Sunday, October 31, 2010


About a month or so ago, a companion forum to Matt Savinar's life after the oil crash site began to falter.

I am under the opinion that the forum became the target of malicious hackers. The hackers won.

Originally, users would get cut off while trying to post entries or would receive denial of service messages when they tried to acces the site. Matt called in friends to help; apparentely they couldn't fix the problem. Then he hired professionals; they too failed to fix his forum woes. Then he tried a different host with a lower quality setup.

Forum users began complaining. (We want it easy and we want it now. We're goddamned Internet junkies and we demand to be fed.) Eventually the strain got to Matt. As a result, he closed the forum. Archives of the original forum can be read here.

I think the way Matt was treated is shameful. Both by the sons-of-bitches that targeted his site and by those that were so quick to lay blame on the young man for circumstances beyond his control.

Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes we're the bad guys.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pecan harvest

Sabbath morn, October 30, 2010.

It’s 4:30 am and I’m awake. The god of more (hat tip, Paul Speir) has tortured me throughout the night. Numbers roll through my head. How many pecans must we gather to pay for the cost of raising them? Am I paying hands too much? Should I buy another new machine? To be sure, if you tally the number of pecans we gathered yesterday against the amount of money I spent gathering them, we lost money. This is the time of year when a man should be not only paying daily harvest expenses, but also covering costs accrued throughout the year in the process of actually raising a crop and caring for the land.

More and more, I find the numbers don’t add up.

Machines break.

The more complex and “efficient” the machine and the more machines required to do a job, the more catastrophic breakdowns become.

To gather pecans, first we go out to the field and pick up branches. Then we run a tractor and a shredder to cut grass and weeds. Later we shake the trees with another machine. More branches fall and must be gathered. Still another machine rakes and windrows the pecans, leaves and small sticks. Then a nut harvester pulled by yet another tractor picks up the pecans and blows away debris. The nut harvester dumps pecans into a cleaner that blows light or underdeveloped pecans away and then runs what remains onto a conveyor belt where men pick out any green or cracked pecans. The pecans then fall into sacks and are stacked on a trailer pulled by a truck. From there, it’s off to a barn where each sack must be weighed, adding or subtracting pecans to arrive at the proper weight. A sixty mile round trip delivers the pecans to market, utilizing yet another pickup and trailer. The process continues under the watch of others until the pecans reach their final destination, which may very well be China, before all is said and done, involving who knows how many more fossil fuel powered machines along the way.

Yesterday, the shaker (a self propelled version) began to misfire. An operator drove it into a hole and got stuck. It didn’t have enough power to get out. The engine died and wouldn’t restart. The battery was low and required a jump; another tractor and a chain was required to pull it out of the hole after the engine started. Meanwhile, everyone else stands around waiting for the shaker so they can do their job. A man drives to town and buys points, condenser and a new rotor and returns to install it on the shaker’s engine. The machine runs better, but still has problems, perhaps the carburetor (?). It’s lunch time and we haven’t harvested a fucking pecan.

After lunch we finally shake a few trees, despite the mis-firing engine. I notice the shaker scars the trees in places. And we wonder why some of them die every year. Another man starts windrowing the pecans; yet another cranks up his tractor and pulls the gatherer over the windrow. I notice it’s leaving a lot of pecans behind. Perhaps it needs an adjustment. (?) He dumps a load and the guys running the blower/conveyor go to work. When the man operating the gatherer arrives to dump his second load, someone notices the pecan gatherer has a flat tire. The tubeless tire has separated from the rim and the rim has been destroyed. Of course it’s some special size available only in Bumfuck, Egypt…

Meanwhile, on a second crew, a man knocks pecans out of the trees with a long cane pole. Men and women rake and hand gather pecans by hand.

At the end of the day, the crew hand gathering pecans picked more pecans than all of the rest of us with our goddamned high-powered expensive machines. This may seem an anomaly, but it happens more times than you’d expect all across the land, not the group of hand gatherers; most if not all of them have been displaced by machines, but the breakdown part of the story in the mechanized operation.

Of course, when all of the machines work as they’re supposed to, an impressive pile of pecans can be gathered.

But I can’t help but wonder when all costs are factored in, from the cost of making and maintaining these machines, to the cost of fuel required to operate them, to the cost of supporting the hundreds or thousands of people put out of a job by these machines, if the price we pay for all this shit it just too Goddamned high.

Later, I’m at the scale of a pecan buyer with a ton of pecans on my trailer. A man walks up with a couple of sacks of pecans he gathered, perhaps from his yard. He looks enviously at my trailer load of pecans and I look enviously at his two sacks. I bet he made some money…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nuking food

I distrusted microwave ovens when they first came out. Nevertheless, over the years I began to use them.

Looks like I should have stuck with my gut feeling...

Time to break another habit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

La reconquista

Cain Velasquez beat the holy hell out of Brock Lesnar (aka Goliath) Saturday night, earning the title, UFC undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, in the process.

Cain is the Mexican-American son of lettuce pickers. His dad was deported to Mexico multiple times but came back for more.

A sign of the times.

Peak oil and the economy

Nicole Foss from the Automatic Earth was recently interviewed by Jim Puplava. Nicole seems to grasp ideas most economists don't. For that matter, she understands things about the economy most peak oil pundits don't grasp as well.

Link to the video and a transcript can be found


Friday, October 22, 2010

No way out

Sabbath eve, October 22, 2010

To begin, I’m about 3/4s through with Eric Herm’s book, Son of a farmer, child of the earth. Pretty good considering I just began reading yesterday, (or bad perhaps, if you consider I have a job and work needing done).

Because I haven’t finished reading Eric’s book, I’ll not offer a review, but I can say that Eric addresses many of the conundrums I too face. We share a strikingly similar view of the world.

Unfortunately, just about every solution Eric proffers raises more questions than answers with me, as I’d guess, my ideas would with Eric. To his credit, Eric’s book is not the theoretical work of some cloistered academic, but instead that of a working man, trying to implement lessons he teaches in the real world.

Ralph Nader recently said, (I paraphrase), if you’re in a hole up to your waist, grab the banks and extricate yourself. But when the hole is 30 feet deep, a different plan of attack is required. The hole we’re in seems so deep it’s hard to discern light at the surface. Generations now alive on this planet were born late in an ongoing game and so much was set into motion before our arrival. There’s little we can do to avoid the consequences of cumulative human behavior (you can’t un-pave the ground, un-burn the oil, un-make the cars, un-fly the miles, un-kill the trees, un-extinguish species, or un-shoot rounds that have already been fired). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to alter the way we operate from this day foward.

For me, what it does mean is that there is no solution absent collapse of our current way of living. I’ve become disinterested in politics of late. Why get worked up over fights where neither viable political party is willing to ask the right questions, much less look for honest solutions? I don’t see even the remote possibility of a workable nation-wide arrangement without going through a thorough ass kicking first.

But do not fear: The ass kicking is on the way (at heart, I remain an optimist).

It will be up to us or others like us to rebuild from the ashes. That begins today, while we can still salvage a few critical resources like heirloom seeds, patches of salvageable fertile ground and clean water. Cumulative survival techniques and knowledge developed over thousands of years by varieties of peoples and cultures remains alive and documented, although rather tenuously it seems. We can’t go back entirely to these ways in one great leap but we can take the short time we have left in this paradigm to begin building arks of sorts, preparing for the journey, marrying old ways with bits of the new, striding toward a new epoch.

An inmate I met in prison once told me he couldn’t do the sentence he’d been given. My reply: You have no choice, other than dying.

There’s no way out of this mess but down that I can discern.

But we must keep fighting.

The fate of future generations is at stake. And this difficult time will pass, sooner or later.


Back at the ranch we’re preparing for pecan harvest, picking up limbs and shredding grass under the trees. We hoped to start shaking trees today, but the shaking device had a bad hydraulic oil leak and we will have to wait on a part until Monday at the earliest to begin.

The wind blew today, with it, pecans began to fall to the ground. Substantial herds of deer eat the fallen pecans. Feral hogs will be out as soon as the sun sets, along with raccoons, squirrels, etc. I can’t help but think that if we were to harvest by hand, we’d harvest more pecans, but mechanization is factored into the price of doing business on nearly every level.

I am tired of being a slave to machines.

I must also note that most pecan farmers spray insecticides and fungicides abundantly, in particular on larger improved varieties. For whatever reason, smaller native pecans seem less susceptible to disease and insect infestations and are more likely to be raised organically.

I have a lot to learn before I can consider raising pecans organically. Shit, I have a lot to learn about raising pecans, period.

But I look forward to learning. The bottoms are absolutely beautiful and there’s something about trees…

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Texas book festival replay

Here's a link to a video of Chuck Bowden, Ed Vulliamy and Malcom Beith from last week's Texas Book Festival.

Border Drug Wars.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Texas book festival aftermath

While looking through Booktv's archives for Chuck Bowden's presentation at this year's book festival I came across my one and only foray into that territory in 2005.

Not much has changed that I can tell, except things are worse.

A couple of observations concerning drugs and violence in Mexico: It's illegal for common citizens to own or carry guns. Checkpoints abound. The people doing the shooting are cops and soldiers.

The cash spent on drugs must be laundered back into the system and it is, with the help of governments, banks and Wall Street.

When we send money to Mexico to stop drugs, we're supporting liars, thieves and murderers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Texas Book Festival

Several friends of mine are participating in the Texas book festival this weekend in Austin. I have hay on the ground. It might hairlip the pope. But I plan to go, watch and listen to:

Charles Bowden

Terry Allen

and Ed Vulliamy.

I'm sad to say I won't be able to catch Karl Rove's presentation as it conflicts with that of Bowden and Vulliamy. (And they don't allow spectators to enter with pockets full of rocks.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Must listen interview

Manfred Max Neef.

PS. Excerpt:

The principles, you know, of an economics which should be are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle.

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

Money for nothing

Saturday, October 09, 2010

We’ve had sun and gorgeous weather this week, highs in the low 80’s, morning lows in the 50’s. Martin and the boys have been cutting and baling hay, putting most but not all in round bales. Our barns are full to the rafters of small squares and we have stockpiles of rolled hay stacked on the closest thing to hills South Texas brush and river country offers. We also started shredding grass and weeds in pecan bottoms, preparing for harvest, which should begin in a couple of weeks.

I’ve been watching economic and political news warily, waiting for the next shoe to fall. Perhaps this is a sort of self-torture—there’s nothing I can do to change the course of events on any large scale—but I don’t operate in a vacuum and what goes on in the world around can and will affect the real world in which I live. So I try to stay informed.

As usual, I waited until the last possible minute to prepare my tax forms. Wait. Let me reword that. I waited until the last possible minute to beg Leah to prepare our tax forms. We have already given the IRS the money we owed, this year a large amount due to a once-in-a-lifetime windfall event, the maximum by percentage allowed by law, (36.5%, I believe), ignoring, I am sure, possible deductions and strategies we could have used if I was one of those rich fucks accustomed to making this kind of money, but the motherfuckers want more from me. How many cows you got? How many died? How many bulls? How old are they? Are your horses riding or breeding animals? A hobby or a legitimate business? How many bales of hay did you make? How many did you sell? What does this check say? Was that wheat you sold on such and such a date? Your writing is illegible. Where are your receipts for the goods you bought? Every fucking move I make has to be recorded and documented, with the very real threat of a gun in the face, confiscation of property or jail time as a consequence if I don’t comply.

OK. I will comply. Kind of. Barely. Under protest.

To the IRS: Fuck you cock-sucking, slime-sucking, motherless, goddamned bleating sons of whores. I resent the hell out of you prying into my life. I paid my taxes. More than I probably owed if I’d hired an accountant. Now, leave me the fuck alone.

All right. Got that off my chest. Feel a bit better for having done so, too.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we’re nearing time for planting of winter crops which for us means broccoli, cabbage, turnips, beets, carrots, spinach, onions, garlic and perhaps a few more things that don’t come to mind. I planted snow peas to see if they’ll survive our mild winters as an experiment.

Oats are coming up in the fields and we’ve been plowing corn stubble under.

I haven’t yet sold my corn crop. While I did submit a sample to a grain company that specializes in corn for tortillas, they haven’t gotten back to me. The price of corn has fluctuated wildly over the past couple of months, starting in the low $3 range and ending at about $5.30 a bushel. Last week corn fell from the $5.30 price to a low around $4.60 and then climbed back to $5.30 by the end of the week, going up or down as much as 30 cents in a single day. Obviously the price is not determined by real supply and demand issues and those buying or selling real corn rather than the fake corn traded on paper don’t know what price they should pay or accept as payment.

While no one seems to mind the IRS calling us to task for every move we make, the Fed continues to create electronic dollars out of thin air and gives them to their buddies at the big banks and corporations without any real oversight. These motherfuckers got a money for nothing machine going. I wonder when the day comes that confidence in the US dollar is lost.

For me, that day is here. I feel better with a bin full of corn than a fist full of paper. I’ll end up selling the corn for dollars, because the tax man will accept nothing else. But I will do my best to turn those dollars back into something real as soon as possible.

The day will come when the veil is lifted and people see. When that happens, things are going to get nasty.

We’ve been had.

PS. Manfred Max Neef offers an economics lesson well worth your time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Concerning the Sabbath

Sabbath morn, October 2, 2010.

While I try to acknowledge the passing of the Sabbath, I rarely honor the day as I suppose someone of the Jewish faith or a first century Christian would have. Perhaps that’s because the command was to do all your work on six days and then rest the seventh. Nowadays Sabbath keepers tend to remember the resting part of the equation while ignoring the do all your work part. And of course, plants and animals don’t respect holidays. If they die on a Saturday because they’ve been neglected, you can’t raise them back to life come Sunday morning.

In my previous entry, I said, wise is the man that harvests his crops. I haven’t been so wise this year. In fact, one of the reasons I write about what I am doing is to guilt myself into doing a better job. Somehow seeing a recorded ledger of my failures spurs me on to do better.

Large amounts of produce have gone to waste in my garden this year. Even now I have unpicked black-eyed peas and peppers. I harvested only a tiny amount of okra; big plants with dried pods still wave in the wind as a reminder of my negligence. Harvesting entails more than just picking the stuff and putting it into a bucket. The food must be delivered to market or be properly stored, if not, it will rot or otherwise go to waste.

Hogs and chickens are useful as potential consumers of spoiled or excess produce from the garden. And I don’t have any hogs. That’s something I need to remedy to further our path toward a sustainable farm.

When we put corn into a bin, we put diatomaceous earth along the floor and then mixed some throughout the grain as it was added to the bin to keep weevils at bay. Most farmers treat their bins with phostoxin, a horribly lethal substance if not properly handled. I am told no residue remains from the use of this substance as it’s a gas that it emits that kills rodents and insects, but I remain skeptical. Grain buyers tend to look suspiciously at the dust the diatomaceous earth adds to the mix and therefore prefer the chemical.

So, it’s off to work today, because I didn’t do all the shit I should have this week. I won’t get it all done today either, but hopefully we will do enough to survive. As for those that advocate a return to the hunter/gatherer way of life: best I can tell it wasn’t near as great as the romantic notion many have, entailing periods of hardship and starvation. I pretty much accept the fact that the ground has been cursed and if you don’t work, you don’t eat.

Keep a hackin.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fall has arrived

Sabbath eve, October 1, 2010

Nice weather for harvesting hay arrived this week after a rainy month of September so we’ve begun cutting and baling hay once again. Our barns however are full of small square bales so we will probably roll most of the grass into large round bales, a much less labor intensive endeavor.

Pecan harvest season draws near so the guys have been cutting, stacking and burning limbs and branches so they can mow the grass under the trees in the bottoms. My dad recently acquired additional acreage where the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers intersect; the new plot has almost 6,000 pecan trees of various improved varieties. I am less than well-versed in the art of raising pecans and more than a little worried about my new duties.

The new place is extremely prone to flooding, so every rain event from now forward will be a cause for consternation in my house. In these parts, the best grazing land is that created by flooding rivers, which also means that the best land is also the most dangerous for livestock. Quite the conundrum.

Those living on the gulf coast share similar concerns. The ocean provides bountiful food, scenery and entertainment; ports also provide work to those shipping or receiving goods from foreign lands, but proximity to the water brings the dangers of hurricanes and tropical storms, and now, hazards related to off-shore oil spills. Want the one, you get the other too. Life on the cutting edge appeals to me. I’d rather face death than live a boring life.

Speaking of the gulf, the Discovery channel has been airing a program called Swamp People, featuring a handful of Louisiana Cajuns that earn their living hunting alligators. While some might consider this a dreadful occupation, you’d be hard-pressed to get those people to walk away from what they do, or better spoken, who they are. I find Louisiana a foreign environment but I identify with the attachment these men and women have to the country that feeds them. I’d guess their transition to collapse will be much less drastic than that of someone attached to a life of leisure in a city or a suburb.

As Mike Ruppert is known to ask, would you rather fall from the penthouse to the sidewalk, or from the sidewalk to the curb? Ain’t much below when you already live in the swamp.

I got a call from a man named Dale today. Dale is my resident feral hog hunter. He’s black and works all the time at feed yards and livestock auctions. For fun he goes out at night with dogs and hunts hogs. I won’t go into details for you because I don’t want to draw heat on the man but I will say this much. The only tool he carries is a long sharp knife. Feral hogs have no natural predators in this country and multiply like crazy. They can be very destructive to gardens, fields and pastures. They also are a good source of food for those so inclined. I have a number of jars of canned feral hog meat in my pantry.

While some would wipe the hogs out, I like the idea of having such a source of food available in the wild. So we only hunt them sporadically, mostly when they’re destroying crops after planting or near harvest time. We also have deer and wild turkeys in the area, but hogs provide lard in addition to meat which I find indispensable in cooking for a southern palate.

We dug our first sweet potato this week. I’ve been pleased with the way they performed in our garden and am considering trying a larger plot in the field next year. There’s almost no way to plant the things other than by hand, with cuttings from the vines, so this may prove to be one crop where my idea of hand labor has a chance of working.

I’m getting soil ready for onions, broccoli, cabbage, beets, spinach, turnips and carrots, all of which grow through the winter in this region. Our pepper plants survived the summer and are producing lots of peppers once again. I have a crop of black eyed peas I hoped to harvest as dried peas, but with the unusual amount of rain we’ve had, a lot of the dried pods are molded. Thankfully I have only four rows of these instead of twenty acres worth (like last year).

We planted 120 acres of oats in our fields this week, to be grazed overwinter by cattle. If conditions are right, we’ll have the option of pulling the cattle off in mid February for a spring harvest of hay or grain. If conditions aren’t right, we can allow the cattle to graze them out, reducing the amount of hay needed to get our animals through the winter.

I have four partially constructed green houses needing covers. And very little time to do all the work on my plate.

Each year carries new challenges and one year is rarely like another. If you plant crops, some will fail. But you have to risk failure in order to learn what if feels like to win.

Best plant your seeds and trees. And you’d best harvest your crops when you have them. Lots of people plant crops; quite a few less harvest a crop. Wise is the man that harvests his crop.

Life goes on and we all have to eat.