June 1, 2008

18th Book Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

For the second time in my life I have learned that life DOES go on after the death of one’s spouse. Coping with the difficulties of Lillie’s passing was made much easier because of the help and thoughtfulness of a few caring friends. There are many to thank but I am especially grateful to Kathy, Roseanne and Margaret for their support and help both during Lillie’s last days and after her death.

Winter is finally over. The crop has been seeded and doing well so far. The cattle are out on pasture for the summer and it’s motorcycle season once again. My riding friends, Peder and Jim, and I have been out for a few Sunday afternoon rides but I’m looking forward to taking a couple of longer trips this summer. Would like to spend a few days cruising around Southern Alberta and a night or two camping in the Rockies. There are few things comparable with the exhilaration of cruising down the highways astride a bike!

Current Rant:

There are so many things to rant about these days that it’s hard to choose a subject. I am glad though to see that more and more people are gradually waking up to the fact that we are facing very difficult times in the near future. The most serious problem, as I see it, is the inevitable food shortage.

Ironically, it will not be as much a shortage of food as it is inequitable distribution of food. Here in North America the “shortage” will likely be limited only to those who cannot afford the inflated cost of food…there will be plenty available for those who have the money to buy it. In other parts of the world it will be quite a different story though. The combination of changing weather patterns, high production and distribution costs due to petroleum shortages, artificial price inflation due to speculation by the rich and greedy, and hoarding by the general public will likely result in unprecedented mass starvation of the poor.

Until our political leaders wake up to these facts, there is little that can be done to avoid such a catastrophe. Meanwhile it is up to each of us to look out for Number One.

18th Excerpt from “Farmageddon”:
(My latest unfinished book)

Indispensable Water

One of the first steps in our planning was to develop a list of things that would be critically important to twenty first century pioneers. Number one on the list is a reliable source of potable water that is independent of electric power. Without an accessible and sustainable source of potable water there is little need for further planning.

At the present time we have a well that is adequate for our household needs. But since it is a drilled well with a submersible electric pump, there is no practical way of drawing water from it without electricity. In the event of the loss of electricity, a source of potable water that is manually accessible would be of vital importance.

Our livestock are watered from creeks during the summer and from “dugouts” in the winter. If electric power becomes unavailable, we have a choice of either manually pumping water for the cattle from the dugouts, when they are frozen over in the winter, or installing a windmill pumping system.

We briefly considered the merits of a windmill to replace electric power for pumping water. One plan was to set up a tower over our drilled well and equip it with a wind-powered pump jack. But, aside from the cost of the equipment, there is the question of having adequate wind when needed.

We also thought of using an animal powered sweep system to run the pump jack as water was needed. As a kid, I worked for a farmer who baled hay with a horse-powered baler. The horses were hitched to a pole attached to a gearbox that drove a drive shaft which delivered rotary power to the baler as the horses walked round and round the gearbox. I’ve also seen this same kind of system used to power buzz saws and fire-wagon pumps. But it’s easy to get carried away with plans such as these. The best plan is usually the simplest plan — the old “KISS” (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle.

The obvious answer to the potable water problem is a bored well. "Real pioneers" dug their wells by hand because they had no other choice. But we are not real pioneers and are not anxious to do the work required, so we opted to spend some of our transition funds to hire a well-boring crew, assuming that we can find a promising place to dig.

Finding a promising place to dig a well brings back childhood memories. During the aftermath of the Great Depression, my father decided to move his family from a rental house in town to a small “farm” in the country. The farm he chose was less than ten acres in size and totally undefiled by the hand of man. Every square foot of it was covered by brush and trees. There was just room enough between two large Oak trees to park his car off the road.

After clearing a short driveway, and a small future building site large enough to turn the car around, Dad turned his attention to the problem of a water supply for his family. Apparently he had some previous experience with “water dousing”, or had seen someone do it.

He first cut a small forked branch from a Willow bush. Holding the Y-shaped Willow, with one of its forked branches gripped in each hand, he applied enough bending pressure to them to make the main stem point horizontally forward as he began slowly walking around the area nearby the building site. After several minutes of walking around, the stem of the branch spontaneously started to twist downward, whereupon he scratched a mark on the ground with the heel of his shoe.

After repeating this process several more times from a variety of directions, the marks he made formed an intermittent line across the ground. Finally, after many more trips walking along the line and across it from various directions, he place a rock at the point where he felt the strongest “pull” on the Willow branch. It all seemed like magic to me, but Dad was confident that he had found a vein of water. In fact, he was so confident that he started digging a well, centered on the spot where he had place the rock.

Over the course of several weeks of hand digging with pick and shovel, and hoisting the dirt to the surface by bucket and windlass, he dug a well four feet in diameter and forty two feet deep, with Mom at the top dumping the buckets of dirt.

To make a long story short, they had to give up on that well because, beyond a depth of forty feet, the physical effort became too great. They tried two other promising locations with the same results. Finally, after moving to the farm, and hauling water from a neighbour’s well for two years, Dad had saved up enough money to have a well drilled. His confidence in the first well location had never waned, so, after filling up the well to enable the drilling rig to get close enough to drill in the center of the original well, they began drilling a six inch well.

The new hole had to be cased with steel pipe for the first forty two feet to prevent the loose dirt from caving in. After reaching solid ground, beyond the forty two foot level, the driller continued on down with a six inch uncased hole. At a depth of one hundred and eight feet they found signs of water.

Upon drilling down another twenty feet or so, to form a reservoir for water, the driller pumped the well dry and shone a light down the hole. To everyone’s amazement they saw a stream of water, which appeared to be about the diameter of a man’s thumb, shooting across the very center of the six inch hole. Within a few minutes the water had risen to a level above the stream so that the stream was no longer visible.

Whether it was luck or magic, or some natural phenomena at work, I cannot say, but since that experience I have been a believer in water dousing and we plan to “witch” for our water supply.

To be continued next time…

18th Excerpt from “Defying the Odds”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

Learning a Trade…

After working for about six months for ALCOA, I heard of a better paying job, with a different company, and went to my boss, Mr. Danner, to give notice that I would be quitting. He asked how much the new job paid and offered me an equivalent raise. From that time on, raises and new responsibilities came fairly regularly but I felt insecure with neither an college degree or a trade to fall back on. So, when an opening for an apprentice machinist job was announced, I put in my application, along with a dozen or more other applicants from throughout the plant. A few days later, Mr. Danner called me in to his office and asked why I had applied for the apprentice job. I told him I felt insecure in my present job and wanted to learn a trade. He offered me another raise, which I declined. He then told me the apprentice job was mine.

The standard apprenticeship training period is four years but I got my machinist certificate in three and a half years. New machinists were always assigned to the graveyard shift—midnight until eight in the morning. The machinist that I replaced had been on graveyard for several years and was very pleased when I showed up six months early.

Stepping Up…

After about three months on graveyard, Mr. Danner came in early one morning and asked me to come into the office. He told me that they were setting up an inspection department in the machine shop and wanted to know if I would be interested in the inspectors job, at an increase in pay. I took the job.

A few months later, I was promoted to foreman of the weekend maintenance crew, which was a steppingstone to moving up into management. My crew consisted of machinists, millwrights, welders and pipe fitters and we did maintenance work throughout the plant. Next I was promoted to foreman of the graveyard shift.

Sometime later, a man by the name of Frank Letterman arrived at the plant from the head office in Pittsburgh. He seemed to be some kind of liaison man for the Works Manager, but he was assigned to the Mechanical Engineering department. What his real assignment might be was the subject of much speculation.

Early one morning, about an hour before the day shift started, I was paged to call the cafeteria. Thinking there was some maintenance problem, I went to the cafeteria to have a look. As I entered the dining room, Mr. Danner motioned to me to come over to the table where he sat with Frank Letterman. They had a coffee waiting for me. After a bit of small talk, Mr. Letterman made some comments about the good job I had been doing and then asked how I would like to take over the General Foreman job in the machine shop. It caught me completely by surprise. I suppose I would not have been too surprised to have been offered the job of Machine Shop Foreman, but General Foreman was a double promotion. They both sat there, kind of grinning, waiting for my answer. I'm not sure what I said, but it was probably something like, "Sure – when do I start?"

About a week later I took over the new job. It was a little awkward at first because I was now supervising men who were formerly my supervisors, but, aside from a few attempts to 'test' the new boss, things went quite smoothly.

To be continued next time…

18th Excerpt from “But…What About Tomorrow?”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)


Typically, desertification is the result of bad management practices rather than deliberate human activities, in contrast with deforestation. Overgrazing by domestic animals is the predominant cause of desertification.

Change takes place at a very leisurely pace in nature. One season subtly melds into another; a flower bud forms and opens ever so slowly; a baby's features change imperceptibly from one day to the next. Although these changes are obviously taking place minute by minute and second by second, we don't recognize them in real time. We are not conscious of most changes that are continually taking place all around us until they become noticeable with the passage of sufficient time.

Even in our man-made world of communities, cities, etc., change appears to take place at a snail's pace when you're exposed to it on a daily basis. It's only when you have been away for a while and then go back for a visit that you see how much your old neighborhood has changed.

The same thing is also true on a larger scale. Take the cradle of civilization for example, the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Many of them were once covered with lush forests and deep rich soil. Now some are largely barren and rocky. The forests were cut down long ago and much of the soil washed or blew away. We have come to accept this as normal for those countries, when, in fact, it is not. The change was all due to mismanagement by man.

Human activity is also responsible for the elimination of the forests that once covered much of the Middle East. The Sahara Desert, spreading three thousand miles across northern Africa, is largely a human-made desert. As a desert reaches a certain critical mass it tends to become self perpetuating. The once fertile soils that grew the grain that fed the Roman Empire have largely turned to desert because of human mismanagement. But now the vast desert seems normal to us, because that is all we have ever known it to be.

Sadly, the same thing is taking place right here in North America, but it is not yet apparent to the general public. Our grandchildren may one day think the world of sand dunes, sage brush and bare rock that we may be creating for them is normal because that will be all they will have ever known. According to one journalistic report, forty percent of North America's crop and range lands have already turned to desert.

The western range lands were once grazed by enormous herds of buffalo. Their sharp hooves trampled everything into dust … grass, organic matter, weeds and shrubs. Dead vegetation was trampled into the ground where soil microbes could break it down. The organic litter helped retain moisture for plant growth. Gradually the debris rotted and returned the nutrients to the soil.

When these roaming herds left one area, they were free to find greener pastures in another area and the trampled prairie they left behind was able to recover without interference, thus allowing it to regain its former lushness. Man, on the other hand, fences the land into small parcels and stocks them with cattle which graze much differently than buffalo. Cattle spread out and graze only on the choicest grasses, leaving the course vegetation and unpalatable weeds virtually untouched. They don't tend to trample down standing dead grasses from previous years very effectively. About the only places you will find the vegetation trampled to smithereens by cattle is around their watering holes and salt licks.

Since they are generally confined by fences and not free to wander to greener pastures, cattle are forced to repeatedly return to previously grazed areas, without allowing the vegetation to recover, until it ultimately resembles astroturf and their human manager is forced to move them elsewhere. In time, overgrazing will destroy the grasses that are most palatable, leaving nothing but the coarse unpalatable weeds and shrubs to thrive unmolested.

This insidious process happens slowly and subtly. When the damage becomes obvious, we wring our hands in despair and wonder why someone didn't do something to prevent it from happening. But we eventually become accustomed to the new look and it seems normal to us. And that is the sad irony … we accept the whole process of destroying our environment and our vital natural resources as being normal.

The end result is that our range lands are gradually turning to desert. Maybe not the Sahara sand-dune variety, but desert with regard to its utility as range land. As the weeds take over, the land becomes unfit for grazing livestock and it is essentially desert. Halting and reversing the process of desertification can be done, but it requires playing by Nature's rules. It also takes time and costs money.

Although cattle are generally perceived to be the cause of the problem, that is not precisely true. The cause is the result of management practices, or the lack thereof. There actually is no reason why our vast range lands cannot support huge numbers of cattle if properly managed. Some advocate the clustering of cattle into massive herds, like the buffalo, so that they destroy everything in their path and then leave it to recover. Although that worked well in the free-range conditions of the past, I doubt that it would work with domesticated cattle because their grazing habits are not like those of the wild buffalo. Cattle find no need to bunch up for protection from predators, as was the case with buffalo. It seems to me that limiting the size of livestock herds to the optimum grazing capacity of the land makes more sense. While I'm certainly not an authority on the subject, it stands to reason that the solution to the problem will only be found in proper management.

While the United States has about ninety eight million head of cattle and nine million sheep and goats, China has an estimated hundred and thirty million cattle and two hundred and ninety million sheep and goats. Chinese officials have calculated that nine hundred square miles of land are turning to desert each year. The Chinese government is so concerned that it is considering planting a huge belt of trees that would separate the desert from fertile ground.
How that will solve the problem, I'm not quite sure.

Overgrazing isn't a function of animal numbers, it's a function of time. Overgrazing happens when cattle are kept in an enclosed area too long or brought back too soon. Reducing livestock numbers won't necessarily stop overgrazing. Animals graze selectively. Given the opportunity, they will overgraze because the newest growth is the most palatable forage in the pasture. Even one cow in a big pasture will overgraze the choicest plants if she's kept there long enough.

I believe there is still time to reverse our course and bring some of the damaged land back into production, provided we do not wait too long. At the very least we should stop destroying any more. But I'm not very optimistic because it seems that we humans have to learn everything the hard way.

To be continued next time…

I would like to hear from you! You may send your comments by clicking either the Comments or the Letter icon below. Thank you…

Have a warm day…


April 5, 2008

My Lillie Died

My Lillie died a month ago - March 13, 2008. Our 7th wedding anniversary would have been a week from today – April 12th. It is still very hard to accept the fact that she is gone. I have not yet become accustomed to the unfamiliar quietness in our now lonely house.

We met on the internet in January of 2001 on one of those Web Match sites. Lillie’s previous husband, Adrian Artiano, had passed away in 1998. My previous wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Bergeron, died on August 28, 1989. Lillie lived in Oregon City, Oregon when we first met. I lived in Colinton, Alberta. After a brief courtship, e-mailing each other several times daily and commuting back and forth a couple of times over the 1100 miles that separated us, we were married in Saint Alberts, Alberta.

The next seven years went by very quickly. We bought a mobile home and lived it in for a few months. Then, after traveling across Canada and the US for a while, settled down to build a permanent home together. Lillie designed our house and I (with a lot of help from my son Guy) constructed it. I was 74 at that time.

Lillie loved to travel. In addition to motoring around North America, we took a Mediterranean cruise and visited five European countries. Lillie made numerous trips by herself as well, visiting her family and friends down in the States. She never hesitated to venture out alone on long drives when I could not accompany her. She was a remarkably independent and competent woman.

Lillie was an artist. Not only was she an accomplished painter, she was also a knowledgeable and talented potter. She and her dear friend Kathy spent many hours together sipping tea while painting. Our house was filled with works of art and pottery.

This was her third bout with Cancer. Her determination to beat the dreaded disease the first two times was successful and added another twenty years onto her life. Although she fought valiantly to the end, she no longer had the strength to survive the third and final attack.

I and your many friends miss you Lillie. May you rest in peace.

Following is a poem that Lillie’s brother Frank wrote in memory of his sister, whom he and most of her family and Oregon friends knew as “Voni”:


Yes the world is less lovely without her
This unique and adventurous gal,
And the love of life she is leaving behind
As viewed by her brother and pal.

She was clearly alive every day of her life,
A class act from beginning to end,
With talent for making things beautiful
And a gift for the making of friends.

I’ve known her, of course, since childhood
And have seen how she stayed resolute
In the field of exquisite creativity
In her many skillful pursuits.

She designed magnificent gardens
And toiled in them tirelessly too.
She read many books on the subject
And it showed in the things that she grew.

One more of her gifts was painting,
Her work was in many a show.
Illness canceled her forum in Tuscany
Only a few months ago.

I can surely attest to her potting skills,
She made teapots donburi and plates
That I used in my family Japanese restaurant
Until I retired of late.

Her dishes in fact were our calling card there
People came in expressly to see
Her unique rendition of a Japanese period
Momoyama and Muramachi.

A lover of life and of travel.
A lover of family and friends.
Yes, the world is less lovely without her
An achiever right though to the end.

By Frank Partridge, 2008.

March 1, 2008

17th Book Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

Lambing will begin in another month. We keep a few sheep for trimming the yard around the buildings and machinery. Not only makes the place look a lot better but reduces the fire hazard and supplies us with all the lamb chops we can eat. Too bad their wool is unprofitable - doesn’t even cover the cost of shearing. Maybe that will change when the price of petroleum based synthetic fibers rises due to oil shortages.

Automatic Self-fueling Lawnmowers

Current Rant:

Can’t understand the apparent complacency about imminent global food shortages. Actually, I don’t think it is so much complacency as it is ignorance of the facts. And that is equally puzzling in light of the abundance of publicity being given to the food situation on the internet, magazines and newspapers...the internet in particular.

Could it be a case of not wanting to know – disbelief – denial? I suspect that it’s just a matter of disinterest. Doom and gloom subjects are not popular, they are not sexy, they might cause one to think...and that’s not fun.

But it’s not just the average Joe Blow that needs to wake up. Our political leaders seem to be equally unaware of what’s going on all around them. When global food inventories are reaching historical low levels and crop failures are rampant in much of the world (Australia and China for example) our government officials choose to promote the use of food grains for biofuel production. Brilliant leadership!

I predict that a year from now we will see starvation in Asia and Africa on an unprecedented scale – and, thanks in part to the brilliant leadership of our governments, there are no stocks of grain in reserve to relieve the crisis.

17th Excerpt from “Farmageddon”:
(My latest unfinished book)

Planning Stage

Our first decision was to continue farming just as we are for as long as possible. Then, once we had roughed out an overall plan and identified some obvious changes that would have to be made, we got down to the specifics. In our initial discussions it became obvious that, being reasonably competent at walking and chewing gum simultaneously, we should be able to make more than one change concurrently.

As with many major changes that one faces in life, there is often a “lead time” factor that must be taken into account. In the changes that we contemplated there were a number of things that involved varying amounts of lead time. For example, if new facilities have to be built and made ready for use by the time they are needed, the amount of time required to build them obviously must be factored in. In other words, in planning for such things, one has to establish some kind of schedule of priorities to make sure the plan is workable. Seems obvious enough, but since it is such a critical part of planning, it should be mentioned.

In order to finance some of things that we will need to buy, without dipping into our current operating funds, we decided that it may become necessary to sell certain assets in order to raise additional cash. Those assets could be either land, machinery or livestock.

As we plan to continue business as usual for as long as possible, we will need all of our present machinery, so we will not be selling any right away. Rather, if it should become necessary, we could sell one quarter-section of land and/or downsize our herd by about twenty five percent. By so doing we estimated there would be from fifty to seventy five thousand dollars in our "transition start-up-fund". This should be adequate to cover the initial expenses.

If it becomes clear that our worst fears are inevitable, we will commit ourselves totally to the carefully worked out plan. Until that time we plan to stay in a kind of holding pattern — continuing to farm as usual while gearing our daily decisions to the possibility that radical changes might be necessary at any time. Hopefully the clues will not be too obscure.

For the sake of brevity, I have coined a couple of acronyms that appear throughout the book. They are: “BS”, for Basic Survival and “SALT”, for Sustainable Agriculture - Long Term . Basic Survival is defined as a bare subsistence lifestyle where everything must be done by manual- or animal-power alone — although I suspect some might apply the more common interpretation of the acronym BS. In contrast, the SALT lifestyle could be anything from fully mechanized to labour intensive, depending upon the severity of the shortage of gas and oil ― the keyword here being Sustainable. I define Sustainable as: Perpetual agricultural production without exhausting natural resources or causing ecological damage.

Once we are convinced that the time has come to make our move, everything from that point onward will be geared toward survival, both BS and SALT.

To be continued next time…

17th Excerpt from “Defying the Odds”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

Our First Home…

Our combined income was around fifty dollars per week. The apartment cost us forty five dollars per month, which we felt was money foolishly spent, so we started looking for a house of our own. The first plan was to buy a lot somewhere and build a house. Then one day, while driving home from work, I noticed a for sale sign on a small house about half way home. I told

Betty about it and the next weekend we went to look at it.
It was a rather small house, much in need of repairs, but we both liked its possibilities right from the start. On the positive side, there was a half acre of land with a dozen or more old walnut trees scattered about. But the best thing was the price…thirty five hundred dollars. The negative things were entirely related to its location. The property was surrounded by a major highway on the north, a very busy railway on the south and the landing pattern for the Portland International Airport overhead. To top it off, just beyond the railroad was the Columbia River, with all its river traffic. Tug boats towing huge log rafts, fishing boats, pleasure boats, barges, dredges, and even a an occasional naval vessel plied the river constantly. It was a noisy place to say the least, but it became our home—a home we called 'Ells Half Acre'.

The first of our babies arrived in the spring of 1949. Lynn…since changed to Lynne…was born on March 14, 1949. Guy was born August 16, 1950, Jim January 10, 1953, John December 3, 1956, Frank April 15, 1958, and Bill October 14, 1960. Betty was an excellent mother. Her pregnancies were not easy but she never complained. She loved to cook and sew. She worked very hard. We had a good life…busy but happy.

Thankfully, I had sense enough to quit smoking shortly after Guy was born. The difficulty I had in breaking the disgusting habit has been repaid many fold by the knowledge that I was no longer guilty of exposing my family to the dangers of second hand smoke. For the life of me, I cannot understand why any parent, that presumably loves their kids, would deliberately endanger their health.

Anyway, as new babies arrived, it became apparent that our little house was too small…so we decided to build on to it. Taking a second loan didn't seem like a very good idea, but since building materials cost money and we didn't want the remodelling work to stretch on for years, we started looking for a means of building without going into debt.

During the war years, hundreds of temporary apartments were built by the government to house shipyard and other war industries workers. Thousands of people were recruited from all over America to work in these industries. Two of the largest housing projects were located within twenty miles of our place. After the war, these buildings were no longer needed and they were becoming slum areas as well. Most of the buildings were still in fairly new condition but they were unattractive and crowded together. The housing commission decided that they should all be torn down and the land made available for other purposes.

I went to the housing commission and found that they were offering deals that I could not resist. I suppose I was greedy, as well as inexperienced, but I made a deal on a six-apartment unit. It was a two story building about a hundred feet long and thirty feet wide, which had housed six families during the war. There were a hundred or more identical buildings in the project, wooden structures built on concrete slabs. The lumber in them was top grade and in excellent condition. Being six-plex buildings…each with three bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room…there was enough material in each building to construct two or more conventional houses.

The deal was very simple: Make a two hundred and twenty five dollar deposit and have the entire building removed, down to the concrete slab and the area cleaned up within sixty days. If the job was done on time, and passed inspection, the deposit would be returned, otherwise it would be forfeited. There was an awful lot of material to be had in exchange for a bit of sweat.

By the time the salvaging was finished, there was very little of our half acre that wasn't covered with building materials. The garage was filled with sinks, toilets, windows, sheet rock, pipe fittings, and electrical fixtures. The yard and driveway was piled high with lumber, brick and concrete blocks. There was hardly room to walk.

Betty took it upon herself to pull nails, sort the lumber and pile it in neat piles. It was dirty hard work, but she really enjoyed it. She worked just as hard at her job as I did at mine, and just as long hours. It was a tough but happy time for both of us. With so much material on hand, the amount of remodelling we could do was almost unlimited. In addition to remodelling and enlarging the house, we built a new garage, a workshop, a greenhouse, and a chicken house…and still sold enough surplus materials to more than cover the cost of small amount of new materials needed for these projects. The salvage job was completed on time so our deposit was refunded in full.

Meanwhile, family activities went on. One by one the kids started school and became involved in swimming lessons, cub scouts, and fishing. There were the usual childhood illnesses and accidents. John broke his foot at age three while 'helping' his mother pull nails. Frank had a couple of corrective eye operations. Betty had a tubule pregnancy that nearly cost her life. We took family vacations to the mountains, beaches and rain forests. We went to the local drive-in theatre on Friday nights and played cards at Betty's mother's place on Saturday nights and visited my folks on Sundays. We built a swimming pool, landscaped our yard, raised chickens and rabbits, had a huge garden and all the other things that families do. We built a boat. We went camping and fishing. And, we accumulated an enormous amount of 'stuff'. It was a great life and we were happy.

To be continued next time…

17th Excerpt from “But…What About Tomorrow?”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)


Deforestation is the deliberate removal of trees by human activities. It has been going on for thousands of years, mainly as a result of clearing land for commercial and industrial development, intensive collection of firewood, clearing of land for cropping and developing pasture for grazing animals.

At the present time the major concern is for the extraordinary loss of tropical rainforests, one fifth of which were destroyed between 1960 and 1990. Estimates of deforestation of tropical forest for the 1990s range from 21,478 square miles to 46,332 square miles, or approximately 30 million acres each year. To put that into context, Canada's total cultivated acreage has remained fairly constant at approximately 168 million acres for a number of years. So, at the present rate of deforestation of the earth's tropical forests, every five and a half years the earth loses the equivalent of all of the cultivated land in Canada.

The slash-and-burn type of agriculture practiced in the rainforest area is an extreme example of deforestation. Forests are cleared and the trees and debris burned. Crops are planted in very thin soil with low organic matter content. The meager organic matter is quickly used up and the soil becomes subject to erosion, thereby causing huge amounts of sediment to be washed into the lakes and rivers.

The clearing of land for agricultural purposes and the international demand for tropical timber are the main contributors to deforestation. As long as we, the so-called developed nations of the world, continue our demand for tropical lumber for our fancy furniture and beautiful interior home decorative purposes, the tropical forests will continue to be decimated.

The story has been told so many times, by people much more knowledgeable than myself, that there is little point in repeating it. But, in fairness to the people of the developing countries, let's at least be honest about who is to blame. We are guilty of having done, and continuing to do, the same thing in our country that we so piously criticize others for.

To be continued next time…

I would like to hear from you! You may send your comments by clicking either the Comments or the Letter icon below. Thank you…

Have a warm day…


February 25, 2008

15th Book Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

Ever since our well went dry, several years ago, we’ve had to haul potable water for household use. It’s a weekly chore…takes about 200 liters per week for drinking, cooking and showering, the toilets are piped to the dugout which waters the cattle. Until recently we had to haul from Athabasca…about a 25 mile round trip. Now that purified water has been piped from Athabasca to our little village of Colinton, the round trip has been reduced to 8 miles.

This is a picture of Guy loading up in Colinton’s new coin-operated pumping station.

Hauling Water

Current Rant:

This business of bottled drinking water bugs me. Everywhere you go you see people packing a bottle of water. It would make sense if they were crossing the Sahara Desert but in a country where purified water is piped into just about every residence and business establishment it seems a tad foolish, to say the least. It seems that it has become a status symbol…”See how health conscious I am”, or some such foolishness.

The fact is that, in North America, the standards for tap water are often higher than for bottled water. Rather than spend a buck and a half for a bottle of water that was transported halfway across the country, or imported from Scandinavia for Pete’s sake, it would be more practical to at least re-fill your water bottle from the nearest tap. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what some bottled water companies have been found to be doing.

Save your bottled water money and pay off your credit card debt…tough times are coming.

15th Excerpt from “Farmageddon”:
(My latest unfinished book)

A Brief History Of Our Farm

Our farm is located in central Alberta, Canada. The climate can be quite severe at times. You can count on having a few days of thirty-below temperatures just about every winter, but in general it is quite suitable for farming. The annual precipitation averages around twenty inches, an adequate amount for dry-land farming provided the bulk of it comes when it is most useful. The frost-free period is approximately a hundred days long on average, but over the forty odd years that we have lived here we’ve seen both frost and snow in every month of the year.

My oldest son, Guy, and I have been farming together since 1962. Starting with a five quarter-section mixed enterprise operation, the farm has evolved into a ten-quarter cow/calf beef enterprise. Our only crops are hay and pasture. We use little or no commercial fertilizers and no chemical herbicides or insecticides. All of the livestock manure is returned to the fields.

When we first started farming, our land was classified as marginally suitable for agriculture. The native top soil averages under four inches deep. The land is very rocky, with stones ranging from baseball size up to pickup-truck size. Over the years, by means of crop rotation, manure application and hundreds of hours of rock removal, the cultivated fields have been greatly improved in productivity. We now have just over eight hundred acres of arable land and about the same in native and improved pasture. Although we are not registered "organic farmers", for all intents and purposes that description best fits our system of management.

At the present time we have a breeding herd of approximately two hundred Limosin and cross-bred beef cattle. The cows are bred to start calving in early April, when the worst of winter is generally behind us. The calves are weaned and shipped in late September. We raise all of our fodder and pasture but buy some supplemental grain-based feed for the replacement heifers. The pasture season starts around the first of June and ends with the first killing frost, usually mid-September, so we have to feed hay for eight to nine months of the year.
It takes from six to seven twelve-hundred pound bales of hay for each mature animal, which works out to about four tons each.

The reality is that winter dominates everything we do — even in those three or four months between winters, the bulk of our time is spent preparing for the next winter. Around here a year is described as, “Nine months of winter followed by three months of poor sledding”, or “We have two seasons ― winter and the Forth of July” .

Over the years we have acquired a full line of haying and tillage machinery. We also have land clearing, rock removal and manure handling machinery. The only custom work we hire is cattle hauling, when we ship our calves and cull the herd in the fall.

We are debt free and have been for more than a decade. Our annual operating expenses are approximately fifty thousand dollars and we normally have two to three years operating funds in the bank.

When we took over our farm back in 1962, the land was actually in terrible shape but I was too inexperienced to realize it. The previous owner had farmed the place since 1927, the year of my birth. He had homesteaded the home quarter, which made him the first person since the beginning of time to have cultivated that specific 160 acres of North America. Consequently, the condition of the land, when it passed from his hands, was solely the result of his farming practices.

Now, I'm not accusing the man of wilful mismanagement and he certainly wasn't an ignorant man. In fact, he was a school teacher by profession. He must have realized that his method of farming was destroying, or at least degrading, the soil (he hinted as much after we had purchased his farm). I'm sure he did the best he could under the circumstances and I'm equally sure that he would have liked to have done better. But by using the machinery that was available and the farming practices that prevailed at the time, the results were inevitable.

The farm had been operated as a grain farm for thirty five years with very limited, if any, diversification. The only domesticated livestock that ever set foot on the farm were a few hogs, a couple of milk cows, a team of horses and a flock of chickens and turkeys. The horses were the primary source of power until tractors came along late in his farming career. The cows supplied his family with milk and meat but, being such a small part of his farming enterprise, they did not require enough forage to justify raising hay on a scale that warranted any kind of crop rotation. Most of the hay for his cows and horses came from natural meadows on his own land or nearby public land. The hogs and turkeys were raised primarily to consume grain — the principle product of the farm.

With such an operation there was obviously very little manure generated, certainly too little to justify the effort, machinery and expense of spreading it on the grain fields. To make matters worse, the straw from the grain crops, aside from a small amount that was fed to the horses or used as bedding for the cows and pigs, was either burned or left in stacks in the fields where the grain had been thrashed. One of the first things we did, when we took over the farm, was burn old straw stacks because they were a nuisance to cultivate around. There were dozens of them and burning was the only practical way to get rid of them.

In defense of the previous owner, and other farmers of his generation, I want to point out that there was little incentive to maintain the fertility of the soil. As a matter of fact, there was, and still is, a disincentive in the form of short term gain. It must be understood that those people were barely able to eke out a living, often from marginally productive land, using labour intensive methods. The very limited income from such enterprises often barely covered expenses. What little profit there was had to be frugally budgeted between family expenses, machinery replacement, debt payments, and all the other expenses associated with farming.

The incentive to maximize immediate profits, as a trade off for long term depletion of soil fertility, was very strong — a variation of the old "bird-in-the-hand" philosophy. Besides, many of their generation were soon to retire, so there was little incentive for them to change their ways at such a late date. "Let the next generation shoulder the burden and expense of restoring the land's productivity", seemed to have been the prevailing philosophy.

A bit of clarification is called for at this point. In the short term it is both costly and difficult to switch to sustainable farming practices once the soil has been severely depleted of organic matter, the primary damage in this case. First of all, Mother Nature, in her attempt to restore the soils productivity, makes sure that something grows, if at all possible. Unfortunately weeds tend to thrive where cultivated crops do not.

The weeds that do well in our area are Canada Thistle, Stink Weed, Sow Thistle, Dandelions, Plantain, Wild Oats, Tansy, Chamomile, to mention a few. A field left uncultivated, even though the soil's organic matter has been severely depleted, will produce prodigious quantities of these odious plants and the soil soon becomes polluted with their seeds.

Obviously weeds also do very well in healthy soil, as any gardener knows. But, as any gardener also knows, if the soil is healthy the cultivated plants are able to compete much better with the weeds than they otherwise could.

Once the soil has reached a certain level of degradation, restoring it to health, while trying to derive a living from it at the same time, is difficult, to say the least. In our case, it took approximately twenty years to nurse our soil back to a reasonably productive condition. It took about the same length of time to get rid of our worst weed — Wild Oats.

Our first crop was a disaster. As soon as it emerged from the ground it was evident that the soil was polluted with weed seeds — wild oats in particular. Within a week of emergence the fields resembled lawns more than grain fields. Wild oats grew so thickly that they even choked themselves out, turning yellow in their competition for soil nutrients. Unusually wet weather compounded the problem. Within a month the grain was stunted beyond belief. It was a miserable looking crop. My visions of a bountiful harvest turned to worry and embarrassment.

By the way, with regard to the wretched wild oat, the cockroach of field-crop weeds in my opinion, it is a very interesting plant. It is a survivor, if nothing else. One reason for this trait lies in its ability to "plant its self" — literally. The seeds are designed in such a way that they can actually "dig" their way into the soil. The wild oat seed has a little hairy doohicky, shaped like a grasshoppers hind leg, which reacts to the sun's energy in a way that causes it to kick back and forth and cover its self with soil. Really!

Anyway, some forty-plus years later, as a result of crop rotations and diversified farming enterprises, our land is almost totally free of wild oats, and, with the exception of Dandelions in the hay fields and Stink Weed in the grain crops, the weed problem is almost non-existent. Bear in mind that this was all done without the use of herbicides. The only herbicides ever used on Ells Farms are for brush control in the fence lines and spot spraying of Tansy in the pastures. With the exception of our first year on the farm — when we were informed by the local municipal weed control officer that we would either have to spray our fields with herbicides or the county would do it for us and bill us for the costs — not one drop of herbicide has since been used on any of our field crops.

Furthermore, very little synthetic fertilizer has been used. On average, about once every four or five years, we top-dress some of our hay land with a nitrogen fertilizer (34-0-0) at the rate of about a hundred and fifty pounds per acre. Other than that, the only fertilizer used is the manure from the cattle and crop residues incorporated back into the soil.

I am proud to say that our land is now in much better condition than it was, even in its virgin state. The organic matter has been restored and is maintained at a level which has virtually eliminated erosion — another serious problem when we first took over the farm — and its water retention capacity makes maximum use our twenty-inch average annual rainfall. These are some of the reasons why I feel qualified to give advise on soil restoration. I know from personal experience that it can be done.

Since we took over the farm, there has never been a mouldboard plough in any of our fields. We use chisel- and disk-type implements exclusively for tillage and the age-old system of broadcast seeding for planting. The seeding system, which we have used very successfully for the past forty years, consists of a medium sized tractor pulling a spin-type fertilizer spreader. This small outfit seeds twenty feet per round at a speed of ten miles per hour, or approximately twenty acres per hour. Since we only seed grain one year out of four, and only then as a companion-crop with a mixture of forage seed, the grain and grass seed are mixed together as they are loaded into the spreader. The spreader holds enough seed for fifty acres.

After broadcasting the seed, the field is harrowed and then rolled with a ten-ton land roller, in two separate operations. The total time per acre seeded is approximately one quarter of a man-hour (three minutes per acre to seed plus one and a half minutes per acre to harrow and ten minutes per acre to roll). Our yields are comparable to those of farmers who have a much larger investment in seeding equipment. For example, oat yields in excess of one hundred bushels per acre — bearing in mind that we use neither chemical fertilizers nor herbicides.

A side benefit of using a broadcast seeder is that we don’t have to clean the seed. It goes straight into the seeder as it comes from the combine — a few bits of straw, leaves and other foreign matter are not a problem with a broadcast seeder.

But this kind of farming is not impressive. It does not appeal to the hot-shot grain farmers who yearn to be the envy of their peers, as well as the most prized customers of the machinery dealers. "What fools we mortals be."

With that background on the past and present conditions of the specific farm which the rest of the book deals with, I will now get on with the main subject of this book: Preparing ourselves to farm without cheap and abundant oil and natural gas products.

To be continued next time…

15th Excerpt from “Defying the Odds”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

Flying At Last…

At that time the government sponsored an education plan, under a program called the G.I. Bill of Rights, which entitled veterans to grants for educational purposes. The plan basically covered the cost of one year of school for each year in the military. Since I only had seventeen months in the army, the plan would only have covered my college expenses for about a year and a half.

I figured there wasn't much use in starting school if I didn't have sufficient money or the prospects of finishing were not good. The truth is…I really wasn't sure of what I wanted to do, although I had thought some about becoming an architect. No one in my family had ever gone to college before. I had saved a little money while in the army, but had spent most of it already. There were no student loans available in those days and the folks certainly couldn't afford to pay for my education…even if I would have permitted them to.

But college wasn't the only thing that was covered by the G.I. Bill. Among other things, it could also be used for flying lessons. There was a time limit in which you had to start school to be eligible for the government grant. As I recall, you had to enrol in an approved course within two years of being discharged. Anyway, rather than loose the benefits of the G.I. Bill altogether, my friend, Gene Nelson, and I decided to use up our education entitlements on flying lessons.

In order to qualify for a pilot license you had to pass a physical examination. My old nemesis had loomed up again, but this time the exam could be made by any medical doctor. With my past experiences in mind, I went to my doctors office with some trepidation. As usual, the only thing he found wrong was my high blood pressure. He knew how often I had been disappointed by failed physicals in the past and I suspect he also knew the psychological effect of those past failures. After pointing out that I would probably never be able to get a commercial pilots license, he signed the forms, giving me a clean bill of health.

The training consisted of ground school and flight training. The flying lessons were from a half hour to a couple of hours in length. We trained in single-engine land planes. After eight hours of dual training with an instructor, the student was eligible for his first solo flight. The landing strip was just a grass runway in a former cow pasture. At one end there was a high tension power line and tall Fir trees at the other end. Dropping down behind that power line was a bit intimidating at first but it was good training for emergency landing situations. Ward Grove, the owner of the airport, as well as one of my instructors, had actually landed a plane between the goal posts of a football field, as a half-time stunt…which took a bit more skill than landing between power lines and fir trees on a runway at least three times as long.

I qualified for my first solo flight on schedule. It proved to be an uneventful flight but unforgettable nevertheless. Ward had shot a couple landings with me as a final check out before soloing. As we taxied toward the hangers after the second landing, he had me stop and as he got out said, “Looks like you’re ready to shoot a couple by yourself.”, then grinned and walked away.

That was a moment of truth, a rare moment in life never to be forgotten. As I taxied to the end of the runway, all alone for the first time, my mind was racing through the pre-flight checklist. There was no feeling of panic…just a high state of exhilaration and total concentration. After checking the controls once again and making a final check for incoming aircraft, I taxied onto the runway. The hours of practice took over as I revved the engine and released the brakes. As the plane started rolling I thought to myself, as I had done many times before when in tense situations, “This is no big deal…thousands of people have done it before you. Just don’t do anything stupid.”

It seemed that the plane accelerated more quickly than usual and used up less runway to get up to flying speed. Leaving the ground smoothly, I climbed to the proper altitude and made the left turn of the take off pattern. Still climbing, in preparation for making another left turn onto the landing pattern, it dawned on me that the reason that the plane had accelerated faster and was now climbing faster was because it was a hundred and eighty pounds lighter since Ward got out. While flying along the landing pattern, before making my final approach, I reminded myself to compensate for this loss of weight when landing.

Pulling the throttle lever back to half throttle to start my descent and lined up on the runway. In order to clear the power lines, without using up too much of the runway, it was necessary to lose altitude quickly by side-slipping the aircraft. Luckily I had thought about the plane being lighter than usual and compensated by side-slipping a bit more than usual. After touching the wheels down to a decent landing I pushed the throttle full forward and took off again, much relieved that the landing had been okay.

As I taxied back to the hangers, after making the second landing, I was pleased that it had gone well and tried to look cool while preparing myself for the good-natured harassing I was about to receive.
During our training, we made a couple cross-country flights, both dual and solo, but most of our time was spent practising in our own locality. More time was spent shooting landings than anything else but we also practised aerobatics…looping, stalling, et cetera. I really enjoyed flying but knew that there was no hope of a career for me there. After getting my pilots license, I used up the remaining hours of government sponsored flying time, by taking friends for rides or just fooling around by myself. Since it cost twelve dollars per hour to rent a plane, I couldn't afford to fly after the government funds ran out, so that was the end of my flying experience. It was nothing like my dreams of being a fighter pilot, but at least I had experienced the satisfaction of beating the odds to a very limited degree.

To be continued next time…

15th Excerpt from “But…What About Tomorrow?”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

Summing Up…

Somehow, in this age of greed and self indulgence, we have lost our sense of what is important and what is not. Our standard of living is the highest in human history, but at an unconscionable cost to the environment and natural resources. We capriciously consume and waste the resources of coming generations at an obscene rate. We are more concerned about our own immediate comfort and amusement than we are about the future of our progeny.

It's taken us a couple hundred years to screw up the environment to its present condition. Repairing the damage will likely take a lot longer, if indeed it is even possible at this eleventh hour. What we have done to our descendant's planet is amoral, if not criminal. We have looted and spoiled natures perfection in our selfish pursuit of the good life. We not only owe our progeny an apology…we should beg their forgiveness. But, forgiven or not, the very least we should do is start repairing the damage we have done.

But I seriously doubt that we will do much for a while because it's our nature to procrastinate and, besides, we're having too much fun. It's our nature, as well, to assume that the unidentified "they" are responsible…therefore "they" must fix it. Wrong! We let it happen therefore We should fix it!

It's also our nature to assume that the bright boys—scientists, engineers, politicians, inventors—will save our bacon somehow. We assume these smart guys will find alternate energy sources before we burn that last barrel of oil. They will develop a chemical-resistant microbe that will make our burned out soil well again and maybe even permit us to use more chemicals to produce even more surplus commodities. They will invent a water purification system that will allow us to continue dumping the shit of civilization into our rivers and oceans and get away with it. And, they will pass new legislation to correct the unforeseen consequences of their past self-serving legislative mistakes—retroactively, one would hope.

Dream on! That's the kind of reasoning that got us into our present mess and it isn't likely to get us out. One of the signs of insanity is, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time".

I don't pretend to know much about the scientific, technological or political worlds, but from personal experience and observations, I have some ideas about what needs to be done as far as agriculture is concerned. For what they may be worth … here they are.

Agriculture must move toward more diversification. No, I'm not suggesting that we go back to the small family farms of the past—the nostalgic little storybook farm with a few chickens, a cow and a pig or two—that is obviously ridiculous and unworkable. What I do suggest is a gradual movement away from the large factory-type farming operations—the huge hog and chicken production plants and the enormous cattle feedlots—that have proven to be so environmentally harmful.

We should limit the concentration of animal populations to a size that the waste they produce can be absorbed beneficially by the farms in the nearby surrounding area. Smaller operations scattered throughout the country will not only make a more tolerable impact on nature but will also generate local ancillary employment. It could, for instance, encourage the construction of mid-sized meat processing facilities, which would also serve as a market outlet for the smaller local farmers. Mid-sized feed lots and farm factories should be located only where their waste byproducts can be absorbed efficiently and beneficially.

"But", some might protest, "that would be counter to the principle of efficiency of scale and would tend to reduce profitability!"

Probably … but the single-minded pursuit of profit—the almighty bottom line—at the expense of the environment, is exactly what got us into our present predicament. A greedy few have made fortunes at the expense of the environment, but only because of the complacency of the rest of us. Over a period of time, the farm has evolved from the nostalgic independent labor intensive family operation to the present day mechanized capital intensive subsidy dependent political nightmare. Efficiency has been stressed to the detriment of conservation. Return on investment is the focal point of management. Money has become the ultimate goal.

Aside from the guilt I feel for my personal part in creating this legacy of problems, which we are leaving for our kids to clean up, I'll likely not live to experience the real cost of our crimes against nature. But, on the other hand, my optimistic side tells me, "There's still hope …provided we come to our senses before it's too late."

To be continued next time…

I would like to hear from you! You may send your comments by clicking either the Comments or the Letter icon below. Thank you…

Have a warm day…


February 21, 2008

14th Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

This is the winter view from our kitchen window. The barely visible black object in the center of the picture is a cow moose. The flat area in the foreground is a frozen beaver pond which will be alive with ducks, geese, beavers and muskrats come summer.

Current Rant:

Since my last posting I have received enough responses to my blog to convince me to continue posting. It is good to know that someone out there is interested in an old coffin dodger’s ramblings.

During my short hiatus from blogging I spent some time visiting a number of other blogger’s sites and made several interesting and useful discoveries. One thing that struck me was an apparent common misunderstanding of the intended use of profile lists of personal interests and favorite books, etc. Quite a few of the sites listed their interests in the form of multi-worded phrases rather than single words. Since these lists are intended to be made up of “keywords” to be used for searching for other bloggers with similar interests, it is much more likely that you will find a match when a single keyword is used rather than a phrase.

For example; Let’s assume that one of your interests happens to be “Chocolate” and you would like to find others who share your passion for Chocolate. Since the search engine being used is looking for exact matches to the word, or phrase, that you are searching for, wouldn’t it seem logical that it is more apt to find a match for the single word “Chocolate” than it is to find a match for a phrase such as: “Boy-O-Boy do I love Chocolate”?

If you want your blogs to be found by others of similar interests to yours, I would suggest that you take another look at your profile lists of interests and edit them down to single words, insofar as possible.

“Who am I - an admitted neophyte blogger - to give such pedantic advice?”, you might ask. “What qualifies me as an expert?”, you might also ask. Well – nothing. It’s just that I’m probably a lot older than you and I’ve been getting away with giving unsolicited advice most of my life and see no reason to change now. (If that doesn’t provoke some comments I may have to resort to even more obnoxious tactics.)

14th Excerpt from “Farmageddon”:

(My latest unfinished book)

Assessing Our Options

There are a number of possible scenarios that could take place, but for simplicity’s sake I will deal with only two. First case: The politicians and government leaders finally wake up to the fact that the world is on the brink of disaster and take action to help farmers prepare to feed the population of a world lacking unlimited petroleum products. Second case: A general collapse occurs and farmers are unable to raise enough food to feed the population and are forced to assume a survival mode.

For the first case to succeed requires prompt action by politicians of all levels of government They have to recognize that feeding the people must be their first priority. For such a radical change to happen may require that a majority of the politicians be replaced by people who think differently then those presently in office. It will require a group of people who are more concerned about the welfare of the general population than fulfilling their own ambitions. It will require people who understand the need for sustainable agriculture and are willing to make whatever sacrifices and commitments necessary to achieve it.

To get such people elected will require a change in the mindset of the voters. Candidates with a knowledge of agricultural and environmental issues, rather than political savvy, must be found and persuaded to run for office. Such candidates are more apt to be found in the scientific world than in the industrial or entertainment segments of society. Political people like ex-next-president Al Gore and the UK’s lately-converted ecology supporter, Tony Blair, are rare examples of the kind of leaders that will be needed.

There is little likelihood that an abrupt radical change will take place. It is much more likely that there will be a comparatively slow devolution of our petroleum-dependent system. Such a devolution is likely to be the reverse of the evolution to petroleum dependency. I see it as an unwinding of our present system coincident with adaptation to a sustainable system.

But, in my opinion, there is neither enough time, nor the probability of this first option to come to our rescue, so that leaves us with the second case: A general collapse occurs and farmers are unable to raise enough food to feed the population and are forced to assume a survival mode.

To be continued next time…

14th Excerpt from “Defying the Odds”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

Return to Civilian Life…

Now that the army was finished with me, it was time to start thinking about what to do with the rest of my life. But, with my recent attitude adjustment, I was no longer the virtuous boy—the naive trusting idiot—I had been. I became a totally different kind of idiot. In retrospect, it seems there was a deliberate determination to defy or break as many of the Ten Commandments as possible. Drinking, fighting, hanging around seedy dance halls…carousing around…became my new life style. My determination to make up for lost time with the girls became an obsession, and I could hardly believe how easy it was.

My paltry savings were quickly disappearing for things like new cloths, to replace the old wardrobe I had outgrown; a car and its associated expenses; and last but definitely not least, the expensive pastime of girl chasing.

So, I started looking for a source of income. I had no particular line of work in mind, because I didn't actually know what I wanted to do, but I was willing to try almost any temporary job to make a little money while deciding what to do next. Jobs weren't easy to find because of all the returning service men, but if you weren’t too particular, there was work available. As it turned out, my first visit to the employment office resulted in a job with the Aluminium Company of America.

I hired on with ALCOA as a clerk in the mechanical department machine shop office, for the impressive salary of thirty two dollars per week. This may not have seemed very bright because I could have gone to work with one of the old construction crews, that I had worked for prior to the army, for twice that amount. But, I decided to give ALCOA a trial until something better came along.

To be continued next time…

14th Excerpt from “But…What About Tomorrow?”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

The Good News…

I've painted a rather gloomy picture up to this point, but actually I'm convinced that the future can be bright. The answers to all of our problems can be found in Nature. This has always been the case and always will be. The problem is that we seem to have to get things thoroughly messed up before we learn our lessons, both in our individual and collective lives.

This world of ours has everything required to meet all of our needs in perpetuity, but her secrets are revealed progressively from the simple to the complex. Take the example of fuel. The ancient ones burned wood because it met their immediate needs and was easy to get ... just a matter of sending the wife out for an armload when the cave got cold. Later it was discovered that, due to changing needs, coal was superior to wood. The advantages gained from burning coal led to technological advancements which ultimately led to the discovery of petroleum fuels. Petroleum fuel led to internal combustion engines which led to easier access to more petroleum which led to greater and greater consumption of petroleum fuels.

Now that we are faced with the prospect of the petroleum resources running out, we are forced us to consider the ultimate fuel. The good news is there's an endless supply of its source compound. The bad news is this compound is hard to ignite in its natural state.

Unlike all of the fuels of the past, the ultimate fuel, hydrogen, is a perfect fuel and it is inexhaustible. It is perfect in the sense that it can be used over and over again without loss and with no negative side effects. In the process of "burning" it becomes water, the raw material from which it was obtained. If that is not perfection then I don't know the meaning of the word.

The separation of water into its two components will logically by done with electricity derived from solar energy. So, burning hydrogen is, in effect, the equivalent of using solar power, which is also inexhaustible

Everything that happened in the past has obviously brought us to the current moment and prepared us for the next moment. As humans, we are influenced by both stupid and wise impulses. My guess is that we will follow the familiar pattern of doing the wrong thing until forced to do the right thing. But, in the end, the right thing will prevail because the wrong thing is unsustainable in nature.

So that's why I feel that we will ultimately arrive at a sustainable system of agriculture, but we must get started soon. To repeat myself for the umpteenth time, the place to start is to reduce our dependency on agricultural chemicals and gradually go back to more diversification in farming. This will take time. The transition period will take at least a couple of decades in order to maintain an adequate supply of agricultural products while phasing out of our present unsustainable system. Farmers, both private and factory varieties, must also have time to convert their production facilities … structures, machinery, etc … and adjust their management systems to the requirements of sustainable agriculture.

To make such a transition possible it will take the combined effort and cooperation of farmers, industry and governments. The state and federal governments must take the initiative and create incentives to encourage farmers to move in the right direction. How that is done will be up to the experts of course, but it seems to me that low interest loans, coupled with the obligation of farmers to move in the proscribed direction would be a good starting point. The specific incentives to be used is debatable but the backing and support of the various levels of government is not … the job simply cannot be done without whole-hearted governmental encouragement and backing.

Convincing industry of the need to make preemptive changes will likely be a hard-sell, especially the petrochemical and agricultural machinery branches. But once the transition to sustainable farming gains momentum, business people will find ways to adapt. Adaptation to change is what the free enterprise, market driven, system is all about.

Farmers will likely be an even harder sell. Most of us have spent a good part of our lives—several generations in some cases—getting to where we are now. Unless someone, or something, can convince us to spend the time, effort and money that is necessary to change to a different system of farming, we just ain't apt to voluntarily do it. Why should we? After all, it's really not our problem. We wont starve because we produce the food. It's the other ninety eight percent of the population that will feel the pinch if there isn't enough food to go around. And it really doesn't matter how rich one is … all the money in the world wont buy a potato if it's the last one available.

Of course that's a ridiculous statement because it will never come to that. I'm just trying to make the point that this is not solely a farmer's problem. As Red Green would say, "We're all in this together". But, being such a small minority of the total population, we farmers don't have much clout at the ballot box. It's going to be up to the ninety eight percent who are not farmers to make some noise and get the attention of the politicians. But, keep in mind how slowly they work. Even if they do take the matter seriously, it's apt to take a decade or more for them to make their studies, argue endlessly about their findings, design bandaid legislation, attach all their pork-barrel issues to the legislation, etc., etc.

To be continued next time…

I would like to hear from you! You may send your comments by clicking either the Comments or the Letter icon below. Thank you…

Have a warm day…


February 13, 2008

13th Book Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

Can’t remember ever being so fed up with cold weather. Must be getting old. If we get much more snow I’ll have to raise the gates to the animal pens. Sure looking forward to spring…working the fields, getting the motorcycle back on the road, putting the cattle out to pasture…

Current Rant:

With this posting, my books are now half posted online. The fact that there has been no feedback so far indicates there is little, if any, interest in my blog. That being the case, I see no reason to continue. So, unless or until I get some feedback comments, positive or negative, this will be my final posting.

13th Excerpt from “Farmageddon”:
(My latest unfinished book)

What Does "Sustainable" Mean?

“Sustainability” results from conducting economic, social or environmental activities in such a way that current needs are met without compromising the well-being of future generations. A sustainable activity does not plunder the present at the expense of the future.

Cars that run on gasoline are unsustainable on both counts. They use a non-renewable resource, one that will be completely depleted at some point in the future, and they pollute the environment. Thus they negatively impact the present-day as well as tomorrow.

In the case of sustainable agriculture, it must sumultaneously provide a living for those who farm and support the general public’s needs, while maintaining the health of the farm’s ecology and its surrounding environment. A sustainable farm produces crops and animals without damage to the farm’s ecosystem. Sustainable agriculture seeks to pass on to future generations a healthy natural resource rather than one that has been exploited beyond repair.

Some examples of sustainable agricultural practices include minimal use of non-renewable chemicals, rotating crops, and choosing crops that suit the climate. Avoiding genetically modified crops would also fit with the sustainable model, given the uncertainty of their potential negative impact on ecosystems and personal health.

Sustainable agriculture has also been characterized as: “Leaving the world better than you found it, taking no more than you need, trying not to harm life or the environment, and making amends if you do.”

Once a farm has passed the transition period to sustainability, it is likely to be almost as profitable as before. The principal reason for this is an estimated decline in input costs by approximately a third below conventional costs. Yields typically decline in some crops, such as corn and potatoes, but often increase in others, such as hay, soybeans, oats, and barley, especially during dry years when the better water holding capacity of soil translates into a production advantage. Statistical data indicates that average yields of commonly grown crops show only a ten percent yield decline when compared to yields of traditional farming practices.
In other words: Sustainable farming may ultimately be as profitable as conventional farming because the decline in production is partially offset by the decline in expenses.

In 2002, north American farmers produced about two and a half times more food and fibre than they did in 1948, even though the number of farmers had fallen steadily. This can be attributed, in large measure, to increased mechanization.

As farms begin to scale down in size, the need for large capacity machinery will also scale down, but there will always be a desire and need for some mechanization. All farmers appreciate labour saving tools and equipment, just as in all other occupations. The key to survivability is having appropriate technology.

When diversification replaces monoculture there will be a switch from monstrous single-purpose machinery to smaller multi-purpose machinery. There will also likely be a transition to more garden sized machinery. In time, I suspect that the competition among farmers to have the largest most impressive machines will evolve into a competition to see who can get by with the least and most appropriate machinery.

With the ending of the current practice of farmers scaling up to fit in with modern agricultural technology, technology and farm machine manufacturers will begin to scale down in parallel with the farmers. Under present farming conditions, technology and farm machine companies are leading the way. I’m looking forward to the day when that will reverse and the farmers will once again take the lead.

Sustainable agriculture must seek small and specific answers to the challenges it faces. As some wag once said, “When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, all problems tend to look like nails”. Well, if money was your main problem solving tool in the past, the old practice of throwing money at problems, in the hope that they will disappear, is not likely to be an option any longer.

To be continued - if any interest is indicated…

13th Excerpt from “Defying the Odds”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)


It took twenty one days to get to Korea on the troop ship Marine Devil, a converted freighter. There were twenty five hundred of us on board. About a week out we hit a storm. Two men were washed overboard and not recovered. This resulted in an unscheduled stop at Honolulu, to drop off a couple of guys that had been injured in the storm, and also the opportunity to spend a day in paradise, tossing coins into the clear blue water for the native divers. Guards were posted everywhere to make sure nobody jumped ship.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, unless such things as…spending most of the daytime hours waiting in line for a dinning experience in a galley where the deck is so slippery with puke that it must be neutralised with sugar to provide enough traction so you can stand up elbow to elbow at long steel tables with a hundred or more fellow passengers who are suffering from various degrees of seasickness as you hang on to the table with one hand while feeding yourself with the other from a mess kit that is sliding back and forth with each roll of the ship making it uncertain whether or not you are actually eating your own food as you try to curb a powerful tendency to retch and add your own contribution to the ambience…an other amenities of troopship travel count as eventful.

On the twenty first day we anchored about a mile out from the port of Yung Dung Po, in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of Korea. There was nothing but mud between us and shore. Early the next morning a flotilla of marine landing craft came out to the ship, on high tide, and transported us to shore near a railway station.

That afternoon we boarded a narrow gage Korean train and lurched our way to the city of Seoul. Most of the windows were broken in the rickety old passenger cars, allowing the dense coal smoke from the ancient locomotive to waft through, adding yet another coat to the accumulated grime.

From time to time, for the customary unknown reasons, the train would stop for a few minutes and crowds of ragtag Koreans would appear to barter with this latest trainload of na├»ve American soldiers. They wanted cigarettes mainly, but also tried to exchange their money for ours or sell us their wrist watches. As dumb as we were, most of us had sense enough to avoid dealing with them. However, I’m ashamed to admit, we denigrated them by flipping cigarette butts out the windows to amuse ourselves by watching them scramble to pick them up. They would strip off the paper and smoke the tobacco in their little brass pipes.

Just before dark we finally lurched into a siding, on the outskirts of Seoul, where we transferred into waiting army trucks for the final leg of the trip. Seoul, the capital of Korea, was a city of over two million in 1946—the largest city I had ever seen, as well as the most wretched. At the end of the war, Russia occupied Korea for a short time, after running the Japanese out, and plundered the country, taking most of their industrial machinery with them when they left.

We spent the first few days in a gutted building that had once been a paper mill. There was nothing left but broken pipes and burned off stubs of structural steel sticking out of the concrete, where the machinery had once been. This apparently was typical of all the country's industrialised areas

We set up our army cots anywhere we could find a bit of shelter from the cold February wind that whistled through the building, sleeping in our clothing under two light army blankets. There were no showers, just a couple cold water faucets where you could wash off a bit of grime. Drinking water was supplied in canvas Lister bags, heavily laced with chlorine tablets. Meals were cooked in an outdoor field kitchen which the infantry cooks had set up. By comparison, the old wooden barracks back at Camp Roberts seemed like the Waldorf Astoria.

After staying about a week in the paper mill, some of us were moved to an old Japanese girls schoolhouse, where life was considerably better. About fifteen men were assigned to each of the former classrooms, allowing each of us enough room for a cot and a duffel bag. There was a small sheet-metal oil stove in the centre of the room, with a bare stovepipe running to the nearest window. The room, and eventually our clothing, reeked of spilled heating oil and smoke fumes.

There was a communal shower room which featured cold water only. To get to the shower room you went outside and walked down a long open corridor exposed to the elements. After a cold shower in the dead of winter there is a tendency to hustle back to the warmth of your bed in some haste. Picture a group of nude teen aged boys running wildly through a cold snowy corridor, clutching their wadded up clothing in their arms and uttering profanity at every step.

When the Americans first arrived in Korea, they set up a Military Government in the capitol city. Of the twenty five hundred men on the ship that brought us to Korea, about fifty of us were assigned jobs in Military Government. Almost all of the rest were sent to Infantry outfits. After living about a month it the schoolhouse, some officers showed up one day to conduct individual interviews. We already knew we had been to be assigned to Headquarters Company of USAMGIK (U.S. Army Military Government in Korea)…these interviews would determine our specific assignments within that organisation. I was assigned to the National Food Administration, for reasons still unknown to me.

It turned out to be the best assignment I could have hoped for. I was in Korea for a total of eleven months. Having arrived as a buck private, I advanced through the ranks faster than any other enlisted man in Military Government and left as a Staff Sergeant. While working at my job in the capitol building, my official classification was Sergeant Major. Outside of working hours, I was one of four platoon sergeants in Headquarters Company, USAMGIK, of the Twenty Fourth Corps. In other words…just another teen aged kid pretending to be a soldier.

Actually my job in military government was quite interesting and it afforded some unique opportunities. One experience, which I will always remember, happened when ex-president Herbert Hoover came to Korea during his world wide food famine survey. An ex-president is treated with a good deal of respect by military people, if for no other reason than he was the personal representative of their commander in chief.

Although the capital building was crawling with military brass, ranging from a couple of generals down to hundreds of lieutenants, the eminent appearance of President Hoover was a cause for consternation throughout the building, but particularly in the National Food Administration. The entire office staff was preparing for his visit and a fair amount of activity filtered down to my level. I became kind of a personal 'gopher' for colonel Hill, the head of the department. It was an interesting period, helping with the preparation of displays and charts for the coming conference, contacting other offices and just generally doing anything that the colonel asked me to do for him.

When the big day arrived, and the conference room was all set up—military police stationed at every entrance and patrolling the hallways, high ranking officers in their best dress uniforms with all their campaign ribbons and medals, strict military discipline being enforced—colonel Hill said he wanted me to attend the meeting as his personal assistant. As we started to enter the conference room, the MP guard saluted colonel Hill and then informed me that I was not allowed to enter. Colonel Hill just said, "He's with me." and the MP replied "Yes Sir!" and stepped aside. Once inside, I discovered that I was the only enlisted man in the room.

The meeting was actually rather boring, but while one of the principle speakers was giving his talk, using flip charts as an aid, he almost knocked the chart stand over while turning pages. Noticing his problem, Colonel Hill nudged me and pointed in the direction of the lecturer. For the rest of the meeting, I steadied the stand while the speakers gave their talks and I was within a step or two of the president—my moment of glory! Mr. Hoover was an old man and spoke very softly. I must have been one of few that heard every word spoken.

Another event also stands out in my memory. It had been raining for several days, and the ground was already pretty well saturated, when a major rainstorm hit. It rained another six inches in the next twenty four hours. The following day reports started coming in to the National Food Administration about infrastructure damage and washed out rice paddies due to heavy flooding. Anticipating potentially disastrous food shortages, it was decided that an assessment of the damage should be conducted immediately. Three Korean officials from the National Food Administration were selected to make the survey. Army trucks were about the only vehicles that could be expected to make such a trip over washed out roads and muddy detours. The Koreans had no such vehicles.

I was assigned the job of driving these officials all over South Korea in a jeep. I attended every meeting with them, although I couldn't understand a word. One of the three Koreans spoke a little English and he would explain what was happening as we drove to the next village. The Koreans roomed at government facilities overnight and I would hunt up the nearest military outpost. The credentials, which Colonel Hill had provide, never failed to secure me a place to eat, sleep and fuel up.

At one isolated military establishment, about a company in size, I ran on to a good friend who I had taken basic training with. He was now a mechanic in the infantry motor pool. I was actually embarrassed by the fact that he was still a private first class and I was a staff sergeant...embarrassed because my stripes had come so easily and he was working his butt off with no hope of advancement. We had a good visit that night, but I felt badly because he was stuck in such a miserable job and I had it so good. Such are the fortunes of 'war'.

While I was stationed in Korea, the army medics made a survey of a hundred or so prostitutes that they had picked up on the streets of Seoul and found that ninety eight percent had a venereal disease of one kind or another. As a result of this survey, all military personnel were warned of the risks involved and advised that anyone contracting VD would be subject to courts marshal. Although fraternisation with Korean women was not prohibited, they made it clear that the odds of contracting VD were great.

Letters from home came quite regularly. Mail call in the services is always exciting, especially when you're on the far side of the globe. Whenever the announcement, "MAIL CALL" came over the squawk box, it was as though the announcement had been, "FIRE!"—everyone stampeded for the assembly area.

I was one of the lucky ones…there was nearly always two or three letters for me. Usually there would be one from mom, occasionally one from dad or one of my sisters, but most of them were from Shirley. When the last letters and packages had been handed out, the guys with letters generally went straight to their bunks and started reading. The ones with packages surreptitiously place their loot in their footlockers, to be opened later in privacy. The empty handed tended to just wander away or maybe start a poker game.

I always read the family letters first…savouring the ones from Shirley until last. Her envelopes were generally thicker that the others because she often sent pictures— tantalising shots of her in bathing suits or photos of her pretty face. After a quick look at the pictures, I would stretch out on my cot to read her cherished letters.

About two weeks before I was due to go back home, we had a mail call. I don't remember if there was any other mail for me, but there was one letter from Shirley…a very thin one. The single page began, "Dear Floyd", not the usual "Dearest" or "Hi Honey". The two paragraphs that followed informed me that she was married.

That night I got drunk. That one thin letter was to radically change my attitude in many ways.
After spending nearly a year in Korea, it was finally time to go back home. The trip home on the Marine Jumper was uneventful and took only nineteen days…taking into account the day lost in crossing the International Dateline. We disembarked at Oakland where we had our first fresh milk in eleven months and then boarded a troop train for Seattle to be discharged.

I think of most of my military experiences in a positive way. It was one of the most interesting and adventurous periods of my life. A great many firsts happened to me while in the service. I had my first train ride, first smoke, first ship ride, first alcoholic drink as well as my first exposure to regimentation and authority over others. But it was a far cry from the romantic vision of fame and glory I had dreamed of such a short time ago. My fantasies of shooting down the enemy, while roaring courageously through the sky, had been reduced to desk jockey in the bloody infantry. The odds of winning had been slim from the start.

To be continued - if any interest is indicated…

13th Excerpt from “But…What About Tomorrow?”:
(The book is available from http://www.publishamerica.com)

Suppose I'm Wrong…

Let's suppose I'm wrong about the damage that has been done to our top soil by the excessive use of synthetic agricultural chemicals. In fact, let's assume that the only thing that is correct in this entire book is the fact that, according to prevailing evidence, the world will run out of oil and gas sometime in the next fifty years if we continue to consume these resources at the current rates. Aside from the effect that it would have on industry, home heating, transportation and all sorts of other industrial, commercial and domestic consumers of these products, it would also mean that farmers would be forced to drastically change their farming practices. (By the way, wouldn't it be a hoot if, when our oil and gas is about gone, someone discovers a better use for them than setting them on fire?)

But, let's go a step further and use a technique used by disaster relief organizations, terrorist security people, and such, to formulate plans for worst-case-scenarios in their particular fields. Let's assume that there has been a little miscalculation and instead of having fifty years, before our gas and oil wells run dry, there's only a ten year supply left.

After debating the situation for a couple months and setting up special investigative committees to figure out who to blame, our politicians finally decide that robust action is in order. Their initial knee-jerk reaction was to declare war on any nation that's in a position to cut off our oil and gas imports. But this plan is abandoned when China subtly hinted that it wouldn't look favorably on any country that decided to take preemptive action against a democratic Iraq or a militarily-challenged Canada, for example. Besides, burning up our emergency oil reserves in the killing of innocent people might not be such a good idea anyway … maybe we might find a better use for it. Reluctantly, warfare is decided against and the robust act of fuel rationing is decided upon instead.

When the demands of the airlines; the entertainment and sports industries; commercial and residential heating; and such are provided for, it is decided that the fertilizer industry should be sacrificed. The farmers needs are ignored because, after all, they only represent two percent of the votes.

After the initial period of whining and toothpick chewing, grain farmers across the land realized that they might actually be better off without fertilizer. Sure, their crops might be half what they had been, but their relative position within the agricultural industry would be unchanged. As a matter of fact, they might actually be better off because poor yields would result in short supply and higher prices. The math is simple enough: half the yield at twice the price equals no change in income. Besides that, if there was only half as much grain to handle, storage and freight costs would be halved and net profits would actually be a little higher.

On the other hand, the diversified farms, with their well established crop rotations and lack of dependence on fertilizer, would see no difference in their crop yields, but their net income would increase because of the higher commodity prices. No longer would they be looked down upon as the retarded step-sisters of the industry. How sweet it is to contemplate!

Of course, the above scenario is a bit flippant but it is not totally inaccurate. A shortage of natural gas will cause a shortage of nitrogen fertilizers. This in turn will result in high prices for the little that is available and it could also mean that using fertilizers at previous levels would no longer be profitable. A shortage of oil would obviously have similar effects on farm fuel costs.

If some version of this scenario were to become reality, then crop yields would drop drastically. In such a case, it is conceivable that North America would no longer be a net exporter of grain and other agricultural produce. Imagine the effect this would have on the countries which depend on our exports, not to mention the effect it would have on our own economy.

Waiting until we run out of oil and gas before preparing for that day is not a sane thing to do. The bountiful crops that we are so accustomed to are not possible without the application of liberal amounts of fertilizers and pesticides. My guess is that North America's agricultural production could be cut by fifty percent without the use of these chemicals. Not only would the yields be drastically reduced, but weeds would have a field day … pardon the pun.

I know, from personal experience, how long it takes to bring soil back to full production once it has lost its fertility and becomes infested with weeds. Although all situations would not be the same, on our farm it took approximately twenty years to make a significant improvement in soil fertility and weed reduction. With a four-year crop rotation—three years in grass and one year in grain—each parcel of land was only broken up five times in those twenty years. Plainly it is only when the land is broken up that the organic matter from the grass phase is incorporated into the soil.

Although I have no proof, it seems that the improvements to the fertility of the soil are more-or-less uniform with each succeeding cycle. In other words, there doesn't seem to be much difference in the percentage of improvement gained from the first rotation cycle or the tenth cycle. There is a gradual but uniform improvement each time, as far as I can see. At any rate, it takes a number of years to make a significant improvement. This is one reason why I believe it is imperative that we prepare for the end of oil and gas long before we run out of these resources.

The transition from a chemical-based system of farming to a natural system must be made in an orderly step-by-step manner. It cannot be done in one swell foop. This might best be understood by looking at it from the view point of one individual farmer.

The farmer's top priority will obviously be survival. He must continue to make a living and pay his bills while making the change from chemical-dependent cropping to quasi-organic (sustainable) cropping. He will likely have to gradually make the change over a period of years. The change will not necessarily be limited to discontinuing the use of synthetic chemicals. In many cases it will also involve some changes in machinery, setting up a long term crop rotation system and starting up a livestock enterprise of some kind. All such changes take time and cost money. If he is to survive the transition, the costs of such changes must be spread over a sufficient period of time. It must be realized that, during much of the transition period, the farmer's income, both gross and net, will likely be reduced significantly. Why? Because it will take several years to bring the soil back to its productive potential.

If I were a grain farmer faced with the problem of converting to a diversified farming operation, I would go about it in the following way … assuming that I have a full line of grain farming machinery and no livestock facilities at all, including fences.

First of all, I would seed from one-sixth to one-forth of my land (depending upon whether I planned to have a six-year or four-year crop rotation) to a grass-legume crop. I would do this by seeding an oat and grass mixture so that there would be a crop of oats to harvest, either as grain or forage, in the year of seeding. The use of fertilizer on this crop would be optional, but herbicides could not be used because they would kill out the under-seeded grass and legume seedlings.

Assuming that I have no haying machinery, I have the options of harvesting the oats as grain; buying a baler and making oat hay; selling the standing crop to a neighboring farmer for hay; or hiring someone to bale the hay for me.

If I choose to make hay of the oats, I have the options of selling it, or buying some cattle to feed it to. Selling the hay is simple enough, but the cattle option will necessitate building some sort of confinement facilities like fences and corrals. Then there is the matter of the class of cattle to buy … feeders or breeding stock being two options. Since I am making long range plans, I opt for breeding stock.

Basically, the pattern for the next few years is now established. Each year I will seed another parcel of my land to grass and add to my cattle herd and facilities and exchange grain machinery for haying machinery as necessary. Eventually all of my land will have been seeded to grass and then the whole cycle will repeat itself and my farm will have been fully converted to a sustainable diversified operation.

For those that opt to continue in a predominantly grain business, but wean themselves from their chemical dependencies, they will have to use a rotation scheme that may only involve grasses in one or two years per cycle. Of course it will take longer to build up the soil this way and the best use will not be made of the grass, but it will help and eventually the soil tilth and organic matter will be improved.

In reality, there are probably as many variations of ways to make the transition as there are individual farms. The main point of the examples given is to demonstrate that, no matter how it's done, it's going to take time to convert to a sustainable long term soil management system.

To be continued - if any interest is indicated…

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Have a warm day…