Wednesday, April 06, 2016

That shoe's just a bit tight, isn't it?

It may not be big news outside of North Carolina, but we're having a bit of an imbroglio here over two groups of politicians who couldn't craft a decently written law if their lives depended on it.  Allow me to fill you in.  It's worth your time, because it's politics at it's most hilarious.  It's also an edifying case of the shoe being on the other foot for a change.

The city of Charlotte, NC passed a local ordinance that aimed to protect the civil rights of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.  Among the numerous clauses in the ordinance was the now infamous "bathroom clause", which would require all public accommodations to allow people to use the restroom appropriate to the sex they identified with, regardless of the sex they had been born with.

In Charlotte, a large, but very vocal, minority of people disagreed with this particular portion of the bill.  A similar bill had been defeated a few weeks earlier, but a new, heavily Democratic, city council with several new, all Democratic, members, many of whom had campaigned with this as an issue, passed the bill over the objections of this minority.  Obviously the timing of this was not coincidental.

Now, in North Carolina there is a clause in our state constitution that allows the state legislature to override local government laws.  It's there when the need arises to reign in a government body that has strayed off the reservation, or when, for example in the case of firearms laws, the state legislature believes there is a good reason to enforce a level playing field state-wide.  The existence of this clause is soon to be important.

Charlotte, also know as Moscow on the Catawba, is like most metropolitan areas, very liberal.  Oddly enough, a sizable portion of Charlotte's representation in the legislature is Republican, and from appearances, rather conservative Republicans at that.  Overall, the NC Legislature as well as the Governor's Office are controlled by Republicans.  This too will soon be important.

The observant among you have probably already added 2 + 2 + 2 and come up with "train wreck".  But let's unveil the picture in all it's gory detail.

Shortly after the new ordinance was passed, at the behest of a Charlotte legislator, a special session of the legislature was called and in roughly 12 hours, in the process of trying to undo the Charlotte ordinance's bathroom clause, they also managed to revise the North Carolina statute dealing with discrimination in such a way as to override all local laws that granted any special protections to gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, as well as mandating that you must use the restroom appropriate to the sex you were born with in state facilities.  The governor almost broke the nib off his pen signing it.

Herp.

The blow back was immediate and predictable.  Civil rights groups, LGBT groups, Democrat groups, pretty much the entire panoply left of center have lost their mind.  There have been demonstrations, civil disobedience and all sorts of media friendly goings-on.  Many rich, famous, powerful, wannabe rich/famous/powerful, thinks they are rich/famous/powerful and simple loudmouths with no dog in this hunt have weighed in on how evil North Carolina is.

Personally, I think they're wrong.  We simply have the best politicians that can be bought on a low budget.  It is, after all, a part-time legislature.  You an only expect a certain level of professionalism from part-timers.

Various companies have threatened, and in the cases of PayPal, Lionsgate and a couple of others, actually pulled business from North Carolina.  This is actually kind of foolish, because now they have no leverage to get the legislature to change anything.  You don't pay taxes here and your employees don't vote here.  You're not coming here, so why to we care what you think?

Derp.

Personally, I have no dog in this hunt.  To my knowledge, no one in my family or circle of friends fits in any of the categories that have been legislated about.  However, I'm not stupid--"When they came for the trade unionists" and all that.  I think that these folks are just as human as anyone else and therefore have exactly the same rights as the rest of us.  The fact that we have to actually pass a law to get people to understand that fact points out that we as a society have a long way yet to go.

However (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)...

I also note that the folks in those particular classes tend to be pretty liberal in their politics and tend to vote overwhelming Democratic.  Most of them do not support my Second Amendment rights in the least.  These are the people who lobby for yet another anti-gun law and say things like "It's a good first step." or "If it saves one life." or the ever popular "It's for the children!"  It doesn't make a damn to them that all the evidence is to the contrary, we need to pass one more law than we already have on the books.  And the next time we'll need to pass one more.  And the next, and the next, and the next....

This time, the shoe is on the other foot.  All the stuff that has been uttered about the safety of our women and children in the bathrooms if that evil Charlotte ordinance is allowed to stand?  Well, there are laws like Charlotte's all over the place, and damn few cases of anyone using them to sneak into the ladies room dressed as a woman to perv and rape.  Sort of like how the blood stubbornly refused to flow every time another state got concealed carry, and how it still stubbornly refuses to flow when a state goes Constitutional carry.  Damn those inconvenient facts, huh?  We need to pass this law!

Yeah, it really sucks when someone decides to go all self-righteous all over your civil rights, doesn't it?  It hurts like hell when you watch all that progress you've made over the years get torn up by a bunch of elected morons who have no idea what it's like to be you and live your life.  You get really angry when you see the things you hold dear trampled underfoot.

Sort of like us gun folk have felt for the last 40 or 50 years.  Now oddly enough, I hope that your message gets through and the legislature gets off its duff and fixes the mess it's made.  No one should be a second class citizen because of who they love or which bathroom they need to use.

And I hope that the next time someone asks you to help them take the rights of someone else, you remember just how much it hurt when it was your rights that were taken away.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A little something to consider

The weather here in Piedmont North Carolina has been rather odd for the last several months.  We've had a warm winter that was wetter than normal (Thank you, El Nino) and spring came early and has been a bit drier than normal.

However, there have been outbreaks of seasonal if not overly seasonal weather.  We had an interesting sleet/snowstorm in late January, and tonight we are under a hard freeze warning.  While the date of last frost is around April 28 here, that's for a frost--we're in for a hard freeze, and another, probably colder, one is forecast for Saturday night.

For us, in this day and time, it's a minor inconvenience.  Turn the heat pump on, or for us personally build a late season fire in the wood stove.  Get the warmer coat back out for tomorrow.

But let's consider another scenario.  Let's say a large load of feces has impacted the air circulator.  Things are bad.  Not Mad Max bad, but bad enough.  Deliveries to grocery stores are unpredictable, as is grid power.  While lawlessness is contained to the larger cities, it doesn't mean that the suburbs and exurbs are without problems.  Food has been a concern for the last couple of years.  Everyone with a yard has a garden and tries to raise as much of their own food as possible.

You, as a good prepper, had already been gardening, raising a significant portion of your own food and preserving some of it via drying and canning.  You had a number of books on various methods of agriculture and food preservation among your library.  As a good prepper, you made sure that your efforts didn't stand out in your neighborhood--you made it appear as a hobby, and camouflaged some of your food plots with flowerbed.

When things started to get bad, for you it was a matter of ramping up the size of your garden quickly.  Grass and flowers disappeared and garden appeared.  Small hoop houses, cold frames and the other implements of intensive agriculture sprang up almost overnight.  Your neighbors noticed, and because you had always went out of your way to be friendly and approachable, rather than coming to you with "you need to share" on their lips, they came to ask to help--"Will work for food"--and for help--"Can you help us put in our own gardens?"

Smart prepper that you are, you had extra seed stocks (they are cheap, most store relatively well and you could always use them yourself) and teaching people how to do the intensive, "square foot" style gardening you favored was easy and didn't require years of patient soil building before yields were worthwhile.  Luckily things had gotten bad at the right time of year and slowly enough that most of your neighbors who stayed put in the neighborhood were able to raise and preserve enough food that first summer to pad the meager supplies available from the grocery stores that winter.  Everybody lost weight, but nearly everyone survived.

The next year went even better.  Even though the supplies to the grocery stores were still irregular, gardens were bigger and you and your neighbors were able to add chickens, rabbits and a few cattle to the mix.  Even though no one was well versed on animal husbandry, your library saw you through and that winter you all ate far better than the winter before.  There was even enough for trade.

The next spring, warm weather came early.  Taking advantage of the gift, gardens were planted early.  By early April they were a month ahead of where they would have been a year ago.  Everyone was mentally thinking of what the surplus could be traded for that autumn.

But one sunny day, the wind came up and blew a good stiff breeze from the northwest.  While the temperature warmed, thermometers that had read in the low 70s the day before stayed stubbornly in the 50s, even with a bright sun out.  As the sun went past noon and started to move down the sky, the temperature started to drop, and by dark the temperature was dropping below 50.  Anxious eyes watched as it continued to drop during the early evening.  Buckets, old sheets--anything that could cover a young and tender plant--was gathered as men, women and children worked to cover everything that could be covered.  Silent prayers were offered and more than a few spoken ones.  Even working, the chill in the air was evident.  It wasn't just going to be cold tonight.  "Man, I sure miss the National Weather Service" was said with as much conviction as the prayers.

By midnight, everything that could be used to cover plants was used.  Thermometers stood near 40.  The wind had died down, and those who knew of such things were shaking their heads.  It would be better if the air was still moving, they said.  Frost can't form if the air moves.

Mothers took children in and put them to bed in their clothes, since blankets were all in use.  Covering them in whatever they could find, they made sure the wood stoves or fireplaces stayed stoked.  One of the older men had remembered the stories he had read about "smudge pots", used in the Florida orange groves to ward off cold.  Not the same thing, he said, but it might help.  Fires were burning in the gardens in barrels, grills, old rims and anything else that could hold a fire, trying to ward off the cold.

Sometime around 3:30, the thermometer touched the freezing mark of 32 degrees.  No one noticed it for another 30 minutes--not that it would have mattered.  Everyone just kept doing what they were doing, kept on praying for a miracle and cursing themselves for being stupid and greedy.

By the time the sky had lightened enough for the light to be usable, the temperature had bottomed out at a tiny tick below 29 degrees.  It never got that cold here in April--never.  But it had now, and all that remained was to see how bad the damage was.  As the day warmed and the thermometer rose. fires were allowed to die and the wrappings were removed from the plantings.  At first, there were smiles--it had worked!  They had dodged the bullet!

As the temperatures continued to warm, the damage began to be apparent.  Plants began to wilt as the ice within them melted and the burst cell walls collapsed.  By noon, the full extent of the damage could be seen.  Perhaps 80% of the plantings, so healthy a day before, were now suitable only for compost.

There were a few recriminations, but in reality, no one was to blame.  Everyone had participated in the rush to plant early and take advantage of the weather.  Now, a hurried inventory of the remaining seed stocks showed that there might be enough to replant, but there could be no mistakes, no problems, no bad harvest.  There would be no surplus and no trade.  There would probably be empty bellies at times this winter if they were not very fortunate indeed.

There are a lot of preppers who think that if things get bad, why, they'll just till up the yard, toss out the seeds from that Super Survivalist Survival Seed Bank that they bought 15 years ago for $19.95 and just wait for the magic to happen.  There's a phrase used to describe people like that:  dead from starvation.

If you have never gardened, you need to start gardening now.  If you have gardened but aren't gardening now, you need to restart gardening now.  I'm not too proud to say that in this I have to take my own advice.  We haven't gardened, even in containers, for several years.  We won't this year, but by next year will will restart, even if it is just back to containers.

Long term, there is between 1/2 -3/5 of an acre of pine woods behind our house that are long overdue for harvest.  No professional will harvest them, it's too small a patch to be profitable.  I'm looking at economical (read: cheap) ways to harvest it myself so that I can mill the wood (the trees are as much as 32" at the butt and around 90' tall, so it's a lot of board feet of good Southern Yellow Pine) for use in raised beds and an outbuilding or two.

That much land under intensive cultivation will more than provide enough for two people.  I can probably feed 4 from it, given our growing season and what it can be extended to.  Throw in the current back yard, add some chickens and a couple of pigs, and I'd bet on more like 5 or 6 in pretty good style.  The big concern is water.  I have no water on the property, and the nearest open water is around 1/2 mile.  You can only do so much with rain water capture.  A well is a no-go in this area.  I still have to figure that issue out.

In a long term scenario, food is going to be one of your three most intractable problems (along with security and medical issues).  Better to figure out how to deal with it now when failure means a trip to the grocery store than latter when it may mean starvation.