Thursday, March 25, 2010

Double Time March .

March is near an end, it has been warm and dry. Most of the snow is gone.

It is chilly in the morning and you still need a hat when putting out the hay.
I think I have about the best drive to work possible. Except the "no drive" work situation is still always the best, I think.

I take the back roads from Forest Lake to Stillwater. It is scenic and rolling and you always see deer, turkey, pheasant, happy cows, hawks, raccoon or something.

I work at a horse barn that happens to have a tree service attached to it.
I feel I can fit in to a place like this.

Today I helped the morning chores. Richard put out the hay before I got there so I just started putting them out.

Every barn is different. One of the unique things here is the topography. We are adjacent to a creek falling into the Saint Croix River.

The grounds are essentially three tiers.

The lower one, south and east (towards the St. Croix) is three large paddocks.

When you leave the barn out the back; if you go right, and after passing six medium paddocks, you go down about fifteen feet to the lower big three paddocks.

The Barn is laid out in an "L" shape on the second tier. The older barn is the short leg of the "L".

If you go out the door of the old barn and take a left; you go up about twenty feet to the upper tier. There are three medium paddocks, then three more and then in the way back is a huge paddock for the herd and even more wooded rolling ground for trail riding.

If instead of going up the hill, you exit the old barn and go forward you get to a large pole barn housing a tree service.

Putting out and bringing in the horses is a fair amount of leg work. Not just is it way over there, it's also up there; or down there.

I am comfortable in both buildings and work in both on a regular basis.

Today for example, I put out the horses, cleaned the stalls, swept the barn then went for lunch.

Then I came back, grabbed my climbing spurs and jumped in the truck into Stillwater to climb and drop some small Norway Pines.

We were in a nice old ladies backyard and we didn't want to damage any of the other standing trees nearby.

Mike and I got there no problem. I got out and was immediately greeted by a fierce little rag-hound with a bandanna and a yap that didn't quit.

It was the funniest thing, he meant business, and was fast on those little feet.

I just ignored him.

She boxed him up. I climbed and Mike worked the rope. The pines were dead, but two needed to be topped to prevent damage to the other trees. The other one we just notched and dropped, with a line for control.

The sun was out but it was chilly, I even wore my barn coat climbing up the tree.

We packed up and came back home, her son was going to do the clean-up.
I filled out my time card and left the barn/tree service for home by three pm.

Tomorrow is Friday, payday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Waterloo Two?

I am an amateur student of the lessons to be learn from conflicts. The attempt to impose ones will upon another.

Big or little.
Strategy and tactics.

I think we would all benefit if we would take to heart some of the most basic facts so painfully learned and relearned.

Here in America we have a special thing. The way we have established this Union, established on the notion that people aught to be free.

We have States, the laboratories of Democracy. We resolve our differences peacefully, by the vote.

We vote to elect our representatives, our representatives vote to enact laws.

All at the consent of the governed.

We have had armed conflict. The Civil War, the War between the States, the War for Succession; what ever you call it, this long, grizzly, tragic and destructive rending of the American fabric was about Freedom.

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy." Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President.

He also said: "Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. "

We should be very thankful for those who kept the union whole, and that we will never see that horror again.

The ballot, not the bullet, is the American way.

Today in congress we have a great debate raging, but nothing like in 1860.

Our President has demonstrated strong support for a bill passed by the Senate, but not passed yet by the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives, like the Senate, is lead by the party of the President, but has not passed the bill.

They say they are ready for a vote and it will pass very soon. They have been saying this for about four months now.

The conflict resides in the fact that a very large portion of American Citizens have demonstrated, and continue to do so, their dislike for the Bill in question.

The 44th President has a lot at stake, this is a major issue he was elected on two years ago and he continues to strongly push the issue.

He has a Congress of the same party, yet the approaching November elections are on the minds of all members of the House and a third of the Senate.

They have heard from, and continue to hear from, many of their constituents strongly opposed to the bill.

Many people have said that if the President does not achieve his goal that it would be his "Waterloo".

What does this mean? What do they mean?
Here is some of what I think is meant here.

First the back background.
Across the ocean in the old country....

France was undergoing great turmoil in an attempt to move past the Monarchy of ages past.

In 1795, nearing the end of terrible social upheaval, royalists from Paris declared open revolt on the new National Convention assembling in the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

The Royalists were not listed in the directory. They were being shut out against their will.

They were well connected to the Monarch and were loosing power and position. They prepared to attack.

Someone knew that the trained and proven, yet delisted artillery commander; Napoleon Bonaparte was within reach to prepare a defense of the embryonic new government.

He assembled and defended the palace, the royalists were denied there will, for a while anyway.

Napoleon was a sudden national hero and star. He was almost immediately assigned the title "Commander of the Interior" and given control of the Army of Italy by the grateful newly created, Directory of France.

Two years later, in mid-1797, the Royalists won a lot of elections and there was concern about them going back to the old ways.

Napoleon had been leading the Army of Italy on a very successful and popular campaign through northern Italy and up to Austria.

Although he was even more popular and politically powerful, the Royalists beat him up in the press for being too harsh with the Austrians and letting his army loot Italy. (Both true from what I can tell.)

In August 1799 he was in Egypt and not doing well, with the desert on one face and the English navy on the other.

He picked up and left Egypt, leaving a whole bedraggled army behind him, and went back to Paris, just as the Directory was weak and broke, and the military had several setbacks on the continent. Unknown to him the Directory had called for him to return.

The people loved him, but not the Directory.
One of the Directors concerned about the Royalists return to power, suggested to Napoleon, a coup to overthrow the French Constitution of 1795.

He agreed, his brother was also involved in these plans.

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte took control of that Coup D'etat by craft and guile.

The old Directory was replaced with the French Consulate and Napoleon Bonaparte was installed as First Council of France.

France and her military accepted him totally, hopeful for stability after several military failures and civil unrest at home. They would gladly accept some loss of liberties for security.

He had Parliamentary and Military control of all France. For fifteen years he directed the path of France.

He had those who helped him to power that would not accept his total control of the republic deported to French Guiana.

He centralized power into the Senate.

After yet another botched conspiracy against him, Napoleon Bonaparte was extremely popular with the French people. He took advantage of this, and on 18 May 1804 he had the Senate bestow upon him the title of Emperor. A public referendum, that oddly enough passed the title on to his heirs just like any other monarchy, passed on the same day.

The French Consulate was abolished and the period of the Napoleonic Empire had arrived.

Through the Napoleonic wars 1803-1805, he and his Napoleonic Empire had "Satellite States"; ruled by relatives, enforcing his "codes", from Spain to Norway, from Germany to the Turkish border. Plus his Navy threatened many of the British interests.

The Empire of the French, the 1st French Empire or the Napoleonic Empire lasted from 1804 to 1814.

However, by the winter of 1812 he had reached too far. He was in burned out and abandoned Moscow with a frozen and starving army when he was called back to Paris, his power was greatly in peril.

Politically, and more importantly, militarily weakened; a new alliance formed up with Prussia, Great Britain, Russia, Spain, Portugal and Sweden against Napoleon.

They surrounded him as he, and his control, retreated. British from the south and the Germans from the north. He won some early victories, but was way out numbered. He came to a point were he felt compelled to order a march on Paris.

But this was too much to ask of the loyal French army, the generals quietly mutinied. To stop the allies, they convinced him to abdicate. He did - to his son, however that didn't sit well with the allies.

In 1814 the Allies made him sign total abdication for him and his heirs, and then he was removed from the continent to exile on the little island off Italy called Elba.

Thus ended the Napoleonic Empire. Or did it?

On Elba, off Tuscany, he was given total control, a guard of 600 men, and retained the title of Emperor.

And the British continually kept ships patrolling round the little island.

The Austrians had his wife, and he was not getting his allowance. And there was talk that he was going to be moved to a very remote island in the Atlantic.

Napoleon Bonaparte got a small boat and escaped Elba with a small guard.

He landed on the French mainland two days after he left his island prison. It was 28 February, 1815. He had been on Elba for 300 days.

The 5th regiment was sent to capture him.

They met; Napoleon dismounted, approached and said; "Here I am, kill you're Emperor if you wish."

Now you understand that the Army, under Napoleon Bonaparte, had been through many, many successful, glorious and lucrative ventures; while now they were broke, hungry and discontent.

They responded "Vive L'Empereur", and joined him in his march to Paris, the Capitol of France.

When this was learned, he was declared an outlaw and armies were immediately assembled throughout Europe to end his assent to power.

Napoleon arrived in Paris, now with a huge following, on March 20th.

Thus began Napoleons famous Hundred Days. The Emperor was back in power.

He had over 200,000 soldiers and chose to go on the offensive, to attack individually, the mobilizing allies before they could coalesce into a single large, and unbeatable, force.

He would drive a wedge between the Prussian army and the British Army. The French Army of the North advanced into present day Belgium.

On Sunday 18 June 1815 the Imperial Army met an Anglo-allied army lead by the Duke of Wellington and also a Prussian army lead by Gebhard Von Blucher near a small town called Waterloo.

A lot has been said about the battle of Waterloo, how it was managed.

Had Napoleon defeated the Duke of Wellington before Blucher arrived, he could have met and defeated him as well, as planned.

The history of the world would have been very different, had he.

The fact is the Duke absorbed his attacks long enough for his allies, the Prussians, to arrive and roll through Napoleons right flank.

Napoleon Bonaparte; Emperor of France, King of Italy, Protectorate of the Confederation of the Rhine, political and military genius, and scourge to many was finally, completely and undeniable stopped.

He made it to an Atlantic seaport and considered escape to America, but eventually demanded political asylum from the British.

Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the small remote island of Saint Helena, over a thousand miles off Africa in the southern Atlantic.

There was no doubt that his rule was over.

Because of Waterloo.

Today the struggle is between the President and his Party Generals; against the opposing party, with support from a large and growing number of citizens strongly opposed to the bill.

To some citizens, our elected servants appear to be slipping from Representatives to legislators, to lawmakers, to rulers.

Alone, the party of opposition to the Party of the President does not have the votes to stop the bill.

The will of the President, with the Speaker of the House and Majority leader of the Senate; opposed to the will of well over half of the People of the United States of America.

This week there is a strong offensive push for a resolution to the problem being experienced by the bill in the house. He appears to be attempting to drive a wedge between the elected representatives and the voting populous.

Like Napoleon, the President wants to win the House fight before the flank is rolled up by the crowing crowds of discontent citizens marching onto the battle field like Blucher and the Prussian army.

The coming November elections are causing many a sleepless night in Congress.

The Battle of Waterloo was undecided up until the very end. It could have gone either way. The Duke of Wellington called it "the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life".

And our present conflict of wills appears to be a near-run too.

The President and his friends have invested about all the political weapons in their arsenal. They, like Napoleon, are down to the most loyal guard.

If they succeed, the bill will pass and the President will sign it into law. It will immediately be challenged in court.

But his will would be forced on those greatly opposed to it. And though he may lose his allies in November, like Napoleon did after the coup that began his climb to power, he will continue forwarding his "codes" for all to follow.

But if he fails, he could become executive of a greatly weakened presidency. He, and his agenda to reshape America, may end up in virtual exile in the rose garden of the White House, while the Congress and States go about the business of governing.

The Battle of Waterloo was not so much lost by Napoleon, it was won by the strong will of the Allies of the Seventh Coalition.

Not just the next Congressional election will be effected by the outcome of this modern day political "Battle of Waterloo".

The outcome of this very important battle being waged today will have long lasting effects on the United States of America for generations to come.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Flooding Minnesota

It is Sunday March 12 and the sky is lead gray and heavy with moisture. Here at the barn the ground is saturated from two days rain, and the melting snow combined with the rainwater is filling all the low spots.

The ground is still frozen and the water pools, then drains as best it can. Often the grade is shallow and the water has to rise to find an outlet from these little isolated and "perched" basins.

This water can be thought of as potential energy, energy awaiting release. In this case, as an elevated weight.

The water eventually rises in these pools. The rising water eventually crests the lowest spot in the basin's, ridge-line divide, that rings the drainage basin, and separates it from the neighboring basins.

In this way little puddles merge on the farm. They spread out as the volume of water increases. Lateral movement begins to become more apparent, water always flows downhill.

Little streams get organized and gently wend back and forth as they connect the low-spot "Dots" on the relatively flat terrain.

Eventually these streams reach a more dramatic drop and the water accelerates. The streams here are faster and more competent; and much straighter. Unlike the situation with a gentle slope, water is not meandering to drop an inch and is not bending, it is straight and fast.

Depending on the soil profile; this faster water, and the kinetic energy it releases in the drop, will scour the bed of the stream, and in so doing incise itself into the terrain.

Often the stream will hit a harder object than the base material it is embedded in. Like a large field stone in the dirt. A stream seeks its own level and also takes the course of least resistance.

A stream may come to a hard spot like our stone, and flow alongside it, removing more erodible material along its side as the stream continues its fall and flow.

In this way the water gathers, flows, falls and drains away. Eventually the rain stops, the sun shines.

The excess water is gone, the creek is back in its normal stream bed. The fields and pastures begin to show green grass shoots. The soft earth firms up and the young green grass grows fast.

Much like on the farm, Minnesota is experiencing the same thing. With unique situations and conditions to the many varied regions found in the great State of Minnesota, the same principles apply.

For example on the north west border, between Minnesota and North Dakota is the famous Red River of the North. It is located on the bottom of the glacial Lake Agassiz. It is flat, and experiences the same situations described above on the flat ground on the farm.

The Red is a gentle river, usually in a small trench meandering along the billiard-table flat ground of rich black loam. However, places like Grand Forks (fork = rivers joining) find themselves in trouble if the spring waters rise too fast. The water quickly fills the trench, overtops their natural levies and spreads out over the broad flat farmland.

The Red River also has another kicker. Because as it falls it flows north, it often melts in the southern headwaters, flows, and then meets an ice dam and frozen river downstream near the Canadian border.

This can really cause things to backup. History is full of examples of the Red River flooding and covering huge areas of flat land on both the Dakota and Minnesota side.

If the tributary streams had a little more control these high water events could be moderated. Also we wouldn't have the summer water shortages that lead to even-odd watering restrictions as we work on discarding sandbags from last springs flood.

"Wetlands", no matter what you may have been told, do not prevent flooding or erosion.

The State of Minnesota has a three continental divide. Water flows to Hudson Bay via the Red River.

The muddy Mississippi; father of waters, gathers tributary streams and flows to the Gulf of Mexico.

Along the North East or the Arrow-head region of Minnesota; from Duluth northward along the rugged lake Superior coastline, these spectacular creeks and rivers carve into the hard basalt and fall into the lake, eventually draining into the Atlantic ocean.

The namesake river of the state, the Minnesota, goes from west to east in a large gash across the southern third of the state and meets the Mississippi in Saint Paul.

It is very geologically unique. The Minnesota River is an under fit stream and drains about a quarter of the State. It meanders on the bottom of a large valley about two miles wide, flat bottomed and lying about 200 feet below the surrounding countryside. The Minnesota River's tributary streams fall from the high ground into this channel that the ancient glacial River Warren carved when Lake Agassiz was larger than all the Great Lakes and needed an outlet stream the size of the Amazon.

The many tributary streams are bedded in highly erodible glacial till and during high water events these lateral ravines are scoured. The sides also slump in great sand and gravel scallops, and these tributary river beds are incising into the soil with the energy of water dropping two hundred feet in less than a mile as it falls to meet the Minnesota on the bottom of the valley.

Minnesota means turbid or cloudy water. One Indian described the term Minnesota by putting some drops of milk into a glass of water.

You can learn more about the Minnesota River and more specifically the Glacial River Warren at the River Warren Research Committee website here. (I am an RWRC founding member and I wrote the newsletters found on the website, check them out.)

The Minnesota and its tributary is prone to wild fluctuations in elevation, from trickle to torrent. The Minnesota River is a sediment laden under fit stream.

Here too, some controls could be used for flood "flattening" as well as hydroelectric generation. The control of the wild energy would also secure the high ground from the growing threat of the inland devouring of the tributary streams.

You could also end up with some very nice fishing lakes and lots of happy farmers would retire with lakefront property.

And again, we could do away with the ridiculous water restrictions the land of lakes seems to experience every summer of late.

We could also use a bunch more water towers.

To experience a real good flood you need about five things.

One is a wet fall that fills the low spots and saturates the ground. Last fall was damp but not a total soaker.

Two is a hard deep freeze before deep snow. This locks the water in the ground and low spots and makes for a wet thawing with no ground saturation of spring rains. Our freeze came before the snow.

Number three is a lot of snow in the winter. We had a good snow this winter.

Four is a quick warm-up that melts the deep snowpack. We've had a four day period of 40+ degrees.

Fifth is a wet rainy period during the snow melt. We had two days of moderate rain during the warm weather.

Although they have been present in greater force in the past, these five conditions exist to some degree or another throughout Minnesota and we are expecting flooding along many of these rivers.

There are ways to prevent flooding, as well as ensuring we have a reliable source of freshwater for the benefit of all.

Setting aside so called "wetlands" is not one of them.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

February Has Marched Out.

The longest shortest month of the year has past and we are now into March. February 2010 was a month of great and deep change and adjustments. It was like a fault line that shifted with a long jarring rumbling. Followed by everything is quiet, back to normal, with just a little disorder evident, easily picked or swept up.

Yet a little unease remains with the memory.

March is here and the sun is shinning and the snow is melting and it is fantastic!

I do believe that with this new spring comes the need for a new (to me) vehicle. I have been driving a little red scooter and it's about done.

I also think I have a lead on someone with an industrial sewing machine, it may make repair of the sail economical feasible.

A couple of weekends ago I hit the Friday meat raffle at the Blacksmith and gave my portable stove the final acid test. A full roast (from Grundhoffers meats in Hugo).

O yes, she passed with flying onions and carrots.

I have been playing e-mail tag with a couple friends from school and I intend to touch base with them. Definitely.

Things are tight, at least with everybody I make contact with. Minnesotans can take care of themselves if allowed to.

Personally, I think we're going to do what we do, no matter what anybody says or thinks.

I am not going to wait for someone to tell me what kind of job I should be doing or not doing.

I, like most everybody else, do not need some program to "incentive-ize" me.

I've got plenty of incentive thank you.

What we really need is to remove lots of these expensive, burdensome, and time consuming artificial barriers that just smothers the warm fires in the hearts of the naturally incentive-ized individuals of Minnesota.