Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Brave New World

I agree with most of what this column says about our economy, except that the Democrats are alone in wanting to prop up a failed economic model by throwing money at it. The Republicans also have pushed bailing out the banking industry, the auto industry, and "stimulus" checks for the rest of us.

I would like to add Ogden Nash's ode to bankers, the success of the modern banking industry may depend on finance majors memorizing it before leaving college.

Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer

This is a song to celebrate banks,
Because they are full of money and you go into them and all
you hear is clinks and clanks,
Or maybe a sound like the wind in the trees on the hills,
Which is the rustling of the thousand dollar bills.
Most bankers dwell in marble halls,
Which they get to dwell in because they encourage deposits
and discourage withdrawals,
And particularly because they all observe one rule which woe
betides the banker who fails to heed it,
Which is you must never lend any money to anybody unless
they don't need it.

I know you, you cautious conservative banks!
If people are worried about their rent it is your duty to deny
them the loan of one nickel, yes, even one copper engraving
of the martyred son of the late Nancy Hanks;
Yes, if they request fifty dollars to pay for a baby you must
look at them like Tarzan looking at an uppity ape in the jungle,
And tell them what do they think a bank is, anyhow, they had
better go get the money from their wife's aunt or ungle.
But suppose people come in and they have a million and they
want another million to pile on top of it,
Why, you brim with the milk of human kindness and you
urge them to accept every drop of it,
And you lend them the million so then they have two million
and this gives them the idea that they would be better off with four,
So they already have two million as security so you have no
hesitation in lending them two more,
And all the vice-presidents nod their heads in rhythm,
And the only question asked is do the borrowers want the
money sent or do they want to take it withm.
Because I think they deserve our appreciation and thanks,
the jackasses who go around saying that health and happi-
ness are everything and money isn't essential,
Because as soon as they have to borrow some unimportant
money to maintain their health and happiness they starve
to death so they can't go around any more sneering at good
old money, which is nothing short of providential.

Monday, December 15, 2008


This last week I went to the American Seed Trade Association meetings in Chicago and I thought it funny to see this "American Gothic" statue. I don't think it was there because of the meetings, but I certainly felt like a hick in the big city. I have been three times, but the last two times spent most of my time in the hotel because it was freezing colds with strong winds. This year the temperatures were mild, for Chicago, with no winds and so I spent quite a bit of time wandering downtown.

Unfortunately most of the meeting entertainment consists of drinking as much free and overpriced booze as possible. Since I don't drink, the last two years I went and made small talk while stirring my coke and looking at my watch. This year, I was determined to escape the conference and hotel functions and see the city.

We went to Billy Goat's - the source of the Cub's curse and inspiration for a classic SNL skit, and wined and dined customers at a swanky steak/seafood place.

I couldn't talk anyone into coming with me to Wicked though. So I went alone. It was a toss up between Wicked and the symphony orchestra, but Wicked was easier to find and something out of the ordinary. It has a huge sign and a crowd of people milling about buying tickets. I was told it had been running for a couple of years but still sold out most weekends. I got the cheapest tickets I could find - 2nd to the last row upper balcony for the Thursday night show. My seat wasn't too bad though. The theater is taller than it is long and so the balcony seats, although high above the stage weren't that far away and the view was unobstructed. After talking to the 80+ year old usher during intermission about growing up as a sharecropper in Alabama and the election of Obama, she let me move to first row balcony - the best seats in the house.

The show was good. (Way, way better than being the sober guy in a cocktail lounge) The music was very lyrical, but not as melodic as I was expecting. I hadn't heard any of it before and knew next to nothing about the plot. The white witch was hilarious as a self centered blond seeking attention. She stole the show. The costumes were amazing and the lighting and sets were as good as special effects in the movies. The wizard was disturbingly orwellian in his persecution of the talking animals as a means to maintaining his power.

I felt a little lonely when I stood in line to get my ticket and ate dinner alone, but it was well worth it. It made a great end to the trip. Next time I will have to talk someone into coming with me to some other show. Or I will go by myself. I didn't realize till after I had my ticket in hand that there were like 6 other theaters on that street. One had "The Christmas Carol", another had a Shakespeare play, some lesser known musicals, and two concerts. "Wicked" just had the biggest sign.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Alice cooper

We were driving to Lowes tonight and the world cafe music show was playing on the radio. They had some pretty hard rock songs (aka not "they might be giants") and the girls asked for to turn it off. As the car got quiet, Aleah began to sing, "Welcome to my nightmare." By Alice Cooper!

Turns out he was a guest on the muppet show dvd she had watched.

A little scary how much they absorb.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Time Machine

I have decided a time machine to see the future is not necessary. Apparently I will get there before I expected to anyway. This last year has flown by so fast.

When I was 19 I went to Nicaragua for my mission. I was there two years. When I held the papers from Church headquarters in my hands and opened them in the basement of Heritage Halls it seemed like it would last forever. When I stepped off the plane and into the heat and noise of Managua I felt like I had left time altogether.

Then I was on the plane, in my over-sized suit that I hadn't worn for two years, and in an instant I was married and graduating. We moved a few times, I went to a lot of powerpoint lectures and slept through them all while the little girl I carried on my shoulders clicked off the days until she is eight. No, now eight and a half. Do I hear 9. Crazy. Not to mention that we have had three other children. Insane.

Christmas is coming again and that means I will have had this blog for 4 years. I started it on a whim and to procrastinate working on homework. I planned to write about:

"Personal grumblings about work and school,

Questions about genetics and statistics,

Descriptions of my family life,

Itsy-Bitsy Emily Stories."

I didn't know if I would keep at this or if anyone would read it. I am grateful that I have written and that at least some people have read it.

Hello Future.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why the world won't end January 20th

My sister has asked me to finally write about the election. I have not since the primaries and not in depth since I wrote about being a democrat. I was not sure why I had not until my sister-in-law wrote on facebook that this was the first time that someone she had voted for lost. I had the opposite experience. I was almost holding my breath, not wanting to jinx this, something I hope was unconscious. This is the first time that I have voted for someone that won.

I first heard of Barack Obama when I heard him speak at the Democratic convention in 2004. When I heard him speak I could not believe that he was not nominated on the spot instead of Kerry.

I include this speech here, even though it is long for a internet link, because I think that it is the same argument that convinced me to vote for him this time. He argues for ending the war, closing Guantanamo, protecting civil liberties, and most importantly I think he believes in his own message of hope. Just listen to the references he makes at the end of the speech to slaves and spirituals and to the "audacity of hope." (OK, I admit that may be a plug for his book)

As I talk about the election with friends from Church, I get the feeling that this is almost like a sign of the apocolypse. Nothing could be worse for the US they seem to be saying. One friend of mine is convinced that he will push changes that will further destroy the US economy as well as making us as evil as Europe. They whisper that he is a socialist, the most "liberal" senator.

I don't think he will bankrupt the government worse than the republicans already have. Health care reform would be welcome, but I think he is a pragmatist and will have to deal with economic and international concerns first. He does support the bailout plans that seem like such a bad idea to me, but so do the republicans. I think his international and dare I say Muslim heritage is an asset that may help us get out of the Iraqi quagmire. He wants to close Guantanamo bay. I hope he tries to balance the budget and reduce the national debt. He seems to be an honest and moral man, and I hope that he is that and will live up to his own hype.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Blahs

I am afraid after the excitement of the election that fall blahs have hit us pretty hard.

First of all it gets dark now at 5:30 PM. That means there is an hour of day light after I get home to do chores and unfortunately cold wet winter weather means more chores for me and the family.

We now have pigs, chickens, cows, a dog, a cat and three kids to feed and water every day. Feeding the animals is one of the things I like to do best because they appreciate it so. The pigs come and sniff your hand and then go back to trying to out eat each other. The cows won't let you pet them but they will sniff at you and eat all of your grain. The chickens just eye you like you're a funny fox of some sort. I think their theory is that if you ignore each other no one will get hurt. I guess we do eat their eggs for breakfast and the black rooster is going to be dinner at Aleah's birthday party since he jumped up on Leila.

Sam the dog runs around during all of this full of bravado until the cows blink and he takes off.

Monday we were going to start the shots to prep the cow for artificial insemination. The shots induce the cow to go into heat and then in 14 days the vet can put a straw of sperm inside the cow. Emily and I took a bucket of grain and the cows followed us out of the pasture, into the barnyard and into the barn. The plan was to put them in a stall so that when the vet put the shot in the cow wouldn't take off or break anything, especially part of the vet or me. Unfortunately just as we got them in the barn Sam the dog decided to show how tough he was and barked at the cows. The cows shot through the back doors and out into the unfenced paddock by the pigs and right into the electric fence. Which caused them both to run around kicking and mooing. Then, they escaped into the corn field. By this time Emily had got Leila to come help and together with Leila's full bucket of corn and me waving my arms we rounded them up and got them back in the pasture. But after an hour or so of chasing them and shaking the bucket of grain the cows were not going into the barn or the stall and the vet went home.

Yesterday I went to give them some more grain and went into the barn to check it out and they both followed me right inside as if they went there every day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Colleen eating tomatoes

Colleen just begs for tomatoes. She downed this one at church when she was grumpy and needed some food.

Our cows

Friday, October 17, 2008

Netflix discoveries

I am addicted to movies and TV. When I was a kid, I can remember my Mom yelling at me that I made a better door than a window because when I walked past a TV screen I was completely zombieized. I still am.

I have learned to manage my addiction and have become a functioning adult in spite of TV. I made it through graduate school and manage to hold down a job, but I scour movie reviews and watch trailers compulsively. Months ago we have disconnected our TV from the antennae and have no cable. I have not been able to quit cold turkey though. I still get my fix through Netflix.

Here are some of my Netflix faves:

Stranger than Fiction

Harold Crick (Will Farrell) hears a voice narrating his life. As he fights against the plot that is driving him to his death, he makes his life more musical, falls in love, and finds a purpose for his life. OK, I read too many movie reviews. I love the part where he gives the baker a box of flours or when he introduces himself at the publisher as a character from the author's book. There are lots of little things that are funny like when the author (Emma Thompson) smokes her cigarettes she holds her hand like a bird's beak and puts the butt in a kleenex.

Sweet Land

This is about a German girl who goes to marry a Norwegian bachelor farmer she has never met in Minnesota. He picks her up at the train station with his talkative friend and takes her to the church for the wedding. But no one will marry them because she is German. I love it when she yells at him in German when he won't let her move in.


Jaye is probably crazy. Inanimate objects talk to her and make her help people. But the instructions are not clear and solutions are complicated. Like when she runs over her dad's foot. Or when she steals her therapists monkey. Or sets up her lesbian sister with the UPS guy. Or breaks the headlight of the priest come to save the cheese obsessed nun. Oh, and Fatsquatch. A TV show but probably would be PG-13 with some bad language and sexual situations.

Battlestar Galactica

This show is on SciFi and is amazing. As a disclaimer, it pushes the envelope on violence and sexuality. It mixes Star Trek with 24. Humans and a robotic race called Cylons are at war, and the Cylons are winning. In the first episode, humanlike Cylons have infiltrated the 12 colony planets and destroy them with nuclear bombs. They overpower the fleet by disabling their new computer systems. The only humans left are refugees and a single battleship, Galactica, that was being mothballed and did not have the upgraded computers. They are on the run from the Cylons and trying to survive and find a safe haven. Each show builds on the previous and all characters in the large cast are important.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Popcorn harvest

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Here a moo, there a moo

On Monday we finally got our cows. We have been tempted to get a cow ever since our pasture turned into a jungle of giant ragweed, thistle, and burrs. When we had horses in there they kept the weeds at bay and the grass ate down. We needed something but cows are more expensive than I thought. At the auction they were going for at least a dollar a pound and cows weigh almost 1000 lbs!

Our neighbor listed a angus cow and weaned angus/hereford calf in Craigslist and we checked them out. The price seemed fair and they were close. The first time they tried to bring them over they wanted to put a halter on them and walk them over tied to the back of the truck. But if a 1000 lb cow doesn't want to go. It doesn't go. I was at work when all this was going on, but Leila and them got the halters on but the cow broke the halter and took off so everyone agreed that a trailer would work fine. On Monday when I got home there they were in the weeds of the pasture.

I will take some pictures once I fix the camera.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Economic meltdown in 2nd place

I have been planning on writing about the economic bailout plan when I had a free moment and working internet, but I found out today my brother Jon had a pulmonary infarction and almost died and somehow I don't have as much to say about the bad bailout plan.

Charlotte, his wife, has most of the details on her blog. He went in for chest pain and they thought it was an inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity, but it turned out to be blood clots lodged in his lungs. He is on blood thinners at the hospital and is feeling better. It looks like he is going to be fine.

Jon and I used to fight a lot as kids. I mean fight until blood was spilt, not just bickering. We did a lot of that too. When I moved out for college he and I started to get a long better and better. A little space and maturity helped us both. He used to write me on my mission and sign his letters, " Keep on trucking, From Jon, You know, your brother Jon." As if I could forget him.

He came and lived with Leila and I in Texas for a summer after his mission. He and I rode our bikes to work each day and I watched in wonder as he ate twice more than I thought physically possible. He also could fall asleep at any time, in the wierdest positions. He and I really became friends that summer.

He was dating this girl whose family lived in the ward. I was teaching primary at the time. One Sunday, her Dad came up to me in the hall and grabbed me by the arm. He spoke very slowly and deliberately.

He said, "Bro. Gardunia, I know you have been hanging around with my daughter and I want to know what the heck is going on. "

I said something like, " Bro. _____ , my brother is living with me, my single, return-missionary brother. I think you might have us confused."

His grip lightened and he seemed to deflate. He kept saying, " You have a brother. You have a brother."

Yes, I have a brother. He went back to Idaho, met his wife and has proceeded to exceed all expectations for his life.

I am glad he is doing better.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Here piggy piggy

On Saturday I built a pigpen with electric fencing and then went and bought two gilts - unbred weaned piglets. My plan was to use portable electric fencing and a solar fence charger so I could let the pigs rotatill up a patch and then move them around till they cleared out all my trouble areas. Unfortunately my PhD did not include training on pig pen construction.

I got the pigs from the Hoovers - a conservative brethren family that sold pork at the farmers market. They are getting out of the business since Indiana passed a law that requires farmers to register with the state and report number of animals and type to get a premise ID number. This premise ID number is required for sale, slaughter, show, or transport of livestock now. They consider this to be the mark of the beast so they are getting out of the hog business. But that is a different story. Nice family. I was really tempted to take a picture of their 8 kids sitting in the back of my work pick-up in their matching straw hats, handsewn blue shirts and dark pants.

When I got them home I put the first pig in the pen and went back for the second one. In just minutes afterwards the first pig pushed right through the electric fence and ran out past Leila into the tall grass and corn fields. I was carrying the other pig and couldn't chase it. I put the remaining pig in the pen and felt the electric fence. Nothing. So I changed chargers to a plug in one and the went looking for the pig. There are a lot of places for a small pig to hide in a corn field.

Well we had the one and he seemed to be respecting the recharged fence so I went to see if we had some cattleguard fencing to build a more robust pen. On my way back to the house I heard the pig in the corn and started chasing. Then Sam saw it and charged. Sam can move like lightning when he feels like it. I thought the piglet was a goner. I decided that Sam was going too if he ate my piglet.

I chased them both until I was clotheslined by some tievine growing between the corn plants. When I was scrambling like Velma looking for my glasses I heard Sam's frantic barking. He had cornered the piglet on the far side of the field. I ran over there and he backed off. I lunged for the piglet and he escaped again. Sam followed. I was crestfallen. As I walked back to the house I see Sam herding the piglet back into the pen, but he wouldn't go in because the electric worked now. Amazing he actually did the right thing.

The pigs both got out later because the fence shorted when Leila brought them some food, but we got them both back in eventually and went to sleep knowing we had to do something different but hoping it would hold until Monday.

Then the remains of Ike blew through. The wind and rain grounded the fence and when I came to give them a pile of green beans to eat they spooked and took off. This time I am afraid they are gone for good.

I have a lot of pent up swear words right now that could express my feelings.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is the Large Hadron Collider Cool or What?

I have been a sci-fi junkie for a long time. I can't remember what was my first sci-fi novel I read but it might have been some at my grandma's house. She had a number of Asimov and classic science fiction books there and I have been hooked ever since.

When I was in junior high and high school I used to walk home or take the bus to either the comic book store or Redux Used Junk on Broadway Avenue near the church. There was a decrepit building there with three or four store fronts that seemed to change with the seasons. Both stores had ample supplies of used paperbacks. I always felt like the comic book store owner was annoyed with me because I would go in and read for hours at a time and buy very little. The couple that owned the junk store were friendly though and so I spent more and more time there. They were young and attractive and were full of interesting stories about times that they drove their VW bus down to Chile and survived selling jewelry out of the back. They were waiters at a fancy restaurant downtown and had the store as a sort of hobby I think. Anyway they were kind enough to keep me well stocked in old science fiction paperbacks.

But now it is all real. The Large Hadron Collider could destroy the earth! Make antimatter! Unveil the Higgs Boson! Unveil Dark Matter! All we need now is space elevators. Ooh, or mining operations in the Kuiper Belt. And antigravity drives. And warp engines. And some aliens would round it all out nicely.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gardening in July

The garden is full of weeds, but we have had buckets of beets, beans, carrots, tomatoes, and the pumpkins are basketball sized. We have been invaded by squash bugs and borers though. We had to spray because almost every plant had egg masses. We lost some sections of the patch, but they seem to be recovering somewhat. Next year we will have to try something to get rid of them or avoid them early. Any ideas? Has anyone heard anything about how to get rid of squash bugs?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My paper is in press

Applying quantile regression to analysis of AFIS cotton fiber distribution


Brian W. Gardunia, Chris Braden, Eric Hequet, and C. Wayne Smith

Varying fiber length distributions of cotton, Gossypium hirsutum L., impacts its spinning performance. Advanced Fiber Information System (AFIS) facilitates the analysis of the length distribution of individual fibers in cotton. Quantile regression is a variant of standard regression with which conditional quantile values can be calculated by minimizing weighted sums of absolute deviations across the entire distribution. Quantile regression was used to analyze AFIS fiber length distribution among five genotypes of upland cotton grown at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Research Farm near College Station, TX during 2001 and 2002. The shape of the distribution of ‘CAMD-E’, a short-staple variety, was actually similar to ‘Acala 1517-99’, a long staple variety with good spinning quality, even though CAMD-E had consistently lower fiber lengths. ‘FM 832’, and ‘TAM 94L-25’ had similar mean fiber lengths to Acala 1517-99, but their distribution shape was less skewed. ‘TTU 202’ had high cross entropy values, but little difference was detected in distribution shape by quantile regression. Year had a significant impact on distribution of fiber lengths, affecting distribution scale and location, which may be due to lower fiber fineness and maturity in 2001. Quantile regression was found to be an effective method for analyzing AFIS fiber length distributions, although further testing with a larger set of genotypes and environments with spinning data is needed.

Abbreviations: AFIS, Advanced Fiber Information System • HVI, high volume instruments • IFC, immature fiber content • Ln, length by number • Lw, length by weight • MAT, fiber maturity • UQLw, upper quartile length by weight


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Emily's Baptism

I can't believe Emily and I are old enough for her to be baptized, but it is true. She was baptized on her 8th birthday on July 8, 2008.

It was a great day. One of the best of my life, certainly the best baptismal service I have ever been to. I don't really remember much of my own baptism, except that my dad was mad because I forgot to bring a second set of underpants and had to sit on a towel in the car. The spirit was so strong at Emily's. I had to baptize her three times though because she kept going all stiff. The last time I had to hold her down deep to get her toes and head to be under at the same time.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Canoeing the Sugar Creek

Matt, my friend from work, is in charge of the Friends of Sugar Creek association. They organized a canoe trip and we went along.

Aleah is there too, she crouched down behind Emily holding on to the gunwhale. She was a little freaked out the whole time and wouldn't let go or relax, although she did fall asleep, whiteknuckled and kneeling in the water.

We saw a bald eagles nest with two juvenile bald eagles. We looked for fossils and shells along the sandbar during lunch. Just a nice stressfree trip.

I have a strip of sunburn on each knee though because I put sunscreen on while standing up, but sitting in the boat my shorts rode up some. Aleah has a little strip on her back where the sun hit while she was hunkered down.

Pictures thanks to Matt.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pictures up finally

I finally wrestled with the dial-up at home enough to load some pictures. Here are some other ones Emily took that I just had to post.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Crazy summer thunderstorms

A storm blew in after lunch today with strong winds, hail, and near an inch in rain in just a few minutes. It looked like a hurricane out of my office window with the rain coming almost parallel to the ground and then dime sized hail. It was dark enough that it looked like night. The lightning was a flashing strobe light. Cars pulled over and stopped because visibility was too low to drive. And then as soon as it came, it was over. The last few minutes were eerie because the rain was still coming down but the sun was coming out in the west.

The corn looks a little ragged, but I hope it will grow out of it.

Leila says at our house 5 miles away it was just a light shower.

Crazy Indiana weather.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A month!

A month has gone by in an instant!

At first I delayed updating this because quite honestly I liked the pictures that were up. This is my homepage on my work computer and so I left it sitting there like a screensaver almost.

Then, time seemed to speed up and now a month is eaten up and I don't know where it went. I really don't seem to have done much but age.

Emily, Leila and I each took pictures of the garden and I will put them up when I get home. It is growing almost as fast as the weeds. We have lucked out again with bugs so far (cross your fingers, knock on wood, spit spit).

Emily has her own little flower garden.

We planted way too many beets because I got the seed packets mixed up and thought I was planting spinach but it was more and more beets.

(My beet pictures didn't upload, so here are some strawberries)



and pumpkins!

Leila wanted to have a u-pick pumpkin patch at our house and we have started this year thanks to the Svedin's that loaned us their rotatiller. We were able to till up a large patch and have planted 10 different kinds of pumpkins. I didn't get my Indian corn patch planted, but next year the plan is to have more pumpkins, the indian corn, and some food for animals: alfalfa, turnips, sorghum. We hope to get it all planted this fall in winter rye or a new early variety of hairy vetch. Then we will plant into the winter crop and use it as a mulch to reduce our weeding in the spring.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Indiana Primaries

I know the primaries are over here and the presidential candidates are all glad to be out of Indiana but it was exciting to be in the midst of the hoopla. Leila and I went to Hillary Clinton's speech here in Lafayette, but we missed out on rollerskating with Barack Obama.

I haven't been a big fan of Hillary Clinton, that's her in pink holding a microphone, but she gave a great speech. It was the first time I had listened to a whole speech from any of the candidates. The worst thing about our ad driven 24 hour soundbite news coverage is you never here the whole thing, just "Hillary said 'gas-tax' and now our paid commentator will tell you what he thinks." (Do you ever notice that she is usually called Hillary, Barack is Barack or Obama, but John McCain is never John?)

I think all three candidates are better than Kerry vs. Bush. I remember watching Barack Obama speak at the democratic national convention and thinking Wow - that guy should run for president. I don't know that any of them can fix Iraq. John McCain sounds like he will scale it up. Obama and Clinton want out. I think we need some serious help to make it better before we leave, but we've got to help improve things there.

I hope that John (McCain) will come here also so I get the chance to hear him speak also. But now that Indiana's 15 minutes are over, it will be doubtful.

Monday, May 12, 2008


This is our new dog - Sam. He is no coon killer, in fact the coons got past him and killed two chickens while he was tied up right outside. He didn't even bark. But, he will fetch anything you throw - yesterday he brought me back the brick I threw at a raccoon. He is also super gentle around the girls, especially Aleah. Aleah spends hours a day with him while she picks flowers - lots of purple ones in honor of her new hero - Daphne from Scooby Doo.

We played vet this last week also. Sam had parasites - tapeworms. Ugh. Leila got him some regular worm medicine as well as tapeworm medicine. We forced him to eat the worm medicine with some treats and the tapeworm medicine I dissolved in a can of tunafish. National, the cat went missing and came back dehydrated and half starved. She wouldn't eat or drink for 6 days. Leila went next door and Kim, the vet, showed Leila how to put in an IV and gave us worm medicine and a bag of saline.

She has pulled through and is back eating and seems OK. Weird. We don't know what was wrong or why she got better.


Mushrooms are a big deal in Indiana. Morels bloom in the early spring and last until the dandelions set seed in May. There is a mystique to how to find them, where they are, and what to do with them once you find them. Every patch of woods has cars parked outside it with salivating mushroom hunters. They are a little bit like hobbits in that way. Whenever they talk about their mushrooming adventures I think about Farmer Maggot and Frodo. Last Friday it was too wet to plant corn so we took a little break and went looking through the bit of woods on the farm for mushrooms.

We found some yellow morels! They look soft and spongey, but are firmer than they look. They were growing around the base of a dead elm. Tara and Doug Cook promised if we found any that they would cook them for us. Oh, they were good. So good. The hollandaise sauce, apple smoked bacon, onions and asparagus helped. As did the rosemary chicken, wild rice cakes, peach pie, and mint ice tea.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's been a wierd week

First, I was helping the girls get ready for bed and we found a tick in Emily's hair! It was attached to the crown of her head and swollen. I found another crawling around the kitchen. I think the cats must be carriers. I hate ticks. We pulled it out and then burned it.

Then, Wednesday night Leila and I were watching Battlestar Galactica when we looked out the window and there were five bright white lights in the eastern sky that moved in an arc across the sky. They were close together and as they moved the last one in the line winked out and another appeared on the other side. There were no blinking red or yellow lights and it didn't move like an airplane. The next day on the news they said that a lot of people had reported a UFO but not to worry it was a meteor bouncing off of the stratosphere. The day after that they said that it was fighter jets practicing maneuvers with flares. Either story sounds like a cover up from the X-files. That's right folks - UFOs!

Friday morning I awoke early ~5:30 and decided to get ready for work and be here early. When I got here Max says, "I guess it took an earthquake to get you here early." I had no idea but we had a 5.2 magnitude earthquake rumble through. It must have woken me up, but I didn't realize. I felt one of the aftershocks at work, but just a small tremor.

Saturday when we got up there were two lonely chickens wandering the yard. A raccoon or a possum got in during the night and slaughtered the rest. It was hard to ID the murderer from prints left in the blood, but I think that it was one of the two. I was so frustrated and mad that we went to the pound and brought home an 80 lb chocolate lab named Sam. Chica our stray dog that we took in ran away with a stray black lab a few weeks ago. Sam is a good dog for the kids, but he is not trustworthy around chickens. When I brought him home I fed the chickens that were left and he quickly lunged and grabbed one in his mouth. Not a bark, not a warning, just a bite, but on command he let it go and it lives, but is much more nervous than before. Oh, and it limps.

On a positive note we are going to try again with the chickens and leave them locked up with Sam tied up outside at night. We also have a good start on the garden. Hopefully we will have it all in by the first part of May and then we will start working ground for the pumpkin patch.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Does anyone else think that the economic stimulus plan is a bad idea?

The economic stimulus checks are coming to you and to me. In fact to everyone that filed a tax return. This is not a tax break. You get it even if you didn't actually pay any taxes. In fact I get more because I have three kids. Now more money is hard to say no to and I don't plan on sending it back.

But, how is this supposed to stimulate the economy? The economic woes we have are because we spend more money than we have. That is the core of the problem, not that we are short a thousand bucks. It is too easy to get credit. I get credit card applications that are preapproved every day and when we bought our house they told us that we could get a loan for over 200,000 with only pennies on the dollar down.

If I ran my personal finances this way it would be equivalent to taking out extra credit cards every time that my car broke down. I guess under a consumption economic model it is best if we all drive new cars, buy new houses, eat off of paper plates, drink bottled water, soda, and eat out every meal. Gee fun, but really expensive.

I think that the answer to our economic troubles is to change the consumer economy to a sustainable economy where consumption is balanced by production. I think we should be discussing how to get America out of debt and how to get consumers saving money not spending it. I think that increased federal debt is a bad idea by the same logic. Tax cuts during a time of war seemed just as bad of an idea. We need to live more frugally, spend less, use less, and produce more.

We are so rich, yet we don't ever have enough. We are consumption addicts and we need to stop. There is enough and to spare, but only if we are not resource gluttons.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Emily the bookworm


Emily read these three chapter books in one afternoon. She is a great reader, even flying through all of the Therefores and archaic language in the scriptures with relative ease.
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Oh and she a slimey one too

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Guess who is 6 months old?


Colleen has jumped suddenly from sleepy infant to a chubby, mobile, graham-cracker-eating, communicating-by-screeches-and-lunges, and machine-gun-laughing person. She can push herself around, at least backwards and turn herself around. She laughs like a machine gun - all gutteral and loud. And best of all for me she is a Daddy's girl!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Omnivores Dilemna - Part two

OK, I can't just let go.

I think about the issues of sustainability and the environment and agriculture a lot because of my job and our hobby farm.

I work at a seed company developing popcorn hybrids. I am directly involved with the industrial agriculture community. I find it is full of people that are trying hard to make a living but also make it in the best way they can. There are a lot of chemicals used - pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and seed treatments. Mostly to prevent yield loss from pests, weeds, and diseases. We also grow some plots without most of the chemicals and it is such a difference. Weeds are the main problem. Controlling weeds without herbicides is a definite pain, with a lot of hand weeding, hoeing, and cultivating with the tractor it is doable, but difficult. It would sure be hard to farm 1000 acres that way.

I need more experience with organic production because my impression is that it is not feasible on a large scale and many of the rules are artificial. Their angry refusal to consider transgenic plants I also find hypocritical. They spray large amounts of Bt - bacillus thurigensis, but are opposed to transgenic Bt because it might be a health and environmental risk? I just don't get it. Morally you could say that it is because we don't want to mess with nature, but breeding already messes with nature.

At home we have a small acreage. I don't want to have 5 acres of grass to mow and so we have debated how to handle it. Last year we boarded some horses for our friends the Nef's. I think we may this year for a time also, but long term we would like it to be productive. This year our plan is to raise 25 chickens - a rooster, 12 brown egg layers, and 12 from the "Rainbow egg layers" - I am a sucker for reduced price mixes. We are also going to raise 3 pigs. Leila is going to have a huge pumpkin patch with 4 species and 6 varieties of pumpkin. We hope to have a U-pick pumpkin patch and plan to sell them for ~3 dollars each. We also have increased our garden patch and have started a small orchard.

That is our answer to the Omnivores Dilemna - we want to try a sustainable production at home. The question that still remains is whether we can pull it off. Chickens last year didn't go so great - we lost most to predators. Weeds are always a problem. We are going to try using the pigs to "rotatill" the plots for the pumpkins and we are going to spray herbicides.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Review of the "Omnivores Dilemna"

During my trip to South America I brought Michael Pollan's The Omnivores's Dilemna. It is supposed to be a moral meditation on food, agriculture, and the environment. The author investigates the origins and implications of four meals:

1. A McDonald's fast food meal
2. A homemade meal made entirely of organically grown ingredients
3. A small farmer pasture-fed meal of uber-organic ingredients from Polyface farms
4. A hunted-gathered meal from the "wilds" of California

The first part of the book exposes the industrial and factory origins of fast food and organic food alike. By far this is the best part of the book. He purchases a steer from a feed lot and goes to visit the feed lot as well as a disgruntled corn farmer.

Frankly, there is nothing appetizing about feed lots. The cows are crammed in together with little to no room and there is a "lagoon" of fermenting urine and manure to complete the odorous landscape. So much corn is grown in the U.S. to support this industry as well as the hog farms where they are just as crammed together in specialized barns with slatted floors so that the thousands of pounds of pig waste can flow into their huge lagoons prior to spreading on local fields. Chicken production is also just as industrialized. Workers have to wear special breathing apparati to go on the lower level and if the fans stop working the whole house full of chickens dies from the fermenting waste below them. So many animals are crammed together that the feed is doped with antibiotics and strict biocontrol measures are used to keep the herds healthy.

Organic farms have similar conditions, just organic certified feed and no antibiotics. In my opinion they are just as bad, although they try harder to be environmentally friendly.

Farms like POlyface remind me of my Aunt Sandra's place in Texas or the Amish family that I buy pork from. They have an integrated approach to agriculture that relies on pasture, rotation, a mix of species, and agressive management. They definitely seem like an idealic yeah even pastoral solution to the environmental problems posed by traditional agriculture.

The last section about the hunted gathered meal is just annoying because it seems like it is crescendoing to be some great solution, when to me it seems the least sustainable. How many of us own woods where there are wild boar and mushrooms? How much time was spent? How much environmental damage would there be for Los Angeles to decide they are all going to eat gourmet pork and mushrooms every day?

The problem though unrecognised by the Omnivores Dilemna is outlined in the first chapters. The average farm supports ~180 people. That means 179 people don't have to actually work growing their own food. It magically appears in the grocery store and the rest of us are free to be accountants, bank managers, computer programmers, and artists. The guy left on the farm is left with the ever daunting task to remain commercially viable. Food price increases rarely reach the farmer in the field and so the average farmer is forced to do whatever possible to increase yields and productivity. More acres are needed. Less time is available to spend moving cattle daily to new pastures. Cows need to be milked by the thousands every day. Mechanization, fertilization, specialization and industrialization of agriculture didn't happen because that is how the farmers wanted to do it. There is no conspiracy. They just wanted to survive.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brazilian popcorn fields

Regularly people will ask me what is it that I do. When I tell them that I am a plant breeder, I usually get a blank look. When I tell them I am a geneticist at a popcorn company they just look confused, especially when my international trips come up. I go at least once a year to South America - Brazil and Argentina.

This is what I do: I look at the popcorn, that is really it. We have 50 hybrids that we test each year in South America and when we go we look at all the commercial hybrids to see what problems they may have in farmers fields. Then we look at the experimental hybrids to see how they compare for yield, pests, diseases, plant type. Then we talk about them with customers and collaborators to get their opinions about the new hybrids as well as needs in future hybrids.

It is a pretty great job, it's not rocket science, but it never stays the same. There is always a new disease and new problem. Keeping up in yield with the competition is a challenge as well as remembering pedigrees, relationships, and performance of all of the different hybrids and testing material each year.

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Emily's mad

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