Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hybrid Poplar

You can click on any picture to embiggen. This is the northeast corner of the planting discussed below with the photo taken from the north, looking south.
I am fortunate to live about twenty-five miles from a test planting of hybrid poplar.

The topic of hybrid poplar is divisive among tree people. It is a niche product. It is very, very good at what it is good at but fickle about everything else.

Think of it as a high performance, 2-stroke motorcycle engine. Give it anything less than the best gas and best synthetic oil and the performance suffers. Let the RPM drop below 7000 RPM and you would be better off with a bone-stock Honda.

The test planting has sixteen clones or cultivars in five replicates.

Some of the replicates are easy to pick out.

The darker spots are where a tree died and you see the shadow of the tree to the left. The areas of highest mortality seem to be streaky. "No Trespassing" signs are posted and I did not walk the planting. Those could be ridges. Those could be low areas.
Looking along one edge in early August you will see very large differences in the leaves of the different clones. Some clones are sparsely leaved and let dappled sun hit the forest floor. Other are very densely leaved and catch every ray.

I was intrigued by all the little whisker branches on this clone. If that mechanism could be identified and transferred to fruit trees it would be very useful for size control.

Why it is useful to have a test plot in your back yard

One of the pages from a paper written on hybrid poplar production in Michigan.
One of the conclusions was a little bit surprising. The interactions between genetics and environment is almost twice as large as the pure genetics component.

That suggests that selecting a clone based on the performance in a nearby state might be misleading. After all, that conclusion was drawn based on the variation between sites within ONE state, Michigan.

Reasonable expectations for yield
The benchmark clone, NM-6 (A cross between Poplulus nigra and Populus maximowiczii) produced 29,000 pounds of dry matter per acre over a five year rotation in Albion, Michigan. Annualized, that is just a skosh less than 6000 lbs dry matter per acre. That is the equivalent of 300 gallons of heating oil a year, give or take based on how well dried the wood is when it is burned.

The best performing clone was NM-2, a "sister" of NM-6. NM-2 has less disease resistance than NM-6 and a planting of NM-2 and NM-6 would not substantially increase the robustness of the system.

There were other clones planted in Albion, DN-177 and DN-170 that produced 98% and 95% of NM-6 respectively. "DN" clones are crosses of Populus deltoides and Populus nigra. Populus deltoides is the common, Eastern Cottonwood which is well suited to wide swaths of the eastern half of the United States.

Yawn. Been there done that
Maybe you tried hybrid poplar and weren't very impressed.

I did. They were OK but nothing "SUPER". I used the most recommended clone of the day, DN-34 (Imperial aka Carolina) and the more exotic DN-17 (Robusta). DN-17 was notable for arrow-straight trunks and both clones quickly over-topped native hardwoods but they still did not seem "miraculous". How do those old standards compare to NM-6 and DN-177?

NM-6 produces 70% more wood by dry-weight than DN-34 and 50% more wood by dry-weight than DN-17.

Defensible recommendation
Plant several hybrids with different species composition. Including the species Cottonwood in the mix is an option. If choosing from local Cottonwood trees, look for apical dominance and side branches that leave the main trunk at right angles.

Mow vegetation the fall before planting.

Frost-seed red clover in late winter before planting. Red clover will add nitrogen and not be excessively competitive with the new trees.

Plan rows 10' apart with cuttings 6' apart within the rows. Ten feet between rows facilitates machine movement. Seven hundred trees to the acre will result in the trees shading the ground in a couple of years and suppressing competition.

One week before sticking the cuttings, kill vegetation with glyphosate + simazine where the cuttings will be stuck. Make the sprayed swath where the cuttings will be planted 4' wide.

Plant clones in blocks or strings so you can get a clear evaluation of what works best on YOUR site.

Rough mow the site in mid-June to knock down tall grasses.

Plan to clear-cut at 4-to-8 years. Clear-cutting removes diseased stems and keeps the stools juvenile. The wide range of cutting intervals is driven largely on the health status of the planting. Another consideration is to cut at small enough of a diameter so you can avoid having to split wood to fit it into your wood burner!

Cut the stumps at 4" the first time. They will respoutl

Frost seed red clover....lather, rinse, repeat.

Seven Fat Cows 2.6: Rick's Dilemma

Rick’s dilemma was that he did not know very much about managing wood lots and even if he did he would not have time.

He knew he could count on the two farmers to ride herd on wood cutters. The problem was managing the woods that were growing on the land of absentee owners.

Drinking coffee with a retired forester who lived south of Eaton Rapids filled in some of the gaps on woodlot management. Some trees just need to be cut: Trees with bad form, widow-makers, dead trees, senile trees, trees with low-value wood that are shading out more desirable species.

On the other hand, there are some trees that will continue to grow in value and serve as seed sources for valued species: Oak, Sugar Maple and Walnut with good trunk form, Niche players in tough spots and any kind of nut producing tree.

Some species benefit from clear cutting. Many of those species are pioneer species that are not shade tolerant. One of their adaptations is to produce a gazillion, vigorous root sprouts. Selective cutting of these species results in diseased trunks and substandard growth.

The forester’s very broad rule-of-thumb was to clear cut sites that are dominated by species with wood that rots quickly. He had seen too many cottonwood, aspen and soft maple that were booby-traps for the unwary. They looked fine on the outside and were hollow on the inside

The only species he considered suitable for allowing to grow beyond 24" diameter were prime black walnuts and oaks in the white oak clade. They had sufficient rot resistance that it was worth the risk to let them continue growing.

Some species thrive on selective cutting. They need a lot of competition to produce tall, limb free trunks but then need more light to gain girth and volume.

The forester also had advice on herding cats.

“You need a contract.” Bill said. “You aren’t the first guy to run into this and you won’t be the last.”

Rick asked, “What kind of contract?”

“You have been beating around the bush, but it sounds to me like you have a limited partnership/general partner situation. You have lots of stakeholders and you need one person to run the show.” Bill replied.

“What keeps the limited partners from cheating?” Rick asked.

“Ah, that is the easy part. The general partner holds the contract with the mill and the trucking company. The guy who cheats...his logs rot in the woods unless the limited partner wants to do a ton more work.” Bill said.

“How do you pick a good general partner?” Rick asked.

You don’t pick them.” Bill said with a wintry smile. “It doesn’t work if you pick them. It has to be the group of partners. The general has to be somebody they respect. There will be times when they don't like him or what he decides, but they have to respect him.”

Things were starting to shape up for Rick. It might be possible to avoid a train wreck if the neighborhood simultaneously ramped up the production of super-trees and “milked” the harvesting of existing timber so existing stocks lasted five years.

He figured the first year would be easiest as dead ash, fence rows and senile trees were harvested. After that, blocks of the lowest value “trash trees” to be cut in a checker-board pattern with a plan to have them last three or four years. Finally, selectively cutting the highest value parcels the last year as the super-trees started reaching stove-wood size.

Next Installment

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The price of burning damp wood

Moisture content of most woods as kiln dried, dried at 70% relative humidity and 90% relative humidity

Freshly cut soft maple, aspen and willow are about 50% water, by weight.

How bad is that? That means you need to add about equal amounts kiln dried wood to get the green wood to burn...and all the heat goes up the chimney as water vapor.

Things go around the bend at about 30% moisture. You need to burn twice as much wood, by weight, to net the same amount of heat as air dried wood.

Bonus chart

Baby, its cold out there!

I have been out in -40F and -50F windchill.

99% of getting by in that kind of weather is in having enough, and the right kind of clothing.

A few items I like:

Bomber hats are more wind resistant than the usual knit stocking cap.

Wearing both mittens and gloves means that you have optimum warmth while retaining the ability to pull off your mittens and not expose your flesh to the elements. That is a BIG deal if you you must grip items made of iron.

The parka was discounted because the factory had sewn in the zipper backwards so it was a "girl's" parka.

I also like scarves and 1/4 zip fleeces. I tuck the long end of the scarf so it backs up the zipper of the parka.

I favor quilt-lined bibbs. They give you far more flexibility than one-piece monkey suits. Bibbs are also easier to go to  "the can" in than monkey suits.

One budget-minded outdoorsman I know likes to wear two pairs of flannel PJ bottoms beneath his oversized jeans. It works for him.

Boots are whatever best suits you.

The other one percent?
Keep moving and get out of the wind.

Seven Fat Cows 2.5: Firewood planning

Back in Michigan, Rick picked up the event on his news feed. He kept one specifically for winnowing through the blizzard of the 24-7 news items looking for key terms like “Emergency Room”. His feed picked up the unfolding events in Minnesota but Rick accepted the explanation that a sewer pipe had broken.

Meanwhile, Rick continued to worry about the availability of firewood.

Rick sincerely believed that energy is the keystone resource. Food is one kind of energy. Firewood is another.
A heat map of the population density and the wood resources.

A rough estimate of the new, larger neighborhood was that it held 150 homes. Most were clustered close to the paved roads, that is, they were biased to the east and in the northwest corner.

The woods were scattered but most of them were oriented through the middle on a north-south axis with heavy concentrations on the southern border.

About half of the 400 acres of woods were on parcels where the owner lived. The other 200 acres were on the property of absentee land-owners or belonged to commercial farmers.

Looking at the parcels with few standing trees, those 100 or so homes had 200 acres of woods or about 2 acres per home, assuming the farmers were willing to let residents harvest those woods.

Rick and Kelly had done a little bit of ‘tresspassin’ hunting rabbits in late winter. Afterward, Rick estimated that most of those woods had 100 trees per acre and about 12-to-15 full cords of standing wood per acre. Some was better. Much was worse. After all, it was marginal ground that had been allowed to revert to woods.

Assuming the neighborhood could create a logging industry from nothing, that 2 acres per home would supply enough heat for three years at current rates of consumption.

Rick was on good terms with the farmers. He was pretty sure that they would be more than willing to let neighbors pay them to clean out fence rows and pot-holes in the middle of their crop fields.

The key point was neighbors would need something to use as currency, something the farmers wanted. Rick figured that they would be willing to let some of the neighbors to cut on shares. After all, the two commercial farmers in the neighborhood heated with wood and there would not be much of a market for their corn, beans and wheat if the money economy collapsed.

Rick deduced that he needed a two-pronged approach. He needed to lower expectations to reduce the demand and he needed to boost production.

The standard rule-of-thumb is that a northern woodlot produced between a half to one full cord of wood per year. To make the math in his head easier* and to wash out the difference in the heat content of various types of wood, he rounded that to the energy in fifty-to-one-hundred gallons of heating oil and a typical home might burn a thousand gallons of heating oil a winter.

That was the basis for “needing” fifteen acres of woods to heat a home.

Like all broad generalizations, there were some significant caveats. Younger woodlots of selected "biomass" clones that were treated like row crops and  produced significantly more wood per year. In some cases, as much many BTUs as two or three hundred gallons of heating oil per acre, per year.

Other advantage of these super trees is that they would be large enough for small stove-wood in three years and big stove-wood in eight, they grow well on muck and they can be planted by simply sticking 8” of a 10” cutting into the ground.

Rick decided it was a good time to start a small nursery where he could harvest cuttings in the future. He ended up purchasing a hundred cuttings of two kinds of hybrid poplar (NM-6 and DN-177) and three kinds of hybrid willows (Millbrook*, Fabius* and Preble*). He also bought a couple pounds of Black Locust seeds and thought he would try his hand at growing some of them.

Some of the varieties were patented and propagation was prohibited. If the rule of law went into the septic tank, that would be the last of Rick's concerns.

If events did not go pear-shaped he could plant the Black Locust around the edges of his ten acres of swamp and the poplar and willow in progressively wetter parts of it. If they did go pear-shaped he could supply cuttings and seedlings to convert excess crop ground into short rotation firewood production.

*Twenty-five pounds of air dried wood has approximately the same amount of heat energy as a gallon of heating oil.

Next Installment

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Diplomatic posts

If you could offer Feel the Bern and Optional-Cortex diplomatic posts, what countries would you choose?

North Korea?

Schultz from Starbucks
He would run as a Democrat in a heartbeat but he saw how Bernie got screwed by the machine.

Having a dynamic candidate that does not march in absolute lock-step with the Democratic franchise of the Deep-state running as an independent is the natural and logical consequence of that screwing. Once again proving that there is no free lunch and that Karma comes with compound interest.

Focus groups and men's names

One of the things about writing fiction can be both frustrating and rewarding at the same time is picking names.

I decided to approach one upcoming character in Seven Cows a little bit differently. I formed a small focus group of two young women and three women my age.

I gave them a list of fifty names and asked them to pick the five they liked best and to rank their top five.

The results:

Young women:


Women who are my age



Milo is the winner for the guy's name, showing up on three of the five lists and being like by both age cohorts. I was surprised at the amount of overlap between the lists.

I also asked for the venue where the two characters should meet.
One of the focus group suggested the Michigan Hemp Conference.

Another suggested waiting in line to buy a latte at a coffee shop.

And the guy's profession?
Underwater welder.

Stay tuned...

Media freaks out over Donald Trump, Jr's "assault weapon"

A closer look reveals that it is a fifteen pound, bolt action .22LR target rifle.

May I be so bold as to suggest that DTJr's target rifle is not the best choice for hitting targets in a dynamic situation, especially one where the shooter must retain mobility.

Seven Fat Cows 2.4: Unintended consequences

Part of the protocol was to have multiple people interview the people closest to the outbreak. The intention of the multiple interviews was to glean as much information as possible.

Clara was interviewed for six hours straight. Four different interviewers were involved. Due to language issues, there was an interpreter.

Clara was intimidated by the interviewers. She knew they were cops. She could see the bulletproof vests and pistols. And they wore face masks. She assumed they were going to rape her. The good news was that they would let her live, otherwise they would not have bothered with the masks.

The interpreter was attempting to impress the officials. He intended to get paid a lot of money. He kept rushing Clara, promising dire consequences if she did not answer with perfect honesty or did not answer them quickly.

The protocol was very clear that some questions were to be asked several times and must be asked verbatim. One of them involved the number of children and other people living in the house.

The interpreter, intent on impressing the officials with his speed and efficiency truncated the question and asked about “her children”.  Clara never mentioned her deceased sister’s children.

After the interviews, ambulances queued up outside the Section 8 housing and her biological children were taken, one to an ambulance to be transported to quarantine.

Up until that point Clara had believed the best about Americans. And then she knew: The story of White People draining blood from Blacks to make medicine must be true. She knew her children were dead.

There was nothing left to hold her in St Paul and every reason to leave. She would move in with her cousin and start over.

She gathered up her sister’s children from where they been hiding and went down to the Catholic Church. She was close to one of the older men who worked at the Saint Vincent de Paul food bank. She told him that her sister had died (which was true) and that she needed transportation to the funeral (which was not true).

The old man had no family. He had nothing better to do. He went to the ATM and withdrew $500 and threw a mattress into the back of his old, plumber’s van. After all, it was a long drive from St. Paul, Minnesota to Bladensburg, Maryland, seven miles from the United States Capitol building.

Next Installment

Monday, January 28, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez, Thin-skinned, bully and weasel

...As Members of the House of Representatives, we have already begun our individual, committee, and caucus efforts to make this issue a top priority in the 116th Congress. That is why we were deeply disappointed to see that your companies (FB, Google, Microsoft) were high-level sponsors of a conference this month in Washington D.C., known as LibertyCon.  Letter published by Ocasio-Cortez

Are you really sure it is about "Climate Change"?

...the policies advanced by modern-day American “democratic socialists,” including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Single-payer health care, socialized agricultural and energy industries, and government-run education, among many other policies, are not only ineffective, they present serious moral problems.  -2019 Liberty Con session titled Socialism is Evil

As you are well aware, the spreading of misinformation can be dangerous to our society...We must be resolute against granting this campaign any credibility, whether intentional or otherwise. -Ocasio-Cortez

Is that a threat to "tax and regulate" companies that don't play the game to her satisfaction?

Perhaps the wealthy uber-liberals will start to see the downside of keeping a string of socialists as pets. King Cobras are better entertainment and safer in the long run.

Meal Planning is only as hard as you make it

Make some pie charts and play spin the needle. That IS why they call them pie charts, right?

In table form:

Seven Fat Cows 2.3:

The joint CDC-FEMA quick response team had a very strict set of protocols for this scenario.

The Emergency Room was closed to new patients due to “a sewage line leak”.

Patients that were still in the pipeline were not discharged until after they had been given the vaccine. They were not even told what it was.

Caregivers in the Emergency Room were vaccinated.

Caregivers from the prior shift were told to put their clothing into a plastic garbage bag and take a hot, soapy shower before coming back to the hospital. They were told that their jobs were contingent on doing so. They all came back and were vaccinated from the rapidly dwindling supply of vaccine. Four day’s pay were automatic added to their next paycheck.

Then the tedious task of contacting the ER patients who had cycled through the ER during day-shift began. The patients who had been sitting within one bench of the deceased child were were identified from video, chased down and vaccinated.

All this in spite of the fact that everybody knew that Ebola is not airborne.

The problem with the protocols was that they had been created by administrators. Some of them had served in Emergency Medicine but it had been twenty-five years since they were on the sharp end of the stick. They had gotten very good at telling other people what to do and had forgotten many of the details that made execution difficult.

In all, the heavy-lifters did a phenomenal job.

The two details that slipped under the radar was that the child had a cold and was coughing and sneezing, spewing billions of tiny globules of bloody mucus and saliva into the air. The reason Ebola was not spread by air-borne means was because Ebola rarely triggered sneeze-and-coughing reflexes. The same could not be said about the colds that were sweeping through central Minnesota.

The other detail was the seventy-plus John Does that had filed through the ER before fanning out across the city.

Next Installment

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Pelosi and Schumer: Miracle workers

Trump now looks like the adult in the room.

Who would have guessed?

Presented without comment

How many bullets?

Shortly before World War I, the German Kaiser was the guest of the Swiss government to observe military maneuvers. The Kaiser asked a Swiss militiaman: 'You are 500,000 and you shoot well, but if we attack with 1,000,000 men what will you do?' The soldier replied: 'We will shoot twice and go home.'

Numbers vary but some sources claim the Allies expended 25,000 rounds of small arms fire per enemy KIA in WWII, 100,000 per KIA in Korea, 200,000 per KIA in Vietnam and 250,000 per KIA in the sandbox.

There is some hand-waving behind the numbers. WWII was more artillery intensive and the targets were better defined than later wars. The metric obscures the fact that in WWII one torpedo could sink a troop ship and count for 4000 enemy KIA...torpedoes hardly counting as "small arms". Concepts like suppressive fire came into fashion as well as the hardware to deliver it.

What do those numbers mean?
The 5,000,000 rounds of ammo that the IRS has in its possession equate to 20 dead tax-scoffs at 250,000 rounds per KIA. That would be the number of adults in a small high school who shave a little bit on their taxes.

At 250,000 rounds of ammo per KIA, the conventional advice of "6000 rounds of ammo per battle-rifle" equates to about a 2% chance you put one "bad guy" on the ground.

Your tactics suck
If you find yourself in a fair fight it means your tactics suck.

If you find yourself losing then your tactics are worse than suck.

Avoid being the guy on the left side of the photo.
The doomer literature where the good guys get into a "conventional" shoot-out with the bad guys is jolly good entertainment but sucks as a tactic. Neither side is likely to have the logistical tail to support shoot-outs.

Gordon Dickson observed that battles in space will be fought by mutual consent. Space is so BIG that fleets will only encounter each other by mutual agreement.

The same is true to a lesser degree on Earth. You can be a dumb-ass and deal drugs on the corner, wear bling, post on social media or be a blogger. Or you can keep your mouth shut, pay cash, keep your mouth shut, stay off social media and keep your mouth shut. The dumb-ass is far more likely to be the guy on the left side of the photo than the guy who can keep his mouth shut and his purchases discrete.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Socialist paradise

High school chaperone punctures leftist narrative

Raymond Arroyo interviewed Jim Wilson, one of the chaperones of the Covington, Ky group at the Pro-Life march in Washington D.C.

Slide ahead to the 3:55 mark to hear the parent eviscerate the leftist perspective.

Mr Wilson makes the point earlier in the interview that the kids had gotten off a 16 hour bus ride, walked around D.C. all day long and they were waiting for the buses to take them home. The kids were not very resilient when they were verbally assaulted by the Black Israelites and Mr Philips.

And the one kid, except for the deer-in-the-headlights response, still responded in a morally acceptable way.

Good enough and plenty of it*

I want to highlight a recent blog post over at Defense and Freedom.

Paraphrasing for the purpose of compactness, the author laments that historians who focus on the air war in WWII spend disproportionate amounts of time focusing on the whiz-bang stuff that appeared near the end of the war.

The author's contention is that those weapons did not win or lose the war. They were not deployed in sufficient numbers to make a difference. The war had already been decided. In retrospect, it had become a mopping-up operation.

The planes that fought the deciding battles were not, for the most part (the Japanese Zero being the exception), the planes and power-plants the major forces had entered the war with but they were the planes that represented the lion's share of the production after the contestants had converted their economies to wartime production.

For those of us who like to be prepared, it is a stark reminder.

We fight, and win or lose, our battles with the equipment that has been deployed in quantity.

We may lust for ARs and monometal projectiles but the battle in the trenches will be decided with 10/22s, Marlin 795 semi-autos and bulk packed .22LR ammo and Mossberg 500 pump shotguns.

*Good enough and plenty of it is a motto I first encountered over at Remus's Woodpile Report. The concept resonates with me.

Friday, January 25, 2019


It is slippery out there

When small, fat dogs hit the brakes.

A few thoughts on prayer

Prayer can generally be broken down into four categories.

  • Praise
  • Petition, i.e. asking for things
  • Asking forgiveness
  • Giving thanks

As modern Americans we turn up our noses at praise. At one time my perspective of praise was that it was an attempt to brown-nose God. Surely He could see through that.

My current perspective is that praising God serves to ensure we are in our proper place. The pitcher is on the mound. The catcher is behind the plate. The shortstop is between second-and-third. Everything runs better when the players are in their proper place on the field.

Consider the Our Father:

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, they will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
All praise. No sucking up.  No brown-nosing. Just identifying God's proper place.

Give us this day our daily bread
Bread can be metaphorical as in any recurring need. It can be generic for food. It can be asking for "Jesus, I am the bread of (eternal) life."

Our needs change from person-to-person and over time.

Asking forgiveness
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Suffer us not to be tempted and lead us from all that is evil.
As a Roman Catholic, forgiveness is more formalized for most other Christians. One advantage of that formality is that our faith gives us a blueprint of what God is looking for. It also provides the person asking forgiveness the sense of relief that comes from being forgiven.

He is looking for sorrow for having sinned, not so much sorrow over the possibly going to Hell but sorrow that we offended Him.

He is looking for ownership, that we accept responsibility and not shirk or minimize what we have done.

He asks us to concretely CHANGE what we are doing to avoid sin. If you do what you have always done, you will get what you always got.

One quirk of Catholics is we believe that we must verbally "confess" to be forgiven. The priest serves as a proxy for those people we have injured by our sin. IMHO, as humans we cannot feel forgiven when we fail to ask the victims for forgiveness. The problem is that sometimes it is not safe to tell the victim "Yeah, Don Corleone, about that Cadillac that got vandalized..." Other times it is not possible to identify all the victims of our sins. Hence the need for a proxy.

Giving Thanks
Giving thanks gives us serenity. It is very individual and will change from minute-to-minute.

I am thankful that I am inside tonight.
I am thankful that Mom and Dad are still with us.
I am thankful for family.
I am thankful for the dogs, even the little one who snores.
I am thankful that my guts don't hurt.
I am thankful the truck started the last time I turned the key.
I am thankful for the internet and the ability to reach out to folks like you and to have access to writers who would have been invisible to me fifteen years ago.

BTW: Nice post over at HOTR on thankfulness.

Seven Fat Cows 2.2: Pride goeth before fall

The joint CDC-FEMA teams who had been playing whack-a-mole with the Ebola outbreaks in Minneapolis and San Diego were justifiably proud of the job they had been doing. Not only had the contained the outbreak but they had kept the news out of the public eye. It had not come cheaply. They had burned through 85% of the vaccine in the western hemisphere.


Clara waited for the city bus outside the Section 8 block where she lived. She carried two infants in a shawl and held the hand of a small boy with a runny nose.

Her name was really not “Clara” but her given name was incomprehensible to anybody who was not from her tribe in Somalia. She happily traded her name for a better life in Minneapolis.

The boy was six and small for his age. He had a deep, hacking, liquid cough that welled up from deep in his gut. Clara was worried because tribal lore was that his condition was nearly always ended in death. But this was America, land of miracles.

The trip across town was a major expedition for Clara. She had seventeen children in her apartment. Eight were her’s. Seven belonged to her sister who had been raped and murdered in the refugee camp. The extra two were her grandchildren. Most of the kids went to school or Head Start. Clara had parcelled out the youngest ones across several Somali families.

Not being very familiar with the bus system, Clara was not able to choose the most efficient path. She took her children to the downtown transfer center and it took her an hour to figure out which one went to the clinic that she thought would best be able to handle the problem.

Workers and University students streamed around her and her coughing child. Like most things in Minnesota in the winter, the bus depot was inside.

After figuring out which bus she needed, she boarded a bus crowded with the morning shift heading to the hospital.

The triage nurse tried to send Clara home. The nurse took an IR temperature read and the child barely had a temperature. The nurse dismissed it as a common cold. Clara would not be dissuaded. She mentioned her concern but the staff did not recognize the tribal term as anything alarming.

Cases deemed to be more critical than her son were queued in front of her as she and her three charges waited

More than seventy “John Does”, homeless men shuffled back out through the waiting room. They had spent the night in the hospital to get out of the cold. It was trash and recycling day on the south-west side of town and like migratory possum they followed the trash. They would not be back to this particular hospital for three days.

The City Mission did not allow people with alcohol on their breath into the facility but hospitals had to take them. If anybody had bothered to chart the number of homeless in any given hospital they would have found it tracked trash pickup and free church dinner nights.

Medical students new to the Emergency Room would badger them about their symptoms. The nurses would roll their eyes. They would learn soon enough. The nurses privately called the homeless men "dirty-ankles" or DAs.

The dirty-ankles knew what symptoms forced the hospitals to hold them. Sharp pain on the lower right side of abdomen. Chest pains. Shortness of breath. If the doctor persisted after running expensive diagnostics and tried to discharge the patient the dirty-ankle simply dredged up another symptom. A dirty-ankle could easily rack up $100,000 of unbillable tests in a night.

The newbies quickly learned to simply put the dirty-ankles on a gurney, give them a blanket and a baby aspirin and a cup-of-soup and they would miraculously be cured in the morning. If there was something actually wrong with them they would be hollaring bloody murder.


The six year old boy “coded” in the Emergency Waiting Room after a particularly violent, racking cough. The small boy’s aorta had split longitudinally and he bled out internally within seconds.

That smugness of the CDC-FEMA team evaporated after the labs on the six year-old were finally run and confirmed. The results were what nobody wanted to hear. Unfortunately the results were communicated twenty minutes after the first shift had left for the day and that vastly complicated the response.

That is also when the last 15% of the Ebola vaccine that was not staged in Minnesota and San Diego was flown to Washington D.C. and administered to the highest level government functionaries.

Next Installment

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Storing fats and oils

The fact that oils and fats go rancid in storage struck a nerve with some of my readers.

While prepping for the story I ran into a few facts that I found interesting.

The stabilized (*) HOCAN (High Oleic Canola Oil) in PET bottles was estimated to have a shelf life at ambient temperature of 6.8 years, while oil stored in LDPE bottles had an estimated shelf life of only 2.7 years. The estimated shelf life of HOSUN (High Oleic Sunflower Oil) at room temperature in PET is 2.6 years and in LDPE is 0.88 years.  Source
*1,000 ppm for ascorbyl palmitate, 200 ppm for tertiary butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), and 200 ppm for mixed tocopherol

Using the same criteria, most vegetable oils have a shelf life of six months from date of manufacture.

Oxygen permeability rates (Oxygen. (g 25μ/m2/24h))

Low Density Polyethylene...8500
Polyvinylidene Dichloride....2

Polyvinylidene Dichloride film can be purchased on eBay if you want to use it to use it as an oxygen barrier between the LDPE cap of most bottles and the glass bottle. Saran Wrap in the US used to be polyvinylidene dicholoride but it is now polyethylene. Wrap sold under the brand name of Saran in Japan is still polyvinylidene dichloride.

Larger bottles have less surface area per unit volume so have better shelf life.

Lower temperature is favorable for longer shelf life.

Darkness is favorable for longer shelf life.

The largest, easy-to-acquire, brown glass bottles are the 40 ounce bottles that hold beer and malt liquor.

Oils that are low in the components that go rancid are Olive Oil, partially hydrogenated anything, peanut oil, tropical oils and some of the high oleic oils. The high oleic oils are currently expensive but production is ramping up as customers shy away from trans-fats.

The price spread between high oleic canola oil and "regular" vegetable oil is about $20 a gallon for HO canola and $8 a gallon for regular.

The fact that peanut oil is a very desirable oil for storage and only costs $11/gallon needs to be weighed against the possibility that one of your people might have a very severe, potentially fatal allergy to peanuts.

Your mileage may vary.

Seven Fat Cows 2.1: Trial Run

Rick jollied Kate into making a two day "trial run" of their preps.

Kate was onboard with the wood heat but opted out of the diet. She did agree, however, to document the experiment.

The trial run was a fiasco from the start.

The cistern pump that Rick had purchased on-line was not able to pull water from the well. If Rick had researched a bit more he would have learned that "sucker pumps" can only pull water up twenty-five feet or so. The water in his well was a good forty feet below the surface. Even pulling from a spigot in his basement left him trying to pull too much.

Then he found that getting water from the nearest source of open water, Kelly's pond, left much to be desired in the winter time. He had to spud a hole through the ice and lift it out with a scoop. Then carry the five gallon buckets to the truck.

Half the water sloshed out on the way back.  Kate asked what the plan was when the gasoline ran out. Rick did not have a good answer. Kate made notes in her spiral notebook.

Rick boiled the water on the stove. The stove used LP gas. Kate asked what his plan was when the LP ran out.  Rick did not have a good answer. Kate added to her notes.

Then Rick started a fire in the fireplace. Once it started going he turned on the blower. Kate looked up, "I thought the grid was down?"

Rick turned off the blower. Almost no heat entered the living space. Kate donned a parka and mittens. That, as much as anything, aggravated Rick. Kate's exact age was privileged information, it was sixty give-or-take something, but Rick still found her attractive and was perplexed that she was looking like the Michelin man.

On Saturday, Rick broke open one of their oldest five gallon, food storage buckets. It contained white rice, split peas and vegetable oil. The air seal on the bucket had broken and pantry moths had gotten in. Rick washed the insect remains out of a couple handfuls of the rice and boiled it for breakfast. Kate looked the other way when he drank a cup of coffee from the pot she had brewed. Rick was a bear when he did not get his caffeine.

Rick's lunch was white rice with green-pea gravy as was his dinner. He was going to add vegetable oil to the green-pea slurry but the oil had turned rancid in its plastic bottle.

By noon Sunday Rick was constipated and had no energy. His lethargy left him cold. It was all he could do to pry himself off the couch and drag in more firewood...firewood that wouldn't provide any heat.

He was also bored out of his mind. He was used to getting on-line. He had a few favorite TV shows. It was like an itch he could not quite reach far enough to scratch.

The postmortem was enlightening.

The rule-of-threes puts water at three days. Clearly, something had to be done. After batting about several ideas, Rick and Kate decided on a roof-top collection system for spring-summer-fall and a solar powered, immersible pump for winter.

The solar powered pump could irrigate the garden and orchard during the summer.

The issue of heating raised a bit of a quandary. Kate wanted things to look nice. She was not ready to jump right to a wood stove. She thought most of them were hideously ugly.

Rick had to do some research before he found a wood stove that had glass that wrapped around the fire. Kate bought into that kind of stove but did not want it in the center of the room.

United Nations level negotiation ended up with the wood stove 24 inches in front of the old fireplace and spun thirty degrees from square. That was so the heat radiating from the back of the stove reflected off the back wall and into the room rather than heating up the wall behind it.

The stove pipe ran up parallel to the fireplace chimney to within 12" of the ceiling and then "Teed" horizontally through the wall. Rich had learned that much of the heat thrown off by a wood stove is actually radiated from the stovepipe. The "tees" made it easy to clean the pipe.

The lethargy was a bit of a mystery until Rick was watching one of his TV shows, Live Below Zero. It was the episode when several of the characters affirmed that absolute need for fat in cold weather. It was a light bulb going off for Rick.

The soybean oil in plastic bottles was removed and replaced with "creamy", partially hydrogenated vegetable oil packed in glass whiskey bottles scrounged from a willing bar owner. Partially hydrogenated oils have very low linolenic acid (18:3) content, the component that goes rancid the most quickly.

The other revelation was the food buckets. Rick had packed them with the intention of having them last one adult for one month. Extrapolating, it was far more realistic to plan on having them last 20 days and to include instant coffee or tea, bran, salt-and-pepper, vitamin tablets, a deck of cards, a paperback mystery and a minimum of three liters of oil.

Next Installment

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Old news: Patriots beat Chiefs

Borrowed from TimeBomb2000

Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get.

-18 Fahrenheit on Monday. A high of 42 and wet today. Back down to a low of 5 Fahrenheit on Friday.

That counts as a "test winter" event for my part of the world.

I was walking around on Monday and many of the fruit trees looked dehydrated. Their bark looked shriveled. That is a good thing. Extreme cold damages trees when ice crystals form in the buds and they puncture cell walls. Dehydration of the parts above ground is correlated to better cold resistance.

They will be heading into Thursday and Friday all juiced up from the rain. That may be harder on some of them than the minus 18.

Seven Fat Cows 2.0: Rick and Kate's kids

Rick and Kate had six kids. Three of them were biologically theirs and three of them were foster kids.

The girls

Gabriella was Rick and Kate’s biological daughter and their oldest child. Gabby taught high school English in a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee.

Gabby was married to Guillermo (Bill) Gonzales. Bill drove a delivery truck. Gabby and Bill were both physical fitness nuts.

Gabby was organized and could be a bit “directive”.

They had no children but they did have a Jack Russel cross (with a beagle?) named Sam.

Janelle was removed from her mother when Janelle was seven. Janelle had been in-and-out of her mother’s house several times until her mother tested HIV positive. Then the courts placed Janelle into the foster care system where she bounced around until she was ten. That is when she landed in Rick and Kate’s house.

Janelle was into body art: Piercings, tats...the works. The image she projected was completely the opposite of her personality. It was many years before Kate figured out that the body art was Janelle’s armor. She looked tough so bullies picked on other people.

Janelle spent the last year of high school taking on-line classes and then after graduation she drifted west. First to Grand Rapids, then to Chicago, then Denver, then Seattle.

Janelle kept in touch with Rick and Kate but was usually pretty thin with details about exactly what she was doing for work and housing. Kate figured that Janelle’s situation changed so fast that she didn’t know where her next dollar was coming from.

Janelle was willing to work but could be “moody” and was not trustful of others.

Nyssa entered Rick and Kate’s house as an twelve year old.

Nyssa’s mother had moved up to Michigan with her brood of feral children and promptly Over-dosed.

If anybody knew anything about Nyssa’s mother’s history they kept their mouths shut.

The brood was broken up because their poor behaviors reinforced each other.

In one of those circumstances that make predicting human behavior so aggravating,  Nyssa not only thrived with Rick and Kate, she excelled. That is not to imply that life didn’t get exciting with Nyssa around.

Nyssa was working on her Master’s in Nursing at a university affiliated with a very large, urban hospital.

The boys
Luke was born two years after Gabriella. He had gotten his growth late in life and that shaped him.

Luke had cultivated the fine art of invisibility. Luke worked third shift in a warehouse.

If Luke had a social life, he did not share it with his parents.

Mark was the middle boy and was Rick and Kate’s youngest biological children. Where Luke was quiet Mark was brash.

Everybody knew when Mark entered a room.

Mark joined the Coast Guard after high school and had been stationed in New England. He met a girl and got married. She already had a kid and together they made two more in quick succession.

Mark sold cars in New England and was financially doing quiet well.

Bro’ham entered Rick and Kate’s home as a foster kid at age 13.

Bro’ham was a big city kid with a chip on his shoulder and life had been a daily struggle with him in the house. That was part of the reason why they got out of foster care.

Bro’ham walked out of one of his high school classes at age seventeen. When Rick said that going to school was a condition for living in their house, Bro’ham walked out of the house and they had not seen him since.

The last information they had on Bro’ham was three years ago when one of the locals had seen and talked to him outside a Detroit Tigers game.

All six kids could prepare a meal all the way from digging the potatoes out of the ground and killing the chicken to setting a fancy table to torching the crème brule to washing the dishes. Shooting a scoped .22 rifle offhand they could hit a soup can at fifty yards as often as not. They knew how to pick a decent camping site and set up a tent and start a fire in the rain. They had all changed oil in an engine and changed a flat tire.

Next Installment

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Toxic masculinity

Mrs ERJ is away. She is visiting a friend from college days. Back then, they discovered they were dating the same boy, a boy who claimed to be dating them exclusively. They sought each other out and had a long talk. They dumped the boy and have been friends and allies ever since.

That leaves me at home. Alone.

Maybe not alone. The dogs are with me.

Just think of all that male energy! Two hundred pounds of German Shepherd, a Boston Terrier and two hundred pounds of me.

Toxic masculinity
Unfettered by the benevolent bonds of the fairer sex we revel in our toxic masculinity like dogs rolling in a stinky carcass.

I leave the toilet seat up.

I sneer at healthy foods. Baked beans replete with onions and garlic and spicy, pork sausage ladled over white potatoes. Not a green vegetable in sight. TWO --- count them --- TWO bottles of strong IPA to wash it down.

Dessert was pecans and dark chocolate.

Such foods would normally result in Mrs ERJ suggesting that I sleep in the living room as the oligosaccharides from the beans and sulfurous contributions from the onions and garlic combine in my lower bowel to produce the biological equivalent of phosgene or mustard gas.

The irony is that I will probably spend the night on the couch in the living room anyway.

Dogs make good company, even if it is just the sound of their breathing.

Travel Fashion advice from ERJ

The ideal garments for travel should be simple, comfortable, wrinkle resistant and a provide a broad foundation for accessorizing. The classic black dress can be worn to casual events or accessorized to go to black tie events. All colors and textures harmonize with black be it scarf, sash or bling.

Level IIIa vest from Safe Life

Seven Fat Cows 1.9: Rambling Wreck

Kelly was spreading peanut butter on a couple of slices of bread when he announced to Di, who was in the other room painting, “Do you want this buggy to be any particular color?”

Di asked, “What color is it now?”

“Kind of a dingy blue.” Kelly said back. They had an open floor plan and Di’s “studio” was separated from the kitchen by a half wall.

“Yellow.” Di said. “Yellow with black racing stripes.”

“Yellow like a school bus or taxi cab?” Kelly asked.

“Nope.” Di said. “Yellow like a Camaro.”

“Why yellow?” Kelly asked. He really wasn’t surprised that she had chosen a bright color. It was a reflection of her extrovertedness and her enthusiasm for life.

“My first bicycle was yellow.” Di said. “Actually it was my second bicycle...but it was the first NEW bicycle I ever had.”

“Or you could just buy me a Camaro.” she added, slyly.

Kelly snorted. Low-slung sports cars are not a good choice for dirt roads that are given to chatter bumps and massive potholes.

“Yellow it is.” Kelly said.

He made a call to his nephew, Josh and Josh agreed to take on the project after hours. He agreed to pay extra for Josh to do the body work, filling in the dents and such.

Then he loaded the cab and box onto the truck and drove them over to Josh’s shop.

“Yellow?” was all Josh said. “Must be for Aunt Di, am I right?”

Kelly nodded his head in the affirmative. Di was a favorite aunt in the clan.

Josh said it would be ready in a week.

While waiting for the body work to be done, Kelly sprayed the inside of the box frame with “wax” to slow down the corrosion from the inside. Then he jigged up the cut ends and welded them together after taking multiple measurements to ensure everything was true and square. After welding he added a couple of 12 gauge, galvanized steel plates, top and bottom, to each side rail. The plates were eight inches long and two inches wide.

Not only was the sheet metal bright yellow but Josh had enhanced it with bold, black racing stripes. The front of the racing stripe was a fist and the back segued into a vicious looking yellow jacket. Josh had also foamed and formed the front to look like the front of Santa's sleigh.

“Nice graphics.” Kelly said. “What made you think of that?”

Josh shrugged. He was an artist. “I have catalogs. The yellow jacket is a version of Georgia Tech’s mascot but nobody around here will know that. The fist...well, I though you might be driving it sometime.”

“I guess the Georgia Tech mascot is appropriate. This really will be a ‘rambling wreck.’ “ Kelly said.

By the time Kelly had the buggy all assembled Di had brought the horses back from New Jersey and had spent some quality time bonding with them.

One thing Di did not tell Kelly was how much she had spent on tack and horse care equipment. Di had a fun money account for projects and the folks at the adoption center had been very thorough in walking her through what she needed to care for her two, new babies.

Di was also pleased that the center had taken pains to ensure that the two boys (geldings) got along. Horses are like humans and have distinct preferences for who they enjoy hanging around with.

Kelly dragged the buggy out of the barn with his tractor.

If Di was disappointed that it was a wagon rather than a buggy she did not let it show.

“Oh! WOW!” she said.

Kelly could see every imperfection but Di seemed dazzled.

“It BEAUTIFUL!” she gushed.

A couple of months later Kelly was driving to Vermontville and saw an Amish buggy clipping along between fifteen and twenty miles per hour. That was three times faster than either horse could pull the yellow wagon.

Slow runners are eaten. Slow runners don’t catch dinner. Slow runners do not get to mate with prime females. It is deeply embedded within the “Y” chromosome to not be slow.

Kelly bought a “real” buggy shortly after that. Much to his surprise Di continued to drive the wagon more than the “real” buggy. She really did like it.  It was yellow.

Next Installment

Monday, January 21, 2019

Logging with horses in Sweden

About ten minutes long.

I eyeball the wagon as holding a bit more than a cord, a cord being 8' by 4' by 4'. A cord of spruce is 4000 pounds. A cord of green aspen is 4500 pounds.

Things look a bit sporty at 3:10-3:20 with an almost full wagon, going uphill churning their way through lumbering trash.

The horses are not very tall but they are thick through the hindquarters.

How much can draft animals pull?

Approximate force required in pounds per square inch to pull a moldboard plow at 2 mph in normal conditions are:
sandy soil 2.5 PSI
corn stubble 3 PSI
wheat stubble 4 PSI
blue grass sod 6 PSI
clover sod 7 PSI
clay soil 8 PSI
prairie sod 15 PSI
virgin soil 15 PSI
gumbo 20 PSI   (Source)

One of my coffee drinking buddies tells me that they used a two-mule team to pull a single bottom, 14" plow six inches deep and used three mules to pull two 14" bottom plows.

Figuring clay soil and the two mule team, 14" * 6" * 8 PSI = 672 pounds pulling force or 330 pounds on the draw-bar per mule. And the mules would do that all day long.

Figuring clay soil and the three mule team, 2*14" * 6" * 8 PSI = 1344 pounds pulling force or 450 pounds per mule.

Another source claims draft horses can pull six times their weight when it is a carriage (pavement). It must be clear that this is not the tension they are putting on the draw-bar but the weight of the carriage.

A third source claims three-to-five times a draft horse's weight is a ball-park figure but highly dependent on surface and how fast you want to pull. Again, this is not the tension in the drawbar but the weight of the wagon + passengers + freight.

Stage coaches weighed about 2500 pounds and could carry nine people inside + six on top and freight. A more typical load might be six inside, two driving and fifty pounds of freight per passenger. At a buck-fifty per person, that is 2500 + 1200 in passengers + 400 in freight for a gross of 4100lbs.  Teams of four or six horses would pull them at five miles per hour and get changed out every four-to-six hours. The roads were terrible.

If you can believe what you read on the internet, a horse bred for pulling can cart 1X-to-4X it weight provided it is pulling a smooth rolling cart along graded dirt roads or across dry, cut hay-fields. It can pull them at walking speed for as long as you want to sit on the seat and drive them.

One consideration is that hayfield and firewood cartage involves rest periods for loading and the return trip is deadhead, i.e., no payload.

That is a tremendous multiplier. A horse might easily pack 20% of its weight and can pull 2X. That is ten times as much payload!

Greatest invention since the wheel. Oh! Wait a minute.....

Seven Fat Cows 1.8: Buggy Part II

Kelly backed the frame-on-wheels into the smaller of his two barns.

Then he closed the door, except for a crack and fired up his salamander heater. He figured it would be an hour before everything was warmed up enough to work on.

Then he went inside and warmed up his fingers around a mug of coffee. He would be peeing like a race horse all day long but that was the price of getting a lot done in cold weather.

Hopping on the internet he learned that Standardbred horses weigh between 900 pounds and 1200 pounds. He also learned that it was common for them to be productive up past twenty years of age.

Then he hit a bunch of sites to find plans and dimensions for Amish buggies. It came as little surprise that there is very little information on the Amish on the internet. He figured he would just have to wing it. If it was a failure, then he would learn from it and make another.

The first thing he did was to loosen the bolts holding the box and cab. They were so rusty he had to grind a few of them off. Then he used his chainfall to lift them off the frame. He parked them off to the side for the time being.

Going back out to the barn with his yoyo he marked up where he was going to make his cuts. Then he jacked up the frame one corner at a time and slid blocks beneath the frame in four places. He had to slide some boards between the frame and the block to ensure that slight compression existed between the supports and the frame.

Because he wanted clean cuts and wished to avoid having to do extensive grinding to clean up the cuts, he C-clamped guides, flats of steel with straight sides, to the frame. Then he powered up his plasma arc cutter and made his cuts. Kelly was particularly attentive when the pieces he was cutting out of the center were getting close to dropping free. The last thing he wanted was to drop a piece of metal on his toes.

Looking inside the frame from the cut ends over Kelly decided he would never have a better opportunity to clean out the insides. He filled the pressure washer with soapy water and attached his longest wand. The jet of water blew out mud, sand and rust.

Kelly wasn’t going to get any more done on the frame until the water drained out and the inside of the frame was dry. He pulled the blocks out from beneath the cut ends so water could drain out. He left the salamander running and turned on a floor fan to ensure there was some air moving through the frame.

It was time for lunch.

Next Installment

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Democrats' rush to the left

When Designing an Experiment there are three "classic" mistakes.

One is to not extract all of the information that is embedded within the results.  You paid the money to run the experiment but didn't cash the paycheck.

The second is attempting to extract more information than is actually embedded within the results. That is why the experimenter is required to present a hypothesis a priori rather than look at the results afterward to find a peg-hole he can jam the data through.

The third defect is to so dislike the results that one creates a parallel universe and magically find a palatable cause-effect relationship.

Ossified-Cortex beat a tired Democrat with the appeal of day-old dog vomit. The Democrat, whose name everybody has already forgotten, took his constituency for granted. She went out and worked. Her people rang doorbells and pushed, pushed, pushed.

Faced with the message that candidates who WORK will WIN, they naturally came to the conclusion that the United States is screaming for a system where rewards are decoupled from work.

The irony, it burns

William Devane is inescapable.

He is the spokesperson for Rosland Capital, a seller of precious metals and his ads carpet bomb Fox News, among others.

William's dad, Joseph was FDR's chauffeur.  FDR is the guy who made it illegal for Americans to hold gold.

Is Amazon-dot-Com really a bank?

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...sure glad I didn't step in that dog ****

You laugh at me. You say, Amazon sells stuff. They can't be a bank.

Retail revenues are growing at about 3% a year. It won't be too long before Amazon is the lilypad that covers the entire pond. Then where will the growth come from?  Amazon's market capitalization is based on the expectation of stellar growth from now until eternity.

Also, Amazon is more of a portal for a universe of vendors than a retailer. They make their money handling the money. Isn't that what banks do?

Besides, there was a time when banks handed out toasters. Now the bank has somebody else deliver it to your door.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Crepitation Contest

From the golden age of radio. Fifteen minutes.

Thundersprakes and flutter-blasts and sins of delivering substance when style is the coin of the realm.

Never trust a fart!

New California Warning

New tattoo required on all sexually active residents of California.

Roe v. Wade

Yesterday was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

My deepest and most heartfelt thank-you to those mothers who carried their babies to full term even when it was inconvenient, or embarrassing or negatively impacted your schooling or career.

I also thank the legions of foster parents, parents by adoption and the social workers who facilitate them.

To frame the magnitude of the raw numbers of abortions:

Number of babies born into slavery in the United States between 1778 and 1865: 7.9 million*

Number of babies aborted in the United States 1973-2019: 61 million (source)

Number of black babies aborted in the United States 1973-2019: 18.3 million (source)

*Number of slaves born based on US Census data and an assumed life expectancy of 40 years.  Four million of those born into slavery lived to see freedom.

Friday, January 18, 2019

For Nancy

Seven Fat Cows 1.8: The buggy

Kelly went over to Zane’s salvage yard to see what was available. He had a half-backed plan to salvage the running gear from an automobile and use it beneath Di’s buggy.

OK, it was more than a half-baked idea but he was still flexible on what vehicle he was going to strip the undercarriage from.

Zane invited Kelly in for coffee. It was a blisteringly cold morning and Kelly was a valued customer.

The neighborhood’s view of Zane was complicated.

One neighbor hated Zane like poison. Zane was dragging a piece of farm equipment to his yard when the neighbor’s dog gave chase. After nipping at Zane’s rear wheel for fifty yards it turned away from the truck right into the spinning disks.

Zane never even slowed down. He was playing his radio loudly and had never even noticed the dog. The neighbor was sure that Zane swerved to hit his dog because what dog would be stupid enough to turn in front of a piece of equipment that sliced it up like balony.

Other neighbors looked down on Zane. They automatically equate “salvage” with garbage. They worried about automotive fluids leaking out and polluting ground water. They worried about resale value. They worried about his yard becoming an eyesore.

They did not realize the effort Zane put into draining the vehicles. Heck, it was to his advantage. He had not purchased gasoline in years and his oil burner loved transmission fluid.

Most of the neighbors who disapproved of Zane had moved into the neighborhood recently. Those neighbors who had been there more than ten years had figured out that Zane was way smarter, both in book learning and human nature, than anybody would have guessed.

Zane was always ready to lend a hand cleaning up a yard or a barn. He had pulled more than one young man out of a ditch. Why not, he had a wrecker.

“Whatchya looking for today?” Zane asked. “It must be a pretty hot project because it is colder than a congressman’s heart out there.”

“Gunna make Di a buggy.” Kelly grunted. “She is gunna get a horse and she wants a buggy.”

“That could be OK.” Zane agreed. “You got a picture in your head?”

“I was thinking of more a wagon than a buggy.” Kelly said. “I see a lot of trailers made from the back end of pickup trucks. I was thinking of keeping the frame and all four wheels. Maybe hook up to the horse with something like a tow-bar.”

Zane nodded his head sagely as the words painted a picture in his head. “What kind of horse is she getting. A big one?”

Kelly shook his head “No. Its gonna be a retired trotter. I don’t know how big they are but I am guessing a thousand pounds.”

Zane offered the opinion “A full sized frame might be more than that size horse could handle.”

“Thats why I was thinking the frame from a small truck.” Kelly said.

“Naw, you want to stick with a full sized truck. The front suspension goes with the frame and you don’t have a bunch of stuff sticking way up. You won’t have to dick around with McPherson struts and figuring out how to get structure up to them.” Zane said.

“But then we are back to the frame being too big.” Kelly said.

“Did you ever think about shortening the wheelbase by cutting two or three feet out of the middle and welding it back together?” Zane asked. “Mr Pepper used to do that to convert mil-surplus trucks to semis ‘back in the day’.”

After finishing the coffee, the men walked out into the salvage yard. Zane started the tractor with the forks mounted on the front and tipped over a few trucks so Kelly could look them over.

“You know,” Zane said “if it were me I would dump the engine, tranny and gas tank, doors and front-end sheet metal. You might as well keep the cab because you can’t beat the hydraulic brakes that are already installed. All you gotta do is figure out how to mount the cab. You are probably gonna have to raise it up to get over the rails.”

Kelly said, “Di will probably like that, having a cab to keep her out of the weather and being up a little higher.”

Kelly and Zane dickered a little while. It was more a matter of form than serious bargaining. After agreeing to a price, Kelly drove his truck over to his new project. He started the generator and then plugged in the air compressor after it had warmed up. Then he got busy with his impact wrench.

He had to stop a few times to warm up but he was able to drag the carcass back to his place later that afternoon.

Next Installment