Sunday, September 21, 2008

Democracy Has Left the Building

**WARNING: POLITICAL RANT** (as if the title didn't give it away)

I'm deeply distressed by the state of our "democracy". I do partly blame corporate greed, lobbyists, colluding politicians et al, but I also think our democracy is being killed off by apathy. No one can manage to look away from their reality TV long enough to care about the things that matter to our very survival. Who anymore can be bothered to cast an educated vote? Choosing our leaders these days amounts to which sound bite stuck with us, or which candidate has better hair, or rabidly supporting a single issue to the exclusion of all others. I'm appalled by the number of times I've heard "[Candidate ___] really gave a good speech!" Well, good for them! They passed their course in public speaking! How well they do it has very little bearing on their ability to lead the nation. (Maybe this is our natural reaction after listening to the monkey for eight years?)

Perhaps "they" have conned us into this state, lulling us with endless consumer goods and 24-hour "news", but we let it happen. We fell for it. It's purely about showmanship now. We only care about the future of our democracy to the extent that it entertains us. It now must compete with shopping, American Idol and sporting events for our attention. Political campaign strategists know that we don't care. They know that we're distracted, and learning the facts is tedious. They know that they can play to our emotions and we'll swallow just about anything. Emotion is not a good zip code to cast a ballot from. Votes should be cast based on qualifications and a careful consideration of all the issues at hand. Patriotic chest-pounding and warm, fuzzy "let's all get along" rhetoric may make us feel good, but it doesn't put food in the mouths of the hungry, keep roofs over our heads or protect our loved ones from illness, poverty and violence.

How can we preserve a system that the population at large seems not to care about?

If you've done your homework, studied the facts, and have already made an informed decision on who you will vote for, turn your TV off now. Nothing coming from those airwaves will affect the decision you've made. If you're still not sure, don't rely on the media to help you decide. Their job is not to explain things to us. Their job is to sell news (and promote products for their advertisers). Do your own legwork and make the decision for yourself.

Let's not buy into the feeding frenzy anymore. Know that you've made an educated and calculated choice based on what you truly think is best for our country, and get back to the business of living. They'll only keep feeding us this crap as long as we keep begging for it.

Please, let's be clear: I'm not endorsing any particular candidate on this blog. I don't care who you vote for, as long as you consider your choice as carefully as you possibly can. Ignore the drama. Ignore the sound bites. Pay attention to what matters. Take time to learn the details. Let's all pull our heads out and act like we give a crap.

Thank you, come again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Cardinal at My Door

This time it's a male. He's been trying to get in ALL. DAY. LONG.

He hops from branch to branch a few times, cheeping, and about every ten or fifteen seconds he flies into the window. I've tried to chase him off, but he comes right back. Poor fellow. I don't think he realizes that there's nothing for him in here, except dogs that want to kill him. He's literally been at this for about five hours now.

And speaking of killer dogs, my little attack pastry finally made herself useful this morning and killed a mouse! I'm so proud. Did I mention I'm AT WAR with the mice, now? It's official. They've decided that my oven would make a delightful residence (the drawer under it, actually). I've decided that they need to die. Oh, you can call me heartless if you like, but they're eating my food and crapping in my oven. Therefore, it is ON.

Hubby got the worm bed almost finished over the weekend, too, so on Friday I will be meeting a local lady I met on Craigslist and taking delivery of two pounds of red wrigglers. That should be an interesting trip. Mmmmmmm....squirmy. The bees seem to have mostly moved into their hive (as best we can tell) and are doing their little bee thing. The chickens are fat and happy as ever, the arrival of the ducks was delayed due to inclement weather, and we're looking forward to our sheep shearing excursion in a couple of weeks.

The weather here took a rather abrupt turn this week and we suddenly have nights in the upper 40's to lower 50's. I've never seen such a sudden shift from summer to fall, and I'm thrilled! My only lament is that my beloved fire pit is still standing at the old house, and I'm desperate to sit under the stars by a warm fire with a glass of wine. We need to make a trip to town this weekend, so maybe we can disassemble it then and bring it down. I'm not sure how long I can survive without fire.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rainy Day Dog Antics

This is what happens when a little, short-haired dog gets chilly. She discovers that the cover on the dog bed is unzipped (because the puppy relieved it of its zipper altogether). She worms her way into the open side, like a sleeping bag, with her head down at the closed end. Unable to find her way out again, she finds a handy corner opening (also supplied by the puppy) and tries to exit that way.

What can I say? I was laughing so hard I almost couldn't stay still enough to take the picture.

This post could also be titled "Why I Love Dogs".

Friday, September 12, 2008

Preparing for Ike

This is very strange. I am spending a good part of today securing our homestead against hurricane Ike. This is strange because we are hundreds of miles inland, and although hurricanes often affect the coastal areas of my state, the most we ever see from them is a rain shower now and then. We might even get a proper thunderstorm if the hurricane is severe. But this time we're right in its path, and are expecting 40-60 mph winds tomorrow, along with heavy rain, lightning, and the potential for tornadoes.

This is a very different sort of drill for us this time because we're way out in the country without fast access to supplies, and we have animals whose well being we're responsible for. So I'll spend today doing laundry while I still can, making sure the rabbits will stay dry, covering the bees with a tarp so they don't drown, locating our flashlights, batteries, candles and other emergency supplies, filling containers with water, and securing anything in the yard that looks like it might blow away. We get strong winds through here on otherwise normal days, so I can only imagine what we could be in for. My internet connection has already been spotty all day today, so the next couple of days don't look too promising on that front.

It's entirely possible that Ike might make landfall and weaken to a point that all we get is a little rain - we got virtually nothing at all from Gustav. But for the first time ever, I think we might be in for it, so I have wine, tons of books, some oil lamps and good company, and I'm preparing to hole up.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hey, Beetender!

Well, it's day two in Beeville, and they were ready for a feeding. We only have one bee suit, so I can't (or rather won't) get any closer since I don't have any protective gear. It's a bummer, though - I really want to go look at them. I'll probably put the suit on and go out by myself later. But for now, Hubby donned the gear and went out to give them their first food. Here he is suiting up:

And feeding bees:

It was pretty fast and easy - they just get a jar of sugar water set in there for them. I think suiting up actually took longer than the feeding! He said they were all bunched up around the hole in the tree, so hopefully that means that they're making their way upward into the hive, which is what is supposed to happen. Hopefully I'll be able to get out there in the suit and take some actual bee photos soon!

Amusing side note: When you have a wasp/hornet problem to deal with, wearing a bee suit does wonders for your confidence level! ;-)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tree Bees

They tell me there are bees in that tree. They also tell me that the bees will make their way into that box. I'm going to take their word for it. For now, until they get settled, this is as close as I'm getting. :) Day one in Beeville is likely to be a bit boring, actually, since we just need to leave them alone for a bit. So for your amusement, here are some interesting facts* about bees:

  • Newly-emerged workers begin working almost immediately. As they age, workers do the following tasks in this sequence: clean cells, circulate air with their wings, feed larvae, practice flying, receive pollen and nectar from foragers, guard hive entrance and forage.
  • Honey bees are Old World insects that were introduced into North and South America by European settlers.
  • Bees are closely related to ants, and are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
  • Beekeeping is also known as apiculture.
  • It is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees.
  • A bee's wing flaps approximately 230 times per second, faster than a fruitfly (200 times per second) which is 80 times smaller.
  • Drones hatch from unfertilized eggs, females (Queens and worker bees) hatch from fertilized eggs. The queen actually can choose to fertilize the egg she is laying, usually depending on what cell she is laying in.
  • Although stinging is the primary defense against vertebrates, defense against other insects such as predatory wasps is usually performed by surrounding the intruder with a mass of defending worker bees, who vibrate their muscles so vigorously that it raises the temperature of the intruder to a lethal level. This is also used to kill a queen perceived as intruding or defective, an action known to beekeepers as balling the queen, named for the ball of bees formed.
Fascinating, huh?

* Bee facts were obtained from Wikipedia and The University of Georgia Honeybee Program website.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Now Accepting Deposits

Here at Screaming Frog Ranch (did I mention we have screaming frogs?), things sometimes move at a breakneck pace. Other times they move about like molasses in January. We put off projects for weeks and weeks, and at the same time have things thrust upon us rapidly that we hadn't planned to even discuss until, oh, next year, maybe.

The animals are coming.

We already have three dogs, one cat, three rabbits and thirteen chickens. All of a sudden, indeed this very week, I've been approached by two friends (separately) that are interested in keeping a cow share with us on our property. One of those friends is also busily conspiring to get sheep and goats here as well. If you keep that sort of livestock, you also would do well to keep a guard animal, so ideas have been floated about llamas, donkeys and (gasp!) another dog. And since we don't just talk the talk around this place, we will soon be the proud recipients of a swarm of bees.

Did I say "soon"? I meant tomorrow.

That's right. I'm going to go to work in the morning, and when I come home tomorrow evening, there will be bees at my house. They'll be nice and angry too, after being uprooted (quite literally) from their happy home and taken for an hour long truck ride. I found this out today.

This is great, really. Bees were part of our long-term plan. We had pushed that off for later because the up front investment in equipment and protective gear is not insignificant. As it happens, our friends who already keep bees and have extra gear are now finding themselves oversupplied, and are happily passing some our way. Stay tuned for upcoming posts re: my life in Beeville. Boy howdy, will there be pictures. Oh, AND - it looks like we may also be getting a sheep-shearing lesson in a few weeks!

It's all very exciting, but it's happening so fast. On the other hand, we've only had the hens for six weeks or so, and it feels old hat already, so maybe we're ready. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chickens as Enemies of the State (Or, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???)

Well, not the chickens themselves, per se, but rather their keepers. Apparently if you drive your permiculture bus/house to Minnesota to spread education and goodwill, that makes you subject to search and seizure, under the most dubious of circumstances.

Thanks to Lisa Z for this week's bit of deeply alarming (and subverted) news. See the story at her blog.

Perhaps local law enforcement was afraid they'd show up with eggs and rotting vegetables to throw at the RNC? Really, now.