Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm Posting Again

After a year of inactivity, I'm posting again at our new location.  Same blog, new location.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This is Now the Archives

This site is now the New Earth Times archives, all 671 posts worth.

New Earth Times has a new look, a new orientation, new capabilities, and a new location.  Please change your bookmarks: .

See you on the other side!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Site News

Major upgrades are in store here very shortly.

For one, I'll be reformatting this blog to include niceties such as links.  This particular blog template is so obsolete, Blogger retired it years ago.

The major change is that I'll be spinning off some subsidiary blogs.  I've already started an overflow blog to handle my excess output.  I've posted a lot of stuff there recently.

The major new blog will be called Dry Country News.  I put out a magazine with this name sporadically between 1979 and 1997 and have always wanted to start a Dry Country News blog.  As a matter of fact, New Earth Times has effectively been Dry Country News for at least six months now -- homestead happenings, banner cloud photos, signs of the seasons, monsoon updates, even Tapeworm Architecture -- all logically belong on the DCN blog.

I'll also be spinning off a "Memoir" blog to handle my autobiographical stuff.  I've got some fairly hot material ready to be posted.  Although I've lived an unbearably low-key life in many ways, I manage to write about it in an interesting way.

The New Earth Times blog will handle issues of a more planetary dimension.  Or extra-planetary as the case may be.
I plan to link my other blogs to the New Earth Times blog with one of those gizmos that automatically tells when the linked blogs have been updated.  No sense having to click on a blog that hasn't been updated.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tapeworm Architecture: Quarai

This is the second of a series of posts about the Salinas Missions.  Part 1, about Abo, was posted on July 11.

Here's a picture of the ruins of the mission church at Quarai.  Of the three Salinas pueblos, Quarai had the most benign location, with plenty of water from a nearby creek, and large open fields on which they could grow crops.  Nearby salt lakes provided a valuable resource that could be harvested and traded with other Indian groups.  The Indians did an amazing amount of trading back and forth, considering that everything had to be carried on peoples' backs.

Here's an outside view of the church.  Of the three mission churches, this one is the most intact.  This church was active between 1629 and 1674.  All three churches were abandoned during the 1670s, due to drought and increasing Apache raids.

The inside of the church must have been a source of awe for the native inhabitants of the pueblo, who had never experience such an impressive indoor space before.  Imagine this large room with a ceiling, dramatic shafts of light shining through the clerestory windows, a choir singing in the choir loft, incense burning, a priest in his vestments doing his priest routine at the altar -- an impressive spectacle all around, which is exactly what the Spanish had in mind.  Soften them up with awe, and punish or kill those who misbehave -- an effective two-pronged strategy.

The Indians were hardy people, living in a harsh environment, always close to the edge.  Death was never far away.  There was little to be done for a broken bone or an aching tooth.  Still, they had managed to survive and even thrive during good times, and they always had the tribe and their accumulated wisdom that had gotten them through everything thus far.

The first Spaniards to appear must have seemed as gods.  Imagine, people who had never seen a horse before, or refined metal, to suddenly see mounted soldiers, resplendent in their armor, carrying swords and lances.  What sort of magic was this?  And what are those strange animals, horses, cattle, sheep and goats?  Tame animals that you could ride, or milk, or walk right up to and kill for their meat?  And those strange priests in their robes, carrying crucifixes, speaking of their Savior who had defied death -- such powerful magic they must have!

The Indians must have had a complex range of feelings about the Spanish:

The magic of technology must have induced feelings of awe and envy.  The Spanish brought a whole new way of being with them.  In addition to soldiers, priests, horses and livestock, the Spanish brought new crops such as wheat and fruit trees, new ways of building, musical instruments, an entire technological infrastructure that seems primitive by today's standards,  but must have been mind-blowing to the native inhabitants.

Sucking up to power is a hard-wired human characteristic.  Sucking up to the alpha male or the dominant clan has always been a good survival strategy.  Hide in the shadow of the strong one, and perhaps you will be spared.  Whatever the Spanish had, the Indians wanted it, too. 

Fear of being brutalized also played a role.  The Spanish could kill at a distance with their guns, and up close, stone spears were no match for razor-sharp swords and lances.  When Onate had the left feet of all the surviving males at Acoma Pueblo amputated, word must have quickly spread through all the pueblos:  the Spanish will extract retribution beyond your wildest nightmares.  It's best to cooperate and do what they say.  You might even get to sing in the church choir!

The drought of the 1670s was no worse than previous droughts the Indians have survived.  One difference, I suspect, was overgrazing from newly-introduced livestock, which reduced the land's capacity to absorb water like a sponge during wet years, and slowly release it during drought.

Before the Spanish arrived, the Pueblos had a relatively peaceful relationship with the nomadic tribes -- they were useful trading partners with each other.  The Spanish upset this equilibrium through their ineffective persecution of the Apache, which only served to rile them up.

The Spanish were stern taskmasters, demanding tribute in the form of goods and labor.  The Indians were already living on the edge to begin with, and these additional demands from their parasitical overseers proved to be too much.  Overwork, loss of cultural integrity, Apache raids, and severe drought were simply too much to cope with.  Eventually the Indians were forced to abandon their pueblo, and retreat to the relative safety and civilization of the Rio Grande.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Our Hay Day

We made our annual hay-gathering expedition yesterday.  This year we bought hay from a farmer five miles down the road.  Here, Laura demonstrates her hay-loading prowess.  These bales were only $4.00 each, for a total of $48.00 -- money well spent.

Moving the bales one at a time in a wheelbarrow to garden level is the hardest part of the job.  Here, Laura lounges on top of the bales after the job is done.  There's the Rio Grande in the background.  I never buy my hay until the flood season is over.  Those are jujubes hanging from the tree on the left side of the picture.

Covered with a tarp to protect from rain, the hay will sit there all winter until I till it into the garden in March.  Cinderblocks filled with concrete, with eyebolts embedded into the concrete, make nifty bungee tie-down anchors.

"Stuff is more valuable than money," I like to say, "as long as it's the right stuff."  Hay is an excellent example of "right stuff."  You can add it to your garden, feed it to your animals, even eat it yourself if necessary.  (Thirty-five years ago I wrote an article for Mother Earth News about adding alfalfa hay to whole-wheat bread.  They rejected it, because the concept was too extreme even for them.  Alfalfa bread is really not so bad -- I separated out the green leafy part of the hay, ground it up with my hand grain mill, and added the powder to the bread dough.  When famine comes, this is good to keep in mind.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Life in the Undergrowth

Laura and I have been fans of the BBC nature documentaries ever since we watched the “Planet Earth” series a couple of years ago. The BBC is spending big bucks sending film crews across the planet, evidently with the philosophy of documenting pre-dieoff Nature before it dies off. The BBC film artists use the latest high-tech techniques, such as aerial photography with motion-canceling hardware to prevent vibration, or time-lapse photography to reveal slow-moving animal and plant behavior. The camera people are famous for sitting in an uncomfortable blind for a month until they get that shot of the rare snow leopard or whatever. The BBC has definitely taken the art of nature photography to the next level.

The “Life in the Undergrowth” series -- narrated by everybody’s favorite dotty old uncle, David Attenborough -- utilizes colonoscopy-type hardware to penetrate the mysteries of insect life underground. Inserting miniature cameras with fiber-optic cables into the insects’ burrows, they have uncovered some astounding aspects of insect behavior, and I have the sense that there’s an infinite amount yet to be discovered. I’m impressed by the naturalists who have patiently watched these insects long enough, and consistently enough, to figure out what they’re really doing.

What the naturalists have discovered is a miniature world of amazing complexity and elegance. I can’t help feeling that there’s some kind of INTENT behind it all, that mere chance can’t explain how all this came to be. Many times while watching the series I would blurt out, “How’d they come up with THAT behavior?” or “Who invented THAT?”

Here’s a favorite example: There’s a type of blister beetle that lives in the desert. When the babies hatch out of their eggs and leave the nest, there’s nothing for them to eat. What are they supposed to do? Well, hundreds of them climb together to the top of a plant stalk and form a tight cluster. Then they emit the smell of a female bumblebee. At first glance, the cluster of blister beetles looks and smells like a female bee. A male bumblebee bumbles along, finds the ball of tiny blister beetles, and attempts to mate with it. Hah, fooled you! Many of the blister beetles manage to climb onto the male bee as he attempts to mate. When he finally finds a real female bee to mate with, the blister beetles climb onto her, and are transported to her nest, which is full of pollen and bumblebee larvae. Snug in their new home, the baby blister beetles eat all the pollen, and then the bee larvae as well. Finally, fully grown, they emerge onto the surface yet again, to mate with each other and perpetuate their species.

When you consider that there must be thousands of examples of insect behavior every bit as cunning as that, it gives one pause. Clearly, human consciousness has a narrow, survival-focused orientation, and has trouble comprehending anything other than the most superficial aspects of the animal world (or the rest of reality, for that matter). Oftentimes throughout the various BBC documentaries I’ve watched, the narrator reveals an anthropomorphism that is irrelevant and doesn’t actually exist except within his own imagination. For example, predators aren’t the “enemies” of the prey. There’s no “desperate search for survival” going on. The natural world exists within a serenity (no matter how violent it may seem) that most humans have simply lost touch with. Actually, we humans should drop all concepts including “serenity” and realize that there is an amazing elegance to it-all that should perhaps inspire us to shut up and let the awe take over. A little awe never hurt anybody.

Part of the human problem is that our senses, and therefore our understanding, are more limited than we realize. We are mere apes with a brain mutation, and are overwhelmed by the noise of our out-of-control mentalizing. Traditionally, humans have postulated a God “out there” who waves his magic wand and makes it all happen. More recently, some humans, whom we call scientists, have postulated the theory of evolution, which is true enough as a mechanism, but comes up short in the “how could this possibly be” department.

The situation seems clear enough: Our human senses, and our physical instruments, are simply incapable of perceiving the vast majority of existence. We are nearly blind and don’t know it. We have fought our way to the top of the food chain and there’s nothing left to stop us. We lay waste to whatever we touch. We consider ourselves to be outside of Nature, superior to Nature. Such delusions cannot stand, not in the long run, as the imminent destruction of the biosphere is about to reveal. Some of us realize what is happening, in our vague human way, yet our understanding remains locked within the intellect, and our behavior doesn’t change. I don’t see any solution to our predicament, and I don’t think anybody else does, either.

In the meantime, these BBC documentaries will allow future generations, if any, to witness the natural world as it once was. This is such an amazing world of interlocking elegance, it’s a pity we’re so busy destroying it. But there I go, anthropomorphising again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thought for Today

"This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going."
-- Woody Allen

Death Spiral

Common Dreams has posted an article today, "Arctic Ice in Death Spiral."  The article quotes the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center as saying, "... the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It's not going to recover.  I hate to say it but I think we are committed to a four- to six-degree warmer Arctic."

The article continues:  If the Arctic becomes six degrees warmer, then half of the world's permafrost will likely thaw, probably to a depth of a few metres, releasing most of the carbon and methane accumulated there over thousands of years, said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a world expert on permafrost.

That would be catastrophic for human civilisation, experts agree. The permafrost region spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe and contains at least twice as much carbon as is currently present in the atmosphere - 1,672 gigatonnes of carbon, according a paper published in Nature in 2009. That's three times more carbon than all of the worlds' forests contain.

Abrupt releases of large amounts of CO2 and methane are certainly possible on a scale of decades, he said. The present relatively slow thaw of the permafrost could rapidly accelerate in a few decades, releasing huge amounts of global warming gases.

Another permafrost expert, Ted Schuur of the University of Florida, has come to the same conclusion. "In a matter of decades we could lose much of the permafrost," Shuur told IPS.

Those losses are more likely to come rapidly and upfront, he says. In other words, much of the permafrost thaw would happen at the beginning of a massive 50-year meltdown because of rapid feedbacks.

Emissions of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost are not yet factored into the global climate models and it will be several years before this can be done reasonably well, Shuur said.

"Current mitigation targets are only based on anthropogenic (human) emissions," he explained.

"Emissions of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost are not yet factored in."  I've been saying this for several years now, and have been waiting for the scientists to collect enough data to allow them to make this obvious statement.  Well, they're busily accumulating the data, they're already making the obvious statement, and within a couple of years we'll start seeing estimates of just how bad the runaway greenhouse effect is going to be.

Can there be any doubt what the "New Earth" of "New Earth Times" refers to?  I didn't know myself when I started this blog in 2004 (and had the idea for a magazine with that name several years before that).  I just thought it was a cool name.  But it sure looks like our "New Earth" won't include polar caps or rainforests or coral reefs or living oceans or... the list seems endless.

And now we're poised for a takeover by the denialists after the November elections.  The pressure is unrelenting.  Here's a rule of thumb:  the worse the objective situation, the worse the denial, and we ain't seen nothing yet.  I think it will be time for an updated edition of my "Brave New World" post after the elections.     

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thought For Today

"We’ve run out of spare decades to deal with climate change."
-- Bill McKibben

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Automatic Drip System for my New Coldframe

Last fall I built a coldframe on the south side of the Ark, which I watered by hand all winter.  Last winter I installed an 1100-gallon rainwater catchment tank on the north side of the Ark.  This summer I connected the two.

Starting at the top of the system, this picture shows how I modified the rainwater inlet.  Originally the gutter pipe had a straight shot into the tank strainer.  I discovered that when it was raining heavily, the water coming out of the gutter had enough energy to shoot right on out of the strainer.  This is due to the drop of several feet between the gutter and the tank, which gives the water lots of energy, and the sideways angle of the pipe, which gives the water lots of lateral velocity.  I figured the answer was to install a right-angle bend at the end of the pipe, to force the water straight down into the tank.

Another improvement I plan to make this winter is to install an overflow pipe at the top of the tank, so I can pipe this excess water over to a nearby garden spot.  No sense wasting water whenever the tank is full.

I have two 3/4" pipes coming out of the tank.  The pipe on the left goes to the coldframe, and the pipe on the right can either fill a 5-gallon bucket, or be hooked to a garden hose.

The pipe to the coldframe is buried in a trench to prevent freezing, and goes under the Ark foundation.  The fence wire is temporary, to keep my firewood stash under the water tank platform from floating away in case of a flood.  (The river didn't flood this summer.)

This is the brains of the system, a low-pressure timer from Dripworks.  (Dripworks offers an informative free catalog.)  The water pipe runs along the ground inside the Ark.  In an attempt to avoid flooding the timer, I installed it 5 feet above ground level.  The valve is designed to bleed off air in case a bubble forms at the top of this awkward configuration, but it looks like I don't really need it.

A final piece of equipment -- an in-line filter which prevents clogging of the T-tape.  The pipe goes through wall into the coldframe.

Looking straight down onto the final control assembly.  Each outlet has its own valve, which is probably overkill, but the valves were very inexpensive.  The black T-tape is an inexpensive way to drip irrigate, and performs well with low pressure.

The T-tape runs the length of the coldframe, and will soon be covered by vegetation.  This is the high-flow T-tape, with emitters every 8".  I'm planning on using 5 gallons of water for each daily irrigation, so I'll set the timer to open its valve for about 30 minutes each day.  A tankful of water should last about 7 months.  By the time the tank runs out of water next spring, my outdoor garden should be in full production.  Then next summer's rains will (hopefully) fill the tank for the following winter's coldframe garden.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

40 Years on the Land

Judy and I moved back to the land in September, 1970. I don’t remember the exact date, but according to our family mythology, our infant daughter was 3 weeks old at the time. Since she was born on August 21, that would have put our move at Sept. 11. Sept. 11 is already taken as a “significant date,” so I’ve decided to use Sept. 12 for family mythology purposes.

So here I am, on Sept. 12, exactly 40 years later, wondering what I’m supposed to say on such a momentous occasion. How about, “Hi Mom, I’m still here, I hope you’re enjoying Heaven.” Or perhaps something with more gravitas, indicating the infinite depths of wisdom I have plumbed during my sojourn on the land.

Writing something worthy will take some time. I’ll think about it and maybe write little snippets from time to time. I just wanted to acknowledge this anniversary on the actual date.

A couple of my favorite on-the-land memoirs are “Robin and Sundew,” and “The Gangbang Queen of Howell County.” In a sense, this entire blog is an on-the-land memoir.

How did I end up on the land in the first place? I wrote an essay about this a few years ago. To read it, just click this link.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Falling Into Fall

This is my latest Grasroots Press column:

For the past couple of years I’ve wanted to revive “Signs of the Seasons,” a column I wrote for the Las Cruces Bulletin in 1986-88, but have always gotten sidetracked by more “serious” topics. But obviously, whatever’s going to happen will happen whether I write about it or not. So why not write about something I love?

I have lived literally on the bank of the Rio Grande north of Radium Springs since 1973. As a beekeeper, gardener, and orchardist, I spend a lot of time outdoors, and have come to appreciate “life beyond the shopping malls.” I’d like to share some of my observations of our marvelous area with you.

We had a wet but relatively short monsoon this year – 8.57 inches of rain in slightly over two months. We’ve had six wetter monsoons since I started keeping rainfall records in1982, but in most of these the rainfall was spread over a longer period of time. Remarkably, the climate experts ( didn’t predict a wet monsoon this year even as it was happening.

I’ve been looking for possible shifts in the Southwest monsoon rainfall due to global heating, but so far the data are all over the place. Since 2004 we’ve had alternate wet/dry monsoons, varying from 3.12 to 13.25 inches. Our two wettest monsoons were 2006 and 2008, with 11.90 and 13.25 inches, respectively. Some readers might remember the notorious 2006 “Monsoon from Hell” which caused disastrous flooding in Alamogordo, El Paso, Hatch, and Radium Springs. That year, we had 10” of rain in slightly over a month.

There seems to be more of a climate shift regarding the winter snowpack at the headwaters of the Rio Grande. Less snow is falling on average, and the springs are getting warmer, earlier. Those warm spring winds cause the snow to evaporate rather than melt, which reduces the runoff. We’ve long taken for granted the elegant simplicity of utilizing mountain snowpack for irrigation purposes. Ideally, the snow accumulates all winter, melts in the spring, and the runoff is collected by dams for summer allocation. However, if the precipitation falls as rain, or doesn’t occur at all, or if the snow evaporates rather than melts, the traditional irrigation model no longer works.

These days, even a very heavy snowpack will provide water for only two years. We no longer have a reserve of stored water; the availability of irrigation water is now on a year-to-year basis, depending on this winter’s snowpack. This is in stark contrast to the 80s and 90s, when Elephant Butte Lake was so full that it topped the spillway twice. One year there was so much water, they released some excess during the winter. I doubt if we’ll experience such a water glut again. In fact, before long I wouldn’t be surprised to see the snowpack fail completely some years, with a total lack of irrigation water for that year. And it might happen this winter – La Niña winters tend to be very dry. At any rate, most Grassroots Press readers aren’t dependent on irrigation water from the Rio Grande, which is not to say that they aren’t utterly dependent on nature somewhere down the line.

Fall is a remarkable time of year. The days shorten dramatically by mid-August, but temperatures don’t decrease as quickly, due to the enormous amount of heat stored within the top few feet of soil and rock. It’s this extra heat that makes autumn weather so pleasant. August is probably the most miserable month of the year, from my outdoorsy perspective, due to the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes. Yet October, a mere two months later, is one of the finest months of the year – crisp cool mornings followed by warm afternoons. And November is even better. La Niña winters tend to be sunny and dry – what I call “Chamber of Commerce weather,” so I would expect this winter to provide splendid opportunities for all manner of outdoor activities.

Autumn is our most colorful time of year. Peak color most years is early November. In the Las Cruces area, the most concentrated dose of fall colors can be found along Highway 185 as it parallels the Rio Grande between Radium Springs and Hatch. Golden cottonwoods, yellow willows, orange saltcedars, and flaming red sumac bushes combine to create a colorful spectacle.

The cotton fields are white unto harvest in November, looking like they’ve been struck by a natural fiber blizzard. But not for long, though, because farmers like to get that cotton harvested as quickly as possible, even running their cottonpickers at night if necessary. No sense tempting the weather, after all, because bad weather is always on the way sooner or later.

The chile fields, in their turn, ripen to bright shades of red. Until recent years, harvesting was a leisurely process lasting all winter, and the colorful fields provided a visual zap during a very brown time of the year. But research showed that both the quantity and quality of the chile was reduced by leaving it exposed to the elements like that, so now farmers like to get those peppers picked just as soon as they can.

As happens every year in late autumn, the waterfowl make like snowbirds and return to their winter haunts along the Rio Grande. Although they tend to concentrate in marshy areas like Bosque del Apache south of Socorro, plenty find their way into our area. Sometimes there’s a flock of a couple dozen snowy white egrets which fly in formation up and down the river about a foot above the water. (The air must be less turbulent there, making flying easier.) They make a beautiful sight as they fly, wingtip to wingtip, bodies reflecting in the water.

The sandhill cranes return from their northern summering grounds. Sometimes you can see them flying high above the river in multi-V patterns, necks outstretched, squonking back and forth to each other. Somehow the cranes epitomize autumn... slow but steady, and sure of its direction – winter is still to come, but spring is just around the corner.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Strange Insect

I took this picture of a strange insect on August 5.  I was holding off on posting it until I i.d.'d it, but I haven't been able to find my insect book.  So here it is anyway.  Pretty weird, huh.  How'd you like to stick a finger in those mandibles?  In all these years I've never seen one like it.  Which helps make up for the fact that I swear there are fewer dragonflies this year. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Food Processing

This morning we chopped up a bunch of sweet peppers with our Chop Wizard before putting them into pint tubs so we could freeze them.  I was struck by the attractive blend of colors and thought, "That would make a nice blog post."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Monsoon Continues

Yesterday afternoon we got what was probably our heaviest rain since the Great Flood of '06 -- 1.83".  This brings our August rainfall to 4.02".  The total for the summer is 8.20 inches so far.  As for the future, who knows?  Last month the climate people were making noises about conditions being favorable for more rain later in the summer, and this seems to be what's happening.  As a beekeeper, I'm happy about all the wildflower honey we're sure to bring in, but my back isn't so enthusiastic. 

By way of comparison, the 08 monsoon, which was our all-time record, totalled 13.35", and the 06 monsoon, the notorious "monsoon from hell," totalled 11.90".  So we've got a ways to go before we reach record-breaking levels, but the rains are likely to continue. 

BTW the river once again didn't flood.  These minor river floods are no big deal, except for turning our pasture into a soggy, muddy mess.  But it's just as well that we don't get a mess if possible.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blooming Yuccas

Between Nutt and Lake Valley.  I finally got around to cropping this one.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blooming Catclaw

Catclaw acacia, named for the curved thorns like a cat's claws.  These thorns grab you and won't let you go.  For this reason, catclaw is sometimes called "wait-a-minute bush."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Touch of Earth Rape

Here's what it now looks like in Foster Canyon, 1/2 mile from my home.  I was none too pleased when a portable gravel-mining operation set up shop in the canyon about 6 months ago.  (I have a problem with wild nature being destroyed for profit.)  But I also knew that the canyon bottom would heal relatively quickly -- 100 years or so.  Water does that -- eats away the high spots, fills in the low spots, and irrigates the new vegetation.  In fact, this process has already begun:  they built a berm next to the arroyo, which has already been breached.  (Arroyos tend to run where they will.)  The huge hole they scooped out is already filling up with new sediment, which is full of seeds, and thus the healing process begins.

What I don't understand is why they scalped the slope like that.  For one, I'm surprised that a bulldozer can operate on such a steep slope.  For another, I'm surprised the bulldozer operator took the risk of having his machine flip over on top of him.  I guess he did it for the hell of it.  Unfortunately, this slope will never heal -- it's too steep to ever be stable, and it will just erode forever.  Maybe I'll walk over there and document the new gullies as they get bigger year by year.   

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Prickly Pears

A random clump near our home.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Joe Bageant Spells It Out

Lately I've been thinking about the utter uselessness of America's eco-liberal demographic, which I have a lot in common with.  In the face of the breakdown of just about everything, they do... nothing.  As consumers, the question has always been (and still remains) "Can I pay for it?"  If so, or if they still have any credit remaining, then everything is just fine:  that vacation in Europe, that home theater system, whatever.  If not, then it looks like certain lifestyle modifications will be called for.  But in either case, supposedly intelligent Americans seem incapable of realizing that their culture of take-it-for-granted prosperity is crumbling around them, never to return.  Not only that, but the planet is rapidly losing its life-support capability.  I've been watching this process for years, and it always amazes me that so many Americans can still consider themselves capable and confident when in actuality they are such a bunch of losers.  Delusion runs deep among our species.

With that in mind, Joe Bageant's latest essay, "Understanding America's Class System," seems relevant.  Here are some highlights:

For Americans, self-examination is not just rare, it is nonexistent, which is one source of our pathology. Missing from our national character is love of the common good, and our collective civic responsibility toward one another. But if we acknowledged collective responsibilities to the individual members of our society, then we would have to deal with the issue of class in this country. Better to medicate the entire nation. To do that, you need big government...

None of us like the idea of a ruling class. We did not from the very beginning. Yet, we no longer take effective action, because it has become impossible to identify what we might do to change anything. Instead, we react to events. That is what the ruling class wants, because if we are reactive, then outcomes can be controlled by controlling the stimuli. Keep 'em dazzled with foot work. So the stimuli keep coming at us faster than we can think. And they are presented as fate, or the result of "fast changing world events," or a banking collapse no one could have predicted -- things to which we must respond immediately. Most of us just give up. Which again, is what the ruling class wants us to do -- become a uniformly pliant mass...

And besides, the ruling class holds all the money, not to mention the media that informs the populace as to what is going on in our country. It controls our health care, our banking and retirement funds. It controls our education or lack of education, and it controls the price, quantity and quality of the food we eat. It controls the quality of the air we breathe, and soon, through pollution credits, even the price they will pay for that air. Most importantly, it holds concentrated legal and governmental authority, not to mention the machinery of both parties to grant itself more authority.

In the face of all this stands a very diverse public, which regardless of what some might claim behind a few beers, is not about to take up arms or use force to unseat the ruling class. When your life and your family are so utterly controlled by persons and forces that you cannot even see, you don't take such risks. That's not gutlessness. It's common sense.

After decades of hyper-militant consumerism and its attending alienation, and a national consciousness spun from pure capitalist bullshit and mirrors, it is testimony to the American people that they can still see to piss straight, much less recognize any sort of truth whatsoever. Yet, a portion of Americans are beginning to grasp the truth about what has happened to their country -- that it has been bought and paid for by an elite class in a nation that is supposed to be classless. They are beginning to realize that, when it comes to actually governing our country, we are powerless as individuals -- even members of the political class -- and serve the overall will of its true owners. It's been that way so long we've become conditioned to accept it as a natural state, something we cannot change, and do not even know how to question, because, like the atmosphere, it's just there.

The higher truth is something we recognize when we encounter it. We may not have the right words, or all the facts, but we can feel it in our bones. Intuition is the first glimmer in the distance. It goes unsaid that we always have the choice of not looking in truth's direction, or not looking for it at all. Seldom is it a pleasant sight, which is the chief sign that it is truth. Even the best of it arrives to the sound of ominous bells

Fried Eggs

Prickly Poppies look like fried eggs.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Railroad Grade

On the way home I took a picture I've been meaning to take for years -- the railroad grade south of Lake Valley.  It's hard to imagine it now, but thousands of miners, families, and service personnel used to live in the Lake Valley-Hillsboro-Kingston area during the late 1800s.  Little trace of them remains.  Back then, you had two transportation choices:  trains, and horse-drawn conveyances (wagons and stagecoaches).  So there was an incentive for the monied interests to build a railroad spur between Nutt, on the main Santa Fe line, and Lake Valley.  This spur, built in 1884, was used to transport people and supplies into the area, and silver ore out.  People living in Hillsboro and Kingston still had to ride the stagecoach to Lake Valley, but it sure beat having to take it all the way to Nutt.

The mining boom didn't last long.  Such booms never do -- the game plan is always to extract the minerals as quickly as possible, in order to make as much money as quickly as possible.  Silver was devalued in1893, which ended the boom, and Lake Valley's "downtown" burned to the ground in 1895.  But the railroad remained in service until the 1930s, at which time the rails were pulled up and moved elsewhere.  The old railroad grade, unmaintained and slowly eroding, parallels the highway to Nutt, and can be easily traced if you know what to look for.  It remains as mute testimony to the one and only time that industrial America sent its tentacles into this isolated area.   

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mountain Wildflowers

We drove down the west side of the Black Range to the Iron Creek Campground where we had a picnic amid the cool pines.  There were dozens of kinds of wildflowers in the vicinity.  Here are a couple: