Friday, December 12, 2008

December 2008 Ice Storm

On December 11th a major storm ice storm struck New England. The main area of damage was around northern Worcester County, MA, the Berkshires, and southern New Hampshire, with areas of Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine also impacted.

The storm was associated with significant rainfall -- in Windham County, CT from 12/10 through 12/12 from 3-1/2 to 5" of rain was recorded! Overnight Thursday into Friday morning 1/2 to 3/4" of ice setup in the worst hit areas.

1.25 Million customers lost power in what I believe is was the most catastrophic damage ever to the New England power grid and only rivaled by the 1965 Northeast Blackout for customer outages. There was still significant areas without power 10 days later, and full restoration took some three weeks for isolated customers.

WTAG on Asnebumskit Hill in Paxton lost their power and landline phones -- it was Tuesday I believe before they had full phone service restore. From Friday through the following Friday they suspended their normal programming and instead acted as an information clearinghouse. Without phones, they depended on a single cell phone over the weekend while requesting questions and answers be sent in by text messaging, which they'd then read over the air. A few public officials were put on the radio by holding the cell phone to the radio microphone, hardly a hi fidelity option.

Top damage:

Pine tree in the center lost it's top -- which is now impaled into the ground 75' away (to the right)

Icing on a white pine. This was a nor'easter -- north and east facing trees took the brunt since the rain was being driven by the wind from that direction, and there where a few more protected spots I passed that you'd see one side of valley with heavy icing, and the other looked like any other winter day.

Route 31...still spots where they had just made the road passable but hadn't cleared it yet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Town Meetings Gone Bad.

Well, I just got home from that New England tradition, the Town Meeting.

Sometime's there small; sometime's they're large but only a couple people speak and things move along quick. Sometimes they're large, active, and still move well.

Usually the Board of Selectmen who control most matters going before the Town Meeting have a good sense of where the votes are. I have seen the occasional Town Meeting go unexpectedly against them (the Town Meeting held over re-locating the Correctional Center to off of South Street and building an industrial park around the new prison being the most memorable). And I've seen ones you didn't know how it would turnout until the vote was held (the Town Meeting over whether to erect a gate across Maynard Road at the town line in order to prevent it's use by gravel hauling dump trucks).

Then...there are the train wrecks.

To the point I had to call a Point of Order to cut off someone speaking about sunshine and lollipops and town harmony. Nice sentiment, but unfortunately that had nothing to do with the motion on the floor -- and it's important to follow rules of order to keep meetings on topic, civil, and moving along. Two speakers earlier I was starting to step forward to Point of Order the First Selectman who was giving a solliquy about two other ordinances that had already been voted on and rejected, when he yielded the floor.

As both these speakers had been carrying on off topic, I was envisioning my departed aunt (who was a long term Town Clerk as was my grandfather) shaking her head and muttering under her breath about people being out of order. Normally when the Town Moderator has a conflict of interest, the Town Clerk will step into moderate the meeting. I know when my aunt was in office, if the Moderator had a question on procedure he would consult with her, and I believe that's still a role for the Town Clerk.

And I like our First Selectman, he's the best business manager we've had in a while. But man, this was not his finest hour. I haven't seen a public official get shellacked this bad in town in a long time.

Heavy turnout should have anticipated for this meeting since there was a number of controversial items affecting the power or composition of three major town boards and adopting a blight ordinance.

Yet they only had 50 copies of the warrant printed. Attendance I estimated around 200.

Nor was the wireless PA system setup. Since we usually hold the Town Meetings now in the middle school auditorium that's a big problem since the acoustics are engineered so people speaking from where their seats are hard to hear. A couple runners with wireless mics to bring to people so they don't have to walk down to the podium to be heard easily would have been good.

The blight ordinance was a multiple page document. Too long for the Moderator to read and people to understand verbally, and since there was only 50 printed copies it was moved to table the item since people wouldn't know what they were voting on.

The Recreation Commission Ordinance came up and the Moderator asked why Section 2 of the ordinance being amended was in the motion, since "Section 3" was the financial change everyone knew was coming before the meeting. After it was explained why (moving appointment authority of Rec Department employees from the Recreation Commission to the Board of Selectmen), someone asked for the original wording of Section 2. The Town Attorney spent a couple minutes shuffling through his stack of papers authoratively until the Chairwoman of the Recreation Commission volunteered that she had the original ordinance and could read the desired section.

Then when the motion to amend the Fire Commissioners Ordinance came up the Town Attorney had to explain that the wording of the amendment on the article was wrong, admitting it was his fault, and that the motion should be amended to include the corrected wording.

Didn't help that there was supposed to be a meeting last night to present a new Route 6 Development Plan that was cancelled at the last minute, which already had a number of people annoyed by that dropping of the ball.

So, the final score:

Motion to appropriate $76,000 for a new oil tank at the school: Passed (Money was already in the building fund, this was just a rubber stamp that was needed)

Motion to abolish the Open Space Acquistion Committee (which hasn't met in years) and give it's duties to the Conservation Commission (which meets monthly): Passed.

Motion to adopt a Blight Ordinance: Tabled and died.

It didn't help that during discussion the First Selectman admitted the two buildings that had been problems that led to creation of the ordinance had both been dealt with successfully under existing laws.

Motion to reduce the size of the Planning & Zoning Board from 10 to 7: Tabled, brought back up at the close of the meeting, and defeated.

The First Selectman is on record, repeatedly, asking for all 10 existing members to step down so a new Board could be appointed. This seemed be another way of forcing that goal.

Motion to require all organizations, agencies, and entities who request funds from the town General Government budget to submit financial statements: Defeated.

Discussion included the vaugeness of the ordinance -- would it apply, for instance, to oil comanies bidding on heating oil? What would specifically be the detail of the financial statements? Just a bottom line - which seems to me wouldn't be to helpful? Why couldn't the Selectmen implement this by policy, since after all they are the ones who need to be satisifed that the organization is worthy of town assistance and should be included in the General Government budget request sent to Town Meeting.

Motion to amend the Recreation Commission Ordinance, to make the Selectmen the appointing authority of Rec Dept employees, and to require the Recreation Commission submit their budget to the Selectmen and not the Board of Finance: Defeated.

Discussion pointed out the First Selectman appoints the Commission, so it's not like he lacks influence over their actions.

Motion to amend the Board of Fire Commissioners Ordinance, to make require they submit their budget to the Selectmen and not the Board of Finance: Defeated.

Discussion pointed out the First Selectman is a Fire Commissioner, so it's not like there should be any lack of communication between the boards; also Hans Kohl stood up and gave the background of the formation of the Board of Fire Commissioners back in '73, and his support for the current system and why the Selectmen were not given direct budget authority over them. Hans has never been a firefighter, he was a successful businessman and he's one of the key political figures in town having served on the Board of Finance for 20 years and P&Z probably even longer.

On both the Recreation and Fire budgets, the Selectman explained it would streamline the process and make it easier to present to the Board of Finance and Town Meeting. The Board of Finance chairman, backed up by other member, said it would not simplify the process on their end since they would still consider each line item as they already do. As the Town Meeting votes up or down on just the General Government budget (which includes everything but schools), how you can simplify that is a bit of a mystery to me.

On all the rejected articles my guesstimate was 12 for, 150 against. None were remotely close.

Oh, and tomorrow night Wal-Mart gives a dog and pony show on building a Supercenter in town that is not being universally greeted with open arms. That should be fun.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Misty went to the rainbow bridge on Thursday. She was thirteen -- I hadn't realized she was that old till I started looking back at the photos and saw she came here in 2000. Indeed, she had been here just a week or so shy of 8 years, and was 5 years old when she arrived.

Back in 2000, when my carpets were new and clean.

Misty was very scared of other dogs and kids, and her original owners had brought her to the vets to be put down. This is after she became comfortable here. Her original owners brought her into their vets to be put to sleep since she didn't get along with their new dog. They had tried bringing her to very strong dog training -- many years later I brought her to Sharon Griswold who helped me train Jake, and within minutes Sharon shook her head, "She's extremely well trained, you just don't know how to command her."

The first two days, she stayed by the front door, curled up, scared to death. It was the evening of the third day when she finally, slowly, crawled on her belly across the room to visit me by the couch -- completely scared of Jake and Oscar and being in a strange place.

It took many months for her and Jake to finally work out an amicable relationship.

She did seem to do better here when strange dogs came to visit later on though. Probably that Jake took on the role of defender of the homestead relieved her about worrying about strangers.

After a snow storm in February, 2003. Where can I squat?

One day I noticed a growth on her rear end and brought her to the vets.

Dr. Smith examined her and stated, "This appears to be a benign, fatty lump."

"Well, I know she is, but what's that on her butt?"

Dr. Smith just glared back, I guess she didn't share my sense of humor.

At any rate, we chose not to operate unless it began growing again which worked for two or three years. Then I noticed one day Misty was "listing" to the side when she sat down since the lump was growing (and very quickly). This photo was at the vets when she was arriving for surgery. If I remember correctly, the lump weighed eight pounds.

Hell Hounds in 2004 -- Oscar & Misty, with Jake smelling the tiger day lillies.

One of my favorite photos, can you say happier then a pig in shit? Misty was ecstatic to find that Farmer Fred had dropped off a load of manure.

Misty loved to climb under the covers of the bed. This sometimes would cause conflicts come my bedtime when she would not be a happy camper being asked to move. But at it's most humorous, she would occasionally decided to climb underneath the fitted couch cover. I'd come home from work and find a very large, moving cushion on the couch -- the fitted cover having closed behind her. I'd have to pull the elastic edge back to let her out again.

Finally another pic from back in 2000. This was Misty's chair for all eight years. After she could no longer climb under the covers of the bed, she would go to great efforts to curl up in this chair at night and even quite often during the day if I wasn't home. With her weight and arthritis, it could take her several minutes to climb into it...but she wanted too. A comfy bed on the floor just wasn't the same to her.

One of the major reasons I knew her time was short was she had given up trying to climb into the chair a few days before the end.

Only after she was gone did I realize just how vocal she had been -- her continual chorus of purrs and groans and whines and whimpers just became the background here. It was eerily quiet that first night without her -- God speed Misty, you were a grumpy one for sure but you're still missed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not everyone liked FDR

I should research this some more one day. I still remember vividly the day I was working at the Brooklyn Library and mentioned something about Roosevelt and got corrected -- very sternly -- by one of the old ladies of the town (I truly wish I could remember who!). It was the first time I heard criticism of FDR.

Poem collected from:

A stranger stood at the gate of Hell
And the Devil himself had answered the bell
He looked him over from head to toe
And said "My friend, I’d like to know
What you have done in the line of sin
To entitle you to come within?"
Then Franklin D. with his usual guile
Stepped forth and flashed his toothy smile.
"When I took over in ’33,
A nation’s faith was mine", said he
"I promised this and I promised that,
And I calmed them down with a fireside chat.
I spent their money on fishing trips
And I fished from the decks of their battleships.
I gave them jobs on the WPA
Then raised their taxes and took it away.
I raised their wages, then closed their shops,
I killed their pigs and buried their crops.
I double-crossed both young and old
And still the folks my praises told.
I brought back beer and what do you think?
I taxed it so high they couldn’t drink.
I furnished money with good loans
When they missed a payment I took their homes.
When I wanted to punish people, you know,
I put my wife on the radio.
I paid them to let their farms lie still
And imported foodstuffs from Brazil.
And curtailed crops when I felt mean
And shipped in corn from the Argentine.
When they started to worry, stew and fret,
I’d get them to chanting the alphabet.
With the AAA and the NLB
The WPA and the CCC.
With these many units I got their goats
And still I crammed it down their throats
While the taxpayers chewed their fingernails.
When the organizers needed dough
I signed up plants for the CIO.
I ruined their jobs and I ruined their health
And I put the screws on the rich man’s wealth.
And some who couldn’t stand the gaff
Would call me up and how I’d laugh!
When they got too hot on certain things
I’d pack up and head for Warm Springs.
I ruined their country, their homes, and then
Laid the blame on the ‘nine old men’."
Now Franklin talked both long and loud
And the Devil stood with his head bowed.
At last he said "Let’s make it clear,
You’ll have to move, you can’t stay here.
For once you’ve mingled with this mob
I’ll have to hunt myself a job."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nice fall day...

First heavy frost of the year -- at 10:30 am there was still frost on the ground.

The air is still, but quite a few leaves are falling spontaneously from the trees in the woods -- makes an odd crackling sound. One doesn't hear dry, crisp leaves hitting the ground on a breezeless afternoon too often.

Saw three deer in the lower yard, with their darker "winter" coats on.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Catching Up...

Been busy with work, with the garden, with the fire company, and with following politics since Palin's nomination :)

So I haven't had time to blog much. Be prepared for some catch up.

Garden Totals:
Weighed: 361#
Donated to Food Pantry: 170#

4.65" June
5.7" July
2.6" August
9.75" September (T.S. Hannah accounted for 4" of that)

Frost hit on 10/7, killing the summer squash & tomatoes. I had picked the remaining good green tomatoes the afternoon before the frost.

Lost a lot of tomatoes in September to "exploding" thanks to the frequent, heavy rains later in the month.

Also lost a lot of potatoes from the 2nd planting. Not sure if that was because I was using left over storage potatoes from last year, or if it was due to not picking them soon enough. A lot were rotted, or half-eaten, or green. The half-eaten and green ones at least could be salvaged by cutting off the offending parts.

Made some beef stew this week, using my own taters and celery. Had to buy the rest -- carrots, onions, garlic, sweet peppers, corn, peas, and cortland apples. Hopefully all but the apples will be from my garden next year :)

Having weighed my harvest this year, I'm convinced of the economy to buy a freezer next year!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Farming with Dynamite

Dear God, this is me Dog...


Dear God: Is it on purpose our names are the same, only reversed?

Dear God: Why do humans smell the flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another?

Dear God: When we get to heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it still the same old story?

Dear God: Why are there cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit, but not one named for a dog? How often do you see a cougar riding around? We do love a nice ride! Would it be so hard to rename the 'Chrysler Eagle' the 'Chrysler Beagle'?

Dear God: If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad dog?

Dear God: We dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent ID's, electromagnetic energy fields, and Frisbee flight paths. What do humans understand?

Dear God: More meatballs, less spaghetti, please.

Dear God: Are there mailmen in heaven? If there are, will I have to apologize?

Dear God: Let me give you a list of just some of the things I must remember to be a good dog.

1. I will not eat the cats' food before they eat it or after they throw it up.

2. I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, etc., just because I like the way they smell.

3. The litter box is not a cookie jar.

4. The sofa is not a face towel; neither are mom and dad's laps.

5. The garbage collector is not stealing our stuff.

6. I will not play tug-of-war with Dad's underwear when he's on the toilet.

7. Sticking my nose into some one's crotch is an unacceptable way of saying hello.

8. I don't need to suddenly stand straight up when I'm under the coffee table .

9. I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house, not after.

10. I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt across the carpet.

11. I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch when we have company.

12. The cat is not a 'squeaky toy' so when I play with him and he makes that noise, it's usually not a good thing.

13. I will not bite the officer's hand when he reaches in for Mom's driver's license and registration.

14. My head does not belong in the refrigerator.

P.S. Dear God: When I get to heaven may I have my testicles back?

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Had my xD memory card for my camera crash....again.

Cost me $39.95, but this was able to recover them:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday evening harvest

22# of produce. The crookneck yellow squash was from a volunteer from last year's variety. I have no clue what's up with the crookneck zucchini! That grew from store bought seed, so it's just a freak. The straight yellow squash is Goldbar Hybrid -- fairly expensive seed ($2.49/packet, about $1 more then most other seeds), but I've been really happy with it.
Larger tomatoes are Beefsteak, finally getting over their blossom end rot issues although we still have lots of blemishes. Smaller ones are Celebrities.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Garden Stuff...

8/16 Planted some "Slicemaster Hybrid" cucumbers, under the north end of the trellis. 58 Day Maturity, 10/14. Yes, I'm being way optimistic on the last frost date :)

I also made a planting stick to help make my seeding more uniform. The long lines are 1/2" apart, while the hashes are 1" increments.

The taters, the one good size onion I got this year, and a red onion I found while preparing the bed for the beets. (Oh, and turnips to be planted south of the beets).

As of 8/17, we have 163# picked ytd and are up to 2.6" of rain in August. Tomatoes are starting to come in, the blossom end rot problems are decreasing but a large number of the tomatoes are blemished from it (Beefsteak and Celebrities).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beet Notes...

Gonna try and find some Beet seeds this week...plant them in the onion / potatoe patch for a fall harvest.

8/16 Got them planted!

10 Rows x 4' of Detroit Dark Red, maturity 65 Days = 10/21
7 Rows x 4' of Early Wonder G.T., maturity 57 Days = 10/13

8/17 Filled in a spot under the trellis with Detroit Dark Reds, by hand, not board.

NJ Barn History

(And also barn disassembly & rebuilding)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Onion Notes

Onions from my garden: Spectacular!

Unfortunately, I planted too shallow and only had one that attained full size. Plus several smaller ones I've been eating that really make a meal.

Would be interesting to spread around some maybe for that onion / flea beetle effect from OSV notes?

Next year's plan:

Plant around April 15th.

From Univ. of Minnesota:

Plant onion sets, pointy end up, 1½ to 2" below soil. If you're planting
big sets for green onions, space them close, almost touching. If you're planting
them for full size onions, space them 3 to 4" apart. Firm the soil around the

Cucumber Notes

Planted on 5/21:

Straight Eights did wonderful, until succumbing (I believe) to bacterial wilt. Flavor was good, although I thought a tad bitter.

Pioneer Hybrids failed to sprout.

Cucumbers have about a 60 day maturity window.

Assuming a Last Frost Date of 5/14. Since my Straight 8s came up from 5/21, they're probably safe to plant that early.

Assuming a First Frost Date of 9/24, last planting should be in on 7/24. The OSV interpreter did mention they typically harvest cukes after the first frost, so that may be an interesting experiment. The old New Englanders tended to prefer size over taste, particularly since items like cucumbers would just get pickled.

So let's aim in 2009 for a series of plantings, starting with the Straight 8s and maybe trying some bush and/or pickling varieties towards the end. Marketmore 76 recommended as a variety that is disease resistant, plant after frost danger is past.

ALSO, let's try companion plantings of marigolds & radishes with them to see if it repels the cucumber beetles from the young plants!

If I'm not successful otherwise controlling the wilt (see post below), I'm thinking that will help control bacterial wilt issues indirectly. As some cukes die, others will be coming into production.

A visit to OSV

Some garden pics from yesterday's visit to Old Sturbridge Village:

Rhubarb Tea

Rhubarb's talents extend beyond pies and cakes. In fact, scientists have
discovered that the oxalic acid in rhubarb stems (the same stuff that makes
your lips pucker) can be used to scour cooking pots.
If aphids are pest in your garden, rhubarb can help. In her book, "Slug Bread &
Beheaded Thistles," author Ellen Sandbeck describes a unique use for
rhubarb leaves--as an aphid spray. Here's the recipe:1) Chop 3 to 5 rhubarb leaves
and add to a quart of water. 2) Boil for 30 minutes.3) Strain and add a dash of liquid, non-detergent, soap.4) Fill spray bottle with liquid and use it on aphids.

Note: Because rhubarb leaves are poisonous, don't use this spray on edible plants


Tomatoe Notes

Planted 5 varieties this year:
Sweet 100 Cherry -- doing fine
Beefsteak -- having problems with Blossom End Rot (I believe that's the culprit).
Celebrity -- having problems with Blossom End Rot
Big Boy -- doing fine
Early Girl -- low yielding, but doing fine.

Going to get a soil sample kit from the extension office tomorrow. The BER may have been excerbated by a dry spell we had of 3/10" of rain in the 10 days preceeding the deluge of July 23-25 when we had 3" of rain. I suspect that brought a shock of water uptake into the plants.

Next year I want to try a variation on farmhound's post-and-twine method, similiar to the little boxes seen at OSV (see post above). If I do three fence posts wide, short ones in the middle to support the younger plants, then tall ones (6'?) on the outside corners to run twine around to support the larger, mature plants...I think that would work wonderfully.

Interesting article about determinate v. indeterminate; and the different determinates especially for getting early season yields:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Statistics so far...

Rain measured in my garden guage...
June -- 4.65" (Htfd avg. is 3.75")
July -- 5.7" (Htfd avg. is 3.19")
August (to date) -- 1" (Htfd avg. is 3.65")

Total weight harvested (and measured) YTD: 101#

Cash basis accounting y-t-d is estimated at $250, half of which is "extraordinary" (manure, netting, etc) that will provide benefit over many years.

So we're talking $2.50/pound so far (and going down each harvest).

Squash Rot #2

This time a Zucchini. Not sure if it's the same as the Blue Hubbard or not...

Also, according to my peeps, consistent with Squash Vine Borer.

Squash Rot #1

This is a Blue Hubbard squash. Leaves started turning yellow a couple weeks back.
The crown just came apart with very little force, and other parts of the vine that were "rooted" seem to be similiarly rotting. The closer to the original crown, the more rotted.

After checking with the folks at my organic gardening board this has been ruled damage from Squash Vine Borer. Guess I'll add that to my list of things to work on next year!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grow An Extra Row

As of today, I've harvested 91# + out of my garden (the 91# is what I've actually weighed!) .

Grow An Extra Row is a program for home gardeners to grow food for local food pantries.

I stopped at the large garden run at Mashmoquet Brook State Park on Tuesday and found out where I could drop off the food. Today I dropped off to the Danielson Methodist Church the above food -- 14 pounds.

Still pretty modest. My beans where heavily, um, destroyed by the rabbits. And the tomatoes I *thought* I'd have for them today ended up suffering from Blossom End Rot. As the post below says, I know I have issues with cucumbers.

Hmmm, at least four more good weeks of gardening to go and I should have more tomatoes plants that don't seem to be suffering from BER coming in. I think I can do 100# of donations this year.

Already thinking about next year to see if I can do 400# :)

Updating to add this link from today's paper:

Bacterial Wilt

One persistent problem I have is bacterial wilt, which affects especially my cucumbers -- killing them off after just a few.

Things to remember for next year include:
-- Row covers for the young plants;
-- Surround WP may be an option for the older plants;
-- Yellow sticky traps;
-- Plant multiple successions;
-- Rotenone with OUT pyrethum (Rotenone alone is non-toxic to bees )

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My Recipe Notes...

Grille High 2 minutes / side, then medium heat 7 minutes.

Grille High 7 minutes, flip, 5 minutes.
Even Better: Medium 8 minutes, flip, 8 minutes = medium rare :)

Heat grill to high, lower to medium. Meat on for 5 minutes, flip, 8 minutes = medium rare.

Top Round Steak:
Marinate with lemon & vinegar 8 to 24 hours.
Grill on medium 10 minutes, flip, 8 minutes.
Chicken breasts / tenderloins:
Medium heat, 5 minutes, flip, 5 minutes
Chicken legs:
Medium heat, 30 minutes, flip every 10 minutes.

Pork Chops (marinated):
Pre-heat high
1 minute high
1 minute high
3 minutes medium
4 minutes low

Salmon Filets
Grilled: Defrost 8 hours (or nuke ~2 minutes)
Coat grill with oil
High on non-skin side for 2 minutes
High on skin side for 4 minutes.
Slide spatula between skin and meat, carefully remove flesh.

Coat non-skin side with Mayonaise, then sprinkle on Panko bread crumbs & paprika. Put in small baking dish
1/2 lemon cut up into 1/8ths, couple on top, couple on side.
12-15 minutes @ 425 in the toaster oven, until flakes easily.

Grilling foiled-wrap potatoes, onions, and beans:
Coat with oil, vinegar, herbs the potatoes and green beans/onions separately.
Place taters down first on the foil.
Then the onions & beans (so they don't burn!)
Wrap up, grill medium for 40 minutes.

Squash and other tenders...same coating, give them 20 minutes on medium.
Both will be fine to take them off and put aside after the alloted time while you grill steaks.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Garden Update

Not a big update (had Megan's wedding this weekend, plus worked on truck on Sunday).

Bought a fishing scale to get a decent estimate of harvest.

Picked 20# from the garden on Sunday. YTD: 25#.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Garden Update

Picked a couple pounds (est.) of squash, eggplant, and tomatoe today. With previous potatoes, probably at 3 pounds for the year.

Farm Progress

An excellent video from the 1930s through 1950s showing the progress in farm equipment

Killingly Mill Rates

2006 / 2007:
Killingly Town 25.8000
Attawaugan FD 2.8300
Dayville FD 1.8000
Dyer Manor FD 0.4300
E. Killingly FD 2.0000
So. Killingly FD 1.3000
Orient Heights FD 0.5700
Williamsville FD 2.2800
Borough of Danielson 4.4500

There was a re-evaluation in 2007, which means the assesments on properties (generally) go up, so the tax rate goes down to raise the same revenue. The % is the change in the mill rate.
Killingly Town 17.800 -32%
Attawaugan FD 2.0100 -29%
Dayville FD 1.8000 00%*
Dyer Manor FD 0.4500 +4%
E. Killingly FD 1.1500 -43%
So. Killingly FD 0.9000 -31%
Orient Heights FD 0.4200 -27%
Williamsville FD 2.0000 -13%
Borough of Danielson 3.000 -43%

* With Dayville being a BIG OOPS...they didn't adjust their mill rate to the new grand list. They've already told people to ignore their current tax bills and will issuing new ones.

Garden Update

4/10" of rain on 7/14 (Monday).

I picked about 40 Squash Bug egg masses on Tuesday evening. They are on all the curcubits, but showing a definite preference for the Blue Hubbards. I'm thinking I should put some bark strips by the different squash plants to see if I can catch adults that way.

No recent rabbit damage. There is a rabbit hanging out near the garden, but haven't caught her in the garden -- seems to have learned the lesson.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fuck it, I'm voting for T. Boone.

There's an old military axiom that a good plan executed well immediately is better then a perfect plan finished too late. That is true in many areas, and one of our huge national problems today is we have far too many people who want the perfect plan instead of compromising on what is reasonable. Being environmentally responsible and making a profit are not mutually exclusive -- we can exploit our resources rationally. It may mean companies can't make as much money in absolute terms, and it may mean some rare species are allowed to go extinct -- rather then trying to maximize profits or environment, we should grab the big middle ground and progress as a society.

That's the moonshot folks.

In a paragraph:

Let's build a line of windmills across the high great plains that is capable of generating 20% of our nation's electrical need, and take the natural gas now providing that 20% of our electricity and instead use it to power our cars. And have it completed in 10 years.

Ok, yes part of it is T. Boone Pickens wants his tax breaks...and no tax breaks are not good public policy. They interfere with the market in many ways, often unexpectedly and unplanned.

But the government does have a critical, and important, role to play in big infrastructure projects. Ranging from emminent domain powers to build public utility works like power transmission lines, to fast tracking regulatory approvals of new car models using CNG.

I'm an unrepentant supporter of nuclear, but with the combination of high plains winds and the long distance capability of High Voltage DC transmission which can get power to either coast I think you can see wind take over 20% of our energy needs sooner then nuclear could double to 40%. Their environmental footprint is relatively small -- you can still farm and ranch around them for the most part, and certainly they don't pave over large blocks of land like some of the recent solar proposals do.

Other parts of a new energy plan -- from conservation, to plugin hybrids, to domestic oil drilling are important too. Renovation, expansion, and electrification of our railroad network is another big and worthwhile project. Expand nuclear too, selling the coal saved to China, a nation that uses twice as much coal as we do and has only one quarter as much in the ground.

But this is the single, simple, big, bold plan that's both transformative and will goose American manufacturing like nothing we've seen in years. The boom of Reagan's military build up comes to mind, but military spending doesn't leave a lasting economic improvement -- this does by reducing our trade deficit. Suddenly several hundred billion dollars a year going to third world dictators instead is paying wages to Americans in good paying jobs...who in turn are spending it in this nation and saving and investing it too.

It doesn't need government to run the program or finance it. But it does need government help to overcome obstacles, and to make sure regulatory approvals are done fairly but quickly. No matter your politics, this is needed and needed yesterday -- for the economics of it, for the confidence in our future it would suddenly give people, for the tax revenue that's needed to pay down the debt and to pay for future government programs.

Commit to projects like this and rebuilding the railroads on a timeline of 10 years or less and watch a lot of today's market troubles disappear in a few weeks. You hear the President always give the State of Union as, "strong." And truly it is, despite our momentary gloom from time to time. No nation matches us in the combined quality and quantity of agricultural land, our fresh water supplies are inexhaustible, no one has more coal, we have large reserves of natural gas, and new discoveries of fossil and non-fossil fuels like methane hydrate are likely in the coming years. The incredible richness of our lands that we've enjoyed and that have built this nation remain very rich. There are reasons for our malaise today, but there is no reason to be pessimistic about the future.

It's the moonshot. And it's time we start the countdown.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Connecticut Agricultural Value

Playing around with the National Agricultural Statistics Service and some of my other reading recently (for shade tobacco):

2007 Connecticut, Rough numbers, wholesale pricing:
Hay $350/acre
Broadleaf Tobacco $11,712/acre
Shade Tobacco ~$30,000/acre
Sweet Corn $2,160/acre
Tomatoes $6,000/acre
34 Vegetable Mix $2,160/acre

Which is why market gardeners need retail sales or Community Supported Agriculture in order to make it. Even then the market gardens often are combined with other enterprises or off-farm work to make ends meet for a family.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

General Garden Updates...

Rabbit damage is under control. I've identified at least three litters from Momma based on their size -- Momma and the other I shot (whose sibling has wised up and moved out of the garden it seems), plus I shot another smaller then those. Saw one real little one earlier this week, not much bigger then a chipmunk. We'll see if she lives long enough to be a big enough target.

Weeds are growing like...weeds.
The Sunflowers & Pole Beans look like a failure, as well as a lot of the bush beans, thanks to rabbit damage. Rabbits even ate the flower buds off the daylillies in the vegetable garden!
Some 'maters bursting from their cage:
Weeds not eaten by the rabbits are doing good:
This corn is a bit short for the variety; the right row is maybe 6" low which isn't bad, but by the left is real short. It's setting tassles, which jives with my notebook that says around the 2nd week in August I should have corn from these.
First Kiwi Gold raspberry of the season. They get sweeter, but I don't mind 'em young :)
Yellow squash is a bit spindly from growing under the row cloth, but seems to be recovering nicely.
It's an eggplant!

Squash Bugs

Today I found the first three adult Squash Bugs in the garden.

I know they've been active for about two weeks, having found a few egg masses like the one in the picture. This evening I covered about 1/2 the curcurbit leaves and removed about a dozen. They take 10 to 14 days to hatch, so if I can cover the whole garden every 7 days it'll help control them.

I'm not sure what to do about the Remay floating row cover next year. The summer squash outgrew the cover before I could use the Blue Hubbards and others as a really good trap crop. However, I found no egg masses after inspecting 1/3rd the summer squash. They definitely preferred the Blue Hubbard & Connecticut Field Pumpkins.

Maybe I'll plant a later row of summer squash under the cover next year? Decisions...decisions...


Started blooming this week. Here's the first three.
I've long lost the names. This year I'll be dividing them.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Tiger Lillies

(Photos to come...)

I have two distinct plants known locally as Tiger Lillies.

These are a daylily,Hemerocallis fulva, referred to throughout my region as Tiger Lillies:

These are American Tiger Lillies, Lilium superbum. Like other lillies, they're fairly slow growing but as they they get big!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Poor Idiots

This is actually an extract from a post I made elsewhere, but I kind of like it:

To go back to colonial days, some of the most fascinating reading can be found in Larned’s History of Windham County. Fascinating for both themes that continue to reverberate today in their parallels, as well as noting what has and has not changed. God bless Google Books (even though I have a recent reprint):
The 1745 murder of a bastard child, from a secret pregnancy, and subsequent execution of Elizabeth Shaw (p. 288);
Dr. Hallowel’s performing an abortion, resulting in the death of the woman, in 1747 and the subsequent trial and jail escape to exile in Rhode Island (bottom p. 362);
Or my favorite, the 1726 issue showing that in nearly 300 years our government bureaucracy is just as inept and politicians just as good at playing hot potatoe — that being the case of the poor idiot Peter Davison. He lived in an area, Mortlake, that was outside of a town’s jurisdiction and who was responsible to pay for his care came to involve at least Pomfret, Norwich, Plainfield, Mansfield, the New London County Court, it was the very first case on the docket when the Windham County Court was established, the General Court, and the Governor & Council. (pages 213, 267, and 344…it was quite a story )

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Got the Momma

In the waning daylight got the adult rabbit. 2 Down, I believe 1 to go. The other young one strategically hid under my mom's camp trailer.

That's a cottontail, not sure if it's an Eastern (most common) or New England variety. In Connecticut they have litters from March to fall, normally 2-4 litters of 3-8 each. About 1/8th of the young survive till the next spring on average.

They eat primarily at night, and hide in dense brush during the day. The raspberries in my garden were providing them excellent cover it seems. More info here.

And the classic Duck Rabbit, Duck!

Garden Update

Photos to come later.

-- Tomatoes doing well.

-- Corn doing well.

-- Beans took a big hit from the rabbits, so I'm short on developing bushes.

-- Beans & Sunflowers likewise took a big hit.

-- Potatoes looking good, but I suspect most of them are growing underground instead of in the straw :(. I got the BT San Diego in the mail, really fast shipping! Came in Priority Mail for Saturday. Now, if I just have a few days it looks like it won't rain!

-- I took the row cover off yesterday. Plants were way too crowded underneath it!

-- It's July 1st and the first hybrid daylillie opened!

-- It's also July 1st and I have yet to see a Squash Bug...BUT I found a bronze egg mass today that indicates I have some around! I'll have to plan tomorrow afternoon to spend an hour doing a plant inspection seeking and destroying the eggs.

-- Also need to get the bird netting over the blueberries, and take pictures/document which bushes aren't pollinating so I can order mates for them for next year.

-- Flushed one rabbit, but it went in a direction I couldn't shoot. Will try again later.

Monday, June 30, 2008

First thing I've ever shot.

I used to do a good amount of target shooting when I was young. But I never shot at an animal.

My father, who grew up on a farm, tried to get me to go hunt a rat one day that had hitched a ride home from the dump, but the thought of killing a mammal didn't sit well with me.

Sunday morning I decided the rabbits in the garden needed an acute case of lead poisoning. I haven't had the target rifle out in 10 years, took me four tries on two key rings to find the right key for the trigger lock. Aim was dead on, but I forgot how loud the crack was -- even for a .22 long rifle.

Today I picked up some "sub sonic" ammunition -- you still hear the fire cracker like pop of the cartridge, but the bullet doesn't break the sound barrier so you don't get the sharp crack you normally hear with gun fire. Attracts even less attention from the neighbors, and I'm pretty private anyways since you can't see another house from my yard when the leaves are on the trees.

Connecticut regulations, as I understand them, allow you to kill nuisance small animals that are destroying property -- there isn't a difference between a mouse chewing a hole in a box of rice or a rabbit eating lettuce in the garden. You're also allowed to discharge a firearm within 500' of an occupied building provided you are within 500' of a building you own or lease. So legally I believe I'm covered.
One rabbit down. The other two managed to stay out of view until they got into the woodline and disappeared, so we'll have to revisit them. It's interesting to me to observe their behavior and how quickly I'm devising ways to hunt them in order to drive them in a direction I need to get a clean shot.

I killed the rabbit -- no malice, and no joy from the killing, but satisfied I accomplished it. The equation was simple, they are doing too much damage to my garden and the cost of a proper fence in time and material is more then I can spend right now. The ground is extremely stony which makes stretching a fence very difficult since even T-posts can't just be pounded in. In past years hawks or foxes controlled the rabbits, I don't know why this year the rabbits have led such an unmolested life.

I'm also comfortable knowing my gun shot was no more cruel then the death from a hawk or fox, and likely quicker. It certainly was less stressful then what an animal goes through when caught in a Have-a-Heart trap for hours on end until someone checks it. Have-a-Hearts are for one purpose, so you can release non-target animals if necessary; I strongly disagree with the relocation of most animals, particulary common pests like rabbits. You're relocating your problem to someone else, often animals have no den or hiding place they know of so they become easy prey, people often release animals in the wrong locations -- like woodchucks in the woods where they starve if they're so unlucky as not to quickly become coyote chow, many animals are territorial and will fight with their same species in the area they're released, and it's a vector to spread wildlife diseases like rabies faster then would naturally occur. If an animal is a problem, and it's not a rare species, and you can't easily fence it is perfectly ethical to kill it.

My only regret is I don't know how to dress a rabbit, and particulary what to look for in contamination (such as perforating intenstines) that may have occured from the gun shot, so the meat I was not able to use.

Just call me Mr. McGregor.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Staking tomatoes the easy way

Or is stringing tomatoes? A tip from Farmhound on an organic gardening board I'm active on started this.

So far it seems to be working well.

I didn't invest in the box of plastic baling twine, but I will -- a single role of string isn't quite enough. Of course 9,000' or so of baling twine that comes in a box will be a lifetime supply. They come in a box of two rolls, since most balers use two strings. I would use the plastic, the sisal (natural fiber) I believe will stretch too much over the season. It should last several seasons if you pick it up at the end of the season -- might have to tie in a little extra from time to time to make up for what you lose cutting the knots each year. The twine will be about $25-30 depending on the sale prices.

Here's a big view. Lettuce is interplanted in parts of the rows.

Now let's look at a close up of one of the plants. I'm pruning my tomatoes this year -- everything below the level of the first flowers. It's supposed to improve the quality, as well as reduce the risk of diseases being picked up from the soil / humidity near the ground.

The little knots use short pieces of string to tie the lateral strings together. It really strengthens them. I tie them where it's convienent then slide it over to where they support the plant well.

If the my early optimism proves accurate, I'll expand this to do all my tomatoes next year and not use the cages for them.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Threshing Grain

Was talking to my step dad yesterday and he mentioned he remembers, as a little kid, helping out at Pakulis' farm harvesting outs with an old combine that filled bags. Now that's old.

This isn't a combine -- the part the workers are tossing in the bound bundles is a thresher which seperates grain (oats) from the stems (which becomes straw). Before combination harvester threshers, grain would be harvested by a "grain binder" that cut and bound it into bundles then stacked in shocks to protect them from rain in the field until later brought to the thresher.

Straw used to be kept outside in stacks, just like you would have hay stacks. Hay and straw, properly done, is sheds water remarkably well -- think of thatched roofs. The straw chute on the thresher is long and high to facilitate making outdoor stacks.

As we got into the 20th century balloon frame construction allowed larger hay lofts in barns which allowed a lot of loose hay to be stored inside -- where it you had even less loss, and better yet could use gravity to toss it down to the animals instead of hauling it inside.

Another trend was the development of Hay Presses -- early stationary balers. These balers allowed hay and straw to be compressed into easily shipped bales for transport into our horse-powered cities.

With farms increasing in size -- both in acreage as well as the volume of crops grown per acreage with improved research, education, fertilizers, pesticides, and varieties -- farmers would increasingly use baling on their own farms. You could store more crops inside in the compressed form, and it's easier to handle and trade. In the above video, the straw is being fed by a funnel directly into a stationary baler -- today's field balers would come later.

The oat grain is the animal feed -- that's what the two youngsters in the grain wagon are making sure gets distributed well in the wagon. That will be emptied into a mouse-proof grain bin later. Straw is the by-product used as bedding, able to absorb two or three times it's volume in water and urine. This is different from hay which is cut as animal feed and harvested at a stage when nutrition comes from both the developing seeds as well as the leafy stems.

Going from older technology that would be quite familiar to a typical 1930s farmer, let's look at Glenvar Farms in Australia using state of the art combines along with their own system they've developed to bale as they go:

Many years ago a farmer friend of mine gave the sage advice it's not what you gross, it's what you net. The Amish have the labor pool to use the older technology, and I have no doubt net much more per acre by not having large loan payments to make. In many areas though labor -- particulary for seasonal activities like planting and harvesting -- is the scarce resource and requires the use of efficient but expensive machines.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Moments of happiness...

A nice, modest summer thunderstorm is passing through this evening.

One of my Dalmatians, Jake, is scared of the thunder -- his original owners had left him outside with no one looking after him when they went on summer vacation, and the police confiscated him for neglect.

He scratched at the door -- twice. So I opened it, he went out on the deck in front of my house and realized that wasn't the smartest idea. But the two of us ended up standing under the little roof over my front door, just watching the frog strangler of a rain that was falling, with the nice, cool downdrafts of wind and distant flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder. Frogs complete the scene, croaking away in the background -- they like I, it seems, find joy in the refreshment of these storms.

Amish in America

Fascinating blog I stumbled upon last night -- Amish America. By far, this goes into the nuances and differences in Amish culture far better then any book or website I've browsed.

'The relationship between authority and responsibility is learned very early. Although the younger chldren must obey the older ones, the older children may not make arbitrary demands on the younger. The four-year-old is expected to hand over his toy to a younger child if he cries for it, but in the absence of the parents the younger one must obey the older.'

From the book Amish Society by John A. Hostetler quoted here. That system, however, would serve many of us well in many more situations other then just siblings.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beware of the EPA Light Bulb Police

Brilliant rant by Rep. Poe on the floor of the House:

Maybe I'm tinged from being burnt by being an "early adopter" of the CFLs. What I found was they put off a poor quality of light -- I'd wear stained shirts to the office because the stains weren't apparantent in the light put off by CFLs at home. When I took them out of the house and put them in the garage, they caused interference so I couldn't listen to my favorite NPR station anymore when working in the garage.

One of the worse wastes of money in my life.

If the government does such incredible stupidity as mandating the phase out of incandescent bulbs, I'll be purchasing a life time supply of GE Reveal bulbs in advance. They're terrific!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Garden Update

1.5" of rain overnight!

Definitely no need to irrigate this week (although I should check those raspberry beds. They worry me.)

Well, it's better then killing kittens

Bundling...the old New England custom of pre-marital non-sex. Well, almost non-sex since she did occassionally become pregnant.

"In 1776, a clergyman from one of the polite towns, went into the country, and reached against the unchristian custom of young men and maidens lying together on a bed. He was no sooner out of the church, than attacked by a shoal of good old women, with, 'Sir, do you think we and our daughters are naughty, because we allow of bundling?' 'You lead yourselves into temptation by it.' They all replied at once, 'Sir, have you been told thus, or has experience taught it you?' The Levite began to lift up his eyes, and to consider of his situation, and bowing, said, 'I have been told so.' The ladies, una voce, bawled out, 'Your informants, sir, we conclude, are those city ladies who prefer a sofa to a bed; we advise you to alter your sermon, by substituting the word sofa for bundling, and on your return home preach it to them, for experience has told us that city folks send more children into the country without fathers or mothers to own them, than are born among us; therefore, you see, a sofa is more dangerous than a bed.' The poor priest, seemingly convinced of his blunder, exclaimed, 'Nec vitia nostra, nee remedia pati possumus,' hoping thereby to get rid of his guests; but an old matron pulled off her spectacles, and, looking the priest in the face like a Roman heroine, said, 'Noli putare me haec auribus tuis dare! Others cried out to the priest to explain his Latin. 'The English,' said he, 'is this: Who is me that I sojourn in Meseck, and dwell in the tents of Kedar!' One pertly retorted, 'Gladii decussati sunt gemina presbyteri clavis.' The priest confessed his error, begged pardon, and promised never more to preach against bundling, or to think amiss of the custom; the ladies generously forgave him, and went away.

More about the Art of Bundling.