the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I took this picture last year, just fooling around with different shots in my back yard.

Same tree, this year.

No apples.  No apples on most of the apple trees in Michigan.  Reports says Michigan lost 90% of its apple crop to our late winter thaw followed by a freeze.  I never even saw the blossoms - the tender buds died before they were fully open.
We have 3 apples trees and a ton of crab trees of different types.  So I did a search.  In my front yard, I found the one and only crabapple of the year:
It's not a pretty one, either.  I'm not even sure how it formed - doesn't there have to be cross-pollination with another blossom?  If so, there must have been another blossom, and now at least one more crabapple somewhere in SE Michigan. 
We'll feel these repercussions for a year, and not just in higher prices for apples shipped here from someplace where Nature didn't go a bit crazy last February.  The deer and birds munch on crabapples all winter.  I don't know what will replace them.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stupid White Guys

The day after the wholesale bulldozing of the previous post, these guys came by to "trim" the branches along the power line that runs to my and my neighbor's houses.  I let them in my pasture so they could get access to the lines, where they spent 5 1/2 hours topping trees and trimming side

branches on anything within 8 feet of the lines to save us from a power outage if a branch should fall in a storm. 

We weren't happy to see them.  They did this last year, too, along the front of our property.  It wasn't pretty; whole trees were taken down, and hacked trunks were left lying along the easement for us to take care of.  My neighbor was furious - they made specific promises about what trees would be cut and how much, then took much more when she wasn't watching.  Naturally, she asked this crew for specific details of what they would take, and let them know how unhappy she was with last year's careless workers.  One crew member assurred her it wouldn't happen again because it was most likely done by their Mexican workers, whom they'd had to "send home" because they were so inept.  They were Mexicans, right?

Oh, my.

I like to think I'm fair-minded, but I'm a passive milktoast compared to my neighbor who's a vocal opponent of any sort of inhumanity or social injustice.  The world could use hundreds more like her.  She stared at the man, speechless.  Even dum-dum's co-worker stood in awkward silence.  I wouldn't have given two cents for the guy's chances, and can only attribute his survival to the early hour and the fact that they took us by surprise with their big trucks and wood chippers.  My neighbor seethed and hyperventilated, and finally bit out a sharp response.  No, they weren't Mexicans.  They were white men.  Stupid white men.

The guy should have been embarrassed, but he wasn't.  It went right over his stupid white head.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This Land Is Your Land (and the oil companies')

A story, because I love this land.

Four houses up the road from me, someone buried something 60 years ago.  The someone was Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian based oil company.  The something was an oil pipeline.  I never knew it was there. 

Should I have known?  No one was obligated to tell me.  My neighbor who owns the property it's on knew about it, but didn't give it much thought.  Maybe we all should have.

Enbridge has the world's longest crude oil and liquid pipeline system.  (That's from Wikipedia.  But if you want an idea of how extensive the oil transportation system is, check out this map .)  They've had a lot of leaks and spills.  Like, over 800 in a recent 10 year period.  A big one in Michigan in 2010 dumped close to a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.   They should have safeguards for that, right?  They do.  Operators overrode them when they signaled a problem.  Twice.  Hmmm.

So Enbridge wants to update these pipelines.  Good idea!  That inclues the one that runs just a few thousand feet from my house.  Right over my water supply.  Sounds responsible.  They'll just "seal" off the old line and put in a new one.  But, hey, times have changed and they want to ship MORE oil around the country right beneath our feet, so let's make it twice as big as the old one.  We'll just rip out whatever's in the way, because it's called "eminent domain."  Remember that from civics class?  You thought it was just for the state or the federal government, so they could build highways and such for the common good.  Nope.  They grant that right to Big Business too.  Your land is yours - except for the part that's theirs. 

It starts like this, looking all festive with their colorful pennants.
Then they bring in the heavy equipment, like this:
And this:
Enbridge can't park on the right-of-way they're ripping up, so they park beside it.  No one will miss this big tree, right?  It turns out it's legal for them to rip out stuff that's near their easement and that they say is in their way.
Hey, in another sixty years you'll never know the difference.

So yeah, I'm a little pissed off at the wholesale destruction.  Especially since I don't know what will happen when they need to bury their pipeline here - under the wetlands - where they aren't allowed to rip stuff out willy-nilly.

I talked to one of the workers about it, a woman directing traffic around all the huge trucks parked along the narrow dirt road.  And I learned more than the basic facts about what her employer is doing.  It's not Enbridge, by the way, it's the company that clears the land for them.  She's a single mom who was out of work for a year during Michigan's painful recession.  She was glad to get this job so she wouldn't have to lose her house.  Like so many people, she's willing to do whatever it takes to have a job, which for her means driving 90 minutes from her home in Battle Creek to Howell, where she then gets in a company truck and drives another hour to the work site here.  After a 10 hour day, she drives an hour back to Howell, then 90 minutes back to Battle Creek.  It's a long, tiring 15-hour day, but she's glad to have the work.  And she gets Sundays off. 
Ironically, guess what's right in her back yard in Battle Creek?  The site of Enbridge's 2010 oil spill that closed down 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River.  And now it turns out that Enbridge is providing the job that has saved her from losing her house. 
Nothing is ever black and white, is it?  But I'm still sick over the carnage that was wrecked through our peaceful rural landscape today.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Silver Sparks Vacationing Without Me Again

This time my last book is boating in the warm Gulf waters off Tampa.  (No, it wasn't there for the convention.)  Silver Sparks looks good in sea-blue!

I Have Gas!

Natural gas, as opposed to propane.  Or intestinal.

We almost have it, anyway.  As soon as we use the last propane in the tank, we will complete the switch-over.  It was a long time coming, but finally the gas company got approval from at least half the homeowners, and they laid a line down our road, along with a few other roads in the township.  After that, they laid lines for each house that wanted to hook up.

First this truck came.
Then this one.

Doing this:

With this:

It was a noisy day.  There will be a big bill to go along with it.  But in the long run, it will be cheaper than propane.  We have joined civilization.

Except for the well.  But I'm fine with keeping that.