jump to navigation

Tull Me Meet Again 09/02/2017

Posted by zoidion in fruit, History, homesteading, Long Emergency, Mundane, Photography, urban agriculture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Twin Cities ephemera: What a joyous occasion it was, last week: the start of the gardening season. And how appropriate to be under a Taurus moon, rising over the eastern horizon, as a bright sun on a (unusual) seasonably cold day crossed the zenith. After my labors, after putting away the step-ladder and piling up the clippings, my reward was to doff my hat and loosen my coat to bask in the warmth on the south side of the garage.

The main task was pruning the cherry tree, about to begin its sixth season of growth and fifth of fruiting a few feet away from where the trunk of the huge and contorted elm tree stood. After a brief refresher on principles — consulting the good old Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (1992) — I had at it, circling the tree, clipping downward- and inward-growing branches and shoots, removing growth that crossed or touched, opening up the space at the center. It was hard work, with hand pruners and small hand-saw: cherry wood is hard, which is why it is prized for making furniture.

Before that, as moon was actually crossing the horizon, I clipped a half-dozen bud-dense shoots from two of the black currant bushes that sit under one of the pear trees. This is a good time to start rooting them indoors, so I can get them in the ground out front two months hence.

They were enjoyable tasks, performed outside, the quiet broken only momentarily by the stupid dog across the street: barking at me, in my own backyard!

The Jethro Tull song “Heavy Horses” came to mind and voice, with images of working animals and simple tools supplanted by fossil-fuel-powered machines. But there’s the reminder of what is timeless:

“And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry
And the nights are seen to draw colder
They’ll beg for your strength, your gentle power
Your noble grace and your bearing
And you’ll strain once again to the sound of the gulls
In the wake of the deep plough, sharing.”

These days, I’d question the wisdom of the deep plough, but still . . . 

It got me thinking about a moment, long ago, when this country, the USA, in a period of evident crisis shaking its economic foundations, came perhaps closest to acknowledging the nature of its greatest problem: not yet a predicament. Back then, in the late 1970s, the occupant of the Oval Office was someone who seemed to have some grasp of the nature of the “energy crisis”: who saw with some clarity and called on the country to take another path away from disaster.

In Pres. Jimmy Carter’s “crisis of confidence” speech of 15 July 1979, he made statements that ring even more starkly true today:

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

“Sacrifice” — an orphan word in today’s society.

It was not to be. Six months later, Carter stood before Congress in his final “State of the Union” speech and reiterated what had been national policy since at least 1945: The USA would endeavor to be the boss over the disposition of the oil wealth of the Middle East.

Uncanny is how, in several respects, then resembles now, astrologically.

Primary among them, Neptune was then in the first house of the most commonly used “national” chart derived from the sky of 4 July 1776. Neptune had been there since 1973, when the first “energy crisis” hit and the nation was plunged into chaos. The term “malaise” was attached to Carter’s 1979 speech, though he didn’t use the word. But it was apt. Saturn, representing the pressure to face facts, was at a right angle to Neptune (in 1979).


[The calculated time for the speech is speculative.]

Now, Neptune is a quarter-cycle along, and Saturn is in that same first house position: Again, Saturn is at a right angle to Neptune.

In the interval, little has changed, except the country is far deeper in the mire, furiously digging the hole deeper.

Take a look at the outline of the nature of our collective predicament, summarized on Albert Bates’ Peaksurfer blog. But here, to my mind, is the kicker:

“The only problems society does not acknowledge, or discuss, or act on, are the only problems that matter: species extinction, limits to growth, debt, overshoot, resource depletion, climate change, sea level rise, fisheries collapse & ocean acidification, nitrogen imbalance & tree decline.”

It’s a sad story with plenty of supporting evidence.

It’s why there’s a bit of comfort to be found in the music of Jethro Tull, many of the songs having themes of loss and dysfunction. The band named, mind you, after a seventeenth-century agricultural scientist and inventor.


The Year Without Summer 29/12/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, Hellenistic, History, homesteading, Uncategorized, urban agriculture, Weather.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



New lunar crescent and Venus, January 2014

Twin Cities ephemera: There’s not much to look at out there, what with the yard blanketed by what remains after a foot-and-a-half of snow meets with an inch of rain. The weather was so wild on the twenty-fifth that after “sundown,” a single flash of lightning lit the sky, and thunder seemed to roll across the flats near the Mississippi River and up and over this small ridge and upland.

Oh, there is a bit to note: rabbit trails, for instance, and the evidence of their munching on what was left of broccoli and kale leaves, and the fertilizer the rabbits leave behind. (Their little pellets of poop are strewn all along their trails, leaving me to wonder if they eject them as they run? They certainly don’t stand stock still when I surprise one, as they don’t blend into the landscape now. I think they munch and run, back to wherever they’re safe.)

The black currant bushes under one of the pear trees serve to remind me to take some cuttings come February. I cleared out some of the black raspberries out front: space to install some more currants, once they’ve had a couple of months to start roots indoors.

A big tree rat (aka “squirrel”) nest came splattering down on the ground, under the river birch, in the course of that big storm. A few small birch branches too.

But we were lucky: Very little rain froze on the branches, and after the rain, a howling wind dried the pavements before the temperature dropped below freezing.

In the morning, Luna in waning crescent phase winked several times through holes in the clouds, before dancing lines of snow flurries began snaking down the streets.

Thank the gods of earth and storms that there was no repeat of the terrible winter of 1996, when a January thaw brought at least as much rain that was followed by a temperature plunge to minus-thirty. (“Up north”: as low as minus-sixty.) Everything was ice-coated until March. I remember sitting in my former house — the one with the big old asbestos-wrapped octopus furnace — that night as the temperature dropped, hearing the wood in the studs pop-pop-popping. A chilling sound.

2016 ought not pass away without reference to what occurred two hundred years ago: “the year without summer” in Europe and northeastern North America.

In the latter, the mild winter of 1815-16 fueled renewed debate over whether there was a trend in that direction: The “Dalton Minimum” era of low sunspot activity, which began in 1790, was the subject of  much discussion in scientific circles.

But few scientists knew about a great volcanic eruption in the East Indies, and fewer realized what an effect it would evidently have the following year on the far side of the globe. The ever-astute Benjamin Franklin, however, was among those who had noted the coincidence of the eruption of Laki (Iceland) in 1783 and the strange, dangerous weather that followed.

Excessive rainfall, frost, even snow through what should have been summer 1816 plagued the regions mentioned, and produced food shortages and riots, famine, religious revivals, epidemics and migrations: Many New Englanders gave up on their rocky farms and set out for the Midwest. (That is why there is a band of territory from New England to Minnesota that falls within Colin Woodard’s identified cultural region of Yankeedom. See his book American Nations.)

As detailed in William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman in The Year Without Summer, chaos and calamity followed the eruption at Tambora in what is now Indonesia in April 1815. Some examples:

On Monday July 8, frost struck crops from Maine to Virginia . . . The morning of July 9 brought even colder temperatures and hard frosts . . . From Sweden to northern Italy, and Switzerland to Spain, great rain-bearing clouds seemed to darken the skies every day . . . As reports of the damage to grain and vineyards poured into Paris—where the Seine rose eight feet over several days—priests directed their flocks to pray for an end to the deluge.

Some blamed the recent resurgence in sunspots. In Italy, where the winter had been very severe (including historically unprecedented snowfalls), the situation was so dire that an astronomer in Bologna predicted that life on Earth would come to an end on 18 July—until government officials had him put in jail. (Perhaps that particular date was identified because of the prior conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn—the primary reference point for economic and political matters—on 18 July 1802.)

But recent compilations of anecdotal and scientific evidence, the Klingamans’ among them, point toward Tambora as the major factor.

The astrological evidence is also instructive, using the Aries solar ingress for 1815 as a base map. Again, as with astro-weather maps, the lower meridian and the bottom of the chart (representing what is on or under the Earth) contains appropriate symbols for a potential upheaval. It is Mars, planetary lord of Aries, “exalted” (maximally strengthened and effective) in Capricorn close to the point of the prior solar eclipse (at nineteen degrees Capricorn, not shown in the chart below, the inner ring showing the Aries ingress configuration). Adding to Mars’ potency was its closeness in declination—angular distance from the ecliptic—to Uranus and Neptune, those two large planets a few years away from conjunction.


Another placement of note is Venus setting on the western horizon while placed in Aries, opposite its/her domicile in the ascendant, Libra. That, together with the square angle to Mars, is a strong indication of trouble. (Astrologers using the Hellenistic system of delineation would likely emphasize Mars—the “malefic,” the troublemaker, the cutter—as the force “overcoming” the more peaceable Venus because of Mars’ placement “before” Venus.)

Trouble came quickly, with a major eruption on 5 April and an even greater one on 10 April, the one referenced here. It occurred close to local sundown, on the day of a New Moon in close alignment with that prior Venus position. Bear in mind that at New Moon, Luna is between Earth and Sol: a time of high gravitational force upon Earth.

And interestingly, Mercury (the messenger)—in apparent retrograde motion at the time of the Aries ingress—had caught up with Pluto (the god of the underworld) at the time of the catastrophic second eruption of Tambora.

By the time of the Aries ingress of 1816, there was another dire portent, unseen and unremarked: an exact square (ninety-degree angle) between the yet-to-be-discovered bodies, Neptune and Pluto.

That year came the deluge of destruction.

Alas, Gaia is no more pacific now . . . not when provoked.


[ See also earlier post, “Planets and Civilizations.”]

Into the Ruins

The best in deindustrial, post-industrial, and post-peak science fiction


photos and words

Demystifying the Aquarian Age

© Copyright Terry MacKinnell All Rights Reserved

Through Open Lens

Home of Lukas Kondraciuk Photography

Family Yields

one family's approach to permaculture


The weather junkie's fix.


Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency


Home of Long Range Weather Forecasting

Small Batch Garden

Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network

Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency

Autonomy Acres

Tales From the Anthropocene * Urban Homesteading * Permaculture * DIY Living * Citizen Science


Experimental Homestead

Paul Douglas Weather Column

Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency

22 Billion Energy Slaves

Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency

Strong Towns Media - Strong Towns

Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency

The view from Brittany

Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency

The Archdruid Report

Reports and Musings about Weather, Climate and the Long Emergency

%d bloggers like this: