Tuesday, January 31, 2023

"Range Maps" and human intervention

Nearly any thinking person is likely to conclude that official "Range Maps" for various species of plants and animals must be taken with a grain of salt.

Animals go "walk-about". Plants can exist in disjunct communities far from the main body of their species.

Does anybody care to guess how far north the most northern harvested Whitetail deer was collected? If you guessed "Little Chicago" you would be correct.

The Kentucky Coffeetree makes an interesting case-study.

For one thing, a trained person can identify a KCT from a quarter of a mile away while driving 55mph. Small clumps of trees that are readily identified are more likely to get "charted" than more anonymous looking species.

When growing close together their trunks are laser straight. They hang onto their massive seed-pods all winter long. The ends of the stems are very blunt.

KCT in Collingsworth County, Texas

This has become "a thing" because KCT is very resistant to urban conditions and is widely sought after for street-trees. Breeders want to throw the widest net possible to collect the entire universe of KCT genetics while they are still out there.

One possible explanation for all the tiny population islands is that Native Americans may have used the seeds as two-sided dice in games-of-chance. They might scar one side to mark it and then throw a handful of them down on a flat surface.

Pre-Columbian Native Americans did not have video games or Youtube to entertain themselves during the winter. Twenty KCT seeds take up about as much room as a pack of modern playing cards. It is a good bet that they were traded between tribes. And like modern jigsaw puzzles, some of the pieces to the game were misplaced. In this case, the misplaced seeds took root and grew.

It seems likely that the widely scattered populations of the pecan were also assisted by humans. The conventional thinking is that pecans originally evolved in east-Texas and central Oklahoma and that Native Americans carried them for provisions as they traveled by river from one place to another.

Fish species

As a young lad, my father was fishing on the Thornapple River. He caught a very unusual fish that he took home to his widowed mother. Food was expensive and they did not have a lot of it.

After careful examination, and perhaps conferring with the neighbors, they decided the prudent thing to do was to bury it in the garden.

My grandmother ran a print-shop and was the only worker. She could not afford to get sick.

Many, many years later when my dad was in college he saw an illustration of that same fish.

Fine Art Tuesday


Night Bivouac during Napoleon's retreat from Russia
Vasily Vereshchagin born 1842, died 1904.

Many of his themes involved the military, wars and the aftermath.

Incidentally, Larry Dean Olsen recommends something similar when a group is caught without natural shelter or  suitable place (or time) to build a structure. Sit in a tight circle with every person sitting on a corner of their tarp or blanket and over-lap blankets and fold tops inward over heads.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Collectivism's two fatal flaws

The psychological concept "Dilution of Responsibility" was stumbled upon when hitchhikers on less traveled roads were offered rides more quickly than hitchhikers on very heavily traveled road.

Dilution of responsibility

I am the proud father of four children. There is a five-year gap between #2 and #3.

My two oldest children played soccer. My oldest child was blessed with awesome coaches. The second oldest child's coaches were, charitably, mediocre.

I decide that the only way to ensure #3 and #4 had good coaches was to become a soccer coach.

My first three games as a newbie soccer coach were humbling. My team's opponents were coached by fathers whose kids had been playing for two years (and this was their second year of coaching). Many of my pet theories went down in flames.

I deployed the players on my team two-by-two, like a six on a dice.

The teams with the more experienced coaches lined them up, single-file down the center of the pitch.

When the other team was driving the ball up the center of the pitch, my team watched and, individually, decided that the ball was closer to the other girl and neither girl deigned to break into a sweat and challenge the opponent moving the ball.

The other teams, in contrast, had been instructed "Sophia, if the ball gets past the girl in front of you, your job is to move toward the ball and take it from the other player. Then you kick it up the field."

Yeah, we were crushed. My girls were "participating" and our opponents were as committed as Kamikaze pilots. It wasn't the quality of the girls. It was the clarity of the instructions and the ambiguity vis-a-vis the room for variable interpretation.

The Prisoner's Dilemma non-dilemma

The Prisoner's Dilemma is a very basic introduction to game-theory.

Two suspects are caught under very suspicious circumstances. The police separate the two suspects and offer each an identical deal.

If neither you nor your partner "rat" you will both probably get one year in prison.

If you rat and he does not, you turn State's evidence and walk free and he serves 10 years.

If he rats and you do not, you serve 10 years.

If both of you rat, then both of you serve 7 years.

Looking at the "matrix" it is clear that it is highly advantageous to the probable perps to both keep their mouths shut. One year served by each perp is a total of two years.

But they always, both "rat" resulting in a total of a fourteen year obligation between the two of them.

The reason is simply. The person making the decision, in reality, has no control over what the other person does. Whether the other person "rats" or not, the individual always benefits from ratting on the other. One row of the matrix has him walking free rather than serving a year. The other row in the matrix has him serving seven years instead of ten.

The Collectivists cry a million tears and tell us that the Soviets failed because they were not pure "Socialists". Ditto for Venezuela and the Norks.

It is not that the Soviets weren't "pure". The problem is that Socialism (or other Collectivist hooie) can only function when the actors function in ways that are not typical of most humans. Examples might include cloistered religious groups and military units on patrol where the failure of one fighter can result in the annihilation of the entire unit.

One must question the sanity of people who are so blinded by the glory of their theory that they hold up its failure as evidence, nay proof, that humans are so flawed that they must be replaced by...more "evolved" humans that will validate their pet theory.

Virtually all therapy aimed at improving emotional health emphasizes separating those items that we can control from those items that we can influence from those items that are totally beyond our control. Inability (or stubborn unwillingness) to make those separations is a symptom of mental illness.

Wisdom from the ol' folks home

One of the characters where Mom resides was moving to another facility when I visited today. 

She did not care for the facility where Mom is because they have too many rules.

I wheeled her in from the sidewalk several times. She would go out there to smoke and got stuck.

Actually, I think she liked getting rescued by "young guys". She was an outrageous flirt.

I am flattered that she swooned when she saw me walking by...to get the free ride in. She didn't do that when ugly guys were walking by.

Did I mention she was blind?

On her way out for the last time she told me "I ain't two-timin' on ya sweetie."

I raised my eyebrows in the unspoken question. "But you are leaving me..."

"Honey, technically it ain't 'two-timing' when I got at least other three boyfriends"...

I cannot argue with that.

Several of the male residents were notably grumpy today.

Possum Guts Soup

The outcry for the official ERJ recipe for Possum Gut soup has been deafening.

Apparently, I am not the only geezer who has city-folk visit.

-One medium size onion and two stalks of celery fried in whatever edible grease is handy.

-One pound ground meat. Brown in pan with onions and celery after onion chunks become translucent. This is when I added the all-purpose Taco Seasoning. I used a half tablespoon.

-One quart home-canned tomatoes

-One can chili beans.

-Once soup comes back to a boil, add "guts" made from a two-part flour to one-part water dough.  Knead dough or keep adding flour (or a bit of both) until the dough is not stick. Then roll dough into worms and drop into boiling soup. The worms will get larger as they cook and absorb juice.

The batch shown above used one cup of flour and half a cup of water. Frankly, it would have been prettier if I had used a cup-and-a-half of flour and 3/4 cup of water for the "guts".

As an artistic touch, throw in some bones from your last rotisserie chicken. It is hard to separate all the little bones from the road-kill after it has been run over multiple times, dontchya know.

Double-extra bonus points if you serve it in a bread shell that looks like an upside-down, juvenile armadillo.

Heller and Shannon: Punching above pay-grade

Shannon was surprised to have to go through a metal detector to enter the county government complex. She was used to them being in airports but it never occurred to her than county government might be a target for “terrorists attacks”.

The permitting department was in the basement and it had the feeling of being the catacombs beneath Rome.

The only woman working in the Permitting office was in her upper fifties and clearly dyed her hair.

“What do you need?” the woman, Mandy if her name tag was accurate, growled at her.

“I am here to pull a permit” Shannon said. “And before I go any farther, you need to know I have never done this before so I realize that I probably don’t have all the information you need to do your job.”

Mandy’s expression softened fractionally. “Probably wouldn’t matter if you had done this before. Most folks don’t do this often enough to get any good at it.”

“Whatchya got?” Mandy demanded.

Shannon started spreading the documentation she had brought in her expanding, seven-pocket folder. “My boy-friend is going to build a root-cellar for Kim and Steven Bockbeck.

“Where do they live?” Mandy asked.

“A couple miles east of Morrison Lake” Shannon told her.

“Do you have a street address?” Mandy asked. “You would be surprised at how many people from Barry County come here to pull permits.”

Mandy double-checked. “Yep, Ionia County” she confirmed.

What can you tell me about the project and the site?” Mandy asked.

Shannon pulled out the topographical map with the house and outbuildings on it. “The plan is to put it here” she said, pointing at the rectangle Heller had penciled in.

“Is that to scale?” Mandy asked.

“Pretty close” Shannon said.

“What are those shaded areas?” Mandy asked, pointing at a rectangle where Heller had outlined and then shaded with the pencil.

“Drain-field” Shannon said.

“Did you mark the well?” Mandy asked.

Shannon pointed to a small, densely shaded square with a capital P printed above it.

“Will it be wired for electricity?” Mandy wanted to know.

“I don’t know. I didn’t think to ask” Shannon admitted.

“A lot of folks hereabouts would run a trench and put conduit in the bottom of it. They would run a line of baling twine through the conduit to pull a wire if they ever decided to up-grade. Just saying it is easier to do now and keep the option open than to do it later” Mandy said.

Of course, Mandy was not blind to the fact that the up-grade would start just about fifteen minutes after the inspector stamped off on the final inspection.

“Did you call Miss Dig?” Mandy asked.

That is when Shannon’s mind slipped a cog. “Miss Dig?” she asked, bewildered.

“I assume you will be excavating. Most root-cellars are below ground. You need to have Miss Dig come and mark the wires and gas lines and such” Mandy said.

“Oh. Right” Shannon said. “I can look that number up and schedule it.”

“No need to look it up. Their number is 8-1-1” Mandy informed her.

“Do you mind if I make some copies of these pages?” she asked.

“Those are yours to keep” Shannon said.

Almost apologetically, Shannon added “I work in banking and I know you cannot do your job if I don’t supply the information you need to do it. So I made copies of everything I thought you might need. You can even keep the folder if it would be helpful."

Looking at the wealth of paper Shannon had brought...plans, topographical flow lines, marked up overhead with well, drain-field and power lines...Mandy was impressed.

“Call Miss Dig and let me know if they find anything that will change the plans” Mandy said.

Even before she left, Shannon called Kim and asked her if there would be any problem if Miss Dig came onto the property. Kim said “No problem.”

Then Shannon called Miss Dig and gave them the critical information.

Again, Shannon was apologetic. “It is just easier to do now. Plus, if I left something out you would tell me and we would not lose another three days.”

After Shannon left, Mandy called Fred Barker, Shannon’s boss.

“I will be more than happy to work with her any time you want to send her here to pull a permit” Mandy told Barker. “She is definitely a take-names and kick-butts kind of girl.”

Fred Barker agreed. “We make too many loans that go into hibernation because our customers get tangled up in permitting...no knocks on you. It will be good for our business if we can be THE place to go because we make it easy to start building.”

Fred steepled his fingers as he thought about Shannon. He was not about to look a gift-horse in the mouth but there were some things about her that did not add up. She was punching way above her pay-grade and that was a rarity.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Little pieces

I weighed the wood I brought in today before we started burning. I had 20 lbs-4 oz and we got a five-hour burn out of the wood.

Our burn-rate came to just a freckle more than four-pounds-per-hour. The living-room (call it 700 square-feet) went from 66F to 75F while the outside temp is 24 and there is no wind.


Those brownish cylinders that are approximately the size and color of cooked possum guts are the hand-rolled noodles.

I remember going to a cabin with my dad once and there was not much in the way of groceries. He made something that I remember him calling "Gleece", or at least that is how my 9-year-old ears heard it. It was basically little balls of bread dough (minus the yeast) that was rolled between the palms of our hands into "worms" and dropped into boiling soup.

The magic of the internet brings us this. Close enough for government work.

Dad's people spoke German. His mother was from the Baltic regions based on a congenital disorder she had. His father was from the southeastern corner of the Austrio-Hungarian empire.

I gave it a whack. I used whole-wheat flour but I am sure almost any ground grain would work, masa, buckwheat, barley, rye-flour...

Cheap and filling. And if you are hungry, delicious.

Taco/chili seasoning

I have been using a modified version of a taco seasoning I stole from All Recipes.

  • One tablespoon commercial chili powder
  • One teaspoon non-iodized salt
  • One teaspoon black pepper
  • One teaspoon onion powder
  • One teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground, dried garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon star anise powder (freshly made)

This version has less cumin and more cayenne than the All Recipes version. A few other measurements were tweaked as well. There really is no "right" or "wrong" combination. It is a matter of what doing what you and your family like and having a basic, versatile mix that saves time.

I have been using one tablespoon per pound of meat but will be dialing back a little bit in future ventures.

Rose seeds

I found some donor plants for rose seeds. Three of them were in front of the Arby's in Charlotte, Michigan. Another was in a garden in front of a hospice (I only pilfered two hips from that bush). A third donor was located in southeast Eaton Rapids and I will ask permission before liberating some hips.

Comments on the "Dumb Question" post

Thanks a million to everybody who commented on that post. The comments were 20X times better than what I wrote. I sent the link to Belladonna and suggested that she read it (and the comments).

In the past, she has been bruised by "favoritism" and I think the comments will be useful to her to give her a focal plane to snap what happened into focus.

Sixty Month Goals

The ever-lovely and brilliant Mrs ERJ and I are going through the process of hammering out our sixty-month goals. People without goals never know when they have arrived or if they need to make corrections to the course they are steering.

I keep having little sub-goals sneaking into my brainstorming list. For instance, I want to catch, clean and eat at least 12 meals of local fish per year. That would be 24 "plates" of fish between Mrs ERJ and I.

I am not sure I can talk Mrs ERJ into carp but I could catch one and use it for cut-bait and catch a mess of channel cats. Between that and panfish it is hard for me to imagine that I would fail to catch that much fish in four-to-six outings.

Rust remediation

An earlier post talked about a .308 Winchester with a rusty barrel.

A short session of shooting suggested that the rust was mostly on the exterior of the barrel and that the rifling was "good enough".

I spent part of this weekend sanding down the outside of the barrel that was rusty and then spray-painting with "cold galvanizing" primer and then flat-black enamel. The primer is usually much cheaper locally than it is over the internet.

Most rifle barrels are now painted rather than "blued". Bluing is a form of oxidization. That oxide coating is then impregnated with oil.

Even though it sounds like heresy to paint a rifle barrel, consider how long the paint on automobiles lasts. Given a good surface treatment (phosphating), primer and then UV resistant color-coat, there is no reason the exterior of a rifle barrel cannot be as corrosion resistant as the hood of a Toyota. One tip is to use primers and color coats from the same manufacturer as there is a better chance you will avoid an unfortunate incompatibility.

And there is absolutely no law that prohibits you from coating the final coat of paint with a rust-inhibiting oil to seal any cracks, pinholes or other imperfections in your paint job.

Roll Tide and Go War Eagles


Absolutely, Roll Tide and Go War Eagles.

The data that populates these maps comes from graduate students going out and performing sampling. Some universities have very strong programs in the natural sciences. Other universities may have fewer resources and not place as high a priority on funding research to go out and catch frogs.

For example, if you looked at the image shown above and look at the Arkansas-Oklahoma border you might draw the conclusion that Oklahoma was much richer in amphibians than Arkansas. A more discerning conclusion might be that more species of amphibians have been reported in peer-reviewed literature and been published. Same watersheds. Same climates. Same crops and same pesticides.

Ditto for the Arkansas-Mississippi border and the Louisiana-Mississippi border.

We might be talking about only the difference of one Professor per state and a handful of grad-students...but that is what it is.

So, YES! a big tip of the hat to University of Alabama (including the one in Huntsville and other locations) and Auburn.

Alabama for the win


Total fish diversity

Amphibian diversity

Number of freshwater mussels species

Tennessee and Mississippi get honorable mention.

Amphibians are considered good indicators of environmental health since their skin is very permeable and any toxins are easily absorbed through it.

Mussels (clams) are considered prime indicators of the health of a watershed because they cannot move out of the way of pollutants or low oxygen. They are also subject to toxins as they are filter feeders that sieve food out of the water near the bottom, subjecting them to chemicals that may be temporarily bound to silt particles.

Saturday, January 28, 2023



It is rarely noted in Geography books that a narrow strip of water in the west end of Lake Superior connects Wisconsin to the rest of Ontario thus explaining their dialect, beer and outlook on life.

For those of you who adore Canadian culture, let me introduce you to one of Ontario's most famous bloggers, Charlie Berens.

And don't listen to those yahoos from Ill-noise. Dey doan know nuttin.

A Dumb Question

I am asking because I really don't have anybody else to ask.

"Are the military regulations and traditions that prohibit Commissioned Officers from fraternizing with enlisted men designed so Officers will not become emotionally attached to men they must assign high-risk missions?"

Organizationally, the Commissioned Officer must accept orders from Higher and convert them to plans to be executed by Lowers. Those plans must comprehend strategic and tactical realities and must be designed to maximize changes of success with the secondary consideration of minimizing net-losses.

If your "buddies" happen to be occupying the salient which is the best launching point for an offensive, your duty as an Officer is to order your "buddies" to take the point of that offensive.

Humans, being fallible beasts who are able to rationalize actions that benefit themselves, are prone to dither and wait for their buddies to rotate out of that position or to order the offensive to be launched from a less tactically advantageous position to spare those buddies. Both of those options are "failures" in the sense that the most optimal course of action was not pursued.


As was suggested by an acquaintance who is a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist; Commissioned Officers are the fossilized remnants of the European Royal system where excess, male heirs were "purchased" position-and-kit and shipped off to distant countries where assassinating the chosen heir would be logistically difficult. Then the most senior surviving "spare" could be carted back and installed if the chosen one met his untimely demise.

He claims that "Commissioned Officers" are a legacy of the European "Class" system.

He claims that military traditions banning fraternization have nothing to do with the fact that wars involve spending lives like water and that "war" is something psychopaths (unable to have empathy for other humans) do well. And if you don't produce enough psychopaths by normal, mathematical chance you have to design a system that creates pseudo-psychopaths who will function as if they were psychopaths.

The Marxist's view of Commissioned Officers may be how the office started, but it seems likely that it would have fizzled unless there was some tangible benefit to the practice.

Comments will be much appreciated.

Friday, January 27, 2023

A European Vlogger's impressions of the United States


A European's impressions of the US (Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Canuckistan, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.

People in the US smile and compliment strangers.

US has best food and worst food in the world.

US is BIG. They don't need passports to see the wonders of the world.

Yes, I would absolutely, 1000% live in the US.

570 miles from Monroe, Michigan to Ontonagon, Michigan.

Michigan, a medium-sized, eastern state where the states tend to be scrawny and on the puny side.

570 miles from NATO HQ to Sweden which is not part of NATO.
You have to cross Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and then into Sweden. Five countries. And they used to consider Europe a continent even though the South East Football Conference probably has more land area.

Fake News Friday: Biden to require $5 deposit on disposable lighters


The Biden Administration announced early this morning that it will be placing a $5-per-unit deposit on disposable lighters.

Spokesperson Annie Raggedy said the initiative was to raise more money for smoking cessation and to eliminate the residual butane being vented to the atmosphere.

Additionally, the metal that creates sparks when the lighter is activated is primarily composed of rare-earth metals that are imported from China. Those "flints" will be recycled and reprocessed to extract the rare-earth elements.

Use a Lysdexic Friendly Script, they told me...


But somehow the memes just aren't as funny when I use Trebuchet font

Heller and Shannon: Pullin' Permits


Shannon stopped by the library on the way home.

There was no traffic for "Anita" so she spent some time searching for pictures and plans for "root cellars" that matched up to the structure Kim had described.

Kim had given Shannon her cell number and permission to ask Heller if he had any interest in building a simple root cellar.

Shannon printed out images of ones that looked cute and printed some of the shelving and some plans. Paper is cheap.

Then she pulled up the county plat-book and found the property and printed out an overhead of the area around the buildings. While she was dinking around, she found that the county site had the ability to project elevation lines. Thinking that might be handy, she also printed out one of those.

In spite of already spending over three hours on the road, Heller was more than happy to visit a neighbor, as long as Shannon drove the truck.

Shannon called. Kim was willing to have them over.

Heller snoozed on the way over.

Kim walked them around the farm-yard and then pointed out where she wanted the root cellar. It was clear that she had given ample thought to proximity to the house and drainage. You don't want to site a root cellar in a puddle, nor do you want to site it where water and ag chemical spills are likely to drain.

"How big ya thinkin'?" Heller asked Kim.

Kim said "I dunno. Maybe 8' by 24'."

"Prolly make sense to run it the long-way into the grade, dontchya think" Heller suggested.

"Yep. That was the picture in my head" Kim agreed.

"Lemme get my yoyo, stakes and a hammer and we will stake it out" Heller said.

Kim nodded in agreement. That was fine with her. Stakes don't mean anything.

Shannon was fascinated by how Heller first set one of the 24' long sides and and then used a 3-4-5 triangle and twine to create a right angle to set the 8' stakes. Then he measured diagonals to ensure it really was straight-and-square.

"You know somebody has to pull a permit for a building this size, right?" Heller said. "I can't do it because I am working in Livonia six days a week and the county offices aren't open on Sundays.

Kim mournfully shook her head. "I am tied up organizing the church festival this year. I swear, those women run around like chickens with their heads cut off when I am not there to keep things moving forward."

Kim and Heller turned and looked at Shannon.

"What does 'pull a permit' mean?" she asked.

The next morning, Shannon asked Fred, her boss, if she could either take a late lunch or an early lunch.

Naturally, Fred asked why.

"Kim Bockbeck was in yesterday and wants to put in a root cellar but cannot get to the county offices to pull a permit. I agreed to help her out" Shannon said. "I hope that is all right..."

"Is she going to borrow money from us to build it?" Fred asked.

"I imagine" Shannon said.

"Tell you what" Fred said. "Go to lunch at your usual time and then hit the county office afterward, on-the-clock. What you are doing is close enough to 'bank work' that I think the Credit Union can pay you for it."

Shortly after Shannon left for lunch, Fred went into his office and called the county permitting department.

"Mandy Piggot here. Whaddya need?"

The county office was running short. Piggot ran the permitting office.

"Morning Mandy. This is Fred Barker over at the Saranac Credit Union" Fred said.

"Morning Fred." Mandy and Fred knew each other causally. More importantly, they knew OF each other and neither had ever heard anything untoward of the other. "What can I do for you?"

"I have a new clerk here at the office and she is showing a lot of initiative. She will be showing up after lunch to pull a building permit for one of our clients and I am pretty sure she has never done it before."

"Hmm-mmm" Mandy vocalized on the other end of the connection.

"Can you or one of your people walk her through the process? Her name is Shannon and she is a naturally organized person. Some of our clients might like having somebody like her take care of the fussy work of pulling permits..if she was good at it" Fred said.

"Is her handwriting legible?" Mandy asked.

"Her handwriting is very readable" Fred said. 'Readable', heck it was downright beautiful.

"Well, then I can work with her. She's gotta be better than half of the folks who come in here to pull permits. Some of them can't even read their own writin'" Mandy said.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

2000 calories: Perimeter Security 24x7

A reader request. Let me preface this by stating that I am NOT an expert in this subject so you will probably read recommendations you have already seen in other places.

But, a request by a loyal reader is a request, so here we go...

Perimeter security

Defense-in-depth refers to the idea that multiple layers of defense require depth-of-field to be effective. Various layers will stop different threats or each layer will filter out or stop a certain percentage of attackers. 

The moat around a castle prevents various engines-of-war from being wheeled up to the walls and breaching them. It also discourages attackers from tunneling beneath the wall. In this case, the order of defenses (moat then wall) is important.

The rings-of-defense can be tweaked to improve their offensive weapon potential like the crenellations at the top of the castle wall.

Distance is time and time means effective response

Most houses are too close to the road to provide an effective time-lag between sensing of perimeter attack and mounting an effective response.

Multiple responses spring to mind. Working from the outermost defense to the closer ones:

Neighborhood, mutual-aid alliances: Better to end a threat when it attacks a home closer to a main road than when they attack your home.

Warning signs: "Only one person must approach the house at a time. More than one person will be seen as an attack and dealt with."

Barriers: Fences, thorny hedges, perhaps with strategically placed gaps where multiple fields of fire can be brought to bear. Right-eye-dominant shooters shoot more effectively at targets that are on the left-side of their field-of-fire while left-eye-dominant shooters shoot more effectively at targets on the right side of their field-of-fire. Shooting directly to the front exposes more of the defender to the attacker than shooting obliquely.

If I had the ability, I would put yellow-jacket nests or Africanized bees in the gaps the attackers are being funneled to. I do love biologicals that work for free.

Must not obstruct fields of fire. People are more honest when they know they can be seen. It is my casual observation that only about 10% of the population is capable of hitting a man-sized target at a range of 70 yards. Unfortunately, very few of us are more than 70 yards from the road or live on properties large enough to clear a seventy-to-one-hundred yard field-of-fire around hour home.

Grove of pecan trees

If every square-foot of ground is needed for food/fuel production then, theoretically, much of the ground in the field-of-fire could be planted to standard trees like pecans, walnuts or mast-producing oak or chestnuts. The first two are preferred because they have more transparent canopies (important when they are young) and because they lose their leaves in the winter while juvenile oak and chestnuts almost always hold on to theirs.

Every adult knows how to use firearms and every child over age six is trained using a BB or pellet gun.

Firearms are staged over doorways with bolts-open and magazines are close at-hand. It used to be common practice for Granny to have a 20-gauge single-shot or a .22 LR rifle behind the kitchen door. She know that a single woodchuck could destroy an entire row of green-bean seedlings in a single go or a dog could run all of a small flock of sheep to death in an afternoon.

Adults who are outside are "carrying" and have enough ammo to deal with threats or distract attackers long enough to activate "the plan", whatever that is.

Dogs. Several of them. In Rhodesia during the most troubled times it was common for farmers to have a half-dozen "barkers" and a couple of larger attack-dogs that had their vocal cords removed. The barkers alerted and distracted while the attack dogs attacked from the flank.

Fancy electronics: Tend to be expensive BUT phonograph needles run about $2 apiece and have the potential to be MacGyvered into seismic sensors. Pair them so one is optimized for transverse (up-down) waves and the other is optimized for longitudinal waves, run through an amplifier and play the resulting signals on speakers. Train the dogs to light-up when they hear the speakers. You may want to put the system on a timer so it does not keep going off during the daytime.

Internal security

Mr Sutton, can you tell us why you rob banks? Willie Sutton answered, "Because that is where the money is."


It is my belief that about half of the burglaries are perpetrated by people who have some kind of relationship with the target. It may be an ex-girlfriend, a shiftless cousin, a kid who was booted out of the house to help them grow up.

They see theft as the path of least resistance to get what they want. The see theft of items on your property as the easiest, fastest path to getting their next fix or to get the price of a large pizza.

Humans are funny animals. We have the ability to rewrite narratives to make ourselves heroes and RIGHTEOUS. Some small slight can be nurtured into a vast injustice and stealing from "those rich bastards" suddenly seems like a virtue. 

The two simplest defenses against attacks from these sources is to go beyond "don't flaunt your wealth" to actively broadcasting "we are as poor as country church mice". And the best way to do that is to have several, anonymous looking doors or lockers that are only unlocked when the resource they are protecting is needed.

In the scenario we are playing with, there is also the temptation of one family to sneak into the pantry and gobble the peanut butter and to "lift" a jar of jam for their own, personal enjoyment.

The habit of keeping the goodies locked up puts a stop to that in a hurry. Casual visitors will not know the extent of your valuables, nor will they know where to look for the quick grab-and-go. Even if they know, locks reduce opportunity. So keeping your wealth on the down-low addresses two of the bubbles on the Venn Diagram shown above.

We already discussed NOT letting perpetual malcontents into the life-boat.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

2000 Calories: Kitchens

In the mid-1990s I was working in a factory which had not experienced a major equipment installation in the past ten years. Much of the experience in managing that kind of effort had moved on or retired.

The first big window was Thanksgiving weekend when we had four days, twelve shifts to accomplish the first work package.

It was a fiasco!

Among the major lessons were that hand-offs cause friction. Twelve shifts involved twelve hand-offs and it was a mess.

Another major lesson was that too many cooks spoil the broth. We had programmers walking in to a work cell, reviewing the programming done on the previous two shifts...and delete it all. Sixteen hours of progress flushed into the ether.

Subsequent installations involved management (which included me) working thirteen hour shifts to reduce the hand-offs from three/day down to two/day. The failure mode that reared its ugly head is that my opposite didn't come in an hour early ("I am not a morning person") so he would get into meetings and threw me under the bus with "I don't KNOW what those people on third shift are doing!!!!" with disgust in his voice.


I want to use kitchens as a test-sled of potential problems and possible work-arounds.

Let's say WW3 goes hot and the cities in the US catch fire. Let's say that the three young families you invited show up on your doorstep.

Four families cooking three meals a day (or more) will cause a huge amount of stress and it is likely that issues that originate in the kitchen will set the tone of how you handle problems.

One might be tempted to have each family responsible for one meal and to rotate but then you have the maximum number of hand-offs. I can just hear the next cook screaming about a kettle or pot not being scrubbed to her satisfaction by the previous user.

The proposed work-around is to have each family cook for a WEEK.

Additionally, the family that is cooking must wash every kettle, pan, dish and piece of silverware after every meal.

"Why?" you ask. Mainly because there will be a strong temptation for the main cook to get "sick" the evening of the hand-off and leave a mess for the next cook. Human nature is what it is. Like the Good Book says, "...lead us not into temptation..."

Oh, and it will be up to your or the Love of Your Life to enforce the clean-up rule.

Now if they want to negotiate with another family...no worries, as long as everything is clean, dry and stowed.

If the family does it a second time then HIRE one of the other families to do the clean-up and then require the slacker-family to pay for the work out of their stores. I bet hubby and kids will pick up the dragging end of the log when they see it costs them a couple of jars of strawberry jam or whatever you decide the toll will be.

That aligns nicely with the packaging of work elements into discrete, identifiable chunks that encourage "ownership". Ownership is a big thing in the Herzberg Two-Element Motivation Theory. Metrics might be "Waste", "Food-poisoning avoidance", "Maximizing flavor while going lightly an expensive foods" and so on.

There are other, similar groups of work-elements

Stove-wood: Cutting to length, splitting to size and filling the small kindling, large kindling and stove-wood. The same method of owning it for a week and handing off the "wood yard" and "wood boxes" full and with the tools in good repair are the metrics. It would not be out-of-line to cut some holes in a sheet of plywood to define the size of small kindling, medium kindling and stove-wood because one of the short-cuts is to not reduce the wood to the size required.

By making it a once-a-week hand-off there are fewer opportunities for squabbles to break out. The BEST manager is the one who configures the work so he has few conflicts to manage.

Water in the cistern

Traps and varmint control

Tool patrol and fence checks

Making sure laundry is off the line at night-fall

I am sure I missed a bunch of items but hopefully you can fill in the gaps in comments.

Incidentally, I linked the 2000 Calorie essays together for ease-of-reading.

First article HERE

I will entertain requests for future essays if you want to suggest them.

Perverse incentives

'Splain to me why anybody would ever want to join NATO?

Ukraine never joined and they are being defended to the tune of hundreds-of-billions of dollars.

Germany has been a member for the better part of a century and has paid many billions. Tell me what it bought them? The privilege of having their arms twisted to give their Leopard tanks to Ukraine?

Heller and Shannon: Ripples spread

Shannon was the only window open when she got “a rush” of customers.

The two customers were old friends and Shannon was experienced enough that she could process the transactions and still listen to them converse. She suspected some of the chatter was for her benefit.

“How is little Johnny doing?” Cheryl asked.

“Little Johnny just passed his CPA exam. He will be working in Commerce Township, down by Detroit” Kim said.

“My goodness. I can remember when he was this tall” Cheryl said, holding her hand down around her belt-line “and he would not stop moving. Hard to imagine him sitting all day working on books.”

“Well, you know what we said when they were little, we wanted them to grow up and become middle-men” Kim said while Cheryl nodded.

Noticing that Shannon had flitted her eyes up to see what they were talking about, Kim let her in on the joke. “The government always says farmers need more cash-flow and we always told them the real problem is that we didn’t have any pocket-stop. Seemed like the only people who made money in agriculture were ‘the middle-men’.”

“Farming isn’t an easy living. Lots of worry. Making payment on millions of dollars, trying to keep million dollar equipment running and beating the weather. Only to make enough money so we can splurge and buy cans of readi-mix soup instead of store-brand ramen-noodles” Kim said.

Shannon nodded in agreement. That is tough, to see so much money fly through your hands, to be responsible for every last penny and only have enough money yourself to buy necessities. She knew exactly what they were talking about.

Then the two older women’s conversation turned to how hard it was to find handy-men to do projects around the farm.

“I can remember when every section (square-mile) had at least two young men in construction” Cheryl sighed. “If you needed a garage built or a slab poured you let them know and they would get it whipped out the next weekend...or so it seemed.”

Kim was shaking her head, sharing in the frustration. “You know with these food prices, Steve was wondering if it made sense to put in a root cellar. We don’t grow potatoes or any of that kind of thing but they grow them by the million-tons up in Sheridan and McBride. The thing is, Steve doesn't have the time for it and carpentry isn't the best thing for him to be doing since the back surgery.”

That is when Shannon joined the conversation. “My boyfriend is in construction. He works six days a week but maybe he could look over your project on Sunday.”

The two women beamed. “Lemme ask Steve and see if he was serious. I know right where it would be handiest to put so I got that covered” Kim said.

Shannon figured that if Kim had gotten so far as to figure out where she wanted it Steve better plan on agreeing to the plan.


Paul Andrews supplied “Anita” with three names. Shannan aka “Anita” addressed them emails individually.

“Dear Mister Throgmartin:

I will be graduating with a degree in Journalism and Media from University of Indonesia in January and am seeking an internship in Michigan.

I understand that internships are typically not paid positions and will have other sources of revenue during that period.

I was referred to you by Mr. Paul Andrews.

I am not asking for any kind of commitment at this time but am researching opportunities. It will be most helpful if you allow me to be one of your ‘connections’.

If you are not in a position where it is appropriate for you to offer me an internship, can you provide me with some references to further my research.

Many thanks in advance.

Anita Santosa"

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

2000 Calories: Management

It is a logical fallacy to present people with an artificial either/or fork. It is usually done to mislead people into making a choice that is optimal for the person presenting the choice and is sub-optimal for the person making that choice.

It is a fallacy that I am about to commit in the interest of making my point more compact.

What does not work...

Socialism does not work. Socialism's main fault is that it removes all incentive to work, to be efficient, to invent.

Plantations do not work. The plantation mode is virtually identical to socialism but it does not even pretend to have the surfs' serfs'interest in mind.

What does work...

Feudalism worked for a very long time and is a viable foundation for our scenario.

Corporations work. Partnerships can work.

Consider a four unit fiefdom. You and your lovely are the Lord and Lady of the Manor but you are a WORKING Lord.

You have three young families who have been given a long-term lease to garden to work and certain rights (foraging, hunting, wood-cutting, grazing) to the "commons". Conceivable all four garden plots are strips (you get one too) that are adjacent to each other. Your's is the farthest from the house so you walk the farthest but that gives you a great opportunity to observe the other three strips.

By making them strips, some tasks like planting the red clover seed are more efficient. Cultivation is also more efficient if some crops have wider rows and others are planted more closely together as the tiller can run across the strips if everybody plants there potatoes (for instance) in the same part of the strip.

The L&L or Corporation or Firm levies a tax on the lease holders. For the sake of argument, let's say it is 25% of the corn, 10% of the potatoes and 25% of the apples. The Corporation can use those tax revenues to trade for chicks or ducklings, seeds, fertilizer or to charity. The Corporation can pay-in-kind to have the apples processed into cider and so on.

Everything in excess of the taxes and what is consumed by the family-shareholder is theirs for the family to trade to most advantage. If they have an abundance of corn, they can trade to start their own flock of egg layers. If their row in the orchard produces a super-abundance of apples they can get an extra share of apple cider and open a tavern.

If a family has poor luck at gardening or are lazy, then they better plan on cutting wood or hiring themselves out to trade/purchase food.

If they steal food, then their entire family is expelled from the fief.

Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory of Motivation

Being motivated and being de-motivated are NOT opposite ends of the spectrum in spite of what the words imply.

People are motivated by discrete, identifiable accomplishments. For example, "I grew 10 bushels of corn on X square-feet of garden". Corporate ownership co-mingles results and dilutes that motivator.

People are motivated by recognition. And you need something discrete to "recognize". Fall Fairs are a great motivational tool because they recognize the people who chose to not be slackers.

People are motivated by intrinsic qualities of the work itself. Some people like sitting in the woods and outwitting game. Some people find joy in turning out a perfect loaf of bread. Other people find great satisfaction at looking a rows and shelves of canned produce. 

The good manager will allow their lease-holders to trade tasks between themselves because it turbo-charges this motivational element. There are also efficiencies in having one person bake all of the bread because the oven only need be heated up once.

Things that demotivate people are:

  • Inequities in how rewards are doled out
  • Dirty environment
  • Unsafe environment
  • Unpleasant people
  • Cold, hungry, hot, thirsty, dusty....

Fixing those issues means that the workers will not be demotivated BUT it does not mean they will be motivated.

The feudal model outlined above avoids the biggest demotivator that you can control: inequities in how rewards are doled out.

If they grew it, it is theirs (less the tax extracted for the common weal).

If it is not possible to parcel out garden spots with equal fertility, then adjustments can be made in the number of square-feet allotted so the production potential is as close to identical as human judgement can achieve.

Why so much focus on "motivation"?

Motivated people can make a concrete balloon fly.

You will not have to micro-manage. The family units will be self-organizing, productive and not sullen.

Trouble in paradise

Suzy Shitstirrer creates a major problem in terms of "inequality in rewards". Let's say she is able to slither into the life-boat and does not have a husband.

Picture her wanting it to be warmer than the 55 degrees that everybody else agreed to. She did not bring any wood in from the woods. She did not buck it to 16" with a hand saw or split it to burnable size. Her husband did not risk life-and-limb harvesting wood (no exaggeration, wood cutting is inherently dangerous). It costs her NOTHING to throw a couple more logs on the fire when she thinks nobody is watching.

If challenged she will give some lame excuse like "Warm clothes make my skin itch."

If you point out that everybody else wears underclothing so the scratchy clothing does not contact their skin, Suzy Shitstirrer will say "I don't think I should have to do that. There is PLENTY of wood here".

Don't let her in!!!

2000 Calories: Kitchens

2000 Calories: Labor

Executive summary

One scenario that some of us entertain about the coming hard-times is that many people will look to us as a refuge. Given the prevailing entitlement-mentality, they will expect us to take them in regardless of the cost to us and to others who we might have invited.

This essay captures some of my thoughts on the subject of being a lifeboat during the storm.

Labor capability

It is very incomplete to talk about food production under austere conditions without talking about the availability of labor and the economic system that allocates that labor.

In very round terms, 12% of the population of the US is under the age of 10. With few exceptions, this portion of the population is a labor sink. That is, labor must be found to care for them.

For the sake of argument, 6% of the population is between the ages of 10 and 15 and we will consider them to be labor-neutral.

Every fifteen-year cohort after that comprises 20% of the population up to 60-to-75 which is 15% and older-than-75 which is about 7% of the population.

To simplify things, I am going to assume that the 15-through-45 cohort (60% of population) can do the same amount of physical labor, that the 45-through-60 cohort can do 80% of the younger cohorts and the 60-through-75 cohort can perform 65% of the young-pups.

Men vs. women

Another underlying assumption is that woman can do 80% of the net calorie-burn that a man of the same age can do. The implications are profound. A single-mom showing up with two children is a net labor drain of -0.2. That same woman showing up with her man is a significant, positive labor contribution +0.8. The difference is the additional adult and it is of the more aerobic gender.

Still want to argue? A 30 year-old, male "advanced" athlete can be expected to run a 5k in the 19 minute range. A 30 year-old, female "advanced" athlete can be expected to run a 5k in the 23 minute range. Since the calorie burn of most "work" is spent moving our carcass from Location A to Location B, 5k times are reasonable proxies for our ability to perform productive work. 

Some kinds of work, like cutting and hauling wood and shoveling dirt, place a premium on upper-body strength and then the scale tips even more sharply toward favoring men. I have seen women perform those tasks in the factory but they have been more vulnerable to rotator-cuff injuries and there will be little medical care to treat those kinds of injuries.

Having THAT conversation

Suzy Strident shows up at your door and demands a place on the life-boat along with her two brats.

You refuse.

She demands an explanation.

You do not owe her one.

HOWEVER: If she cannot bring net positive labor to the enterprise and she stirs-the-pot then she is toxic. You are the captain of the life-boat. Do not allow her entry. As captain, you cannot place your emotions above the welfare of the physical vessel or the physical and emotional well-being of the "crew" and passengers who are already on the manifest.

Another dimension to consider is the impact an unattached woman might have on the relationships of the married couples. In this scenario, we would be sharing quarters and there will not be a ton of privacy.

If Suzy is your daughter, tell her to make her peace with the father of your grandchildren and then she and her family will be welcome. Since 80% of divorces are initiated by women, it is likely that she gave him the heave-ho.

I understand that millions of divorces are caused by the man being a POS but many millions more involve men who are not garbage but for various reasons were not able to meet the woman's expectations. In many cases, the fact that she dumped her guy is evidence that she is a my-way-or-the-highway personality and that will not work if you are to be the captain.


There will be a vast range of the capacity to perform physical work when your refugees show up.

Assuming young, two-parent family groups, 25% of the adults will be capable of zero physical work when they show up on your doorstep. You can spend a couple of hours sitting on a bench at Walmart to verify this assessment.

10% of the adults will be capable of performing six hours of productive labor over an eight-hour interval.

It is my belief that nearly all 15-through-45 year-old adults can be capable of performing six (or more) hours of physical labor in a day with proper conditioning but every adult MUST work-harden so the CAN perform at that level during periods of peak demand like haying and apple picking and processing the firewood.

That means that Mrs Cindy Softie must not get too cozy running the compound's daycare (i.e. sit in the rocking chair and rocking infants). She has to rotate through "field work" three times a week even if she can only go through the motions for half an hour at first.

It is my belief that three months of intelligent conditioning is plenty of time for nearly all healthy 15-to-45 year-olds to reach 65% of their ultimate ability in terms of being able to perform physical labor for extended periods of time.


I know I have some readers who are women.

What is your take on Suzy Strident showing up on the doorstep?

I know that what I wrote is exceptionally cold but Suzy is very unlikely to change her personality after she gets aboard the lifeboat. The only motivation for her to make adjustments in her expectations is BEFORE she is allowed aboard.

2000 Calories: Management

Monday, January 23, 2023

2000 Calories: Nitrogen

Nitrogen can be a complicated subject because "nitrogen" can mean four, very different things depending on context.

"Nitrogen" can mean N2 which makes up about 75% of the atmosphere. It is for all practical purposes inert and non-reactive.

"Nitrogen" can mean the various oxides of nitrogen formed when oxygen and nitrogen are heated up, often under pressure which occurs in internal combustion engines. Released to the atmosphere NOX are highly reactive and can contribute to smog, acid rain and allegedly lung damage.

"Nitrogen" as a plant nutrient can mean ammonia (NH3) or nitrates (HNO3 and assorted cations). For the most part, plants can only absorb the nitrates from the soil but soil bacteria are very good about converting NH3 to nitrates.

Finally, "nitrogen" can mean protein. As a rule-of-thumb, protein is about 16% nitrogen by weight. No nitrogen means no protein. Many of the chemicals important to photosynthesis and plant growth contain protein building blocks.

It also means that a shortfall of nitrates will have a dramatic impact on plant growth. Ironically, some of the plants we think of as carbohydrate producers are very heavy consumers of nitrates. No nitrogen means no chlorophyl. No nitrogen means that the plants will not fill their allotted space and capture the sunlight that is the energy source that creates carbs. In Michigan, potatoes and field corn are typically fertilized with 200 pounds of N per acre every year.

Another characteristic of nitrogen as a plant nutrient is that it is very mobile. It is easily leached out of the root zone. When in very high concentrations like manure or urine it can become ammonia which is very volatile and it can blow away in the breeze.

Nitrogen reminds me of the old joke "You don't buy beer, you rent it".

The good news

Air is 75% N2 which is almost inert. Almost but not totally inert.

There are some technologies that are accessible to people experiencing austere circumstances which cheerfully turn that N2 into nitrates.

There are some plants, clover for instance, that have the ability to host a species of bacteria that convert atmospheric, unfixed nitrogen into the kind of nitrogen that plants can use.

I am not going to pummel you with a hundred different versions of the technology. I am going to share ONE way to do it.

Feudal Compound

Suppose that you become a lifeboat for several families...perhaps sons and daughters and their families.

For the sake of argument, lets say that in addition to you and your beloved you have three young families join you "for the duration".

Casting about for a way to make this work, you decide that some variant of the feudal system will work.

Each of the four units is given 4000 square feet to manage as "garden". As lord-and-master of the estate, you mandate that 2000 square-feet is seeded to red clover in the fall after harvest and that the other 2000 square-feet be prepared for vegetables.

A pure stand of red clover can "fix" 250 pounds of nitrogen per acre under optimal conditions.

Since that 2000 square feet is in vegetation (perhaps year-old red clover) it is fenced off and chickens or other livestock is allowed to forage and beat-down the greenery.

Since matter is neither created or destroyed, very little of the "fixed" nitrogen does not pass through their digestive system and land back on the ground. The nitrogen that does not pass through their digestive system becomes protein in eggs and flesh and feathers.

By early spring, the clover patch will be eaten down to bare dirt. A few passes with a tiller once the soil is dry enough and you have pretty good nitrogen content for the years garden.

Year-by-year you alternate which 2000 square-feet are in clover or garden.

One variation

Small grains and red clover pair well. By itself, red clover produces more than enough nitrogen for the next years garden. Since you can tolerate less than 100% red clover intercepting sunlight, you could plant wheat, rye or another winter grain in the fall, frost seed the clover, harvest the grain in late-midsummer and then beat down the clover with chickens in fall-winter.

You probably want to seed the grain a little bit more thinly than if you were planting it alone.

A second variation

Some garden crops demand more nitrogen than others. Some crops produce all leaves and no crop when they have too much nitrogen.

The red clover year can be followed by a high user of nitrogen like corn, potatoes or cabbage.

Since matter is neither created or destroyed, the nitrogen that is not removed with the crop (corn leaves and stalks, potato tops, cabbage wrapper leaves) leave their nitrogen in the field.

The next year can be crops that like moderate nitrogen like peppers and tomatoes  and beans and herbs.

Does it have to be red clover?

Nope. There are more than a dozen other choices. Red clover is a good starting point for nitrogen fixing plants in Michigan but it is not the only one. The seed is cheap and fairly easy to produce on-farm. It germinates rapidly and can choke out weeds. It is not excessively fussy about soil type or pH. It can have some issues as an animal feed but it does have a lot of protein.

What is wrong with mulch?

Two things to consider. You have to get it somewhere. If you were getting bags of leaves and grass-clippings from your neighbor then he might want to use them himself.

The other issue is a little bit more arcane. That mulch will also bring in extra potassium and phosphorous. Excessive amounts of those can cause some minor quality issues with your crop. For instance, excessive amounts of potassium will inhibit calcium uptake and transport. Lack of calcium is linked to a multitude of "soft fruit" type quality issues. Bottom line, the fruit will bruise and rot quickly.

A few words in parting

The crop-fallow-crop system will take a few years to tune in.

A family can starve to death in much less time than that.

Do not be too hard on yourself. A bag of nitrogen rich fertilizer like urea (46% N) can buy you time while you find your sea-legs.

2000 Calories: Labor

Refresh my memory

Wasn't David Petraeus canned because he violated security protocols and he mishandled classified materials with respect to allowing his biographer Paula Broadwell to have access to said materials?

One newsie at the time characterized the breach as "Petraeus allowed Broadwell to touch the keyboard of his laptop". No, that is not in code or is it snarky punning. It was meant literally.

He was, at the time, Director of the CIA.

Presented without comment


Heller and Shannon: Relationships

There was a steady stream of people coming into the branch to say “Good bye” to Joyce. It was her last week.

Joyce graciously introduced Shannon to every well-wisher. “Shannon will be replacing me and I am sure you will like her. She has a boyfriend who lives in Sebawa.”

Shannon bristled at the personal information that Joyce was sharing. It seemed positively primitive to define a woman by the man she chose to date.

Seeing the expression on Shannon’s face, Joyce said “You know, they will like you a whole bunch better after they know you have a boyfriend. Most of our customers are women and they get very defensive around young, attractive, unattached women.”

“And they will absolutely love you when they learn he is a local boy. They will see that as you not looking down your nose at them...which they will assume if your boyfriend was from East Grand Rapids or Ada.”

After mulling it over a bit, Shannon decided that Saranac, Michigan was several decades behind East Lansing and should not be judged by East Lansing standards.

It was undeniable that the customers became more animated and visibly more welcoming of her after they learned she had a relationship with a local boy.


“Sure. Happy to help” Paul Andrews had replied to “Anita”’s request to connect on Pluggedin.

“What is your major and when do you want to start your internship?” he had added.

Shannon had given the matter of how she was going to play the relationship.

If she was going to stay in character, then she would only have one reply per day and that it could only be at 5:00 PM EST due to the time difference. That would be about 6:00 in the morning in Indonesia. She would let Mr Andrews worm it out of her that she was doing this on the down-low and early morning was the only time she had access to computers that were not monitored by authorities.

“Anita” responded “I am graduating with a degree in Journalism and Media and I have a minor in English. I have been told that my diction is very good but I am weak in idioms, which is something I hope to get better at during my internship.”

“I graduate in early January.”

And that is all she wrote back. She answered his direct questions and added just the tiniest bit more.

Andrews was clearly interested or he would not have responded.

It was important that Shannon played the character and let things develop over time. 
Heller asked Shannon if his sister, Suzanna could visit for dinner.

Shannon was fine with that. In fact, she had been wanting to meet his family but with his heavy work schedule it never seemed like there was time to do that.

Suzanna was a slightly more laid-back version of Heller. She was a Pharmacy Tech in Lansing and was currently “between boyfriends”. The break-up had been recent and it clearly still caused Suzanna pain.

Suzanna had caught her boyfriend building a relationship with a girl who was still in high school.

She had kicked him out of her house.

“You own your own house?” Shannon asked, a bit amazed.

“Well, me and the bank” Suzanna said.

“What I don’t understand is why a man would window shop for veal when he has Filet Mignon waiting for him at home” Suzanna said in disgust.

Suzanna had no lack of self-esteem.

Shannon was struck by a thought as Suzanna was describing the latest house projects she was working on. A sudden, very vivid image of Garth popped into her head.

Garth was one of the single professionals in her group. He was in IT and Shannon intuitively knew that Garth and Suzanna would either make a great couple or it would be a quick and epic crash-and-burn. There would be no middle ground.

2000 Calories: Water

There are some places that are blessed with frequent, clement showers throughout the growing season; places like northern Geauga County, Ohio. If you live in a place like that, you can ignore this post.

Water, the key-stone resource

If fossil fuels are the key-stone resource in industry, then water is the key-stone resource in the garden.

Your plants are totally dependent on water to transport all of the nutrients in the soil to its roots. You might have the most fertile soil in the world and your plants on the verge of starving because the soil is dry.

A thirsty plant can drive its roots deeply into the ground. It can usually get enough to stay alive BUT nearly all of the nutrients are in the top few inches of the soil.

The top layers of the soil are the first to dry out. Then nutrients in that layer are no longer accessible to you plants.

The plants might keep photosynthesizing and packing away carbohydrates but they will not visibly keep growing. The effect of a soaking rainfall can be dramatic. A Black Locust tree can push a shoot two-to-four feet after an extended dry-spell and subsequent denching rain.

It is a bit of a tangent, but irrigation techniques that conserve water by spot irrigating the plants (like trickle irrigation) do not wet the much of the upper layers of the soil. These irrigation methods benefit from ferit-igation where soluble fertilizers are mixed with the irrigation water.

Another issue with dry soil is that drought triggers seed formation in many species of plants. Those greens you were growing throw up a seed stalk, called "bolting" in the trade, and the leaves either become bitter or they turn yellow and start falling off.

Potatoes become knobby when grown in soil that is allowed to dry out. Each bulge is when the growing conditions were ideal and each constriction is when they ran out of water. Knobby potatoes are still edible but they can be a pain to peel.

Tomatoes that experience on-and-off soil moisture are more vulnerable to splitting. The fruit get packed with a lot of sugar when it is drier (which is usually a good thing) but then osmosis floods them with water when it becomes available and the skin cannot stretch rapidly enough to avoid splitting.

Bottom line: In many places, not paying attention to the moisture level in your soil results in a big hit to both the total production of your garden AND the quality.

Supplemental irrigation

The smart boys at the university have in-soil moisture meters. The earliest ones were blocks of plaster (gypsum) which changed electrical resistance based on moisture level.

As a home gardener, it is pretty simple to take your hoe and scrape down two inches (give or take a little) and see if your soil is moist, that is, dark.

Or you can squeeze it.

Or you can look at you rain-gauge a couple of times a week and if you don't have a half inch of rain...water your garden.

You have lots of options. You just need to figure out what works for you.

Container gardening

Because each plant has less soil to mine for moisture, the plants run out of water more quickly.

Irrigation is not "supplemental". In most cases it is a daily or near-daily thing.

Mrs ERJ worked at a place where somebody built a container garden on the south side of the brick building. It was a beautiful structure made from some two-by-sixes. It was certainly more attractive than the asphalt pavement it rested on.

Sitting in that reflector oven and completely cut-off from the soil beneath it by the black-top, it needed daily watering. It barely survived two day weekends and it became kale-chips July 4th weekend.

2000 Calories: Nitrogen

Sunday, January 22, 2023

...waddling like a penguin

Those young guys outsmarted me.

"Come out and help us cut wood" they said.

So I did.

And I got the rear-wheel-drive Silverado stuck. The temperature has been staggering around the freezing mark like a drunk supported by a lamp-post. The ground is greasy.

The kids, who all have four-wheel-drives laughed at me. "You need to put a little bit of weight in the back-end of that thing so those tires bite into the ground."

The ballast that was most available was firewood, so the "kids" filled the box of the Silverado with firewood. It was mounded to the point that I had to put the chainsaw in the cab.

I guess they showed me that rear-wheel-drive is worthless!

The two kids let me help this time. Three hours, same amount of wood + the back of my truck. We would have been faster except we only had one working chainsaw (it happens) and the hydraulic wood splitter had not been taken into the woods. So it was a wash. One more guy helping (me) but less functioning equipment.

The pieces of firewood ran between 15 and 40 pounds, for the most part.

Then it took a half hour to get back to pavement due to the greasy conditions. The fifth-wheel trailer slid sideways into a ditch and it took some creative engineering to un-stuck it.

Then I took five minutes to throw a few rounds down-range. I had been asked to check out a Savage .308 Win that had been neglected and had a rusty barrel.

Shooting off of frozen sand-bags and in a hurry, I got a five shot group that was 2.5" high by 1.7" side-to-side. In retrospect, the swivel attachment on the forearm was probably camming the barrel upward under recoil. Bad technique on my part.

I am going to tell the owner that the firearm is fine. The rust is on the outside of the barrel and the .308 is plenty good-enough for the distances we shoot in Michigan.

And now, for some reason, I am tired and I am waddling like a penguin.