Oh Camellia sinensis!

Each time the kettle starts to hiss,

Oh praise Him! Alleluia!

Dihydrogen monoxide too,

Infuse their leaves the whole way through!

Oh praise Him! Oh praise Him!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


Part one is here.


Part one is here.


And there were concerns about violence before…

Part 1 is here.


Part 1 is here.


This comic was originally made for Berenike. It is a first attempt.

Dash it, Jim. I’m a doctor, not an artist.


A long, long time ago (do not make me count years, it is rapidly becoming quite a shocking thing to do!) I heard in a lecture the phrase of, roughly translated, ‘opening the throttle with applied hand brake’ (‘mit gezogener Handbremse Gas geben’). This referred to the pre-winter management strategy for winter rape: you want it to be just at the right developmental stage when winter comes, but when you sow it, you do not yet know how long or how warm autumn will be. You have two instruments: nitrogen fertilization and fungizide application (which, handily, retards plant development in this case). You apply both, trying to strike a delicate balance that will get you exactly to the point you want.

I am in a similar situation: I have to write a grant proposal and neget it reaed to get it ready quite desperately, which necessiates the application of wine (to calm me down from utter PANICK!) and my super-duper-surprisingly-legal herbal infusion (ha!) containing green tea, mint, melisse(?), cinnamon, cacao, cola nut, ginseng, guarana, and paeonia. A delicate balance.

As illustrated yesterday, farmers used to make their living using quiet, idyllic, insect-and-frog-friendly horse drawn machinery. The impression would be wrong, however, that the make their living today using huge, loud, fast tractors. They make their living filling in forms. Probably by making hay or silage and feeding it to, let’s say, suckler cows, they in fact lose money. Before the recent price increase for agricultural products I read an article showing that the relative economic benefit of one crop over another under some not absolutely wonderful site conditions only consistet in reducing the loss one incurred by growing that crop. The reason that farmers do survive under these conditions is that they get EU money for every hectare they cultivate, which tips the scales for a positive economic outcome. This system is replacing the old one of paying the farmer a higher price than the market price for his product. All the money used for price subsidies or subsidies per animal has been spread more or less evenly on the area on which the commodities were produced or the animals were kept, so that now a farmer gets, let’s say, 300 € for a hectare of field where he used to produce a ton of wheat even if he produces only half a ton or nothing at all on that field henceforth. He has, however, to keep this field (or pasture) in a “good agricultural state”, which also costs money, making it more worthwhile still to produce something, as the losses incurred by that may be lower.

As a consequence, area has become all-important, and it has to be checked and re-checked if not the hedge has spread into the field making it smaller, of if a new path has been built, or so on. In Germany, a large proportion of government employees who used to counsel farmers as to what to do to improver their grassland, what to feed their cows, and so on, are now busy checking land parcels. There are a lot of them in southwest Germany. They are tiny. So there is a farmer who has a small field. It is, however, legally composed of four land parcels, maybe only 10 m wide. Each has its own long number. Each has to be checked to be still the same size as laid down on paper in the pre-digital area. Each has to be digitised.

Now even if a path has been built straight across it, the legal land unit remains the same. Let the farmer grow wheat on one side of the path and barley on the other, then each tiny land parcel has three uses: wheat, path, and barley. And the size for each has to be measured out exaxtly.

Real trouble ensues, if you had an old, meandering path before, which was its own legal land parcel. Now a straight one has been built, so the old path land parcel has now many, many tiny bits put to different uses. All having to be measured. And given new long numbers. See the fun?

Agriculture – then:

and now:

Both photographs taken at our annual Grassland Day in Baden-Württemberg. A particularly interesting feature was modern horse-drawn machinery for grassland harvest, like this one:

Raking together, as it were, up to 12 m of mown grass at only three units horse power and at a satisfying speed, too, it is not just intended as a hobby toy for creeks. Particularly for wet grasslands of conservation interest, where heavy machinery can only be used during extended dry periods, if at all, these are a real option. Horse-drawn machinery also causes less losses among animals during the hay- or silage- making process.
In the USA, not particularly my favourite country in other respect (everyone needs a xenophobic stereotype) there appear to be quite a number of farms working with horses – not only amongst the Amish. Even in Germiny, several dozens of commercial farms do part or all their agricultural work with horses. Of course, often in the context of natural conservation and/or connected with tourism, but for the first time I found a sensible person (a professor of our university) joining me in more or less saying: “Come the energy crisis… and we will have to go back to this.”
The manager of the state-owned stud farm presenting the large tractors afterwards of course sneered at all that and was rather boasting about his wonderful new huge tractors. Towards the end he admitted “Yes, of course, with the horse-drawn machinery all was romantic and quite while here we have quite a lot of noise, but of course…” Without waiting for the “of course”, I nodded emphatically, not minding what my boss standing next to me would think of this another exhibition of his employees incurable stubborn conservatism.