Monthly Archives: February 2013

GRINDING YOUR OWN-Food

Grinding Your Own – The Quest for Food Control in aimages Wonderbread World

Time for another thought in the grinding-your-own category.  There is plenty of material out there in society harping about food.  We have the first lady of the United States telling children what they should eat (while she scarfs down fast food),  the mayor of New York dictating soft drink sizes and the usual assortment of vegans, paleos, diet nazis, and other nuts telling us what to eat.  I’m not going to go there, everyone should be free in their own choices of what to put in their mouth.

That is what I want to talk about; food freedom.  Before we embark on this topic, I suppose, I should tell you where I fit in the818593_original spectrum of food choice. Bottom line; I am completely against starvation.  Moving on from no food, to what I actually eat, I suppose I am closest to the “cave man diet” that is all the rage right now. I have not read any books on the subject of this diet, but have kind of followed this concept for eating for a longer time than I could put a name on it.  My food philosophy is as follows:

1) Don’t follow stupid food fads- eat what makes you’re body happy (as long as your listening to the long term effects)

2) Eat what is put in front of you- if someone has put a meal together, enjoy it or endure it, keep your mouth shut except to have another bite (unless you have allergies).

3) When making food choices for yourself, stay as close to the source as possible- if the root vegetables have dirt on them, you’ve killed your own meat or you find a bug in your berries, these are good things. It probably means your sourcing your own food supply.

4) Stay away from processed foods as much as possible- the more its ground up, the sooner you’ll be underground.Girl_holding_tomatoes

5) Grow, raise, hunt, gather, preserve- food independence has a spice all its own.

6) Be thankful for the food you receive- saying grace never hurt anyone.

PR_036-_SI_-_03_07_12-633I don’t follow my rules perfectly, I’ll eat a boxed pizza as quick as anyone, but these rules are always in the back of my mind.  The rules keep me weeding my garden when its hot and give me the strength to pull the trigger on my future steak supply.  I have worked at finding other foods that are as close to natural as possible, then support  those sources. It is a lot of work to eat this way.  Cost, prep time and planning become a challenge; it’s a lot harder than dialing for chinese food delivery.

North Americans have a weird relationship with food.  We are so price motivated and health ignorant.  Paying someone to grow organically is looked at as a food snobbery, or just plain spendthrift. Case in point;  I used to own an earth sheltered greenhouse where we grew Pr_108_-_TRI_-_30_12_10_-_062tomatoes, cukes and peppers, all organically.  The flavor of our veggies was far and beyond the supermarket produce level, and many people told us that.  They praised the flavour but tried to get us to sell at the cheapest supermarket price, and some wouldn’t buy our produce because of cost.

The most tomatoes per plant I could get, using organic methods (soil testing, foliar feeding, etc), was an average of sixteen lbs/plant.  The mega greenhouse where the plants are grown in sawdust, and you need a chemistry degree instead of a green thumb, can get 80lbs/plant. The tomatoes forced with chemical fertilizer and sprayed for disease taste just like, well, nothing.   It’s the economy of scale that makes factory food cheaper.   North Americans will pay top dollar for clothes or jewelry (to wear on their body) but refuse to pay an extra penny for good food (that becomes part of their body).

Food fads, cheap food supplies (based on large scale petroleum hungry farm methods), little research into nutrition (health research is driven by drug company money) and penny pinching food attitudes have left an intellectual wasteland for making food decisions.  When in doubt, go for the flavor, good tasting fresh food will always be slow grown (not forced) and the nutrition content better.  There is a problem with this method, you may not know what good food is supposed to taste like.  Give yourself a month to retrain your taste buds.  Find yourself a natural food supply, one that you can acquire food as close to the earth as possible.  Grow a garden, find an old style farmer that’ll sell stuff, hunt, fish, go to a farmer’s DSC_4942market, join a community supported agriculture (csa) group, etc.  Live, totally, on this food supply for at least a month.  When you go back to supermarket fast food, you will notice a difference; guaranteed.  If that is too hard, pick a food you like; say pork chops.  Now find a farmer that you can buy a real pig from, you know, a pig that has seen the sun and knows what its like to root in the dirt.  Pay the farmer to haul that pig to a local abattoir and get it butchered.  Eat that pork for a few months and then buy some pork from your local supermarket, factory pork tastes like pig feces smells; try it.  Real food tastes like freedom.  Long live real food!

If there is anything I would like my readers to take away from this, it’s that, food freedom.  Maybe all the talk of butchering has grossed some out, maybe SG203744imagesgardening is a boring topic, maybe pizza pops are your idea of fine eating;  liberty, is everybody’s business.  Food freedom is something most people don’t even think about, but control of a population’s food supply is as old as civilization itself.  The favorite tactic of warring indian tribes was to find an enemies winter food supply (dried meat, pemmican, etc.) and destroy it.  Kings during the middle ages gave royal decree to favorite millers, all others caught with milling stones (like the ones pictured at the top of this page) were executed.  In more recent times Stalin’s socialist worker’s paradise starved to death 3 to 7 million people by controlling the food supply in the Ukraine.  Governments and food are not a good mix, it’s not about safety, it’s not for the children;  in the end it’s always about control.

If you think that food safety is at the bottom of all the regulations then ask yourself these questions. When images-3contamination strikes in the food supply (and it’s inevitable) is it better in a massive plant that produces by the ton, or a local establishment that produces by the pound?  What gives the people the most control of food quality?  A local artisan where the public can see the operation?  Or a massive food factory that the  public never sees? (when was the last time you saw your chicken or cheese being processed?)

When my mom was a girl (50’s) she lived on a farm.  The farm was a mixed operation and money was derived from images-2milking cows (and separating the cream), raising chickens for meat and eggs, and raising pigs.  The only commodity sent away for processing was the cream. The eggs and chickens (chickens were butchered on the farm) were sold to the local grocery store, the pigs were butchered at a local abattoir and the meat sold locally.  Even vegetables were sold to the local store (if they had a surplus).  When my mom was born, my grandpa butchered a steer and pedaled the meat in town to pay the midwife.  Did all this farm-to-store food cause massive deaths? Was contaminated food a huge issue?  Any more than today?  Even this very week the news is filled with hamburger recalls due to food poisoning and plastic material found in canned vegetables. The issue is not safety, the issue is control.  People (at least a free people) should be able to eat what they want.  If you desire to eat processed sludge that should be your choice.

Unknown-3Maybe after reading this, and you hear of  another armed government raid on a Mennonite farm selling “raw” milk, you will at least feel a little outraged.  Maybe after reading this you will have an urge to find an old fashioned farm (they are a dying breed) and buy their produce.  Maybe a few will realize that small scale farming is being destroyed by a combination of government regulation and profit hungry agribusinesses, and will support the concept of the family farm with their voices and their wallets.   Maybe some will wake up and realize that  the sources of garden seed are being bought up by the agri-giants, and the ability to control even home gardeners will be in the hands a few powerful men. Or at the very least, you will think about where your food comes from, and realize how important it really is.

Food is much more than something we put in our mouth, in the end food is the freedom to keep on living. Put this intellectual wheat in your grinder and grind out your own answer……who should have control of what we eat?

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Beware The Power of the Gluck-Gluck

images-7ECONOMIC WISDOM AND THE POWER OF THE GLUCK-GLUCK

When I was a very young lad, my family lived in a fairly large city.  That city, in those days, still had milk delivery (yes I am that old).   Every morning the milkman delivered glass bottles of milk and took the empties away, talk about being environmentally sound!   I was very young and barely remember the uniformed man whistling as he strode up our sidewalk with his crate of tinkling glass bottles, what service!  I am sure those heavy, cold, glass bottles made the milk taste better. The bottles had a square profile ending in a round mouth that was plugged with a waxed cardboard disk. The heavy bottle was filled all the way to the round neck with icy cold, rich, milk; yum.   Also hidden within those full bottles was a treasure that my brother and I strove to receive, the bottle was filled with many refreshing glasses of milk, but there was only one gluck-gluck

Unknown-2Yes, when the bottle was filled to the top  and was tipped to pour, it made that sound (glook-ka-glook), we called it the gluck-gluck  (only one per bottle!).  The story is (I was too young to remember the first time), it was my dad who made that sound a coveted commodity.   He was pouring himself a glass of milk out of a freshly opened bottle, and upon hearing the sound pronounced; “I got the gluck-gluck”.  Well, that was it!   From then on the competition to receive the desired gluck-gluck was on. I can remember the arguments, between my brother and I, as to who received the blessing of the gluck-gluck when a new bottle was opened.  Mom and Dad had to keep track of whose turn it was, and I remember when dad poured the loser his glass, he would try and console us by saying “gluck-gluck” when he poured; but it was a poor consolation prize.

The gluck-gluck had become a commodity, it is an interesting concept to study. The gluck-gluck was not really a necessity, it was a want.   The want was created by my father recognizing it’s scarcity and announcing its desirability.  From there, the competition between my brother and I took care of the rest.  I’m sure, if my brother and I would of had a disposable income, dad could have made money selling us a sound. Maybe dad should have made us do chores to earn the right to the gluck-gluck, we were certainly motivated.

When I view the materialistically minded world of consumerism that we currently reside in, I am astonished by the amount of money being spent on gluck-images-14gluck.  Clothes with the “right” label, “popular” food brands (eaten not for taste or nutrition; but because it’s cool), expensive branded electronics, and many others.  It is not a problem if only a few things are coveted  for their popularity, but spending money to “be cool”  becomes a way of life. People can be separated from large amounts of cash because they spend their entire life looking for the next trend to jump on.  They don’t buy things based on value, or price, but instead are sold an idea.  The idea of trendiness, the fantasy of popularity, the myth of cool;  all at premium prices.

images-15I think people are influenced by popular culture more than they would ever admit.  Television, movies, magazines, etc all combine (they are all owned by six mega-corporations) to leave the common person with the idea that there is a “popular culture” out there, formed by the everyday people.  It’s not!   A large percentage of popular culture is created in the board rooms of mega media corporations.  This is the same media that is also telling you what music to buy, what to eat, what to wear, what to drink, how to think and where you should look for entertainment.  Think about it; a single company can make a movie, then talk about it on their own radio and television stations, write about the movie in several magazines and multiple newspapers (all owned by them), and even put out a huge presence on the internet!  It is possible for a media giant to make a movie appear popular, even if it sucks.  Nobody wants to be odd, we all like to fit into our crowd.  When the media giants can control the crowd by telling them what it “wants” and changing the menu often, it becomes a trillion dollar industry.   images-16

Have you ever stopped to consider how silly designer labeled goods are?  I mean you need jeans to cover your butt, does the label really do anything?  No, the jeans still do their job, with or without a label. It is interesting to shop in a second hand clothing store, all those faded labels, they mean nothing now, one just looks to make sure the jeans fit and the material is sound.  In those same stores one can find many other used products that were once the rage, now reduced to clear.  Just the other day in one of those stores I saw a box full of cabbage patch dolls, I remembered the Christmas that those dolls were all the rage.  People were paying four times the going price for those dolls, if they could even find one.   The money spent on popularity and fad is forever gone, with nothing to show for it.

images-11The world is changing, disposable incomes are dropping, resources are becoming scarcer; it’s time for everyone to take a hard look at what they spend money on.  Need will have to replace want in the decision making process.  It’s very hard to use the word “need” as in saying, “I need that designer shirt”.  If every person looked only for quality when buying consumer products, companies would have to change, and start producing only quality items.  Stop looking for that ultimate something that will make you cool, it doesn’t exist; that’s all just media gluck-gluck.

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GRINDING YOUR OWN-education

imagesGRINDING YOUR OWN WHEAT IN A WONDERBREAD WORLD

I guess I should spend a little time on the concept.  What, exactly, does the title mean?   The concept about bread is an 818593_originalanalogy to our decision making process.  Everyone, everyday, makes decisions, both big and small.  Those hundreds of decisions plot the course we take through life.  The decisions are made using the blueprint of our root philosophy.  How do we form that blueprint? Upbringing, family, friends, past experience, and especially education.  I mentioned education specially, because today the majority of people spend their 12 most formative years in the government’s school system. we’ll talk more on education later, back to the wheat metaphor.

If you went to a company picnic, and amid the bustle of hamburger buns, mustard and smoking bbq’s, you saw an individual pull out two rocks and a bag of wheat to make flour, you would not be curious about his abilities.  You would probably question his philosophy about life, (admit it, you’d think he was loony).   That’s the challenge we’re faced with here, changing the way we think about things takes discipline.  Our nature resists changing our philosophy, it’s worse than admitting we made a mistake, it’s like saying we really don’t know what we’re doing.

Another problem arises, the majority of people today are working with a philosophy that is a patch-work of many different ideas.  The ideas are cobbled draft_housetogether from the many sources listed above.  Many of these ideas conflict with one another; that’s called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance leads tobrain_design_by_cogs_and_gears_7 confusion, fear, anger etc.  Checking over a blueprint before construction is a tedious, laborious, boring job. To an observer, watching that person, they’re  just sitting and staring at a big piece of paper (maybe punching a calculator or scratching with a pencil once in awhile).   To the builder, checking that blueprint over is very important; he can catch the mistakes before they are cast in concrete.

So many blueprints (personal philosophies) today are spliced together with scotch tape, after  having been cut from a plethora of other blueprints, then roundly defended as a sound building practice.  In the bread analogy, it is much easier to open that plastic bag and grab a slice. Your friends do it, that’s what they do on T.V, that’s what you were taught, and that’s the way you’ve always done it.  You’re bound to defend that slice of convenient cotton, even though it’s tasteless, textureless and probably unhealthy.  You have no idea where that bread was baked, what went in it, or how its formula was derived (probably for longevity, eye-appeal and maximum profit).

“So a baker of yesteryear would spit it on the floor”  I can hear people saying, “ I’ve always eaten bought bread, and who are you to judge!”   No judgement from me my friend, you eat what you want.  I’m just trying to make the point that the weirdo with the two rocks and a bag of wheat probably really knows his bread.

Convinced? Wanna get started?  Ok, one has to start at the basics, but first a few warnings.  This is going to take time, it’s going to be tedious, and that bag of sliced white fluff is going to be awfully tempting before the end. There are endless types of grinders, varieties of wheat and many bread recipes to decide on, ni+_o_pensandoyour going to have to do your homework. In that vein of thought, let’s go back to school.  We can take a trip down the hallways of our education system as our first study into what makes up the blueprint of our life’s philosophy.

I have no professional degree in education, no 3d_man_and_idea_bulbletters after my name.  My credentials are as follows: My mother was a teacher, I spent 12 years in the government school system (plus 2 years of technical college) and I home-schooled my two children grades 1 through12.  If that, in your opinion, is not enough “education”  for me to be able to think and write about this subject, then tuck these papers back under my grinding stones and be on your way.

SKOOL DAZE

“We must put more tax dollars toward education, our future depends on it!”, is the oft heard phrase today, usually from the teachers unions at the bargaining table.  Our society is pouring huge amounts of tax dollars into a system that just keeps asking for more, while giving dire predictions of a bleak, ignorant future if austerity is even suggested.images-6

Results? Bad and getting worse, one doesn’t have to research deeply, just ask the average teller to make change when the cash register doesn’t work. Talk to college profs that have been around awhile, the honest ones will tell you each new generation of students starts college with less knowledge (and a poorer attitude), than the previous one.  I have a grade five text on my shelf from 1913;  the level of literacy required to read and Unknown-4comprehend its contents is shocking.  Too many high school grads today can’t read or do simple math, and the government school system keeps demanding more money to fix the problem.

I am not going to pick on teachers, many are wonderful people with a true calling in life (some are just left-leaning union thugs on the take, only resorting to teaching because they washed out of engineering or something).  I suspect that the government education machine chews up and spits out many of the sincere teachers.

That’s what I want to focus on, the machine, let’s check out that blueprint.  I could do a long drawn out dissection of the beast, but I think you’ll get the Idea if we just take a walk into the past, and check out the birth of the system we call “public education” (the only thing public about it is the forced taxation that funds it).

HISTORY CLASS

Old_Flag__2Let’s take a look at the good ol’ USA, land of the free.  Before the 1850’s, education in the US was a conglomeration of private community schools, church schools, and home education.  Were the people uneducated and ignorant? Some were, much like today. Some were uneducated because they didn’t have the money for private schools and their parents didn’t care about “ejimucation” anyway.  The masses, however, were not ignorant, a peek at the political flyers of the day (you know the ones they handed out to the common man, fishing for votes) show a surprising level of required comprehension and vocabulary in order to understand.

In 1852 governor Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, forced government compulsory education on all citizens of the state.  From there the system was forced 29_4throughout the country with blood, tears and gunfire. I am not kidding.  Was the system forced because of the massive level of ignorance and illiteracy?  No! The rally cry was similar to todays “no child left behind” excuses, but that wasn’t the real reason.  The government of the day was worried about the Catholics, the Mormons and the Cherokee.  These people were “different” than the rest of society, and they had their own education systems. The government desired a more controlled standardization of the population (with an eye toward “assimilation” of those “different” people)  But there is an even more mind blowing reason that governments all over the world fell in love with the “system” for education we have today; blame the Prussians.

images-5When the Prussians were whipped by Napoleon, they decided they needed a system that would turn out subjects that could take battle field orders more reliably.  You know, march over there, stand in a row,  get shot at.  The Prussian professional soldiers and conscripts tended to bolt, fancy that.  So the Prussian ruling class got together and came up with an idea for an education system that would guarantee a more “orderly” society. That system worked like a charm, turning out all the classes of people with the proper attitude toward taking orders from their “betters”.

One half of one percent of the population had the bucks to privately tutor their children.  The fading monarchy, high brow military, and rich industrialist’s children were groomed to rule, they were the “elite”.   These children had a “classical education”, they were taught to think contextually, strategically, and learn complex processes.  Everything they learned was useful and fit together in the “whole”, so as to be able to master and command.  They were drilled on history, read extensively, wrote exhaustively and were always, always, taught to debate everything with their tutors.

Five to seven and a half percent of the population (the gifted and connected) went to the “good schools”, paid for by the government.  These kids learned some contextual thinking, but were mostly taught to be problem solvers.  The teaching in these schools leaned heavily towards the technical, and concentrated on memorizing large numbers of facts.  These students were groomed to be doctors, lawyers, managers, upper civil servants, etc.  Their place in this “ordered society” was to be managers of men, materials, and situations.

images-1The majority of the population’s children (92-94%) were placed in government schools called “peoples schools”.  These children were taught cooperation, Unknown-2obedience, and correct attitudes. There was great emphasis put on patriotism, teamwork, competitive sports and obedience to authority.  There was teaching in rudimentary literacy and numeracy as well as mythical patriotic history.  None of these students were taught to apply value or context within the framework of their knowledge; just given bits and pieces of needed facts. The patchwork knowledge the students graduated with, was meant to be interpreted by their superiors.  When these students graduated they were slated for the factory floor, battlefield, and lower levels of government bureaucracy.

Sounds very class discriminatory doesn’t it?  But, my oh my; did it ever work.  Gone was that pesky individualism that gives the hee bee jeebies to those leaders who think they have the plan to run everything.  It really is a form of brainwashing, and it dominated the 20th century,  and it looks determined to carry on into the 21st.

BRAINWASHING 101

 Girls_get_tired_of_studying   I made this “brainwash” comment about government schools once, and a lady nearly bit my head off.  She stated that the ideaimages-3 was ridiculous, and the school system wouldn’t put up with it, even if it were remotely true. I think she had the idea of a “stage show” type of brainwashing.  You know, a magician on a stage convincing an audience member that they’re stuck to their seat, or have peed themselves, that’s not what I am talking about.  I am talking about long term, systematic brainwashing.  Big buildings, institutional classrooms, always changing teachers, students separated by age group (not ability), multiple subjects taught in one day, stay in your group, line up here, heed the bells, this is a test, here’s your mark, etc, etc.  Is it any wonder that kids learn imagery_28_10_08_000652to hate education?  Is it any wonder that the students are disillusioned with learning, and instead become infatuated with their social standing amongst their peers?  The kid’s entire “educational” experience, for twelve long years, is one giant social meat grinder!  Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at the system as defined by the men who helped create and shape it.

Young_punk_woman_in_desperation_gesture

Edward Ross, at the end of the 19th century, one of the men who helped shape the government school system in the USA, called children:  “little plastic lumps of dough, taken from private households, to be shaped on the social kneading board.”  That’s in the past you say? William H. Seawell, University of Virginia professor of education, in the 1980’s stated:

“Public schools must promote civic rather than individual pursuits….we must focus on creating citizens for the good of society… each child belongs to the state.”

2299_1Any young person that takes the red pill, and begins to see the little man behind the curtain in the educational land of OZ, is labeled a trouble maker, and slapped down; or drugged.  The social experimentation continues, to the detriment of literacy rates.images-4   Environmentalism, socialism, moral relativism, multiculturalism, feminism, and every other fad “ism” popular today is what is being crammed into the kids, until they are no longer an individual, just an insignificant member of the organic matrix.VHV-2039

If you are reading this, and have children in a government school, you could be feeling defensive and angry.   Take heart, I lean toward home schooling, but many children learn in spite of the crushing educational machine.   At the same time, be aware of the system your kids are in, talk to them about it, encourage them to learn on their own.   Children are born with a GOD given, brightly burning light of curiosity.  A child’s need to learn is natural, they are sponges for knowledge and ideas.  Young people have a desire to grind their own intellectual flour, a little encouragement and guidance is all that’s required.  You were once that way, we are all born with a desire to know things. Then the system convinced you, that the only smart thing to do, was to rely on the availability of factory made wonder bread…..it’s the only thing that goes with the government kool-aid.

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Topofil secret and what’s next

If you haven’t read the last post you won’t understand the next couple of sentences, it concerns a device I used that tested my patience. Feel free to scroll to my last post about patience at this time and then come back.

The sneaky way that machine was snipping my thread had to have a cause, besides the excuse of driving me crazy.  I knew when I got back to camp I was going to take that box apart and find the means by which the possessed machine was committing its destruction of its own line. There had to be a logical reason that the topofil was doing this, and I found it.

Remember I had mentioned that the when threading the topofil the string had to pushed through glass tubes?   The glass tubes were there to mitigate the friction on the thread whenever the string changed direction in the box or passed through the metal and plastic frame.   If I remember correctly the tubes were about a quarter-inch in diameter and attached to the box with rubber and metal clamps.  I do remember, cause that’s where I found the problem, that the ends of the glass tubes were flared slightly and had a thickened edge for strength.   On the thickened edge of the first glass tube I found that a tiny chip of glass had fallen out.   There was no crack in the glass like it had been struck, more like an impurity in the glass had fallen out.  The hole that was left was angular and the tiny edges sharp. The chip was hard to see even with the box disassembled. I fixed the problem by very carefully removing those sharp edges with the corner of my sharpening stone, then filling the tiny hole with candle wax.   Doing this fix while sitting in a damp tent gave me a chance to exercise that patience I was talking about.  The secret is now revealed.

I am toying with an idea about what I want to write about next.  I am thinking of stringing together some thoughts under the title “Grinding your own grain in a wonder-bread world.”   Not that I am actually going to make flour with a grinder, I could write about that as I’ve done it, this is more on the theme of 818593_originalthought processes.  In this day and age so many of our thoughts, ideas, impressions, etc about life are given to us like slices of processed white bread, all impurities removed and vitamins re-injected.  Individuals can make a sandwich, choosing their own filling, but the sandwich is still framed by the slices reached for in the plastic bag.  Starting out with wheat berries and finishing with real bread is imageshard work,  results can vary.  The process  is the key, think of all the things to be learned along the way.  In your own thought life, do you want hollywood or Madison avenue telling you what to think?  Life is more than just the end sandwich.   Any thoughts out there?

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Patience-part 2

Patience- Part 2

Unknown   So, round two, on patience. Everybody being patient about it?  All three of you ha ha. In the last post I mentioned how it’s possible to think that patience is only required when dealing with our fellow man, (or women, in the case of the coupon lady).  I alluded to a story of lost patience which occurred when I was completely and totally alone.  That particular story will require a fair bit of history if it’s to make sense.  Hang on for a bit while I weave the tale.

I am a ticketed forest technician with field experience.  Back in my dim past, I was working on aUnknown-10 forest management crew.  On this occasion the crew’s job was to supervise a private contractor, and his hard working hirelings, in the endeavor of planting tree seedlings in an area that had been logged the previous winter.    Our crew, working for the government, didn’t actually have to crack the whip, so to speak, but we had to be sure that the terms of the contract were carried out as to planting density/quality etc.    In order to locate our randomly mapped out test plots, one needed to use a compass, to find direction, and be able to measure linear distance (the GPS system was not in commercial, or personal use at the time.)   The linear measuring device we used (invented to measure distance and patience, I’m sure), was called a topofil, which is the inanimate character in my story.

images-9   The topofil utilized a cone shaped spool of thread, the end of which wound its way through a tensioner and around a wheel.  The end of the thread (about the same size as sewing thread) was tied off at the start point, and as you walked the uncoiling thread would turn the wheel, which kept track of distance like an old fashioned odometer in a car.  This was the theory anyway.  Like all machinery the topofil had its quirks, and all of the quirks were infuriating. If the tensioner was too tight the line would snap, to loose, and it would slip on the wheel and stop measuring.  I could speak at length about all the idiosyncrasies , extreme cold, badly manufactured string, wet string, abuse of the previous owner, etc; that could cause topofil frustration.  Having to work  with these devises day in, day out, you learned all the tricks to keep on keepin on.  The tricks all failed on the day of conflation.  The day my patience snapped entirely, and left me ready to commit topofil murder.

I suppose even more backstory is required lest you think I am not at all qualified to even mouth the word patience.  This particular story takes place during what my coworkers and I were beginning to call the shift from hell, and I had a few extra handicaps that assured me I had reached the hubs.  I had mentioned earlier how remote the location was, allow me to explain. Most people today who camp, or venture beyond the normal confines of civilization feel that they are “remote” when they lose cell phoneHelicopter sling load signal. This was far out and beyond that, I was in a truly remote location, by helicopter, a long ways.  All our supplies; tents, trikes (yes trikes, it was that long ago),food,fuel, etc was choppered in using  sling loads.  We slept in canvas tents and ate our meals around the fire. I know this could be a wonderful experience in the right situation, but not this time. The only time it quit raining was when it was sleeting and early hatchings of sandflies and mosquitos brave enough to fly were a constant plague.

We were swamped (literally and figuratively).  The weather continued to deteriorate, the choppers forestry campcouldn’t get to us, and we were running out of all supplies, even food.    We ended up working hard, in bad living conditions, and bad weather, for twenty four days in a row.  I think I can lay claim of least having an inkling of what being “bushed” feels like.  On top of these challenges, we all faced personal hardships. I had planned to go south and visit my girlfriend.  when your twenty, seeing your girlfriend is rather important.  I also had a raging case of, what I now know was, pinkeye, and the worst thing of all were my boots (whining? I am not whining, just letting my readers line up all the facts).

I had bought a brand new pair of rubber boots (what else do you wear in weather only suitable for arctic dwelling amphibians) for this shift, and the boots Unknown-7completely fell apart.  Both sides of each boot split vertically from the sole to the top band; bad rubber, bad timing, and positively nasty thoughts imagined.  Thoughts of where I was going to insert those boots when I went back to the guy who sold them…………..never mind.  My feet were wet, cold and nasty for 14 days straight, from the time I rolled out of my damp sleeping bag till I crawled back into it.  I couldn’t fix the boots, tried to no avail.  If I would have had a couple of rolls of duct tape I could have fixed the boots no problem.  We had some duct tape, but I had to leave a little on the roll for fixing leaky tents.  I kept the boots together using flagging ribbon, which helped a bit, but it didn’t seal the boots from water, grass, bark, spruce needles, bugs, etc.  Maybe the bugs were hatching in my boots come to think of it, but at any rate my feet were damned uncomfortable for a time just short of eternity. To this day the closest feeling to heaven for me is a dry, clean, warm pair of socks. Let’s move on, to the day of my meltdown.

Unknown-1    I was up, dressed in damp clothes, scavenged some food from a dwindling supply,  and had traveled (one creek and two muskeg crossings) to my first cutblock by mid-morning.  I slung on my gear and my shotgun (bear protection) and tied my topofil line to the marked corner of the block. Looking up the slope of the cutblock I could see this was going to be a rough slog. The cutblock had been blade scarified during the winter to prepare it for planting. The slash, deadfall, and tree tops had been heaped in long rows, in no particular pattern.

Here’s the thing with compassing and measuring your way to a particular point, you have to walk a straight line, and that meant I would spend much time climbing those piles.  If you ever get an urge to climb over an eight foot brush pile; don’t, just go lay down somewhere till the urge goes away.  Unfortunately I had to climb, not just this pile, but many others, all day.  Climbing those piles went with the job, so I took a compass shot and started out briskly, at the very least in an effort to keep warm.

When you walk with a topofil in your hand you can feel the vibration of the thread turning the wheel, hence you know you’re measuring your linear movement.  When the time comes to climb a brush pile however, its slow, and all you feel is precarious.  When I reached the top of the pile I looked down at my topofil, and no thread could be seen. I looked behind me,  there was the broken end drifting away from me in the rain.

images-3I moaned with frustration and climbed down again to grab the end of the thread. Sitting down on the sopping ground, trying to shield the innards of the cursed device from the rain, I opened up the topofil hoping to find that the string had broken just inside the box.  I could then knot the broken ends  together and carry on; no joy.  The end of the thread was next to the roll, it would have to be re-threaded through the topofil’s innards. The thread had to be pushed through various holes lined with glass tubes, wrapped twice around the wheel, re-tensioned, then pushed through the side of the box via another glass tube.

Sound easy?  Try doing all that in the rain and sleet while slapping at bugs, and, oh yeah; if the string gets wet it sticks to the sides of the tubes.  If you do get the string through the damp labyrinth, the wetness causes the string to slip on the wheel.  I was good at this though, plenty of practice, only slightly distracted by the flying insects wearing winter parkas and snorkels.

I am going to be merciful and cut these frustrating hours to a shortened and condensed version.  This happened over, and over, and over.  I can’t remember the exact ratio of how many times the thread broke while on top of a brush pile, compared to when the thread broke while slopping across level ground (which I felt right away), but the statistics were not conducive to mental health.

When I did reach a target plot I had to mark off a set area to do my job.  The job was to do a plant count in the plot and dig up a percentage of the trees to record the quality of the planting job. These duties were carried out in the intermittent rain/sleet, and growing frustration.  By mid-day I was definitely feeling picked on by karma/cosmos/GOD/luck or whatever; not that I was really analyzing what was plaguing my existence on the planet, but I must say I was feeling rather sorry for myself.  I guess that is an understatement, I was reaching a stage of insanity.  Rubber room, huggie jackets and all that.  I tried every combination of tension settings, reeling off yards of thread and throwing it away, changing rolls with fresh ones; you name it!  images-15

I had a coworker that swore you could make the machine work flawlessly by wrapping the thread twice around the wheel,making sure to cross the threads .  I told him his theory was pure superstition, as the threads would not stay crossed, he just replied that it worked for him.  Let me tell you I tried it that day, several times.  I tried triple wraps with crosses; hell, if a squirrel would have got in my way I would have sacrificed it on a stump to what ever unholy demon was possessing my topofil.

The final whiff of human reason left me late in the afternoon, while cresting a particularly bad brush pile.  I saw the thread snap and fly away at the same time I lost my balance and I tumbled down the far side.  The hated topofil flew out of my hand and clattered onto the top of a large rock just even with the ground.  My body was contorted and in pain, various  limbs integrating with the chaos of slash; I could hardly move, then my sore and bloodshot eyes  locked onto that hated devil machine laying on the top of that rock.  There was a calculated slowness with which I extricated myself, still staring intently at that orange box; there was no doubt in my fevered brain, it was going to die.

images That #**%$@ box of hardware was going to die a violent, painful death.  I was going to obliterate it in some way, then dig a deep grave with my bare, cold hands.  I was going to bury the hated remains, then tramp the dirt down hard with my shredded, slimy boots.  All my miseries, problems and woes  focused on that square orange box.  It was toast, I would see to that!   I began to unsling my shotgun, the plan forming in my head to blast the topofil to confetti in a hail of gunfire.

A sliver of sanity showed me a picture of buckshot ricocheting into my shins so I started to look for a rock as a means of topofil destruction.  No luck, a nice big log, wielded as a club, became a popular fantasy for mayhem, and I scanned the brush pile for a suitable cudgel.  The bleached top-end of a deadfall caught my eye and I grunted asimages-6 I headed for it. Tearing and pulling at that log gave me the only moment when I honestly think I understood the concept of “a red haze” of anger.  Even the bugs were scared of me and kept their distance, the cold rain seemed to sizzle as it lashed my face. In a word; I was pissed off!   Before mayhem could ensue, events conspired that stopped me cold.  In the physical world, the fierce weapon  I had chosen to demolish the topofil, fell apart, showering me in rotten bark splinters and diseased softened  pine wood.  At the exact same moment the log was disintegrating, I was overcome with how ridiculous I was acting, and began to laugh.  With the laughter came a clarity of thought (I told you I was a little bushed.)

I guess you could say after this I pulled myself together and carried on. I don’t remember if I actually  tried to use the topofil after that incident, but I remember going over and picking the topofil up, it had become just a machine housed in a plastic boxUnknown-5 again.  I don’t remember the rest of the work day, because it became a day of reflection.

I had to ponder the status change of the topofil, where was the real target of my anger?   To whom, or what, was I throwing the tantrum?  Life?  That is too general.  The cosmos?  Gimme a break.  I may as well of been throwing handfuls of that rotten log toward heaven shouting: “WHY are you doing this to me God!” I know it sounds shocking, but let’s face it, everybody who hasn’t been there…….will be eventually.  I think I found that place, inside of ourselves, where patience is found.

It is not a popular concept today, but the idea held sway for centuries, it’s found in the concept of the fear of God. Now wait, just hold on, this is not a sermon, just need to give credit where credit is most warranted.  The actual well from which one draws true patience is found in our own humility.  Humility is a by-product that flows within when we acknowledge the awesomeness of our Creator.  We can get around a “higher power” and simply make jokes of ourselves in order to cope, and lets face it learning to laugh at ourselves is good medicine. However, that medicine by itself, has limits to it’s healing power.

Unknown-11 We have some sad tales in our popular culture, tales of depressed, but talented comedians. They are tales of fear and loneliness being covered up with jokes that make other people laugh, and it made the comic feel good for awhile. The tragic ending to some of those comedians tells us that the funny bone is not the organ that needs healing.  A session of laughter, especially at ourselves, however, is important in the battle against self importance. Self importance kills the humility we need for true strength, patience, and inner peace. Something was missing in the lives of those famous comedians that went down the road of self destruction, and the missing ingredient was not humor.  These talented and funny people weren’t short of popularity either, they were loved, and even worshiped by the media, and the masses. It makes one realize that society may need to re-think the theories on the importance of self-esteem.  Maybe we’ve mixed destructive pride into the popular teachings of self-esteem.

Again we find ourselves at an unpopular topic,  nobody likes to even think about how our own pride leads us into trouble.  Nobody wants to talk about it yet we live in a world filled with the consequences of runaway pride. The majority of our societal woes can be traced back to pride, through pride’s children.  Greed, lust for power, envy, etc, are all the offspring of uncontrolled pride.  We have an entire society wanting to blame somebody for all the trouble, dammit!  Its not fair!  It’s not Right!  I’m going to sue/go to the press/pass a law/get a gun/pound your face in! There are also agitators in our society that have learned to stir up, and then control the power of the self-righteous and angry mob.  Chanting, sign waving, rock throwing crowds are a powerful weapon if they are controlled, I think Lenin called them “useful idiots.”  If you find yourself in such a crowd, lets hope your emotion is coupled with a great depth of understanding, unless you like being aimages-7 pawn, and a fool.

Yes, a fool, another word hardly used today. Strange that it isn’t used more as our culture seems to be filling up with so much foolishness.  The word “fool” is found throughout the bible, but one quote ties in nicely to our theme on patience.  It’s found in the same book of the Bible that inspired the Byrds and Pete Seeger to write the song “turn,turn,turn (to everything there is a season), the book of Ecclesiastes.  Verses eight and nine of chapter seven (along with my crude interpretations) go like this:

Better is the patient spirit than the lofty spirit. (Lofty, as in, you know, pride, maybe?)  Do not in spirit become quickly discontented, (don’t get all warped over things without thinking it through).  For discontent lodges in the bosom of a fool.  (a permanently self-righteous hothead is an idiot).

Of course there are reasons for passionate, or even righteous anger.  May God give you wisdom if you reach that point, God forbid if its because somebody 129038553240534380cuts you off in traffic.  On that miserable day in the rain I discovered the power of humility, and its ability to keep us sane. I was by myself, it was stupid to be mad at a box and pointless to be mad at God.  There is only one question that I’ve thought about.  If a materialistic minded atheist could understand my anger towards that topofil, and wanted to help me smash it to bits, who or what would they be upset about; Darwin?

BREAK/BREAK/BREAK- To all you technical guys out there saying:     OK, FINE, whatever. The question I have, is what exactly was WRONG with your topofil?

I know the secret and I’ll give ya all the details………… send me twenty bucks. Just kidding, but ya gotta read the next post.

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