29 July 2006

New Seed Varieties

A couple of weeks ago I once again ordered seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  My parcel arrived today (well, yesterday, probably, but we only checked the postbox today) - much excitement and renewed enthusiasm about the coming season.

I cannot say enough good about the Baker Creek folk.  Apart from the key role they play in keeping heirloom varieties going, their service has been impeccable every time I have dealt with them.  There's a little "something extra" in the pack, and I am wondering how the hell they got the order here so quickly.  I can't get stuff through the SA postal system for local delivery that fast.  The seed has been excellent, the only disappointment being a packet of Golden Beet seed taht had very poor germination.  Nothing daunted, I have ordered it again this year, having heard such high praise for this variety. I am aiming to save seed from it over next Winter.

If we have another Winter.  The weather is so unseasonably warm that I am thinking of starting Chillis and Tomatoes soon, though I (still!) haven't got a greenhouse built.  I have Tomato plants popping up all over from last year's beds, so maybe I won't need to worry too much with doing seed trays.

Along with the Golden Beets, I got some old-time Mammoth Red Mangel Beets.  These were highly valued as fodder crops in times past, and I wonder whether they might be useful as sugar Beets.  Its old varieties like this, that I feel an urgency about having handy as we start down the slippery slope of the oil crash.  Just the slightest bit of oversight and - oops! - we've lost them forever.

I also got in a couple of new varieties of Turnips to try.  Probably a bit excess, since Purple Top is so commonly available here and still a nice turnip, and I also have Navet des Vertus Marteau that someone brought from France, and whose seed I saved successfully last year.  (Note to self: Time to plant more of them!)

Also trying a couple of varieties of Eggplant - some of the smaller Eastern varieties, as well as a few squashes, in the eternal search for squashes that better resist the dreaded Fruit Flies of Late Summer.  I am aiming to sow some Squash seed within the next few days/week in the hope of getting them going very early to try and beat the Fruit Fly season.

So here I am, as usual not enough beds prepared in the veggie garden, so feeling "Spring Pressure" already, and its not yet August!

25 July 2006

Fourth Reich is Rising

So there's this halfwit, right-wing American senator who believes that "People who believe in global warming are like the Third Reich."

Lets look at what he is saying:
  1. Hitler claimed that the Jews were guilty of spreading "The Big Lie".
  2. Global warming is a Big Lie.
So..... what?  The Jews are guilty of Global Warming?  :-)

No.  From his axioms the only logical conclusion one can draw is:  Sen. Inhofe, by claiming that people who believe in Global Warming are perpetuating a Big Lie, is a modern analogue of Adolf Hitler. Please note that this is the inescapable logical outcome of his own axioms. I did not make this up.

Well, I don't really believe that he's in Hitler's league.  But his logic is equally twisted and faulty.

I'm off to listen to Stratovaius's "Fourth Reich"... (highly recommended band!)

21 July 2006

Monsanto Pigshit

Monsanto files patent for new invention: the pig

Trust the megacorps! (Hint for humour-alternatively-abled)

Well, before overreacting, we have to understand something of how the patent process works: you start out with some incredibly broad claim, which will likely get struck down, then follow up with something ever-so-slightly narrower, which is ever-so-slightly-less-likely to get struck down, followed by some ever-so-slightly anrrower claim,.... ad nauseam until you get something you hope is still defensible.  Only a lawyer could love it.

Basically it is a strategy that relies on the fact that Patent Offices all over the world are overburdened with bogus claims. Particularly the USPTO. So, in the torrent of patentable-but-shouldn't-be shit, some of these ridiculous patent applications will slip through, especially since the patent examiners frequently lack the technical expertise to evaluate the detailed claims of a given patent application.

Of course once a patent has been granted, someone "just" has to come along and prove prior art or obviousness (which shouldn't be hard in this case :-) to get the patent tossed, and that's quite hard, expensive, and carries little or no reward.

It looks to me like Monsanto are really seeking a patent on some genetic quirk that has the effect of speeding the normal selective-breeding cycles, and they're throwing a lot of extra mud on the wall because, who knows? some may stick!  They're almost certainly right!

At the root of the problem is the broken American patent system that is allowing non-material "things", like ideas, mathematical expressions and descriptions of processes, to be patented, and the laws (American in origin, but now pretty universal) that give corporate entities the same legal status as real people - but that's another rant for another day. I strongly recomend the writing of Lawrence Lessig, who is not only far cleverer than me, and happens to also know a near-infinite more about patent law than me, but also explains the issues in a very digestible manner. Don't be put-off by the fact that he's writing mostly about patent (and other intellectual-property) law as it applies to software - exactly the same law and arguments apply to the world of genetics, and our food supply, with far, far more dire consequences.

17 July 2006

Noises in the Night

Well, around 4a.m., anyway.  The Baboon troupe are spending their nights close by, just in the fringes of the forest.  Baboons are diurnal creatures like us, and they tend to stick to a safe sleeping-place for a while before moving on.

Last night there was a huge shouting match between the alpha, his sidekick and some other creature.  A Leopard hunting them?  Very likely, since there is a resident Leopard in the area.  We've often heard the Baboons screeching in the night in the past, and it usually result in them moving off into another part of the forest if they feel insecure here.  Last night was the first time that we've heard noise from their nemesis - a low, "hhhnnnh, hhhhnnnh".  Calling it a "coughing" or "grunting" noise would be totally inaccurate, but the closest word we have in English.  I surmised it was the Leopard, until I heard a crash!  A tree, or very large branch breaking.  Not a breath of wind.


12 July 2006

What to Feed the Dog

And now, something more to the core theme of this blog: Surviving the Next Ten Years and Beyond. For some time now I've been thinking about, and working out something more substantial to offer on Transition Strategies, and I promise to start sharing it soon. Meanwhile, let me start you on some of the questions that prompted all the heavy thinking in the first place.

Assuming that we pass the oil peak sometime in the 2008/9 timeframe (which seems to me the most plausible prognostication) and that the Olduvai Theory is roughly correct in its predictions and timescale

  * How do we make fire without easily-available Matches?
  * What will I feed the Dog?
  * What should we use for Toilet Paper?

Sometime between 16 December last year and 2035, we humans will pass the point where oil is abundant and cheap.

If even the oil-industry experts are unable to say with any real degree of certainty when that is likely to be, how can ordinary people like us plan, prepare and begin to transition ourselves out of our current lifestyle and production/consumption patterns?

11 July 2006

Shine on You Crazy Diamond

I just read that Syd Barrett, founder of Pink Floyd, died last Friday of "complications related to diabetes" and, just thought that the sad news deserves a little wider circulation.

Gone is another of the pepper-corn in the stew of life. Shine on...

09 July 2006

Real Surfers Get It

A UK-based organisation of environmentalist surfers (the real kind, not the web kind) - Surfers Against Sewage - have come out in support of the Wave Hub, a project for generating electricity from ocean wave energy.  In their report they're clear that, even the worst-case effect on surfable waves would still see them supporting the project, because
"The occasional larger reduction in wave height at some locations of up to 13% (i.e. worst case scenario), would still be viewed by us as being within acceptable limits, considering the nature of the proposed project."
I guess it only shows that surfers have never lost touch with the Earth.  When you spend hour upon hour in intimate contact with the oceans; when you have more contact in a month with wild creatures like dolphins, seals and sharks than most people have in their entire lives; when the rhythm of your days and weeks is deeply influenced by the wind, weather and tides; then there is little chance you you losing the Big Picture, not much room for small-minded partisanship like you would find with most special interest groups.

08 July 2006

Noise Pollution

Mainly to update you on my letter to the Civil Aviation Authority.  I have not heard a peep out of them yet, but, and I say this with all due pessimism, the volume of air traffic seems to have dropped dramatically!  Perhaps they have taken note and their response is still wending its way back to me.  (Ha!  Vain hope!)

On the other hand, the neighbourhood dog packs still hold forth at full volume, including, once again, BaoBabe's abandoned dogpack yowling and howling at around 4 this morning.  And again at around 6.  And then from about 7 until almost 8:15.  Oh well; the letter went to the council dog-control officer last Thursday, and I don't imagine he's had time to take action yet, so I guess we're in for another noisy Sunday afternoon.

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