Thursday, March 31, 2016

An encounter with an unreconstructed old rebel

On the way to Texas, we had stopped at a place called The Woodshed in Big Cabin, Okla., to fill up the gas tank and empty the poodles and ourselves. I had taken care of all that business and was just about to get back in the truck when I heard a voice.

"Sir, sir," I heard; it was the voice of an older man, kind of high-pitched and whiney. I looked around then saw him getting out his pickup truck behind us, blocking us in. I wondered what was going on. "Sir," he said again.

"Yes, sir, what can I do for you?" I said.

"Where did you get your cap?" he said.

I was wearing my Confederate flag cap, and my first thought was, "Oh, no. Here's someone offended by Southern history." But my next thoughts cascaded to a conclusion: "This is Oklahoma. That ancient, hunched-over man with a white beard, in overalls and with a rusty old pickup probably is not a sissy liberal." So I lightened up and gave him a smile, showing that I have a missing tooth, making the word on my cap, "Redneck," a truth.

"Well, sir, we are from Missouri--," I started.

"Yes, I see that,'" he interrupted, looking at the license plate.

"--and I found this at an antique mall in Lebanon," I continued. Turning to my wife in the driver's seat, I asked, "What was the name of that place?" Then I remembered and turned back to the guy as my wife and I said together, "Heartland. Heartland Antique Mall."
I walked toward the old man, and he said, "I've been looking for a cap with a rebel flag on it."

"Well, you might try some antique malls around here," I said. "The one in Lebanon had three or four booths with Confederate merchandise--flags, caps, pins, stickers and such."

The old man said, "I've got pins and stickers, and a flag, but I need a cap." He said he was originally from Alabama and his wife, in the truck, was from Georgia.

"Find an antique mall around here," i said, "and I'll bet you will find one." I took off my cap and we looked at the flag embroidered on the front of it. "But watch out what you buy. Look at this one," I said. "It is made in China, and you'll notice that the Chinaman who designed it left out the star in the center of the cross. This flag only has 12 stars, not 13," I said.

"Yes, sir," he said. "They left out a star, sure enough."

I continued, "Whenever anyone tells me they are offended by my cap, I take it off and look at it I say, 'It offends me, too, because it only has 12 stars. This is a fake rebel flag. A real Confederate flag would have 13 stars.' "

Putting the cap back on my head, I said,  "I guess they left out Kentucky, because according to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Missouri is the 12th star."

The old man said, "Do you know the first three states to secede?"

"South Carolina was the first. Everybody knows that," I said, "but I don't know the order of the rest of them. I know all 13 states, but I don't know the order."

"South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida," he said.

"Well, all right," I said. "Well, sir, we've got to get on down the road. We are headed to Texas for  Christmas, and we'd like to get to our first stop before dark. Merry Christmas to you." I turned and headed back to the passenger's door that still stood open.

As I started to get in, I heard him say something else, so I turned again toward him.

"What's that, sir?" I said.

"Just remember, the Stars and Bars are forever," the unreconstructed old Southern rebel said as he got into his truck.

"Yes, sir, God bless Dixie and Merry Christmas to you," I said, and I got into our SUV.

My wife was laughing.

"What's so funny?" I said. "That was an interesting old man."

"I'm laughing at you," she said. "I can't believe in all that you didn't tell him you were a native of Georgia."

"Well, by gosh, I am, and no one, not even a Texan, can take that away," I said, slightly irritated. "But you are right, I should have told him, but I didn't, so let's hit the road."

As we headed south on the highway, I thought, "I wish I had told him I was born in Georgia and am dang proud of it, along with my Ozarkian bringing-up."

And I also thought: "I wish I had given him this cap."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

From the Bible: Govt. screws you if you don't know somebody

How a government handles challenges to its security and how it handles immigration are issues you are familiar with from current events. I was reading an ancient document the other day, and there was some history about another country’s handling of those two issues.

I’m talking about the story in the Bible of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. He ended up in Egypt where he landed in prison for awhile and then became second in command. The security challenge he faced was a massive food shortage brought on by climate change or some such meteorological phenomenon. The immigration challenge Egypt faced was what to do with the people who came from Canaan, now site of Israel, looking for food.

It’s one of the most interesting stories of the Bible, which is filled with lots of interesting stuff, and I wonder if we could learn some lessons from what happened.

Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams. Nowadays, we figure dreams are a way to deal with life’s stresses, but in those days, dreams were often seen as messages from God. Pharaoh, the president of the country, had a dream about some fat cattle that were devoured by skinny cattle. No one could tell him the meaning of the dream until Joseph revealed that it meant seven years of good agricultural production followed by seven years of famine. Joseph suggested that pharaoh appoint a food czar with the power to collect 20 percent of the grain produced during the seven bountiful years.

Pharaoh bought Joseph’s story and made him the man in charge. Joseph and Pharaoh set up a tax collection bureaucracy and grabbed 20 percent of the grain produced every year. That food was stored in Egyptian cities. The Bible says Joseph collected so much corn it was like the grains of sand on the beach of a sea. It was so much corn that they couldn’t count it all.

That corn and other grains were laid up for the emergency Joseph had predicted. Sure enough,  hard times did indeed arrive. Joseph opened up his grain storage bins and started selling the corn to the Egyptians.

It was a regional famine, so people from other countries showed up wanting food, too.
Among the hungry immigrants who showed up were Joseph’s own brothers, the same bunch of ne’er-do-wells that sold him into slavery so many years previous. He recognized them, but he didn’t bear any grudge, and eventually he got them and their families, plus his old dad, a sweet deal with the government.

Joseph took his boss, Pharaoh, to see his brothers, who had brought their families and their livestock to stay and eat for awhile. Pharaoh told Joseph to give his family the best land in Egypt and to put them in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock.

I told you it was a sweet deal.

Think on that for awhile. Here are a bunch of immigrants who have not worked the land or paid the taxes that the Egyptians paid, and the president of the country gives them the best land and puts them in charge of his own ranches.

And the immigrants ate well. The Bible says, “Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.”
But out in the rest of the country, where the Egyptians lived, “there was no bread in all the land.”

Joseph, the government agent, second in command to pharaoh, gathered up all the money in the lands of Egypt and Canaan by selling back the grain he had collected in taxes for the previous seven years.

When the Egyptians ran out of money, they came to the capital and asked Joseph for grain even though they had no more money. Joseph said he would give them grain in exchange for their cattle.

The people were hungry, so they gave the government all their cattle.

That year ended, and the famine and economic downturn continued. The hungry people from all over the nation asked the government for more help. They told Joseph that the government had all their money and all their cattle. “There is not ought left … but our bodies and our lands,” they told him.

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, paid for with grain. There went private property out the window. He also bought the people in exchange for grain, making them slaves to the government, which was Pharaoh. There went freedom right out the door.
Joseph gave the citizen-slaves of Egypt seed grain and told them to plant. He turned them all into sharecroppers, telling them that they had to pay the government a tax of 20 percent of their harvest. They could keep the 80 percent for next year’s seed and for food for themselves, he said.

Now the people were so happy to be alive that they didn’t care that private property rights and personal freedoms were gone. They said, “Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.”

They were a cowed people.

Meanwhile, the immigrants from Canaan lived high on the hog, so to speak, in the best region of Egypt. “They had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly,” the Bible says.

This is an Old Testament story. There’s nothing contemporary about it. But doesn’t the story of an economic downturn for taxpayers who are losing their jobs, homes and personal freedoms, while benefits are extended to people who have not paid taxes, seem familiar?How a government handles challenges to its security and how it handles immigration are issues you are familiar with from current events. I was reading an ancient document the other day, and there was some history about another country’s handling of those two issues.

I’m talking about the story in the Bible of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. He ended up in Egypt where he landed in prison for awhile and then became second in command. The security challenge he faced was a massive food shortage brought on by climate change or some such meteorological phenomenon. The immigration challenge Egypt faced was what to do with the people who came from Canaan, now site of Israel, looking for food.

It’s one of the most interesting stories of the Bible, which is filled with lots of interesting stuff, and I wonder if we could learn some lessons from what happened.

Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams. Nowadays, we figure dreams are a way to deal with life’s stresses, but in those days, dreams were often seen as messages from God. Pharaoh, the president of the country, had a dream about some fat cattle that were devoured by skinny cattle. No one could tell him the meaning of the dream until Joseph revealed that it meant seven years of good agricultural production followed by seven years of famine. Joseph suggested that pharaoh appoint a food czar with the power to collect 20 percent of the grain produced during the seven bountiful years.

Pharaoh bought Joseph’s story and made him the man in charge. Joseph and Pharaoh set up a tax collection bureaucracy and grabbed 20 percent of the grain produced every year. That food was stored in Egyptian cities. The Bible says Joseph collected so much corn it was like the grains of sand on the beach of a sea. It was so much corn that they couldn’t count it all.

That corn and other grains were laid up for the emergency Joseph had predicted. Sure enough,  hard times did indeed arrive. Joseph opened up his grain storage bins and started selling the corn to the Egyptians.

It was a regional famine, so people from other countries showed up wanting food, too.
Among the hungry immigrants who showed up were Joseph’s own brothers, the same bunch of ne’er-do-wells that sold him into slavery so many years previous. He recognized them, but he didn’t bear any grudge, and eventually he got them and their families, plus his old dad, a sweet deal with the government.

Joseph took his boss, Pharaoh, to see his brothers, who had brought their families and their livestock to stay and eat for awhile. Pharaoh told Joseph to give his family the best land in Egypt and to put them in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock.

I told you it was a sweet deal.

Think on that for awhile. Here are a bunch of immigrants who have not worked the land or paid the taxes that the Egyptians paid, and the president of the country gives them the best land and puts them in charge of his own ranches.

And the immigrants ate well. The Bible says, “Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.”
But out in the rest of the country, where the Egyptians lived, “there was no bread in all the land.”

Joseph, the government agent, second in command to pharaoh, gathered up all the money in the lands of Egypt and Canaan by selling back the grain he had collected in taxes for the previous seven years.

When the Egyptians ran out of money, they came to the capital and asked Joseph for grain even though they had no more money. Joseph said he would give them grain in exchange for their cattle.

The people were hungry, so they gave the government all their cattle.

That year ended, and the famine and economic downturn continued. The hungry people from all over the nation asked the government for more help. They told Joseph that the government had all their money and all their cattle. “There is not ought left … but our bodies and our lands,” they told him.

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, paid for with grain. There went private property out the window. He also bought the people in exchange for grain, making them slaves to the government, which was Pharaoh. There went freedom right out the door.
Joseph gave the citizen-slaves of Egypt seed grain and told them to plant. He turned them all into sharecroppers, telling them that they had to pay the government a tax of 20 percent of their harvest. They could keep the 80 percent for next year’s seed and for food for themselves, he said.

Now the people were so happy to be alive that they didn’t care that private property rights and personal freedoms were gone. They said, “Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.”

They were a cowed people.

Meanwhile, the immigrants from Canaan lived high on the hog, so to speak, in the best region of Egypt. “They had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly,” the Bible says.

This is an Old Testament story. There’s nothing contemporary about it. But doesn’t the story of an economic downturn for taxpayers who are losing their jobs, homes and personal freedoms, while benefits are extended to people who have not paid taxes, seem familiar?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Grow more earlier (and later) with a hoop house

The local newspaper recently ran a gardening column about building hoop houses, so I reached back into the archives and found this article I wrote about a speaker at a Small Farm Conference in Columbia nearly 15 years ago. It still has some good information, I think.

An Iowa market grower looking to lengthen the short growing season up North has come up with a low-cost idea that Ozarks gardeners can use, too.

“You get better prices the earlier you can get (produce) to the farmers market and the later (in the season) you can stay,” says Doug Webster, of Rolling Prairie Acres, Sigourney, Iowa. The question he asked himself was this: How can a market grower, whose livelihood depends on how much he can pull out of the ground for his customers, start harvesting greens earlier in the season and keep picking tomatoes later?
The answer; “Build low-cost hoops from hog and cattle panels,” Webster said.
By hoops, he means hoop houses, which are unheated greenhouse-like structures built in the shape of a Quonset hut with a skin of greenhouse film covering the arches.
These hoop houses can be built from various materials of various costs, but a market grower like Webster is looking to find an inexpensive way to put up a hoop house. Ozarks gardeners will concur with that goal.
“We’re trying to keep our costs low,” Webster said, explaining that he and his family grow 65 vegetable crops on 2.5 acres of the 10-acre farm. They also raise Katahdin sheep, turkeys, chickens and rabbits.
They sell their produce at a large farmers market at Fairfield, Iowa, and to 30 members of their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Their customers want spinach, lettuce and greens early in the season, but Iowa’s weather isn’t conducive to early harvests.
“We’re 190 miles north of here,” he said.
Rolling Prairie Acres has two wood-heated greenhouses, but those structures don’t provide enough room to get a head start on the produce for those customers. Building another wood-heated greenhouse is expensive.
That’s why Webster likes his hoop house design made from the animal corral panels.
“ I like 16-foot hog panels, because they’ve got more steel in them, so they’re stiffer,” he says. “A 16-foot panel can be arched to give you 8 feet in width and 6 feet of head room, and I can stand up in one of these.”
Moreover, in Iowa, so many hog farmers have left the business in recent years, that he has been able to find an ample supply of hog panels at no cost.
The lengths of the hoop houses can vary. Webster built a 22.5-foot long hoop house in 2004 using eight 34-inch panels. He used 12 54-inch panels to build a 54-foot long hoop house in 2005. This year he built another 22.5 foot house.
Has it helped? Weber says it has, noting that he has over-wintered spinach and can harvest in March. He has planted tomatoes the first week of April and harvest the first one on May 31. At the November 2-4 conference, he said he had eaten fresh tomatoes (in Iowa) just that previous week, thanks to his hoop houses.
He plans to build another 22.5-foot house in 2007 to use for growing strawberries.
To build a hoop house, you’ll need corral panels, 2x4 lumber for the base frame, 1x3 lumber to fasten the plastic, deck screws, fencing staples, cable ties (black, UV protected) and 6 mil greenhouse film.
Webster gives the following steps of construction:
  1. Build a base frame of 2x4’s; make it as a long as you want. Drive a pipe into the ground and fasten it to the frame to hold it during high winds.
  2. Bend panels and staple them to the frame. This will take two people. Fasten each panel end to end with a cable tie.
  3. Build door frames on each end and install them.
  4. Fasten film on one side of a door frame on one end; stretch over the length of the arch and fasten to the door frame on the other end with 1x3 lumber. Use 1/3 on the length of film next to the base frame, too. It helps to have 8 arms on this step.
  5. Install the film on the doors, using scraps from the ends.
  6. Build and install flat shelves for plants if wanted. The frames for these flat shelves can be made with 3-foot lengths of 2x4’s attached at one end to the side of the hoop and on the other end to a length of No. 9 wire hanging from near the top of the hoop.
Webster noted that by putting up shelves, you can grow plants in the ground and in flats on the shelves.
He cautioned that long hoop houses can be difficult to ventilate. He added a fan to the 54-foot hoop. He opens the doors on the shorter hoops.
Houses longer than 22.5 feet need supports every 16 feet on the base frame.
Webster also cautioned that you should use 6 mil greenhouse film, not 6 mil plastic.
He also said non-treated lumber should be used so no chemicals leach into the soil.
“Place straw bales around the base during winter to help with keeping the ground warmer,” he said.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Rules for city folks moving to the country


We're getting a lot of newcomers from other states moving into Missouri, especially the Ozarks where land is cheaper than wherever it is they came from.

I'm trying hard to "embrace" these city folks, so in the spirit of warm-welcoming, I offer these rules for new residents passed along to me by my buddy Dave Davidson from over in Newburg. I don't know where he got these rules for city folks to live by when they move to the country, but I like them a lot. Here they are:

1. Pull your droopy pants up. You look like an idiot.

2. Turn your cap right, your head isn't crooked.

3. Let's get this straight; it's called a "dirt road." I drive a pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you're going to get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.

4. They are cattle. They're live steaks. That's why they smell funny to you. They smell like money to us. Get over it. Don't like it? I-44 goes east and west, I-35 goes north and south. Pick one.

5. So you have a $60,000 car. We're impressed. We have $150,000 corn pickers and hay balers that are driven only 3 weeks a year.

6. So every person who lives here waves. It's called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.

7. If that cell phone rings while an 8-point buck and 3 does are coming in, we WILL shoot it out of your hand. You better hope you don't have it up to your ear at the time.

8. Yeah, we eat catfish. You really want sushi and caviar? It's available at the corner bait shop.

9. The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season. It's a religious holiday held the closest Saturday to the first of November.

10. We open doors for women. That is applied to all women, regardless of age.

11. No, there's no "vegetarian special" on the menu. Order steak. Or you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham & turkey.

12. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables, and breads. We use three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup. Oh, yeah.... We don't care what you folks in Cincinnati call that stuff you eat... IT AIN'T REAL CHILI!!

13. You bring "coke" into my house, it better be brown, wet and served over ice.

14. You bring "Mary Jane" into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.

15. College and High School Football is as important here as the Lakers and the Knicks, and a dang site more fun to watch.

16. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don't hit the water hazards -- it spooks the fish.

17. Colleges? We have them all over. We have State Universities , Community Colleges, and Vo-techs. They come outta there with an education plus a love for God and country, and they still wave at everybody when they come for the holidays.

18. We have folks in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. So don't mess with us. If you do, you will get whipped by the best.

19. Turn down that blasted car stereo! That thumpity-thump crap ain't music, anyway. We don't want to hear it anymore than we want to see your boxers. Refer back to #1.

20. 4 inches isn't a blizzard - it's a flurry. Drive like you got some sense in it, and DON'T take all our bread, milk, and bleach from the grocery stores. This ain't Alaska, worst case you may have to live a whole day without croissants. The pickups with snow blades will have you out the next day.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Getting ahead of the weather

As soon as we got back from Christmas/New Year's vacation in Texas, I was ready to start gardening.

We had such good luck with our garden last year--after a hiatus of more than a decade
--that I wanted to get seeds in the ground quickly. A mild Missouri winter with very little snowfall added to the gardening fever.

Seed catalogs arriving almost daily in the mail exacerbated my condition in early January.

In early February, I went out and did what I should have done in the fall: cleared out the dead  plants from last year's garden. Our garden is five raised beds made of cement blocks and garden soil. The winter has been so mild the soil was not frozen, so I raked the top clear.

By the middle of the month, neither I nor my wife could wait, so on Saturday, Feb. 20, we filled all five beds with seeds for our first crop of the season. We put in bunching onions, turnip and mustard greens, lettuce, broccoli raab, several varieties of chard, rugula, kale and multiple peas,

We've had several nights of cold weather, but that hasn't stopped anything except for some lettuce from germinating.

We are hoping that as the ground warms, the lettuce will germinate. If that doesn't happen this coming week, we'll replant those areas next Saturday.

The weather forecast for tonight includes a frost warning, so we'll probably be forced to replant next Saturday. I just hope the frost doesn't require every row to be reseeded.