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State of Siege 28/04/2014

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Long Emergency, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Another round of rain is lashing at the window just beyond this keyboard, and I hear a roof vent frequently flapping in the wind. Looking up, I can see the spots where, before the deluge began, I plugged in the veggies I started indoors. For the early-season species, which I’d been “hardening off” for a couple of weeks, I figured they could make it through any further frosts. (The average last-frost date is still ten days away.)

It was a bit of extra work–requiring extra push when I was feeling unwell–but I put individual chickenwire cages in place around all of the cabbage seedlings. Otherwise, the rabbits around here would have them chewed down to naked stems within a week.

It’s also good that I’ve been developing raised beds–otherwise, those little plants might be drowning in the rain that’s fallen in the forty-eight hours up to seven a.m. : 2.62 inches.

Perhaps I was too early, though, in putting in sprouting potato eyes, but it’s too soon to give up on those. I suspect the soil was not quite warm enough, even though I’ve been taking its temperature weekly. I was trying to have my potato crop and eat the potato too.

Perennials are showing little more growth than two weeks ago, and no wonder: There have been too few warm and sunny days to heat up the soil.

It’s a slow start to the growing season: close to what I expected.

Earth Day was a chilly one around here, so I layered up for my bike ride to a breakfast featuring some of the efforts–both urban and rural–of the Land Stewardship Project. The piece that I found most striking was about the impact of elder women on land management practices: The contingent of women as inheritors of farmland has been growing significantly, and many of them are interested in conservation approaches in their relationships with inherited renters of their land. And they are not on their own in an unfamiliar realm: LSP has established a learning group that provides resources for conservation leases, and helps in framing conversations with tenants.

In a conversation I had with the leader of the “Women Caring for the Land” program, I heard that some small but measurable reduction in the level of agricultural chemical pollution has taken place in the Chippewa River watershed in western Minnesota–a disproportionate contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Good news, or at least, news of a good trend.

In late afternoon, I attended a rally in the state capitol rotunda in support of funding for clean energy projects and employment. Followed by a presentation by former Oil Drum researcher / writer Nate Hagens at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus: the natural resources and agriculture division. It was a curious experience for me, who, not having been an Oil Drum reader, had only heard his name recently.

I expected the venue to be a lecture hall, but no: just a classroom. No crowd, but a modest group, largely professors and researchers, attending on a reservation-only basis. The intimacy was welcome, and I had the feeling that all of us were cooking individual and collective senses of purpose, as together we focused on the predicaments of our time.

Hagens touched on the emotional: Economic wants feel better than having. On the universality of cognitive biases (delusions are normal), his example being the brilliant Stephen Hawking’s support of notions of humans colonizing Mars. On cultural blindness, as in the widespread failure to recognize that economy is part of environment. On the industrial-age tilt of biomass toward the human-“controlled” realm: The mass of humans plus domestic animals has reached a fifty-to-one ratio over wild animals.

On the turn toward unreal wealth: Uneconomic growth (the financialization of wealth) has been the norm for the past generation. Real surpluses have been replaced by monetary measures of surplus. (Which, to my mind, calls a question: How are reserves of foods holding up?)

Hagens urged his audience to change words and thinking about energy: fossil hydrocarbon (a once-in-human-history reservoir), not fossil fuel (meant to be burned).

It wasn’t until the following morning that I had a chance to have a look at Paul Douglas’ weather blog, and saw his Earth Day message. (I broke out laughing.)

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like to save money. Skeptics may perk up when they realize clean energy options will eventually put more green in their wallets. Solar power is catching on as innovation causes prices to fall dramatically, but that’s just the beginning.

Last year I traded in 2 gas-powered cars for a Tesla Model S, an all electric vehicle that I charge up every night in my garage. It has a range of 200 miles and is continually connected to the Internet, allowing streaming media on a super-sized iPad-like center console. Software upgrades are sent automatically, making it the rough equivalent of an iPhone on wheels. I’m a car nut, and I can safely say this is the most fun I’ve had in a vehicle in 40 years. The best part: I’m saving $600/year on insurance and my electricity rates have yet to blip upward. The dream is to drive for free, powered by the sun. Some day soon.

Well, sorry Paul, but even this less-than-expert observer can some spot major blind spots and unwarranted assumptions here. For one thing, “innovation causes prices to fall.” Really? From what I’ve read more than once, the drop in the price of solar panels has been due in recent years to massive Chinese subsidies to undercut competition. (But that situation is unlikely to hold up as China runs into deeper economic bubble trouble.)

And the Tesla–you’re talking high-end price that few people can afford. Did you consider the energy and environmental cost embedded in that Tesla? I doubt it. And that “clean” energy with which you’re filling up the batteries each night? A great deal of that comes from burning fossil hydrocarbons. I’d like to see you try powering that Tesla on your own solar panels. I dare say your range would prove to be a good deal less than 200 miles. (Gotta love that “some day soon.”)

I know you mean well, Paul, but I think you’d do well to stick to what you know: weather and, to some degree, climate.

What are the indicators, you may ask, for so much rain here just now? There are several in the relevant lunation charts: the one for the fourth quarter Moon on 22 April, and the one for the New Moon (solar eclipse) on the 29th.

The two main culprits in the fourth quarter chart are the Moon exactly on the ascendant and Saturn near the upper meridian.

4Q April 2014

Moon indicates moisture aplenty, while Saturn represents persistent, cloudy, stormy conditions. The techno-meteorologists are calling it a cut-off low: a lingering storm system, nearly stationary, drawing in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dropping much of it in the upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes region.

Two more points borne out in the past week: Venus (moisture) in water sign Pisces in the weekly lunation chart is in the same degree as Moon in water sign Scorpio in the season chart. Similarly, Mercury in the week’s chart is closely opposed to the place of Mars in the season chart: a warning of more violent winds.

In addition, the solar eclipse signals an imminent significant shift in wind and weather patterns, particularly (and more dangerously) affecting the midsection of the continent. The eclipse, with Mercury, is right at the lower meridian: The impacts will be most acute through this band of longitude.

New Moon (SE) April 2014

That the impacts are apt to be both large-scale and transformative–let’s admit it, a more pleasant-sounding word for “destructive”–is shown by the pair Jupiter-Pluto across the horizon. (Not forgetting that Mars and Uranus, at right angles to Jupiter-Pluto, are also part of the mix of this “interesting” time.) And for further emphasis on the call to pay close attention: The position of the previous solar eclipse (twelve degrees Scorpio on 3 November) is quite closely conjunct the upper meridian.

There’s short-term good news and bad news about all this rain. The good news is that it will likely erase any lingering drought-touched areas in the state. ( See U.S. Drought Monitor.) The bad news is that it impedes time-sensitive field work.

Taking a longer view: Ancient teachings about solar eclipses in the earth sign Taurus is that they foretell crises in agricultural systems. This is likely to appear in retrospect as the start of a period of widespread inundations–Neptune is tied in closely to the new eclipse degree.

Earth’s productive capacities, upon which all of industrial civilization depends, are threatened. In part, it is because of the play of the elements: “acts of God.” But it is also because the time of the established ways is over. Humans have lately been feeding their burgeoning numbers with energy borrowed from the distant past and the near future; we’ve been living on borrowed time.

It’s a tough time for farmers. And learning gardeners too.


(Do you remember when I identified Venezuela as a country likely to be in particular trouble in this period? It has been. It just hasn’t gotten the overall coverage that the Ukraine crisis has, and no cable network has opted to cover it to the exclusion of all else–as CNN has done with the mystery of the missing Malaysian airplane. You might have to do a bit of searching, but you can start with this video.)


One Fine Day 31/03/2014

Posted by zoidion in Long Emergency, Mundane, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It was the first genuine taste of spring here on Sunday the 30th: the first time the temperature hit sixty since 13 October. Whew! That was a long spell.

People came staggering out of their shelters, eyes blinking at the bright hazy sunlight, hands stripping off layers of clothing. Many climbed on bicycles for the first time this year and headed to whichever cafe or eatery had chairs and tables set up outside.

M and I went to the Stone Arch Bridge, the graceful arcing remnant of the age of passenger rail travel. (I arrived here by passing over it a few years before the downtown Minneapolis train station closed, to be replaced ultimately by a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank: the depot relocated to a nondescript new box midway between the two downtowns.) It was thronged with students from the U, young couples, families, dogs–not so many bikers: Maybe they were put off by the challenge of threading their way through all the creatures on foot and paw.

We paused several times on our way across, to gaze down at the large chunks of ice (and an abundance of trash) floating in the uppermost lock on the Mississippi, at the curling sheet of water going over the concrete lip of St. Anthony “Falls,” at the “outdoor stream lab” area used to simulate full-scale river systems. I recalled an opinion piece I saw a few years ago that called for the closing of the lock (added only in the 1960s): There is little commercial traffic above St. Paul, and river ecologists are greatly concerned about the prospect of Asian carp arriving and moving upstream. 

Coming back across on the Third Avenue Bridge, I noted how very rusty the railings are: typical neglect of the old while money and resources are poured into yet another new stadium (third here in a decade, not counting the minor league baseball stadium soon to be built in St. Paul) and the exurban mega-bridge going up at Stillwater. Both of us gestured to a film crew set up on the other side, and M–looking down at a still pool–thought the pattern of foam looked like chromosomes.

Throughout our circuit, I found it amazing that the air was not only warm–okay, warm for Minnesota in March–but still: The great continental conduit of water is usually accompanied by a comparable rush of air.

That was one most welcome respite, though I must admit that the pace of snowmelt has been remarkably steady, with no reports of flooding. Even our backyard has been manageable. But I’m mourning the passing of the Nazca pattern. The view today from my study window:


Today has been far more typical: a forty-six-degree start rapidly changing from cloudy to showery to sunny, rinse and repeat, with plenty of gusty winds. During an evening walk, a distant boom of thunder could be heard. Even now, as I write, the wind roars in the bare trees. Another sharp freeze is due overnight.

Our warm, calm, sunny Sunday afternoon coincided with the Aries New Moon: Following by ten days the equinox (or solar Aries ingress), it was in effect the first day of spring. A one of a kind. At nine degrees fifty-nine minutes Aries, it was less than two degrees from the position of Uranus in the ingress chart: a sure indication of a momentary idyll. Two days hence, we’d get a blast from the north.

We would have our pleasant moment, as Sun also closed in on the ninety-degree mark to Jupiter: a prominent but not dominant feature in the map of the season.


It doesn’t look like anything particularly drastic is in the offing for the upper Mississippi River region, but, as many others (including Starlight News) have foretold, considerable turbulence–geological, atmospheric, economic and political–is shown in the ingress configuration of Uranus, Jupiter and Pluto. A series of cosmic triggers is indicated by the Sun’s movement this week making strong angles to all three. Then: the Sun-Mars opposition on 8 April, the start of a period of release of pent-up energies.

There is one obvious flashpoint in the weeks ahead: Ukraine. The Aries ingress moment, calculated for Kiev (and Moscow and Washington), shows considerable potency. The year’s greatest drama–perhaps tragedy–will likely unfold there.

But the astromap shows another likely one: Venezuela.


There, in the lower right, the lines of greatest potency of Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto all conjoin. Events are likely to show that oil politics there have greater relevance to the plight of the teetering American Empire than the situation in eastern Europe.


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