Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hit and Miss Engine makes Electricity for Wisconsin Yahoo

While I'm fully aware that the average yahoo could care less about one hundred year old engines, I still am inclined to post some very dynamic videos of my engines actually doing a form of work. In the past they mostly just hung around running free and easy doing absolutely nothing other than sucking up gasoline and entertaining me and a small group of other motor heads like my wayward son. . Here and there individuals of no count would criticize me for seemingly squandering my time when I could be running for governor.

While I will admit I could do better than the most recent jackass embedded in our government, it would seem this activity of restoring cast-iron of the past is a more worthy enterprise. Pictured here is a portrait of my Associated Chore Boy model manufactured right around 1920. Clearly, it is a gorgeous piece of history and an artistic applications put into a functioning engine.

Most recently I attached this beauty to a alternator from a Chevy truck and with the combination generated electricity to charge my battery bank connected to my photo voltaic system. Here in Wisconsin there are long periods where the sun goes on holiday and refuses to shine no matter how profane I become. Just last 2 weeks it took off for the entire time and cast over us a pall of clouds fit  for only mushrooms.

So the Chore Boy came on line just in time to funnel juice to the 8 golf cart batteries who in there age are running low on a daily basis. This youtube video will probably go viral---but maybe not.

The Red Queen and the Feral Child Within.

The Book

I have in my quiet hours been attempting to write a book, a disoriented memoir if you will. I have a resolution, or is it a revolution, this year I will finish it. I thought I might offer up but one small section of the book that I hope to call, “The Red Queen and the Feral Child Within.”

 Starting at a young age, I have had times I thought I was feral, as did others including my Old Man. It is, I suppose, a stretch, but it represents a desire, maybe an effort,  to live apart from the normal everyday we all live. These experiences, while always simple in nature, have offered me jewels of memories, and appreciations of those things close to the land.

The Red Queen is from the Lewis Carroll’s The Looking Glass. In the book there was a problem for Alice and she said the following to the Royal Highness, the Red Queen, "Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing." "A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"  I see this one statement as a metaphor for life in America---and a very brief explanation of the title.

 A canoeing episode down the Fox River and into to the Wisconsin River, age nineteen:

As we dropped into the Wisconsin River I remembered the smells changed. It was a big river odor, one that had memories in me. It was as if the Wisconsin River itself has a smell. It is not to say other bigger rivers aren’t similar, but to this day I think this river is unique. I suspected then, and  know now, this may well be true, for each river has its own fauna, its own chemistry, its own distant origins. The river has always been a good smell to me, maybe it is about those childhood things, those first memories there with the shiny SkipJacks, the Skipjacks that lived  in the river at Sauk City not that many years earlier.

Toward Sauk City we floated, stopping on sand bars, camping, fishing a little, but mostly just exploring and wondering about rivers. Just above my first home in Sauk, we approached the hydroelectric plant where we would have to portage the canoe full of gear over the east river bank. As we stood on the top of the dam’s berm, I saw a gentleman approach who clearly was a worker at the dam. A pleasant chap it would  seem, so in good Wisconsin form we chatted him up inquiring about the workings of the huge power plant. In time I told him that I had spent my first years right across the river, just up by the railroad tracks, a block or two off River Road.

With a little small talk I learned he had been here all his life. He asked my father’s name obviously thinking their trails may have crossed.  On telling him it was Bob Wright his eyes instantly lifted and a knowing, half smile slipped over his face. He slowly looked down while shaking his head, as if to say, “I  don’t believe this.” There was a brief pause as he gazed  around searching memories. “I know your old man. He’s a writer. Bought a newspaper up north. Ya, I remember. Been a few years but we had some good times together right here on the river and over in the Baraboo Hills.” Again there was a cautious pause after some exchange. “He ever tell you about the time he stuck an arrow in a farmer’s pig? “  He knew he had a revelation and his sly smile almost told more of the story.

I am sure my eyes opened wide, not in shock but with a hint of pure entertainment.  We were a family with a hunting tradition, so I knew the Old Man thoroughly enjoyed being in the woods stalking deer, but a pig, particularly a domestic pig! “Your not shitting me, are you?” I asked. “Oh no, He did it. I was with him. I don’t know what got into him but he did it. Musta been bored ‘cause there were not many deer in those days. You gotta ask him about that one.” After a few more reflections on other years and other people, we moved down the slow river.

All through the years I had heard the rants on ethics in the woods, and safety, and respect and here was this guy who had a few skeletons tucked away in the hills, not that it was all bad ,but still, there was a touch, of say, feralness to it all. He was a loose canon, a man not totally in control, maybe a hunter needing an experience of killing a food source. I remember as we continued the float, wanting so badly to tell him the story and literally relishing the moment because here was a situation, a little black mark that might generate a most colorful explanation of a dubious deed. My Father was full of humor and no doubt he would have to move in that direction to cover his ass.  The disclosure might also eliminate any comments he might ever have on my own misdeeds. I’m sure my companion, Ron my classmate, was even more confused, and suspicious about our family’s past than he was before.  Were these people moonshiners?

We were retrieved by a friend not too far from the Mississippi and taken back to my home in Marquette county, and to the old man who, I might add, was now in his mid-forties and a stalwart of the community. “Hey, how’d it go?” He immediately asked. “Great, man what  a trip”. We stopped at the power plant there at the dam and we met this guy Bill Nelson”.  In an instant my old man’s head dropped and he shook his head in a regretting way, mumbling some inaudible profanity. When he looked up the first question was, ”I supposed you heard about that damned pig? That was the dumbest thing I ever did and there isn’t another person who knows about it and you have to run into that son -of-a-bitch.  But I want you to know, I went to the farmer and told him I did it---and I had to pay for the damn thing. Keep in mind, it was out running around in the woods, not like a normal pig.”  The old man stood there, I’m sure half laughing but fighting it.

In looking back all those years, it seems obvious he had been feral for a least a brief moment---or should I say an outlaw. He had been outed as the wild man I had suspected. Not for a minute did I ever judge him badly for it---he was a human, a hunter (of sorts) and his genetics, his prehistoric man had just come shining through.  It was also a rare moment in my young life.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Is Gov. Walker's Failure a Success? ---Revolution Watch

“There is no success like failure and failure is no success at all.”

The other day I read Wisconsin had the greatest loss of the middle class since 2000, and it was the worst in the country. From the surface, I found myself wondering what this actually meant. 14.7% decline since 2000. It means  “the median household income in Wisconsin was $60,344 in 2000 but now stands at just $51,467 after adjusting for inflation. That’s a dip of 14.7 percent.” (Cap Times). I also thought, but did not know,  it might be possible all incomes went down, meaning the better off, or the upper middle class or even the 1 per-centers (if we really have any).

I have no immediate way of find this out even tough the Pew Charitable Trust, a well know accumulator of information, may have it. The entire purpose of the article in the Capitol Times was, I am fairly confident, to demonstrate that the policies of the present administration, under one Scott Walker, was doing very poorly. This piece of information is now being noted around the state as his popularity is falling noticeably.

In other words, have Scott Walker’s policies been an utter failure. It would seem from the point of view of the middle class it is a disaster, and from the point of view of any even slightly left leaning liberal and some conservatives, it is worse than a failure. The guy is a loser supreme. He is a loser supreme in the world of growth and development. I mean, this guy as a governor is rock bottom dead last.

He is often compared to the Governor of Minnesota who has been making great gains in growth and development. Things over there are flying high. Over and over I hear it.has higher tax on the rich, improved schools, more business development, you name it, the place is flying off the economic charts in true Keynesian style. Everyone is cheering and I am wondering out loud. Is that good or bad?

At the same time I am hearing of all this growth in Minnesota, I am also hearing, and hearing it loud, we as Americans have to reduce our fossil fuel emissions due to obvious climate change. The gathering in Paris has pounded on this issue has have every serious environmentalist and scientist in the world---and they have been doing it for years.

 Here is the catch. The only time emissions have dropped globally in the last decade was during the last nasty ‘08 recession--as the chart demonstrates. It is the only time. It is also true the Russian emissions dropped when it collapsed financially.

My point is this. If during Walker’s administration, Wisconsin has had a drop in the numbers of folks the middle class, which almost implies a recession of sorts, is it not true that our emissions may also have dropped? In other words, his failure, and lets admit it, it has been by modern definition, a miserable failure in a multitude of ways, has also been a success in possibly cutting back emissions---and notably Minnesota has been a failure in that all the growth has done nothing but increase emissions.

Wisconsin, with it’s failure under Walker, by default in that he did not intend it, has in fact been a leader in cutting emissions? Should we vote to save the world by cutting emissions, or do we vote for more growth (the source of all of our problems)?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Wild Rice Processing with Device Powered by 100 year old Hit and Miss Engine

This is simply one of the finest moments in tinkering with old iron, for today I finally put one of my fine engines to work. It is, by my account, a thing of beauty. This 250 pound 1.5 horse Nelson Brothers Little Jumbo can be seen in this mediocre video just pounding away and spinning my rice processor.

The engine was purchased a few years ago at auction when I actually thought I was buying something else. So for the $100 bid I received what amounted to a pile of rust that had once been a noble engine. Clearly it had seen its better days and that is why it was seen disrespectfully piled upon the grassy floor of the auction grounds. Various parts were broken and stuffed into the cooler, a governor here, a head there, an oiler plum-ass missing. Of course, there was no ignition system so what we had as was commonly called a basket case. Still, Jeff and I never saw an iron mess we didn't like.

I was not referring to myself about the basket case even though I have heard myself referenced that way. That is not as bad as a douche bag.

After much effort, we were able to get it going--that would be brother Jeff and I. I will not say it runs with grace and refinement because it is a sight to behold with a hole in the oil receiver, a brazed flyball, an ignition system fudged from leavings of the shop. Ain't pretty in terms of restoration but, it runs and now you too can hear it. Ya, I know it is not Ferrari, but this is the future, maybe, and it will run on cooking oil, ethanol, gas, and probably cheap whiskey (probably won't give that up).

It is connected to my wild rice processing device, the one fabricated from an empty five gallon bucket and some flaps made of conveyor belt scraps. Toss in a couple of bearings I pilfered from Jason the Scrounger and bingo, we have a device to provide me and the little family with fresh wild rice.

As of this morning I am all over myself for the huge success and the nice offering of wild rice. To think I did not even smoke up the shop and I did not get hurt nor destroy any property is an added benefit. Unfortunately, after a 10 minute run the motor decided to take the rest of the day off. So tomorrow I will have more work to do but for now I have the proof of being worth while, and, like, so sustainable. So there.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Education a Problem---I think.

Frequently we see comments that our education system is failing, and I will admit here and there some truth may be found in this concern. Locally, I don't believe we have a problem in that the citizenry here is very committed to providing a good and equal education to all.

Admittedly, we do not have any of the problems of the cities in that we are lily white, don't have minorities to mistreat, and most citizens are of middle class persuasion with few or no elitist or 1 percenters---except for us as we are lower middle class, if lucky. We still like education and have benefited handsomely from our schoolin', but not so much financially, in part because that was not our aim. We are just hippy losers not hell bent on rounding up much modern swag.

Anyway, back to education, and I will admit possible local education in his case. The above article was found in the local Gannet newspaper coming out of Stevens Point, our local major hub and site of a Division 1 University. It seems the individual mentioned in the article, and I am not saying he was positively educated locally, has a word definition problem, or at least a failure to realize one word can have a number of meanings.

There are many examples of this, many we all know. But here we have an individual who apparently doesn't know the different meaning of "ass". I would suspect this happened because the teachers in his school never had the nerve to use this word, one that has a slight hint at profanity, because they wanted to be politically correct. So the young man grew up thinking, "getting some ass" was in fact the pursuit of donkeys. What we have here is a failure of the education system, one that is clearly the fault of our teachers.

I am assuming that this defense could be used in the courts but maybe not, it all depends on how far our political system wants to go to attack our once-loved teachers. In any case, rather than admitting a societal fault, or the misjudgment of this individual, it would seem we need to blame teachers as they have caused most of our problems---including global warming and general stupidity the likes of which we have seen associated with the wild support of one Donald Trump. Which brings up the third meaning of ASS

Friday, November 27, 2015

After the Gold Rush---Missionary's Position

As artists, we see many different presentation, and it doesn't have to be paintings and sculpture which has been our lives. Still, we always look and have noticed that many artist have taken things farther than we have. That is they have gone out on a bigger limb. Some are cartoonist, other singers and painters. Some of the presentations are derivative like the one below--but so what? While this painting makes a point there is so much more here to discuss and one has to hope that it does make folks look around. Does this have anything to do with global warming, overshoot, religion or history?/


 Cartoonist have a way of throwing stuff right in our face, but sometimes I wonder if it is only me and a few friends that see this stuff. Am I really willing to change? Not so much!

I thought this was interesting and could resist adding a little Neil Young After the Gold Rush Makes wonder where this is going. Of course, people ask that about me. Is there a choice? 

Revolution Watch---Population Growth

I recently have read a number of accounts of how nothing we do to solve our issues with air pollution will make a lick of good as long as the population is growing exponentially, or geometrically for that matter. The minute one goes over the amount of change that needs to be made, let's say in percentage of change the following response is, "As long as the population of the earth is changing by 240,000 a day we can not hope to offset the increase of emissions." It is just math.

Even Boone Pickens ran into this a few years ago when he proposed a 600 unit wind farm in Texas. He was pleased to announce that the farm could power 1 million homes. He said this could all be done in 5 short years. I was impressed until I did some math. Lets see, The USA is still growing by 2-3 million a year so in, say a year and a half there would be about a million new homes needed. Now wait a minute, 5 years of great new technology and we can hardly provide enough new clean energy for 25% of the new population.

As a result of all this math, I have always wondered why this excessive population growth is never really discussed, after all there are a million examples of this dilemma. Even today as I write, I remember reading limits to Growth and recalled that one of the expected problems of excessive growth, and exceeding carrying capacity, would be large amounts of human migration.

So what do we have in Europe and what really is the cause? Strife, hunger, thirst, crowding, war mongering and religious wackery. Then today in the NYT is an article on the increased immigration into the USA from the south.Border

At the same time I hear military experts saying in future mass migration will be a security issue. Then there is me just wondering where all the resources are going to come from to provide for these 7.4 billion (heard today some are now projecting a future of 15 billion as birth rates are apparently stabilizing). Still there is no discussion.

So, I remembered the piece written in '68 called Tragedy of the Commons Tragedy of the Commons  and went back to only to be discouraged. Garret Hardin said in conclusion, "The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that very soon. "Freedom is the recognition of necessity"--and it is the role of education to reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed. Only so, can we put an end to this aspect of the tragedy of the commons."

And so the tragedy goes on, and on and on. Seems like all we can do is watch.

First Day of Deer Hunting---and More

The Wisconsin forest, on this November 21st, was by no definition a warm place, no matter how one looks at it. Twenty-two degrees simply has to be appreciated as being chilly, not bone cold but crisp as old man winter reaches out extending his frosty fingers. Walking out there in the early morning all encumbered with mounds of clothing, may feel even momentarily hot but once sitting motionless, that cold seems to have a way of working its ugly hand into every button hole and fold.

The path to the stand had numerous obstacles put there by the meandering deer who in their desire to harm hunters, have left no rock unturned. Those erratics left over from the last ice age appeared to have been ever-so-slightly lifted an additional couple inches out of the soil. The blackberry canes have somehow been planted on both ends making a tripping lanyard suitable for taking down older hunters as they shuffle out. It is a tough life being a hunter and that frost-kissed, lonesome morning walk was a reminder of the ageless struggle my Neanderthal brethren had to endure---oh wait, they were Cro-Magnon and they only had spears. Well, there is a similarity.

Having struggled early-man-style to establish my stand, the next issue was concealment which involves not only blending in with the natural terrain but also eliminating all signs of human scent, either by having none or by covering up those natural fragrances with the odors of the forest. Eliminating all odors is cumbersome in my world in that I like soaps that make me smell like a French prostitute (just kidding) but I do like to smell “good”, not too musty, or organic, or overworked, but tolerable. The idea of covering up my scent is also problematic because that would require sopping oneself with various deer extracts, fungal exudates, or obnoxious fecal aromas commonly found scattered on the forest floor.

My choice was to sit on the ground, face into the breeze hoping my human odors would not be able to travel upwind. Hunting while sitting on the ground has its disadvantages from those hiding in trees---like scent dispersal. I justify this ground dwelling by claiming being high in the forest is unmanly because I don’t “do” trees---I’m scared. Cro-Magnons didn’t do trees. The concept of only hunting into the wind does have limitations in that one’s field of vision is only about 180 degrees which for me is fine because if I turn quickly to consider a backward shot, this will involve flopping on the ground in a day-glow orange heap.

Initially, a proper site had to be chosen, one that will give some concealment and also accommodate my three-legged chair, the one given to me by my wife after she learned of the Lazyboy incident. This would be the episode when a cheap deep-seated Chinese chair was used to turkey hunt. For reasons still discussed, I was not able to extract myself from the comfort of the seating  enough to blast a turkey five miserable yards away--behind me. The three-legged outfit (her solution) is fine but has the tendency to tip if not soundly stabilized on the ground, or f I do not anticipate the blast from my giant, antiquated buffalo gun.

The site chosen was behind a few branches and fallen logs but still very exposed considering the fact I was entirely clad in orange of the most obnoxious sort.  My face was completely visible to every half blind rampaging rodent. So once in place, the forest now had this clump of day-glow orange, and a fully visible Lincolnesque face. My running nose was also being attended to with a flopping white tissue. Downwind of my position was a huge wedge of scent found only in France and big cities. Yes, the scene was set for the harvest.

A few minutes into the hunt and well adjusted, life in the forest was starting to come alive, indicating my efforts had been well thought out. The morning started off by checking my clothing for ticks forgetting it was now 23 degrees---but I have seen them walking toward me while I was sitting in snow. No insect life on this day.

Settled in, comfortable, and tick free, nature began to reveal itself. Above me in the morning light, unimaginable amounts of Seagulls quietly jetted over either looking to simply circle in the morning light,  or to scout out a hot lunch so frequently provided by the spreaders of manure. They came in waves, quietly, almost reverently, maybe searching, maybe just holding a communal flight looking for Jonathon Livingston .

While the forest initially offered no sounds, in time a Nuthatch begin busying itself on the tree in front of me, probably looking for that one special grub, the one which would power him for another hour. The bird was like me, a hunter---not that I was busy. I was an ambusher. The ambivalence of the Nuthatch indicated my act was working well, really.

A Downey Woodpecker joined the early morning crowd banging on a distant tree. The gulls continued their flights and I found myself contemplating the soaring bird’s goals in life almost forgetting they had a pack with the deer to distract hunters. I drifted in thought seeing myself as a lone hunter hundreds of years ago struggling to bring home food.

Unlike the earlier Paleolithic hunters, after two hours alone in the forest, a frozen forest, the warmth of the fire called. Not disappointed, appreciative of the trees and this reality, I stretched and rose knowing two-hundred yards away was a leather sofa next to a warm stove.

As I drifted off, face to the warmth, a quiet sleep gained the day. I later learned a large flock of elegant swans whispered over the tree tops.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Wood Pile Continued

So the wood came home and there it sits all in three massive piles looking much like a considerable amount of physical labor.This statement is, of course, uncomfortably true. Still, the piles are in MY yard and therefor my possession and even in this disheveled form is future heat---provided I have the ability to get it in the house and snug in the old stove.

First, I feel it is necessary to put all the split wood in nice, meaning attractive,  piles which is where the real toiling part dwells. Ya, ya, some of it requires additional splitting so the work is two fold. Be it known I am not intimidated for time is my mistress and she is not running from me too fast, as near as I can tell. However, there is a certain discomfort in having these dispersed, and discordant piles looking me in the face as I drift in and out of the backyard. I will have to embrace the mistress of time and give up on immediate action of the rambling tonnage of winter heat.

To get the wood so comfortable in the yard, it turned out the window of a borrowed pickup had to be sacrificed, not by purpose but by accident of a small log just touching the edge. It shattered all over the cab and now will be adding another $200 or so to the cost of the wood. This was not planned but funds had been saved earlier by borrowing a wood splitter, so while costs mounted in broken car parts others costs were eliminated

In addition to my own labor, I was fortunate enough to secure the labor of a younger, more agile young man to stack the first 2 cords thus giving me an idea of not only the labor needed for the rest of the project but also to get a look at the real quantity of wood I had--in truth I thought it was maybe 5-6 cords, but once the 2 cords were stacked and admired it was obvious the original estimation was lacking for here was maybe 9-11 cords. I was feeling better as the price per cord had now just dropped righteously.

Once the wood was piled up on the land, I did find it important to make my first tidy stack as a way of thinking I was up to the task, plus a person just needs to have an aesthetics wood pile to look at. So in haste I started on the willow which is easy to split and effortless to carry due to its light weight---and ridiculously poor heat value.

So each day as I step into the backyard there in front of me is three piles of dumped wood just waiting but also three growing stacks, one of willow and two of oak, one in the shed and the other in the back garden. I'm on it and still thrilled with myself as I will be as I, each and every day,  do my one hour of exercise.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Wood Pile

The Wood Pile

In truth, firewood collecting is mostly a hobby because in reality it makes little economic sense in a world of give-away natural gas. One does not have to be a hoarder to enjoy this activity, really. Some of us just love wood heat.

Recently, I had the opportunity to bid on a pile of accumulated timber harvested here in town. It was difficult because determining the content, both in quantity and quality, was like studying a mish-mash of pick-up sticks. My brother, who admires fire wood, encouraged a low bid approach, noting that the huge mound looked a great deal like “work” and why would anyone want to buy work. I now realize the disparaging comments directed at me had made some note of my age. I was undeterred as if blinded by love--or was it lust.

The winning bid was confirmed and a few realities set in, including, but not limited to, the fact that all the pile had to be removed in ten working days---WORKING DAYS!---I don‘t really work. I am retired. DURING NORMAL WORKING HOURS!

The pile was again approached, with the eye of a winner, and the realization that truth can be a cruel mistress. While it was obvious there was a species mix, it now became clear willow, cherry, and a “delightfully” large elm also graced the huge morass.

With that aforementioned mistress grabbing my aging arm, one had to start considering the actual cost for this hobby, this $276 pile. The presence of a fair amount of sand & dirt on the wood gave the saw’s chain a shutter and after the first cutting, it was obvious that Dave of Small Engine fame was going to be making a few bucks keeping me sharp. Still, there was no alarm because it’s good to support the local business that offers a great service. Then, I found our old F-150 had a suspension that was amuck , a cool $500 would make it whole again---but one could amortize that out through the years of use---and T & T would be happy with the income. Purchasing fuel for the saw and the gas-guzzling Ford has to make  Dave at the One Stop smile?  Another $100!

After a few hours of pushing chain saws at the pile with brother Jeff, he uttered a not so subtle comment about my ability to split the wood, that is splitting it small enough to lift it in the truck. He thought I was beyond being a splitter though it is part of the hobby I genuinely enjoy.  Ronald Reagan loved to split wood---but 5-6 cords! Jeff then affectionately described the merits of  OK Hardware’s wood splitter and how they can be rented for a modest price----$100 should cover it. He seemed to think I could sit down and just pull a lever.

My other brother, John, volunteered to help cut and split. In the discussion he thinks we need younger help, one with muscles and a willingness to actually do something---without getting hurt. He knows just the person and he will work for a very reasonable $10-15/ hr. He thinks that with, say, 8hr he can load the truck unload it, move huge bolts of 100lb. oak. $100 should cover that. Two days? I’ll have to buy an Ambrosia lunch no doubt,  $30?

In the mean time my wife, who very much enjoys wood heat, is running figures in her head, and decides the total to be around $1000, and if true to my past, there will be another hernia operation, or another joint replacement.

Even if I will be able to buy off my brothers with a purchase of Central Waters Brewery’s finest ($46) this firewood purchase is taking on a whole new meaning.

With these figures recklessly floating about, I was forced to re-evaluate the decision---not that I could change it. I do like supporting local businesses, and don’t mind giving the village a few dollars because it will be well spent.  In a moment of composure, I realized there has to be more than money in this endeavor.  That is when I turned to spirituality, and blind rationalization.

The wood does represent  a primal form of warmth, one that accompanies with it a multitude of olfactory delights and memories. It is not just stolen gas from a long distant pipe. It is an in-hand object that not only connects directly to the land I stand on, but one that has with it, the smells of life.

Cut and split, the firewood has a freshness, an odor of moisture and mold and earth all filled with mysteries. The white oaks provide the magic hint of forest flavor found in a fine dram of whiskey.

Then, there is the smell of  wood smoke that has the way of creeping into the house which, for me, is a flood of memories flowing from communal gatherings by a beach-side fire, of visions of a hidden blaze in the dead of winter on Goat Island, the lonely destination of our youthful skating adventures, and cottonwood fires on the Republican River in Colorado, the land of the Northern Cheyenne. Today, I heard again the metaphorical song by Morrissey called Birches which in its grace confronts the hot fire of the birch and the slow steady fire of the oaks--asking which do you choose.

The old stove will be hungry tonight like it has been for over 100 years and while the decision may at one moment seem misguided, the next it seems reasonable, maybe pathetically nostalgic, maybe momentarily magical, but definitely worth it. Stepping into the rainy backyard, the drifting smoke whispered across the fallen leaves and left no doubt there was no other choice.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Local Gardener Adjusts to Frost----Harvests Vegetables to Hold off Winter Death

The time arrived two days ago when the frost slapped down the last of the garden growth. I had held out picking any living plant that still was in a growth mode. This included the squash, the peppers, the sweet potatoes and all of the root crops, including but not exclusive of, parsnips. The later are all referred to as famine food around here in that rutabagas and turnips are only eaten during the most difficult of times such as the great famines of Ireland---and the one in Rosholt a few years ago.  Ann thinks I grow them in anticipation of troubles but the English will not drive me from my land. Up the Republic!

It was a good run this year and never once did the buggy vermin take umbrage with us. Other than skimpy tomatoes and the cucumber's belligerence, all went well in the patch. The sweet potatoes, a new offering this year, took advantage of the space allotted and spread out like migrants out Syria, but with less suspicion cast on them. During their robust expansion over an area of some 400 square feet, it began to concern us they were all hat and no cows, or as we might say here, "All leaf and no fruit". They were it turned out, like, partying down. It was not until today I dug them out---not realizing these things like to go down and not so much out. I had to do a major excavation, say down in the area where years ago the locals buried some of their dead. You know, Boot Hill was right here, so there was some fear. However, the land was fertile and the tubers abundant, fed by residual nutrients.

Years ago I did some volunteer work digging graves for the departed, only on one occasion to have the floor cave in as we got deeper. There was a burial under the one we were doing and thus,  I found myself unnerved digging sweet potatoes. I did discover a departed chicken I submitted to a nice Christian burial only last year.

The point is, today was the day to lay away some of the crops into cold storage, In addition to cold storage of fresh crops, the days following will be perfect for cooking vegetable/venison stew for the cold winter days. Ya, the fall is now here and the leaves are still in full color, the vegetables are fat, the wild rice partially processed, the potatoes slowly being cleaned and dumped in bags. All indications are we will make it through another winter---if I can now just get the hard cider up and working, the winters will be warm and slightly tipped over as I drive the cider to 20% by freezing off the water.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Giant Bugle-mouthed Salmon Caught

It was one of those special early autumn days when a person needs to go to water. A light breeze out of the south-west, not prohibitive to an angler, a gentle nuisance maybe, kissed across Little Green Lake. An algae bloom had taken the lake with a vengeance so the water visibility was no more than a foot, and likely not that. While the air was fresh, the algae still alive and prolific, was still enjoying its own day in the sun. The cloudiness of water kept the game fish, as near as we could tell, tucked away in the depth waiting out the  miserable .turbidity.

The fish simply could not see our lures no matter how well they were presented. Jeff thought by making a great din of surface noise, he might attract a fat bass but while his lure rocketed through the soup like a torpedo from a U Boat, not a single fish of prey took a moments notice. Dennis chucked a an array of plastics, including the always popular Wonder Worm, but in a moment of honestness admitted he only had one strike that I suspect, in my always suspicious way, was a submerged log put there to encourage naive fisherman. It was a sad day.

In an act of desperation, I decided to put on a rather large spoon, a bait that a self-proclaimed sophisticated fly-fisherman like me commonly views in disdain. It was attached to my bait caster with the 25 pound test line in an anticipation of catching the one musky in the large, but pea-soupy, but still pleasant lake. Knowing Big Green Lake has Lake Trout, I pondered with my always active imagination, wondering if just maybe there were Lakers here. I casually chucked the quarter pound glimmering chunk of metal outward in all directions but soon became distraught as Ann payed me no attention----- I was fishless and thought inept.

All that could be done was to head to the dock some half mile off, all the while trolling my flashy deep-diving spoon. I leisurely fiddle-farted around taking in the bird life and marveling at the aesthetic vistas, but also day dreaming of the glory days catching Dolly Vardens in the deep arctic.

Then it happened! A strike of unimaginable proportions, a strike not unlike a Blue Marlin, a strike that instantly placed me, the gallant fisherman, into the realm of The Old Man and the Sea.  Mostly Ann would have said, "Ya, old man for sure, but the sea?" The rod was nearly ripped from my hands as the monstrous fish ran the line almost to the point of smoking the reel. I held as Ann claimed I had just hooked one of those logs. "No, no," I screamed. "This is a fish, Look at it driving the line, It thrashing and diving. This thing is for real". "It is a Snapping turtle she said. "No, no. This thing is a fish. Has to be a Musky or a huge Northern. What else would take a big obnoxious spoon?" I was beside myself and wanted so badly to see the mighty white whale, I was searching for an appropriate metaphor, grabbing another harpoon, yelling at the crew. "Hold fast you louts!" My first mate only grabbed the camera thinking she wanted to see the log I was about to boat. Finally, n a brief moment of comprehension she too realized this was the big one. "He's running under the boat. Cast the line over. Your pole is going to break. Give him line." she barked from the fore deck.

The fight was on. I looked for sharks not wanting to suffer the fate of the Old Man in the Cuban sea. I didn't want to just be left with the bloodied head of a prize. Finally, Ann was totally convinced as a huge froth of water erupted 15 feet off. The swirl moved the water like the outlet of the Wisconsin River power plant  dam. Then the tail broke the surface, the six inch across tail, the red colored tail of a Musky. This was the real deal, the prize, a massive fish, a once-in-a-life time monster. It ran the the reel numerous times some times pulling 150 feet of line. It could almost not be stopped for the shear power of the beast. On surfacing the next time I could see the fish was foul hooked in the tail of all places. That is when it rolled over and there it was the full view, the massive full view of the single biggest fish I have ever caught. The scales where the size of a fifty cents piece and the fish was a rich golden color.

I was a giant Bugle-Mouthed Salmon the like of which I have never seen. a near record breaker. In a moment I got out the never-before-used net and as I brought the fish alone side after the 20 minute fight it was netted. It had a mouth big enough to swallow a baseball and glistened in the evening sun radiating the vicious monster it was. As the other fishermen approached in disbelief (I had told them it was a forty pound Musky) I slowly hoisted the brute aloft wanting to gloat for I knew they were indeed fishless.  Ann snapped a few shots of me all full of myself. Seeing the fish was not half eaten by sharks, would not show well mounted, and certainly from my own experience, not taste well---even if Antony Bordaine would have tried.  it was returned to the sea.

In an after thought, Ann made note of a film she had seen called the Sent of a Women, then made comment on how I was now covered with the sent of a Carp. It appeared this was not going to play well for any of my future plans for romance. Ya, did I care? 30-40 pounds of Salmon and now I was a real man.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Pope--What do we have Here

Every now and then somebody comes along that really gets my attention, not often, but here and there. He or she doesn't have to be a politician, and usually is not a religious person of the traditional bend, but this individual is possibly going to make a difference.

He even has the politicians, and maybe even Bill OReilly, thinking twice about some of the stupid positions they are taking---probably not. Was in Santorum who told the Pope to stick to religion and let the scientist do the science stiff? Turns out the Pope has a masters in engineering or something.while Ric S has a hold of a degree in stupidity.  In any case, it is good news the Pope is setting aside the nonsense about gays, about the churches unpleasant history of pillage, and most importantly taking potshots at unfettered capitalism. He thinks the average man is IMPORTANT. Imagine that. He thinks every individual deserves a chance and that the wealthy should not control every aspect of life on earth---even if the Catholic church has an unpleasant history of doing just that.

I think he is, like, so over the above approach and has even said there are many acceptable religions, and agnostic and atheists are just alright. The environment is part of God's creation and needs to be protected from the wrath of man---cool. None of the greed is good bullshit. 

Now if we can get by this one, which will be difficult because some folks still have the 13th century attitude that some infidels still need to be killed off. Oh shit. 

However, I still have one bone to pick and that is I would like to see the following go away and the fact that this shot was taken in Manila where the Catholic church still has its greatest sway gives me pause, It may be a ways off before he begins to talk about birth control and excessive population issues. Oh well!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sustainable Options---Revolution Watch

While I really have little faith in Amurikn's ability to scale down to a sustainable living style, I occasionally run into concepts, or creations that seem to have value. For instance, the idea of not being able to go to a lake and take out my boat for an evening of fishing, or just paddling is discomforting. When I am told that the use of gasoline may one day be restricted due to cost or shortages, I find my casting arm twitching in frustration and almost anger. I mean, do they think that I will have to, like, walk or peddle my bike with the float tube in my cart? (which I did a few years ago)

Walking is becoming tiresome and not really possible because the doctors told me my ankles were "worn" out from too much "play" as a youth. Riding the bike is now frightening, at least until I get a  tricycle of some expense.  I was scolded by some friends, after being clocked at 38 miles per hour last year, that this was not wise and bordered on stupidity----imagine that?. That was an ah-ha moment in view of the fact that a good friend hit the Schwan's truck last year and broke his neck. While I know the coppers wanted to ticket him, the cyclist, for speeding, it was still a wake up call. It looks like the bike is now out as I am scared and close to 72.

Then it happened. A photo arrived from a friend cleanly demonstrating that there was an option. All I needed was a horse and buggy and  tailor. With this rig I would be back in the game in no time. I have a small shed in the back that may have, at one time, been a barn for a horse, so all I would need is a nice nag and a broken down buggy, Yes, I would have to have some hay but there is grass all over the place and no doubt I could use the animal to mow local lawns ---for a small fee. Plus, there would be an immediate supply of garden fertilizer.

No sooner had I realized the possibilities here when my brother Jeff introduced me to an electric lawn mower, a rider at that, made in the seventies that could mow the lawn as well, push snow and plow the garden. I can charge the batteries with the photo voltaic's free electricity and then live like a king. At first I was left in a dichotomy because the horse would also do these things but in addition take me and my boat to the lake. It was then I realized that brother Jeff sure as hell could probably gear up the mower to pull the boat. Wow, two options for a sustainability life style. I am more optimistic everyday. No fertilizer though.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Fire Cracker Parade and America.

(This was my Spirit column for July---plugged it in here)

The Firecracker Parade is one of those happenings that every community needs, not that it is grandiose or elaborate because participants are only allowed 24 hours to prepare, are discouraged from political statements, and encouraged to be creative. Terry Ludeman has for 34 years marshaled the participants up the three-quarter mile course to waiting throngs gathered under the majestic maples at the New Hope Church. The crowd is festive, closely packed, always fraught with anticipation, above average and attractive.

While it is not a picnic, nor a party, friends do gather to engage in country conversation and marvel at both the charming, entertaining and outright humorous absurdity of some parade entrants. There is not much in the line of noise making as New Hope does not seem to have a fire department, nor police or much of anything capable of really turning up the decibels. The pastoral throb of a fine old two-cylinder John Deere almost, at least to me, sounds like music, and if it is not music, it is the sound of  past farming practices and the hard toil of working the land.

Always appreciated, there were the mounted participants whose mighty steeds polluted not one iota of countryside, even if they did leave small deposits. Yes, there were scoopers in tow and I can only imagine the roadside plants reaching out for some warm homegrown fertilizer. Oh how the horses pranced and the riders grinned.

This year a vintage WWII jeep with its purring, probably Willy’s engine, and the dents of years of use, but standing tall for American security, properly carried the colors but not with a lot of fanfare. It was just a meaningful reminder that there have always been citizens willing to step up for the Mother Country.

A surprise outer space visitor on a bike stopped in front of the attentive judges to explain the human condition. He, I believe it was a he, had been noticing that we, meaning many Americans, were in the habit of blaming others for our problems and he had found the perfect tool to solve that issue as he took out a mirror and demonstrated its use. It was prophetically unique, he thought, because it implied we needed to look at ourselves. He spoke of love, peace and accountability---a new outer space twist.

The tuba band, with horns gleaming in the afternoon sun, provided the hits of the past, and it was not just marches but rock and roll, The word resplendent comes to mind as the tossed candy filled the street and scampering urchins scurried about securing their share. In the rear of the parade, Helen, the Milfoil lady, all festooned in undesirable aquatic weeds, and looking much like a fish monger, wheel-barrowed past the crowd advocating the removal of the aquatic weed that is now an invasive force.

With great pride, and an ego blown up like a toad under a streetlight, our group garnered the first place magic-marker-decorated paper plate. What can only be described as classic performance art, this group of individuals with no sense of pride or decorum, attached a skit to each and every letter of the words New Hope.  N stood for Norwegian, of course. The crowd was treated to an Ollie and Lena story from an appropriately dressed Viking. It seems this young man, who in third grade, was awarded a prize for having the largest feet. In asking his father, “was this because he was Norwegian?”. He was then told he had large feet because he was eighteen.

E stood for the noble Eagle. Out of almost nowhere, and in a single swoop, a rather ghastly eagle swooped in and consumed a stuffed duck ---great naturalistic theater. W stood for Wisconsin, the home of the brave and land of the confused as the two Miss Wisconsins bellowed On Wisconsin and called for a W. at the same time.  H, of course, had to stand for Holstein, and there casually leaning against a wagon was a superb, well uddered, bovine in casual repose. At the sound of an auto, she was back on all fours acting like a cow when car traffic went by, but like real cows, she returned to lounging after the vehicle was past.

O was for onions. This, a fine locally produced vegetable, was glorified by two beauties doing a dance commonly done while entertaining at a bar, I believe, called the Airport Lounge. They were synchronized in their swinging of great long onions. Some thought they were equivalent to synchronized water dancing. “Truly profound” was a description heard from one roadside observer---while lifting her eyes in amazement.

P was pick-pockets from Peru. Mimes, two of them, brushed by each other to demonstrate their devious skills. The expressive gentleman managed to latch on to a nice watch and some money, all the while thinking himself the victor, but the woman of the pair, while seeming distraught about the financial loss, held up a pair of boxer shorts. On close examination, the gentleman found himself shortless and embarrassed (pun). The final E was flipped over to make an M for music at which point the entire entourage went to dancing the polka to the lilting notes of a flute and fiddle.

So while I have an inflated ego, let us not forget that next year will be the thirty-fifth of the firecracker and while it is not appropriate to officially plan your float, it is time to put it on your calendar.


The Frog and the Fly

It was time to take the grandkid fishing. He had been all over me to get on with it, quit reading, having tea and palavering about the economy. It was the usual nagging of a kid who has only one intention at that very moment. This particular child has focus and whether it is rock hounding, gathering pumpkins or fishing, he looks only in that direction and makes sure I am aware of it---particularly if it takes me getting off my butt to make it happen.

He had the entire outing all planned out, the site of action set, and his gear, lame as it is, ready for action. He knew of a pond in a park right in the middle of town where he had seen fish and had, on a few occasions, managed to land a couple of adequate pan fish. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem particularly intent on catching size but rather just wants action, be it a nondescript minnow or a gapped-mouth carp. It is just the journey, not the destination---apparently he had read Robert Louis Stevenson who said. “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”

Having developed that philosophy at a young age, is helpful to a grandparent, who in my age, has developed a certain amount of sloth. At the same time, it is my responsibility to introduce him to the greater pleasures of life and to facilitate the desires, which have developed, a result of my earlier encouragements. Simply put, I had to get off my posterior, put down the computer with it’s  never-ending sob stories of how lousy we as a species are treating the world, and take Jake to the pond.

In a fit of ambition and an exhaustion from being badgered by the kid with comments about my inability to catch fish, I tossed the angling swag in the car along with the chattering nine-year old and lit out for the water. From the back seat he, for reasons unknown, proclaimed he was one of the world’s best fishermen and wondered, aloud, if he was a professional. With eyes lifted in disbelief,  I was not able to imagine where he got this idea because I had told him numerous times I was the best fisherman in the universe. He fidgeted and carried on as we approached the rather stagnate, algae filled pond still confident he was about to set records with his prowess.

He bolted from the backseat and headed, Tom Sawyer-style, for the edge of the pond where he threw down his bait box, unraveled the tangled pole and began chucking the miserable looking lure into the depths. On my arrival, somewhat belated due to my noticeable inability to run, he pointed out the fish he could actually see in the water. Yup, there were some small fish there all right, not monsters, but fish. He threw a few more casts but didn’t attract any attention as his bait was, to some extent, bigger than the fish he was pursuing. While he was still confident of success, I noticed a shift in his patter in that he was now making note of the small crawdad-filled stream just to the north. He was beginning to conger up an option if fishing should not play out.

It was at that moment I decided to increase his angling possibilities and began drawing on my world’s reputation as grand master fisherman. It seems he had a rubber frog in his tackle box, one of those that floats, is weedless, and has enough weight for him to be able to really send it flying out in the small lake. The frog itself was not a suitable lure in that the pond probably didn’t have a single fish in it capable of devouring the plastic frog. This is where a little imagination had to come in. After showing him how to tie the fisherman’s knot, and laying out the strategy I was pursuing, we then attached a second line from the hook of the frog. The line being about twenty-four inches long and lighter in weight from the main line. We were being crafty and drawing on my fly fishing experience----I, of course, reminded the over-egoed kid about my skills not wanting him to think himself so superior when he was, in fact, in the presence of a fishing god.

I have to admit he was not very impressed with my bragging and did tell me I had an inflated eagle. At the end of the second line, I attached a fly, a wooly bugger if you will. We now had a real rig, one that would bring home the bacon. I even liked it because if there was a big bass in the pond, he might just have a chance, but in truth, we were after the pan fish.

On the first cast, he managed to hook an eight inch Green Sunfish and the afternoon was off to a great start. While a number of the bass-like sunfish tried to gobble up the frog, the wooly bugger carried the day and in the next hour he managed to haul in twenty flopping fish, which inflated his eagle but also made traveling for travels sake a reality.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tesla Battery or Powerwall------Missionary's Position

Unfortunately, I spend too much time being entertained with various discussions on sustainability and all the hype that goes with it. But I also like messing with sustainable ideas and efforts offered by others. Then, of course, I obviously entertain myself by writing about all this crap. I don't think for catharsis, maybe intellectual interest, maybe because I care, not so much for myself as I am now older than dirt and none of this stuff will likely mean jack to me---other than I find it entertaining, but for my future connected family. Ya, ya, the plight of man is entertaining.

So along comes the new Tesla battery that one Mr. Musk thinks will change the world. Now I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer (I just learned I may be the leper with the most fingers) but any jackass can figure out this thing, this Power Wall, is nothing short of hype, and real good hype if you will,

 So I am sitting here thinking that just maybe I can get a kick-ass battery pack that will allow me to go off grid again but in pricing the contraption I learn a couple bits of alarming info. First off, the single battery which produces 10 KWHs cost a pleasant $3,500. I also learn the average home uses close to 25 KWHs a day (even though I use less than 10). So the average home would have to have 3 of these suckers to even cover electricity for one day. Now, it might cover me for a day but here in Wisconsin it is not that unusual to have 4-5 days sunless. Then what?

To top it off, I now have lead acid batteries that will cover me for a couple of days as long as we do not do the wash or vacuum---which we do not like doing anyway. These led acid babies only cost $800 and the fancy Tesla pack is over $10K. Clearly, even though they clam to be 10 KWH, we all know the efficiency of the unit is probably in the low 90s--throw in the inverter and it is even lower. In addition to the $10K cost, there is for most people a huge installation fee and of course for the average dude they have to have $30,000 worth of PVs to power up the $10,000 worth of batteries.

Then somewhere I read the production of these lithium batteries is more "green" than the lead puppies. Why hell, they both rip the living Jesus out of the landscape. It is modern technology and all of it is based on consumption of resources and fossil energy. Up a fat rats ass it is green. Is it better in the long run than natural gas---maybe, just maybe. One would have to take a real hard look at the math. You want to see something green make a candle out of hog fat and ashes.

When I heard this system, both the PVs and the battery, would power India I almost laid down on the ground and soiled myself. If it is  $40,000 to set it up in this country can one imagine how much it would cost in some remote village? Then they would have to deal with the complexity of it all, Parts? These techno-triumphalist drive me nuts. Truth is, it doesn't even work in this country. I suspect it is just another fun toy or hobby for a few rich people. Get the price down to $3,000 for 30KWH and I still might do it---interestingly.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Catching and Eating Local fish

 I like to think it is possible to be LOCAL in our food production. Many now call this relocalization  The implication of the project is to develop a local food source that is not hinging on bringing food long distances when in fact most foods can be grown, caught, or "found" locally. It is a noble cause it would seem in that we get rid of a dependency that may, at some point in out lives, not be workable. I mean, getting farm raised fish from China makes little sense no matter how one looks at it. Hell, the are fed human fecal mater as are the shrimp from the Mekong Delta. It is simply about distance and energy use---and quality.

Yes, if the fish are raised here they will probably cost more but we will at least be offering jobs and there will be some rules as to how they are raised. I still refuse to buy the ones raised here due to the use of chemicals and to the genetic manipulations that end up in the wild populations. Far as I am concerned it is damned hard to find a fish that is not in some way damaging to fish populations from over-fishing or is polluted from antibiotics or had it's DNA altered.

The only option is to search out lake-caught fish right here. The only problem seems to be they are not really easy to catch or there just are not many of them. I know some yahoos claim I am just a shitty fisherman but this is not true. I am a dedicated angler with considerable skill and an attractive demeanor. Not many fish are brought home, that is true. In some cases because I release them thinking there are not many and they need to be returned for future fisher types to enjoy. Here and there I bring some home as a way of having fish in our diets.

I see this as being sustainable but also realize that if every jackass who fished kept all the fish caught most of the lakes would be devoid of fish in short order. I now believe many fishermen return much of there catch and fish only for the relaxation and the pleasant outing in a wonderful setting.

Things turned a little different the other day. It seems we, Dennis and I , visited a particular flowage to find a sign that stated, with out hesitation, this body of water was being managed for Walleyes, and in noting this, stated the Black Bass were eating all the fry. As result the bass were fair game and could be kept in great number, no limit! While this appeared to be silly because Bass are a great deal more exciting to catch but thought to be less exciting to eat.

We hit the water with our new (used) fishing rig, and it ain't no canoe. I was forced by family members to move to something more stable as I have in the past few years had some inappropriate time in the water as a result of falling, colorfully, from the canoe. Seems they did not want to see a headline in the local paper stating, " Elderly man found floating in local pond." It turned out the hot tip we had received put us in touch with numerous Large Mouthed Bass. Out of the need to protect the Walleyes, and to fill my gullet, and be sustainable and relocalized we kept six  bass out of the forty or so we caught. While it is a secret, these are some of the finest fish we have consumed in a mighty long time.

I know the nice thirty year old boat is not real sustainable but it is already manufactured and will take no more energy but the motor will and does. It is a four stroke so there is less smog spewing form it. However, we are relocalized and those fat fish, like most of our food, now comes from Wisconsin.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Local Individual Tries to become Middle Class Using Solar Powered Wacker

Some years ago I received a weed wacker from my mother's estate. For many years I have been unable to find a use for it in that I had few weeds worth wacking and the noise it made was socially disturbing. While it was electric in propulsion, it still put out quit a din rather like a leaf blower or a Nazi Panzer division. It also tended to launch small particles much like an electron accelerator
. .

Basically, it was fucking ridiculous in that there really didn't seem any need to wack weeds, particularly if an occasional toad got whipped into a froth. We were living a lower middle class life style at the time and while it was hard getting around the old appliances in the front yard, the biggest problem was dealing with the guilt of having one more energy consuming appliance doing some senseless act for the pure pleasure of accommodating a comfortable middle class life style.

I was already some sort of wack job, so it sat idle. I even tried to sell it in a yard sale but no one was willing to lay down good folding money for the nice unit. $10 was just too steep. Somewhere along the line, we set up a photo-voltaic system which we use to power our home. We wanted to be  sustainable types and drop off using fossil fuels which are clearly killing our planet (even if Ted Cruz doesn't think so, or every other dip-shit conservative). We did manage to get our electric consumption down to less than 5 KWH per day compared to the national average of 25.

Well, yesterday I ran into the wacker while getting out the electric lawn mower and realized, like the mower, I could power it with electricity from the batteries thus converting my lawn care to complete solar power. Talk about sustainable. Most importantly, by trimming the lawn around the side walk I could begin to approach middle class, or at least maintain our lower middle class status.

It was necessary to gear up for the event, or was it armor up, due to the obnoxious viperous hissing the rig created and to prevent the loss of eyes from the high velocity stones flying about. I noticed the outfit did start one really great cat fight across the street as they panicked from the approaching Fokker D7 dive bomber. My closest neighbor pointed out this was the first time she had seen me clean my side walks and wondered what was going on. I told her I was trying to go middle class which brought a look of bewilderment---what about the old cars and the moonshine still? .

After 20 minutes of wacking off the vegetation---and some minor injuries, I took some time to cipher over my effort toward being Middle Class. I sincerely wanted to be sustainable in my pursuit because, after all, if my middle class position was not sustainable, what is the point?

As a deep green thinker, or is it Dark Mountaineer, there was a real need to get serious---being middle class is a lofty goal and deserves in depth thinking. Right off I hit walls, threw up red flags, did the Sweet Jesus jumping across the tundra on a rubber crutch expletive. Why hell, that Fokker probably took a barrel of oil to produce, not to mentioning the fabulous volumes of fossil fuels  to build the PV system. My God, it was no different than the electric car that took 30 barrels of oil to make and who knows how many more barrels to make the roads on which to drive the things. I just learned that it takes more oil to build an auto than it will burn in its life time. Boy, it is hard being sustainable and just as I was getting into it, this middle class thing may have to be reconsidered.

 I was thinking it might be best just to burn off my yard a couple times a year---that has a nice paleo feel to it. A goat might be sustainable. So much for being a wack job.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Migration and Global Climate Change

In the last couple of years we have been hearing more and more about the issues involved in excessive human migrations related to climate change. This is nothing new as all the way back in 1973 The Limits to Growth book brought the issue to front as well as mentioning other issue that would lead to huge human flows as the world resource were depleted. It is simply not new.

Today, I noticed this article in the BBC once again reporting on the impending major issue of the human floods coming out of the Middle East and North Africa. This movement of people by lame-ass  boats has been going on for years and few in the world really are aware of this issues, and deaths involved of these folks trying to get away form a rapidly deteriorating situation. More and more it is becoming apparent that the major issues are really about resources, meaning water, food, shelter and safety---much of it due to global climate change.

Last year I ran into two talks from military persons about this issue related to national security. One was an Admiral Herring and the other was Jeromy Jackson   talking to the Navel War College, not exactly bastion of liberalness, but just concerned thinking people. Clearly, if conditions continue to deteriorate, not just in the middle east but in this country and continent, people will begin to move, maybe into areas they are not really welcome.

This is all reminding me of a very controversial book that came out in the sixties call The Camp of the Saints where France was being over-whelmed with the flood of refugees out of the ME and NA. There were millions coming across the Mediterranean. What was France to do? I couldn't finish the book. But here we are with shades of this event.  I have heard the big wall we are building on the Mexico/US border is not for what was going on now and in the past, but what is anticipated if Mexico should be come a failed state---which it well could become if they go into deep drought and their revenues from the depleting oil decline--which it is. . Half of Mexico is now in the same drought as California. Go figure! 37 million in California and no water? Is there going to be wide spread migrations?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Missionary's Position--- Wisconsin's Population Growth

A couple of days ago the Milwaukee  Journal came out with a report on the growth rate of various counties in the state. As can be expected many of the more rural counties lost population, about 32, and about 35 had small population growth. Interestingly, in 2013-2014 Milwaukee county grew by only 20 people. Places like Adams County, home of Ed Gein, lost 1.6% of its population in a one year period.

 Madison, the most active area picked up 5.6% in the last 5 years. From a pro-growth point of view population loss is probably looked at as being pretty dismal, particularly, if your are the governor, and most obviously his critics. But in truth, there are many stories to this situation, even though for the bulk of the state citizens growth is necessary and the most wonderful thing in the world. No matter who you are, it is probably being viewed as if this is the end of the world, if not the local economy. Believe me, this cuts on all side of the political spectrum. Growth, growth, growth, that is all everybody wants---even though endless growth is not possible. .

But there is another side to the story, and while it is not well excepted, there may be some good news in it, but not good news for business as usual. What is clearly happening is jobs are drying up in many of the outlying areas. Where there used to be extraction industries, there is now close to nothing. No more farming, except with a few very large dairies, some corn and bean cash cropping maybe, but no mining, no lumbering, not even much pulp cutting as many of the paper plants have moved over-seas or simply closed because of interweb communications. There simply is not much to do. Maybe some recreational/tourism related businesses, now there are even trappers, and some folks literally living a subsistence operation with odd jobs on holiday cabins.

This has been going on for some time and really hit when much of tourism was set back starting in '06. Clearly, in driving north it is easy to see some very depressed communities and lots of folks living in no more than Uni-bomber shacks.

Of course, many of those that vacated the remote places move to cites, or suburbia where they thought they could find work. Most of the jobs found were low paying, part time and with little opportunity. It is a general drop in the standard of living for what was a middle class.

It is beginning to look like this is a pattern world-wide. It is in the news everywhere, even in China and India. Here in Wisconsin . however, we may have an odd benefit in that as the people leave, it takes pressure off the environment. The forest recovers, the native plants have a way of sneaking back in and even fish populations might return--there is now a movement to get the Lake Trout back in the lake Michigan and Superior. With fewer people in these areas, it is making some breathing room for the natural world. Yes, the cities are becoming more crowded, and that is their problem because it puts more pressure on social services, crime rate, and taxes.

What it comes down to, is while some complain of this loss, others, like me, might rejoice the return of the native ground, or return to a more sustainable use (but I don't have to work). If indeed, we were to get another down-turn as may predict, the vacating of the remote areas will become greater still.

Wisconsin is fortunate in that this part of the country has only really been ravaged a few times since first settlement,so it can come back unlike many places in the world, where it has been ravaged for thousands of years there is virtually no hope. The middle east and North Africa are examples of this and the population is now flooding out of these regions as there is no way to find food, water
or shelter--there simply isn't any.

We are fortunate and I don't really see population loss as a bad thing, maybe in the long run a good thing. .

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Revolution Watch---Alternative Energy Perspective in Relation to Scale

Most recently I have noticed that there are becoming more and more shots being take at alternative energy sources. Ya, this includes me and I am not among a bunch of trolls. I might be a bit of a deep green environmentalist but I don't think I am too far out there. I do think we have to re-evaluate just what is the value of the alternatives, and just how and where they can be used.

I do like alternatives like wind and solar but have always thought they were a fun hobby for rich people and not really a solution for being able to live a business-as-usual life style. I, of course, have had PVs for 23 years including 13 of those off grid so I do have some background.

Recently, another blogger posted this picture as a way making a point but he didn't add any metrics to confirm what most of us would suspect. I don't really l think there is a need for that because the irony of it all is obvious. First off, the big turbines are much bigger than the truck, that is in height. Interestingly, I suspect the truck is actually powered by an electric motor but the juice comes form a monstrous diesel engine that burns a gallon of fuel every thirty seconds. Certainly, it would take a number of these turbines to power one truck and there would be no way to store the electric energy. Maybe hydrogen produced by electrolysis. In any case, the level of technology required would be immense, Most importantly, to actually manufacturer the beast of a machine it would require most of the turbines in the country. Just a perspective thing.

Then I began hearing about how wind turbines actually have a huge fossil fuel foot print, and this is after hearing for years this was the way to have a truly sustainable sources of energy. Well, I knew it took a certain amount to produce one of those huge devices, you know, the blades of plastic, the fiber stands and the very sophisticated engine itself. So, an article comes out with the attached photo and it almost leaves no doubt that the fossil fuels used in production is profound. In this case, the individual does provide the metrics at his site. Very unsettling. It has been stated that a single turbine will never produce enough energy to reproduce itself. Think of the steel and cement, both requiring unimaginable amounts of fossil fuels. 

Then today, Mr.Musk comes out and makes a statement that they now have a battery capable of powering a single house. Yes, the power will have to come from alternatives, like wind and solar, or I suppose, hydroelectric. So I go on the interweb and try to find the price for one capable of running my enter house and learn that ones like it, but made by other, and the Tesla battery are priced a comfortable $12-14K and that doesn't include the $25K of soar panels needed to fire up the batteries. 

So what we have here is some misleading information, some information that might be useful going ahead. Just what is real? The worst part is there is very little talk about consuming less which is as near as I can tell is the best way to be slightly sustainable. There is a group out there now called Downshifters trying to encourage just that. Me, I putter along trying to keep my electric consumption between 3-5 KWH per day of grid power. I will be trying to off grid this summer--it will require in one of my hit and miss engines, however---but that is at least fun to watch. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gathering Maple Sap with the Grandkid

Jim mentioned this was his thirty-ninth year of making maple syrup and there are a few others around here who have been at it longer. Most folks that start doing this spring ritual seem to follow through year after year as if their very souls were in need of some sort of rebirth, and maybe sugar coating after a long cold winter. Maybe a re-introduction to the pleasures of the soil. Clearly, there is a pull of new life.

Each spring, the first inkling of anticipation is met with a familiar conversation, a conversation which is usually preceded by ears being directed skyward. One can almost detect the sugaring crowd walking around ears canted to the sky, their heads tilted and moving form side to side much like a dog trying to conjure the meaning of life. They are listening not to the sound of dripping sap but for the return of the Sandhill Cranes.

“Heard any Cranes yet?” that is the question. The phone will ring and instantly there will be the excited declaration “I heard ’em. They’re back.” It is time for the maple trees to emit their tears of joy.

It is not unusual for the maple tappers to have there set ups in place before the arrival of the Sandhills but for some reason the likelihood of actual flow is not great until the Cranes are back.

This year out of the bitter cold, came a number of warm days that caught the sugaring crowd with a pleasant surprise, so, in a fit, most headed to the woods to hang the buckets and run the lines only to find the ground so frozen nothing flowed and all the anxious winter-fed desires put on hold. Where were the Cranes? They, it seemed,  had not arrived and were still lingering to the south not trusting the sudden switch.

The waiting game began as the weather did a few dips and doodles. In our case the arrival of our grandchild also approached and the dipping and doodling added to the apprehension for this would be his first chance to gather the nectar of the midwest forest and, most importantly, to fire up the boil to render the golden treasure. Jake, the eight year-old kid, is a fire bug, so this was going to be a blazing opportunity and also the first year in what one would hope to be the first of many to come.

A few days before his arrival, we heard drifting snippets among the locals that Sandhll Cranes were around, but we had yet to hear one even though the geese were on the move giving us hints. Still, the Sandhills must have been here because the sap was now running and by the time the tow-headed child arrived we had a good start on the project with twenty-five gallons. Once the kid was given the sugaring lecture, we tripped around the neighborhood gathering the day’s flow, all the while listening to tales of rock-hounding and fishing.

Once face into a half-filled bucket, what got his attention was the sweetness of the sap itself. He initially put his finger under a tap and tasted the dripping nectar but then decided that was too slow and just opened his mouth right under the tap, and slurped it up like a little bird in a nest. For some reason this years sap was heavily graced with sugar---even the Red Maples that tend to run stingy, ran high. Back at the sugar shack (house), he proceeded to fetch a cup and simply dip it in the bucket and pour it down his gullet.

While he was constantly distracted by another inferno he had going, in the fire pit, the blaze under the boiling pan was well fed by all the scraps of wood he scrounged up under the local vegetation. The steam billowed off the pan, the fire leapt from the brick burning pit and as the day wore on, the smell of maple syrup drifted around the buildings and across the lawn. Occasionally off in the distance, a Sandhill Crane would let out a spring-time bellow. The kid ran around tending both fires, bringing in accumulating sap and throwing objects for the dog--all as the spring blossomed.

Thus ended his first sugaring here in Wisconsin. Today it will be forty seven, the grass is greening, the sap still flows but the yard is quiet as the eight year old has returned to his home in Colorado. It would be a great thrill to think he could come close to Jim’s thirty-nine years of springtime joy.