In Gene Logsdon Blog on December 11, 2013 at 8:52 am
From GENE LOGSDON
I am not sure of very much in this crazy old world, but one conviction I hold to firmly: the more people in a society who have the opportunity to own their own homes and a little land, the better the chance for democracy and individual freedom to flourish. So I am aghast at the way the Chinese government is forcing its farmers off their land and into tall apartment buildings that to me are nothing more than giant tombstones in what will become the cemeteries of another civilization. But what made China’s land grab so poignant to me was that at the same time I read about it, and totally by happenstance, I was also reading Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, “The Deserted Village,” written in the middle 1800s. I had not realized earlier in my education the historical background that prompted the poem. Goldsmith was not sentimentalizing the passage of time as represented by an abandoned village but was writing in outrage because this was the time of the Enclosure Acts when the wealthy oligarchs of England grabbed up the common land, driving off the people who lived there, and bought up the holdings of small farmers too. A little research showed that what England was doing then what China is doing now. More research showed that the same thing happened in Scotland. Read The History of the Highland Clearances by Alexander MacKensie if you want to get really angry. People were burned alive in their homes when they refused to vacate their land. No wonder you can find all those huge castle-like mansions in the English countryside today. The concentration of wealth that built them came from forcibly acquiring a monopoly on the land. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on December 4, 2013 at 8:29 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Forgive me if this turns into a maudlin memory of barnyard days gone by. I do it not out of sentimentality but hopefully to shed a little light on the pros and cons of pasteurizing milk.
I loved it when, two weeks ago, a number of readers recalled some of the same fond memories I have of milking cows by hand. Yes, Chris N, squirting milk into the mouths of a row of cats waiting nearby in the alleyway. Yes, moving swiftly to pull the bucket out of the way of kicking cows and splattering urine. Yes, the quiet calm of the barn at dawn or dusk or especially when the moon was peering through the stable door. Yes, the irritation involved in milking cows with small teats. Yes, the flitting barn swallows and cooing pigeons and hooting owls. Yes, that particularly unique smell of milk, hay and aged manure bedding combined. Yes, a glass of milk warm and foamy directly from the cow. Yes, the separator and cream so thick you had to spoon it out of the jar.
There are only two things in life I know a lot about: stealing bases in baseball and milking cows. Stealing bases is a whole lot more fun. Dairy farming is hard and trying work and the best you can say about it is that it teaches patience and fortitude that come in handy in other trying moments in life—like dealing with rejection slips as a beginning writer. If you can endure kicking cows, rejection slips are a snap. I never worried about the milk; it’s the cow that can kill you. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on November 27, 2013 at 9:24 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Some readers found it hard to believe when I wrote in my last book, A Sanctuary of Trees, that at least in the eastern half of the United States there is more woodland now than there was a hundred years ago. Just recently, a report out of Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Sciences corroborates that claim at least for the state of Pennsylvania. The details of the study, from James Finley, a professor in Forest Resources Management, are most interesting and reflect why the good news about trees is sometimes hard to believe. While woodland is losing ground in southern Pennsylvania where there is more “development”, it is gaining in the northern part of the state, where land previously in farms is going back to forest. Your view can be influenced by where you live. I think the news is even better for tree lovers than the study reveals because it doesn’t seem to take into account the trees on developed land, like in subdivisions. Such trees are not considered part of the potentially commercial woodland, which, as I harp in the book, is a mistake. In fact some surprisingly nice “old growth forest” can actually be found in older suburbs and city villages. A good place to see that is in Cleveland, Ohio which I happen to be familiar with. In fact, if you fly low over most of our cities and villages you will get the impression that parts of them from the air look like forest cover. If they were managed properly, those trees could become part of our supply of wood.
Pennsylvania, according to the study, is 59% forested, about what it has been for the last several decades. This is the case for other states east of the Mississippi, and some in the west too. More…