Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

April 13, 2014

Silmarillion of the Midwest

I always wished that Michigan had a longer history. Our oldest town, Sault Ste. Marie, dates back to 1668, whilst towns in Europe have cathedrals from the 1300’s and ruins left by the Romans. In the countryside, Europe has standing stones that might as well date from the dawn of time. Here, we tend to tear everything down after about 30 years. The buildings we leave standing are fashionably ugly.

I was recently very satisfied to discover the Seven Fires Prophecy of the local First Nations. The prophecy is recorded on an ancient wampum belt, with various translations into English available on the ‘Net. Each Fire is a chapter in the history of the Anishinaabe peoples, such as the Ottawa and Chippewa. This is a history studded with magical events, not unlike reading Tolkien’s histories of Middle Earth or certain books of the Old Testament for that matter. It’s also a total cure for those who slip into believing the settler mythology about conquering an empty, wilderness continent.

Five or six of the Seven Fires have passed into history, but there are still a few events yet to come. Lately, with a Pan-Indian identity movement afoot in the land, the Seven Fires Prophecy is seen as applying in some ways to the entire North American continent; so, all North Americans become part of this unfolding story.

I’ve read a few versions of the Prophecy, and at each point in the story I’m going to relate whichever version I like best. That’s not quite a legitimate way to do history, so if you want a more accurate version, you’re going to have to poke around for yourself. As far as I can tell, the last keeper of the wampum belt, Grandfather William Commanda, died in 2011. If there is a new keeper s/he hasn’t made a public splash yet, so I don’t know who might be a legitimate authority on this topic. Assume that all inaccuracies are my fault:

The Anishinaabe lived on the shores of the Great Salt Ocean. A prophet came to them from their Mikmaq cousins, and told them that a light-skinned people would soon be coming to these shores. The Anishinaabe should divide: some would remain on the shores to greet the light-skinned people as brothers and sisters, and some would travel deep into the continent until the intentions of the newcomers were known. The travelling band would know they were on the right route by finding sites marked with sacred cowrie shells (which only occur naturally near salt water). They would find seven stopping places, the first and last of which would be turtle-shaped islands. The journey would be over when they found a place where food grows upon the water.

10,000 canoes were filled with Anishinaabe, from itty-bitty babies to withered elders. They headed up the St. Lawrence River and found a turtle-shaped island marked with cowrie shells, Mooniyaang, the current site of Montreal. There they split, half of the people continuing up the St. Lawrence and the other half moving up the Ottawa River. For the St. Lawrence band, the second stopping-place marked with cowrie shells was discovered near Kche Nisajewen, or Niagara Falls.

Around this time, a second prophet spoke to the people: “You will know the Second Fire because at this time the nation will be camped by a large body of water. In this time the direction of the Sacred Shell will be lost. The Midewiwin (Medicine Lodge) will diminish in strength. A boy will be born to point the way back to the traditional ways. He will show the direction to the stepping stones to the future of the Anishinaabe people.”

When the Niagara Falls region could no longer support the Anishinaabe’s growing numbers, some left in canoes once again. They discovered a third cowrie-shell-marked island in Lake St. Clair, where they established the third stopping place. From here, the sign of the cowrie shell was lost. The people struck out in different directions and divided into three bands: the Odowa (Ottawa), Keepers of Trade, camped along the North sides of Lakes Huron and Michigan and the south of Superior. The Ojibwe (Chippewa), Keepers of Medicine, camped on the North shore of Lake Superior. The Potawatomi, Keepers of the Fire, migrated to establish villages all around the southern half of Lake Michigan.

Search though they might, the Three Fires people could not find the next site marked with cowrie shells. The Midewinin declined in power and the people were stricken with all manner of ill health and disease. A Potawatomi boy dreamed of the next site, and called the Odowa and Ojibwe to meet his people East of Lake St. Clair. There they formed the Three Fires Council, an alliance of the three bands, which continues through today. From the camp on Lake St. Clair, an expedition paddled up Lake Huron, past the “stepping stone islands,” to Manitoulin Island, Lake Huron’s big island.

On Manitoulin Island, the Three Fires people met the Mississauga band. The Mississauga were Anishinaabe who had gone up the Ottawa River. They had never been lost, always maintaining cohesion with their Algonquin and Nipissing offshoots. The Medicine Lodges of these northern bands had never declined. On Manitoulin Island, the Mississauga reconnected the Three Fires peoples with their ancient medicine.

The Anishinaabe knew that the Second Fire was concluding and they were entering the time of the Third Fire, as the prophet had said: “The Anishinaabe will find the path to their chosen ground, a land in the West where they must move their families. This will be the land where food grows upon the water.”

Pushing out from Manitoulin, the fifth stop was at Senajewen, now known as Sault St. Marie. Those who remained at the fifth stop are now known as Saulteaux or Saulteurs, the people of the rapids and waterfalls. Others pushed on westward, searching for their chosen land.

One group paddled along the southern shore of Lake Superior, another along the northern shore, and they soon met up at Spirit Island near the western tip of the lake (the sixth stop). Here they finally found the food that grows on the water, wild rice. When a group stopped on Madeline Island and planted tobacco near the shores, cowrie shells washed up onto the beach, announcing that the seventh stopping place had been found and the journey was over. The Anishinaabe now ranged from the East Coast to the timber line dividing Minnesota.

At the opening of the Fourth Fire, the people were visited by a pair of prophets. The first prophet said:

You will know the future of our people by the face the light skinned race wears. If they come wearing the face of brotherhood then there will come a time of wonderful change for generations to come. They will bring new knowledge and articles that can be joined with the knowledge of this country. In this way, two nations will join to make a mighty nation. This new nation will be joined by two more so that four will make for the mightiest nation of all. You will know the face of the brotherhood if the light skinned race comes carrying no weapons, if they come bearing only their knowledge and a hand shake.”

The second prophet said:

Beware if the light skinned race comes wearing the face of death. You must be careful because the face of brotherhood and the face of death look very much alike. If they come carrying a weapon … beware. If they come in suffering … They could fool you. Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brothers, let them prove it. Do not accept them in total trust. You shall know that the face they wear is one of death if the rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat. You shall know them by these many things.”

The French arrived with a face of brotherhood, trading useful articles like steel hatchets and iron pots for the animal furs the Anishinaabe collected in abundance. Before the French and Indians could forge a mighty new nation, unfortunately, the British and their American offshoot arrived with the face of death. Through a series of conquests and rip-off treaties, the Anishinaabe were confined to tiny reservations, assimilated into American culture, or shipped off to Indian Country in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The prophet of the Fifth Fire said:

In the time of the Fifth Fire there will come a time of great struggle that will grip the lives of all native people. At the warning of this Fire there will come among the people one who holds a promise of great joy and salvation. If the people accept this promise of a new way and abandon the old teachings, then the struggle of the Fifth Fire will be with the people for many generations. The promise that comes will prove to be a false promise. All those who accept this promise will cause the near destruction of the people.”

Many hold the false promise of the Fifth Fire to be Christianity, which basically failed to deliver the native peoples from miserable conditions. Others think that it was capitalism, or Federal recognition of the tribes. The many false promises extended to the native peoples render this prophecy obscure, but surely many of the native peoples of the continent were nearly destroyed. Languages and traditions went extinct.

In the time of the Sixth Fire it will be evident that the promise of the Fifth Fire came in a false way. Those deceived by this promise will take their children away from the teachings of the Elders. Grandsons and granddaughters will turn against the Elders. In this way the Elders will lose their reason for living … they will lose their purpose in life. At this time a new sickness will come among the people. The balance of many people will be disturbed. The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.”

Compulsory schooling in the ways of the pale-skinned people, even including boarding schools that literally separated children from their elders, combined with new sicknesses of alcoholism and mental illness to destroy the balance of many peoples and turn the cup of life (almost) into a cup of grief.

This story is starting to suck. I don’t know that I want to write any further…

During the Sixth Fire, a group of visionaries called together all of the Medicine Lodges of the Anishinaabe. They gathered all of the sacred bundles and birch bark scrolls and placed them in a hollow ironwood log. They tied ropes around the log and lowered it down a cliff, burying it in the side of the cliff. The log is still waiting in the cliff. During a time when Indians can practice their religions without fear, a boy will dream of the location of the log to restore the old knowledge.

Not too long ago, the final prophet visited the people. This prophet was a very young man with a strange light in his eyes. He said: In the time of the Seventh Fire New People will emerge. They will retrace their steps to find what was left by the trail. Their steps will take them to the Elders who they will ask to guide them on their journey. But many of the Elders will have fallen asleep. They will awaken to this new time with nothing to offer. Some of the Elders will be silent because no one will ask anything of them. The New People will have to be careful in how they approach the Elders. The task of the New People will not be easy.

If the New People will remain strong in their quest the Water Drum of the Midewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. There will be a rebirth of the Anishinaabe Nation and a rekindling of old flames. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.

The New People of this time are certainly the people of the First Nations rebuilding their cultures. With a great interest in traditional ways arising, with a new Pan-Indian consciousness building, with certain new protections such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place, the time may not be too far off when a boy dreams of an ironwood log embedded in a cliffside.

The last prophet spoke a few more words: “In this time the light-skinned people will be given a choice between two roads. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood. If the light skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth’s people.”

The path of materialism, of economic growth, is obviously bringing suffering and death. My people launch wars across the globe to seize oil and opium fields, we disrupt the climate, reduce far-away peoples to peonage on plantations and in sweatshops, and we even tip the hormonal balance of the environment with BPA and other estrogens and anti-androgens, all in the name of increasing the standard of living.

The other path is called the path of spiritualism. This needn’t involve supernatural beliefs. Learning to be sane and build sane communities should be sufficient. The Anishinaabe used to practice going hungry for days at a time in the winter and early spring, adjusting themselves to their environment. In the settler culture, the response to a stress is almost always external: if we risk facing hunger, we need a giant well-stocked freezer. If we’re depressed, we need pills. If we’re bored, we need more television channels.

The material path is like trying to cover the whole world in leather. The spiritual path is like strapping on shoes.

Hopefully we turn from the destructive path, light the Eighth Fire and join into the union of four nations mentioned in the Fourth Fire prophecy (many believe that Africans and Asians will join Native American and Europeans in forming a new syncretic culture symbolized by the medicine wheel’s four colors of black, yellow, red and white.) The new nation will be guided by respect for all people and living things.

I really doubt that the settler culture can turn aside from its headlong rush into ruin. Still, each of us can decide which path we’re going to heed for ourselves. Whichever way things go, this story is not over just yet.

April 14, 2013

On the belief in spirits in disease

Filed under: magic, science — Tags: , , , , , — paragardener @ 8:18 pm

Recently, I have read much of an ignorant superstition regarding disease: this, the concept of diseases being caused by malevolent spirits. These spirits are invisible creatures, which live in the air and seek to wreak mayhem on any human animal they come into contact with. They will attach themselves to a person, and even spread from person to person, or linger in the victim’s home. It is believed by the ignorant, that the home of the afflicted may be “cleansed” with herbs and smoke such as sage and wormwood, to drive the spirits out; for, these dark-minded individuals believe that the spirits of plants may be called upon to battle the evil spirits of disease. (Thus, the fools deny themselves the true and helpful medicines known to our doctors of today, such as preparations of arsenic and mercury.)

This belief in invisible agents of disease is known to be false by all Men of science, who know disease to be caused by an imbalance of the four humours (phlegm, black bile, yellow bile, and blood.) Thus, the barefoot primitive and the superstitious peasant will rely on the magical qualities of the witch-doctor’s plants, such as ephedra or belladonna, to treat asthma, to their great detriment, instead of looking to a medicine with the empirically-validated phlegm-drying virtues of “warmth” and “dryness,” such as Indian tobacco.

As one cannot argue with the willfully ignorant, I can only pray that our Legislators take decisive action for the licensing of doctors and pharmacists, and to punish swiftly and surely the selling of false and deleterious medicines.

[Disease really is spread by invisible organisms. Sage and wormwood are antiseptic. Arsenic and mercury were really put into medicines. Ephedra dilates bronchioles and belladonna reduces inflammations and spasms. And, tobacco was used to treat asthma under the Four Humours system of medicine, with rather limited success.]

February 24, 2013

The Great Nutmeg Question

Nutmeg is the seed or kernel of Myristica fragrans tree fruits, grated down into a musky-smelling spice. Lately, it seems as if few people are cooking with nutmeg except to sprinkle it on Christmas cookies or other holiday dishes. It was once greatly popular and expensive in Europe, as people liked it for medicine and flavor, but they had no idea where it came from. The fact that people had to buy the spice from Sindbad-like Arab traders who would not reveal the spice’s faraway source lent it a certain mystique.

It turns out that nutmeg is more than it seems, a potent mind-bending drug, which can induce long journeys away from the everyday perception of reality. The fact that a totally innocuous kitchen spice can do this raises certain questions about people’s relationships with the plant, and the relationship of the essential oils in spices to psychoactive drugs.

Firstly, the human-plant relations side of it: as nutmeg is a powerful plant drug, I would assume that there are indigenous people somewhere in the world who are familiar with its use in ritual. I would assume wrong. By the time Europeans and history discovered the Banda Islands, the secret source of nutmeg, the natives were already exporting the whole lot to meet world demand for nutmeg as a flavoring and make money. Nutmeg does have traditional uses as a sedative, sleep aid and analgesic. Writers occasionally note it as a mood elevator or health tonic. As the kernels traveled the world, people occasionally used them in smoking mixtures, snuff or chew, to nobody’s concern. And then, around the turn of the twentieth century, things took a strange turn.

A rumor went around the United States that nutmeg was an abortifacient. Perhaps this is true at a dosage that drives one to death’s door… in any case, young women would sometimes take down spoonfuls of nutmeg hoping to cause an abortion, and then, to their surprise, become highly inebriated with untrustworthy senses and delusions about the nature of the world. Nutmeg’s effects can last for over twenty-four hours after taking it. Some women thought that they were going mad or did mad things and ended up in newspaper stories. In 1902, a Dr. E.E. Hinman reported on treating nutmeg poisonings to the Northwestern Lancet: “In all cases of nutmeg poisoning there was prostration with partial or complete coma. Most of them had vertigo, delirium, chiefly hallucinations of sight, rapid, feeble pulse, and free urination. In five instances the nutmegs were taken to produce abortion, and in every case without accomplishing the desired result.”

Hysterical woman falling out of chair.

Prostrated by nutmeg.

Soon, prisoners caught on to the story about nutmeg causing delirium and hallucinations, and they were smuggling it out of the kitchen to experience the terror and insanity for themselves, such is the human drive to experience altered states. Actually, the experience may not run so terribly for everybody (prisoner Malcolm X measured doses out in a matchbox, and described the effects as being like four or five joints). Still, the seed is surprisingly strong stuff. Fortunately, most people don’t like it as a drug — the heavy effects of higher doses come with heavy side effects — so it is little abused, and the US government hasn’t snatched it out of our spice racks yet. Periodically, the news media notices that teenagers or ultra-poor people are getting high on nutmeg, and there is almost a big deal made of it. Occasionally, someone takes enough to do themselves in.

So, that is the anthropology of nutmeg in brief. There is still the question of how nutmeg does its thing. Since we don’t really understand how the human brain correlates with consciousness all that well, we can’t really truly describe the mechanism of action of any psychoactive drug whatsoever. We can, however, take a stab at relating the chemical constituents of the seed to better-understood drugs and their pharmacology.

One of the first strong efforts at dissecting the action of nutmeg took place in the mid-1960’s, to be published in 1967. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, a prolific American inventor of synthetic psychedelics, and two Chilean colleagues, Thornton Sargent and Claudia Naranjo, submitted an article to Psychopharmacology Bulletin: “The Chemistry and Psychopharmacology of Nutmeg and Several Related Phenylisopropylamines.” The team assumed that nutmeg’s power lay in the volatile or “essential” oil fraction of the spice, not in its fatty butter or pulpy cellulose structure. So, they pressed the kernels to express the butter, and steam distilled the essential oil from the crushed remainders. They fractionally distilled the oil, meaning that it was distilled and redistilled until each individual compound was almost completely separated from every other compound. By analyzing each fraction, the team could determine exactly which compounds were in nutmeg oil and how much of each.

Many of the chemicals in nutmeg oil are common throughout nature or well-understood, and thus were seen as poor candidates for explaining its psychoactivity (for example, pinene and sabinene are present in high concentrations across many plant species. However, the most interesting thing known about their pharmacology was that they are irritants.) Other chemicals are present in such tiny amounts that they are probably not the main contributors to nutmeg’s action (unless they are extremely potent).

Eventually, the researchers focused their attention on three “phenylisopropylamine” compounds: safrole, myristicin, and elemicin. These components of Oil of Nutmeg bear a striking resemblance to a series of synthetic psychedelics Sasha Shulgin was working on, modifications of the mescaline molecule. — — The researchers hypothesized that the human liver adds nitrogen to the three phenylisopropylamines as they pass through, so converting them into their psychedelic amphetamine counterparts — safrole to MDA, myristicin to MMDA, and elemicin to TMA. The liver is known to “transaminate” many kinds of compounds, lending the hypothesis some plausibility.

Nutmeg oil components and their hypothetical products

Phenylisopropylamine Psychedelic Amphetamine

SAFROLE

SAFROLE

MDA

MDA

ELEMICIN

ELEMICIN

TMA

TMA

MYRISTICIN

MYRISTICIN

MMDA

MMDA

If the researchers’ hypothesis is true, the effects of nutmeg should roughly correspond to the effects of MDA, MMDA, and TMA in the same proportions as nutmeg oil contains safrole, myristicin, and elemicin. All three psychedelic amphetamines have been explored somewhat as single compounds. MDA catalyzes an opening of empathy and creates sparkling visual changes. MMDA is a psychedelic generally reported as being relaxing, while exhibiting the wrinkle that impressive visual effects are only achieved with the eyes closed. TMA is definitely psychedelic and nausea-causing, but I cannot find enough reports on it to comment as to the particular character of its activity. In general, psychedelics activate certain serotonin receptors which cause “sensory gating channels” in the brain and mind to open up, increasing awareness and the sense of novelty, as well as sometimes creating special effects such as synesthesia. Psychedelics do not necessarily act as stimulants, even though many are chemically described as “amphetamines.”

Sasha Shulgin devised a way to challenge the transamination theory. He prepared a cocktail of psychedelic amphetamines to imitate the effects of 5 grams of average nutmeg, assuming that the phenylisopropylamines would be metabolized with 100% efficiency. It consisted of 100 mg of white powder, divided into 1 part (by mass?) MDA, 2 parts TMA, and 5 parts MMDA. He reports that the cocktail “produced quite a sparkle and considerable eye-dilation. But then, I have never taken 5 grams of nutmeg, so I cannot make any comparisons.” Nice experimental design, Dr. Shulgin! Couldn’t you have taken 2 or 3 days out of your busy life to get high on nutmeg (as an experimental control)? Writing in the Entheogen Review, Ibo Nagano describes 5 grams of nutmeg as a threshold dose “marked by euphoria, relaxation, mood elevation, hilarity and enhancement of the senses,” which I suppose could mean the same as “quite a sparkle.” Please note that nutmegs vary considerably in their potency and exact composition, and you cannot presume to get certain effects at certain dosages unless you know already know your source pretty well — and in that case, put down the shaker bottle, you addict!

Shulgin’s imitation nutmeg amphetamine cocktail superficially supported the transamination hypothesis. However, on another occasion, human volunteers consumed myristicin in the amount present in almost 40 g nutmeg — a dosage seen in typical emergency room visits — yet the volunteers experienced only subtle effects. As myristicin is by far the most abundant aromatic in Oil of Nutmeg, and it makes such a lame psychedelic, we can rule out the idea of it being converted efficiently by the liver. If 100% of the material was converted, each volunteer would have synthesized about 400 mg of MMDA in their own body, and likely been knocked on their butt. Additionally, while the transamination reactions were made to work in laboratory liver cultures, several investigators have not been able to demonstrate such a reaction in living animals.

There is still a possibility for partial transamination of the phenylisoproylamines in the human body. Perhaps small amounts of nutmeg oil are transformed into psychedelic amphetamines, which act synergistically to create a stronger effect than any one would produce alone. On the other hand, the phenylisoproylamines might be active at some of the same receptors as psychedelics, but at a weaker level. In the end, the 1967 research suggested a lot of things and proved almost nothing.

No one seemed interested in the problem again until 2000, when Bernard C Sangalli and William Chiang submitted a paper to Clinical Toxicology. A young woman swallowed roughly 20 g of nutmeg on a friend’s advice without really knowing what it was. When she woke up the next morning still feeling drunk and high after dreaming of being covered in centipedes, she asked her mother to take her to the hospital — thus, becoming the case study that spurred Sangalli and Chiang to investigate nutmeg. (She recovered after a few days’ rest.)

The duo list many components of nutmeg oil with notes about any known actions of those compounds. Some are stimulants, others depressants, others anesthetics, and so on. Where information is lacking, the authors suggest a strategy of comparing nutmeg to other plant materials containing some of the same or similar chemicals. For example, methysticin and kavain are two compounds from kava kava, which contain within them structures strongly resembling myristicin. The kava compounds are known local anesthetics, which work by inhibiting voltage-operated sodium channels (making nerves less conductive). Thus, the anesthetic medicinal/side effect of nutmeg may be tentatively pinned on myristicin and its interaction with the voltage-gated sodium channels. To hypothesize about each nutmeg effect and compound in this way, and then to test each hypothesis, sounds like a fun project to amuse a few research teams for the next several decades. Nutmeg is not amenable to a simplistic, reductionist approach — there are clearly multiple compounds working together to create the nutmeg syndrome, and quite possibly none of these compounds will create impressive effects working alone. I must say that this is less satisfying than Shulgin’s transamination hypothesis, but it does seem to be the truth: this is one tough nut to crack. At least it is providing us with good questions to ask.

One final note. Sangalli and Chiang lament that nutmeg’s “use is perpetuated in easy access resources such as the Internet.” Nutmeg use was perpetuated throughout the twentieth century, mostly in the absence of the Internet. I believe that having a lack of information perpetuates nutmeg use. People with adequate information would probably turn nutmeg down, or at least keep the dose limited to levels that others report enjoying. People who end up in the E.R. were usually working from ignorance or faulty information, so the researchers’ attitude of “let’s keep this information locked up in libraries where no one will look at it” is completely counterproductive. I kind of have to celebrate the honest people who share their awkward nutmeg experiences via Youtube and Erowid and the like. This young woman didn’t regret her experience but I hardly think she’s going to inspire a thousand imitators (I believe that she is a smaller person who took about 20 g, based on her previous “Nutmeg High” video):

January 13, 2013

They put mind-control drugs in the drinking water.

Filed under: magic, Vinting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:55 pm

Imagine that your government mandated your drinking water supply be laced with a pharmaceutical agent — a drug that causes sedation, depression in a certain proportion of patients, loss of sex drive and sometimes male impotence. This would seem to be a vile New World Order scheme for cowing a sheep-like populace, preventing revolts and dwindling the population.

Indeed, the drinking water was drugged to control behavior among the masses. I’m not talking about the fluoride in your city water, though — I’m talking about hops in the beer, and the scene is Europe in the late Middle Ages / early Renaissance.

Medieval Europeans didn’t know how to sanitize water to make it safe, but they did know that beer was safe. They drank it all day long (although some of the beers were too weak to go to market today.) In the Dark Ages, there were many beer recipes in circulation… some called for malt and water only, but that was not most people’s favorite beer. Plain beer has no bitter element to balance the sweetness, and doesn’t keep as long as beer infused with bitter herbs. Other beers were brewed with juniper or wormwood, or with specific herbs to treat specific maladies.

The most popular beer was the one backed up by Church authority. In many places, the local monks held a monopoly on making gruit, a brain-bending combination of herbs such as marsh rosemary, yarrow, and sweet gale (Myrica gale.) The village people would pony up cash for the secret-formula gruit, and proceed to brew their own beer with it. Gruit beer is said to be stimulating and highly inebriating. To Protestants, the gruit system was a big problem, because 1) it supported the authority of the Church and 2) it was too much fun, too indulgent, and had to be sinful.

Their solution appeared in the form of hops. Very late in the Middle Ages, brewers were experimenting with hops as an alternative to gruit. Its main advantage was that it could be grown in one’s own beer garden, avoiding the priestly layer of secrecy and control. Hops is bitter and preservative, and it can be bred into varieties producing a decent range of different aromas. The downside of hops is that it causes sleepiness, weakens the male libido (through estrogen-like chemistry), and is contraindicated for depressives. It’s not an evil plant; the other side of the coin is that it’s good for menopausal symptoms and for people who suffer anxiety without depression.

Apparently, the side effects of hops were of no concern to the Protestants. I don’t think that they consciously set out to sedate people — it’s just that sedating people didn’t rate as a disadvantage. Hops was considered an anti-drug, the tame alternative to everything from heather to henbane. Hops was mandated into Bavarian beer in 1516, with the Reinheitsgebot or German Purity Law — the only ingredients allowed in beer henceforth would be barley, water and hops. The Purity Law would spread to many European nations and locales. To the modern Westerner, the Purity Law is an assurance that there is no cheapass rice or maize in the brew. To someone living almost 500 years ago, it meant something different… it meant that to drink something that was safe and dysentery-free, you had to dull yourself down with hops: that is a mass drugging of the population through the drinking water supply, no doubt.

This could be a sad tale of the subjugation of my ancestors. However, this story points to a wide-open new frontier in brewing… everything from pine branches to saffron has been used in beer. Yet we today rely almost exclusively on hops, even reflexively hopping beers with other spices added. There is no need to do so, especially with bitter herbs!

A homebrewer can easily buy some unhopped malt extract and brew it with the addition of any plant product they choose. The starting place for reclaiming our centuries-dormant brewing traditions has got to be “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers” by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I will double-check his information for assurance of safety, as I am just too self-conscious to converse with plants as Buhner does, and therefore I need empirical data regarding safe dosage! This also raises the question of what I can brew into a beer, and just hand it to someone as a beer, as against when a beer becomes a “drug.” I suppose I shall have to embark upon a serious, long-term effort to bioassay these strange brews, using the researcher as test subject.

Meanwhile, the struggle between “puritans” and the free-minded goes on. The high priests of public health are considering what level of lithium to put in city water in order to reduce violent behavior. Wild people of the world, take some joy in the fight! It won’t end in our lifetime!

November 28, 2012

Patriotic Patriarchs Toss Aside the Wimpy Enemy

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 7:00 pm
Lincoln beats a secession petitioner and steps back into a movie poster.

Lincoln beats a petitioner.

Ubermensch threatening a Jew

The powerful and the weak.

Strong arms versus wimps holding up papers.

Strong arms versus wimps holding up papers.

Knocking the little guy down

Knocking the little guy down

Is cartoonist Rob Tornoe looking to the wrong role models?

I’m not arguing that Lincoln is just like Hitler or that secessionists are persecuted like Jews or anything in that ballpark. I’m just pointing to the recycling of symbols and stories that should have been retired long ago.

August 24, 2012

Carryin’ On the Cosmic Struggle

The universe doesn’t suck, people don’t suck. People who want to control the universe, suck.

In this video, pompously entitled “Humanity’s Greatest Secret,” Alex Jones preaches on ultimate meanings with way more insight than I’d have credited him with. His mythology speaks to my recent interest in balancing wonder and curiosity with the need to keep an eye on the dangerous and disgusting. For Alex Jones, the evilness is totally embodied in the globalists and their various plans for New World Orders. If that’s not your worldview, relax, it can’t be that hard to imagine it for twenty minutes. You already know of about a million instances where power corrupted…

“Humanity’s Greatest Secret” puts the struggle for the control or freedom of humanity onto a grand and magnificent scale, as in the Wrinkle in Time or His Dark Materials series-es. Don’t let the Spectres or Echthroi take you, friends…

“I’m merely an ant in a great colony,” cried the human being. But you are special: you are the universe having a lucid dream, pretty much. It took a lot of “Creation” to get to this point. You therefor deserve some respect (NOT to be treated as an unwitting experimental subject, a member of an unwanted caste, a draftee in a war of aggression, or any of that other bullshit the great Masters of the Universe do to us. Nor to take shit from anyone else.)

Next post, I swear I will just make pickles or something. Things are literally taking their time to ferment or ripen around here, so I will report back when I’ve learned something sufficiently interesting!

August 18, 2012

Is My Anti-Concentration Camp Stance Unreasonably Radical?

It takes a lot of bravery to stand up and tell the world this, but I am opposed to rounding people up because of their politics or ethnicity, and sticking them in concentration camps. I know that this may place me outside of the political mainstream, into the “extremes” populated by terrorists and morons.

Asked my Facebook crowd:

“Any limit to what kind of tyranny a politician can support, and you will not vote for them? Would you boycott politicians who supported the Patriot Act? Indefinite military detention? Concentration camps for dissidents? Please tell me where you draw the line.”

Received an answer with four “likes”:

“The whole thing is rigged! I don’t want to vote for anyone because they all seem to suck!! I however feel compelled to vote Democrat, to keep the Republicans out of office, but damn, its like you are sitting on Death Row, and they’re asking you,…. how do you want to die? Lethal Injection or the Gas Chamber….”

Really? I know some smart and tough-minded people. Can’t we draw a line at concentration camps? Instead, we’d split a hair as to which way we’d rather die: “I support Mitt Romney for Zyklon-B! Oppose Obama and his one-step incineration plan, it will kill jobs!”

We need to be able to coordinate, draw a line, and not allow our government to cross it. In this world, governments turn against their people all the time. “Democide,” murder by one’s own government, is a leading cause of death in the world. In the twentieth century, you were more likely to be murdered by your government than to die in a car crash OR battle OR be murdered by a fellow OR drink yourself to death. Democide is a bigger killer than tobacco or diabetes. Alert the public health department at your local university.

My source on democide claims that only about 2,000 Americans were killed by the American government during the 20th century, in lynchings, attacks on striking workers and so on. It’s more of an export than a locally-enjoyed product. America, however, we’re exceptional in our own special way.

The police state in America is on par with the Soviets’ at their peak of repression

If, like me, you grew up in the 1980’s, you remember that the Soviet Union was known as the Evil Empire, and we and they kept enough nuclear weapons pointed at each other to obliterate all of our cities and irradiate the countryside for decades. The Soviet Union was Evil because it granted its people no freedom of speech, no meaningful vote, and it sent ridiculous numbers of its people to inhumane prisons known as “the gulag.”

The United States imprisons a greater proportion of its people than any other nation in the world (760 / 100,000). That proportion blows away the EU’s rate of 135  or the world average of 166. It’s similar to the rate of imprisonment at the Soviet Union’s repressive peak (823 / 100,000, or, to be honest, it depends on what estimate you accept, as apparently the gulag did not have its paperwork together).

“Sure, there are that many Americans in jail,” you say. “That’s because Americans are drug-addled, church-shirking moral midgets. We still have more rights than people in those other countries! We still have the freedom to tape patriotic slogans on the bumpers of our cars, and they don’t have that!”

Meanwhile, the FBI is posting flyers in the back rooms of coffee shops, encouraging baristas to narc on anyone who views content of “an extreme/radical nature with violent themes,” such as my blog entry today (tip your barista well). A diet blogger was charged, earlier this year, for “practicing nutrition without a license” for discussing the diet that cured his diabetes. So freedom of speech doesn’t extend to health or politics: however, thanks to the cussing canoeist and his lawyer, it is lawful in Michigan for me to swear in front of women and children. Well, to quote Detroit’s homeboy Eminem, “fuck, shit, cunt, ass, shoobadee-doowhop.” Any freedoms we have, we have because some brave soul was willing to risk prosecution testing the laws out in a courtroom. You can’t just count on your rights being there for you tomorrow, as some prosecutor is always out there, also testing your rights while not personally risking jail time.

As for due process, a major obstacle to rounding people up into camps, government lawyers are arguing in court for the right to kidnap Americans in the name of national security, and stick them in military custody. Tangerine Bolen, a plaintiff in the case against NDAA’s due-process ending provisions, wrote in the UK Guardian:

In a May hearing, Judge Katherine Forrest issued an injunction against it [the bad NDAA provision]; this week, in a final hearing in New York City, US government lawyers asserted even more extreme powers – the right to disregard entirely the judge and the law. On Monday 6 August, Obama’s lawyers filed an appeal to the injunction – a profoundly important development that, as of this writing, has been scarcely reported.

In the earlier March hearing, US government lawyers had confirmed that, yes, the NDAA does give the president the power to lock up people like journalist Chris Hedges and peaceful activists like myself and other plaintiffs. Government attorneys stated on record that even war correspondents could be locked up indefinitely under the NDAA.

Judge Forrest had ruled for a temporary injunction against an unconstitutional provision in this law, after government attorneys refused to provide assurances to the court that plaintiffs and others would not be indefinitely detained for engaging in first amendment activities. At that time, twice the government has refused to define what it means to be an “associated force”, and it claimed the right to refrain from offering any clear definition of this term, or clear boundaries of power under this law.

This past week’s hearing was even more terrifying. Government attorneys again, in this hearing, presented no evidence to support their position and brought forth no witnesses. Most incredibly, Obama’s attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA’s section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the US government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest’s injunction. In other words, they were telling a US federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama’s government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them.

So what exactly is supposed to make me feel safe from the US government, and its ever-growing system of prisons and surveillance? In what way are we the land of the free?

Gone Campin’

States have actually been shrinking the proportion of people they imprison due to a lack of cash, however, Federal prisons continue expanding.

If there is a huge increase in incarceration despite a lack of funds for such, this will lead to the housing of people in camps. They will not be called “concentration” camps, but “internment,” or “reeducation,” or “safety and relocation” or such. Imperial powers have been rounding people up into camps since 1896, when the Spanish locked up masses of Cubans to cut guerrilla fighters off from the population. Defining characteristics of concentration camps are preemptively targeting people who might  be a problem (as we do in this country by defining broad swaths of terrorism suspects, and even classifying Insane Clown Posse fans as a criminal gang), and administrative detention, aka being held with no trial (which the Obama administration is claiming it can do even against  the courts and the rule of law).

In 2009, Congress considered creating camps out of closed-down military bases, for housing people displaced by natural disasters. That sounds like a good plan, but the bill authorized using the camps up for any purpose chosen by Homeland Security!

Our military is trained in containment and resettlement operations. Consider the problem of resettling Cuban refugees…

In less than a month, federal officials announced as many as 15,000 Cuban refugees would come to the 60,000-acre Fort McCoy military base between Sparta and Tomah.

Officials at Fort McCoy had only a few days to prepare 121 barracks, 40 mess halls, 15 administrative buildings and other facilities for the Cubans. Seven miles of 6-foot-tall, chain-link fence soon lined the perimeter of the refugee center.

About 1,000 military, federal government and support personnel arrived, and 850 civilians were hired to prepare and run the Fort McCoy refugee center, the fourth designated as a U.S. refugee resettlement center. (source)

By the way, the Cubans were not allowed to walk in and out of the “resettlement center.” It only takes days to put such an operation into effect. And, it can be done on a larger scale, as was done to Japanese ethnics on the West Coast during World War II.

I’m not saying that nefarious government agents are conspiring to lock us up in camps as we speak. I’m just saying that the conditions are developing. We’re losing our rights, building more police state apparatus, pushing the economic limits of our ability to lock people up by conventional means,  and on top of that we’re living in a population prepared to accept concentration camps as long as they retain their ability to vote against the party they fear more.

I’m thinking to incorporate an advocacy not-for-profit organization here in Michigan to oppose rounding people up into concentration camps. Clearly we are fuzzy as a culture on the concept that “concentration camps are bad.” The group will be organized, incorporated and ready to roll in advance of actually having an issue to assert. Actually, I suppose that racial profiling, an anti-medical marijuana pogrom, targeting raw milk providers as terrorists, authorizing the disappearance of people to torture chambers… all of these government actions should be monitored to track our progress towards a more brutal totalitarianism, such as would feature purges or concentration camps.

On the other hand, maybe a campaign narrowly opposing only the construction of bona fide concentration camps is still too radical. I don’t want to stir up trouble, alienate my friends, or ruin the Democrats’ plans for new and improved social programs. Maybe I should narrow my mission statement to opposing only death camps.

Jesus F. Christ, I’m going to post about pickles or beer next week.

August 14, 2012

Instant Poem

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 2:35 pm

The Very Crucial Election:

Vote Goldstein for trusty,
for a quicker moving line,
though the barbed wire be rusty,
and the stench cut through the lime.

If Klein’s elected trusty,
all will go awry,
the bunks, unmade, go musty,
and I think I’d rather die.

July 30, 2012

Counterfeit Reality

No one has a perfectly clear, objective view of the world. People believe goofy things because their leaders tell them to, because their language has its limitations, or because the best explanation they can come up with is still kind of goofy and wrong. Our very senses are kind of dim, compared to the full range of possible colors and sounds and smells in the universe (ultraviolet, subsonics, smelling the oxygen. There are shrimp that can see more colors than us). Yet, as a whole, most societies keep their sense of reality in tune to such a degree that life can go on, people can plant and harvest, be born, make love and be buried.

Lately I feel like we are off the rails, like a sit-com in its sixth season. The world as presented on the news, or as many of my dear friends understand it, looks like a sham, a bunch of props. People aren’t just buying into false myths here; they’re buying into a whole worldview built of deception. The world they think they live in is a counterfeit, an intentionally-built virtual reality. <sigh> Yes, it’s like the Matrix or Plato’s Cave.

Or maybe I’m psychotic. The little fake me inside me lives in this fake world, which is firmly centered on the United States of America. This guy believes in some impossible things, because he watches the television, goes to classes, reads media published by the six big companies, and is otherwise exposed to more information about the fake world than he absorbs from his own experience. He thinks that:

The Earth will never run out of resources. (Economies can grow without limit.)
Civilizations don’t decline or collapse anymore.
The serious threats to America are China and Islam. Or liberals, or conservatives, or atheists, or religious people.
There is a political spectrum from left to right, which encompasses all significant political thought.
Science is on the verge of finding keys to all the locks.
Democracy is working. The financial and political elites are working for us.

The Earth will never run out of resources.

Of course, people hem and haw about oil running out, or the rainforest being leveled. Yet, they behave as if these things are trivial concerns, as they keep on driving cars and buying tropical fruit from ex-rainforest plantations. (Well, me too. This is an area where my habits haven’t caught up with my thinking mind.) Most everyone still wishes for the economy to grow, fantasizing that it will someday run on sunlight harvested from deep space, simply free energy which exerts no effect on Earth’s systems. In the meantime, it’s mainly all about burning fossil fuels.

“We have to stop cutting down each others’ trees or no one will be able to build a canoe ever again,” said the least popular man on Easter Island.

Civilizations don’t decline or collapse anymore. The USSR was the last one to fall and now history is over.

Um, we don’t seem to respond to crisis any better than any of the fine examples of past collapse (Mayans, Greenland Vikings, British Empire, Rome…). Obama responded to a partial economic collapse with a stimulus package that his own advisors said was too small to work, which Congress then proceeded to whittle down. Republicans only continued to insist that the government should stand out of the way of corporations and super-rich people. Also, we have no response to Colony Collapse Disorder, the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, oceanic garbage patches, rising asthma and allergies, or climate change.

We’re like that teenager, the target of public service announcements, who thinks that “HIV can’t happen to me.” We think that plague and famine are things of the past, and that war will never, ever touch our American borders again. It’s pretty overconfident, given that our history doesn’t go back so very far.

The serious threats to America are China and Islam. Or liberals, or conservatives, or atheists, or religious people.

So you must fight that enemy like you’re Captain America.

Please do not notice the financial rip-off artists and multinational corporations who drive the race to suck Earth dry. Are Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert the only people alive who realize that the rules of the global economy are slanted to channel money, control and physical wealth to a tiny elite, fucking over all the nations, recklessly endangering our common resources?

People understand that money rules politics, but they see it as “the other party is controlling things through money!” No, the people with money are controlling things through the two parties. If someone is a threat to us, it’s not this side or that side, but it could possibly be the people at the center who wield indirect yet inviolable control over all the rest of us (rigging LIBOR, high frequency or algorithmic trading, lobbying Congress and officials with retirement packages).

An expert panel on CNBC recently admitted that “we all work for the bankers now,” although the clip is unavailable on copyright pretext.

I don’t want to bash a banker. I just want them to stop strangling the world with debt. Maybe I’m wrong, and the center of power which projects the fake world onto our eyes is the miltary-industrial complex or something. I know it’s not Black people, or Republicans, or anyone who would live next door to little old me. This thing comes “from on high.”

There is a political spectrum from left to right, which encompasses all significant political thought.

Well, I identify as an anti-statist, someone who is against rulers, domination and exploitation. I can’t even exist according to the rules of counterfeit reality. Anarchists are neutralized in the newspaper with the label “self-proclaimed,” as if to be an anarchist is philosophically impossible. Anarchists are a notoriously unreliable voting bloc, too.

Both political parties mainly support pot prohibition, blowing off the Constitution, bailing out Wall Street, ignoring Wall Street’s crimes, growing the economy of global suicide, smashing alternative food and medicine, and engaging in endless war. Does that sound anything like your agenda?

Many people don’t line up behind the Democrats or Republicans, exactly. Some people, like Joe Lieberman, are are torn between towing the two party lines. Others support candidates from outside the two parties, such as Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr or Vermin Supreme. Unfortunately, many who support third-party positions feel bullied into voting for Teams Red or Blue come election day. Most of those who see through the two parties would rather not engage with sham democracy, and do not exercise their power to vote.

The big story, for half of the years, is Democrat vs. Republican for President. As if the President is a Biblical patriarch who will lead us all to glory (or ruin,) depending on who wins the selection.

Science is on the verge of solving our problems.

We’ll use hemp and solar power. We’ll engineer an economy that can’t fail, and tweak the prison and education systems until they’re optimal. An NSA database will locate all the terrorists. Pheremone perfume will help me get laid.

Unfortunately, science is largely controlled by the monied powers that control other human institutions at this time. Establishment science gave us the Green Revolution, based on petrochemicals; a pack of Canadian Amish demonstrated that organic methods are superior over the decades (citation somewhere within Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver). A bunch of hippies contributed to the methods of urban homesteading and learned to apply permaculture principles in different climates; DDT and Agent Orange were products of well-funded corporate science. Science does not hands-down show us the right way to go about living.

My Dad used science to protect GM workers from chemical and biological hazards in the factory, so I have respect for the field. But how many false hopes do we put in to it, and how much has money twisted it up? Science can be used for progress, or its opposite. Science can hold up Mordor or build the Death Star, or help us get along and recycle more efficiently. It’s up to scientists and their patrons, including the public.

I suspect that Internet Q & A and DIY forums will eclipse science as a source of significant information about getting along in the world. I suspect that direct action will supplant representative democracy. But I may be a psychotic.

The financial and governmental elites are basically honest and concerned about us.

In Yemen, my eerily-similar Arab equivalent was recently blown away by a Hellfire missile. He had received no trial. He was visiting some new friends at a cottage when President Obama ordered a strike on the place, obliterating Yemeni Ethan in the blink of an eye. He was engulfed in flames before he knew what was coming.

The Obama Administration reports Yemeni Ethan as a combatant, based on the facts that 1) he is between the ages of 15 and 35, and 2) he was in an area targeted by a Hellfire missile. Score one for the team.

Yemeni Ethan debated the meaning of charity and Islam, whilst American Ethan debates the meaning of welfare and government. Yemeni Ethan chewed khat, American Ethan smokes pot. Am I supposed to believe that my government is going to treat me  with any more humanity than the guy in Yemen?

To speak to the financial side… corporations operating in America are basically sworn to serve their shareholders and only their shareholders, and they serve to limit liabilities and push costs on to others: their customers, workers and neighbors. They view killing me as a possible liability, if their team of lawyers should suck in court.

Screw the elite. Rant against them! If they can’t see reason, fuck ’em over! Don’t live a spectator to the news, but see: They don’t give a fuck about us!

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

//

June 22, 2012

English Cottage Beer

Filed under: food, Vinting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:41 pm

Herein I will show you the way the English made beer in 1780 or so, before England started taxing malt and hops, subsidizing tea, and even banning the sharing of brewing utensils. It also happens to meet the German Purity Law. I “translated” the recipe from William Cobbett’s 1823 book “Cottage Economy,” wherein Cobbett exhorts British workers to maintain a productive homestead, rather than fully buying into the industrial, globally-ambitious economy of the Empire. Cobbett intersperses a lot of political rants into his instructions, goes out of order, uses strange old words and writes sentences that go on for paragraphs, so it would be quite hard to make beer by thumbing through the book as you go along. In other words: disorganization and high reading level don’t make for clear instructions, so I had to write this just to figure out the recipe for myself!

My translation is faithful to the original, it’s for a really big batch of beer, and you need some special equipment such as a 40-gallon copper kettle and a bundle of birch twigs. With no modifications, the recipe might help a historical re-enactor. My next step towards making this beer it to scale down the recipe to use junk available at the local homebrew shop.

Ingredients

Water: Soft water from a brook or river is best, and a pond fed by a rivulet will do just fine. Hard water, or mineral-rich well water, is advised against. For the modern brewer, water from the tap is likely fine, as long as it isn’t too full of minerals. In some areas, there is so much chlorine in the water that it will kill your yeast, but you can remove the chlorine by boiling or filtering the water through charcoal (the latter method will also remove hardness and other minerals).

Since you’ll be boiling it, go ahead and use water contaminated by cholera and dysentery.

Malt: If you are so fortunate as to have a local maltster, look for barley that is fully malted — all the kernels should be sporting sprouts, and float rather than sink. The shells should be thin and the interior mealy — hard and steely is bad. Whether you like light or dark roasted malt is up to you, depending on your taste in beer. This recipe is for two bushels of malt.

Alternatively, you can make your own malt from fresh barley

Soak the barley for three days. Pour it out onto bricks, stone, or concrete. Watch for the roots to shoot out, and the above-ground shoots to advance about halfway through the inside of the barley seed. Dry the barley, such as by roasting it at a low temperature.

Making your own malt was a criminal activity in the England of 1823… I can imagine Cobbett writing books about growing marijuana if he lived today!

Hops: You are looking for the cones of the hops plant, pure and free of leaf and vine. The cones should not be brown, but between yellow and green, free of mature seeds (big, hard, dark seeds), have a lively, pleasant smell, and have lots of resinous powder. Anyone who has bought cannabis should have a good handle on what to look for in hops, although good hops is described as slippery rather than sticky. This recipe uses two pounds of hops.

Yeast: Cobbett recommends making yeast cakes once per year, during a hot, dry stretch of summer.

3 ounces good fresh hops

3.5 ounces rye flour

7 pounds corn meal

1 gallon water

Boil the water. Rub the hops to separate it into the water. Boil 1/2 hour. Strain into a big bowl.

Stir in the rye flour while the water is hot. Cover with a loose cloth and leave out for a day.

Stir in the corn meal. Pull out the resulting stiff lump of dough and knead it well, “as you would a pie-crust.” Roll it out at about 1/3 of an inch thick. Cut out 3-inch round pieces of dough. Place them on a board in the hot sun; turn them every day and protect them from wet (I imagine you have to put them out every morning and take them in every evening.) When the yeast cakes are as dry and hard as ship biscuits, they are ready to be stored in a dry place.

To prepare liquid yeast from the cakes, take 2 cakes, crack them, and drop into hot water. Leave in a warm place overnight.

Froth from fermenting beer is also good, traditional yeast — but it’s only available when you already have some beer going!

Equipment

40-gallon copper kettle

60-gallon mash tub with a 2″ drain hole located at the center. A tapered stick, a bit taller than the tub, serves as the stopper. A bundle of birch sticks or straw is used as a strainer. You must weight the straw into place with something you can move the stopper-stick through — but please don’t follow Cobbett’s suggestion to use a leaden collar! “The thing they use in some farmhouses is the iron box of a wheel,” if that clears things up.

An “underbuck,” a shallow tub to go under the mash tub.

30-gallon “tun” tub

2 to 4 big shallow tubs, for cooling hot liquid.

Thermometer

Big, bowl-like ladle

3 18-gallon casks

Stir stick: somewhat larger than a broomstick, with two or three 8-10″ sticks pushed through perpendicularly near one end.

A very large piece of cheesecloth or some burlap sacks sewn into a sheet.

Strainer (such as a clean wicker clothes basket)

Funnel

Baking pan

Bucket

Coarse linen

Boil the Wort

Fill the 40-gallon copper kettle with water and bring to a boil.

Set up the mash tub. It should be up on stools or sawhorses or the like, so that the underbuck can be placed under the drain hole. The straw or birch filter must somehow be set into place, and the stopper-stick shoved through it and into the drain hole.

Pour water into the mash tub, sufficient to stir two bushels of malt around in (perhaps 20 gallons?). Top the kettle up and keep it boiling.

Allow the water in the mash tub to cool to 170 Fahrenheit. Add two bushels of malt, ground, into the mash tub, and stir well with the stir stick. Leave the mash this way for 15 minutes (stirring occasionally?).

Add boiling water until the mash tub is a little more than half full — about 30 gallons of water, total, should have gone into the tub by this point, though much will be absorbed into the malt. Stir the mash well again. Cover with loose fabric, such as burlap sacks or cheese cloth, and leave for 2 hours.

Little by little, pull out the tapered stopper-stick, so the wort drains slowly into the underbuck and your filter catches the malt. Ladle the wort into the tun-tub (or use a hose and a submersible pump, I don’t care).

Start the Small Beer

Beer for hobbits? I guess you could use coffee grounds twice, and call the second batch “small coffee.” We are going to take the wort we drained out and make it into ale, but first we’ll extract the last goodness out of our malt to make small beer.

Plug the mash tub drain hole back up. Pour 36 gallons of boiling water into the tub, and stir well with the stir stick. Cover with loose cloth, and leave stand for only one hour.

Ale into the Kettle

Pour the wort from the tun-tub into the empty copper kettle. Add one and a half pounds of good hops, well rubbed and separated as you add it. Boil from one to one and a half hours.

Remove from heat and pour into the shallow cooling tubs, straining out the hops (and saving them for the small beer).

Small Beer into the Kettle

The small beer wort in the tun tub is now returned to the copper kettle, with the lightly-used hops you strained out of the ale wort. Add half a pound of fresh hops, and boil for an hour.

During this time, you need to watch for the cooling ale wort to reach 70 Fahrenheit, as well as clean the mash tub out and set it up for another use.

Ale into Tun Tub for Primary Fermentation

When the ale wort (in the shallow tubs) cools to seventy Fahrenheit, pour it back into the tun-tub.

Put a half-pint of yeast into a gallon bowl or jar, then fill the container with wort. Stir in a handful or wheat or rye flour. Pour the mixture into the tun-tub and stir it all together.

Cover with a loose cloth and place in an area as close to 55 Fahrenheit as possible.

Fermenting the Small Beer

Put out your fire, and strain the small beer wort from the kettle into the mash-tub. Throw the hops into the compost, or onto the dung-hill if that’s your style.

Let the wort cool in the mash tub.

Put three half-pints of yeast into a gallon bowl or jar, then fill the container with wort. Stir in a handful or wheat or rye flour. Pour the mixture into the mash-tub and stir it all together.

Cover with a loose cloth and place in a cool area.

Treat as in “Fermenting the Ale,” below, but cask the small beer while it is still a little warm from yeast action.

Fermenting the Ale

Let the yeast work and skim off froth every twelve hours or so, until no more froth is rising up.

When the beer is as cold as its surroundings, it is ready to cask. Block the casks with the bunghole up but slightly to one side, so that any runoff goes down the one side into an awaiting pan. Then, pour bucketfuls of beer through the funnel into the cask, leaving a couple of gallons behind for topping up. Allow the beer to work for several more days, and top up the cask as needed. When the bubbling is really, finally over, turn the bunghole straight up. Add a handful of hops, and fill the cask completely full. Put a piece of coarse linen around the bung and hammer it into place. You may weight the bung into place with a sandbag, if desired.

Leave beer in the cask from about two weeks to the limit of your patience. Small beer may be ready in a couple of weeks, but ale benefits from longer aging and is said to keep forever. Modern wooden casks feature a replaceable “keystone” through which you hammer a tap. Drink the beer. Be sure to seal the cask tightly back up when you are through with the beer, or you will mold the cask and ruin it!

Clean the cask by pouring it out, scalding it in several changes of hot water, and rolling it about with a chain inside.

That’s how you make beer. What a project — no wonder American pioneers preferred hard cider! Cobbett says that you can brew beer in one day, if you start at four in the morning. So, uh, seize the day. Or just enjoy knowing something new.

Have a happy summer, y’all!

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