Saturday, February 6, 2016


A bit of a slow Saturday so not much to comment on. Instead I spent some time looking for a suitable pair of pots for the lemon verbena plants. They were pot bound and needed transplanting. I had one inside in the "horticultural" corner of our multipurpose/storage room. The other I had to rummage out of my little greenhouse. I also rinsed out a gallon jug that once contained orange juice. I will convert it into a micro-greenhouse for the herb seeds I plan to start on filter paper. I hope that technique will give me better results than starting the herbs in potting mix. The tomatoes are all growing nicely and both pots of peppers have sprouted as have two of the lettuce varieties.

I am really pleased with how the little blueberry I have in a small pot inside has been doing. I had absolutely no luck putting blueberries in the outside containers. The first barely survived its first winter before turning yellow and dying. Problem: soil pH was way too high. The second didn't survive the winter freeze. The third also succumbed to chlorosis, yellowing because the pH was too high and I found no way to control the pH in the big containers. I have been watering this last bush with a bit of acidified water (one-third cup white vinegar per gallon water) and feeding with an acid balanced fertilizer. That seems to have done the trick. It has a lot of new growth. I am thinking how I should prune it--if I should prune it at all.

We have been limiting our TV news viewing for sometime. It has become an exercise in annoying frustration. Constant repetition of inconsequential "stories," constant hype of the controversy du jour without any enlightening information, sports and more sports and more sports (hyped of course). I found this little post this morning which reminds me of an saying in Heinlein's Time Enough For Love "In a government of the people and by the people, don't tell the people." Journalistic black holes, indeed. We are all mushrooms--kept in the dark and fed shit.

France, if this Guardian article is accurate, has finally done something sensible. They have passed laws that ban supermarkets from throwing edible food items in the trash mandating they be given to food banks and the supermarkets can't use bleach or other means to make food inedible.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Big time sports have become the tails that wags the dogs. As another example: the city of St. Louis hasn't yet paid off the bonds issued to build the stadium the Rams are now abandoning to move to Los Angeles. Maybe they should have a provision is contracts with sports teams that if they move before the bonds which build their venues are paid off they are on the hood--not the host city.

Just out of curiosity, yesterday I went to a couple of sites I used to go to when I was looking for work (before I accepted the fact that I was "retired" whether I really wanted to be or not). One site was the on-line edition of the local/regional newspaper and the other was a strictly on-line jobs board. The first listed 13 jobs posted within the last 24 hours and the other only 12. That for a good sized geographic area with a large population and a mix of industries ranging from manufacturing, heavy industry, retail and medical. I had never seen such a paucity of job openings. The pundits say our unemployment rate is down to around 5% which sounds good but the listing I saw are only about one-tenth the job openings of a decade ago when the unemployment rate was around 4.5%. And remember we have added a fair number of people to the working age group. And the labor participation rate is at the lowest point since the late 1970s. I think they have redefined "recovery."

Every time I read a story on the "death of the American Dream" I was thinking, in the back of my mind, we need a new Dream that isn't driven largely by the consumer culture. Evidently a number of people think the same way. I notice that most of the exemplars in the article are young, highly tech savvy people in IT or related fields. But I can't help think that there much be others not in tech fields doing something similar.

Found this by way of Peak Prosperity: job announcement for a Farmer-in-Residence in Staten Island, NY.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


We didn't get the snow flurries the weather people predicted--yet. But it is supposed to be colder but sunny today. Nothing new sprouting but the remaining seeds of the remaining two lettuce varieties were pelletized so they may take a bit longer. I am looking at the calendar and deciding when to start the rest of the seeds. I think I will plant the herbs next week with the rest of the tomatoes, peppers, greens and sunflowers the first week of march. The beans and peas can wait until the first of April.

As I read this I thought of a friend out in Colorado who tries to raise bees on a small scale (2 hives) and reported that her supplier informed all his customers the he couldn't fill their orders for new queens this year. The TV news had a couple of stories last year about thefts of bee hives in Chicago. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised considering the price of honey but I hadn't considered the market for bees to pollinate crops.

Found the above cartoon at Bob Jellison's site. Says about all that needs to be said about the Flint water scandal.

Another Republican dropped out last night: Rick Santorum. Good. I still wish we had a place to write in "None of the Above" on the ballots. Then we would have a real choice.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Although winter is half over it feels a lot like spring. Our temps have been warm for this time of year and last night thunderstorms rolled through. We got some spates of heavy rain out of the mess. I won't complain about that. Our area has been a bit on the dry side for the last few years though, thankfully not on the scale of the western droughts. I definitely saw a little pepper in the pots I started. It is unfurling its first leaves. I think I saw a little lettuce sprout when I turned off the grow lights last night.

The Republican field has narrowed one more. Rand Paul has dropped his campaign. Maybe he will now get back to being a senator--not that I like his policies in the Senate any better.

For years I have read advice to urban gardeners that told them to put in raised beds because of the risk posed by lead contaminated soils. After decades of exhaust from cars using leaded gasoline and even more decades of lead-based house paint, the soil had built up unsafe levels of lead which, experts warned us, might be taken up into the veggies and, eventually, into us. This article from the University of Washington modifies that considerably.  Most plants don't absorb much lead and the levels in the parts we eat are safe. Root veggies may absorb more lead from soil but if one washes them well and eats them with other foods they a also safe. Further, using liberal amounts of compost and other soil amendments dilutes the lead and reduces the risk even further.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Temperatures are still above normal for this time of the year and the weather forecast says we are in for rain from later this afternoon through Thursday. I think I saw one of the peppers, which have been slow to germinate, starting to peek through the soil. I changed the arrangement of the heating pad which has transferred more warmth to the pots. Another two weeks and it will be time to start the tomatoes and peppers I plan to put into the garden as well as many of the other seeds.

Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow so they say it will be an early spring. I would say the birds agree with him. I have seen robins (as I said in a previous post) and many of our geese didn't go further south. My brother has said the same and even seen a couple of unusual birds will outside their normal range--possibly driven here by the savage storms both west and east of us. I don't know what the rest of the year will bring but our weather has already been weird.

I guess the Iowa caucuses were good for some things in spite of the boring run up. First, Trump did not win. Cruz did which is almost as bad and those two make Rubio look almost sane by comparison but his fairly close third place showing provides an alternative for those looking for something resembling sanity. Second, two more contenders, on Republican (Huckabee) and one Democrat (O'Malley) have dropped out. That de-clutters the field somewhat. Third, Clinton and Sanders finished in a virtual tie. Rather puts a stutter in the theme of inevitability the Clintons have spewed. Third, IT"S OVER. Iowa that is. The rest oozes on.

Monday, February 1, 2016


Welcome to February. Groundhog Day is tomorrow, or Imbolc if you are of that tradition. I rather like the notion of marking the passing seasons and we are now at the mid point of winter. It has been mild this year, so far. January was very warm and most of the snow and ice were very short lived. No snow mountains like we are used to and the snow hills vanished quickly. I am not the only one noticing robins remaining when they should have gone south.

The Medievalist has a post on five things a Medieval time traveler would hate about our modern world. I agree with every one of them. There are times when progress--isn't.

Now this is an idea which has been rattling around in my brain for sometime. The promise of technology boosters thirty years ago that the advances in technology would create more than enough new industry jobs to replace those made obsolete in the process. Hasn't happened. Yes, new jobs have been created but not in the numbers of old jobs lost. And lets be honest--not everyone is suited to or wants jobs programming computers or manning call centers. The structure of work has changed and there aren't as many traditional full-time jobs (defined as 40+ hours/week with paid vacations and benefits) in manufacturing (which have largely moved overseas) and those that remain come with a lower wage and fewer benefits.

At last someone has the balls to call bullshit on the argument over "cultural appropriation." I remember the beginnings of this quarrel when blacks insisted that white historians couldn't possibly understand and write about the black experience. By similar logic modern historians can't study and write Medieval or Ancient Greek history. To say that modern white Americans can't appreciate yoga, tai chi, or Buddhist meditation is pure crap. And white American culture is an amalgam of all the cultures of Europe and the rest of the world. And, by the way, black American, Indian, Native American and other "cultures" aren't "pure" either. Everyone has borrowed from others. Live with it, you idiots.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


My tomatoes are doing nicely but the peppers haven's sprouted yet. One thing one learns from gardening is patience. And giving plants the time and conditions to do their own thing their own way. I planted three varieties of lettuce this morning: Grandpa Admires's, Butterflay, and Verdil. All are heirlooms and supposed to be slow to bolt. These will stay inside and I will plant a new batch for the fall garden.

I wonder how much the final costs for the Rio Olympics will be. And how much (or how little) Brazil will recoup on the project. How much is national self-promotion worth? That is what the Olympics has become. When is psychic masturbation on a national scale not worth the price?

I read something related to this yesterday. And that article indicated that the World Bank was also involved and other possible recipients of the financial institutions' "help" were Venezuela and Columbia as well as Azerbaijan and Brazil. Here is the Express article on the issue. I had two thoughts on this. First, we have gone from bailing out banks and other financial "too big to fail" operations (and putting in place "bail-in" practices which will plunder depositors while protecting share/bond holders and national treasuries) to bailing out countries. Second, where will the funs come from and will the conditions demanded by the IMF and World Bank as the "price" of their "aid" create four more economic zombies like Greece?

Michael Moore on Flint. This is what happens when government is run like a business. The costs of poisoning a city whose residents are mostly black and poor is merely a "cost of doing business." Unfortunately, while businesses pay fines that amount to only a fraction of their bloated profits, governments pay the costs out of the taxes that didn't go to prevent the problem.