About Caleb

I run a Childcare with my wife on a small farm in New Hampshire. Click "About" if interested in my life story.

THOUGHTS AFTER MANCHESTER TRUMP RALLY

I have many other things I’d rather write about, and in some ways would rather be in my garden weeding than be writing at all, but politics has a way of shoving its snout in your face, when you live in New Hampshire. I blame this political intrusiveness on the fact we are the first state in the United States to hold its presidential primary. If it weren’t for that event, no one would bother with us, for we are barely over a million people. Neighborhoods in New York City hold more people than our entire state does, and we only have two representatives to congress. There is not much reason to notice us, (and I don’t think it is always an entirely bad thing to go unnoticed).

Not that I haven’t craved fame in my life. Writers do hanker to have their efforts appreciated. However when I look at famous people I sometimes thank my lucky stars I never had to suffer what they are afflicted by. Some famous people are wonderful, but the majority strike me as….well, I’ll just say I don’t admire them.

And when I think back to the “popular kids”, (back more than fifty years ago), who I attended high school with, there were quite a number who I also don’t recall fondly. They may have felt they were “popular” back then, but they were not “popular” in my private estimation, and some were downright mean.

I think it was at that time I developed the habit of steering away from the sort of situations where “popular” people go to be “seen”. Not that I didn’t go to some high school dances, but I was usually drawn by a particular woman, and I tended to have such a miserable time that I eventually stopped going.

At some point I wondered if I was just a coward. I pondered that perhaps I was bigoted towards popular people, who might actually be nice, so, to test myself, I went and sat down at the “popular people” table in the school cafeteria. (Yes, a very beautiful woman did sit at that table, which did play a part in my decision to test my courage.) The “popular” people seemed so astonished to see me sit down that they forgot to tell me to buzz off, and I sat at the “wrong” table an entire week, contributing very little to the conversation, and somewhat astounded by how inane the conversation was. I concluded popular people were very boring, and I went my own way, and did my own thing.

Right at this point (1969) “doing your own thing” became fashionable. As a senior in high school I quite accidentally found myself “popular”. All the things I did because I couldn’t bother be politically correct, such as wear shabby jeans and have unkempt hair, suddenly became politically correct. I’d left school the prior June as an unpopular slouch, and when vacation ended and I returned in September I was abruptly “cool”. I was “hip”. I was the dude others wished they had the nerve to emulate. (That was the summer of Woodstock, and of men first landing on the moon, and of Kennedy driving off the bridge.)

I will not deny that being flattered for being “hip” swayed me to some degree. But all too soon fashion moved on to “Disco”, and abruptly wearing shabby jeans and having unkempt hair became emblematic of being a “has-been”. Flattery’s rosy glow faded to the gray of disillusionment, and I became aware that “doing your own thing” is often done because it is the right thing to do, and not always because it is rewarding.

I should hasten to add that being righteous is rewarding, but not in a way the world pays much attention to. The salt-of-the-earth gain no great wealth nor acclaim for being the backbone of the planet. They are why we are fed and clothed and sheltered. They are why things work, and the fact things work is their only reward. They may never be rich and famous, but they raise children and pay their bills and are the reason life goes on. They just “do their thing.”

When I look back through time it seems to me that times-of-trouble arise in human history when societies forget to value the salt-of-the-earth commoners, and become too enamored and infatuated by wealth, power and fame. It doesn’t matter if one is royalty spurning the commoner, or a Brahman spurning the Untouchable, or Hitler spurning the Jews, or Stalin spurning the Kulak. All hell breaks loose when people snub the very people they depend upon. Rather than loving your neighbor it is like sawing the branch you are seated upon.

The American Constitution was devised by men who thought long and hard about why this problem occurs, and how best to avoid the inevitable repercussions. It is a marvelous document, unique in human history, and most people who state it needs to “evolve” and who seek to “improve” it have not thought nearly as long and hard about human nature as the Founding Fathers did. This is especially true among those who refer to America’s salt-of-the-earth people as “Deplorables” and “Climate Change Deniers” and “Bitter Clingers”, and refer to the American Heartland as “Fly-over Country.” Unfortunately many such people were educated to dismiss the Founding Fathers as “rich, white slave-owners”, and to never themselves think long and hard about the mortal desire for wealth, power and fame, and how such desire can corrupt human endeavors in the manner the “Ring of Power” demented its wearer, in Tolkien’s “Lord Of The Rings”.

It seems to me that one thing that sets the American Constitution apart from other forms of government is a premise, (to some degree unstated), that power corrupts and is a vigorous root of evil. Therefore a framework was devised to keep any one person or group from gaining too much power. The three branches apportion power in a way that keeps power dispersed, and the Electoral College does the same thing. Therefore our constitution is very frustrating to those who want all power in their own hands, wrongly thinking that if there is no opposition there will be unity.

Such a one-sided “unity” is a farce. It is the “unity” of a dictator, a Hitler or Stalin or King George, who has little respect for the salt-of-the-earth commoner. It cannot conceive a commoner may do good by “doing his own thing”, and often seeks to outlaw commoner’s small pleasures, assuming “unity” knows better, (“unity” being the personal preference of a tyrant).

The tyrant sneers at the fact commoners may like to scoot across lakes on noisy jet-skis, claiming it disturbs the peace, and therefore bans jet-skis, but then inevitably goes out on the same lake on a diesel-belching, three-story cabin-cruiser. The tyrant scoffs at the commoner’s hot-rod, and demands they use electric golf-carts, while riding in a sleek limousine. The tyrant snubs roasted ribs at a commoner’s barbecue, and passes laws demanding vegetarian diets, yet holds feasts with apples in the mouths of pigs. The tyrant demands commoners use no hydrocarbon fuels, while scouring the skies in their private jets. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. They hunt for sport, but call commoners who hunt for food “poachers”. Tyrants demand commoners, who are relatively faithful and respectful to their wives, bend over backwards respecting women, but then are less than respectful themselves. Perhaps their greatest hypocrisy is to demand commoners be honest, while in private stating it is smart to lie.

My personal view is that one never is wise to lie. Lies always backfire in the end. (I even have a hard time with surprise-birthday-parties). Truth has a purity and sanctity so clear and undeniable that, even among Atheists who who can’t stand the use of the word “God”, I can have uplifting, calm conversations simply by replacing the word “God” with the word “Truth.” Yet some believe it is wise to lie.

It isn’t. Even when you are selling something, and seek to attract buyers by pointing out the good attributes of what you are selling, honesty is the best policy. The moment you introduce a lie into the transaction then what was beautiful gets ugly.

A beautiful transaction is when a person has something a second person needs or wants, and is then rewarded for giving the second person what they need or want. Both people benefit. However, when a snake-oil-salesman conducts a transaction guaranteeing a bald man a full head of hair, promising the buyer they will save money because they won’t have to buy a hat to avoid a sunburned scalp, the transaction becomes ugly when the bald man remains bald. Such sneaky salesmen tend to hurry from town more often than they honor their guarantee, and give the money back.

The ugliness gets profound when some deem others “suckers” and “chumps” and “sheeple”, and think a good way to get rich is to gain another’s confidence with a lie, and then never deliver what they promised. If such people succeed with their con-artistry, they think that the money they then ruffle is proof that what they have done is wise, and they build upon a quicksand foundation which assumes success comes from harming others. However what they do does not go unnoticed, by the salt-of-the-earth commoner, or by God.

The average American has long been bombarded by commercials. One once could escape by turning off the TV and radio, and driving on a back road that had no billboards, but now one has advertising logos even on their dashboard and lapels and shoes; their wife’s pocketbook is a portable billboard; and even their little children’s toys are often a sales pitch. Madison Avenue spends billions to find better ways to convince people to want what they don’t need, and of course politicians noticed this phenomenon, and hired Madison Avenue to get people to buy into their election promises. However the average American is not as stupid as some sellers think. Just as mosquitoes developed a tolerance to DDT, and required larger and larger concentrations of spray, until in some places spraying no longer was feasible, lying to the American public required larger and larger audacity, until it finally fooled so few that Donald Trump was elected.

I think Trump won because he simply spoke the Truth. It sounded harsh and impolite to many, but to the salt-of-the-earth commoner it was a breath of fresh air. They had grown weary of being lied-to by bald-faced hypocrites, who basically said, “Trust us,” and then broke the trust again and again and again. And the bald-faced hypocrites? They were terrified, for they could not simply flee to the next town like a snake-oil salesman. Their power, which had seemed made of rock, abruptly seemed made of sand, and the commoners, whom they had mocked as chumps and sheeple, were rising like a tide.

This was actually exactly what the Founding Fathers intended to have happen, as they thought long and hard about how to devise a government. They knew very well that some become so enamored of money, power and fame that they will hurt others to gain such inanimate things, and then will hurt others to keep them. They knew this because they themselves had money, power and fame, and were well aware of the hazards such possessions bring. For example, even though Jefferson owned slaves he was able to criticize slavery, stating, “We hold the wolf by its ear.”

Like bosses everywhere the founding fathers had to deal with sloth and theft among those who worked for them, and were forced to dole out punishment to employees who broke the trust, yet at the same time they were mere “employees” of King George, facing punishments the king felt forced to dole out to them. Perhaps it was because they could see things from both sides, and then gathered together to think together long and hard, that they came up with a Constitution which comprehends that sloth can occur both in employees and in bosses, as can theft. Therefore they attempted to devise a system wherein all people, both rich and poor, could call-out others when they detected sloth and theft. Which is exactly what Donald Trump did, regarding the so-called “elite” in the so-called “Swamp” of Washington D.C.

The response of the so-called “elite” has been telling. Rather than accepting the results of the election, they doubled down on their dishonesty, wasting over two years attempting to inflate a false narrative that the Russians had somehow “stolen” the election, with Donald Trump complicit. They did not want to heed the results of the election, because the electoral college majority was telling them that the public was sick of the elite’s dishonesty, and tired of seeing the elite with their hands plunged up to their elbows in the cookie-jar of taxes. The so-called “elite” were then faced with a choice between democracy, and destroying democracy to cling to power, and many seem to have chosen destruction.

The salt-of-the-earth American commoner can’t help but think, like Queen Gertrude in “Hamlet”, that the elite “doth protest too much, methinks.” The public has undergone weary decades of seeing lies exposed, and seeing the exposure bringing no penalty to the elite. President Clinton was nicknamed “Slick Willy” because no wrong-doing stuck to him; he could lie, “I did not have sex with that woman”, and then, when “that woman” stated the truth, he just laughed it off. Consequently the public became so accustomed to lies they were no longer all that shocked by lies, or by corruption going unpunished, and indeed were so jaded that they rather expect to be lied to. The elite kept up a pretense of morality, thinking the common man consisted of fools to be fooled, but Abraham Lincoln stated “You cannot fool all of the people all of the time,” and it turns out he was right.

Just as an experienced fisherman can scan the smooth surface of a still lake, and spot ripples that tell him where the big fish move beneath the surface, an experienced person can look at the smooth talk of a skilled politician and spot the lies beneath the slick guff. In some sad cases the politician is fooling only themselves. Wise people recognize when a smile is not genuine, and where it may even hide the malice of a murderer. While people avoid leaping to conclusions, and don’t want to be guilty of developing an entire conspiracy-theory from a single, suspicious detail, people do notice when such coincidences pile up. “The List” (of deaths associated with the Clintons) has been kept since the 1990’s:

When Jeffrey Epstein was recently accused of allegedly running a sort of upper class whorehouse staffed by underage girls, cynics in my little town wondered aloud how long it would be before, (because Epstein “knew too much” about Bill Clinton and other “elites”), he would commit suicide under somewhat mysterious circumstances, and be added to “The List.” Then, when Epstein did commit suicide, a new cynical joke could be heard making the rounds among the local folk. It was to facetiously say, with very round eyes, “I know nothing about the Clintons. Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!”

Though spoken in jest, the humor does describe how repellent the elite have become in the eyes of the common man. Call the reaction “fear” if you will, but a common man with teenage daughters or granddaughters cannot think highly of men who attended Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged whorehouses. What is so elite about such depravity? And the fact such privileged people could look down their long, depraved noses and sneeringly label common men “deplorables” calls the very sanity of the elite into question. Do they never examine their own behavior? Or do they see a mirror as a thing only used to make sure their make-up is applied correctly, to hide the ashen hue of their spirits with the falsified rouge of health? (After all, the original “bigwigs” wore their big, faux-healthy wigs to hide their patchy baldness, caused by syphilis.)

I personally am so repelled by the rich and powerful and famous I want little to do with wealth and power and fame. I far prefer the small garden of a small man in a small town. The small pleasures of raising five children cannot be measured in money. Upon the edge of poverty one has a chance to be wholesome, and in that wholesomeness one owns riches surpassing that of billionaires wading in the reek of “The Swamp”.

Furthermore, I’m getting old. Though I likely will work until I drop, I am of “retirement age.” I can’t do what I once did, and must adjust my ambition downwards to some degree. While I don’t abandon the helm entirely like King Lear did, I do hand some batons of life’s relay-race to the young, who have ambitions that see a future I won’t live to see. Not that I don’t plant orchards, but I know I won’t live to see the apples. Rather than overrule the young, I respect their new ideas, for they are the ones who must reap crops I will never witness. Not that I don’t give them more advice than they sometimes ask for, but I have a different attitude toward power than The Swamp’s: I can give power up.

This retiring attitude is something I’m good at, for in a sense I’ve been retiring ever since I stopped going to dances as a teenager. It is part of being a writer, and is also called “withdrawal”. However it also makes Donald Trump a man beyond my comprehension, because he doesn’t retire and he doesn’t withdraw. To be quite honest, he puts me to shame. How does he take on The Swamp with the tenacity and courage he displays? It can only be because God formed him very differently than God formed me, and he is able to derive pleasure and zest from what would be, for me, a living hell.

There are times he makes me feel like a complete sissy. I feel like an anxious mother watching her child climb a tree or tall cliff. I can’t bear to watch, and turn away, not because I don’t admire what Trump is attempting, but because I don’t want to see him fall and be crushed.

I fully expected he would be assassinated by now, and am amazed by his survival and by what he achieves. One of his greatest achievements has been to so alarm the people addicted to wealth, power and fame that they have stopped pretending to be nice. They have thrown off their sheep’s-clothing and revealed themselves as wolves. Of course, some of us knew they were wolves all along, but if we said so we would risk being accused of “having a conspiracy theory”. How could we call a sweet, adorable lamb like Slick Willy a wolf? He had such a nice smile, as did other wolves. But now they are showing their fangs. Formerly they pretended to be part of a two-party-system and to be like Harry-Truman-democrats, but now their dictatorial, one-party-system tendencies towards tyranny are undisguised. Groups like Antifa resemble Hitler’s Brown Shirts, and clearly stand against the two-party-system our Founding Fathers established as a great and noble experiment.

I find their attack upon America deeply troubling. I lose sleep, and find politics bad for my health. Because it will do no one any good if I get sick, I prefer to retire to my garden. I have run my race, and it is up to the young to carry on.

But as I squat and weed, listening to birds sing, and watching thunderheads bloom in the summer sky, a little voice whispers in my conscience. “Have you been intimidated? Are you a coward? Have the bullies of Antifa silenced you?” If you pass by my garden you may hear me muttering to myself, from time to time, as I wrestle with this voice.

I certainly haven’t been silent on the web, concerning arctic-sea-ice and Global Warming. My posts on this site have been viewed by over a hundred thousand people, and my other posts and comments (on sites less obscure than this one) have been seen by millions. I have been part of a process that has exposed the falseness of a false narrative, to such a degree that thinking-people (including some cynical Alarmists) are well aware Global Warming has no scientific basis that justifies it being called a serious threat, and only exists as a political tool used to seize money and power.

Ten years ago there were wonderful and lively discussions involving the actual climate-science involved, but now such discussions have devolved to name-calling. I even heard a wonderful description of arguing-with-an-Alarmist: It was described as being like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how brilliant your moves are, the pigeon just knocks your pieces over, poops on the board, and then struts around like it won.

To a certain degree one just gets weary of arguing with pigeons. It producing nothing, whereas weeding my garden produces delicious vegetables.

But then I pause, and think my arguments did produce something. It produced a degree of censorship from Google. If you type in “Arctic Sea Ice” on Google, you can scroll down through page after page of search-results, and not see any mention my past posts, though some of my posts have thousands of views. Formerly my posts appeared in the first few pages of search-results for “Arctic Sea Ice”. So my posts did have an effect. They forced some at Google to take off their sheep’s clothing. They think they have “silenced” one party in a two-party-system, (me), but what they have done is to “show their hand”. They cannot claim to believe in the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press when they, in essence, burn books. If they wanted silence they have gone about it the wrong way, for they have been too loud.

Having bragged (to a degree) about having had this effect, I cannot claim to owning much desire to become more deeply involved. Such one-party-system-people have a sort of reek about them, and I do not usually feel comfortable when in the proximity of a skunk, even when it wears a lovely fur coat. I would like to just be done with such nonsense. Let the young carry on with the battle. I have played my part. I’ll just become one of those silent people who do not appear in polls, (because I hang up when a pollster calls me on the phone), but I’ll still vote when the day comes.

But then that whisper occurs again in my conscience: “Have you been intimidated? Are you backing off because you are afraid? What if Donald Trump did that?”

When I heard a Trump Rally was going to be held only 45 minutes from my front door I had no desire to attend. While I like live concerts, I am uncomfortable once crowds get much larger than a hundred. I admire great athletes, but would rather watch them on TV than attend a Superbowl. There is something about a crowd that makes me uncomfortable, perhaps because I’ve seen crowds turn ugly, and also because I have seen involuntary goosebumps of thrill rise on my own arms, and know I am not unmoved by the group-think of a mob. I prefer to stand back and watch from a distance and mull things over. I am a retiring sort, and even these words I now type are words I will mull-over and rewrite many times, before I set them free. Spontaneity is not my middle name.

However when I heard a local branch of Antifa was calling for people to come and disrupt the Manchester Rally, seeking to intimidate people from showing Trump any support, a bit of spontaneity ruffled my feathers. I may be retiring, but I’m not dead yet, and I can’t stand the way Antifa calls Trump a bully for bluntly speaking truth, and then turns right around and behaves in a bullying manner, speaking balderdash propaganda. To argue with Antifa is another case of playing chess with a pigeon. Rather than speaking opposition to their concept of a one-party-system, sometimes it is better to simply show opposition by attending a rally.

However when the day came I was very busy with work at my Farm-childcare, and it seemed unlikely I could get in to the rally. The 12,000 who gained entrance to the arena arrived before 4:00, and I wasn’t off work until 5:30, and it would take me another hour to drive in through rush-hour traffic, and on the radio I heard parking was just about non-existent and that the traffic was especially terrible near the rally. To top it off I was dead tired. I decided to spend my time praying the rally wasn’t bombed, and went to bed before the rally even ended.

The next morning I didn’t bother listening to the news, for I knew networks would report a highly negative view of whatever had occurred. Instead I searched through the web until I found a film of the actual rally. I find it interesting to form my own impressions, and only later to listen to the impressions the media gathered, which they then brazenly state are opinions “everyone” should share.

Quite often I see the media’s impressions are in lock-step, as I switch from network to network, right down to the talking-heads parroting the same exact words, yet their impressions are so different from mine that you would find it hard to believe they were of the same event. The Press takes things so far out of context it becomes downright humorous listening to the “experts”, who make such an ado-over-nothing they resemble people throwing a tizzy over the warped view they see in a circus’s fun-house mirror, as if unaware their views are warped.

At his rallies Trump often states something, and then gestures towards the Press, poking fun at what they will make of his statement, and how his statement will be warped when it appears in the next day’s papers. Where the Press once had the ability to make or break a politician, Trump has emasculated them by pointing out a reality which all now call “Fake News”. He has turned the tables on them, for rather than the Press manipulating the politician, the politician is tweaking the Press, making them prance like puppets, and playing them like a violin.

I feel I have watched a deterioration of the media that has taken decades to manifest; a crumbling of the trust the public has in the news they are told. It began during the Vietnam War, and the irony is that back then it was the Press itself that stood up against the purveyors of propaganda. How times change. Now even events which were accepted as well-researched-truth sixty years ago are called into question by the unrelenting scrutiny of countless, private, investigator-bloggers on the web, and, while there are a lot of paranoid rants and nonsense to be sifted through, some attempts to manipulate a gullible public are exposed by bloggers in ways that brook no doubt. (For example, some horrific pictures of bomb-blasted, weeping children crouching by gory and apparently deceased mothers in Syria were rendered far less heartrending when before-and-after pictures revealed the mother and child laughing as they put on bloody make-up usually used to make triage-training more realistic for EMTs, and then relaxing after the photo-shoot; IE: The entire bloody scene was a scam created to move public opinion.)

It doesn’t matter which “side” one is on, one gets tired of having their heart played as if it were an inanimate violin, and one wearies of what seems to be a general acceptance of lying. Especially exasperating is that, rather than the Press working to make amends for past failures, by working harder to sift through various views and versions of truth, and by honestly seeking to show all evidence, the Press has seemingly abandoned all attempts at objectivity in favor of a total devotion to a one-sided one-party-system. Bias appears to have become a sort of virtue-signaling; reporters appear eager to be purveyors of propaganda, (though their eagerness perhaps demonstrates a child-like and frantic attempt to please Big Daddy, enacted by frightened employees leery of being fired).

As I watched a replay of the Trump rally I did not see anything like what the media described and reported. The media saw racism, because the crowd was 94% white, but the simple fact of the matter is that the population of New Hampshire happens to be 94% white. What the media was seeing was simple demographics, but at times they snarl like wolves at people merely being what people have no control over being. Meanwhile Trump looked glad to see everyone. Right off the bat this made him a mile more likable and winning than the suspicious, hostile media.

Then Trump began to talk about what he has been attempting to achieve, which the media seldom mentions. Instead the media has reported what never happened. They have clogged newscasts with misinformation, focused on how Trump’s election was due to Russia and not his supporters, which is a theory now disproved. The crowd seemed far more interested in what Trump was actually attempting, and untroubled by the three years of false accusations, (both before and after Trump’s election).

Because the media has been such a abysmal failure, in terms of telling the truth, in a sense Trump was doing what the media should do but doesn’t do, as he described his agenda at the rally. As he listed what he was trying to achieve there were some topics I recognized but others I didn’t, and as he described his critics there were some I had heard about but many I hadn’t. However when I thought about “what I already knew”, it occurred to me very little came from the mainstream media. Instead, much I have learned has come through diligent searches of non-mainstream websites. Sad to say, but the mainstream media offers almost no actual information.

For example, concerning the subject of illegal immigration, the media’s focus has largely been upon ideas, and not facts; they discuss the idea that “borders” are racist, and upon the ideas of individuals who feel “open borders” are a good idea, and upon the idea that Trump’s promise to “Build the Wall” is bound to be an abject failure.

To some degree I can commiserate with such no-borders idealism, for it holds the beauty of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” However, as a man who has lived long and still works hard “past retirement age”, I can look back across decades of experience and am well aware people have limits; people have to draw-the-line. I’ve seen that, while in a Perfect World there would be no borders, we do not live in a Perfect World.

I may be an old grouch, but once I was young and brimming with idealism, and visited a hippy commune where “everything was shared”. After an evening of profound talk I went to bed, and when I woke the next morning I couldn’t find my pants, (which were new bluejeans). When I meekly brought up the fact I had no pants, it turned out someone else had “shared” them. When I suggested it would be difficult to avoid arrest if I headed out into the world without pants, I was “shared” some pants. They were the most ragged, frayed, filthy, and in-need-of-mending-and-patching pair of pants I have ever worn in my life. This experience awoke me to the fact idealism can get ugly. I said I did not agree “sharing” was a good thing, and wanted my own pants back, which did not go over too well among the idealists at that commune.

It is experiences such as this which turn “Songs Of Innocence” into “Songs Of Experience” (William Blake) and leads to slightly cynical statements such as “If you’re not Liberal when young you have no heart, and if you are not Conservative when older you have no brain.” (Winston Churchill and many others). Many old hippies know exactly what I am talking about, even as many youngsters haven’t a clue.

In the end we come back to the dilemma the Founding Fathers were striving to deal with, when they wrote the United States Constitution. This dilemma boils down to facing the fact we do not live in a Perfect World, and that vices such as sloth and theft occur in the rich and poor alike, the young and old alike, and the Liberal and Conservative alike. In the face of our mortal weaknesses, (whether you call them “foibles” or “sins”), it is obvious a one-party-system cannot succeed, for eventually it will pit the old against the young, the rich against the poor, or masculinity against femininity. Instead a two-party-system must evolve, where there may be some discord and conflict, but good things such as “harmony” and “marriage” are also possible. “Vive la difference”.

Lastly, for a two-party-system to work, there must be a division between the two parties of some sort. There must be “borders”. There must be male and female, rich and poor, Liberal and Conservative, and buyers and sellers. This may not be utopia, (for in the State of God-Realization absolute Unity exists), but we are not God-Realized, and in fact we had darn well better recognize we haven’t realized God yet, or else we are possessed of such arrogance we are doomed to disaster.

Some members of the media bewail what they call “polarization”. Despite a superficial praise of “diversity”, they don’t like the existence of differing views. I think this is what lies behind the dislike some express towards the Founding Fathers, for the Founding Fathers not only accepted the fact views do differ, but devised a system to handle the differences.

If the Press desires to function in a healthy manner it needs to describe both sides of an issue, which involves departing from the idea-world of idealism and descending into the nitty-gritty landscape of facts. But if a Press is captured by bias, it becomes so affronted by differing views that it cannot handle them, and flinches into a sort of reflex of bashing. They leap to conclusions. When covering the situation at our southern border they are quick to report the idea that illegal immigrants are held in “concentration camps” and “drink from toilets”, but are slow to fact-check such distortions. Because the Press offers a dearth of facts, it is up to the president to say there is news the mainstream newspapers are not mentioning, which is what Trump does at his rallies.

I hope you recognize the irony. Fifty years ago the president (Johnson) was the purveyor of propaganda, and people turned to the Press (Cronkite) for news about Vietnam. Now the tables are turned. Rather than the Press, people turn to Trump for news. More news is dispensed by Trump, during a rally, about the situation at the United States southern border, in fifteen minutes, than is heard in months on mainstream media. What’s more, Trump not only reports about his own views, but also about his opponent’s views, and he does so in a cocky, off-hand manner which infuriates many.

I think I see one reason he infuriates some people. In their eyes he over-simplifies, and is breaking their complex system of rules, which happen to be rules that in many ways stifle free speech.

This exposes a second irony. Fifty years ago the people speaking freely and in a refreshing manner tended to be celebrities such as “The Smothers Brothers”. (It is interesting to watch reruns of their old shows from the 1960’s, and to realize what seems so innocent (to us now) eventually caused such a fuss (back then) that they were taken off the air.) Now celebrities tend to avoid causing a fuss, and spend most of their time fussing. They are far too busy virtue-signalling and being politically-correct to dare be so refreshingly incorrect as to bring up the Truth.

There is something about Truth that is refreshing. What’s more, it is something salt-of-the-earth commoners recognize and respond to, whether the speaker is on “their side” or not. It is for this reason that a good debate between two opposing politicians can be a delight to listen to, providing the opponents treat each other with respect, in a sense “loving their enemy”. But when that respect is absent then one sees the recognition of Truth bring about a quite different and somewhat rabid response, where the humorous jibes are absent and instead hatred of Truth manifests.

I saw a bit of such hatred, in a small way, after I watched the video of the Manchester Trump rally. I liked what I had watched, and was musing to myself about the strange similarity between Trump’s performance and an old Smother’s Brothers show: Despite the great differences in political views, there was an impishness and good humor I associate with Truth. Then I checked the clock.

I had found time to watch the long rally because insomnia had awoken me at three AM, and I saw that I still had a bit of time before heading off to my Farm-childcare, so I thought I’d scroll down and check-out the comments-section, which was below the video. I was curious how people had responded.

I was taken aback by the negativity of most of the comments, which were full of foul language and generally bashed supporters of Trump as being racist pigs. It took me a little while before I noticed seven straight comments by the same person, and then scanned backwards and saw that same person was responsible for many earlier negative comments. Further scrutiny showed other individuals were doing the same thing, and that most of the comments were written by roughly ten people, repetitively cranking out the same disproved talking-points, such as Trump being put in office by Russia, illegal aliens being forced to drink from toilets, the electoral college being a dumb idea invented by rich, white slave-owners, and so on. When anyone replied to such comments all ten Trump-haters piled on them, stating disparaging things about their sanity and their mothers, using fairly ugly language.

To me this suggested the ten people were “doing their job”, and I wondered if they might even be paid to do it, perhaps with the money George Soros is so generous with. They didn’t seem to have another job they had to get to, judging from the time-stamps beside their comments. They’d been at their job for hours.

With a second glance at the clock I decided I had just enough time to reply to one comment before work, and I chose a particularly snide comment about how only fools accepted Trump as a leader, because he wasn’t a legitimate leader as he had not received a majority of the popular vote. I pointed out Abraham Lincoln had only received 39% of the popular vote, and headed off to work.

A couple hours later a member of my staff contacted me in great alarm about negative comments appearing on our Childcare’s Facebook page. When I checked, it struck me as humorous. The site contains pictures of small children at play, with innocuous comments such as “Susie looks so sweet” and “Johnie is so cute”, but abruptly the comments switched to “You’re talking through your pie-hole,” and “Parents must be insane to let their children near a fascist pig like you.” However I doubted my wife would see the humor, and sought to find out how the leftists had tracked me down.

It turned out the original video of the Trump Rally had appeared on a Facebook page, and therefore when I replied, in the comments section beneath the video, my Facebook site had automatically appeared by my comment. Yikes! What a mess!

To extract myself from the mess I went back to the original video and deleted my comment, which “disappeared” me from the discussion under the video, and also “disappeared” the nasty replies to my comment from my business’s Facebook page.

However I don’t take kindly to being silenced in such a manner. Such a silence might make Antifa happy, and might make George Soros feel he invested his money wisely and perhaps even clap his hands in glee, but such silencing is unhealthy to those who seek to nourish Freedom of Speech, and understand the refreshing, healing quality Truth has, when spoken aloud.

Therefore I have refused to be silent, and have gotten up early all week to write this essay. Please share it if you like it. I have the sense the coming election will be particularly nasty, and it is particularly important to have all views, even mine, heard.

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ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Disingenuous Declines–(UPDATED)

I have been posting less about sea-ice because my main reason for posting was that I derived great pleasure from the cameras on buoys in the Arctic Sea. First and foremost, the views were beautiful. Secondly the views supplied a way of double-checking on the maps produced from satellite data, which often were simply incorrect. (For example, the maps might state the sea-water was three degrees above normal, when the cameras showed the water was choked with ice, and therefore had to be right at freezing.) Once the cameras went unfunded and the views vanished I found the topic far less enchanting.

In any case, after watching the sea-ice since the low-ice summer of 2007 it became obvious there was no “Death Spiral” occurring. The extent is basically the same, year after year, with slight variations. Due to the warm AMO and warm PDO, ice is at lower levels than when the AMO and PDO are cold, but there is no long-term “trend” towards less ice. In essence, watching sea-ice is about as exciting as watching moss grow on a rock. There is nothing wrong with such witnessing, if one can see the beauty of moss, but without the cameras I decided I could find better use for my eyes. I’d rather watch the pumpkins grow in my own garden.

For some time my old posts about sea-ice continued to gather “views”, (some have been viewed by several thousand people, numbers that uplifted their status on “search engines.”) Then such visits ceased. I discovered Google has “disappeared” me on its search-engine. I imagine Google in some manner recognized me as a “Skeptic” and “Global Warming Denier”. I now have a hard time finding my own website, using Google. While this does seem foolish, (as they are making a fine search-engine malfunction), it does not really discourage me. Writers have a craving for attention, and being “disappeared” makes me feel recognized. Also it makes me want to write about sea-ice, when, if they hadn’t tried to silence me, I would have moved on from writing about sea-ice to writing poetry about pumpkins.

I continue to scan the DMI charts and graphs, and to glance over the arctic weather using Weatherbell maps. I just don’t devote time to jotting down observations. There have been no drastic changes this summer, but a few things do interest me.

One thing of interest was a push of sea-ice south towards the Atlantic. In 2007 such flushing of sea-ice south through Fram Strait led to low sea-ice-extent totals. However what I noted this year was ice crushed up against the shores of Svalbard, not merely on the cold east coast but at times even on the west coast, often kept open even in the winter by a northern tendril of the Gulf Stream.

In fact there was more sea-ice this June around Svalbard than in 1596. How do I know this? Because I love history and know Willem Barentsz discovered Svalbard in June, 1596, and that he saw less ice in the same waters.

This sort of trivia does make it hard to get excited about any sort of “Death Spiral”. Of course you will never see a headline, “More Arctic Ice Than 400 Years Ago”, because that doesn’t fit the “narrative”.

There is something so disingenuous about the media’s coverage that it is increasingly becoming just plain silly. It also seems increasingly useless to attempt to have a sane conversation. If you bring up a perfectly true and interesting bit of trivia about the three amazing voyages of Willem Barentsz some people get bug-eyed and purple-faced. You can’t tell them to calm down, for the words “calm down” always seem to have a completely opposite effect.

In any case, if they knew what they were talking about, they would point out a lot of sea-ice around Svalbard may indicated the sea-ice is being flushed south to melt in the Atlantic, and could lead to a low extent like in 2007. Unfortunately they seldom know what they are talking about.

A perfect example was the recent fuss about the “heat wave” in Greenland. Yes, more melted than most years, but the prior two years were cold and stormy and far less melted. But the “narrative” is to beat the drum about melting ice-caps and rising seas, so big numbers were thrown about, such as “11 billion tons melted in a single day” and “217 billion tons melted in July”. These numbers are tossed about without any reference to increases the prior two years, nor any attempt to compare the numbers to the total bulk of Greenland’s huge icecap. They fail to mention that, at that rate, it would take 25,000 years to melt the entire icecap. They also fail to mention there was greater melting the last warm summer, in 2011. Instead they attempt to generate brainless hysteria about “the worst ever.”

image

Delingpole uses sarcasm to attempt to defuse the panic, and does a fairly good job here:

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/08/04/delingpole-greenland-ice-melt-shock-the-terrifying-truth/

In any case, there was a big hubbub about the shores of Svalbard being ice-free a few years back, for people feared Polar Bears would have no place to raise cubs, but now that subject has been dropped. The ice is back. But now the winds have shifted to the south, and the ice may be blown north, and the hubbub may reoccur. I am expecting it any day, for the “wrong way” winds in  Fram Strait have shifted the sea-ice away from the north coast of Greenland. It is (I think) the third time this has happened in two years. (Twice in the summers and once in February.) I expect hoopla about how Polar Bears will drown without ice, although Susan Crockford at “Polar Bear Science” gently pointed out, during the last hoop-la, that Polar Bears are rare along the north coast of Greenland, because they need open water, and open water is too uncommon up there for them to rely on.

Here again study of history is helpful. In 1817 a whaling ship apparently circumnavigated Greenland after a huge amount of sea-ice was flushed through Fram Strait, leaving the Arctic Sea amazingly open. More recently, the original 1950 U.S. military studies (regarding the creation of a base at St. Nord on the northeast tip of Greenland) mention St. Nord likely could only be supplied by sea once every five years. In other words, open water was uncommon, but certainly not unheard of. However such history does not fit the “narrative”, so the press has to be silly, and hysterical, and disingenuous.

In fact, if you are rooting for a decline in sea-ice, you want the ice pouring south through Fram Strait. “Wrong way” flows keep the ice in the arctic and increase the volume. You want the sea-ice crashing into northern Greenland and then being swept into Fram Strait, following the route of O-buoy 9:

http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#buoy9/movie

Temperatures this summer have been a little below normal at the Pole, north of 80º latitude.

DMI 190807 meanT_2019

I personally feel the slightly-lower-than-normal temperatures we’ve seen at the Pole during recent years is caused by the “Quiet Sun”, but Joe Bastardi, who I greatly respect, suggested it may simply be caused by melting ice “sucking up heat”. I wonder. While it is true the phase-change from solid to liquid does result in available heat becoming latent heat, melting occurs ever summer at the Pole. Any who have ventured on the ice in the summer, back through history, have commented on the slush and melt-water pools. But Bastardi may have a point about this summer, because this summer was especially sunny at the Pole. High pressure has dominated, and only in the past few days have I seen anything approaching a “Ralph”. (Anomalous low pressure at the Pole.) I keep an eye on such lows, because in August they can become gales (I think due to the building contrast between summer warmth and autumnal cold) and in 2012 a gale resulted in record low sea-ice extent.

DMI 190807mslp_latest.big

Even though there is a weak “Ralph” at the Pole, you can still see the high pressure extending from Greenland to Alaska. I have already mentioned the melting on Greenland, but Alaska has seen drought and some big forest fires. Meanwhile low pressure systems, rather than hooking up to the Pole as a “Ralph”, have tended to progress east along the coast of Siberia. The current low over west Siberia is drawing south chronic cold to the Moscow area (not mentioned by the media) and the low over central Siberia is drawing summer heat north on its east side, (likely to be soon mentioned by the media.) During the past weeks I noticed two things about these Siberian coastal lows.

First, they often involved below-freezing temperatures, even as the Pole baked in sunshine. Often these temperatures occurred south of 80º north, and so were not included in the above graph. (I likely should have saved those isotherm maps, but my pumpkins required weeding.) The current map has a hint of what I’m talking about:

DMI 190807 temp_latest.big

 

(I should note that in early July there are almost no below freezing temperatures on isotherm maps, yet we are now already seeing the advance of autumn on the ice. (I’ve been told by men who worked up there that even in early August one starts to see a skim of ice on the water pail in the morning.) Explorers and adventures up there all seem intoxicated by the heady warmth of July, and then get suddenly serious in August.

In the above map the below-freezing pockets of temperature, seen extending from Fram Strait east to East Siberia, have been seen before, though earlier this neckless was more displaced south of 80º. The below-freezing temperatures in Beaufort Sea, however, are new. The chill is building, and from now on most of the melt of sea-ice will come from the sea below, and not the air above. The sun is sinking lower, and has less power, even when it is up 24 hours a day.

The second thing I noticed about the low-pressure-systems moving along the Siberian Coast was that they often were offshore, which resulted in west winds to the south of them along the coasts. This at times shifted the sea-ice east, which is a “wrong way” flow, as the Beaufort Gyre ordinarily pushes ice west. This likely has resulted in a pile-up of sea-ice in the East Siberian Sea, perhaps like the situation that sunk the Jeannette in the same area in June, 1881.

In other words, there are two areas of “wrong way” flow and “piled up sea-ice”, one north of Greenland and one in the East Siberian Sea. My guess is that these areas will be difficult to melt, and may result in a flattening of the decline of the “extent” graph, such as we saw last year. I don’t expect a new record low, despite hoopla in certain circles about some days recently where we have been “Lower than 2012” on the extent graph. (Remember, 2012 involved a big storm in August.)

DMI 190807 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

I could go on, but my pumpkins are calling. I just posted this to annoy certain people at Google.

*******

UPDATE:

I came across an interesting article about a glacier down towards the southeast tip of Greenland called the Jakobshavn Glacier. This huge glacier, which dumps enormous amounts of ice into Disco Bay, was long a sort of Poster Child for Global Warming, for it had experienced substantial retreat. Then in 2016 it disgraced itself, and has been banned from the news ever since. Its sin was to advance. Some attempts were made to explain the advance as being due to “warming” speeding up the already speedy glacier, whereupon the leading edge of the contrary ice screeched to a halt, but continued to thicken. This thickening has continued for three years. and, because the glacier is enormous, the thickening is also enormous, and amounts to an increase roughly matching that of a thirty-story-tall building.  Yikes.

What was particularly interesting to me was that the thickening seemed to have little to due with air temperatures, but rather was due to the temperature of the waters of Disco Bay that the ice rode out over. The Bay was a little colder, and little less effective at melting the bottom of the glacier, and the result was the glacier got thirty stories thicker.

I think this observation can be extrapolated out to include sea-ice in general. I feel there is too much emphasis on sunshine and albedo and air-temperatures, and not enough on the water under the ice. I strongly suspect that, as our knowledge increases, we will learn of oscillations in currents, perhaps as measurable as El Ninos and La Ninas, that play a predominate role in whether ice increases or diminishes. It certainly seems to me, looking back at the history of explorers, whalers, sealers, and fishermen in the arctic, that the ice goes through year to year changes too dramatic to be explained from above. As nine tenths of an iceberg is underwater, the real drama happens out of sight.

I also found it quite refreshing that the NASA scientists involved dared even mention that the waters of Disco Bay were colder. Anything anywhere getting colder does not support the “narrative”, and perhaps the NASA scientists paid the price and were “disappeared” from Google. Yet I entertain a slim hope that the so-called “swamp” is being drained, and some good fellows at NASA are getting back to the business of honest science. In any case the post is here:

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145185/major-greenland-glacier-is-growing

UPDATE 2:

It is interesting how the weak “Ralph” at the Pole has created the first below-freezing temperatures of the late summer, at the Pole.

This morning Ralph hadn’t yet had this chilling effect. The only below-freezing temperatures were a necklace arrayed around Ralph’s periphery.

 

Grasshoppers

(Note: This is largely Part Three of my “Weeder Wars” post, which I like and think can stand alone, and may try to publish elsewhere.)

The original farmers of the United States were different from modern “agribusiness”, in that they were not in the business of farming to get rich, as much as they were in it for a quite different reason, (basically to live free, and raise a family, which involved raising the crops that would feed that family).

Farming was way of life, a deed men did without thinking deeply about why they did it, just as we get dressed in the morning without thinking deeply about why we wear clothes. What’s more, they didn’t have the time to think about it. Physically they worked more than twice as hard as we do. This is shown by the fact they ingested more than 4000 calories a day and didn’t get fat, while some us can get fat on less than 2000. In many ways they were a very different people.

It is hard for modern psyches to grasp the fact more than half of all Americans could feed (often large) families without working for any boss other than themselves. Not only did they feed themselves, but they also were forced to be artisans: They spun wool and cured leather and clothed themselves, built their own cabins and made their own furniture and sheltered themselves, burned tallow candles for light and burned wood for heat, and had absolutely no need for government welfare or food stamps. They were the “Yeoman Farmer” Thomas Jefferson admired and called crucial to democracy, and were the “Kulak” Stalin despised, and sought to “purge” from Russia, even if millions starved in the process.

Because I in some ways see myself as a “Kulak”, I can’t help but notice that nothing irks a Socialist more than an individual who is self-reliant, for he is proof we do not need bureaucrats (who make a living off telling us how to live our lives). In many cases independence on my part threatens a bureaucrat’s very livelihood. For example, if you are a social worker, and families are self-reliant and happy, of what use are you? In such a case it is the social worker who needs food-stamps and welfare, and not the people he or she imagines is dependent on him or her.

Not that the original American farmers had an easy life. I could go on in great detail about centuries of conflicts between an immigrant people who could feed a family with 60 acres (New England) or 250 acres (Prairie States) and a native people who wanted to feed their families utilizing 100,000 or 1,000,000 acres. But let me simplify matters by mentioning conflicts between farmers and a grasshopper called Melanoplus spretus.

Melanoplus spretus was North America’s locust. A locust is a grasshopper which can undergo a Jekyll-Hyde transformation. For years, even decades, it can hop around like an innocent grasshopper, but some sort of trigger can cause it to amazingly change, whereupon it looks physically different and it reproduces differently as well. The innocent grasshopper becomes a voracious swarm, darkening the sky and not only eating all your crops, but the wool off the backs of your sheep, and even the leather of your shoes. Although Melanoplus spretus lived in the Rocky Mountains, when triggered by drought or over-population into its locust form, huge swarms traveled east all the way to the farms in my homeland of New England.

It is difficult to imagine how gigantic and devastating these swarms were. The largest could cover an area the size of California and number over ten trillion insects. In a matter of hours, months of a farmer’s hard work vanished. Using a boxing analogy, it was as if, in the tenth round, one’s opponent abruptly morphed into King Kong. And then?

Then farmers fought like hell, as if their lives depended on it, because their lives did. The tales of how they fought back are amazing, but the fighting seemed basically useless. Worst was the fact that, at the end of the summer, these huge swarms would hunker down and lay trillions upon trillions of eggs.

This was hugely depressing to farming families. As the locusts ate everything above ground, farmers knew they might eek by on the incompletely-formed crops that grew below ground: Undersized potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, sweet potatoes and rutabagas might help a family struggle through a hungry winter, but the following spring they would not be able to even plant such root crops, for the soil was infested with locust eggs, and they’d hatch in the spring and eat the first sprouts of every crop you planted. Then, when they had eaten everything in sight, the swarm would arise en-mass and head east, always east. Melanoplus spretus never returned home to the west with trophies of conquest, but continued east until the Atlantic Ocean proved an absolute end to a swarm, and fishes got fat.

It is difficult to see what ecological advantage Melanoplus spretus derived from these banzai charges to the east. As they left the arid west they increasingly moved into lands they were not suited for. Early Mormon history speaks of farmers falling to their knees in prayer when a swarm threatened their crops, and how their prayers were answered by a huge flock of voracious gulls, (which apparently followed the leading edge of the swarm all the way up from the Gulf of Mexico to Utah.)  Also, even when Melanoplus spretus laid trillions of eggs, a very wet spring with standing puddles in the fields could kill every egg. Therefore, not every swarm made it to the Atlantic. No colony was ever established in the east, and the swarming seems a sort of extravagant waste, on the part of Mother Nature.

Melanoplus spretus was but one form of ruin faced by the early American homesteaders. They also faced droughts, floods, hail, and the simple fact their eastern farming-practices were not suited for the naturally-arid western lands. They faced stampedes of buffalo, and the arrows of a native population who did not much like squatters who killed their buffalo.

Lastly, they faced misinformation from callous people who sought to financially gain from the mass migration of millions of basically ignorant farmers. These dishonest people included those investing in railways and farm equipment, and the banking institutions that financed such endeavors. What such profiteers tended to do was make farming look like an idyll, and to fail to mention it is a war. The advertisements in the eastern newspapers of that time look comical, in the way they describe a paradise out west.

One concept that seems strangely modern was the idea of Climate Change. What homesteaders imagined would change their arid 250-acres was not virtue-signaling by buying curly candles or riding electric horses, (or throwing a virgin into a volcano), but rather was through their sweat, as they busted the thick sod, and also planted an acre of trees on their 250-acre-farm. The “climate scientists” of that time, with pompous authority, stated “farming brought rain”, and the naiver farmers believed them, and planted the required acre of trees in an arid landscape. Optimism abounded during the wet years, but then the climate did what it always does, and there came drought and ruin and, with the dryness, Melanoplus spretus.

It is easy for us to look back and smugly criticize, for the farmers made many mistakes. (Remember many were gutsy fathers fleeing sweat-shop factories in cities, seeking a better life for their children, and some had little experience of farming outside of what they read in pamphlets.) Before we are too scornful of them, we should understand that someday people will look back at us, and smugly criticize us for all the dunderhead things we do in the name of “Climate Change.” But what amazes me is how the farmers fought, against daunting odds, and how they became an unrecognized and vital (and very necessary) “part of a process”, which did profoundly change the world, in a way we all benefit greatly from.

It is easy to criticize the changes as being ruinous to the ecology of the prairie, and to the indigenous people dependent on that ecology. The slaughter of the buffalo was appalling, and the fury of the Sioux understandable, but that is because we can sit in ivory towers, blessed by our ability to indulge in a leisurely appraisal. We forget the people of that time were within the fog of war. Even the Sioux were a culture going through radical changes, for they had formerly hunted buffalo on foot, but now were an amazing, new people on horseback.

To the farmers in the fog of war there was little time for leisurely appraisal, for they had children to feed, and often the situation was desperate enough in a mere drought, even before Melanoplus spretus appeared. When the trillions of grasshoppers then descended the way farmers fought insects, back before pesticides, is both laughable and courageous. They built fires and created thick clouds of smoke, and hammered together gadgets that knocked flying grasshoppers into trays of kerosene, which they pulled through their stripped fields with their horses. To kill the grasshopper’s eggs, they would churn the soil with plows, even plowing soil they had no intention to plant.

When they turned to the government for help, moronic politicians wrote a law that punished farmers with a fine, if they didn’t devote two days a year to killing grasshoppers. (I wonder who spied on the farmers, and who dared collect the fines.) The government also offered a bounty for every bushel (35 liters) of dead grasshoppers the farmers turned in. In March, when the baby grasshoppers were small, a farmer might make a dollar a bushel, but by June, when the grasshoppers got big and fat, the bounty shrank to a dime. But even a slender, silver dime was better than zero, when you had a family to feed. To feed their families desperate farmers fished for the smallest hornpout, and hunted rat-like prairie dogs, and even fried the grasshoppers themselves.

The most effective help came from fellow farmers, via churches. Farmers in areas outside the reach of a swarm sent food and fodder to those afflicted. Often the favor was returned in only a few years. When the climate swung from dry to wet the grasshoppers vanished, and the empty fields abruptly held bumper crops even as farmers to the east suffered floods, and then the farmers who had been helped became the generous helpers.

One way or another the farmers got by. It is easy to scorn and sneer at them, for they knew little about soil erosion, or that, by busting the sod, they were creating the loose soil that would blow as enormous clouds in the Dust Bowl. During the Dust Bowl over a million farmers lost everything and became refugees, and we can now sit back in our ivory towers and say “tsk tsk” about their ignorance, but perhaps we display a certain ignorance by forgetting that much we know about soil erosion came through mistakes they made. They were the ones actually learning from their mistakes, and actually suffering in the fog of war.

Some of the things they learned had benefits of a magnitude they likely could never imagine. For example, when dealing with Melanoplus spretus some farmers hit upon the idea of planting crops that matured in the spring, when the grasshoppers hadn’t hatched or were still small. Refugees from Russia then remembered stuff they planted in the late summer in Siberia they could harvest the next spring, called “winter wheat”. It would form a turf in the late fall, and in the spring swiftly send up fruiting shoots. Tiny, baby grasshopper might stunt this fruition, but they couldn’t stop it. This Kulak idea took off, spreading from farmer to farmer until, even when the grasshoppers were around and the crop was lessened, enough was salvaged so that people had, at least, a little bread.

Environmentalists and Sociologists without callused palms, who often can’t even mow their own lawns, do like to repeat “tsk tsk” about the mistakes made by those farmers. The buffalo very nearly did become extinct, but through the Grace of God and the alertness of early environmentalists, they were saved. The Sioux nearly became extinct as a people, but through the Grace of God and their own innate toughness, they survived. Thick prairie sod nearly became extinct, and only remains in scattered parks.  A type of grouse farmers called “the prairie chicken” did become extinct, which was sad even for farmers, who liked to hunt and eat them, but that extinction is now is used as a reason to condescend, “tsk tsk”. Yet I almost never hear ecologists mention another extinction.

As the year 1900 approached there was a drought, and farmers anxiously looked west for the skies darkening with Melanoplus spretus, but the grasshoppers didn’t come. Farmers were too busy with drought and hail and bankers to pay much heed to this good fortune, but up in the mountain valleys a few looked around, and could see no Melanoplus spretus. Perhaps due to cattle being driven up mountain river floodplains and changing the habitat, the grasshoppers had not merely become scarce. They vanished from the face of the earth. The last one was seen in Canada in 1902.

The extinction of Melanoplus spretus likely contributed to a new and unexpected disaster that hit those struggling farmers, which was the phenomenon of bumper crops. So much wheat was produced that, due to the economic principle of “supply and demand”, the price of wheat fell so low that farmers couldn’t make any money selling it. Of course, even with prices at rock bottom, some profiteering people got rich. (Don’t get me started on the moral decrepitude of such people. They like to claim they “fulfill a need”, but whores “fulfill a need”, and it doesn’t make them one bit moral.) In any case, railways stood to make money by holding a monopoly on the shipments of grain, and commodity markets made money even as prices crashed, and sellers of farming equipment made money repossessing equipment, and bankers made money repossessing farms. At times it seemed the only ones who didn’t get fat off the bumper crop was the farmers who actually created the plenty.

 

The farmer is the man.
The farmer is the man;
Lives off his credit ‘til the fall,
Then they take him by the hand
And they lead him from the land
And the banker is the one who gets it all,
Yet the farmer is the man.
The farmer is the man.
Some people disagree
But it’s obvious to me
That the farmer is the one who feeds us all.

        (Song from “Farm Aid” concert, circa 1976)

Farmers are the salt of the earth, for without them we all starve, but as a rule they barely subsist, in materialistic terms. On the great American plains they came and went like dust in the wind. (And I am not talking about a few, but rather millions of families.)

One reason Abraham Lincoln was elected (with less than 40% of the popular vote) was because he offered poor people “free land” via the “Homestead Act”. This act offered any man, from any slum or eastern, hardscrabble farm, 250 acres out west, for not a penny down. All a man needed to do was head west, make his claim for a particular plot, and live there for five years. A no-brainer, right? Millions of families with little to lose ripped up what roots they had and headed west to lay claim to 250 acres for free.

We can still look at the records kept by those long-ago bureaucrats, and one appalling thing is that roughly half of the families couldn’t even fulfill the stipulation that they live on the land for five years. Therefore, right off the bat, we have over a million families defeated by the fog of farming’s war. What became of all those families?

Continue on through farming history, through disaster after disaster, to the Dust Bowl, when more than a million more farming families were driven from the land. The 250-acre-farm largely became a thing of the past, and entire communities basically became ghost towns. And one wonders, “Who in their right mind would ever want to be a farmer?”

What this fails to measure is intangible to Socialists, (and also many Capitalists), who measure all in terms of status and money.

Millions of American families came to the prairies, and millions left, and almost none saw a long-term material profit, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some farmers were so amazingly tough that not even the Dust Bowl’s temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit could defeat them. These survivors were heroes.

Back in my drifting days I had the good fortune to be befriended by a retired farmer from Garden City, Kansas, who liked to sip beers and become garrulous, and regale me with tales of how his family survived the Dust Bowl.

His father was a Polish refugee who was too smart to ever enter an agreement that would allow a bank to take his farm, or to ever buy equipment on an installment plan that would allow his equipment to be repossessed. Perhaps he didn’t modernize as swiftly as other farmers, but he completely avoided debt. Even when he experienced complete crop failure, he didn’t owe anyone anything.

The gruff father’s practicality is perhaps best shown by the fact that, when he became aware he had contracted tuberculosis and likely would soon die, he moved to a barn so his children would not be exposed to the bacteria. However he was too ornery to die, and from the barn he commanded his family with the discipline of Captain Bligh. Between dust and tuberculosis, he could barely breathe, but neither man nor beast wanted to see him emerge from the barn in a rage, for he was ruthless with his whip. Modern “animal rights” people would likely sue him, and he’d also likely be in jail for “child abuse” for how tough he was on his many sons, but he got his family through the Dust Bowl, to the blessed day the rains returned. (My farmer-friend told me that, because the heat and drought had been so chronic in the 1930’s, his childhood created the impression that Dust Bowl conditions were simply were how the world always was, and that, when the rains returned, it then seemed downright bizarre to look around in the spring and see all the Kansas fields be green.)

When the rains returned their farm, which had somehow managed to survive without an income, suddenly had an income. At this point the father seemed to feel he had won his private war, and passed away, but his strapping sons were not happy, having an income. As best as I can tell, life was too easy. After a decade fighting for survival, bumper crops were like a life without battlefields for a Viking, or life without football for a linebacker. After Pearl Harbor all the brothers rushed off to fight Japan and Germany. Only one son, my friend, remained to run the farm with his mother, because he was too young to enlist, and also because the American government basically ordered him to stay.

My friend was a bit ashamed that he, the “baby”, stayed at home and didn’t fight Hitler, but I pointed out someone had to “feed the fighters”. I said he was the “hero” who fed the “war effort”, both the soldiers overseas and the workers toiling in munitions-factories at home, but my flattery fell flat. He said he was uncomfortable because he had made enormous profits during the war. He could handle poverty, and even derive joy from such a rugged life, but wealth made him strangely miserable.

Something about this tough farmer’s attitude seems utterly beyond the capacity of most socialists, (and also many capitalists), to comprehend. They cannot conceive of people who are not enthralled by money and status, and who live for something else.

When I asked him what he did with all his money, he laughed. He said that when the rains returned, and Kansas farmers got rich, they traded-in their beat up, old Model-A Fords and drove Cadillacs. Then, when the ground was frozen in the winter, they would go roaring across the wheat fields around Garden City in their fancy cars. Sometimes they’d tie the hood of an old truck to a long rope, upside down, as a sort of sled they pulled behind their Cadillacs, and would drag bunches of gleeful children behind them. When I asked the old wheat-farmer if any children got hurt, he shook his head, and stated the experience educated children about the importance of holding on for dear life.

When I asked if farmers did economically sensible things, such as reinvest their profits, he looked bored, and said “Yes”. So many farmers had lost their farms in the Dust Bowl that there were lots of 250-acre-farms to buy dirt cheap, especially if they abutted your farm, but such successful expansion seemed to bore him. He could fluently discuss a mini-Dust-Bowl drought in the 1950’s, and high prices during the Korean War, but he always seemed ready to yawn as I pestered him with such pragmatic questions.

Instead what seemed to really animate him was the subject of his children. When I asked if any of his children became farmers, he sat forward and eagerly told me they were too smart to become farmers, and then began to tick off the colleges they had attended, proudly stating how much smarter they were than he was. After college they all had gone on to prestigious corporations and big businesses he could brag about. It seemed all had become very successful, but to me it seemed his children’s success was due to the “character” inherited from the farming life, even among children who desired to leave farming far behind. Yet I confess that, when I first looked at the old farmer, I didn’t suspect there was any iron under the rust; he appeared to be just an old Yahoo; one might suspect he was a character without suspecting he had any.

I eventually gave this old farmer credit for “defeating Hitler”, even though he stayed “home with his Mommy”. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

It also seems to me that the millions of farmers from families who lost their farms in the Dust Bowl (or earlier) also deserve a degree of deference.

Why? Because even as they became homeless, they saved millions in Africa, Asia and Europe. They were “part of a process” that turned an obscure Siberian wheat into a huge American surplus, shipped far and wide in fifty- or hundred-pound sacks, labeled “USA”, often for free as “foreign aid”. As much as ecologists gripe about the diminished ecosystem of the buffalo, there are many people alive in Africa, Asia and Europe who might never have been born, had not American “winter wheat” arrived in time to prevent their grandparents from dying of famine.

When I speak of being “part of a process” I should stress this process is largely unforeseen, and almost never part of a Socialistic “five-year-plan”. When politicians debated the Homestead Act in 1859, winter wheat was not mentioned, and no one stated a consequence of the Act would be that devastated parts of Europe would receive food ninety years later.

Indeed, when I speak of being “part of a process” I am trespassing into mystic territory, involving beliefs such as “Manifest Destiny”. Basically, I am stating small people, merely struggling to “get by”, and perhaps only successfully holding a homestead for a few generations, have a huge effect, greater than that of governments. This may be why Stalin was so determined to eradicate the Kulak. He intuitively saw the Kulak represented power, though they themselves felt small.

Hopefully a few Sioux see that the flood of American settlers onto the Great Plains, as a crazy, pale-faced people who basically wrecked the Sioux’s ecosystem and way of life, and then largely vanished over the horizon, was “part of a process”. The suffering of the Sioux is at least in part made bearable because millions in Asia, Africa, and Europe were benefited. (It is also made bearable because, in some areas, where the Sioux once became a minority, they now have regained the majority, because they persisted as the farmers fled).

But what did the farmers themselves get out of their struggle?

“Character”.  A wonderful classiness, immeasurable by those who seek mere money and status and who are consequently not much different from old-fashioned Hindu enslaved by their ancient caste-system, where some are deemed “Brahman” and some “Untouchable”.

Socialists often fall prey to such typecasting, and can be as enslaved to class as the most ardent royalist, though Socialists usually seek to make the royal (and the successful) the “bad guy”, who unjustly “oppresses the poor”. Socialists see the solution to such injustice as being to crush the upper class (the “bourgeoisie”) and the middle class (the “petite bourgeois”) (and this includes Yeoman farmers), and to make the poor (the “proletariat”) a sort of new upper class. Yet such socialists only perpetuate the caste-system, though they howl they oppose it. They resemble a person opposed to promiscuous sex, who cannot get his mind off the topic. They cannot escape the trap of dividing people into categories, nor grasp the liberating concept of, “All Men Are Created Equal”.

One of the best tales about the tough times the farming families endured is John Steinbeck’s “Grapes Of Wrath”, which I was required to read in school in 1968. I particularly remember Steinbeck’s amazing, vicious description of the man buying broke farmer’s cars, profiteering from their misfortune. The description was so brilliantly effective that it caused me to become hugely bigoted towards used-car-salesmen for decades, (until I actually befriended one). But Steinbeck ends his tale failing to mention what happened next. He leaves one with the sense that the poor Dust Bowl “Okies” were forever ruined.

Indeed they did suffer a nasty downfall, from a people with middle-class houses and 250 acre farms and state-of-the-art tractors and other farm equipment, to being homeless migrant farm-workers, picking grapes, (before Mexicans with green-cards picked the grapes), and living in rented tar-paper shacks. But that was not the end, because, though disdained and belittled as “Okies”, they were people with “character”, who raised fine children and grandchildren who changed the world in a way absolutely nobody saw coming. Their children and grandchildren now make far more money than they could ever have made, back on the farm, working on things called “computers” in a place called “Silicon Valley”. Steinbeck never foresaw this, and instead seemed prone towards Socialist solutions. Yet what raised the ruined farmers called “Okies” to plush suites in Silicon Valley was not socialist food-stamps, but rather was “character”.

This “character” seems to be a thing that can be lost, if you become too divorced from the farming life that brought it about in the first place. It does not seem to matter if you are rich or poor. It happens to the rich grandchildren of Okies in Silicon Valley, and to the impoverished grandchildren of sharecroppers in America’s inner cities. Once this difficult-to-define “character” is lost, then even a beautiful, golden state like California, richest in the nation with the best educational system, can crash in flames to one of the poorest and most ill-educated, with an entire new group of “Okies” homeless on its streets.

Certain kind people take pity on children in slums, and their charity allows such youths to spend a summer on a rural farm. The host-farm is usually not an agribusiness, but a more old-fashioned farm. I have even read of inner-city youth being sent to Indian Reservations in the Pacific Northwest, where they learned to harvest salmon from rivers and abalone from the sea. In nearly all such cases the children are permanently, positively changed.

Not that they change in the manner some desire: They don’t abruptly wear suits and attend church, if Christians sponsored their escape from slums, and in fact they may go right back to the gangs and drugs they briefly escaped, but they are different; they are changed; they own the odd thing called “character”. People who study such things have discovered, through “follow-up-studies”, that more than a decade later many of the now-mature recipients of such experiences still claim a brief vacation on a farm was “the most influential experience of their life.” But what was the influence?

As the owner of a back-to-nature Farm-Childcare I am into my eleventh year of dealing with clueless children. Not that such children, even at age three, are not far smarter than I am, when it comes to the subject of how to operate a computer or a cellphone. However, they haven’t a clue where food comes from. They are amazed (and delighted) to learn carrots and potatoes come from “dirty dirt”. They are amazed (and delighted) to discover eggs come from a chicken’s “stinky butt”. Sometimes, to the horror of their parents (and requiring amazing diplomacy on the part of my wife), these children are delighted (and amazed) to see that meat involves “killing”.

Although parents are vaguely troubled by a political-incorrectness inherent in “dirty dirt” and “stinky butts” and “killing”, in the end the parents thank me. Why? Because they have seen an undeniable blossoming in their child. But I try to tell them I am not the cause. I did not invent the fact carrots come from “dirty dirt”. I did not invent the fact that eggs come from a “stinky butt”. I did not invent the fact all meat comes from “killing”. I am not the Creator; I am just showing what He has already done.

I did not create the pines, and I did not create the wind, but when I take a frenetic kid out and he gets dreamy and far calmer, looking up and listening to the wind in the pines, parents treat me like I changed the child. It actually was something far greater than I. All I do is show children what already is.

But it is not merely the children in slums, and the children of overworked parents who use a computer for a babysitter, who stand to gain from being reintroduced to the farm and the outdoors. It is also the grandchildren of Okies who work in Silicon Valley. They are as deprived as the ghetto-abiding grandchildren of sharecroppers who have never plowed or planted, and who see only asphalt. (The difference may be that, rather than only asphalt, they see only computers.) But, sadly, the deprived of Silicon Valley are blind to their deprivation, and sometimes scorn the heartland’s earthy citizens as “Deplorables.”

Many in Silicon Valley embrace socialism, some with the fervor of Mao’s “Red Guard”. They have either forgotten, or never studied, their own Socialist history.

When Mao felt the Red Guard had outlived their usefulness, what did he do with their youthful zeal? He had the army round them up and shipped them off to rural areas to be “reeducated.” (In essence the result of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” was that China became a police state.) There is a delicious irony in the way Mao then praised the benefits of “life on the farm”, though he disliked the Yeoman Farmer as much as Stalin did, and strove to replace the self-reliant farmers and artisans, whom Jefferson admired, with the “collective”.

Sometimes I like to play the devil’s advocate, and to ask how my Farm-Childcare is any different from a Gulag. Am I not snatching children from the video games they desire? Initially many children loudly express their dislike of the outdoors, and announce an unwillingness to walk even fifty yards. Am I not a sort of brutal Mao to urge them onward, and isn’t my “reeducating” a sort of brainwashing? I can only answer that the children seem to quickly adapt, and that they wear smiles, and sometimes they don’t even want to go home, which isn’t observed too often in Gulags.

When I think more deeply, I enter debatable territory, but will throw a few ideas out to be mulled over. One idea is that I allow far more freedom than a Gulag, and in fact freedom is at the root of what I attempt. While children seem made nervous by a complete lack of boundaries, they like freedom within certain limits; IE: They don’t want to be left alone to meet a bear or coyote in the woods, but they like being left alone to build their own forts.

Children like having a rough idea of the rules under which a sport is played, but also like having the freedom to spend half their time arguing about the rules (which is how I played baseball as a boy.) Rather than “organized” sports, my Childcare has “disorganized” sports. While I do oversee the sports, to prevent bloodshed, I try to stand back as I oversee freedom. And, as I stand back and watch, it seems to me that one important quality of freedom is that it involves experiencing and playing-with limits and limitations.

It is quite fascinating to watch children play with limits and limitations, (even when the limit they are testing and playing-with is me.) Sometimes, for example when building a fort, they are dealing with a physical limitation and are young engineers, attempting a Tower of Babel, and then bursting into tears when it falls down and they are confronted with “Murphy’s Law”. Other times they are dealing with social limitations, for example when determining the ownership of a particular stick which looks perfectly ordinary to me, and certainly not worth arguing about. Sometimes they ask for help and sometimes they want to “do it themselves”, but always they are “part of a process”, involving a subject and an object.

As I stand back and watch I notice a difference between the children who “get along” and those who “don’t get along”. It seems to involve the difference between a willingness to be “part of a process”, and a craving to “control the process”, and this often seems to involve whether the child’s faith has been nourished or shattered. (Unfortunately, we have a severe drug-problem in New Hampshire, and some small children have witnessed parents become unconscious or even die, and these unfortunate tykes are raised by grandparents who send them to my Childcare.)

Of course as soon as I broach the topic of “faith” I risk provoking broadsides from both Atheists and Believers, but I must say that a child who has had their faith nourished tends to be cheerful and to trust others, while a child who has had their faith shattered tends to be a bit of a bully, (in several different, manipulative ways), and to chronically distrust others. The first tends to trust being “part of the process”, whereas the second is suspicious and wants to “control the process”. The first has a hard-to-define “character” which the second lacks. Lastly I should stress that the “faith” does not seem to be encouraged by constant flattery and “participation trophies”, but rather by the actual experience of ups and downs, accompanied by the security of knowing they are watched over by people who will help if asked.

At this point I likely should come completely out of the closet and return to the point I made earlier, when I stated I am not the Creator; I am just showing what He has already done. Furthermore, He is not done; He is still doing, and will help if asked.

While it may be politically incorrect in the minds of some to say so, I’ll coda my conclusion by stating this: Children are very small and helpless, playing under a Sky that is giant and can be merciless, yet they often play as if with a close friend, whom they trust more than any mortal. As a “Child Care Professional”, I often just stand back and watch “the process” in awe.  It is a process all should yearn to be part of, but only a fool thinks he controls.

Sadly, though I offer a beautiful witness, Silicon Valley does not want to hear my witnessing. Google has in some ways “disappeared” me from its search engine. Likely their action is due to my past “Sea-ice” posts, which dare to point out certain Alarmist “proofs”, (that Global Warming is a threat), are failing to manifest in the predicted manner. This makes me a “Global Warming denier”, and Google apparently feels this justifies them basically enacting a childish censorship, tantamount to the children at my Childcare shouting, “La-la-la! I’m not listening!”

This is sad because Google was formerly the best search engine, but now they are choosing to make their engine malfunction. They soon will be surpassed by another, for even a competitor slow as a turtle can pass a rabbit, if the rabbit lays down on the job.

I am not particularly hurt by Google’s disdain. I’ve been an obscure poet all my life, so obscurity is a landscape I’m familiar with. I don’t feel “marginalized”, for I’ve experienced margins are important and “part of the process”. Even if Google seeks to bully me with the power of a trillion grasshoppers, I am not a victim. I am a beneficiary. Why? Because I am gripping with white knuckles the Thing that made Okies great, while Google, (the Okies who became great), have lost their grip, and may well be like a trillion grasshoppers soon to become extinct.

WEEDER WARS (Parts 1-4)

It doesn’t matter if you don’t call yourself a “farmer”, for even if you merely raise a lone tomato or cucumber on a patio or porch, there will come a day your idyll is interrupted by aphids, or a ravenous tomato-hornworm-caterpillar, and on that day you will understand farming isn’t peace. It is war.

To a certain degree this is life as usual. It doesn’t matter if you are starting a garden or engineering a bridge, “Murphy’s Law” will state “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong”, and you will have to deal with unexpected foul-ups and unintended consequences. In moderation, this is fun, much like the stress of solving a crossword puzzle. Many assume gardening will involve moderation and be fun: There will be weeds but they will be weeded in a leisurely way, with dignity. Nope. Sooner or later it is war; total war.

One aspect of warfare is that not every attack results in victory. More ordinary is for an attack to result in resistance.

In terms of gardening, what this means is that when you pull some weeds, it is seldom a rout, with weeds fleeing in panic. In fact weeds often counter-attack. They think they have every bit as much a right to fertile soil as your tomato. Just who do you think you are, depriving ragweed?

In like manner, just because you put up chicken-wire, it is seldom a discouragement to predators. Just who do you think you are, depriving a mother fox food for her kits? In fact farmers have a wry saying, “If you want to know if there is wildlife in your neighborhood, get some chickens.”

In fact a farm is a lot like a fifteen round fight; you can’t expect to win every round. The problem is that some novices find it appalling, when they are knocked back on their heels and it is fairly obvious they are losing a round. It doesn’t fit their idyllic preconceptions of how gardening should be. A single sweltering day, or single swarm of midges, is enough, for some, and turns their confident advance into a panicky retreat. It is for this reason many gardens that look lovely in April become a thick and luscious bed of weeds by July. The gardener has lost the war.

Back when half of all Americans farmed, people were more reluctant to throw in the towel in the first or second round of the fight, because the consequences of losing were grave. There were no food-stamps, and poor people were not fat. Even if the bank took your farm you didn’t escape farming, for you had to go live on the “poor farm”. Often what you grew was all you had to eat, and people would struggle on despite much adversity, for a few small potatoes was better than none. As hard as such farming was, people were seemingly grounded in basic realities which the modern Socialist has forgotten. Where the Socialist promises to tax the rich and give the poor lots of free stuff, the old-time farmers knew nothing was free. The old-timers knew you “reap what you sow”, and that even such reaping didn’t happen unless you spent month after month fighting round after round.

My early life knew some amazing adventures which some would call “hardship”, and somewhere along the line I stopped taking anything for granted. Certain people I counted upon failed to keep the trust, so I became unwilling to rely on anyone but my foolish self, and God. For the most part my foolish self-reliance generated fiascoes, yet I always seemed to emerge from the rubble older and wiser, and for that God gets the glory.

To some degree my old age and (so-called) wisdom has involved a retreat into a sort of fall-back position. I am more inclined to adopt the attitudes of my great-grandparents than anything modern. In this manner I am like many New-Age idealists (and like Hippies of 1969, dreaming of idyllic communes), but the difference is that I don’t expect an idyll. I expect a fifteen-round brawl.

In dealing with this battle farmers have come up with various sprays: Pesticides and herbicides and fungicides, but what is really needed is a “socialisticide”. Socialists can be pests, when you put the rights of your chickens ahead of foxes, for they complain you are neglecting foxes, (when they aren’t clamoring for greater rights for your chickens.) How is it a people who have never farmed can assume they have authority over people who do? I’d like to spray them all down with “socialisticide”, when I’m in a grumpy mood.

I am saved from this grumpiness by my wife. Somewhat to my own astonishment I recently recognized my beloved is a socialist. But it is for all the right, non-materialistic reasons, based upon the “Book of Acts” in the Bible. Where politicians get insanely rich “helping” the poor, my wife’s brand of socialism sees our marriage’s skinny wallet gets skinnier. To some degree some of her charity is selfish, for “charity begins at home”, and she is big on “family values”. I am often asked to ignore an important farm-job, such as weeding, to attend an event that “supports the family”, such as a grandchild’s birthday.

I am reluctant to procrastinate, when it comes to weeding, for a weed which you can pinch from the soil with ease on Monday swiftly develops a root system by Friday that requires eye-popping effort to remove. My wife fails to understand this, for she rarely weeds. She also fails to understand my panic, when weeds are growing and ignored, and accuses me of caring more for weeds than grandchildren. (Such shots-to-the-heart are typical of Socialists.)

Like most good husbands I chose my battles, and the rest of the time I meekly say, “Yes Dear.” However I felt my tolerance getting stretched to the limit when I was asked to ignore farm matters for “good business practices.” My wife was staging a Socialist event called “A Preschool Graduation” at our Farm-childcare.

Absurd. Of what use is a diploma to a five-year-oId? And how can it compete with weeding the broccoli? Weeding produces a crop, whereas a five-year-old’s diploma produces nothing. (Sadly often a twenty-five-year-old’s diploma produces the same nothing.) However my wife stated diplomas produced “satisfied customers”, and that customers, and not my broccoli, was what truly fed us. I muttered we were teaching five-year-olds to value the wrong things, (in an inaudible manner), and said, “Yes dear” more loudly. My wife didn’t much like my tone.

I was then expected to “spruce up the place”, which involved making the productive farm look like an unproductive suburb. Rather than the important work of weeding , I had to “groom” the farm. I did a fine job, mowing and “weed-whacking ” edges and planting non-edible flowers and clearing trails of fallen trees and putting up balloons and banners, but the entire time my broccoli was screaming, “Help us! Save us!”

Finally the Socialism was done with, the children performed songs and parents were enthralled and diplomas were handed out and people ate a fine meal and the satisfied customers trailed off into the sunset, and I could at long last get down to the real work of catching up with my weeding. Immediately it rained.

Now it just so happens I can’t weed in the rain, because it spreads bacteria and fungus and diseases (especially with beans). Also I had to undergo oral surgery and have the roots of five teeth extracted from my upper jaw, and there were complications, and I was reduced to a diet of soft boiled eggs and gruel, which likely weakened my resistance to a summer cold passing through the Childcare. As my fever spiked at 101 degrees I was glad it was raining, for it gave me a good excuse to set a record for the number of naps a old man can take in a single day. But then my fever dropped and the forecast promised a single sunny day in a very rainy spring. I prepared to leap from bed and attack those weeds.

It turned out a side effect of this particular summer cold is that ones lungs are made hyper-sensitive to pollen, for a while. A number of local folk I spoke with complained about how they could not shake the congestion and hacking cough. I concur, but think they were too stoic and modest in describing how crippling the pulmonary inflammation was. I’ve never had asthma, but felt like I was having attacks. My nose streamed mucus in a way highly annoying to my wife, as she feels a dripping mustache does not lead to “satisfied customers.” My coughing fits can only be described as fits of hysteria; the coughs were so rapid they sounded like a machine gun, and one time, driving twenty miles an hour on a country lane, I nearly went off the road.

But I was not going to let some dumb cough slow me down. I muttered the old motto, “When the going gets tough the tough get going”, and figured some energetic exercise would clear my lungs. After I “hucked a looey” or two of phlegm, I’d be fine. The bell rang, and I headed out to fight the next round.

It was a bit like I walked into an uppercut to my jaw, though in fact it was a wall of pollen. Rather than clearing my lungs, exercise gagged me. My coughing was unproductive, and also embarrassing, for it was a senile “ih-ih-ih-ih-ih-ih”, yet so prolonged I couldn’t inhale. When a fit dropped me to one knee, I imagined a referee began counting, “One…two…three…four…”, and also a sardonic voice in the back of my mind stated, “Well, you are always telling people you want to die with your boots on.”

Fortunately I was saved by the bell and retreated to my corner, which was a shady place out of the sun. And when you are in the shade you can see things you can’t see out in the sun. I could see the air was filled with dust, fine yellow dust, streaming in the wind. Looking down at puddles from recent rains I noted each puddle was rimmed with yellow. Even as they shrank in the sunshine their little coasts were made golden by pollen. The scientist in me concluded that plants that have no use for bees, and pollinate using wind, have evolved some sort of self-restraint. They know better than to release pollen in the rain, when it will be beaten down, and withhold the release until the sun shines. And, when it has rained a solid week, this means an amazing amount of pollen gets released when the sun finally shines. The coach in my corner concluded we would be wise to avoid breathing, so I fought the next round sitting on my rider mower, catching up on cutting-the-grass.

Of course, as I sat on my duff on the puttering mower, I could look over at the garden and hear the broccoli weeping, “Help us! Save us!”, and I eventually heard the coach in my corner propose weeding in a pinkie-raised way that required no hacking hoe and heavy breathing. And we did a little of that, as the sun dimmed in streamers of cirrus overhead, and the west darkened with the rising purple of approaching thunder. But what really stuck in my head was the moment I sat in the shade, and looked out to sunshine, and suddenly understood how thick the pollen truly was. I said to myself, “There’s a sonnet in this”.

Midst my misery; my sneezing summer
Cold; my snuffling self-pity; weaker
Than a kitten; glum and getting glummer,
My heart required humor be it’s speaker:
“If we’ve got to die, let’s have our killer
Be pine pollen, streaking yellow in the wind.
These swaying trees aren’t like the miller
Grinding flour steadily, but have grinned,
Held back ammo all a rainy week, and then
Let pollen go like a cavalcade of gold
Dust in the wind. Why gripe you’re choked, when
Sun-stirred breezes make twigs prance uncontrolled?
The green-gold pine pollen’s such a wonder,
Golden against rising purple thunder.”

Part 2

At this point I adopted a new attitude. It was: “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” In my war against weeds, I think it won me a round.

In terms of the original American family farmer, (now seen as a “third world phenomenon”), to fight when all is lost makes good sense, because a few potatoes is better than none, and hunger is better than starvation. However in the eyes of certain modern mentalities such forlorn struggling makes no sense, for only winning matters. If you don’t win every round, you sulk, and the loser demands a “participation trophy” as big as the trophy the winner gets. But gardens own no such Socialist sensitivity. If you don’t weed the broccoli, your trophy is not as big as a winner’s, and sometimes you get no trophy at all.

I think I picked up this old-fashioned earthiness from my elders when young, from the toughness of the people who in many cases lost everything in the Great Depression, but refused to roll over and die. In like manner, my father lost a great deal when, as a young surgeon, he was crippled during the last polio epidemic in 1954, and had to fight back. But one thing that impressed me most, as a small boy, was strangely derived from the attitude of the Boston Red Sox sports fans, (called the “Fenway Faithful”), who supported a losing team, at that time.

How I, as a seven-year-old, became infatuated by baseball is a bit of a mystery to me. My father had played as a boy, but didn’t like to bring up the subject because he now couldn’t play, due to polio. Perhaps to forget his handicap he became deeply engrossed in his work. Being engrossed, in fact, seemed a family trait. My mother, would could care less about baseball, was often absorbed in reading, as were my three older siblings, only one of whom played baseball. That particular brother vanished from time to time with a bat and glove, but I never went to any of his games, and he was downright secretive about what occurred while he was away.

Outside of lively discussions at the dinner table, my family usually was deeply absorbed in their private occupations. The noisy chirping of a curious seven-year-old like myself was not appreciated. My eldest brother tended to see my interest as an interruption, and also he sometimes was doing something he didn’t want people to know about, (such as making nitroglycerin). My mother could be so deeply engrossed in an Agatha Christi novel she didn’t notice loud explosions in the backyard. Some evenings the entire family might be reading, but I had no idea what any of the books were about. This made me want to write books, (so they might pay attention to me), but it also gave me plenty of scope to wander about unattended and discover baseball on my own terms, which included some early stages where I entertained some odd ideas about what the sport entailed.

The person most passionate about baseball was my grandmother. We lived about four miles away from her kitchen. Once we were not actually living with her and my grandfather (after 1954-55, when my entire family had polio, to different degrees, and we collapsed into my grandparent’s household), visits became formal and not all that often (to give them some well-deserved peace). When we visited they both sat in their armchairs in the living-room, as was their custom with guests. But even then, during the summer, in the background in the kitchen, I sometimes could hear a baseball broadcast, and occasionally my grandmother would cock her head and then vent some spleen about the “Red Flops”, which made me initially unsure of the team’s actual name.

Her sneering was odd, considering she knew the names and trivial details about every ballplayer on the team, and her eyes could moisten talking about them, but I think it was symptomatic of tougher times, when people’s lives were ruined by polio and measles and mumps; many families had lost members in World War Two and the Korean War; and few had made it through the Great Depression without experiencing need and want. Such sneering would most definitely be politically-incorrect now, fifty years later, but back then it was what you got instead of a “participation trophy”. When my older brothers poked into my non-stop scribbling and discovered I spelled “Red Sox” as “Red Socks”, I could expect sneering, but it wasn’t without goodhearted humor, and did alert me to my mistakes. Not that I would concede to asking them for a correct spelling. Come to think of it, one reason for the fact my family was so uncommunicative, when engrossed, might have been because they didn’t want to face a lot of sneering for their rough drafts. When things were discussed at the dinner table they tended to be completed events in the past tense; either a story of a success, or a funny tale of how an effort had crashed and burned. There was not much discussion about events “in process”.

In any case one thing I did, when my home was silent and I was left to my own devises, was to wander into the Victorian house’s big library and poke through my parent’s books, or an out-dated version of Encyclopedia Britannica, or go “fishing” on the old radio, which had AM, FM, and Short Wave bands. I’d chance upon strange music and languages. I recall one foreign music that fascinated me was a long drone of syllables in C, with the final two syllables descending through B-flat to G. It took me some time before I realized it was a local Catholic Mass, with the priest intoning in Latin.

Baseball made about as much sense to me as a Latin Mass, at first. I recognized it was in English, but the jargon was gobbledygook to me. I primarily was interested in the background noises, the man shouting “Hot Dogs!” and another shouting “Ice Cold Beer”, and the occasional voice shouting something rude, which I’d get in trouble for shouting, if I ever dared shout it.

The Red Sox had become a bad team and the crowd was so sparse at Fenway Park that individual fan’s voices could be quite distinct, over the radio. But I seldom listened long, as there were more interesting channels to search through. However there were an amazing number of affiliates in the “Red Sox Network”, back then, so I kept running into the same game on different AM stations, some far away and staticy, and some near and loud. I even could run into games on the FM band. There was no escaping gradually attempting to make sense of the nonsense.

One September afternoon I came home after a bad day at school. My Third Grade Teacher was a cross old lady, and I already had the strong feeling it was going to be a bad year. It was going to be a bad year on the bus as well, for the elder brothers who once defended me from sixth-grade-bullies had moved up to Junior High and took a different bus, and my sister preferred to pretend she didn’t know me. When I came trudging into my home after my bad day I could hear my mother busy upstairs with her afterthought babies, a brother aged two and a sister aged six months. My job then was to be quiet, and not keep the babies from napping, so I tiptoed off to the Library to quietly zone-out “fishing” on the old radio, with the sound turned down very low. I noticed the end of an afternoon Red Sox game was on, but something seemed very different. The announcers, who usually had somewhat robotic “newsreel” voices, seemed ever so slightly emotional. Not that a modern Socialist could hear a hint of emotion in their stern voices, but, to a 1950’s boy like myself, accustomed to the stoic machismo of that time, they were all but blubbering, and it made me so uncomfortable I changed the station.

But I kept running into the same blubbering announcers on other stations, and eventually curiosity kicked in. What was so special? Even the crowd sounded larger and very different. Once I focused my seven-year-old brains, I learned a lot in a hurry. Not necessarily about baseball, but rather about how “it is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

As my seven-year-old brain attempted to assimilate the data, I came to understand the Red Sox were losers, who were finishing 32 “games behind” (whatever that meant). They were “next to last”, in terms of some thing called “the standings”, but the first-place team, called the “Tankies” or some such thing, apparently quaked in their boots when facing the Red Sox, according to the announcer. Even though the Red Sox could only spend a dime for every hundred dollars the Tankies could spend, there was no other team that had won more games against the Tankies. The Red Sox had won seven games, and only lost four, against the Tankies, which was better than better teams did, so who was actually better?

(Now that I’m old and cynical I suspect the highly-payed Yankees perhaps did not take lowly teams like Boston and Kansas-City seriously, and stayed up too late and drank too much beer the night before, which explains why they got their butts kicked so often by cellar-dwelling teams. But at age seven I lacked such cynicism.)

As I listened to the announcer I came to understand it was the last home game of the year, and that even though the Tankies had won 94 games and the Red Sox only 65, the Red Sox were better than the Tankies. This made no sense, so I switched the station.

Immediately coming across the same game on another station, I learned more. Apparently the reason the Red Sox were better than the Tankies was because they had a great player named Fred Millions, or some such thing. However not only was it the Red Sox last home game of the season, it was the last home game of Fred’s 21-year-career, and, because it was the eighth inning, it might be Fred’s last time at bat at Fenway Park. The half-empty ballpark held more than thrice as many fans as the poor team usually drew, and they were making more noise than usual as he walked up to home plate to bat.

The announcer was droning statistics, going on about how Fred might have hit as many home-runs as someone called something like Gabe Tooth, but Fred left baseball to serve as a fighter pilot in World War Two and again as a jet pilot in the Korean War, missing five years “in his prime”, whatever that was. Even so he’d hit 520 home-runs, third most of all players in world history, and was the last player to “bat over four-hundred”, and, if you included all the times he was walked by pitchers scared to give him a good pitch, his “on-base-percentage” was the highest of any player who had ever lived.

None of this gobbledygook made much sense to me, so I switched down the dial and listened to the end of a lively polka. When an announcer then began speaking Polish, I searched on and blundered across the Red Sox game again, and was startled by the difference.

Fred Millions had hit a home run his last time at bat, and the cheering went on and on. The cheering continued when the inning was over, and Fred went out to play left field, and then the manager, named “Pinkie” (which seemed strange), sent out a young substitute and the crowd roared louder as Fred jogged in, and began chanting “We want Ted” when he disappeared into the dugout, (which alerted me to the fact his name was “Ted” and not “Fred”). But what seemed most interesting to me was a conversation between the announcer and some other guy. They were wondering whether Ted would “doff his cap” or not. I was unsure what “doffing” was, but the other guy said Ted would never do it. He listed a long string of reasons, going back 21 years.

Apparently my grandmother wasn’t the only one who called the team the “Red Flops”, and Ted got tired of fan’s fickle sneering, and the way they would boo the same day they would cheer. But worst were some people called “Ports Retorters”, who had called him a “draft dodger” (whatever that was) when he was actually a “war hero”, and also called him lots of other bad things. Ted, after spitting in the direction of the press when young and hot-blooded, decided to just be a great hitter and skip doffing, and he didn’t doff no matter how the crowd cheered or booed. (Note: As an old man in 1999 Ted Williams eventually did “doff” a cap he brought out onto the field, saluting the “Fenway Faithful”, 39 years later, during a ceremony to honor him, during an All Star Game.)

I turned the radio off, moved by deep emotion (for a seven-year-old). I too wanted to have everyone cheer me, and to not doff. I wanted everyone to be good and sorry they had sneered at me. I wanted my crabby old teacher to be sorry she crabbed, the bullies on the bus to be sorry they bullied, and my older brothers to be sorry they teased and jeered, but to not to care a hoot about their dumb, old apologies. They didn’t matter. What mattered was “how you played the game”.

My embryonic seven-year-old’s toughness was actually quite spiritual, when I think about it. The Truth remains the Truth whether one receives adulation or the lack of it. One should focus on the job at hand, irregardless if they are cheered or booed, encouraged or discouraged, in first place or last, rich or poor, or whether they win elections or lose them.

Of course, no man is an island, and we do tend to be influenced by others, irregardless of their connection to the Truth, and their status as “good influences” or “bad influences”. I confess to being swayed by flattery and discouraged by rejection, even when I recognized the people influencing me were idiots. However deep down every man has a lodestone called a “conscience”, and this criterion, and not some silly “participation trophy”, is what tells us if we are on track or not.

One thing that I shake my head about, concerning modern Socialists, is their tendency to be driven wild by the most innocuous events and statements. They become imbalanced by the blow of a feather. To a gruff old-timer like myself, they seem the epitome of “snowflake” wimpiness, and even an opposite of stoicism quite different from epicureanism, for at least epicureans can hope for hedonistic pleasure, whereas Socialist whining calls misery its beloved company, and cultivates caterwauling.

If Socialists had been in Fenway Park on September 28,1960, I imagine they would have quickly become furious with Ted Williams for not doffing his cap, and their cheers would have swiftly devolved to the rot of booing, if not a riot. I’m glad I was formed in a different time, when the “Fenway Faithful” could not only cheer an amazing career, but even cheer the simple fact the star would not doff his cap. They did not need his praise any more than he needed theirs. What mattered was deeper.

What has this to do with farming?

In farming there is an odd tendency to keep fighting even when you have lost the first fourteen rounds. Where in boxing there is at least the chance of a fifteenth-round-knock-out, whereupon the loser becomes a winner, in farming one can be in the position of the 1960 Red Sox, more than thirty “games behind” the Yankees. There is no chance of being champion, but one still fights on, and, like Ted Williams, seeks to hit a home run their final time at bat.

Farming is like baseball because in April all hope to “win the pennant”, which in farming terms is called “harvesting a bumper crop.” If your harvest is big you might make a profit and then be able to invest the money on improvements. However, just as few teams are champions, in baseball, few farmers harvest bumper crops, in farming. As the summer proceeds one starts to understand they may not “win the pennant”, but they keep playing the game. They pay no heed to booing or cheap shots from the peanut gallery, and instead plod on.

Some poets call this toughness a sign of a “desensitized” man, and like to preen before mirrors and think their emotional responses prove they are more sensitive, when often their hysteria only proves they are fickle and irrational. After all, the same crowd that cheered Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem jeered and demanded he be crucified only days later, and I see nothing particularly sensitive about that.

Lord, how they sneered and mocked You and Your word,
Yet You asked that they still be forgiven.
That doesn’t mean that You thanked them. It’s absurd
To think You should thank cruel, ungrateful men
For their misdeeds. Our tardy gratitude
Seems too little too late…
……………………………………….When his at-bat
At the very finish astounded the rude
Boston fans with William’s final home run, his hat
He would not doff. Why thank fans who sneered
For twenty years, and saw flaws in great deeds?
His hat stayed firm, as home plate neared.
Odd how our sneering reveals our hid needs.
Some were quite hurt Ted did not doff his cap.
We’ll all feel the same when Christ points out our crap.

Midst thriving weeds I plug onward, knowing
Earth is not heaven, and my sweat and strain
Won’t make me rich. Perhaps what I am growing
Is character, more than material grain.
Perhaps in the fall I’ll reap a small crop
Which is better than none, but it’s also true
That my own green season, called “life”, must stop
And then I’ll see “You can’t take it with you.”
While in this world we gather and then store
In pantries the foods to feed us through the snows,
To death we go naked. What life calls “more”
Is left behind, and the gardener then knows
What he grows is not rolled off in a cart
But is blooming that hints at a truly changed heart.

Part 3

The original farmers of the United States were different from modern “agribusiness”, in that they were not in the business of farming to get rich as much as they were in it for a quite different reason, (basically to live free, and raise a family, which involved raising the crops that would feed that family). Farming was way of life, a deed men did without thinking deeply about why they did it, just as we get dressed in the morning without thinking deeply about why we wear clothes. What’s more, they didn’t have the time to think about it. Physically they worked more than twice as hard as we do. This is shown by the fact they ingested more than 4000 calories a day and didn’t get fat, while some us can get fat on less than 2000. In many ways they were a very different people.

It is hard for modern psyches to grasp the fact more than half of all Americans could feed (often large) families without working for any boss other than themselves. Not only did they feed themselves, but they also were forced to be artisans: They spun wool and cured leather and clothed themselves, built their own cabins and sheltered themselves, burned tallow candles for light and burned wood for heat, and had absolutely no need for government welfare or food stamps. They were the “Yeoman Farmer” Thomas Jefferson admired and called crucial to democracy, and were the “Kulak” Stalin despised, and sought to “purge” from Russia, even if millions starved in the process.

Because I in some ways see myself as a “Kulak”, I can’t help but notice that nothing irks a Socialist more than an individual who is self-reliant, for he is proof we do not need bureaucrats (who make a living off telling us how to live our lives). In many cases such independence on our part threatens a bureaucrat’s very livelihood. For example, if you are a social worker, and families are self-reliant and happy, of what use are you? In such a case it is the social worker who needs food-stamps and welfare, and not the people he or she imagines is dependent on him or her.

Not that the original American farmers had an easy life. I could go in great detail about the conflicts between an immigrant people who could feed a family with 60 acres (New England) or 250 acres (Prairie States) and a native people who wanted to feed their families utilizing 100,000 or 1,000,000 acres. But let me simplify matters by mentioning conflicts between farmers and a grasshopper called Melanoplus spretus.

Melanoplus spretus was North America’s locust. A locust is a grasshopper which has the ability to undergo a Jekyll-Hyde transformation. For years, even decades, it can hop around like an innocent grasshopper, but some sort of trigger can cause it to amazingly change, whereupon it looks physically different and it reproduces differently as well. The innocent grasshopper becomes a voracious swarm, darkening the sky and not only eating all your crops, but the wool off the backs of your sheep, and even the leather of your shoes. Although Melanoplus spretus lived in the Rocky Mountains, when triggered by drought or over-population into its locust form, huge swarms traveled east all the way to the farms in my homeland of New England.

It is difficult to imagine how gigantic and devastating these swarms were. The largest could cover an area the size of California and number over ten trillion insects. In a matter of hours, months of a farmer’s hard work vanished. Using my boxing analogy, it was as if, in the tenth round, one’s opponent abruptly morphed into King Kong. And then?

Then farmers fought like hell, as if their lives depended on it, because their lives did. The tales of how they fought back are amazing, but the fighting seemed basically useless. Worst was the fact that, at the end of the summer, these huge swarms would hunker down and lay trillions upon trillions of eggs.

This was hugely depressing to farming families. As the locusts ate everything above ground, farmers knew they might eek by on the incompletely-formed crops that grew below ground: Undersized potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, sweet potatoes and rutabagas might help a family struggle through a hungry winter, but the following spring they would not be able to even plant such root crops, for the soil was infested with locust eggs, and they’d hatch in the spring and eat the first sprouts of every crop you planted. Then, when they had eaten everything in sight, the swarm would arise en-mass and head east, always east. Melanoplus spretus never returned home to the west with trophies of conquest, but continued east until the Atlantic Ocean proved an absolute end to a swarm, and fishes got fat.

It is difficult to see what ecological advantage Melanoplus spretus derived from these banzai charges to the east. As they left the arid west they increasingly moved into lands they were not suited for. Early Mormon history speaks of farmers falling to their knees in prayer when a swarm threatened their crops, and how their prayers were answered by a huge flock of voracious gulls. Also, even when Melanoplus spretus laid trillions of eggs, a very wet spring with standing puddles in the fields could kill every egg. Therefore not every swarm made it to the Atlantic. No colony was ever established in the east, and the swarming seems a sort of extravagant waste, on the part of Mother Nature.

Melanoplus spretus was but one form of ruin faced by the early American homesteaders. They also faced droughts, floods, hail, and the simple fact their eastern farming-practices were not suited for the naturally-arid western lands. They faced stampedes of buffalo, and the arrows of a native population who did not much like squatters who killed their buffalo.

Lastly they faced misinformation from callous people who sought to financially gain from the migration of millions of basically ignorant farmers. These dishonest people included those investing in railways and farm equipment, and the banking institutions that financed such endeavors. What such profiteers tended to do was make farming look like an idyll, and to fail to mention it is a war. The advertisements in the eastern newspapers of that time look comical, in the way they describe a paradise out west.

One concept that seems strangely modern was the idea of Climate Change. What homesteaders imagined would change their arid 250-acres was not virtue-signaling by buying curly candles or riding electric horses, (or throwing a virgin into a volcano), but rather was through their sweat, as they busted the thick sod, and also planted an acre of trees on their 250-acre-farm. The “climate scientists” of that time, with pompous authority, stated “farming brought rain”, and the more naive farmers believed them, and planted the required acre of trees in an arid landscape. Optimism abounded during the wet years, but then the climate did what it always does, and there came drought and ruin and, with the dryness, Melanoplus spretus.

It is easy for us to look back and smugly criticize, for the farmers made many mistakes. (Remember many were gutsy fathers fleeing sweat-shop factories in cities, seeking a better life for their children, and some had little experience of farming outside of what they read in pamphlets.) Before we are too scornful of them we should understand that some day people will look back at us, and smugly criticize us for all the dunderhead things we do in the name of “Climate Change.” But what amazes me is how the farmers fought, against daunting odds, and how they became an unrecognized and vital (and very necessary) “part of a process”, which did profoundly change the world, in a way we all benefit greatly from.

It is easy to criticize the changes as being ruinous to the ecology of the prairie, and to the indigenous people dependent on that ecology. The slaughter of the buffalo was appalling, and the fury of the Sioux understandable, but that is because we are able to sit in ivory towers, blessed by our ability to indulge in a leisurely appraisal. We forget the people of that time were within the fog of war. Even the Sioux were a culture going through radical changes, for they had formerly hunted buffalo on foot, but now were an amazing, new people on horseback.

To the farmers in the fog of war there was little time for leisurely appraisal, for they had children to feed, and often the situation was desperate enough in a mere drought, even before Melanoplus spretus appeared. When the trillions of grasshoppers then descended the way farmers fought insects, back before pesticides, is both laughable and courageous. They built fires and created thick clouds of smoke, and hammered together gadgets that knocked flying grasshoppers into trays of kerosene, which they pulled through their stripped fields with their horses. To kill the grasshopper’s eggs they would churn the soil with plows, even plowing soil they had no intention to plant.

When they turned to the government for help, moronic politicians wrote a law that punished farmers with a fine, if they didn’t devote two days a year to killing grasshoppers. (I wonder who spied on the farmers, and who collected the fines.) The government also offered a bounty for every bushel (35 liters) of dead grasshoppers the farmers turned in. In March, when the baby grasshoppers were small, a farmer might make a dollar a bushel, but by June, when the grasshoppers got big and fat, the bounty shrank to a dime. But even a slender, silver dime was better than zero, when you had a family to feed. To feed their families desperate farmers fished for the smallest horn-pout, and hunted rat-like prairie dogs, and even fried the grasshoppers themselves.

The most effective help came from fellow farmers, via churches. Farmers in areas outside the reach of a swarm sent food and fodder to those afflicted. Often the favor was returned in only a few years. When the climate swung from dry to wet the grasshoppers vanished, and the empty fields abruptly held bumper crops even as farmers to the east suffered floods, and then the farmers who had been helped became the generous helpers.

One way or another the farmers got by. It is easy to scorn and sneer at them, for they knew little about soil erosion, or that, by busting the sod, they were creating the loose soil that would blow as enormous clouds in the Dust Bowl. During the Dust Bowl over a million farmers lost everything and became refugees, and we can now sit back in our ivory towers and say “tsk tsk” about their ignorance, but perhaps we display a certain ignorance by forgetting that much we know about soil erosion came through mistakes they made. They were the ones actually learning from their mistakes, and actually suffering in the fog of war.

Some of the things they learned had benefits of a magnitude they likely could never imagine. For example, when dealing with Melanoplus spretus some farmers hit upon the idea of planting crops that matured in the spring, when the grasshoppers hadn’t hatched or were still small. Refugees from Russia then remembered stuff they planted in the late summer in Siberia they could harvest the next spring, called “winter wheat”. It would form a turf in the late fall, and in the spring swiftly send up fruiting shoots. Tiny, baby grasshopper might stunt this fruition, but they couldn’t stop it. This Kulak idea took off, spreading from farmer to farmer until, even when the grasshoppers were around and the crop was lessened, enough was salvaged so that people had, at least, a little bread.

Environmentalists and Sociologists do like to repeat “tsk tsk” about the mistakes made by those farmers. The buffalo very nearly did become extinct, but through the Grace of God and the alertness of early environmentalists, they were saved. The Sioux nearly became extinct as a people, but through the Grace of God and their own innate toughness, they survived. Prairie sod nearly became extinct, and only remains in scattered parks. A type of grouse farmers called “the prairie chicken” did become extinct, which was sad even for those farmers, who liked to hunt and eat them, but that extinction is now is used as a reason to say, “tsk tsk”. Yet I almost never hear ecologists mention another extinction.

As the year 1900 approached there was a drought, and farmers anxiously looked west for the skies darkening with Melanoplus spretus, but the grasshoppers didn’t come. Farmers were too busy with drought and hail and bankers to pay much heed to this good fortune, but up in the mountain valleys a few looked around, and could see no Melanoplus spretus. Perhaps due to cattle being driven up mountain river floodplains and changing the habitat, the grasshoppers had not merely become scarce. They vanished from the face of the earth. The last one was seen in Canada in 1902.

The extinction of Melanoplus spretus likely contributed to a new and unexpected disaster that hit those struggling farmers, which was the phenomenon of bumper crops. So much wheat was produced that, due to the economic principle of “supply and demand”, the price of wheat fell so low that farmers couldn’t make any money selling it. Of course, even with prices at rock bottom, some profiteering people got rich. (Don’t get me started on the moral decrepitude of such people. They like to claim they “fulfill a need”, but whores “fulfill a need”, and it doesn’t make them one bit moral.) In any case, railways stood to make money by holding a monopoly on the shipments of grain, and commodity markets made money even as prices crashed, and sellers of farming equipment made money repossessing equipment, and bankers made money repossessing farms. At times it seemed the only ones who didn’t get fat off off the bumper crop was the farmers who actually created the plenty.

The farmer is the man.
The farmer is the man;
Lives off his credit ‘til the fall,
Then they take him by the hand
And they lead him from the land
And the banker is the one who gets it all,
Yet the farmer is the man.
The farmer is the man.
Some people disagree
But its obvious to me
That the farmer is the one who feeds us all.

(Song from “Farm Aid” concert, circa 1976)

Farmers are the salt of the earth, for without them we all starve, but as a rule they barely subsist, in materialistic terms. On the great American plains they came and went like dust in the wind. (And I am not talking about a few, but rather millions of families.)

One reason Abraham Lincoln was elected (with less than 40% of the popular vote) was because he offered poor people “free land” via the “Homestead Act”. This act offered any man, from any slum or eastern, hardscrabble farm, 250 acres out west, for not a penny down. All a man needed to do was head west, make his claim for a particular plot, and live there for five years. A no-brainer, right? Millions of families with little to lose ripped up what roots they had, and headed west to lay claim to 250 acres for free.

We can still look at the records kept by those long-ago bureaucrats, and one appalling thing is that roughly half of the families couldn’t even fulfill the stipulation that they live on the land for for five years. Therefore, right off the bat, we have over a million families defeated by the fog of farming’s war. What became of all those families?

Continue on, through disaster after disaster, to the Dust Bowl, when more than a million more farming families were driven from the land. The 250-acre-farm largely became a thing of the past, and entire communities became ghost towns. And one wonders, “Who in their right mind would ever want to be a farmer?”

What this fails to measure is intangible to Socialists, (and also many Capitalists), who measure all in terms of status and money.

Millions of American families came to the prairies, and millions left, and almost none saw a long-term material profit, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some farmers were so amazingly tough that not even the Dust Bowl’s temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit could defeat them. These survivors were unbelievable.

Back in my drifting days I had the good fortune to be befriended by a retired farmer from Garden City, Kansas, who liked to sip beers and become garrulous, and regale me with tales of how his family survived the Dust Bowl.

His father was a Polish refugee who was too smart to ever enter an agreement that would allow a bank to take his farm, or to ever buy equipment on an installment plan that would allow his equipment to be repossessed. Perhaps he didn’t modernize as swiftly as other farmers, but he completely avoided debt. Even when he experienced complete crop failure, he didn’t owe anyone anything.

The gruff man’s practicality is perhaps best shown by the fact that, when he became aware he had contracted tuberculosis and likely would soon die, he moved to a barn so his children would not be exposed to the bacteria. However he was too ornery to die, and from the barn he commanded his family with the discipline of Captain Bligh. Between dust and tuberculosis he could barely breathe, but neither man nor beast wanted to see him emerge from the barn in a rage, for he was ruthless with his whip. Modern “animal rights” people would likely sue him, and he’d also likely be in jail for “child abuse” for how tough he was on his many sons, but he got his family through the Dust Bowl, to the blessed day the rains returned. (My friend told me that, because the heat and drought had been so chronic in the 1930’s, his childhood created the impression that Dust Bowl conditions simply were how the world was, and that, when the rains returned, it then seemed downright bizarre to look around in the spring and see all the Kansas fields be green.)

When the rains returned the farm, which had somehow managed to survive without an income, suddenly had an income. At this point the father seemed to feel he had won his private war, and passed away, but his strapping sons were not happy, having an income. As best as I can tell, life was too easy. After a decade fighting for survival, bumper crops were like a life without battle for a Viking, or life without football for a linebacker. After Pearl Harbor all the brothers rushed off to fight Japan and Germany. Only one son, my friend, remained to run the farm with his mother, because he was too young to enlist and also because the American government basically ordered him to stay.

My friend was a bit ashamed that he, the “baby”, stayed at home and didn’t fight Hitler, but I pointed out someone had to “feed the fighters”. I said he was the “hero” who fed the “war effort”, both the soldiers and the workers toiling in munitions-factories, but my flattery fell flat. He said he was uncomfortable because he had made enormous profits during the war. He could handle poverty, and even derive joy from such a life, but wealth made him strangely miserable.

Something about this tough farmer’s attitude seems utterly beyond the capacity of most socialists, (and also many capitalists), to comprehend. They cannot conceive of people who are not enthralled by money and status, and who live for something else.

When I asked him what he did with all his money, he laughed. He said that when the rains returned, and Kansas farmers got rich, they traded-in their beat up, old Model-A Fords and drove Cadillacs. Then, when the ground was frozen in the winter, they would go roaring across the wheat fields around Garden City in their fancy cars. Sometimes they’d tie the hood of an old truck to a long rope, upside down, as a sort of sled they pulled behind their Cadillacs, and would drag bunches of gleeful children behind them. When I asked the old wheat-farmer if any children got hurt, he shook his head, and stated the experience educated children about the importance of holding on for dear life.

When I asked if farmers did economically sensible things, such as reinvest their money, he looked bored, and said “Yes”. So many farmers had lost their farms in the Dust Bowl that there were lots of 250-acre-farms to buy dirt cheap, especially if they abutted your farm, but such successful expansion seemed to bore him. He could fluently discuss a mini-Dust-Bowl drought in the 1950’s, and high prices during the Korean War, but he always seemed ready to yawn as I pestered him with such pragmatic questions.

Instead what seemed to really animate him was the subject of his children. When I asked if any of his children became farmers, he sat forward and eagerly told me they were too smart to become farmers, and then began to tick off the colleges they had attended, proudly stating how much smarter they were than he was. After college they all had gone on to prestigious corporations and big businesses he could brag about. It seemed all had become very successful, but to me it seemed his children’s success was due to the “character” inherited from the farming life, even among children who desired to leave farming far behind. Yet I confess that, when I first looked at the old man, I didn’t suspect there was any iron under the rust; he appeared to be an old Yahoo; one might suspect he was a character without suspecting he had any.

Just as I gave this old farmer credit for “defeating Hitler”, even though he stayed “home with his Mommy”, and only produced the huge crops that fed the troops, it also seems to me that the millions of farmers from families who lost their farms in the Dust Bowl also deserve a degree of deference.

Why? Because even as they became homeless they saved millions in Africa, Asia and Europe. They were “part of a process” that turned an obscure Siberian wheat into a huge American surplus, shipped far and wide in fifty or hundred pound sacks, labeled “USA”, often for free as “foreign aid”. As much as ecologists gripe about the diminished ecosystem of the buffalo, there are many people alive in Africa, Asia and post-World-War-Two Europe who might never have been born, had not American “winter wheat” arrived to prevent their grandparents from dying of famine.

Hopefully a few Sioux see that the crazy flood of American farmers onto the Great Plains, as a crazy pale-faced people who basically wrecked the Sioux’s ecosystem and way of life, and then largely vanished over the horizon, was “part of a process”. The suffering of the Sioux is at least in part made bearable because millions in Asia, Africa, and Europe were benefited. (It is also made bearable because in some areas, where the Sioux once became a minority, they now have regained the majority, because they persisted as the farmers fled).

But what did the farmers themselves get out of their struggle?

“Character”. A wonderful classiness, immeasurable by those who seek mere money and status, and who are therefore not much different from old-fashioned Hindu enslaved by their ancient caste-system, where some are deemed “Brahman” and some “Untouchable”.

Socialists often fall prey to such typecasting, and can be as enslaved to class as the most ardent royalist, though Socialists usually seek to make the royal (and the successful) the “bad guy”, who unjustly “oppresses the poor”. Socialists see the solution to such injustice as being to crush the upper class (the “bourgeoisie”) and the middle class (the “petite bourgeois”) (and this includes Yeoman farmers), and to make the poor (the “proletariat”) a sort of new upper class. Yet such socialists only perpetuate the caste-system, though they howl they oppose it. They resemble a person opposed to promiscuous sex, who cannot get his mind off the topic. They cannot escape the trap of dividing people into categories, nor grasp the liberating concept of, “All Men Are Created Equal”.

One of the best tales about the tough times the farming families endured is John Steinbeck’s “Grapes Of Wrath”, which I was required to read in school in 1968. I particularly remember Steinbeck’s amazing, vicious description of the man buying broke farmer’s cars, profiteering from their misfortune. The description was so brilliantly effective that it caused me to become hugely bigoted towards used-car-salesmen for decades, (until I actually befriended one). However Steinbeck ends his tale failing to mention what happened next. He leaves one with the sense that the poor Dust Bowl “Okies” were forever ruined.

Indeed they did suffer a downfall, from a people with middle-class houses and 250 acre farms and state-of-the-art tractors and other farm equipment, to being homeless migrant farm-workers, picking grapes, (before Mexicans with green-cards picked the grapes), and living in rented shacks. But that was not the end, because, though disdained and called “Okies”, they were people with “character”, who raised fine children and grandchildren who changed the world in a way absolutely nobody saw coming. Their children and grandchildren now make far more money than they could ever have made, back on the farm, working on things called “computers” in a place called “Silicon Valley”. Steinbeck never foresaw this, and instead seemed prone towards Socialist solutions. Yet what raised the ruined farmers called “Okies” to plush suites in Silicon Valley was not socialist food-stamps, but rather was “character”.

This “character” seems to be a thing that can be lost, if you become too divorced from the farming life that brought it about in the first place. It does not seem to matter if you are rich or poor. It happens to the rich grandchildren of Okies in Silicon Valley, and to the impoverished grandchildren of sharecroppers in America’s inner cities. Once this difficult-to-define “character” is lost, then even a beautiful, golden state like California, richest in the nation with the best educational system, can crash in flames to one of the poorest and most ill-educated, with an entire new group of “Okies” homeless on its streets.

Certain kind people take pity on children in slums, and their charity allows such youths to spend a summer on a rural farm. The host-farm is usually not an agribusiness, but a more old-fashioned farm. I have even read of inner-city youth being sent to Indian Reservations in the Pacific Northwest, where they learned to harvest salmon from rivers and abalone from the sea. In nearly all such cases the children are permanently, positively changed.

Not that they change in the manner some desire: They don’t abruptly wear suits and attend church, if Christians sponsored their escape from slums, and in fact they may go right back to the gangs and drugs they briefly escaped, but they are different; they are changed; they own the odd thing called “character”. People who study such things things have discovered, through “follow-up-studies”, that more than a decade later many of the now-mature recipients of such experiences still claim a brief vacation on a farm was “the most influential experience of their life.” But what was the influence?

As the owner of a back-to-nature Farm-Childcare I am into my eleventh year of dealing with clueless children. Not that such such children, even at age three, are not far smarter than I am, when it comes to the subject of how to operate a computer or a cellphone. However they haven’t a clue where food comes from. They are amazed (and delighted) to learn carrots and potatoes come from “dirty dirt”. They are amazed (and delighted) to discover eggs come from a chicken’s “stinky butt”. Sometimes, to the horror of their parents (and requiring amazing diplomacy on the part of my wife), these children are delighted (and amazed) to see that meat involves “killing”.

Although parents are vaguely troubled by a political-incorrectness inherent in “dirty dirt” and “stinky butts” and “killing”, in the end the parents thank me. Why? Because they have seen a undeniable blossoming in their child. But I try to tell them I am not the cause. I did not invent the fact carrots come from “dirty dirt”. I did not invent the fact that eggs come from a “stinky butt”. I did not invent the fact all meat comes from “killing”. I am not the Creator; I am just showing what He has already done.

I did not create the pines, and I did not create the wind, but when I take a frenetic kid out and he gets dreamy and far calmer, looking up and listening to the wind in the pines, parents treat me like I changed the child. It actually was something far greater than I. All I do is show children what already is.

But it is not merely the children in slums, and the children of overworked parents who use a computer for a babysitter, who stand to gain from being reintroduced to the farm and the outdoors. It is also the grandchildren of Okies who work in Silicon Valley. They are as deprived as the ghetto-abiding grandchildren of sharecroppers who have never plowed or planted, and who see only asphalt. But, sadly, the deprived of Silicon Valley are blind to their deprivation, and actually scorn the heartland’s earthy citizens as “Deplorables.”

Many in Silicon Valley embrace socialism, some with the fervor of Mao’s “Red Guard”. They have either forgotten, or never studied, their own Socialist history.

When Mao felt the Red Guard had outlived their usefulness, what did he do with their youthful zeal? He had the army round them up and shipped them off to rural areas to be “reeducated.” (In essence the result of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” was that China became a police state.) There is a delicious irony in the way Mao praised the benefits of “life on the farm”, though he disliked the Yeoman Farmer as much as Stalin did, and strove to replace the self-reliant farmers and artisans, whom Jefferson admired, with the “collective”.

Sometimes I like to play the devil’s advocate, and to ask how my Farm-Childcare is any different from a Gulag. Am I not snatching children from the video games they desire? Initially many children loudly express their dislike of the outdoors and announce an unwillingness to walk even fifty yards. Am I not a sort of brutal Mao to urge them onward, and isn’t my “reeducating” a sort of brainwashing? I can only answer that the children seem to quickly adapt, and that they wear smiles, and sometimes they don’t even want to go home, which isn’t observed too often in Gulags.

When I think more deeply I enter debatable territory, but will throw a few ideas out to be mulled over. One idea is that I allow far more freedom than a Gulag, and in fact freedom is at the root of what I attempt. While children seem made nervous by a complete lack of boundaries, they like freedom within certain limits; IE: They don’t want to be left alone to meet a bear or coyote in the woods, but they like being left alone to build their own forts.

Children like having a rough idea of the rules under which a sport is played, but also like having the freedom to spend half their time arguing about the rules (which is how I played baseball as a boy.) Rather than “organized” sports, my Childcare has “disorganized” sports. While I do oversee the sports, to prevent bloodshed, I try to stand back as I oversee freedom. And, as I stand back and watch, it seems to me that one important quality of freedom is that it involves experiencing and playing-with limits and limitations.

It is quite fascinating to watch children play with limits and limitations, (even when the limit they are testing is me.) Sometimes, for example when building a fort, they are dealing with a physical limitation and are young engineers, attempting a Tower of Babel, and then bursting into tears when it falls down and they are confronted with “Murphy’s Law”. Other times they are dealing with social limitations, for example when determining the ownership of a stick which looks perfectly ordinary to me, and certainly not worth arguing about. Sometimes they ask for help and sometimes they want to “do it themselves”, but always they are “part of a process”, involving a subject and an object.

As I stand back and watch I notice a difference between the children who “get along” and those who “don’t get along”. It seems to involve the difference between a willingness to be “part of a process”, and a craving to “control the process”, and this often seems to involve whether the child’s faith has been nourished or shattered. (Unfortunately we have a severe drug-problem in New Hampshire, and some small children have witnessed parents become unconscious or even die, and these unfortunate tykes are raised by grandparents who send them to my Childcare.)

Of course as soon as I broach the topic of “faith” I risk provoking broadsides from both Atheists and Believers, but I must say that a child who has had their faith nourished tends to be cheerful and to trust others, while a child who has had their faith shattered tends to be a bit of a bully, (in several different, manipulative ways), and to chronically distrust others. The first tends to trust being “part of the process”, whereas the second is suspicious and wants to “control the process”. The first has “character” which the second lacks. Lastly I should stress that the “faith” does not seem to be encouraged by constant flattery and “participation trophies”, but rather by the actual experience of ups and downs, accompanied by the security of knowing they are watched over by people who will help if asked.

At this point I likely should come completely out of the closet and return to the point I made earlier, when I stated I am not the Creator; I am just showing what He has already done. Furthermore He is not done; He is still doing, and will help if asked.

While it may be politically incorrect in the minds of some to say so, I’ll conclude by stating this: Children are very small and helpless, playing under a Sky that is giant and can be merciless, yet they often play as if with a close friend, whom they trust more than any mortal. As a “Child Care Professional”, I often just stand back and watch “the process” in awe.

Sadly, though I offer a beautiful witness, Silicon Valley does not want to hear me. Google has in some ways “disappeared” me from its search engine. Likely their action is due to my past “Sea-ice” posts, which dare to point out certain Alarmist “proofs”, (that Global Warming is a threat), are failing to manifest in the predicted manner. This makes me a “denier”, and Google apparently feels this justifies their basically enacting a childish censorship, tantamount to the children at my Childcare shouting, “La-la-la! I’m not listening!”

This is sad because Google was formerly the best search engine, but now they are choosing to make their engine malfunction. They soon will be surpassed by another, for even a competitor slow as a turtle can pass a rabbit, if the rabbit lays down on the job.

I am not particularly hurt by Google’s disdain. I’ve been an obscure poet all my life, so obscurity is a landscape I’m familiar with. I don’t feel “marginalized”, for I’ve experienced margins are important and “part of the process”. Even if Google seeks to bully me with the power of a trillion grasshoppers, I am not a victim. I am a beneficiary. Why? Because I am in touch with the Thing that made Okies great, while Google, (the Okies who became great), have lost their grip, and may well be like a trillion grasshoppers soon to become extinct.

What has this to do with gardening?

Despite the fact nearly everything that could go wrong did go wrong, for a while last spring, I found myself possessing a peculiar confidence. I think I may have had symptoms of what some Christians call “Blessed Assurance”. Rather than throwing up my hands and quitting the garden, I went out to weed and salvage what I could. The results were remarkable.

In material terms the weeds may have won, in certain areas, but in the areas I salvaged, the cold and wet and muck and mud, which was bad for warmth-loving corn and squash and beans, produced a superabundance of other crops: Spinach and lettuce and two types of peas, as the potatoes grew twice as tall as last year. The actual statistics will wait for another post, but children were able to munch edible-podded peas to their heart’s content, and collect sandwich bags more to take home and munch with parents, which helps my Childcare look different from (and perhaps superior to) other Childcares.

In spiritual terms I simply became a far better weeder, for rather than being discouraged and quitting, I kept weeding. My attitude was adjusted. It is difficult to say why. It was as if it occurred to me that, if parents would pay good money to see their kids go back-to-nature, then maybe I should go back-to-nature as well. If it benefits the kids, it should benefit me. And yes, it did. Even before the material superabundance began to manifest, I was reaping a crop of tranquility.

There is something about this tranquility that utterly eludes the mindset of the socialist, and also the small brains of the more greed-centered capitalist. It involves the awareness that a farmer is basically an ant, compared to the Creator who actually controls. Rather than control farmers are to some degree resigned to being “part of a process”. Where some like to think they are in control of power, and money, and even the climate, this tranquility concedes we actually have all the power of a three-year-old child walking a summer evening’s lawn wearing pajamas with feet.

Once again summer holiday’s big sky
Presses down warmth with joys I sought to take
Prisoner, when as a boy I would fly
Out classroom windows and into an ache
Made of pearling clouds. What a sweet wonder
It was to no longer see teacher’s scold
And instead see schools locked. What sweet thunder
Spoke from clouds, as birdsong made me bold
With cascading choruses, as with arms
Swinging I walked fleet and, daily taking
Cliff-climbing chances, hunted bee-drone charms
That beamed from big sky to heal heart’s aching.
It mattered not to young fishers like me
That I was the prisoner in love to be free.

Part 4

Once I adopted my “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” attitude, I was astonished by the way my garden improved. If you demand perfection you become so upset by the lack of it that you throw up your hands in despair and stop weeding, but if you are resigned to failure, and only weed because you feel closer to God in a garden, you keep weeding. Very soon the perfectionist’s garden is choked by weeds, while the failure’s garden starts to look much better.

Also getting out and weeding seemed better for my health than staying home and ventilating the frustrations of a perfectionist, by raving on my blog. Although I was initially weakened by my summer cold, and so sensitive to pollen I weeded with a third of the speed of a grandmother, my lungs improved, my health returned, and I got a good tan, (which enabled me to avoid feeling defensive about “white privilege”, and thus likely increased my psychological sense of well-being). Although I posted nothing, (and suppose caused some at Google deep concern by giving them nothing to censor), I began putting on weight for the first time in over a year, as I learned how to use my new, fake teeth.

I felt I had stumbled upon an answer. Because I was less focused on results, the results were far better. The difference was this: Formerly, when I focused on weeding a long row of potatoes, I gritted my teeth and endured the job in a stoic manner, and at the end of the row was basically exhausted, but gained the small satisfaction of a check-on-my-list. But when I did not focus on the end of the row, and just weeded for the joy of being outdoors and in the sun, I did not grit my teeth, and wasn’t stoic, and needed no check-on-my-list. Consequently I weeded far more with less effort, and was much happier, at first because I was deriving joy from the process and not the results, and secondly because unexpectedly the results were obviously better.

Admittedly some of the ways I de-emphasized my results did reduced my production, and were largely motivated by the fact I initially disliked weeding. I doubt my ancestors approved. But they had ten children and were allowed to whip them if they didn’t weed. Lacking such advantages, one thing I did was to plant my rows far apart, so I could just run my rotor-tiller between the rows. The land might have produced more if I had my rows closer together, but that would have involved more hand-weeding. I still had to hand-weed around individual plants, but it was wonderfully satisfying to have long brown strips of weedless soil between my rows, looking like I’d hand-weeded for hours, when in fact I’d merely walked behind my puttering rotor-tiller fifteen minutes.

I also didn’t need to hand-weed around individual plants so much because, after I initially tilled he soil, I unrolled long, black strips of stuff I call “weeder-fabric”, and then cut little notches or slices in it to plant my seeds. The stuff was expensive, but so is hiring people to weed. The fabric lets the rain through, and you don’t have to whip it to make it work.

Between these two examples of my laziness as a weeder, and the fact I was finding far more joy in weeding when I weeded, the weeding-war became quite surprisingly serene. I was even considering changing the title of this post. The peak of this serenity involved a comment from my wife.

At this point I should mention I was so in love with my wife, when we first met, that I neglected to get her to sign a prenuptial agreement involving weeding. Nor can I whip her, for it turned out she knows karate. Therefore she never weeds. Somehow she still has, occasionally, the nerve to suggest that a weedy garden reflects badly on our Childcare, the same way she suggests an unmown lawn reflects badly on our Childcare (though she never mows). Consequently I tend to be touchy about the entire subject of weeds.

I can be content in my garden, communing with God, but when I see her approach I abruptly bristle with defensiveness. A man must chose his battles, and even if he says “yes dear” to his wife 90% of the time, there comes a time a husband must stand his ground, even if his wife wife knows karate. But a month ago my wife blind-sided me by saying something I never expected. With a look of disbelief and even confusion she gazed over my garden and murmured, “Your garden actually looks good.”

So of course I immediately became hugely cocky, which is something you should never do, with a farm. One must never forget they are involved in a war. But such a sense of serenity decended upon me that I did what in Kansas they call “slack off.” I forgot I am not in control, and felt I had things “under control”, and became, in my own small way, a “socialist”.

Three social events that have nothing to do with weeding occurred simultaneously. First was a family event called “Strawberry Weekend”, which among some family members seems to be as important as Christmas. The second was a reunion with my older siblings. And third was my middle son’s wife going into labor with her first child, two weeks before her due-date.

I am aware my excellent use of foreshadowing has made you aware that the coyotes were lurking in the woods, eyeing my chickens and just waiting for me to drop my guard. However please indulge an old man, and allow me a moment of weakness. Though I am well aware there is no such thing as “vacation” for a farmer in the summer, I agreed to have our staff cover for me at our Childcare and to feed my goats and chickens, as I spent a day and an overnight reminiscing with my siblings at a motel on the coast. My Puritan ancestors likely all rolled in their graves. Even though, as good Christians, they may not have weeded on The Day Of Rest, I am fairly certain they came home from church and sat on their porches, watching the corn grow with their shotguns across their knees.

I first became aware things were not going to go as planned when my wife, who ordinarily is far more businesslike than I am, vanished from the Childcare. I received a slightly garbled text on my cell-phone, attempting to be businesslike about rescheduling so she could drive to Maine. My daughter-in-law was in labor.

While my wife insists I was very helpful, when I was present as my second two sons were born, in all honesty I confess I have never felt so helpless. Responsible, yes. Helpful, no. In any case I had no desire to again be a cheerleader, and remained behind to hold the fort at the Childcare. In theory. In fact I was distracted and did a lot of nervous pacing. My staff did a great job covering for me, and even the children seemed understanding. The older children remembered my daughter-in-law from when she worked for us one summer, and I think they explained things to the littler ones. Even midst my distraction I noted a lot of whispering going on. This left me free to seek outlets for my nervous energy.

One thing I did was get down on my knees, which seemed a good place to be when one you care for is in labor. And then I weeded. It’s amazing how much weeding you can get done when full of nervous energy. As my granddaughter was born countless weeds died terrible deaths.

It likely seems unsentimental to say so, but it seemed to me that, if one insists upon being a nervous wreck, one might as well put the energy to good use and get some weeding done. And as I thought my pragmatic thought I imagined all my Puritan ancestors in heaven were nodding.

Glancing around, I noticed the final children were leaving and my staff was wrapping things up. My cellphone had alerted me to the fact all had gone well. I stood up and stretched, and contemplated what sane, sensible and pragmatic deed I might do next. Then I got in my car and drove through rush-hour traffic up to Portland, Maine, to spend not much more than fifteen minutes admiring the mother and child and new father, and then drove empty roads far more swiftly back down to New Hampshire, arriving home a little after midnight

It was time well spent. For one thing, it was great to step into the bubble of joy eminating from a young couple becoming a family. Though my son spoke of the awesome responsibility he felt, his eyes were soft and dreamy. His wife was exalted by the relief from pain, and the escape from danger, and the triumph, and the wonder of the new life she held in her arms.

Not that I’d particularly care to be in their shoes. Youth thirsts to climb mountains I feel no need to climb. But as I entered their bubble I remembered childbirth is like an island of joy in a sea of troubles.

I became very serene as I drove home through one of the longest and latest twilights of the year. I was thinking I was towards the end of a journey my son is just beginning. In some senses I’m handing the baton on to a new generation who will continue the race. Though the labor of childbirth is over, a new labor is just beginning for my son, but perhaps is ending for me, and perhaps I am upon an island of joy all my own.

For some reason my son asked me to dredge up the words to a song I used to strum on the back porch after long work-days, when he was just a boy. As I drove the words came back to me, and I began singing it:

Somewhere high above this little
Valley where I earn my living
Is a world that’s so forgiving,
But I cannot go.
I have a row to hoe.

How I wish I could go up there.
Climb that mountain. Breathe that air.
Hear those angels make their music
But I cannot go.
I have a row to hoe.

I have children; they need raising;
Some days scolding; some days praising;
Although I’d rather be lazing
Where I cannot go
Until my children grow.

How I wish I could go up there
Climb that mountain. Breathe that air.
Hear those angels make their music
But I cannot go
Until my children grow.

Years will pass. It’s no use countin’.
Some day all must climb that mountain.
Stand where love is like a fountain
That forever flows
Fragrant as a rose.

Then at last we’ll all be up there
On that mountain. Breathe that air.
Hear those angels make that music
That forever flows
Fragrant as a rose. (circa 1996)

My sense of humor began to kick in as I left the highway and drove the summer streets close to home, where the stray cats always look surprised to see anyone out driving so late. My own serenity amused me, for, while I suppose I could drop dead tomorrow, if I really felt I was at the end I wouldn’t have planted a garden last spring. All the same, I did not complain about the peace I felt. As I got out of my car at home home and paused to heed the distant coyotes yipping and caterwauling (more clever foreshadowing) I decided islands of joy in seas of trouble were good things, for otherwise how should we ever cross the seas?

I lack the lust and yearning ambition
I once had, yet now hear peace’s sweetness.
Not that I sit in my armchair wishing
To never arise, but a completeness
Blesses my life. I watch the young hurry
To start families; see woman wince in labor
And then sigh with babe in arms; then worry
With husbands at bills; debate a neighbor
About fences or a salesman over price,
And I have no yearning to again start
Such projects. Sometimes it just plain feels nice
To be done, and own a quiet heart.
This sunrise seems to be one of those days.
My lone desire’s to hum my Lord praise.

WEEDER WARS –Part 1–

It doesn’t matter if you don’t call yourself a “farmer”, for even if you merely raise a lone tomato or cucumber on a patio or porch, there will come a day your idyll is interrupted by aphids, or a ravenous tomato-hornworm-caterpillar, and on that day you will understand farming isn’t peace. It is war.

To a certain degree this is life as usual. It doesn’t matter if you are starting a garden or engineering a bridge, “Murphy’s Law” will state “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong”, and you will have to deal with unexpected foul-ups and unintended consequences. In moderation, this is fun, much like the stress of solving a crossword puzzle. Many assume gardening will involve moderation and be fun: There will be weeds but they will be weeded in a leisurely way, with dignity. Nope. Sooner or later it is war; total war.

One aspect of warfare is that not every attack results in victory. More ordinary is for an attack to result in resistance.

In terms of gardening, what this means is that when you pull some weeds, it is seldom a rout, with weeds fleeing in panic. In fact weeds often counter-attack. They think they have every bit as much a right to fertile soil as your tomato. Just who do you think you are, depriving ragweed?

In like manner, just because you put up chicken-wire, it is seldom a discouragement to predators. Just who do you think you are, depriving a mother fox food for her kits? In fact farmers have a wry saying, “If you want to know if there is wildlife in your neighborhood, get some chickens.”

In fact a farm is a lot like a fifteen round fight; you can’t expect to win every round. The problem is that some novices find it appalling, when they are knocked back on their heels and it is fairly obvious they are losing a round. It doesn’t fit their idyllic preconceptions of how gardening should be. A single sweltering day, or single swarm of midges, is enough, for some, and turns their confident advance into a panicky retreat. It is for this reason many gardens that look lovely in April become a thick and luscious bed of weeds by July. The gardener has lost the war.

Back when half of all Americans farmed, people were more reluctant to throw in the towel in the first or second round of the fight, because the consequences of losing were grave. There were no food-stamps, and poor people were not fat. Even if the bank took your farm you didn’t escape farming, for you had to go live on the “poor farm”. Often what you grew was all you had to eat, and people would struggle on despite much adversity, for a few small potatoes was better than none. As hard as such farming was, people were seemingly grounded in basic realities which the modern Socialist has forgotten. Where the Socialist promises to tax the rich and give the poor lots of free stuff, the old-time farmers knew nothing was free. The old-timers knew you “reap what you sow”, and that even such reaping didn’t happen unless you spent month after month fighting round after round.

My early life knew some amazing adventures which some would call “hardship”, and somewhere along the line I stopped taking anything for granted. Certain people I counted upon failed to keep the trust, so I became unwilling to rely on anyone but my foolish self, and God. For the most part my foolish self-reliance generated fiascoes, yet I always seemed to emerge from the rubble older and wiser, and for that God gets the glory.

To some degree my old age and (so-called) wisdom has involved a retreat into a sort of fall-back position. I am more inclined to adopt the attitudes of my great-grandparents than anything modern. In this manner I am like many New-Age idealists (and like Hippies of 1969, dreaming of idyllic communes), but the difference is that I don’t expect an idyll. I expect a fifteen-round brawl.

In dealing with this battle farmers have come up with various sprays: Pesticides and herbicides and fungicides, but what is really needed is a “socialisticide”. Socialists can be pests, when you put the rights of your chickens ahead of foxes, for they complain you are neglecting foxes, (when they aren’t clamoring for greater rights for your chickens.) How is it a people who have never farmed can assume they have authority over people who do? I’d like to spray them all down with “socialisticide”, when I’m in a grumpy mood.

I am saved from this grumpiness by my wife. Somewhat to my own astonishment I recently recognized my beloved is a socialist. But it is for all the right, non-materialistic reasons, based upon the “Book of Acts” in the Bible. Where politicians get insanely rich “helping” the poor, my wife’s brand of socialism sees our marriage’s skinny wallet gets skinnier. To some degree some of her charity is selfish, for “charity begins at home”, and she is big on “family values”. I am often asked to ignore an important farm-job, such as weeding, to attend an event that “supports the family”, such as a grandchild’s birthday.

I am reluctant to procrastinate, when it comes to weeding, for a weed which you can pinch from the soil with ease on Monday swiftly develops a root system by Friday that requires eye-popping effort to remove. My wife fails to understand this, for she rarely weeds. She also fails to understand my panic, when weeds are growing and ignored, and accuses me of caring more for weeds than grandchildren. (Such shots-to-the-heart are typical of Socialists.)

Like most good husbands I chose my battles, and the rest of the time I meekly say, “Yes Dear.” However I felt my tolerance getting stretched to the limit when I was asked to ignore farm matters for “good business practices.” My wife was staging a Socialist event called “A Preschool Graduation” at our Farm-childcare.

Absurd. Of what use is a diploma to a five-year-oId? And how can it compete with weeding the broccoli? Weeding produces a crop, whereas a five-year-old’s diploma produces nothing. (Sadly often a twenty-five-year-old’s diploma produces the same nothing.) However my wife stated diplomas produced “satisfied customers”, and that customers, and not my broccoli, was what truly fed us. I muttered we were teaching five-year-olds to value the wrong things, (in an inaudible manner), and said, “Yes dear” more loudly. My wife didn’t much like my tone.

I was then expected to “spruce up the place”, which involved making the productive farm look like an unproductive suburb. Rather than the important work of weeding , I had to “groom” the farm. I did a fine job, mowing and “weed-whacking ” edges and planting non-edible flowers and clearing trails of fallen trees and putting up balloons and banners, but the entire time my broccoli was screaming, “Help us! Save us!”

Finally the Socialism was done with, the children performed songs and parents were enthralled and diplomas were handed out and people ate a fine meal and the satisfied customers trailed off into the sunset, and I could at long last get down to the real work of catching up with my weeding. Immediately it rained.

Now it just so happens I can’t weed in the rain, because it spreads bacteria and fungus and diseases (especially with beans). Also I had to undergo oral surgery and have the roots of five teeth extracted from my upper jaw, and there were complications, and I was reduced to a diet of soft boiled eggs and gruel, which likely weakened my resistance to a summer cold passing through the Childcare. As my fever spiked at 101 degrees I was glad it was raining, for it gave me a good excuse to set a record for the number of naps a old man can take in a single day. But then my fever dropped and the forecast promised a single sunny day in a very rainy spring. I prepared to leap from bed and attack those weeds.

It turned out a side effect of this particular summer cold is that ones lungs are made hyper-sensitive to pollen, for a while. A number of local folk I spoke with complained about how they could not shake the congestion and hacking cough. I concur, but think they were too stoic and modest in describing how crippling the pulmonary inflammation was. I’ve never had asthma, but felt like I was having attacks. My nose streamed mucus in a way highly annoying to my wife, as she feels a dripping mustache does not lead to “satisfied customers.” My coughing fits can only be described as fits of hysteria; the coughs were so rapid they sounded like a machine gun, and one time, driving twenty miles an hour on a country lane, I nearly went off the road.

But I was not going to let some dumb cough slow me down. I muttered the old motto, “When the going gets tough the tough get going”, and figured some energetic exercise would clear my lungs. After I “hucked a looey” or two of phlegm, I’d be fine. The bell rang, and I headed out to fight the next round.

It was a bit like I walked into an uppercut to my jaw, though in fact it was a wall of pollen. Rather than clearing my lungs, exercise gagged me. My coughing was unproductive, and also embarrassing, for it was a senile “ih-ih-ih-ih-ih-ih”, yet so prolonged I couldn’t inhale. When a fit dropped me to one knee, I imagined a referee began counting, “One…two…three…four…”, and also a sardonic voice in the back of my mind stated, “Well, you are always telling people you want to die with your boots on.”

Fortunately I was saved by the bell and retreated to my corner, which was a shady place out of the sun. And when you are in the shade you can see things you can’t see out in the sun. I could see the air was filled with dust, fine yellow dust, streaming in the wind. Looking down at puddles from recent rains I noted each puddle was rimmed with yellow. Even as they shrank in the sunshine their little coasts were made golden by pollen. The scientist in me concluded that plants that have no use for bees, and pollinate using wind, have evolved some sort of self-restraint. They know better than to release pollen in the rain, when it will be beat down, and withhold the release until the sun shines. And, when it has rained a solid week, this means an amazing amount of pollen gets released when the sun finally shines. The coach in my corner concluded we would be wise to avoid breathing, so I fought the next round sitting on my rider mower, catching up on cutting-the-grass.

Of course, as I sat on my duff on the puttering mower, I could look over at the garden and hear the broccoli weeping, “Help us! Save us!”, and I eventually heard the coach in my corner propose weeding in a pinkie-raised way that required no hacking hoe and heavy breathing. And we did a little of that, as the sun dimmed in streamers of cirrus overhead, and the west darkened with the rising purple of approaching thunder. But what really stuck in my head was the moment I sat in the shade, and looked out to sunshine, and suddenly understood how thick the pollen truly was. I said to myself, “There’s a sonnet in this”.

Midst my misery; my sneezing summer
Cold; my snuffling self-pity; weaker
Than a kitten; glum and getting glummer,
My heart required humor be it’s speaker:
“If we’ve got to die, let’s have our killer
Be pine pollen, streaking yellow in the wind.
These swaying trees aren’t like the miller
Grinding flour steadily, but have grinned,
Held back ammo all a rainy week, and then
Let pollen go like a cavalcade of gold
Dust in the wind. Why gripe you’re choked, when
Sun-stirred breezes make twigs prance uncontrolled?
The green-gold pine pollen’s such a wonder,
Golden against rising purple thunder.”

Socialism Reattempted

I have been working on a political cartoon that would portray, in a picture, the sheer ignorance of certain “political correctness” and “virtue signalling.”

I use the word “ignorance” because it is the most spiritual way of stating another brother or sister doesn’t know what the -bleep- they are talking about. It is better to call a politician “ignorant” than a “liar”, when they promise everyone free cheese mined from the moon.

Truth is beauty, but ignorance is the lack of Truth, and tends to create ugly consequences. The way to solve problems is through Truth, albeit often solutions appear in a slower and more painstaking manner. Ignorant promises of quick-fixes may draw a crowd, but the happy crowd becomes an unruly mob when the promises are revealed to be lies. Then the ugly mob requires policing, and all too often what began as benevolent promises deteriorates into brutal oppression. (For example, Venezuela.)

When one has been sold a shadowy snake-oil, there is a sad moment when one realizes the stuff doesn’t work. It is during such times Truth may be called “cruel.” Also there may be a period when one undergoes disbelief and denial. During such times ignorance takes on a life of its own, fighting for its very existence, like a shadow attempting to avoid vanishing in a beam of light. Ignorance can then become dangerous, like a cornered rat, but also comical, for there is something humorous about the sight of a person attempting to cling to a shadow.

For example, when I have studied long and hard to glean some tidbit of Truth, (for example about Arctic Sea-Ice), I find it comical when some young whippersnapper, who knows nothing about the topic, acts as if they know more, and furthermore claims I should be censored. In some ways they work harder to censor Truth than to know Truth. Such behavior deserves a cartoon.

In order draw out the humor and create a cartoon one needs to adjust the contrast, placing events together in a way that reduces ignorance to absurdity. While I haven’t worked out the details, I have been toying with the idea of comparing the 1968 Democrat Convention with the 2020 Democrat Convention, and guessing what young Democrats outside the convention might protest about, concerning the politics of Democrat higher-ups, inside the convention.

In 1968 Democrat policy had us in the Vietnam War, but the young Democrats, who faced being drafted and being forced to fight and perhaps die, were demanding a reason to die, and refusing to fight without reason, but rather than reason they were attacked by the police of the Democrat mayor of Chicago, whereupon the youth began chanting, “The whole world is watching.”

In 2020 Democrat policy seems at least as ignorant as 1968’s, and it occurred to me young Democrats might be equally frustrated, but have a different chant outside the Democrat convention. This time it might be, “The whole world is laughing.”

(For in my eyes the lack of Truth involved among Democrats makes much, spoken as gospel by the “Politically correct”, appear so ignorant it sounds like the soliloquies of Shakespeare’s fools. But modern youth are not always the fools their brain-washers assume, and already bristle at some of the ignorant suggestions they are asked to swallow, if they are to be “Politically Correct”.).

My personal cartoon of this situation would have 1968 and “The whole world is watching” on a first frame and 2000 and “The whole world is laughing” on the second, but lots needs to be worked out. I’m not sure I’ll ever get the details of the picture right.

Therefore I was glad to see a fellow did get a lot right, and displayed, in a different way, the joke of “Political Correct Ignorance”, at least in part:

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Greenland “Heatwave” Hype–

Sometimes the rants of Alarmists amuse me. Rather than moan softly and roll my eyes, I sit back and admire how something ordinary can be turned into something that sells newspapers (and/or attracts grant-money.)

In my last post I mentioned how a “blocking high-pressure” has persisted over Greenland, leading to lots of sunshine and far fewer North Atlantic gales ramming into the mountains and dumping copious amounts of snow onto the icecap. I warned this would reduce the yearly increase in Greenland’s “ice-balance”, even without including any summer melting. A massive amount flows off the ice-cap as glaciers and calves off into the sea, all year long, and, if not replaced by huge snows, the “ice-balance” dips. Alarmists were mute when the “ice-balance” blipped upwards the past two years, but I warned they would find their voices this summer as the ice-balance fell.

I neglected to include a further warning. Some ice might actually melt, especially with the blocking high-pressure making sunshine so persistent. Ice and snow always does melt on Greenland, especially at the very edge, although it doesn’t melt back as far now, as it did in the Medieval Warm Period, when the Vikings were able to raise several thousand cattle and over 100,000 sheep and goats. Though summer thaw is normal, when any sort of thaw occurs you can expect the Press to beat their drums. As the start of summer thaw has occurred yet again, and the Press has gone ape, I thought I’d give examples of some of the stages the Press’s hoop-la typically goes through.

First, a dramatic photograph is needed. Such pictures are usually of the dramatic meltwater rivers that form in the south of Greenland, where very thick ice pushes south into milder Alantic air and nearly twenty-four-hour-a-day sunshine, and also slopes down from an altitude of over 10,000 feet, where its cold, towards sea-level, where its above freezing. Obviously the top of the ice will melt, especially where a slope faces south, and the streams of melt-water that then get going in June and July can thunder. In New England we call such abrupt melting of snow and ice a “freshet” and they are usually brief, as we run out of snow to melt, while in Siberia the Lena River can rise sixty feet as the snows melt. However in Greenland the supply of snow and ice is not only boundless, but the streams are not running over rock and sand, but ice, and they cut crystal canyons and even find crevasses where they plunge underground. Ice-geologists have to be very careful, because one slip and you get no second chance and can’t hit the “replay button”, be they do take wonderful pictures of fantastic formations. The holes melt-water pours into are called “moulins” and they can be small:

Or they can be huge:

And I can understand why a young, strong geologist would want to get someone to pay him to look at such wonders. I myself prefer to stay home and, on a hot day in July, to type “Moulin images” into my search engine, and then sift through the thousands of pictures from glaciers all over the world.

I assume the Press does the same, to find a picture to sensationalize the screaming headline GREENLAND MELTING, (though sometimes they accidentally use a moulin from a glacier in Alaska or Tasmania.) But the picture the Press used this year was really unique, and made me chuckle.

The Press of course will fail to mention this is not an icecap. It is a lake or inlet, nice and flat, which does what lakes and inlets do, (freeze in the fall and thaw in the spring). This is a picture of some coastal-Greenland meteorologists heading out to retrieve some equipment before it sinks to the bottom.

You can tell this pictures is taken from a lower elevation because the mountains are snow-less and brown. To the upper right of the picture there is some evidence of the edge of the true Greenland icecap.

Once you move up onto the actual icecap and move away from the edges, temperatures rarely nudge above freezing, and are often far below. The deep snow compacts under the weight of year after year’s worth of snow, becoming this compact (yet surprisingly drafty) stuff called “firn”, and then finally compacts into the glacial ice, roughly a mile thick, from which ice cores are drilled. These ice-cores, when examined, do show a difference between winter snow and summer snow, which creates a yearly layer and allows the dating of cores. But they apparently show something else which is interesting.

Around once every 40 years a “blocking high-pressure” creates enough sunshine to actually create a thaw which can be noticed in the ice core records.

Such a thaw can’t merely be a few minutes above freezing. It must last long enough to soften at least the top sixteenth of an inch of snow, making it more like the sticky stuff that boys fling at each others in snowball fights, than the drifting powder which boys find fairly useless.

Please observe that, in the eyes of the media, a photo of the sun softening the top sixteenth inch of snow up at 10,000 feet would make a boring picture, (which is why the Press uses pictures from other places, in order to increase the sense of drama and sell more papers).

Also sometimes the temperatures nudge above freezing for such a brief time that the snow doesn’t even soften, nor leave a permanent record for ice cores. I assume the recent event was just such a brief thaw. However it is still possible to drum up drama and sell newspapers, even from such an inconsequential event….as follows:

First of all, the Press can stress the inconsequential event occurred over a vast area, and a sub-headline may scream, “40% of Greenland thawing.” Then the Press will include a graphic that is honest, but misleading if misinterpreted, such as this:

The above map has nothing to do with how much water was produced, or how much the sea–levels rose, but rather shows where temperatures inched above freezing enough to make snow sticky. It is a large area, for June. To me it demonstrates how the “blocking high-pressure” has made it especially sunny up there (and especially dismal, cold and rainy down in New England, where I live.)

The next step is to take the above data, (which involves “area” and not “amount”), and sensationalize how early the “area” is. But in fact, even if the top sixteenth of an inch of the snow over the entirety of Greenland softened, it wouldn’t produce even a trickle of water. It takes more serious melting to produce melt-water creeks and moulins. However to sell newspapers (and get grants) a graphic is created that is all about “area.”

It may be true that the mid-June “area” is “unprecedented” for so “early” (though in actual fact it should be expected, as the sun is near its highest), and it furthermore may be true the word “unprecedented” sells headlines, (especially when coupled with pictures of floods), but I must say, at the risk of being a “party poop” and “wet blanket”, that “area” is not the same thing as “amount”.

The records we have from the Greenland icecap are gathered by tough men in rough conditions, and I will not put such men down, but the data they gather are records that are recent, and can’t show the scope of history. The “average” of the above graph can’t include unseen variations hinted at by the history of Vikings in the Medieval Warm Period. And they don’t include “amount”.

Let me give you an example of how “area” can mean next to nothing, in terms of “amount”.

When we read that this “unprecedented” area is above freezing, it involves individual stations. Let us look at such a station, way up over 10,000 feet.

As you can see, at this station temperatures poked above freezing twice in a period of roughly fifteen minutes. (Not enough to flood Florida or the Netherlands). (And maybe not even long enough to soften the snow enough to be noted in future ice-core records.)

Yet this station’s temperatures are included in the blaring headline, “40% of Greenland Above freezing. Thaw Unprecedentedly Early.”

I suppose the above station deserves its fifteen minutes of fame as much as the next man, but I am not expecting a wall of melt-water to descend upon us, from the north, any time soon.