Bird Brain

I’m reading Mark Twain’s “A Tramp Abroad” and I came across this gem today.

“A (blue) jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman.”

As appropriate today in Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District as it was in 1880 when Twain wrote it.

Although that does seem to be a harsh comparison for the blue jay.

Noisy Ill-tempered Bird
Unprincipled Sycophant

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One Step

Almost 5 years ago I went to a meeting in Woodburn Indiana about nitrogen management in corn. There was a person there from the Environmental Defense Fund with brochures about selling carbon credits, i.e., we’d get paid for farming in a way that burned less carbon or sequestered more in the soil.

I really had no idea what the Environmental Defense Fund was. I thought I knew something about them, but I realized later that I had them confused with the Environment Working Group, famous in the ag world for publishing how much individual farmers got paid in government subsidies.[1]

I was curious though, both for the high-minded principle of doing something good by burning less carbon, and more by what Sir Albert Howard[2] called “the god-cursed thirst for profit.[3]

I emailed the person at the EDF about this and she put me in touch with the group who was doing this, an outfit in Canada called Canadian Carbon Solutions.

Now, I’m predisposed to like Canadians, I worked up there for years. As I once told my friends there, “Canada has fulfilled what the US promised in the 1960’s.”[4]

I started exchanging information with Canadian Carbon Solutions, sending them our field records, yield data, variable rate fertilization shape files, and so on. It went on and on.

I retired from farming in 2016, and it was still going on. My nephew Tom took over responding to their requests and I continued to drag information out of our farming records, while complete, were pretty disorganized.

The information requests finally trickled off, and I figured that was the end of that. But then this summer Tom called me up.

Tom: We got paid!
Me: For what?
Tom: Carbon credits!

We sold 70 tons of carbon credits for around 20 dollars a ton. For our farm that’s a fraction of 1% of our revenue, but I couldn’t be more pleased by it. It’s not the answer to solving the disaster we’re creating by burning fossil fuels[5] but it’s a step in the right direction and I couldn’t be prouder for being part of it or for having Tom carry it on.

P.S. As Tom pointed out after I published this, that payout was in Canadian dollars. In that case, it’s a lot of loonies!

1. You can bet our elected representatives put a stop to that in a hurry. Can’t let a bunch of libtard tree huggers embarrass those rugged individualists who farm the land and keep electing them by making it public how much government welfare they get. (Full disclosure, I cheerfully cashed every welfare check the government sent my way as a farmer.)
2. Author of “An Agricultural Testament” one of the best books ever on responsible farming.
3. 1 Timothy 6:10.
4. This was around 1999. I expect in these Trumpian days they now understand what I meant.
5. AKA climate change or global warning, but it all comes down to our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels.

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Yet Another Raspberry Post

Two black raspberry posts in a row? Yes, indeed, I love my black raspberries [1].

The black raspberries just keep coming, like the rain this year. Normally the black raspberries are burning up by this time of year. But this year the rain won’t stop.

I picked another 8 cups in in my backyard in just 20 minutes. I made jam, raspberry syrup, and raspberry vinegar.

Black Raspberry Jam

The raspberry syrup was simple, mash up 3 1/2 cups of raspberries with 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Bring that to a boil and cook at a simmer for 5-6 minutes. Press it through a fine sieve and you’ve got raspberry syrup. I squeezed half a lemon into it because I thought it was a bit sweet.

Take what’s left in the sieve and put it in jar and pour 2 cups of white vinegar over it. Let it sit a couple of weeks and you have raspberry vinegar for salad dressings.

1.The day I was born, Mom said she’d been out pruning the black raspberry bushes and wondered why her back was paining her so. Born of raspberries.

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Black Raspberry Pie

After a long wet spring the wild black raspberries are finally ripe.

Wild Raspberries

We didn’t burn our native prairie last year and this year the wild raspberries are growing like crazy. I don’t know if the burning schedule contributed to this, or whether it’s just the vagaries of the weather. Whatever the reason, I have all the black raspberries I want this year in my own back yard.

My Own Back Yard

I went out tonight and picked 3 cups in 15 minutes, more than enough for a nice pie.

Half of a Nice Pie

We have these 6 inch pie pans that are ideal for 2 people. In volume it’s about a third of a normal 9 inch pie, so we don’t eat too much pie, or have a bunch go to waste.

Since I’m baking this “about a third” of a normal recipe, getting a recipe to come out right can be a challenge. This pie was without a doubt the best wild black raspberry pie I’ve ever made, so here’s the recipe for all posterity.

For a 6 inch pie
1/2 your favorite crust recipe for a 9 inch pie
1 1/2 cup wild black raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
dash salt
dash cinnamon
dash nutmeg
squeeze of lemon
Stir all that together and give it a squeeze of lemon.
Put it in the pie shell and cover, piercing the top. Heat your oven to 425 or so. My oven runs hot, you may want 450. Put it on a baking sheet, that will make it easy to turn and take in and out of oven and if it boils over it won’t make a mess in your oven.
Bake it for 5 minutes or so and then turn the heat down to 350. Continue to cook, turning it every 15 minutes or so, until it’s bubbling and nicely browned on top, in my oven about 30 minutes total is all it takes.

Let it cool for an hour or two, and then enjoy what nature has given you for free.

1. I can never say “pierced” without remembering this scene from “The Birdcage.”

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The New Table

5 years ago we cut down some trees for boards for fencing, to make a bed for a hay wagon, and so on. We just cut down “junk” trees, trees that for one reason or another would never make a log that we could sell to a timber buyer.

One of those trees was a maple standing in a swamp. When our sawyer, Dave Scheiber, cut into it the wood was spalted.

Spalted Maple

Spalting is when fungi colonize inside a tree and in this case created the “flames” in the wood. When I saw that I asked Dave to cut some 2″ thick slabs for me and leave the natural bark edge on. I thought that I’d try to make a table from it. (Click here for my original post about sawing these logs.)

More spalted maple

Dave’s sawmill wasn’t wide enough to cut a slab from side to side in one piece, and I didn’t have woodworking tools to handle that either. So we cut slabs that were natural on one edge and straight on the other. Putting straight edge to straight edge is like opening a book.

5 years went by. I had the slabs stacked in our garage. I walked around them, moved them several times, and stacked things on top of them. Finally this winter I decided if I was ever going to do anything with them, it was time.

Even cut in half the boards were too wide for my planer, plus they had split and warped. They were 18 inches wide more or less, and to get them flat across that width I would’ve had to plane a lot of the thickness off.

Split Ends

I ripped the slabs down into boards between 5 and 8 inches wide, depending on where the splits were. I ended up with 5 slabs, 2 with natural edges for the outside edges.

Now that I had my boards I needed to get the edges straight so I could glue them together. For the natural edge boards I didn’t have a straight edge to start with, so I made a jig using surface clamps to hold the board and ran it through my radial arm saw to get a relatively straight edge.

That worked pretty good.

5 Slabs

I ended up cutting another slab for the middle board from what’s pictured above. It’s a little hard to tell from this picture, but that middle board was twisted end to end, and while I could flatten it when I clamped them all together, it would leave a slight gap between its neighbors since its edges were no longer square to them.

While these boards were almost straight, my “relatively straight” ripped edges weren’t good enough to make a good strong glue joint. I got a 2″ edge trim bit for my router and used an 8 foot aluminum straightedge to get the edges straight enough to glue.

Edge Trimmer

That worked really slick. It was essentially like a jointer with a 12 foot bed and gave me boards that were flat on the edge from end to end.

Flat and True

It’s looking good! Up until now I’d been despairing and ready to turn the whole mess into kindling. I started gluing the boards together, one joint at a time.

Clamped Many Ways

I’ve got bar clamps pulling it together, c clamps on the edges holding them flat and caul blocks in the middles keep it flat there too. Repeat that for every joint and finally…

The Final Joint

Now that it’s glued together I trimmed the ends. The lower right edge in this picture is money side with that knob sticking out.

TheThe Money Shot

Then I sanded and sanded and sanded, starting with an 80 grit in the belt sander and finishing with 200 grit by hand. After that I applied 10 coats of wipe on polyurethane (sanding between each one) and it looks like this.

Almost Finished

Ready to put the legs on now.

I’ve Got Legs

At this point you may be wondering how I flipped that table top over to put the legs on it since it’s long, wide, and heavy. The answer of course is, “Debbie, sweetie pie, can you come down to the shop and help me?”

I ordered these legs from Who knew there were people out there who specialize in making, well, steel table legs? They were very helpful, I emailed them about how wide my table legs should be, how far I should set them in from the ends and so on. They replied to my every query quickly and helpfully.

Once specified and ordered, the legs were easy to put on (although note to self, the next time you do this and one of the legs starts to fall, don’t stick your leg out to catch it).

How Not to Catch a Table Leg

The legs are attached, the table’s done. But I still had to get the table up to the house. With the legs on it, it is one heavy beast.

Table Mover

This is my soon to be patented table transport tool (TTT). Debbie and I turned the table on its side to get through the front door, and just like that, this 5 year project was done.

I’ve never done anything I’ve been satisfied with, whether it’s a crop, a software module, a stained glass window, or a woodworking project.

But this is pretty good.

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Turtle Days 2019

I ran the Turtle Days 5K this weekend. When I was getting ready I went upstairs to sift through my collection of race t-shirts for something to wear for the race.

Shuffling through memories of long-forgotten races I found my t-shirt from Turtle Days, 2000. What could be more perfect to wear in 2019?

19 years, where’d they go?

I’ve written down every race I’ve ever run, my time, and often the weather conditions, how much I weighed, and how I felt. Looking back to that year 2000 race I’ve given up about 5 minutes over 5K in 19 years at Turtle Days. 16 seconds a year.

I toed the line, feeling good in 2019, hoping to better my time last year by a significant margin. And for a couple miles, it was going that way. I was ahead of last year’s pace. My niece Hillary was running too, at 2 miles I was on her heels and I was feeling damn proud at keeping up with a 27 year old.

But as mile 3 dragged on I faded and ended up running almost exactly the same pace as I did last year. I was disappointed, but as I look at the 19 year trend, I bucked the trend this year by 16 seconds.

And I won my age group.

I’ll take that.

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I’m Cold

I took my Mom today to have a minor medical procedure done, one where she needed a light anesthetic .

All went well and as she was coming back from the anesthetic they called me to come sit with her in the recovery room.

As she woke up she kept saying, “I’m cold. I’m cold.” [1] The wonderful nurses in the recovery room would bring her a warmed blanket each time she said that.

And it freaked me out. I’ve just finished re-reading Catch-22 [2] and one of Yossarian’s recurring memories throughout the book is the gunner Snowden saying, “I’m cold. I’m cold.” after he’s been wounded on a bombing run. [3] Only at the end of the book do you find out that Snowden is horribly wounded and dying.

Like Yossarian, at that moment I just wanted to run away.

1. It was cold in there. Felt nice on a muggy day.
2. If, like me, you haven’t read Catch-22 since high school, go to your local library, get a copy, and read it. What an amazing book.
3. Spoiler alert.

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Not Yet

I did the 15 mile run today that my marathon training plan called for.

The last two miles were a death march, I kept running but if a kind stranger had stopped and asked if I needed a ride I would have taken that offer in a second,

I got done and thought, “That’s it, I’m giving up, a marathon is not in my future.” I staggered up to the house and drank and ate everything in sight (including all the ibuprofen in the house).

Now, 7 hours later I’m feeling ok. Next week is a rest week, and then 17 miles the week after.

I’m not giving up yet.

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Modern Medicine

After a week of being trapped in the maw of modern medicine all I know is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The people working in the system are wonderful people and they’re doing their best. But the model, the paradigm, the whatever is so broken, they’re not helping.

I just don’t know.

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Feeling Good Again

I’ve set myself the goal of running the Fort4Fitness marathon on September 28th, 2019. I last (and first) ran a marathon in 1997, the year I turned 40. I’ll be 62 years old by September 28th.

I’ve been following Jeff Galloway’s program [1]. It’s based on running 3 days a week, long slow runs, and regular walking breaks alternating with running. I run 4 minutes and 30 seconds and walk 30 seconds in the particular program I’m doing.

And it’s working. I feel so good running. Before I started following this program I had tendinitis in my right hip. My lower back would tighten up during a run. Both of those made running, and everyday life, painful.

Today I ran 11 miles and while I was tired and achy by the end I didn’t hurt. Mile 11 felt better than mile 1 [2]. No hip pain, no back pain. An 11:35 pace is nothing to brag about, but I’m not bragging, I’m just feeling good again.


1. “The Official Run-Walk-Run Site.”  I don’t get the “Run-Walk-Run” title, the program is Run-Walk or Run-Walk-Run-Walk if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

2. That probably has more to do with that I did my run today after having Easter brunch at my favorite sister-in-law’s house. It took about 4 miles before I wasn’t feeling my stuffed gut.

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