(There. That headline ought get some search engines humming.)

The beer institute has come out with its yearly figures, and I am sad to report that you people are slacking off. For the third straight year the United States has drunk less beer than they did the year before. As I will explain later, this has had a very bad effect on the environment, and especially the climate.

I am proud to say I am doing my part to help the climate. Here in New Hampshire we lead the nation in per capita consumption of beer. Some suggest this may explain the “Live Free Or Die” on our license plates, and also the fact we are the only remaining state where insurance companies have been unable to force adults to wear seatbelts if they don’t (bleeping) feel like it. In any case, we drink 43 gallons of beer a year. (That’s only an average. Some of us drink more.)

Three miles from my front door is the state line, and just across that imaginary line are a miserable bunch, living in the state of Taxachusetts. Those poor Flatlanders rank 41st, only drinking 26 gallons a year. (Amazingly, some even drink less!)

This likely explains why they are so tense and up tight down there. I wish they’d just relax and be honest, but instead they have to be this thing called “politically correct,” which seems to have little to do with just telling the truth. They like to say they have overcome their Puritan roots, however the truth is: They are so up-tight and Puritan, (about just about everything,) that they make Puritans of the 1600’s look wanton. After all, those old Puritans had masses of children; (Paul Revere had sixteen,) however the modern Puritans of Taxachusetts fret that having sex with the opposite sex might be a little bit…dare I say it…”homophobic.” I really think they need to quit taking their medications, and instead medicate themselves with a beer.

They tend to get a bit haughty when I speak honestly. They feel I am some sort of Redneck. They tilt their noses skywards, and say, “While you drink 43 gallons a year, we only drink 26. Obviously you are ossified, whilst we are rational.”

That’s how they get, down there in the Flatlands, with all their concern about statistics, facts and figures, and other bureaucratic number-mumbo-jumbo. However the Truth is surprisingly different from their peculiar view of reality.

For example, facts and figures show that no one in Massachusetts buys fireworks, for they are illegal. In New Hampshire fireworks are legal, so facts and figures show we spend an amazing amount, per capita, on stuff that goes up in smoke. Therefore a Massachusetts snob could state we are foolish to spend on what goes up in smoke, and they are far wiser.

The only problem with these facts and figures is that, when you look in the parking lots of our fireworks stores, not all that many of the cars have license plates that say, “Live Free Or Die,” on them. (They don’t say, “Live Taxed and Regulated,” but they do say, “Massachusetts.”)

Furthermore, if you climb a high hill and look south into Massachusetts, as night falls on the evening of Independence Day, it looks like the entire state of Massachusetts is breaking the law. If fireworks are against the law in Massachusetts, they are a nation of hypocrites, writing laws with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. (And it must now be stated that the Attorney General of Massachusetts, (supposedly the one upholding The Law,) is on record for stating a most amazing hypocrisy, (concerning illegal aliens,) “It is not illegal to be illegal in Massachusetts.”)

They are a mysterious bunch, those Flatlanders.

However, to get back to my point, the facts and figures concerning fireworks do not include the fact thousands of people flee Massachusetts’ oppression to enjoy our freedom, and buy fireworks here in New Hampshire. In the same way, the facts and figures concerning the consumption of beer do not include the fact many in Massachusetts do some calculating, and even with the price of gas high, figure out it is worth their while to drive up here to buy beer, escaping the oppression of Massachusetts taxes.

Because I live on the border, and actually see, when I go to buy hooch, no parking places, due to cars from Massachusetts, and because I only want a six-pack but the people from Massachusetts are buying sixteen cases, I can even go so far as to suggest the people of New Hampshire do not drink as much as facts and figures show, whist the people of Massachusetts are all as drunken as lords. (It might explain their politics.)

What does this have to do with Global Warming?

It has to do with the fact it is silly to play games with statistics, comparing two abutting states and ignoring the fact people cross state lines.

Last spring, if you look at the temperature anomalies of the entire planet, you notice the entirety of the planet was cooling. Only in one spot was it warm: North America. However the media seized upon the microcosm of North America to blare political propaganda about Global Warming, ignoring the macrocosm of the cooling entirety.

This year the entirety is actually warmer, but the microcosm of North America has been colder than a witch’s bodily part, especially in Minnesota, which was near the center of last year’s warmth. However the response of the media has been deathly silence.

The media really needs to wise up. It is not merely the people of Minnesota who notice when a nice, warm spring is used to beat a drum of Global Warming doom and gloom, while the following spring, which is much more like doom and gloom to the people who actually endure it, inexplicably escapes notice.

What the media really needs to do is crack a beer. They need to stop being so politically correct, and so observant of political agendas, and instead to enjoy the lack of discretion that a beer makes possible.

This brings me, at long last, to how beer affects the Global Climate.

As some of you know, CO2 is not a major component of the Earth’s atmosphere. In fact, it is such a small part of the air we breathe that it is a bit amazing that plants, which depend on CO2 the same way we depend on Oxygen, do not suffocate. However we are asked to believe that this tiny, tiny part of our atmosphere can have humongous effects.

Well, if it has such a humongous effect, despite being tiny, it is a bit like a tiny pebble that can start a huge avalanche, is it not? And, if such a tiny thing can have such a huge effect, so can another tiny thing, like the head on your beer.

After all, the head of your beer is (I think) pure CO2. If a little pebble can start an avalanche, then whether you have one beer or ten could make a difference in the wheat crops. (It will definitely make a difference in your relationships with your boss, and also your wife, (occasionally one and the same,) but that is another matter.)

If warming is a bad thing, then you should drink less beer and release less CO2. However the opposite might be true. We might be, (according to certain Russian scientists,) on the verge of another Little Ice Age, or even the next Real Ice Age. If that were the case, the fact you only had one beer, rather than ten, might be the pebble that tipped the tipping point, starting the avalanche of events into the next ice age. (You might think you don’t matter, but Chaos Theory states even a butterfly flapping its wings can matter.)

(I’ll know if you caught my drift, if I see you looking at the froth of your next beer in a rather owlish and overly serious manner.)

Of course the people of Taxachusetts will not believe that this “tipping point” exists, unless I produce facts and figures.

I can do so. The last winter was colder, and beer consumption in the northern hemisphere was way down. It is scientific proof: Less beer causes colder winters.

I will furthermore supply links.

Beer consumption is down in the USA:

In the United Kingdom, consumption of beer in pubs has fallen by an alarming 50 million, (I repeat, 50 MILLION,) pints.

But we can depend on the Germans to drink beer, can’t we? Alas, apparently not. German beer sales have hit a twenty-year-low.

However the link to Germany provides a crucial factor. The reason Germans drank less beer was (supposedly) because the weather was colder.

Do you see how ominous this trend is!!!? If people drink less beer, the beer’s froth will produce less CO2, and less CO2 will make the weather colder, which will cause people to drink even less beer. It is a vicious cycle which, like a mere pebble starting the mighty avalanche, could freeze our socks off, with the onset of glaciers and an ice age which will plow Boston and Taxachusetts right off the face of the map.

The only way for you to prevent this horrible destiny is for you to drink more beer. Please do it. I know you hate beer, especially when the weather is cold, but I’m asking on bended knee. Your grandchildren are depending on you.


This post was reprinted on Watts Up With That.  71 Comments in 24 hours.



I was enjoying the dry and balmy weather today, starting to work in the garden by putting in some asparagus roots.  Tomorrow I’ll get going on the cold weather crops such as peas, spinach  and potatoes, and consider putting in the cold-tolerant seedlings from the cabbage family: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, and kale. However I’m a bit worried about this spring.

I’ve seen May snows before. Few things are quite so annoying, and even disgusting. People joke a lot, and a sense of absurdity and hilarity keeps people from plummeting into depression, however there’s no getting around the fact snow in May just seems wrong, somehow.

My main reasons for worry are the fact the spring is generally delayed.  The red maples are just blooming, at a late date when the sugar maples usually are starting to bust out. The oaks are not even starting to swell their buds.  Do the trees know something the calendar doesn’t?

To our north the snow pack in Canada is much deeper than usual, and snow keeps falling up there, and also to our west.  Furthermore, the computer models keep inventing new snowstorms. We will have to wait and see if any actually happen, but here is one snowfall forecast for the Midwest:



And here is one snowfall forecast for Colorado:


(Click the maps to enlarge them.)

The fact the computer models can even dream up such scenarios demonstrates a lot of cold air is around.  This spring is quite the opposite of last spring, when the rest of the planet was below normal, but the United States was having its second warmest spring on record.

In the “Tips and Notes” section of the “What’s Up With That”  website someone who called himself “Bryan S” gave this report, back on April 20.

“Just thought I’d try to focus your attention on weather in Minnesota. Spring 2012 was literally the earliest on record for the state. This is significant considering that reliable records in Minneapolis go back to 1819. But spring 2013 could very possibly end up being the latest on record for northern Minnesota (going back to 1880). Fargo has already smashed the record for latest 50*F temp in the calendar year, breaking the April 17th, 1881 record. No 50*F temps are expected in Fargo at least through the next week. But to the point of this: The record snows that dumped up to 23″ of snow on areas of Minnesota on the 18th and 19th, plus the already extensive snowcover (we received 1″ from that storm here in Bemidji, yet we still have 25″ on the ground from previous storms in January-present) has led to record cold weather. Embarrass, MN (aptly name for the embarrassingly cold temps they report… a true frost hollow) got down to -14*F this morning. International Falls set a new record of 4*F this morning, breaking the old record of 18*F!!! set in 1966… which was itself a nasty winter and a very cold spring in Minnesota. At temps in the teens, the lakes can actually make ice. To put this in perspective…. last year, every lake in MN, all 15,000 of them.. was ice free by April 10th. This year, only a handful of lakes in the far southern part of the state are ice free… and many set records for latest ice out date. Here in northern MN, there’s still 2-3 *FEET* of ice on the lakes when most even in Bemidji, in the northern 1/5 of the state, tend to lose their ice between the 15th and 25th of April. The flood forecast models for the Red River of the North are predicting a 40% chance of a record crest at Fargo… which would break the record set all the way back in…. 2009. This will mark the 4th time in 5 years that Fargo will see major flooding and set a top 10 crest. Except this year, the models are in uncharted territory as the thaw and crest gets pushed well into May. The only precedent, before models, is spring 1950. Currently that is the latest spring on record in Minnesota and with so much snow on the ground still and so widespread (record high snow pack for the month of April for the state is already “locked in”) and so much thick ice on the lakes, there’s a high chance that a significant portion of the state will be unfishable for the walleye fishing opener on May 11th due to ice still on the lakes. Just anecdotal food for thought. But the fact that what could be the latest spring on record following the earliest spring on record is not lost on us hardy Minnesotans.”

Last year the media talked much about the warm spring, suggesting it was caused by Global Warming, (while failing to mention that the world as a whole was colder.)  This year they are failing to mention the cold spring altogether, as it extends to Spain, where they are having a snow at a late date, and across into Asia   (Earlier they stated the snowy winter “might” be due to a lack of ice in the arctic, and therefore cold was caused by Global Warming, however the arctic has refrozen and that excuse would sound lame, if they tried to keep using it. Therefore there is silence.)

My garden could care less about the Global Warming politics of humans.  Cabbages don’t associate with Kings, outside of O’Henry’s works. Therefore, as I scan the skies, I’m only interested in reality. I search my memory for hints of what is to be, using past seasons to guess at future seasons. A lot of the recollection tickled by current affairs comes from way back, when I was quite small.

This makes sense to me, for in a very general way weather follows a sixty year pattern, and I am now sixty years old.  Things are cycling back to the way they were when I began.

The problem is that the pattern isn’t specific.  For example, there is a general yearly pattern that gives us thundershowers in the summer in New Hampshire.  However that is not much help in a specific way. Just because we had a thundershower on the third day of summer last year does not mean we will have a thundershower on the third day of summer this year. In the same way, just because we had a major hurricane on the 8th year of the 60 year pattern last time around, it does not mean we will have one on the 8th year this time around. Instead it merely means a major hurricane is more likely.

My attempts to use the sixty year cycle to forecast have only been correct in a most general way. I’ve been expecting major hurricanes to come up the east coast, but Irene and Sandy were far less damaging to New England than Connie or the 1938 hurricane, so in one sense I have wound up with egg on my face, a sort of Chicken Little who ran about telling people the sky was falling..

In the same way I’ve been expecting a return to Dust Bowl conditions in the Great Plains, but our recent droughts have been nowhere as bad as the 1930’s.

I have learned I’m no genius, however it doesn’t keep me from scanning the sky. Perhaps it is innate, and part of the human spirit, to do so. Furthermore, I base some of my actions on the subtle things I only glimpse, in a most dream-like fashion, on the very edges of my intellect.

I’ll share what I am sensing, even while confessing I’m guessing.

New England had some drenching rains from hurricanes in the 1950’s, which turned to a drought in the 1960s.  We are edging towards the dry cycle, which ought begin in earnest around the year 2020. For the next 7 years our summers ought be dry, with most moisture supplied by late summer tropical storms, and also by late spring snows.  In my boyhood there was much more snow in March and April, and even May, and we are seeing a return of that,pattern, after a hiatus. Weather records demonstrate this.

I’m planning to stack a lot of firewood.  Often the way one winter ends hints at how the next winter will begin. In my bones I feel next winter will come early and will be cruel, though hopefully it will end early, or at least have a prolonged thaw in March before a return of spring snows.

If we can get through seven more years without a major hurricane, we will have dodged a bullet.  By my calculations a thirty year period where the chances of New England Hurricanes is high ends in 2020.  Although we have experienced Bob and Bertha and Irene and Sandy, they are nothing like New England experienced in the 1930-1960 period.  It won’t be the first time New England has passed through such a period reletively unscathed.  However we still have seven years to go, and there is still a likelihood we’ll be hit by storms like the Great Colonial Hurricanes of the 1600’s, or the great storms of the early 1800’s, in 1815 and 1821, (and a smaller storm in 1827,)  or by a storm like “Saxby;’s Gale” in 1869.

It may seem early to be discussing hurricanes, but just before I was born there was a hurricane that hit Cape Hatteras in May.  Oddly, some computor models are showing a storm forming off Cape Hatteras this week, but, rather than coming north towards us, the models see it drifting away south, towards Florida.

Actually, New England seems a bit sheltered at the moment.  May snows stay to our west, and potential May hurricanes stay to our south.  Our soil isn’t all mucky, but isn’t yet too dry.

I have nothing to worry about, but still I scan the skies.




The second syllable of the word “suffer” comes from the same ancient root “bher” that gives us the word, “bear,” as in “I cannot bear the pain,” and also the word “burden.”  This word evolved into the Latin word “ferre,” which means, “To carry.”  If you put the prefix “sub” before “ferre” you wind up with subferre, which roughly means, “under to carry,” and is close enough to “suffer” for this essay.

Childcare involves suffering because children are not always cute.  Children are a burden not merely because you sometimes have to carry them, but also because their moods get ugly, and you have to endure the ugliness.

It helps a lot if you love them.  In this sense a child is like a beautiful woman.  If the beautiful woman is some fashion model I don’t care for, and the beautiful face crinkles up into grief, rage, fear (or all three at once,) it is somewhat appalling to me that what was so beautiful becomes so ugly.  However if I love the woman, the bad moods are as beautiful as the good.

It also helps if you are rested and in the mood to be tolerant.  Last week I rotor tilled our large vegetable garden and by Thursday I was running out of energy, which made Friday less pleasant than Fridays usually are.  I was checking my watch a lot, and the time dragged.  I was doing all right, but I suppose my smiles were a bit strained at times.

Certain ideas that seemed brilliant on Monday no longer seemed so smart, and one of these ideas was to take the children fishing. It may seem great to be paid for fishing, however I spend all my time untangling lines, warding off injuries caused by flailing hooks, and all the larger fish, (which are smarter and more wary,) are scared to the far reaches of the pond by the unholy din the children make.

This particular expedition saw my patience tested by one boy whose mood goes through wild swings between abject despair and an insufferable know-it-all attitude.  When he hasn’t caught a fish he is deep in the gloom, but as soon as he catches one he becomes a renowned authority on fishing, freely advising everyone else even if they don’t want any advise, even if he only caught a minnow.

I think he reminds me of myself, in a way.  When my humor is good he makes me think about how our self-esteem governs whether we feel our opinions have value or not.  When I’m tired I get weary of being told I don’t know anything by a boy as tall as my belt buckle, and being informed ridiculous things are the truth.  At times he get carried away by his imagination, and I have to gently bring him back to earth, perhaps informing him King Salmon are not usually found in small New Hampshire ponds, and then being informed I am wrong about that.

I like to travel light when I fish, and prefer to be cut off from civilization.  It annoys me that state law requires I carry a backpack with a first aid kit and  water bottles, plus paperwork involving emergency contacts and lists listing every child with me,  and to then have my nagging cell phone disturb the birdsong makes me mutter things I hope the kids don’t hear.

However this particular boy insisted upon lugging around thirty pounds of equipment, including a tackle box, net, and two rods, plus a plethora of snacks. He resembled an Englishman going off on an old-time safari, only I insisted he had to carry it all himself, and not enlist me and the other children as coolies.  After a quarter mile he began whining.

By the end of the afternoon I was running out of patience. I had to carry his weighty tackle box, as he was dawdling despite the fact another child’s parent was waiting back at the farm.  As I took the box I managed to politely say, “I’ll carry that for you,” but worse was on the tip of my tongue.

Relieved of the weight, his mercurial mood improved, and he cheerfully began talking about the start of the turkey hunting season.  He planned to go after an enormous Tom he called, “Old Baldy.”  (Memo to self: Stay out of the woods.)  As he bragged about his prowess I rolled my eyes and wondered if his Dad would even let him touch a gun.  Then he went on about what he planned to do if he got “Old Baldy.”  He couldn’t decide.  Part of him wanted to have the entire bird stuffed as a trophy, however he also thought he might have only the head mounted, up on the wall.

Into my mind’s eye came the vision of the wall of a hunter’s study, with the heads of lions and tigers and bucks on the wall, and then this turkey’s head, amidst them all.

Suddenly my bad mood was gone.  I looked up at the sky, silently chuckling until my eyes filled with tears.

I was especially glad I never lost my temper with the boy when we got back to the farm, and his waiting mother told me why he had brought the second fishing rod.  When she had told him two rods were unnecessary, he had told her I might need one.




            The fact the latest “Bird Flu” in China has a 22% death rate means the following:  Of the hundred people known to have contracted the influenza, 22 died.  It says nothing about people who had milder symptoms, and didn’t bother seek a doctor.  For all we know, thousands may have caught this bug, and the death rate may be .022%.

The media doesn’t sell as many papers with a .022% death rate as it does with a 22% death rate, so we can expect some hype.  We can also expect individuals who make their living coming up with vaccines for influenza to rumple their brows and look very serious and to state “more research is urgently needed.”  Then they will hint it would be really nice if they had more funding.

On the other hand, a study of the so-called “Spanish Flu” of 1918 does sober one.  Over 500 million people caught it, and 3% to 5% of the world’s population died.  In places the death toll was higher, and in Samoa 20% of the people died.

If a similar situation arose today, it is likely modern medicine could do a lot to reduce the death toll.  First, in 1918 many died of secondary infections which we can now treat.  Second, in roughly two months we would start to have a vaccine available, and people could rush to get “flu shots.” Third, we know far more how such infections spread, and how to avoid situations which cause more severe strains of a virus to develop.

For example, usually sicker people stay home in bed, while less sick people go to work, and this tends to spread milder varieties while more severe varieties are isolated.  However in World War One soldiers could not go home, and the sicker ones were all grouped together in wards, which concentrated the more severe varieties in a preferential manner.

In 1918 my Grandfather’s commanding officer would not let my Grandfather go to the army hospital, and instead sent him to a bedroom in a castle they were occupying, because he simply felt soldiers who went to the army hospital died.  My Grandfather never forgot the special treatment he received, and the simple fact he was not exposed to secondary infections, as he lay gravely ill, may be the only reason I today exist.

All this being said, people tend to overreact to fears of a plague, and, in their efforts to avoid all contact with germs, create a situation where they have weakened immune systems, which are unable to handle germs, and even create situations which cause immune systems to malfunction.

Exposure is not always a bad thing.  From Wikipedia: “The fact that most of those (in 1918) who recovered from first-wave infections were now immune showed that it must have been the same strain of flu. This was most dramatically illustrated in Copenhagen, which escaped with a combined mortality rate of just 0.29% (0.02% in the first wave and 0.27% in the second wave) because of exposure to the less-lethal first wave.”

An irony in my family’s history is that my grandfather, who worked as an engineer to make sure the public had clean water, saw an unexpected side effect of clean water was that people were no longer exposed to polio when young, which made outbreaks worse (back before the vaccine,) for among the young polio usually resembled a cold, however among older people it was crippling and sometimes fatal.  Wealthy people with clean water tended to suffer more during polio outbreaks, and my Grandfather saw his favorite cousin die when she contacted polio while working in a charity children’s hospital, and then he saw my father crippled in the final polio outbreak in 1954.

When my father got polio, so did my mother and myself and my three older siblings, but our cases were milder.  So great was the fear of the illness in 1954 that my grandmother could find no one who dared step into her house to help her.  There is an irony in this, as well, for my father was a doctor and my mother a nurse; and this meant that when others got sick they helped, but when they themselves got sick others were reluctant to return the favor. In the end the person who stepped in to help my grandmother was a Christian Scientist, who believed in a God she could not see more than germs she could not see.

The observation that the rich suffer from certain illnesses, that the poor don’t suffer from, has been around a long time.


(click to enlarge)

More recently it has been noted that children who are from super-clean environments get asthma more than children from dirty farms.

The following quote is from

This line of thinking, called the “hygiene hypothesis,” holds that when exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, children face a greater chance of having allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood.

In fact, kids with older siblings, who grew up on a farm, or who attended day care early in life seem to show lower rates of allergies.

Just as a baby’s brain needs stimulation, input, and interaction to develop normally, the young immune system is strengthened by exposure to everyday germs so that it can learn, adapt, and regulate itself, notes Thom McDade, PhD, associate professor and director of the Laboratory for Human Biology Research at Northwestern University.

Exactly which germs seem to do the trick hasn’t yet been confirmed. But new research offers clues.

In a recent study, McDade’s team found that children who were exposed to more animal feces and had more cases of diarrhea before age 2 had less incidence of inflammation in the body as they grew into adulthood.

Inflammation has been linked to many chronic adulthood illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

“We’re moving beyond this idea that the immune system is just involved in allergies, autoimmune diseases, and asthma to think about its role in inflammation and other degenerative diseases,” McDade says. “Microbial exposures early in life may be important… to keep inflammation in check in adulthood.””

Reading the above filled me with a sense of relief, because running a Childcare on a farm exposes me to a lot of criticism regarding the harm I might be doing by exposing children to germs.  I don’t blame parents for loving their children and wanting to spare them from all illness, however there is such a thing as being overly protective.

There are quite a number of rules and regulations regarding “fecal matter.”  This makes good sense when changing diapers, and only an idiot would switch from changing a diaper to preparing a snack without properly washing their hands.  However on a farm “fecal matter” is also called “manure,” which was called “brown gold” by the old time farmers because it is an excellent and important fertilizer.  However, because it is “fecal matter,” children need permission slips to leave our playground and go in our vegetable garden, and that is only allowed by calling it a “field trip,” which involves bringing a first-aid kit, paperwork, and other rigmarole public school teachers face when they go on a field trip. All this, for walking ten yards through a garden gate to pick a radish!

Ah!  The wonders of government!

When showing the children how to milk a goat they are likely exposed to all sorts of bacteria, in fine particles of dust in the air of the stable. There are some who cringe at the thought of such exposure, and would have us pasteurize the air, as well as the milk.

Raw milk causes the FDA and “Big Dairy” to mount a podium and lecture about the dangers of three specific bacteria, however in all the United States there were only eight cases of infection through raw milk last year, while there may be thousands of cases of asthma caused by NOT being exposed to ordinary childhood germs.

The idea that children who attend daycare show lower rates of allergies is quite startling, for it is obvious children exposed to other children are going to share germs.  It would seem children attending daycare would be less healthy.

At our Childcare we are constantly wiping running noses, and our hands get chapped because we wash them (or use hand sanitizer) after we blow a child’s nose. At times this washing seems rather futile, for the children handle the same toys (and each other) and there is no way to wash every Lego every time a child touches it.  Therefore we do tend to see colds, coughs and fevers pass through our Childcare.

The question then becomes, “Who started it?”  I’ve seen parents scowl indignantly at other parents.  However I have yet to see a parent thank another parent for reducing their child’s chance of developing allergies.

However, if the H7N9 flu spreads, I do expect some to look with outrage at my chickens.


UPDATE:  In the comments at the website “Free Range Kids” a commentor “Sally” stated, “parents should be thrilled to have their children spending time on a “dirty” farm.”   and provided this link:


Templeton Tank


            The intentional misspelling of “normal” in my title is stolen from a “Mad Magazine” of the late 1960’s, which poked fun at the idea LSD was a “recreational drug” that had no lasting effects. The character, after a LSD trip, states the trip is over and everything is “back to norbal.”

Well, things are back to norbal around here, after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, (which is just another way of saying nothing will ever be the same.)

Boston is about a ninety minute drive from my farm, when the traffic is light.  It’s about sixty miles as the crow flies.  From a high hill you can see its skyscrapers, tiny on the horizon.  However it was near enough for the bombing to hit home.

My youngest son was trying hard to ignore the marathon, and to focus on studying for his finals, (one of which wound up canceled,) but he had to notice the sudden flow of upset people heading away from the marathon on Huntington Avenue, as he looked out his dorm window.  Then there was the following confusion, upset, and the strange sensation of not being allowed outside, (they were allowed to go eat, under the watchful eyes of the campus police, but were not allowed to dawdle,) and that was followed by the huge release from tension, and being part of a pent-up population of students all rushing outside at once, cheering and applauding the passing police.  Then there was a sort of let down, or else a sense of, “Now what?”

My oldest son and his wife were watching the marathon, but after the leaders passed they wanted to “beat the traffic,” and were already leaving the city when the trouble happened, and they had the good sense to get the heck out-of-town.  They watched it all from afar, on TV, but they too now ask, “Now what?”

My older sister lives in Watertown and works at MIT, so she was in the middle of things. The night the first terrorist brother was killed she could hear the pipe bombs getting louder and louder, as the vehicle was pursued, and heard all the gunfire. The day she wasn’t allowed to leave the house her husband took the above picture out their front door. (The soldiers were friendly, and were polite as they knocked at her door to make certain she wasn’t being held hostage.)  Then when the second brother was captured she again heard all the gunfire.  And now she too asks, “Now what?”

It was a week many Massachusetts public schools were closed for Spring Vacation. A parent of a child at our Childcare teaches in Massachusetts, and was on vacation last week, and, upon returning to school last Monday, found all the teachers were exhausted.  No one felt they’d had a vacation.

Beyond doubt the event was draining.  It continues to suck up a lot of energy, as people ask, “Now what?”

Things are not back to normal.  The world changes, and the idea of a thing called “normal” is in some ways a fond dream.  We want shelter from the storm, and long interludes of peace, but life has a way of dislodging us.



Below is a map I distrust, produced by Michael Mann.  It shows temperature anomalies during the Medieval Warm Period 1000 years ago, and is found in  Mann et al. (2009)Notice how, while it was warmer in Greenland, where the Vikings were able to raise crops where crops cannot be raised today, it is colder over central Asia, especially Tibet.

Mann-et-al-2009-Journal-of-ScienceI somewhat rudely assume that the reason for producing this map was political, because it  is itself rude in its manner of discounting the work of other scientists, especially those in China, who worked hard to glean from data the evidence that it was warmer in China during the  Medieval Warm Period.  (A link to over ten such studies can be found here: )

What could be political about such a map?  Well, by making it so cold in Tibet, it “balances out” the warmth over Greenland and Europe, and it then becomes possible to say that the Medieval Warm Period was only warm in part of the world, but colder elsewhere, and, “on average,” the world was not so hot back then.  Having concluded that, it next becomes possible to say current temperatures are “unprecedented,” and that that we need to take drastic steps to stop the Global Warming.  The individual must give up freedom, as if it was a time of war, in order that all might rally to the “cause.”  The political figureheads will gain more power, as the public has less.

However if there is no “cause,” there is no reason to give up freedom, especially in The Land Of The Free.

The second illustration below shows two things.  First, it shows a recent study in China showed, once again, that it was warm in Tibet at the very time Mann’s map says it was cold.  Second, it shows that the warmer periods of the past occurred when the sun was “active,” while the colder periods occurred when the sun was quiet.


(Click to enlarge)

(Graph From YuXin et al, 2013.)  (To learn more see )

I prefer the warmer periods.  Greenland turns green.  A hint of how nice it is up in frozen Greenland, when it is warm, is in this quote about that time up there,

 “For the Vatnaverfi district of the Eastern Settlement it is estimated that 100.000 sheep and goats may have been pastured at the height of the Norse period (Jacobsen 1987). The resources these animals required included about 700.000.000 kg of hay and between 36.500.000 to 73.000.000 litres of water annualy or 1.917.808 kg of fodder and 100.000 to 200.000 litres of water daily.”

Now there is nothing but frozen tundra where there once were bleating lambs and thriving farms.  (The entire paper, concerning Vikings up in Greenland, can be found here: )

A colder world is a cruel world, and the last thing our government should be doing is wasting money attempting to halt warming.  What it should be doing is storing up grain for a possible famine.  Rather than subsidizing farmers to grow corn for ethanol, they ought be subsidizing farmers to fill every grain elevator to the brim.

Instead those grain elevators are nearly empty.

I could lose my temper about this, but I’ve already been there and done that, two months ago:




            The news about the “Smoke In” in Denver troubles me, for I always imagined that the harm of marijuana would be obvious to the young, as they looked at their aging Baby Boomer parents.  Apparently it isn’t, and therefore I suppose I must state the obvious: Marijuana is harmful.

Furthermore, it is more harmful than alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine.

The harm is not visible in scans of the brain, for the harm is done on the level of memory.  While the latest scans are able to give a rough estimate of the emotion a memory produces, whether it be anger or fear, or pleasurable or unpleasant, there is absolutely no way of showing what the actual memory is, nor how memory is shuffled and resorted.

As memory is crucial to learning, the obvious forgetfulness, which is quite apparent to anyone who smokes marijuana, should be a reason for concern to the smoker, however it isn’t, for they are quite often under the illusion they are learning more, when the truth is they are forgetting more.

The processes of creativity and learning are bipolar processes, involving agony and ecstasy, both manic and depressive states.  While we all prefer the manic, the depressive is also crucial to learning. “You’ve got to pay the dues if you’re going to play the blues.”

The best analogy I can think of involves a desk that gets messier and messier as one is hard at work, until it gets so messy that one simply has to stop working and clean up.

In the brain’s manic state it is making “connections,” and this continues until there are simply too many connections to progress further, at which point the brain must “hit the delete key,” and discard some of the connections it has made.  This important second step is what we are undergoing when we suffer the state commonly known as “depression.”

In actual fact the brain does not utterly “delete” any memory, but rather is rearranging the “connections” (which lead from memory to memory) into a more efficient pattern.  This takes energy, and rather than the manic, “Eureka” of making a connection, it is more of a process of saying, “This doesn’t work, and this doesn’t work, and this doesn’t work.”  Even though the process isn’t pleasant, (sort of like getting a lot of rejection slips,) it lays the groundwork for the next creative effort.

When the mind is done “cleaning the desk” and gets back to work, the next sequence of connections is more efficient.  It is for this reason that Beethoven’s Ninth symphony is more amazing than Beethoven’s First symphony.

A person who smokes a lot of marijuana will notice, in the long run, no such improvement.  Or perhaps they will not notice. What is there to notice, if your ninth symphony is exactly the same as your first?  In fact you can say marijuana obviously hasn’t harmed you, for you are no different.

However we are supposed to become different.  It is a process called “maturing.”

Deep down people do notice when they are no different, and nothing changes.  It creates a sense of frustration. Unfortunately the user of marijuana seldom makes the connection that the frustration is due to marijuana, and instead of quitting, they smoke more. They want to recreate the sense of “eureka,” but what they discover is that the same dosage gets them less and less “high.”  Sometimes they then increase the dosage, until they arrive at a point where rather than high, they just get buzzed.

I arrived at that point as a teenager, over forty years ago, and even then I was too stupid to blame marijuana.  Instead I was blaming society and capitalism and what-have-you.  I had to be told, rather bluntly, that marijuana was making me stupid.

(As I recall what penetrated my thick skull was a tract entitled, “God In A Pill?”  One hippy was handing the tract out to other hippies on Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.)

Quitting marijuana was one of the few smart things I ever did, as a teenager. It was difficult, because I had to get through roughly six months where I was largely depressed and had very few “natural highs.”  (I suppose my brains were drained, and had to replenish energy reservoirs.)  However now I can do things with my creative side, which were completely impossible for me to do, back then.

Whoever it was who handed me that tract, all those years ago, did me a very great favor.  I am especially aware of it when I meet old friends who never quit marijuana, and who were once smarter than me, but now seem strangely stuck forty years in their past.

It is because I want to return the favor that I chose to be a nag, and tell modern youth, “Don’t smoke marijuana.  It will harm you, and no good will come of it.”




(Pictures taken by my wife; click to enlarge)


            One nice thing about spring is that you don’t have to create poetry, because you are basically wandering around in a poem.  It is a time of rebirth, and what could be more creative than rebirth? So why should I feel any pressure to be creative? Sometimes it is nice to just relax, and watch a better Creator.

For the second spring in a row I have discovered a foxhole, and been able to watch baby foxes play at the mouth of the den.  It’s a pretty big thing in my life, considering I went over a half-century wandering about in woods, and, though I did discover foxholes and spot foxes, I never saw baby foxes play before.

I don’t think I have become craftier.  Instead I think the foxes always have been crafty, but now are more concerned with outwitting coyotes than humans.

Humans are spending more and more times indoors on their computers, and far less time out hunting, and a consequence of this is that coyotes have made an amazing comeback over the past fifty years, and coyotes do not coexist well with foxes.  To be blunt, coyotes could do with some lessons in political correctness, for they will kill foxes every chance they get.

However foxes have been outwitting coyotes, wolves, dogs and humans for so many millenniums that slyness has become their middle name.  While many young and inexperienced foxes do get caught and do die, the foxes that survive become smarter and smarter, until they develop a somewhat amazing repertoire of tricks and escape routes. The people who hunt foxes do not do it so much to protect chickens, nor for the beautiful fur, nor for the undesirable meat. They do it because a fox is an amazing creature to hunt, and the older ones usually escape. Part of every foxhunt are the tales of the fox’s tricks, told by a fire afterwards, and many of the best tales are about a sly, old fox that got away.

I prefer to coexist with foxes. I confess have become very angry with them, when they’ve stolen my chickens, and have even set some traps in a rage, but I’ve never caught even a young one.  Ordinarily my strategy involves lots of chicken wire, and a sort of bunker for chickens to hide in at night. The foxes seem to catch on that I am no fun, though they keep checking, hoping to catch me when I’m careless. And, when I’m careless, I tend to lose a chicken.  That’s how smart foxes are, and how thorough their investigations of their neighborhood is.

When hunters and foxhounds, or coyotes, chase an old fox, the fox knows every hollow log he can run through and out the other end.  He knows every long mesh fence with a single fox-sized hole he can duck through.  He knows the shallow streams that wash away his scent, the mires he can cross by leaping hummock to hummock, ways to back-track and then leap sideways to a leaning tree, and how to run up the tree and then drop down to rabbit runs through brambles. In the cases he doesn’t elude his pursuers and grows tired, he knows and has widened the deepest woodchuck holes, amidst boulders and roots that make digging difficult, and, should a pursuer actually attempt to chop roots and shift boulders, such hideouts usually have a hidden back entrance, and the fox can run off laughing after a good, long rest.

I say “laughing” because, as crazy as it sounds, older foxes actually seem to like being chased.  Ask any foxhunter.  The younger foxes are running for their lives, and are scared, but the older ones are having fun, and there are tales of an old fox who, hearing the horns announcing the start of an English foxhunt, would actually appear in the far distance and yap, announcing he was ready to begin as well.

My favorite story involves an end of a hunt, when a young fox had run out of tricks and was harried and exhausted, running on his last legs with no place left to hide, barely ahead of the hounds.  Right then an old fox crossed the trail behind him, in clear view of the hunters and hounds, so brazen and so taunting that the entire hunt veered after the old fox, (whom they never caught,) and left the young fox alone.

Why would an old fox do that?  They are not a pack animal. To suggest the old fox was knowingly saving the young fox’s life is likely to attract accusations of anthropomorphism, however just as humans can sometimes behave like beasts, beasts can occasionally behave better than beasts.

Many have raised fox cubs, (including Winston Churchill,) and have learned foxes are quite friendly and like puppies, as cubs.  However, because they are not a pack animal, there comes a day when they simply depart. It is a dangerous world out there; but, (unlike humans, who are pack animals,) foxes have no trouble “leaving the nest.”  They simply are drawn away, and in most cases are dead within a year. However the young foxes that survive to become old foxes do return to the abodes of the humans that raised them. They do not rush up to the humans that raised them with wagging tails, like a dog would do, but rather watch from afar, at the edge of the woods, for a while, and then they depart. If their old “owner” approaches them, they depart sooner.

Why would an old fox do that?  Obviously beasts have memories, but what sort of memory would draw a fox to sit and watch, when neither food nor sex is involved?

Foxes make me wonder, and wonder is a nice thing to have in life. Perhaps that is why I like children; they are filled with wonder. And perhaps that is why I don’t like certain adults; who think they know it all.

As a boy the schoolmarms wanted me to know it all, but I preferred to wonder, and it got me in trouble. Also I grew up in a stuffy town of wealthy people, and they all liked to strut about with lifted noses acting like they knew more and didn’t wonder about much of anything. They would poke fun at a little airhead like me, who wondered at foxes and cumulous clouds and, (to be honest,) never paid much attention to what a good student was suppose to attend to.

Because it was a wealthy town, it had town forests and protected wetlands and nature trails, and I had a chance to run away from the world of grown ups. Not that I always could get away with it.  I did get dragged off to dancing school, and was forced to attend things called “formals” where you had to wear an itchy suit and do dances called the “fox trot” and “waltz,” but on my way home I’d shortcut through the forest, and get in trouble for getting my best suit all muddy.  Being scolded didn’t improve me. Rather than learning to shun the mud I learned to shun the suits. Rather than behaving like a pack animal, and taking advantage of the privilege I was born into, and learning to be a stuffy fat cat, I was a fox who ran free in the woods.

Of course, it couldn’t go on.  One must face the absurd facts of modern reality. However for my first few years of being a teenager I stubbornly refused to grow up, and went right on being a barefoot boy.  In essence I was Huckleberry Finn in a town of stuffy snobs, but that is a tale for another time. What matters in this essay is a fox I got to know.

Of course, if you get to know a fox, it is not your doing. It is because the fox is curious, and studies you.

I did notice this fox was around, but only as you usually see a fox.  You glimpse it crossing the road, if you are up before dawn. If your eyes are young and bright, you see it crossing a distant field, rust red against grassy green.  Only rarely do you see it closer, a flitting form in your peripheral vision, and only then because you changed your route because you forgot something. In essence this fox was one of many critters I shared a boyhood forest with.

And so it would have ended, even as I reached the sad conclusion to that chapter of my life:

I came to understand wealthy towns have no place for children who grow up in that town, when such children have no hope of being wealthy.  Back then minimum wage was $1.60 an hour, but the cheapest house in my town was a whopping $55,000.  I could do the math.

I supposed I could live with Mommy even longer, but, for crying out loud, I was nearly nineteen.  It was embarrassing to mooch any more.  I had to go.

I was bitter, and extremely maudlin, as I walked the woods I loved for the last time. These were my woods. These were my trees.  I knew no other land.  It was as if Huckleberry Finn was exiled from the Mississippi River. I felt like a Cherokee sent out on a Trail of Tears.

It was as I walked in this morbid mood that I was suddenly struck by the strong feeling someone was looking at me. So I did what you do: I looked over my shoulder.

Fifteen yards behind me, in the middle of the nature trail, was a fox.  He (or she) was not standing, but rather was sitting, and was smiling with very white teeth.  I said something along the lines of, “Holy Cow! What the…” but even before I could finish the double take, the fox glided to the right into dense underbrush.

What could I do?  I just went on with my walk. However my mood was very changed.

Nor was that the end, for I did not find it easy to escape the comfort of Mommy, even when the writing was on the wall. As a final spasm of love for my town and my woods, I made an absurd and hugely illegal effort to “get rich quick.” That too is a tale for another evening. All you need to know is that I nearly died several times, the effort failed, and the only reason I didn’t wind up in jail was because Mommy knew wealthy people. So I wound up back at Mommy’s, sort of like Blackbeard living at his grandmother’s. (I think I would have preferred being lynched.)

I knew I had to take the plunge, and get away from Mommy, but I was broke, carless, disgraced, and like most rich kids knew nothing about how the poor survive. It was also the dead of winter. To leave Mommy’s was like being the guy who, during Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition, walked out into the storm to freeze, so the others wouldn’t be burdened by his weakness.

Obviously, I didn’t die, but I didn’t know that back then.  I procrastinated, however staying home was hell.  Finally I couldn’t stand it, and made plans to embark, though I did not know where I was going.  It was then a fox appeared a last time. I’m not sure it was the same fox, but in my mind it was “the” fox.

The land had to be built up, to form the foundation at the rear of that house, and therefore the land fell off steeply outside my bedroom window.  It wasn’t straight down, but it was steeper than a playground slide. It is not a slope, which I, if I were a dieing fox, I would climb, but some reason a fox crawled up that slope and died beneath my bedroom window.

It did not help me get a job.  It had no value, in terms a stuffy town of snobby people can see. However I left my bedroom, walked out the front door and around to the back, and looked down at the glossy red fur of that dead but beautiful creature. My mood was very changed, and I was filled with wonder.

I then went on to my next nineteen years; a sort of “Trail of Tears” where I was a wandering, wondering drifter who slept in his car a lot, and that was followed by nineteen years as a happily married father of five.  Now you are witnessing the beginnings of my final nineteen years, and hopefully notice I have a fondness for foxes

If you are pragmatic and practical, you will have noticed that, in the two incidents I described, regarding foxes, I did not receive anything that matters, in pragmatic and practical terms.  The fox did not give me money, or power, or fame, or sex, or popularity, or anything you can lay a finger upon.  All the critter did was let me feel I mattered. Even if I only mattered to a fox, that can mean something, if you are maudlin.

The reason the foxes are now building dens right by my house is likely because it is a place the coyotes don’t go.  However my sentimental side likes to think it is also because foxes know I’m not so bad, as humans go.

The funny thing is that the children at the childcare are so matter of fact about seeing the young foxes play.  They don’t understand many will live their entire lives, and never see such a sight.




My birthday was back in February, but one present I received from my wife was a ticket for a “Duck Boat Tour,” of Boston, and, as there were no tours in February, we went on the tour last Saturday.  I say “we,” because, by the time my wife was done, she had all five of our children, her brother, our daughter–in-law and future son-in-law, and our three grandchildren in the same boat.

I was a bit nervous about unleashing such a bunch of bumpkins onto a hapless city, but we had a blast. (The only time we came close to being a dysfunctional family was by attempting to all arrive at the same place on time, and we managed that with a full thirty seconds to spare.)

Due to the delayed spring the magnolia were just bursting into bloom, and despite the cool day many Bostonians had been winter-toughened and were wearing shirt-sleeves and the dreamy look that goes along with spring enchantment.

Our duck-boat was “Red Sox Nathan,” and the captain, (you must have a captain’s license to transport that many people over water,) was a merry mother of five who had dressed in a clown-like outfit and who could have easily charmed the audience of a comedy club. She poked fun at all segments of the population we passed, as well as us, and was wonderfully irreverent about Boston’s history, keeping the thirty or so aboard her craft laughing throughout the entire trip.

I got to skipper the duck boat under the Longfellow Bridge, and my grandson got to steer in the Charles River Basin.  Besides her ordinary commentary our guide occasionally simply spoke of what struck her as something new and interesting, such as a tree that had just bloomed, or the fact the frog pond in the Boston Common had just been filled with water.  However what struck me most was the fact she did not refer to Boston as her “city,” but rather as her “town.”

I really liked that feeling, especially as I have a rural dislike of a faceless city.  However the city wore a friendly face, as we continued on to eat a hearty Italian meal at a family restaurant in the North End, and then simply wandered the streets, stopping to watch the street performers juggle knives, ride unicycles, and do amazing break-dancing.

I was a bit nervous about my youngest grandchild, who is only four and bursts with energy that causes him to dash off at odd moments, but with so many adults watching him he was kept safe. However, as I turned from my youngest, I was staggered to see my oldest grandchild, aged eleven, out with the performing break-dancers.  As they were very black and he is about as blond as a boy can be, they had dubbed him “white chocolate.”  Besides their amazingly athletic dances, which involved flips and one-arm-handstands, (and which made my grand daughter, who is a gymnast and can amaze me with her own flips, stand with her jaw dropped,) they kept up a wonderfully politically incorrect banter.  For example they called four women from the crowd to do a stunt, told the women to put their purses to the side, and then pretended to run off with the purses.  As they returned they laughed, “We don’t do that any more,” but then admonished the women, “Don’t ever, ever hand a black guy your purse.”

It was a day of beauty, cheerfulness, and warm feelings, and makes what happened only 48 hours later, on the very streets we walked across, hit home with a particular pang.

When we heard the news we felt frightened.  We were watching the grandchildren as our oldest son and his wife went to watch the marathon, and our youngest son goes to college not many blocks away.  They escaped unscathed, however, with cell phone service overwhelmed by several million calls in a matter of minutes,I had to endure one of those times when you stand under a blue sky and just don’t know.  You hope for the best, but a part of your heart is steeling itself, preparing to be man if you learn the worst.

Now it continues.  We have little children at our Daycare, and despite all attempts to protect them from senseless news of human senselessness; they have big ears, and ask the most difficult question, “Why?”

The answers can get long and become political, but small children don’t need that.  I liked my wife’s reply,  “Some people are hurt and don’t know what to do to stop hurting.  They hurt others because they are confused.  We should feel sorry for them, and teach them to be nice.”

I liked the simplicity of her answer, although of course I have studied enough history to know how difficult such “teaching” can be, and how often such “teaching” has involved the death penalty, either individually or through wars. (Nor is it always the guilty who pays with the death penalty, as Easter reminds us.)

I liked the simplicity of her answer because, in Truth, the answer is simple.

Often, when dealing with small children, you will see one little child who simply gets mad that another child is happy.  Call it what you will, jealousy or envy or whatever, you will see one small person observing another happily building a sandcastle, and a strange, mean expression fills their face, and they abruptly step forward and kick the castle, or snatch away the shovel the other child is using, or in some other childish way disturb the happy child’s contentment.  Then there is wailing and conflict, and you have to step in, and get to hear all the amazing justifications which even a child only aged three can come up with, for causing another pain.

The simple answer is that we should not want to cause other’s pain.

Not that I myself don’t fall prey to proof I’m human.  Within me is a part not much more mature than a three-year-old,  as unspiritual as a terrorist. However I recognize it is ugly, and as soon as I see its head poke up I ask God for forgiveness and help.

There are times you need to inflict pain on another, for example to remove a splinter, but in such cases it is to avoid a greater pain.  Furthermore, it is not to avoid pain in yourself, but rather to avoid a greater pain for others. (Personally, I don’t get much pleasure from removing splinters, and would be far happier if children just didn’t get them in the first place.)

People know the difference between inflicting pain upon another for the good of another, and inflicting pain for purely selfish reasons. People know the difference even when they are only three, and therefore they are only fooling themselves when they do it when they are older.  They may say there is no difference, and argue long and hard and with sophist sophistication, but deep down they know the difference.  Hate feels like hate, and love feels like love, and even the most skillful confidence trickster, able to fool millions of others, can never completely fool himself.

Therefore the best answer to hate is to awaken love.  It is the candle that defies the darkness.

At this point none know whom in particular bombed Boston.  People have their pet theories, however few can deny it was a person given to hate.  They wanted to kick the sand castle, to end the happiness and bring about sorrow, perhaps thinking they could blow out a candle and bring about darkness.  However even in sorrow the candle continues to glow.

The best response to the murder of an eight year old child is to love children all the more fiercely and deeply.  Rather than cowering, people need to step forward all the more bravely.

For the answer to terrorism, (the answer terrorists most loathe and fear,) is to cause them to see they failed to bring darkness, and instead made light brighter.  The answer to hate is love.




After a glorious day the wind has shifted back to the north, and we are back to hanging on, glumly waiting for spring.  Sleet patters against the pane, and outside the windswept world has gone backwards to white.

However the birds aren’t waiting. As the older children waited hunched, looking down the wet street for the delayed school bus, a gang of robins hopped, also hunched, over the whitened playground. The kids wanted to talk about TV, and didn’t much want to listen when I told them there is a new song overlaying the old.  However I listened. The shrill peeps of winter chickadees and titmice, and the taunting “nyah nyah” of winter nuthatches, had been drowned out by the more lavish spring songbirds. Despite the snow a robin sang. It started me thinking.

With spring so delayed I started wondering how the birds were handling life. In many ways they are creatures of amazing instinct, and have a problem with changes in routine.

When the swallows returned to Capistrano on Saint Joseph’s day, what would they do if they found six feet of snow and no bugs to eat? Would they have the brains to turn around and head back south until the snow melted, or are they so imprinted by instinct they would stay, attempt to build nests, and starve?

I remember my seventh grade science teacher, a strict and stone faced old lady of seventy appropriately named “Miss Marble,” had a soft spot for birds. I recall being surprised to discover, when kept after class for causing her to glower at me several times in a single hour, to learn she actually could smile. All you needed to do was bring up the subject of birds.

(Miss Marble seldom needed to rebuke a student, instead merely becoming deathly silent and staring at the malcontent with her eyes half closed. We boys called her withering, unnerving look, “the hairy eyeball,” and, because the father of one boy had links to the New York Times, and as the first appearance of “the hairy eyeball” (as a phrase indicating, “an expression of disapproval”) appeared in the New York Times in 1963, just before Miss Marble retired, I like to think “the hairy eyeball” originated in my town, and was our boyish contribution to the English language.)

Besides the way her mean face would gentle, and her eyes would sparkle with delight when talking of birds, I also remember the sorrow in her face as she described a spring in her childhood (1895) when the bluebirds did not return, because so many had been killed by a cold snap in the south:

Thousands of Bluebirds perished in the storms and bitter cold which lasted for a week or more;  their frozen bodies were found everywhere– in barns and other outhouses where the poor things had vainly sought shelter; in the fields and woods and even along the roadsides. In the localities affected they were almost exterminated.  To many people it was a sad spring in those regions.

There are other reports of bluebirds frozen to their nests by other storms.

These incidents suggest that the avian instinct to migrate north, and build nests at a certain time, may be more powerful than the common sense we mammals (sometimes) possess.

This topic came up recently as a friend and I discussed wind turbines killing eagles. My friend insisted birds could learn, but I was not so sure.  Also, in the case of the endangered whooping crane, there are not many birds to begin with, and some fear the entire population will be wiped out before they can learn to adapt.

I really do wonder why we are protecting businessmen rather than whooping cranes.  The comeback of the whooping crane has been a triumph of environmentalism.  Their population was down to 21 birds in 1941, however the wild flock’s population was back up to 266 by 2007, new “wild” flocks numbering roughly 80 had been started in other areas, and 145 lived in captivity.  This triumph has involved millions of dollars, and a number of “learning experiences” some might call “blunders.”

One blunder involved the fact whooping cranes lay two eggs, but usually only one chick survives.  Therefore one egg was snitched and put in the nest of a sandhill crane.  These adopted chicks were raised, however, because they had imprinted on sandhill crane parents, they refused to mate with other whooping cranes, and their population died out.

Another blunder involved teaching young whooping cranes a new migration route, leading them with an ultra light.  There was a collision between an ultra light and a crane.  The crane lived, healed, and eventually migrated, however it was only at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, for a single bird.

The cost of raising and reintroducing a single whooping crane into the marshes of areas outside the last remaining wild population in Texas is roughly $100,000 per bird.  Then you have the blunder of a Louisiana boy, out hunting in the marshes, who sees this strange, new, and very huge bird winging by and blasts it from the sky, and furthermore unwisely has his picture taken holding up this giant bird (and posts it on line.)  He could have faced time in jail and an enormous fine, but fortunately a merciful judge judged him, and his fine was a single dollar (plus court costs of $500.)  Rather than jail he got probation.

Having been poor, I happen to know court costs of $500 are no laughing matter, however there are some environmentalists who will pay zero to raise a boy in a bayou, but $100,000 to raise a crane.  They were absolutely furious “the kid got off so easy.”

These same people are now placed in a quandary, because the wind turbines they support may kill the whooping cranes they support.

If you are going to get so angry at a kid with a shotgun in a swamp, how can you not get angry at a fat cat erecting a wind turbine in the flyway or by the habitat of an endangered species? However, if you are a fat cat, and have political connections, you can get something called an ITP.

ITP stands for “Incidental Take Permit.”  What it means is that if you build a wind turbine right where it will kill a whooping crane, and it kills a whooping crane, you cannot be fined, and you face no jail time.

Why on earth not?  Because you are “saving the earth” when you kill whooping cranes. (And eagles, many other birds, and bats.)

Never mind that building a wind turbine involves using “rare earths,” which involves open pit mines that scar landscapes in third world nations.

Never mind that a wind turbine’s “carbon footprint,” once you add up all the building and power lines and “back-up power” (for when the wind isn’t blowing) is far more than a coal fired plant.

Never Mind that there is no way to store the extra energy, on windy days.  Never mind that, on calm days, the very fossil fuel plants you supposedly replaced must do the dirty work.

Wind power is a lovely idea. I looked into getting a wind turbine for the farm, when I found myself in charge, but the more I studied the subject the more I was repelled.

Wind power is a lovely idea, in the same way the Flying Cloud was a lovely ship, compared to a tramp steamer.  However lovely clipper ships involved a lot of dead sailors.  Ugly tramp steamers involve sailors who, for the most part, don’t die.

Not that environmentalists really care about their fellow man. Guys like me, who have flipped their burgers and cleaned their toilets, canned their herring and built their houses, working in factories that made the studs for their blue jeans, the labels for their mustard, the ball bearings for their bikes, and the “security pins” for the plastic things to discourage shoplifting, when they shop, (and so on,) are just guys who are “excess population.”

What they really care about is for the birds.

These people make it very hard for me to love my fellow man.  All the religions of the world suggest we should love our neighbor, (and ignore the idiot priests who preach war against neighbors,) however these environmentalists prefer whooping cranes to humanity.  Rather than love their neighbor, even when their neighbor is just a kid in a swamp with a shotgun, their love is for the birds.

I too love the birds, just as Saint Francis did, but Saint Francis also loved humanity.  Not that I am Saint Francis, but I’m embarrassed when fellow bird-lovers behave like they are the antithesis of Saint Francis.

The environmentalists are not standing united, but are starting to fall divided.  The “wind turbine” group is fighting the “whooping crane” group.

Why are environmentalists not standing united?  The answer is simple.  In order to stand united you must love your neighbor; you must love your fellow man; you must never, never ever deem any person “an over-population.”

If you love your fellow man, it is impossible to call any number an “over-population.”  Even if the world population soared to fifty billion, every single person would be worthy of your love.

I exaggerate to make my point, (and invoke “Godwin’s Law,”) but I assert that, in spiritual terms, as soon as you deem another segment of the population unworthy of love,  (because they don’t care for birds,) you are deeming them unworthy of living, and have reduced yourself to the level of a Genocidal Killer.

In other words, there are some bird watchers out there who, in spiritual terms, are as bad as Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot.   Just as Hitler murdered lots of Germans, claiming he loved Germans, and Pol Pot murdered lots of Cambodians, claiming he loved Cambodia, there are bird watchers who would murder bird watchers.  There are even whooping crane watchers who would murder whooping cranes, for the sake of wind turbines.

This confusion would automatically cease, if people dropped hate for love.  The problem is that people lack faith, and expect the worst of their fellow man.  They don’t believe people can learn, and can do the right thing.

In the case of over population, the so called “population bomb” has not happened.  My generation is called “The Baby Boom” because, after the horror of World War Two, there was an urge to replace the lost population, and also to have the big, happy families that were not possible during the Great Depression.  However the boom did not last.  In the same way, thirty years ago the average Mexican family had six or seven children, but now they have only two.  All the charts and graphs, which demonstrated a “population bomb”, were based on a lack of faith that people could learn and do the right thing, however people have proved that lack of faith is incorrect.

Birds may indeed be creatures of instinct, liable to “imprint” and then to be unable to escape that “imprint,” but humanity is not the same.  Humanity may fall to the level of beasts at times, however the simple use of that expression, “level of beasts,” indicates humanity knows of an alternative.  People are endowed of a mysterious thing called “a heart,” and can and have responded to love in ways that have totally transformed societies.

As the children trooped into the yellow school bus, and the bus moaned off through the sleet, a robin sang from a fencepost, and a cardinal from the top of a tree.