Today’s Ramblings

We had a sunny day today, not too cold.  I had the day off and I walked around the lawn and the prairie patch and took a few photos.

I found a common milkweed and photographed it against the sky.  I used fill flash, which almost bleaches out the colors.  Natural light might have been better, but I sort of like this look as well.

This small tomato-like berry is a horse-nettle.

This is a similar plant, the ground cherry.

The multifloral rose that grows in an increasing impenetrable mass by our shed seems to have been fooled by the unusual weather, and grown some small leaves that are dead.

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Lichen Christmas

We are having very unusual weather for Christmas.  Rain, lightning, thunder, and temperatures predicted to be as high as 50 degrees F.

During a gap in the rain I went outside and took a photo of a lichen.  Nothing rare, just one growing on old farm metal.12-25-160015

They become spectacular after a rain.

So this is my Christmas greeting.  If you haven’t seen the beauty, look for it.

Merry Christmas.

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The Dakota Access Pipeline and Public Hearings

Protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline are all over the news.  Some say this is a normal infrastructure project, and it is a more efficient way to transport oil.  There are “news” reports out about how the protesters are essentially professional agitators and environmental extremists.   Part of the argument states that there were a large number of public hearings and that the agitators did not attend those meetings but try to make a big fuss outside of the system.

I would offer an argument about the process, from the perspective of an environmental professional, and from my perspective of what happened here in Iowa.  A lot of the anger on the part of the protesters comes from the lack of legitimate public hearings.

Large projects like this involve the solicitation of public input.  A project is funded and mostly designed, then government agencies go out to the public and interested parties and ask for comments.  This is an asymmetrical process–by the time the meetings are held the project can be very much underway.

Usually there are people who want to stop the project altogether, and the agency does have that power.  But that seldom happens.  More often than not, there are smaller areas of concern that can be addressed.  Small compromises can go a long way to ease tensions.

There were public meetings in Iowa.  But by the time they happened, pipe was already visible in many locations around the state.  And the proponents of the pipeline had people lined up to give comments at the meetings–welders, construction workers, and other people who expected employment as a part of the project.

Typically, the speakers alternated between opponents of the project and proponents.  On the surface that sounds fair.  The net effect, however, is the same as asking someone for their opinion then telling them they are wrong as soon as they give it.  They might as well have been revving up the engines on the bulldozers during the meetings.

So all negative feedback to the project was countered as it was given.  There was no compromise.  People whose voices were not heard within the system felt passionately that there was no attempt to hear their grievances.

Much of the right-of-way for the project was purchased from willing sellers.  But for some people who live on the land and who work the land the value of the land goes well beyond money.  And to take that land and ruin it, using eminent domain, and to give them no voice in the process is simply wrong.

Passions run high.  Had the public hearings been conducted without the interference of the proponents of the project the project would still have been approved.  There might still have been protests.

But gasoline was poured on the fire.  And the proponents of the pipeline are the ones who poured it on.


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There is Nothing to Fear…

The dark-skinned people just don’t fit in.  They do not learn our languages and customs.  When they mix with us there is often violence.  They are not Christians.

It is to the economic benefit of the country that they be removed.  So the President addressed the Congress:

“It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid. It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.
What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization and religion?
The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive change by a milder process. The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual. Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing? To better their condition in an unknown land our forefathers left all that was dear in earthly objects. Our children by thousands yearly leave the land of their birth to seek new homes in distant regions. Does Humanity weep at these painful separations from everything, animate and inanimate, with which the young heart has become entwined? Far from it. It is rather a source of joy that our country affords scope where our young population may range unconstrained in body or in mind, developing the power and facilities of man in their highest perfection. These remove hundreds and almost thousands of miles at their own expense, purchase the lands they occupy, and support themselves at their new homes from the moment of their arrival. Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it can not control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home to purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode? How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions! If the offers made to the Indians were extended to them, they would be hailed with gratitude and joy.
And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal, but generous. He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States and mingle with their population. To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.”

The speech is from Andrew Jackson’s address to Congress on December 6, 1830.

Photo of Donald Trump, highly modified, is by Michael Vadon (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.
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Chief Poweshiek on a Freedom Rock

Over the years I have posted stories around a butterfly, Oarisma poweshiek, or the Poweshiek skipper.  This butterfly was discovered in Grinnell, Iowa and named after the county of its discovery and also the Meskwaki chief that the county was named for.

Iowa is fortunate enough to have a highly talented artist who created a very unique mural on a rock that was sitting in a rural field a number of years ago.  That mural was called the “Freedom Rock”, and it created a sensation when it first appeared.

Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II is the original artist, and he is creating smaller versions on a county-by-county basis in Iowa.

Here are some photos of Poweshiek County’s freedom rock, including the painting of Chief Poweshiek.





The veterans were all originally from the county.

The rendition of Poweshiek is pretty close to the portraits that were painted of him in life.

This freedom rock can be found in Montezuma, Iowa near the courthouse.  Worth the visit.

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They call it the “death tax”

Politics this year has focused on personalities and not on issues.  And that is a shame.

But one issue that has come up is the inheritance tax or the estate tax.  The Republicans call it the “Death tax,” and oppose it and seem to want it repealed all together.   They argue that it kills family farms and small businesses—the assumption being that everyone who inherits money will keep the family farm or business going.


I don’t like paying taxes but I do understand that taxes go to pay for things we need—roads, schools, police forces, courts, and national defense.  So someone has to pay for that stuff.  I just think the taxes should be as fair as possible

I did a little math, and greatly simplified some of the calculations.

Let’s say you are on the low end of the pay scale.  You make an average wage of $10.00 per hour.  You work 40 hours a week, and work 45 years then retire.

You will earn $936,000 over your lifetime, and if you pay taxes at this year’s rates  (filing at the single rate) you will pay $119,508.75 in federal income taxes.

Let’s say you average $100,000 per year.  Your lifetime earnings are $4,500,000, and you have paid $946,620.  You paid taxes at a higher rate than the person earning less.  You work hard, he works hard also.

Now let’s say someone dies and you inherit five million dollars.  I am sorry for your loss.

How much do you owe in federal inheritance tax?  Zilch point shit.  Nothing.  It is not counted as income, either.  You did not work to get this income.


So one guy earns almost a million and pays over a hundred thousand in tax.  The next guy earns four and a half million and pays almost a million in tax.  The last guy gets five million, does not work at all for it, and pays no tax.

I’m no tax expert, but that does not seem fair at all.

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Fall Color

Fall colors have not been as spectacular this year as in recent years.  Autumn has been drier than normal, so the leaves mostly dry up and turn brown, or seem to fall off sooner than they would otherwise.  Still, there is color to be found.


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Aster Visitors

Late in the year few flowers are blooming except asters.  I am not sure the species, nor have I taken the time to identify the insects that I photographed.  Maybe it is because I am hearing the presidential debates in the background, but I want to think visually, and forget about the verbal world now.





I almost can’t hear what they are saying.

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Bugs I Hate

I admit that I am a little different than most folks.  I enjoy watching insects.  I find their behaviors fascinating and some are quite beautiful.  I like most and there are some I am pretty indifferent about.  And then there are some that I really hate.


The tiny bugs to the right are insidious flower bugs, or minute pirate bugs, Orius insidious.  The fly to the left is really small, so you can get a good idea of the size of these bugs.  O. insidious is widespread in the environment, and are voracious predators of small insects and mites.  As such, they are usually considered “good” insects.  Most of the year they are widespread and you will probably not encounter one.

However, here in Iowa, when the crops are being picked–soybeans in particular, but also corn, these bugs suddenly find themselves without a habitat where they prefer to be.  So they leave.  As they fly around looking for a place to live, they sometimes land on people.  And they bite when they do.

Two thirds of Iowa is row crop land, and if you live in the country the percentage is higher.  So they wonder around looking for habitat, and you might be it–they might have to bite you to find out if you are.  Their bite hurts, and there are a lot of these tiny insects.

Other places have “no-see-ums” that are flies or gnats.  What bites us here, and what we call no-see-ums are these tiny pirate bugs.

I hate ’em.


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Attitude in a Small Package

I split some firewood yesterday.  The wood was still fairly wet, from a branch which fell in the summer of 2015.  It still had bark on it, but the bark was loose, allowing for lots of critters to live underneath.

I saw this pseudoscorpion once I had freed some bark from the wood.9-24-160032

Although I don’t see them often, I suspect that pseudoscorpions are not uncommon here.  They are small.  The average grain of sand is larger.  But pseudoscorpions have cool looking claws and seem to project an attitude that grains of sand do not have.

They have grain of sand bodies with pea gravel-sized attitude.

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