Saturday, May 29, 2010

Local Governance?!?

I think it is clear that good government must begin locally and spread from there, but one of the biggest reasons that I worry that this may not be possible is how often I have seen local scale government work very poorly.

My first real experience with local government was during college when I was increasingly involved in student government over a 3 year period. By the third year I was student President and that year was focused almost entirely on the job and being involved with college governance as well as a good deal of provincial involvement. I was able to be involved with academic and financial planning within the college and also had the opportunity to be quite active within our provincial student body. I even managed to be a part of meetings with the Provincial Government department that dealt with colleges and universities, Advanced Education, but I was generally steered away from dealings with Advanced Ed, thanks to my outspoken nature (illustrated by my tendency to drop the F bomb when I hear someone spewing total BS and I know they should know better).

But I digress.

What I was getting as is that even at the very local level of college governance, I still saw absolutely ridiculous decisions made which would only hurt students at some point, all to satisfy greed or ego...or both. And now, a good few years later, I see the same thing going on, albeit at a smaller scale, in the condo that I live in (my brother owns our unit). People do not want the slight responsibilities of Board activity so it seems to be usually the case that those who show interest in Board activity are those who have come up with some way to use it to benefit themselves. Back in January through April the Board contracted a property manager to handle day to day management including condo fee collection and scheduling of maintenance like snow removal and repairs. It seemed to me at the time that this was being set up under some slightly suspicious circumstances but not being a Board member there was little I could do.

So now, as of a couple months ago, I receive a notice that the Board has approved a re-keying of all suites to a Master key. I should mention again, at this point, that this is a privately owned condominium unit, not an apartment. I wrote a letter to the Board stating that I was opposed to this action and did not feel that the Board had the power to take such action. The bylaw that is referenced by the Board (and the property manager who obviously asked for the Board action) states:

"An owner shall permit the Corporation and its agents, at all reasonable times, on notice (except in the case of emergency when no notice is required) to enter his Unit for the purpose of inspecting the Unit and maintaining, repairing or renewing pipes, wires cables, ducts, conduits, plumbing, sewers and other facilities for the furnishing of utilities for the time being existing in the unit or common property, or for the purpose of maintaining, repairing or renewing the common property, or for the purpose of ensuring that the Bylaws are being observed."

So now I get to argue that my interpretation of that Bylaw doesn't include my having to accept a Master key for our suite. If that doesn't work, I then have to go through the hassle of stalling the rekeying while I initiate a clarifying Notice of Motion to change the Bylaw to add definitions of "reasonable times" and "on notice". This probably needs to be done anyway, since the Bylaws are a my opinion. They are full of these kinds of ambiguous, overly general wordings.

Grrrr, I knew I hated the idea of owning a condominium!!!!

But this hopefully does something to illustrate my concern that people nowadays will be able to form fair and common sense local governments. As much as I have seen or somehow experienced an increase in people who are conscious and interested in more than just themselves and material remains a very small fraction of the people I see in general. So very many still seem hopelessly lost in a world of text messaging while driving and doing one's hair, or in a world of celebrity worship, or in a world of worshiping the blessed economy (insert appropriate bells and whistles).

I know this doesn't mean that no local communities will have success in creating their own sustainable local governance. I'm just not sure that enough of them will form along complimentary enough lines to make positive "nationalism" or "globalism" possible. Unfortunately, this is a mindset that lends credence to the elitist view that mankind must be controlled and manipulated.

I wonder if this knowledge would be enough to wake people from their self-involved slumber and turn them from sub-consciously directed consuming robots, back into conscious stewards of themselves and the natural world.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Salvation, For Now

We have finally received a bit of a reprieve from a severely dry spring. Two days of rain, followed by a good dump of snow over the third, and ending with more rain on the fourth day, has left us feeling a heck of a lot better about the rest of the coming year. We even narrowly avoided a frost and now everything is absolutely bursting from the ground.

This precipitation was desperately needed, as I have mentioned before. What we received over those 4 days might well assure that we have enough hay for our cattle this winter. The lake our farm sits beside was as low as I ever remember seeing it. Now the water comes to around where I remember it last spring. These are both a huge relief. I just hope that there was enough rain elsewhere to extinguish the fires that have been burning throughout the province.

Back in our garden, we had been watering from the well already but all this moisture followed by a nice, sunny day today has almost everything that we planted now breaking through the soil. The 7 mounds that I built for this year's Three Sister attempt were the first to dry and the corn is already growing there, even though it was planted a day later than the other corn patch. I should be able to seed climbing beans onto these mounds sometime next week, if the weather holds. Shortly thereafter I will be able to add the squash sets that my folks seeded in the greenhouse a couple weeks back.

Speaking of the greenhouse, I should take some pictures to post as I think the folks did a pretty good job of filling it full of sets this spring. If all goes well, there should be need to purchase very few sets this year. We need to start re-potting some things now, as they are not quite ready to move into the garden for a couple of weeks yet. And I need to get some peppers going, thought I worry that I might be too late already. Hopefully we will be able to upgrade to a significantly larger greenhouse soon. It would be so nice to be able to take advantage of all that sun that we seem to get in February and March now.

But back to the topic at hand. The reduced precipitation that we have received in recent years inspires me to look differently at these periods of intense precipitation that we used to receive regularly. Now I see how much rainfall could be saved for use during dry periods. If we stay in this area and shift to more of a market garden farming style, I feel that we must start planning for maintaining surface water in ponds, dugouts, and cisterns. Really though, this is no surprise to me as it is a basic aspect of adopting permacultural techniques.

Until later, brothers and sisters. Be well.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

SoapBox Thoughts on Arizona

I find it interesting that so many folks who are against police state tactics that claim to be fighting terrorism, also seem to support police state tactics that claim to be cracking down on illegal immigration. This seems a little hypocritical to me, and it makes me wonder if the powers-that-be haven't found a chink in Libertarian armor. If a drug war didn't work, maybe re-igniting race conflict will make the people welcome overt control by the state.

Now, this doesn't mean that I am against regulated immigration. I am certainly not, at least not as our world is currently arranged. Illegal immigration such as the US sees, just supports the exploitation of the illegal immigrant, but cracking down on these immigrants is about as effective as throwing a drug abuser in prison. I say let in those people who really need and deserve the opportunity (if there is such a thing in the US anymore), and crack down on those employers or criminals who exploit illegals as labor or sex slaves.

It also doesn't mean that Arizona isn't in a difficult spot. The drug war has spilled over into that state, in a big way, and many illegals crossing the borders are not doing so by choice. If the DEA in Washington would back off, Arizona could make drugs legal and solve a lot of the problem immediately. Granted, the drug cartels would likely mount a wave of violence in order to try to provoke re-prohibition but at least all the cards would be on the table and Arizona AND the US could go back to seeming like the good guys.

Obviously this is an oversimplified argument but I think the overall logic works. And I do soooooo despise checkpoints and "do you haf your papers please?", which seems to be the only alternative.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One of Those Days

Today was one of those days that really shows how unpredictable it can be to work with animals, even though I spent most of the day clearing barns of manure and bedding that builds up over the winter. More on that "shitty" task another time though.

During one of my breaks, I decided to let our 4 yearling heifers out of their immediate corral so that they could graze some green grass in the temporary outer corral. I wanted to let them have a bit of a graze as well as to perhaps step into the shed in that corral. We are going to have to put them in that shed tomorrow and the 2 heifers that we purchased a few weeks back have never been in it. As such, I thought this would give them a chance to explore these new surroundings so as to be less frightened tomorrow.

Since this is just a temporary corral set up roughly, I stayed with the heifers while they grazed so that I could dissuade them from testing their boundaries too much. But all of a sudden there was a ruckus out of one of the heifers. She was kicking and jumping around, but not moving from the place she was in. Upon closer investigation, I could see that she had somehow gotten a hoof caught between two pieces of steel and in her fright, she was yanking back on her twisted real danger of breaking a bone. Thankfully I have been spending plenty of time with these animals so they are used to my presence. I was able to calm her somewhat and when she finally tired and calmed down some, was able to push her forward and slip her hoof from the impromptu trap.

Talk about freaked out. I was quite scared that she would have a broken leg but she seems to have escaped with just a limp that will likely last a couple of days. A few minutes later I was back at forking manure. Whoo hoo!

So after supper I was going to fetch and put in the cow that we are milking due to a lost calf back in February, when I noticed that the whole herd seemed rather freaked and looking off in one direction. All of a sudden I noticed that the excitement was over a pig that was out and running along the lake bank towards me. Shit!!!!

Turns out all four of our gilts, which are just days away from slaughter, had escaped their pen once more. This is the second time they have busted loose in the last couple of weeks. Considering how much space was available to them to run off, including out onto the lake, we had a far easier time getting them back into their pen than might have been the case. About an hour later we had them back inside and their pen patched up.

This escape brings up a sore issue between my folks and I. After so many years of dealing with penned pigs, my folks (primarily my dad) have gotten into the habit of walling the pig pens with plywood. The reasoning is that they are less likely to try to escape their confinement if they cannot see out of their pen. It is more complex than that, however, since our pens are usually rather run down. This is exacerbated by the fact that we penned these gilts in a pen that I repaired last fall...a pen that had not been used in perhaps 10 years, and had not been cleaned out since it was used. As such, many of the lower planks have become rotted and I basically patched it up in order to scrape by until we sold the pigs.

This whole thing kind of annoys me because I know that if we just built the pens large enough that they could exercise their natural tendencies, these pigs would not be so drawn to trying to escape. I also know that if we designed our pens in such a way that they could be cleaned out between uses, we could retain a slat-walled pen that the pigs could see out of but not so easily work holes into the pen, by which they could escape (and which we could easily climb in and out of).

Anyway, the pigs are back in their now re-patched pen. They are still only days away from slaughter but here's hoping I can build something better by the time we get the next batch of young feeder piglets.

One funny aside though:

The second escaped pig that I saw is the one I would most like to keep as a breeder, one who lays down for me to run her back and neck, came running over to me as soon as she saw me. Her excitement was so great and her mannerisms such that I could almost imagine her excitedly grunting out a question of "Hey buddy! What are you doing out here too!"

The whole thing just reaffirms my desire to pasture our pigs, letting them wander within a fenced area and follow their natural habits. I think we'd still need to pen them in a more confined fashion over winter but I'd sure feel a lot better about keeping them that way. The pens we have now are much better than being in a crowded, hot, industrial hog facility but we could still do a lot better.

I think that's all for now.

Peace and comfort.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chemical Submission

"Underkastelsen", or in English, "Submission" is a new or upcoming documentary out of Sweden. It seems to have a look at the 100,000 man-made chemicals in the world, and the effects these chemicals are having on we humans and the world we inhabit. Sounds bloody horrifying and I doubt that I will be surprised by much in it but I will be looking to watch it anyway.

In other news, I was reading an article in a local agricultural paper today. The subject of this article is one that arose almost a month ago, regarding a Canada-EU trade deal which would force Canada into joining much of the rest of the world in bowing to large agribusiness. This would include prohibition against the saving and trading/selling of seed, as well as strengthening intellectual property rights of large multinational agribusinesses like Monsanto. All of these actions have happened in most other parts of the world, with highly dubious results.

I have to look into this more but I am surprised to see the EU attempting to force these changes onto Canada, considering much of Europe seems opposed to GMO seeds and other multinational agribusiness activities like those mentioned above. Canadians have to stand up against these changes or what remains of our small farm industry is quite seriously finished.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Transgenic GMO's Causing Bee Crisis?

Most readers will already be aware of the Honeybee crisis in North America. For anyone who isn't aware, the really short version is that for the 4th year in a row, bee colonies in North America, and elsewhere, have experienced a mysterious loss of an approximate 1/3 of their numbers. This phenomena has been dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and is "very very bad". A great deal of food production, both for we humans and for the rest of the living world, is reliant upon the activities of these little buzzers.

So needless to say, the search has been on the find the cause.

Some reasonable suggestions have been (and any or all may well factor in):
-cell tower interference in bee navigation
-general toxification of the environment
-some new disease
-various other ideas

Well it seems like transgenic GMO's (organisms which have had genetic information from another organism directly added to or replacing its own) might be able to add another horrible side effect to their list of faults. This research article seems to provide evidence that transgenic GMO's could easily be the cause of or contributing significantly to CCD.

Have a look and spread the info!