Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jurassic Pigeon?

Would we just send them back into the abyss?
I was that seventh grade kid sitting in the back of the room reading the encyclopedia when rain kept us inside during recess.

It was there I was introduced to the passenger pigeon.  After class had reconvened and the teacher droned on about fractions, I was imagining what the sky would look like flooded by their presence.  I wondered what they would sound like as they filled the sky.  I wondered what they tasted like, that would drive so many settlers to kill them by the hundreds.

Conventional wisdom holds that the passenger pigeon was killed for sport and for food.  I am sure this is true, but what if they were also seen as a pest and exterminated as a result? has an article describing their impact on the habitat.
Historically, we know that a giant flock comes into an area, they consume the resources for several hundred square miles, they live in a roosting or nesting site in a tiny spot...and they're so densely crowded into that area that as they come in at night to roost, they're overcrowding branches, snapping branches off of trees, sometimes breaking small trees off at the base as they bend them completely over under their weight. And they're depositing tons of droppings into that area—inches of guano—and that completely, radically changes the biochemistry of the soils. It kills all of the undergrowth that was there, but it also opens up that canopy. All that branch breaking is letting sunlight in. 
Straight into the engine of a 747?
Imagine the impact these birds had on the crops, pastures, and apple orchards of the young nation.  The decline of the passenger pigeon coincided with the settlement of the bird's breeding range.  Perhaps habitat destruction had as much to do with the species' decline as hunting and sport.

The sentiment I experience reading the possibly romanticized story of the passenger pigeon is shared by others.  There is a "De-extinction" program organizing around the idea of collecting their DNA in order to bring them back from the abyss.  The article continues,

So you can imagine the next year, when those birds are gone, you get a very thick regenerating underbrush. And that's what these birds were doing. They were stimulating regeneration cycles. And knowing this about the passenger pigeon ecology, we think [bringing them back] is going to be a major benefit for the ecosystems of the future.

The problem is the North American continent no longer exists in an aboriginal state.  You do not have to be a science fiction writer to see how a giant flock of these birds, and a population would probably only be viable as part of a large mass, would conflict with human settlements: suburban housing tracks, dog parks, commercial airports, your local forest preserve.

It brings me no pleasure to say it, the passenger pigeon would be worse than the "rat with wings" in so many urban centers.  America is no longer sparsely populated enough to embrace these poop piranha on wings.  An inch of guano?  If there is a pile of money big enough to compensate those who'd be negatively impacted, I bet we can find better ways to spend it.
Breeding range in red: who wants an inch of poop?

The unspoken assumption is that human beings only send animals into the history books through ignorance and that humanity has moved to a more enlightened state.  Maybe in this case we've romanticized a species based on an incomplete telling of the story?

The loss of the species was a tragedy.  I wish it could have survived in small enough flocks to allow for human cohabitation.  But humans have interests too, and I'd question the assumption that we are any more enlightened than we were a mere four or five generations ago.

While I gave up the idea of individual human sanctification some time ago, the idea that the species as a whole is becoming more enlightened is a faith-based doctrine that has never attracted me.  I mean, have you at least heard of the twentieth century?

We kill because we have a reason to kill them. The habit of killing may last longer than the reason, culture is like that, but there was a reason and there would be again.  Sometimes we can stop ourselves at the precipice of extinction (wolves) but if the passenger pigeon could not co-exist with human habitation the first time, I doubt it would have any better luck a second time around.

Any species brought back from the brink will need to be either limited in ecological impact, or limited in range, and preferably both.   If they make someone some money, that would be even better.  Monied interest would be motivated to find a way to make the new introduction work in a world filled with humans.

The passenger pigeon does not meet that test.

How about a nice giant sloth?  I'm pretty sure we could keep a ground sloth in the national parks and people would pay a pretty penny to see them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Some friends are food

Took this guy to the processor this evening.  He's lived with us 18 months and in that time he's had a lot of good grass, time to roam, and another steer to pal around with.  

In other words, he got to live like a bovine.  That is what we owe them: safe, thoroughly bovine, lives. 

In return, since we did not have as many lambs as normal this spring, he will be our main source of protein for the year to come.

Some friends are food.

This is life in the Anthropocene.

A Southbound Train?

Stoic and Sparta wonder if we can hitch a ride on a southbound train before the snow flies.

Little Zoe

was flawed
not her soul:
naturally trusting
transforming lives in six short months.

Monday, September 28, 2015

One Life

I'd prefer to spend mine moving.

Dust off the drums

and get ready to sell that first edition of Iron John sitting on the bookshelf.  It's about to be rediscovered.

But really, maybe you should just make a habit of going out and killing, cleaning, and eating some small mammal or get a fishing pole and learn how to use it.

It is how you natural selection made you.

And for his sake, teach your kid to do the same.

Bear Hunters: Watch Your Step

Gil faced a decision and had just seconds to make it.

The buck of a lifetime had crept up behind his deer stand and was angling away from him and about to slip behind some brush and disappear.  It was not moving the way other deer had as it came into the clearing.

This is probably how this buck had lived long enough to grow into the buck of a lifetime.

Gil was properly equipped.  He had the skill set.  The deer was, as we would later pace off, a mere nineteen yards away.  Gil took his shot.  It was a difficult shot but it was reasonable to believe that he was going to kill that deer.

I met Gil because there wasn't much of a blood trail and Sparta and I were called in to lend some assistance.  In retrospect, I think he hit the deer in the meaty part of the neck or the high back and it will likely survive.

After this experience the buck of a lifetime is liable to become a ghost buck, showing up only at night on random game cameras.

The last wound bed: Sparta took us another 250 yards before loosing it suggesting he went across a highway and into an open field.
Gil is a resident of northeastern Barron County Wisconsin.  His full-sized four wheel drive pickup truck is immaculately clean.  He wiped Sparta's paw prints off the dash within 20 seconds of the last time I got out. He works at an auto body repair shop.  He grew up a few miles away.  He's a hunter, a fisherman, and a land owner.

He is a good-old boy in every best sense of the word and he's had enough of bear hunters.

Specifically, Gil has had enough of bear hunters who use dogs to run and tree bear before dispatching them.

Black bear are an elusive species.  They avoid humans, and move in rather random patterns through the landscape.  Consequently, there are only two efficient ways to hunt them.  The first is to lay bait so that the bear becomes accustomed to traveling to a particular place and eat the bait.  The hunter than ambushes the bear when the season opens.

The second way involves using large fast hounds to catch the scent of recent bear passing and follow that scent to the bear who then climbs a tree to escape the hounds but where it is held until the hunting party arrives.

A neighbor with game cameras on his 30 acre woodlot tells me there a three distinct bear families that make our immediate area home.  I've never seen them, and I spend a fair amount of time outdoors.  I've lived in the area twelve years and I've never seen one that wasn't caught in the headlights of my car, though I run across bear sign and bear dens on a regular basis.

Bait works fine but as a dog man myself I am sympathetic to those who hunt with dogs.  It is an active and kinetic way of hunting.  You'll more than meet your daily step goal on your fitbit.

It connects us as human hunters with our oldest of hunting companions: our tribe members and our dogs.  Baiting bears is fine and I understand why people do it.  It just isn't something I, and those like me, are in to.

Not every abuse of rights comes from the government.
I was surprised when Gil adamantly and repeatedly complained about bear hunters.  Most, no all, previous objections to bear hunting I have heard comes from a place of ignorance, from people unconnected to the region's hunting traditions.

Given the state political situation, I'd have expected him to be more sympathetic and understand their plight.  I'd have expected him to reflexively support other hunters against the anti-hunting lobby, found primarily in the urban centers in the southern third of the state.

The fact is, his understanding of bear hunting was deeper than my own.

His complaint came down to a simple issue of trespassing.

On occasion the violators were hunters from out of state (Minnesota is a short drive from Barron County), sometimes it was a guy down the road.  The brute fact is that he is tired of catching stray hounds crossing his property; he is tired of giving his lecture to their owners.  He has experienced how difficult it is to match hounds caught on game cameras to owners from down the road or seen driving away without of state plates.

He's frustrated by continually finding gut piles next to his field or within site of his deer stand.

His property rights are being abused and ignored but not not by the government.  The problem is his fellow citizens.

He is weary of making the difficult decision to not turn in the fifteen-year old first time bear hunter to the authorities who chased an exceptionally large 450 pound black bear to his property where it was killed. He doesn't want the kid to face the consequences of what is, at root, bad parenting.

It is an age old conundrum, how to confront the assholes without becoming an asshole?

Gil wants to be asked permission.  That's all.  He wants to be respected as a landowner.  He wants bear hunters to go through the hard work of contacting landowners before letting loose their hounds.  Few people will say "no" if they know the people running the hounds. It means bear hunters need to put in the time in the off season of building relationships.  At least in Gil's experience, that is not happening at present.

He didn't say as much but the frustration I heard in his voice reflected a readiness to support the end of hunting bear with hounds if that is what it takes to win back his property rights.

We will always have the complaints of individuals who have nothing but a passing and ill-informed encounter with hunting. Veterinarians will and should continue to have a voice to help us keep our dogs healthy. I welcome canine advocates who may not be hunters themselves but can maintain enough objectivity to help keep us all honest.

Bear hunters are treated well in Wisconsin hunting tradition and law, if that is to continue, they need to keep land owners on their side.

Let's keep these hounds self-actualized
If bear hunters loose rural land owners, hunters who care and know just as much about our wildlife as they do,
turn their backs on bear hunters, they will loose the privilege of hunting bear with dogs.

In the process they will have done harm to other hunters who use dogs in the hunt.  Once the political pendulum begins to swing, it continues to swing until it overshoots the rational middle.

The north does not have the traditions of the south, hunting with dogs is on a less stable foundation.

As someone who only recently was given the opportunity to track wounded game with his dogs, the question has a second order impact on me as well.  Every hunter has skin in the game when it comes to how hunters are portrayed in the political media and we all are at risk of shame when a negative portrayal is correct.

If we do not police our own, we will find that we are all being policed; and deservedly so.

Why should we be granted responsibility if we fail to act responsibly?

Gil had to make a split decision on whether or not to take a shot at a deer.  At least in one part of Northern Wisconsin Bear hunters need to take a long look at their ethical practices.  It is time for some of the long hard work of re-building a relationship of trust with landowners.  They've had to face this problem before and it is time to do it again.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Country Boy Reading Nook

After I crept up on him and took the picture, he couldn't wait to tell me how a hawk had landed within a few feet of him.

The boy will be alright.

Those Tiny Lulls of Lucidity

I'd considered surrendering to the forced march toward one space.

Now that I know I am not alone.  Now I have hope.

Hope for regaining "those tiny lulls of lucidity."

Friday, September 25, 2015

Carolina Chocolate Drops

I know why people leave it.

I know why people spend the rest of their lives dreaming about it.

I'm nearly 42 years old, and a girl, 

doing nothing but singing the right tune,
can still get me all twitterpated.

What the Hell is up with that?

Dogs dig Sculpture

A toppled nuclear plant spilling radioactive goo?
If I'm correct, that's a political and I'd offer it is incomplete.  

I guess if it gets us talking, it is art.  I like art.  I really like sculpture.

It was in a park.  I assume a level of government paying for its presence in the park, subsidizing its existence anyway.  In which case wouldn't that drift in the direction of propaganda?
Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of a population toward some cause or position. 
Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (perhaps lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loadedmessages to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information presented. 
While the term propaganda has acquired a strongly negative connotation by association with its most manipulative and jingoistic examples, propaganda in its original sense was neutral and could refer to uses that were generally positive, such as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to law enforcement.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Only one is house broken

I took the picture several years ago.  I am confident both the terrier and the lot have been "re-homed."

Wolf Management Requires Hunting

Wolves are an important part of our ecosystem.  
Wolves exist in the ecosystem due to goodwill of the people who live in the same area.

Therefore, maintaining human goodwill toward wolves is good for the ecosystem.

This simple syllogism demonstrates what the "no hunting wolves anywhere" fail to understand.  I doubt even the most extreme police state technologically possible can protect the wolves from human depredation if the humans who live near them resent their presence.

"Dual use technology" is not just about outlaw states seeking chemical or nuclear weapons.

The wolf/human relationship needs to be managed.  We've seen what happens when that relationship is allowed to follow their natural course: wolves go extinct.

With that I am hopeful that granting Adrian Wydeven a podium at the debate will lead to the rationalization of the debate about Wisconsin's wolves that will allow long term management that is good for the wolves, good for people, and good for the ecosystem.

The Debate We're not Having

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pub Time Approaches

If only every pub were so.
I have one bar in the area that allows dogs inside the actual establishment.

This is because they do not prepare or serve one piece of food.  They've got liquid refreshment and nothing but liquid refreshment.  If you want pretzels, I guess you'd have to bring your own.

The don't normally keep hours that fit my schedule, except during Premier League Soccer.  When there is a Saturday or Sunday game, they open early, and the place is not crowded.

Premier League has started and the equinox reminds me that the patios will close up soon.  Won't be long until the terriers and I will  again be frequenting the Nomad World Pub.

The Cat with a Rat

How can you tell if a woman really loves you?

One indication might be if she allows you to display your growing collection of animal skulls on the family piano.  

Felis catus (house cat) on the right was found along the highway and Rattus norvegicus (Norway or Brown Rat) on the left was dispatched by a member of my terrier pack.

Coming Soon: Pocket Gopher (
Geomys bursarius wisconsinensis)

Instructions for making your own can be found here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And other Philosophers

rolled flat,
added for texture,
with fruit to move an inert will:

Breakfast for first graders, and other                             philosophers.

The Therapist is IN

Sparta: Therapy Dog

Monday, September 21, 2015

Last Thoughts on an Untamed Man

This month my family buried my grandfather.  I was honored with the task of giving the eulogy.

New York Times columnists David Brooks has written recently about the distinction between "resume virtues" and "eulogy virtues."  Resume virtues being those things that you do in order to become a member of the coastal elite.  Eulogy virtues being, well, those things recognized as virtuous across time and space.

I can agree with him that it is time to give more attention to eulogy virtues over the resume but I question the premise that an impressive curriculum vitae can be considered "virtuous" in any meaningful sense of the term.

At best resumes are a way to communicate your skills for a job.  Among the aspirational classes, however, they have become a way to demonstrate that you are willing to sacrifice a balanced life, to sell out a sense of self to conform to the management fad de jour, to ignore the existence of the eulogy virtues, for the sake of looking good on paper.

Maybe you would have volunteered for that reading program regardless, but your willingness to try to cash in on it leaves me skeptical.  It's not a virtue if you try to get paid for it.

They're not "resume virtues" it is called constructing a personal brand and I call it a vice.  "Know Thyself" the ancient Greeks counseled.  If you spend your life conforming yourself to someone else's expectations in return for money, acceptance or any other thing you're asking for sorrow.  It makes no substantive difference if the expectations your submitting to emerge from a boyfriend, your mother, or the human resources department at Goldman Sachs.

It is slavery without the whip.  It is the slavery of a civilization which substitutes conformity of outlook with ability, where the letters after one's name is valued above the character imbued in the person.  Resume virtues is just a euphemism for trading the birthright of being born free for a little porridge.

News flash: New York Times columnist out of touch with the human experience.  I know, I know #DogBitesMan

Early this month my family gathered to bury had a better understanding of virtue.  He never studied the subject.  He didn't know the difference between a Ionic or Doric column or between a Stoic and an Epicurean.

His virtues were not cut and pasted from a book.  They had not been modified by critical theory.

Formed and selected by their time and place through unreflective evolution, they were wild. He did not argue the nature of "the good" but sought to go out and be good.

Wild is not always better, ask him who has tried to eat a wild grape or compared wine made from it compared to its domesticated cousin.  But that untamed man never confused those skills by which he made his living for his sense of virtue, from a critical sense of good and ill from which an artful life is hew.

His faults were that of the wild vine.  Wildness may lack an element of discipline but has its own strength.  Thoreau was right when he observed,

The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders of every state which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source. It was because the children of the Empire were not suckled by the wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of the northern forests who were.

His virtue was wild and it was the source of his strength.  That kind of man may not be advantaged in the present, but he will survive.  When civilization crumbles, it is that kind of untamed women and men who will rebuild it.

Last Thoughts on Daniel Lyndon Winings

A few years ago this family gathered together along with our friends to say goodbye to my cousin Jake.  It was an unexpected loss and soon after arriving I needed a few moments to myself. 
I found a quiet place and sat down in front of an elderly couple and closed my eyes.  A few moments later, in a voice much louder than he intended, the elderly man behind me said, "There he is!  That is Daniel Winings.  I worked with him at the Oliver plant.  Let me tell you, that man could work." 
Family, friends, let me tell you, this man Daniel Lyndon Winings, he could work.  But there was more to the man than just work. 
Raised on a farm when his father was still farming with horses and mules, his mother dried cheese curds on the clothes line, and the only refrigeration was well water, he left that farm and joined the war effort as soon as he was able. 
After preparing for an invasion of the home islands that never came, he was two ships over when the surrender treaty was signed.  He took part in the repatriation of Japanese soldiers from China.  This Westervelt farm boy walked the grounds of Tienanmen Square.
The author and his grandpa in the 20th century.
Let me tell you, Daniel Lyndon Winings knew how to stand up for what he believed in. 
Coming home, he won Grandma Jeans heart and even after they were married continued to woo her with nights out dancing at the Moose Lodge.  Let me tell you, the man Daniel Lyndon Winings knew how to love. 
Even after a Friday night out, if he'd made a commitment to one of his children, he'd be up early the next morning with them.  Daniel Lyndon Winings knew how to keep his word. 
Prior to the 1920's change was slow.  He would have been impressed by the quality but a rich farmer from the Middle Ages would have recognized most of the equipment on Great-Grandpa's farm.  In an age of Ipad's and GPS guided planters, that is not true today. 
Social scientists who study this kind of thing say that half of the technological change our species has experienced since it stepped off the savanna until the present has happened since the 1920's.  It happened in this man's lifetime.  He may have stopped being hip sometime in the Eisenhower administration but let me tell you, this man knew how to change. 
I was fortunate to know the man.  I am honored to me numbered among his descendants.  He had  as many faults as any other human being but let me tell you, 
This man knew how to work.
This man knew courage.
This man knew how to love.
This man knew how to keep his word.
This man knew how to change.
His life was a gift.  His memory is a blessing. 
The philosopher Epictetus in the second century AD wrote, "Never say, 'I have lost it' but rather, 'I have given it back.'" 
We have not lost Daniel Lyndon Winings.  We are giving him back. 
We give his flesh back to this black earth which nourished it.  We give his spirit back to the god who sparked it. 
This man knew how to work,but he left work for us to do.
This man knew courage, and we can face our own challenges with the same.
This man knew love, and we treat our loved ones the same.
We too can keep our word, even when it is difficult.
We too can learn to live in a world that is ever changing.
Yes, this man knew how to work and his legacy is not finished working in us.

Join me in a word of prayer.
Creating god,
This man's flesh came from the earth, 
we return it.
This man's spark sprang from the forging fire of the cosmos, 
we return it.
This man's flesh and spark walked among us and left a legacy; 
that legacy remains with us.   
It is ours.  We honor it.  We cling to it.   
We are strengthened by it.
In that legacy we find the peace to carry on.

Grandpa's house is empty now.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday: It's Just Another Day

Bobie Doll tells me "live in the moment"
Don't get too far ahead - don't live in the past
I blink my eyes and the moment is over
I guess another day has passed

Nuclear Powered Follow up

In a follow up to yesterday's post about the importance of nuclear power to our lower carbon future, National Geographic posts this article about which cities are the closest to nixing fossil fuels.

The takeaway, if you don't live on top of a volcano (Reykjavik), are unable to turn around without bumping into a fast moving river (Oslo, Seattle,),  or use electricity at 1/4 or 1/5 of the rate of the top tier economies (Argentina, Brazil) you're probably going to be using a lot of nuclear energy.

National Geographic failed to examine if those greener cities in second tier economies would be able to boost their renewable output if their populations became rich enough to buy more electricity.  Since Argentina is mostly building natural gas and nuclear plants to meet an annual expansion of 6%, I'd guess the low hanging hydroelectric fruit has already been plucked.

Of course, I suppose another way to cut down a city's use of fossil fuels is to impoverish the population so they can not afford to use as much electricity,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Electrical Power Trade-Offs

Today's problems arise from yesterday's solutions.

I'm don't think global warming is the beginning of the apocalypse, but I do not deny it is among tomorrow's problems and one we should start addressing today.

Solar/Wind powered clothes dryers for the masses.
We recently buried my grandfather.  In his lifetime we went from farming with horses and using well water for refrigeration and barely feeding a world population of 2 billion to the globalization and technological wonders of today amidst a population of 7 billion.

If you're glad you're at a computer this morning and not shoveling horse manure, you've got oil and the internal combustion engine to thank.

I like raising my own meat, and even I am glad that I do not have to make intensively farming my acreage my sole endeavor in life.

We need to deal with today's problems but a return to the past is unacceptable.  Most of the people who advocate it are either ignorant of the past or think that change does not apply to them.  If you believe
White, blue and green = nuclear
that current solutions will not include their own set of new problems, then you're living in a fantasy.

There are no solutions in this world, only trade-offs.

The best answer I see is that the non-seismic world needs to go nuclear.  Areas of regular or even episodic seismic activity will need to employ a combination of imported electricity from non-seismic areas, natural gas, renewables, and yes, maybe some coal.

Car sharing, electric cars for urban dwellers, smaller and more efficient vehicles for those without a market oriented need for larger ones.  As a whole the globe is already becoming greener, as marginal land is taken out of crop production and returned to either wild or managed forest or prairie.

France and Sweden really are the exemplars,

The Swedes began research to build nuclear reactors in 1962 in a bid to wean the country off burning oil for power as well as to protect rivers from hydroelectric dams. By 1972, the first boiling water reactor at Oskarshamn began tohost fission and churn out electricity. The cost was roughly $1,400 per kilowatt of electric capacity (in 2005 dollars), which is cheap compared to the $7,000 per kilowatt of electric capacity of two new advanced nuclear reactors being built in the U.S. right now. By 1986, with the addition of 11 more reactors, half of Sweden's electricity came from nuclear power and carbon dioxide emissions per Swede had dropped by 75 percent compared to the peak in 1970. 
France, a larger nation, has a similar nuclear tale to tell, weaning itself from imported fossil fuels by building 59 nuclear reactors in the 1970s and 1980s that produce roughly 80 percent of the nation's electricity needs today.

I don't hold out too much hope for fusion, but I am more optimistic about thorium reactors.  Here's the thing,
until there is a market for nuclear power, real private money is not going to be invested in it.  The problem with nuclear is not so much the technical but the political.  Investors will take undertake the work and the expense of making nuclear power as safe as possible.  They will not undertake that risk, however, so long as there lacks the political will to implement any solutions that are engineered.  

The real challenge to nuclear power is neither scientific nor technical, they are political.

The way private space is revolutionizing the cost and scope of human endeavors in space.  Private investment in nuclear will offer a scope of options that the public can then choose from.  They will not offer a cost free solution.  Their solutions will result in new problems we need to address, but they will give us the opportunity to find the best trade-off available to meet the problems of the present at lowest risk to the future.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Bow Hunt Because

Neolithic Oatmeal?

In a dog bites man kind of story, looks like the food fundamentalists were wrong again.

Paleo? Modern? Or just plain human food?
Humans have sought a diverse diet whenever given the opportunity.  The evidence of plant based food, however, is just less likely to survive the eons.  But sometimes archaeology and modern science give you a gift.
The researchers sealed the stone in plastic to preserve it for future research. But they left exposed small patches that they washed with a gentle stream of water to loosen debris. In the water were hundreds of starch granules of five main types. The most plentiful, says Mariotti Lippi, were from oat seeds, almost certainly Avena barbata, a wild species still common across much of Europe. The stone also processed other edible plants, including acorns and relatives of millet. 

Most intriguing, many of the starch grains were swollen and partly gelatinized, which is consistent with them being heated before grinding. Because the climate 32,000 years ago was cooler than it is today, seeds gathered in autumn might not have had enough time to dry naturally. Perhaps, Mariotti Lippi speculates, those seeds were first dried over a fire, which would have made them much easier to grind and digest than freshly gathered seeds. And ready-ground flour, she notes, would keep longer and be easier to transport.

In other words, we've been processing foods since the beginning.  We've been mixing sources of nutrition every time a new source became available.

Set aside the food fundamentalists.  Eat smart, eat diverse, but unless you want to be debunked, don't be an ideologue about it.

Buzzkill Animal Facts

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nature, She's not your Mother, she's a Mother...

Two British holidaymakers have told of the moment they narrowly escaped death when a 40-ton humpback whale crash-landed on their kayak.
Tom Mustill and Charlotte Kinloch were paddling off Monterey Bay in California when the whale suddenly breached and dragged them under water.
Read the whole thing here:


A Foreign Mercy

and shaking,
road kill slow to die.

A tourist's swift kick brought mercy
but the natives were scandalized and called it               cruelty.

Dog Manners

Enjoying a softball game.
If you're a dog person, it really is the best of times.

We are able to take our dogs more places than any other time in recent history.  "Dog friendly" is now a thing and there are advocates encouraging more businesses to be dog friendly.

I can go out to eat with my dog.
I can sit at a bar with my dog.
Breakfast out.
I can go to many outdoor activities with my dog.

That being said, this will only last as long as dog owners accept responsibility for the freedom that they have.

Training their dogs to behave in socially acceptable manner and not taking their dogs where they cannot behave in a socially acceptable manner.

I love taking the dogs out to a patio for breakfast or to a local bar to watch a game of Premier League Soccer.  Taking them with, however, means training them to have good manners while we are out.

So while I am generally pretty critical of the AKC and the breeding practices their kind of thinking promotes, I think their Canine Good Citizen program should be applauded.  I hope more canine enthusiast clubs take up the practice so we can maintain it even after the AKC is euthanized.

I digress.

Our dogs live with us.  They live in the Anthropocene.  Train them to go where you go or train them to be comfortable at home while you're away.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Stoic: Explode the Code

Two months ago a terrier showed up on our front door.

An intact male, he followed the scent of Sparta, who was in season.  Only by trotting her outside, was I able to get a leash around his neck.

No collar, no microchip, and unrecognized by any neighbor we visited within a three mile radius or vet office
A happy Stoic who didn't even know to ask for a French Fry.
within six miles.  One guy at the library had seen him trotting down the road about six miles from our house two days before I picked him up.

He was great with kids, other dogs, and domestic cats.  He did fine walking in crowds and was a natural taking a rest on a patio while I enjoyed a brew.

He could pass the therapy dog test in a second, only his sit/stay needs a little more work.

I suspect he was someone's house dog who got out of hand.  He demonstrated some marking behavior that we were able to rectify in a couple of weeks.  He has a desire to chew and lick obsessively, this seems well on its way to being regulated to the past with adequate toys and exercise.

His chest was spannable.  I guess I'd call him a rat terrier mix.  Still, he's built like he could still "go to ground."

He did not seem to have any experience in hunting mice or rats, but he killed them with a rapidity that seemed to confuse him. He air scented and would follow a trail, though both of these seemed novel to him.
"Explode the Code"

He didn't know what he was doing, but he liked it.

Patrick Burns over at Terrierman's Daily Dose coined the phrase "explode the code" to describe what has been happening since he arrived.  His inherent desire to hunt and kill has found expression.

Sparta will give voice, even if she suspects there might have been prey in the area sometime within the last 12 hours.  Stoic is silent unless there is something that needs to be killed right now.  So I got out of bed when he barked out the screen door thirty-minutes before my alarm was to go off this morning.

I've never had a dog catch a pocket gopher above ground before; but then again, I never had a Stoic standing guard before.

So I will continue to expand Stoic's skill set.  We will start some formal track training this afternoon.  Using the other terriers as mentors, I'll introduce him to larger prey: groundhog and raccoon.  I may even visit a few of the artificial earthdog events in the Twin Cities.  Sparta grew bored with them when she realized she was not allowed to kill the rat, but it is a good way to introduce dogs to underground work.

Sparta is great and the most enthusiastic hunter I have ever owned.  Stoic has the possibility of being even more gifted, if maybe a little less energetic.

Settling the Estate

There has been a lot of change over the decades, and the past decade more than most.  Change, however, is not the same thing as progress.

If you're sympathetic to the plight of homosexuals in the United States, you've seen progress.  If you subscribe to a Judeo-Christian worldview there has been regress.  The idea of progress, the only way to distinguish it from just ordinary change depends upon a preconceived notion about where we are, or at least ought to be, going.

Then we have the problem of determining the data set you are measuring.

If you are a Christian, Yazidi, or just not radical enough of a Sunni Muslim in Syria, Iraq, or Lebanon, you would say the world is in a state of regress, regardless of how much progress American homosexuals have experienced.

Progress is a Judeo-Christian idea.  Made necessary by progressive revelation, a god who both keeps on writing and disagreeing with himself is the well spring of innovation.  Eventually it was decided this god had a plan and was moving his people toward that plan.
First the Jews, then a splinter group of Jews called Christians.

If we want to set aside a religious worldview and still talk about how to constructively approach the problems we face we'd be wise to apply the observation by economist Thomas Sowell, "There are no solutions, only trade-offs."

TANSTAAFL, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."  If you want to achieve change, there will be a cost, usually our ideology.  When we start talking soberly about costs and benefits we are taking a step away from unspoken pre-conceived notions of progress toward an ideal based on more romantic vision than reality.

Reducing global undernourishment is a goal, I hope, we can agree on.  Turning the world into a patchwork of small organic farmers is a romantic vision.  Returning marginal land to a wild state is a goal.   Humanity evolving into a peaceful vegans is a utopian dream.

That secular society has retained the mental habits of thinking in terms of progress but it gets in the way.  Christendom is dead.  Diversity of opinion is deeply rooted in our culture and the Tea Party and Black Lives Matter each have different visions of progress.  It is much more fruitful to talk in terms of individual changes we want to make in society.

Progress is not the only theistic idea to be retained in our secular present.  The idea of the apocalypse continues to make the rounds in one form or another.  One decade we're headed to an ice age, in the next, global warming will cause the oceans to boil, peak oil, Y2K, the population bomb, and on and on.

Yes, climate change is happening.  Yes some of that change is a result of human activity.  The idea that change will result in the apocalypse, however is a faith based jump and I have sat through too many arguments about the rapture to be easily sold; Al Gore's poetic attempt to pull at my heartstrings notwithstanding.

Getting a little greener each year.
God is dead, but we've yet to settle his estate.

Injecting theistic habits of mind into strictly secular debates serves only to make rationale discussion more difficult than it needs to be.

How does this figure into a blog about hunting, fishing, the natural world, farming, and food more generally?  These issues serve as well springs of pseudo-religious thinking.

 The anti-GMO crowd's continues to influence crowds as they attempt to universalize their faith-based food taboo.  Change from GMO could mean yields go up.  Combined with the decreasing rate of population growth this means fewer acres would be required to meet human needs.  Marginal acres could be returned to forest or prairie.  This would be good for carbon reduction, wildlife, rain forests, and the malnourished.  Instead we argue about food taboos and a romantic vision of what farming "should be" instead of what is, we listen to our fears rather than facts.

Because we assume technological progress is the enemy of nature we ignore evidence that land-based plant life is thriving.  The earth is greener now than it was when the first astronauts looked down upon the blue pearl.  This has happen because we have applied high tech to farming not in spite of it.

This is change that should be cause for rejoicing but it is a heresy in certain circles of foodies and environmentalists who put ideology before results.  The ghost of a moralizing god lingers in their arguments.  Their vision of the promised land obscures data that suggests positive change could be found in a direction other than their "one true set" of beliefs.

Global warming apocalyptic thinking leads to shrill calls to subsidize solar or wind power at its current immature state instead of allowing the technology to continue to develop until it is viable on its own. Biofuel nonsense continues to support the idea of ethanol additives to gasoline, tying up 25% of our corn acreage.  Acreage that could be used for soy, wood products, or returned to a natural state.

Apocalyptic thinking also leads the global warming debate to focus on mitigation instead of adaptation.  If we're not all going to die in some Cormac McCarthy deathscape, we'd better get to work adapting our coasts for higher tides.  But having become convinced that what we face is not change but the apocalypse, we're tied up in arguments about whether Canadian oil will enter world markets through the United States or it own Pacific Coast.

The ghost of the holy continues to haunt us but the first step towards exorcising that ghost is to recognize it when it disrupts rational debate.  By watching our language, we manage our thoughts.  We're living in the Anthropocene.  It is time we started acting like it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

First Weekend of Bow Season

I didn't see any deer but it was a nice couple of days to be in the woods.

The mornings started out in the mid-forties, there was next to no wind, and the skies were clear.

Back to reality for the next couple of days, unless of course we get a tracking call.

They should have been coming out of that and toward me.
A nice coating of dew both mornings.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Scumbag Squirrel

It is the first day of bow season and all the old lessons are coming to mind.