Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Mrs ERJ bought a new truck

We have been struggling on the transportation side of the business.

The S-10 was red-tagged.  It has no rear brakes and the frame is cracked.

Looking forward along the left frame rail

Looking up at the frame rail.
The frame crack runs from just forward of the rear spring shackle to forward of the rear cab mount.

The S-10 cost $700 a year and a half ago and I put about 15K miles on it.  It does not owe me anything.

The Malibu is up at college with Belladona.  Kubota's truck is in the shop.  Mrs ERJ's van is making ominous, front-wheel bearing kinds of sounds.

So we have three drivers and we are sharing one working vehicle, Mrs ERJ's minivan.


We finished the income taxes earlier this week.  Our refund is very small...enough to buy five bottles of Faygo Redpop.  The key point is that we were expecting to pay $1500 so having the Federal taxes be a wash was a very pleasant surprise.

We decided the best use for the money was to buy another set of wheels.

Mrs ERJ is now the proud owner of a new, 1998 Chevy Pickup truck.  It only has 216K miles on it and it has an automatic transmission and both front and rear brakes work!

A picture of the new truck
I am pretty sure she is going to let me drive it.

Pelosi's Crumbs
Mrs ERJ wants to name the truck Pelosi's Crumbs.

I don't know how much of the $1500 is due to pessimistic math and how much is due to changes to the tax code.

I do know that a local construction worker who had been laid off all winter now has an extra $1350 in his pocket.

And I know that the State of Michigan is going to collect another $81 in sales tax and $120 in licensing fees.

Intermediate Bulk Containers and Custom Pressure-washing rigs

Onondaga and I took a road trip yesterday and picked up my Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs).

It was a beautiful day to be on the road.

Rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurel and blueberries all do better with rain water than with well water.  The rhododendron on the right side of this photo was growing on Trevor's property.
The house where the gentleman was selling the IBCs had impressive landscaping.  He knew we were coming and had two of them staged for us to load.  I pulled the caps, sniffed inside and tasted the "goo" on the bottoms of the caps to ensure they were truly "food-grade".  Yup, sure enough....frosting.  The containers had been used to transport sugar icing.  SWEET deal for $85!

I wagged my puppy-dog tail and asked a few questions.

The gentleman is a young guy named Trevor and he obviously has a lot of hustle.  He buys a wholesale lot every couple of weeks because he has a side business and it was cheaper to buy them wholesale and sell the extras.  They are big sellers at orchards, wineries and maple sap collectors.

I asked him what he used them for...

He uses some of them in the garden.

But the reason he got into the business was because...

...he fabricates custom built power-washing rigs.

This one is still being fabricated.  The small barrels on the right side of the photo feed soap dispensers.

I asked him how much a rig like this cost and he said a two IBCs, two motor/pump, two soap dispenser unit runs between $10K and $12K.  I asked him about the 20% spread and he said he was including the cost of shipping in the spread.  Shipping is expensive and if a customer from the west coast wants to buy one of these rigs then he is willing to build and ship it.

I asked him why all of the redundancy...two of everything.

His reply was that it gives the operators a lot of operational, and pricing, flexibility.  For example, one IBC can carry pre-soaped water and one can carry plain water.  One soap dispenser can carry a bleaching cleaner and the other a wax.  The operator then has the ability to go into a salt-water marina and offer a la cart a freshwater rinse, a soapy pressure wash, a bleach wash to kill mildew and/or a wax job all mix-and-match, all from one trailer.  All for a + price.

Knowing that backing up trailers can be a pain, I asked him if there was a practical limit to the length of the hose.  Ideally, an operator could park at the curb and run hose to the mossy deck behind the house or the pole barn with the mildewed roof out back.

He said they sell many units with double, 200 foot hoses and would gladly sell units with 300 foot hoses if that is what the customer wanted.

I asked about the double hoses. 

Trevor said it was just a matter of economics.  Most businesses run two guys in a pickup truck.  Say the job is to pressure wash a fleet of delivery trucks or to wash and wax a lot full of used cars.  Two guys show up, two hoses means both guys can be working the entire time.

If you want to buy some first class, food grade IBCs or are interested in buying one of Trevor's pressure washing trailers, you can reach him by texting (269) 818-7167 or email.


Side Note:  I asked him why 275 gallon containers were so common around here but you rarely saw the 330 gallon containers.

His reply was that an operator can double-stack the 275 gallon containers and move them with a fork truck inside of a standard semi trailer.  The 330 gallon containers are too tall to do that.  You can move a 275 and a 330 together but then the fork truck operator has to pay attention and you complicated billing, manifests and handling.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ratio of Fire

SLA Marshall estimated that during WWII:

In any given body of American infantry in combat, no more than one-fifth, and generally as few as 15 percent, had ever fired their weapons at an enemy, indeed ever fired their weapons at all.  Source

Marshall's findings have been criticized for its methods.  The military responded by desensitizing recruits to the idea of killing.  Rather than use euphemisms or candy-coat the proposition, trainers used the word "kill".

Ratios of Fire were estimated to be 55% in Korea and  and 90% in Vietnam.  Source

Absent a campaign of "desensitizing" estimates of 10%-to-20% "Ratios of fire" are logically defensible.

Barn foundations and gooseberries

It may not look like much but that is about four hours of work.

Old NFO commented on an earlier post.  He said that the foundation gave him the willies because it looks like rattlesnake heaven.

We only have one kind of rattlesnake in Michigan, the Massasauga rattlesnake.  He is a shy and retiring fellow and not very common.

This is a great time of year for this kind of work.  It is cool.  The highs are in the forties.  Low temps make it easier to wear boots and stout clothing.  Late winter is almost bug free, and that includes yellow jackets and other stinging insects.  Reptiles are torpid and if you see them it is because they are sunning and are extremely visible.

I ran across two gooseberry bushes while working on the barn.
This is a domestic "type" gooseberry with few thorns.

This is a wild type gooseberry.
I will likely take some cuttings off both bushes with the intention of planting them where they might survive as semi-wildlings.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Storing parts to minimize corrosion

U-Line has many sizes of VCI tubing that can be used to custom make bags
I stumbled across Volatile Corrosion Inhibiting bags while looking for blue bags for my tree shelter project.   Some people like using VCI bags for storing springs and delicate mechanical pieces-parts.

Fundamentals of VCI...a cure for insomnia

For those who like to fiddle with things on their own, placing a pad dampened with a drying or semi-drying oil like linseed or soybean oil in a sealed plastic bag with the parts is an effective way to protect them from corrosion.  The vegetable oil scavenges the free oxygen.

The usual caveats about cleaning the parts and lubricating before storing them apply.

Source of table

Not surprisingly, different materials have different rates of oxygen permeability.

To save you some eyestrain:

  • Natural rubber is ten times more permeable to oxygen than Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
  • Low Density Polyethylene is seven times more permeable to oxygen than High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
  • High Density Polyethylene is seven times more permeable to oxygen than unplasticized vinyl
  • Vinyl is ten times more permeable to oxygen than Saran.

Flipped around and restated a different way....A Natural Rubber film will transmit almost 5000 times more oxygen as a Saran film of equal thickness.

When German Shepherds get hungry at night

I never realized that Zeus was left handed.

Lets see:  A package of Ritz crackers, a loaf of bread and a package of pitas.

Maybe I should be feeding him a little bit more.

A note of "Thanks!" to ERJ readers

You are a classy bunch of people.

I appreciate the freedom of being able to float ideas that are not in lock-step with many of the other blogs out there.

I appreciate your willingness to read my blog.  I appreciate your willingness to give the ideas consideration.  I appreciate the well written comments when you disagree.

Thanks for being who you are.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Four Deputies of Broward County

--- Speculation included within---

Medusa is a character from Greek mythology.  Looking at Medusa's face turned the viewer into stone.

I have no special knowledge of the four deputies from Broward County who failed to do their tasks. 

Other who are far more knowledgeable than I am chalked it up to personal failing:  Cowardice.

I want to throw an alternative hypothesis on the table before everybody's attention wanders off to "the next thing":  The decisions made by those four deputies were not wholly formed by defects in their personal character.

The evidence
The evidence is pretty skinny.

How many police are cowards?  My guess is that somewhere between 10% and 30% are extremely adverse toward "mixing it up."  Your estimates might be different.

If you choose the high end, then the odds of the first four officers on the scene being "cowards" is 0.30^4 or about one chance in a hundred.  If the actual base rate is 10% then the odds of are about one chance in ten-thousand.  That is, it would only happen ONCE in ten-thousand school shootings.  Pretty close to impossible, wouldn't you agree?

You might contend that the cowardice was contagious.  But the general effect of having a buddy is to make both people significantly braver. 

My gut feel is that some other dynamics are in play. 

Medusa was a control freak
I have seen several solid managers "lock up" when one of the bosses in the chain-of-command was a control freak.

Control freaks "break" initiative with classical conditioning.  They hand out draconian punishment for chicken-shit infractions.  That has the happy consequence of no-waves when the organization is coasting.

It has the unhappy consequence of completely destroying individuals' ability to operate faster than command-and-control can push instructions.  In other words, it guarantees failures during fast moving crises.

Any After-Action-Report should be on the lookout for control freaks within the department's chain of command.


"I am not going to be on the six o'clock news!!!"

You have to wonder if the withering spotlight that has been on law enforcement might have influenced the messages the rank-and-file received from their leaders.

As leaders, it is too easy to scrape the blame off on the individual officers, to call them "cowards".

As leaders, it is our responsibility to shape the culture so even "cowards" can turn in a credible job performance regardless of how it might play out on the evening news or get batted about on the blog-o-sphere.

There will be another school shooting
There will be another school shooting sometime in the future.

Failures are opportunities to learn.  It would be criminal if the Broward County Sheriff Department did not take a LONG, HARD look at itself and root out any mixed messages it has been sending about acting decisively during crises.

It would be criminal if the Department did not share those lessons-learned across the broader Law Enforcement community.

That would be brave:  To openly admit past failings with the goal of making everybody stronger.

Maybe the next shooting will end more quickly.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sometimes five shots are not enough

Don't mess with Oklahoma women.

Security video

The bad guy drove himself to the hospital.  He is expected to survive.

I wonder if a Glock 19 and hollow points would have made a difference.  Yeah, I know the goblin took the gun from the woman and tried to use it.  But the reason she stopped shooting him is because the gun was empty.

Some pictures from the orchard

I have been pruning in the orchard.  It is inevitable that trees grow too much "wood" high in the tree.  The fruit is prime fruit because the leaves feeding that fruit gets first crack at the sunlight.  As a fruit grower, that puts my best fruit where it is hardest to pick.  The picker needs a ladder and must fight his way through the lower branches.  He picks slowly because it is one-handed picking.

The answer is to take the big wood out of the top thereby exposing the lower branches to prime sunlight.

I left a mess on the orchard floor.

Tree shelters

Tree shelters or tree tubes protect newly planted trees from drying out and getting chewed on by deer and rabbits.  Unfortunately, they are a bit pricey.

I am playing around with using blue "recycling" bags.  I already cage the trees with a 10" diameter cage of 2"-by-4" welded wire fencing.

This is what it looks like from the side.  This is a 30 gallon bag and measures 30" wide (laid flat) and 36" tall.  The thing that looks like a white ruler is an identification label.

Looking down the opening.  The bags cost about 40 cents each although I think you could find them for half that price if you shopped around.
This is a Porcelain type garlic that is just popping up.  It is way behind the variety shown below.
This patch of garlic was written up in this post.  I think this variety is "Montana Giant" and believe it is a Rocambole type.
Clean-up project
An old barn foundation

Friday, February 23, 2018

Ghost Guns

Before you call BS on the strength of nodular iron, you might want to check out ASTM A897.

ASTM A897 is not a chemistry spec, it is a set of mechanical properties that can be wrung out of common nodular iron (like crankshafts and steering knuckles) via heat treatment.

Basically, heat to 1800 F and hold for an hour.  Dump into 700 degree molten salt bath (50% potassium nitrate and 50% sodium nitrite works) and hold for 20 minutes.  Then air cool.

Scrooge McDuck

David Dreman, an author of books on contrarian investing, claimed that a Scrooge McDuck segment formed his beliefs about wealth.

Scrooge McDuck is awakened by his three, mischievous nephews (Huey, Dewey and Louie) with the fake-news that gold, silver and currency no longer have value...that the new "money" is fish.  Having no fish, Scrooge is a pauper.

By nightfall Scrooge McDuck owns every fish in town.  The same focus, industry, social connections and negotiating skills that made him successful when precious metals were "money" made him successful when the rules changed.


Wealth distribution and job quotas
That is why wealth distribution and job quotas fail.  Wealth is not the medium of exchange.  Wealth is the ability to focus, the willingness to work, the cultivation and nourishing of social connections and the willingness to be your own advocate.  That is, wealth is a portfolio of character traits.

Of course, this is also why "revolutions" that advocate the massive transfer of assets and punishing of the successful are destined to fail.  The advocates see revolution as a shortcut to wealth.  History suggests there are few shortcuts to developing the character that is true wealth.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Texting emoticon

My niece is a gem of a human being.

She is cultured, refined, empathetic and urbane.  She is almost a different species.

So I was surprised when she signed an email with an emoticon that was unfamiliar to me:


I asked her if she was channeling her inner-redneck. 

I was sure it meant:

She informed me that <3 is a heart.

Really, I did not have a clue.

Rootstock for Honeycrisp apples

Honeycrisp is a very difficult apple to grow.  One of  the most vexing things about Honeycrisp is its vulnerability to Calcium deficiencies in the fruit.

Calcium transport within the apple tree is a matter of wing-of-bat and eye-of-newt.  There are root/soil interactions.  There are rootstock/cultivar interactions.  There are leaf/twig interactions.  And then there are interactions between other nutrients and Calcium; notably Potassium competing with Calcium.

Another thing that is vexing about Calcium deficiencies is that the fruit can go into storage looking beautiful and the fruit can break down even though refrigerated. More than one grower has signed a contract to deliver fruit that was in his cooler only to discover that he did not have a salable product to ship as he pulled the bins out to put them on the truck.

There is a lot of research going into breeding rootstocks that are specifically tuned to deliver much Calcium to the fruit.  One of the things scientists discovered is that there is a large amount of variation within existing, commercially available rootstocks.
Ironically, most Honeycrisp is probably planted on M9 rootstock...the worst choice for Calcium levels in Honeycrisp
Looking at this table, G.214 and G.969 look like good choices for Honeycrisp apples.

Commercial growers will keep spraying with Calcium supplements for additional insurance.  But choosing the right rootstocks is going to be critical to home growers.


I was told that I misread the reason that revolutionaries executed society's elite.

The reason, I was told, is that revolutionaries believe that the elites have divided loyalties.  They believe that the elites benefited from the previous status quo so the elites can never be completely loyal.  Absolute loyalty and unblinking obedience to orders are the only qualities valued by totalitarians.

Elites include:
  • Celebrities
  • Wealthy people
  • Politicians
  • Industrial managers
  • Professionals like doctors and lawyers
  • Writers, media and opinion shapers

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sophie's Choice

Sophie's Choice is a movie released in 1982 and went a  long way toward cementing Meryl Streep's reputation as an actress with a wide range of ability.

The following is extracted from the screen play.  Changes were made to improve the readability:

"My father was a Professor of Law at the University of Krakow.  He believed in that human perfection was a possibility.  I was married to a disciple of my father."

"My father was working for weeks on the speech he called: 
"Poland's Jewish Problem"

"Ordinarily I typed those speeches and I didn't hear the words, their meaning, but this time I came upon a word that I have never heard before."

" 'The solution to Poland's Jewish Problem' he concluded 'was vernichtung'. Extermination."

"One day I was at Mass and I had a premonition.  I ran out of the church and went to the University.  The gate was locked.  There were many Germans there and I saw the professors.  They were being loaded into a truck and this one part of the canvas cover had moved away and I saw my father's face and the face of my husband behind him."

"The Nazi pulled away and I never saw those faces again.  They took them to Sachsenhausen and shot them the next day."

"Later, I was arrested.  My children were sent with me to Auschwitz."

This is historically accurate.  Intellectuals were among the first groups exterminated by both the Nazi and the Bolsheviks.  Both groups saw intellectuals as competition and as nuclei for future opposition.  Sophie's father and husband were both summarily executed even though they were in agreement with Nazi objectives.

This movie should be required watching for college students who are enchanted with Socialism, Totalitarianism and who think they will be allowed to "run the show" in the new world order.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Road trip

Apologies for the late posts today.

I went on a road trip with Onondaga.
IBC: Intermediate, Bulk Container.  275 gallons

We went to Bob's Gun Shop in Hastings.  We poked around Middleville  looking, unsuccessfully, for used, food-grade IBCs.  Then to Grand Rapids to look at vehicles at a repo lot.

Then Onondaga wanted to eat at one of his favorite restaurants "just a little ways up M-37".  The restaurant was in Clare, Michigan.

Then we drove back downstate.

Elapsed time: eight hours.

After that I had a couple of naps to catch up on.

Still raining

Eaton Rapids is just below Lansing at the north edge of the red, 6" region.
Six inches of rain in the last twenty-four hours and it is still raining.

The rain melted all of our snow, which probably amounted to another couple of inches worth of water.

The cricks are full and still rising.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Etymology of the word "frick"


Clearing Blackberry scrub

Before.  A tangle of thorny blackberries.  This plot consists of Illini Hardy thorny and Triple Crown not-thorny.

After.  We left the thornless ones and a persimmon tree.  I plan to plant some chestnut trees in this strip over the next few years.

Kubota and I shed clothes as we worked.  We got warm. These "Tee" posts were well placed to act as coat racks.
There were two jobs:  Cutter and Stuffer.  Kubota liked cutting better than stuffing which was fine by me.  Chippers can be dangerous if your attention wanders.  Both of us ended up with dozens of scratches and thorn pokes.

Pit Bulls

This morning I learned that one of our sometimes coffee drinking guys had been chewed up by a pit bull.

Ralph works as a framing carpenter and business is slow now.  He was on the front porch enjoying a cigarette when he heard a woman screaming.  He was wearing flip-flops.  They were found in the yard.

He placed himself between the woman and the dog.  At some point he flung his cell phone at the dog and it butt-dialed.

The pit bull ripped the meat off both of his forearms.  Tendons and nerves were severed.  He lost the use of two of his fingers.  The guys were not sure if they were bitten off, amputated or due to nerve damage.

It seems likely that Ralph will never be able to throw hammers at nails for a livelihood.

The woman suffered broken bones and a severely lacerated scalp and face.

Black Locust Inventory

A list of numbers rarely tells a compelling story.

Professional foresters use sampling techniques to estimate the age and species composition of forests.

My "forest" is small enough that I can take a census.  Accurate measurement is the first step toward being able to manage anything.

Accurate is a relative term.  You don't use a micrometer to measure a pile of manure.  You don't use a yardstick to measure turbine blades. I used a cloth measuring tape to measure the circumference of the trees at approximately chest height.  I rounded down to the nearest inch and tried to not measure anything less than three inches in diameter.

Circumference of stem on horizontal axis broken into "cohorts" binned by 5" increments.  Blue line is the number of stems in each cohort.  The red line is an estimate of the cubic feet of wood in each cohort. 

Based on these measurements, the greatest amount of wood, by volume, is in the first flush of suckers that arose around the mother trees.  The volume was crudely estimated by multiplying the cross-section at 48" by twenty feet.  Twenty feet was chosen as that is the height where most of the stems bushed-out.  Clearly,  more wood could be collected from the larger trees if more effort were expended.

The largest number of stems is in the smallest circumference recorded which is not surprising.  Then there is a large step down and then fairly linear decrease in each cohort.  The reason that there is a large step down at the start is that the 3.5"-to-5" diameter is ideal for posts and suitable for burning without splitting.

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) posts make outstanding fence posts due to the rot resistance of the heartwood.  The tree also fixes nitrogen and the flowers are a prime nectar source for bees.  Other than that, the tree is weedy---it suckers, thrives in poor soils, is thorny and is difficult to eradicate--- and usually displays poor "form".  I consider Black Locust to be one of my social peers.

Factoid of the day
The heartwood of Black Locust fluoresces under ultraviolet light.

And here is a short monograph on Black Locust lumber and its properties.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fake news is not new

Thou shall not bear false witness  Exodus circa 1500 BC
Why would there be a commandment against this activity unless it were a problem?

If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness...  Isaiah circa 800 BC
Still a problem seven hundred years later

...ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. 

Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna.  

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water?  James circa 100 AD

Still a problem after Christ.

My guess is that "Fake News" is part of the human condition.

Orchard notes for 2018 growing season

This is a histogram of when I expect the fruit on my apple and pear trees to ripen.  Each count is a tree.

This is a good time of year to take inventories for the upcoming growing season.

This is an approximate inventory of the "serious" orchard south of the old barn:

15 Quince: asst cultivars
5 Enterprise apples
5 Shenandoah pears
3 Chojuro Asian pears
3 Liberty apples
3 Goldrush apples
3 Novaspy apples
3 Crimson Crisp apples
2 Korean Giant Asian pears
1 Shinko Asian pear
1 NY 65707-19
1 Spigold apple
1 Winecrisp apple
1 Jonafree apple
1 Keepsake seedling apple
1 Schlarbaum chestnut

The entries that are shaded are changes for 2018.  I am flipping one pear from Atlantic Queen to Chojuro and grafting a couple of apples to Spigold and an obsolete variety called NY 65707-19.

I made a conscious decision to bias toward later ripening varieties so I can store them in a root cellar or even the garage.  That gives me a great deal more operational flexibility.  Later ripening fruit tend to hang on the tree without degrading, unlike fruit that ripens when the weather is warmer.  That gives me a longer picking window.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Feet.  You can click on the pictures to embiggen.
The temperature dropped from mid 40s to mid-20s yesterday.   Zeus looked like he was covered with rock candy when he came in.  He must have been carrying ten pounds of icicles on his belly.  He did not seem the least bit uncomfortable, a testament to the insulating ability of a German Shepherd's fur.

Belladonna gave him a bath before he melted.