Farmer Pushes Back at Michael Pollan

Entire read here, and it’s interesting stuff. I don’t even agree with everything he says, but it is still a very informative read:

Norman Borlaug, founder of the green revolution, estimates that the amount of nitrogen available naturally would only support a worldwide population of 4 billion souls or so. He further remarks that we would need another 5 billion cows to produce enough manure to fertilize our present crops with “natural” fertilizer. That would play havoc with global warming. And cows do not produce nitrogen from the air, but only from the forages they eat, so to produce more manure we will have to plant more forages. Most of the critics of industrial farming maintain the contradictory positions that we should increase the use of manure as a fertilizer, and decrease our consumption of meat. Pollan would solve the problem with cover crops, planted after the corn crop is harvested, and with mandatory composting. Pollan should talk to some actual farmers before he presumes to advise a president.

Pollan tells of flying over the upper Midwest in the winter, and seeing the black, fallow soil. I suppose one sees what one wants to see, but we have not had the kind of tillage implement on our farm that would produce black soil in nearly 20 years. Pollan would provide our nitrogen by planting those black fields to nitrogen-producing cover crops after the cash crops are harvested. This is a fine plan, one that farmers have known about for generations. And sometimes it would even work. But not last year, as we finished harvest in November in a freezing rain. It is hard to think of a legume that would have done its thing between then and corn planting time. Plants do not grow very well in freezing weather, a fact that would evidently surprise Pollan.

And even if we could have gotten a legume established last fall, it would not have fixed any nitrogen before planting time. We used to plant corn in late May, plowing down our green manure and killing the first flush of weeds. But that meant the corn would enter its crucial growing period during the hottest, driest parts of the summer, and that soil erosion would be increased because the land was bare during drenching spring rains. Now we plant in early April, best utilizing our spring rains, and ensuring that pollination occurs before the dog days of August.

A few other problems come to mind. The last time I planted a cover crop, the clover provided a perfect habitat in early spring for bugs, bugs that I had to kill with an insecticide. We do not normally apply insecticides, but we did that year. Of course, you can provide nitrogen with legumes by using a longer crop rotation, growing clover one year and corn the next. But that uses twice as much water to produce a corn crop, and takes twice as much land to produce the same number of bushels. We are producing twice the food we did in 1960 on less land, and commercial nitrogen is one of the main reasons why. It may be that we decide we would rather spend land and water than energy, but Pollan never mentions that we are faced with that choice.

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The Oxcart Ramblers Play Crow Black Chicken

I like this one.

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House Gives Itself Three Luxury Jets

Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.

But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.

The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.

But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.

Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money.

More here. And why should we not know which Member requested the additional funds for this perk?

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Big Brother Is Asking You To Report…

I was astonished at the criticism of the 911 caller in the Gates case. More than one lefty commenter criticized her for calling all, insisting she should have just minded her own business and not reported any behavior she thought suspicious.

This, from the official White House blog, however is apparently cool.

Opponents of health insurance reform may find the truth a little inconvenient, but as our second president famously said, “facts are stubborn things.”

Scary chain emails and videos are starting to percolate on the internet, breathlessly claiming, for example, to “uncover” the truth about the President’s health insurance reform positions.

…Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to [email protected]

From Drew at Ace of Spades

Michelle Malkin thinks the snitch program is a great idea
and she wants to play:

So send this link to my post questioning the health care czar’s secret budget and this link to my post on health care czar Nancy DeParle’s conflicts of interest to [email protected]

This comes from her link questioning the health care czar’s secret budget:

Nancy DeParle makes $158,500 as health care czar. Her flack, Linda Douglass, is not listed in the White House employee salary chart.

What is the budget of the health care czar’s office, which was established by executive order in April? How much are they spending on the Internet snitch brigade initiative?

It sure seems fishy to me that we do not know those things.

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So We’ll Go More A’Roving

I have always bloomed where I have been planted, but because we were transplanted so often, I have never put down roots. In the life as a garden metaphor, my life has been a container garden, portable, mostly planted with annuals. Perennials take too long to spread and grow and really see the full benefit of them.

After six years in this state and three in this house, I am just this summer feeling that I am putting down roots here, slow, tentative, thin little threads. It’s… strange.

It caught me by surprise, between wind and water, with a startled bump of realization while looking over the tire retaining wall and the flowers that are growing there, yarrow, white, pink, and purple, day lilies, petunias, snapdragons, marigolds, spiderwort, moss roses, hen and chicks, here and there in the shade of the day lilies some impatiens, and weeds everywhere overpowering everything, of course- and one of my daughters said to me, “and now that you know what grows there and works, next year it’ll be even prettier, and you’ll have the chance to see it improve over several years.”

I stood, transfixed, even rooted, to the spot and it was with a dawning sense of wonder that I realized I could save the seeds from the marigolds and be here to plant them and be here to watch them grow, too, and then save their seeds, and plant them and watch those seedlings grow.

And it was with an even stranger dawning sense of reality that I realized, I live here.”

I cannot explain it any better, and I am not sure anybody else but a fellow unrooted rolling stone could understand it. Even my husband doesn’t fully get it, I think, because although he was the military reason for my adult travels, he did grow up in the same town and mostly between two houses in that little town for the first 18 years of his life. He’s been rooted before, and in many ways his roots are still in the orange groves of California.

I am not used to roots, and it is a strange sensation. Not unpleasant, merely strange. I could get used to it, but just now this sensation that I will live the rest of my days in the same house in the same town in the same midwestern state as my ancestors since decades before the Civil War is …. well, foreign.

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