This and That Vol. 1 – Lines in the Sand

This and That - Vol. 1

Lines in the Sand


Cognitive Dissonance


When I was younger I would get into intense political and ideological discussions with various individuals from both sides of the aisle. And in America there are usually two sides to every aisle, always perfectly demonstrating the polarization that keeps “We the People” endlessly chasing our tails in tight little circles while our masters loot and pillage to no end.

I tend to be the devil’s advocate and will often take the other side of any discussion, if only to test how factually based and intellectually consistent the other person’s thinking is. No surprise here but they rarely are; unless (of course) they’re using their own unique set of facts to base their deeply flawed argument upon.

Often the ‘discussion’ would quickly devolve into minutiae when the other person is confronted with their own hypocrisy or inconsistency. I am always amazed how fiercely they will cling to some irrefutable ‘fact’ in their argument as if that little gem perfectly supported their entire cognitive fallacy.

I eventually learned to never underestimate the lengths to which people will go to believe precisely what they want to believe, facts or hypocrisy be damned. One guy actually had the gumption to tell me with a straight face that we lived in a free country and he was entitled to believe whatever he wanted to believe.

It doesn’t take a ‘free’ country to accomplish that my friend, just a terminally closed mind.

I used to think people simply would not view the world with an open mind. Then I thought people simply could not. Lately I’ve come to understand it’s a little bit of both, combined with a heaping dollop of a complete lack of critical thinking sprinkled liberally with deep denial and affirmation seeking. Once the pile of self deception and outright denial grows to critical proportions, the addled ‘thinker’ cannot concede any one point without conceding all points.

This must not be allowed to happen, thus the devolution into petty defenses of inane points. We draw our own line in the sand not to keep the other person out, but to keep ourselves safely within.


Up here in the mountains in Southwestern Virginia, the weather has been distinctly odd this spring and summer. While I am cautious to label it unusual since this is only our fifth summer up here, thus a poor baseline to measure anything weather wise, it sure hasn’t been like the four previous growing seasons.

It has been dry, but not so dry the grass has burned. I measure rainfall with the garden soil clump test. Dig down just an inch or two, grab a handful of soil and squeeze it in your hand. If it stays somewhat clumped, all is well. If it falls apart, or never clumps in the first place, there is trouble in paradise.

All spring and summer there has been trouble in paradise. Sure, we’ve had some rain here and there, but nothing to speak of. Mostly it has been from passing afternoon popup storms that either rain fast and furious, thus much of it runs off and never soaks in, or it spits and sputters and barely wets the surface.

Plus it has not been as warm as it usually is during the summer. While it rarely gets into the nineties around here, maybe six or seven days each year, it usually remains in the eighties for July and August. But not this year. While we have seen a few days in the nineties, it has struggled to get into the mid eighties and often stays in the seventies for days on end. The other morning I woke up to mid fifties temperatures outside.

The result is a garden which in many ways is upside down, or ass backwards as my mother loved to say. Normally the various peppers and squash are prolific, so much so that come mid August we are forced to leave little presents in unlocked cars and trucks down by the general store. This year both plants are struggling, particularly the peppers and regardless of the variety.

But we are not alone; the mailman helpfully informs us it’s the same all along his 84 mile route. Considering he’s been running the mail for many years around here, I take his word as expert confirmation of the dismal condition of the gardens in our community. The various harvest fests this fall might turn out to be a disappointment.

The one ‘crop’ we have no problem growing is the weeds. Considering how dry it has been I am constantly amazed how sturdy, vibrant even, the weeds are. Maybe we just need to find some alternative recipes, such as green fried Virginia creeper.


Our household water comes from a well, precisely what we wanted when looking for a homestead. We did not wish to be dependent upon a government or private entity for our water and sewage removal, so at the top of the list when looking for our place was a well and septic tank.

This is both a blessing and a curse, for with great freedom comes great responsibility. Essentially we own and operate a drinking water pumping and distribution station as well as a sewage treatment plant. Mindlessly opening the tap and flushing the toilet almost always comes back to bite you in the end.

While I grew up on city water, for much of my adult life I have lived with well water and septic systems. And much of that time consisted of living in one area of one northeastern state possessing a bountiful supply of ground water. For the first two decades of my adult life I was a builder, and nearly always dealt with wells and septic systems when building a new house or rehabbing an older one. It was just a fact of life.

But I have never lived in the mountains, nor with an underlying geology as complex as ours. And when I speak of ‘mountain’, what I’m really describing is living on the very edge of a very hilly section of the Blue Ridge plateau. The land drops off over a quarter of mile along our back property line. It doesn’t get any closer to the edge than that.

In addition, we live on a sort of spit or peninsula of land with the elevation dropping off on two other sides, though not as severely as our back side. So the ground water here mostly consists of what has fallen here over dozens or hundreds of years. For the most part we do not share a water table with folks a mile or two away.

Those neighbors who live a bit closer, say a quarter or half mile away, have all been forced to drill at least 500 feet deep to get usable water. And in one case, they put in two 1,000 foot wells and still did not find much more than one or two gallons per minute. In the well business that is not considered a ‘good’ well.

We are blessed (or cursed) with a well not quite as deep, maybe half the depth of our nearest neighbor. When we moved here I was able to crudely measure the recovery rate, the amount of water measured in gallons per minute that flows into the well from the surrounding water table when water is pumped out. The recovery rate was around 3-4 gallons per minute, perfectly serviceable for a small family of three, now two.

But lately the recovery rate has drop substantially and not because of a drop in the water table. That remains within a few feet of where it was 4 years ago. The problem is with the well and I think I know why. If I am correct the issue is fixable.

The reason I discuss this at all is because of the dry weather we are having. This means we need to occasionally water our garden. And if we aren’t careful, this also means we can run our well dry. While the well eventually refills, running the submersible pump dry can quickly destroy the pump. This is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination.

To be continued.


I’m getting older. What a shock…seriously.

All my life and all around me I have seen people grow older while I have pretty much stayed the same age…at least in my mind. I am cursed with a thirty five year old brain trapped inside a sixty plus year old body.

I suppose I would be OK with this if it wasn’t for the increasing occurrence of operator error and equipment breakdown. I used to have a mind as strong as a steel trap. Now I just have a steel trap my mind can’t think itself out of and sometimes questions the ownership of.

Whereas before I would chuckle when an older person would stop in front of me with a perplexed look on their face, then ask me where they were going and why they were in the room, now I’m the one asking who, what, when, where and why. Even worse, I’ve begun to answer.

At the moment my biggest problem is job estimates for paying customers. My thirty five year old brain figures build times of one or two weeks, while my sixty plus year old body accomplishes build times in one or two months. My only hope is I go broke before my body completely breaks down.

Of late I will come across an image of an actor, politician or other ‘celebrity’ and remark how old she or he has become. A quick Google search indicates the ‘old’ person in question is in fact often younger than me. A quick glance in the mirror confirms my startling observation, cementing in my mind the need to cease using Google.

Several months back I visited the local lady who cuts my hair to receive my quarterly shearing. Upon taking my seat she announced she was retiring and someone new would take her place. After much discussion back and forth about her plans during her ‘rest’ I discovered she was only a year older than me. All this time I had thought of her as ‘old’, yet it appears I am as well.

Upon finishing her work, I rose from the chair to dust myself off and pay her the shearing fee and her final tip. Glancing down I noticed a great deal of gray hair on the floor and admonished her for not sweeping up before I got in the chair. The look she gave me was one of confusion before realizing I must be mentally impaired.

That’s your hair down there” was her obvious retort. The very first thought that raced through my brain was “But I’m not that old”. Clearly she’s correct; I am mentally impaired.

I’ll just blame it on old age.



Cognitive Dissonance

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