I bought a couple gallons of Chopper Gen2 and some backpack sprayers. The boys and I went down to the forests to check up on them and spray down some of the vines. I have mixed feelings about spraying. I would spray the whole place if I was really doing intense pine management. They usually do this with helicopters and it would cost me around $6000. I don’t like to spend the money and I don’t like to spray everything. I want some diversity, but the vines are getting out of hand. The backpack sprayers allow more precise applications and they cost much less. The materials cost a couple hundred dollars and labor is cheap, essentially free. Getting the boys involved with the land is also a good idea. So that is what we did.
We got an early start, but only worked until about noon. It was getting too hot and I didn’t want to kill the boys or make them not like the forest. We got the easy targets, i.e. the places within easy reach of the roads and paths. I like to do these things in iterative ways. This will give me a chance to see how it works and decide if I want to do it more widely. It will also give me something useful to do on my visits. I can spray down some of the offending vines each time I go down and do it selectively.
I talked to Larry and Dale Walker from the hunt club. They also work at a forestry company and showed me their operation last year. You can see pictures and read about that here and here. They are honest guys and their firm does a good job. We talked about thinning on the Freeman property. It would be good to do it this fall. This would be my first significant harvest and I look forward to it.
The utility company put in new poles. They ripped up the dirt a lot, but have since leveled it out and reseeded it. The grass is coming up. The wires and the right-of-way are useful, despite the fact that they take up eight acres of my land. The opening provides good wildlife habitat and the long, narrow aspect produces a lot of the “forest edge” so favored in wild ecology. From the practical point of view, the most useful thing about the right-of-way is the road. The electric company maintains the road and they just finished fixing it up. It was really rutted before, but they put in rocks over the washouts and made little stone banks to divert the storm water. All this will provide good infrastructure for the thinning operation. If for what they did, I would have to do it and/or the timber companies would have to do it and that would cut into what they could pay me for the wood. It is a de-facto subsidy for me.
The pictures are from the farms. You can see the roads along the right-of-way. The picture of Alex and Espen shows the grassy path Larry Walker made down to the creek. It is a “wildlife corridor” Alex is looking very buff these days. They are hard workers and strong boys. They can get a lot more done than I can. My clover fields are looking good. Other wild plants are beginning to seed in and this is okay.
America’s largest ethnic group is German. Nearly a quarter of the American population or 58 million Americans claim German ancestry. It used to be a big deal; as far as I know the Germans never formed a group specifically called “the race” (as in La Raza) but some clearly had separatist notions. It is a tribute to the American assimilation machine that now it matters hardly at all. You can see some famous German-Americans on the stairs to the left. Who knew Elvis was German?
I had been meaning to go over to the German-American cultural center since I read about it in the paper. Yesterday I went. It is the kind of place that is worth seeing, but not worth going to see and you could easily miss it. Look at the picture below. The signs are small. Mostly, it is a permanent poster show detailing the long and varied contributions of Germans to American culture. Since German contributions are now as American and Americanized as hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad, it is easy to overlook them and think that now is the first time we have really had such large influx of immigrants and foreign cultures.
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it and those who remember will have to go along with them too, but it is interesting to consider the conditions that existed within living memory. So let me say a little about Germans & America. I grew up with it in Milwaukee, so talking about German-American culture is like talking about childhood. (The picture below is the Germania building in Milwaukee. They used to joke that the towers were like the spiked Kaiser helmets.) But I had a child’s understanding of it based on caricatures and molded by subsequent history. It is hard to put ourselves in the mindset of a century ago but I will try.
1910 was before the wars and before the atrocities. Germany in those days was arguably the most advanced country in terms of science and technology. An American who really wanted to learn science had to learn German. It was like English is today to sciences. This persisted. When I was growing up, the stereotype of a scientist was a guy with a beard and a German accent. During our space race with the Soviets, it is largely true that our German rocket scientists competed with their German rocket scientists. We probably could not have achieved what we did in space flight w/o Germans and the Russians certainty did not have the home grown talent to compete with us.
Germans also pioneered what became the research university. Our American universities resemble them because we specifically imported German methods, ideas and often Germans themselves to remake our system during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. If we see Germany through the prism of the Third Reich and the World Wars, we see it in entirely a different way than our grandparents would have in 1910. Germany under Wilhelm II was not a full democracy, but it was more democratic than most of the current UN members today and it was certainly less corrupt that most of the world’s countries now. They held regular, generally free elections. There was a strong respect for the rule of law and reasonable protection of individual rights. If you can look beyond the pomp and circumstance of the aristocracy, you see that in terms of democracy, rights, rule of law & transparency, Germany of 1890-1910 would compare favorably to most of the world’s countries a hundred years later (1990-2010) and has big modern countries such as Russia & China clearly beat.
Although emigration to the U.S. declined after German unification and subsequent massive economic growth, there still were more opportunities in the U.S. and we continued to draw German immigrants. But it was a different sort of immigration in many ways. As I mentioned above, Germany was one of the world’s most advanced countries, with technical and scientific skills at a par or above our own. This situation just doesn’t exist anymore. Today technically savvy immigrants are still important to us, but they usually develop their skills and/or use technologies already available in America. A century ago, we were much more the recipients of skills and technology transfer. We all know that immigrant muscle helped build America, but we may overlook that immigrant brains also had a big role in designing it, none more so than the Germans.
We made an effort to wash the German out of our national memory. During World War I, sauerkraut became liberty cabbage; dachshunds became dash hounds; frankfurters became hot dogs and hamburger was renamed Salisbury steak; many streets changed their names and so did many families. Germans assimilated much faster than they might have otherwise. Wars do things like that and we have a way of trying to fit the events of the past into our current narrative. The problem is that the German heritage just doesn’t fit well into what we think of them and ourselves today. And now we don’t think much of it at all. That is why the German American heritage museum is kind of depressing. It is now located in the middle of Washington’s Chinatown. Immigrant communities come and go.
All this is past. History happened as it did and we cannot change it. People in the past did what they did, but we have to remember that history didn’t have to happen that way. Just as our futures are not determined, neither were theirs. W/o that unfortunate and almost random event in Sarajevo (that pathetic little loser, Gavrilo Princip, actually got lost and the Archduke’s car passed him by chance. Terrorists only have to get lucky once) and the incompetent reactions in 1914 how different the world could have been.
Last Friday was bike to work day. I noticed an unusual amount of bike traffic that day, but now it is back to normal. The weather has been good for biking, warm but not hot with gentle winds. I have been at FSI this week, which is a little more than half way as far as my usual ride, but since I have to make the return uphill trip, it is a little harder.
I see some of the same people on the bike trails, which is not surprising. Most of the people riding at that time are commuters like me. We tend to ride faster and more consistently. I am very consistent in my biking times. Only a strong wind makes significant differences.
People who bike only occasionally or for leisure are less predictable or consistent. Sometimes I see someone way ahead, but when I catch up and pass, they go faster and pass me back. Then they slow down again until I pass again and the game continues. One of the habits some bikers have is a kind of lock colonization. People leave their locks attached to bike racks, presumably because they are too onerous to carry around every day. I think some people just forget about them after a while and they accumulate.
Most people walking dogs on the trail are okay, but some have bad habits and so do their dogs. The offensive dog walkers have their animals on long leases. The dogs run back and forth across the path, alternatively getting in the way and setting up a rope barrier across the trail. Dogs have become dumber and less agile. They used to be alert. Old time dogs knew when you got close and would leap out of the way with alacrity. Many of today’s dogs are like slow-witted drunks. They stare blankly as you come up on them and often don’t move until the owner pulls them away. I think they are too cosseted by their owners. It has dulled their instincts. Maybe there is more inbreeding too. Those little designer dogs seem to be the stupidest.
I haven’t really figured out the runner etiquette. I run to the extreme side of the trail or on the gravel verge. It is easy to bikes to pass me. Some runners insist on running down the center line. I give them as much space as I can when I am riding, but if they are striding the center there is not much space to give them. The center runners tend to be the crankiest. Some of them complain when you pass them about not getting enough space or warning. Shitheads. I just keep on going. But most of the runners are good. I think the ratio is like I used to tell the kids. Ninety-nine out of a hundred people are good, but you pass more than 100 people.
There is one old guy I have been seeing for more than ten years, a barrel chested guy with a Marine style haircut. I never talk to him but he seems so familiar that I wave at him when I pass.
A big snapping turtle was stranded in the middle of Shreve Road when I rode home. Cars were swerving to avoid it and I didn’t figure it was long for this world. His shell would have done him no good against the car tires. At the pace he was going, I wondered how he got that far w/o getting squashed. A guy stopped his car and we kicked it along until it ambled to safety on the side of the road. Another passing motorist suggested we grab it by the tail on the assumption that it couldn’t snap us in that position, but both of us were afraid of the thing. It opened its mouth threateningly as every time we nudged it and everybody knows that those things can snap off a finger if they get a good shot. There is a wetland on the side of the road where we shooed him. The other side is just a construction site. It seemed like the thing was crossing from the verdant swamp to the rocky construction site. It would have been a mistake, but turtles don’t do a lot of hard thinking.
Why did the turtle cross the road? To get to the Shell Station.
If there is significance in numbers, this birthday is significant. I am double nickels now and it was double nickels the year I was born. You notice birthdays that end in zero or five. They seem like milestones. This one really isn’t, beyond the numbers. Nevertheless, it is an occasion to pause and think about past, present and future. But I don’t have any profound thoughts today.
Life has been good so far and most things worked out better than I planned, although I can’t say that I ever really had a smart plan. Maybe that’s why things worked out. You don’t have to be smart if you are lucky and I have been lucky.
Japanese honeysuckle is very pretty and it has a sweet fragrance. That is probably why gardeners planted it all over the East Coast. I suppose its robust vigor was also a factor, but it is precisely that aggressive robustness that makes it such a formidable invasive species.
I didn’t hardly even notice it growing on the CP last year, as I pulled down the trumpet and grape vines. But these earlier infestations were small potatoes compared to the Japanese honeysuckle, which seems to have grown exponentially this spring. That’s the way exponential growth works. As it doubles and redoubles, you don’t see it until it is too late to stop before it covers everything. Well, it isn’t quite that bad, but I can’t just let it stand. I ordered some “Chopper Gen2 and next week the boys and I will go and address the problem using the backpack sprayers.
Chopper Gen2 has evidently replaced Arsenal AC in the constellation of BasF forestry management products. I have been reading about vegetation control. The Japanese honeysuckle has to be controlled; otherwise it will climb and bend the trees. If we set it back this year and maybe next, the trees will be big enough to mostly shade it out. We have more or less defeated the tree-of-heaven infestation. There still are a few of them cropping up and we can zap them with Chopper too. BTW – the picture along side is a tree-of-heaven in Old Salem. This is the biggest I have seen. They are not bad looking trees and are fine – in their place, which isn’t in the woods.
I was hoping to burn out the honeysuckle, but the guys at the tree farm committee told me it would be a bad idea. My trees are still a little too small. A prescribed fire could work, but any bad luck might kill half my trees. It isn’t worth the risk. I got enough chopper for the whole farm for just over $200, so along with my in-house labor force, waging chemical warfare against the invasive species will be the way to go. My research shows that Chopper Gen2 is much better than the first generation, both in its effectiveness and it benign environmental impacts. It also gives the kids some stake in the place. Espen and Alex still brag about their hard work in fighting against the tree-of-heaven and setting down the streambed rip-rap.
Invasive species are one of the most threatening environmental problems we face. They have a greater impact than the projected consequences of global warming, but it is not as cool to “rock against” honeysuckle or phragmites. Most gardeners are complicit in the invasion. I planted some wisteria on the mailbox shelter across the street from my house. It looks good and grows well. Many of the invaders are indeed better than the natives, but they can get out of hand.
Don’t underestimate the power of envy & resentment (people often dislike those who do better than they do) but don’t think that there is no more to life than greed and material considerations. I attended a good talk at AEI discussing the morality of free enterprise.
Brooks mentioned the studies I alluded to up top about how people feel good about their own success mostly in relation to others, i.e. the rich are happier, but then he took the numbers apart. It is not being rich that counts; it is the idea of earned success. People need to feel that they have done something useful to get what they have got. And it really doesn’t have that much to do with money.
Money & relative status just tend to correlate with the feeling of earned success because those are often the rewards of earning. But correlation is not causality. People engaged in what they consider a good cause or good work also can achieve the feeling of earned success even if it doesn’t pay well. Satisfaction is common among skilled craftsmen, who use their skills to create something special. People often report more satisfaction working to achieve something than in the achievement itself. We want to fight the good fight and prove our character.
Brooks cited studies showing that lottery winners didn’t win long-term happiness along with their Powerball millions. After the euphoria of the first few days, they drift back to their previous levels of happiness, only with a little less joy. Unhappy lottery winners is a cliché and maybe it says more about the type of people who “invest” heavily in lottery tickets than it does about winning. But Brooks also mentioned studies that looked at people who came into unexpected inheritances. These people were presumably a different group but the results were the same. This makes sense anecdotally. Paris Hilton has piles of money, but she doesn’t seem to have much soul. You can have piles of money and still know you are not worth very much and that hurts.
All human civilization is based on reciprocity. We cooperate together because we are better off when we help each other. Our primitive ancestors learned that before we were even fully human. If I share with you when I have a successful hunt, you will share with me when I don’t. Reciprocity doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical. Good parents get joy from giving to their children w/o the reasonable expectation of ever recouping their investment. Most of us leave tips in restaurants even in places we will never return. Most of us like to be generous. But we do these things with the implicit expectation that there will be some kind of balance and most of us hate “free riders,” people who give less than they should and try consistently to sponge off others. Among our primitive ancestors, such shirking was easy to detect, and consistent shirkers might end up smilodon lunch. Reciprocity was an evolutionary plus. The idea of reciprocity is programmed into our cultural DNA and maybe our actual DNA. Good people feel an obligation to return good for good. Those who don’t care about these things we call sociopaths.
That is probably why earning your own way is important, why nobody really likes equal outcomes for unequal effort and why you cannot buy self respect. You can achieve monetary success through luck, dishonesty or the kindness of strangers, but unless you feel you earned it, it won’t buy you happiness.
I don’t understand “good wine.” I tend to like sweeter wines, which are considered “cheap” and less classy. I also like the “oak” flavors. Chrissy and I went to the wine tasting at the Biltmore. They gave us a kind of a checklist. I thought that three of the wines were okay: a Biltmore Estate Chardonnay, a Riesling and something called Tempranillo. Some of the wines come from North Carolina grapes, but others are California wines according to the Biltmore recipe. I think that means that they put it in bottles at the estate. You got a special deal on three bottles, so Chrissy bought one of each.
I don’t know how they will be in larger quantities. Lots of things taste good in small amounts, like they give you on the tastings. But we got it now, so I guess I will see. I would have enjoyed a beer tasting. I know I like beer in larger quantities.
When I was in Warsaw I got to take part in a bourbon tasting, sponsored by Jim Beam. The organizers told us lots of stories and legends about bourbon and the various kinds of bourbon. I think they made some of them up, but they were good stories so why mess with the legends. You really can tell the black label from the white label bourbons, but only if you drink one right after the other. A good time was had by all. The Jim Beam guys were smart. They had a lot of their wares for sale and offered them while everyone was in the type of exuberant moods provoked by whiskey tasting. I bought three bottles of higher-class/higher-price bourbon than I would have normally.
I learned a little. Bourbon is aged in warmer places in North America. It is good to go in seven years. After that, it gets a little harsh. Scotch can be aged up to 18 years, since it is cooler in Scotland. But it doesn’t get any better after that. Actually it doesn’t get much better after 15 years, but paying more for anything over 18 years is a waste of money.
Shakespeare didn’t invent the concept, but he made it famous. I am at number five of the seven ages of man and considering whether or not the concept still makes as much sense in the modern age, when machines and medicines may change the way the whole game is played.
We still think today of the traditional career track, where we settle on a life-work when we are in our early twenties and stick to it until we are in our early sixties. After that we live off a pension or savings and whether we move to a retirement center in Arizona or Florida or whether we age in place, the remainder of our lives are just post scripts from the working/productive point of view. This really doesn’t work anymore.
For one thing, there is a crisis in Social Security and pensions. Franklin Roosevelt was very clever when he sold the country Social Security. It really is a type of Ponzi scheme, but he sold it as insurance and we have had that concept of it ever since. In fairness to Franklin, it was also a sort of insurance, since many workers did not live long enough to collect SS and nobody was supposed to depend only on it. Life expectancy was only 63 when Roosevelt proposed making the retirement age 65. Things have changed.
The last generation that will be able to depend on pensions and Social Security will retire within the next five years. There will not be enough young people to support the old people in the style to which they have become accustomed. “Young people” like me and younger, should expect to work longer and pay for more of our expenses through savings and continued work income and society will have to adjust to accommodate these needs.
As we live longer and healthier lives, as the physical demands of most paid-labor become less onerous and as our retirement funds run out of money, it just makes a lot more sense to keep working.
Staying on the job will mean getting rid of the old career paradigm we have today, as well as blurring the distinction between work and retirement. Most of us won’t be able to keep our current jobs and just tack on a decade or two.
For one thing, we have to move aside and give others a chance. This is especially true of managers and leaders. In the Civil Service, where longevity is rewarded, you often have the sad case a couple of workers growing old together. I say sad because one may have got the job only a year or two after the other, yet he could remain the junior guy for thirty years. We saw a similar higher profile case, BTW, with former Senator Ernest Hollings, who was the junior senator from South Carolina for nearly forty years, serving with Strom Thurmond, who hung around for almost fifty years and turned 100 while still in office.
Another problem is that we just get bored and/or our skills are overtaken by events or technologies. It is hard to keep up with changing requirements. Most of us tend to slow down in our search for improvement after we think we have enough. This makes perfect sense. It is like the old joke that you always find your lost keys in the last place you look … because who keeps on looking after that. Calvin Coolidge said that you should always leave when they still want you to stay and it is very sad if you don’t take that advice.
So if most people probably shouldn’t just keep on doing their current job, what should they do? I met a guy who has one of the most perfect retirement jobs. He is the gunsmith/tinsmith at Old Salem, where he crafts guns and tools by hand. He told me that he wanted to be an artist, but discovered that there were more talented people than there were places for them to work, so he went into business. After retirement, he got to indulge his creative side again doing a job and developing skills that keep him both useful and busy. His picture is up top.
Not everybody can get this exact sort of job, but there are lots of jobs that are functionally equivalent. I want to spend some of my productive golden years doing forestry and working on real estate development. My currently amorphous & slow moving dream is to work some cluster development into working forest and agricultural land, allowing them to exist in a symbiotic way. I think too many people are living too far from natural systems and I include in this group many who live in ostensibly “natural communities” that separate the work of man from nature. When Thoreau tramped though the nature around Walden Pond, he and his neighbors were aware of where their food came from and where the wood that would heat their houses next winter was growing. I think we should strive to strike a balance with nature – local nature – not separate ourselves and/or treat nature like part fragile flower in a museum that will be profaned by our touch and human actions. I hope to make that the work of my sixth age. It will be useful and I hope profitable work. I would like to make the kids and (eventually I hope) grandchildren part of that before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
Most people have something like this that they can do and want to do, something that will give them meaningful work until they can work no longer. I want to die with my boots on and I think most people want to keep working if they think about it. Years of leisure sound great until you have to live through them.
The Bible tells us that the lifespan of a man is three-score and ten. That’s seventy years and roughly ten years for each of the seven ages of man. We do better than that today.
If we tweak Social Security rules to make it easier and more lucrative for retired folks to work, I think more of them will. And if we made work rules more flexible to allow more part-time, flexible and intermittent work schedules, we can keep people working for decades past official retirement. New studies indicate that many of us will live to be 100 or 110. We really don’t want to work for forty-five years and then retire for another forty-five years and just wait listening for the steps of the grim reaper. Old people can be assets or burdens to the earth. Increasingly it is a choice get to make ourselves.
Above is the single men’s workshop at Old Salem. Below is the shoe maker’s room in Old Salem. There is a story about a man who was in a terrible accident. When he woke up in hospital the doctor said, “I have some good news and bad news for you.” The guy asked for the bad news first. The doctor told him, “we had to amputate both your legs.” The guy shouted back, “what could possibly be good news to make up for that?” “The guy in the next bed wants to buy your shoes.”
We saw a sign for the “Bunker Hill covered bridge” and found it after driving down a couple of country roads and a gravel path. The bridge was built in the late 1800s and it is an example of a lattice construction. There were thousands of these kinds of bridges back then in the U.S. and hundreds in North Carolina. Now this is the last one.
The covering protects the wood. An uncovered wooden bridge lasts around twenty years. The covered variety can last 100. The covering also made the horses feel like they were in the barn and they didn’t spook because of the water.
This bridge was build by a guy called Haupt. He literally wrote the book on building such bridges as the the note about it says, Haupt was “Chief of Military Railroads for the Union Army during the Civil War. A Philadelphia born civil and military engineer, author, professor, inventor, and industrialist, Haupt’s improved lattice truss bridge was a response to Ithiel Town’s 1820 and 1835 patents for the plank lattice timber truss. Haupt used the analytical methods he developed in the 1840s to design a more efficient lattice truss which consisted of web members positioned only at locations which required support. Redundant members were removed, resulting in the improved lattice truss as described in his book General Theory of Bridge Construction published in 1851.” It is good for a man to have a passion.
Today the bridge goes from nowhere to nowhere. It has outlived its usefulness, but I suppose that 100 years ago there was a road that people sometimes needed.
When there is a big industrial accident these days, the lawyers come out and drain any of the real emotion or truth out of the event and displace it with cash. In the old days, at least in the southern hills, they wrote a ballad. So it was when a train with Joseph A. (“Steve”) Broadey’s hand on the throttle plunged into a ravine near Danville, VA in 1903. Nine people were killed and seven injured in what the plaque called one of the worst railroad accidents in Virginia history. This is what they mean when they say you are heading for a train wreck.
I heard the song as a kid. My father’s version was sung by Boxcar Willie (I think), although there is a Hank Snow rendition and Hank was my father’s favorite singer. I thought it was just a song, not a real historical event, but it had some very precise lyrics. “They gave him his orders in Monroe Virginia saying ‘Steve you’re way behind time’” … “It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville and a line on a three mile grade.”
So in the wonderful world of Internet, I checked it out and found out it was true, so when I drove through Lynchburg I went looking for the place. A couple people claimed to have written the lyrics. It was first recorded in 1924 and you can listen to the original version at this link.
All that is left now is this easily overlooked historical marker along a seedy patch of Highway 58 just to the west of Danville. There is nothing left of the trestle or the tracks and the ravine is overgrown with brush and vines. It must have been really big news around here in 1903, but more than 100 years later only the song abides. The picture of the train, BTW, is just a train crossing in Danville, unrelated to the Wreck of the Old 97, except that they are both trains.
Another thing about Danville is that it was the last capital of the Confederacy. This lasted literally only a matter of days, as Jeff Davis and his cabinet fled south, with Union troops in hot pursuit, after the defeat of Southern arms. Davis took up residence in the house of a prominent local man called William Sutherlin. Sutherlin made his money in the tobacco business and was a successful and flexible businessman both before and after the Civil War.
Davis was a great man, according to his lights, but he was misguided. Robert E Lee and Joe Johnston did the right thing and in April 1865 contributed to saving the United States and making it the country whose freedom we love today. Davis wanted to keep on fighting, even after Appomattox. At some point, hanging on stops being noble and becomes stupid, pernicious and immoral. I admire Lee & Johnston, Davis not so much. The guide treated Davis as a hero. I don’t agree.
Chrissy and I visited the house, an Italian style mansion. Pictures are above and below. The woman in the painting above fireplace is the Sutherlin’s daughter on her wedding day. The house is restored to the period of around the Civil War. You really get the old South feeling there. The Daughters of the Confederacy use the place for their meetings. One of the rooms is deeded over to them.