Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

May 24, 2012

Great Pacific Garbage Patch, My Ass!

Filed under: gardening, Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 3:13 am

Lost and thrown away plastic is said to be accumulating in the middles of the big ocean gyres. Bottles, bags, nylon ropes and fishing nets, party cups and sundries are carried by winds, rivers, currents and boaters into the sea and swirl out towards the center. Some of the plastic gets tangled in nylon ropes or fishing nets to form little trash islands. Most of it is broken down by the sun, leaching toxic plastic additives and leaving lots of tiny fragments hanging around to choke marine animals.

Yes, this does seem to be a fact, but how about my backyard garbage patch? Back in a quiet corner, where I do my composting, plastic fragments seem to blow in from all over the neighborhood.

Plastic strewn over ground.

As a consequence of plastic coming to rest here, the soil is full of plastic bits and the compost I dug out to fill my vegetable box is full of plastic bits, too.

Similar plastic fragments

Plastic debris makes Bella sad.

Capris Sun packet buried under a weed.

When I moved into this house several years ago, I picked up a slew of trash from this area. Yet, I continue to unearth it. I wonder how long the neighborhood gyre has been dumping on that spot?

A root with numerous plastic hangers-on

Yes, I feel bad for the strangled sea birds, but also for my earthworms and viny creepers. Paper and cardboard debris would be destroyed here within a couple of years, and feed those roots and weird bugs.

I don’t see everyone around me about to become super-aware of this problem and avoid all plastic packaging and junk. And even if they all stop littering, little pieces of plastic tend to blow away (I’m even finding my own plastic label stakes from past years’ gardens). Could we please ban the use of plastic disposables? The problem with plastic is pretty clear, and it deserves some kind of response…

Did we really need to see the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to figure something’s gone awry?


May 21, 2012

The Inner Slave-driver

Filed under: gardening, Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , — paragardener @ 3:11 pm

I decided some time ago to swear off employment and support myself. I floundered around for awhile tying macrame hemp jewelery, but I didn’t really like selling it. Now I grow medical herbs for a steady group of clients.

My problem is that I can still feel pretty oppressed. Nowadays it isn’t my conditions of employment or my boss oppressing me; it’s just me.

The slave-driver within is a rude bastard to me. He gets me up in the morning, yelling about how I have to get ready to work. “Other people have to get up at six in the morning and drive to a factory,” he tells me, to guilt out any pleasure I might feel at getting up naturally, when I want.

Be your own boss.  While I’m working, the inner slave-driver watches everything I do and second-guesses me. A real slave-driver would have to pick on the other slaves sometimes, but this overseer is ever-present. What starts out as a concern for the plants and clients morphs into an obsession with correctly carrying out some program I’ve invented. I might as well work for a corporation!

Set your own hours.  By three in the afternoon, I’m exhausted of being picked on and picking on myself. I may yet force myself to work until five or six, if there’s anything to do, or I may shout at the slave-driver “I quit!”. In any case, once I’m “off,” I’m not going to touch anything dealing with the herb garden until the next day.

Well, a couple of days ago, I alleviated my boredom at 10:30 at night by going back to work with some little seedlings I’ve got under lights. It was strangely liberating to work at an odd hour. Why should I worry about clock time? The sun rises and sets. That’s reality — punching in and out, keeping track of time to the second, those are inventions of management. I am known to be unmanageable. And all of my friends run late, anyways.

Make money!  “If you were a more effective gardener,” says the slave-driver, “you would be making as much money as someone with a corporate job.” Um… so what? Life is not a money-making contest in the first place. In the second place: I don’t commute; I don’t waste money buying my lunches at Burger King or drinking with my coworkers when our shift ends. I have time to do things like brewing my own beer, which save money. Working for The Man doesn’t just make you money — it makes you spend money, too.

The money issue is inextricably tied up with the time issue. During “work time,” I must work at making money. The oppression of it all wears me out too much to attend to the brewing, baking and food gardening. Making money has taken priority over quality of life, and the quality of life stuff saves money anyways!

Mr. Slave-driver, you are fired. All of the school teachers and bosses I’ve had seem to have created you by colonizing my mind — you’re not even a real part of me, and you’re not helpful in any way. I get more done when I’m not listening to you. Self-employment apparently means using myself, so I’ll stay creatively non-employed but working. From now on, the slave-driver will be answered by the voice of Eric Cartman: “Screw you, I’ll do what I want!”

May 12, 2012

Repairing a Rusty Cauldron and a Scratched No-Stick Pan

Filed under: food, science — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 4:40 pm

The other day, I allowed my cast iron Dutch oven to rust. How was I to know I shouldn’t store it in the fridge?

Rings of rust on the counter, clearly left by a "Lodge" brand pan.

My cauldron left these rust rings on the counter.

The thing is a tad rust-prone. You ordinarily scrape it clean with water and no soap, and dry it right away.

In case of rust, you soap it up and scrub with steel wool or an S.O.S. pad (I used a “green scrubby”), dry it, wipe it with vegetable oil, bake it upside down at 400 Fahrenheit for an hour, and finally turn the oven off and let it all cool down gradually.

The bottom of the pot is now rust-free.

The repaired cauldron is ready for its next brew.

The other day, I shredded chicken with two forks in my Teflon no-stick frying pan. How was I to know that I would scratch the no-stick coating?

In case of scratches, throw out and buy new pan.

I feel kind of stupid to be taken in by the space-age New Pan, when the 300-year old pot design is more durable, no more sticky, and will not emit a cloud of poisonous pet-killing gas if accidentally overheated. Every year, cars get better gas mileage, microprocessors shrink and become faster, and pans from the very dawn of the Industrial Revolution remain supreme in the field of pan technology. Makes we wonder what other post-optimal technologies I’ve bought into.

May 9, 2012

Obama 59%, “Inmate 11593-051” 41%

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 9:53 pm

Your thrown-away vote counted. In a victory for the people against the Leviathan, West Virginians denied Barack Obama 41% of the vote in an “uncontested” election.

Keith Judd, Federal Inmate 11593-051, is doing hard time for extortion in Texarkana, Texas, but he managed to get himself on West Virginia’s Democratic Primary ballot. Apparently, in West Virginia this means submitting $2,500 and a notarized form. He took 41% of the vote, and above that many people who felt they couldn’t responsibly vote for the random guy they’d never of just abstained from the Presidential vote, and worried about voting for their U.S. Senator instead (20% more votes were cast for a “safe” Senate seat than for the Presidential spot.) President Obama, West Virginia rejects you.

Republicans are loving to flaunt that Obama is so unpopular that he was seriously challenged by an imprisoned felon with a nappy Rasta mullet and beard. However, Judd won almost as many votes as Mitt Romney, so their guy isn’t looking so strong in West Virginia, either.

Judd may have won a delegate to the Democratic Convention. Democrats active in the Party are feverishly reading through the organization’s by-laws right about now.

I’m not sure what to believe from Judd’s profile on Vote Smart. It lists some normal jobs such as teaching music and mentions previous runs for office, but there are also strange claims such as precognition and membership in the “Federation of Super Heroes, 1976-1982.” Judd supports the Tenth Amendment against Obamacare, and wants to dispense with bank-controlled money creation in favor of the government directly spending its own fiat money (not too bad an idea, IMHO).

Congratulations, West Virginia, we heard your message loud and clear. Always remember, dear reader, that you don’t have to vote for a despotic power-hound like Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. You may vote “none of the above” by checking some other box, or writing in the candidate of your choice. It will be pretty embarrassing for the elites, who pretend at democracy, when they can no longer muster a majority of voters for their awful, lying, betraying candidates.

May 7, 2012

Government Agencies to Love

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 1:04 am

I don’t trust or like the American government. I think it is basically settling into a fascist totalitarian mode of suppressing the people always and working on behalf of huge corporations and superwealthy elites only.

Still, the government is okay at a few things, in spite of conservative claims that the only good government program is a purchase of guns ‘n’ ammo. Here’s a short list of government agencies worth keeping… these programs do what they are supposed to do, and serve everyone without creating tons of repression or perverse effects.

#1 — The Post Office. For some reason my particular post office won’t stop sending me past residents’ mail, and most of the rest is junk, but it is still nice to be able to mail greeting cards and so on.

As electronic commerce and communication replace letters, more and more boxes are getting delivered, and in this field the USPS faces formidable competitors such as FedEx and UPS. USPS even subcontracted its own express and overnight package delivery to FedEx. As a result of these changes, the Post Office is in rough financial shape. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe gave a 2011 speech recommending Congress allow the Post Office to cut benefits, cut delivery days and grant more discretion to the management.

I see no reason to rush to cut USPS back. They could receive some government funding, perhaps, to keep their services in effect while avoiding bankruptcy. Some very rural post offices are community hubs. Some stamp series have cultural weight. People might return to writing letters when they realize how effortlessly the government can skim through your e-mail. Lots of people work at the Post Office. So… it might have more significance than its life as a business.

My favorite thing about USPS is that it is actually authorized  by the US Constitution. Article 1 (Congress), Section 8, “The Congress shall have Power… To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”

#2 – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Do you like checking the weather report at, or on the Weather Channel, or on a smartphone app? How about the radio or the country’s several remaining daily papers? Well then, you are a welfare baby sucking at the government teat.

As far as I can tell, every weather “forecasting” outfit in the United States pretty much plagiarizes NOAA’s forecasts. I go ahead and get my weather directly from their web site to skip the middleman. So much for the uncanny and infinite superiority of free market private enterprise.

Besides predicting weather, NOAA is the government’s eyes and ears monitoring climate change, coastal and ocean ecology, fisheries and a few other such matters. Congress and corporations all lean on NOAA’s information to make educated decisions.

NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce. It loosely falls under Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce, since the oceans and atmosphere are an interstate phenomenon.

#3 – National Park Service. National treasures from the National Mall to Yellowstone are maintained and managed by the Park Service. That’s important work: Japan needs Mt. Fuji, Paris needs the Eiffel Tower, and we need the Grand Canyon to make us us.

Article 4, section 3 of the Constitution authorized Congress to manage property: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.” Actually, the clause was meant to allow for managing new territories in the West that were not yet States, but it still seems to apply.

#4 – NASA. NASA’s vision is “To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.” It might as well be, “To boldly go where no one has gone before… and send pictures back.” I would like for the people to continue funding NASA as long as publishing houses continue producing new coffee-table books full of nebula photos.

NASA was created for defense purposes, but I don’t think that it is relevant in defense terms today (the CIA and military branches have their own spy satellites, and will develop their own killer satellites in due time). Where in the Constitution is Congress authorized to boldly go? Do we need to plan new States on Mars, or what?

I suggest deploying NASA to the following Constitutional purposes:

1) Earth study. As strongly impacts interstate and international commerce, and national security. Climate change, the Pacific garbage patch, and the navigability of the Northwest Passage is crucial stuff that we should monitor by satellite.

2) Deflecting deadly meteors. Eventually, we are bound to lose some city or other to meteors unless we develop a plan to watch for, and deflect them.

3) Tracking space junk. A threat to all development, private and public, in space.


Well, those are some government agencies that I love in a fairly uncomplicated way. When it comes to entitlement programs, I always have to wonder about the perverse effects (do food stamps raise the price of food? do means tests inspire people to make themselves appear broke?) Nonetheless I feel that the government should maintain existing entitlements as long as the dollar remains good currency, for the people depending on that help and to keep some life in the economy, as well.

This blog is short on fact and long on unsubstantiated opinion. Like Socrates harassing the grocery shoppers of Athens, I really just want to put some questions to the people. What government services do you value? and… Do you believe in a government limited by the Constitution? Or can the government take on any power that is pragmatic at the time?

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