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Does your kid have autism, ADD, ADHD? Nope. Modern society is what’s off, not your kid

For about 70,000 years (or 5,780 years for literal Bible believers) our species Homo Sapiens Sapiens has been on Planet Earth. In that time we have proven ourselves to be not only the dominant life form capable of killing everything else, but so good at killing that we are capable of killing ourselves, as well.

Over this long period of time, humans evolved as hunter-gatherers. We spent all our time hunting and gathering food, and we spent most of our time sitting around a camp fire eating meat we had hunted and fruits and herbs we had gathered. It is a lifestyle perfected by the American Indians and known to us today because we largely ended it through mass migration into their pristine Eden.

During the European conquering of America, very few Indians became European, most resisted to the death. The few who willingly adopted European clothing and religion can almost be counted on two hands. Indian schools like the one in Carlisle were renowned for runaways and coercive methods to convince little Indian children to adopt European ways.

On the other hand, many, many, really countless numbers of European Americans “went native.” They willingly sought out and joined with Indian tribes across the continent, wore their tribes’ clothing, spoke their language, adopted their habits and customs. This happened because something innately natural about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle powerfully speaks to the hunter-gatherer that is inside every human.

Even when it is covered by the thin veneer of “civilization” like today.

This is why people today still hunt, camp, hike, fish, seek wilderness etc. Our species evolved in these natural environments doing these exact activities, and these are the activities that are most natural to us humans today.

Look at it mathematically: For 65,000 of our 70,000 years on Planet Earth we humans were only hunters and gatherers; subsequently for 4,500 years we learned to farm and grow our food; then for 150 years following we became industrialized; for 125 years after that we have been eating out of a tin can and driving motorized vehicles; then for 100 years we have lived in the Information Age. Only in the past few decades have we lived as we currently do, in a massive consumer society driven by high sedentary living and complete materialism.

So 30 years divided by 70,000 years equals only 0.00042857% of human time on Planet Earth spent as we live today. This is to point out that our technology-heavy western lifestyle today, which we take for granted, is in fact not even a blip on the radar screen of human existence on the planet.

Which is to say, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is most natural to us, it is hard-wired into us, and the iPhone-heavy digital lifestyle is totally new to our species. Our current lifestyle has a lot of costs that we do not yet understand, and yet we have embraced it in a death grip.

So when your beautiful child is “diagnosed” with autism, ADD, ADHD, etc., be skeptical. It is unlikely that there is anything actually wrong with your kid. What has happened is that our modern industrial, sedentary, virtual, digitized society has developed new standards for living and behavior, and for measuring success, that are completely at odds with how we evolved, how we are hard-wired, how we have lived most of our time on this globe, and how we need to be in order to be our most natural, most happy, most successful.

In a hunter-gatherer society, those young people who notice movement the quickest are not easily distracted. Rather, they are going to be the most successful hunters and warriors on a landscape where movement equals either food or danger, and those who see movement the fastest either live the longest or eat the most food. In that hunter gatherer environment, what we today call ADD is actually an important adaptive skill needed to survive.

So an “autistic” kid today who is obviously bright and technically gifted but socially quirky, was, five thousand years ago, probably the best flint knapping spear head maker in the tribe.

It is today’s Western society that is living at odds with our most human traits, long adapted and refined over tens of thousands of years, and only now considered to be liabilities in a physically weak, feminized, pacific, diabetes-riven technologically-based culture where food is served up by the unhealthy bucket-full with no effort required by the eater.

Got an autistic kid? Put him or her into a more natural setting, away from dominant society where they are mis-judged by unhealthy, unnatural material and behavioral standards, and watch them flourish. Even better, withdraw from it yourself!

I love the smell of brown sludge in the morning

When I get a snoot full of that brown sludge in the morning, it brings back warm memories. Doesn’t happen all the time. Not as often as I would like. The period for brown sludge is often almost over as soon as it begins, though when I was a kid at Stone Valley Lake, the period lasted for a good eight weeks.

Memories of cold mornings, even cold nights, sometimes lugging a sloshing bucket by headlamp, stumbling through the brush, tripping over vines and branches, picking bugs out of the buckets. Sometimes the bugs concentrate in the buckets, drawn by the smell, and the taste. Trying not to spill it, good God don’t spill it! And then the long nights. Yes, you might start in the daylight, but at six the next morning you were up all night, running for the bucket every ten minutes, tired out, cramping, sleepy.

You see, modern maple syrup is nothing like it was. It is now a victim of technology. Where maybe just five years ago maple syrup producers used fire to boil maple sap down, now they have reverse osmosis machines, and spectrometers and spectrographs that tell the syrup maker how concentrated the sap sugars are, and thus when to start and when to wait longer. When to keep adding to the huge coolers, and freezers, and when to begin condensing.

In the big maple syrup production outfits today, the sap collection is mechanized, run through a spider web of tubing across the sugar bush. The sap is pumped, and gathered in big tanks, then stilled, separated, distilled, purified, filtered over and over, sterilized and then jugged. This is maple syrup today. How it is created looks nothing like how it was made for the past 15,000 years until very recently.

And frankly, as a result of this industrial processing, it no longer tastes like maple syrup. It tastes bland.

Sure, you can try to buy the old Grade B dark brown maple syrup. You remember, surely, the maple syrup that puts the phrase “maple flavor” in maple syrup? You can try to buy it, and some sellers will try to sell it to you. And it will indeed look amber-ish, with a hint of brown. Now they will disclaim it, or add some caveats, or sheepishly try to explain that it is dark for maple syrup “these days,” but it is not quite like what you remember from just a half dozen years ago, let alone your childhood.

And you will taste it, this modern creation, and you will not taste maple syrup. Instead you will taste Maple Product.

Maple Product is the result of the industrialization of even hand-crafted specialties like maple syrup. It is mechanized, industrialized, and heavily filtered, and it has very little real taste. No rich taste, for sure, not the unique and authentic maple taste you came for in the first place.

That is why we have been making our own maple syrup. It started out really small, like when I was a kid using plastic milk jugs hung on string from hand- cut wood spiles. Maybe a couple cups of syrup, and it lasted one day. A treat from Mother Nature, the whole family enjoying it, gathered round like families have over nature’s bounty since time immemorial. A natural and innately healthy moment.

Then I ordered a bunch of old maple buckets with metal spiles, and boiled lots of sap on the stove top. That was a bad idea because the whole house steamed up and smelled vaguely of damp earth. The small amounts of sugar in the steam hardened to a clear armor on everything in the kitchen, and cleaning with water just made it sticky. Getting closer!

Then I ordered a stainless steel evaporator pan from a young guy in the Midwest. Couple hundred bucks and worth every penny. With a threaded spigot and a valve on the end, it can release as much boiled down sap as I want to take to the next stage of boiling. The only filtering we do is from the big sap collection tank in the back of the pickup, through an old cotton tee shirt, and some skimming in the evaporator. Bits of bark, the occasional rogue ant, “stuff” from inside the maple trees is all skimmed off. But what we do not do is filter out the taste.

We gently and carefully finish off the concentrated brown sap inside on the stove top, and then pour the finished syrup into old whisky bottles with cork stoppers. This is real maple syrup, and it is so rich tasting it knocks your socks off. This is what maple syrup used to taste like, and it is what maple syrup is supposed to taste like.

So when I hit the bottom of one of those old whisky bottles because the syrup was mostly poured out over pancakes or hot cereal, then all that remains is the thick brown sludge. This is the stuff you could make maple candy from. My son and I pour cold milk into the bottle, swill it around until the brown sludge has turned the milk brown and slightly viscous, and we heartily quaff it down.

You just can’t beat it.

p.s. sorry we make just enough for our own family use, and we do not sell it. But you can make your own, and because you worked so hard to make it, you will truly enjoy every drop, every molecule, every rich taste you take.

Outdoor sports starting to ramp up now

Outdoor sports are well under way here in Pennsylvania. This is the “Christmas in October” season soo many of us dream about since the last hunting season ended months ago.

Archery season started a month ago, and the rut (primary breeding season) is now in full swing. That is evidenced by the “deer storms” that go crashing through the woods at any time of day or night now, as well as the increasing numbers of dead deer lying on the side of the roadways. Chasing is a main part of rut activity, and deer of both sexes will blindly run right out into the middle of a suburban lawn or a road as their hormones and instincts take over their better judgment.

Bowhunters take full advantage of that mindlessness, and they are now starting to really spend time on stand, trying to lure in the otherwise wary whopper trophy buck. Estrous doe pee is the number one deer lure, and it is what I use with very high success rates. One problem is that so many eager hunters jump the gun and start putting out doe pee, in huge quantities, too early in the season. A few drops on a tampon or cotton ball hung from a branch is all you need in early November.

Although furbearer trapping season started a week ago, the unseasonably warm weather has many people, myself included, holding off laying out steel until mid-November, when mink season starts. What is the point of catching a predator with patchy fur? The colder it gets, the more their fur fills in, the softer it becomes. The softer the fur, the more luxurious it feels. The better the fur, the happier I feel about spending late nights skinning, fleshing, and boarding pelts in the cold.

I will say this, however: Most of my predator trapping these days is aimed at reducing the over-abundant populations of skunks, opossums, and raccoons, all of which are voracious bird nest raiders. To my eye and ear, cute little birds are always entertaining and pretty to watch, and they deserve a chance to enjoy a comfy nest with a successful brood of hatchlings. Wild turkeys and grouse especially are vulnerable to these insatiable varmints that have few natural predators and a lot of suburban habitat in which to unnaturally propagate.

Having never sold a pelt, trapping is not a commercial or financial effort for me. Rather, it is the joy of being outside, being an integral part of the natural predator-prey chain, helping balance wildlife populations, and obtaining something useful, pretty, natural and biodegradable. The wild caught furs that adorn our home and cabin reflect the wild places we enjoy visiting, and the ancient skill set needed to catch these wary hunters.

Earlier this year a long time dear friend nastily chided me for hunting and trapping. Asking her how she could criticize me on the one hand, while on the other hand she regularly eats stone crabs (claws torn off of living crabs), other shellfish (taken from their cozy homes, jailed, then boiled alive), and all sorts of meats from suffering animals living on unsavory factory farms elicited no response at all.

This shallow, careless, hypocritical approach to life bothers me, but I doubt there is anything I can do about it, other than continue to live my own life well. Why or how people find pleasure from interfering in other people’s lives is a constant source of mystery. They get a sense of purpose, I suppose.

As a hunter and trapper, I am fulfilling a purpose that is as old as our species. The hunter-gatherer purpose is as old as humans, heck it is human, and is as old as the last ice sheets that covered the northern hemisphere. This lifestyle is eminently more natural than the artificial life of food from tin cans, huge monoculture “farms,” and sad feed lots that blot out habitat and wildlife, not to mention crushing the spirit of the animal.

Good luck this season. Enjoy living like a real human being, fellow hunters and trappers.

Hunting licenses, 1976 and 2015

Since my first hunting license adorned my back way back in 1976-1977, a lot has changed in the Pennsylvania landscape.

For example, wild game then so abundant that you could go out and shoot a couple for dinner is now practically extirpated.

Why pheasants and quail disappeared from Pennsylvania is a big debate with no clear answers. Loss of farmland to sprawl, low density development is one. Changes in farming practices is another; fallow fields had the best habitat. A plethora of winged and four legged predators cannot be discounted. Successfully rebounding populations of raptors like hawks and owls for sure ate a lot of plump pheasants. But why a sudden and dramatic crash?

Conservation successes since 1976 are plentiful and say a lot about wildlife biology. Wild turkey populations, fishers, bobcats and other animals once thought completely gone are now firmly in our lives, whether we see them, or not.

An interesting dynamic is playing out at our hunting camp. This year we have a virtual carpet of oak and hickory seedlings unlike anything we saw over the past 15 years we’ve owned it. Why?

Conventional wisdom is the deer population is low, and it’s true that it’s lower than it has been in 15 years. That is, deer are known eaters of acorns and tree seedlings. Fewer deer means more of both.

However, another factor seems to be playing out with these newly abundant tree seedlings. Where we once had an incredible overload of tree rats, aka squirrels, the new fishers have eaten them all. Like all of them. Not one tree rat remains in our carefully cultivated forest of white oaks. We see fisher tracks. We neither see nor hear squirrels.

As squirrels are known eaters of acorns and hickories, it stands to reason that their absence means more acorns and hickories hatching into baby trees.

Add a long icy winter that appears to have crushed our local wild turkey populations, also known for eating nuts, and the right conditions emerge to help a forest rebound and grow some new stock, a huge challenge we aggressively tackle every year.

So, my son getting his first hunting license yesterday is now entering a landscape that in some ways is just as dynamic as the one I began hunting so long ago.  What a difference these landscapes were and are, and who would’ve guessed the fishers would be responsible for oak and hickory forests regenerating?

A lot has changed in our wildlife landscapes, and yet not much has changed in my lifetime. Different animals, same kind of population changes, variations, pressures. One thing I keep reminding myself: It’s all natural, these changes. And while some are painful to see, like the loss of pheasants, other opportunities open up. Never would I have imagined in 1976, nor would any PA Game Commission staff, that in 2015 my son would get a bobcat tag and a fisher tag with his license.

Totally different opportunity than chasing pheasants in corn fields, but still good.

Aggressive timber management necessary in the Northeast

When I tell some people how aggressively we try to manage standing timber (forests), they often recoil.  It sounds so destructive, so environmentally wrong.

It is not environmentally damaging, but I will be the first to admit that the weeks and months after a logging operation often look like hell on the landscape: Tops everywhere, exposed dirt, skid trails, a tangled mess where an open woods had stood for the past sixty to eighty years just weeks before.  No question, it is not the serene scene we all enjoyed beforehand.

This “clearcutting” gets a bad name from poor forestry practices out West and because of urban and suburban lawn aesthetics being misapplied to dynamic natural forests.

However, if we do not aggressively manage the forest, and the tree canopy above it, then we end up with tree species like black birch and red maple as the dominant trees in what should be, what otherwise would be a diverse and food-producing environment. Non-native and fire-sensitive species like ailanthus are quickly becoming a problem, as well.

When natural forest fires swept through our northeastern forests up until 100 years ago, these fire-sensitive species (black birch, red maple) were killed off, and nut trees like oaks, hickories, and chestnuts thrived.  Animals like bears, deer, turkey, Allegheny woodrats, and every other critter under the sun survived on those nut crops every fall.

Without natural fire, which is obviously potentially destructive and scary, we must either set small prescribed fires, or aggressively remove the overhead tree canopy to get sufficient sunlight onto the forest floor to pop, open, and regenerate the next generation of native trees.  Deer enjoy browsing young tree sprouts, so those tasty oaks, hickories, etc that lack sufficient sunlight to grow quickly usually become stunted shrubs, at best, due to constant deer nibbling.  Sunlight is the key here.

And there is no way to get enough sunlight onto the forest floor and its natural seed bed without opening up the tree canopy above it.  And that requires aggressive tree removal.

Northeastern forests typically have deep enough soils, sufficient rainfall, and gentle enough slopes to handle aggressive timber management.  Where my disbelieving eyes have seen aggressive management go awry is out west, in the steep Rockies, where 1980s “regeneration cuts” on ancient forests had produced zero trees 25 years later.  In fact, deep ravines had resulted from the flash-flooding that region is known for, and soil was being eroded into pristine waterways.  So, aggressive timber management is not appropriate for all regions, all topography, or all soils.

But here in the northeast, we go out of our way to leave a huge mess behind after we log.  Why? Because how things appear on their surface has nothing to do with how they perform natural functions.  Those tangled tree tops provide cover for the next generation of trees and wildflowers, turtles and snakes, and help prevent soil erosion by blocking water and making it move slowly across the landscape.

Indeed, a correctly managed northeastern forest is no place for urban or suburban landscape aesthetics, which often dictate bad “select cut” methods that work against the long term health and diversity of the forest, as well as against the tax-paying landowner.

So the next time you see a forest coming down, cheer on the landowner, because they are receiving needed money to pay for the land.  Cheer on the loggers and the timber buyers, the mills and manufacturing plants, and the retailers of furniture, flooring, and kitchen cabinets, because they all are part of a great chain of necessary economic activity that at its core is sustainable, renewable, natural, and quintessentially good.

A Severance Tax, now?

Talk about an addiction to spending other people’s money.

Yesterday in southeast PA, far away from the communities where this issue is most important and the citizens might not be so welcoming, Governor Tom Wolf staked out his position on creating a new 5% “severance tax” on natural gas from the Marcellus shale feature.

Right now, natural gas is selling at historic low prices, especially here in Pennsylvania.  The financial incentive to drill more or spend more money to get more gas is very low, and drill rigs have been disappearing from across the region for a year.

The Saudis began dumping oil months ago, in an effort to punish competing oil producers Iran and Russia, with the secondary effect of dropping gasoline prices so low that the natural gas industry got hit from that side, too.

So now is not only a bad time for the gas industry, it is also a time of greatly diminished returns on investment and on royalties received.  Scalping 5% off the top of that is punishing to everyone, including gas consumers, who will see their rates increase proportionally.

Here’s the biggest problem with a severance tax: Pennsylvania already has a 3% impact fee on Marcellus gas, and a Corporate Net Income Tax of 9.99% (let’s call it ten percent, OK?).  Most of the other gas and oil producing states have no such additional taxes; their severance taxes are the one and only tax their oil and gas producers pay, not the multiple high taxes and fees drillers in PA pay.

Pennsylvania government is therefore already reaping much higher revenue from the gas industry than other gas producing states.  That means that the companies doing business here are already burdened much more than elsewhere.

So adding a severance tax now, at this economically bad time, without commensurately lowering other taxes, or the existing Impact Fee, makes no sense.  Unless the people promoting this have an infantile view of how America and business work.

And that right there is the problem.  Way too many advocates for tax-and-spend policies like an additional severance tax have a Marxist view of business; essentially, to them, business exists to pour money into liberal schemes.

And speaking of spending, who believes that spending more and more and more taxpayer dollars on public schools, public teachers unions, and public teachers’ pensions, actually equates with better education?

So many studies disprove that (see the Mercatus Center), but it is a liberal mantra that taxpayers must spend ever more of their money to support public unions that support political liberals.  And both parents of students and taxpayers alike now correctly see that system for what it is – simple, legalized political graft to fund one political party.

Public schools are mostly a disaster, yet teacher’s unions and their political buddies continue to pound on the table for more and more money.  Homeowners are essentially now renting their houses from the teacher’s unions, and proposed laws like Act 76 seek to fix that unfair situation by removing the vampire fangs from homeowners and letting the larger society pay for its expenditure.

Going door-to-door for political races year after year, property tax has been the number one issue I have encountered among elderly homeowners.  So many of them can no longer afford to pay the taxes on their houses, that they must sell them and move, despite a lifetime of investing in them.  This is patently un-American and unfair.

So Tom Wolf is moving in exactly the opposite direction we need on this subject, and instead of trying to fix the tax situation, he seeks to make it worse.  To be fair, Wolf campaigned on raising taxes.  He just needs to remember that he did not get elected by voters who want higher taxes, they wanted to fire former governor Tom Corbett.

 

Hallelujah, fur is back in style

A wonderful evening stroll down Fifth Avenue reveals that among the world’s top fashion professionals, natural fur has made a 100% comeback.

Clothing that even I recognize and admire as stunningly beautiful is covered, trimmed, made of, and surrounded by natural furs from many species of animals.

Recall that animal fur was denigrated as cruelly gotten, and bored activists would scream at people wearing fur, sometimes throwing red dye on them. The shallow activists never addressed how their leather shoes and belts and purses and car seats squared up with their public opposition to people wearing other sorts of animal skins.

If hypocrisy is a hallmark of screechy activists, fur was the best example.

Fur is, after all, natural, biodegradable, renewable, and under modern wildlife laws, sustainable. Those are all rare qualities in a world filled with cheap plastic junk manufactured in an enormous prison camp called China.

The luxurious furs I looked at represented incredible skill. From the trappers who artfully snared the critters without damaging the pelt, to the tanners who carefully turned them into soft leather capable of being worked, to the cutters and seamstresses who took the supple leather (with the hair on, like a cow hide) and turned them into gorgeous clothes, throws, and warm accoutrements, the entire process is a long chain of long-enduring skills and appreciation of natural beauty and utility.

If fur was long politically incorrect, but now it is acceptable among the PC elites who run the fashion industry, what does this say about the philosophical leanings of the individuals behind this surge? One cannot help but think that the many gay men in the fashion industry, once emancipated in general society, would eventually hew to a more pragmatic view of life and politics.

After all, once you own a home and work for people willing to spend thousands of dollars on a single garment, you really do have a stake in the capitalist enterprise.

Perhaps the fur on display at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and other stores I looked at is a social statement by a bunch of quiet pragmatists, who have also had it with the faux anger and the overwrought hostility and the ubiquitous unhappiness that characterize Leftist politics.

Well done, chums.

And as a pretty bad but committed trapper myself, thank you.

Seasonal weather changes are natural, welcome

Seasonal changes are natural tick-tocks on the world’s clock.

Following a natural cycle keeps us in tune with nature, even if the conditions aren’t always to our liking.

Cold arrived today.

Driving north on Friday, I photographed the “polar vortex” front as it closed in on central Pennsylvania. It was a dramatic sight, indeed, and heralded the coming of winter.

Right away, I spoke out loud to myself about the need to buy new knobby tires for the truck.  A long, cold, snowy winter is ahead, and I need to be as prepared as possible. Winter isn’t too challenging, if I’ve prepared for it.

Tonight we got our first wood fire going, after cleaning out the wood stove and adding new fire bricks. About a cord of last year’s split oak remains before we begin burning the oak that Viv, Isaac and I split this past spring. By the time we burn through the left over wood, the new wood should be completely dry. We will burn between three and four-and-a-half cords this winter at home.

Wood is a natural, sustainable, renewable heat source whose carbon is part of the planet’s natural cycle. We plant a lot of trees, and they absorb carbon to grow big. It’s a closed loop, which is appealing.

Living life according to the planet’s rhythms is natural and healthy. Will you get cold? Sure. That’s part of living. And if you think it’s cold here, check out Minnesota or Wisconsin or Idaho. Not to mention Alaska.

Just put on long undies and get some Filson wool jackets and vests. You might end up enjoying the cold weather. I certainly do.

Am I off the radar screen? Pardon me while I follow the migrations

Across the Atlantic seaboard and throughout the eastern US interior, fish and animals are migrating, or following mating instincts as they prepare to mate or compete for mating rights.

Those of us who are hunter-gatherer-naturalists are following these natural pulses of animal life, as this is the best time of year to intersect with our prey.  These movements and motions of our prey naturally lead us out into the ocean, onto river banks, hunkered down on field edges, along the beaches, or into the woods with a bow and arrow.

Striped bass, blue fish, deer, doves, and geese are all moving.  Their calls may often be distant, or mostly silent, but they pull me nonetheless.  If given the choice between writing about politics and culture, or hunting and fishing (and running a business and family), the blog always comes in last.

So please forgive me if I am off the Internet radar screen right now, as I follow these magical migrations happening all around us.  Our ancestors did the same thing for tens of thousands of years, too.  I will return…

Disconnect between Democrat chiefs and braves on gas drilling

Interesting wrinkle hasn’t really bubbled up yet into the governor campaign. That is the odd policy adopted a month ago among state Democratic leaders to embrace a gas drilling moratorium.

While to my knowledge none of the Democratic candidates for governor have embraced this policy, only one that I know of has strongly repudiated it. That’s John Hanger.

Hanger recently wrote that “if you support environmental quality, you support gas drilling.”

While Hanger’s polling numbers are on the radar but low among a field of candidates so large that it looks like a Hubble photo of some huge constellation, his prospects are looking better and better. By hewing to a moderate, common sense set of policy positions, Hanger is increasing gathering followers. My understanding is that Hanger does not support more gun control, which is my litmus test for a serious candidate in either party.

Natural gas is about the only thing going on in Pennsylvania right now. And for the future, too. Prospective leaders like John Hanger get my respect for acknowledging that and not playing to fake fears.