Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Union Army as a cultural melting pot

Some historians claim that the American Civil War (1861-1865) was a struggle between the rising industrial North, primarily the industry in the Connecticut River valley, and the rural, agricultural South.

The industrial economy in the North was teetering on the brink of exponential growth, according to these historians.  Further, the North was able to economically strangle the South by legislative legerdemain.  According to this narrative, the North enacted many, protective tariffs which made British goods more expensive and essentially financed the capital expansion of Northern industry at the expense of the Southern economy.

I propose a slightly different perspective of the Civil War's influence on the industrialization of the North.

The Union Army as a cultural melting pot
Let's take a quick look at Michigan's contribution to the Union Army.

Michigan's population was 750,000 in 1860.  Approximately 90,000 soldiers were from Michigan.  Based on a 1840 population of 212,000 and a birthrate of 3% then the ten year "slice" of young men who were native born Michiganders was approximately 32,000 of the 90,000 soldiers.

Where did the other 68,000 soldiers come from?  20% of Michigan's population in 1860 were immigrants from other countries, primarily Ireland.  It is reasonable to assume that they enlisted at the same rates as natives so they probably accounted for an additional 20,000 soldiers.

Most of the remaining soldiers were probably born in New York's Hudson River Valley.  The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 just as much of the fertile soil in the lower Hudson River Valley was "playing out".

The companies that Michigan sent to the Civil War were extremely heterogeneous.

The culture of the Union Army
Much attention has been paid to the long shadow thrown by the Scotch-Irish in the Confederate Army and the resultant influence on "Southern" culture.  Less attention has been paid to how the culture of the Union Army influenced the North.

I propose that the discipline of Army life baselined a generation of young men and prepared them for their future roles in the upcoming Industrial Revolution.

The Union Army was a hierarchy magnitudes larger than any other ever seen in the United States.  As a hierarchy it conditioned those in the army to accept fragmented tasks, unquestioning acceptance of authority and become comfortable with extreme specialization.

The picture of the North teetering on the brink of the industrial revolution only makes sense with the information that only comes from hindsight.  What if the industrial revolution "took off" in the United States because of the Civil War rather than simply being one of the stresses that precipitated it?

Irish, German, French-Canadian, Michigan and New York boys enlisted into Michigan companies.  Men, US citizens, inured to stupidity mustered out.  This is the fodder that caused the industrial revolution to explode across the north...including Michigan; the human capital spawned by the US Civil War.

Why not the south?
It is fair to challenge the perspective because the soldiers of the South faced many of the same environmental factors that the Union soldiers faced, and yet the Industrial Revolution pass the South by for half a century.

Part of the reason is due to the devastation the Northern armies and subsequent occupation had on Southern industrial centers and rail transportation.

Another reason is that the North was more favored with the proximal location of basic resources like iron ore, coal and limestone.

J.E.B. Stuart exemplified the mobile commander who exploited short-lived opportunity.

A softer reason is that Southern military groups were more autonomous.  They were the consummate welterweight boxer darting in-and-out peppering the heavyweight with flurries of jabs.

Casualties: Antietam

The Northern military was the bear seeking to trap the welterweight in the corner where it could immobilize his opponent and pummel him into submission.  The Union army was a meat grinder and brooked little autonomy in its commanders or soldiers.

Footnote of history?
This essay might seem to be little more than a whimsical footnote of history except that we are currently facing similar challenges of assimilation.

It is too cynical to think that the Civil War was initiated to homogenize the population and optimize it for the Industrial Revolution.  People are just not that smart.  But it is not too cynical to think that diplomatic solutions would have hammered out if the participants suspected that the soldiers who would muster out afterward would have poisoned the Industrial Revolution.

It is risky to attempt to describe the "perfect citizen" of 2035 and even more risky to propose homogenizing events that would foster that kind of citizen.  Fun to think about, but risky.

Code for "I wish I had been born in West Virginia"


Presumably, there are fifty-nine places in the Bible where some version of "He who does not work shall not eat." is written.

Slackers are not a new problem.

Debate rules

John Kelly's map of the blog-o-sphere.  If you looked at the connectivity (blog roll connections) you would see there is not much cross over between conservative, liberal and technology.

It is obvious that the blog-o-sphere is heavily larded with rancor and people shouting past each other.
I thought I would post a few "debate rules" and see how blogging scores against them.

•No interrupting!!!
•When it is your turn, you must paraphrase everything you heard the other team said.
•You cannot continue until the other team agrees that you accurately heard what they said.
•Then you must list everything your team mostly agrees with.
•Address the parts you don’t agree with by saying, “…and I could agree with mention part here if present argument here.
•Support your team’s position with authoritative sources.

No interrupting
Blogging is a venue where it is impossible to interrupt.  That might be part of its appeal.  The participant can develop their thoughts without the chimps screaming from the peanut gallery.

Paraphrase what you heard the other team said
Blogging gets a mixed score on this.  Bloggers often create a flawed "strawman" and then knock it down.  It is not so much "what we heard them say" as "a derivative of what they said that will make the most spectacular strawman takedown".

You cannot continue until the other team....
Blogging fails this rule because it is poorly suited for dialog and few people read blogs by the other team.

You must list the things you agree with
This is similar to improvisation's rule of "Yes...and..."  It makes dialog flow like hot maple syrup over fresh pancakes.  You see very little "agreeing" in the blog-o-sphere because writers see it as a waste of pixels. 

Address the parts you don't agree with....
There are a few bright spots on the internet where the authors go beyond wringing their hands and offer practical solutions of substance.  I like to think that the ERJ blog falls into this category every once in a while.

Support your team's position with authoritative sources
Blogging is spotty about using authoritative sources.  Remus at The Woodpile Report sets the standard.  When he stumbles across an interesting essay he researches the internet to find the earliest antecedent.  Sometimes he will unearth versions of the essay that are 9 years old.

The blog-o-sphere is fated to fragment due to the technology's current inability to support near real-time dialog.  Inability to support dialog allows provocateurs to go forward with flawed, invalid strawmen.  Inability to support dialog provides no incentive to think about or list the things we agree about first.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mistakes were made

I have been hunting a pasture that is about 100 yards across.  It is bounded by brush except for where it connects to another paddock.  That connection is about 20' across.

Due to houses in the background, I cannot shoot to the north, southeast or the west.

One of my stands is beneath a spruce tree at the north end of the pasture.

View to the east
View to the south
There I was sitting when a deer sneezed in my right ear.

Because I wanted to not leave a lot of scent in the brush where the deer would be traveling so I walked across the pasture, pushed down the fence and entered that stand from that direction.  It was also much easier walking.
On the fence five yards to the east of my stand.
The deer noticed the pushed down fence and decided that was the easiest way to enter the pasture.  Rather than jump a 52" tall fence they could step over a 28" tall fence.  Surviving in the wild is all about conserving energy.

I did not put my stand in the middle of a deer run.  The act of putting up my deer stand changed the environment (the fence) and enticed the deer to change their travel habits.  My stand, and my travel patterns put a deer run through my deer stand.

This is  classic mistake, to assume that actions on our part will not result in changes of behaviors in others.  A classic example would be the Affordable Care Act defining "full time employment" as 28 hours a week of work or more.    The authors of the bill were completely blindsided when employers simply scheduled their employees for fewer hours to keep them "part time".

This information about deer seeking out low places in the fence can be used to my advantage.  I can pick a spot where it is to my advantage to have the deer enter the pasture and drop the fence at that location.  Or I can install a gate, keep it closed with the cattle are in the paddock but otherwise leave the gate open.  Then, rather than have to step over 28" they can stroll in without having to lift their feet. 

Bonus picture of a doe eating apples out of a GoldRush tree.  Ignore the time and date.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Resilience: A modest proposal

The inside of this cloverleaf has a footprint between ten and fifteen acres.

Mrs ERJ and I drove Southern Belle and Handsome Hombre to the Detroit Airport on Sunday.

We left at two in the afternoon and it was a clear, sunny day.  Usually, it seems like trips to the airport are in the dark or when it is snowing.  But not today.  It was a beautiful, seventy-five mile drive with no drama.

There is a town that is about fifty miles from Eaton Rapids that one must pass through on the way to the airport.  There is a university in that town.  Like most universities, it attracts idealists, seekers, free-thinkers and folks seeking alternative ways of doing things.  That could be code for saying that there are large numbers of able-bodied, unemployed young people in the vicinity.

Another attribute of this town is the price of land.  Vacant land is priced between $100,000 and $150,000 per acre.

As noted earlier in this post, it was a sunny day.  The sun lit up the leaves of the Pyrus calleryanna.  P. calleryanna is almost an evergreen; the leaves turn purply-red-green and hang on late into the fall.  The entire cloverleaf was sprinkled with two and three foot tall P. calleryanna seedlings.  As were the cloverleaves immediately to the east and west.

This should not be a surprise.  P. calleryanna is now considered an invasive alien.  This town has clement weather and much of the commercial landscaping made prodigious use of P. calleryanna.

Ironically, P. calleryanna is a decent rootstock for edible pears.  And therein lies an opportunity.

The modest proposal
The guerrilla gardener in me sees this as an opportunity.

I read some of the articles at the "Resilience" websites and a common theme is local food production.  Another common theme are calls to increase "commons" and to redistribute property.  A third theme is the "growing" of skills.

Here it is!  $1.5 million worth of property three miles from the center of town.
I know that some of the authors of Resilience type essays are not well versed in the Bible, but it is well for them to bear in mind that it forms the bedrock of our shared values in the country.  Consequently, even if you are not a believer it behooves one to know a little bit about it if you seek to convince others.

One of the stories in the Bible involves three stewards who given "talents" to manage while their master was away.  Two of the stewards invested well and increased their master's wealth.  The third steward buried his opportunity and did nothing.  The moral of the story is that much is expected from those to whom much has been given...AND...opportunities lost will cost the actor who could have benefited if only they had the sand to do it.

It begs the question:  "What are idealists doing with the common property that is already available to them?"  There is no better sales pitch than to be able to point at a finished project.

As a guerrilla gardener I look at this $1.5 million piece of property.  It is not protected by traditional, one-owner property rights.  It is close to all of those underemployed idealists.  God already planted hundreds of pear rootstock on the property.  If pears will grow there then so will apples and many other fruit trees.

A secondary benefit of grafting these P. calleryanna seedlings over to edible pears is that the seedlings will not grow to sexual maturity and add to the P. calleryanna population explosion.

A gentleman in Lansing grafting volunteer crabapple seedlings in an underused portion of a Lansing City park.

A few:
  • The people who decided to GG this property either need to know how to graft or be committed to learning.
  • The people who decide to turn this cloverleaf into an urban orchard better plan on mowing it.  That is the only way to keep the Michigan Department of Transportation from mowing down your nascent have to take care of it.
  • Lack of traditional property rights means that ANYBODY can walk in and pick the fruit.  At one level, this is what some of the Resilience people envision.  Others, for all of their pro-Socialism lip-service, understand that people will not work if they do not benefit from the effort.
  • Legal impediments exist.  Police could choose to write citations claiming that gardeners were trespassing on a limited access road.  A little bit of political greasing of the skids would go a long way towards reducing this risk.
If it is such a great idea, why has it not been done?
Maybe because "common property" is not a great idea.  It has been tried and found wanting in many places.

Perhaps because of bureaucratic territorialism.  Many bureaucrats are loath to give up control, even if it costs them nothing.  Some of them see projects like this as a way to increase their reach and budget.

Perhaps doing never occurred to the idealists holding down seats at the local brew-pubs.  The idea of doing without meetings and planning and consensus is not a part of their universe.

Maybe it is a simple lack of basic knowledge.  Maybe they cannot identify three foot tall P. calleryanna seedlings while driving 80 miles an hour down I-94.  Boggles the mind but there might be people who cannot do that.

For my part, I will gladly donate scionwood and time if anybody wanted to graft some of those seedlings next April.  Just leave a comment with contact information and we can get the ball rolling.  This is a quiet "Put-up or shut-up" challenge.  Idealists leaving comments will validate that their values are in alignment with their published desires.  Not capitalizing on the offer suggests that the idealists have other motives, be it territorialism, status, budget or a strong distaste for physical labor.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Some pictures from Salamander's Farm taken early November

This is a gneiss rock.

I schist you not.
The trees in the background are 90% ash.  They have been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer.  In farm country, most trees exist where the ground is too wet to plow or too steep to drive an International M tractor.  In this case it is because the ground is too wet to plow.

The small trees with leaves are Swamp White Oak seedlings that were "released" when light started hitting the forest floor.

As far as wildlife goes, Swamp White Oak is a major plus.
I have been moving persimmon seedlings into these areas and a few of them survived the summer drought.  This is one of them.  My plan is to graft female varieties with known qualities on top of them once they are established.

This persimmon seedling had a seed cluster from a Jack-in-the-Pulpit at its base.
Scattered through the woods were some magnificent puffballs.  The pen is included in the photo for scale.  Young puffballs are said to be edible and the preferred method is to fry them in butter. 

A Cricket Bat Willow that was planted beneath a dead ash tree.  It is doing well as are all of its sisters.

An acorn the deer, turkeys and squirrels missed...for now.

Cone scales and cores.  Evidence of Red Squirrels.

Clover that has been browsed by deer.
Shagbark Hickory husks so think on the ground it looks like it has been paved.
A deer scrape beneath an Autumn Olive.
A Bur Oak that a buck rubbed.  This is a bit unusual.  Bucks around here prefer White Pine, Aspen, Willow, Silver Maple in about that order.  The preferred species share the characteristic that they are flexible and the lower portions of the stems are not twiggy.
Another buck scrape.  This one is under Chinese Chestnut and White Pine.
 A few apples still hanging on.
Same apples but picture taken looking up at the apples.  This is an unnamed seedling.  Based on the taste and their ability to hang when ripe I am pretty sure they are seedlings of Keepsake.
This is what the ground beneath the tree looks like.
Another random seedling.  This one is very sour until November.  And then it is tolerably good eating.  It is a big apple.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sean? Is that you?

This guy looks like Sean, one of the guys who Belladonna hangs with at Grand Valley.

I have been enjoying Black Rifle Coffee videos.  Caution, the "F" word shows up regularly.

The last one reminds me of some people I hunt with.

Watching TV with daughters

From this essay:

Some evenings I sit on the sofa in the family room with my teenage daughter and watch a TV program with her. I leave the choice of the show to her, it matters little to me, and when she finds something she likes she sits next to me, puts her head on my shoulder, and snuggles up for the hour it takes to watch whatever it is she’s chosen.

It’s our time.
This is one of my favorite things to do with Belladonna.

It’s important to me that she knows I love her, that I want to spend time with her and that she feels safe when she is with me. Someday, when she is a grown woman I want her to find a man that will take care of her and protect her like I do. I expect no less from a suitor and neither should she.

Last night Belladonna and I watched Man from Snowy River.    The movie is based on a poem by Banjo Paterson that was first published in 1890.  Just a few lines to give a taste of the writing:

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least -
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, "That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop-lad, you'd better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you."
So he waited sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend -
"I think we ought to let him come," he said;
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred."

The movie moves a bit slowly for modern tastes but I am not "modern".

In a way it is poignant because one of the subplots involves watching daughters grow up, trusting them and releasing them to a young man.  The young man they pick might not be the one you would pick for them.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment was formed by an erosion resistant, dolomite "cap" atop softer, less erosion resistant rock.

The dolomite and associated limestone are compacted coral formed in tropical seas several hundred million years ago.  That was before humans evolved so the warm climate cannot be laid at the feet of human activities.

Presumably, the Niagara Escarpment would be a good place to grow truffles due to the calcium rich soils.

Hiking is both scenic and challenging.  Personally, I would love to hike the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island.

That is either a good sized Northern Pike or a shipwreck


My dad was not feeling great yesterday morning.

Since Friday mornings are when Mrs ERJ and I take mom and dad their meals we were in the driver's seat.

Two of my sisters and one of my sisters-in-law are nurses.  A quick texting conference settled on dehydration as a possible contributor to my dad's symptoms and it was the easiest, firstest thing to address.

Out came the 12 ounce water bottles.  We went with the smaller water bottles because they are easier for my dad to handle and because it gave the nurses more precision in measuring water intake.

Two went on the horizontal surface at the head of his bed.  Six more and a twelve pack of 7UP went into the fridge.

"Dad, I talked with the nurses and they think you might be dehydrated.  The plan is to have you drink from these bottles and for you to leave the empties on the table as you finish them so they can monitor how much you are drinking."  I said.

To my surprise he meekly said, "OK.  I can do that."

It is my impression that we become more susceptible to dehydration as we age and become more sedentary.  Our hunger and thirst signals become weaker.  We don't get hot and are not subjected to the same cues we received when we were more active.  Going to the bathroom becomes more of a chore and we eat and drink less to reduce the number of trips.

One way to combat that is to put out some water bottles and to have a schedule.  "OK, Dad, you need to drink one by nine, another by noon and the last one by four."

The caretaker puts out three bottles and at last check of the day there should be three empties.  The number and size of the bottles will vary, of course depending on the patient and their needs.

Dad perked up later in the day.  I don't know if it was the water or if it was due to the natural rhythm of how he was feeling.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fake News Friday

Following in her mother's footsteps

Mil-Surp price and it comes with a scope

One of the local sporting goods chains is running a Black Friday sale.  I really don't need another gun but the price is unbelievable.  It is half the price tag I saw on 100 year old SMLE centerfire rifles, guns without scopes.

Other firearm news

Mr Pepper's Winchester Model 37 is not firing like it is supposed to.  He is getting very light firing pin strikes.

Mr Pepper bought the gun in 1947 from an onion farmer.  Mr Pepper hoed onions for forty hours in exchange for the firearm.  If Mr Pepper's memory serves, the retail price of the gun was $15.  Over the intervening years he shot 11 bucks and untold numbers of raccoons and possum with it.

It is hard to imagine a simpler mechanism.

The firing pin comes in two variations.  Upon disassembly, we figured out that Mr Pepper's is the newer, i.e. the lower, firing pin.

One anomaly is that the spring compression washer at the back of the pin split so it now looks like a lock washer.  One of the corners of the fractures was riding on the body of the pin and may be the cause of the friction that is bleeding energy.

New pins cost between $40 and $50 depending on where you shop.  Washers are $3 but most of the on-line places have a $10 minimum order.

I suspect that I will be buying Mr Pepper a new, $40 firing pin for his Christmas present.