!!!).  A cherry picker is positioned nearby to pluck the mesh bag of spent fruit grindings out of the centrifuge.  The pre-fill hopper has no bottom.  Sliding it over the centrifuge will cause the bag to drop into it.

Here is an over-priced version of the 9 cubic feet centrifuge.  The reason this centrifuge is over-priced is because it has many features this application does not require.  It is within the bounds of reason that de-contenting this platform so it was only a 1000 RPM centrifuge might reduce the price to $400. 

The pre-fill hopper is required so the grinder can be operating at the same time as the centrifuge.

I once used a garbage disposal to grind fruit and ran into problems with thermal overloads.  Garbage disposals are not designed for continuous operation.  They do not have "cooling".  It would be necessary to find a 1/2 horse power food-grade grinder rated for continuous duty.

Just wishing I could buy a set-up like this, ready made.

Mystery scion wood

This is Prima/M7.  I put four grafts of Enterprise on it.
I was grafting the last two apple trees for this season.  I was top-working a couple of varieties that have not been "paying their rent".

I reached into my bag of scion wood, pulled out a stick and made my cut.

It did not look right.

A normal apple scion has wood that is yellow-green.  This twig was lavender-lilac.

That was perplexing.  There are red flowered crabapples that have purplish wood.  I cannot understand how I ended up with scion wood from crabapples when I thought I was harvesting it from between two rows of Enterprise.
A photo from Feb 14. Enterprise apples.
I collected the wood from a commercial orchard.  It was hard to find wood that was large enough to collect.  I ended up cutting much of my wood from prunings that were lying on the ground.  It is possible that the orchard manager had planted a crabapple as a "pollinator" tree in the row but it seems unlikely.  He did not have large blocks of any one variety which would require dedicated pollinator trees.

I tossed the twig and picked another out of the bag.  It was the correct color.

It makes me wonder, how much of the wood I was grafting was not Enterprise.  I guess I will find out in about three years.  It always pays to collect wood from trees you have personally fruited out and verified as correct.  It pays to look at what you are doing and rogue out anything that looks strange before you invest three years in growing it.  Oh, and be sure to label the bag.

Furnace and A/C are working!!!

Honeywell R8239 "Fan Center"
I think the guy who installed this in the furnace was colorblind.

Signal comes in the bottom and goes out the top to the fan center in the cable on the left.
From left-to-right, white-stayed-white, red-became-yellow, green-stayed-green, yellow-became-blue, red-stayed-red and blue-became-red.  What a nightmare.  It looks like none of the wiring diagrams on the documentation for the fan center.

But rather than straighten out the world, I just mindlessly wired the new unit exactly like the old one.

Except I did not like the short wires between the bus shown in the bottom photo to the fan center.  while it looks tidy it means that fat, old, nearsighted men have to squat on the ground and do all the wiring inside the device.  It is SO much nicer when you can detach the device and hold it in your lap as you switch it over, one wire at a time.

This looks a lot more cluttered but every jumper is now 24" long.  I did not have blue or yellow wire so I wrapped the ends of white wire with the appropriately colored electrical tape.  I coiled up the extra and used twist ties to hold them.  I will use a cable tie to tidy it up even further, but for now I am basking in the glow of success.
Fan works.  A/C works.  Heating function bypasses the fan center and the fan powers up based on a temperature switch in the heat exchanger.  I think we are good-to-go!

The important questions

Suppose you believed in "Spontaneous Generation":  That is the belief that a pile of rags creates mice.  You would be ridiculed as being stupid and anti-science.  Perhaps that "science" was good enough for Aristotle but as Wikipedia puts it  "Spontaneous generation or anomalous generation is an obsolete body of thought..."  But does acting as if you believe an "obsolete body of thought" make you "stupid"?

Consider Thomas Kuhn's proposition in The Structure of Science Revolutions:  Scientific paradigms change when the new paradigm is better at answering "the day's questions of interest."  Since "the questions of interest" are the questions that are least well answered by the existing paradigm, the new paradigm has an advantage.  It does not need to address questions that everybody already knows the answer to.  Those issues are "handled".

Let's get back to Spontaneous Generation.  Public Health officials and wildlife management scientists understand that you must manage the habitat it you hope to control, or manage, the biologicals.  As the father of every daughter knows, babies come from the combination of hot summer nights, cheap pink wine and Pontiacs with capacious back seats.

"Spontaneous Generation" is not obsolete when the questions revolve around managing populations.  In fact, it is the most robust tool available.  You want to eliminate malaria and yellow fever?  Drain the swamps.  You want to get rid of rabbits and woodchucks?  Get rid of brush piles.  You want to stop an epidemic?  Break the transmission cycle.

"Spontaneous Generation", as a theory, leads to more actionable conclusions than mitosis, meiosis, zygotes, halitosis and "ontogeny is the recapitulation of phylogeny."  So contrary to what Wikipedia claims, Spontaneous Generation is not truly obsolete.

We often find that totally abandoning the old paradigm will initiate failures in systems that were considered foundational, systems that were so well understood that they stopped being "interesting".

Sometimes the issue is that decision makers are bored with the old paradigm.  The old paradigm is still considered valid.  It has not been replaced by another, newer paradigm, but by virtue of being "old" is is considered safe to ignore.  An example of this is the high levels of lead seen in many municipal water systems.  The science of controlling pH and phosphate levels has been known for a long, long time.  The guys who used to run those plants had college degrees in science.  The current crop are notable for their political reliability rather than their understanding of chemistry.

Food safety
One of the cornerstones of safe food is cooking.  Cooking kills bacteria, worms, virus, amoeba, paramecium...  It even destroys some of the toxins that spoilage creates.

The Industrial Revolution put a premium on foods that shipped and stored well.  Those foods typically lacked some of the nutrients needed by humans.  In short order, "eat your vegetables" was heard at the kitchen table.  Then the cult of raw/unpeeled food arose to ensure that the maximum amount of nutrition made it to human stomachs.  This was enabled by the science of the Industrial Revolution, sanitary sewage handling, refrigeration and "chemical" fertilizers.

The pendulum swings.

The world is more crowded.  As the population grows, larger and larger percentages of the gross planetary product goes directly to humans and our surrogates.  Pathogens that used to smolder and then extinguish for lack of suitable hosts now thrive because of the short hop from host-to-host.

A fine example of this is the Rat Lungworm.  According to this article in The Atlantic, RLW is now endemic to the southeastern United States and is relentlessly marching north and west.  RLW is transmitted by the invisible snail-trails found on lettuce, kale, tomatoes...heck, everything that snails and slugs might crawl across.

So the food safety paradigm that used to mandate cooking food, swung to eating raw, unpeeled food and is now likely to swing back to cooking food.

Will be discussed another day as this post is already a bit too long. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another great day to work outside

The high point of the day is that Salamander came out and mowed.

Things are coming back together.  In the beginning there was chaos.  And then, thread-by-thread order is being woven out of the chaos.  The orchard, once again, is starting to look like an orchard.

It has been two long days of physical labor.  I was sitting on a bench on the front porch.  Salamander had finished his chores and he joined me.  He had a bottle of spring water.  I had a PBR.  Salamander was in a reflective mood.

Pride is what gets men out of bed each morning.  It is why we gird our loins and join battle against the forces of darkness and entropy.  A man without pride is not worthy of the air he breaths.

We think we understand our mission.  We train for it.  We gain expertise.  We think we are listening to the orders.

And sometimes the mission changes in mid-stride.  God has a way of getting our attention by hitting us between the eyes with a least those of us who are too dense to pay attention to every shift in the wind.

It is a hard thing.  A very hard thing; to be focused on executint the mission and yet be attentive the stones shifting beneath our feet.

God gives us today.  Sometimes he does not even give us the entire day.  Each of us are but a tumble off a ladder,  a few feet from the path of a driver who is texting,  a clot cleaving from the wall of an artery away from leaving this mortal coil.

But today was as close to heaven as it gets.  It was warm and partially sunny.  It was breezy enough to discourage the flies and mosquitoes.  The trees are blooming.  All of the equipment worked.  The air is filled with promise.

And if you look closely you can see perfection in even the smallest bits of creation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A great day for working outside

It was a great day for working outside.

As reported earlier, I have been spending a lot of time in Salamander's Orchard.  The other half of the operation is on the other side of the road.  There is a cottage, a beach and several outbuildings.  The guy who ramrods the operation on the east side of the road will be known as "Hero".  No sarcasm.  It is simply a name that works for him.

Because the wind was out of the southeast I was able to spray the cattails without the over-spray drifting out into the lake.  I took a pair of beater shoes and waded out into the water so I could spray with the wind.
This is Hardy Hibiscus.  It is a Michigan, wetland native.  It also has 8" flowers!  This variety is called Luna Pink Swirl.  I want to convince Hero to let me plant this where the cattails are encroaching.  The best way to keep something out is to have something already filling that niche.

I also sprayed around the buildings and trees.  I sprayed around the guy-wires at the utility pole.  I sprayed under the fences.

Then I mowed the ditch with my push mower.

I started "armoring" the new apple trees against deer.  A thirty inch piece of 2X4" welded wire makes a cage that is about 10 inches across.

I marked the grafts I top worked some trees to.  This one looks pretty severe, the entire top had died so I whacked it off where the shoots were coming out.

Then I dragged brush and mowed in the western most aisle way.  Dragging brush is starting to lose its appeal.

This is the top of a pear tree.  It is covered with Poison Ivy.  Normally I would cut something this big into two or three pieces but I did not want to cover myself with Poison Ivy sawdust.  Mrs ERJ loses her sense of humor when I give her a rash.  So I tied a rope to it and dragged it out of the orchard and down to the swamp.  Salamander will have to be a little bit careful when he pushes this one in.

Gratuitous wildflower p0rn.
Not a great day for blogging but it feels like a got a lot done.