Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday Wordage: [con]fusion cuisine

So-called "Fusion Cuisine" aims to expand our horizons by combining, say, Indian traditions with Norwegian ingredients to produce something wonderful and new, like curried lutefisk.  Or, you can simply blend the words to arrive at something just as likely to be revolting: blending a fiery Indian curry with a Norwegian fish gives you Vindalootefisk.  See if you can get these other masterpieces of fusion cuisine.  Answers will be in comments.

1.  An Italian dessert made with mascarpone--and raw fish
2.  A boozy French chicken dish spiced with hot Indian chilis
3.  A Japanese noodle soup that is actually a Mexican tripe soup
4.  An Indian spice blend flavoring an Italian cured sausage
5.  A classic lobster dish made with crispy corn chips
6.  A breakfast of stale bread and eggs--served on a crispy, flat corn tortilla
7.  Japanese buckwheat noodles formed into a layered Greek dessert
8.  An archaic English sweet drink made from cream and wine, used to make an inflatable candy
9.  A chicle-based candy made into a Cajun stew
10.  Spaghetti for an Italian prostitute, made with French snails
11.  A middle-eastern chickpea dip made into a Greek eggplant casserole
12.  A spicy pizza topping made into tri-colored frozen dessert

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday Wordage Inaccurate Edition

Wednesday Wordage Inaccurate Edition

Twice today, I heard a radio personality stumble around what to call some of the declarations from our president-elect.  In both cases, they settled on "inaccurate statements."  I was a bit perturbed, because the term "inaccurate statement" is itself not accurate to describe most of the statements from Donald Trump.  "The check is in the mail" is an inaccurate statement.  Talk of two million fraudulent votes is something else.

It has been depressing watching the media and others grapple with this phenomenon: a very public person who rouses the rabble with statements that seem to have no relation with reality, with crude fictions appealing to the baser sentiments of humanity.  No one wants to call a public figure a liar, and the media avoided describing Trump's statements as lies, despite the word being appropriate.  But there is an even more accurate word that could have been used--one given precise meaning and focus in a well-known essay by the American philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt.


A lie, to Frankfurt, requires a certain regard for the truth.  The liar thinks enough of the truth, and his or her audience, that care is given to the lie, its plausibility, and the deception it should convey.  "The check is in the mail" is a lie--it acknowledges the truth that a check should be in the mail, and that the listener wants there to be a check in the mail, and that speaker ought to have put a check in the mail; it is fully in contact with reality, it's just false, and what's more, falsifiable.  Bullshit, on the other hand, has no contact with the reality.  It shows pure, sneering contempt for both the truth and for the audience.  The bullshitter says that it's going to start raining checks in the mail, and that mail is totally unreliable, and there's a conspiracy among those people to systematically steal things from the mail.

So, here is my plea (and I am not without hope that the press will develop a spine; the AP style manual has decided that any mention of the "alt-right" needs to indicate that it is a white nationalist movement.  They should just say that they're nazis, but, baby steps).  The next time our president-elect says something about two million fraudulent votes or Russian troops not being in the Ukraine or that anthropogenic climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, call it what it is.  Bullshit.  Okay, you can't say that on the radio, so maybe "bull[beep]"...but call it out for what it is.  And as important, ask every one of Trump's enablers, yes or no, if they endorse the bullshit, and just how that bullshit tastes in their mouths.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Wordage geographical edition

Today's wordage wonders where we are.  Certain words seem to be paired with certain locations, like a duck is associated with Peking or certain window blinds are associated with Venice; each sentence evokes a place this way, at least four times.  The place could be a country, state or city; also the name could not be the same for all the words, but the place is the same (like what we call German, the Russians call Nemetskii, the Italians call Tedeschi, and the Germans call Deutsch).  The key words are in italics. So, here we go.  Answers will appear later in comments.

1.   I went on campus and found a system; the key to the formula was in a poetic ode on an urn, which was full of yogurt.
2.  My host served me salad with dressing and for dessert, some charlotte.  Afterwords we amused ourselves by playing with dolls and roulette.
3.  I took my leave, and decided to go out for some fries.  Unfortunately, I managed to get my cuffs in the dip.
4.  I wanted to see a classic movie, since I was on holiday.  My tastes are pretty catholic, but I have to hold my nose to see anything by Polansky.
5.  "Oh miss, to cut my chard and cheese I need an army knife!"
6.  I can't dance a two-step while eating tea and toast; I need someone to hold 'em.
7.  What a delight! Steaming in a bath while drinking coffee and listening to a rondo!
8.  Enough of this inquisition!  It's worse than the flu!  I must fly--perhaps to Harlem...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Words Words words...

Well, that was the worst possible election night.  I couldn't eat for nausea, and am still feeling rough.  That was just from the national results.  I am now finding out about the local elections, and I feel worse.

Rural Oregon is an odd place.  There is practically no sense of public good, and no sense that we should have to pay for anything public, least of all if it benefits someone else [viz. the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff].   Natives may call it rugged independence, but the attitude is frankly immature, the result of a long dependence.

Going back to the late 1800's, there was a government effort to foster settlement in the area, which featured public domain land sold for cheap.  There was a plan to establish a railway, the Oregon & California, and the land-sale and railway begat fraud on a massive scale.  After literally decades of litigation and legislation on how to clean up after the fraud, a Federal fund was set up to compensate these counties.  So, for the better part of a century, the "O&C" counties have received a generous stipend from the Feds (wikipedia summary).

Worse, the main industry here is timber, an extractive industry just like coal or oil.  And just like any other extractive industry, it is not good for environment or responsible governance.  For decades, if more money has been needed, local governments could just encourage more logging and collect more royalties.

The combined result has been that these rugged independent counties lived large on Federal stipends and royalties from something that can only be harvested once.  And now, that's done.  The time-frame for the Federal payments to the O&C counties has expired, been extended once at a reduced rate, and is going to end soon.  A combination of competition from Canada, changing patterns of consumption, and ecological awareness means that counties can no longer print money by just harvesting more trees.  But, the residents of these counties are unused to paying taxes, and quite used to government services.  

So here we are.  The Wednesday Words--that's plural--is all the words, because we are talking about libraries and schools.  The funding mechanism for our county's libraries is at an end.  Finito.  Kaput.  Done.  There is no more money for libraries in Douglas County.  Our schools are not in great shape either.  So, some responsible people who believe in the public good proposed a very modest property tax district so we can have a library.  As they pointed out, there is no "Plan B."  Either tax, or no library as we know it.  The idea was put on the ballot for the spoiled children of Douglas County.

Were it not a serious issue, I would have been amused by the letters to the editor in the local newspaper.  Many simply said that libraries are unnecessary, since everyone has the internet.  Libraries, they said, benefit only a few, and they are not the ones that pay taxes.  One gem of a letter said, in essence, "I don't use the library, so nobody should."

Now, not everybody in Douglas County is a spoiled child, and the letters to the editor did reflect that; but, get ten of us together, and only four of us want public libraries.  The situation is much the same in the other O&C counties.  Opponents of the library measure argued strenuously that there was, in fact, a "Plan B," without specifying what it was.  Now that they'd won, plan B is apparently hope:
“I’m hoping that we can keep our libraries open. I’m hoping we can do that without taxing property. There needs to be another way out of this,” Gindlesperger said.
“My hope would be that we could get back into the woods and start getting receipts from our timber. I don’t know that that’s going to happen anytime soon, but that would be my preference,” he said.
And Daddy will buy me a pony.

As for the ballot measures designed to help public schools, I will give you the headline from the (Roseburg, OR) News-Review article.  Note that this is not an op-ed, this is a bit of reportage and so is literal and descriptive:  "EDUCATION NOT A PRIORITY IN DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS."

So, welcome to Trumpland, everybody!  Proud to be dumb, and trying to get dumber!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Worst Possible Outcome & Credo

America had a very simple moral test.  We failed.  Shame on all of us.

All three branches of govt will be in the hands of the lunatics.  Health care will be screwed.  Tax and budget policy will be screwed.  Social services will be screwed.  The judiciary will be perverted.    Kiss environmental protection and action on climate change goodbye, so maybe the planet is screwed.

I believe that there is such a thing as verifiable truth for many things.  I believe that research and science can actually produce useful answers to real-world questions.  I believe that there is such a thing as society and that something that does not directly benefit me can benefit me indirectly through societal good.  I believe that compassion for the "other" is a positive value.

It appears that too many of my countrymen do not believe those things.  This makes me sad.  I will continue to value truth, science, and society, and compassion, and I will hope that we can make it through these next for years and for G d's sake LEARN.

Tuesday Tool Second Tuesday in November Edition

The tool is the ballot.  Like any tool, use it responsibly, and think before using.

An ancillary to this tool is the yard sign or bumper sticker--a simple statement that can be affixed to property, branding it with the name of a politician whom it is hoped will be elected.  Since it only consists of a name and maybe a slogan, it's far more vague than a haiku.  "Make America Great Again"--there's a lot packed into that, and it can easily be interpreted in many ways that smell of rotted corpses.

(As a question of semiotics, perhaps this is more of an issue for the Wednesday Word; but, it is Election Day, so here it is.)

I am deeply perplexed by what to make of people who deface their property--their car, land, or body--with the name of Donald Trump.  The statement is vague.  Are they like the shop in town that has a big sign saying "WE ARE VOTING FOR THE SUPREME COURT NOT THE PRESIDENCY"?  Do they really think they are just voting for a set of so-called "conservative" values?  If that's the case, they are exactly like guys who said that they subscribed to Playboy ONLY for the articles.  Either they are more naive than a ten-minute-old lamb; or, they lie, and are pleasuring themselves with thoughts of discriminating against women, non-Christians, immigrants, homosexuals, and every other non-white non-male group.  

If it's the former, well, they will probably be educated soon enough in the school of hard knocks by a professor selling colloidal silver and chemtrail repellent.  If it's the latter, what do I do?

If I hire a contractor with a Trump/Pence sticker on his truck--do I assume that he would be OK with me stiffing him?  The guy with a "Make America Great Again" hat and a Vietnam Service Ribbon and POW bumper sticker on his car--do I assume that he wants me to mock him as a loser and a coward?  My neighbors with the big "TRUMP" sign by their driveway--do I assume that he would be A-OK with me assaulting his wife, and that she would be just fine with me saying disgusting things about her daughter and making sport of their disabled son?  Are they all good with me just lying to them constantly about every thing great and small? I know a lot of these people, and I'm pretty sure that these things would not go over well, but...that sign, that is like being invited into a friend's house and stumbling over something shameful that you wish they had hidden away.  Was the business model of Playboy ever not explicitly based on exploiting women?  Did anyone ever buy a copy of Playboy just for the articles?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

National nausea

I have been feeling worse and worse, lately.  I have been seeing more and more people willing to deface their cars and their property, and debase themselves, by identifying with a man who embodies fascism, ignorance, contempt for half of the people on the planet, and hatred for most of the people on the planet.  I know that a lot of these people are, at their core, decent, and probably don't think of themselves as endorsing mocking disabled people, being a deadbeat, and unthinking sexism and cruelty.  A lot of them consider themselves Christian, and who knows, maybe they feel the faintest of qualms about endorsing a guy who seems to make it a goal to violate every tenet of their religion's Savior.  But there they are, endorsing him, and to me, they are saying, "I approve of these actions."  In every election up to now, I've viewed voting for certain candidates as an expression of political sensibility; in this election, I find I'm viewing it as a statement of morals.

There's a feeling that you get right before you throw up.  You've been getting sicker, and sicker, and you surprise and disappoint yourself by getting even sicker.  Your head feels as if it's filled with a balloon of sulfide gas that has squeezed your brains out your ears.  You can't really hear anything but static and a distant screeching of fingernails on chalkboard, and your vision starts to narrow down and pale.  Your mouth is dryer than you can imagine, but you still taste something like dirty metal, and your skin gets clammy and cold.  But then, comes the realization that you will throw up.  Your body is making the decisions now, and it has decided that it has got to purge you of whatever you've ingested that is trying to kill you.  If you have any clarity of mind remaining, you are grateful because this is what needs to be done, and, as you run for the toilet, you realize that you'll probably feel better afterwords.  Not good; but better.

I feel as though that's where we are right now, as a country, a week out from this goddamned election.  It's time to start hurrying our steps towards the voting booth instead of the toilet and rid ourselves of the toxins poisoning our body politic.  The only thing that has me worried is the number of folks who are thinking that they would rather head back to the drinks table and have another hit of the Trump brand Vodka.

I do not look forward to the hangover.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Um, Wednesday words, take two

A couple of words that jumped out at me while listening to the radio's discussion of our current national insanity:

"Activist"--a noun that has been adjectived, always used to describe a judge whose opinions run contrary to your personal interpretation of the law on your pet issue.

"Special Interest"--any cause or party or category that is not yours.

Note that your favorite impartial jurist is someone else's activist, and that your personal favorite recipient of justified governmental beneficence is a special interest.

UPDATE 13 November...

"Objective reporting"--reporting that agrees with my editorial slant.

I was just reading my college alumni magazine.  The magazine reliably brings at least two articles worth deeply reading, which generally have some social significance; the following issues of the magazine just as reliably have at least a half-dozen letters about each article, and they will reliably represent a range of views from the farthest left to the hardest right.  The last issue had an article about the ethics of objectivity in election reporting.  The author boldly (and dubiously) argued that objectivity in political reporting should not be a goal.  This provoked strong responses from left and right, but the one that prompts this update is as follows, a representative gem from the angry right alumni of the 60's who provide much of the fill of the letters pages:

[...]it seems that responsible reporting must be editorialized.  That's probably because most of us Americans are too dumb to handle or interpret facts.
A decade or more ago I dumped Time, U.S. News and World Report and the New York Times after years of subscribing.  Now I just read the Economist.  Those silly folks report a lot of facts, and when they editorialize, they tell you.  Imagine how careless, lazy, and naive!

I snorted when I read this; I dropped my subscription to the Economist a few years ago because, while I appreciated their coverage of the world, the reportage--not the editorial writing--was shot through with a very conservative slant.  You could see this in the choice of language, choice of attention, and a general sense of tut-tutting whenever those uncivilized savages in India or Colombia did anything with the faintest odor of socialism.


Wednesday Wordage Peerless Edition

[Oooops...I repeated myself]

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuesday Tool Bioassay Edition

This Tuesday's tool is the voltage tester.  It's a little doohickey with a probe that you stick in the ground, connected by a wire to a little box with a metal hook that you hang onto an electric fence.  If the fence is "hot", then the box lights up.  The stronger the voltage, the more lights.  You use this to see if your electric fence is working like it's supposed to.

You can also use a ram for the same purpose.  If he's scratching his head, flossing the gap between his horns with what is supposed to be the hot wire, then you can be pretty sure that your fence isn't working properly.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday Musical Opinion

I'll just say that I'd really like to retire Bach's Toccata and Fugue in d minor as a "spooky" piece.  It has no more to do with spooky than Mozart's Piano Concerto #21 has to do with tragic Danish circus performers.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Wordage Mourning Edition

Times change.  Behavior that is commonplace now would have rocked the world of a century past; what was once normal, right, and proper is now fusty, antiquated, and weird.

So, a bit over a year ago, a guy with some mental issues completely legally obtained weapons designed for the sole purpose of efficiently killing lots of people, walked into a classroom at the local community college, and used those weapons for their intended purpose.  I do think that a century ago, the event would have been remembered differently.  After all, we still talk about Jack the Ripper, who killed maybe six people, and the Hatfields and McCoys, who were not especially efficient in their murderous ways.  I thought that it was a certainty that my town would be forever branded with this mass shooting.  It was the main subject in the national news for almost a week, an inescapable thing, and the word "Roseburg" was paired with the word "shooting," like it or not.

A year later, it seems that we are past it.  Perhaps mass shootings are too commonplace.  For a while, when I mentioned that I was from Roseburg, people from out of state would mumble some sort of recognition and note the city's loss.  Now, when I talk to people from out of state, they haven't heard of Roseburg or know anything about it.

I guess it wasn't horrible enough.  Newtown is horrible enough that it is still remembered, so we know that the deaths of twenty-some little kids can cause a lasting dent the nation's psyche.  10 people, mostly young adults?  Not enough.

But this is supposed to be about words, and changes in usage.

There are rites of mourning.  There used to be standards for these.  In the Victorian era, when death was a lot more everyday, there were things that were done--the death photograph, the lock of hair, the wearing of mourning, and so on, and written rules for how long they should be done for.  To modern sensibilities, these rules seem pretty bizarre--but they are helpful, in that they do provide some guidance for how to not look disrespectful.  Now we are winging it, and here in Roseburg, we can use some help.

Immediately after the shooting, business marquees all started reading "ROSEBURG STRONG" or "OUR THOUGHTS ARE WITH UCC" or "PRAY FOR UCC" and so on.  That is a socially acceptable form of public mourning.  It actually may be obligatory rather than demanded.  But in the absence of a code, it's not clear when you can take down that message and post "SUMMER FUN SUPPLIES" or "SPOOKY SAVINGS INSIDE."  In an earlier time, we'd know: six months for a second degree relation, a year for a first degree relation, maintaining a black border, and so on.  Now, without these codes, many of the signs are still up, and I'm sure the proprietors would take them down but for the fear of being disrespectful.  Sometimes, rigid rules help.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Words Please Stop Edition

I like words, which is why there is a Wednesday Words theme here.  I like them as things to play with, as objects that behave oddly, or that have curious histories.  Language--what happens when words get strung together--is a bit different.  I dislike the abuse of words, such as the use of "impact" as a verb or the myriad atrocities of businesspeak.  But I have become horrified lately by the abuse of language, and I am going to ask you, who may read this, to help stamp it out.

The language in question conveys a meaning, one that is corrosive to society.  We should, as individuals in society, recognize that we are all elements in a larger whole; that every other person in that larger whole is as much a person as we ourselves are.  In short, we should have compassion.  We may occasionally bump into each other the wrong way, we may intentionally or unintentionally slight one another, we may fail to live up to our ideals, miss the mark, or sin.  If we do this, we should own up to the fact that we have wronged another person who is just as important as us, and as part of that, we should string together some words into language that expresses compassion and actually helps to make things better.

So, if you find yourself in this situation (and, being human, you will), do not use the following language:

"Mistakes were made."  That's not in doubt.  Who made them?  As any editor will tell you, use the active voice.

"I regret if anybody took offense at my remarks."  A dodge to throw things into the passive voice; it makes the action come from, and the blame fall upon, the person wronged.

"As the [relative] of a [female, minority, immigrant, person of minority faith, or other too-often-picked-on-group], I am appalled by so-and-so's statements."  Compassion is recognizing the humanity of others.  If you only recognize humanity when it's your own, you don't really have compassion.

Okay, I'm probably preaching to the choir here.  But still, we are exposed to these dodges all too often, and those who commit violence to language go on their way freely.  Do what you can to call them out.  Heck, I'll even tolerate the use of "impact" as a verb if I could see these phrases disappear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday Tool As Ye Sow Edition

Without a doubt, the Tuesday Tool is the No-till seed drill.  

I've mentioned a couple of times here that one of the long-term projects here is pasture improvement.  We bought a pretty crummy pasture when we bought this place--it hadn't been fertilized in a long time, hadn't been seeded with anything but weeds, had been overgrazed by cattle and generally neglected.  A soil test revealed that the nitrogen (and P and K) levels were low but not tragic, but that the pH was in the mid-4's, the same as a piquant feta cheese.  

Two years ago, we broadcast annual ryegrass seed over part of the pasture, and some of it caught, but it was pretty much a stop-gap measure.  

Last year, after finding out about our acidic soil, we were able to lime only part of the pasture.  We were sufficiently disorganized that I wasn't able to do the job until the co-op was almost entirely out of the stuff; at the recommended two tons per acre, we only got a quarter of the pasture limed.  Worse, we weren't able to get grass seed onto the pasture before the rains came and made things too soggy to work.   We tried broadcasting seed in the spring, but that was an expensive, futile effort.  Our pastures this last year were not very good at all; there may have been a slight effect of the lime, but it mainly meant healthier weeds.  

I am so happy, therefore, that I have been able to do better this year.  I was still late getting the lime--I was actually much earlier than last year, but the co-op had already run out of agricultural lime.  All that was left was ridiculously expensive "prilled" lime, but fortunately there was enough demand that the co-op decided to order one more delivery of ag lime.  So, I've put two tons of lime on almost every acre of our pastures.

We also got seed in the ground at just about the perfect time--and, importantly, in the ground and not just on it.  Which is where the no-till seed drill comes in.

It's not an especially high tech or complicated machine; an effective version could be made with 18th-century technology and pulled by horses, which in fact was the case (Jethro Tull did more than make the flute a rock instrument).  But we hired a guy who had a spiffy new John Deere, pulled by a very spiffy tractor.  It made a swathe ten feet wide, putting in a row of seeds every four inches.  So, every four inches, a disc cut a fine furrow, the depth set by  the amount of weight on the disc.  Following the disc, seed was delivered through a tube into the furrow; the rate of seeding per foot was constant, determined by a chain drive connected to the wheels the machine rode on.  A wedge-shaped wheel pushed the furrow closed, and a flat wheel lightly tamped it down.  

Once the adjustments were made for the depth and rate, the only hard part was dragging the machine through twelve-foot gates and negotiating the many corners of our pastures.  Seven hours work, 400 pounds of seed, ten seeded acres; these were followed by two balmy days, then a week of rain and then some days with a mix of showers and sunshine.  And here we are:

It's a promising start.  It will hopefully grow for another month before it gets too cold, and we'll keep the beasties off of it until spring.  And, if all goes to plan, our sheepies and goats will have more of their nutrition from where they actually live.  Also, if all goes according to plan, someday before too long the Tuesday Tool will be a manure spreader.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Imagine there's no countries/it's...quite difficult, actually.

I experienced an odd juxtaposition of thoughts today, as I was driving home from town.  The radio was giving me the news of an attempted coup-de-etat in Turkey.  A commentator noted that one of the problems facing the current PM was a persistent secessionist group, the PKK, that wants to establish a Kurdish homeland, a state whose geography corresponds to the ethnicity of its citizens.  Fine, I thought.  Borders, when you get right down to it, are kind of stupid.  Why should a Turk in Istambul even want to exercise political control over a bunch of people who want nothing to do with him, away over in Silopi?  What good does such a line on a map do anybody?  Why do we make such a fuss over borders anyway?  If Jorge wants to live and work over there, and Miryam wants to live and work yonder, who even cares?

As I was imagining these pleasingly Lennon-esque thoughts, I passed the airport.  The flags, as happens all too often these days, were at half-staff, whether for slain policemen in Dallas or the dozens of murdered in Nice, I don't know.  But, despite what I was thinking about the stupidness of national borders, my first reaction on seeing the flag display was "hey...the flag of the United States is lower than the state flag and the other flag.  That's just wrong!"

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday Music, ear-stretching edition

Reverse your morality, listen to bands
That play only music you can't stand.
--Brave Combo, "Do Something Different"

I make a point of listening to music that I don't like.  I should clarify; I don't go around all the time listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks, because there is a difference between music that I don't like, and music that is bad.  There is a lot of music out there, in all sorts of genres, that is generally regarded as good or great, but that has never really clicked for me.

The works of Wagner, or Prince, or Phillip Glass, or Ornette Coleman get wonderful reviews, but generally, I don't like them.  It's not a matter of genre--I'm an opera nut, I like good pop, I'm a fan (to the Real Doctor's chagrin) of American minimalism, and plenty of post-bop Jazz.  There's got to be some reason that such folks are held in such critical esteem--something they alone can communicate, in some dialect of the language that I yet don't have an ear for.  I figure that it must be worthwhile to get that message.

So, if I have the time and the space between my ears, if something comes around on the radio that is good but that I don't like, I try to give it a listen.  Sometimes it doesn't work, despite my best efforts.  I remember driving the length of the Sacramento Valley one night listening to Die Walkure and just not getting it at all.  Some other folks report feeling deep insight into human relations and duty to family and honor when listening to this piece.  I felt tedium, the perfect musical equivalent of driving the straight, flat, barren stretch of I-5 on a moonless night.

I think I started feeling strongly about some music in my teens.  Decades on, there are pieces I love so much that hearing them causes a physical reaction.  There are pieces that I've studied, and played, that I appreciate more and more every year.  But I'm never going to hear the Goldberg Variations for the first time, and have it knock me on my ass, ever again.  That only happens once and it happened over thirty years ago.

Nonetheless, I keep listening, and once in a while I come upon a treasure--I get to re-live that feeling, the emotional wallop, of hearing something great for the first time.  It's why I keep listening, both for something I haven't heard, and to good music I don't like.  Yesterday I had to drive to Portland and back, a six hour round trip.  The folks who run the show at Sirius Radio's opera channel decided they should play a vintage performance of Donizetti's Lucia Di Lammermoor, with Sutherland and Bonynge.  It's classic stuff, critically acclaimed; it's also been proven by experience to leave me unmoved and bored.  I never really loved Sutherland's voice or the whole Donizetti schtick.  What the heck, though, I decided to give it a listen. Well, I got it, to the point where I wanted to stop the car and applaud at the end of the mad scene.  Whooooo-ah, that's some singing there.  And now I want to hear it again.

So I'll keep listening to music I don't like.  Maybe I can't say that I don't like Walkure.  Maybe I should say that I don't like it yet.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday Wordage inadvertent truth edition

The New York Times has succumbed to definition drift, it seems, losing track of the true definition of a word and instead going by what it thinks the word means.  So doing, it has given us a truth for the ages:
Mr. Trump voted for himself midmorning in New York City, which he called “a great honor” as he entered his apartment building. In the interview later, Mr. Trump described the experience of seeing his name on the ballot, saying he was moved by the enormity of what it means. “It does sort of hit you,” he said.
Just so we're clear,
  1. 1
    the great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong.
    "a thorough search disclosed the full enormity of the crime"
    • 2
      a grave crime or sin.
      "the enormities of the regime"
      synonyms:wickednessevil, vileness, basenessdepravity

    Saturday, April 16, 2016

    Friday Flora, Jacob and Esau Edition

    Friday Flora Jacob and Esau Edition

    Here is the Friday Flora, the fragrant popcorn flower, Plagiobothrys figuratus.  Doesn't look like much, but it almost gave me a heart attack.

    It is growing in the middle of one of our pastures, between the barn and the east shelter.  That pasture is a problem for us:  it is the low point of the entire field, and sits on a lens of pure clay, so it becomes a vernal pool.  We've done a lot of work to drain it, including cutting in drains and perf-pipe and so on.  It's better than it was, but that just means that the puddles that the water goes over the tops of the feet rather than over the tops of my boots.  The situation is made worse by the fact that the last two years, we've had to run heavy tractors over that pasture during the wet season, in order to get fencing put in and build shelters.  It's not generally the best idea to do such construction work in February, but that was when the contractors were available.

    Now, though, the pasture is drying out, and is merely muddy, rather than wet.  The popcorn flower's plant grows while inundated, and blooms as the last water disappears.  Our rutted, soggy pasture is now sprinkled with these cheerful little blooms.

    If you live in Douglas County and talk with ecologists, or look for information on popcorn flowers in Douglas County, you will hear and see much about the rough popcorn flower, Plagiobothrys hirtus.  It is downright famous, and rightly so; it is one of the most critically endangered flora in the world, and it grows only in three sites, all in the drainage of the North Umpqua river in Douglas County Oregon--nowhere else in the world.  When I talked with the NRCS and USDA people about starting the fencing project, they always mentioned that we'd have to do a pro forma ecological survey, and that it would find nothing but it's obligatory because of the rough popcorn flower.  That was a couple of years ago.

    A few evenings ago I was out doing the evening chores and in the dimming light I see this little flower, which jiggled a couple of loose neurons and brought up the name "popcorn flower."  It being 2016, I whipped out my iPhone and Googled "popcorn flower Douglas County Oregon" and the great Google coughed up a slew of pictures and information, all about P hirtus.  Here, for comparison, is a picture of the flower of P hirtus:

    When you're doing chores, and light is dimming, and you've got a lot to get done, and you're unaware of the existence of any other Plagiobothrys species because one is hogging all the bandwidth, it is easy to come to the conclusion that you've just found the mother of all white elephants--an endangered species in one of your pastures right in the middle of your farm that you're trying to develop.  It took some pretty focused effort later that night to reveal that there are other species of popcorn flower in Douglas County.  Also, they look nearly identical to the rough popcorn flower, but they are as common as dirt and can be found from here to Illinois.

    So, here we have P figuratus, in all its diminutive and unendangered glory.  How can I be sure?  One source mentions that absolutely certain identification depends upon microscopic examination of the scisson scars on the 1.5 milimeter seeds, but the quick-and-dirty way is to look at the stems.  P hirtus is a hairy plant, while its brother P figuratus is smooth.  

    When I went out the next morning to do the chores,  I was immensely relieved to see smooth stems holding up those cute flowers.  Now I just go on my way, doing chores and enjoying the sight of these charming little flowers, enjoying their company as I do with the buttercups and clover and the rest.  Every once in a while, I will even step on one, accidentally.

    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Monday Musical Offering--post-recital detox edition

    Classical music is pretty thin on the ground here in Mayberry-on-Umpqua.  There is a youth orchestra, which symbolizes a parental investment in something that is not felt to be worth attention continued into adulthood; the same organization will occasionally sponsor a concert at the community college.  There's a community concert series, which brings in a lot of pop/classical crossover stuff that I don't really care for.  There's a concert chorale, which brings Handel's Messiah around every year, plus one other concert, which needs to include some pop.  There's a local winery that brings in some very good musicians from Eugene every now and then for some chamber music.  That's pretty much it.

    The Real Doctor and I went to a recital last weekend at the winery: a graduate piano student at the U of O, from Russia, playing some standards--Beethoven's 1st sonata, Chopin's 2nd sonata, and the first set of Impromptus by Schubert.  I don't like to slag on people, so I'll say that it was the best piano recital I'd been to in years, and there were one or two interesting ideas.  I will note that the guy played like he was trying to fill a concert hall rather than a tasting room, and that there was very little in the way of tenderness.  It was a highly testosterone-driven bit of music making, and it left me feeling, in sympathy with the poor piano, a bit pummeled.  There were also more than a few memory lapses, one quite severe, that left me feeling terribly anxious.  And the piano itself isn't wonderful--a Pearl River upright, with a tone that left the Real Doctor and me feeling a bit on edge.  

    I was sort of hoping for a concert experience that would provide a nice break from the frenzy of the last few months.  Instead, I've spent what music-time I've had in the last week listening to Radu Lupu and Mitsuko Uchida and others, trying to re-find a musical center.  

    Oh well.  I can look forward to August, when the Douglas County Fair will be hosting Cheap Trick.  

    Saturday, April 2, 2016

    Tuesday Tool Shoveling $#!+ edition

    The tool of Tuesday, reported a few days late, is the five-tined manure fork.

    I spent a lot of time this week cleaning up--sorting through the desk, through the piles of mail, through my parents' mail, magazines, newspapers, all the thousands of leaves of paper that arrive and stack up in a household over the course of a couple of months of inattention.  Another set of piles occupied more time, as I worked my way through a great deal of laundry.  It's all a lot of work, and profoundly unsatisfying, especially now that the weather has turned nice and I can glance out the window and see green fields and blue skies and black and brown lambs frolicking between the two.  It is completely occupying for a whole day, and at the end one doesn't feel as though one has accomplished much of anything.  Very much a Red-Queen race.

    Tuesday I took a break from paper-pushing, and mucked out the doe's portion of the barn.  Yes, it's hard labor, and yes, it is also a Red Queen race, but for whatever reason, shoveling out real manure leaves you with more of a feeling of having gotten something done.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2016

    Wednesday Wordage Wodehouse edition

    Let us pause to give thanks to the universe for giving us P. G. Wodehouse.  We've had a long run of rainy, gloomy weather, and I was in a rainy, gloomy mood.  Wodehouse, like Mozart, can remind you of the existence of fairer weather.

    George wandered down Shaftesbury Avenue feeling more depressed than ever. The sun had gone in for the time being, and the east wind was frolicking round him like a playful puppy, patting him with a cold paw, nuzzling his ankles, bounding away and bounding back again, and behaving generally as east winds do when they discover a victim who has come out without his spring overcoat. It was plain to George now that the sun and the wind were a couple of confidence tricksters working together as a team. The sun had disarmed him with specious promises and an air of cheery goodfellowship, and had delivered him into the hands of the wind, which was now going through him with the swift thoroughness of the professional hold-up artist.

    --From A Damsel in Distress, later made into a movie musical, music by the Gershwins, the scene that gave rise to "A Foggy Day in London Town."

    Friday, March 18, 2016

    Public opinion polls from Mayberry-on-Umpqua

    Okay, granted that newspaper readership skews old, and granted that newspaper-writer-in-ship skews crotchety, but I was still surprised by the "question of the week" for our local newspaper's opinion page.  The question was "what are the issues that are most important to you in the presidential election."  Over 400 people responded.  There was no majority, but the most common answer of all, for over 25% of the respondents, was... marriage.

    Gotta say, I'm pretty flabbergasted by that one.  That it's even an issue is incomprehensible to me; that it's the most important issue in a presidential race in 2016 to some people makes me feel like I am living either in a different century or on a different planet.  I mean, really?

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

    Wednesday Wordage Maybe shoulda rethought that acronym edition

    A couple of sightings on trucks while driving around today, of companies that might ought to have considered a logo instead of an acronym:  a trucking and logistics firm called "UTI," and a Supplier of Utility pipes etc, proudly branded "PUS."  I guess I can just be glad that UTI and PUS were not traveling together.

    Thursday, February 11, 2016

    More late night thoughts after too much news and too much wine

    I heard an interesting program on the radio ( about how prison is viewed in different countries.  The U.S. was an early reformer of prisons, but (especially with the invention of privately-run prisons in the U.S.) we seem to have lost sight of what prison is about.  Rehabilitation and reintegration into society have faded as goals, displaced by a stridently punitive attitude and an inhuman quest for profit.  In some countries, however, there has been an increasing emphasis on making offenders, especially younger offenders, into useful members of society.

    There's a lot going on there, and a lot of it has to do with wether or not we regard ourselves as a society.  If you view society as a single entity, then healing society means healing the atoms that make it up.  If you view the state as the representative of the will of society as a whole, then of course the state should use tax money to do this work.

    If you follow the inspiration of Margaret Thatcher and the modern development of conservatism, then there is no such thing as society--we are all individuals, all for ourselves and against each other.  A war on crime too easily becomes a war on "other"--other races, other classes.  It becomes too easy to find support for locking people up and throwing away the key.  It becomes too easy to yield to an animal demand for blood.  Prisoners are not to be rehabilitated or given anything, only punished.  The state is not us or our agent; it is also "other", so it has no more business looking after prisoners than, say, a private company. If state or company abuses prisoners on the way to making a profit, so what?  It is always "other" getting hurt.  And, as the researcher on the radio pointed out, as long as society doesn't exist and there is only "us" and "other," all "other"s are assumed to be bad.  Indeed, that is precisely the dominant attitude in this well-armed neck of the woods.

    I am too much of a collectivist to see the merit of this view, which has gained such traction in our country.  I am too rooted in a tradition that encourages me to see all "others" as equally human.  So I was pleased to hear about programs that could take people--mostly young adults--who had been failed by family or education, who had gone wrong and done wrong, being helped back onto a good path.

    Then I heard other stories on the radio, about executives at a coal company deliberately endangering miners for profit, about executives of an energy company poisoning a river, about a leading presidential candidate enthusing about torture, about a government choosing to poison its constituents with lead, about a county sheriff who engaged in torture and abuse of prisoners, and so on.  There are miscreants out there, and these folks have done a lot more to destroy the fabric of society than a punk with a revolver holding up a convenience store, or even a murderer or rapist.  They have generally been doing what they do for twenty, thirty, fifty years. The longer they have done it, the more profit they've derived, the more firmly they believe in their actions' absolute righteousness.  In most cases, they admit no wrongdoing, and such contrition as is seen is mouthed by their defense attorneys during their sentencing--and never again.

    I don't know--can such people, who I must acknowledge as my fellow humans, be reformed?  Can they be redeemed?  Their energy and skills directed towards mending the society they've assaulted?  Or is a punitive model appropriate for such people? How does society heal itself of such cancers?  I do not know.

    Saturday, January 30, 2016

    Late night thoughts after too much news and too much wine

    One of the greatest things about humans--perhaps one of the only things that sets apart from other animals--is that we take abstract ideas very seriously.  It's also one of the worst things.
    Something like tribal warfare is known in chimpanzees, and there was a recent discovery of the remains of a possible tribal war between non-agrarian humans 10,000 years ago.  So we're not unique on that score: murder likely ran in the blood of our last common ancestor.

    But at some point one of our ancestors believed that it was necessary to kill another human--not because of a threat to self or family, or for control of a desirable resource, but because of heterodox belief about a thing that did not exist in the real world.  Probably, sometime around then, some human reckoned that it was worthwhile to risk its life for an abstraction.  Before this time, these thoughts had never ever occurred.  There was a first time.

    Possibly, about the same time as those humans were killing and being killed, some residents of Anatolia were carving and erecting monumental stones at what is now Gobekli Tepe--making a considerable sacrifice of time, energy, and wealth, to an abstraction long forgotten.  That's the only material evidence we have of this development, and it is highly enigmatic.

    We'll never know the first belief that inspired murder, the first abstraction that instilled a willingness to die.  We can't ever know how many millions of humans have lost life to ideas, how much suffering stems from notions without substance--nation, sect, dogma, politics, racial purity--since then.  It's been about 10,000 years since this idea appeared.  Sometimes I let myself hope that we will grow out of it; that at some point, maybe less than 10,000 years from now, the last murder will be committed for an idea, the last sacrifice made for a belief.  It will, in all likelihood, be well after I die.

    Friday, January 29, 2016

    Friday fauna: Where Eagles Dare to Eat Lunch

    (Warning, kinda graphic image of dead animal further down the page, skip this one if you're squeamish.)

    One of the noticeable steps in the transition from city slicker to farmer involves one's regard of the local fauna.

    A couple of years ago, I would occasionally see a pair of bald eagles flying overhead, commuting back and forth between their nest somewhere and the river to our northwest.  I'd stop whatever I was doing and gawk.  Eagles!  They are big, they are impressive, they are beautiful as adults, they are symbolic, and really, they are well worth stopping and admiring.  The pair became a trio, and the juvenile spent a couple of weeks along our creek before it moved away to find new territory.

    We are less than a month away from lambing and kidding here--a lot of the surrounding farms have lambs on the ground already--and I am mentally getting into the mode of worrying more about my animals.  A bald eagle will happily eat anything that looks dead, and a golden will kill for its lunch.  So my attitude towards the eagles has changed.  When I see when flying overhead, especially if they're flying kind of low, my thoughts tend towards "Hey, @#$%, get the &^%$# out of here and don't even  $%#^ing look at my $%@*ing animals!!!  @#$%!!!"

    Well, yesterday was a busy day here for the eagles, and they had me good and riled up.  Adult and juvenile, bald and golden, they were flying over us all day, screaming and fussing.  It didn't take too long to realize that they were not worked up about any of our beasts, but instead about something just across the creek from us.

    Our neighbor J. runs cattle over there, and his cows have been calving recently.  One little calf didn't make it--I couldn't tell whether it was killed by a predator or one of the myriad things that can off a young ruminant.  Whatever the cause, a day's work by the eagles left it rather diminished:

    I didn't have the long lens that I needed to capture what I saw through binoculars as I approached the carcass, and which really can push you away from the "majestic symbol of our country" view of eagles and towards a more farmer-ish view.   It was a juvenile (but full-sized) golden eagle that had hit the calf buffet a bit too hard.  It had tried flying, but was weighed down with excess giblets.  So it just sat on the hillside above the carcass, basking in the afternoon sun, visibly engorged.  Through the lens, it looked less the majestic eagle and more like a sumo wrestler regretting that last helping of pie.  @$#%* better stay away from my animals.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016

    Wednesday Wordage...utterly lost in translation

    I think there are two requirements for the written instruction sheets that come with new plumbing or HVAC bits or farm implements.

    1.  The instructions must be translated from another language.  If the product was made in an Anglophone country, it must either use unfamiliar idioms or be translated into a non-Indo-European language and then translated back.

    2.  The instructions must specify at least one topological impossibility or make reference to a non-existent part that exists in a non-integral dimension.

    3.  There must be a part included in the bag of bits that is not mentioned anywhere in the instruction sheet.  (An exception--you can see a reference to it in the Finnish instructions, but nowhere else.)

    I seem to have run into all of these rules today.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016

    Tuesday Tool Raising the (other) Roof Edition

    The big building project continues apace here at the farm.  We are finally constructing a pair of matching pole barns to house our boys--the rams, who don't care much about weather but are quite adamant about destroying things, and the bucks, who (enthusiastic sodomy aside) are gentle souls and run for cover at the first drop of rain.  The goal is safe, sturdy, weatherproof, easily-cleaned, easily maintained housing.   We're getting there.

    We finished the roof on the east shelter today.  Here's a pic from last week, though, before it looked like a roof.

    Those are pressure-treated 6x6 posts, anchored in three feet of cement.  The rafters--paired 2x12s, and insanely heavy--are positioned at their final angle, but at a convenient height.  Corbels hold them in place.  Supports for the purlins have been nailed in between each member of the rafter, every 16 inches.  Purlins--the 2x6s that will actually hold the roofing tin--are nailed in place.

    On the west shelter, we did all of this up in the air--each half-rafter was raised individually, then tacked into place; all the purlin supports were toted up and attached; and each purlin was lifted ten to 20 feet in the air and attached into place.  On this, the east shelter, all this was done at ground height, so it was much easier and quicker.

    Which brings us to our celebrated tool, the winch (which if you get to the classic simple tools, is a lever).  At the top of three of the posts, you'll see a winch, and Kenny there is attaching one to the top of the fourth.  Everything being assembled, it was a matter of winching the entire roof--probably somewhere far north of 500kg--into place.  It wasn't entirely easy:  the poles were sticky and needed soap and wedges for the rafters to slide.  Also, there were four winches and only three people.  However, it was easier than lifting every darn thing by hand.  So, here's to you, winch!  Huzzah!

    Sunday, January 17, 2016

    I'll just leave this here...

    A quote from the Ammon Bundy, leader of the brave patriots who have bravely taken over the Malheur Bird Sanctuary, on their role as the rightful caretakers of a large area with numerous Paiute artifacts and archaelogical sites:

    "Before the white man came, so to speak, there was nothing to keep cattle from tromping on those things."

    I will bet you a nickel that he believes that the earth is about 4000 years old.

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

    The Ballad of Butch the Chook

    The life of the farm chicken is mostly good: a steady supply of food, acceptable housing, room to roam and scratch, nice spots for laying eggs, the occasional juicy snail...and then a rather sudden end.  But not for Butch.

    We got our first batch of chooks almost three years ago.  At that time, there wasn't much to the farm at all--very few animals and almost no infrastructure.  However, chickens don't need much, especially when they first arrive.  (We get ours from Murray McMurray, and they arrive by mail as one-day-old peeps; you get a call from the P.O. at 5:30 in the morning, asking you to come by and pick up your package, which is about the size of a large shoe box and is chirping like a box full of chicks.)  For a few weeks, they were fine in a big wooden box with a heat lamp.

    The theme of our farm, for far too much of our term here, has been a race between animal acquisition and the construction of animal facilities, and animal facilities have consistently lagged.  So our first batch of chooks was getting far too big for their temporary quarters before I got their coop built...a situation I'm really ashamed of.

    I am also ashamed of the coop that eventually got built.  There are a lot of paintings out there that have violins in them, and in many cases, you can tell that the artist has seen a violin before but when pressed, couldn't quite remember some features right.  Well, I had seen some nice larger coops, and had some ideas about what I wanted, but I was constrained by cheapness and didn't get some details right.  I was also hampered by my own inexperience:  I had seen some construction work, but I clearly didn't get the construction right.  The result was just bad.  The floor gave out, the doors didn't stay together, the roof was horrible, there were severe design flaws...just bad.

    Once we got them into the coop, we had a mixed relationship with our chooks.  I never did get the coop painted, so it stayed ugly.  As always, facilities for animals lagged behind need, so I didn't get the perches installed for a while.  I never got a satisfactory waterer, so the birds got all their water from the animals' water buckets.  I was so busy with the other animals that I didn't really get to domesticate the birds, and only two of them ever got named.

    Things even managed to get worse. I didn't get egg boxes made until after the birds had started laying, so I taught them some inexcusably bad habits.  Of the dozen or so birds, a couple laid eggs where they were supposed to; the rest would find secluded nooks and hidden niches to make nests.  I'd periodically find a clutch of a dozen or two dozen eggs of unknown age behind the fencing wire or in the burn pile or with the plumbing supplies or behind the paint cans or in some other private place. If I found a nest, I could sometimes clean the eggs out and the culprits would continue to lay there; more often than not, as soon as they realized they'd been found, the culprits would stop laying there and find a new hiding place.

    There were a few birds who did lay in the boxes we provided.  However, there were also a couple of birds who developed a taste for eggs.  Worse, the oviphages knew that the egg boxes were an easy mark.  I never did see a smoking gun--or yolky beak--to know who did it, but I had some suspicions.

    By last spring, we were feeding over a dozen birds, and getting eggs from maybe two.  The remainder had some utility, eating snails and such, but still, we were paying to feed them.  We decided to get a new batch of chooks.  The chirping box arrived in the mail in July, and they've been settling in nicely since.  I took longer than I'd like to admit, but I did finally get their coop built, and it's pretty good:  better design, and vastly better construction.  I took unreasonable delight in dismantling the old coop, obliterating that stain from our yard.

    A neighbor of ours offered to take our old birds and give them a home in some canning jars, which was fine by us.  So one night, S. came by, reached into the coop and grabbed the snoozing chooks by their feet and stuffed them, complaining and groggy, into a box.  "Big day tomorrow," said S., "been hunting, so we're doing chickens and grouse and a turkey!"

    Such was the end for our first batch of chooks--except Butch.  Butch was always a special bird.  We were very suspicious about Butch from an early age; though the bird never developed spurs, it did develop a bit more comb and wattles than a hen of the breed was supposed to.  Butch would try--and still tries--to crow sometimes in the morning, though it comes out like a teenage boy trying to do James Earl Jones.  But, Butch was one of the few birds that, at least for a while, went into nest boxes, and with my own eyes I saw Butch enter an empty nest box and leave an egg behind.  Thus the name (and the lack of a gendered pronoun), and Butch avoided an early trip to the cook pot.

    Butch differed from the other birds in one essential way: instead of heading back to the crummy, shoddy coop to sleep, Butch would perch high in the rafters of the woodshed.  So when S. came by that fateful night, Butch escaped.

    But Butch had to develop a new modus vivendi.  The new chickens have grown up in their new coop, and I have them fenced in with an eight-foot-high wall of chicken wire under a tree.  (They can fly around, but remain naive about the possibility of flying out of their enclosure, and they will learn that they should always lay eggs in the nest boxes.)  Butch was wandering around forlornly (and hungrily) so I put captured the bird and threw it in with the young 'uns.  They collectively decided that this newcomer should be at the bottom of the pecking order and went on the attack.  From nesting in rafters, Butch knew that vertical flight meant safety, and so escaped--back to hunger and solitude.

    However, Butch has it figured out now.  Every morning I find Butch in the enclosure, under the coop, breakfasting on scratch that has fallen through the floor.  When I release the new birds from the coop, Butch quickly runs in as they fly out, and grabs a bit more chow before flying up to the roof and over the fencing.  Periodically, during the day, Butch will fly in for a nibble and fly out.  Every night finds Butch safely and smugly roosting, high up in the woodshed, resting up for another day.  And so Butch lives and will, unlike the rest of the first cohort, continue to live, happily ever after.

    Provided I never find yolk on Butch's beak.

    Butch, getting ready to fly the coop.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016

    Wednesday Wordage: the Farmer in of the adjective

    I am developing more and more of an appreciation of the farmer's life--a way of life that used to be the norm.  There's still some things that are so associated with the farmer life that "farmer" becomes adjectival.  The "farmer tan" needs no introduction.  Bikers clear their noses with a "farmer blow." Surfers wear "farmer john" wetsuits.  But as I become more immersed in the lifestyle, other farmer things have been making themselves apparent to me:

    Farmercize:  I marvel that people pay money to go to a gym to exercise.  Heck, they can come here to exercise and I'll pay them.  Mucking out the barn, trimming hooves on all the goats, stacking hay bales, fencing, arms are more muscle-y than they ever got from skiing or swimming or weights or anything.  

    Farmer shuffle:  It's the way I walk at the end of pretty much every day, each step a separate process, as a result of all the farmercize.

    Farmer sauna:  You don't need to go to Finland for the proper sauna experience: just load eight tons of hay into your barn as the sun is going down and the temperature is dropping into the  20's F.  You get the moist heat from sweating up a storm; the birch-twig effect from all the hay scratching at you; and the roll-in-the-snow effect from walking back to the house in the freezing air wearing a sweat-soaked t-shirt.

    Farmer-built:  Sort of functional, awkward to use, and must include baling twine.

    Farmer diet:  Guaranteed weight loss!  Eat as much as you want, of whatever you want (after all the work is done).

    Farmer birth control:  I mean, really, who has the energy at the end of the day?

    I'll probably come to learn more...

    The year in review...

    Well, that was a busy year.  It's good to look back on it--partly because it allows me to actually se that we have accomplished something in this our third year on the farm, and partly because it's nice to have such a year in the rear view mirror.
    There it is: most of what I worry, work, fuss, and tire myself out on, a place that I don't leave most days.  I can walk less than a mile, and most of my world gets small enough that you can't really tell much about it.

    Here's a few lines that clarify things--the green line is our property line, and the purple line is what we actually payed attention to in the last year--just over half of our acreage.

    Here's the same bit of land, viewed from space; my world is again in purple.

    As with the previous years, the big effort was to get our infrastructure built to meet the needs of the animals, those already here, those born on site, and those acquired--an effort comparable to building an airplane as it's flying and full of passengers.  We started the year with facilities that could accurately be described as "not immediately fatal."  We are beginning the new year with facilities that are, for some animals, adequate, and for others, promising to be much better than adequate.

    Our barn has become quite functional.  Of course, it was designed to be functional, but between design and implementation there are always contingencies.  That said, it is now safely and effectively housing more than 35 Shetland ewes of all ages and more than 20 Nigerian Dwarf does and kids.   Banks of LED lights make the barn bright as day, using the power of a single 120 Watt bulb.  Building enclosed spaces under the eaves has doubled our housing area and allowed different age groups to be segregated.

    Sheep expansion--November 2015 (Goats earlier in the year)
    The construction of new feeders has made feeding quite easy.  I'll need to tweak their design in the coming year to further reduce waste and improve fleece quality, but the improvement over the last year is huge.
    New center-aisle feeders: Feb 2015
    The male animals are still in "not immediately fatal" housing, but that is changing; after two years of delay (getting engineering done on the works, negotiating with a federal granting agency, waiting for weather, waiting for the end of hunting season, etc) we are finally building housing for our bucks and rams.
    Ram housing--started Dec 2015
    It won't be done until early 2016, but at least it's under way--which means that our rams will have shelter that protects them from the elements and that they can't destroy.

    As growers of sheep and goats, we are primarily growers of pasture, which we use animals to harvest.  This year saw big improvements in our pastures, improvements visible from space.  Thanks to the federal government (and you, the taxpayer!), we received financial assistance in building fencing in our pastures to facilitate rotational grazing and good grazing techniques. You can actually see this part of our labors in the satellite picture:
    New pasture fencing: January 2015
    The south (left) pasture is divided in two by permanent fence, then subdivided by electric mesh for rotational grazing.  The rams and bucks are in smaller pastures (top and lower right).  Internal fencing, combined with improved housing, has made management of the farm immeasurably easier.  2015 was a very difficult year for grazing--a severe drought made the fields dry up two months earlier than usual.  We could have done worse:  we've done some seeding, to try to improve our pasture, and some targeted grazing and manual weed control to eradicate some of the more troublesome weeds.  Also, we did a soil analysis, and started lime applications to help bring our soil's pH back to a more hospitable range.  We could do better:  this year will see additional seeding, lime, and perhaps fertilizing. So far, we are having a nice wet winter.

    We still need to buy hay, and this year we did a better job.  In previous years, I'd become something of a fixture at the co-op, coming in every week to buy six bales of hay, because that was all that fit in the truck and all that we had space for; an expensive and inefficient way to do things.  This last year, we've started buying hay by the three-ton, then by the eight-ton load, and we've connected with an organic supplier--although not soon enough to get the really good stuff.  This coming year, we'll hopefully be able to buy (and store) a year's worth of the good, second-cut hay.

    A lot of that food eventually becomes poop, and this year saw no improvement in our ability to deal with it.  We are still using deep bedding, a system of straw bedding that is changed quarterly.  It's effective, but creates problems with fleece quality and can damage the barn structure.  We don't have good compost management, either.  The coming year we will hopefully see the construction of a proper compost facility and installation of a raised flooring system in the barn.  I also hope to purchase a manure spreader, to recapture valuable nutrients that are otherwise lost.

    Of course, it is necessary for the farm to not only manage resources, but also be financially sound.  Our products this year have been primarily quality breeding stock (both goat and sheep), dairy products, and meat (and a few eggs).

    A breeding program is a decades-long endeavor, and we are at the very beginning.  This year, we bought a few more animals that will make good breeding stock: we took advantage of a herd dispersal, and got a couple of good sires by being persistent and in the right place at the right time.  We are just seeing the very first results of our first round of breedings, some of which are good.  A goat of our own breeding placed tenth in a huge class at the ADGA national show, and other animals of our breeding got good reviews from judges at other shows.
    Boadicea, daughter of Lady and Cernunnos, at ADGA Nationals

    While show ribbons are nice, stock is supposed to be sold.  We sold all of the goat kids that we didn't want for ourselves (we keep the ones that are better than their parents).  We didn't do as well with the sheep, having twice as many rams as ewes in our lamb crop.  Most of the boys went to the butcher, though one found a home as a sire in Colorado.  We are not able to command as high a price for our animals as more established farms, but we hope that will change over the coming years.

    Dairy production was limited this last year, with only eight does in milk and most of them low-producing first-fresheners.  However, this allowed me to work on cheesemaking techniques.  Happily, I have learned to make a variety of fresh cheeses that people are willing to pay for.  We also improved our aging facilities, making hard cheese possible.  I am now sampling some of the cheeses that I made this summer, and they are genuinely pleasing.  This coming year, with more does in milk, I'll be making and hopefully selling much more cheese; indeed, the challenges will lie not in the reliability, but in time management (both in milking and cheesemaking) and marketing.

    Wool production is still rather below what we'd like.  Our game is not yet up to producing a good, clean fleece.  The improvements in pasture management and housing over the last year are a start, but more work is required.   We have yet to find a shearer we are completely happy with, and our experience with a wool processor this year was nearly farcical.  We have got some wool that is being made into combed top and yarn, so hopefully we will have some product to sell, but we probably won't break even on wool this year or next.
    Oak Apple Bing--currently siring lambs in Co.  

    We had some turnover in our chickens this year. The original gang got forcibly retired, as most of them had stopped laying with any regularity, and all of them refused to use their egg boxes, choosing instead to lay in obscure hiding places.  We also retired the original chicken coop, which caused me shame whenever I looked at its construction.  The new chicks arrived in July, and have been kept separate from the original gang so they won't learn bad habits.  I built their egg boxes in late December, and the first egg showed up January 2nd.
    New chooks: Jul 2015; New coop: Nov 2015

    Wedge and Spot, the cats, are both now permanently outdoor cats, having had too many incidents indoors.  They do fine with it, and follow us around whenever we go for walks in the area, complaining the whole way.  Eleanor likes her goats, and will let you know when she thinks you're getting to close to them.  Sophie, having been subjected to a rigorous program of forced marches, is losing weight and resembles more a bullet and less a cannonball.

    We didn't get to have a vegetable garden this year; the garden plot has been continuously used for animal housing (see "not immediately fatal" conditions), but we hope to plant something this spring after the rams are moved into their new manse.  However, this summer saw the Real Doctor's brother and his family totally reconstruct the gardens along our front path, so we now have a lovely herb garden that has been making life much tastier.  Now we just need to grow some tomatoes!

    So there's the year on the farm.  When I look at what I do, day to day, I feel both exhausted and like I haven't accomplished anything.  However, taking the long view, I suppose a lot of progress has been made, and much of that progress will allow us to be both more relaxed and more productive next year.  But for right now, I am very tired.