February 2, 2008

3rd Book Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

Got an e-mail from my distant cousin, Marilyn, who is transposing my Grandmother’s diaries (25 books which I inherited) into digital format. Marilyn is very dedicated and much appreciated family genealogist!

A bit warmer this morning, which just happens to be the mid-point between the shortest day of the year and the first day of spring. Whoop-tee-do.

Have been feeding a lot of hay to the cattle during this cold spell but should have enough to see us through to spring. Lots of snow so far. Should be a good run-off and full dugouts when it melts.

Current Rant:

Can’t understand why the wealthy are so admired. Take the stock market parasites for example. The most wealthy of this ilk gain billions by gambling on changing values of stocks and contribute nothing to the welfare of the general population. Their greed is insatiable yet they are admired and envied by many. The same generally applies to the wealthy of all genre – royalty, entertainers, entrepreneurs – celebrities of all kinds.

The true test of a persons value to society is not how wealthy they are but how necessary they are – do they provide an essential service. Those who labor with their hands generally do.

A world without the greedy would likely be a world with fewer needy.

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

What is the Point of Trying?

Some might say, “What is the point of trying?”, assuming that our problems are so immense that they cannot be solved. Why not enjoy what is left of the "good life" before the worst happens? What is the sense of spending time evaluating new evidence of the coming of a collapse if it is inevitable. Their logic tells them that, if the calamity proves inevitable, they should at least have the satisfaction of “living it up” prior to its occurrence. Should they realize that their children will likely suffer the consequences more than themselves, they placate their conscience by convincing themselves that there was really nothing they could have done to prevent it anyway.

Other people don’t recognize global warming, energy depletion, soil erosion, and the whole range of ecological threats, as problems at all. These people simply deny the existence of such problems. Even if they are not totally convinced that they are right, they assume that the consequences of any developing ecological calamity will be so far in the future that it will not effect them or their children.

And then there are those who, although they may believe that there are some potentially serious problems over the horizon, they also believe that technology, guided by the marketplace, will inevitably solve the problems. They may even trust that government intervention, through carbon taxes etc., will help slow global warming. The advantage of this view is that it relieves them of any personal responsibility. There is no need for individuals to do anything because technology and the government will take care of everything.

It is not easy to sell the idea that solving the problems will involve work and sacrifice at every level; individual, household, municipal, state, federal and even international. Realizing that when the job of preparing for a collapse is done, all of us will probably have considerably less material wealth than we had before and we will likely have to spend considerably more physical energy carrying out our daily routines, does not make the selling job any easier either. It is not surprising that the thought of working hard for a future with lowered expectations is not all that appealing to a public whose hopes and dreams have always been pegged to self gratification.

The advantages of a sustainable lifestyle are often quite subtle and unlikely to inspire much enthusiasm. They tend to be nonmaterial benefits, such as closer communities and family relationships, closer contact with nature, a slower pace and a more sound ecology for future generations. These advantages have little appeal to those with a bird-in-the-hand mentality.

Given the more-or-less universal loss of hand-labor skills by the general population, and our ever diminishing personal daily contact with nature, it is understandable that some might wonder if we are equal to the challenge of providing for our own individual needs. We are more comfortable thinking that our governments and experts in science and industry, whom we assume know what they’re doing, will look after us.
But, regardless of what others may think, in the end, each of us have to make our own individual decisions. When one is convinced, as I am, that our global oil and natural gas resources will run out sometime in the near future, and that the world’s shaky economy is teetering on the brink of collapse, it would seem wise to prepare for such events, insofar as possible.

Although this book focuses primarily on farmers, that does not imply that we are more important than anyone else. It is just that farmers are among the few who can actually do very much to prepare themselves — provided we don't wait too long to start.

Being an old man without much time left anyway, I don’t have as much at stake as younger people. I’ve had an interesting life and have already outlived my life expectancy at birth, in 1927. I’ve experienced the luxuries and pleasures provided by our heedless waste of petroleum products and pillage of Nature. I am as guilty as the next guy of this waste and have contributed more than most to the destruction of our forests. I could probably ride out the coming chaos without too much inconvenience or change in my lifestyle, and even “Live it up” in my final years if I chose to do so.

But I am the father of eight children, the grandfather of eleven and the great-grandfather of one. I am concerned not only about their future but the future of all young people. My intent is to do whatever I can, within my limited means, to help them survive as painlessly and comfortably as possible. I propose to do this by working out a plan for my own survival and offer it as an example that others might follow as they see fit. But, to paraphrase a corny old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him think”.

To be continued next time…

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

Departure from Canada...

Some of dad's family had already migrated back to the United States prior to the depression. They sent letters back telling how much better it was down there. Jobs were available to willing workers and the pay was good.

The temptation to take a hiatus from farming began to take seed in my folk's minds. The seed germinated when a hailstorm wiped out their crop just before harvest time. Luckily dad had hail insurance on the crop, in fact it happened to be the only time he ever insured a crop. Since there was no crop to harvest, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to leave the farm for awhile. There would be enough money from the insurance to finance a train trip south and a bit left over to start a new life. So, on Christmas Eve of 1929, we boarded the train, with all the family possessions, and headed for the state of Washington.

A note of clarification is needed at this point. Dad did not actually intended to quit farming altogether, he just wanted to go to the States long enough to save up some money and then move back to his farm for a fresh start. He had not planned to sell the land…just the livestock and machinery. But the people that he had rented the farm to, until he could return, waited until the auction sale was over and then they presented him with an ultimatum—he could either sell them the farm or find a different renter. The train fare had already been paid, living arrangements had been made in the States and it was too late to change their plans, so dad had little choice but to sell the land.

We moved from place to place, in Washington, two or three times during the next few years. At first dad tried dairy farming. I don't know much about that venture, except that it ended in failure. He bought some milk cows from a local farmer, and it turned out that they were infected with Bangs Disease—brucellosis—a contagious abortion disease. He was pretty bitter about the deal. The former owner claimed that he had not known about the disease when he sold the cattle and he refused to pay compensation or take the cattle back. Consequently, the folks were forced to give up the farm and we moved to Camas, Washington, where dad got a job in the paper mill.

At one time or another, most of his brothers worked at the paper mill. Dad worked there until the war broke out in 1941. Starting out as a labourer, he eventually became a millwright, but he was never happy there. He didn't get along well with some of his bosses and he didn't like working on Sundays…which was the day millwrights often had maintenance work to do. But I think the truth is that he just wasn't happy working for wages, he was a farmer at heart and that’s all he ever wanted to be.

To be continued next time…

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

Some Personal Background…

I was born in south-central Alberta in 1927. My parents had been farming near the little town Huxley for a number of years but, due to the hardships of the Great Depression, decided to move to the United States to find employment when I was just a baby. I grew up in the southwestern part of Washington State. Upon graduating from Washougal high school, I joined the U.S. army and served in Korea for about a year. After my discharge from the army, I worked in industry until I became fed up with it after fifteen years, and, at age thirty-five, moved my young family to Canada to seek our fortune in farming.

When we began farming, back in 1962, I knew next to nothing about farming but I had read some books on the subject that made a lot of sense to me—two in particular. One was The Plowman's Folly, by agronomist Edward Faulkner and the other was Out of the Earth by the famous novelist Louis Bromfield. (Actually, there were three books, the third being Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which in 1962 exposed the hazards of the pesticide DDT. Although Carson's book strongly reinforced my reluctance to use chemicals of any kind for pest control in farming, the other two books were far and away the most influential in my case.)
Falkener's book, the trailblazer of the two, written just as the calamitous dust bowl was playing its self out in the 1940s, blamed the almost universal use of moldboard plows for the disastrous pillage of the soil that led to the event. His ideas set the stage for improved agricultural methods of soil management. His assault on the tillage practices of his day stimulated farmers to seek fresh solutions to the problems that plagued North American agriculture. Decades before direct planting and soil conservation were to become fashionable, Faulkner challenged the almost universal belief that the moldboard plow was an essential tool of proper soil management.

In his book, Out of the Earth, Louis Bromfield praised Faulkner's ideas and then went on to put them into practice when he launched his agricultural experimentation's at Malabar Farm in Ohio. Although Bromfield enjoyed considerable income from the numerous books he had previously written, he insisted that his farm be self sufficient and independent of any off-farm funding. His guiding principle was that they would do nothing at Malabar Farm that could not be done by farmers who lacked off-farm income.

The main thesis of Mr. Faulkner's book dealt with his theory that moldboard plows had two very negative effects on the land. Number one: They produced a hardpan at the plowing depth, which, over time, became almost impervious to water and root penetration. Number two: The moldboard plow was designed to turn the soil upside down in an unbroken ribbon, which deposited the organic material, from the surface of the land, squarely on top of the hardpan at the plow sole depth. He theorized that this organic matter, being sandwiched between the hardpan and the overturned soil above, was compressed into a kind of blotter. This interfered with both upward and downward percolation of water. It also concentrated the valuable nutrients and minerals, contained in the organic materials, at a depth and in a state that was virtually unavailable to subsequent crops.

Mr. Bromfield, convinced that Mr. Faulkner's theories were correct, decided to conduct a private experiment to find a better way of tilling the soil and further develop Mr. Faulkner's ideas. He designed his farm, located in a glacial till area of Ohio, to be a self-sustaining commercially viable enterprise that could serve as a model for farmers the world over. His guiding principle was to use only tools and practices which were available and affordable to farmers who derived their sole income from their farms. His main objective was to till the soil in such a manner as to eliminate the problems pointed out by Mr. Faulkner. In the process of doing so, Bromfield apparently kept meticulous records and used a scientific approach to his experimental work.

As a result of his work, Bromfield proved to his own satisfaction (and to many of the thousands of visitors who came to his farm and/or read his book) that the use of tillage machinery which tears the soil apart, rather than merely flopping it over, is a key factor in solving the problems associated with the use of moldboard plows. In the process of tearing apart the soil, the sod and all surface residues are thoroughly mixed with the sub-surface layer of soil, which makes the organic matter of the surface more accessible to the micro-organisms throughout the tilled layer.

The implement he championed was a machine that is now commonly known as a Chisel Plow—a cultivator with sharp pointed semi-ridged tines that penetrate the soil and rip it apart, rather than turning it over. These sharp pointed tines not only did not give rise to a hard-pan, they actually penetrated and ripped apart any existing hard-pan.
In the opening pages of Out of the Earth, Bromfield included a quotation (written at the beginning of the eighteenth century by a man named Victor, Marquis de Mirabeau, a French author and political economist) which struck a chord with me. Victor said: "The State is like a tree. The roots are agriculture, the trunk is the population, the branches are industry, the leaves are commerce and the arts; it is from the roots that the tree draws the nourishing sap…and it is to the roots that a remedy must be applied if the tree is not to perish."

When we took over our farm 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 specific160 acres of North America. Consequently the condition of the land, when it passed from his hands, was solely the result of his farming practices.

I'm not accusing the man of willful mismanagement. 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 degrading the soil…in fact 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 turkeys. The horses were his 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 form of crop rotation. Much of the hay for his cows and horses came from natural meadows on his own land or nearby public land…a prevailing practice of the time. The hogs and turkeys were raised primarily to consume grain, the principle product of the farm.

With such an operation there obviously was 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. When we took over the farm, one of the first things I did 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. One must understand that many of those people were barely able to eke out a living from their marginally productive land with their labor intensive methods. Often the very limited income from such enterprises barely covered the expenses. What little profit there was had to be frugally budgeted between family living 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" theme. As well, many of their generation would soon retire, so there was little incentive for them to change their ways at such late date.

"Let the next generation shoulder the burden and expense of restoring the land's productivity", seemed to be the prevailing philosophy.

A bit of clarification is called for at this point. In the short term, it is both very costly and difficult to switch to sustainable farming practices once the soil has been severely depleted of organic matter. One reason for this is that 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 cannot. The weeds that do best in our area are such things as Canada Thistle, Stink Weed, Sow Thistle, Dandelions, Plantain, Wild Oats, Tansy, Chamomile and such stuff. 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 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 scarce 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, in fairness 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 (I'm quite sure that's the proper botanical name), that's shaped something like a grasshoppers hind leg, that 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 years later, as a result of crop rotations and diversified farming enterprises, our land is now totally free of wild oats, and, with the exceptions 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 I was informed by the regional government weed control officer that we would either have to spray our fields with herbicides or they would do it for us and bill us for the costs—not one drop of herbicide has 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 which are incorporated 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 much improved water retention capability makes maximum use our twenty-inch average annual rainfall.

Since we took over the farm, there has never been a moldboard plow in any of our fields. We use chisel- and disk-type implements exclusively for tillage and we use the age-old method of broadcasting, followed by harrowing and roller packing, for all of our seeding.

To be continued next time…

Have a warm day…


February 1, 2008

2nd Book Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

Nice balmy minus 28F this morning. Noticed the wood heater in the barn isn’t drawing well … will have to clean the chimney this afternoon.

Dora, our nanny goat, is showing signs of pregnancy. Expect her to kid in April.


My Current Rant:

If you think the current American Presidential Candidate nomination “auction sale” is disgusting and ridiculous, you should take a look a our Canadian Parliamentary “Question Period”! The original intent of this parliamentary procedure was laudable, in that it gives the opposition parties an opportunity to ask questions of the governing party. But it has long since degenerated into nothing more than a circus … a raucous spectacle reminiscent of our present day school classrooms. While class clowns and disorder are bad enough in juvenile schoolrooms, it is unacceptable behavior for elected leaders of a country in their place of business. Our parliamentarians are referred to as MP’s … Members of Parliament. On camera, during Question Period, they often conduct themselves as “Moron Politicians”.

Second Excerpt from “Farmageddon”:


In writing this book my thoughts, emotions and fears have run the gamut of lows and highs. At times I have questioned my own sanity ― a question likely shared by many readers. At other times there was no doubt whatsoever that writing this book was the right thing to do. Time will tell.

Whether or not the book is ever published is not of great importance to me. If no one but myself and members of my family read it, I feel that the effort and time spent will have been worthwhile. The thought and research that went into this book have force me to think about which things in life are really important and which are not. It turns out that it is largely a matter of distinguishing between needs and wants.

Even more importantly in the long run, it has lead me to think beyond myself. It is so easy to slip into the self-centered habit of me-ness and forget about everyone else ― a trait that is overwhelmingly characteristic of most north Americans in their relations with other nations. We take what we want by whatever means we please. We exploit the poor and hopeless of other nations to support the lifestyle that we think of as our “birthright”.

I want to point at the outset that there are two simultaneous, but opposing, themes in play throughout this book. On the one hand, there is the optimistic hope that things will turn out fairly well in the end. On the other hand, there is the pessimistic fear that it may be too late to do much about correcting the damage already done. The latter is emphasized more than the former, for the shock effect if nothing else.

The opening chapters present background information on two of the main contributing factors to the threatening global economic collapse: 1) The expected oil shortage, which I believe will spell the end of agriculture as we know it; 2) The precarious state of the United States dollar hegemony.

The balance of the book focuses on the effects that those two events could have on agriculture and how we might be able to cope with the resulting problems. A discussion of sustainable farming is followed by a detailed outline of what we are doing, here on our farm in central Alberta, to prepare for the anticipated collapse. Although I don’t truly believe that the worst-case scenarios described in this book are likely to happen, it seems prudent to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Think of Basic Survival as “Plan B”.

I don't really like the term "survival", although it may turn out to be appropriate. A preferable word is "pioneering", for two reasons. First, we will be taking the lead in a new way of life. Second, it appeals to my sense of adventure. That may sound silly but, if you think about it a moment, one’s attitude will likely be a key factor for succeeding in a survival situation. Things will be tough enough even with a positive attitude. A negative attitude may make survival impossible or even undesirable. So, I will use the terms survival and pioneering more or less interchangeably.

This is not intended to be a “How-To” type of book. More than anything else its purpose is to awaken people to the fact that our current unsustainable lifestyle is about to end. It then offers suggestions and examples of ideas that might be helpful in adjusting to a new (old?) sustainable lifestyle. Bookstores are full of “How-To” books on just about every subject imaginable and I would strongly recommend adding a few of the better ones to your book shelf.

Despite the profusion of gloomy books of the last few years, written to wake us up to the fact that our planet cannot sustain our extravagant lifestyle, the message still seems to be largely ignored. The majority of those books deal with global warming, environmental damage, peak oil, greenhouse gasses and other related things of a global nature. Those that offer resolutions to problems tended to speak in top-down terms — the need for new legislation, educating the public, etc.

I believe that a grass-roots (bottom-up) movement is more likely to solve our problems than leaving it to our political leaders to save our butts. After all, it is largely their “leadership” that got us into this mess in the first place. Besides, even if they should manage to come up with workable plans, by the time they completed their studies, debated the results, formulated the bills, put the bills before the legislature, pork-barreled them to the limit, catered to the demands of lobbyists and then ear-marked the bills at last-minute sessions, it could be too late. (One thing you can bet the farm on is this; very few politicians are giving more thought to preparing for the pending oil and economic crisis than on keeping their cushy jobs in the next election.)

I also believe that those of us who are concerned about the future should take individual responsibility for our own security. I’m not referring to solving global problems now. I’m talking about looking out for ourselves and our families — individually preparing ourselves for a softer landing when the inevitable collapse comes.

Having said that, I’m not very optimistic. We tend to learn things the hard way. We procrastinate. We ignore incredibly obvious evidence that our present life style is unsustainable. We assume that we can violate natures’ laws with impunity because technology will bale us out, even after we’ve gone too far. But, worst of all, we don’t seem to give a damn that we are trading our progeny’s future welfare for our own immediate pleasures.

Take the issue of smoking as an example of the moronic behaviour we are capable of. Common sense should tell us that sucking tar and toxic chemical-laden hot gasses into our lungs is probably not a good thing to do. But, despite the fact that overwhelming scientific evidence supports common sense, many still choose to gamble that they can defy the risks with impunity. Fine. It’s their health that is at risk and they are free to make their own choices.

If they should lose the gamble and end up being one of those who suffer a lingering death — wracked with pain and near suffocation as they hack and puke up great gobs of bloody mucous on their death beds, then I say, “I’m sorry! — you have no one to blame but yourself”.

But if their self-centered indifference causes illness in others, that’s a different matter. In my opinion, anyone that knowingly jeopardizes the health of others, particularly their own children, deserves to die a painful death.

In a broader sense, I feel that the same rationale applies to whole societies as well as individuals. When our collective actions, as a society, sicken the environment and threaten our very survival, we will suffer the consequences whether or not we are aware of the harm we are doing. If we knowingly make choices that are harmful to our environment then we deserve the consequences of our inexcusable behavior. When we blatantly continue doing things that are known to be harmful, we have nobody to blame but ourselves and deserve the consequences, no matter how catastrophic they may be.

If we thumb our noses at our kids, as we destroy their environment and greedily use up their rightful share of natures’ resources, then we deserve their contempt. But if we heed the warning signs and take timely action to halt further damage, attempt to repair damage already done and adopt a lifestyle that is sustainable, then our children may be inclined to forgive the sins of their parents.

Unfortunately our track record does not offer much hope that we will come to our senses before it is too late. We tend to rely on new technology to solve all problems in spite of the fact that technology is largely responsible for the mess we are in. So I’m not really very optimistic about the future welfare of our children.

With that pessimistic thread throughout this book, it is nevertheless written in the hope that, if stated forcefully enough and is motivated by tough love, it might cause some to at least think about the legacy we are leaving our children because of our mindless selfish behavior.

Although the words “United States” and “Americans” appear extensively throughout this book, in many cases, if not most, the words “North America” and “North Americans” could be substituted and would be more fair and appropriate. We Canadians, with few exceptions — the economic hegemony of the U.S. dollar being one — are just as guilty of greed, waste and excesses as the Americans.

If criticizing our greedy unsustainable extravagant North American lifestyle is unpatriotic, then I plead guilty. I was born a Canadian and raised in the United States. Having spent about half of my life in each country, plus having dual citizenship, I have a sense of loyalty and patriotism to both countries yet claim the right to be critical in the name of truth.

As for my fellow Americans who interpret factual statements as “America Bashing” — i.e. a quote from one blindly loyal flag-waving critic of an article that I wrote, “America might not be perfect, but it is my country, right or wrong, and as far as I’m concerned, you can go to hell.” — my response is, “Bingo! Thank you for making my point so eloquently”.

To be continued next time…

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

Farming With Horses…

In those days almost everyone farmed with horses. Dad's sixteen head of work horses was enough to handle his three quarter-sections of land. The fertile soil of that part of Alberta was well suited for growing grain. Wheat was his main cash crop, but some oats and barley were also grown as feed for the livestock. With good management, hard work—plus a bit of luck—it was possible to make a comfortable living.

When measured by the standards of the day, the farm was about average. Although tractors were in use on some farms, they were relatively expensive to buy and operate and, as a rule, only well established farmers could afford them. The changeover, from horses to tractors, entailed either adapting the existing horse-drawn implements to tractor usage, or purchasing new tractor-drawn machinery. Most farmers who made the change, found it necessary to spread the cost over a period of time.

At any rate, dad farmed with horses. He liked horses. He liked working with them. He liked the pace. He liked the smell. He was proud of his horses and his horsemanship talents. A great deal of practice and skill was required to handle a team of eight horses. It took knowledge, stamina and horse-sense as well…and he had it all. Many times, long after he quit farming, I've seen tears in his eyes as he talked about his experiences with horses.
The common practice, in the days of horse-powered farming, was to manage a farm as three individual parcels of land and crop them by using a two-year-grain and a one-year-fallow system. Each of the three parcels would therefore be in different phases of the cultivation cycle at any given time.

Dad managed his three-quarter farm in that manner. One quarter would be ploughed and seeded, another quarter would be stubbled-in … seeded directly into the previous years stubble without ploughing … and the third quarter would be summerfallowed—not seeded, but cultivated to control weeds and conserve moisture for the following year's crop. This system was well suited to horse powered farming because it spread the work load more uniformly over the whole growing season. But, it also meant that there was very little spare time during the growing season.

Grain farmers generally started working in their fields around daybreak, but their workday actually started several hours earlier. Before breakfast time, the horses would have been fed, groomed and harnessed…most likely by the light of a kerosene lantern, hung on a nail in the wall behind the stalls.

After his own breakfast, he would hitch the horses up for the days work. Two by two they were led from the barn and hitched to the implements…placing each member of the team in the position that had been found, by trial and error, to best suit the temperament of each horse. The better trained animals, usually older and quieter, were placed in lead positions. The younger, newly trained or unruly horses were given mid-team positions, preferably alongside old reliable horses that didn't put up with any nonsense from young upstarts. When all had been properly hitched up, the team was finally ready to begin another day in the fields.
Plowing and seeding were both riding jobs—meaning that all the farmer had to do was sit on a cold hard steel seat all day, while bracing himself against unexpected jolts and lurches as he repeatedly adjusted the implements levers with one hand and kept the team on course with the other hand, all the while offering a words of encouragement or colorfully imaginative comments on the ancestry and intelligence of trouble makers in the team.
But some implements—harrows for instance—did not have the luxury of seats, so the farmer was obliged to walk behind the implement for hours on end in the choking dust. Keeping pace with the long legged creatures, hour upon hour, tended to influence his stride in a way that forever marked him as a farmer.

As mentioned—before wandering off into the fields—my sister was the first baby to arrive. I suspect that dad was a little disappointed that his firstborn was a girl…most farmers wanted to start raising their future helpers as soon as possible…but, as it turned out, it didn't matter much because the next three babies were boys.

I showed up about two years after my sister. Although the arrival of a son no doubt brought great joy and hope for the future of the farm, ironically, dads farming days were about to end.
For a while though, times were good and reasonable profits were made. I believe those were probably the best years of my parents lives…dad's at any rate. Then came the depression. Times got tough. Grain prices plummeted. Money and jobs became scarce. Many farmers were forced to give up, while others continued farming only because they had no better options.

To be continued next time…

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

September 2004…

As a farmer for forty three of my seventy seven years, I have witnessed some changes in agriculture that cause me to fear for the future of our children. In one brief lifetime a trend in farming practices has led to our present state of unsustainable agriculture, a situation which will inevitably lead to catastrophe unless we act very soon.

Walk into any grocery store in North America and you will find shelves bulging with seventeen varieties of every kind of food imaginable at prices that make us the envy of the world. We are so accustomed to seeing these bountiful displays that it's all taken for granted. So … what's the point? Simply this: There are hidden costs to this bargain food which don't appear on the cashier's receipt—costs that will ultimately have to be paid by our children, or theirs. These deferred costs could well prove to be insurmountable in the long run. Cheap abundant food is fine for today, but … what about tomorrow?

That is the main message of this book, but its main purpose is to bring the ninety eight percent of our population who are not farmers, up to date on what's going on in the world of agriculture, where our very survival is at stake. It should be known how those who are entrusted with the care of our land, arguably the most precious of all our natural resources, are actually doing their job.

The book is not intended to be an authority on any subject … quite the contrary. It is largely based on the opinions and observations of an ordinary farmer who makes no claims to expertise of any kind. The book is merely offered as a cursory review of a variety of issues related to farming and agriculture in general. My limited formal education makes it necessary for me to observe nature and form my own conclusions, supplemented by a bit reading. The statistical data in this book can be found in almost any current encyclopedia, book of statistics or via the internet.

There were several reasons for writing this book, none of which involve making money. For one thing, having spent most of my life as a farmer, accumulating on-the-job knowledge by trial and error, succeeding at times and failing at others, it bugged me to think of those valuable lessons going to the grave with my old carcass. But equally as important, I wanted to gather together, in one small book, a compendium of information pertaining to the present unsustainable state of agriculture and offer this information in simple understandable language to all who have acquired the habit of eating.

I also hope to stimulate some curiosity about farming in those who seldom think about it. Stimulating a bit of fear and/or disbelief would be satisfying as well if it should goad someone into doing further research on their own. Should anyone feel the urge to verify or challenge any statements made in this book, or become so roused by some thought-provoking pronouncement as to be driven to do further research, I will feel amply repaid for my efforts. The internet is an excellent place to start such research.

I would also like to repay, in some small measure, the indebtedness I feel to those who wrote the books that have been so helpful to me. And finally, having been in the food-for-consumption business for the past forty odd years, and now faced with the prospect of retirement in the next twenty or thirty years, I wanted to try my hand at producing some food-for-thought for a change.

The main message of this book is: Our soil is our most precious natural resource and its proper care and management is the key to farming sustainability, as well as to the future of human life on our planet. Tied to this thesis are a number of related factors, ranging from cheap food to over population, which are only briefly touched upon so as to limit the book to a reasonable size yet paint an holistic picture.

The need for yet another book or essay on this subject is admittedly debatable, since there are literally dozens of them already—although many of them were written by experts of one kind or another and tend to be a bit too scholarly for easy reading. But, even though there is no shortage of information, it seems that the message has not caught the attention of enough people, or at least the right people. Maybe the very fact that there is so much information available gives the impression that something is actually being done about correcting the problems we must soon come to terms with. If so, it appears to be a false impression and therefore I have chosen to take a whack at it.

Converting my thoughts into words is difficult enough but exposing them to the public is frightening. However the importance of the message has conquered my fears. Observation, reason and logic have stood me well in my years of farming and they are also the tools that I rely upon in writing this book

Unfortunately, in telling the story as I see it, the farming community is apt to be seen as the villain. Although that is not my personal opinion, we farmers do have to assume our fair share of the blame for the predicament we helped create. Being a whistle blower on my industry may not count for much when I have my interview with St. Peter, but it is said that confession is good for the soul, so I hereby confess to having contributed, in some measure, to the mess that we farmers helped bring about and to the regrettable legacy we leave for our kids to deal with.

Although I am a Canadian and farm in Canada, much of the statistical information in this book was derived from researching U.S. data. This is primarily because the U.S. economy is about ten times that of Canada's and consequently has a much greater global influence, which results in more available data. However, since the agricultural problems, and solutions to those problems, are very similar in both countries, I have chosen to present my thoughts from a North American perspective.

The book is written as a series of inter-related free-standing essays presented more or less in a building-block order. In my attempt to make each essay free-standing, yet related to all the rest, a certain amount of redundancy was necessary. Hopefully this will not be perceived as "padding" but as repetition designed to hammer home the overall concepts of the book. Much of this redundant material has been relegated to the appendix … in the back of the book, of all places.

I believe that our planet is fast approaching a crisis in its ability to feed its people— while still maintaining the lifestyle that we are accustomed to—and, if we give a damn about our kids, we had better do something about it before it's too late. But, I repeat, it seems that this belief is not shared by all, or is not yet taken seriously. Maybe the subject is just boring or maybe it's a matter of preaching to the converted or possibly it's just resigned indifference. But, whatever the reason might be, and even though my efforts may be for naught, I will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I made an effort to help get the message across—in which case my epitaph shall simply read, "I TRIED".

To be continued next time…

Have a warm day …


January 31, 2008

1st Book Excerpts

Another Day on the Farm:

I suppose I'll never get used to the fact that after a day like yesterday, when the temp dropped to minus 55F, it felt quite balmy this morning at minus 32F. Yesterday the propane lines froze up and the furnace and kitchen range didn't work until mid-afternoon. A roaring fire in the fireplace managed to keep the plumbing from freezing so we were spared further problems.

My son, Guy, was up several times during the night to thaw out the cattle water lines before they froze solid. Even though the water lines are buried eight feet in the ground they have frozen a couple times in the past. When that happens they don't thaw out until June or July.

Current Rant:

It's strange that whenever farm product prices go up a bit ... input prices increase accordingly.

First Excerpt from "Farmageddon":

(Although this book is not yet finished, I have decided to post it as a work-in-progress rather than have it published.)


A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them;
the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

- Proverbs 22:3

A few years ago I wrote a book, entitled, "But ... What About Tomorrow?", which dealt primarily with the unsustainability of agriculture, as it is presently practiced in North America. The basis of the idea that it is unsustainable was the fact of its absolute dependence upon cheap and abundant petroleum products.

The book was based mainly on personal experience and observations as a farmer of more than forty years. My ultimate conclusion, supported by facts gleaned from research, was that our farming methods will have to change dramatically, and very soon, if there is to be any hope of feeding the world's population once cheap oil and natural gas have dried up.

As I was writing the book, I couldn't shake the fear that I might be over-stating the effects of running out oil and natural gas. I was afraid that people might think that I was just another alarmist crackpot with an exaggerated sense of self importance. But, despite my fears, I went ahead with the project because I felt it was time that an ordinary farmer add his two-cents to the message that scientists and other experts have so desperately been trying to tell us for so many years.

Since that book was published I've read several books written by experts in the fields of energy and agricultural economics and I'm now convinced that, rather than over-stating the case, I had done just the opposite. Not only had I overestimated the amount of time we have left to prepare for a softer landing but it is now evident that I had also grossly under-stated the extent of the catastrophe that we face.

I had thought that there was still time for farmers to make significant changes toward a sustainable system of farming before oil and natural gas run out. I felt we could gradually, over a period of a couple of decades or so, repair the damage we have done to our soil and environment in our insane drive to maximize production. I believed that it is up to us farmers to lead the way to sustainable farming. But, after reading what the experts have said, I now believe that I was wrong in every instance save one: We farmers must lead the way.

There is a perfect storm brewing. Among the elements of this storm are global warming, oil and water depletion and economic collapse, to name a few. When all of these elements come together concurrently, there is great potential for an catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude. I believe that, even though it's probably too late to do much about the global warming element, there may still be time to make preparations to soften the effects of some of the other factors.

As an octogenarian, whose best-before date has long since expired, this may prove to be my last book. Despite the ominous sounding title, it is not really a doomsday book. Rather, it deals with preparing for an economic collapse and an agricultural meltdown which I predict will result largely from the ending of the cheap oil era and the concurrent demise of the United States dollar hegemony. Although the book is aimed at farmers, there is food for thought for all.

The title of this book refers to surviving or defeating the anticipated meltdown of agriculture ... labeled "Farmageddon ... in a post-oil economically-collapsed world.

The acronyms, SALT and BS, are transparent attempts to pique the curiosity of bookstore title browsers. The word SALT is a shamelessly flagrant attempt to create a readable acronym by twisting the words of the phrase: Long Term Sustainable Agriculture into Sustainable Agriculture - Long Term. The acronym BS stands for Basic Survival and was chosen for its attention getting attribute due to its more universal meaning.

Being neither a patient man nor diplomatic by nature, as my wife, Lillie, or any of my half-dozen or more kids will confirm, I have a tendency to be a bit tactless at times. Some readers may not appreciate some of my rather blunt comments. To those I say, without apology, I happen to find plain speaking to be more expedient than subtlety.

Sometimes making the point justifies the means. For instance ...

An old man walked into a crowded doctor's office. As he approached the receptionist, she said, "Yes sir, what are you seeing the doctor for today?"

"There's something wrong with my dick", he replied.

As an embarrassed hush fell over the waiting room, the irritated receptionist admonished, "You shouldn't come into a crowded waiting room and say things like that."

"Why not? You asked me what was wrong and I told you," he replied.

The receptionist continued, "Now you've caused some embarrassment in this room full of people. You should have said there is something wrong with your ear, or something, and discussed the problem further with the doctor in private."

The old man replied, "And you shouldn't ask questions in a room full people, if the answer could embarrass anyone."

With that, he walked out.

After waiting several minutes, he returned.

The receptionist, smiling apprehensively, asked, "Yes?"

"There's something wrong with my ear." he stated.

Nodding approvingly, assuming the old man had taken her advice, the receptionist asked, "And what is wrong with your ear, Sir?"

"I can't piss out of it," he replied.

To be continued next time...

First Excerpt from Defying the Odds:

It's strange how things turn out sometimes. After bumbling along for years, vaguely dissatisfied with my life but unable to put my finger on the problem, it suddenly became quite clear ... I had drifted into the wrong life! My revelation came one January day in 1962 when it dawned on me that being out of work, with a family of seven to feed, was not necessarily a negative thing ... it was actually an opportunity to start a new life ... a second chance to get it right. But, the story really begins about thirty five years earlier and several hundred miles to the north ...

In The Beginning...

I was born near the small farming community of Huxley, in central Alberta, during the great depression. Mom, dad and my sister, lived on a farm on the treeless prairie. Lois was just a month away from her second birthday when I joined the family. Mom and dad were a young couple beginning their life together while learning to cope with the difficulties of parenthood, farming and hard times.

Their weathered old clapboard house stood smack in the southwest corner of the farm, just opposite the district schoolhouse on the far side of the cross road. A handful of other unpainted buildings also adorned the barren prairie yard. There was the horse barn ... large enough to accommodate sixteen horses, a milk cow and a few chickens ... a well with the customary rope-and-bucket pumping system and, of course, the ubiquitous two-holed reading room. It may not have been impressive, but it was our home.

The farm was originally Canadian Pacific Railway land. Well of course that's a little white lie because the indigenous North Americans had lived on the land long before the CPR acquired it from the Canadian Government ... but we wont talk about how the government acquired it from them Anyway, as I understand it, the CPR had been granted a checker-board of mile-square sections, joined corner to corner on alternate sides of the right of way, all the way across Canada. The CPR, in turn, sold the land to would-be farmers and adventurers, many of whom were immigrants drawn to Canada by that very opportunity.

The best of the land was eagerly sought by farmers because of its proximity to the railway and the inevitable grain elevators which would be constructed at strategic points along its length. Grain elevators were the precursors of villages yet to come ... with their shops, schools, churches and all the other elements of civilization and commerce.

My grandparents had farmed the land before Dad took it over. They were among the earliest settlers in the area. Prior to moving to Canada, they had farmed in eastern Washington, where dad was born. I'm not sure whether grandpa knew in advance exactly were he was going, or just stumbled onto the land, but at any rate, he made a deal with the CPR for a quarter section of land at the going rate of about fifty cents per acre. Evidently the value of the CPR house, which had already been constructed, was added on to the fifty-cent per acre land price.

The sequence of events, from the time grandpa bought the farm until Dad ended up with it, is a bit fuzzy, but, sometime during this interval, Dad and two of his brothers joined with Grandpa to help him run the farm. In time, more land was purchased, more buildings were constructed, more land was broken, machinery was accumulated and, ultimately, another viable farm stood proudly on the bald Alberta prairie.

After a few years, Grandpa and Grandma decided they had struggled enough against difficult odds and returned to Washington, to live happily ever after. The brothers then took over the reins and continued farming together for several years until, one by one, they each married daughters of other farmers in surrounding communities. Although the little house on the prairie was adequate for three bachelor brothers, it was far too small for three couples and their inevitable families. So, as each brother found a bride, it became necessary to figure out who would remain on the farm and who would hit the road.

Dad was the last to marry. When his turn came, he and his remaining brother calculated what the farm was worth and worked out a plan for determining who would stay and who would leave. They agreed that the one who stayed should pay the one who left an amount equal to half of the estimated value of the farm. His brother chose to leave, so Dad bought him out and took over the farm.

Times were not easy, but my parents were young, strong and healthy. They worked hard. The months rolled by and their gains proved to be greater than their losses. Presumably, life was beautiful.

To be continued next time...

First Excerpt from "But ... What About Tomorrow?":


This book is dedicated to the settlers and homesteaders of the past whose hard work and sacrifice made contemporary farming so much easier. In particular it is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Marvin W. Fertig and family whose homestead I took over. Their efforts gave me a kick-start in farming without which I would surely have failed.

It is also dedicated to those farmers of the future who will take over from where I leave off. May they find the same satisfaction in farming and sense of reverence for the land that I felt during my tenure.

After more than forty years of struggling to hold on to the land, a strong sense of ownership has developed. But, as is true of beer, we do not really own anything ... we just have the use of it for a while. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that "my" farm will remain in the family for at least the next generation.


The dominant theme of this book is that the world, and more specifically North America, is fast approaching a major crisis because of our present unsustainable system of farming. The reason our system is unsustainable is because it is acutely dependent upon cheap and abundant petrochemicals. The assumption that a crisis is pending is based on the estimates of experts that our oil and gas resources will run out sometime in the next fifty years ... which is barely enough time for us to prepare ourselves, provided we start very soon.

Associated with the main theme is a broad range of relevant information supporting the overriding message that: "The soil is our most precious natural resource and its proper care and management is the key to farming sustainability and human survival". Much of the book is based on my personal experiences and observations during forty years of farming. Much is also based on research.

I make no claims to expertise of any kind. I wrote the book to inform the general public of the current unsustainable state of agriculture; give warning of the consequences of not preparing for a world faced with oil and gas shortages; and to suggest solutions to the problems involved. It is written in layman's language from an ordinary farmer's perspective, by the author of "Defying the Odds" (my autobiography and first book), and focuses primarily on the pending crisis as it relates to agriculture rather than its overall effects.

A good deal of the inspiration to write this book came from three books that strongly influenced my own farming methods. One was "The Plowman's Folly", by agronomist Edward Faulkner, the second was "Out of the Earth" by the famous novelist Louis Bromfield, and the third was Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring". Although I do not presume to include myself in the same category as this august trio, I humbly submit that this book contains a message of equal importance to those which inspired it.

Floyd E. Ells
A Farmer

Prolog ...

Once upon a time, in the latter half of the twentieth century, North Americans were the envy of the world. Their standard of living was unequalled in the history of civilization. In terms of creature comforts and basic amenities the ordinary person of that time enjoyed a better life than kings of the past.

One of the chief reasons for their enviable standard of living was the fact that they were the best fed people on earth. Food was cheap and plentiful. So much food was produced that, try as they might, they could not consume it all and millions of surplus tons were exported to every corner of the globe. Their whole economy was actually based upon extravagant consumption and wastefulness.

Farm production exceeded demand to the extent that competition drove profits relentlessly downward. Finally only the most efficient farms could survive. Efficiency of scale was the gospel of the time. Large corporate factory farms gradually squeezed out the traditional family farms which were once the foundation of their economy.

But there was a fundamental flaw in their system of farming, an Achilles heal that was largely ignored: The bountiful yields were dependent upon unlimited supplies of crude oil and natural gas.

By the beginning of the twenty first century, some concern was expressed about the rapid depletion of fossil fuel reserves, but most people were more concerned about the rising costs than the diminishing supply. Experts of the time estimated that there was enough oil and gas in the ground for another fifty years, at the current rate of consumption, but it was widely assumed that science and industry would surely develop some means of eliminating the dependency on these fossil fuels long before that.

But then the two most populous nations on earth, China and India, began to "westernize" their economies ... bring their people's standard of living closer to that of the western countries. The demand for crude oil and natural gas skyrocketed, as did the prices of fuel and nitrogen fertilizer. Those countries which had not squandered their oil and gas reserves soon enjoyed dominant bargaining positions and became world Super Powers by controlling the supply of these scarce commodities.

Ironically, these new Super Powers discovered they had no need for weapons of mass destruction, or even large standing armies to guard their treasures, because no nation on earth, regardless of their military supremacy, dared risk the wrath of the rest of the world for commandeering an unfair share of these scarce resources. This, as every school child now knows, is when the United Nations finally became united and effective.

Because of prohibitively high prices and the scarcity of supply, farmers the world over were forced to drastically reduce their use of fertilizer. Crop yields plummeted. North American grain exports dwindled. Food prices rose dramatically, culminating in our present perilous situation ... just fifty years into the twenty first century.

There is no point in wringing our hands and cursing Grandpa, or wondering how it was possible that his generation ... which was intelligent enough to put the first man on the moon and develop a computer program as sophisticated as Microsoft Windows (although the current version, Window Pane 2050, still requires occasional patching) ... could have been so ignorant about something as fundamental as farming. But, be that as it may, we must now live with the consequences of their greed and ignorance. May they rest in peace and may coming generations not have reason to despise us as we despise those who came before us.

To be continued next time...

January 30, 2008

Neophyte Blogger

This being my first attempt at blogging, I would like to explain my motivation and objectives. As an eighty-year-old farmer, and father of eight children, I feel an obligation to pass on some of the lessons I have learned from nearly fifty years of personal experience in farming. It is my hope that others may not only benefit from the things that turned out to be right but also avoid the things that went wrong.

I first felt the urge to chronicle my own farming experiences, a few years back, when I came to realize how much help I had received from others who had taken the time to record their lifeís experiences and knowledge in books which I had read. Although my first book, Defying the Odds, was written primarily for my own family, with no intention of publication, it was eventually published. But, being more autobiographical than instructive, it did not satisfy my desire to try to help future young farmers to avoid some of the pitfalls of farming that I had dealt with. So I wrote a second book.

The second book, But ñ What About Tomorrow?, both books were published by PublishAmerica, was written primarily for that purpose. Although I make no claim to expertise in anything, I feel that everyoneís life experiences contribute to the sum-total of knowledge and may be of some practical use to someone somewhere. It is a great pity that most people's life experiences are never recorded and are lost forever at their death.

But being published does not ensure being read. Unless a book gains the attention of the public it obviously will not be widely read. Publication and publicity are not synonymous. Unless one has access to broad publicity his books are not likely to be broadly read. Although I am not the least concerned about royalties (my Old Age Pension and modest farm income provide all the money I need) I would like to know that my attempt to help future farmers has not been a total waste of time and effort.

So...to Blogging. Being a neophyte in this media, I will have to learn on the job...which is essentially the story of my life.

With this inaugural posting, my plans are to initiate discussions about Sustainable Farming; farming in the post Peak-Oil future; preparing for Hard Times both in rural and urban lifestyles; Small scale farming; what we are doing and planning to do on our own farm; and other subjects that may come to mind or be suggested by readers of my blogs.

I also intend to periodically post segments of both of my published books, if and as interest is indicated, and possibly include a journal of activities here on our farm...such as the fact that yesterday morning we woke up to a minus 55 degree temperature and the problems associated with a hungry herd of cattle to feed and water. Farming in Alberta can be challenging.

Current Rant:

As a Canadian born citizen (raised in the United States, drafted into the U.S. Army, and a citizen of both countries but claiming Canadian only) I feel it is high time that we stand up to our Bully Buddies south of the border. Teddy Roosevelt often used the term 'Bully' to express admiration or approval, such as, "Bully for you!"—obviously meaning, "Good for you!" He also advocated that America, "Walk softly, but carry a big stick."

But, Bully has a totally different meaning nowadays. America, being the sole remaining superpower (temporarily anyway) still carries the big stick but no longer seems to feel the need to walk softly. Roosevelt's counsel appears to have evolved into, "Carry a big stick and trample those without one." (For detailed evidence in support of this, I highly recommend everyone read Rogue Nation, by Clyde Prestowitz, published in 2003 by Basic Books.)

There are a number of examples that could be cited to illustrate the American government's bullying tactics toward Canada, the softwood lumber trade issue for one, but, being a cattle producer, I'm more interested in the Bovine Spongyform Encephalopathy issue (BSE). The Americans claim that BSE is a health issue is BS. It is strictly a political issue, which is unlikely to be resolved until after their federal election this fall because Pretty Boy Georgie wont risk losing the votes of American cattlemen who are presently enjoying their highest prices in history. It is also political in that we Canadians are obviously being punished for not backing the Americans in the Iraq war…"You are either for us or against us", as Georgie said.

In my opinion, the best way to teach a bully a lesson, that he might remember, is to give him some of his own medicine. If I were in Prime Minister Paul Martin's position, I'd go down to the Oval Office and look Georgie squarely in the eye and tell him, "We're sick and tired of being bullied and we ain't gonna put up with it anymore! Now…as soon as you open up your borders to Canadian cattle, we'll turn your gas and oil lines back on. And there's a couple other things you might want to think about…you've had your eye on our fresh water for some time now and you've been pretty negligent about paying your United Nation's dues…maybe it's time to start acting more neighborly, eh."

What are they going to do about it…Nuke us?; precision bomb our parliament buildings?; stop all cross-border trade? As the whole world is learning, the last remaining Super Power is just a Paper Tiger...a Super Bully that needs to be taught a lesson in neighborliness.

Hope to hear from you...