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L. Neil Smith's
Number 786, August 31, 2014

Laugh, point, and make duck noises.

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And the Pursuit Goes On—And On
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

It was a busy week rebooting the ecosystem of Nine Acre Eden.
Actually eight and a half—but I never set foot on the half acre across the road that I'm told belongs to the place. A steep and foreboding tangle of greenbrier. And have not set foot on much of the rest of the property since it was allowed to grow up into woods over the last three decades. But now that is likely to change now that the loggers have made their mark, harvesting out all the timber in a swath up the center opening the place up from the remaining pasture kept open over the years by mowing; all the way to the power line right of way that cuts off an acre at the top of the hill.

Bold plans are being laid to put the newly cleared interior to good use pasturing cattle. I am thinking of seeing if I can work out a deal with someone to let them put a few head on the place in exchange for a portion of the meat which will be good way to save on grocery bills in addition to keeping the land from growing back up and not having to feed and maintain cattle over the winter. Originally my grandparents kept a cow—which Grandma milked every day and even churned her own butter! Occasionally they had the cow inseminated and raised a calf to stock the freezer—but I decided that leasing the pasture in exchange for meat or raising a steer every now and then would be more practical and cost effective.

We left a buffer of forest along the road for privacy which will be enhanced by planting additional trees like chestnuts, oaks and other species that produce valuable seeds and fruit for human and wildlife consumption. And add beauty and interest to the landscape. Thinking there is a spot in the upper end of the main hollow that would make a nice pond—a real pond as opposed to a liner pond. My late Uncle Neil -(who also went by his middle name—Raymond Neil) wanted to hire a bulldozer to turn the hollow into a small lake many years ago but Grampa was afraid of the liability of having an attractive nuisance and was unwilling to take the risk of being sued if some kid drowned—so the pond was never built.

But now as the Renaissance Summer draws to a close I am thinking; why the hell not?
How many great ideas and opportunities are missed because someone is afraid of risk or failure?

Speaking of risk—this week was a good lesson on the necessity of taking some moderate amount of risk in order to avoid even greater trouble in the future. Namely the trees in the smaller hollow between the ponds and greenhouse which I had foolishly allowed to grow up to where they became not only an impediment to sun loving plants in the ponds, bog garden and rock garden—but also a potential threat to those assets as well as the greenhouse if some of them were to topple in a storm. And now somewhat difficult to remove—even with professional help. First to go down was the massive Tulip Poplar by the greenhouse that I should have cut down before the structure went up but didn't. Was going to make a movie of it falling with the help of the skid loader and a cable to pull it away from the greenhouse -- but the iPad ran out of memory. So you will have to settle for still shots of before and after instead. Also found a little Spring Peeper that was disturbed by the skid loader much like the poor Ringneck Snake I found when we moved the rock pile by the driveway to make way for the staging area a few weeks prior. Those critters were moved out of harm's way and released. Also found a pretty male Eastern Box Turtle who I put in the bed of my pickup for a few hours to keep him away from the heavy equipment and released near the woods on the edge of the yard in hope that he will take his time moving back to his home range.

Luckily we are able to fell trees in the little hollow and drag them out without having the skid loader go in and tear things up and that minimizes the possibility of collateral damage to other box turtles and whatever else might be living there. In the end, the wild turtles may benefit from opening up the property and pasturing cattle—as they were much more abundant in the past when we had cattle here. Box Turtles need open areas for nesting and are known to go after maggots and other bugs that proliferate in cow dung—probably like they once exploited the dung of other large herbivores back in the Pleistocene and beyond.

That day I watched the loggers go after other trees while hooking up the wiring in the new turtle pens. There were a few times I stopped and moved back in the event that one might fall my way but everything was going well. That was until they started eying up the big Slippery Elm that has a rotten heart and might fall toward the ponds or greenhouse. That one and a sprawling diseased Butternut are obstacles that need to be thought out and tackled carefully. And then it rained later that evening and put a hiatus on things for a day. Given the tendency of Mother Mud to act up ; logging, like farming is more often than not, hostage to the weather.

They went back at it Friday and took down two remaining trees on the upper corner of the big hollow and took down the dead pine tree between the outside furnace and the greenhouse and called it a day. Matt handed me another check—not as big as the first one—but still pretty decent. I was very proud the day I got the first one -- which marked the first time I got something a value out of my land. Went out that evening to deposit it and like the day I got my truck back—I swung by the hardware store to get wood and mending plates to build what amounts to a Cadillac turtle pen on steroids! The material is currently tarped and sitting by the breeding tubs for the Apalachee & Flagfin Shiners waiting to be used as soon as operations in that area are finished. It will be a conventional 8'x 4' pen in combo with a Cadillac 6' x 8' pen sharing a wall of landscape timbers between them and 12' 2x12s for ends. These will be for the pair of Gulf Coast Box Turtles and offspring that are in temporary exile back in their old pen at the other site since I turned the one they were in out in front of the greenhouse into a Striped Mud Turtle enclosure with the addition of a 50 gallon Rubbermaid for a pond. And recovered a clutch of 7 Gulf-Coast eggs while breaking the old setup down!

And this past Friday it was like gangbusters all over again as I stated cleaning out the garage and bought glass block windows to replace the two broken hopper windows and improve the thermal environment in the garage where I like to hibernate fish and critters and store nursery stock and stratified seed. And looking to do more conventional things with it as well. There is a collapsing work bench with a vice grip that needs to be restored for starters.

Was hoping the guys would come back out today—Saturday—to finish up the hollow. Despite better than expected weather (it never rained as forecasted) they never showed. They were talking about coming back on Monday—which is Labor Day—but I was hoping to get the hollow completely cleaned out so we could rest a few days before tackling the even more daunting prospect of taking out an even more massive Tulip Tree and the Black Walnuts near the house. So I spent the day doing odd jobs—feeding turts and fish, watering the greenhouse plants and pond maintenance and then headed off to the Miracle Mile in Monroeville and Elmer's pet shop to spend a little of my new windfall on frozen Krill and Bloodworm cubes, a filter for a turtle pond and some driftwood and live goods. This time they had Flame Moss which I plan to establish on driftwood like I am currently doing with Fissidens and Christmas Moss—which will go into aquariums at the end of the pond season when I bring in fish. And the evil Japanese Bitterling—which is probably the Chinese species introduced to Japan and threatening the native Bitterling with extinction by interbreeding and swamping the gene pool. And they both look the same—so unless you are a trained ichthyologist with a state of the art lab for counting scales or fin rays or analyzing chromosomes—in the words of the former Secretary of State: What difference does it make!?!?

Actually I am not a total Neanderthal and do have an understanding and appreciation for the value of genetics and systematics in taxonomy and the conservation of distinct populations. But a little humor never hurt anyone—other than causing discomfort to those with a politically correct corncob stuck in their posteriors and someone from the native fishes forums or the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission might have a cow if I joked about releasing them in the lake down the road—which would probably be as heinous as joking about a bomb at an airline terminal—or just uttering the word "Bog Turtle" and "Aquarium" in the same sentence!

And if you need any more information to tell you how ridiculous this alliance of environmental extremism and political correctness is -- Ray sent me a link to a really good article on the plight of the famed Devil's Hole Pupfish being kept on life support by the Fish & Wildlife Service. Now threatened by global warming—as if living under the shitful conditions of 90 degree water in a desert spring in Death Valley were not bad enough! [Link] The comments at the end of the article tell all! If I had the time I'd get on there and say "just let someone raise them in a backyard pond or swimming pool for the love of Pete!

Or get a little fresh blood from the ordinary Desert Pupfish in the Salton Sea—which like the Chinese & Japanese Bitterlings—look the same!

Now that's a heresy worthy of Freeman Dyson!
I was thinking of him and his talk about making the world a better place by creating designer organisms. Saw some of that at Lowe's where I bought some sedums, and a few other things. I thought of the time and patience that must have gone into their creation. I could get long winded on that too—but it's late, I'm running out of steam and have to get up early!

Someday I'm going to create something like that. Maybe it will be a genuine GMO in a space colony!
Which is probably the ideal setting for messing around with stuff like that. But don't expect it will make environmentalists any happier.
Some people are just born with a corncob.
It's their lot in life.


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