While drinking tea and checking through news this morning to see what kind of craziness is going on in the world I ran across several stories and reports that I jotted down to consider posting as links. In the end I decided not to bother. I'm sure all of you see what's going on around us. Grids failing and becoming more and more fragile, social and political chaos, ideological clashes everywhere, massive overreactions to illness that threaten to destroy the very societies they are ostensibly meant to protect.
And there's not a thing most of us can do about it outside of our own immediate family and circumstances. Governments less and less have any accountability to anyone and are determined to tell us what to think, what to say and what to believe. Once government, at least in the U.S., was intended to reflect the beliefs and will of the Citizens. Now government demands that we obey and tell us what to say and not say and what we MUST believe. In the long run it's not a tenable situation. Such contradictions are not sustainable.
In the meantime the world becomes more and more unstable. The hugely complex and interconnected infrastructure that make a technological and industrial civilization possible, as we know it, continues to fray and weaken and become more and more fragile. Some of it is ideological fantasy that denies reality and weaken parts of the system. Some of it is simply incompetence. Some of it is moving funds required to maintain the infrastructure to more politically useful projects.
Back in the 60s and afterwards the U.S. Steel Industry kept putting off modernization and maintenance and upgrades of equipment. There were always more "important" things to spend money on. Meanwhile the Europeans and the Asian countries modernized, improved their technology and quality control and productivity. In the end, almost overnight, the U.S. Steel Industry completely collapsed and most of it went bankrupt and shut down. They simply were no longer able to compete, not even with regulations and tariffs to protect them. They sold out the long term for short term gain.
In Birmingham, Al where I once lived there are huge miles long and wide sections of the city that are barren wastelands of rusting buildings, steel mills foundries, and rotting equipment. The remains of that industry are so massive and heavy and pervasive that they remain there today... simply to expensive to get rid of to make the land useful for anything else. The soil itself is probably so contaminated with the rubbish of a hundred years of steel production that it's probably impractical to ever cleanup.
And that's what's happening to our civilization, our societies and our infrastructures. The people with their hands on the wheels are selling out the long term survival of all of those in exchange for short term political and/or ideological gain. I don't think that's going to change for the better in our lifetimes.
You can continue to drive your car without changing the oil, replacing balding tires or rotting hoses or the failing battery. You can ignore the rust spots in the body and floor...but... eventually the car is going to simply quit leaving you stranded by the side of the road and nothing you do will get it started and running again. You will be reliant on your own two feet to get where you are going and then home again.
So I'm not posting any of those links. I'm not going to try to point out the signs of this continued slow motion collapse. Most of you are already aware of it. If you aren't by now then there's likely nothing I can write that would make you aware.
Instead I'm going to spend the weekend focusing on the site. I'm going to try to finish off The Art of Taming and Educating the Horse to get it ready to print and bind. Work on the new Farming books I've collected to get them ready to post. Someone suggested a new Category which I think was a great idea so I'm looking for more books like The Boy's Book of Crystal Radios. The Boy's Book of Science. The Boys Book of Metals that he sent me.
Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s when we still valued the future of young men there were a LOT of books published to introduce young men (and no doubt a lot of young women as well regardless of what their parents and society thought) to a wide range of topics and teach the rudiments of that subject. I think those would make great additions to the Library. If I get enough I might make it a new Category and if not I'll add them to the Education/Teaching Category.
Rather than lament the continuing decay of our civilization I'll spend my time on those things we will need to rebuild after they destroy it.
THURSDAY 02/18/2021 (Part 2)
Back early last year I posted about the a new Executive Order that mandated that the Federal Government investigate and reconsider our power grid being dependent on foreign (perhaps adversarial) nations for our primary large transformers. That was at least a minor step in the direction of making our national power grid a bit more robust or at least a bit less prone to catastrophic failure.
We are currently dependent on Europe and China for the large and ultra large transformers required to operate our grid. Long distance transmission of power over the power lines requires extremely high voltage to be be efficient or even practical. That voltage must be stepped down several times before it reaches a business or home. Unfortunately those large transformers are primarily made in Europe and Asia and we do not have backups and spares in stock. The lead time on some of the larger ones is several years.
Last year's Executive Order was a small first step in trying to make the U.S. grid less dependent on other countries particularly ones who might end up being enemies at some point in the future.
Unfortunately grid security is no longer a matter of Science or Engineering or National Security. It is now a Political and/or Ideological matter.
According to Transformer Magazine last year's EO has just been suspended because... Climate Change and the Environment.
Apparently making the U.S. grid less dependent on potential enemies is bad for the environment.
Seems slightly ironic that while I'm running a site oriented around rebuilding after a power grid failure due to an EMP or other catastrophic event that large sections of the power grid are failing simply due to bad Weather.
(They like to call it "climate change" or "global warming" since that helps advance specific political agendas and ideologies much more effectively than just calling it what it is which is Weather. But nevertheless it remains Weather and bad Weather took down much of an entire power grid leaving large numbers of people in the middle of winter without power and other needed services like water and food.)
It comes back, as always, to the ever increasing complexity and thus vulnerability of our power grids.
Some people blame it on the frozen windmills, others on the solar panels that don't work that great when covered with snow and in overcast conditions. Others say it's the fault of the coal and gas plants which have been on operation over a hundred years throughout a century of good and bad Weather. Strangely Texas (like every state) has bad Weather occasionally and has always managed to deal with it before.
In the end it doesn't really matter which individual are responsible or what technology failed or whether it's both. What matters is that we are increasingly putting our lives and those of our families in a position where we are totally reliant for survival on technological systems we don't understand, don't fully control and which are vulnerable to a widening variety of failure modes beyond our ability to cope. I understand that the people who "manage" the Texas power grid don't even live in Texas. Some don't even live in the United States.
Who or what is at fault makes great grist for the news media mill and talking heads and "experts" will be pontificating and bloviating 24/7 for weeks. None of that, however, helps the people in the cold who have no water, no food and no heat.
The people responsible for the grid are secure in nice warm houses elsewhere with plenty of food and water as they sit and "discuss" the situation and assure everyone affected that they are "working hard to address the situation". I'm not real sure how that fends off the cold or moves food and water to the people doing without. But in today's world we are told that it's "intentions" that matter most.
California is already experiencing this kind of problem. Now it's spread to Texas. I have absolutely no doubt that it will continue to spread to other states and regional grids as we make our grids increasingly complex, add more and more advanced technology and make the management of it more and more remote. The real Rubicon will be if/when the Federal government takes over the Grid. Think IRS level of efficiency in getting power to your home or business.
In the long term if you want to survive look around you at how many technological systems YOU are totally dependent on and ask yourself "What if...?"
It may not require an EMP to ultimately takes down the national power grid. We appear to be well on the path to accomplishing that ourselves.
My prayers, and I hope yours, are with those enduring this awful situation.
TEXT ALERTS FOR SOLAR FLARES AND CMES
Since I'm subscribed to Spaceweather.com I got an interesting email today. They have created a Text Alert system for Solar Flares and CME's. It's a paid service so that's something of an individual choice as to whether there is value in it or not. Since I receive daily and frequent emails form them and at least glance at the site every morning I'm not planning to make use of it.
But for anyone who doesn't look at their site often it might be useful.
p.s. Making slow but steady progress on The Art of Taming and Educating the Horse 1884
NEW BOOK POSTED
I've added The Square Rigged Cruiser or Lorrain's Sea Sermons 1885 to the shop. Someone on the Site pointed out that it was in the Library. I had read an old original printed copy many, many years ago but had somewhat forgotten about it. That it was in the Library struck me as a hint that I should read it again and since I'm binding selected books from the Library that I should make sure it was one of them.
So it's there and is available. As I said before, even if no one wants a copy of it I feel better knowing I took the time to make it available.
I'm working on Henry Stephens Catechism of Practical Agriculture which is a sort of companion book to The Book of the Farm and should have that ready in a few days.
Several people have insisted that The Art of Taming and Educating the Horse 1884 is the next one to print. I looked REALLY hard to see if there was another Horse book that might be a better choice but reluctantly have to agree that this 1100+ page monster is the logical next one to add. Considering the importance of Horses in a farming environment both for transportation and motive power I could not in good conscience skip it or put it off till later.
So it's currently dumping to image files for cleanup and formatting into a print set. Probably be at least a week or so but it's in the pipeline. It will most likely be broken into a 2 volume set due to the sheer size of it.
WEDNESDAY FRIDAY 02/10/2021
NEW BOOK PLANS
I'm going to see if adding the 3 volume set of The Book of the Farm 1991 Fourth Edition in addition to the 1889 Fourth Edition is practical as an option for those who prefer the 3 volume set. It's the exact same material internally. Only the physical format is different.
The Art of Taming and Educating the Horse (1884)
I had planned to make The Art of Taming and Educating the Horse (1884) the next book to put into print but I forgot that it is about 1200 pages long. It is however something of a definitive book on horses, their nature, training, anatomy and methods of riding and harnessing them. It's mentioned frequently in many books from that period and was apparently considered the Gold standard on books about horses of the 1800s.
I printed and bound it several years ago and have read much of it but it's been a while since I had it down and forgot the sheer heft and bulk of it. I'm probably going to have to look at splitting it into at least 2 volumes, more likely 3. My binding machine will not handle a 1200 page book and I'm not sure Perfect Binding (i.e. thermal glue binding) will work on something that thick. So that's on hold for now till I decide on the best approach.
Catechism of Practical Agriculture (1856)
There's another one I just got hold of recently I'm definitely going to do. It's called Catechism of Practical Agriculture (1856). It's fairly short, only 80 pages and is written by Henry Stephens the author of The Book of the Farm. It's all of the primary points from The Book of the Farm.
If you can imagine a list of Final Exam questions on The Book of the Farm this would be it. If you could answer every one one of these questions without having to read the provided answers you can consider yourself a true "Farmer" as defined by William Stephens. It is packed full of diagrams and pictures and reminders of all of the primary information in The Book of the Farm. I'll hopefully have that one posted within a week since it is fairly short and won't take long to format for printing.
The Square Rigged Cruiser (1885)
There is another book I'm probably going to add purely for selfish reasons. To quote someone's recent comment on it to me:
"The SQUARE RIGGED CRUISER 1855 is one of the best Christian reads I've seen in a long time.
I'm not sure you are aware of this gem in your collection. The sermons are directed towards sailors and I assume their families. Its full of wonderful poetry, sailing vernacular, and sea inspired metaphor and similes.
Now that I've read from it I know I wouldn't wish to go through life without reading it."
It's very easy, especially these days, to get caught up in the crisis of the day, this weeks panic being sown by the media, the political and ideological warfare and insanity going on around us and forget that there is a real world outside of all the national frenzy gripping our country that is indifferent to all of it.
This book, a volume of wisdom from a period 160 years ago, still speaks to the heart that lives in that real world and cuts through a century and a half of Civil Wars, World Wars, political and social upheaval. It reminds and reassures us that people are still people, human nature is unchanged despite all of the ideological efforts to rewrite it and that the human soul remains unchanged despite all efforts to forge it into some new social construct to suit someone's agenda.
Even if no one wants a copy of it I'll feel better knowing I took the time to make it available.
JUST POSTED 6 MORE SETS OF THE THE BOOK OF THE FARM
I put 6 more sets of the The Book of the Farm (1889) Fourth Edition into stock. Getting a bit more efficient with the process. Hopefully soon I'll be able to start looking at other books in the Library that would be good additions to the shelf for a wide variety of folks in printed format.
Usually when I print and bind a book for myself it's one to fill a specific need or address a particular area that's applicable to my geographic and climatic area or is in an area where my own knowledge is woefully inadequate but would be vital to be able to do.
But there are many that apply equally well everywhere just like The Book of the Farm. I just need to identify them and get them formatted for printing and binding. If anyone has any specific suggestions as to good candidates please let me know.
4 MORE SETS OF THE THE BOOK OF THE FARM ARE AVAILABLE.
I posted 4 more sets of The Book of the Farm 1189 Fourth Edition for sale to anyone interested.
This is the same Fourth Edition as the 1891 edition but when it was printed in 1889 they printed it in 6 Divisions as they called them. Basically they split each of the 3 thick volumes in half and added a TOC to each one. The result is 6 much easier to handle volumes about an inch thick. I've added a set to my own shelf. The content pages are completely identical to the 1891 Edition they are just bound in 6 separate slimmer volumes.
I may still print some of the 1892 3-Volume sets but I haven't tried binding them in the new machine yet. I'll have to see how well they do.
I changed the cover stock I was using as well. I had been using a semigloss card stock but being somewhat shiny it took a good 24 hours for ink to dry on them enough that a clear coat could be applied to prevent them from smearing. It was taking as long to make the covers as it was to bind the book itself. So I tested and then switched to a somewhat lighter matte card stock that prints like normal paper. MUCH more pleasant to work with and make a perfectly fine cover.
As I expected it's taken me some time to adjust to using a binding machine rather than binding by hand as I have always done. It is much faster, or rather WILL be much faster, but I'm doing a lot of tuning and adjusting of the machine to get it to perform to my expectations.
THE BOOK OF THE FARM SETS ARE ALL GONE TEMPORARILY
The 6 sets I posted Saturday are all gone now. I'm leaving the item in the Store section but showing out of stock until I get some more ready.
The new binding machine is supposed to be here this week. I already have the new cover stock, the paper and the glue chips for the new machine. Also have a heavy duty guillotine cutter to trim books so they have nice smooth edges. My old one gave up the ghost some time ago and I never bothered to replace it since pretty neat edges aren't really much concern to me in books I bind for my own bookshelf.
I'm also getting the 1889 Fourth Edition set ready for print as well. The actual content is identical to the 1891 Fourth Edition that I just printed. The only difference is it physically broken in 6 separate books they called "Divisions". So instead of 3 thick heavy volumes it's 6 much thinner volumes. It's so identical that the last page of text in Div 1 is numbered 256 and the first page of text in Div 2 is numbered 257. One of the pages in Div2 had a blotch on the scanned page and I was able to just grab the same page from the 1891 edition. I checked it line by line and it was 100% identical... but without the blotch.
At the end of Div 6 it even includes additional TOCs from Volumes 1,2 and 3 and instructions on how to rebind it into the traditional 3 Volumes. I just think the 6 book set will be much more User friendly than the 3 1/2 lb, 8.5 x 11 volumes.
But I will probably have both sets available so you can choose whichever. Identical, just the format
Definitely looking forward to the new Binding machine.
At the same time if you know of any other books in the Library that that you think would be good candidates for printed editions please let me know which ones. I personally have printed out and bound ones that are applicable to us here in SE North Carolina and for our own level of knowledge and skills. But our location and backgrounds are very different from that of other folks I'm clearly open to suggestions.
In addition if there are any that you personally want, let me know. I can pretty quickly tell you whether it's a practical one to print or not.
THE BOOK OF THE FARM AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE
I have the 6 sets that are ready posted for sale on the site.
I have it set to show the number left in stock. Once the new binding machine is in I'll make them available again since they can be printed and bound on demand. The current binding process is just too slow to do that right now. But in a week or two it will be practical.
BOOK BINDING UPDATE
Okay the current status of the Book Binding project is as follows:
I'll have the first 6 sets of the 1891 The Book of the Farm ready and posted for sale this weekend. Pictures of the current set are below. I also have a new Perfect Binding machine on order and it should be here late next week or the following week. Perfect Binding is a particular type of binding. If you go to a bookstore and look at any of the larger paperback books they all use Perfect Binding. It's an adhesive type of binding that use a hot glue, similar to a the kind in a glue gun, to bind the pages together, form a spine and attach a wrap around cover. Even a fair proportion of hard backs use the same method.
That being said, binding these 500-600 page volumes together is something of a pain and it's pretty labor intensive. Fortunately the 1889 4th Edition of The Book of the Farm was published in 6 smaller volumes. What they did was split each of the existing volumes in half and called them Division 1 through Division 6. So Div 1 and 2 are Volume 1, Div 2 and 3 are Volume 2 and so on. Div 1 ends the content pages with page 256 and Div 2 (after the TOC and title pages) starts with page 257.
So between now and when the new binding machine arrives I'm going to be building the print sets for the 6 Division 1889 4th Edition. They will be much quicker and easier to print and bind and actually easier to handle and read since they will not be so heavy and bulky. The current 3 volumes each weight about 3 lbs per volume and are about 1.5 inches thick. Volume 3 is slightly thicker.
CIVIAL AND NATIONAL UNREST
I don't care if you're Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, Pastafarian or utterly non-political. The country is in the early stages of major national unrest. Some cities are still enduring continuing riots, demonstrations, attacks on people and buildings, blocking of streets and other sorts of Civil unrest.
Regardless of your political or ideological affiliation you're likely to be affected. Blocked traffic does not have special lanes for various political affiliations. Burning buildings don't ask what Party you belong to. Looting of stores does not check to see the how the owner voted. And if you are unfortunate enough to still be a member of Law Enforcement you are a target every time you go to work. I thank God every day that I'm no longer in that job.
Social media and banks and credit card companies are acting swiftly to nullify particular political groups or cut off service to organizations, businesses and individuals who hold unapproved political or ideological beliefs. Doesn't matter which group you favor or whether you support such actions or not. Actions have consequences and the consequences of such actions can and will affect everyone.
So now is a good time to check your planning and stay aware of the civil situation in your immediate and surrounding areas. Maybe do some additional preparations suited towards the short term. Be thinking about the long term significance of civil unrest and how it will affect you and your family today, next week and next month. As fast as events are occurring that evaluation needs to be redone almost daily.
If you live in a rural area then you are less likely to be affected directly by the civil unrest but could be affected by the actions of various businesses and groups towards people with incorrect political views. In the cities of course the direct affects of civil unrest are likely to be more direct.
Regardless please take care and take a few extra minutes now and then to consider your safety and adapt your emergency plans as necessary to quickly changes conditions.
Based on historical events in many other countries throughout history it's going to get worse before it gets better.
CME VS SOLAR FLARE
Some recently asked me about the Solar Flare called the Carrington Event. I had to start off by explaining that it wasn't a Solar Flare but a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) which of course led to a discussion about those terms.
We often use the terms interchangeably in casual conversation or discussions even when we know the difference. I know I do it myself because virtually everyone has some concept of what a "solar flare" is but if you use the term CME you almost always have to stop and explain what that is an how it's different from a solar flare.
So I thought I'd throw that out here just to clarify. Here's a good explanation from NASA on the difference.
One of the fundamental differences for those of us concerned with the consequences of a Solar Event (CME) destroying the power grid is one that you often see described totally incorrectly in novels.
A Solar Flare travels at the speed of light so takes less than ten minutes to get to Earth from the Sun. There is no warning. By the time you see it, it's already here.
CMEs however travel significantly slower and take some time to arrive. If you look at Spaceweather.com you'll see a report of a couple CMEs that occurred on Jan 2. They are travelling at different speeds but both will arrive about Jan 6. So a 4 day warning between the event and it's arrival here. (For those interested SpaceWeather has an alert system that will notify you of any significant solar events.)
In many EMP novels the grid collapses and electronics are fried with no warning leaving the protagonists stranded and being required to travel cross country, always on foot and with no supplies. In the case of a Solar Flare that would be acceptable scenario except that a Solar Flare would not have an effect comparable to a CME. The worst case in a Solar Flare would be radio wave reception becoming really terrible, perhaps even affecting cell phones but ONLY for the duration of the event.
In the case of CMEs however NASA has a good number of solar observation satellites which are also accessible to many civilian organizations like SpaceWeather. In the event of a really significant CME comparable to or larger than the Carrington Event we would have at least a couple days warning that it was coming just as with the two CMEs on Jan 2 which won't arrive for 20 more days.
For the nation or the world a few days notice would do little good. The changes to the grid and other parts of the infrastructure that would be required to survive such an event could not even be started in the time remaining.
The best that could be done is some minor mitigation of the effects by perhaps shutting down the grid and physically isolating some components such as the ultralarge transformers. Shutting down the entire grid without warning and without the ability to explain since the grid would be down is somewhat problematical however.
The consequences of the collapse of the grid worldwide would be of such a magnitude however that a government's last minute efforts but be essentially meaningless.
The good news is that those of us who have taken the effects of a CME into account in our emergency planning will have a couple days warning and for us personally that warning could be of major benefit. The last minute preparations could be topping up our food supplies, stocking batteries and other technological disposables and many other last minute preparations that could improve our prospects for survival.
I have even seen suggestions that if a Carrington Event Level CME is on it's way you might as well max out every credit card you have, buy whatever you need and "finance" it anyplace that offers immediate financing. Since after all in the aftermath of a Carrington Event level CME there wouldn't be any financial records left to worry about. Of course neither I nor anyone else could actually recommend such a thing since that would clearly be Fraud and you might have to deal with State or Federal law Enforcement at some point in the future.
So Solar Flares and CMEs... not the same thing at all. The first makes for lousy shortwave reception. The second... well as in many things in life size DOES matter. But at least for the latter we will have some warning.
WHAT"S OLD IS NEW IN FARMING
I've been getting the 1891 3 volume set of Stephens The Book of the Farm ready for publication on the site as a printed and bound version. In that process I've been reading many pages of it while checking layouts and such.
One of the things that struck me is how so much of the modern "sustainability" and "organic" farming movement is little more than a regression to mid 1800s farming technology. It's not some dramatic, new, complex technology that sophisticated scientists developed. It's not some profound wisdom revealed to the loyal acolytes of environmentalism. It's not a new profound understanding of the universe which will save us all and bring peace and harmony to the world.
It's actually just the basic farming technology of the 1800s. The farmers of that time did not have a lot of engineered materials with which to enrich the soil and dramatically increase crop yields. They didn't have pesticides with which to save their crops from being decimated by pests. They didn't have machine technology to plant seeds more consistently and perform many functions with far less labor. They didn't have hybrid seeds that produced better yields while being more resistant to diseases and pests. They didn't have herbicides which suppressed weeds so crops could be grown with far less manual labor. And perhaps the biggest factor they did not have machinery which could plow and till and harvest more fields in a day than manual labor could do in several weeks.
What they had was lime for the fields made from limestone to modify the ph of the soil. They had animal manure kept in manure/compost piles to fertilize the crops. They had crop rotation to help maintain the nutrient levels of their fields and what's called "green manure" which meant planting crops that were simply tilled back into the soil rather than being harvested.
They carefully "recycled" the materials, crops, waste and other farm by products which they reused year after year to maintain their farm and it's productivity. They also had a lot more manual labor available (by necessity) in the form of farm hands and large families. Communities often organized to assist in harvests of each other's farms since in many cases even a large family could not provide enough labor for a large harvest and only community effort could harvest all of the crops.
What is overlooked is the fact that yields per acre were far lower than modern farming. The labor requirements per bushel were much higher not to mention the loss of yields from pests and diseases. The modern movements to try to impose those methods of farming on the modern world ignore the fact that the result would be massive starvation in the parts of the world dependent on Western agriculture due to such methods being unable to match modern farm productivity.
What is important for our concerns is that these methods can produce yields sufficient to not only provide subsistence levels farming but generate surpluses large enough to barter and trade for other needed goods and services. Even in the modern world they could produce self sufficient production for a family and likely a decent surplus as well.
Just as importantly these methods require little or no technology that would not be available to individuals or small communities. What strikes me frequently while working through these books is the understanding by the author that the reader probably knows little or nothing about farming and that he needs to provide every single piece of information the reader needs to know.
It reinforces my conviction that anyone who believes the day may possibly come when we are on our own and totally self reliant with no power grid or infrastructure upon which to depend should have a copy of The Book of the Farm on their shelf right along side their extra food, weapons and ammunition.
I certainly do.
(I've decided to archive last years postings to a separate page available below. )