LOCAL VIEW –Daring the Frost–

I should be a sort of poster-child farmer for Global Warming this spring, for I’ve never had my peas up so early. Usually you “plant peas on Patriots Day” (April 19) but this year mine were up and growing by then. (Don’t complain that the rows are not straight. When you run a Farm-childcare, rows are never straight.)

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Having my peas up this early (for this far north; I’m sure people in Virginia are laughing at my vanity),  doesn’t actually mean I’m smart. I’ve just been lucky. I got them in and they likely had sprouted roots, but had not stuck their heads up above the soil, when we got this:

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What’s more, we got temperatures down in the single digits, (below -12.2° Celsius), and if my peas had emerged, they would not have just been discouraged. Though peas are tough, they’d be dead, dead, dead. All my work would have been wasted, and I’d have to start over from scratch. I’d be singing the blues, but that didn’t happen, so instead I’m smug, smug, smug.

Actually I threaded the needle, and the timing of planting those peas was timed perfectly. In truth you can either say I was lucky, or “to God goes the glory”,  but I so seldom have a chance to swagger that I prefer to think I did it all myself. After years of bungling and doing everything wrong, I have been so trained by misfortune that I’ve started doing things right, as a sort of intuitive reflex (which gets me off the hook of having to intellectually explain my success to scientists.)

Like a gambler “on a roll” I’ve decided to go with my instinct, and am planting other things a little early. I had to look hard to get my onions in, as they hadn’t even appeared in some stores, and in like manner I also got carrots, bulb-fennel, beets, turnips and lettuce planted this weekend.  (I might have planted potatoes, but at the hardware store they hadn’t brought them up to the showroom from the back warehouse.)

This could all be a complete disaster. This far north we can get frosts right into May. In fact, (to discredit Global Warming), we even had a frost on May 29 last spring. However I know how to handle such calamities. You wet everything down in the evening, (as it is harder to freeze wet things), (due to latent heat involved in the phase change, for you scientists), and then you put all your grass from mowing the lawn over the plants, but in a fluffy and thin manner (because the heat generated by wet hay can kill plants, if it is too thick).

The old-timers couldn’t be bothered planting early. They might plant a few things like peas on Patriots Day, but then they kicked back and waited until Memorial Day (May 31) to plant most everything else. Even though beets and carrots and turnips are hardy, and can stand a slight frost, old-timers had seen a few, late killing frosts. It wasn’t worth all the effort of planting a second time, or else rushing about wetting things down and fluffing grass over them. Why? because if you plant on April 24 your carrots take forever to sprout and then grow very slowly. Quite often, though you planted them five weeks ahead of Memorial Day, they have grown only to a height that plants planted after Memorial Day achieve in ten days. By July you can hardly tell the rows apart.  So why bother?

I suppose I bother because I seems to get slower as I get older. My garden is pretty big, and I can’t put the whole thing in on Memorial Day any more. So I pace myself, and do the same amount of work planting over weeks. In other words, I’m just as lazy as the old-timers.

Also, when you get to my age there’s not much you can do that is all that exciting. (Let’s skip the subject of sex.) (Also my finances.) Maybe I’ll drive forty when the speed limit is thirty-five, but the police officer just yawns as I speed by in my old, puttering pickup truck. Where’s the fun in that?

Therefore living-on-the-edge, for me, is to plant too early, but to get away with it.

Wisdom’s just a chance to show you’ve learned
From all you’re bungling, and to demonstrate
Old dogs aren’t dumb. Oh sure, we still get burned,
But flinch less. We’ve seen it’s never too late
To get things right. Although all of the clocks
Say time’s running out, we drive more slowly
Than frantic youngsters. The school of hard knocks
Has shown us speed kills, but the dawdler sees
The sunrises and smells the sweet bacon.
Do old dogs waste their time chasing their tails?
No, for they once bit their tail. Forsaking
The truth they learned would mean old dogs lie.
They don’t. So, if you’ve got things to fix,
Heed the old dogs. Don’t teach them new tricks.

P.S. (For Young Poets)

Yes, it is most definitely true that the young know more about computers and cell phones, but one big solar flare might set all that technology back on its heels, and make it difficult to even start a car. At that point an old geezer with a garden might suddenly seem to have values that are more lasting.

Not that it is wrong for young poets to spend time chasing their tails. It seems to be part of the process.

One way I chased-my-tail when in my late twenties was to be so determined to write that I did so even when I should have been living life, (and thus learning things worth writing about). My writing seemed to just get worse and worse. The worse it got the harder I tried, until I recall being on my knees and pounding the floor, shouting “I will write!  I will write!”

Then, exhausted, I made a liar of myself, for rather than writing I read, and what I happened to be reading was Huxley’s novel, “Antic Hay”, and I happened to get to the part where he has a character acting very much as I just had, pounding the carpet and fiercely insisting he would write.

This made me feel I wasn’t all that special, and was behaving like a character in a comic novel. So I got a job. It didn’t last, so I got another. And another. And another.

I’ve never sat down and counted the number of different jobs I’ve held, but it is over a hundred. Often they felt like they would ruin my ability to write. They never did. They enhanced it.

Eventually you wind up an old dog who knows lots of tricks. Keep the faith.



LOCAL VIEW —Time out for taxes—

It is time to do my taxes, which is an accused time for me, and utterly against my nature. It always reminds me of some filthy miser holed up in an attic, stacking and counting coins rather than caring for his fellow man.

It has always been my nature to spend every cent I have in the present, because there are always plenty of needs in the present. I drive more frugal people nuts, because I sometimes have failed to even save for the rent or next mortgage payment, let alone for “a rainy day”.

I’m not sensible. Sensible people “allot” parts of their pay for this, that and the other thing. Therefore, when they get their pay, and have five hundred in their pocket, and face a person in dire need of five hundred, they can say their pockets are empty, because their money is “allotted”. I can’t do that. If I have five hundred in my pocket, and a person is in dire need of five hundred, I’m swiftly broke.

Not that anyone returns the favor, when my rent is due and I am short five hundred. If I’ve learned one thing in my knavish existence, it is that everyone is your friend when you have five hundred in your pocket, but they all vanish when you are five hundred short.

Consequently I’ve slept in my car more than most people I know. Oddly, now that decades have past, a surprising number of the “sensible” people who once rolled their eyes at my behavior are dead, while I totter on, in surprising good shape for a fellow who has been extremely impractical. My “sensible” friends who haven’t died do have pot bellies and, to be honest, are largely in deplorable shape.

One thing that got them into sad shape was sticking with a job they loathed, but felt they had to stick with because it was “sensible” to have health insurance. In truth, sticking with the loathsome job destroyed their health.

Others stuck with jobs they loathed for a pension. I have lots of peers who retired in their fifties, as I myself see no end to my work. In some cases retirement killed some peers within six months.  They had spent thirty years ignoring a side of themselves that yearned to grow, so that, when they retired, they were faced with a sort of void, in terms of growth.

In a sense it reminds me of people who dream of winning the lottery, and then win it, and discover their life becomes sheer hell. Money, and so-called “financial security”, is a false god, if you think that sitting in an attic and stacking coins is anything close to as beautiful as being flat broke, but alive, with others who are flat broke but alive. It is far better to be out striving in the sleet with brothers and sisters, than to be too alone by a warm fire.

However the government does not appreciate my philosophy, and insists that, once a year, I am reduced to stacking coins, because it is a coin-stacking government, of grossly nonspiritual misers.

As I am reduced to this scumbag level of filthy lucre, I feel I am part of a government taking a tedious census. a census not merely of the fact I exist, but wanting to know every crumby detail of how I spent every lousy penny. It is a census that counts right down to the level of whether or not the sandwich I ate was a business expense or not. When I grow a row of radishes at my Farm-childcare for the children to delight in, the government wants to know if I dared eat one myself, for that must be subtracted from “Business expense” as it was for “Home use.”

The government is in such a money-grubbing mode, attempting to squeeze blood from the stone of impoverished masses, that it fails to account for higher things.

For example, in Exodus 30:12 God apparently told Moses,  “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.”

Please notice that it is not the IRS that gets paid the ransom.  Rather It is the Highest of the high. I’m sure the IRS assumes that Moses only pretended God was talking to him, and that Moses was actually just a a crafty con-artist who wanted to make sure he got his hands on the “ransom” people were giving to God. However, suppose it wasn’t that low level of IRS logic. Suppose some “higher truth” was involved.

Fast-forward to 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1, where King David wants to gloat a bit over how mighty he has become, and decides to take a census of his mighty army.  To cut a long story short, 70,000 of his army then died of the plague.  King David was sort of like the IRS, full of vanity, and thinking he was the boss, and then discovering he wasn’t God.

The vanity of the IRS is only a reflection of the ignorance of our leaders in Washington, who have the power-mad belief they are God, when they are in truth bringing a pox down onto both their houses. They seek to avoid the fact they are earning a plague, by diddling with economic terms such as “the law of unintended consequences” and “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”,  however the spiritual truth of the matter is that they are failing to pay the required ransom to the LORD.

What is that ransom?  I figure it is giving all you have, right now, and not telling people you have no money in your pocket because that money is “allotted” to some tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come. And ordinary, hard-working people, who live paycheck to paycheck, may not understand this spiritual reality, but they are forced to live it. Blessed are the poor. What they gain is something the rich have chosen to lose, yet crave.

In any case, once a year I am forced to descend to the stinking, low-life level of filthy lucre and taxes, and to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. In other words, give filthy lucre to people enamored of filth.

I honestly would prefer to clean a pigsty. Then I might at least have some manure for my garden. Doing taxes is just wading through stacks of receipts,  attempting to explain my business to idiots who don’t know how to mind their own. In the end I just have to pay them for being idiots.

Around a week from now I’ll be able to get back to the business of real life. Until then my blog entries will, if they happen at all, be short and sweet, like this:

We had a brief hint of true spring surge by, with temperatures up near 60° (15.5° Celsius), as a storm approached from the west.

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Thunder got as far north as Boston, but not up here 60 miles northwest, as the the warmth was swept away by cold. A Snowstorm blew up over Maine, but we only got flurries.

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The warm wave reduced the snow-cover in the garden from eight to three inches. I have started flats of lettuce and broccoli seedlings. Maple sap poured out, and then halted as the cold came back. The swamp maple buds are showing the first signs of swelling just enough to crack the buds casings a sixteenth of an inch. I have produced a fair amount of maple sugar, to the delight of the children at the Farm-childcare. Three small boys went so far as to “raid the cookie jar” and steal some of the candy from my stash. They were able to get away with it because two horses got spring fever, and were galloping up and down the road in front of our Childcare, and I was busy being a good neighbor and convincing the horses to go back to the paddock where they belonged.

During the warm wave I saw our first blue heron, flying overhead and looking down in obvious disgust at the still-frozen ponds. Also five vultures came north, circling on the south wind. I expect they are less disgusted than the heron, as the shrinking snow reveals what the hard winter killed, out in the woods.

LOCAL VIEW —Craving Spring—

I’m up late, boiling maple sap on the porch, and feeling the chill creep in at the edges of the house, as the temperature is down to 25° ( -3.9° Celsius).  To be honest, it doesn’t feel much like April at the moment. Yet another in a seemingly endless series of arctic high pressures has sunk south over us, getting in the way of balmy Chinook winds that make places like Montana warmer than New Hampshire. (Click map to clarify and enlarge.)

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Looking at the above map, it looks all the world like the high pressure will move east and some nice, south winds will move over us, from the west. However I’m skeptical, due to seeing such golden promises before, and seeing that all that gets to us is a brief patch of mild rain, or even an occlusion, with all the mildness aloft, and things down where I live cold, gray, and clammy.

I’m not all that grouchy about how things have turned out, for we have been through a sort of drought, and the deep snow cover has slowly but steadily shrunk, without the floods you might expect. At the start of March we had towering snowbanks and four feet of snow on the level, and if you had offered me even money on a bet that we would get through the entire month of March without a major snowstorm or, worse, rainstorm, I would have taken the bet, and would have lost.

In essence winter had us up against the ropes, and could have slugged us to tweet-tweet; look-at-the-birdie-land with even a modest nor’easter. However somewhere someone must have prayed a good prayer. You don’t see it too often in boxing matches, but dropping to your knees and praying for mercy when you are up against the ropes is apparently a good strategy, providing you remember to jump back to you feet before the referee counts to ten.

In any case, we’ve made it to April. I walked out into the garden today to measure how deep the snow is, and it is less than a foot now, in places.  However it is “corn snow”, which is granular crystals of ice which, if you measured them, each would be a cube with sides of an eighth of an inch, or a little more. It is dense stuff, and needs some nice days with temperatures up in the seventies ( above 21° Celsius ) to get rid of it. We are having trouble getting up to fifty (10° Celsius).

This is exasperating to me, as a farmer. In the Spring of 2012 I already had my peas, spinach, lettuce, onions and Potatoes planted.  This April it is so cold that tonight even the maple sap will stop rising. (This is actually a good thing, if you are a farmer who supplements his income with maple syrup sales, but even these cold nights will not salvage this season for many. It has been so cold the season was very late to start, and the bright sun will convince trees to bud out even if temperatures stay cold, so many farms will only produce half as much syrup as last year.)

The landscape is still snowcovered, and the buds on trees haven’t even started to swell. When it does warm, what I am faced with is having to plant in a hurry. It looks like we will move from Winter to Summer with very little Spring. Rather than just sitting back and relaxing, I need to hustle and start flats of seedlings indoors, and then, when the snow finally is gone, to transplant like crazy.

For example, it takes lettuce roughly ten days between the day you plant it and the day you see the first tiny green plant. I can’t sit around waiting for the soil to thaw. Why not?  Because as soon as the weather gets hot, lettuce “bolts”, which means it turns, sometimes in only 48 hours, from nice leafy stuff you would want in your salad into a flower stalk that is amazingly bitter. Conclusion? If I wait for the soil to thaw, by the time ten days pass and the lettuce sprouts, the prime cool-weather lettuce-growing weather will be swiftly passing, however, if I plant little lettuce seedlings as soon as the soil thaws, the lettuce will be thriving during those same ten days, and I’ll have fat heads of lettuce to sell, and will get rich and drive about in a Cadillac.

Or maybe not. However this does give you a hint of the fact farmers cannot hide from Truth. The weather is what it is. Climate Scientists may be able to “adjust” and “homogenize” temperatures to get the results they want, but farmers face a Truth that can’t be fiddled with.

One time, when I was attempting to explain this Truth to a very secular person I deeply respect, he became exasperated, as if I was merely an idealistic airhead without any foundation in reality, and he told me, “You haven’t a clue how politics operates.”

Hmm. Perhaps I know all too well how far politics has drifted from Truth.

Politics over-focuses on power, with the mentality of a schoolyard bully, who has no idea it is better to be friends with people than to dominate with fear.

As a sort of proof, I ask you this: When you think of the word “power”, do you associate it it with the word “friend”, or the word “fear”?

Most of modern politics is scare-tactics. “Global Warming” is all about fear, and has little to do with love, trust, and friendship.

Truth, on the other hand, turns out to be closely associated to a thing called “Love.”

The proof is in the pudding. The farmer who attends to Truth has a garden that blooms, while the politician that fosters falsehood can only heap hate upon hate.

Eventually they have to throttle the voices of Truth, as is now occurring on “Twitter” where Steave Goddard and others are banned from stating the Truth about the “Global Warming” dogma.

I really don’t have time for this trivia, which Politicians think is so Big. Maybe if I was young and loaded with hormones I could get suckered into a fight with fat fools, but I’m old and it takes a bit more than moronic behavior to rouse the dying embers of my old fire. As far as I’m concerned, lettuce seedlings are more worthy of attention than a doomed president. However occasionally some nitwit provokes the gray ashes of my dying fire to a shower of sparks, as occurred when I read,

“I have read somewhere only one in two hundred is actually a leader, and to control a group all that is needed is to identify and break that leader.”

I had to respond, and my response was,

“The fallacy in this thought is that it fails to recognize the true power, behind the scenes, is Truth. For example, the boiling point of water doesn’t care who wins an election; it is what it is.

Over and over people are so seduced by the attractiveness of power that they resort to falsehood to grasp it. One way or another, they justify their wrongdoing, promising tomorrow to repay for today’s ripoff, making a mantra of “the ends justify the means”.

Then over and over you see such powerful people slowly rot, (often from the inside out), as their facade of well-being is slowly corroded by Truth. In the end Truth trumps all the cleverness of power politics, and even kings come to understand they are powerless before it. Maybe it isn’t as obvious as Nebuchadnezzar going mad for seven years, but it is a reality.

Perhaps it is due to something as simple as the fact that studying Truth leads to wisdom, while studying falsehood leads to ignorance, and ignorant people do ignorant stuff that, in the end, ruins them.”

Within those words is some poetry, and other artsy stuff, including the stuff that grows real lettuce. However politicians are interested in false lettuce (IE: the green leaves of dollar bills). Politicians are not interested in the cream, atop the milk of my life. What they are snorting after is my feces, the byproduct of my life.

If I seem bitter, it is because rather than writing poetry, I have to do my taxes.  I have to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.  (The Bible politely calls this “filthy lucre”, but a truer translation is “feces”.)

Don’t get get me wrong. As a farmer I value feces. We call it “manure” and also “brown gold.” We understand it is not to be hoarded, and is best used to fertilize the fields. To be a miser of manure makes no sense. The sooner you can get rid of it and mix it into your garden, the lusher the lettuce crop will be.

If politicians and the IRS merely wanted to gather a huge pile of manure, deeming it the source of political power, it would be demented, but at least they might promise to dole it out to the actual gardeners who actually grow stuff. They would be like mothers who are more interested in collecting milk than in nursing their babes. However the madness of political correctness and “smart politics” has gone beyond even this.

It has even gone beyond the rare situation that dairy farmers occasionally see, wherein a mother cow or goat sucks her own teat for nourishment.

Things have gotten so out of hand that the current crop of politically correct politicians are not merely hoarding a huge heap of feces. They have actually started to eat the stuff.

As much as I resent the lack of appreciation the government displays towards poet-citizens like me, as they demand more and more of me, I sort of like the fact that, as their taxes take the byproduct of my hard work, they are eating my shit.