Monday, December 5, 2011

'Black Friday was blacker than we knew' - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

'Black Friday was blacker than we knew' - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Sunday, July 17, 2011


                                          Jake driving Bright

About half way through training Bright, a three year old mare belonging to a man in Marrowbone. She is an intelligent, and dominant creature who will try to dominate a human if she can. Like many strong willed horses, she is very alert and spooks at more things than most less dominant animals. The training has gone well. We started her in a round pen. We isolated her in the beginning. I got her moving then taught her that she did not have to fear the halter or being led. We kept it short. Being led got her to grazing, friends, treats and water. Because she was isolated, my coming was anticipated and whatever I did was seen as beneficial. When we moved her to a semi-isolated pasture by the barn, the pattern continued. She comes in for training at a run. We do give her treats, but we also give lots of praise, neck rubs, and scratching.

We started with driving. She has not had experience with the whip. To start her I pushed on her rump. From the very beginning I tried to cue her with the lines and release as soon as she started the move. She now has this pretty well mastered. I always accompany the cuing with the lines with voice commands. I notice she will do many of the moves on voice alone. We use “gee”, “haw”, “up”, “whoa”. and “back”. I use “haw about” for a complete “U” turn to the left, and she now understands that the “about” command means a full 180o turn. We added being saddled and having weight put on the saddle these past few days. Jake got on her the day before yesterday, and she simply inspected him. No resistance at all. Yesterday she gave us a big unload while he was sitting there.

All along we have worked on grooming, spraying her with fly wipe and handling her feet. Now, after a week, she is comfortable with all of them. She stood for being sprayed with fly wipe yesterday completely unconcerned with the process. She gives me the front feet, but I still have to pick up the hinds. I brush her feet with the grooming brush and rap on them with the back of the brush.

The past two days we have begun the process of teaching her that other people can drive her too. She is not nearly as well behaved for other drivers. I have had the problem of creating one man animals in the past. I have had Joe, Jake and Maria drive her. I tell them not to correct, just praise. I want her to think that all people are safe and beneficial.

What I think is most promising is that she has gone through half her training with only one scolding. The second time I tightened the cinch on the Western saddle, she kicked at me. I got in her face for that. Other than that, things have been calm. I do not punish for not knowing or for acting like a horse. We just do things over until she gets them right. We had a bit of a balking problem in the beginning. Everything was scary. Maria thinks she was using it for attention. We just kept working on it. The last couple of days we haven’t seen this at all.

I don’t think I’d call her green broke yet, but I know I have been around horses a lot rawer than Bright is that were released as green broke. I do not think that our low key, non-confrontational approach has added a minute to the length of training time. One thing is for sure, she likes human contact. We would not have had that with a rougher style of training. That in itself will make all future training easier.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We the People

We citizens of these United States have developed an extremely effective way of destroying ourselves. We have decided to stay in our golden past. We have refused to be brought into the modern world. Then, we accuse anyone that points out our problems of lack of patriotism. This guarantees that nothing will ever improve. We will simply slide loudly and with a large splash into oblivion.
We used to think that the Oriental history of walling out change that kept China and Japan from modernizing for centuries was ridiculous. If you look at the present state of our country, you will see that this is exactly what we have done. We don’t learn from the past, we glorify it. We try, very unrealistically to live in it.
We developed a political system that was extremely responsive to the needs of a rapidly industrializing nation. Our government supported industry, commerce and the stockholders that managed our leap into world prominence. Now we are held hostage by these same forces that built us, and we cannot let go.
We failed to automate our industry; to protect the workers‘ jobs, of course. We hamstrung our agriculture by permitting a monopoly to pick the direction it would go, without thought to any consequence but profit. Oil built us. American oil won World War II, and even though the handwriting has been on the wall for fifty years, we refuse to let go of it. The oil companies are diversifying, buying into renewable energy, but we, as a people, are not. Climate change is going to redesign the world’s economy for us. Our leaders stick their heads in the sand. Prudence would dictate that if there were even a chance that this would be barreling down the slope toward us that we should take concrete measures to save ourselves. But we are not prudent people. Fourteen percent of our workforce is unemployed as of this writing. About the same percentage are underemployed. We did this to ourselves. We allowed businesses to move these people’s jobs overseas and bring the products back to this country without any tariff whatsoever. That is freedom.
We are not a democracy. This country was designed as a vehicle for corporate profits. It is business that pays for the campaigns that put people in political office. Therefore, we get leaders and legislators who put the interests of sponsors first. Look at the decisions they have made over the past years. Republican or Democrat, neither party will vote against the interests of big business. The Constitution is simply a panacea. This country is run by an unwritten constitution that exists to insure corporate profits and the welfare of the economic elite. The rest of us are manipulated. We are given bread and games. The term for this form of government is plutocracy

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Busy trying to improve our energy usage and fit in trips and still have time for writing.  Just got another article written yesterday.  At evening chores, the three little pigs were loose.  I think it proves that all animals are better trained.  Because of the bucket training, that took no time at all, they came right up to me, followed me into the pen, and let me scratch them outside the pen.  It could have been a difficult situation if they has still been afraid of humans.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We are in the springtime cycle of events and farming. Get home, rush around breathlessly trying to catch up, pack for another event and off again. The oxen are wonderful at it. We see endless children and somehow the oxen just seem to be a bottomless pit of patience. There has been more interest this year in using oxen for subsistence farms and other small or hobby farm applications. I still think that if all I had was a kitchen garden a single ox would be the most practical of all draft animals.

We learned another use of a word in cattle language. We have always known that shaking the horns from side to side was a challenge. I called the oxen into the paddock by the barn. James came in before George and was standing well away from his feed pan blocking George's path. When George came in, he shook his head from side to side. James did not panic as if he had been challenged by a dominant animal, he just simply moved up out of George's way. I think the context gave this signal a different meaning. It gives me something else to look for in their language.

Charlie continues to show his complete understanding of fences. Bright is separated from the other horses for training. I fed her in the round pen. As soon as I walked away, Charlie used his horns to pick up the round pen and move it past Bright's feed pan so he could get at her food. A second incident, I fed the pigs the other day. Charlie left his food to go dismantle the pig pen to get their food. He is back staked again for everyone's protection.

Monday, March 7, 2011


The well pump gave up the ghost. I called customer service for Sure-Dri and they told me that it probably died of old age. Our choice is basically to replace it with something we know will be phased out shortly or go solar, in which case we are going to have to redesign the water system.

Spring is definitely upon us. Grass is definitely growing and the animals are choosing to eat more grass and less hay. I do not want to move them to the south pasture until the grass there is a little further along. For the present, I have been working on fences. Not much else can be done until the ground dries out a little more. We planned the gardens and staked the corners. If rain will hold off a little more, I plan on disking the plots this week. We now have a complete if not fleshed out Farm Plan. Hopefully this will keep us from making wasteful detours.

When the plan is finalized, we may post it but for now, a summary might help some people. We are continuing our pursuit of alternate energy sources. While this is still in the research stage, we are going to have to move on some of it right now. Certainly the pump, and probably the solar oven will top the list. Second, we are working on becoming more self sufficient. Of course, generating our own energy is part of this, but so is growing our own food. We are going to pursue building a house on the hill. This would give us a better site for both solar and wind energy. Obviously, this cannot be done immediately, thus there have to be both long term and short term goals.

At evening chores I watched the cattle play dominance games. George and Charlie squared off. George had his horn ridge just below Charlie’s, the points of his horns in Charlie’s forehead. Charlie’s horns did not connect with anything. George pushed Charlie back about three feet whereupon Charles quit and decided to go after William. Will stood up to him and Charlie pushed William back a few yards until he sat on his rump in the mud. James wanted no part in the games and came over and stood by me.

This morning I saw a scarlet Tanager.


Sunday, March 6, 2011


I was running through the photo collection and found a few that have not been seen very often.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blending Philosophy With Reality

It was 73o, I saw both robins and mocking birds, the first buds are on the trees and shrubs and we had another thunder storm. The chickens gave us four eggs again today. The sow Isabella slimed my leg while I was cleaning out her water pan. We had to move hay again. The oxen sensed that it was a work day and met me at the gate all ready to work. Joe thinks George checks the depth of hay in the rings and knows when we are going to work them. William moved into position to take the yoke without being told and later got on the chain when he was told without prompting. Spring is battering on the door. We are talking about gardens and starting to plan.

The real issue is not what we are going to plant, or where. The question is how we make sustainable living a lifestyle. We have to factor in shelter, transportation, food storage, and clothing and provide food. We need sources of information and enough money to give us some maneuverability and acquire capital items needed to transform the farmstead. This is a tall order. Some things are obvious. The house is inefficient: Too much wasted space, poor insulation and a site that is someday going to get wiped out by a flood. We want to build a more survivable house up-hill where it will get more solar energy and pick up more wind. We have steadily reduced our use of the car and truck to about a single trip to town a week, bunching errands or simply staying home. Maria has almost single handedly reduced our electrical consumption to a quarter to an eighth (depending on the season) of our previous level. We have our sins, however. We are addicted to our computers and Netflix. Still these can eventually be supported by electricity we can produce ourselves.

Our plan is to move steadily toward a largely self sufficient sustainable lifestyle: Growing what we can, using draft animals where we can, making whatever we can do ourselves, bartering, trading or selling those skills we have to provide the capital needed to keep the place going. We believe that this course will fit with the changes we see in the environment and economic situation. We are not survivalists in the Y2K form, but it would seem to be provident to design a life that will not collapse if gas at the pump does hit $15 a gallon. We spend a lot of time here talking about the philosophy of living responsibly. At this time of year, the reality of carving this lifestyle out a hollow in southern Kentucky rears its ugly head and we are faced with making it work.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Sorry, we've been gone for a week.  A person wrote us and said that they had a hard time contacting us.  I had wanted this Blog to be an exchange of information on animal handling, sustainable farming and green living.  If people cannot reach us, that defeats the purpose.  So, we can be contacted at or go on "facebook" look up Gerry Barker and you'll see the picture of me with oxen.  Any way I can help people with draft animals and sustainable farming I will be glad to try.  We really need to network to get anything changed.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Since we specialize in preserving traditional skills like building log cabins with nothing but axes, working draft animals, spinning, and a host of others, people are often surprised that we advocate and use modern technology. It can not be an either/or situation.

Let me explain this, I believe the world environmental and energy situation is becoming so critical that we have to put all our intellect and effort into creating a stable, sustainable culture on this planet. We cannot afford the luxury of dwelling on the past. Sustainable farming has the potential of squeezing out more food value per square inch than any corporate farm, but to do this, we need to blend every bit of skill and technology that we have. We have to be careful, some of the modern is dangerous, certainly the herbicides and insecticides of modern agriculture have been linked to the alarming increase in cancer in our population. But traditional methods led to soil erosion, deforestation, air pollution, disease, malnutrition, and inordinate occupational hazards.

Creating a sustainable farmstead requires designing a livable pattern of agriculture, energy, personal health, and nutrition. It may be comfortable to occupy spacious quarters, but heating the airspace in winter may require more work than can be sustained. Do we concentrate on feeding ourselves? Or raise a surplus that can be bartered for items we cannot produce on the farm? Or start evaluating and eliminating what we think we must have/do/make? We have to seek a balance. There are skills that we will need such as blacksmithing, coopering, tanning, harness making, and medicine that we can learn, but may take too much time and thus not be effective.

When I am at an historic event, it may the best answer to have a wooden wheeled Virginia wagon, but for every day use, a steel wheeled cart may serve my farm better. If we are going to survive, we have to be practical, not romantic. We have to pick the most survivable tool.
In writing about survival on the Overmountain frontier, I have said a number of times that it was not the tools that came from the East on the packhorse that enabled the frontiersmen to survive, it was the tools that came in their heads. If a plow breaks during spring plowing, life cannot go on hold until a new one is bought or the broken plow repaired. The farmer needs to be able to repair it himself or make a substitute. This is where the frontiersman had it all over us. He came out knowing he had to be self sufficient. We were raised in a culture of mutual support (even if that support has to be paid for).

I am not a nuclear physicist nor a plant biologist. But, there are things I can do to contribute to the solution to the energy depletion and environmental crises that are facing us. And, I will do them. I am experimenting with methods to find those that work and can be replicated by others. I am training myself to live a sustainable life. Even if I am imperfect, I can and do teach others what I have found out. This largely takes the form of working livestock, but that seems to be what I am best at.

At this stage, I think the biggest contribution that all of us involved in the sustainable lifestyle can do is be a loud example. When we can live well without compromising our principals, it encourages other to try. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get discouraged when I see the excessive consumption surrounding me. As people speed by in their SUVs, I know that they are using one third more gas than they would if they were driving conservatively. I pick up a vegetable and realize it is something we grow here, but this one came from the Philippines. Our local electrical co-op brags about burning coal they get from mountain top removal and collaterally all the good that does for Kentucky. The list is endless, and I cannot fight them all. I can be an example.

The Frontiersmen crossed the Appalachians in small groups, families and often alone. What they were doing was illegal (the Proclamation of 1763). They fought Indians and often outlaws. They were dragged into the Revolution by events, not ideology. We are very much in the same situation. Those of us fighting to make a difference face politicians owned by the corporations that created this mess. Certainly they are not going to support anything that might adversely influence corporate profits. We live among a populace that has been raised to expect the comforts and ease of cheap oil. They don’t want to see it change. Demagogues manipulate them to think that we can return to the status of the victors of World War II and the economy of the 1950s. We meet resistance at every turn, we are isolated and alone. That is what it means to be a frontiersman. But, the frontiersman of 1775 was the truly modern man of his time. If there is a future, historians will look back and see those of us fighting for responsible living the same way.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Single Ox

I have been intending to post this for quite some time and keep forgetting. I wrote this in response to a question on oxen for micro farms.

The single ox may be the most economically sound answer for the person working five acres or so. There are a number of advantages to the single, the biggest is simplicity. When we have had a single, I have always been pleased with the fact that I could hitch it to a cart in seconds. Put the animal between the shafts, put the yoke on the ox, hook the shafts to the yoke, slide the bow in place and pin it, and walk away. Next, the single oxen I have known have bonded far more quickly and strongly to the driver. This makes for a much more tractable animal. Small breeds, Dexter/Kerry, Devon, Jersey, or Guernsey are easy keepers; eating a fraction of the feed and forage of a horse or mule. A small ox does fine for the plowing, harrowing, cultivating, carrying, and wood hauling that is common on small acreage. My former ox, Chip, did not have to be driven, he would just follow me on command as I worked, with a cartload of tools, chainsaw, etc. A final advantage is the maneuverability. A single ox can get places no other animal but a donkey can and has a turning radius with a cart that is only the length of the shafts. I hearken back to the book Cattle Behavior and Welfare, an ox is a large specialized goat. I have bogged horses down in deep snow, a ox actually swam through the drifts with the load.

There are three good harness methods for a single ox. The traditional single yoke works well, a variation is to have a back strap take the weight of the shafts and cart off the animal‘s neck.. We make our single yokes from a bent tree branch. A breast harness with a simple back strap is easy to make, and quick to put on. The third is to use a harness similar to a horse or mule harness. This is effective and provides the best protection to the animal, but takes longer to put on and is more expensive.

There are more people interested in sustainable living today. As energy depletion and environmental issues have more effect on our lives, we are going to have to couple older skills with modern science. I do not want to see us return to the callous abuse of animals that existed two hundred years ago. We know much more about them now. There were good animal handlers then and we all should be good animal handlers now. I love oxen. I would hate to influence people to go out and get an ox and have the animal starved or beaten. A single ox is a member of the family. They are intelligent and extremely loyal. They learn what their jobs are and will be glad to perform them if treated considerately. This morning, my boys complained because I did not yoke them up for work. That is because they have come to expect work to be rewarding. I know George is working for the attention. He will pass food for a good scratching. Chip would too. If you want to try a single ox, you can get the same reaction.

I want to say one more thing about responsibility. An ox will kill himself for you. Be careful what you ask them to do.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why Oxen

I have worked horses, mules and oxen and have come to believe that oxen are the most efficient for a number of reasons. First, the low start-up cost of cattle, a Holstein calf still sells for about $50. Second, a pair of steers can begin earning their keep at about six months old and well cared for they can work for about twenty years. Next, they are extremely easy keepers, thriving on grasses and browse that horses and mules would starve on. With four stomachs, cattle process food much better than horses or mules. The equipment, a wooden yoke with bows costs less than harnesses for horses and mules and it takes a fraction of the time to hitch them up or work. Mine have always been patient, willing workers strong enough for any of the jobs you want a draft animal to do. They train easily and retain their training well. I am impressed by their pure efficiency, there is no wasted motion with nervousness or bickering. The draw back is that they are slow, and most of us walk beside them instead of riding the equipment. However, for sustainable farming I think the ox is the perfect partner.


Since I have had two requests for help training or managing cattle in the past week, I thought I would make a serious attempt to record what the morning feeding is like. Food seems to be a big issue with cattle and their owners. I went down to the far pasture a little after seven this morning. I know all the oxen saw me and James and Charlie waited for me at the gate. As I got to the gate, James gave the begging groan and raised his head (in a submission signal). When I got through the gate, Charlie bobbed his head up and down twice, a more demonstrative submission signal. I had a bucket in my hand with feed. James and Charlie took off for the feed pans by their own route. William met me on the way to the line of feed pans and gave a bob of the head, then followed me at a respectful distance. George started for the end pan. I got to the pans, and put a scoop in each one. Charles and James stood back until food was in their pan then approached. William went after the third pan. George was now with me and bobbed his head. When I put food in his pan, he lifted my free hand with his nose. I paused and scratched him.
Now, some of the things that I think are going on. James loves attention, but is very food oriented. However, he defers to Charlie. Charlie eats first, unless George is in that sort of a mood. William is on the bottom of the pecking order. He does not interfere with me or challenge the other boys. George is so secure that he does not mind eating last, no one will drive him out of his food, but he gets his cut of “Daddy” attention off the top. Somehow, George has used me to secure his position as the herd boss.
Every once in a while someone will get a wild hair and bother another animal. Usually Charlie trying to find out if he can push George out of his position of authority. If I see it I am careful. I do not want to interfere with their herd dynamics, but when an animal is with me, they are in my protection. I will go after an animal that touches another while they are with me. This happens once a year or so.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Cattle Work

I needed to move a couple of logs this morning.  The larger was 34" at the base, 22" at the small end and about twenty feet long.  The last flood had washed it downstream onto a neighbor's land.  The oxen came in just fine, I yoked them and we took off.  I carried a cant hook.  I let let them drag the logging chain.  The first log was beside the creek.  The creek has a short, steep bank.  We have had a very wet winter, the ground is muddy and the oxen were sinking about six inches on each step.  The approach was through some blackberry brambles, too narrow for me to walk beside them so I followed and gave the commands from behind.
To get the boys hooked up to the log, I had the lead yoke go straight up to the log, "Whoa" then had them "Pivot haw" (pivot left) with Charles and William at "Whoa".  I moved them a little bit forward then had the second yoke come up to the log and do the same thing.  This gave me plenty of room to put the chain on the log.  William moved while I was hooking up the chain and stepped across the chain.  I corrected him for it and straightened things out.  All hooked up, I could not walk beside the team again so I got out of the way and told the boys "Haw up."  George took over and they started up the bank.  William balked when he got to the steep part of the bank and the whole team stopped.  I yelled at him and Charlie reached over and poked him with a horn.  In his defense, he was sinking a foot deep in the slop of the bank.  I went back down by the trailing pair and gave "Up" again.  They pulled it up just fine.  The hard part of the pull was when the log dug into the dirt at the top of the bank.  It scooped out a foot deep notch.  William did not balk at that, but he was on level ground by that time.
They had to thread their way through some cedars and more blackberries.  I just followed along behind.  George took  them back to our place just fine.  You can  tell from the picture that I am way behind the team.  George made all the turns.  Charlie did not follow as well as I like.  I hollered "Whoa" at our little parking area.  They all backed up one step on command.  I unhooked the chain.  I gave George and James a "Pivot gee" with Charles and William at "Whoa", then had the second yoke "Follow".  It worked perfectly.  The next log was smaller, and the team did better. 
The one other occurrence was that when I unyoked at the end of the work, Charlie went after William and roughed him up a bit.  William ran off.  Charlie did not follow.  I suspect that Charlie was upset at William's mistakes, but there is no way of knowing.  The team is so good that I forget that William has been with us less than a year.  He is four years old and the others are eight.  Not working for a few days is tougher on him.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is Cruelty Still Funny?

Empathy  Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives
Gerry and I interact with thousands of school children annually, and I think almost as many adults.  Gerry travels from place to place with his oxen at great expense to us, because that is his passion, to mix children with large animals.  I don't own the oxen, but I care for them when we are traveling together.  I also own horses, and in truth, the shar-peis are more mine than his.  We own chickens now, and a pig since last September.  We are delighted with the different personalities and affection our animals exhibit.  Honestly, I think they own us more that we own them.
But I digress, as usual.  What I started to say was we have noticed a truly disturbing trend in our dealings with the dear little school children (3rd grade through college).  They are getting mean.
Will he charge me if I hurt him?  Can I use the whip?  What happens if you use the whip on him?  Pull on his nose ring.  Will he kick me if I hit him?  How hard do you have to hit him so that it hurts? Variations of these questions now often take up the entire question and answer period.  Trust me, it is not a sometime thing, and it is on the increase.
Then there are the times that we deal with actual physical violence toward them, not just the interest in pulling the oxen's nose rings, I have seen them actually do it.  They duck past the ropes that are meant to keep public out of the resting areas, and swarm the resting animals. pull on nose ropes, poke fingers in eyes. hit my horses with sticks.  They have even hit the animals when they are working, dashing out of the crowd to strike a blow and disappear again.
And the adults, I hate to admit, are almost as bad, No, worse, when you take into account they really should know better.
Anyway, we note the increased interest in cruelty, and the decreased interest in considerating the feelings of others.  Every Spring is worse than the last Autumn.  Every Autumn is worse than the last Spring.
Why?  We are not even talking about people who get into a rage and strike out at an animal, child, or wife, or...
No, these people seem to have a fixation on harming just for the sake of causing harm, or do they even realize that nerve endings work the same in any being?  I don't know which is the scarier scenario.
Now, I know that wanting to harm, or not caring about harm, may seem a little far from my subject title today, but I think it is all connected.  Back in "the old days" boys would tie cans to a dog's tail, so it would be afraid and run.  All thought it was funny.  Or they would tie a bone with meat on it to incite other dogs to give chase, attack and kill the unfortunate pooch forced to provide the entertainment (all of you know that dogs amost have to give chase when something runs, right?) The humans found this shriekingly funny, something to take minds off of worries, stresses, boredoms, drudgeries.  Meanwhile, the dog is terrified, or torn to pieces after being terrified.
Consider the following story:
                                    Works For Me.....
A firefighter was working on the engine outside the Station, when he noticed
a little girl nearby in a little red wagon with little ladders hung off the sides and
a garden hose tightly coiled in the middle.

The girl was wearing a firefighter’s helmet.

The wagon was being pulled by her dog and her cat.

The firefighter walked over to take a closer look.

'That sure is a nice fire truck,' the firefighter said with admiration.

'Thanks,' the girl replied.
The firefighter looked a little closer.  The girl had
tied the wagon to her dog's collar and to the cat's testicles.

'Little partner,' the firefighter said, 'I don't want to tell you how to run your

rig, but if you were to tie that rope around the cat's collar, I think you could go

The little girl replied thoughtfully, 'You're probably right, but

then I wouldn't have a siren.'

2 friends (separately) sent me the above forward today. It is meant to be funny, and I am sure my friends meant well, but it did not seem funny to me.  It struck me as an excuse to express cruelty rather than something truly humourous.  And we are all culpable, not just the ones who make up the joke, but also the ones who forward it, and me to, for posting it as an example.

Empathy   Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives

I'd just like us to stop and think for a moment.  If you found it funny, ask yourself why?  If you did not, will you be more aware of other influences in your world.  If you found it neither funny, nor unfunny, or just don't give a shit at all, well, Have A Nice Day!

You tell me, Is cruelty to another still funny?  Can there be any connection here in the type of story we decide to send as an email, or the type of story we choose to watch on TV, the type of joke we tell to the men or women at the office......and cruelty in people?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I am appalled at the Tucson shooting.  I do not want to be hypocritical, there has been a great deal of violence in my life, but can't we Americans outgrow our primitive predilection for mayhem.  I hate to see greater governmental regulation and control, but this endless string of gun violence is going to bring it about.  There is no way for us to control every mentally deranged person in the country.  But, we create the climate of violence.  We glorify the "Second Amendment solution".  Our entertainment is filled with acts of crime and bloodshed.  The language of our leaders is filled with it.  We create this climate.  As a result, we have a homicide rate among the highest on the planet.  Our crime rate is similarly high.  One quarter of the world's prison population is in this country.  We have the highest number of police per capita in the world (this is counting police of all sorts, FBI, ATF, TSB, State, Local, Park Police, private security police, etc.) 

I think part of the reason why I drive oxen is that whoever heard of a "War Ox".

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


No one is interested in the issues of climate change and environmental destruction any more. Hard to blame them. We are talking about something that has taken centuries to catch up with us and after all, it may be at least a couple more generations before it actually touches us individually. It takes imagination and intelligence to face a problem now that is not going to come home to roost for another fifty years. It is going to kill my great grandchildren, not me.

Our problem is getting the point across to the public. There is no thought, we are wrapped up in our sitcoms and football games. I know the argument that environmental action/controls will hurt existing industry, jobs, and the economy. I actually think he big political issue is that the corporations that run this country see it as an obstacle to their astronomical profits. We do not look around. I go deep into the woods at times on these historical adventures of ours. In the most inaccessible of places, there will be a plastic Wal-Mart bag. Drive any interstate highway, look at the brown in the leaves of the trees alongside you. Our powerline right-of-ways show die-back from the defoliants that are supposedly inert and completely safe in minutes or hours after they are sprayed. I could go on with this forever, and I have not even mentioned the biggie, violent climate change that cannot be denied.

How do we make an oblivious public (and their leaders, elected officials, politicians, etc.) wake up? What do we do to create a sense of urgency? How do we make it real?

I know this is just a rant. Better minds than mine are working on this problem. But, I live in the state that just elected Rand Paul to the Senate. We have a Neandertal electorate that just put a person in office that seems to be totally incapable of even the most basic logic. I know we humans are contributing to the disaster, but logic says that even if it is totally out of our control, we have to start taking steps to face the crisis. There are enough examples around to show that things are changing.

When do we become mature, thinking people?


Animals add so much to my life.  We have owned a greeat many, oxen, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, and even dogs and cats.  Somehow we have kept most of them gentle.  It is hard not to have your heart touched by a yearling horse that has to come up for a butt scratching first thing in the morning or seeing the pig come running to greet her special firend the Shar Pei dog.  We feed birds.  There is a Nuthatch here that has us all figured out.  He uses me to give him room and peace to eat.  The bigger, more agressive birds like the Cardinals, Jays and Towhees stay away from me and he (or she) gets a free shot at the seed.  He is often inches from me and yesterday he actually touched me.  Bright little critter.  The oxen are wonderful friends.  We moved bales again yesterday.  While I was getting the sledge and chains ready, all four collected.  There is a requisite head and jaw scratching, but they are ready to work and seem to enjoy it.  I think we must deliberately collect animals with a sense of humor.  Charlie knows wrecking fences gets me mad.  He will push a fence post over and stand there to watch my reaction.  The pig, now named Isabella, throws her food dish at the dog.  One horse we had for years pulled a glove off me and went running around the pasture with it in his mouth flapping it from side to side.  (Of course he also ate french fries and stole soft drinks which Butch taught him to drink out of the bottle).  They are a delight.  The picture is of Yang grooming (licking) the side of Isabella's face.