Pivot To Bacon

I was glaring through clouds of mosquitoes at the ravaged mess that was my field. It was depressing. I’d worked hard. I’d given it an honest effort.

It was an agricultural face plant.

I’d created a big fat ugly multi-acre monument to the inherent stupidity of hippie homesteader bullshit and a giant neon “before” picture in a hypothetical advertisement for expensive modern tractors and Roundup. The weeds had overtaken the corn, the potatoes, and the deer plot. Damn!

In my defense, I’d made several “urgent” trips in the last few weeks and had no time whatsoever to maintain my field. I’d barely had time to eat and sleep.

You simply can’t do anything about a farm in the middle of nowhere when they’re in an airport in Denver getting violated by the TSA. (By the way, to the faceless TSA agent from Denver, did you like it when I cut one during the pat down? Priceless. I worked hard on the timing and was rather proud of myself. Yo quiero Taco bell baby! Here’s a hint, when random strangers can fart in your face and they wish to you will find greater pride in another line of work.)

At any rate, I’d wasted my time (and dignity) farting on TSA agents instead of maintaining my cornfield. How depressing.

Mrs. Curmudgeon always knows what to say to distract me from the woes of the world and cheer me up. “Here’s a six pack and I’m naked”. We’ll OK it wasn’t that. Instead she said “write about the pigs, that’s working out.”

So stay tuned for the story of how I will have all the bacon.

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Corn Vs Wood

Corn lost!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my adventures plowing a field with equipment that was um…  let’s just say there was some learning involved and a bit of adaptation applied to decrepit machinery. In the end I got the job done, barely. With no small amount of drama the field got plowed, seeds got shoved in the ground, etc… Germination ensued. I was a happy camper.

Then, because God has a sense of humor, my schedule went from hectic to harried, and then far worse. Eventually the dial went all the way to hypersonic and even sleep suffered. I found myself 1,800 miles from home and far too busy to think about abandoned corn seedlings Upon my return they were still there… and so were weeds. Lots of weeds. Every farmer’s field for miles around had rows of corn without weeds, I had rows of corn with weeds. Roundup? Lesson learned.

No worries, I’d just man up and get out there with a hoe. So of course it rained.  A lot. Repeatedly. Not a little rain here and there but hour after hour, day after day. It rained Seattle style. I hate Seattle style! Meanwhile, the mosquitoes (which are usually bad but manageable) had run amok. Repeated rains, absent winds, and cool weather had handed them their desired niche on a silver platter. Just walking to the mailbox became an endurance contest. Unless of course, it was raining, which it was doing every moment the mosquitoes weren’t in attack formation. The dog got bit up pretty bad and so did I. Everyone else wisely stayed indoors. Anyone who went camping in those weeks probably switched to a new and less maddening hobby, like cliff diving or heroin.

One day I decided to get weird and weed the field in the rain. (I reasoned that mosquitoes can’t fly in a downpour.) That very morning the phone rang with another work trip and I had to hit the road pronto. I can’t say I was unhappy to avoid the wet and mud.

This weekend the weather cleared. Well it mostly cleared, there was an epic thunderstorm that blew down a tree in my back yard but that was overnight (and I needed the firewood anyway). The mosquitoes were still bad but at least the ground dried out.

Over my morning coffee I had to make a choice. I looked at the field. I looked at my log pile (which needs to be bucked and split and stacked before it becomes a woodpile). No man can do two things. I sipped coffee and pondered the proper path.

A dozen ears of corn costs about $4.  A cord of split and delivered wood costs about $150. You do the math.

The bugs are still pretty hairy. In a fit of cleverness I rigged an extension cord and a big industrial fan I keep for occasions like this. I blasted air at my woodsplitter and if I stood just so, the mosquitoes couldn’t handle the buffeting. (Even with Deet and the fan I still got fairly chewed up.)

Now the day is done and I’ve racked up a small but appreciated “win” in the race against winter (which seems distant but is never far from time’s horizon). I’d burned every last stick of wood so this is a big deal. I’ll need to buck and split much more but you climb a mountain a step at a time.

Even as I’m pleased with my start on the woodpile I’m disappointed with the corn. I just haven’t had the time to do better. Seems like I learn this lesson every year. Damn!

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Your Secrets Aren’t Safe

I have found a literary masterpiece which will ring true to most men. Click to Front Porch Republic, you’ll be glad you did.

Some quotes to whet your appetite:

In the beginning:

“…there’s much work to do—and five secrets to keep from the Chief Eye-Roller.”

And the story begins:

“…ever since as a young boy I saw a few license plates hanging in the machine shed on my grandfather’s farm I have longed for an out-building to hang license plates in. Now I have one, and like Henry the 8th I will have no opposition. Until…”

Which leads to:

“So much for secret number five. The fourth is worse. It’s the day prior, and we’re in the car. I hand her the mail and notice, I think, a letter from an attorney’s office….”

And then:

“‘Uh-huh. And when were you going to tell me about this? Your secrets aren’t safe with you, you know’. (So much for secret number four.) ‘Right after telling you about running over the phone line with the lawn mower.’”

Which leads to:

“Probably some pasty-faced Barney Fife, first day on the job, patrolling church parking lots…”

And ends with:

“…if I would have let the mechanics do the job, it would have cost me five times that. So I’m flush. I’m a millionaire. I could buy my kids ice cream and the Clippers.”

If that doesn’t pique your interest nothing will. Read the story to fill in the blanks.

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Independence Day

The Constitution Of The United States

The Declaration Of Independence

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Canada Day

For our friends to the north. (It’s a day late but Americans are known for procrastination so it’s OK.)

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Wasp Habitat

Last spring I found a wasp nest on my lawn. It was just a small hole in the ground but it obviously had significant size beneath. Wasps came and went at a  steady pace. I’m not an entomologist so I don’t know what species of wasp, only that they weren’t bees. In my world view, bees are helpful creatures that pollinate and make honey while wasps are just assholes. Ever read up on how wasps breed? Those suckers are the creature from Alien.

Even so, I coexisted just fine with the growing menace. I walked past it several times a week. The wasps would be coming and going from their little hole and I’d stride by carefully. Neither stupidly standing on their hole nor fleeing in terror. They didn’t hassle me. I didn’t bother them.

Eventually, as summer heat got going, the wasps got more numerous and far more aggressive. They started buzzing me threateningly whenever I was in the vicinity.

They’d started threatening me, on my land, when I’d done nothing to them… it was time to kill them all.

See how that works? Put up with plenty and don’t cause waves. But once something gets in your face and threatens you with harm it’s time accept the nature of your opposition and, if necessary, destroy them. Foreign policy doesn’t have to be complex.

One afternoon I sauntered up with a can of wasp spray and blasted down the hole. Get off my lawn bitches! I don’t know how many wasps died below ground but many came streaming out and about half died trying to fly away.

Later that week, to my surprise, I saw a few wasps coming and going. Apparently their underground catacombs were partially immune to gas. Maybe survivors were rebuilding the nest? Possibly some wasps had been “afield” and missed the gas attack? At any rate they were still there and I was impressed.

I’d never really had a problem with wasps in general, only when they got dangerous. In their lower population numbers we’d returned to detente. Then again, they’d sooner or later become dangerous. How much abuse could the little wasp bunker take?

My chickens were milling around. I dumped a pile of scratch grain near the hole and my pint sized velociraptors went to town. Any nearby insect, stinging or not, was doomed. I watched several wasps fleeing and many more stuck in circling orbits, unable to return to their lair. I couldn’t tell if any wasps got eaten but since my poultry are piranha with feathers and they attacked en masse I assumed so. (I’m pretty sure a chicken’s feathers provide a measure of protection because I’ve seen chickens around bees and wasps and the chickens hardly notice them. On the other hand I think bees aren’t quite as tasty as other bugs because chickens don’t actively seek them out.)

The next day the wasps, having survived a gassing and “The Chickening” were still there. Smaller population but clearly inhabiting the same hole. Impressive. What should I do to them next?

A week later I was mowing the lawn. The wasps were, as always, coming and going from their hole. I idled the lawnmower, deck set on low, right over their hole. Sure enough a few wasps were sucked up from the hole and flung from the mower deck. Miraculously, one actually landed, paused a moment, and took flight. Wow!

After the gassing and the “chickening” and the mower vortex attack, their numbers were severely reduced. Even so, they kept on keepin’ on. I had a grudging appreciation for their toughness. I’d bought a second can of spray but didn’t use it.

One day, after several beers, I noticed their hole, still active, and took a leak on it. I don’t think this killed any wasps but it amused me. I got in the habit of pissing on their nest. The wasps never regained their former glory but they didn’t give up either. For my part, I never went a week without remembering to piss on my opponent’s bunker.

It went that way for months. I’d piss on ‘em, spray ‘em, run the lawnmower over ‘em, pour my leftover coffee cup down the hole, whatever occurred to me. Once I parked a truck on the hole for a few days. When I drove off they emerged again. Apparently the nest wasn’t air tight (I don’t think they had a back door exit).

They never totally gave up. It’s amazing what a critter will put up with before it’ll relocate. I fully expected them to overwinter successfully.

This spring, they were gone. Not a single wasp to be seen. I kinda’ miss them. Apparently I’d hassled them enough, the survivors, and I know there were survivors, must have seen the writing on the wall and skipped town. Given their tenacity I’d expected to be pissing on them for another decade. I was wrong.

Sorry to interject politics into a happy story about a redneck pissing on a wasp nest but the whole thing reminds me of Toyota. After 57 years Toyota pulled a factory out of California and relocated to Texas. (It made the papers a few weeks ago; here and here.) Texans cheered. The rest of the country thought “you mean there are still companies trying to operate in California?” Californians were mystified. The LA Times reported “taxes, regulations and business climate appear to have had nothing to do with Toyota’s move”. Yeah… sure. Is that like how I pissed on a bug’s nest weekly and gassed them and ran over them with big rotating blades it was just a matter of the bugs relocating because they wanted a new home with marble counter tops and a shorter commute? Why would a company put up with more hassles than a wasp?

P.S. Some folks have asked if I’m talking about hornets instead of wasps. I have no idea. Not bees. That’s all I know and they’re gone now.

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Blogroll Addition – Sippican Cottage

I update my blogroll like Congress passes budgets. After a couple years of procrastination I finally remembered to add Sippican Cottage.

Incidentally Sippican Cottage has raised the bar of cool too new heights. Here’s a link to his homeschooled kids rocking Django Reinhardt. When I was that age it’s doubtful I could have identified Django Reinhardt and the sounds that emanated from my guitar were… well let’s just say it’s a darned good thing they weren’t recorded for posterity. I suppose there’s a reason I eventually hung up the guitar and chose chainsaw as my instrument of choice? At any rate it’s a good blog and worth a visit.

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