Socialists have never liked the freedom of small farmers, as the idea of liberty resulting in good things jars their concept of “collective” good. Stalin took this to an absurd length in his efforts to utterly wipe out the “Kulak”, who were seen as “class enemies” of the poorer serfs. Lenin described the Kulak as “bloodsuckers, vampires, plunderers of the people and profiteers, who fatten themselves during famines”.
In actual fact the last Czars created the Kulak in an effort to lessen the tendency of the serfs to rebel and join radical and militant movements, such as communism. Rather than veritable slaves who owned no land, the serfs were given the opportunity to borrow money and purchase land from wealthy landowners. In a sense it was a mortgage, which the better farmers paid back, becoming small landowners. Generally speaking, a Kulak was a small farmer who owned more than 8 acres.
As is often the case, the lazy did not become prosperous. It was the farmers with ingenuity and industry who became Kulaks. They produced a disproportionate amount of Russia’s food, and for the most part were conservative in their outlooks. Therefore they became the “petite bourgeois” communists despise.
Stalin killed roughly a million, either through murder or through starvation. He sent hundreds of thousands to gulags in Siberia, and more than a hundred thousand left for gulags but never arrived. Stalin felt that by removing such “weeds” the remaining population would be pure, and productive. In actual fact the production of grain plummeted, and there was a terrible famine, especially in the Ukraine, which is one reason there is animosity between Ukrainians and Russians to this day.
During the final days of the Soviet Union small farmers were once again allowed to farm small lots, and immediately out-produced the collectives. 5% of the farmers produced 50% of the food. This should teach a lesson, namely: People with ingenuity and industry have more value than lazy people.
Of course, it is deemed wrong to say any person has more value than another. And it is likely true that God cares for the lazy as much (if not more) than he cares for the industrious. After all, the lazy need help. They need motivation. Whether that help takes the form of a caress or a kick-in-the-butt likely depends on the person and the administrator. However, when it comes down to food on the table, having food has more value than lacking food; hence some people have more value than others, in that particular way.
In my time I’ve lived with many hardscrabble farmers who have first hand experience with the difference between feast and famine, and I found they had a sort of common sense which college students lacked. The college students borrowed money and ate in cafeterias, while the Navajo wove rugs and used the money they made to buy things their land could not produce, such as cooking oil. Their land could produce little that is needed to subsist on a vegan diet, but their land could support sheep. Therefore they ate a lot of mutton. In like manner the old New England farmers only had a little land they could grow vegetables on, but much stony land that could be used for cows, sheep, goats and pigs, and they tended to have diets which included meat and dairy products. Yet college students often looked down their noses at such practicality, and, if radical, tended to castigate non-vegan people, like Lenin cursed the Kulak.
I have tried to educate these idealistic, vegan college students, but usually have failed, and often have been dragged into arguing about politics which has little to do with eating. Therefore I was glad to come across this explanation of the practical side of farming, which I think every vegan should watch.
After fifteen years as a “child care professional” I’ve dealt with my fair share of tantrums, and deem myself, if not an expert, then rather good at dealing with them. They, (or it), are (is) basically a person who has been pushed past their limit, and who has “lost it.” Sometimes it’s the child and not their parent.
The word “tantrum” itself is sort of interesting, for it likely is a word with multiple roots, which is to say similar-sounding words from different languages with vaguely applicable meanings were spliced together into the word we now wield.
One root is French, and means the noise made by trumpets, a fanfare, the French “trantran”, an imitative word for hunting horns, or an uproar. A second root is the German root “tand” which described vanity, especially shallow and even silly vanity. And a third root is Welsh, “tant”, which means to be stretched thin, and can be used for tempers, the strings of a musical instrument, or the tendons of our body. In fact the Latin derivation for “tantrum” may be from what gives us the word “tendon”, the verb “tendere” which means, “to stretch thin”.
In any case, all that reason went into what means losing reason, and what we locally call, “throwing a spaz.”
One reason I think I am good at handling tantrums is that I myself would be the pot calling the kettle black if I pretended I was above “losing it” from time to time. In a sense my life has been one long tantrum against a society which seems increasingly nuts. It is everyone else’s fault; their insanity makes me insane.
When I see a small child losing it I remind myself I may be in the presence of genius. Winston Churchill was said to be a hellion at school; his classmates remembered cringing and thinking, “Don’t say it, Winny; don’t say it,” but he would always say it, whatever “it” was, to the teacher, which meant, in those days of corporal punishment, he had to be caned. However part of his genius was his ability to stand up to dictators.
I would also be a hypocrite if I denied the fact that, from time to time, I myself haven’t just blown off my responsibility and played hooky, in a sense acting out a tantrum. In July of 2017 I wrote a long post called “The Forthright of July” about how all the people who promised to help me weed the garden had skipped town, and were enjoying freedom as I was a slave to the garden, and it ended with me skipping the weeding as well, and writing this sonnet:
Going to the beach on a hot July
Mid-morning with the stain of brass heat draped
On every bough and street, and in my eye
Even shadows hazed gold, nothing escaped
The heat…but I am. Like a boy
Playing hooky, the consequences fade
In the face of surging, giggling joy.
While it may be true we’ll sleep in beds unmade,
Face stern principles, grip hungover foreheads,
That’s all far away. Now we’re on our way
To the beach, and like flowering dawn sheds
The dark dreads of night, joy drives gloom away.
We’re all going to die, but boys playing hooky
Have light in their eye, and life’s their cookie.
Of course, there are consequences to playing hooky. If you don’t weed you wind up with a weedy garden; you reap what you sow. If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime. If you have your way you must pay. That is something I must communicate to the small child who is throwing a tantrum.
However one element of a tantrum is a refusal to communicate. The child is fed up with talk. They want their way and don’t care what you say.
The State of New Hampshire requires a certain amount of “adult education” for teachers, which is something I could tantrum about, but usually don’t. When I first opened my Childcare with my wife I’d already raised five children, coached boy’s teams, taught Sunday School, and volunteered as my wife ran a small town’s recreation department and swimming pool, yet some of the young women teaching “adult education” were half my age. (Now, as I approach my seventieth birthday, they’d be a third my age.)
My teachers were fresh out of college, had no children, and were brimming with bright ideas which tended to be contrary to the bright ideas which were in fashion ten years earlier. For example, the idea of “time outs” was all the rage for a while, but then suddenly were called “oppressive” and were frowned upon. Likewise “permissiveness” seems to come into fashion until it is called “spoiling”.
In actual fact one needs to use “time outs” when they work, and avoid them when they don’t work. No single approach works; one shouldn’t be swayed to one side and a single approach; one needs a full repertoire, and sometimes even that isn’t enough, and intuition must supply some new approach out of the blue. However I did attend the “adult education classes”, if only to learn what new laws I was breaking.
One law I broke involved “physical restraint”. When we first opened our childcare people were terribly worried about “abuse”. Small children are very physical, but even hugging was frightening to some, who feared sexual perversion. We all needed to be finger-printed and get background checks, before we were even allowed on the premises. (Even a farmhand who shoveled the stables on weekends when we were closed was officially supposed to be fingerprinted, though I broke that law at times.) Any sort of corporal punishment was taboo, and even to physically grab a child and snatch them from danger was seen as a last resort, (as if one had time to carefully analyze during such an emergency.) However when a child was throwing a tantrum and disturbing the rest of the children I’d grab the little sucker and cart him outside, ignoring his or her screeching and caterwauling, and also likely ignoring the latest law.
I was very gentle but very firm. Once things had reached a certain point I felt it was wrong to give in, for it was like attempting to appease a small Adolph Hitler. I reached this conclusion when we first opened our Childcare, before I had learned many of the tricks I now use to distract the child from refusing to communicate, luring them into a conversation.
This particular child had learned to throw a fit to get his way at home, and needed to learn that different behavior is required in public, where he was one of twelve small children. Like many children he liked routine, and complained when things didn’t happen in the same order, but he also didn’t like the part of the daily routine where “play time” turned into “circle time”.
“Circle time” involved singing songs and playing games which taught children a so-called “curriculum” involving learning colors, shapes, numbers, and opposites such as above-and-below. Personally I found such “curriculum” tedious and saw children learned the same things if you just used the words in other activities, but “circle time” did seem to teach a lot about having good manners and working as a team. However this little boy didn’t like putting away a toy truck and sitting in a circle. He had older brothers who taught him rude words, and looked at me with an innocent face and said, “Fuck circle time.” He had just turned three-years-old.
I knew the boy’s father would have just laughed, and might have even praised the lad, while the boy’s mother would have just rolled her eyes and walked away. However I decided to do battle, for, though I know one must chose their battles, this fellow was definitely testing a limit. Also I knew appeasement wouldn’t work. If I left him playing with his trucks and attempted to conduct circle time with the other eleven children and the other teacher, he would not play quietly in the corner, but would roar his truck through the middle of the circle. Therefore I broke several laws.
New Hampshire has a rule that states there must be an adult for every six children under five years old, but for a while the other teacher had to deal with eleven, for this small boy needed one-on-one attention. Other laws involve not hurting children, and children seem to instinctively know they deserve some sort of protection, and bellow “You’re hurting me!” even as you are being as tender as you can possibly be. “Ow! Ow! Ow! You are hurting me!” they screech as they claw, bite, kick you in the shins, and break your glasses. “Stop! You’re hurting! Aurrrrgh!” Meanwhile you remain calm, move them gently away from any walls they can bang their head against (while accusing you of banging their head against the wall), and attempt to engage them in a conversation, which of course is the one thing they don’t want to do.
They don’t want to talk. They want to get their way. The entry point to a dialog is usually an argument about who is hurting who. I very calmly say, “I am not hurting you. You are hurting yourself. Why are you doing that?” In the case of this small boy, to even ask such a question was infuriating, and made him all the more determined to get his way.
For an hour and a half I sat on the front steps on a lovey summer morning with the boy screaming. I wondered why some neighbor didn’t call the police, and also was starting to think I’d chosen the wrong battle. I wondered why the boy didn’t lose his voice. I wondered why the sky stayed blue and the sun still shone and the birds kept singing and the leaves stayed green. I began to yearn for an aspirin.
In a sense the boy had won, for he had completely avoided circle time, so I was asking him if he wanted to stop screaming and go in for snack time. However he seemed to feel if he stopped screaming he’d lose, and continued. I had assumed he’d lose at least his voice, after an hour, but he seemed inexhaustible. I continued to not give in, firm but gentle, asking quiet, repetitive questions. Then, abruptly, he grew quiet. I silently praised God, and then I asked the child, “All done?” He nodded. “Can you go inside and not scream?” He nodded again. I released my gentle grip and we stood up to go in, and as we walked inside he reached up and took my hand.
The interesting thing, to me at least, was that the boy never threw another tantrum. I imagined that in some way he had tested a limit, and met his match. Not that he didn’t complain and whine at times, but for the most part he was more cooperative than the other tykes, after our battle.
It became a lodestone for me, “Never give in to a tantrum”, however I’ve become better at avoiding such battles. And I’ve never again had one go on so long, since that summer day. (Sulking doesn’t count; sulking is not the same as a full blown tantrum.)
This Monday will be my seventieth birthday, and retirement is looming. When dealing with various tantrums the past month I’ve felt a surprising thing: I might actually miss them. Not that they are pleasant, but the communication that occurs within them is unique and interesting, once you get it going.
One law I suppose I break midst the battles of tantrums involves calling a child a “baby”. There is a fear doing so could scar the child’s psyche for the rest of their life. (What is the difference between a “scarred” and a “molded” character? I’m never entirely sure. What a drill sergeant calls “molding” nearly everyone else would call “scarring.”) Anyway, I’ve heard one way around “scarring” is to avoid saying the tantrumer is a baby, which is “labeling”, and instead to ask questions about how babies behave, as opposed to how “grown ups” behave; (five-year-olds consider themselves “grown ups”, when with three-year-olds.) I’ve broken the declines of a couple of tantrums the past month by utilizing the word “baby” in a hopefully correct way. If it was incorrect, all I can respond with is, “all is fair in love and tantrums”, and also, “if you don’t like it, fire me”.
One event involved a small girl throwing an absolute fit about having to put on snowpants when it was “too hot”. It was barely above freezing, and the snow was wet, which made snow pants all the more advisable, but she was flopping about on the floor and kicking her feet. I stroked my beard sagely and then inquired if she was behaving as a baby might behave. She glared at me and informed me her mother said she was THE baby. I then gestured at a two-year-old who was putting on her snowpants close by, and asked, “How about her?” The girl grinned and said, “No, she’s not a baby.” I nodded like Spok on the old Star Trek show and said, “Interesting. I see.” Then I had the five-year-old sit in the sun on the porch with snow pants she didn’t have to put on, unless she left the porch. After sulking a while she put them on and rushed off to play.
However I got an interesting insight from the exchange. I’ve read about how, in Victorian times, the upper classes in England, both women and men, required “dressers” in order to get into their fancy outfits. I’ve often thought what a pain (a royal pain) that would be. It would be bad enough to not know how to drive a car and to require a chauffeur, but to not know how to dress? But…I had just heard a five-year-old explain she was a baby while a two-year-old was not. Perhaps the girl was going to be the next Winston Churchill.
Then I had another exchange with a tough young boy who enjoys “rough-and-tumble” and often laughs at getting clobbered. I’ve seen him kick the shins of boys older and bigger than he is, and when he is promptly shoved and sent flying flat on his back, he laughs. It is as if he enjoys the attention so much he disregards the pain. However one time he was whining and whimpering about how his snow-pants were tucked wrongly into his boots. I had eleven other children to dress, and perhaps was frazzled, and a bit short. I said I’d get to him, but he wanted attention right NOW. So I pointed at the two-year-old, who once again was getting her snow pants on (because she takes great pride in doing things “all by her self,”) and I said, “A baby can do it.”
Apparently I’d thrown down a gauntlet, for the boy thrust out his jaw and challenged me with, “I’m not a baby! You’re the baby!” I smiled and said, “You know, you may be right. When you kids drive me crazy, maybe I do become a big baby.”
The boy’s face was split by an ear-to-ear grin, and he went outside guffawing loudly. Apparently he had forgotten all about how uncomfortable the cuffs of his snow pants were.
Another day; another tantrum dealt with.
After the tantrum, the small, tired child
Reaches a little hand up while walking
With the elder, secure that they'll be smiled
Upon. There is no need for talking.
The big hand gladly takes the little one's.
All is forgiven, and the elder's pleased
More by the gesture than by the loud drums
And cymbals of worship. All stress is eased
And the rich nothing of peace's well-being
Slants like sunbeams in the late afternoon
Of summertime: Gold more worth seeing
Than the cold kind. Do not say, "God, come soon,"
For He's already here. I, in my pride,
Have tantrumed, but He's here at my side.
Some of the most constructive time I spend with small children at my Childcare is time that is not “organized”. It has no specific “curriculum” other than “hanging out”. Basically, the kids just tag along as I potter about doing chores in my usual disorganized manner. Sometimes they help me, but usually not.
I tend to be hit by a non-stop stream of questions, and sometimes I answer them seriously, and sometimes with an absurd answer, and sometimes with an answer that becomes so long and elaborate that the children start drifting away.
As I potter about I often stop to pull a few random weeds, and each time a child will ask “What are you doing?” After answering, “pulling a few random weeds” the first hundred times, during the early days of the Childcare over a decade ago, I got a bit fed up, and began answering in a spurious manner, just to entertain myself by watching how the children responded. For example, I might answer, “making a fudge cookie.” Some children would look at me with owlish innocence, while others would think a bit and then a slow smile would spread across their faces and they’d exclaim, “You’re fooling us!”
Rather than slowing the onslaught of dumb questions, giving facetious answers increased the questions, because the kids liked some of the absurd answers I’d come up with. And I confess I rather liked it myself. It could make dull weeding a time of jocular hilarity, if I stated that I pulled a certain weed because it had magic powers and could turn my dog into an elephant. Sometimes we’d even sidetrack over to the dog to see if the herb worked. When it didn’t, I’d scratch my head and say, “That’s odd. Elephants look just like dogs, today.”
Of course, I had to take care to judge the nature of the child. Some children were totally trusting, and I’d need to make sure they knew I was joking, or they’d be misinformed. One time I misinformed a gullible child without intending to, and he came in one morning and folded his arms and greeted me with the challenging statement, “My Dad says there’s no such thing as walking trees.” Other children were simply serious by nature and didn’t like jokes. However, I was usually surprised by the adroit ability children had (and have) to enter into nonsense. The world of make-believe is second nature for many children.
My wife didn’t always approve of my ability to get children “stirred up”, because she felt I was not so good at getting them to be serious again. I disagreed, but she said my way of getting things back under control involved too much growling.
Anyway, after more than a decade just hanging out with the kids, (and getting paid for it), I am very certain children absorb like sponges, when they hang out with pottering old men. They are not merely learning a slew of factoids but are learning social skills such as how to tell a joke, and how to challenge a person who may be pulling their leg. Maybe they learn how to spot a liar, which is unfortunately an important skill to have in this fallen, modern world. Perhaps most important of all, they, by being outside so much with a person who loves the outdoors, learn how complex and amazing nature is. The green things are more than “plants” and the wiggly things are more than “bugs.” “Plants” and “bugs” turn from two nouns to a hundred interacting species, and the kids get to increase their vocabulary by a hundred in a single summer.
Some might say all this could be done by watching videos indoors, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Also, there is no predicting how the children will react to the so-called curriculum of a setting, both individually and as a group. Two years ago, I could not keep the kids away from the garden’s patch of edible podded peas; this year the children were relatively indifferent, only occasionally munching a few. In like manner, most kids don’t mind watching me pick the potato bugs from the potatoes, but dislike actually touching the bugs, especially the slimy larvae, and they are in no hurry to help me. Yet there was one particular boy who just loved waging war on potato bugs. He would plead with me to be allowed to do the job. I’d set him to it, and he’d easily spend an happy hour in the sunshine, moving down the long row meticulously removing the bugs.
Some tasks, such as digging the potatoes, are always a hit, and I have to ration the plants to make sure everyone gets a turn experiencing the delight of digging up a treasure:
So, I suppose “digging potatoes” could count as an official “curriculum”, and as something you could put down on paper in the manner bureaucrats prefer, as a scheduled “activity” of the Childcare, but to me that seems more like an exception than a rule.
For example, in the process of seeing the noun “bird” divide into numerous species the kids tend to scrutinize various birds and see things that simply can’t be matched by videos. This is not to say that I might not turn to a YouTube video to let the kids hear a particular birdsong when that particular bird is refusing to sing, but there is nothing like the real thing.
The other day it was very hot and humid, and I sought out the deepest shade I could find with a cluster of grouchy small girls. I had only a short time before they could rush to the pool, and then their petulance would be cured, but sometimes twenty minutes can seem an eternity. It was while we were in the deep shade that I pointed out a catbird. Catbirds are very curious, investigative birds, and, though they always try to always keep a bough or cluster of leaves between you and them, they can come quite close as they investigate what we humans are up to. This bird came close enough to distract the girls from their crabbiness. They exclaimed it was “practically tame”, and then, because I said it was called a catbird because it had a squeaky, scratchy caw something like a cat’s meow, all the girls started meowing to the bird. I said, “Not like that; more like this,” and did my best rendition of a catbird’s meow. All the girls began copying me and then, with perfect timing, the catbird hopped onto a nearby twig and showed us how to meow properly. All the girls looked utterly amazed, looking at each other with eyes round as owls, and then burst into gleeful laughter.
That can’t be matched by a video, though I’ll try:
An even better example involved an eastern phoebe.
We have several families of phoebes nesting in outbuildings around the farm, and I likely have bored the older boys pointing them out as they hop about in my garden, praising phoebes for eating so many bugs. Phoebe have a very distinctive way of twitching their tails up and down as they sit on a fencepost, and also an interesting way of sometimes fluffing the feathers on top of their heads into a small crest, and I’ve likely bored the boys pointing that out as well.
I had a group of particularly jaded five-, six- and seven-year-old boys around me one hot morning last week. I wasn’t actually “on the schedule”, but I could see that they were giving a member of my staff trouble as she tried to organize the smaller children for a hike. All the children must be swabbed with repellant and sunscreen, and mischievous boys can complicate the process, so I asked them if they’d like to come in the garden and see the first ripe broccoli and cauliflower. They always seem eager to hang out with me (if not to help), so they came over, and a few accepted samples of broccoli, while some announced they hated broccoli. I rambled away in my gravelly voice, saying some people have tastebuds that that taste the bitterness in broccoli, while others don’t, and then telling the old joke about the difference between green broccoli and green boogers being that small children won’t eat broccoli, and then pointed out a phoebe hopping in the dirt down at the end of the row. I was moving on to saying broccoli was in the cabbage family, and I was likely boring the boys by pointing how the nearby cabbage and cauliflower and Brussel sprouts all looked the same, when suddenly the phoebe began flying towards us.
The bird flew clumsily and erratically, bumping into plants on either side. My first thought was that it must be sick, perhaps with the dreaded avian ‘flu, but I had no time to talk, for the bird swooped up and came to an awkward landing directly on top of one of the boy’s baseball cap. Only then did I say, “It is a fledgling. Just learning to fly.”
Meanwhile the fledgling was looking about with a rather alarmed expression. You could almost hear it thinking, “Holy crap! Look where I landed.” Then it bolted, flying straight into the side of an above-ground-pool and crashing to the ground. The boys rushed over and formed a circle around the bird as I said, “Don’t touch it! Let’s see what it will do!”
The bird seemed to be shaking off the effects of a concussion (do birds hear birdies?) and then it looked up at all the faces looking down, and again you could imagine it thinking “Holy Crap!” It panicked and shot straight up around fifteen feet, before it wobbled away to the peak of the roof of a nearby shed. The boys were all laughing and commenting when another phoebe came gracefully flitting over and landed by the first phoebe’s side. Without any prompting from me one of the boys exclaimed, “It’s his mother!” whereupon all the other boys began cheering, “It’s the mother! It’s the mother!” almost like they were spectators at a horse race. Then a staff member called them off to hike, and they rushed away to tell her what they had seen.
I knew I could claim no credit for “showing” the boys anything, and just looked up to the sky and was thankful. It’s amazing what you can see by doing nothing.
Off the beaten path long trampled by those
Thirsting for fortune and hungry for fame
I sit by myself and twirl summer's rose
And wonder if being unknown is a shame.
I don't make fame queen, nor the dollar king,
But am like a boy who has escaped school,
And classmate's shaming, and teacher's hollering.
I forget how it feels to feel like a fool.
I just bask in sunshine like it is a bath
Washing away aches of schooling's cruel wrath.
Though I'm just sitting I progress a path
Which adds up to healing. You do the math.
Soon bells will toll, and they'll resume classes
But I'll not be schooled by roomfuls of asses.
As nations such as Shri Lanka run out of money and their people are told they can’t buy fuel or fertilizer, it seems events are teetering towards situations where the blunders of a few elites can bring about the misery of millions.
The government of Shri Lanka was hard hit by the covid fraud, for the cessation of tourism robbed the nation of much of its income, even as it still had to pay its expenses. As a small nation, its income besides tourism was largely “exports”, as its expenses were largely “imports”. The problem it faced is obvious when you see both their top export and top import was “Mineral fuels including oil”. They exported $695.2 million, which seems like a goodly amount, until you see they imported $2.1 billion, or three times as much.
The doings of a distant island caught my attention because I’m interested in organic fertilizers, and their government decided they could balance their budget a little by stopping the import of chemical fertilizers, and instead using locally-produced organic products. Didn’t work. Maybe they merely didn’t do the substitution corectly, but switching to organic fertilizers resulted in reduced crops, reducing the rice crop which feds the people, and also harming two major exports, namely cereal crops, ($241.4 million), and cotton ($232.8 million). In any case the nation wound up flat broke, and so deeply in debt no one would loan them any further funds.
This demonstrates two things.
First, it demonstrates that the well-meaning ideas of the elite can be badly researched and poorly thought-out, whether they be cancelling tourism or shifting to organic fertilizer. Hunger and the inability to buy gasoline, for millions of the unwashed masses, might not bother the elite, but when those millions stormed into the elite palace of the leader, and they swam in his private pool, the millions got the elite’s attention.
Second, rioting about a problem does not solve the problem. One prays to God to raise up new leaders who are more able to avoid simplistic solutions and who are more able to face the intricate details of complex issues. In the meantime, millions will continue to face the consequences of allowing simpletons to rule.
In the Netherlands the Dutch elite came up with an idealistic plan to reduce problems caused by the nitrogen in fertilizer by simply banning it. Didn’t work. In fact, it was a step too far, for the farmers (who would be bankrupted) immediately rioted, joined by a surprising number of non-farmers. The seriousness of the situation seems underscored by the fact the elite-ruled mainstream media seems determined to ignore the story, or else to fact-check it away.
Again, we see the consequences of allowing people, who feel they are elite and born to govern, invent rules which are bound to create suffering for millions. The millions rise up and say simpletons can’t be allowed to rule them.
Even the price of chocolate candy bars seems to hint at troubles for farmers in faraway Ghana. A candy bar that cost five cents in my boyhood is up to over two dollars, but the increase has not worked down to the farmers of the cocoa. (In this case the simpletons seem to be greedy middlemen).
As the United States is currently ruled by a simpleton, and as one consequence of his misguided energy policies may be famine, I decided maybe I should be more serious about making my garden productive this year. You’d be surprised at how intricate the details of gardening get, even on the small scale of my garden. I have seen I am just as capable of bad judgement as the leaders of Shri Lanka or the Netherlands.
For example, to fight high energy prices I burned a lot of wood last winter. This produced lots of wood ashes. I had heard wood ashes are good fertilizer, so I spread the ashes in my garden. Mistake. Ashes make the soil alkaline, and if the soil is too alkaline some plants are stunted, with leaves that are yellow rather than green. So, I am now conducting experiments involving turning alkaline soil acidic, (“souring” “sweetened” soil), right in the middle of a growing season. This is work which would be unnecessary if only I had gotten things right in the first place.
Considering I am past my prime, I am not fond of unnecessary work. I’m slow enough just doing the necessary. And what really irks me is when it becomes necessary to do work which I never saw coming.
For example, a drought. Last year was so rainy my potatoes rotted, but this year nearly every rain shower or thunderstorm misses us. (In other words, I never saw this coming because it didn’t come). The drought is particularly aggravating when I must water when I should be weeding, for I am watering the weeds.
Also, I had to divert my already-low levels of energy to building fences, for first my chickens and then my lone goat invaded my garden in unhelpful ways. I hate fences. But then, when I thought I had my own beasts corralled, I nearly turned my goat to goat-burger when I saw hoofprints down a row of beans and carrots, with all the plants neatly clipped to stubs. I swore softly and tried to figure out how the beast was getting past my new fence. But then I noticed that besides the goat-sized hoofprints there was a set of tiny hoofprints. Dawn broke on Marblehead. It wasn’t my goat. It was a doe and her fawn.
Oddy, the sight of those tiny prints quelled my anger. How can you get mad at Bambi? At the same time, I recognized the fact I wasn’t angry was likely because I wasn’t hungry. If I was hungry my tolerance would fade. In besieged cities famished citizens have eaten their children, if history can be believed, so maybe I could eat even a cute little Bambi. And maybe venison would supply more protein than beans and carrots. But I went to work putting up more fences, all the same. They were low and flimsy, but I figured a doe wouldn’t jump over them, if she had to leave her fawn behind.
(I hope you are noticing this situation is becoming more complex than one would imagine, when first planting some carrots and beans. Are you gardening vegetables, or venison?)
My garden also had successes, involving benefits brought by the cool weather, and also the fact watering is a job even an old man can do. I like standing about and spraying with a hose, and the deer and her fawn apparently were not fond of peas and lettuce. Those crops prospered. My crop of edible podded peas was especially bountiful, considering the fact not far away the parched lawn sounded crisp when you walked on the grass.
So, I had far more lettuce and peas than I could use, and I decided a good way to defy the government-created inflation was to lower my prices rather than raising them. I lowered prices to zero and had good fun being a philanthropist, giving away lettuce and crunchy, juicy, sweet edible podded peas for free. (Hopefully this rebellious behavior topples the government, or at least slightly decreases inflation.)
As I fought my little war with weeds and deer and potato bugs and drought and the government, I gained a small victory by allowing a certain small patch of weeds to thrive by my peas. (The weed was lamb’s quarters, which is easier to grow than spinach and tastes better, so it is hard to call it a weed,) however this particular patch was infested with aphids. Aphids are the favorite food of ladybugs. I caught every ladybug, (of at least eight different species), that I saw in my garden and brought them to my weeds. To my delight soon there were ladybug larvae on the lamb’s quarters
And soon afterwards not only were there far fewer aphids on those lamb quarters, but there were also fewer potato bug larvae eating my potatoes. Not that there were thousands of ladybugs swarming my garden, but they were around, and had their effect.
There were also other predators, including some small wasp which apparently likes potato bug larvae. I can’t claim to be intentionally breeding such wasps, but maybe I accidentally did so last year, when I allowed potato bugs to get out of hand. The wasp prospered last year, and that means this year they are all over the place, and a potato bug larva often may shrivel due to eggs the wasp laid in its back. In any case, as I walk down my lush row of well-watered potatoes, I’m surprised by how much less time I must spend picking potato bugs from the leaves. In fact I may even get a decent crop. I also have more time to spend weeding and watering other crops.
I bring this up to show that not all ideas involving being “organic” are stupid. I prefer to label myself a “conservationist” rather than an “environmentalist”. The difference being: I get my hands dirty while environmentalists live in ivory towers far from the dirt. I prefer to suffer and learn from my own mistakes, while their mistakes cause millions to suffer, and they only learn by being chased down the street by a howling mob.
The potato patch may well be a small victory, especially if the supply shrinks and the demand grows, and potatoes are in short supply by December. God wiling, I’ll have some big ones to give away for Christmas.
You can’t win them all, and my popcorn patch is a battle I may lose. Corn needs lots of water and is a heavy feeder, but does not like being fed wood ashes at all. The drought prevented the wood ashes from being diluted, and in places the soil was so caustic it burnt the corn at the base. So besides losing some seedlings to cutworms I killed some with my care. What a dope I can be! However, I won’t go down to complete defeat without a fight.
My counterattack was to replant, making sure to dilute the soil, and even including some dilute vinegar to counteract the wood ashes. This created new problems, for when you focus on watering you neglect weeding, and the weeds loved how I had soured the overly sweetened soil. Not that I neglected weeding right by the corn seedlings, but the rows of corn were like alleys between skyscrapers of weeds.
With the weeds becoming such a problem, I had to shift away from watering, yet as I weeded, I was amazed by the roots of the weeds. They formed a thick mesh just below the surface, rather than diving deep to find water in a drought. The weeds did this because their way to find water in a drought was to exploit my watering, and to grab the water at the surface before it could get down to the roots of my corn. These crafty weeds had to go!
With the help of a member of my childcare staff I not only weeded the corn, but raked up grass after mowing and used it to heavily mulch the row, to prevent new weeds. Take that, you suckers!
But solutions create new problems. As corn and grass are closely related, you might think a mulch of rotting grass would release nutrients that corn needs. Wrong. The exact opposite occurs, for the intermediate step, wherein the clippings rot, requires nitrogen the corn also requires. Therefore, you must fertilize not only the corn but also the clippings with a high nitrogen fertilizer.
At this point my eyes strayed to my chicken coop. Chicken manure is so high in nitrogen that you usually have to let it rot for a year and be rinsed of some of its potency, or it will kill plants with kindness. Also, it usually is a disgusting swill that splashes like brown paint when you clean the coop. This year, due to the drought, it was crumbly powder. For that reason alone, it seemed a good time to clean the coop. Also, it seemed that, if I sprinkled this powder well away from the corn, to avoid burning the corn, I could fertilize both the decomposition of grass and the corn. Lastly, I again watered the mulch-concoction with highly diluted vinegar to sour the sweetened soil.
Hmm. My garden sounds more and more like the test tubes of a mad scientist rather than anything remotely “organic”. Also, it would not surprise me much if my chemistry killed my corn. Yet maybe, just maybe, we will witness a late season rally, and the comeback of an underdog, and I will harvest some popcorn, which is easy to store for the winter, as you need only to convince your wife to make the dried ears a pretty ornament she hangs on her walls as fall decor.
I belabor you with all this to demonstrate how even an old-timer like myself is still learning, and how a garden is not a completed thing but rather a work in progress. I am constantly running up against new problems, and consulting other small gardeners for their ideas, seeking solutions. In like manner, if you want to formulate a sane government policy you need to gather many such minds, so you know of many solutions, and also of many problems that solutions reveal. It is through sifting through many ideas that a government can come up with a route, (or perhaps ten routes) to try, and these routes are only trials. If you want to formulate an insane government policy you walk into a situation certain you already know the answer, and you order wise people, who know better, about.
Oddly, this brings me back to the doe and fawn chowing down in my garden. This is seen as a bad thing by some globalists, for they (in Africa) apparently feel “bush game” allows “indigenous” populations to eat even when their gardens are taken away, when they should be forced to move from their homelands to allow for some monoculture which elitists feel is wise. For example: planting oil palms which are supposed to replace oil wells. Such policy is reminiscent of the clearances of Highlands in Scotland in the early 1800’s, because sheep seemed more profitable than people. In the short-term sheep indeed were more profitable than people, but such policy seemed less smart at the start of the Crimean War, when soldiers were needed. The Highlanders had been the best fighters, yet few were now available, and sheep were a lousy replacement.
It follows that one aspect of a monoculture of oil palms is that it wrecks both the natural and social environment. It not only drives away the “bush game”, it also drives away the “indigenous” people. Yet the elite investors growing square miles of oil palms insist they do so because they love the environment. They destroy an environment that once held five native villages, twenty species of native animals, and 200 native plants, because oil palms are better “for the environment” than fossil fuels. Such madness is why I refuse to call myself an “environmentalist”, and prefer “conservationist”. (It should be noted that some who invested in oil palms only did so to walk away with buckets of money from subsidies, and cared not one hoot about either society or ecology.)
In any case, I figure I’m an “indigenous” sort of fellow. My family has lived in these parts for four hundred years. So that makes the deer munching my carrots and beans my “bush game”. And together we represent riffraff the highly educated elite will wish removed so they can establish a National Park “for the foxes” (IE: because they want to go fox hunting.) (I have noticed the elite never say they do anything “for themselves.” If it isn’t “for the environment” it’s “for the children”. They see themselves as altruistic. That is why they are so puzzled when they’re chased down the street by a howling mob.)
Now, as an “indigenous” person one characteristic I should have is a nigh mystical closeness with nature. Not that I notice it all that much, but I do know the correct facial expressions. I used to hang out with the Navajo, and they showed me how to act when the tourists were about. And that is what elitists are: Tourists on their own planet. However, when no elitists are around, what should I do?
I decided I should have a talk with the deer, and an opportunity presented itself when I weeded late into the twilight, one evening, past the time the deer thought I should have gone home.
When I popped my head up in the corn patch and began talking, the doe did not seem surprised, and just listened to me rant.
I ranted on at great length about how, if the deer persisted on eating my garden, I would feel justified to eat them. After all, if I fed them all summer, they should feed me all winter. The doe did not seem the slightest bit offended, and stood listening. But then I noticed something, and said, “Hey! Where is your fawn?” Only then did the doe turn and walk away.
I then did what indigenous people do, which is to act as if family and community are real things. The elite, who seemingly know only divorce and abortion, are somewhat mystified by such earthy behavior, but all it boils down to is “comparing notes”. In the process of ordinary chitchat, the subject of deer was raised, and I swiftly learned of two events.
First, an animal lover had, to their own great dismay, struck and killed a fawn with their vehicle on a highway a third of a mile from my farm, two nights before. Second, that same night, and the following night, a lady who lived a half mile away had let her dog out to pee before going to bed, and the dog had walked out into a spotlight-lit lawn and been met by a doe who came out of the woods. The dog was young, skinny, had short, reddish-brown fur, and was roughly the same size as a fawn. As the woman watched amazed the doe and dog pranced and frolicked together for fifteen minutes, before they called it quits, and the dog came in for bed. That this happened one time seemed odd, but the second time it happened made it all the more bizarre. Was the doe in need of a foster child?
Now, if you are of the elite, I’m sure you will recognize the above tale as one of those quaint but fictitious creations regurgitated by primitive peoples. However, if you are afflicted by indigenousness, it is just one of those relationships you notice, like the ladybug’s relationship with healthy plants in the garden. Just as you don’t call the doings of ladybugs fictitious, you don’t call the doings of deer and dogs fictitious either.
Nor does the story stop there. Just as fawns can be struck by cars, leaving does aggrieved, does can be struck by cars, leaving fawns orphaned.
A child arrived at our childcare and described how she had seen two men hoisting “road kill” into the back of their pickup truck only a quarter mile from my garden. (Why waste the meat?) My initial (and unspoken) thought was that the poor doe who had lost her fawn had followed her fawn into death. But later that same day a fawn without a mother startled the children as they hiked, by bolting across their path, at my Childcare.
This would suggest that, within the proximity of my garden, was a doe missing a fawn, and a fawn missing a doe. Apparently, this cruel modern world causes broken homes among deer as well as humans. The question then becomes, is there any social worker in nature who can unite the lonely-heart doe with the lonely-heart fawn?
Heck if I know. All I know is that, with all this drama going on, they stayed the heck out of my garden. Not that it will last. The children rushed up to me today with the news they had seen a doe with not one, but two, fawns, just across the pasture from my garden. I sense an imminent threat.
What is the threat? Is it that the doe will bring her two fawns into my garden to browse? Or is that the elite will step in to help?
Judging from prior behavior, the elite response to the situation will favor deer over farmers. They will ban automobiles, for killing a fawn and a doe. They will not ban deer, for wrecking my carrots and beans.
Me? Well, I may work a bit more on my fences, though I hate fences. Putting them up is hard work, and I’m too old for blisters on my palms, but will likely suffer a few more. But a few more blisters before I die seems worth it, if I avoid banning deer and banning automobiles, while getting the job of growing my carrots and beans done.
Elitists? Isn’t it odd how, when they erect their fences, they never get blisters on their palms? All they get is chased down streets by howling mobs.
Ordinarily, when you write an introductory paragraph, you have already arrived at some sort of conclusion, and you are just preparing for the body of the writing which will develop along preordained lines and arrive at the preordained conclusion. However, I haven’t figured everything out, so this is more of a diary entry. It just describes a bad day, which, like most bad days, has a funny side.
I suppose I should begin with a description of my bad mood. I’ll try (and likely fail) to keep it short.
I have been perplexed by the fact a single letter can alter the word “weeding” to “wedding” and make such a difference. “Weeding” no one wants to help with; you have to pay people to help, but “wedding” sparks more generous impulses. Everyone wants to help.
It just so happens I am far more serious than usual about my vegetable garden this year. Usually I can laugh, if the experiment results in amazingly fertilized weeds towering eight feet tall. I just notch it up to experience. “Next year I’ll handle weeding differently.”
But this year is different, with people’s retirement savings shrinking by 50% even as their retirement costs increase by 50%. I myself am not retired, but at age 69 most of my friends are, and I am well aware this is a disaster for people who worked long and hard, and trusted the “system”. It now looks like the “system” was not trustworthy.
With inflation so bad, people are looking for things to invest in that will not lose value. Some take their money from stocks and invest in gold. I don’t have that much money and own no stocks, but I invest in a sort of gold I dig from the dirt, called “carrots”. I am a gold miner.
How is this a good investment? Actually, it is a bad investment, at April rates. You see, if I plant eight feet of carrots it will see me and my wife through next winter, and I can handle weeding eight feet. But not thirty-two feet. Thirty-two feet involves hiring weeders, which raises the cost of the carrots. At April rates such carrots would be absurdly expensive, perhaps as much as ten dollars a pound. But, with the Swamp malfunctioning so grotesquely, April rates don’t even apply to June. In a worst-case scenario, carrots might be a hundred dollars a pound by November, in which case my bad investment mysteriously becomes a good one.
I have planted long rows of all sorts of stuff which will be handy to have, if we are in dire straits by Autumn, but I’m having a hard time finding workers. It’s hard enough finding workers for my Childcare, which pays my bills, and the extra work of the garden stresses me out.
Worst is that few see things as dire as I am seeing them, (though a few are starting to come around to my way of seeing). Most townsfolk are wonderful, for nothing phases them. They can be buffeted by life, and they are like the “Whos in Whoville”, who were not bothered when the “Grinch” stole Christmas and they sang carols anyway. I like such people very much, and they are one reason I plant extra carrots. A carrot might be a nice gift to give them, next Christmas.
But just because I like and admire them doesn’t mean I should have to give up on my garden. And that is the point where the frustration and irritation start to perturb my mind, and I find myself grumbling to God. And praying He help me stop muttering to my Maker, and instead sing “This is the day the Lord has made” when I arise.
But I want to garden yet am under a sort of pressure to be a family man and do family stuff, for example attend a grandchild’s ballgames. Not that it is a bad thing, especially when the class displayed by both the players and the crowd (on both sides) makes professional athletes look shameful. It was an excellent game, 2-0 with tension in every inning, and my grandson’s team came out on top.
Yet the whole time I’m thinking about my garden. I’m even thinking that, if I really cared, I’d sacrifice the ballgame for the garden. After all, it would be a terrible thing if my grandchild lacked a carrot next January, and it was my fault.
Thinking along these lines not only sours a delightful ballgame; it sours life in general. I was frowning at speeches at a granddaughter’s graduation. And it even was souring the approaching wedding of my daughter. I felt divided and irked by the fact my help was wanted even as few would help me. For example, the wedding involved all sorts of stuff arriving via UPS and Amazon, which resulted in a towering stack of cardboard boxes at the Childcare. Someone had to take them all to the recycling center, and that someone was me. It intruded upon my Saturday “day off” schedule of weed, weed, weed, transplant, and weed, and I confess to being a bit frosty, when I was asked to dispose of the cardboard. But I did it, muttering to my Maker. And my reward?
Lydia, my lone surviving goat, who lives a life as pampered as a cat, chose to use the time I was absent from the farm to carefully pick her way through all sorts of edible weeds to my pride and joy, (and favorite vegetable), some cauliflower plants which promised to grow heads a foot across, and chomped them down to mere stubs protruding from the earth.
All my warm feelings towards that goat vanished, and I considered turning her to goat-burgers. In other words, I was becoming unreasonable. It didn’t help when someone stated I should not blame the goat and instead should tend to my fences. Like I have time! I can’t even weed, when there isn’t rain and I have to water my long rows, in which case I am also watering the weeds!
In a way that could be my motto for the past two years: “Like I have time!”. Just as I have to choose between weeding and watering, there have been all too many situations wherein, in doing one thing, I neglect another.
For example, last week I took my 2000 Jeep Cherokee to the local garage because the brakes of the old clunker were making a scraping sound, (“Like I have time for this!”) and, while fixing the brakes the mechanic observed the vehicle wasn’t inspected. I felt a sort of shock. That was a job I should have done in February! The fellow said he could inspect it quickly, if I had the registration, but, when I checked the registration, I realized the vehicle was also unregistered. How could I miss that!? Thinking back, I vaguely recalled attempting to do it on-line, but running into some glitch where the computer refused to cooperate. Somehow that exasperating attempt manufactured a feeling in my mind that the effort had been made and the job was done, when it wasn’t. (I recall wondering why nothing came in the mail, and no money vanished from my account.) In any case, I told my mechanic I’d be back in a few days, when I found time to stop in at the Town Office and register the Jeep.
In case you are wondering how I could drive around unregistered and uninspected, blame the coronavirus. Our small-town police-chief has had between two part-time officers, and zero part-time officers. An airhead like myself could drive about in flagrant violation of the law and never be reprimanded.
Come to think of it, the coronavirus had me as hard-pressed as our police-chief, as I kept a Childcare open despite the Swamp’s efforts to shut everything down. However, that was old news, and we are facing new news, which is crazy inflation and crashing markets and the fact we might be running out of food by November. Thank you, Brandon.
However, my little town, in its efforts to recover from the coronavirus, had recently sworn in three young officers to help the chief. They were from out of town, which meant they had no understanding of why an old coot like me might be driving around with no registration and no inspection. (I mention this to create what is called “Foreshadowing”)
My first dim awareness that things had changed occurred when I was trying to snatch a nap after lunch on a day when I had to cover for an absent worker at the Childcare in the morning. Though I lay down I never napped. First, I got a call that a child had a finger caught in a sleighbell at the Childcare. (The metal had a hole created by turning metal inward, which allowed a little finger to slip in, but caught the finger when it tried to slip out.) As the child was weeping, this was a critical crisis, but the adroit use of tip snips freed the finger, and I settled back to nap. Then a second call disturbed me to remind me to attend my grandson’s championship game. I already knew that. And then the third interruption was a loud crashing, scraping sound in front of my house. When I blearily went to the window, I noted the driver leaving the car and running away. It looked like his car was not pulled-over to the side, but was in the middle of the lane on a sharp curve.
I gave up on my nap and went outside to see. Yes, he was stopped in the center of his lane, on a dangerous curve. His jury-rigged tie rods had failed and dropped his front axle on the right side, flattening a tire. I dialed 911 and reported the situation, and then directed traffic, including two school buses, to avoid people pulling out into the opposite lane (to get around the stopped car) from crashing headlong into cars coming the other way around the sharp curve. Most people assumed the car was my car and asked me if I needed help. That irked me a bit. It was like I was getting blamed. I figured I was actually a sort of minor hero, though I was mostly irked I hadn’t napped and might be late to my grandson’s game. But rather than the chief taking twenty minutes to arrive as usual, a young officer arrived in only ten minutes followed by two more five minutes later.
The young officers seemed inexperienced, as if it was the first time they’d seen such a predicament and weren’t exactly certain of how to handle it by-the-book. Likely it wasn’t covered in school. They disagreed about the correct procedure and seemed to be a little rude to each other, and also to me. One fellow was offended by my inability to describe the driver, who I’d only blearily and briefly glimpsed through a screen. I supposed they were learning on the fly, dealing with their own inexperience in such situations, but I vainly thought I myself had handled the situation pretty well, without schooling. I shrugged, left them to their learning, and went to get ready to my grandson’s game.
By the time I came back out to hop in my Jeep and leave for the game the officers had set out cones and positioned the two policecars, with lights flashing to alert traffic to the problem. They also were dealing with the driver, who had returned with the help he’d run off to find. Rather than understanding this was how we deal with problems in our rural way, they were giving him a hard time for “leaving the scene of an accident.” I blithely forgot that my sticker was expired, cheerfully waving while weaving my way through all the parked vehicles on the curve to go to the game. The police were too busy to notice the criminal in their midst.
(This is further foreshadowing.)
To skip ahead past the delightful ballgame, the next day found my reason failing. I was at the point described as, “losing all reason.” The goat eating my cauliflower was just the final straw. Further irritations came from things which should have pleased me. For example, all my hard work, (and the cool weather) resulted in a bountiful growth of lettuce. How could that irk me?
Well, I was irked because having all that lettuce meant I had work more, figuring out who to give it to, and how to do it. Would I never be free of further work? In a fit of independence, after taking all the boxes to the recycling center I decided the heck with both weeding and weddings, and drove to a local greenhouse to buy cauliflower seedlings. It was very selfish of me, but I do like cauliflower.
Even though I was civil and polite with the industrious woman who sells seedlings, part of my mind was in rebellion. Despite all my religion I was thinking of nasty and hurtful ways to make the point that I felt like I was giving and never getting. Even my goat was against me.
It was as I returned from the greenhouse with cauliflower seedlings waving from the dashboard, grumbling to God because I knew I was thinking nasty and hateful thoughts, and suggesting He should have created creation and me differently, that I passed one of the young policemen, heading the other way, eager to prove he was good at enforcing the law. As I continued up the road, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw his lights come on, and thought, “I hope that’s not for me. I hope he got called to another crisis.” Just then I saw a little lane ahead. It occurred to me that if I pulled into that lane I’d be out of his way if he was off to another crisis, and also that, if he was after me, he might not find me. Big mistake.
He must have turned around with adroitness I never expected. Last thing I saw in my rear-view mirror he was headed the opposite way. I was pretty much pulled into the narrow, shaded lane, but the butt of my old jeep was still visible from the main road, when I heard the police car’s modern siren make that weird noise sirens now make. It reminds me of the flying saucer in one of the first video games, (“Space Invaders”); (twenty-five cents per game, in 1969.) I figured he had seen me, and was after me, so I pulled over.
The young man came whizzing into the side lane practically on two wheels and had to brake hard to avoid smashing into me. The lane was a narrow one. He stopped dead center in the street, blocking traffic both ways. I thought he looked a little flushed as he came to my window. Pulling me over was likely the most exciting thing he’d seen, in our sleepy little town. An actual pursuit!
He asked me for my license and registration and I sighed deeply for I knew the registration was expired. I deserved a ticket. Instead, I got arrested and handcuffed.
It happened like this: He asked me, “Why did you accelerate into this lane?”
“I did not accelerate.”
“But why pull into this lane?”
I said, “I know people who live down this lane,” which was no lie, but for some weird reason I decided God would not like it if I insinuated that I had pulled into the lane to see an old friend, so I added, “But if you want the truth, I was hoping to avoid you.”
“You saw my lights?”
I noticed the young man’s face became much redder, and thought to myself, “Big Mistake.”
He announced, “I am going to have to ask you to step from the car. You are under arrest for resisting arrest.”
“I have to cuff you and take you to the station and charge you.”
“This is rediculous.” But, as it seemed I’d be resisting arrest if I said I wasn’t resisting arrest, I got out of my Jeep and was told to stand facing my Jeep, and, at age 69, for the first time in my life, felt cold steel clamp around my wrists. I did say, “Aren’t you supposed to read me my rights, or something like that,” and the officer replied, “We do that at the station.”
I think I may have been the first person the young fellow had the chance to handcuff, for they were much too tight. But I now commend him for choosing an old geezer to practice on, and not some drug-addled musclebound punk of nineteen who was full of hormones. (Having run a Childcare, I know even when you have another’s hands under control, considerable damage can be done to your nose with a forehead, even by a four-year-old). But I didn’t butt, and instead, despite the pain in my wrists, was extremely polite and well-behaved. The young man was swept up in a whirlwind of procedure, making the correct reports on his radio, and asking me all the correct questions, and seemed so inexperienced and over-his-head I did my best to be helpful. I sat as he wanted, in the rear of his police car.
I must say that seat is designed to be uncomfortable. Hard plastic. No cushions. No place you want to sit with your hands behind your back. I sat sort of sideways, as the pain in my wrists diminished slightly when I sat that way, and I must have looked uncomfortable. The young officer suddenly paused and asked me, “Do those cuffs hurt?”
“Well, if you agree to obey, I can cuff your hands in front.”
“Sure. I’ll agree. Don’t worry. I’m a good guy.”
(There may have been some sarcasm hidden in my statement, for policemen are supposed to capture bad guys, and perhaps I was suggesting he had arrested the wrong guy. But never mind that. Such subtlety was over Barney Fife’s head.)
In a fit of unexpected compassion, the young officer unhandcuffed me and then re-handcuffed me with my hands in front of me. As I held my wrists forward to be re-handcuffed the red dents in my skin caused by the prior handcuffing were plain to see, and he handcuffed more gently the second time. Live and learn. I am proud to be part of the education of a young officer.
But the world sure does look different from the back of a police care, on your way to the station to be booked. My fret about the one letter difference between “weeding” and “wedding”, and the crises about carrots, cauliflowers and lettuce, abruptly seemed removed and far away.
I did remember to consult God, which I was glad to see myself do. Usually, when I am abruptly in some tornado outside my ordinary experience, I forget the very One I should be thinking of, and instead am engrossed by the interesting turn my life has taken. Even if I stepped into an elevator with no floor, and was falling to my doom, rather than my final words being “Oh God” I fear they would be “Oh Shit!”. But in this bizarre situation I actually did remember God, and my conversation was a mix of “What is going on?” and “Help!”
Next, I got to see how hardened criminals are treated at police stations. I was handcuffed to a bench for around an hour as legalities were attended to: What were the actual charges, and what bail should be set, and who would be my bail-bondsman. One of my hands was released so I could sign certain papers, but my other hand remained handcuffed. I asked the young officer if he could allow me to use my cellphone to take a picture of my handcuffed hand, and he said it would be OK. (I was thinking it would make my blog more interesting than pictures of my hand, picking green lettuce.)
(By this point I think I had persuaded the young officer I was not a dangerous threat, and actually am a kindly old man. I thanked him when he brought me a glass of water. I mean a plastic cup of water. (Glass would obviously be too dangerous.) And I found things to chat about. For example, as he fingerprinted me, using old-fashioned ink, I told him that when I got fingerprinted by the state police because the state requires it for my Childcare, they had a new-fangled, ink-free computer screen to press fingers on. He begrudged our town couldn’t afford that update yet.
Mentioning my Childcare made him curious, and he asked me a few unprofessional questions pertaining to my Childcare and not my case, and I cheerfully regaled him with a few recent episodes.
As I studied the three sets of fingerprints he was required to take, I mentioned my prints sure had a lot of scars, but that I supposed I hadn’t kept track of all the cuts my fingertips have received, as a hands-on sort of worker, now pushing seventy. (Too much information? Not sure. I was painting a self-portrait for the young man, hopefully making him feel a little ashamed for handcuffing such a sweet, old man.)
We even joked a little. He had to ask me a long list of careful questions he read from a sheet of paper, such as, “Do you have diabetes, high blood-pressure, cancer…” and so forth, an then he paused, looked at me, and said, “I’ve got to ask these…Are you pregnant?” I made some politically incorrect comment that made him laugh, though he said nothing, because we were being automatically filmed by a camera by the ceiling, and cancel culture is so rampant even policemen obey unwritten laws.
Next I had to raise bail, which involved getting a bondsman. After a long wait my tax accountant came walking in, and cheerfully said, “Hi Caleb.” As I replied, “Hi Brenda,” the young officer looked surprised. I added, “I got in trouble trying to avoid trouble. Sorry you had to drive all this way on a Saturday.”
Brenda replied, “No trouble. I have another job, next town over, so I have to drive down this way anyway.”
The young officer looked mystified. How could such a familiarity be? Was I such a habitual criminal that I knew the bail bondsman on a first name basis? (In an area of small towns a single person can have five or six jobs.)
After that we were pretty much done. The station-computer produced twelve sheets of paper and I signed five of them. The other seven involved my rights, and a form to fill out if I wanted court-appointed lawyer, (involving a lengthy interrogation about my income), and lastly the date of my arraignment.
The officer also gave me two warnings, one for no inspection and one for no registration. I stated I’d take care of it right away.
Then he said he’d drive me back to my jeep. He could only then return the boxcutter I’d had in my back pocket. I joked, “Now I have to think of what I’m going to tell my wife.”
He looked curious. “What are you going to tell her?”
“I’m thinking maybe I won’t go home.”
(To be continued)
(Memory: in 1985, out west, I asked a Navajo how he dared drive around without plates, and he replied, “Do they make your car drive any better? Your white-man-laws are stupid.”)
Running a Childcare makes me especially aware of what every parent is sadly made conscious of: What strikes an older person as beautiful and worth sharing make strike the young as exceedingly disagreeable. And the young may become disagreeable in response. For example, when the parents of the cartoon character Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes” take him out to see the pristine beauty of a fresh fall of snow, Calvin doesn’t appreciate it.
At some point I decided it was more enjoyable to garden alone. In 2019 I had my most successful garden ever, simply because I stopped inflicting gardening upon people who have the sane opinion that dirt is dirty. I had more fun, they had more fun, yet at the time of the harvest I had second thoughts, which I go into, in an old, 2019 post:
The long-winded post contained a sonnet which is sneakily revolutionary as it is only 13 lines when they are supposed to have 14.
I wish they were as old-fashioned as I.
Though frost cuts, I heap a heating harvest,
Yet I no longer even bother to try
To get them to sweat, though reaping’s blessed.
Today I hauled a hundred pounds of squash
To my larder. For me that’s four hundred
Meals. But I know they’d, with piggy squeals, quash
All joy from my harvest, whining they’ve bled
And are wounded, because fall’s frost cuts.
Those who don’t plant don’t know why they’re fed.
Their fine complaints are but signs they lack guts.
They think they make sense, while making me groan
For no man likes to reap harvests alone.
To spare you the effort of following my meandering mind down all the rabbit holes of convoluted logic, the post wound up concluding that no man is an island, and I should find a way to avoid gardening alone. It also confessed I saw no foreseeable way of doing so.
This seems especially true of weeding. I like weeding, but many suggests this proves I’ve gone completely bonkers in my old age.
Why do I like it? Perhaps it is because, as you age, the fingers are still nimble, (providing you are spared arthritis), when the rest of you huffs and puffs doing what once was quite ordinary.
I once saw a film showing the pianist Artur Rubinstein at age ninety. Always a bit of an exhibitionist, he allowed the film to begin with him getting out of bed, so ancient and stiff he has trouble getting loose enough to stand up and walk, but then he sits at the piano and loosens up his fingers running through a few scales, and then, with startling swiftness, is able to play flowing rhapsodies of music. Probably it isn’t as good as he could play as a young man of seventy, but still it was utterly amazing, and also proof using your fingers doesn’t make you huff and puff. And weeding is using your fingers. It doesn’t make you huff and puff. Furthermore, if I may be so bold, I am a sort of Artur Rubinstein of weeding.
My problem is I plant too much. If I only planted short rows, it wouldn’t be any challenge, but with his Fraudulency, Biden, seeming out to create a famine, short rows are not long enough. But then, if you plant long rows, you create long rows to weed. And this year I am so serious about planting long rows that the weeds are already springing up while I am still planting the long rows.
This is especially true in the case of carrots. Carrots are good keepers, when winter comes around. Ordinarily I wouldn’t need to plant that many. After all, how many plastic, one-pound bags of carrots does my wife buy at the market for us in the course of a winter? Maybe a pound every two weeks? Even if you call our northern winters 24 weeks long and add another 8 weeks until we can harvest our first carrots next year, that’s only 16 pounds. A double-row of eight feet will do. Easy. (Especially if, God willing, I get some huge, half-pound carrots.) But, if Biden has his way, and we all starve to stop Global Warming, I’ll need some extra, for family and friends and church suppers. Therefore I’m starting with four times what I need; thirty-two feet of double-rowed carrots. (If I have time and space I may add a later crop. But, to start, let us see if the first doesn’t kill me.)
The thing about carrots is that they are tiny seeds that produce the feeblest, hair-like seedlings. Meanwhile the weeds grow boisterously, swiftly twice as high and twice as large. Compare a carrot seeding:
And here are weeds:
And here are carrots and weeds squaring off to do battle.
Actually, they don’t square off like that. The above is actually the edge of the weeded area and the non-weeded area. The carrots are hidden by the weeds, in the non-weeded area. Therefore, you must have fingers like Rubinstein and weed very carefully. After selecting the largest weeds, and pulling them, you start to see the carrots underneath, and can pull the smaller weeds.
If you only planted eight feet of carrots the weeds would never get so far ahead of you, but if your eyes are bigger than your stomach, in a gardener sort of way, this is your plight. The fortunate thing is that, although the carrots are tiny, they have deep tap roots, and only a few get torn up as you uproot the larger weeds. (And that actually thins the carrots, which is a later job. First you must help the carrots survive, before you can even get to the point where you worry about thinning.)
This year has been very dry, so my scarce free time has been usurped by having to do what the clouds should do and do better: Water. It is very important to water the tiny carrots for if they get too dry before their tiny roots shoot downward as tap roots, they just die on you. But even as you save them you are watering the weeds.
Then when it did rain, it was thunder rain, which is somehow loaded with nitrogen by cloud-to-cloud lightning. It is wonderful as it causes all your plants to abruptly leap upwards, but horrible because it has the exact same effect on weeds. The earth which looked so brown and weed-free after rototilling abruptly is lush with a kazillion weeds.
It was obvious I needed help, with so many feet of planted plants all getting weedy at once. My daughter and daughter-in-law have been very helpful, but my daughter is about to get married, and I didn’t live so long by telling women weeding is more important than weddings (even if it is.)
Just about every business in town has a help-wanted sign, so finding help from outside seems unlikely. Therefore, my wife suggested I turn to our Childcare staff. I cringed. I didn’t want to offend them. But, to my astonishment, they responded favorably. (Perhaps controlling weeds is easier than controlling children.)
One thing I never expected was for them to be so gracious, as I instructed them. I expected them to behave as if I was asking them to ingest poison, but instead they behaved as if I was Rubinstein teaching them piano. Even my boring sidetracks (into how this weed is edible and the juice of that weed is good for bug-bites) didn’t cause their eyeball to fall out with boredom, but rather they found me fascinating. (I would say it is the difference between a teenager and an adult, but one was a teenager.) We chattered away and I actually found myself enjoying myself. Then I left them to weed alone, and they worked tirelessly under a blazing sun.
They were slower than me, but more painstaking. I tend to leave the smallest weeds, just attacking the big stuff, but they left the carrot patch utterly weed free, and made great headway down the second patch. I’ve never been so ahead of the weeds, at this point.
And just to show I am not one of those exploitive bosses who sits in some office as others do the work, here is that same row of carrots after I got down on my knees and completed the job. (Please note how I used the pulled weeds as mulch.)
This is only one small skirmish in a larger battle, yet it strikes me strangely as a sort of miracle. The weeding not only got done, but it was fun. The girls actually said they liked it.
I don’t know what I am doing differently. Weeding caused my own children to experience post-traumatic stress and likely will cost them a fortune in therapy, just to recover. But this year my employees behave as if I am doing them a favor. (Maybe I should have paid my kids for feeding them.)
This brings me to the bottom line, grubbier than dirt. How much are these carrots going to cost me? Well, that all depends on the price of carrots next fall. At current prices my carrots are a very bad deal, but, if Biden saves the world from Global Warming by having carrots cost a hundred dollars a pound by November, my little patch will be a gold mine.
They are back. The dreaded Colorado Potato Beetle.
Due to Fraudulent Biden’s apparent aim of starving us all, I planted more potatoes than usual, and was alarmed to see these pretty, little beetles even as the potatoes emerged. My only strategy is to squish them like crazy, which requires vigilance and steadfast attention. Slack off, and with amazing speed your potato patch will be reduced from bushy leaves to a bunch of sad-looking stalks.
Squishing is gross, even if you only have one plant, and I have a hundred, so I turned to the web to see what other gardeners had to say about the beetle battle.
I really like the gardener’s gatherings on the web, for the government hasn’t gotten involved and doesn’t say what can be said and what can’t be said. Not that they aren’t planning to do it, but they haven’t yet focused on the little gardeners, (who in this case should be called “small potatoes”.) Therefore, you get a wonderful variety of ideas.
There is something very wonderful about the ideas of commoners, when they are ungoverned. People are amazingly experimental and come up with all sorts of theories I’d never dream up. Of course, many theories are wrong and get shot down and crash in flames, often by Mother Nature herself, (which makes a funny story if told correctly), but sometimes by another gardener who starts by saying, “I tried that once and…” It is actually a sort of peer-review, as ideas are bounced about in an atmosphere of freedom. I think it proves the superiority of Liberty to Socialism, but that would take a long post to describe, and this post is about the beetle battle.
One thing I wondered was, “Where do these blasted beetles come from?” There are two views. Some say they sleep in the soil, and some say they migrate up from the south like monarch butterflies. In any case, they ordinarily eat some Colorado species of wild poison-nightshade, and had a niche in nature in remote mountains, but for some reason potatoes are a species of the nightshade family that causes the beetle to go berserk, and allowed it to spread from coast to coast, driving gardeners equally berzerk.
There are all sorts of remedies mentioned by gardeners, most of which I don’t have time for. But one common theme I kept chancing upon was a joke. The post would have some catchy headline such as, “Surefire Organic Cure For Potato Beetles.” Then, when you read the post, you discovered the cure was to squish them. Apparently I’m not the only one who has sought a better way.
One interesting killer is a sort of bacteria which shrivels up the larvae, but that must be applied when the larvae are small, and washes off in rain, so some larvae may sneak by and get large, so after all that bother you wind up needing to squish them anyway. And they are slimly, ugly things.
It is amazing how swiftly these eating-machines can turn a plant from leaves to mere stalks, and any loss of more than 30% of your leaves starts to shrink your crop. Therefore, I do my best to kill the adults before they lay any eggs. But they are swift and sneaky, so I also hunt for eggs, which are bright yellow, but on the underside of leaves where you can’t see them. So, as I start to hill my potatoes, I look for leaves that look like something has eaten them.
Then I flip the leaf over…
Unlike the eggs of squash bugs, these eggs are soft, so you have to face the unpleasantness. There is no way around it. You must squish.
And, if you have a hundred potato plants, you must do this over and over and over and over and… And, so far, I think I’ve prevented around a thousand of those pretty little eggs from becoming those utterly disgusting larvae. I squish to avoid squishier squishing.
The “green” agenda of his fraudulency, Biden, is having the consequences which people like me, (people who are dubious [to say the least] about “Global Warming”), have been warning about. We were warning twenty years ago. Ten years ago. Last year.
Basically, we were saying fossil fuels might have a bad side, but they also had a good side. Before we banned them, we should be sure we had a viable alternative, or we would lose the “good side”.
Well, we are losing the “good side”, as Biden does his best to prevent the production of coal, oil and gas. The “good side” was warm houses in winter, cheap fertilizer for our crops, cheap transport of essential goods, mobility of labor at low costs, low costs for the manufacturing of goods, to begin a partial list of benefits, (not mentioning plastics.) Now, with even a small part of that “good side” removed, we are seeing how much more expensive life is.
Is it worth it? At best, using the most biased models, abandoning fossil fuels might decrease the warming of the planet .05 degrees a year. (And there is debate about whether a warmer planet might be a better planet, more like periods of prosperity called “The Medieval Warm Period” and “The Roman Climate Optimum”.)
Now that we are just beginning to feel the pain of Biden’s green agenda, the answer seems to be “this is not worth it.” But, sorry to say, it is too late. Elections have consequences, even if they are rigged, and we now are witnessing the bleep hit the fan. It will get worse before it gets better.
For the trusting individuals who believed Biden was “moderate” I imagine it is a great shock to witness the destruction of the stability Trump had established, and to furthermore realize the destruction reaches levels unseen even in the lifetimes of our great-grandparents. Not that our great-grandparents knew of the modern miracle called “baby formula”; (they used a “wet nurse” instead,) but our great-grandparents never witnessed a government so inept that it manufactured a shortage of wet-nurses. For trusting, suburbanite housewives, (who apparently formed a sold block of Biden voters, women certain Biden was sane,) it is jarring to see he is not.
For trusting people who worked tedious jobs for decades, trusting their pension would mean something, it is a shock to see inflation erode their fixed income. It will be sad if they find it hard to afford heat next winter. It will be sadder if there is no heat to be had, and oil must be rationed.
Me? I lost faith early in life, when it came to authorities, and I had little belief any pension would be worth it. I was certain the bleep would hit the fan decades ago. This freed me from ever needing to stick with a job for the attached pension, for I “knew” the national debt was too high during the time Jimmy Carter was president, and was “certain” the inflation, (which was pretty bad back then), would spiral completely out of control. I was wrong. Some of my friends who had more faith in the system than I did retired at age fifty with fat pensions and have lived comfortable retirements, as I’ve had to go on working, and working, and working.
Now some of those friends, who retired at age fifty, are thinking maybe they need to go back to work at age seventy. That’s how bad the “green energy” inflation is. They look at their bills for lighting their houses and keeping the furnace going, and inflation is 50%. They could handle bills of $500.00, but $1000.00 wreaks their budget, and they consider rejoining the world of a working man. Welcome back.
Me? I’ve gone on working, and working, and working, but never for one boss. I’ve been free. I work for people I like, but, should the rot set in and a boss start to reek, I have always been free to say, “Sorry, Charlie”, and depart. So what if I lost health insurance? I was hale and hearty without it. So what if I lost a potential pension? I was sure the world would never pay the pension when it was due.
Now it seems I was right, after all. Politicians do not respect their elders in the manner scriptures command, and rather look for ways to avoid paying what they promised. Their breaking-of-promises is most ugly when their way of avoiding payments is to exterminate the elderly they promised to pay.
The most obvious and odious example of such filthy behavior was when President Trump made-available hospital ships and convention centers for people stricken with the coronavirus, but Governor Cuomo refused to send the ill to such highly equipped places, and instead sent the ill to ill-equipped old soldier’s homes and senior citizen facilities. This spread the corona virus among the very elders who should have been most protected, and roughly 10,000 died. Yet this in turn saved New York State roughly a billion dollars, because if those elders lived it cost roughly $100,000 per person per year to honor elders. 10,000 dead “saved” a billion. Killing elders may not be honoring them, but modern politicians know little about honor when a billion dollars is involved.
This didn’t surprise me, for, as I stated, I had little trust. I grew up in a rich town and knew how vile and fetid bigwig fat cats can be. I was repelled, and, though my disgust forced me to become downwardly mobile, I discovered the opposite of fetid is the fragrance of freedom. Money was not my master, and the blandishments of insurance and a pension could never seduce me into working for a boss who was not righteous. So what?
So…I lacked insurance and a pension. I’m still working at age 69, and qualify as poor, but I have ten grandchildren, while Bill and Hillary Clinton have zero. (And they are still working, too.)
Considering I’m sixty-nine, some ask me why I don’t apply for social security. Even though I keep working and working and working, friends say I should collect the benefits and then let the government take them back when I pay my taxes. But I find it hard to stomach asking. I have never thought Social Security was secure. I assumed the politicians had itchy fingers and would plunder the funds. The little I knew, investigating Social Security, seemed to affirm my distrust.
When President FDR created Social Security in 1935, he imagined the money collected from workers would go into a fund which the government would care for. The fund would grow, for the hardship of the Great Depression caused the life expectancy of men to sink to 56.6 years, which meant that most men paid into the fund and never collected a cent. They didn’t mind, (much), for Newspapers highlighted the first, prune-faced elders gratefully collecting their Social Security checks, even though they had paid little or nothing into the fund. A working man could feel good he helped elders.
Despite initial subtractions for elders who paid little into the fund, for the most part the fund grew, with more people paying in than collected. The life expectancy of women never surpassed 70 years until 1949, and as recently as 1969 the life expectancy of men was 66.8 years. This meant men collected for less than two years after paying in for forty-five or even fifty years. The fund was bound to grow. Basically, most people who collected in 1969 were widows, stay-at-home Moms who could expect to live to be 74.3 years as their husbands died at 66.8. Social Security was a good deal, a kind deal, a mercy for widows, but a doomed deal, because the fund grew too large.
1969 also marked a huge increase in the amount of people paying into Social Security, as the “Baby Boom” generation began to work, (albeit erratically.) The fund expanded, and politicians felt such an enormous amount of money should be invested wisely, but I think the investments were unwise, for rather than the fund now being more enormous, as it should be after the “Baby Boomers” made payments for a half century, the fund is basically bankrupt. Where did all that money go?
Ask the politicians. It will take a bit of sodium pentothal to get an honest answer.
Basically, to be blunt, they used up the money for bribes. They like to make bribery sound altruistic, “preforming services for constituents”, but, basically, they gave the money to people who had not paid into the fund, and who had no reason to expect benefits. The politicians would always claim they were “helping the poor”, but in truth they were bribing voters to vote for them. And now the money is all gone and the only way to pay the Baby Boomers will be to print money, which causes inflation and makes a Social Security check basically worthless. Where’s the “security” in a check that barely pays for heat and electricity in January, and leaves nothing for food?
I hate to say, “I told you so”, but I told you so. I wish I’d been wrong. In fact, I thought I was wrong, when my friends were retiring twenty years ago with cushy pensions, and I had to keep working and working and working. They had trusted what I didn’t trust, and they were reaping what I didn’t sow. I was the grasshopper, and they were the ants. But now….they face bankruptcy, as I’ve been bankrupt, (or at least hand-to-mouth), all along. Welcome back, fellows! Hope you enjoyed your long vacations, but its time to get back to work.
Just today, besides running my Childcare, I huffed and puffed out in a cold rain in my garden hoeing together thirty hills to plant winter squash in. God willing, each hill will bear three vines and each vine will produce three to ten squashes. Assuming only three per plant, that’s nine squashes per hill, and 30 hills will give me 270 winter squash. Assuming an average weight of 4 pounds, that’s more than half a ton of squash.
I doubt I can eat half a ton of squash next winter. In fact, I’ll have an excess to feed others with. Hopefully they’ll have something to trade in return that I desire, and we can call it “barter”. But if my neighbor is broke, unable to pay for (or find) oil to heat his home, (due to Biden’s policy) and unable to afford squash at the store-with-empty-shelves, because berserk inflation has a squash costing fifty dollars, I’ll not call it “charity”, but “hospitality” to invite him over to my warm wood stove to roast squash seeds on that stove, with some squash soup and squash pie. And hopefully we’ll be able to laugh at the irony of me, an old coot who has no pension, providing for him, an old coot who has one. It is like the grasshopper providing for the ant.
Of course, neighbor will not get off Scot free. He will have to pay a price for my hospitality. Hopefully the cost will not be too much to bear: He will have to listen to me recite some of my poetry, going back sixty years.
Here’s a couple of sonnets from over forty years ago. (1979 or 1980). I think that, despite the fact I was in my twenties when I wrote them, they have aged well. They give me the strange sense that all our lives we’ve sensed the impending crisis. There was just nothing we could do to stop it. Whatever will be will be. My old sonnets are like mouse-squeaks of warning.
THE GRASSHOPPER SONNET
When I was young, I was told a fable
About a grasshopper and one good ant.
The good ant gathered grain for its table.
The grasshopper fiddled the following rant:
"Man can't live on bread alone; all need song,
Yes, all need song. Life, without its tune
Is wrong; yes, utterly hopelessly wrong,
That grasshopper came to ruin
Or at least that is what the fable states.
I guess that means next spring will be silent
Without the sweet chirping a grasshopper makes.
I guess that means all the ways that I went
Will lead me to death, while you'll never die.
Either that or else all the old fables can lie.
THE ANT SONNET
The poor ants work while the grasshoppers fiddle.
The ant looks up to the sky with trust.
The ant can't see God stands in the middle.
The ant is shocked by the first locust.
The locusts swarm and the fields are stripped.
The ant's outraged, and it seeks its peers.
Army ants march in tight ranks, grim lipped.
Soon the last locust disappears.
Thus there's no fiddling. Thus there's no grain.
Thus we have nothingness. Thus we're insane.
Thus all our efforts breed flourishing pain.
Thus does humanity go down the drain.
Pray for ecology; then there's a chance
That grasshoppers will get along with the ants.
As a man who never married until he was certain he was too old for marriage, (age thirty-seven), I know the bliss of a joy deferred. So, I am happy for my eldest daughter, who is getting married this June. However, there are times it seems to me girls get too giddy about marriage.
In my own case I really didn’t see why marriage was anyone else’s business. I was planning on a quiet ceremony at some Justice-Of-The-Peace’s, but a wonderful old woman (who had been something of a matchmaker) would have none of that and vetoed my practicality. She insisted my future wife have all the frills of a bachelorette party, and a shower, and a big, church wedding.
Now thirty-two years later I’m going through the same process with my daughter. Once again, I am the drab, practical party-pooper. Of course, I’m a little older and wiser. I may still try to fight City Hall, but I don’t fight girls when they get giddy. Let them pick flowers if they insist; I will plant the beans.
At times I confess to feeling a little sorry for myself. After all, I see myself as a poet, and that is supposed to mean I get to be impractical: I am the grasshopper fiddling as the ants all toil. But somehow my study of Truth flipped things around, and rather than spending other people’s money I’m the one making the money others spend.
A wedding is a short celebration, compared to the non-stop party going on in the Swamp. They are spending money they didn’t make, though they think they can make money by printing it, but that makes inflation (which is a sneaky way of taking the value of my money and making it less without an official tax). This makes me feel even more sorry for myself.
The sheer stupidity of the Swamp’s behavior wears me down. While women get giddy about marriage, which is a very real thing, they deny marriage is a real thing, but insist Global Warming, which is not what they say it is, must be attended to.
His Fraudulency, Biden, while visiting Japan, actually was honest, and admitted the increase in fuel prices is not due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but was an intentional policy intended to make fossil fuels so expensive that we stop using them, and therefore, (theoretically) stop warming the world. But guess what? The world looks like it is cooling all by itself. The La Nina has come roaring back for a third straight year, chilling the Pacific.
And computer models are showing a cool June world-wide.
So basically, the Swamp is making fuel too expensive to use, in order to halt warming that isn’t happening. This deeply concerns me. I wasn’t going to have a garden this year, but now am worried shelves may be empty in the fall. So, I’m out toiling in my potato patch, even as all my help vanishes for a bachelorette party. Seems a good reason to tune up the violins of self-pity and be a poet.
Look what they've done to your poet, Lord.
I came with skipping glee, lacking the guile
They employed, innocently looking toward
My triumph, explaining with a bright smile
How all should honor my sparkling wit,
But they did not concur: "Who gave this brat
The right to rule? The loud fool does not fit
Our ugliness, and we must teach him that
The beauty that he sees is not allowed."
Why do they rule that You must not be seen?
Why be blind to silver in a cruising cloud?
You're so generous, while they are so mean.
I've been singing to the deaf, but now long
To return where men don't say right is wrong.
Where can one retreat to? I sort of like the simplicity of Psalm 123. One is just a child going to their Dad after enduring the contempt and ridicule of an arrogant bully. There is no belaboring justification, no analysis of whether one deserved to be bullied, no stressing of what one might have done better. One just brings a hurt heart, seeking healing.
Even after amazing victories it seems that King David, as a “man of the blood”, suffered some sort of Post-Traumatic Stress, and rather than victorious felt a need to retreat to a hiding place and basically adopt a fetal position and suck his thumb. All arrogance and egotism was put aside.
Lord, may I pay a visit? Hide in folds
Of fabric in the skirtings of Your throne?
Be hid in your brilliance? No despot holds
Power in such presence. No children groan
Bathed by such light, swaddled by fabric
So ornate. I need to find a safe retreat
For I have no excuse. I'm not sick
Nor poor, but suffer some strange defeat
I do not understand, and want to hide
Someplace safe and beyond all banal thought;
Someplace tucked in close to your warm side
Where David retreated after he'd fought
When his bones and heart ached. To You he turned
For You alone hold the peace we have spurned.
I have to confess there is healing in such retreat, even though I can roll my eyes at the “Safe Spaces” set up in colleges for the exceedingly tenderhearted, and the “mental health days” such tenderhearted people expect for the most commonplace trials. There is a difference between simpering retreat and King David’s retreat, revolving around how spattered by blood you are.
A sort of insult was added to injury, as I tottered about my potato patch, and the insult was a drought. The weather swung from bone-chilling east winds off the cold Atlantic to sweltering heat up from Georgia, and then back, and then forth, so it was seldom comfortable, yet I had to water my seedlings. When seeds first sprout and have a single root like a thread, a dry day can kill them. Usually, my complaint in New Hampshire springs is too much rain, and mud, and seeds rotting, but this year I’ve had to haul about kinking hoses and an old watering can. This gives me one more reason for violins, but I was very glad to see rain in our forecast after a long, hard workweek. The air had shifted back to muggy heat from Georgia, and the sunset was obscured by gray, so I trusted the forecast and skipped the final watering at sunset, muttering TGIF and heading home.
The next morning I awoke before the sun, and, looking outside, saw the driveway was still bone dry. It was warm enough to walk outside barefoot and feel the dust between my toes, yet so humid my hair was lank, but there was no mist and no heat lightning flashing from afar. I sighed and knew my weekend must start with watering, which was an extra chore on my list. But first I’d sip a coffee and attempt a sonnet:
Early summer heat sneaks into mild May
And the night strangely swelters without crickets.
Drought makes the frogs sparce. I want skies of gray
And raindrops, not crisp leaves in the thickets.
My seedlings yearn for drenching thunder-rain;
They feel my watering can is too meager.
The humid night only hears an upstairs fan
Drone electrically, when trees seem eager
For flashes of lightning drawing nearer.
All is awaiting relief, wet winds that croon
Rain's drumming; rainbows when skies get clearer,
Like India before the yearned monsoon,
Yet I am not only awaiting the rain.
A Savior is coming to heal our great pain.
Just as I finished the sonnet, I heard a wonderful noise outside. After a long winter of leafless trees, there is no sound quite so sweet as the first platting of raindrops in young leaves, growing as a sigh from a sweetened darkness before dawn, and surrounding you with mercy.
I called it “a sign” and crossed out “water seedlings” from my Saturday-list.
I’m afraid I’m going to be a complete failure, when it comes to aging gracefully. I never seem to learn. Even when I creak out of bed crippled from some foolishness I enacted the day before, and tell myself it serves me right, and that from now on I will act my age, before you know it, I’m tempted into the next foolishness.
I blame it on the kids. They don’t respect the fact I’m an elder and am supposed to be doddering, and instead say, “Let’s go!”
The winter seemed too long. There is no spring
In my step this spring. I'm feeble and frail
As the bluebirds return. I spread a wing
That seems molted. It seems I can't set sail
And yet...See how I'm sailing! A man's heart
Can't abide quailing. Though his legs and lungs
May not set him dancing, his heart will start
Romancing and singing. Though what is sung's
In a reedy voice, the listeners weep
For they hear a warm heart that will persist
Though flesh stops thumping. No sky is too steep
Nor wings too molted to ever resist
The uplift of God's reverse-gravity
Where lead's left behind and the light's set free.
Other old-timers, even older than I am, are also doing a poor job of retiring, and instead seem determined to change the world in their decrepitude with some strange idea called “The Great Reset”. They used to smile teeth and bat eyes and sweet talk about how what they did was “for the children”, but lately they have stopped even pretending. They talk about a mother’s “right to abort”, even after the child is born, which seems like murder to me, and they’ve created a baby-food shortage by closing a major plant over a technicality and dragging their feet about reopening it. They are creating other shortages as well, such as a shortage of heating oil which may chill children next winter, and even shortages of food. None of this seems good “for the children”, but these senile old fossils in Washington never come to me for advice. All I can do is fight in a farmer’s way, which is to fight a food shortage.
You can't have summer's long days without winter's
Long nights, yet when my wall's calendar strays
From April to May I wish the splinters
Of ice to never return. Gone are grays
And only green is seen. I would hit the brakes;
Stop the calendar if I could. I see
Why some flee to Florida, but that makes
The long days shorter. Hot tropic's country
Has twelve-hour days. They can never know
Our glut of sunshine; our wild overdose
Of glee, nor how swiftly gardens will grow
Given such kindness. I pull the time close
And beg compassion forever to stay.
Healing is sweet after overmuch gray.
Something about an old fossil like me taking on the fossils of the Deep State does seem absurd. It is like a very old David with a cane taking on a gigantic, hobbling Goliath. But May is a month of miracles.
I heard the catbird singing and stumbled
From bed to the coffee pot with my eyes
Still shut, then glanced at the clock and grumbled.
It was long before dawn. That bird's sweet cries
Were to the sinking moon. The other way
Saw planets rising like a string of pearls.
First Saturn, then Mars, then, with hints of day,
Jupiter and Venus. Without gray curls
Of cirrus or purple scud, the sky was pure
As was the chorus of fluting thrushes,
Yet the light brought the catbird a cure
And it sung its plain "meow." Sky blushes
But none now hear what my sleepwalking heard:
A catbird as sweet as a sweet mockingbird.
It is hard to find farmhands in the demented economy the Deep State has established. Every shop has a “help wanted” sign. What is an old fossil like me to do? I simply ask, and much to my surprise I got an answer. Namely a daughter and daughter in law.
If one is going to refuse to age gracefully, it sure is nice to get a little help! But then, May is a month of miracles.
What could be more Benign than soft white clouds
In May's first relenting of cold east winds,
When leaves peek from buds, and decide not to drowse
Any longer, but set sails of green goldened
That turn the twiggy woods to clouds shadeless:
Canopies of light, as if it was they
And not the sun that shone...and all distress
Is melted, or else fades so far away
It's forgotten, which strangely reminds
Of what this lost poem began about:
The soft white clouds, or was it what's Benign's?
How can mere kindness make men want to shout?
How can an ounce outweigh so many tons?
That mystery's answer is surely the sun's.