Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Pastures, pears, tomatoes and badgers


No treatment, the control. Design-of-Experiment post here

Granulated dolomite (i.e. lime) at 50 lb per thousand square feet which should raise the pH of the surface soil.

6-24-24 at 25 lb per thousand square feet

Combined 50 lb lime and 25 lb 6-24-24

This is not a perfect set of images. The "lime" only treatment has an overlayer of very mature grass. However, the greener parts were also almost devoid of clover. Percent of clover in the sward is my quality metric. Less than 10% is disappointing, 25%-to-35% is grand.

It looks like there was zero response to the lime. Also worth noting was that the response of the 6-24-24 and the 6-24-24 + lime were very similar.

The last two numbers in 6-24-24 stand for phosphorous and potash (potassium). There are two pieces of evidence that suggest that potash is my limiting factor. Lime increases phosphorous availability and the total non-response to lime suggests that phosphorous is not likely to be the issue.

The other piece of evidence is that potash is historically a limiting factor for clover/alfalfa in my part of Michigan. That is not necessarily true in other parts of the country. Richard Leep, for instance, contends that phosphorous is the limiting factor in the part of Nebraska he grew up in.

So I tagged along with the ever-beautiful Mrs ERJ when she went to Charlotte to have "her hair done". While the ladies inside were working a miracle (that is, making her even MORE beautiful) I went to the elevator and bought fifty pounds of 0-0-60. Once I got home I spread it over about a third of an acre.

Aside: While looking on the internet for application rates for potash, I ran across one article that suggests that forage yield is very insensitive to potash levels. Even if the levels stayed constant in the short-term, the fact that it (might) boost clover levels is enough reason for me to try adding potash to areas that are deficient in clover.


Stupice tomato seeds were planted March 22. Mass seeding tray in upper left. Dissection plate upper right. Seedling tray foreground. Believe it or not, there are 48 tomato seedlings in that tray.

The grow-chamber beneath my work bench. I have 6600 lumens of 4000K lighting in five square feet.  I would have preferred 5000K but the light was a gift. I don't know how quickly the tomatoes will grow. It is in the basement and temperatures are cool.

Cutting my losses

I cut a couple more pear trees out of one of the orchards. The trees I cut down were Potomac on standard rootstock. The combination was too vigorous to stay on-top-of with pruning. I will try again with Potomac grafted on quince.

Incidentally, even "dwarf" trees require pruning to keep their height at a manageable level. They might only require a significant reduction in height every five-or-ten years but they still require attention. A standard tree, on the other hand, would require annual hair cuts to keep it below ten feet of height and the water suckers would make picking the fruit a chore.

Don't be that dickhead

One of my nieces passed away at the age of 22. It has been about ten years. She favored the color pink.

I saw this clump of pink violets in my yard and offered them to my sister. She graciously accepted.

The reason I bring this up is because it is impossible to know what burdens people are carrying through their lives. Common courtesy evolved as a way to minimize the chances of stepping on an emotional landmine.

I stopped patronizing a local store because the manager is a dickhead. Every time she saw me going through the checkout line she would badger me to sign up for their "Preferred Customer Card". Needless to say, the checkout person would stop checking me out because the manager is their boss.

I always say "No", then "No" again. Rather than say it a third time, I leave the cart filled with merchandise and walk out. There are lots of places to buy what they sell.

I assume she gets some kind of bonus for the number of customers she gets signed up.

But I am unable to relate to you, my readers, how angry I get when I say "No" and it bounces off of somebody.

As a man, I had it drilled into me that "No" means "No" and nothing else. It is over. No discussion.

Apparently, this woman sees it as an invitation to argue or a chance to exercise her dominance.

And then today, I got an email from that retail chain asking why I stopped shopping there. I told them pretty much what I wrote down here. It does highlight the fact that there is no privacy when you use a credit card. They knew it was me even though I did not have their credit card.

Remnant: Getting back on the horse

The first step is always the hardest.

Jarrell had asked around and nobody had any local sources of rubber, or more specifically, (liquid) latex rubber.

Jarrell was able to find tool-and-die men by the score. He found controls engineers and electricians, millwrights and precision operators. What he could not find was rubber.

Jarrell had walked away from his high-octane job seven months ago. Actually, he had been fired and black-balled. Since then, he had been licking his wounds and sulking. If he had stayed with Ashley would still be sulking. Meeting Melody had been life changing. He was ready to move on.

Now was the time to get back onto the horse. The corporation he had left had talent and expertise stacked like cord-wood. It was time to make a few calls and see if any of them would give him the time of day. If he could just get their attention, maybe they could give him a few names and he could hand-over-hand his way to the people who could set him up with what he needed.

The first person he tried was the third boss he had as an intern, Phil Gross. Phil was a study in contradictions: immensely fat he read lady’s romance novels at lunch and was as masculine as a bag of hammers. He was also as sharp as a tack. Phil would be a good first-read of how the wind was blowing.

“Hey, Jarrell. How is it going?” Phil trumpeted into the phone when he picked up. Nothing halfhearted or surreptitious in his greeting. “Whatchya been doing with yourself?”

Jarrell struggled to frame what had happened to him. A huge part of Jarrell's difficulty is that he really didn't know what HAD happened to him. How do you create a coherent narrative when there are huge, gaping holes in the story line?

“No, I mean after that. I heard HR dropped the ax on you” Phil said. “It happens to the best people.” Phil assured him.

Whether Phil could sense that Jarrell was coughing up a hairball talking about his exit from the company or Phil not being interested in the details didn’t matter. Jarrell would much rather be talking about his new project.

“Can you talk? I mean, do you have time?” Jarrell asked.

“I got nothing but time, buddy. Haven’t you been reading the news. The company is in reorganization. Only a few divisions are running and unless things turn around in a few weeks, my guess is that we will liquidate.” Phil said.

“I was laid off two months ago and am looking for work. So if you have anything going on, I would love to hear about it” Phil said.

That was the last thing Jarrell expected to hear. Phil was in the company’s “core business”, one that in normal times printed a steady 8%-to-12% return on revenue.

“I know this sounds weird” Jarrell said “but I am starting a pilot project making condoms.”

“Why condoms?” Phil asked.

Jarrell warmed to his 15 second, elevator pitch.

“At 600 condoms to the pound, I can take a liter of rubber latex and turn it into $1200 of salable product. Condoms are a consumable product, one-and-done. People will always need condoms. Especially when they cannot afford to raise kids or when antibiotics to cure STDs are not available. The economy crashes and the demand for condoms goes up.”

“Ok, kid you sold me” Phil said. “How can I help?”

Phil used to play bridge with a couple of analytical chemists from the corporate lab. One of them knew a top-notch rubber guy…..

Another contact Jarrell had with the company had a friend...who had a friend….who had a friend who knew somebody who flew down to south Texas for business on a regular basis. The friend of a friend of a friend didn’t fly commercial. He flew his own plane.

And that is how Jarrell found himself parking the neighbor's VW Jetta in front of the property somewhere near Battle Creek, Michigan.

Jarrell pulled a folding chair out of the back, a basket and a sign. The sign said

I NEED TO TALK TO THE BOSS in four-inch tall letters.

Jarrell propped up the sign so it was readily visible to the security camera closest to the gate.

The property was not what Jarrell expected. It was brushy and overgrown with brambles and multiflora rose; abandoned campers and mildewed, fiberglass fishing boats strewn about.

Jarrell pulled a tube of sunblock out of the basket and liberally applied it to his face and ears. Then he pulled out a thermos and poured a cup of coffee. Sitting down, behind the Jetta, Jarrell pulled out a legal pad and started fleshing out the Gantt chart for the Condom Project.

An hour later, Jarrell heard the putt-putt-putt of ATV coming down the drive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Three meals from Anarchy

Grain stocks per capita March 2020. Y axis is number of days at 4000 Calories per day. Blue line is corn (maize). Red line is corn plus wheat. Data from HERE. Note that the Y axis is logarithmic.

I created this chart to satisfy my curiosity, how many days is each state in the United States away from anarchy should interstate commerce cease.

A closer look at the right end of the curve in tabular form. List started at Texas to include majority of highest population states.

Grain is reported as being in two places. "On-farm" which is exactly what it sounds like and "Off-farm" which includes grain in mills, elevators, warehouses, terminals, processors, train cars, barges and so on.

States with deep-water ports might have a significant amount of grain out-bound and that grain would be difficult to access for domestic consumption.

Significant amounts of corn are in the pipeline for hobby-farmer animal feed in states like New York. The corn that a horse owner panic bought for his horses might or might not become available for human consumption. In many cases, it means that the owner decided to euthanize his horse (or chickens). Good luck with that.

Sorted for day's supply of wheat as reported by the USDA for March of 2020

Within state transport

If transportation between states pukes, then continued anarchy is likely to poison transportation within the state.

The fact that Illinois has 7 years of grain within its borders is meaningless to somebody living in Chicago if the resources that are more than 20 miles away might as well be on the moon.

Other big cities have the same issues.

Fine Art Tuesday


Examination of the background suggests that these sheep are gleaning a narrow-strip field. To make this work, the sheep must be kept on the long, narrow strip that was harvested and prevented from feeding on the strips where other crops have not yet been harvested. The dog is key to making this work.


The Barbizan artists were most active from approximately 1830 until 1870. They headquartered in Barbizan, France approximately 35 miles south-southeast of Paris on the edge of the Fontainebleau Forest.

The life they documented was a mix of intensive crop and extensive pastoral agriculture. I find it aesthetically pleasing. One can make a case that traditional, European small-holdings combined both types of agriculture in an ecologically stable way. These are still considered state-of-the-art principles and are taught in permaculture classes.

Most of these images are from one artist, Jules Dupré. I chose him in particular because he provides good images of the tools of the common worker in the field.

Yokes for carrying. I am hand carrying water to the cattle right now, so I can appreciate the advantage of a yoke. Front and rear views provided.

Rakes for making hay. My guess is that the fellow she is working with is her sweetheart. Detail of the split shaft with a wedge lashed in place to create the fork the bar-and-tines are attached to. Very strong and no iron needed.

A detail of the fork that is shown in many of Dupré paintings. This shows the same split/wedge/lashing construction and steam-bent claws.

A wheelbarrow, windmill and woman with patched, work-dress

Dupré painted many versions of this image. It must have been a big seller. I selected this version because it shows the mallet, peg and chain in detail.

A group of other women are in the background. It is not clear if they are watching their own sheep or not.

In contrast to the first image, these sheep appear to have about six or seven months of fleece on them, so this was probably painted in the autumn. Sheep are typically shorn in the spring before lambing. The curious thing about the top image is the absence of lambs and the short fleece of the ewes.

Camile Pissaro. Another sheep gleaning after harvest image. Having the sheep vacuum up shattered grain heads reduces grain contaminating/competing with the next crop. It also reduces the rodent population by denying them grain and any weed cover.

Monday, March 29, 2021


While Mrs ERJ and I were on one of our walks we ran across a Pudelpointer named C and his owner Tom.

What an awesome dog! Watching him run was to watch poetry in motion. He was five times more graceful than the finest figure skater in the world.

Tom was a life-long bird hunter and had many dogs since 1973 when he bought his first retriever. His current Pudelpointer left them all in the dust.

Perhaps it was the culmination of almost fifty years of working with and training hunting dogs, or maybe it was the dog, but Tom said "This dog is very 'soft'. He can almost read my mind. He hates it when he makes me unhappy. I can frown at him him and he will never make that mistake again."

Some crosses collect the worst attributes of each breed*. Others, magically, capture all of their finest traits. At least one dog owner believes the Pudelpointer is the second kind of cross.


The dog and owner we saw were both exceptionally fine. The exact chain of causality is open to debate.

From roughly 1850-to-1960 our thinking was dominated by breeds, cultivars, county fairs and field trials. Every year saw a new, miracle potato, apple, peach, strain of corn, breed of cattle or hog or chambering in a firearm.

Two decades later most of those miracles had evaporated. What happened?

Well, for one thing hype sells. How can anybody command premium prices if everybody understood that Red Pontiac potatoes, Liberty apples, Iochief sweetcorn, Angus cross cattle and Hampshire-Duroc hogs, while not exotic were perfectly capable of meeting the mortgage payments AND feeding your family.

A second factor is in-breeding depression. If I cross two very different breeding lines, say Australian Cattle dogs and Mountain Curs, I will get out-breeding vigor. The cross will appear to be "magic" but if I start in-breeding to stabilize the 'magic' then it will evaporate.

A third factor, at least for some kinds of plants, involves virus. Most seeds will not have the virus of their mother. So a new breed of potato will almost always have no virus loading. It will outproduce its virus-handicapped benchmarks by a wide margin. However, as it spreads (undoubtedly due to its eye-popping yield) it will become infected with virus spread by insects and nematodes. Over the course of a decade or two, it will have been infected by the same virus handicapping its competitors and it will not be any better than them.

A fourth factor involves enthusiasts versus consumers. Tom, the Pudelpointer's owner, was an enthusiast. With his experience and love of dog he could make an average dog into a GREAT dog. Others, seeing that dog would buy the breed and expect the magic to come with the pedigree and price tag. Likely, they would be disappointed.

Addendum Two (*): This is a delicate topic where anything I write is likely to offend half the people reading this.

One example of a sub-optimal pairing involves breeding dogs with a high need for "mouth gratification" with dogs with easily triggered "rage reactions".

I freely admit that the sub-optimal results might not hit every off-spring. I also submit that it is impossible to determine WHICH off-spring are sub-optimal a priori.

For example: Consider breeding a "retriever" with any dog breed selected to fight other dogs.

Retriever breeds are selected to have a high need to "mouth". Over the last forty years, trainers recognized that "ball drive" is a great training aid and lines of dogs of all breed have been selected with high "ball drive" because unlike food treats, ball drive does not diminish with multiple rewards.

Dog breed that were selected to fight other dogs (or bulls) in pits were selected for high rage reaction, often triggered when whatever is in their mouth tries to free itself.

Combining those two traits can result in a dog that is "mouthy" and can switch into "rage mode" when the arm or leg or face that is mouthed attempts to get away.

The bromide "It is all in how you raise them" is an untestable hypothesis until it isn't. And then it is too late.

Remnant: Handgun


Jarrell’s third lesson was with a handgun.

Dar trained him with a Ruger .22 semi-auto with a bull barrel.

Jarrell had figured out that Dar had reasons for everything he did, so he asked “Why are we training with THIS handgun?”

Dar had an answer. “Ammo is in very short supply. You can train with a .22 and will learn what I need to teach you.”

“So this isn’t the one you think I should carry?” Jarrell asked.

“I really didn’t want to go there” Dar said with a sigh. “If you only gun is a .22 then you should carry it. If the only ammo you can find is .22 ammo, then you should carry it. If you cannot handle more recoil than a .22, then you should carry it.”

“But if you have a bigger caliber available to you and have ammo for it and you can control that gun and hit what you are aiming for...then that is a better choice” Dar said.

The internet was still up most of the time and Jarrell had done a little bit of research.

“Why do you say that?” Jarrell asked. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I want your opinion.”

“I mean, the internet says that the only sure stop is a central nervous system hit and if you hit it with a .22 it works as well as a .45” Jarrell parroted.

“And if you don’t hit the central nervous system then even the most powerful pistol cartridges are not that powerful”

“Have you ever played pool” Dar seemed to change the topic.

“Yeah, sure” Jarrell said. He had spent a lot of hours in bars and pubs and he had played pool.

“Have you ever had a ball you wanted to hit but had it hiding behind a couple of balls?” Dar asked.

“Yeah, I guess so” Jarrell said.

“What if your cue ball was a tennis ball. What are the odds of being able to get a piece of the buried ball if your cue ball was a tennis ball?” Dar asked.

“About zero” Jarrell said. 

On a straight, frontal, center-of-mass hit, approximately 80% of the target's width is "vital" and 20% will impact Central Nervous System...if your bullet has enough momentum left after punching through 10" of flesh.

“A head is about 50 square inches. The spine is three inches wide and twenty inches long. It is a bigger target than the head but you have to punch through the rib-cage and guts to get to it. I have my doubts that a 40 grain, .22 bullet is going to have enough steam left in it to hit the bad-guy’s backbone and bruise his spinal-cord. That is all I am saying. The central nervous system is a lot bigger than you think if you have the penetration to get there” Dar said. For him, it was a long exposition.

Jarrell was disheartened to see how hard it was to “hit” with a handgun. He had been able to hit charcoal briquettes 90% of the time at 25 yards with the .22 rifle. He was 50% hitting water bottles at five yards with the handgun. Much bigger target. Much closer.

“That is why you keep pulling the trigger” Dar said. “The good news is that your target is going to be a lot bigger than a water bottle.”

“Your handgun is your third choice for engaging your enemy” Dar said. “Its single redeeming feature is that it can always be with you.”

The last part of the lesson was for Jarrell to monkey-paw a selection of Dar’s
“extra” handguns.

“These are all adequate choices” Dar said. “The gun selects you as much as you select it. Which one feels best in your hand. Close your eyes, bring the gun up to eye level and see if the sights align with your intended target.”

Jarrell was dubious as he looked them over. “They are all so big” he commented. “How will I conceal it?”

Dar was straight up. “The time for concealed carry is over. Personally, I don’t think you have the time to learn how to be effective with a handgun and carry concealed. Even with open-carry you still need to be able to sniff-out trouble if you hope to have time to get your gun out of the holster.”

Jarrell’s hand selected a Ruger P-89, 9mm. The gun was one of the oldest (and least expensive) of the ones Dar offered. Dar assured him it would “always go bang!”

Dar had Jarrell run the handgun course with the gun several times. Jarrell did not embarrass himself but struggled with reloading.

Dar sent him back to Melody with the Ruger 9mm, the holster, four magazines and 100 +P premium rounds of hollowpoint ammo. 

Note to readers: Fabulous comments on the shotgun training. Please feel free to flesh out what Dar would have covered in his training with the handgun.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

A few thoughts about Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter.

In the Christian narrative, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt and is given great honor on Palm Sunday. The people on the street cut palm fronds from the palm trees and lay them on the street so the horse's feet are not dirtied.

By day, he preaches in the city and by night he retreats into the countryside.

On the eve of Passover, he dines with his closest students in the city of Jerusalem and is arrested by those in power.

His is tried in a hurried and irregular trial. His closest allies deny him. He is executed on Friday with revolutionaries.

A few take-home messages:

  • Fame is fleeting and honor is ephemeral
  • Power attracts/creates evil people when people think power is their's to possess
  • Even the best of men are flawed and fail (Peter)
  • Mammon is not a basis for loyalty and can be the catalyst for betrayal (Judas Iscariot)
  • Help comes from unexpected sources (Simon the Cyrenian and Joseph of Arimathea)
  • Honor can be found among thieves and revolutionaries, but not in every one of them. 
  • There are things worse than death. 
  • Death eventually finds us all. 
  • To live and die without honor and purpose is worse than death.
  • Great Stories can happen in the back-end of nowhere. In modern terms, Palestine was fly-over country filled with dirt-people.
  • The story of Palm Sunday and Christ's passion is not complete until Easter. The story swings from giddy joy to crushing despair and fear and then back to joy.

As a Christian, I am challenged to read this story and discern how it applies to my life, to my "now". As we live out echoes of this story, which role am I playing? Which role SHOULD I be playing? How can I best live my life with honor and purpose?

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Umbel Nursery of Parma, Michigan



Umbel Nursery is just a couple of miles north of I-94, slightly west of Jackson, Michigan and not very far from Eaton Rapids.

This video, which may be a bit too long for most of my readers at 24 minutes, discusses how to integrate fruit trees into a planting for maximum production and quality of fruit.


I met Erin, the speaker, about eight months ago. Two things impressed me about her. She gives you 100% of her attention when you are conversing with her. That does not work to her advantage in this video as she is making eye-contact with various people in the audience and ignoring the camera. She is 1200% more personable face-to-face.

The second thing that impressed me was her kids. They were outside. They were tanned, fit and active. They were polite and well-spoken. They were "grazing" on berries and green beans they snitched from the garden. My memory is fuzzy, but I estimate the oldest was about nine years-old.

My two-cents about companion planting

It is common knowledge that it is very, very difficult to grow sweet cherries, peaches, apricots and Carpathian Walnuts in my part of Michigan. The trees seem to die if you so much as cross you eyes at them. And yet some people seem to pull it off effortlessly.

The biggest issue with these species involves sun-scald. That is when the sun thaws out the trunk of the tree on sunny afternoons in January and February and then the sudden drop in temperature after the sun sets flash-freezes the trunk. Most species require a period of moderate cold to acclimate their cells to deep cold. In many cases, the acclimation involves the cells partially dehydrating. The flaccid, dehydrated cells are resistant to the formation of ice crystals which kill cells by puncturing their walls.

The rapid rise-and-fall in temperature short-circuits that acclimation-over-time mechanism and kills the southwest sides of trunks. The dead bark lets in decay organisms and it is good-bye fruit tree.

Having written all that, these trees survive in the wilds of their countries of origin. And there are people who grow them without wrapping them or going through other heroics to keep them alive. What is going on?

One local grower, Roger Miller, had a habit of planting asparagus around his trees. The asparagus stems remained upright through most of the winter and shade the trunks during the afternoon and shielding them from radiant heat loss at night.

Other "survivors" are in raspberry patches and the dense canes perform the same function as the asparagus stems.

Other plants that could fill the same function are blackberries and black currents.

The thermal shielding effect of branches may be one reason why trees that are pruned in the spring demonstrate more winter hardiness in-the-field than trees pruned in the fall. In a similar way, a canopy of grape vines (whether domestic or wild) will provide a degree of thermal shielding.

Migrant children or baked potatoes?


Friday, March 26, 2021

One of the German Shepherds staged a jail-break

Hercules, the senior German Shepherd went walk-about this morning. It was an hour before he decided to amble on home.

He knew he was in the wrong. He slunk up the driveway like a hen-pecked husband sporting fresh lipstick on his collar and the odor of way too many gin-and-tonics. Belladonna gave him a very stern talking-to.

Examining the site of the jail-break revealed that sub-optimal door hanging caught up with us.

You can see from the drag marks on the strike plate that the bolt is hitting low and just barely hits the opening.

This is what it looked like before I removed the strike plate. Easily a half-inch gap between the door face and the strike plate. The sleeve that carries the bolt wobbled its way out. The bolt engaging the hole in the strike plate by the a fingernail, and only because it wobbled upward.

The original installation was 2002. Tightening the screws on the door hinge raised the bolt every-so-slightly but not enough to address the issue.

It was clearly a poorly installed door from Day One.

Looking at two other doors from that vintage of installation also revealed issues that need to be dealt with.

"For want of a nail..." and all that.

Remant: Combat Shotgun

Jarrell’s second lesson was in Combat Shotgun.

Darwin knew he didn’t have a lot of time to work with Jarrell so he boiled it down to the bare-bones, as he saw it. *

Dar had Jarrell do all of his shooting in the kneeling position. Easy to drop into. Easy to pop out of. Twice as hard for the bad-guy to hit you with return fire.

Dar had loaded up inert rounds. He had spray-painted them white to make them easy to keep track of.

Dar stacked cardboard boxes and made a “course” for Jarrell to shoot. Dar instructed Jarrell to keep firing at the closest target until it fell over, then engage the next closest. Dar had strings tied to the stacked boxes and could make them fall by yanking on the string.

Jarrell wanted to know why he was practicing with a pump-action shotgun. He knew Dar had several semi-autos.

“The problem with training with a semi, at least with inert rounds, is that you have to yank the bolt back to reset the trigger. That is NOT what you would do in combat” Dar told him. “A pump gun, training with inert rounds or combat is the same. Pull the trigger, rack the slide.”

“Another thing is that the transition from pump to semi-auto is easy. It is not as easy the other way around.”

Each time through the course Dar layered in a little bit more complexity.

The first time he had Jarrell move forward through the course.

The next time he had Jarrell do a fighting retreat.

Then he had Jarrell herding a beach-ball backwards with his feet while doing a fighting retreat.

“Why do you have me doing this?” Jarrell asked.

“Suppose you are at Applesauce Steakhouse when the balloon goes up” Dar suggested. “You are retreating to your vehicle with your family so you can exit the area where the flash-mob is. What do you think your three-year-old daughter will be doing? She will be glued to your legs. Get used to it.”

Dar layered in tactical reloads.

All with inert rounds.

“Won’t live rounds be different?” Jarrell asked. “I heard shotguns kick like a mo-fo.”

“That is going to be to your advantage” Dar said. “From now on, I want you pulling the weapon back into your shoulder with your trigger hand and pushing forward with the hand you have on the slide.”

“Won’t that slow me down?” Jarrell asked.

“It will with the inert rounds” Dar admitted. “But it will speed it up with live rounds. You can cycle the pump gun as quickly as a semi-automatic when you have recoil because the recoil will stroke the weapon back and your forward pressure will cycle the slide forward.”

“The other thing is that it will mitigate recoil” Dar said. “Pulling back with your trigger hand and pushing forward with your slide hand puts tension in your muscles and takes the slack out of your joints. Makes a HUGE difference in felt recoil.”

The last round through with the inert rounds had one target that would not go down. Jarrell ran his weapon dry. Then he laid it down.

“I don’t get it” Jarrell said.

“You are doing good with your high, center-of-gravity shots” Dar admitted. “But what happens when you run into somebody with body armor?”

Jarrell loaded one inert round and raised his point of aim. At the click of the firing pin, Dar yanked the string and toppled the stack of boxes.

“If you dump two rounds of double-ought into a target and don’t see an effect, change your point of aim. Shoot for his head, groin or thigh” Dar advised.

Dar finished the training session with two passes through the course with live rounds. Jarrell ran it without the beachball for safety reasons. There were no surprises, just reasonably fast times with workman-like accuracy.

“I don’t want you to get cocky, kid. But you are doing ‘OK’.” Dar said, grudgingly.

Jarrell was inordinately proud of the feedback. He had a sense that Dar did not hand out un-earned praise. And he was right.

Jarrell's self-esteem went through the roof when they got back home and Dar gruffly told him "Take the damned gun with you. It won't keep Melody safe sitting in my safe."

Jarrell felt the unalloyed joy of a 12 year-old, walking back to the garden shed with the 12 gauge pump shotgun in one hand, box of 00 high-brass shells in the other.


Next to Sundays, Wednesday’s were her busiest days and she needed a little pick-me-up before rejoining the party downstairs.

Dr. (of Divinity and Sacred Writings) Gracie Sherman was an enormous woman and had appetites to match. Massing out at 400 pounds, less a double-handful, she carried her avoirdupois with more grace than seemed possible. Lycra was her best friend.

She had taken the storefront Tabernacle of Divine Grace and Power over as a poor, struggling, single-mother and in the space of twenty years transformed it into a mega-church.

A consummate speaker who could no more walk past a microphone and not start speaking than she could walk on water, (special effects not-withstanding), she realized that King James was much too confining for what she had in mind.

Over the years, chapter-by-chapter she had released the Gracy Sherman (Dr. of Divinity) IMPROVED Bible. Notably, she did not retain Deut 12:32

“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.”

She kept the skeleton of the Bible as most knew it but she removed the parts that made her audience uncomfortable and added other bits. If pop-psychology, New Age/Scientology and the Critical Race Theory were the meat, potatoes and carrots of the stew she was serving; Marxism was the gravy that flavored every bite.

She was widely successful.

Her audience exploded. Fundraising matched. She opened the second largest church in the Lansing area out by the freeway. It had 52,000 square feet worship area.

Her crowning achievement was when she bought the downtown facility from a foundering a congregation of a legacy, main-line denomination. They were happy to sell it to another "church". Clearly, none of the Elders bothered to read the “Bibles” that were in every pew.

The addition of that facility vaulted Dr. Gracie Sherman ahead of her arch-rival on a square-footage basis. It was a stunning accomplishment for a girl who had dropped out of the Zanesville, Ohio high school and had never set foot in a college or university. The Dr (Divinity and Sacred Writings) was attributed to a now-defunct school in South Carolina where it was impossible to check her bona fides. Cunning, yes. Stupid, no.

Gracie was mid-way through her third line when her heart said “ENOUGH!” and went Tango Uniform. Too many years of untreated high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. Too much sugar and salt. No exercise. And now massive lines of exceptionally pure crank.

Nobody heard her body hit the floor. Her guests were rocking and the music was blasting.


*Please feel free to comment on what "bare bones" combat shotgunning should cover. I am NOT an expert. Dar is stressing "fighting retreats" because he doesn't see how "clearing" structures of aggressors fits with the mission of protecting his daughter.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Happy Dance

Mrs ERJ finished the taxes and they are in the mail (electronically speaking).

Mrs ERJ frequently walks with Sprite. Sprite's husband, The Captain, passed away about a year ago. Sprite frequently comments "I wish the Captain had shown me where/how/when to do something".

Mrs ERJ took it to heart. She battled her way through the software. She got frustrated. She kept at it, though. She kept at it steadily for two days.

Today, Mrs ERJ is the hero of the realm and the blog.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Notes to self (running list)

Tree replant on south end of property

  • Cut trees in the 1/3 acre with the dead/dying NM-6 hybrid poplar
  • Spray glyphosate to kill grass/sod on approx 8' centers.
  • Trap/shoot squirrels
  • Plant pecans and Red Oak acorns before May first

Orchard fertilizer plan

  • Fertilize orchards with urea approx April 1. That is at least a month earlier than my habit
  • Fertilize with 6 lbs urea every 120 feet of row.
  • Spray beneath trees with glyphosate to suppress weeds approx May 1 and again on June 15.

Tree replant where sumac died

  • Transplant butternut seedlings to area near sugar maples where sumac died.  


  • Black currant plants
  • Jefferson and Yamhill hazelnut rooted suckers
  • Grafted chestnut Szego
  • Woodchips or bark mulch


  • Graft north row of Shenandoah pear to Korean Giant and/or Chojuro
  • Graft apple tree next to Gold Rush along south pasture fence line to Kerr
  • Graft some tomato plants to gain expertise
  • Cut scionwood from Illinois Everbearing Mulberry
  • Cut scionwood Chujoro and Korean GIant
  • Move pecan seedlings to northeast corner of property

Seedling start

  • Chinese cabbage (Start July 4, plant out Aug 1)
  • Deadon savoy (Start May 15) 


  • Mow last week of May before Orchard Grass pollinates
  • Frost seed red clover "Freedom"
  • Frost seed festulolium Duo

Walnut wood lot

  • Thin out runts
  • Cut Honeysuckle bushes
  • Cut Boxelder trees/bushes
  • Move fence post sized wood to orchard until needed
  • Cut small trees next to road

Calves and fishing


I moved the calves to a fresh paddock yesterday morning. One of the little stinkers respected the fence so much that he refused to go through the opening.

I ran a line of cracked corn across where the fence had been. When he got to the end of the line he was with his buddies. Just like magic.

I restrung that end of the fence and turned it back on.

The temperature in the Grand River hit fifty. I went fishing.

The suckers might have been running in this creek but they were not biting my worm. I will try again tonight.

I was talking to a local who is in his early 40s. He commented that he remembered when he and his buddies walked up-and-down this creek with their bows trying to shoot the suckers. Suckers are slender fish, so I am sure they didn't hit many.

The area is more built up now. There are more ordinances. I am sure it would be impossible for kids to do that now. Folks would call the cops.

Today is "dig up chestnut tree and move it" day.

I am trying to figure out how long I can put off planting pecans and acorns. The sooner I put them in the ground the more I will lose to squirrels.

Remnant: First lesson, second half

The second part of Jarrell’s training for the day was dirt-simple. Dar had him shoot the .22 bolt-action rifle. And shoot it. And shoot it. Dar kept an eye on his watch. He vowed to let Jarrell shoot for at least five minutes between stopping him and giving advice.

It was hard to do.

Dar consoled himself with the fact that most of the shooters with bad habits had been shooting for decades before they sought coaching. How deeply ingrained could bad habits get in a forty-five minute shooting session?

Dar had a mix of reactive targets: charcoal briquettes, bottle caps, spinners and so on. The target that captured Jarrell’s attention were the shotgun hulls staged in cut-outs in cardboard boxes. It took a solid hit to spin them out of their “foxhole”.

Dar’s only instruction was to shoot closest target to furthest, because the space-alien (which looked suspiciously like a scrap, 20 gauge hull) that was closest was the one that was most likely to kill you.

Dar figured out about how many hulls and how much he needed to expose of each “space alien” to engage Jarrell for five minutes. Dar asked Jarrell for a post-mortem of the “shoot”, offered a word or two of advice and then had Jarrell step outside the shooting area while he staged another invasion of 20 gauge hulls.

After the last shoot of the day, Dar was standing with his back to the targets and asked Jarrell how it felt.

“Pretty good” Jarrell said. It had taken Jarrell a little bit to suspend disbelief about the entire “space alien” thing but once he threw himself into it, it was a lot of fun.

“I am glad you feel good since you are dead. That probably means you went to heaven” Dar said.

Jarrell furrowed his brows in consternation. “What do you mean?”

“Do you remember when I told you that the space aliens that were closest to you were the ones that were going to kill you?” Dar asked.

Jarrell nodded his head “Yes”

“There are eight space-aliens staring at your smoking corpse right now. Find them” Dar said.

Jarrell had been shooting at the 25 yard targets.

The space-aliens that had “killed” him were peeking over the three, five and seven yard targets used for combat pistol training.

It was sobering.

“How long have they been there?” Jarrell asked.

“I put them there the second time I staged the aliens” Dar said. "They have been staring you in the face for the last seven battles."

“I want you to take away one more thought from today’s session: You will lose nearly all of your situational awareness at the sound of the first gunshot. That means that when you are carrying a weapon, you have to assess every social situation for potential threats and tactical considerations BEFORE you do anything else. Know where your escape routes are. Know where the bad guys are most likely to be coming from. Catalog cover before you sit down and get comfy. Every time" Dar said.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Predictions from December, 2020


1.) Prediction: Joe Biden will serve as POTUS from January 20 through the remainder of 2021. 

So far this is correct.

2.) Prediction: The GOP will retain control of the Senate.


3.) Prediction: Cities will burn in July and August

Too soon to tell.

4.) Prediction: Prices will get crazy in very unpredictable ways.

5.) Prediction: People will stop donating to the Democratic party.

6.) Prediction: Former President Obama will start to sound reasonable

Not yet

7.) Prediction: Melania Trump will be happy

She is still miffed about the shabby way she was treated and the fawning attention Mrs Biden receives.

8.) Prediction: Donald Trump become the boogeyman the press claims he was

They are trying but they can only milk January 6 for so long

9.) Prediction: Covid will remain a drag on the economy for the entire year

No reason to doubt this, yet.

10.) Prediction: Somewhere, somebody will still have a free spirit and fill their part of the universe with joy.

One word: Wirecutter

11.) Prediction: There will be a resurgence of interest in revolvers and the .38 Special will regain popularity

No more than for any other firearm

12.) Prediction: Not only will our country continue to split apart, every individual will split into the PUBLIC person and the PRIVATE person.


I really wish the prediction about mass shootings had not been correct. At least they didn't mow down a bunch of school kids or true-innocents.


Looks like Buckwheat got his money's worth out of that one


Full-metallic brake pads. Twice as good as semi-metallics.
Regarding Mike's comment, I paid for the parts. The kid could not be bothered to stop driving it.
The music running through my head as I slapped the new pads in.
Yes, the rotor is grooved. No, I did not replace it. The next one is on him.

Fine Art Tuesday


I have to admit that I like the water-wheel in the image.

Nikolia Astrup born in Norway 1880 and died in Norway 1928.

Notable for bold use of color and fantastical settings. The water flow in the image above gives Escher a good run for the money.

Vestiges of pagan rituals hang on

Rhubarb in the springtime. Also known as Pie-plant in some places.

"Stooks" are a way of spindling sheaves of grain to ensure they continue to dry by getting them off the moist ground. Norway's climate is much like the wet-coast of Oregon and Washington but much, much snowier in the winter.

 Gustav Wentsel



Gustav Wentsel born 1859 in Norway and died in 1927 in Norway.

Wentsel struggled economically and many of his paintings showed evidence of rapid production as he had bills to pay.

The overhang on the roof of the building on the left is notable

The balcony the entire length of the second floor is notable. It is clearly being used for laundry even while snow is on the roof.

This cluster of farm buildings gives the sense that they were added onto as needs became known and resources were available.

A working farm in the highlands. Highlands are typically less productive than the alluvial soils of lowlands. Presumably, farmers from the highlands were the most willing to emmigrate to the US.

All hands on deck when the grain is ripe. A more detailed look at stooks.

Anders Askevold

If you embiggen the image and look at it carefully you can find five watercraft. Two row-boats. Two sail boats and in the distant background, a steamship. The largest of the two sailboats looks to be about 40 tons displacement and the smaller sailboat might be trans-shipping cargo to the larger.

Rounding out our run of Norwegian artists is Anders Askevold born on Christmas 1834 and dying on October 22, 1900

Askevold's paintings are photographic in their realism and are very likable.

Looking at his paintings as one looks through a keyhole to discern the past, the cattle are not inbred nor bred to match an arbitrary color pattern or size.

His backgrounds suggest that Norwegians used livestock to glean calories and protein from the most distant mountain peaks, much like a fisherman casting a net into the sea.

The images of ships suggest that there were light, minimally keeled sailboats that plied the fjords and transferred loads to ocean-worthy crafts that shuttled between the mouths of the fjords and the major, commercial hubs.

Paintings by Askevold are much like a Glock 19. There might be better art for specific applications but very few intelligent people who will criticize you if you purchase an Askevold for a general-purpose "Hey, this room needs artwork" painting.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Garden log March 22

 Garden log: March 22

One of my neighbors had a chicken/dog run that they wanted to repurpose. I have a niece who specializes in repurposing. She is now the proud owner of a chicken/dog run or greenhouse frame.

One pear tree cut down. One pecan seedling planted just east of the tree that was removed. The pear tree did not pay its rent. It was evicted. Rumor has it that you cannot grow pecans in Michigan. That is 99% correct. I cannot grow big, papershell pecans but I can grow "Pee-wees". The fill well enough to germinate and produce the seedings that I excavate from my raspberries and such. I ran a line of pecan trees along the road, stitching them in between an existing grafted persimmon and a black walnut that now sports a Late Rhodes heartnut graft.

I had abysmal luck grafting heartnuts last spring. I had about five takes. The only ones that survived the winter were three Late Rhodes and one Campbells #3. One graft of "Locket" kicked the bucket. Hope springs eternal when grafting nut trees.

Looking down the crooked line of trees (crooked because of the existing persimmon and walnut) I thought, I might as well squeeze some hazelnuts between them. And so I did. Three Yamhill on the east end and five Jefferson on the west.

I planted about 15 feet of Super Sugar Snap peas. Mrs ERJ has a very decided and durable preference for this particular pea cultivar. She finally beat me out of trying other varieties. "There are some horses you don't have to race anymore. They have proven to be head-and-shoulders above the rest."

I planted a double-row with the peas six inches apart in each direction. For those with a mathematical bent, it worked out to one gram for every foot of row. I intend to plant another fifteen feet in about three weeks. 

The timing for the "shingling" or "wedge" for overlapping crops is complicated by two facts. One is that the soil is cold and seeds germinate slowly. A seed that takes a few days to germinate at the end of May might lolly-gag for a couple of weeks this time of year. The other complicating factor involves day length. Fall cabbage harvest dates slip three days for every day you delay planting in the spring due to the daylight hours in the fall being shorter than the daylight hours earlier in the year.

Tomato seeds

You can imagine my disgust as I looked, and looked and looked for my tomato seeds. I took great pains to save seeds from a cross-section of the heaviest bearing tomato vines last year.

They were nowhere to be found.

I went out to the garden and grubbed around and found a few carcasses that had fallen and their desiccated corpses remained intact enough for me to identify them as Stupice tomatoes. I put them into a baggie and macerated them with my hand. Then I planted them into the mass germination flat I started.

But I was not SURE they would germinate. I went on-line and shopped tomato seeds. I got sticker shock. Some tomato hybrids are running almost $1.50 a seed.

Well, Stupice is open pollinated and not quite that expensive. I gritted my teeth and bought a package of seeds. And, since I had the credit card un-welded from the wallet, I bought some Romaine lettuce seeds. Romaine lettuce seems to have the best balance of heat resistance, cold resistance and flavor of common lettuce types. I bought Jerico and Sparx. Jerico was developed in Israel which is essentially a desert.

No sooner had I hit the send button then I walked into the basement and put my hand on the envelop with about 2000 Stupice seeds in it. I scraped off the corpses of the tomatoes I grubbed out of the patch two hours earlier and planted several hundred seeds. I will pick a couple dozen of the strongest growing seedlings and transplant them into flats.

$1.50 a seed my rosy, red ___.

Mainstream Media suppressing news of March 21, Washington DC riots

Exclussive ERJ footage of March 21 riots when patriots breached Biden's Capital Wall while Pelosi, Schumer, Biden and Harris watch.

Note the use of Combat Armored vehicle.

Enjoy the rest of your day.

Remnant: ...dying is easy

Note to my readers: Most years my blog gets priority over the garden and other things. This year will be different because we may be counting on food from the garden to get us by. We may be feeding other families out of our garden. Things aren't grim right now but that could change in the blink of the eye.

The thing about gardening and most other, productive activities is that you must drop the hammer MONTHS before the food hits the plate.

A calf is 18-to-20 months from birth to meat-on-the-plate. A heifer calf is 24 months from birth to the first squirt of milk in the bucket. Sweet corn and tomatoes are two-and-a-half months from seed/plant in the ground to food on the plate. Green beans seem like a bargain at a little less than two months but green beans are mostly water. A pound of green beans have more water in them than a pound of milk. Those numbers are for the FIRST forkfulls of food. The bulk of it comes later.

The fiction will drop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and length will shrink from approximately 1000 words per episode to 600. The quality may also suffer. The installments might be a first draft quality, or worse.

Thank-you for your understanding. I encourage you to consider your priorities as well.   -Joe 

Darwin and Jarrell drove west a mile-and-a-half out of town to the  Conservation Club. Darwin was a member and had the combination to the lock. He let them in. After parking the truck he locked the gate behind him.

"Why didn't we shoot back at the house?" Jarrell asked. There was nothing smarmy or smart-ass about it. It helped Russ gauge just how much he was going to have to work with Jarrell.

"There are a lot of answers to that question" Dar said after thinking it over for ten seconds. Dar was almost as fit at fifty-seven as he had been when he mustered out of the Marines. He still looked like he could hump a seventy-pound ruck for fifteen miles or run eight-minute-miles from sun-up to sun-set. He wasn't quite that fit...but he wasn't that far off, either.

Dar was Melody's father.

"The biggest reason is that this is a very safe place to shoot. This is a shooting range. It is designed to be safe" Dar said.

"Another reason is that we have neighbors who like to make trouble. They call the police when I shoot a red squirrel or raccoon out of one of my trees. That same red squirrel or raccoon might be destroying their attic but they feel justified making my life miserable. It is just easier to come out here" Dar concluded.

Jarrell nodded. He had encountered people he classified as "spoilers". Their lives might have turned to crap and they were not capable of creating anything or doing anything positive. But they could still make other people miserable.

"You are a puppy" Dar said. "The key to training puppies is to have many, short lessons and to keep it fun."

Jarrell wasn't sure he liked being compared to a puppy but he had no objection to short, fun lessons.

"Today you are going to shoot reactive targets with a .22 rifle" Dar lectured. "and I am going to introduce you to the FIRST TWO RULES."

From the way Dar said it, it was clear that FIRST TWO RULES were capitalized.

"You cannot see it, but there is a very high-powered laser attached to the barrel of the rifle. That laser will slice like a chainsaw anything that is within a mile, anything except the ground or the sky, that is" Dar said.

"So, you can understand that if that laser comes anywhere near me or my truck or anything that I would regret seeing destroyed, that I will kick your ass" Dar said. "I might even break your fingers. I am still giving that consideration."

"You are fucking kidding me, right?" Jarrell said. "There is no laser on that gun"

Dar looked Jarrell straight in the eye. "If you do everything you are supposed to, then you will never know. Will you? If you only point it at the sky or the ground...then you cannot know if it is true or not."

That gave Jarrell something to chew on.

"What is the second rule?" Jarrell asked.

"Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until it is time to kill something" Dar said.

"Kill something?" Jarrell asked, a bit shocked.

"We are done, here, if you cannot wrap your mind around the fact that there are people who are willing to kill you and kill people you love for the price of a cheap wrist-watch" Dar said. "Life, your life, is that cheap to them. Cheaper, even. They might kill you because the assume you have something worth stealing."

"Do they win or do you win? Do they kill you and Melody or do you kill them? If you cannot decide then we are done RIGHT NOW" Dar said.

"A gun is not like garlic or a Crucifix keeping vampires away. It isn't magic. It only works when it is a tool in the hands of a craftsman who is willing to use it" Dar said.

"Sure, sometimes you get lucky and the thug is a coward who runs away. But more often the cowards run in packs and they cannot run away because of the loss of 'face'." Dar said.

"I can see you care for my daughter" Dar said. "Do you care enough to learn a new skill? More important, do you care enough for my daughter to kill for her should the need arise?"

"Don't you mean 'die for her'?" Jarrell asked, hoping to inject a bit of levity into the conversation.

"Nope. Kill for her. Dying is easy. If you are dead, who stops the next bullet? And the one after that? And the one after that?" Dar asked.

"I am asking you to do something harder" Dar said. "If a thousand evil men want to hurt my daughter...and my grandchildren should I be so lucky...I want you to send every one of them back to hell quickly and efficiently. I want you to pull the trigger until the barrel of your weapon shimmers with heat. I don't want you to hesitate a single time. NOT ONCE. NOT EVEN A FRACTION OF A SECOND. CAN YOU DO THAT?" Dar said. 

"It is not complicated. It is not about you. It is about who lives? Who dies? My innocent daughter or those who would kill for the price of a wrist-watch?"

"Because if you cannot protect my daughter then I am wasting my time here."

"We will pack up and head home. If Melody asked, I will tell her that we had a chemistry issue and it didn't work out. No skin off either of our noses" Dar said.

"Now, I am going to walk around the perimeter of the Conservation Club to ensure that the fence is secure. It will take me about five minutes. When I come back I will want your answer" Dar said.

When Dar came back, Jarrell asked "So, how do I get the gun out of the case when the laser is running?"