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In addition to its ‘how-to’ features, this blog documents the evolution of a Northern Michigan fence. Who knew?

Once we’d settled, but before we moved in, we identified the area where we wanted the garden and dooryard orchard. Initially, we’d envisioned it further up the hill, only to realize that the upper area of the property is shaded by the hill, all afternoon. So we selected a sunny patch further down. Then we put in a pretty standard fence–your basic t-post, four foot fence. (Initially it was electrified for the bees, but later we moved them up the hill.) Then we planted our trees.

Then the deer came, jumped the fence and ate the tops off of all our baby trees. Sigh.   We pruned as best we could to salvage them and put a wobbly extension on the fence (as well as a run of rabbit proof fencing along the bottom.) We were surprised that there wasn’t some off-the-shelf fence-extension kit available at the big box stores. Our wobbly extension (sticks and twine held in place with zip ties) lasted a couple years, before we had to redo it. The fruit trees survived, and then thrived.

Then, this year, the fence extension started to fall again. The damn deer noted it immediately, hopped it (tearing it down even more) and did a little of their own winter pruning on the trees again. The good news was that, this time, the trees are much bigger, and the damage far less threatening to the survival of the orchard.

So, this time, Rick wanted a sturdier fence extension, and one that was clearly visible to the deer, so they wouldn’t get hung up in it, tearing it down with them. It turned out pretty well. This is the result.

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For those who might need to fortify their own fences, he used PVC pipe parts (a reducer that capped the t-post, then a short length of extension and a cap. Most of the pipe we had leftover from plumbing the house. We used some of the former electric fence tape, because we already had it, and it’s visible. You could also use clothes line (and drill it instead of cutting slots for the tape.) We’re now back up to the height which has previously been successful in dissuading the deer–only this is much sturdier, and hopefully will last longer. If the UV starts to erode the pipe, we’ll paint it, but for now the bright white suits our purposes.

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With the house and barn built (at least usable, if not completely finished), this is the year we want to focus on the garden. With the new fence in place, our efforts will not be in vain.

I suppose it would have been easier, had we known back at the beginning that we needed to protect the garden from leaping deer as well as hopping bunnies, but if we knew then, what we know now, we might have been daunted from even starting.

We’ve been practicing social isolation, but that is a lot like our rural lives in any event. As we watch from the sidelines, it is increasingly frustrating to observe behaviors that endanger us all. And I’m not talking about the idiots who insist that it’s all a hoax and refuse to adjust to new conditions. After all, those idiots got their information from other idiots–idiots in power.

Yes, it’s the idiots in power that have me frustrated. Folks who were told this would be bad–and instead of preparing, instead of educating the populace, they denied it all, and called it a hoax, blamed others and, in some particularly despicable cases, kept it all hush while they dumped their stocks on the market. Yes, while they should have been making preparations, some were making profits. (Worse yet, some actually invested in sectors that would be benefit from the tragedy.)

This virus is the gift of globalism. Brought to us in America by wealthy tourists and business travelers. In a more perfect world, we’d have been diligent. We’d have been ready to treat the afflicted before this got into the general population. Part of the surprise is in who gets it. Most epidemics are bottom up. They fester in the undernourished, the poor and those forced into crowded conditions. But corona virus is well-named–the crown. It came to us on the heels of international travel, not exactly the bailiwick of the unwashed masses. And those who’ll suffer the most are older people, with a particular emphasis on men. Go figure. You’d think that, with odds like those, the folks in power would sit up and take notice. In this country, this viral infection is the ultimate (and perhaps the only) ‘trickle down.’ Over time, we’ll all be exposed. But wealth may well determine who gets the testing, the ICU beds, and the ventilators.

Don’t get me wrong. In the end, we’ll all pay for it, in suffering and deaths and taxes. Even as we should be focusing on solutions, our government is proposing bail-outs to big business. Not that we don’t need to cushion the blows to the economy, we do. But once again, it’s about who gets it. Who reaps the rewards of the pandemic. While the true victims pay with their lives, the folks in power are parceling out the benefits to their friends and patrons. Believe me, I get it.

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I woke up early, just in time to hear the start of the gunfire. While that sounds alarming, it’s not that unusual–we live about a half mile from a local gun range. What is disconcerting, but oddly normal, is how every adverse news event these days triggers a serious uptick in the use at the gun range.

A stock market drop can do it. Any one of our flavor-of-the-week mass shootings will do it. Political instability can do it. So you just know that the threat of corona virus has them all out blasting away at the range. After all, they may need that firepower if they run low on toilet paper.

I went grocery shopping two days ago. This was not some desperate, Mad Max, dash for supplies; it was my regular grocery day. I’d heard the toilet paper stories–with some mirth. But things were not so light-hearted at Costco. They had employees guarding the bathroom tissue, to ensure that the one-to-a-customer rule was enforced. Sheesh!

But what was of real concern was that it is clear that people are hoarding food. There were no bananas, no organic lettuce, no ground beef (regular or organic), no organic chicken and only a smattering of regular chicken. I actually found a package of organic chicken drumsticks, mixed in a section of chicken wings. I was holding it, looking for more, when a woman next to me tersely demanded to know where I’d found it. She looked tense, and her eyes were locked on my find.

I did find one package of “utility chicken”–cheap cuts that we buy to supplement the kittens’ food. I added that to my cart. In the canned goods department, people were filling their carts. It’s all a little disconcerting. When I got home, the utility chicken was not in with my groceries, nor on my receipt. Apparently somebody lifted it from my cart as I shopped. Sheesh. I spent far less than intended–but it’s a false savings, as it will require a second trip.

Yesterday they closed the schools and public facilities. We’ve had to cancel, or maybe postpone, our Beginning Beekeeping Class. I’m sad about that, but believe that caution is the best plan in these things. If most of us stay home for a bit, hopefully we can knock down this viral head of steam enough to preserve medical resources for those who’ll need them. It’s called flattening the curve. It’s not alarming, it’s just good sense.

But in the meantime, I wish those fools would lay off on the target practice. In the context of the rest of this, it is a bit unnerving.

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“Did you hear that?” I called from the kitchen.

“What?”

“The chickens are squawking. It’s not the rooster, it’s the chickens.”

“Hmmm. Haven’t heard that in a while…do ya think?”

We don’t use lights on our chickens in the winter. We could, and then they’d lay during the dark months. Of course, unless we invested in equipment and did a lot of experiments…those eggs would freeze, and be of no use. And, it cannot be good to have that output of extra energy for egg laying, when it takes so much to just keep warm all winter. So we don’t. We think of winter as chicken sabbatical.

After a bit, the squawking resumed.

“You hear that?”

“I’m going.” He pulled on his boots and jacket.

Sure enough, his investigation was rewarded with two fresh eggs, the first of the season.

He came in and proudly displayed the bounty.

I nodded. “Makes perfect sense.”

“Yeah, with the longer days…”

“Well, and the extra light from Day Light Savings.”

He had to squint, eyeing me, to see if I was kidding.

 

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This is my bare minimum. You have to do at least this, to qualify to bitch, complain, rant, spew, pontificate or carry on in whatever form you prefer about the state of the union. Of course, you can roll up your sleeves and do more. Please do. But I don’t want to hear a peep out of anyone, if that individual failed to vote.

Voting. Way more effective than whining (especially on the internet.)

Here we are, facing a potential pandemic with our pants down. Over the past two years we have disassembled our domestic epidemic capabilities, at the same time that we dismantled our international assistance for disease control. If this were Star Trek, we’d have lost our warp drive at the same time our shields were down.

But here’s the good news. At this point, we’re looking at an illness that only kills 2 to 3% of it’s victims–maybe less with good medical care. We’ve had the good fortune to have our shortcomings pointed out in a dry-run epidemic. (I do not, in any way, want to undermine the suffering of those afflicted in a serious way.) But, from a national perspective, this is a slap on the wrist for our failure to remain ready for the threat. We can learn from this.

Of course, there are ugly lessons out there. The first round of flu in 1918 was relatively benign–before it mutated into the lethal form. And so, we should keep our eyes open. But the lessons of 1918 should not be lost–keep the public informed. Tell the truth. If you’re going to ask folks to participate in minimizing risks, you need to be honest about what the risks are. So far, we’re not rising to the occasion here. It’s not a good idea to call the pandemic a hoax–while at the same time, congratulating yourself for handling it well–when, in fact, you’ve done nothing. Less than nothing.

We can do better, even without quality leadership. We can educate ourselves about the risks, we can take steps to avoid the spread of illness. We can be ready to self-isolate if necessary. We can assist others if there’s need. Who wouldn’t be willing to drop off some gatorade and a casserole for a neighbor? Flex our community muscles and we may just discover that we actually have a community.

And, we can avoid the ugliness that comes with any epidemic. If infected, self-isolate. If exposed, don’t expose others. You cannot outrun a virus. Exercise that ancient Ring-Around-the-Rosy wisdom and resist the urge to run, and spread, the illness. Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Drink plenty of fluids and get adequate rest. All of us can engage in common-sense self care. And, stick to science.

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Two bundles of grey fur. There are those who will say that animals do not have “personalities,” that they merely respond to your training. Try getting two. Siblings. Biologically, these two kittens are pretty close, brothers and littermates. When they first arrived, the primary difference between them was size. One was the runt and was just slightly over half the size of the other.

Now, he’s catching up. So much so that we sometimes have trouble telling them apart. Their markings are near identical–grey coats with a whisper of tabby. But you need only watch them for a few minutes to know who is who. The runt is bouncing-off-the-walls-batshit-crazy. He’s totally engaged, and addicted to his people. For him anything is a game, and he is up to the challenge. He follows us everywhere.

The larger kitten, Ollie, is mellow and reserved. Sometimes we wonder is he’s okay, but only because the comparison is so dramatic. He’s just fine. Really. We know that because he becomes fully engaged when he goes outside. He’s all cat–brave and intrepid, exploring the property, even in deep snow. It’s not even that he’s shy inside, but next to Mr. Personality, he seems so. He’s just a softer, gentler version.

Obviously, these doppelgängers have the same food, the same environment, and similar genetics and yet the differences are marked. We don’t think that we contribute to the difference in how they’re treated (although that little guy sometimes requires self-defense maneuvers.) So, innately they must come pre-wired with different characters. Not so different than the rest of us.

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