Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pausing to Grin about the Grins


I’ve started—and deleted—three posts to Grumbles and Grins, tonight. With the advent of industrial wind in my life fifteen months ago, it seems like I’ve written more grumbles than grins… and that’s not good. Life is about balance. Perspective. Life is about giving to others more than you take; and each time I grumble, there is the chance that I’m sending a cloud to block the sunshine which was filling someone’s day. Even though my efforts to fight the wind energy plan for Maine are purposeful, even though my aim is to inform and educate and energize… still, there is more to life than wind. There are friends and husbands and parents and children. Dogs and cats and moose and red-tailed hawks. Careers and hobbies, white snow and blue sky, chuckling brook and wind soughing through the bows of a fir tree. This is an incredible, amazing world filled with people who are unique. Crazy and sane, stubborn and malleable, domineering and submissive, honest and deceitful. Life is an amazing journey, and if you have a narrow vision, you will miss that which makes it such a remarkable ride.

This has been a week of highs and lows. And tonight, I’m going to spotlight the highs. I can do this, because it’s my blog.

I lost (I think) a pound and a half. I’ll have to check with the official ‘keeper of the charts’, but I believe that’s right. And a pound and a half might not sound like much, but if I picture six sticks of butter, I feel pretty good about it.

I got a call from Larry in Queensland. He woke me up, actually—forgetting, for some reason (called, I think, ‘Bundaberg Rum’) that his Australian nighttime is my American morning. But it didn’t matter. Anytime I can talk to a friend is a good time. And he gave me an amazing treat. He took his telephone out onto the veranda and let me listen to the roll of thunder across Brisbane Harbor. How cool is that--to be lying in bed in Maine and listening to the thunder—in real time—half a world away?

Josie and Eli had good second quarter report cards. One ‘B’ for Eli, two for Josie, and the rest were ‘A’s’. That’s something a mother can smile about—even while asking if there was some reason (called, I think, ‘too much TV and computer time’) that they couldn’t bring those B’s up to A’s. I know, I know… but I’m the mother of some very bright kids, and they know—just like I do—that they can do better. Still, those grades are something to smile about.

I beat Mr. Grumbles in a game of cribbage. A game we began playing at 4:45 in the morning. Hey, if I can be that sharp at such an ungodly hour, I’m going to crow about it. Just a little. Quietly, so he doesn’t hear me. Because, after all, I’m a good sport.

I received a gift from a very good friend. Something with no monetary value, but worth its weight in gold. This friend is a fellow author. He’s a fellow survivor. And--he’s a gift from above. Please don’t tell him I said that, though. He also possesses an overabundance of “Not only am I wonderful, but I’m always right”. With that kind of self-confidence, I see no need to further solidify his enthusiastic claims.

I gave a pal of mine a haircut. When I offered and he accepted, he had no idea that I didn’t know what I was doing. That I have no talent for cutting or styling hair. Watching his nervousness when I informed him of that as I picked up the scissors, caused me to chuckle. He also seemed taken aback when I instinctively blew forcefully on his face to get rid of the hair that was falling and sticking there. I guess, now that I think about it, that’s not something any hairdresser has ever done to me while I sat in the salon chair. But hey… you get what you pay for.

A teller at my local credit union also gave me a gift. A generous give of time, free of charge. I need to find a way to repay and thank her for that.


My oldest son gave me an unsolicited kiss. The act of writing that makes me smile. Guy is almost 28 years old, and yet, I still find myself surprised when I feel that scratch of whiskers. How can he be that old, already? How can I?

These bright spots might not seem like much when you’re on the outside, looking in on my life. But such simple things are my sunshine. My grins. Lord knows, there are grumbles aplenty. But the grins? They make it all worth it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brogan's Crossing by Jack Ramsay


I read Jack Ramsay’s crime novel, Brogan’s Crossing, from sheets of printed typing paper. Unbound, occasionally crooked, with the ink fading towards the end of the manuscript; its appearance was unlike all other books I’ve read, save my own. I read the complete novel—twice—but I can’t say I’ve read it cover to cover. Perhaps, by the time this article is posted to my blog, Brogan’s Crossing will be bound; with a glossy cover, Jack’s name emblazoned across the front, and with its very own IBSN number. That is my hope. For if ever a novel deserved publishing, Brogan’s Crossing is it.

Sam Brogan is a cop. A father. A widower. Sam Brogan is an honorable man who witnesses the violent death of someone very close to him, at a time when he is finally getting his life back on track. He knows who is responsible for the tragedy. In his heart, he knows. Now, all he has to do is prove it, while at the same time, protecting his little girl.

But bringing down the city’s biggest crime family is no easy task, and Brogan runs into roadblock after roadblock. He’s forbidden to work the case. He’s too involved, too close. And yet, those whom he trusts to investigate don’t seem to be doing their jobs. The leads aren’t being followed up on—at least, not to Sam’s satisfaction. And soon, he begins to wonder if something insidious has taken hold of the very people he counted on to help him.

Gaby was his wife’s best friend, and despite himself, Sam finds himself succumbing to her allure. But Detective Dunbar, a woman he desperately wants to trust, is hiding something. And Sam is afraid he knows what it is.

With no recourse but to hunt down the killers himself, Brogan goes rogue. He believed in the system, but the system let him down. And a desperate man with a child to protect can easily find himself balancing precariously between doing what is lawful, and doing what is just.


Brogan’s Crossing is a novel which presents the reader with the challenge of deciding if the protagonist is a hero, or a villain. The complex issue of social justice is dragged--kicking and screaming--into the light by author Jack Ramsay. In a world where justice has increasingly become nothing more than an ideal instead of a practice, Jack forces us to decide right and wrong for ourselves. He causes us to ask ourselves: How far would we go to safeguard those we love? And who, exactly, has the right to mete out justice in a world where it no longer seems to exist?

Keep watch for Brogan’s Crossing. This is a novel well worth waiting for. And in the meantime, don’t make any presumptions about your own moral code. Jack Ramsay will have you questioning everything you ever believed in. Everything you were always sure was right.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sandra Stanton Paintings and The New Portland Community Library--A Match Made in Nirvana


As many of you know, I am a staunch supporter of the New Portland Community Library. Mr. Grumbles was a member of the Building Committee, which was responsible for bringing this new community center to town. For my part, I have held fund-raising events for the Library a time or two in the past. Our children--especially our daughter, Josie-Earl--have often taken advantage of this wonderful resource.


The Library is hosting a series of art exhibits under the direction of my friend, Lolly Phoenix. Last Saturday morning, Josie and I stopped at the Library on our way through town, and I was delighted and mesmerized by the sights which greeted me as I walked through the door. The interior of the building is lit with an abundance of natural light, which has always created a terrific ambiance. But the high ceilings and large breadth of wall also appeared rather sterile. A virgin expanse, waiting for a touch to bring a blush and a warmth...

The beautiful, mystical artwork of Farmington resident Sandra Stanton does exactly that! As I walked through the foyer and into the library, I was greeted by an amazing centerpiece—a set of paintings with vivid colors, stunning realism and spiritual allusion. The Library was transformed into a wonder world created by artistic genius. As I wandered around the rooms, I was amazed at the transformation those paintings made to the atmosphere in that space.


I took several photos of the paintings, and I will post them here. But they cannot do justice to Ms. Stanton’s incredible talent. I encourage you to stop by in the next few weeks and borrow a book or two--and while you are there, enjoy the new—but temporary—look of the New Portland Community Library. Even better, please stop by to meet the artist, herself. There will be a reception in her honor on Sunday, January 30th, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The address is 899 River Road, New Portland (East Village, by the town office and fire station).


These paintings are truly lovely and well worth the trip. And one noteworthy fact: Each of the models Ms. Stanton used for her paintings are real live Mainers! I find that pretty cool! (Said in a very non-artistic, non-mythical way…). Please take advantage of this opportunity to view some amazing artwork. You won’t be sorry.

Below: Sandra Stanton with her artwork at the New Portland Community Library

Monday, January 17, 2011

WOO-HOOOOOOO!


I was way, way, way too cool this week.

For the past seven days, I have been worrying about my pal Jack and his wife, Ali, who were at the epicenter of the terrible floods in Queensland, Australia.

I was worried, yes. But at the same time-- I felt an inner calm. Somehow, I knew they were okay-- just cut off... unable to communicate with the rest of the world. My heart told me I would know if something terrible had happened to them. Jack has a place inside that heart, and I knew I'd know...

That serenity didn't mean I wasn't concerned. It just meant that I didn't act like a idiotic goober, complete with melt-down, gnashing of teeth, rending of clothes. The whole bit.

You're welcome.

But now, I have proof that Jack and Ali are healthy and safe. Three emails in the last few minutes, as Jack's internet is newly restored and he attempts to catch up on a week's worth of correspondance.

I'm elated. I can't stop grinning. It's a terrible thing to wait and worry when you are 10,000 miles away and unable to help the people you love. I'm a fixer of problems. And Jack handed me a doozy, last Monday night.

I was unable to help. There was nothing I could do.

I'll forgive Jack for putting me in such a helpless position, as long as he promises never to do it again. Ever. Never, ever.

I'm going to go fix myself a congratulatory drink. I've earned it. I might even have a DOUBLE hot chocolate, just because! And while I drink it, I will wait --patiently-- for a real update from my "Scots Down Under". (Make it snappy, kid! Grrrr....)

Thank God and anyone else who wants to take credit. Jack and Ali are okay.

Yippeeee!!!!! (Oh, yeah... I'm supposed to be cool, aren't I?)

Snort....

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Propaganda, Rhetoric and Hype


Propaganda, rhetoric and hype. These are tactics used by the wind lobby to ‘sell’ their product. I’ve seen evidence of it ever since I began paying attention to their PR campaigns—a diligence I began almost 15 months ago. The wind lobby is professional, and their ‘spin’ has been expertly handled. Their propaganda is believable, if one doesn’t look beyond the surface to see the facts.

Today, I acquired a copy of a document which drives home the depths to which the wind lobby will sink to gain support.

Following are quotes from a document titled “Mars Hill, Maine Wind Energy Farm, The Most Commonly Asked Questions…”

Mars Hill, in Aroostook County, is home to Maine’s oldest wind energy facility. This grid-scale project is owned and operated by First Wind, aka UPC wind partners, aka Evergreen Wind Power.

Mars Hill was the testing ground for industrial wind in Maine. The ‘guinea pig’, I suppose. Mainers had no concept of ‘wind’ when this development was proposed, and surely, the residents of this town in our northernmost county didn’t know when—or IF—they were being ‘shined’. I would not be surprised if the residents of Mars Hill took these words from First Wind to heart, believing them without question.

“There is virtually NO mechanical noise from these turbines. If you are near a turbine, you may hear the sound of the wind and the ‘swooshing’ sound made by the slowly turning blade parting the air. If the wind is blowing, the background noise of wind in the trees is likely the only sound you will likely hear! You will not be able to hear any noise at all at the bottom of the mountain.”

“These turbines turn very slowly, rotating 10-20 rpm! That means it takes 6 seconds to the fastest 3 seconds to complete a rotation! Numerous studies have been done around the world and have found no significant adverse affects of monopole towers and slow rotation blades on birds or other wildlife in this type of environment. Your car or the picture window on your house will likely kill more birds than a wind turbine will!”

“All of the electricity from the Mars Hill “wind farm” will be used in the region, most likely by Aroostook County homes and businesses. Power will be delivered to Maine Public Service (MPS) and the “grid”. Other interconnection options are being considered.”

“The estimated cost/investment will be $55,000.000.00. It is paid for by private investments of UPC wind partners, the parent company of Evergreen Wind Power. The town of Mars Hill will be a major beneficiary of the project and will pay nothing for its development but receive major economic and social benefits.”

“The construction work will be by local businesses if possible and certainly from people and companies from within Maine.”

“One tourist bureau, at a similar wind farm, reported an increase of visitors to their town of over 60,000 per year. The town of Mars Hill could be a very busy place after construction, too!”

“According to Governor John Baldacci’s office of Renewable and Energy Independence the annual Contribution of annual reduction of air pollution offsets (Based on United States average power generation:

120,000 Tons Carbon Dioxide (Contributed to “global warming” or “greenhouse” Effect.) This is the equivalent of removing exhaust emissions of >17,000 automobiles.”

I have quoted these bullet points in context. I’ve copied the exclamation points, the misspellings, and the awkwardly structured sentences.

I’ve also tossed my head, rolled my eyes, gritted my teeth, and sighed.

We’ve learned so much since the days when Industrial Wind first came to Maine.

But have we learned enough, and will our education have come too late to save other communities from the same fate as Mars Hill?

Those turbines which produce ‘virtually no mechanical noise’? Currently, there are a dozen families in Mars Hill embroiled in lawsuits with First Wind, due to the health and quality-of-life impacts brought on by the turbines atop this ridge.

Those ‘monopole towers and slow rotation blades’? Those slow rotations can be up to 180 miles per hour at the tips. Yes, the ‘rpm’ number sounds low, but when those blades sweep an acre and a half of airspace with each revolution, they are hardly benign. And a quick Google search will show exactly how gently industrial wind turbines treat raptors, song birds, and bats.

The Bentec Study from Colorado showed that wind energy facilities do not, in fact, significantly reduce carbon emissions, and may actually increase them. This study was performed at request of a petroleum company, so the wind lobby likes to discount it. However, it was verified by independent scientists, and other, similar studies tell the same story. Seventeen thousand automobiles? Give me a break…

And wouldn’t it be interesting to see if Mars Hill has seen their number of tourists increase by 60,000 per year? It’s a fact: many people do travel to Mars Hill. The wind facility has gained notoriety as the Maine Wind Wars have heated up, and folks want to see what all the fuss is about. But 60,000 per year? Not a chance. And once 350 miles of Maine’s irreplaceable mountain summits are littered with these 40-story machines, the novelty will wear off. What pulls tourists here from around the world will be gone forever. Maine’s unique ‘quality of place’ will be a thing of the past.


Propaganda, rhetoric and hype. When will Mainers learn to separate the wind lobby’s sales pitch from the facts about industrial wind?

**************************
All photos are of Mars Hill, Maine

Red Tape Venom and Vitriol


Below is an op-ed from today's edition of the Sun Journal. Frankly, I was stunned by the emotion evident in this opinion piece. This is not the type of balanced and level-headed article one expects to read in a newspaper:

Don't tell me you sold all your shares in Red Tape International, the leading producer of the red tape used in government.

Sure, it made sense to sell at the top of the market, knowing every governor in the country has vowed to reduce or eliminate its use, including our own.

Who knew, however, that while the governor was preparing to burn great piles of it on the Blaine House lawn, some legislators would be intent on wrapping more job-killing red tape around a seemingly bright spot in the state's economy.

Perhaps the market for red tape is not yet dead.

Several lawmakers already have submitted legislation designed to slow down and add more steps to locating a wind turbine in Maine.

Several weeks ago, former governor and current wind-power developer Angus King visited our offices to talk about the project he hopes to complete in Highland Plantation.


King came armed with a couple of props in a box, two 6-inch binders stuffed with paper, representing the research his firm has generated to meet state standards and requirements.

The cost of that paperwork: $5 million. That's all money spent before a project is approved or sited, money that would simply be lost by the company's investors if the project does not proceed.

King wasn't complaining about that, simply making a point that wind projects are not spread willy-nilly across the landscape.

The new legislation has not yet taken shape, but it is expected to have the usual components of red tape — more steps, more time and more expense.

It has been filed on behalf of wind-power opponents who really don't care how projects are killed, as long as they are killed.

Ironically, Maine's Wind Energy Act of 2008 was an attempt by Gov. LePage's predecessor, Gov. John Baldacci, to cut red tape, speed up the process and create jobs for Mainers.

It sets up limited areas in Maine where a well-defined process can be used for siting wind projects. In other words, it was designed to cut red tape.

Here's where you can go; here's what you need to do. Simple.

What's happening now is more illustrative than surprising and shows why red tape always multiplies.

Like many issues government handles, this one is contentious. If a legislator or even a constituent doesn't want something to happen, there is always another study, report, hearing or regulation that can be done.

It is always better to have more information than less, right? And the Legislature has always been generous with its red tape.

Time, however, is money. And, of course, money is money. Every new step, new report, new expert or new hearing adds a little delay or expense to a project.

Until, of course, you reach a tipping point where the project becomes unfeasible.

In 2008, Maine made a decision that was, and continues to be, supported by Maine people — push forward with wind power.

If the current Legislature thinks wind power isn't good for Maine, it can repeal the Wind Energy Act.

What it should not do is simply wrap wind power in more red tape.


And here, below, was my gut-reaction to this op-ed, which I submitted as an online comment to the article, as well as sending an abbreviated copy to the newspaper for its printed edition. Chances are slim-to-none that they will print it. We've learned that the hard way.

This is one of the most biased and offensive op-eds I've read on the very serious topic of mountaintop industrial wind. And it shows exactly how worried the wind lobby is.

Wow.

Yes, John Baldacci wanted to get rid of red tape for his wind lobby pals. It was job security for this former governor who hopes to keep his 'hand' in the renewable energy field. It was protection for his friends who make millions from our tax dollars. It was self-protection, all the way. They'd suffered a loss at Redington, and the wind lobby wanted to make sure that that did not happen again.

It worked, too, didn't it? How many wind developers have been denied a permit since that time?

I find it unconscionable that this newspaper expects us to feel bad for Angus King. And has Mr. King really, honestly spent $5 Million dollars? I'd like to see proof-- for just a couple of months ago, he was quoted as having spent $2Million. Could the $5 Million be the triggering number to ensure he receives our subsidy money? Before the editorial board uses figures in the millions of dollars, they owe it to their readers to require proof. And besides... are we seriously supposed to NOT oppose a misguided and terribly expensive plan simply because one developer made a poor judgement call and invested in something which is ONLY a good investment due to the government's largesse with tax-payer money? OUR money? Mr. King's partner, Rob Gardiner, stated in a Highland meeting that wind energy could not exist without huge subsidies, and would not support itself. Sorry. I can't raise a lot of sympathy for wealthy individuals who are selling Maine's quality of place in order to fill their pockets. Mr. King should have thought ahead and considered the independent thinking and common sense of those people whom he led for 8 years.

Why the venom and vitriol in this op-ed? Why would the editorial staff or the publisher have a problem with Mainers trying to work within the system established for us? We were not allowed to have a 'say' before our government decided to foist an expensive and dangerous wind energy plan on the state of Maine. The wind lobby has been brainwashing the public for years. When citizens decided to look into the FACTS about industrial wind, we were stunned. The paltry benefits this plan would provide are greatly overshadowed by the huge negative impacts. Regular citizens, without the wind industry's money for media blitzes and advertising campaigns, have been trying to educate our fellow Mainers. We have few options and outlets. We speak in meetings. We write letters to the editor. We share resources and distribute literature and talk to our neighbor. We ask people not to believe US, but to do their own research. We believe that knowledge is power, and power is something that our industry-controlled government has slowly taken away from us.

Why would this newspaper castigate Mainers for trying to change a policy which we truly believe to be one of the biggest mistakes-- and yes, scams--to come along?


The staff is attempting to influence our new governor, without a doubt. By manipulating his desire to cut 'red tape', they are hoping that he and the new Legislature will disregard these protective bills which will be coming up for vote. In my opinion, this is a low blow, especially coming from a news medium.

Billions of dollars are at stake. Wind opponents are showing their courage and conviction, and the bills which have been submitted are there for all to see. The wind lobby is nervous, and they will be stepping up their PR and attempting to scare Mainers into supporting mountaintop industrial wind. Expect to see ads saying that 'wind' will counter the effects of globla warming... something which experts are showing to be a misleading claim. Expect to have them say that wind energy will increase our national security. Poppycock. When does a nation need the most power, and the most reliable power? Where there is an emergency! Increasing our load of unreliable and intermittent and very expensive electricity will certainly not help America protect her borders. Expect the wind lobby to try to make us feel guilty. Frightened. Irresponsible if we don't support their plan, and brave, 'green' citizens if we do. Expect them to tout jobs... temporary construction jobs, and short term local 'booms' during development. Those same 330 construction workers would be kept gainfully employed in repairing our infrastructure, which is needed to bring millions of people to Maine to spend their tourism dollars. Once our iconic mountains are covered with 350 miles of 40 story turbines, those tourist will go elsewhere. This wind plan is self-perpetuated loss for Maine's economy in the LONG-term.

This op-ed is just the beginning. As Mainers see more of these types of sarcastic and anger-filled articles, they can rest assured: the wind lobby and its supporters are getting worried and desperate. Mainers are known for staring down the bullies and doing what is smart, and what is RIGHT. I urge you to educate yourselves on the topic of mountaintop wind energy. The truth will blow you away.

Respectfully,
Karen Pease
Lexington Twp., Maine
www.windaction.org, www.windtaskforce.org, www.highlandmts.org, www.stopillwind.org, www.realwindinfoforme.com, www.windfarmrealities.org ... and many, many more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tragedy Down Under


I have many dear friends in Australia.

Pete and Naomi, Ali g and KK, and Dozy in New South Wales.

Crookedpaw in Victoria.

Jack and Ali and Larry, in Queensland.

Of these, Larry is the only Aussie friend I have actually laid eyes on—the only one I have hugged and kissed, poked and prodded, eaten and drank with. Napped nearby, cut grass with (well, I cut--and he directed the operation) and gotten lost on a dirt road with. Larry bought me lunch, I bought him supper. Larry cooked for me, I washed dishes for him. I built a big bonfire and went swimming in the moonlight, while he crabbed at me for doing something so foolish. Larry brought me jewelry from Laos and gave me his Drizabone coat. I handled his car rental, gave him a place to stay for a month, and put two bullets through his cell phone for him.

But even though I have never held the hands of my other Aussie friends, or leaned against them while laughing, or shared a timid bite of Vegemite, that does not mean that I love them any less. I have been incredibly blessed. These far-away friends have enriched my life more than I ever thought possible.

That’s why I am worried, tonight.

Australia, and especially Queensland, is experiencing a terrible tragedy. Flooding there is the worst on record. This land which was recently going through an epic drought is now inundated with water. The rain won’t stop. The ground is saturated. The rivers are over-flowing and the dams are taxed. I am watching and listening. This girl who shuns the television can’t seem to keep away from it.


I am very, very worried. And I’m ten thousand miles away.

I can’t hug, or hold, or poke or prod. I can’t give them a place to stay, if they need one, or rent them a car to get to high ground. I can’t share Vegemite with them or build them a fire to help them dry out and get warm. I’m helpless. And I don’t like the feeling, at all.

My heart goes out to all those thousands of Aussies who are affected by this terrible event. And my thoughts and prayers are with my wonderful friends who are at the epicenter of the Australian flood.

God Bless you. And please… be safe. Please.


*******************************
Above are photos sent to me by my pal, Jack. These were taken days before the floodwaters threatened the lives of so many Australians. God rest the souls of those who are lost.

Pig Farming--It's Not as Glamorous as You'd Think!


We folks at The F.A.R.M. raised pigs, this year. Five of them. Two pigs for us, and three for friends who appreciate home-grown pork, from pigs which were raised with kindness, and which we allowed to roam in the field—to root, and run, and be pigs.

My two youngest kids grumbled their way through the summer.

“Why don’t we just BUY our pork? I hate feeding pigs! Why do I have to feed them sometimes, when I didn’t want them, to begin with?”

Yadayadayada….

The same arguments are used when we raise beef, or chickens or turkeys. Reluctant farmers, are my teens. But Josie and Eli are meat eaters. It’s only right--in my opinion--that they appreciate where that meat comes from. Meat is not just some magically appearing commodity which comes from a freezer, or from a cooler at the local grocery store.

Our animals live good lives, while they are here at our homestead. That’s important to me. It is also essential that I know what is going into the bodies of my loved ones, as much as I am able to know.

So, we spent the summer feeding pigs, morning and night. And in between feedings, they ran and played and slept and rooted in the field, turning over the ground underneath alders which we hoped they would kill. They did.


Dual purpose critters.

But as a farmer, there is an end to the twice daily chores associated with raising livestock for food. When autumn arrives, there comes the harvest. Of vegetables, and of meat.


For some fortuitous reason (on his part) it seems that—more often than not--Mr. Grumbles has to put in an appearance at work on the days when the animals must be transported to the butcher shop. That happenstance means that I am the pig herder. The cattle herder. The reluctant--but committed--farmer.


This year, rather than hire a fellow with a cattle trailer to come collect the pigs, I decided to save money for all of us and take them to the butcher’s, myself. That meant driving to North Anson to hook onto a borrowed horse trailer, and driving back to the Township. It meant backing said trailer in between the two gate posts with precision. Before going to work that morning, I’d called the five swine into their stall and shut them in, so that when I got home from the office, I could open the gate to the field without fear that the pigs would escape.

I drove home with the attendant horse trailer, traveling across some awesome washboards. Those well-known ruts in our dirt road are common-place, but I have not often driven over them with a trailer attached to the Reece hitch on the bumper of my truck. The spectacle seen in my rearview mirror caused me to slow down—a little. A trailer jigging at a 45 degree angle from the truck pulling it is ample hint that, perhaps, the driver should use more caution than usual when journeying across those well-known heaves and dips.

I had a crew on stand-by for the “Great Pig Herding Event” which was planned for that afternoon. Three of the six friends for whom we’d been raising pigs were ready and waiting for my call for assistance. But I didn’t want them to arrive too soon. I’ve had little experience backing a trailer, and I didn’t want to have witnesses to my incompetence, should I fail to hit my target between the posts of the open gate.


In hindsight, I wish they’d been there. It’s not often I do something which would qualify as ‘bragging material’, but I reversed and positioned that horse trailer perfectly, the very first time. Eighteen inches from the post on the driver’s side, twenty-four inches from the post on the passenger’s side. Wow. I was psyched… and there was no one there to confirm my amazing competence.

That figures.


I grabbed my cell phone and called the troops, and within 15 minutes, they’d arrived. While I waited, I went into the hay loft and threw down two bales of hay and spread them in the trailer. The pigs would be spending their last night there, and I wanted them to be comfortable.

One gal arrived with big sheets of cardboard for us to hold and use as a chute, if need be, to funnel the pigs into the trailer. All three friends were dressed in calf-high rubber boots—something I don’t own. I was wearing my sneakers. And blue jeans. A purple button-down shirt, red barn coat and work gloves…

Since I’d been calling the pigs to my side all summer long with rewards of bagels, breads, tarts and rolls from the day-old supply at the local grocery store, I made the call. I positioned the two women at the small openings between trailer and posts, just in case any of the fat creatures tried to squeeze through. I dropped the ramp on the rear of the trailer. It splashed into eight inches of deep slop. Really deep, really stinky slop. Here in Maine, we experienced a dearth of rain over the summer months, but November had proven to be very rainy. Add to that, the fact that my son forgot to turn the hose off one night after filling the trough with water, thereby emptying our well into the paddock, and the ground was very soupy, indeed. I slogged though goop which covered my sneakered feet up to my ankles and climbed aboard.


I had a box of bread under my arm. I called to my third friend, who’d volunteered to unlock the door to the stall.

“Release the pigs!!!”

He did. The five porcine creatures wandered out. I called them.

“Come on! Heeeere, piggy, piggy, piggy. I have foooood! Come and get it!”

I began to drop pieces of sponge cake and garlic bagels onto the floor of the horse trailer. And as I’d hoped, the pigs followed their snouts. One wandered up the ramp for a mid-afternoon snack. The second followed suit. I told Mister Pig Herder to be ready. To lift the ramp and slam it home the very second the fifth pig was inside the trailer.

Three in. Four in. Two back out…. I continued my sing-song calling and tossed bread onto the hay at my feet. Finally, the last of the five swine made it up the ramp and my guy-friend grabbed it from its place in the muck and, giving a mighty heave, slammed it shut. One pig changed his mind at the last second, and his snout was caught. He squealed—as well he should—but we daren’t let the gate drop. Despite one gal’s frenzied admonition to drop the gate, we didn’t dare. We’d never get five newly stressed pigs back into the conveyance. I pushed against the ramp enough for the poor creature to free his nose, and then it banged home. The locks were flipped into place. The pigs, with nary a fuss, were loaded.


But so was I.

One of my girlfriends was worried about me. Concerned that I was trapped with five pigs weighing between 200-300 pounds, each. Would they turn on me? Attack the hand that fed them?

That was not a concern of mine. My unease came from the fact that I had to get out of there. Somehow exit the trailer. The ramp, locked into place, was chest high. The ramp, newly recovered from the muck, was nasty and slippery. I’m not afraid of muck and kuck… but I am deathly afraid of making a public spectacle of myself. I looked out, and down. I was going to have to climb the gate and jump into soupy pig crap. Yay…

My quick-thinking ramp-closer made a suggestion. He said he could pull the trailer ahead so that I could jump out onto water-sodden grass instead of water-sodden muck. That sounded good to me! Chagrinned, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that

He pulled my truck away from the gate. Got out. Walked around and looked at me. So did my two girlfriends.

The gentleman asked what he could do to help. Did I need a ladder?

Naw. A ladder would be a little… sissy-ish, wouldn’t it? And I—well, I had backed a horse trailer perfectly between two gate posts on the very first try! No way was I going to be all ‘girly’ and use a step ladder to exit that trailer! I just needed to be alone. I knew I could get out. But I feared making a fool of myself in the process.

“Okay!” I declared. “Everybody… git! I’m climbing out of here, and I don’t want you all to see me if I take a nose dive!”

Respectfully, my three friends wandered away, backs turned to the trailer. How cool are they? (Way cool.) I’m not sure I wouldn’t have been there, camera in hand, waiting to record the sure-to-be ignominious leap from the top of the ramp, if t’were one of them in my predicament. The pigs began milling nervously. Juliet stomped on my foot, and left a cloven-hoof-shaped imprint in the inch-deep muck atop my sneaker. Baldy pushed me aside as he competed for the onion roll at my feet. And Angus actually gave me a bit of a toss as he tried to reassert his dominance over the confined herd.

I peered out. All three backs were turned. I grabbed hold of the rim of the roof over my head with my gloved hands. I swung my right leg up and over, thanking my lucky stars for a 36 inch long legs. My left leg followed, until I was sitting atop the locked ramp. It wasn’t so far… maybe five and a half feet to the ground. But I am a klutz. A hard-core klutz. I’ve never done a graceful thing in my life. But their backs were turned. If I made a fool of myself, no one would know. Unless I broke a bone or something, and had to lie writhing in pain on the partially frozen ground for several minutes while my buddies decided whether or not they dared to turn around…

I launched myself from the rim of the horse trailer gate. I landed, both feet firmly planted on the ground. I stood upright, and resisted the urge to raise my arms victoriously in a classic, gymnastic dismount. Why, oh, why, had I made them all go away? Turn around? For the second time that day, I had deftly avoided a Bonehead Moment... and NO ONE was witness to the miracles!!!


Dang!

I called to them.

“Okay! I’m out!”

My friends turned around. Looked me up and down. Their expressions caused me to do the same.

I was covered in pig poop. My sneaks, my socks. My butt, my thighs. My belly and chest, from leaning against the ramp to view the ground below. My gloved hands. I even sported a little splattered crap on my face. I resisted the urge to lick my lips—something I always do when I’m nervous.

I chuckled and walked onto the granite steps of my front porch. Kicked off my shoes. Slid my feet into Crocs and dumped my gloves. It was late afternoon, and the days are short, here in December at the 45th North latitude. I needed to deliver the pigs to the butcher shop before dark, as the trailer didn’t have any working tail- or brake-lights.

I thanked my cohorts for their help, climbed into the truck, and headed for North Anson.

I noted that a trailer loaded with more than a half-ton of ‘critters’ didn’t bounced nearly as much on washboards as did an empty trailer, so I picked up my speed. As the heater warmed up, I became aware that I was particularly ripe. Nothing is quite as pleasant as warm pig dung. I grinned. There was no worry that I would ever grace the front of a glamour magazine--that much was a given.

I made it to the butcher’s with a half-hour of daylight to spare. Upon parking the truck and trailer, I walked inside. I greeted the owner, who looked me up and down. I was a mess. An aromatic mess. Feeling the need to explain the reason for my dishabille, I told him the story about getting trapped inside the trailer with the five pigs. About how I’d been stuck there, at the mercy of five gigantic, carnivorous pigs. I had to make it a good story, after all. Else… why would I be standing there in his sanitized shop covered in manure?

He cocked his head. Raised his eyebrows. Took one last look at my poop-covered fa├žade.

“So… your friends wouldn’t let you out the door on the side?”

“There’s a door?? On the SIDE?”

I burst out laughing, and moved to the shop window to take a look. Yep, there it was. A full-length door on the passenger’s-side of the trailer. A door which could have been effortlessly opened, and easily exited through! A door made for humans—for farmers like me—to disembark the close confines of an animal-laden trailer. I giggled. Had I been the only one who didn’t notice the door? Had my friends known about it—seen it—and made the collective decision to ignore it? Decline mention of it?


I almost hoped they’d known. Otherwise… where would the fun have been? Who, really, wants to be a boring, small-scale farmer?

Not me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blatant Bribery--"Maine-- the way life SHOULD be"???


I grew up in a home where we Bessey children were expected to conform to a certain set of principles. My parents were strict, but not unreasonable. They accepted the fact that as their children developed and grew--we would occasionally feel the need to ‘buck the system’. It’s only natural to rebel against authority. But even though Mum and Dad gave their children some leeway and practiced a bit of forbearance, there were some things which were not tolerated. Period.

Lying was not allowed. It was far better to have broken a rule and admitted to it, than to have lied about it. Neither was stealing acceptable--or unkindness, or swearing, or breaking the law. Disrespect was not looked upon favorably, but I think Mum and Dad recognized that young adults didn’t always display the best judgment, and once in awhile, we could rebel against them (and them, only--and somewhat respectfully) without suffering any grave consequences.

But that was when we were adolescents. Our brains--and our personalities--were still expanding and being cultivated. It was always taken for granted that—as adults—we would ‘know better’. That the foundation given us of morality and propriety would serve us well and guide us into adulthood.

I’ve been reviewing the revised permit application which Highland Wind, LLC submitted to Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission two weeks ago; on December 28, 2010. For those of you who follow this blog, you will know that the original permit application was submitted one year ago. It was deemed ‘complete’ by LURC at the end of January, 2010 and the Friends of the Highland Mountains worked feverishly for the next two weeks to gather enough petition signatures to convince LURC to grant us a Public Hearing on this wind development proposal.

In March 2010, at the first LURC Commissioners’ meeting wherein HW LLC’s permit application was part of the agenda, we learned from the Commissioners that the permit application was NOT, in fact, complete--and we lodged a formal complaint requesting that the ‘expedited permitting clock’ be stopped, and the permit set aside until such a time as the developers met the ‘completeness’ standard. At the April 2010 meeting, the Commissioners agreed to pull the application, citing the fact that Highland Wind, LLC, did not have sufficient title, right or interest (TRI) in a parcel of land which they needed to cross in order to transmit their wind-generated power from Highland Plantation to Wyman Station.

Yesterday, I began to review Highland Wind LLC’s revised permit application. What I read should deeply trouble every Mainer. Every American! For in this permit application, Highland Wind LLC offers what I consider to be a blatant bribe to a government agency.


This is a quote taken from the permit application submitted by Angus King and Rob Gardiner, the principles in Independence Wind, of which Highland Wind, LLC is a subsidiary. I took it from the ‘tangible benefits’ section of the application…

For the Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands: Highland Wind will provide $1,040,000 to the Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL)over a twenty year period, as a “donation for land or natural resource conservation” pursuant to 35-A MRSA §3451 (1-C) (C). This land or natural resource conservation will be comprised of two
Elements:

A. Permanent protection for Stewart Mountain from the development of wind turbines. On or before the triggering date, Highland Wind shall execute or cause to be executed a legally sufficient document that will extinguish in perpetuity all rights of any current or future landowner to site wind turbines on the land comprising approximately 572 acres on Stewart Mountain that was previously proposed by Highland Wind as the location for eight wind turbines. The current fair market value lost for extinguishing these wind turbine development rights is $253,000.
B. Payments for Additional Bigelow Preserve Viewshed Protection. Highland Wind will made twenty annual payments of $39,350 to BPL, to be used for protecting the viewshed from trails in the Bigelow Preserve. Over 20 years, BPL will receive $787,000 in total annual payments. The initial annual payment from Highland Wind is due on the triggering date. In the alternative, and at the request of BPL, Highland Wind is prepared to make the entire 20-year value of these twenty payments available to BPL as a single, lump-sum payment due at the triggering date, with the
lump-sum amount calculated as a net present value of this twenty-year income stream.
All payments owed to BPL would be distributed by Highland Wind to an agreed-upon third-party escrow/disbursal agent and placed in a segregated, separately invested and administered Bigelow Preserve Scenic Viewshed Fund. (Viewshed Fund). BPL will be granted the authority to use the monies in the Viewshed Fund to acquire in fee or easement properties that it deems to be valuable for protecting the viewshed from trails in the Bigelow Preserve. At BPL’s choosing, a modest percentage of these funds (e.g., 10-20%) could be used for viewshed trail maintenance activities in the Preserve.

(The statute quoted therein may be found in the Expedited Wind Permitting Law.)

Okay. If you’ve read this far, then you probably know where I’m going with this. But in case you don’t, I’ll spell it out.

The Bureau of Parks and Lands is a State agency which operates under the Maine Department of Conservation. The BPL is also listed (as is the Friends of the Highland Mountains, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, and many others) as an ‘intervenor’ in the original Highland Wind, LLC permit application which was submitted one year ago.

The approval or denial of a permit for this wind turbine development will be decided by the Land Use Regulation Commission. That agency (LURC) is also an agency under the direction of the Department of Conservation.

I’ve spoken in the past about the ‘tangible benefits’ and the ‘mitigation’ which is allowable under the ‘Expedited Wind Permitting Law’. I’ve openly called this practice ‘State-sanctioned bribery’. Wind developers have been allowed to go into towns wherein they hope to construct these developments and offer ‘cash incentives’ to people and businesses in the hopes that they will support their projects. In fact, Maine law compels them to spend money in these communities. I have always believed this allowable practice is corrupt and morally wrong.

But here, in this revised application, the developers have descended to new depths. In an open and public document, Highland Wind LLC is blatantly offering a bribe of more than three-quarters of a million dollars to an agency of the State of Maine. They are offering an inducement to the same agency which will be deciding its fate—deciding whether or not to consent to their permit--the approval of which will allow Highland Wind, LLC to acquire millions of dollars of tax-payer subsidies.


This is illegal, is it not? Is this not immoral? To my way of thinking, it is unconscionable! The Maine Attorney General’s Office should—no, it must--investigate this. And then—the AG should prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Mum and Dad would have warmed my rear--at the very least--if I’d ever tried to pull off something so despicable—no matter what the scope. I call upon the Attorney General and the People of the State of Maine to take a stand.

This type of corruption has been over-looked and tolerated for far too long. Wind developers are desperate to acquire their cash rewards, and it has become apparent that there are no depths to which they will not sink.

I’m not willing to sit back while this great State goes down with them. It's time that we, the People, stood up and condemned this type of practice.

********************************
A friend just told me that--while it SHOULD be illegal--this type of payoff is NOT illegal, because the state of Maine allows it. Wind developers are required to pay a 'community benefit' of $4,000.00 per turbine per year (not each and every year, necessarily, but annualized) when they build a wind facility. I do not change my stance on this issue. That three-quarters of a million dollars is not being offered to Highland, or to a private organization which could invest the money in conservation or natural resource protection. That money is being offered as an inducement to the very State Agency which is deciding whether or not to grant Highland Wind LLC's permit. That is wrong. And if LURC takes this application under consideration, they will have a huge conflict of interest. I don't care if Maine has 'allowed' this type of thing in the past, or not. It's wrong.

It's wrong.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Snail Mucus... For Here, or To Go?


It’s not often these days that I have time to sit down to a leisurely read of the newspaper. But last weekend, I picked up a copy of the Maine Sunday Telegram and skimmed through the headlines, looking to catch up on what was happening in the world around me--looking for something which might capture my attention.

“Snail mucus”… Yep. That caught my eye.

The article summarized some of the strange news which had been reported in the year 2010. The location from which these bizarre stories originated? That tropical peninsula to the south, Florida.

I’ve never been to Florida. I’m not sure this article was an enticement to go.

It appears that the Florida bomb squads were kept busy last year. They worked feverishly to save the residents of one Cocoa neighborhood from a box containing two kittens. In Orange County, a stuffed pony (stuffed with fluff and not oats) was reined in by competent disposal experts. The kittens were saved. The pony—detonated--wasn’t even glue factory material by the time the armor-laden heroes finished with it. And in Melbourne, a street was closed off for three hours while a disposal team studied schematics for how to deactivate a restaurant pager.

Florida, like Maine, has a high percentage of senior citizens residing within its borders. And like the elders living in this great state, Floridian oldsters don’t put up with any shenanigans.
An 83 year old man was knocked to the ground by would-be robbers, but they high-tailed it when the gent pulled a gun on them. Now, that’s my kind of grandfather! Another criminal was stopped after smashing the windshield of a 69 year old woman’s car with his pistol. He dropped it. The lady retrieved it, first, in what I am sure was a classic “don’t mess with me, Sonny-boy” dive for the weapon. The crook took off in such a hurry that he dropped his cell phone, too, thereby allowing officers to locate and arrest him. That man was a Keystone Kriminal, for sure. And an 84 year old gentleman was arrested after he (allegedly, mind you) smacked a deputy with his cane.
That ought to teach that young whippersnapper of a law enforcement-agent a thing or two about how to arrest someone from the Greatest Generation! (Hint: Very respectfully…) Ah, you’ve gotta love gram and gramps.

Also in the Florida news: A Miami attorney was denied the right to meet with her client at a corrections facility after the underwire in her bra set off the metal detector.
The plucky lawyer removed the offending brassiere, but she was then denied her client due to the fact that she was braless. A Catch 22? (Or perhaps, 36C?) Personally, I admire the woman for the dedication (and such) she displayed when she whipped that undergarment off. Imagine the hullaballoo if she’d been wearing a sequined shirt…

Of course, anyone who was a fan of the show Miami Vice might well assume that Florida deals with many drug-related crimes. And--many drugs. I found the story of the man pulled over in Manatee County to be particularly telling. The man who was arrested claimed that the crack in his crack wasn’t his.
He asserted that the marijuana which was found in his vehicle was his—but not the cocaine. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why the fellow was disbelieved. Surely, his story was credible! How many times have we asked someone to make a delivery for us—say, to return our rented DVD or to take a package to the Post Office--only to have the transporter say, “Sure. I’ll take it. But my truck is pretty full. You don’t mind if I carry it in the crack of my bum, do you?”

Happens to me, all the time.

And finally: It seems that several people in Miami complained that they became ill after eating mucus from a giant snail during a religious ceremony. It occurs to me that I would have done my complaining much earlier—say, when I was told I was expected to consume snail mucus! But maybe that’s just me. I’m from Maine, after all. We serve baked beans, casseroles and biscuits at our church suppers.

Nope, I’ve never traveled to Florida, although I have many dear friends—snowbirds, we call them—who spend six months of the year in that land of sunshine and warmth. And there’s something else I’ve never done. I’ve never attempted to transport my valuables in anything that might be hidden inside my jeans—except inside my pockets. Although I did have an egg fall out of my bra, once.

But that’s a story from Maine and not Florida. And… it’s a story for another day.

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Thanks go to Trev and Crookedpaw for their contributions to the 'smile department' in the comments section of this post. Trev has generously supplied me with the cure for Queen Latifah's (supposed) problem. I am posting it here.

Snort!!! You guys! And yes. After figuring out how much 10 kilos would be (we American's don't 'do' metrics, guys), I decided that CP was making a joke. No one could (reasonably) hide ten kilos of ANYTHING in their skivvies. Heh. Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake. And honestly? Queen Latifah is a lovely woman. I've even heard tell there are guys out there who like an ample booty. (Thank goodness!)