LOCAL VIEW –Facing The Destroyer–

In humanity’s attempt to get it’s puny mind around the infinity of the Creator, humanity is forever subdividing the unity of God into various aspects. At its worst this fragments Oneness into a whole pantheon of lesser gods or saints, who tend to be at war with each other, but at its best it is like a lover listing the beautiful attributes of their Beloved.

One trinity, made out of the inseparable One, is the idea of God as Creator-Sustainer-Destroyer, (or Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, in Hindu thought).  People (myself included) seem to have trouble with the third part of this trinity, “God the Destroyer.”  Though we know all things in creation are fleeting, “dust-to-dust, ashes-to-ashes”, we object to death.  We want life to be “eternal life”.

Because people object to “God the Destroyer” there have been various attempts to soften this part of the trinity, such as “God the Dissolver,” (as if being dissolved is somehow more acceptable than being destroyed). Amidst the amazing variety of Hindu thought are several sects that redeem Shiva by giving him creative and sustaining attributes.

I suppose God smiles at our attempts to rehabilitate Him. He also likely appreciates our love of life, and our attempts to avoid death.  There is something in the human spirit that rebels at the idea of termination;  we have a hunger for tales to end, “they lived happily ever after”,  though we know the truth is, “until death do we part.”

Even though I am a “childcare professional” (IE: baby-sitter), and dealing with children tends to involve me with God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer, I have been dwelling on the morbid topic of God-the-Destroyer lately because it is not merely autumn, but a particularly wet and gloomy autumn. Brooks that usually barely trickle, (or even go dry, some years), have been rushing, and the mossy rocks have been lush.

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There have been small ponds where I’ve never seen them before in the drenched woods, to throw sticks into. This allows boys to practice vandalism, (and to be boy-the-Destroyer), without getting into trouble.

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It was so wet that some trees, especially sugar maples, did not achieve their full glory because leaves rotted even as they turned, and rather than leaves of pure crimson they were crimson blotched by brown and black spots. This dismal situation didn’t seem to diminish the jauntiness of children walking through golden glades of rain-drenched beeches.

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The sheer cheerfulness of children in rainy woods seems a defiance of gloom: A puddle in the path of life is a joy; jump in it!

Meanwhile I am not finding as easy to keep up with them as last year. I can feel the damage caused by all those hundreds of thousands of cigarettes I so foolishly smoked in my past, and I huff and puff walking up hills. The hand of mortality lays on my shoulder, and I see how “the wages of sin are death.”

But then I watch the glee of children, and the thought occurs to me that the wages of sin are children. Men strive to make sex something other than what it is, but it goes right on overpowering men’s will-powers and creating babies, which is the real reason for sex, (though violin-makers see sex as good excuse to sell violins to violinists). Some men then get all gloomy about the wages of sin being child-support, but that is usually because they do not spend enough time with their children, and miss the joy. Many hire an old geezer like me to experience the joy, and pay me for it.

One thing I’ve found remarkable over the years is the relationship children have with creation, as they rollick through the woods and fields. They are not at war with nature. Nature puts up no signs that say, “Fragile ecosystem. Stick to the path.” It is environmentalists who want to ban children from the outdoors, and to instead show children a lot of depressing videos about how man destroys all he touches. If children get the chance, many fall in love with the outdoors, (though some children are more inclined than others, and a few children, I’ll confess, seem born to be indoors.)

Children develop a respect for life out of love for it. In the woods I really don’t have to preach all that much about respecting livings things. Some small ones torture ants and frogs and scar a tree’s bark, but it is usually more out of curiosity and rambunctiousness than out of sadism, and the same children who were the worst offenders at age three tend to tattle on their peers at age five.  I can honestly say I do a minimum of preaching, and nature does the rest.

Not that nature coddles them. New Hampshire is no Polynesian Island, and there are mosquitoes and black flies and ticks, and the weather, especially this year, can cause people who move here to change their minds and move out. But, despite the fact children can become understandably wary of the woods after stepping on a hornet’s nest, few are anything close to becoming permanently scarred and neurotic. Instead they, even at age three, become this remarkable thing called “tough.”

As the autumn passed the lands to our north became snow-covered early, and, on the rare occasions when the rain stopped, we started getting bitter blasts on the back-side of storms, as they blew up into gales over the Maritime Provinces of Canada. One day the north winds howled so fiercely there was spin-drift and whitecaps even on the relatively small flood-control reservoir, as a bitter gale roared from the north.

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With wind-chills below zero Fahrenheit, I suspect most would have chosen to stay in, but I took a group of three boys and two girls out, all under five years old. It included a three-year-old inclined to red-faced tantrums. He was not at all pleased by the idea of a hike in the roaring wind, but he was not pleased with the idea of staying in, either. He thought the entire idea of child-care was a bad idea, wanted to go to work with his mother, and, among other things, I had to gently remind him that the word “fuck” is not a good word. Given the choice of staying indoors or being outside with the small hellion, I chose the environment where the wind could drown out some of his whining, though I had to carry him the first quarter mile because he was flopping to the ground and girning, and as I carried him his voice was particularly penetrating, an inch from my ear.

All five children were especially well dressed. I likely was the coldest person on the hike, due to the fires within me producing less hot blood than in my younger day. My mood was not particularly good, because my current staff is nearly as decrepit as I am, and two were unavailable due to work-related injuries, (a twisted knee, and a sprained wrist.) I had to fill-in, when I had planned to sit in my warm study by my cozy computer and write about Arctic Sea-ice. So I was in the same mood as the squalling three-year-old I carried. But I have been running this child-care enterprise a decade. (We will finish our tenth year this December.) Even when it seems God-the-Destroyer is manifesting, I know what to do.

The first trick I used is one I picked up from the children. It is to rejoice, when the weather is bad, over how very bad it is. The north wind’s gusts burned exposed faces and made us wince and flinch away, but we clambered up to the top of the flood-control dam, where it was worst, and four of the children laughed as the wind shoved them around and all but knocked them down. The fifth child, (who of course was the grumpy three-year-old), made it obvious that he deemed us utterly mad, and folded his arms, and refused to climb up to the top of the dam.

This brought about my second trick, which is to foster wonder. What do you do when the wind is cruel? What do animals do? Where do they go? I turned the wondering into a project: Find a place where the three-year-old would be comfortable. We walked around to a sunny hollow on the downwind side of the dam, and “had snack”. Though the wind still scoured down and moved the tops of the tall, dead weeds we crouched midst, at ground level it was quite tolerable. I explained this was the sort of place deer and my goats hunkered down during cold gales, taking advantage of the low sun as it shone for the first time in days. The children, even the three-year-old, chattered happily as we picnicked.

Actually this simple knowledge (stay in the sun and out of the wind) is knowledge some bank presidents lack. If their private jet ever crash-landed in a winter forest, they might needlessly freeze, while my little children would, in an almost instinctive manner, chose the warmer paths and survive. Even homeless bums know enough to cross to the sunny side of the street, as the supposedly-wiser bankers stoically stick to striding a straight line through the shade. (This may not seem to make much of a difference in a five-minute winter walk between sky-scrapers, but over the course of a day, after your jet crash-lands, all the chilling adds up).

We next sought out the deeper woods in small valleys where the wind won’t go, but the sun shines through the now-leafless trees, and there the kids had a great time, balancing while teetering along fallen logs; throwing sticks into a stream to watch them float with the current; and chatting and quarreling (which is officiously called “developing social skills”).  The three-year-old forgot I was never-to-be-forgiven, and joked with me. Despite the cold we were late heading back for lunch. An entire morning, which many would have called “too cold to go outdoors”, had been spent under the sunny sky, with the tree’s branches clacking in the wind overhead. The day was redeemed.

I often shake my head over how little I actually do, in this redemptive process. Perhaps I get some credit for directing traffic, but I don’t do the driving. Most of the joy radiates from the landscape, and from the children themselves. At times I see a relationship maturing between creation and the created which seems very natural and very beautiful, yet which some (of the environmentalist ilk) strangely mangle. Rather than a love affair between the walker and the woods, some promote a “protective” alienation.

One good thing about getting kids outdoors into the cold is that it burns off a lot of calories, which has positive effects: Children fuss little over their lunches, eating voraciously like small wolves, and then they conk out quickly into deep naps during “quiet time”.  This gives me sweet silence, and time to think more deeply about man’s alienation from creation.

When I was younger I think I was less interested in having a love affair with nature than in wrestling with it. It is interesting to watch my older son,  now entering middle age, as he tests himself against what New Hampshire weather can dish out.

As a landscaper and snow-plowman he spends a lot of time outside, but after growing up in my house, (which was built in the mid 1700’s and is like an icebox in the winter), made him a man who has nothing against the luxury of warmth indoors. He is building a new house behind my house, and I could not help but notice the care and attention he put into having heated concrete floors, (when I thought he should be in more of a hurry to just finish). Warm feet at home at winter is very important to him, and part of his battle with nature,

He thought the weather would remain fair, which of course it never does. Even before the concrete pad was poured a great deal of time was squandered (I felt) in laying an intricate, complicated network of heating, plumbing, sewerage and electric conduits, with various baffles of insulation. The floor is indeed an amazing floor, but when the walls finally started to go up the final fair weather was ending, and the bad weather beginning.

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Since then it has poured every weekend, which is when he finds time to work beyond his ordinary work. Downpours constantly fouled up his plans. Over the years he has helped many other local fellows build their houses, and the fellows want to return the favor, but it is not the easiest thing to assemble the crews needed, when they all have other jobs. After all the work of making the arrangements, it would again pour. He fell behind schedule, and then the onset of winter was particularly early, with eight inches of snow. Perhaps he was pushing his luck a bit, but one Saturday my breakfast was interrupted by a crash outside, and my daughter yelling that my oldest son had rolled his truck. We dashed out to see, fearing the worst.

The truck hadn’t actually rolled…

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….but things didn’t look good. As the truck skidded backwards down the slippery slope my son made the split-second decision to ram the stone wall rather than risk skidding across the street and plunging down into the neighbor’s house.

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At this point there was little talk about a love affair between man and nature, and the walker and the woods. God-the-Destroyer in the form of snow seems to be battling God-the-Creator, in the form of my son. However I silently philosophized that this conflict forms a necessary tension, a friction which creates traction in creation.

A preacher at a nearby church refers to the above as “a rich man’s problem”. People in Africa would love to have a truck, or even a bicycle, to have problems with.  We should be thankful to have such problems, but I didn’t mention this to my son. Instead I said I was thankful he was all right.

He seemed, if anything, invigorated by the challenge. Like a jaunty child walking with swinging arms in the rain, my son set about surmounting yet another difficulty. He brought a rented “lull”, (used to lift shingles up to the roof), down the hill, lifted the truck while pulling with a chain, and the truck came off the wall with a loud squawking noise as it settled back onto its frame.  Amazingly, very little was wrong with the truck.

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For the most part I watch the battle between man and nature, (or God-the-Creator and God-the-Destroyer), (or friction vs. the slippery slope), as an interested observer. There may have once been a day when I could out-hustle others on a construction site as the brawny “gopher”, (go-for), but those days are past. Back then I could make up in brawn for what I lacked in knowledge, but now I am largely in-the-way. The little knowledge I have is antiquated. For example, back in the day we lugged heavy bundles of shingles up ladders; I did not even know what a “lull” was. Secondly, I’ve slowed; if I did lug a bundle up a ladder, just to show I can still do it, I’d be in everyone’s way as I caught my breath at the top.

Compared to what I once was, I’m puny. I’m increasingly a weakling. God-the-destroyer is having His way with my physical frame. Though this is normal and natural and part of the so-called “circle of life” I don’t like it one bit. I grump it would have been easier if I was puny to begin with and had little to lose. It is a lot harder because I once was very strong. (I was also incredibly good-looking and amazingly smart, no matter what my siblings may tell you.) But I can give such things up, because I have watched amazing athletes be forced to retire at the young age of forty, and seen some of them move on to being brilliant coaches.

It is far harder to give up dreams. This was brought home to me as my favorite goat, “Muffie”, died unexpectedly.

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I doubt I can do justice to how deeply I was troubled by the death of what many may see as a mere dumb goat. However Muffie was a friend, and also the last of a blood-line. I once dreamed Muffie would be the first of a whole herd. Nine years ago, as Muffie was bottle-fed by children at my Childcare because her mother died while giving birth, I had ambitions. Now I am tired, and the dreams are dyeing.

The death of a dream is in some ways a ridiculous thing to be troubled by, for a dream is a dream. It may not ever have come true, and this means you are grieving something that never existed in reality, a bit like Lieutenant Kéje in Prokofiev’s suite.

However a dream has power. It is like the apple dangled in front of a reluctant mule, prompting it to plod on even when it wants to quit. Even though the apple is never reached, the mule may plod on and achieve other goals.

A dream is the conception of an idea. The time between conception and the fruition of the dream may be called a sort of pregnancy.  When the dream comes true it has many of the wonders of childbirth, but when a dream doesn’t come true it has much of the ugliness of stillbirth or abortion.

When you hit age sixty-five you are not like a baseball-player switching from the role of player to the role of manager or coach. Rather you are giving up the game itself.  It is a totally different sacrifice, and far harder to bear.

When I was young, it was far easier to sing that “for everything, there is a season”.

But now I have reached the age when it is the season to give up on dreams.  There is a part deep down in me that just can’t do it.  As death approaches I just can’t give up on life.

This brings me back to the start of this essay, where I spoke of how we dislike the idea of “God-the-Destroyer.” We disliked the idea from the start.  It was a seventeen-year-old girl, Laura Nyro, who in 1967 wrote, “And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on; to carry on.” After a version was recorded by her, and then by  Peter, Paul and Mary, a bunch of young white hippies, attempting to sound black and gospel, had a smash hit  in 1969:

But it is all well and good to defy death when you are young and vigorous. It is not so easy when you are faced with the increasing feebleness of age, and are suppose to be “aging gracefully.” How can one be graceful when one sees no grace?

Anyone who has seen the beauty of God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer tends to fight death, and to, like Dylan Thomas, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

But, if you rage against what the Creator made a definite part of creation, namely death itself, are you not telling God he is wrong?

You’d be surprised at the dark storm-clouds which the death of Muffie sent my mind drifting up and into.

Fortunately my wife smacks me back down to earth, so I don’t forget my worldly responsibilities, but even as I shoveled the snow from the walkways of our Childcare my mind drifted elsewhere, miles and miles away.

I arrived at an odd conclusion, which may get me pitched head over heels out of many Christian churches. It was that the end of creation is death, and God-the-Destroyer.  Therefore creation itself is the “everlasting death” that Christianity warns against. And, in a strange manner, that makes Christians like Hindus.  Yikes!  How can I make such a claim?

It involves some convoluted thinking that I know will get me in trouble, but basically suggests creation is the process and not the Goal, the road and not the Destination, the creation and not the Creator.  If we have “life”, then life can be a thing we have in creation, and also be the Goal of creation. If we are tricked into identifying “life” too much with the material things and the dreams of creation, then we see life turn to death. But if we see life (and most especially love), as more important than creation, then we escape the death that always ends life in creation, and instead triumphantly arrive the goal, which is everlasting life beside the throne of the Creator.

Now supposing I, (as seems likely the case), am too concerned with the creation and neglect the One who made it. I am doomed to face God-the-Destroyer, rather than the embrace of God-who-is-love, at His throne. If my worldly tendencies make me too focused on creation it will not matter that I complain, “But I was loving my neighbor”, because it will be obvious that I cared more for the creation than the One who made it, Who is the Reason and the Goal. Big mistake. Rather than eternal life, I get everlasting death.

Then what?  This thought occurred to me even when I was a very small boy. I have no idea who told me about everlasting hell. I simply recall fleeing the grown-ups to an alcove in the attic, by a tiny window, and imagining myself punished in everlasting hell,  and pouting, and growling in a puppy-voice how I’d never, never surrender to such a mean bully.

Then what? What happens when you have failed to live up to the standards of the Christ, and have blown it big time?  Is it all over forever?

What happens when you laughed at Noah for building his ark , and sneered at him for believing in what made no pragmatic sense to you?  What happened when it then rained and rained and rained, and his absurd ark in a middle of a dry desert floated safely away, as you treaded water until you couldn’t tread, and drowned?  Did God have no mercy on you for being the sensible one, and caring for sensible things, and maybe even caring for family and neighbors as Noah ignored such things,  instead seemingly wasting scarce resources by building a gigantic, silly structure out in the middle of nowhere. Why the hell should you get hell, as the nincompoop Noah gets blessed?

The Bible actually states the sinners of Noah’s time were not forever cursed. According to Saint Peter, between the time Jesus was crucified and the time he rose from the dead, he went to hell to visit the sinners of Noah’s time. Why?  To preach.

This creates a big problem for Christians.  Why? Because if I was sitting in hell I would not call myself “forever cursed” if Jesus himself appeared and took the time to “preach” to me.

I assume that Jesus would not take the time to preach unless some hope, healing and good could come of it.  Why would he preach to the damned if damnation was forever? What purpose would it serve? To go, “Nyah, nyah, neener-neener-neener. You’re damned and I’m not”???  That doesn’t sound like the Lord of Love to me.

This incongruity in scripture may have resulted in the idea of “purgatory”, which many Christians call “Non-Scriptural.”  But me?  I simply think God’s love is more than I can fathom.

This leads me on to the completely Anti-Christian idea of reincarnation, which seems bound to hopelessly divide Christians from Hindus until the end of time.

According to the Hindu, when most die they do not escape creation, but remain trapped. They, after a time contemplating the mistakes and/or joys of their past life,  are born into a new body, with a new brain that cannot hold any memory of the past life.  They are born again, but usually it is only to die again. They die over and over and over, this time rich, this time poor, this time black, this time white, this time healthy, this time sickly, this time male, this time female.  But, whether king or peon, the result is always the same: death.

It occurred to me that reincarnation is the same thing as everlasting death.  There may not be the gulf between Hindus and Christians that they each believe. They both believe that, unless you escape time (to the eternal) you are trapped in time (the everlasting.)

After all, what is the use of being born again, if it is only to die again?  If it turns out the Hindu are correct, and I am born again in a physical body, it likely will mean I will have to take math classes again. Who in their right mind wants that?

Both Hindu and Christians speak of an escape from “everlasting death”, which is an escape from the very-real part of creation we call God-the-Destroyer.  Both state we must put the Creator ahead of creation.

Yes, they waste time quibbling about the details. Is the one life a single incarnation or many?  Did the Christ come once as Jesus or more than once as Vishnu, the Avatar?

To be honest, I lack the experience and wits to weigh in on such matters. I can wonder all I want, but it is only wonder. In the end I have to confess my incapacity. In doing so, I recognize I need the help of a Master.  There is no cotton-picking way I’m going to Seventh heaven without a Savior, and it matters not a hill of beans whether you call that Rescuer the Savior, Avatar, Messiah, Rasool, Vishnu, or Christ.  All that matters is that you recognize love has a Source, and the nature of the Source is Love, which Christians believe took on mortal flesh and walked (and walks) among us as Jesus.

As my life enters the phase where I deal more with God-the-Destroyer than with the Creator or Sustainer, it occurs to me I am blessed to be a mere baby-sitter, dealing with children just entering creation. Not that I always feel blessed. It is not seen as “manly” to be a baby-sitter. Among the politically correct, being a baby-sitter earns me few kudos. But I am blessed all the same, because simply dealing with the very-young exposes me to something utterly different from God-the-Destroyer.

For one thing, the very-young are more wise than they have any right to be. Even though they have brand-new brains, they are not un-programmed computers we are adding data to.  They already know stuff they have no business knowing. How can they know? The secular blame “genetics” and the Hindu blame “past lives” and the Christians blame “God’s gifts.”  Me?  I really don’t know, but can’t help but smile even when I’m gloomy. Why?

I suppose it is because the trust children enter life with (which is so sad to see harmed in any way) holds a joy which, in and of itself, seems to prove that the reason we are born is not to die.  After all, if they were only born to die, why would children laugh?

I may now be facing death, as we must all do when we can no longer call ourselves “middle aged”, but that does not mean death, or “God the Destroyer”,  is the net result of living.  There is another reason for life.

I can’t fully explain what I’m attempting to say, but I hear it in the cries of children.  At times it is hard to hear when they are in your face. I hear it best when they are far away, and sound like a glitter sledding down a distant hill.

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Like glitter on a distant winter hill
I hear the children sledding once again,
And once again I feel the ancient thrill
That drenches deja-vu on all that big men
Construct and think is mighty; all that kings
Claim they can control, and all that we mourn
And think that we are losing. Of all things
We want to grasp, the most fleeting, least lorn
Is the eternal song of children at play.
On the hill an ancient oak has hearkened
Since before the Pilgrim’s children had their day
When the children were Indian’s. No end
Is there to the Truth in the distant mirth,
And that is all ye need to know on earth.

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LOCAL VIEW –Unsprung Spring–(With Snowy Monday Morning Update)

Spring sprung like the squirrel’s black silhouette
Through the inked claws of naked branches
Against a slate sky overhead. It can’t get
Any colder in April. My spirit blanches
At the breeze, and the poor squirrel flees
My upturned face, though I mean it no harm.
It skitters tree to tree, and all my pleas
That it pause go ignored. I cannot charm
It, nor woo it with prayers. Where’s it going?
Why won’t it stay? Cold winds keep on blowing
And sleet only stops to start the snowing.
Sanity ducks, and my numbed hope’s knowing
A shivering song’s the best I have sung.
I’ll plod many more miles, before this spring’s sprung.

This is one of the coldest springs I can remember. I can remember an April back around 2006 or 2007 that started out bitterly cold and snowy, and was actually colder than the mild January we had that year, but it relented by the middle of the month. This year there is little sign the cold will be relenting.

Not that we don’t get our spells of brilliant sunshine, but it hasn’t fooled the trees. The buds are just barely starting to bulge a bit. However it does fool the children. They explode off the school bus at our Childcare full of an energy I equate with spring, for it is boundless, though they do bound a lot.

I suppose I could plant the peas, but the rototiller  has a fouled carburetor. Anyway, I have to clean up the tree damage caused by roaring winds, because March went out like a lion and April came in like a lion, and I’m not lying. The kids wanted me to leave the tree as a low budget playground toy, but it blocked an important path.

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The locals call this sort of leaning tree a “widow maker”, because they can do unpredictable things as you cut them down. Not that one has ever nailed me, but I have seen them swing or roll, and I cut with care. You need to notch the top and then cut from the underside, or else the slumping log pinches on the saw’s blade and you can’t remove it. This particular tree simply thudded down at the base, with the branches still hung up in other trees, so I was presented with a tree in the same situation, only slanting a little more steeply. I kept cutting and cutting, with sections thudding down and the tree becoming tilted more and more steeply, until the tree was vertical.  Then I cut a final chunk off, and the tree was dangling. Hmm. I cut logs off until what remained of the tree was at chest level, at which point the dangling section of tree didn’t seem likely to crush me, so I tugged at it and brought it down. Nor did I totally ruin the playground toy, for the children like rolling logs down the hill.

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While I had the saw out I cleaned up some birches that were weakened by the goats gnawing off bark a few years ago, and couldn’t withstand the past winter.

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I dragged the boughs over to the goats, who, at this point in an endless winter, appreciate any change in diet.

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Already the sun was dimming, and soon the view changed from April back to February.

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It turned out it was a good thing we’d cut wood, for a campfire was appreciated.

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It’s especially hard to get children to wear hats and gloves in April snows. It is as if they can feel the high sun even through clouds. (I can’t).

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In November such a snow can hang around for days, because the sun is so low, which is annoying if you haven’t finished raking the leaves. In April the high sun can melt such a snow in hours, which is also annoying, if you want an excuse to avoid raking the leaves you didn’t get around to raking in November.

April snows aren’t all that unusual this far north. The locals call them “poor man’s fertilizer” because some sort of reaction puts nitrogen from the air into the snow, and when the ground is unfrozen that nitrogen can penetrate down into the soil. But what was unusual this year was that the cold wouldn’t quit. Unfrozen parts of the reservoir skimmed over with fresh ice, and the children’s sand-pile reverted to “candle ice”.

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Dawns saw dustings of snow.

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Finally, last Friday, a warm surge from the south fought north, and the very edge of it made it to us, before the cold to the north, and the cold waters of the Atlantic, fought back with a back-door-cold-front, and with chilling winds from the northeast. It was over 80°F (27°C) in New York City on Friday, and nudged over 60°F (14°C) here. I made the children wear rain pants due to mud, but their coats were strewn all over the playground, and they relished running in short sleeves. But …..then yesterday (Saturday) saw a mild morning give way to a return to the cold,

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And now the Sunday morning radar map looks like this:

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That really does look like a February map. Oh well. I suppose if we are going to be miserable we might as well try to set a record, but I don’t think I’ll be putting on shorts and running in the Boston Marathon, tomorrow morning.

UPDATE; SUNDAY NIGHT

After a gray day with temperatures never above freezing, (very unusual for mid April), and a freezing drizzle glazing over everything, it has suddenly started snowing just as I was thinking of going to bed. A quick check of the radar shows this:

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The snow over Boston and Hartford is unexpected, as the rain-snow line was suppose to be further north. Also the blob of moisture came straight up from the south, so you’d think it would create rain or freezing rain. But it ran into such a wall of cold air it is creating snow. Let me check the map.

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The map also makes it look like we should be getting south or at least southeast winds, judging from the isobars. But we are getting “cross isobaric winds”, due to that big arctic high pressure over Hudson Bay.  We are getting northeast winds. You’d think there was a storm southeast of Cape Cod, rather than a storm due west, over the Great Lakes. This is nuts.

I’m glad I’m not a weathermen. They are only now moving the “winter weather advisories” south, and still have no mention of snow. Locally it is snowing to beat the band. My thermometer must be malfunctioning. It says it is 24°F (-4°C) out. Let me check nearby official sites.

Nearby it is 25°F in Ringe, New Hampshire. Even if it warms up, it looks like a messy Monday Morning. If it doesn’t warm up….

It seems even more unlikely I’ll be donning shorts and running in the Boston Marathon.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE

Going Viral:

Again 16 IMG_8794

Got out of bed and checked weather on cellphone:

Again 15 FullSizeRender

 

Hmm. More snow on Friday. But next Monday? Sunny and over sixty! Alleluia!

Well, I can dream, can’t I? But today is today. Trudge out to car:

Again 14 IMG_6648

Arrive at work:

Again 17 IMG_6653

Back roads are not suppose to be snow-covered in mid-April, but the snow fell during the night, when the sun could have no effect. As soon as the sun gets high in the sky it will penetrate the clouds and the roads will likely catch the rays and turn slushy and wet. Right now they are packed snow and very slippery. I think the road crews were caught off guard. Many trucks already had the plows removed from the fronts and the salters and sanders removed from the back. The roads were actually clearer in January.

Surprisingly, the weather is so absurdly bad people were cheerful, in a definitely ironic way. Hopefully the children haven’t put their snowsuits away, with our playground looking like this:

Again 18 IMG_6652

Hopefully this snow will be swift to melt away, though it is amazingly sleety and dense. Shoveling two inches feels like hoisting ten. But as this snow lasts, covering all of New Hampshire and much of northern Massachusetts, it may cause an upward blip in the rather amazing snow-cover graph for North America. Ice-age, anyone?

Again 13 na_swe

As a final note, though I know it will deeply disappoint many, I have decided against making an appearance in shorts in the Boston Marathon, today. I’d consider sled dogs, but it has turned to a cold rain down there.

Currently the snow doesn’t show on radar, but it is out there, fine like drizzle, and gusted by a nasty northeast wind. Thunder is heading up our way from down by Philadelphia. If it gets interesting, I may update again.

Again 19 rad_ne_640x480

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.)