Gene Logsdon and Friends

Starting An Old Tractor

In Gene's Weekly Posts on February 25, 2015 at 8:24 am


I don’t know of a better argument in favor of farming with horses than trying to start an old tractor in the winter time. I have never thought I could afford a new tractor so I know quite a bit about starting old ones. Or rather I know quite a bit about new and more imaginative combinations of foul language when old tractors won’t start. Some will say that it is all a matter of science. A friend of mine, Roy Harbour, who ran a car dealership most of his life, was fond of saying that “if everything is right, you can’t keep a car from starting.” Maybe so, but to me the fact that a spark from a battery will ignite gas in a carburetor, and the explosion engendered will push pistons up and down to make a drive shaft spin round and round so that tires go forward and backward is sheer magic. To start that process sometimes requires mystic manipulations and incantations heavy on swear words. Once I disgustedly kicked the front tire on my WD Allis when it wouldn’t start, and wouldn’t you know, it fired right up when I tried again. After that, I would as a matter of course, kick the tire superstitiously before trying to start the obstinate thing. That worked for about a week.

The first tractor I had to resort to magic to start was a Massey Harris Challenger, circa 1944. It was equipped with a magneto that seemed to me to have divine power. To start the beast, you had to go through a ritual. First you set the gas lever two notches up from idle. More…

GM Stands For Genetic Muddle

In Gene's Weekly Posts on February 18, 2015 at 9:40 am



I say I am against GM foods and even consented to be in that documentary making its rounds (“GMO-OMG”) declaring my opposition even though I hate the public stage. Then I turn around and write something supportive of genetically modified chestnut trees. I have to try to explain myself. I have read all your good responses last time about GM foods and looked at the links you all suggested and in fact have spent the greater part of my writing career examining and reporting on food safety. I am sure of only one thing. No one will ever solve the debate over which foods are safe and which are not. It is a fruitless (pardon pun) endeavor. The most dangerous foods in the world are alcoholic beverages and we embrace and glorify them.

I am against GM foods wherever I can see that they are being glorified mostly to allow big business conglomerates and big farm conglomerates to take more land away from the rest of us or drive up the price beyond what we can afford to buy. I don’t care if their GM foods are healthy or unhealthy. I just about throw up whenever I hear a big international company piously say they are trying to genetically modify foods to combat worldwide food shortages or climate change. Bull. They are trying to make more money and the most ironic thing about this is that they are turning even big industrial grain producers into wealthy serfs. It costs a small fortune to grow corn their way and this year, with corn prices down, farmers— rich farmers — are being turned into mewling beggars, trying to figure out which government insurance subsidy will save them from financial disaster. More…

Will Genetic Modification Save The Chestnut Tree?

In Gene's Weekly Posts on February 11, 2015 at 9:39 am



I am against Big Ag trying to use genetic modification to monopolize the food business, but I don’t damn all genetic modification. First of all it is useless to do so because there are a zillion possible applications of this biotechnology and science is not about to abandoned all of them. And there is good in it I think, although I am not knowledgeable enough to speak with any authority. For example, scientists have been experimenting for some time at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to put a wheat gene (of all things) into the American chestnut tree that helps the tree to resist the blight that brought it to near extinction. The wheat gene keeps oxalate or oxalic acid from accumulating in the wood of the tree. Oxalate is a necrotic agent to which the tree is extremely susceptible, and if I am starting to sound erudite, I must add that I am just repeating what the news is reporting and don’t really know oxalate from oxbows.

It sounds like good news to me because I think losing the vast stands of American chestnuts in the Appalachians a century ago was a terrible tragedy that has not been properly recognized. This is just my theory, but I think that the loss of this tree is why we associate the Appalachian mountains with poverty. I will even go farther and say that a forest of hundreds of thousands of Chestnut trees More…