Monday, May 29, 2006

The grill of my dreams...

Not really - I only use LP to start my charcoal. BTW - hooking your grill to your house tank is one of the greatest hassle-removers for any backyard chef. Just look for a low-pressure regulator at your DIY store and soap-test all the joints.

How to do the testing:
  • Make a mixture of 50% liquid dish soap and 50% water.
  • With grill console control knobs in the "OFF" position, twist the valve on the propane cylinder 1 turn only. DO NOT LIGHT BURNERS WHILE PERFORMING A LEAK CHECK.
  • Brush soap and water solution on the following connections:
  • All propane cylinder welds and bottom ring of tank.
  • Propane cylinder valve including threads into cylinder.
  • All hose connections including side burner tubing, if equipped.
  • All valve connections.
  • Observe each place for growing bubbles, which indicates that a gas leak is present.
The tragic part is for lack for a cheap instant read thermometer, there is a good chance the output of $20K grills will be alternately charred and raw, just like the old $10 flying saucers from the 1950's.
Our corn is finished (Whoa - deja vu!)...

We were premature in announcing the end of a successful corn planting season. (See May 10 below) But this time for sure....

Ended up with about 25% DO-OVER. Most of it clean replants , some tedious spot-ins. According to my meticulous index-card scribbled records, this is a new low for my farm.

I hope sharing this will afford some of you a chance to count some blessings - no hard feelings. We've had some really easy springs, so it all evens out.

Now for the beans...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I knew there had to be a scientific term...

According to Official Smart Persons at Purdue University, I have "crappy" corn stands.

If you've been walking your fields lately, it is no surprise that much of what planted during the 5 days or so before the onset of nearly 10 days of cyclonic rain quite honestly looks like crap (my favorite technical term that describes a generally poor appearance of a corn crop). Corn planted nearly two weeks ago around the state is just now beginning to emerge and doing so very erratically.
As I fearmongered two weeks ago (Nielsen, 12 May 2006), the causes of the problems are multiple and include dense soil surface crusts restricting coleoptile emergence, seed rots, seedling blight, chilling injury, stress from saturated soils, and some soil-borne insect damage.

[More here] [my emphasis]

Somehow I feel better knowing there is a scientific name for the reason, especially since I am re-planting more corn that in the previous 25 years combined.

Is there anything more frustratingly time-consuming than driving up and down corn rows spotting in replant? Other than taking your chemical applicators exam, of course.

Meanwhile bean acres are not being planted...

My goodness, what a whiny little sniveler I am. Luckily, we are singing a wonderfully moving anthem today for Memorial Sunday: The Mansions of the Lord.

It's actually a good thing to be forced to stop the planter to sing about gratitude for the sacrifice of others - it puts my teeny complaints in perspective.

Have a great Memorial Day!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Another victim of GPS...

Think about all the navigation aids our grandchildren will giggle at...


Reason # 22 to reschedule the end of modern agriculture...

One of the most persistent gripes about industrial farming (I happen to like the term) is it causes much more erosion than the good old days. Few objective numbers back up this claim, but it just seems right to sustainable fans.

By some measures, we are eroding less. I find this survey acceptable, but I will allow that we really don't have good erosion data. My hunch is we are actually improving, since all the predicted cataclysmic consequences (plummeting yields, etc.) have failed to appear.

This topic is like debating what heaven looks like - all conjecture and little empirical data.
The hard part is recruiting crossing guards...

As you may have discovered with America's speed control mammal - deer - hitting a large living organism can ruin your whole day, and depending on your deductible, your monthly budget.

It's not a picnic for the animal in question either.

Scientists are looking for a better way to get the chicken across the road - even though we don't know why they do it.

"We know that some species — grizzly bears, wolves, elk and deer, also moose, prefer large structures," Dr. Clevenger said. "Cougars and black bears prefer the opposite — very constricted structures with lots of cover." Sometimes a pack of wolves will approach a crossing, but if only some are willing to chance it the pack as a whole may not cross. The scientists are trying to figure out a crossing design that will encourage packs to move en masse.


[via BoingBoing]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

They shoot quarterbacks, don't they?...

The endless looping of Barbaro's broken leg occurrence has led to some side stories about what modern horse breeding is all about.

Barbaro's breakdown on Saturday reignited the debate that's kicked up in recent years: Are modern training techniques, an obsession with speed and the almighty dollar making thoroughbreds weaker?

Those who think so cite the lack of a Triple Crown winner since 1978 and the gradual drop in the average number of annual starts per horse as evidence.

All it made me think of was Joe Theissman.
A professional do-over?...

Not optimistic about my corn crop. Nearly 4" of water and cold temps have slowed emergence. Heck - it some places it stopped emergence. If I am gone for a few days, you will know the verdict.
The pallbearers would love it...

I have admired old wooden caskets. Never gave a thought to willow wicker construction. I even toyed with making my own. But Jan and I will be cremated and scattered on the farm, so maybe that would be overkill.

So to speak.

Suddenly, I don't feel good...

The report that Britons are healthier than Americans (see May 4 below) prompted much rationalizing among US health advocates. Their conclusions:

The question of which country is healthier, Dr. Hadler and others say, turns out to be a perfect illustration of an issue that has plagued American medicine: the more health problems you look for, the more you find. And Americans, medical researchers say, are avid about looking.

The practice of "medicalization" may occur simply because "there's gold in them thar ills". Our third party payer system makes every symptom a way to get somebody else to pay for something for you. Not so in Britain, so there is less of an urge to cure every little ache and pain.

One day, as Dr. Meador tells it, a doctor-in-training was asked by his professor to define a well person. The resident thought for a moment. A well person, he said, is "someone who has not been completely worked up."

So, if you are feeling good right now - that's the first symptom.

The good news is if you can't afford those super-expensive medical procedures like bypass surgery because you have no insurance, low cost care is now available.

In India.

Whiplash was just the first agony that Kevin Miller, 45, suffered in a car accident last July. The second was sticker shock. The self-employed and uninsured chiropractor from Eunice, La., learned that it would cost $90,000 to get the herniated disk in his neck repaired. So, over the objections of his doctors, he turned to the Internet and made an appointment with Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, the marble-floored mecca of the medical trade that--with its liveried bellhops, fountains and restaurants--resembles a grand hotel more than a clinic. There a U.S.-trained surgeon fixed Miller's injured disk for less than $10,000. "I wouldn't hesitate to come back for another procedure," says Miller, who was recovering last week at the Westin Grande in Bangkok.

This may sound far-fetched, but the cost of medical care in the US can provoke some pretty strong economic actions by individuals. While we all say "you can't put a price on good health" when you are paying for it, you do every day.

And more and more of us will be paying for it.

Especially if we are smart.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Man the Hunter Hunted - Gatherer...

An interesting speculation about our early history as a species. I have always had a hard time picturing tiny little proto-humans being very successful as hunters even with large brains.

What I am suggesting, then, is a less powerful, more ignominious beginning for our species. Consider this alternate image: smallish beings (adult females maybe weighing 60 pounds, with males a bit heavier), not overly analytical because their brain-to-body ratio was rather small, possessing the ability to stand and move upright, who basically spent millions of years as meat walking around on two legs. Rather than Man the Hunter, we may need to visualize ourselves as more like Giant Hyena Chow, or Protein on the Go.

If this idea is right about fire being needed for a human meat diet, how did the Inuits and their all-protein diet get going? They eat nothing but raw whale meat and blubber.

Of course, you'd blubber too...[Ba-dump-bump]

They'll be using cattle prods next...

There is a chance that European airlines will be selling standing room "seats" on short flights. Then they can cram even more of us on the planes.
Otter-steer, Part III

This from a reader:

John - After 5 yrs when your $10,000 investment is depr. will your savings in input cost be recouped? - Roy Flint

While Trimble has some calculations about savings and others have worked out payback schemes, I always find these pro forma numbers of little use. First, it is hard to add up dollars you did NOT spend. It's like trying to prove a negative hypothesis.

Second, I think for us, the real value is in time and effort - not input costs. Jan and I have stretched ourselves about as thin as we can to cover 1800 acres, and a little help to make the days less stressful can make a big difference in our attitude and enthusiasm. When you subtract the days I spend doing USFR, even a small bump in efficiency helps.

(Sounds like Gadget Addict justification, doesn't it?)

Also another irritated coax cable customer:

I have the AgLeader Insight yield monitor and lightbar (made by Trimble) and agree with you about the frustration of paying a fortune for some cables that Radio Shack or Walmart would sell for a fraction of the amount Agleader charges. What a rip-off!!!!!! If only the cable ends would match up.
I am tired of moving a half dozen cables (that always end up in a tangled mess) from one tractor to another or to the combine. I think Agleader probably is ahead of JD in developing useful features in their equipment, but JD has so much less hassle when moving the monitor and accessories to different vehicles. The problem I have with JD Greenstar is that my local dealer has no one that knows anything about yield monitors, etc, (except the salesman who disappears after the sale).
By the way, most of the corn is planted here in Northeast Iowa. We finished Friday afternoon just before the rainy weekend started.
I really enjoy your blog!
Nick Leibold

I really think customers need to be their own experts right now. Or maybe become consultants to the dealers?.... Hmmm.....

As for our corn: 17% done. Thanks for sharing. (Sigh)

Makes sense to me...

Ronald Bailey at
Reason magazine had a great post about why immigrants risk so much to come to the US:

Every immigrant who makes it across the border automatically gains access to over $500,000 of capital. What? That's right. The clever economists at the World Bank have figured out how to measure natural, produced and intangible capital. It turns out that natural capital (forests, minerals, oil) and produced capital (buildings, roads, and factories) while important pale in comparison to intangible capital for producing income and wealth. In fact, 80 percent of the capital of rich countries is intangible. Intangible capital encompasses raw labor; human capital, which includes the sum of the knowledge, skills, and know-how possessed by population; as well as the level of trust in a society and the quality of its formal and informal social institutions including an honest bureaucracy, a free press, the rule of law and so forth.

The real solution, IMHO, is to narrow the economic gap between the US and other countries - not build more walls or starve our economy of workers. Unfortunately, we often determine success relatively, by comparing our abundance to other's poverty. What we do not realize is this growing gap provides the economic voltage to attract people whose goal is simply live more like us.

Many in the US, and especially in Washington have developed a sad little delusion that a law will solve problems. While ranting that current immigration laws are not being vigorously enforced, the right is screaming for more laws.

Yeah - that'll help
. These people are already illegal - making them "illegaler" won't accomplish much.

We sashayed into Iraq confident we could restructure their society and economy and learned some hard truths about what even immense firepower and squandered wealth can accomplish without support of the people. I see the immigration solution starting with realistic lists of what kind of enforcement we are actually capable of.

Our best homeland security investment may be in the Mexican economy. Making our neighbor more prosperous would keep more citizens at home.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Workin' hard? Or hardly - oh, never mind...

Aaron sent a link about game developers and overwork. While I am of course far too ancient to enjoy video games, it is an industry of some note. It may also be on the cutting edge of a social/economic trend of
backlash to overwork.

Round-the-clock work schedules have long been common among game developers. Some say the overwork epidemic in the video-game industry is spreading to other professions as financial pressures intensify.

The $10.5 billion U.S. games industry is "kind of like the canary in the coal mine,' said David Fugate, an independent literary agent who is helping Hoffman find a publisher for her book about overwork in America.

[Rest of article here]

According to one report, the Overwork Champion of Asia is Hong Kong. What is interesting is the problem seems to be worse in high-paying jobs like finance or legal work.

It could be the problem is created and fueled here in the US by benefit costs. Since health care, etc. are fixed regardless how much an employee works, business is better off flogging the serfs they own rather than bringing in more help. This also means that temporary help is used as much as possible to prevent placing expensive full-timers on the payroll. Often this creates a two-tiered workforce.

While we think of the tiers as 1) well-paid employees and 2) underpaid temps, they could also be classified as 1) overworked and 2) underemployed.

Universities are doing this to avoid giving tenure to professors. Other industries use temps and consultants to avoid commitment. [You can tell our business world is still dominated by male executives, huh?]