Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hypersonic missiles

The media is agog at hypersonic missiles and the difficulty in defending against them.

As a simple, back-of-envelop exercise, I calculated the mass of a projectile that was needed to impart the same kinetic energy as the 30X173mm ammo used in the Warthog A-10 cannon. My assumption is that a solid, axial shot with a 30x173mm round would eviscerate a hypersonic missile. Most of the armor on the missile would likely be ceramic, heat shields and ceramic is brittle.

At the muzzle, the 363 gram round is traveling 1020 meters per second, about three times the speed of sound. It boasts about 190kJ of energy.

Suppose one were able to fill the air with gravel with no forward velocity. How much would each stone have to weigh so that the imparted energy was the same as the 30x173mm round.

Spreadsheets are our friend. Assuming a forward velocity of the missile of Mach 10, each stone would have to weigh 32 grams, about one ounce.

What if the missile delivering the gravel had a velocity of Mach 5 and it was moving toward the hypersonic missile? Each subprojectile would have to weigh about 15 grams.

Hypersonic-to-hypersonic? 8 grams. Considering that a hypersonic missile is likely to be much more vulnerable to a kinetic energy strike than a Bradley fighting vehicle, it may prove that the most cost effective countermeasure would be a Patriot missile with a Claymore mine loaded into the nose.

Even knocking the hypersonic missile slightly akilter while it is traveling Mach 10 would likely cause it to spin and shred itself or rupture the heat shields and have it come apart like Space Shuttle Columbia.

Sodium message to my siblings

The sneaky thing about this label is that the first column is a half-serving. A full serving is 1850 mg of sodium.

Hello all: Joe writing. Mom seems to be retaining significantly more water. Her lower legs are notably larger than they were a month ago. There is nothing any of us can do to make her heart and kidneys younger. BUT we can get aggressive about ensuring that Mom's food is low-sodium. The American Heart Association states that the "ideal minimum is LESS than 1500 mg a day". 

We have to remember that Mom is not active and does not perspire much. She does not need much salt. 
Listing the serving size as a 1/4 cup makes the serving size seem larger than it measures out. A quarter cup of gravy is a meager dollop.

From a budgeting standpoint that means we should be shooting for 300mg in our meals because some sneaks into it through the desserts Mom loves and the gravy etc. Please read the labels of the ingredients before you begin food prep. If you are serving Mom the same food you are feeding your family, consider leaving the salt out of marinades and sauces and adding the salt at your dining room table.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Pasture report

Much of my pasture looks like this, all churned up by cow hooves.
The Captain and I have an arrangement. I let him graze my pasture and he lets me borrow his heavy equipment.

Since he prefers to not loan out his equipment, that means he ends up doing those tasks for me.

For instance, he plows my driveway in the winter time.

The extraordinary rain we have been having have been tough on his cows and on my pasture.

Nearly all of the Captain's pasture is muck ground and growing Reed Canarygrass. It has been under 4" of water for most of June.

He could have run them out on his hay fields but he needs that hay.

After talking it over, I decided that the best choice was to let the cattle stay on my pasture until it was either totally nuked or the Captain had grazing available over at his place.

Occasional abuse of pasture is not necessarily a bad thing.

It exposes mineral dirt which is a good seed bed for clover, alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The right way is to put a large number of animal units on the paddock and have them eat it down fast and hard.

The wrong way to do it is to put a smaller number of animals on the paddock when the ground is soup and then leave them too long. The cows were on the pasture for a full month.

From the plant's point-of-view, anything over 10 days is a problem. The plant burns through reserves after it is grazed. It invests those reserves in pushing new leaves to capture sunlight. If the leaves are grazed too soon then the reserves will not be replenished and the deeper roots will slough of making the plant more vulnerable to drought.

At ten days, the blades of grass are tall enough that the cow can wrap her mouth around the fresh, new, tender-and-tasty blades of grass and rip them off the mother plant.

In addition to the over-grazing they churned the ground. Some graziers call that "pugging".

We played the cards we were dealt with the best of our ability.
There is still standing water in places. I am tempted to get some minnows to eat the mosquito larvae.

I hope to post picture of the pasture in two weeks, four weeks and eight weeks.

Seven Skinny Cows: Why didn't the government do anything?

Mr Ed became the Wilders' go-to guy to run and fetch. Whether it be small creature comforts or information, Mr Ed seemed to be able to find anything.

Mr Ed, for his part, basked in being in the presence of wealth. He did not think he would like “rich people”. He hadn’t been exposed to very many. He saw that he had been hasty in his judgments. John and Sam were as comfortable as a pair of old shoes.

He might have reached a different conclusion if he had encountered John while he was a high-powered executive working seventy hours a week. After work, there were times when John barely had enough psychic energy left to be civil to his family much less random, old guys who liked the sound of their own voice.

Sam helped John reframe the time they spent with Ed. It was an investment in the future. If Mr Ed liked you, then the rest of the community liked you by default.

And they needed Ed or somebody like him. They were confined to the house. Ed always had time to pop over. He even found himself a patio chair that he parked in a sunny, protected spot the mandatory distance away from the deck.

Ed could leave items and the Wilders could pick them up after Ed left. Exchanges could not go the other way until after the quarantine was lifted. Ed was in no hurry.

“I don’t know if you know this” he started out after clearing his throat, “but I used to run the radio show before Peppermint Patty.”

John wondered if he detected a bit of professional jeolousy.

“I am thinking of getting back into it.” Ed continued. “The one question I keep hearing is ‘Why didn’t the government do something?’ “

“In talking to you all, I picked up on the fact that Mrs Wilder used to work in medical research.” Ed said. He may have been sharper than he first appeared.

“I would like to be able to tell the folks of Kates Store what happened in language they can understand.” Ed said. “Can you help me out?”

Samantha slowly nodded her head. She had worked in cancer research but everybody’s attention had been pulled to the Ebola crisis. She had followed the story as raptly as any of the scientists in her community.

“You know they had a vaccine that worked?” Sam said. “At least, it worked in the Congo.”

Mr Ed nodded his head. "That's what folks are saying. Why couldn't we get that?"

“By my figuring, there were two big problems with that vaccine.” Sam said. “The production could not scale up as quickly as we needed. We needed a vaccine based on recombinant technology. Recombinant technology is where yeast or other easy-to-farm microbes are genetically modified so their cell walls have the same patterns of proteins that the virus does. Then Anheuser-Busch or Coors could have been pressed into service and we could have produced vaccine by the oil-tanker load.”

“The other main problem is that Ebola is an RNA based virus like the HIV that causes AIDS. It mutates quickly. Over the course of twenty thousand victims it changed 3% of its protein sequences. It was a moving target.” Sam said.

"That caused the government to change direction. They cut loose funding for medical teams to develop new vaccines, not wanting to understand how long it takes to move from concept to approved product."

“There were other problems. According to early trial data and numerical simulations, the best US recombinant vaccines had a five percent fatality rate when administered and only conferred 95% immunity.” Sam said.

“The politicians puked. They refused to start production when ten percent of the population was going to die anyway.” Sam said.

“So you are saying the government could have done something but they hemmed-and-hawed until it was too late.” Ed said.

“The government did do something. They threw mountains of money at the problem. I am pretty sure the military got immunized with the 95% vaccine. They were pretty pissed off cowboys, though, because they could not get it for their families after the shit hit the fan.”

“Oh, and another problem is that it took two shots, a primer and a booster and the shots needed to be at least three weeks apart.” Sam said. “Things came unglued way faster than anybody anticipated.”

“It was a case of trying to shut the barn door after the horse ran away...and the barn was on fire.” Sam said.

“So we had a vaccine...” Ed asked.

“We had a half dozen vaccines in trial.” Sam said. “Think back a year ago. If somebody came up to you and suggested that you get two shots for a disease that was not officially recognized as being in North America and they told you there was a one-in-twenty chance the shots would kill you, would you vote for that person?”

Ed grumbled a little bit. “No. I woulda said they were crazy.”

“That is the downside of a democracy.” Sam said. “China is busy vaccinating their population with 90% vaccine. That is how effective the preliminary trials showed their vaccine to be before they pulled the trigger and went production.

"Their population was not given a choice. Everybody is getting vaccinated. They are going to lose at least 10% of their population. That is assuming that the virus does not mutate, which we know that it will.” Sam said.

“They lost us and India and most of Europe as customers and their economy is going to collapse. They are going to lose a minimum of 10% of their population and I suspect their government is still going to have to deal with a revolution.” Sam said.

“You know, I like to leave people with a ray of hope.” Ed said. “You said there is a vaccine out there...a kind of yeast that even a home beer brewer could reproduce.”

Sam had to admit ignorance. “Maybe. There was once. They made enough to vaccinate the military and most of the D.C. Beltway.”

“I don’t know if that strain escaped to the wild or how to get a sample of it. But in the strictly technical sense, yes, everything you said is true.” Sam said.

“Just out of curiosity,” Ed said “where did they make that vaccine?”

“That was confidential, but if I were a betting woman I would bet on Ames, Iowa. That is where the research team that was out-front was located.” Sam said.

“People being people, do you suppose any of those folks might have taken a sample home, just in case?” Ed mused.


Friday, June 28, 2019

May the Farce be with you

Mrs ERJ wanted to watch the second Democratic Debate last night.

I wore ear plugs.

Bernie is an a angry old man who was welded into a time capsule in 1968 and decanted for comic relief. Ordinarily one would have to watch the movie Despicable Me to find characters like him. He is angry that everybody stole his unique selling proposition. He is angry because much of his support base evaporated when he "sold out" to Hillary and did not run as an independent to shake up the power structure.

Biden runs out of track. He is slick and fast as long as he gets to choose the track to run on. He coughs up a hairball in milliseconds when he runs out of track.

Hickenlooper looked like he could have been a strong candidate but he did not present well. His handlers should return their salaries. They failed.

Kamala did not have the presence I expected. Her big moment was when she defended white people having to pay reparations because she was not allowed to play with the neighbor kids when she was eight.

Everybody interrupted and tried to be more "alpha" than the rest. NBC should have been turning off microphones.

Every candidate tried to be more pro-choice than all the others.

Every candidate tried to be more anti-Wall Street than the others. That garnered big, big cheers. I wonder if the people who were cheering realize that their pensions and insurance policies have assets invested on Wall Street. I wonder if they realize that all that deficit spending is financed by selling bonds on Wall Street.

Ultimately it was a clown show. No way would the titans of Silicon Valley support those Bozos if they thought the candidates would deliver on the Big-Business smack-down they all promised.

Potato Beetles Tango Uniform

At first I thought the insecticide had failed due to being several years old.

Nope. It killed them in their tracks. They rolled over and became good Potato Beetle larvae.

Fake News Friday: Progressives torching ICE cream trucks

Progressives have been torching ice cream Trucks in large cities across America in the wake of President Trump's directive to US Immigration Customs Enforcement to immediately deport illegal aliens.

Socialists immediately claim racial discrimination based on non-availability of frozen desserts in cities.

Seven Skinny Cows: Long-term vision

“So what is the long-term goal?” Mortimer Patch asked. Talking about long-term goals did not strike him as strange, given the fact that they were in the middle of an Ebola pandemic that would reduce the population by 80%. That, and the loss of modern healthcare and social order and other, ancilliary epidemics would knock half of the Ebola survivors into the grave. To his way of thinking you were not lost if you knew where you were going.

“I want to have a fiber and fabric industry in ten years with sufficient capacity to make clothing and bedding for a million people.” John said.

“Beg pardon?” Mo said.

“There are enough clothes in storage facilities for the next five years even if you figure the ones that burned or leaked. After ten years the clothing will be too tattered to mend.” John said. “In case you didn’t notice, it gets cold in Michigan. People will freeze to death wholesale unless there is a source of durable, warm clothing and quilts.”

“But a million people?” Mo observed, skeptically.

“A million people. That is probably a half million sheep’s worth of there is not time to waste.” Bob said.

“How much land do you have?” Mo asked.

“We own six sections of land...maybe enough for ten or fifteen thousand sheep.” John said. “But there will be all kinds of under utilized land vacant for the asking.”

"In fact, that is a big reason for wanting to keep our property utilized. People will claim it if it is not under the plow or hoof." John said.

“The plan is to develop products and processes.”

“Eaton Rapids has water power and a little bit of solar. They will be the manufacturing base.” John said.

“To get the pipeline started, we need raw materials. It is a basic pump-priming exercise. Good products create demand. Demand pulls resources.”

“I will need to travel.” Mo said, still a bit stunned by Bob’s long-term vision.

“For that you will need to talk to Mr Ed or to Salazar. Remember, you get a percentage, so you really are working for yourself.” John said.

Nyssa agreed that Mo could travel to the surrounding area as long as he stayed out of urban areas and the two parties talked outside. It had become a major faux pax to go inside somebody’s house.

John had a scooter and a supply of canned gas.

Mrs Treadle was surprised to have a visitor with a down-under accent inquiring about the purchase of ewes and ewe lambs.

“I am not sure I am doing you a favor by selling you sheep.” she said.

“ ‘n why is that?” Mo asked.

“Cause you will have to feed them in the winter. Without fuel to run tractors it is impossible to put up hay or farm corn.” Pat Treadle said.

“Mmmm.” Mo said in agreement as he looked out over the sheep. They were well cared for but clearly not pets. The first thing he looked at were the hooves of the oldest animals. Trimming hooves is hot, dirty, back-breaking work. That was the first thing that slackers let slide.

“Assuming we could find a way to pay you, how many ewes and ewe lambs are you willing to part with?” Mo asked.

“I usually keep a quarter of my ewe lambs for replacements.” Pat said. “I am willing to sell you all of the ewes I cull and ¾ of my ewe lambs...but again, I am not sure I am doing you any favors.”

“Do they come with breeding records?” Mo asked.

“Some do. Some don’t.” Pat said.

“My first offer for the lot is to provide tractor power to put up your hay for the year.” Mo said. “What will you need on top of that to make it worth your while?”

“That scooter would be nice.” Pat said. “Put up my hay and my neighbors. There is a big market for hay. Throw in your scooter and five ounces of silver for every animal.”

“My counter offer is to put up your hay and an equal amount of your neighbor’s hay. I will find you a scooter that is as like mine, payable upon delivery. I throw in an ounce of silver for every ewe lamb but no silver for the ewes you were going to cull anyway….” Mo said.

Fifteen minutes later they had a deal. It would have taken a lot longer but Mrs Treadle did not have any other buyers in sight, at least none who were in a position to pay anything for her animals.


“You are now the proud owner of 120 cross-bred, white faced, ewe lambs, 30 cull ewes and four ram lambs.” Mo told Bob.

“Two of the ram lambs will be 7/8 Columbia and have fine wool. The other two will be about ¾ Romney and have long, coarse, strong wool. The only reason you are getting the rams is that she had some first year ewes that bred late, otherwise they are castrated within a day of lambing.” Mo said.

“We have some time. She will have them driven over in the middle of August after they are weened.” Mike said. “All we have to do is convince Kelly Carney to harvest her hay and find a scooter and 150 ounces of silver and….” Mo mentioned a few other items including the fact that he had committed Bob to buying Pat Treadle’s wool clip for 10% over market price for the next five years. More than anything that would flush out whether John was a bull-shit artist or had convictions behind his dreams.

“Great job!” John said. “I would have been OK with ten ewes and happy with twenty. The only thing I want you to change is I want to take possession of the sheep the same week we cut the hay. You are something of an over-achiever, aren’t you?”

John had always found legitimate praise to be a highly cost-effective motivator.

“Are we going to need a tractor for our operation?” John asked.

“Probably. We wouldn’t in New Zealand but it is snowier here. There will be days where the sheep cannot dig for their grazing.” Mo admitted.

“Why don’t you see what you can do about having Kelly convert a tractor over with a gassifier?” John said. “Don’t try to chisel down the price. We are going to need him to build equipment for the yarn and weaving operation.”


Kelly was highly resistant to building a gassifier for John Wilder. First of all, he did not know Wilder. Second, he thought Mo’s NZ accent was an affected, second-rate imitation of a British accent.

Mo did not push too hard, heedful of John wanting to stay on the good side of Kelly.

“So I take it that your primary concern is that somebody will steal the design?” Mo said.

“Nailed it.” Kelly said.

“What if we pay you a commission to build another gassifier tractor? You own it. You supply the drivers. You park and maintain it. We get first dibs on renting it and you give us a deep discount on the rental?” Mo said.

Kelly squinted at Mo. “Don’t sound like you are getting much out of the deal.” Kelly observed.

“We will get enough. Got to make hay while the sun shines.” Mo said.

“Is that what you are going to use it for? Making hay.” Kelly asked.

“Mostly.” Mo agreed.

Suddenly that sounded like a fabulous idea. Hay season does not compete with plowing, planting, harvesting or wood-cutting season. Kelly would have another tractor to rent out in those season and he would not have to put any money out-of-pocket to have a tractor to back-up Milo’s.

“Deal.” Kelly said, sticking out his hand.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

A silent scream

Biggby is a local coffee chain. They were originally named "Beaners" after coffee beans but some people claimed the name was racist.

So they went through the expense of changing their name.

Seven Skinny Cows: Agents and managers

The quarantine was screwing with John's long-term plan. If he could not get things rolling he would lose a year.

John Murray sent word via Gladys to Mr Ed that he wished to have conversation with him.

Things were slow so Mr Ed strolled over to the Wilder’s hunting camp. Ed was not in a hurry. It was not like Murray would not be there. The Wilder family was in quarantine.

Ed stood a good twenty-five feet crosswind from the porch and tossed some pebbles at the window.

John and Sam came out. “Thanks for coming.” John said.

“What's on your mind?” Ed asked. He was in a good mood. He was carrying a plastic grocery bag, the kind that used to be considered disposable. He had been picking greens on his way over to Wilder’s and had even scored a few morel mushrooms.

“What does this community need most?” John asked.

“Everything.” Ed said.

“What do we need most?” John asked.  John had his own ideas but he was a Marketing man to the core. It never hurt to dip a toe into the water one more time before jumping in and most people were flattered if you asked for their opinion.

“Food.” Ed said. “Machines. Gas and Diesel. Horses.” Ed said. “We have all kinds of land but we don’t have a good way to work it. We need all kinds of things but no way to buy them.”

John and Sam knew where Ed was coming from. They held lots of land but did not have a way to turn it into wealth.

“I heard you say horses.” Sam said. “What kind?”

“Draft horses.” Ed said. “If you could only get one then get a stallion, a Belgium or a Percheron. If we had a stallion then we could breed the mares we have to it.”

That got John to thinking about more traditional forms of agriculture and the Amish. “Seems like the Amish have a lot of pasture and a lot of animals.” he observed. “Pasture doesn’t take much equipment or fuel.”

“Nope, they don’t.” Ed agreed. “We have dairy and beef cattle and hogs but are really hurting for sheep. If things don’t get better...well, lets just say we can’t grow cotton up here.”

“Nobody has sheep?” Sam asked.

“Well, a few people have them as pets” Ed said “but they are dwarf breeds like Finn sheep and Icelandic sheep. They have wool but not very much of it.”

“So where would we go to buy wool sheep?” Sam said.

Ed said. “There is a lady in Charlotte, Pat Treadwell, who raises sheep. She is a commercial farmer who raises sheep that put money in your pocket, not a hobby farmer raising pets. But what are you going to pay her with? It is not like dollars mean anything anymore.”

“Ed, you raised some interesting points but we cannot get out of here for five more weeks. We need an agent and farm manager. Do you want the job?” John asked.

“No sir. I do not. I don’t mind giving you my opinions but you are gonna get those whether you pay for them or not. I don’t have the git-up-and-go to manage a farm.” Ed said.

“Can you ask around and find somebody who you think would make a good farm manager and agent?” John asked. “Assuming we don’t go Tango Uniform in the next month or so, we would provide room, board and a percentage of the harvest.”

“What is the difference between a manager and an agent?” Ed asked.

“The farm manager manages the farm. The agent is authorized to buy and sell on our behalf.” Sam said.

“Let me noodle around and see who I can find.” Ed said.

“Given my druthers” John said “I want you to find three of them so we can check them out back-to-back.”

Ed found three candidates and they were interviewed from the Murray’s deck in the following order.

Seth McGinty was the son of a local dairy farmer.

BJ Bennington had gone to Michigan State and gotten a degree in Agricultural Technology.

Mortimer Patch had a degree in Ag Science from a university in New Zealand. His wife had been going to grad school at Michigan State when the shit hit the fan. Mortimer was in his mid-to-late twenties, tall and prematurely balding.

Seth’s knowledge was an inch wide and a mile deep. If you had tractors and diesel and wanted to run a confinement dairy then Seth was your man.

BJ’s expertise was primarily construction related.

Mortimer, or Mo, seemed to have everything Bob and Sam were looking for but he came across as abrupt and abrasive. He had little good to say about US agriculture. At first Bob attributed it to sour-grapes. Mo had looked for a job in ag but had been repeatedly rebuffed.

When John tickled him on his dismissive opinion of US agriculture Mo was more than willing to talk.

“Look at your milking parlors.” Mo said. “The top US suppliers brag that farmers will be able to milk 120 cows per man-hour. What a joke! In New Zealand only drunks and old men milk 120 cows per man-hour.”

“Then, when you look closer at the numbers you find out that they only count the guy in the pit putting the machines on the cow titties. The New Zealand numbers count every person on the property and every activity associated with milking.”

“So why do you think New Zealand leap-frogged the US?” John asked.

“Because we don’t hyper-focus. We always keep the over-all goal foremost in our minds. What is the point of having a man in the pit processing 200 cows an hour if you need three men moving the cows?” Mo said. "The other thing is we count the guy who mucks the barn out after the milking is done. You Americans don't include him in your numbers."

That is when Sam whispered “We are hiring this guy.” into John’s ear.

“How long do you think it will take to buy a flock of sheep?” John asked.

“I dunno. I haven’t looked into it.” Mo said.

“How soon can you start?” John asked.


“You are hired.” John said. “Mostly I am going to trust you until you screw up and we find the limits of where you can be trusted.”

“I want wool sheep. I want prolific, long lived mothers. The focus is not having the very finest wool but to have lots of pounds of wool with bulk and easy-to-handle fibers.” John said.

“I also want a couple of different rams.” John said.

“You know a single ram can cover forty ewes, right?” Mo asked.

“Yup. But I don’t want to tip into in-breeding depression.” John said.

“How many ewes do you have in mind?” Mo asked.

“As many quality ewes as you can get your hands on.” John said.

“Basically you are screwed for this year.” Mo said. “Most of the lambs have already been born and the males castrated and the older ewes culled.”

“I am hiring you to solve problems, not to tell me why something can't be done. Figure it out. See what you can do.” John said.

“Now, let’s talk about wages and benefits...”


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"American Graffiti" every Wednesday night, all summer long

I needed an easy post. Kubota suggested that I drive into Eaton Rapids and take a few pictures at the weekly car show.

Classic, Small Town Americana: A car show every Wednesday evening. They had just finished the ice cream cones before I got there.
When your best girl gets all dolled up and wants to go to town, do you tell her she ain't pretty enough?
Hell no! You tell her she is hotter than a $2 pistol.
Something for everybody. CW Swanson...are you seeing this?

From the new...

to the not so new.

Lansing and Eaton Rapids were "Oldsmobile" towns.

It was almost a State religion.

Nice to see the kids squirting Windex.

Back in the day they really knew how to torture sheet metal.

I need to breathe!!!

Lots of popped hoods and chrome

CW, do I still have your attention?

This T-bird was the bomb.

You can see the ground when you stand in front of it and look down.

The folk wisdom is that the vehicles we yearn for are the ones we first learned about "romance" in. This car has roomy seats.

Ultimately, it is always about the people.

Not enough room on Main Street. The show spilled out onto side streets.

I suspect this vehicle might have been owned by a girl. But I could be wrong.
Many more vehicles were there and the menagerie changes every week.

More on pollinator/parasitoid wasp attracter plants

Rugosa rose is very attractive to native pollinating insects and, presumably, parasitoid wasps. It smells very pretty, produces hips that are rich in Vitamin C and has a long bloom period.

My rugosa roses started blooming on June 6 at 420 GDD b50 and may be the "bridge" species I am looking for between horseradish and motherswort. The horseradish was blooming hot-and-heavy on June 6.

Now I have to figure out where I am going to squeeze in a few specimens in my orchard.

Picture taken approximately June 3, 2019, 370 GDD b50
Cleavers, on the right side of image, have a long bloom period and tiny white flowers that might be attractive to pollinators. I will have to put out some sticky traps to find out. Cleavers are still blooming.

Seven Skinny Cows: John Wilder

John Wilder was not the typical middle manager in a large, American corporation.

His dad was a cop in a medium-sized town. John went to a second-tier state university and majored in history. Even then there were many academic advisers who gave the rotten advice “Follow your passions.”

Graduating with student debt the equivalent of a new car, John found that his degree gave him exactly zero incremental hiring advantage over a new high-school graduate.

Determined to not make the same mistake twice, he did some research and chose a Master’s program where jobs were both abundant and lucrative. His research suggested that the straightest line between where he was and where he wanted to be was to get a Master’s degree in Business Administration. His belated research also revealed that graduates with an MBA from any state’s flagship university commanded starting wages 50% higher than graduates from any of the me-too universities.

As the son of a city employee, he had almost no idea what “Business” meant. He knew “Finance” had something to do with accounting and he didn’t want to sit behind a computer all day and do other people’s taxes. He remembered his dad going nuts on April 14th every year and he wanted nothing to do with “Finance”.

He opted for Marketing. He though his flair for writing bullshit would make that a cake-walk.

And it was a cake-walk until the section of Statistics for Business Majors he was scheduled for was cancelled and the other sections had already filled up. He had a choice, take a different statistics class or spend another half year in school. He opted for Statistics for STEM Majors.

The class thoroughly kicked his ass. He would have failed except for the Chem major he sat next to. She was cute and quiet. Her name was Sam.

She dragged him kicking and screaming through that class. And then the next one. Sometime during John’s academic Baatan Death March a switch flipped in his head. He saw the power of statistics and he fell in love with Sam.

He graduated in the upper-middle of his class. He thought that his chances for a job were decent. He was surprised to find that his services were avidly sought by insurance companies. They were impressed that he took “real” statistics classes rather than the watered down pap most MBAs took. Who knew?

His love of history informed him that Black Swan events are about a once-a-century events for the dominant culture. After a hundred years, all of the people who experienced the previous Black Swan were dead. Dominant cultures are a lightening rod for envy and chaos.

John had little success convincing his company to pad the rates for those Black Swan events. They would point to the paucity of wars and pandemics and famines and debauched currencies and say that the statistics did not work for sparse data. His argument that Black Swans could be aggregated and then there were enough data points was met with silence. He was informed, “Things are different now.”

John and Sam found themselves swimming in money.

Sam’s needs were simple. She did not crave cruises or spending time in all-inclusive resorts. Nor did she want a fancy BMW or a prestige house address. She bought a two year old Impala and drove it for five years before buying another. They had lived in the same blue-collar neighborhood for the last twenty-five years. She could have bought any or all of the prestige artifacts that define affluent people on her salary and bonuses. Her team had hit a home-run with a single drug a decade ago and had several Chemotherapy synergizing drugs that had come within one trial of being approved

She could have bought those things but felt no need.

John created his own insurance plan for the dreaded Black Swan event.

He rejected the billionaire plan of jetting to Fiji or Australia or Alaska. Moving is always a shock and why would people in Fiji want another mouth to feed, especially when that mouth was not family? And Australia or Alaska, he never understood the attraction of moving to an austere environment where the deer had to have legs that were six feet long to move through the snow or where every snake, bug and plant was toxic and could kill you.

Rather, he started buying farmland in Eaton and Ingham counties.

Ebola bankrupted his company. Life insurance is predicated on the idea that there will never be more than 1.4% of the population dying any given year.

The family bunkered up.

While holed up, John made an intensive study of England before, during and after the Black Death wiped out a third of the population. John chose England because the event had been extensively documented. History does not repeat itself but John was convinced that history rhymed.

John’s take away was that labor would be in short supply, wages would go up and that the price of most commodities would deflate.

Another thing John gleaned before the internet went down was that livestock became the crop-of-choice after depopulating events. Growing grain and other food crops is labor intensive. A single man and a dog can manage a flock of six hundred sheep, about the number that a quarter of a square-mile of prime, mid-Western corn land could support. Without tractors or domesticated animals to pull implements, it would take eighty adults to farm that same amount of land.

Furthermore, it takes thirty years to double the number of “workers” in the population. Under ideal conditions the population doubles in twenty years but the majority of the increase is under ten years of age and not able to do heavy, ag work.

On the other hand, a flock of sheep can increase by 60%-to-70% every year. A flock of six ewes can grow to sixty in five years and 600 in ten, 6000 in fourteen and 6,000,000 in twenty-three years.

Unless John was willing to let his farmland revert to brush, the only real option was to become a shepherd.

The other thing pushing John in that direction was that fabric made from synthetic fibers was soon going to become nothing but a mythic memory. Cotton does not grow in Michigan which left hemp and wool as the only two options.

Fortunately, John had often worked from his home office. It was well stocked with toner cartridges for the laser printer and 24 pound, acid-free paper. John downloaded books on agriculture, animal breeding and sheep. Not trusting that his laptop would run forever, John printed them out and put them in three ring binders.

The first challenge for John was going to be to find seed-stock. Few commercial sheep farmers in Michigan raised “wool” sheep because the market had placed a large premium on “meat” breeds.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

ERJ 5-0 WC

This is a first for me. The woodchuck ran into the livetrap even though it had no bait.

I had the trap on top of an old barn foundation. Apparently they like elevated highways.
Here he is giving me the eye.

Africa always wins

Belladonna's friend from Ghana made a statement something to the effect that "Western science does not work in Africa." The context was using science to improve crop yields.

Like all broad generalizations, there are elements of truth to the statement as well as some important caveats. In general, Bella's friend was mostly right.

The literature pretty clearly supports the contention that ag experts from temperate regions cannot go to tropical farms and use the same boiler-plate soil chemistry targets.

For example, in temperate regions most people target a pH of 6.5. pH is a measure of soil acidity/alkalinity. 6.5 is just slightly acid of neutral.
The southwest corner of Ghana gets a lot of rain. 1300mm is over four feet of rain.

The challenge in high rainfall, tropical areas is that most of the soil is a gritty clay with lots of kaolin. In temperate regions the clay is greasy with large percentages of bentonite and montmorillonites.

The tropical kaolins are highly leached and acid. The nutrients that are not leached away are either bound up in plants or "locked" in complex, insoluble compounds with aluminum and phosphate.

Dumping enough limestone on the soil to jack it all the way to a pH of 6.5 results in releasing toxic levels of those elements, like manganese, that are locked up.

The same southwest corner that gets dumped on with lots of rain is deficient in calcium. No surprise there.

The "smart money" does not recommend wholesale application of limestone on acid, tropical soils. It recommends an incremental, feel-your-way along approach where limestone is treated like a nutrient and relatively tiny amounts are added and the results monitored.

Variable versus attribute data
Another major impediment is that most African farmers don't believe in higher math like division.

In the United States farmers actively seek incremental yield/incremental input data. They want to know, "How much nitrogen must I add if I am planning for 200 bushel/acre harvest?" They understand that each bushel of corn removes a set amount of nitrogen, about 0.7 pounds. Some more is lost to leaching and vaporizes. Some more is tied up in the leaves and most farmers expect to apply one pound of nitrogen for every sixty pounds of corn they expect to harvest.

A pound of nitrogen costs $0.30 (spot price anhydrous ammonia, by the ton) while the spot price for corn at the time of this writing is $4.60 a bushel (almost 60 pounds). That is like a machine that you feed one dollar bills into and it spits out a fifteen perfectly legal dollar bills back out. Why would you not buy fertilizer?

Lack of trust. How does one know that the pale powder that looks like dirt is what the seller says it is?

This is a two-factor experiment. For example, the red shaded area might be ten pounds of limestone per tree and white area a quarter pound of potassium. Or, red might be five pounds of calcium and the white ten pounds of calcium. There is also a freebie hiding in the setup. If care is taken and the trees beside the road are harvested separately the scientist can also evaluate the effect of lower density planting.
Even if an enterprising agent were to set up field trials most farmers would struggle to assimilate the information. Why should they pay cash money out-of-pocket...which is very difficult to come by...when they get some harvest for free. Any finite number divided by zero is infinite. It is hard to be more cost effective than that. The fundamental watershed in thinking is to divide incremental yield by incremental input.

This "divide by zero input" thinking was common in the United States in the 1920s. "Why should I pay money to buy Hereford calves and pay money to feed them five pounds of grain a day? I can raise the native cattle on grass alone to market weight."

Well, Sodbuster, it took you seven years to raise that sway-backed, cat-hammed steer to market weight on unimproved pasture. Improved cattle plus a little bit of grain means you can take that calf to market in 20 months, not 84 months. That is four times as many gross receipts in your pocket

One intermediate step is to put the nuts harvested into each tree into its own, individual basket. It helps if the baskets are color coded. Then, weigh the baskets and rank order them from heaviest yield to lightest yield. It should be clear if most of the heavy end is one color and most of the light end is a different one. This is a variation of the Tukey End Count test.

It is beyond dispute that fertilizer application levels are suboptimal in Africa. Some studies indicate that yields could be tripled if recommended levels were applied.

Africa and other tropical areas are rapidly being deforested to plant oil palms, even as they import edible oils. Applying fertilizer seems far more benign than leveling the remnants of tropical rain forests.

The tribal thing
The other issue is that little trust exists between tribes. Since fertilizer looks like dirt, who is to say that the rascal from the other tribe didn't divert most of the fertilizer to his cousin, mix in dirt and made you pay full price?

It happens.

Consequently, you buy only from your uncle or cousin or a person from your own tribe. There are few economies of scale to be had, especially when you layer on every level where mordita occurs. It shouldn't be hard to find limestone in Ghana, for instance. Deposits occur west of Accura, Oterkpolu and Jama. For all practical purposes there is no part of southwestern Ghana that is more than 160 miles from a commercially viable limestone/dolomite deposit.

Money funny business
Ghana, like many other third world countries, got squeezed by the world banking organization. They were put on an austerity diet and stopped subsidizing fertilizer purchases. Crop yields dropped. Exports dropped at the same time prices tanked. The currency traded at 2000 to the USD before austerity and 7000 to the USD afterward.

The issue of bringing rigorous science to Africa is not a problem that can be attacked in isolation. In the end, Africa wins.

Post Script on tribalism: Tribalism is like the system of water-tight compartments on a warship. While it incurs costs it also firewalls epidemics. It may be that Africa's obdurate tribalism is the most viable strategy for dealing with certain diseases. It will never minimize the number who die but it guarantees that a sustainable population will survive somewhere.

Under the conditions of Africa, virulent tribalism may be the only rational system of organization.

Seven Skinny Cows: Little Wedgie Stubert

Richard "Wedgie" Stubert had an IQ in the low 80s and fancied himself “a player”. He was the poster child for every negative stereotype that urban dwellers have of "rednecks".

Some people assumed Wedgie’s low IQ was due to the fact that his mother “liked to have fun” as one of her friends charitably phrased it. Even though his mother was sixteen when she became pregnant she had no problems getting her hands on copious amounts of alcohol. Something about older boyfriends who liked young girls who “liked to have fun”.

Others pointed out that Wedgie was a low birth-weight baby and his mother was barely seventeen when he was born and both of those are statistically related to lower intelligence.

Few observers had any energy for the Stubert family but those rare few decided it did not matter whether Wedgie was stupid because of genetics, pre-natal conditions or childhood environment. The entire Stubert family was stupid and the variables were knotted together and could not be separated.

Wedgie thought everybody else was an idiot because they all nodded when he told a big windy, that is, an outrageous fabrication.

Frankly, nobody cared about his miscreant behaviors and nobody saw an upside to pointing out that everybody knew when he was lying. On the rare occasions he told the truth, he stopped licking the corners of his mouth and stopped batted his eyelids every half second. When he was lying he alternated licking the corners of his lips reminiscent of the Tin Man pumping the oil-can to unstick his lips and Wedgie batted his eyelids like a metronome. That, and when he was lying he stuck “I swear to God!” in about every third sentence.

Another habit Wedgie had was that he spit everywhere. He was sure it made him look manly and it was a way of showing his dominance and disdain for everybody around him. Marking his territory, if you will.

The first four years of Wedgie’s academic career were unremarkable. He was lost in the herd.

By the beginning of fourth grade little Wedgie started to stand out. The social worker said he had Oppositional Defiant Disorder. His teachers said he was just being a Stubert. Wedgie did not complete assignments. His teachers passed him hoping the herd effect would pull him along. Besides, having him in the classroom was exhausting and the teachers the next grade up might be able to do something with him.

He graduated with a solid D- GPA. He was happy. He considered school to be a waste of life’s energy and in his mind there was no benefit to getting a D when a D- was good enough. It must be noted in passing that he graduated with lower reading ability and math skills than when he left third grade.

The economy was hot when Wedgie graduated and he drifted from job-to-job, getting “released” for an enterprising range of bad behaviors. Sometimes he was caught rifling through a co-worker’s purse. Sometimes it was taking fast-food home that he had not paid for. Sometimes it was for dealing a little bit of weed out the back door.

Once he was caught removing safety shields from mowing equipment. The boss told him to put them back on. Later that day the boss saw the mower had all the safety shielding removed. When challenged, Wedgie said it was like that when he picked it up in the morning.

Of course he was fired and, of course, the employer could not find the shields  because Wedgie was smart enough to hide the evidence by throwing them into tall weeds. The employer lost the use of the mower for most of the season because the replacement parts were back-ordered. There are many, many Wedgie Stubert clones in every community and represented a profitable business segment for the mower's manufacturer.

Wedgie was not the least bit conflicted by authority. He expected to get screwed by them so he always made sure he got in his licks in preemptively.

Wedgie knew that everything authority figures wanted him to do was going to be to his disadvantage and he automatically did everything in his power to derail their efforts. It was a stupid-simple optimization strategy.

Nothing changed for Wedgie with Ebola.

The first time he was entrusted to use the chainsaw Wedgie deliberately bent the bar so the crew could go home early.

He lost steel wedges every day.

He broke sledge handles.

Within a week the only job he was trusted with was to hump firewood, and even then he had to stack it on his own, personal pile because the straw-boss could see Wedgie was malingering and not carrying his fair share.

Wedgie was booted from woodcutting the second week when the straw-boss caught him pitching chunks of wood from the main pile into his own personal pile.

Deprived of gainful employment, Wedgie sponged off his mother, who still “liked to have a good time” even though she looked fifty when she was only thirty-five. There were always guys who didn’t care what she looked like as long as she turned off the lights.

Initially the oldest profession did well, post-Ebola. Families were shattered. Lives were stressful. Men sought solace where they could find it and paid for it with whatever they could.

One of Ms Stubert’s customers paid her with a fake Rolex watch and left her with a whacking big dose of Ebola virus.

Ms Stubert shared the virus with her entire family, including Wedgie.

It was a point of pride for Wedgie that he violated the curfew. He and his buds would pillage vacant home looking for money, food and drugs. Some of his friends had girl friends and they weren’t very discriminating after they passed out. It was party-time every night of the week.

Like a comedy sketch of a bowling ball that knocked down every pin in the bowling alley, Wedgie’s sloven habits, indiscriminate mating and exuberant and juicy expectorating not only infected all of his “buds” but resulted in the near extinction of their extended families.

For the most part the families that met their demise did not contribute much to the economy, either before or after Ebola. There were a few exceptions. One family had the misfortune of having their daughter going through a phase where she flirted with the bad-boys; her therapist called it the ‘Leader of the Pack’ stage of life. Unfortunately the phase happened EXACTLY when Ebola hit Wedgie’s posse like a torpedo.

But for the most part Wedgie’s gift took out the grifters, the drunks, the slatterns, the lazy and stupid.

By the time Ebola burned out in Kates Store and Pray Church they had both lost another third of their population. The net effect was to raise the average IQ by five points and wiped out the sub-90 skirt of the bell curve.

The people who Ebola culled from the gene pool were the same people who sowed the seeds of chaos and discord due to their insatiable envy, inherent suspicions and their instinctive opposition to every rule.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Is Vehicular Homicide when you want to kill a vehicle?

Belladonna had a car problem today.

Who knew that starters had a Smoke Emitting Diode to signal that they were malfunctioning?

My best guess is an internal short.

Yes, we drove to Grand Rapids to see if it could be "fixed" with zip-ties and bicycle inner tube. I hoped that the insulation on one of the starter motor wires had rubbed through and the juice was shorting to the engine. No joy.

Mr Mechanic is going to make a dime or two off Belladonna's car.

Will government cease to function during an Ebola event?

(In reference to Hard Times make Hard Men) This reminds me of Duckworth's demise - people getting caught not helping the community. 
I figured Ebola would make it into the community at some point, and drugs is as likely as any other method - though when you mentioned young men, I was expecting the problem to be women. 
You haven't mentioned government in a while - are the feds or locals making any attempt at governing at this point? Or are they not mentioned because they are irrelevant at this point since anything they are doing doesn't affect the community?   -Frequent commentor Jonathan H

What happens to government is mostly outside the story arc but they are worth discussing, just because.

Very early in the epidemic government will beef up with contractors and by leveraging through charitable organizations.

A key trigger point, at least in Michigan, will be when the schools see 25% absenteeism. The reason that 25% is a key measurement is because that is when a "school day" does not count toward No-Child-Left-Behind metrics and toward graduation requirements.

The decision to suspend school operations at 25% absenteeism until there is sufficient evidence that the epidemic is over has already been enshrined in state law. That will probably be the de facto trigger for the suspension of all "non-essential" government operations and martial law in the tenser, urban areas.

A key point is not "25% of the students are sick", it is "25% of the students did not show up." You can bet that many parents will choose to keep their kids home if/when they pick up on the fact that the epidemic is Ebola, not the seasonal flu. In fact, I bet the schools blow through that 25% absent number the day after the second case is confirmed in a community.

For the sake of simplicity, the Governor will suspend government operations on a county-by-county basis. He/she will shut down the county when the largest school district in the county trips the 25% threshold.

So who is left? The "essential employees." First responders, prison guards, water treatment operators, the guys who fix traffic lights and the military.

First responders will be hardest hit with Ebola. First responders and prison guards will get blue-flu. The military will be confined to base.

Recap: three weeks after the second case of Ebola is confirmed in a community there will be no government. If you are lucky, the toilets will still fill and flush.

80% mortality means 20% survival, right?
Not so quick, Feldman.

With IVs and what we consider to be low-tech intervention, the number of 20% survival rate is bandied about. That presumes a long logistical tail supporting the head of the spear. Who is going to stick the IV if the medical personnel are dead or (wisely) decided to stay home? Who is going to wash bedding, change dressings, feed, toilet and clean the patient?

Assuming that everybody in the household will die is a reasonable first-order approximation if Ebola shows up in post-collapse, snow-flake America. Even if they put the carrier on the proverbial ice-floe, it will be too late. Everybody in the house had already been exposed.

Even if the patients survived Ebola and "only" has cognitive impairment and trashed vision, they must still learn to avoid predators in the new normal even as they figure out how to find or grow food and avoid freezing to death.

It is a tiny bit of a spoiler, but I figure Kates Store will spin-down to a low-water mark of twenty living people per square mile. It started out with fifty or sixty per square mile.

Areas that are not as organized as Kates Store and/or have a high percentage of low-trust residents will spin down to ten living people per square mile...even if they started with three thousand. It might be different if a city were 100% inhabited by devout Quakers or Amish or Mormons.

Michigan currently has about nine-million residents. Most of them live in low-trust areas. A reasonable low-water mark for Michigan's post-Ebola population is 60,000 people. That is a 0.7% survival rate.

I would not expect any meaningful difference for any part of the US east of a line from Fargo, South North Dakota - to - Houston, Texas or for the states of California, Oregon, Washington or Hawaii.

Weaklings favor coercing others with the power of the state

Men who are physically weak are more likely to be socialists.
The study, conducted in 2017 and published in the Evolution and Human Behavior journal, ​found that the weakest men of the group favored socialism.The physically stronger males had less interest in socialist policies.-Source

Much of the article goes on with the author speculating whether the chicken or the egg came first.

One view is that physical fitness is part of a bundle of attributes that spell "success" and successful people don't want to have their money stolen by the State"

Another view is that successful men are more likely to take care of themselves by exercising.

A theory that does not get discussed in the article is that people who are weak are forced to rely on collective effort or intercession by the State to achieve results. That forced dependence morphs in their minds into thinking that collective effort is a virtue.

The study, conducted in 2017 and published in the Evolution and Human Behavior journal, ​found that the weakest men of the group favored socialism.

© Neon Nettle
Men who are physically weak are more likely to be socialists, according to an academic study.

© Neon Nettle
Men who are physically weak are more likely to be socialists, according to an academic study.

© Neon Nettle

Seven Skinny Cows: Hard times make hard men

Wade Hawk eased down the gravel road through the humid darkness.

In a month the extensive flooding would bring forth a plague of mosquitoes. But for now all he heard were spring peepers and barking dogs.

Wade was investigating a couple of barking dogs. It was telling that the dogs had barked sequentially and from different houses. Wade was pretty much on a first name basis with most of the dogs in the neighborhood.

Wade was one of the older men tasked with enforcing the curfew that everybody hoped would squelch the plague.

Yes, Ebola and the Black Death had penetrated Kates Store. Perhaps it was inevitable given the abundance of refugees percolating through the countryside and the number of ground squirrels and other rodents.

The horror of Ebola and the Black Death was that it was a virtual death sentence for the entire family when the first family member showed symptoms. The diseases did not care; man, woman, old, young, toddler, infants.

The protocol was to drop off prepared foods as the family fought the losing battle with either disease. Then, after the last member burn the house.

The disease popped up seemingly without rhyme or reason.

The pestilence hit the east end of the neighborhood particularly hard. That was expected given the population density and the refugee traffic on the paved, north-south road. Curiously, the pestilence had only hit one home in the northwest corner of the neighborhood.

Wade had his own ideas about the spread of the disease. By his own calculations, nearly all of the families that had experienced the plagues either had teenagers or young men in their twenties.

Wade had been among the first to insist on a curfew and had been the very first to insist that the roads be policed and the curfew enforced.

That cause huge amounts of agony within the political elite of Kates Store. Enforcing rules meant that there needed to be consequences. The consensus was that miscreants who were caught breaking the curfew would first be warned and then be evicted from Kates Store if caught a second time.

Wade came to a stretch of road that had a ditch lined out along the east side. Unlike all of the other ditches, the spring frogs were not making any noise.

“Who goes there?” Wade called out.

Nobody answered.

Wade pulled out his four D cell flash light, turned it on and slowly and methodically swept the ditch. It would cream his night vision for the next half hour but he had a premonition that he had stumbled across what he had been looking for.

Wade searched with his ears as much as with his eyes. Perhaps more so. He slowly looked close then lifted the torch so he could see down at water level then lifted it even higher so he could look up and over the opposite ditch bank.

Then he shifted the beam half the beam’s width and repeated. Every fifteen feet he silently crabbed sideways. In a month the brush would be all leafed out and even the thousand foot-candle Maglite would not be able to penetrate. But for now, the only green was the random honeysuckle and the ubiquitous garlic mustard. The native shrubbery had pessimistic genes.

He found his quarry thirty yards further down the ditch. The young man was attempting to hide by crouching behind a dense stand of naked elderberry bushes on the far side of the ditch.

“Andy! Is that you?” Wade called out.

“Turn the damned light off. I can’t see a damned thing.” the voice called out.

Wade did not turn the light off but he shifted it to his left hand and lowered the beam so the 1000 foot-candles were not directly in Andy’s eyes.

“Come out here so we can talk like civilized men.” Wade said.

“You come down here.” Andy said. “I like it here a lot better.”

Wade was not surprised. Andy always made things difficult.

“Whatchya doing out?” Wade said. “You know you are violating curfew.”

“Cornbread gives me gas. I stepped out so I didn’t stink up the house.” Andy said.

“Bullshit.” Wade said. “Nobody walks a half-mile from their house and hides in a ditch just to fart.”

“Try again.” Wade said.

“I was going to visit a friend.” Andy said.

“Which one?” Wade asked. “I don’t recall you having any friends in the neighborhood...”

“Unless you were referring to your customers.” Hawk finished.

“Whaddya mean, ‘customers’.” Andy asked

“Anybody with a brain knows you deal drugs.” Wade said. “Not too many kids working part-time, minimum wage jobs can afford a new Camaro.”

“Dammit all, Wade.” Andy said. “A business man has to make a living. My customers have needs.”

Wade Hawk was old school. He didn’t cotton to teenagers, even if they were nineteen, treating him as a peer and calling him by his first name.

“I ain’t asking you, I am telling you.” Wade said. “You can’t be breaking curfew. You cannot be out after dark.”

“OK, I won’t let you catch me again.” Andy said. Wade could hear the smarmy tones.

“You ain’t listening.” Wade said. “It is not a matter of ‘catching’. It is a matter of you doing what you are supposed to be doing.”

“Well, Wade old buddy, that ain’t how I see it. I will do what I gotta do and it is your job to try and catch me.” Andy said.

Wade lifted the flashlight slightly so it was directly in Andy’s eyes.

The 158 grain hollowpoint entered Andy's sternum directly between his nipples and shattered his spine on the way out.

Andy’s body started to slump into the ditchwater but the dense stand of elderberries arrested his slide.

Wade extinguished the flashlight and moved down the road a bit. Then he waited for the ringing in his ears to abate and for the bright, lavender spots in his eyes to fade.

"I guess I won't have too much trouble catching you now." Wade said to Andy as Andy's consciousness faded.

Wade slept late every morning because he stayed out late every night on curfew enforcement duty.

He was drinking his first cup of coffee when Connie, his wife, came into the breakfast nook. She was as excitable as Wade was phlegmatic. She was clearly busting with news.

“What’s up?” Wade asked.

“Heather Miller went in to wake up Andy this morning and he was gone.” Connie said.

“Shit happens.” Wade said. “Especially to pieces of garbage like Andy Miller.”

“I don’t know why you are so hard on him. After all, he IS your nephew.” Connie said.

“Hard times make hard men.” Wade said.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

ERJ 3 - 0 Woodchucks

Three woodchucks in two days. All three have had skin lesions, even the youngsters. I attribute the wet, wet weather.

Potatoes are about 2/3 canopied over. Sunlight that falls on soil does not make food.
Corn has a long way to go. All three crops have the same row-to-row spacing, 42 inches. That is set by my rototiller. This corn will explode if we get some hot weather.
Cabbage went in today. They look pretty pathetic. This is a savoy variety named Deadon and it seems to be fairly caterpillar free. I attribute it to the leaves being purple. The green worms glow like neon signs to passing birds:  Food - Food - Food  

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hammers, toads, woodchucks, Fourth of July and motherswort

We spent the afternoon at a graduation Open House. Rather than money we gave the young man a 22 ounce, steel handled, framing hammer. Money is soon forgotten but this hammer can last him decades.

A study in camouflage. I almost stepped on him.

This year should yield a bumper crop of amphibians due to the extensive and prolonged flooding.

I did not see very many tadpoles in the burn pit this spring. I think they count on the cows "fertilizing" the water. Best practice has been to fence livestock out of open water. I wonder if that contributed to the decline in amphibians.

I have about fifty cabbage seedlings to plant. I also have an infestation of woodchucks.

I caught a young one within fifteen minutes on the lower set.

Knee high by the Fourth of July  looks possible but not a sure thing.

Motherswort keeps churning out blossoms as it grows
It just sort of came together for me as I was mowing. My mentor was a very strong believer in pushing trees to fill their allotted space. He had little patience for people who rhapsodized over making trees struggle as if that would make the fruit more saintly or special. He considered it laziness masquerading as virtue.

A very rough guideline in Michigan is to fertilize to get two feet of terminal extension a year on your trees while they are young and you are filling the allotted space and then to back off on the nitrogen. At that point terminal extension of 12" a year should be your target. Obviously you will have to prune the trees as they try to grow out of their envelop.

Roger typically doubled that target while growing trees and I saw him get eight feet out of a sweet cherry tree in one year.

Growing locations that are farther north or get colder than Michigan should aim for less growth so the trees have time to store carbs for cold resistance.

The part that came together for me is that you are probably not fertilizing young trees with enough nitrogen if you don't have a "weed" problem with nettles and motherswort.

Both of these plants fill a similar niche and both are very nutrient demanding. I prefer motherswort of the two. It is a good pollen/nectar plant with a very long period of availability and it will not make you itch like nettles. The motherswort has been flowering for a few days. I was not paying that much attention. It is now about 770 GDD-b50.

Another plant that occupies a similar niche is asparagus.

It is serendipitous that a common weed that WANTS to grow in a well fertilized orchard is a keystone species for parasitoid wasps and honey bees and bumble bees.

Now I am looking for a perennial pollen/nectar species that will bridge between horseradish and motherswort. There was a tiny bit of overlap in the bloom time between the two this year.

Snow-on-the-mountain is a groundcover that comes close to meeting my needs for flowering time and morphology but I prefer a native species or an edible one if I can find it.