LOCAL VIEW –Reptiles Rule, Almost–

Every spring is different, and what has made this one unique has been the after-effects of a warm spell at the end of March followed by a deep freeze the first week of April. Certain flowering shrubs and trees, such as forsythia and black cherry, were right on the verge of blooming, and then seemed to put on the brakes. When the cold passed I waited for them to resume their budding and blooming, but the buds were blasted. The leaves came out, but there were simply no flowers this year.

I can’t tell you how much I missed the forsythia. It is such a happy bloom. It’s suppose to look like this amidst the late winter gray.Forsythia x intermedia Lynwood

Instead of that happy splash of color there were just stark stems, gradually leafing out with green. The cherry trees also just gradually leafed out. You could kiss your haiku sayonara.

Ordinarily the blooms, and especially the yellows, of spring evoke a sort of rollicking response in me. When I was a teenager, (after a winter that seemed particularly tragic to me, because a certain girl refused to smile),  even the yellowing of the branches of weeping willows defeated depression and prompted this joy:

Is that there a willow tree
In the winter’s gray?
Clowning yellows happily
And laughing in its play:
“Spring will come some day!”

Can it be a hidden grin
Is bursting out aloud?
A boatless sailors porpoise fin?
I see you’re in
Beneath your shroud.

But that was yesterday, and yesterdays’s gone.

Actually those two fellows are far too happy, singing that song. They fail to be morose in the proper manner. (Perhaps I should have linked to them singing, “Willow weep for me”.)

To live through a spring without the initial blooms is a sobering experience. After all, black cherries feed a lot of birds and critters, and it looks like there won’t be any, this year. Birds will be forced to seek alternative sources of nourishment, such as my vegetable garden.

The weather has gradually warmed in a desultory sort of way, and even the cold-blooded reptiles are stirring. Of course, snapping turtles are not welcome at my Farm-childcare, as their bite can take a child’s finger off. Yet one made an appearance today, though it was camera shy:

Snapping turtle IMG_2938

The males never leave the water, and tend to be draped by festoons of slimy algae, but the females can lumber quite amazing distances from their ponds to lay their eggs. Sometimes they travel five miles.  I think they don’t much want to share their ponds with their own children, or perhaps they don’t want the tiny offspring to be lunch for the grouchy fathers. The children are about the size of the lens in an average pair of spectacles, while the female in the above picture had a shell 18 inches (46 cm) from front to back. You shouldn’t be fooled by their lovely, friendly faces

Snapping turtle snapperhead

Photo credit http://mentalfloss.com/article/68505/10-biting-facts-about-snapping-turtles

Because they have very long necks

Snapping 3 common-snapping-turtle-breathing-at-surface-of-the-water (1)

Photo Credit  http://www.arkive.org/common-snapping-turtle/chelydra-serpentina/image-G136674.html

And they can bite you when you think you are at a safe distance.

Lastly, small children at a Childcare are not known for following orders. In some ways a farm is a good way to teach children to listen to elders; especially the older boys who are more rebellious. I once derived a certain smug and silent satisfaction when I witnessed a young know-it-all fleeing the rooster, setting a record for the hundred yard dash across the pasture, with the rooster a close second. I had repetitively warned the lad, “Stay away from that rooster”, but he wouldn’t listen. After the dash I didn’t have to say a word; the rooster had done the teaching.

On another occasion, after repeatedly telling a nine-year-old boy not to tease a particular goat we called “The Mean Queen”, I watched as that goat singled him out and, ignoring all the other children, stalked him like a cat does an unwary mouse, and gave him a good clout, pinning him against a tree. (The goat was hornless). The boy shot me a startled glace as he wriggled away from the goat, but I only shrugged and spread my palms in a way that was sign language for, “I told you so, but you didn’t listen, did you?”

However having a child lose a finger seems like going a wee bit too far, in my policy of letting children learn, from mistakes, that elders are doing more than ruining the fun, when they give orders.

We get many small children who arrive at our Childcare without any self discipline; wee tots turned into tyrants by permissive parents; and it takes me a while to teach them I am a fierce old grouch, a force to be reckoned with, as my “no” means “no” even if they tantrum until they are blue in the face.  (I might get faster results if corporal punishment was allowed, but it isn’t.) Progress is very slow in some cases, and I can’t take chances with a four-year-old “testing his boundaries” when I tell him to avoid a snapping turtle. Therefore I tend to get rid of snapping turtles at our Farm-childcare, when I can.

There shouldn’t be any uproar about turtle-removal, for snapping turtles are not endangered species in these parts, and about the only good they do is reduce the population of invasive Canada Geese by nabbing the cute goslings as they swim behind their parents. (Every golf course should import snapping turtles into their water hazards, to rid the fairways of Canada Geese.) Therefore there should be no uproar if we get rid of a turtle in the most natural and efficient way, which is to eat them.

We did eat a big old male, once, (and I have never chewed a tougher and more rubbery meat; I must have prepared it incorrectly.  I stewed it, and no amount of boiling would soften the meat.) However I have since learned modern mothers have soft hearts about most everything.  They are very spiritual, believe the lion should lay down with the lamb, and likely have never seen five cute goslings swimming behind a mother goose abruptly become four cute goslings behind a mother goose.  If they saw that their opinions might change, but as it is they are so softhearted they can make me feel guilty about putting a worm on a fishhook. The long version of this education involved a time I showed the kids how to make woodchuck stew, and if you have the time you can read about my education here:

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/groundhog-stew/

The short version is that I’ve learned it is safest to either make sure parents sign a permission slip, or look over both shoulders surreptitiously, before I so much as bait a hook.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate being educated by mothers younger than my daughters, and I may become a Buddhist yet, as I contemplate the feelings of worms as I hook them. (If not a Buddhist, I may become a fly fisherman). However it does seem odd young mothers want to control me, when they can’t control their darling toddler Adolf.

In any case, a snapping turtle on the Childcare property does present me with a bit of a problem.

This snapper would not even give me a decent picture. (That is why I had to use the pictures of others, and supply photo credits). I like taking my own pictures, but this female only poked her long neck up like a periscope once, and then, seeing I hadn’t left (and before I could aim my camera), ducked back down. She nestled more deeply into the leaves , and occasionally heaved a sigh, but didn’t poke her head up a second time, (which would have made a great picture.)

I waited and waited. I was so silent I could hear the grass grow, which reminded me of the job I was doing, when I first saw her, (mowing the grass.) Grass sometimes seems it is the only thing that is growing, this stunted spring. It’s a blasted nuisance. I’d rather watch a turtle than make a racket with a mower. But sometimes a man’s just got to do what a man’s got to do.

I use up lots of gas. It’s how I earn my pay:
Cutting lots of grass but never making hay.
Hay could feed some sheep which could feed and cloth the poor.
It makes me want to weep. Just who am I mowing for?

I’m a lawn-mowing man! I make the noise pollution!
I just do what I can, and await a revolution.

I kept checking on the turtle as I mowed, but she just stayed there, until I decided she must be laying eggs. This got me thinking. Turtle eggs make good eating, though they have some odd qualities. The whites never turn white, even if you boil them an hour, and therefore you need to fry them, or get over your dislike of uncooked whites. In either case, cooking turtle eggs would be yet another activity that makes my Childcare different from other Childcares.  At the very least, thinking about it kept mowing-the-grass from boring me to death.

It takes longer, but one thing I insist upon as I mow is bagging all the clippings and using them to mulch the garden. It cuts back on weeding, (which I like only slightly more than mowing), and also it makes mowing seem less pointless and useless. I mean, if people are going to worry about Global Warming, and yet use up umpteen gallons of fossil fuel cutting grass, and never use the grass for anything useful, then they will never dare criticize me, for I actually utilize what I cut. Right?

Wrong. I’ll save the details for some other night, but there are some folk who just hate farmers. No matter what you do they see it as some sort of rape of the environment.

It all seemed to conspire in a way that soured my sense of spring. Just as the forsythia has no happy yellow blooms, the next generation sometimes seems like a bunch of soured mothers with soured children. Grumph. Grumph. Grumph. And just then the next reptile gave me a shock, as I brought grass clippings to the garden.

Snake 1 FullSizeRender

It was a harmless and common garter snake, but snakes always make me jump at first. This one slithered into weeds and was being as uncooperative as the snapping turtle, when it came to being photogenic. However I was sick and tired of being patient with others when others are not always patient with me, so I poked it and forced it out into the sun.

Even the above photo seemed pretty dull, and unlikely to attract people to my website, and the snake wouldn’t sit still and be photogenic, and therefore, to make this post more interesting, I stepped on the end of the snake’s tail.

Snake 2 IMG_2965

Much more photogenic! What’s more, I noticed the snake’s tongue darted in and out much more often, when it was trapped. The tongues of snakes dart so quickly I’ve never gotten a good picture of one with its tongue out, but this seemed my chance.  I nearly exhausted my cell phone, but finally\ managed to catch this shot.

Snake 3 FullSizeRender

I was so pleased with the picture that I smugly decided there was a slight likelihood that the photo could go viral, and appear all over the web as an illustration for various blogs. But was the snake grateful for the possibility of fame?

Snake 4 FullSizeRender

Talk about unappreciative! But that’s how things have been going, this spring. You get no flowers. But I decided that, if the stupid snake didn’t want to be famous, he could go crawl about on his belly for all I cared. I would go see if the snapping turtle was more interested.

The snapping turtle had vanished. Furthermore, she left me no eggs. Apparently she only hunkered down in the leaves because she doesn’t like pictures, and deemed me the paparazzi. The nerve! Who does she think she is? Some Hollywood star?

As I rolled my eyes to heaven I noticed something. A branch of high-bush blueberry was loaded with blooms. Rather than finishing the lawn I investigated further into the brush. It was amazing, for every blueberry bush was covered with more blooms than I’d ever seen before.

Blueberries 1 IMG_2981

So maybe I did get some flowers after all. I just had to look for them.

Not that I expect any berries. This is likely just the Creator’s way of making up for the fact there will be few black cherries this year. Once birds realize there are few cherries, every bird in town will be chowing down in by blueberry patch.

My brief elation over blooms gave way to a gloom over an imagined lack of berries, and I trudged back to finish mowing the lawn.

That might make a good end to this post, but there was more, for the wind was picking up, purple clouds came hurrying over, and by the time I finished the lawn the gusts were chilly, and a driving mist was hinting at April. I rushed home to check the weather radar on my computer, and could see a cold front was ramming through, and that May snows were falling back in the Great Lakes, behind the front.

The way this spring has been going, the blueberry blooms will also get burned by frost, and they’ll wind up being worse than “for the birds”. They will be blasted, and there will be no berries for the birds. It will be, in the end, a sullen spring, a spring without flowers.

As I sat slumped at the computer, thinking how sad it is this spring gives me no bouquets, my wife, (who does not like it when I hurry to the computer to hunch over a radar screen without even saying “hello”), asked me if I’d completed a particular chore. Fortunately I had actually done it, though how I found the time only God knows. After all, as my faithful readers know, when I mow a lawn it involves a lot more than cutting the grass. It involves turtles. It involves snakes. It involves mulching the garden. It involves the blueberry crop, and the well-being of birds. It involves scanning the sky for frost in May. It involves important stuff, significant stuff,  like Global Warming. It involves the price of eggs in Africa.

Some days I envy robots. When they mow the grass, that is all they do. Some days I take my gloom a step farther, and think my wife would be happier with a robot. My daughters are not. They insist on bringing boys home that make even me look sensible. These young men do know about snapping turtles, but only because apparently there is a snapping turtle in some video game. Many do not know how to mow a non-virtual lawn.

The last video game I played was called “centipede”, a quarter century ago. Since then I’ve been too busy in the non-virtual reality to even watch ordinary TV shows. The only reason I go on-line is to study meteorology. The only reason I am involved in politics is because “Global Warming” dragged me into it, when all I originally wanted to do was avoid talking about unsafe stuff like religion and politics, and talk about “safe” stuff like the weather.

Be that as it may, I am now neck deep in serious stuff, significant stuff,  involving the hot topic of Global Warming. So far there is no reward. It is the epitome of a spring without flowers. In fact it is proof gloom is wise. To delve into the internet in this respect makes me live in a sort of basement.

Gloom IMG_2909

There is no forsythia in the above picture.  No happy spring. I can search the web all I want and my wisdom just gets darker. The politics of Global Warming isn’t warm, and proves cold-blooded reptiles rule, almost.

Almost, but not quite, due to an occupational hazard you face, if you run a Childcare. When you deal with children you may be older and wiser, and understand the logic of reptiles, but children know something reptiles don’t, and can be forsythia even when forsythia can’t.Gloom 2 IMG_2920

You can have been working a solid week to nurse a good gloom into life, but then a child will ruin it in five seconds. So I guess I’ll be gloomy about that.

I am bemused by my self, and conclude
I was made on a day the Creator
Mixed up pots of stuff that held nothing rude
And made good men, but when done, still had more.
In the artist pot, there was not enough
To make one; in the engineer pot,
Not enough; and so on, but such stuff
Should not be wasted, and so He took the lot
And mixed all together, curious
About what the mix might turn out to be.
I think that I ought to be furious
For the mix that he made turned out to be me.
I’m a Jack-of-all-trades who can do nothing well,
But if you make the Lord smile, you won’t go to hell.

LOCAL VIEW —Spring To Retreat—

Lazy Goats IMG_2221

Do not tell the Animal  Rights people my goats have been ruthlessly stricken by spring-fever and sloth, (so obvious in the above picture). Activists will not understand my goats are merely lazy, and instead activists will assume my goats must be dying, for everybody (and especially my neighbors) knows goats are never happy unless they are up to mischief. Even Christian scripture mentions “separating the sheep from the goats.” Sheep are good guys, and goats are baaaaa–d.

But my goats are different. These are not sick goats. These are laid-back, serene, spiritual, Buddhist goats. If any Animal Rights activist dares to impugn the character of my goodly goats by suggesting they are sickly, it will only prove activists are racists, and are not inclusive,  and are too narrow-minded to accept the possibility of Buddhist goats.

My goats are not so narrow minded. They can be Buddhist in this picture, and then convert to a pagan worship of Thor, Odin and other Viking gods, in the twinkling of an eye. They are strong believers in “diversity”, are open-minded, and are the epitome of impiety.

The amazing thing about this picture is to compare it to only a year ago. This picture was taken on March 31, and last year I could still (very carefully) walk atop the ice of the farm pond (nine feet deep) on April first. A year ago the land was still mostly snow-covered, except on south-facing slopes.

The one thing this picture fails to convey is the roaring wind. A few days ago the gales were northwest,  roaring due to a departing storm, but today the trees swayed and brown leaves swirled across the pasture in the mild, southwest gales of an advancing storm.20160331 satsfc

The above map doesn’t really hint at the dramatic change coming to New England, over the next week. It looks like the  small storm to our west will pass to our north. But, behind that storm, its northerly back-side winds are forecast to basically drag down the North Pole, (if the computer models are right). Deprived of its cold, the North Pole will be 25 degrees above normal, but we down here will be twenty-five degrees below normal.

Hopefully the models are getting carried away. At times they seem to be on drugs. Check out this Dr. Ryan Maue map from Joe Bastardi’s blog at the Weatherbell site, showing the fantasized situation in the upper atmosphere (500 mb),  a week from this Friday. April Blast eps_z500a_noram_33(42)

Allow me to interpret this map for you:  “Yikes!”

I’m not sure the frost will reach Florida, but Georgia Peaches are at risk, and Virginia’s peach crop may be completely ruined; frozen in the bloom. In fact, if the above map is right, New Hampshire may grow more peaches than Virginia this year, for ours haven’t budded out yet, and therefore we have no blooms to be spoiled.

(No store-bought peach can compare to one picked ripe from a tree, for store-bought peaches are picked hard and green and are artificially made to look ripe on the surface. For years we in New England endured inferior peaches. Then finally botanists bred a runty tree that could survive in the north. It’s peaches can’t compare to southern peaches, but they sure are a lot better than store-bought peaches. This year the land-of-Dixie people, even as far south as the mountains of Georgia, may have to buy peaches in stores (if they can find any at all), as we, up north, pluck them mouth-wateringly fresh from our runty trees. What irony!)

Yet I can’t become completely smug, because the computer models are not saying we damn Yankees will merely get a few hard frosts. We could get buried in snow. Check out this Maue-Map Joseph D’Aleo posted on his Weatherbell blog:

April Blast ecmwf_tsnow_neng_41(5)

Allow me to interpret this map for you:  Do you remember those gentle goats this post started with?  Guess what?  Over a foot of snow means they will no longer be Buddhists. They will be pissed off and crabby, and nag me with “Nahhh! Nahhh!” (It doesn’t matter if I explain I’m not in charge of the weather; like Global Warming Alarmists they say it’s all my fault.)

Are you wiser than a goat?  Will you allow a mere foot-and-a-half of snow to plunge you into abject despair, where you doubt the existence of God, and call the amazing beauty of Spring a complete lie which only babies believe exists, like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus?

With great deference and a humble and downcast eye, I meekly suggest the answer is, “yes.” If the computer models are right, and the mercy of the Almighty does not make computer models look silly and stupid, then, yes, the people in the northeast of the USA will make goats look like sheep, compared to humans, because the people’s mortal tempers will be so utterly bitter, nasty and foul.

O heed me, ye young puppies! For my hair is white with many winters! And I have seen these hard times before! Be ye not surprised when kissing lips snarl teeth, and your gray and gentle grandmother whips out a sword.

But hang in there, ye young puppies!  An April blizzard is but a passing shadow. Nightmares are not pleasant, but dawns do come. (But not until May.)

I’m tired of seeing the long years pass
And gleaning, from ordeals, tidbits of thought
That cannot be knowledge, for I’m made an ass
Each time I behave all the ways that I ought.

My hopes are that apple, dangled on string,
Ahead of a donkey who trudges on
Too stupid to see he won’t reach the danged thing
Until, at long last, he’s at Marblehead’s dawn.

And then? He stubbornly digs in his heels.
I don’t blame the mule. I know how he feels.
I’ve bought advertisement’s dishonest appeals;
But even a sucker gets sick of ordeals.

You promised us Spring! We’ve only seen snows.
We’re sick of your thorns. We yearn for the Rose.

LOCAL VIEW —BURNING WEEDS—

BURNING WEEDS 1 IMG_1171

The goats busted out and ate the tattered Brussels sprouts and kale, as they have keen eyes and go for the last green things in sight, but that is fairly normal for my farm. It is so normal that my wife made sure to pick all the kale except for tufts at the tops, and my middle son and his girlfriend stripped all the sprouts larger than a pea from the Brussels sprouts, which is one reason they looked so tattered. I myself like to leave the sprouts and kale out a bit longer, as frost improves the flavor, but the family knows my goats. The goats are a reason the family doesn’t know how much frost improves the flavor. It is a flavor that I alone know about, and never have been able to share.

There’s still around 25 pounds of potatoes to dig, still in the earth, saved underground because the children at the Childcare get such obvious joy from digging them up, plus there’s also perhaps ten pounds of parsnips underground, which the goats can’t get to because they haven’t learned how to dig…yet. (I once had a dog who would sneak into the garden to dig up a carrot, and then trot off to surreptitiously eat it.)   (The pigs are off being smoked, or they’d be out there digging them up.) For the most part the garden is finished for another year, and its weedy earth stretches out as a forlorn mockery of my aspirations, and of a dream I wanted to share.

The dead weeds, which are plentiful and in some places tower six feet tall, are especially galling, as they remind me I’m older and couldn’t work, last summer, the way I once delighted in. (I was a strange young man, I suppose, because I got pleasure from toil. I suppose toil was for me something like jogging is for other folk, though jogging was an activity that almost always seemed a complete waste of time, to me. Why jog when you could get as much exercise and more from hoeing? Why work out in a gym when you could toil in a garden, producing stuff you could eat,  which tasted better than anything from any grocery store? If you toil, you should reap a benefit, either a crop, if the garden is your own, or a paycheck, if you garden for another. I can’t imagine paying a gym. It makes no sense to toil, and then pay others for the honor of doing so.)

Even more galling is the fact it is November, and I’m suppose to be counting my blessings and be brimming with Thanksgiving spirit. It is the time of harvest, and we should be grateful no hailstorms hit, nor clouds of locusts, and there is something to harvest. Not much, in the case of my garden, but a little is better than nothing. Instead I seem be harvesting a strong sense of irony.

I know I’m older and should cut back, and last spring I really meant to only have a little, modest garden, that a doddering old guy could easily manage, but the enthusiasm of others tricked me into the usual insanity of spring. There is a reason for April Fool’s Day.

The days were getting longer so fast everyone went nuts. They were filled with wild-eyed aspirations and a manic nature that convinced me that they meant what they said, and would help with the weeding and more. So I went and rototilled the usual quarter acre, and planted like crazy, and then, around the end of May when the weather got hot, I looked around and wondered, “What happened to the weeders?” After spring fever ebbs people come to their senses and go home, but someone must face the consequences. In my case the consequences happened to be one mother of a garden I couldn’t possibly keep up with.

My harvest is towering weeds, and I am suppose to be thankful? Unlikely. There is a reason for Halloween’s morbid ghosts and goblins. The days are getting shorter so fast that everyone goes nuts. Gloom and doom invade and infect the psyche, and thankfulness is work, and an exercise of vigorous spirituality. I’m not there yet. (This may explain why Thanksgiving occurs weeks after Halloween. It takes time to muster thankfulness)

At this time I am in the autumn of my life, and am reaping what I sowed, and, to be frank, on some rainy mornings it looks like towering weeds. I gripe to my Creator for making me the way he made me. Why did he make me the sort of guy who stands up to a corrupted boss and tells him to go to hell? That is no way to last the decades it takes to collect a pension. In my experience, it was a way to be immediately fired.

I really do marvel at my peers who managed to put up with abysmal jobs for atrociously long periods of time, and now can sit back and collect pensions as I work.   Of course, some died before they collected, and some died amazingly quickly after they retired, and some seem…and I do not know how to put this politely…stunted.

For example, imagine being a schoolmarm over the past thirty years. It just seems to me that there have been numerous things, which honorable people would object to, that they have meekly turned a blind eye to, because making waves might threaten their pension. Drugging small children might be one example, and teaching the scientific falsehood of Global Warming might be another. Now they get their pension, which is a god they have worshiped more than standing up for the Truth. They fully expect to benefit for behavior I find revolting. They expect taxpayers like myself to make their old age cushy. They will be extremely upset if they reap what they sow in another manner, and the economy collapses, and hyperinflation means their pension check supplies them with enough money to buy only a single biscuit,  even as the students they drugged at age six threaten them, as drugged adults aged thirty-six. Schoolmarms would call such a fate utterly unjust, which to me suggests that they lived intellectual lives that never looked too deeply into the long-term consequences of their actions, which just might indicate that, for the sake of a pension, they allowed their psyches to become stunted.

Of course, they are the ones now getting pensions as I work my fingers to the bone and likely will die with my boots on, so perhaps all my talk is just a bad case of sour grapes.

So what have I got to be thankful for? Over forty-five years ago my generation set out to radically improve the world, to make it a planet of “Truth, Love and Understanding”, but the way things have turned out it has seemed those who worship filthy lucre (and that includes pensions) have done far better than those who have been willing to sacrifice prosperity, promotions, and even pensions, for Truth.

In a symbolic sense it is as if back in 1969, during the so-called “summer of love”, I set out to make a fabulous garden of social reform, and now I am confronted by towering weeds, dead and brittle in the November winds. So what does a farmer do?  He adds fertilizing ash to the soil of his garden, by burning the weeds.BURNING WEEDS 2 IMG_1169

In the above example the weeds grew over six feet tall after the six foot tall edible podded peas were for the most part harvested. My excuse for not weeding was that peas have shallow roots, and weeding harms the pea’s roots more than it helps them (but the truth is I am old, tire quickly, and when tired I gain strength by writing about arctic sea ice, rather than weeding.) We got a fine harvest of peas in June and July, but the weeds had all August to climb the chicken wire and at their highest towered seven feet tall. They looked big and tough, but a single match swiftly reduced them to ash, which is better for next year’s crop than their seeds. It was a heck of a lot easier than pulling all those weeds up, and disentangling them from the chicken-wire, and lugging all the dead stuff to a compost pile. The flash-fire even sterilized the chicken-wire.

However, outside of my little garden, in the larger, symbolic example I have highlighted above, it is frightening to think of supplying such a match. This world has already seen such conflagrations. Anger towards schoolmarms manifested during China’s “Cultural Revolution”, when China got rid if all its teachers. They destroyed to such a degree that, once they got over their madness, no teachers could be found to teach the next generation. They had to seek out the undergrads who had managed to survive the madness, (perhaps by being part of the madness), and promote them to the position of professors in colleges. And in Cambodia under Pol Pat the madness was even worse, for it was not only the schoolmarms who were eradicated, but the students like myself who butted heads with schoolmarms. All you needed, to deserve death, was to have a writer’s callous on the middle finger of your writing hand. That would have included me.

Obviously I don’t want to promote any madness that kills me. I don’t want to wind up like Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who opposed the death penalty, yet got his head chopped off by the devise he promoted as a more humane form of execution, during the time madness overtook France.

Therefore the match that burns weeds should be simple Truth.

Back in 1965 I was the youngest and smallest boy in my eighth grade class, yet had to confront a towering, grey-haired schoolmarm with her incorrectness. The “correct” answer in our textbooks and in her tests, concerning what built mountain ranges, was that the Earth was cooling, and cooling caused contraction, and therefore the skin of the earth buckled like the skin of a withering apple. However my older brother had given me a book about a new idea called “continental drift”. I had neither the power of Mao nor Pol Pot. All I could do was speak the Truth to an elderly woman who taught by the book. I still can recall the lost look in her eyes, when a little punk like me asked her to rethink the curriculum she’d been teaching for years.

Now, somewhat amazingly, fifty years have passed, and I still don’t have the power of Mao or Pol Pot, and yet still speak the Truth to schoolmarms who do things by the politically correct book. Or, at least, I think I do. From time to time I have to stop and take a hard look at myself.  Perhaps I am now the old, tradition-bound elder resisting new ideas. Perhaps the new ideas are to drug small boys and promote Global Warming, and I am just an old dog who can’t learn new tricks. But I always conclude that the very fact I am taking a hard look at myself is proof I am not hidebound, and am not stuck in some out-of-date textbook.

For Truth itself never gets old and never changes. It is a lodestone with which you test your ideas for their iron. It is only when your ideas become a curriculum you do by rote, year after year, never testing it, that we drift from truth into sterile traditions.

The politically-correct tend to sneer at scriptures as being merely musty traditions, and to feel they are following some sort of new and improved version of Truth, a sort of newer New Testament and glossier gospel. However if they actually opened their dusty,old Bibles and examined the ancient scriptures they might see their behavior described.  They might read the suggestion that bad things happen to those who focus more on smart-sounding, politically-correct political alliances than on being honest to Truth. The prophet Isaiah warned the Northern Kingdom not count on crafty alliances, but they didn’t listen, and the Assyrians led them off to captivity, and in the same manner Isaiah warned the Southern Kingdom, and they didn’t listen, and wound up led to captivity to Babylon.  In those cases political correctness and smart-seeming alliances didn’t pay off. However King David was utterly different, and likely looked nuts to those who promoted sacrificing Truth for political purposes and crafty alliances, for he put Truth first. In Psalm 118 the poet David states, (and I substitute the word “Truth” for the word “Lord”):

It is better to trust in the Truth
Than to trust in man.
It is better to trust in Truth
Than to trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me
But in the name of the Truth I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side
But in the name of the Truth I cut them off.
They swarmed about me like bees
But died as quickly as burning thorns;
In the name of the Truth I cut them off.

I was pushed back and about to fall
But the Truth helped me.
The Truth is my strength and my song;
He has become my salvation.

It is likely that David would appear to be a complete whack-job to today’s politically correct elite: A man prone to lust, rage, self-pity and black depressions. However David was a poet who was a king, and led his small nation to greatness against all odds. In like manner America’s founding fathers likely appeared to be whack-jobs to the politically correct royalty of Europe, for rather than accepting the Byzantine corruption of how things were done, they attempted to construct a constitution more closely allied with Truth, and in doing so they led a little string of colonies along a coastline to greatness, against all odds.

Truth seems to have the power to defy all odds, and to completely ignore political correctness. The next, great world power always seems to spring up from the most unlikely places. In 1480 Spain was two obscure kingdoms at the very edge of Europe. Great Britain was some offshore islands. If anyone had suggested, back then, that a pope would give Spain legal rights to half the planet, or the sun would never set on a future British Empire, the political experts would have scoffed. It would have been tantamount to telling modern experts that the Navajo Reservation would be a future world power.

Truth doesn’t care about the opinions of experts. Truth sees the truth, and if your establishment has become a field of dead weeds rattling in November’s wind, Truth supplies the match. There is no need for us mortals to raise the blood-stained hands of Pol Pot or Mao, for Truth can take care of itself. There is no need to plot the death of billions in the name of population control. Truth can take care of itself. Where mortals make a mess and a field of weeds, Truth enriches the soil with ashes.

And this applies to me as well. Should I become an old weed, I accept the match Truth shall light. I actually rather like the image of going out in a blaze of glory, and dying with my boots on rather than collecting a pension, and thinking how Dylan Thomas wrote,

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

BURNING WEEDS 1 IMG_1171

LOCAL VIEW -Hurricane Joaquin-Updated Wednesday morning

It is hard to get properly alarmed about hurricanes any more. Sooner or later we will get clobbered, and no matter how much warning is done before hand, the storm will be reported as coming either “without warning” or “with little warning.”

For what it’s worth, here is a warning I wrote for WUWT in 2012, which contains quotes from an earlier warning I wrote for Accuweather in 2006:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/21/hurricane-warning-mckibben-alert/

After so many years of warning people, I feel like a hybrid cross between Chicken Little and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  “The Chicken Who Cried Wolf”, perhaps.

I’m sick of it. I’m done with it. The simple fact of the matter is, it is too late. All you can do is rush out and buy some milk, along with all the other freaked-out people, if Hurricane Joaquin turns out to be “The Big One”.

It probably won’t. It will probably turn out to sea. Hurricane’s usually do, which is what breeds the sense of complacency, and even invulnerability.  Just before the 1938 hurricane completely trashed New England a college professor, professing to be an authority, announced that “hurricanes could not hit New England”, (for some reason it is best we forget). In that case a major hurricane hadn’t hit New England in over a hundred years. And, as it hasn’t been a hundred years since the 1938 hurricane, Joaquin probably won’t hit us.

If it does hit us, it will follow these three steps. One, it will mill about to our south, growing strong. Two, it will turn north and, still strengthening, start to take the characteristic accelerating path to the northeast and out to sea. And Three, “without warning” it will, accelerating even more, hook back to the northwest and clobber New England.

The amount of time the public will have between step 2 and step 3 will be around six hours. As you go to bed the late night news will be reporting the hurricane is heading out to sea, and when you awake the winds already will be rising. I’m convinced that, given the correct set of circumstances, not even the billions spent on satellites and computer models make all that much difference. (It might be interesting to plug the information we have concerning the 1938 hurricane, or Hurricane Carol in 1954, into our modern computers, and see if they recognized the threat 12 hours before New England got pummeled.)

When young I walked woods where all the rotting tree trunks lay in the same direction, and have seen those trunks slowly rot away, until now you can barely make out a long line of moss where the trunk once lay, and a low pile of stones where the roots once were torn from the earth. The forest is now full of pines over sixty years old. It is hard to believe the entire woods was flattened in a single hour, by Carol.

Some of those woods are now full of houses. I’m tired of coming across as an old crab, telling people their idyll is doomed. They worked long and hard to come up with the down-payment, and continue to work long and hard to come up with the mortgage payments, and the doom might not come in their lifetimes. Who needs some chicken crying wolf?

Of course, doom might come next Monday. But in that case it is likely too late to do much more than buy milk, ice, (and toilet paper. Don’t forget the toilet paper.)

I myself have a generator, plenty of containers that will hold plenty of gas, and a wood stove I can cook on, and firewood, and pigs and goats to feed the neighbors with, after their milk goes sour when their coolers run out of ice.  (But I’m not sharing my toilet paper. One has to draw the line somewhere.)

So I am just going to sit back and watch, to see if Joaquin heads out to sea or not. This post will contain updates, (and also poetry, which some flee from faster than they do hurricanes).

Hurricane Joaquin 2 HUIR(5)20151001 satsfc

(Click maps and pictures to clarify and enlarge.)

Currently the stationary front would seemingly protect the east coast. The problem is that low off Florida. If that digs into the upper atmosphere it can change the “steering currents,” and a hurricane headed safely northeast out to sea can back to the northwest.

To the south again lurks the hurricane
Making mockery of idyllic palms,
Balming breezes, and sweet rum that calms pain
Served by babes in grass skirts. Instead a bomb’s
Hidden in the wrapping paper. The south
Holds no mercy for the north’s limping troops.
Poison brims the bloom sipped by the bee’s mouth.
Youth tastes time and grows gray and stoops.
Low moaning’s in the music, a background
Full of ominous portents of doom.

Is this then the harvest? The crop found
By one who bouquets the wrong sort of bloom?
Love we should sow, but the world is insane
And builds on a beach before a hurricane.

MONDAY MORNING

Hurricane Joaquin 1002 HUIR

500 AM EDT FRI OCT 02 2015

...EXTREMELY DANGEROUS JOAQUIN MOVING SLOWLY NORTHWESTWARD AS IT
BATTERS THE CENTRAL BAHAMAS...
...HURRICANE CONDITIONS TO CONTINUE OVER THE CENTRAL BAHAMAS
TODAY...


SUMMARY OF 500 AM EDT...0900 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...23.3N 74.7W
ABOUT 20 MI...35 KM NE OF CLARENCE LONG ISLAND BAHAMAS
ABOUT 50 MI...80 KM SSW OF SAN SALVADOR
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...130 MPH...215 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NW OR 315 DEGREES AT 3 MPH...6 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...935 MB...27.61 INCHES

Hurricane Jiaquin 1002B uv900_swath_nest3__2_(1)

Notice how the model swings it back towards New England before curving it out to sea. That makes a fellow nervous.

AFTERNOON MAP

It is still just sitting down there, nudging ever so slightly north. 20151002 satsfc

SUMMARY OF 800 PM EDT...0000 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...24.3N 74.3W
ABOUT 25 MI...40 KM NNE SAN SALVADOR BAHAMAS
ABOUT 795 MI...1280 KM SW OF BERMUDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...125 MPH...205 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NE OR 40 DEGREES AT 7 MPH...11 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...943 MB...27.85 INCHES

I’d hate to be holed up in the central Bahamas right now. Sustained winds of 125 mph, and Joaquin is only slowly crawling away. At least in New England a hurricane comes plowing through at top speed, and is in and out before you really know what has hit you.  The 1938 hurricane was moving at over 50 mph when it clouted New England, but Joaquin is only moving at 7 mph.  By the time it finally moves away they won’t have a palm tree left. God help them.

At least it is moving NE, away from land.

SATURDAY NIGHT UPDATE 

...EXTREMELY DANGEROUS HURRICANE JOAQUIN CONTINUING NORTHEASTWARD
TOWARD BERMUDA...


SUMMARY OF 1100 PM AST...0300 UTC...INFORMATION
-----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...28.0N 68.9W
ABOUT 385 MI...620 KM SW OF BERMUDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...130 MPH...215 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NE OR 50 DEGREES AT 20 MPH...31 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...944 MB...27.88 INCHES

Now is when the hurricane starts to accelerate harmlessly  (unless you live on Bermuda) out to sea, and everyone goes to bed unsuspecting. The “Big One” will shock people with a very different forecast in the morning, but that only happens 1% of the time.  Sleep well.

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE

...OUTER RAINBANDS AFFECTING BERMUDA...
...DAMAGING WINDS EXPECTED ON BERMUDA LATER TODAY...


SUMMARY OF 800 AM AST...1200 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...30.4N 67.1W
ABOUT 210 MI...340 KM SW OF BERMUDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...115 MPH...185 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NE OR 35 DEGREES AT 21 MPH...33 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...956 MB...28.23 INCHES

Joaquin continues to head out to sea, but I’m not lowering my guard quite yet, as our steely gray skies and east wind have given way to blue skies with an east wind, which means the high pressure is coming down over us. This is great if it shunts the hurricane out to sea, but bad news if it manages to get in front of the hurricane. In the upper atmosphere map below you can see what the computer model imagines we will see tomorrow morning. (Dr. Ryan Maue map from Joseph D’Aleo’s site at Weatherbell.)Joaquin 4 ecmwf_z500a_noram_7

The above map shows the low pressure off Carolina and the high pressure ahead of Joaquin which, in a worst case scenario, could sling it northwest. Those much wiser than I are fairly certain it will “escape” northeast, though Joseph D’Aleo states those on Cape Cod shouldn’t entirely lower their guard quite yet, and they will get some good surf.

A weirder solution would have Joaquin slow and do a loop. One of the weirdest solutions I have seen occurred in 1971, when I was about to sail south on a teenager’s misadventure.  A hurricane named Ginger headed out to sea, and then stopped, and spent a solid week slowly backing west and making a mess of all sailor’s plans. But that is a story for another time. I’ll just say I’m glad I’m not out on a boat this October 4, in the waters of Buzzard’s Bay heading south, as I was that October 4. Sometimes being an old man looking at maps and satellite pictures isn’t all bad.

Joanquin 4 HUIR(7)

SUNDAY EVENING UPDATE

...RAGGED EYE OF JOAQUIN PASSING JUST TO THE WEST OF BERMUDA...
...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS CONTINUE ON THE ISLAND...


SUMMARY OF 500 PM AST...2100 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...32.2N 66.4W
ABOUT 95 MI...150 KM W OF BERMUDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...100 MPH...155 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NNE OR 15 DEGREES AT 14 MPH...22 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...958 MB...28.29 INCHES

It is swerving slightly back towards land, but no one seems the slightest bit concerned, as the the westerlies are coming south to the north, and also the storm is weakening some.  

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE

Winds shifting a little south of east, here in New Hampshire, with only the crescent moon and bright Venus able to shine through a thin layer of strato-cumulus coming inland from the sea. Some higher clouds remotely seen through this lower deck, coming from the southeast. I’d be more nervous if wiser men weren’t certain the remote possibility of a sneak-attack-hurricane has faded away.  Joaquin likely will curve east and make a beeline for the Azores, but it currently is swerving just a little towards the NNE to see if it can get me to flinch.

...JOAQUIN EXPECTED TO MOVE AWAY FROM BERMUDA TODAY...


SUMMARY OF 500 AM AST...0900 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...34.1N 65.2W
ABOUT 125 MI...205 KM N OF BERMUDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...85 MPH...140 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NNE OR 25 DEGREES AT 13 MPH...20 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...964 MB...28.47 INCHES

MONDAY EVENING UPDATE

SUMMARY OF 500 PM AST...2100 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...35.8N 64.0W
ABOUT 245 MI...395 KM N OF BERMUDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...85 MPH...140 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NNE OR 30 DEGREES AT 12 MPH...19 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...964 MB...28.47 INCHES

TUESDAY UPDATE

...JOAQUIN SLOWLY WEAKENING WHILE ACCELERATING NORTHEASTWARD...


SUMMARY OF 1100 AM AST...1500 UTC...INFORMATION
-----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...38.3N 59.6W
ABOUT 665 MI...1075 KM SSW OF CAPE RACE NEWFOUNDLAND
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...80 MPH...130 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NE OR 55 DEGREES AT 18 MPH...30 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...974 MB...28.77 INCHES

Today Joaquin made up its mind and hitched a ride on the Westerlies across the Atlantic towards England.

20151006 satsfcEven as Joaquin vanishes off the right margin of the map that describes New England’s world view, Old England sees it appear on the left margin of the UK Met map describing their world view:Surface pressure chart - Forecast T+12 - Issued at: 0800 on Tue 6 Oct 2015

The UK Met has what is left of Joaquin running along the north coast of Spain next Sunday, so I may update this post a few times more, though it isn’t really a “local view”

However at this point I should likely tip my hat to the forecasters who had the nerve to go out on a limb and guess where this dangerous storm was going to go, especially Joe Bastardi over at Weatherbell, who did the best I saw, even though he did adjust is forecast from up-the-coast to out-to-sea. He made his adjustments before others, and all in all did an amazingly good job of predicting what cannot be predicted.

I stand by my guns, when it comes to the fact that one of these days one of these storms will look all the world like it is going out to sea, and then will swerve back northwest and shatter the windows of Boston’s skyscrapers while ripping just west of town, heading north at 50 mph. However even a blind squirrel can find a nut. I will be wrong 99 times before I am right once, as a guy like Joe Bastardi is right 99 times before he is wrong once.

But when I’m finally right, won’t I ever get the spotlight!  Headlines written by idiots will suggest I’m a better forecaster than Mr. Bastardi.  And me?  Hopefully I’ll have the brains to milk my day in the sun, and wind up nicely tanned.

In which case you should tap me on the shoulder, and remind me I am just an Eeyore.Eeyore rsz_eeyore61_5881_5847

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE

SUMMARY OF 500 AM AST...0900 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...40.5N 49.4W
ABOUT 465 MI...750 KM SSE OF CAPE RACE NEWFOUNDLAND
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...75 MPH...120 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...ENE OR 75 DEGREES AT 32 MPH...52 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...977 MB...28.85 INCHES

WEDNESDAY NIGHT UPDATE

...JOAQUIN HAS BECOME A POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE...
...THIS IS THE LAST ADVISORY...


SUMMARY OF 1100 PM AST...0300 UTC...INFORMATION
-----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...42.0N 37.0W
ABOUT 595 MI...960 KM WNW OF THE AZORES
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...65 MPH...100 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...E OR 80 DEGREES AT 35 MPH...56 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...977 MB...28.85 INCHES

Surface pressure chart - Analysis - Issued at: 0800 on Wed 7 Oct 2015

Current forecasts show a greatly weakened Joaquin sliding along the north coast of Spain and then ducking south along the France-Spain border into the Mediterranean by next Monday.

LOCAL VIEW –Animal Crackers 1A–

The high pressure has passed out to sea, and the wind is swinging around from north to south, but staying from the west, which keeps us dry. Sometimes, as the winds swing around from north to south, the difference between the cold eastern side of a high pressure cell and the warm western side of a high  pressure cell is marked by a nice, neat warm front. That didn’t happen today. Even as I felt the air grow more kindly, the sky remained more or less cloudless. Perhaps, if I had really taken the time to study the sky, I might have noticed a warm front was trying to form, or starting to form, or existed in some sort of protofrontal state, but I was otherwise occupied. Also the weather map shows no warm front, even as the air warms.

20150524 satsfc

The above map shows the warm front forming well to our west, and the yellow evidence of high clouds to the north of the front, and extending east past the end of the front right over where I live in New Hampshire. When I step outside I see a night sky gone starless. Does this mean the warm front is rapidly extending eastwards? Is there a hope of rain?

During the day the democratic sunshine falls equally, but is employed unequally, and creates all sorts of chaotic local variances that messes up the flow from the south,  but at night all that chaos ceases. A southerly flow gets more of a chance to do its thing in an organized manner, and one of its things is called, “warm air advection,” which can create a lovely mass of nighttime thunderstorms that wake you at dawn with morning thunder and the delicious sound of your garden getting watered for free.

So I eagerly look to the radar, to seek signs of showers in the southerly flow.

20150524 rad_ec_640x480 Blast. Not a shower in sight, east of Michigan.

It looks like the drought is going to continue, as yet again the warming occurs without much of a front. The best I can hope for all the upcoming week is that the southerly flow creates some afternoon thunderstorms, which tend to be hit-or-miss in nature, but tend to hit some areas more than my area, which tends to be missed more often than hit, (unless winds swing around to just east of due south, in which case we can get clobbered by our loudest thunder.)

The drought means someone has to stand about with a hose watering the poor plants in the parched garden. Fortunately, as a writer, I can afford to be a gentleman farmer, and hire a staff of three gardeners. Unfortunately my writing never sells because I can’t be bothered to brown-nose, and this means my staff-of-three in the garden consists of three 62-year-old complainers who work for free, called “Me”, “Myself” and “I”. (I suffer from triplophrenia, you see.)

As we stood about watering the plants today we had pretty much decided that the entire idea of farming is a losing proposition, especially if you are 62-years-old.  If you are young and suffering from an excess of hormones, farming is a great way to get exhausted and sleep well without doing the exhausting stuff that winds you up in jail. However by age 62 we are suppose to know better. So, why the -bleep- do we farm?

After discussing this question we decided we didn’t want to go there. The question is one that a fool psychologist would ask, and expect you to pay him for supplying him with an answer. This never has made sense to us. If he doesn’t know, he should be paying us for answering his questions.

Then the psychologist would pretend he knew it all along, which would be ridiculous, because the answer he would come up with would be nuts. He would want to charge us more for making up some name for us. Maybe it would be DADAD, which would stand for “Digging A-lot-of Dirt-with Affection Disorder.” Then he would try to charge us even more money for some drug that would make us bland and uninteresting, and likely unable to dig dirt and garden. Isn’t it ridiculous? The three of us decided we should call him a FAFAS, which stands for….never mind. (If I told you what FAFAS stands for, psychologists might sue, which also makes no sense. How can they call other folk names, and expect other folk to pay for being disparaged, and yet  then expect other folk to pay them even more for “defamation of a professional’s character”, when the other folk get irate over being disparaged and call psychologists names back?)

We three have some mighty interesting discussions, as we water the carrots.

By the time we got to watering the broccoli we had pretty much decided we weren’t going to pay to become bland and uninteresting, but rather would figure out how to charge other people for answering their questions about how it is we have wound up the opposite of bland and uninteresting.

One idea we floated was to write a book about one of the benefits of farming that can’t be measured with money; namely: How enchanting it is to be so closely associated with animals.

Vegans and Animal Rights Activists think they care about animals, but tend to live too far away from the eat-or-be-eaten reality of a farm to truly understand both what is beastly about beasts and what is beautiful about beasts. Often, when they lecture farmers, they come across like spinsters lecturing mothers about motherhood.

We decided the best animal-character to use, to underscore the eat-or-be-eaten aspect of our farm, would be “Victory” the fox. Of course, we don’t raise foxes on our farm, but this vixen has spared me the bother of raising chickens by defeating all my fences, and over and over taking all my chickens to feed her cubs with. (Victory has repaid me by raising two litters of pups where the children of my Farm-Childcare can sneak up, peer through underbrush, and watch baby foxes play outside of a hole in the hillside.  Considering I myself never saw this, even when I discovered where vixens lived, until I was over sixty, I know the kids at my Childcare are lucky, and that my Childcare is special.)

Victory got her name because she always won. Even when my free-range chickens were reduced to being limited-range chickens, and finally demoted to penned-up concentration-camp chickens, Victory laughed at my fences. However this year things are different, due to one of my goats named “Muffler.”

(How Muffler got her name is a story for another evening, but I will mention her brother’s name was “Tailgate.”)

Even when Victory ate all our chickens, we kept being given more. People would purchase cute and fluffy Easter chicks for their children, and then be horrified that the cute creatures lost their fluff and became the thinly-feathered and gawky creatures called “pullets”. After dealing with ugly, stinky pullets for a week or two they became all too eager to get the smell from their homes. Therefore, even though I would be glad to be done with chickens for once and for all, over and over I would wind up stuck with more of them. Then they promptly thrive on our farm. Even if they have been complete failures, as egg-layers, they abruptly start laying left and right, which I find a bit of a nuisance. After all, they are suppose to be a business expense. They are not suppose to be productive. That will only get me in trouble with the IRS, which will demand a full account of all the blasted eggs these free-range-hens are laying all over the place.

Suppose I found an egg and ate it. Have you any idea how this would complicate my taxes? There is a whole formula involving “home use”, and I don’t want to open that can of worms. It is obvious to me that, if I ate an egg, it would bankrupt me, because farm-fresh eggs taste a hundred times better than store-bought eggs, and therefore, if store-bought eggs cost $3.00 a dozen, I should charge myself a hundred times as much, or $300.00 a dozen, for farm fresh eggs.

You may think I am exaggerating, but I recently bought a store bought egg, and was amazed how it failed to behave like an egg, when I broke it in the pan. Where a fresh egg has two whites, (a watery white that spreads out, and a jelly that clings to the yoke,) this egg had only one, slimy white that wasn’t clear, but sort of cloudy.  Also, where a fresh yoke stands up from the pan like a half moon, the store-bought yoke lay as flat as the white did. Lastly, where a fresh yoke is vibrantly yellow, even verging on orange, the store-bought yoke was an insipid yellow, like the color of a manila folder. There was no way I wanted to put that store-bought crud in my mouth after I fried it. It didn’t even smell right, but in the interests of science I tasted it, and it didn’t even taste like an egg. Mostly it tasted like 90 days in a refrigerator, but behind that stale freezer-burn flavor was the blank-eyed derangement of assembly-line-chickens, kept in cramped darkness by people who do not share my belief that part of farming is to be closely associated with animals.

Because store bought-eggs taste like blended freezer-burn and abscess-existence, the IRS would obviously expect me to get $300.00 a dozen for each dozen of my delicious, farm-fresh eggs, and my chickens lay dozens upon dozens. I’d have a hard time accounting correctly, in a manner up to IRS standards, because the truth is: I have a hard time even finding where the cotton-picking free-range chickens have laid the blame things. But I know the IRS would doubt me, if I gave them that excuse. They think people have nothing better to do than to hunt hidden eggs and keep careful accounts.

Therefore I have nothing to do with the eggs. I will not touch them with a ten foot pole. I leave the work of collecting eggs to Myself and Me, and it is those two who will have to go to jail, for eating several thousand dollars worth of scrumptious eggs, and not even declaring it on their taxes.  (Come to think of it, I don’t think those two even bother with taxes. If the IRS ever catches on, they will be in big trouble. Likely I’ll be in trouble as well, because the IRS will figure out I don’t pay those guys anything close to minimum wage, and don’t withhold their taxes.)

It would make my life a lot simpler if Victory would just eat my chickens, and be done with it, but this year Muffler has decided to become a defender of chickens, and every time Victory advances across the pasture Muffler goes trotting out to meet the vixen, lowering her horns. Victory sits down and cocks her head inquisitively, refusing the indignity of backing off from a mere goat, and when Muffler then paws the dry pasture and advances further, Victory trots away to to the left as if she always intended to go that way, and was only pulling over at a rest stop to enjoy the view. for a moment.

The chickens were quick to catch on, and now, as soon as they spot Victory, they hustle to get behind Muffler.

I’d have no hope anything would rid me of my blasted chickens, however a clumsy hawk has recently appeared, who I call “Lurker.” Either Lurker is very young or very old, but whatever she or he is, he or she is a lousy hunter. She swoops down on squirrels, but her talons grab at the turf three feet short of where the oblivious squirrel is busy. The stupid squirrel deserves to be dead, knocked into the next world without knowing what hit him, but instead it is totally scared out of its wits, and does a jump which holds several twists and back-flips. (You can almost imagine a row of Olympic judges holding up cards reading, 9.7; 9.9; 9.8; 9.7.) The shock is so huge that I think all our red squirrels have been turned into gray squirrels. Then the squirrel escapes, streaking off flat-out at top speed, as Lurker dusts himself off and laboriously flaps slowly back up to the tree tops.

Lurker decided my chickens looked like more easy prey, and began frowning down from trees near their coop, but just before he could do me the favor of relieving me of the tax burden of chickens, a gang of local crows noticed him, and harangued him with swooping choruses of cries, until he fled away under the canopy of trees.

I see all this stuff, as I stand there watering my radishes in a drought. Watering radishes would be a pretty boring job, and fairly unprofitable, considering the price of radishes, but there is this benefit which I, (and also Me and Myself), derive from watching foxes and crows and goats and hawks and chickens.

Vegans and Animal Rights activists may think this story is charming because my chickens are still alive. They apparently don’t care for the hungry hawk’s rumbling stomach, or Victory’s hungry cubs. However today I was in the mood to personally strangle those chickens for doing something even Vegans would find deplorable.

Vegans would like the part of my garden dedicated to organic spinach and lettuce. I water the greens a lot in the drought, as they love water, and to keep them from being parched by the water-sucking weeds I’ve made sure to heavily much between the rows.

But then my free-range chickens decided to rearrange things. They should be called “free-arrangers”,  because they discovered there were no bugs in the exposed, sun-baked soil, but there were a few bugs under the mulch. Therefore the hens went and, in a most meticulous manner, hopped scratching down the rows, removing all the mulch from between the rows, and heaping it on top my tiny, tender lettuce and spinach seedlings. In other words, they created a situation that was more favorable to water-sucking weeds than my spinach and lettuce. In fact, as I went down the rows, putting mulch back where mulch belonged, I saw some lettuce and spinach plants couldn’t withstand the abrupt shift between bright, hot, dry sunshine, and the the cloying crush of mulch’s mushroom-house humidity. Beneath the mulch they had swiftly gotten moldy and died.

Vegans may be spiritual about a lot of things, however everyone has their breaking point, and I think that, if they were faced with the prospect of having no lettuce and no spinach, they might be at odds with Animal Rights Activists, and shout, “This free-range chicken business has simply gone too far!

In which case they are coming down to earth with a thump, and entering the down-to-earth reality of a farmer. Often it takes losing what you care most about to ground you.

The fact of the matter is that many who think they care about nature have little idea nature is a eat or be eaten reality. They live upon scaffolds built upon scaffolds built upon scaffolds, up in an Ivory Tower created by Academics, Economists, Bureaucrats and others who don’t have to farm, and can eat without having any idea what life in the dirt entails.

Me, Myself and I think it might be helpful to such people if we described the world of sharing space with eat-or-be-eaten animals, with a series of “Local Views” called “Animal Crackers”.  After ten or so episodes we’ll publish an eBook and make a large amount of money. Then, at long last, we’ll be able to sit in the shade, sip mint juleps wearing the gray suits of a plantation-owner, and watch others water our garden.

We won’t give up on gardening or go indoors. If we did that we’d miss the animal’s antics and lose the enchantment of farming. In fact the hard part of writing the best seller will be going indoors to write. I don’t think I can handle such deprivation, and Myself agrees, but Me says we can get a laptop and do our writing outside.

(And, if there is one thing sure to make it rain and end our drought, I’m fairly certain leaving a laptop out on a table by the garden will do it.)

LOCAL VIEW –For Missus and For Sythia–

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Photo Credit:  http://www.instesre.org/TemperateClimate/TemperateClimate.htm

This past week has seen a reversion to wintry weather, with frost on the windshields and ice in the puddles. The budding trees have hit the brakes, and the ponds have gone nearly silent.

Back when the weather was more kindly, on April 16, I heard the first frogs, which are not the spring peepers but another small frog I’ve heard called “banjo frogs” (perhaps because they make a “Twank” sound,  a bit like a breaking banjo string). (The Australian frog with the same name actually sounds more like a banjo.) I call them “spring quackers” because they also sound a bit like ducks. They are lower and quieter than peepers, and always seem to beat the peepers by a day or two, when it comes to announcing the ponds are coming back to life. They are far less obvious than the peepers are. Where the peepers peep is piercing and shrill, the quackers are more of a low muttering, almost subliminal.

At our childcare I asked a small girl, around age three, if she could hear them, and at first she shook her head. Then her eyes changed, and she tilted her head, and looked off curiously through the trees. I asked her if she’d like to sneak closer, and she nodded. (Most kids like to sneak.) Then we crept through the pines, and it was wonderful to watch the child’s face fill with wonder as we drew closer and the plaintive “twanking” became more obvious. However then my idiot dog came lunging through the underbrush, plunging along the side of the pond to see what we were up to, and the frogs immediately became silent and the water ahead was dimpled with rings of ripples. I told the girl my dog wasn’t very good at sneaking, and she nodded.

By the next day the peepers had started their shrieking, and all the subtlety was lost.  They demand attention, which doesn’t seem a very good survival strategy, until you sneak up on them and understand they confuse predators by being both numerous and deafening. It is hard to locate a single frog by its peep, with so many other peeps coming at you from all angles. And they also become immediately silent, if you move too fast. I find them amazingly difficult to locate. They are also amazingly loud, once you see how small they are.

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(Photo credit: Mike Marchand.)

They also can stand being frozen solid, due to some sort of antifreeze in their blood. This was a good thing, as the promise of spring seemingly became a lie.

Just as the first frogs are tiny, so are the first blooms on the swamp maples, which are the first tree to bud out. The lowlands go from being silvery thickets to being touched by a raspberry mist I have yet to see captured by a photograph, but you have to poke your nose close to see how lovely the individual flowers are.

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(Photo credit: https://piedmontgardener.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/maple-flowers-and-buds.jpg )

Ours are a bit more purple than the the flowers pictured above, and they look a lot worse after they’ve been blasted by frost. I’m going to watch, to see if they make many seeds this year.  We got into a northwest flow on Tuesday that wouldn’t quit, and were still in it on Friday.

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A few flakes were in the roaring wind on Wednesday, and Thursday’s purple clouds kept pelting us with white, Dr. Seuss pompoms of  fluffy hail called “graupel”, and Friday morning began with a whirling flurry that briefly made the view look like January, though it never stuck to the ground. It was not weather conducive to ambition, in the garden, which turned out to be a good thing, for my  wife had other ambitions.

I wound up repairing the fence in front of the house, as the winter’s plows trashed what little was left of the old one. I fear I spend so much time over at the farm that I neglect my home, and the lack of care shows, and annoys my wife. The Memorial Day parade comes down Main Street and passes right in front of our house, and my wife doesn’t believe me when I say all eyes are on the parade and not our house. Consequently I spend time every spring at home, sprucing the place up, right when I feel I should be gardening.

There actually was a parade this morning, but as usual I always forget it, and get a shock. At the start of the baseball season the children are marched from the fire station to the ball field with blaring fire engines and police cars, and every year I think it is a terrorist attack.

After watching my grandson in his first game my ambition was to nap, but my middle son has the ambition to grow pear trees and see if he can start a microbrewery making a sort of pear cider called “perry”.  This is a long-term project, but in the short term involves planting four trees at the childcare, and also involves controlling my goats, so they don’t eat his saplings. This in turn involved repairing the electric fence, so that is what I wound up doing rather than snoozing.  Rather than rested I wound up feeling as you’d expect, after fighting with cold wire in a cold wind.

My ambition is now to simply survive until noon Monday. Sunday will not be a day of rest for me, as I am giving the sermon at our church. We have dwindled to a size so small that, fort the first time in 265 years, we can’t afford a pastor or interim pastor, and instead have “guest speakers” which includes our selves, (as we are cheapest) (IE free). We don’t call our sermons sermons, but rather call them “messages”, but mine will be a sermon all right.

My “message” is liable to be grouchy, as I have to fast on clear fluids, and then later in the day flush out my system and spend a lot of my time on the toilet, as my doctor wants to have a look inside my colon first thing Monday morning. It is hard to be happy about this prospect. A man of my advanced years expects to be treated with more dignity than that, especially right after giving a sermon at church.

It is also hard to see much prospect of Spring busting out.  We need south winds, as we are surrounded by cold in other directions. The Great Lakes still have ice, and there is still an amazing four feet of snow not all that far to our north. (The purple areas in the Dr Ryan Maue map below, from Joseph D’Aleo’s site at Weatherbell.)

Snowdepth to north April 22 ecmwf_snowdepth_conus2_1(1)

It is hard to see much hope in the current map, with the warm rains suppressed so far to the south.

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 However with the sun as high as it is in mid-August, spring is only seemingly denied. This morning, even with a skim of ice on puddles, when a beam of sun pooled in the east-facing shallows of the pond, a single peeper let out a solitary yelp. And I remind myself the ice was still thick enough to walk upon, on April first. Things have melted; spring isn’t denied.

The buds only seem on hold. Trees are very smart, for a being without brains, and they know when to bust out all over. The forsythia is yellower every day, even without blooming, and, even as I stood sulking by my garden yesterday, a bluebird landed on a fence-post nearby. It’s hard to argue with that.

POSTSCRIPT

The “spring quackers” are officially called “wood frogs”, and sound like this:

LOCAL VIEW —The giant sponge—

It was a sodden Saturday, so cold that I suppose I can call it a “winter event”, because temperatures were at freezing in the odd manner that allows rain to freeze and make silver one patch of trees, while fifty yards away the twigs are merely wet and brown. The location of the silver patches is mysterious to me, for the colder air can pool on odd places, halfway up a hill, when my logic would assume the cold air would sink and only be in low places.

I had to do a lot of dull stuff and couldn’t work on my novel like I wanted to. Banking and taxes seem a sort of exact opposite of creativity. In fact I know the IRS frowns on any sort of creativity whatsoever. If ever you wonder why America lacks poetry, blame the IRS.

Beams of light came through the front door despite the dreary day, first as my middle son came in with his girl friend from Maine, and later as my youngest son came in after a tour of the west coast, radiant despite the fact he hadn’t slept in 36 hours. It was good to watch the brothers being brothers again, and provided me with an excuse to procrastinate from doing the dreary stuff, though I did have to leave and get feed for my goats, and miss an hour of their banter.

As I went out I expected to see, and especially hear, signs of the spring freshet. You can visibly see how the deep powder snow has settled over two feet. Amazingly, beyond a trickle here or there off eves, or on a flat road, there is no sign or sound of rising brooks. A drain at the foot of my driveway, which always looks down at a little, rushing brook in the spring, only looked down at wet sand.

The snow is still acting like a giant sponge.  It sucks up all the melting. Though it has shrunk from four feet deep to two feet deep, it actually holds more water. I suppose this means the threat of flood is growing, but I have enough to worry about, with the IRS, and can’t be bothered worrying about flooding when there is no sign of it.

Question: How is the government like four feet of powder snow?

Answer: Both behave like giant sponges.

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