July 09, 2016

Urgent baby bird picture edition (including green herons)

OK, so 2016 has been a downer year for humanity so far. No arguing that. On the other hand, it's been a pretty good year for baby birds at Goat Rope Farm. Earlier this sprint, a baby great horned owl was hatched up on our hill.

Last week, five baby phoebes who had nested in our goat barn fledged. This took some intervention by the Spousal Unit, who had to intervene to persuade a black snake to seek meals elsewhere.

Even better, we've noticed for a good while that a green heron was hanging around our pond a lot. How cool was it to see that she hatched four babies (big uns at that!):

On top of that, we discovered that a broody hen managed to hatch two baby turkeys, one of which is shown below. The other didn't recognize a photo op when it had one.

So there's that anyhow.

July 08, 2016

Sad days

Last night's news from Dallas was pretty horrific.A lot has been said and written about it. I don't even want to look at social media today. But I think this New York Times editorial was pretty thoughtful. The plague of violence is having a field day lately. I'm reminded of what Camus said about the  other kind of plague in his novel of the same name:

"All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences."

July 07, 2016

A view from up close

We produced two flood-related Front Porch podcasts this week. The first was posted here yesterday and covered WV's neglected flood plans. The latest features a talk with state senator Chris Walters, who has been working hard every day in Clendenin to help families devastated by the flood. He also has some practical suggestions for people willing to get their hands dirty.

In other news, I was sad to learn of yet more police shootings of African Americans. Here's a look by the numbers of just how bad things are here compared with other places.

Finally, here are some less depressing numbers from Pew. It looks like in the states the crime rate has declined even as imprisonment rates have done the same.

July 06, 2016

Another road not taken

The latest Front Porch features an interview with Gazette-Mail reporter and Coal Tattoo blogger Ken Ward on WV's neglected plan to deal with flooding.

On a more positive note, here's something from the UK Guardian about research that suggests goats want to form social relationships with humans. Whatever. The real deal is that they think we are stupid waiters who get their orders wrong.

July 05, 2016

Hard rain

Additional post-flood rains were the last thing survivors wanted to deal with, but they came and probably aren't over. But, as Gazette-Mail reporter Ken Ward points out, climate change is likely to bring even more of the same.

Meanwhile, coal boss Robert Murray, who seems to want to take the place vacated by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, is telling his employees that Trump will make coal grow back. Or something like that. Murray has a fondness for political theater, with layoffs as a prop. You can find an old blog post on the subject here,

West Virginia farms also took a hit during the storm, as Metro News reports.

Finally, while anti-tax zealous hold sway in the state legislature, evidence from Kansas continues to show that tax cuts are bad medicine.

July 04, 2016

A poem for Independence Day

This poem by the great African American writer Langston Hughes talks about making America great again, even for those to whom it hasn't yet been great). It's shown up here before on this holiday. There's a lot of talk today about making America great again, but I don't think Hughes' vision is what a certain political candidate has in mind.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

July 03, 2016

More on the way?

Scene outside Rainelle United Methodist Church

It's been a while since the last post. Late last week, I went with a friend from the WV Council of Churches to visit flood stricken areas. The Council has been heavily involved in disaster response for years. We made it to Nicholas County and Rainelle in Greenbrier, We hoped to get to Rupert and White Sulfur Springs from Rainelle, but the road was blocked.

There was debris everywhere and often inches of mud on the streets and inside affected buildings.

Many schools, such as this one in Richwood, were heavily damaged.

There were many striking images of erosion and roads washed away. 

And, while clear-cutting like that pictured above, wasn't directly responsible for the rain, it clearly didn't help.

Here are a few thoughts:

*The generosity of West Virginians is truly astonishing. There were many examples of people without a lot giving and doing whatever they could.

*The scary thing is that this didn't just affect low lying areas. There was so much water at one time that even homes on high ground were destroyed.

*I was deeply impressed by the Methodist pastors I spoke with who threw themselves into relief work in addition to their pastoral duties. And I know Methodists weren't the only ones. And I want to give a special shoutout to Team Rubicon, a veteran's disaster response group that really had its act together.

*At some point, can we start talking about climate change?

*There will be even more need for long term assistance when flood stories recede from the headlines.

*Finally, and sadly, there's a flash flood watch in effect for many of the hardest hit counties for tomorrow.