Saturday, May 05, 2007

When is a Header a Beetle Bank?

Large farm implements move slowly and have a wide turning radius. The wide turning radius, among other things, means that the furthest edge of the field is not plowed. This is called a header, all the way around. I thought it was going to be complicated like a page in a book with a header and a footer and so on, but nope, this one is easy. A header is a header until or unless it is designated as a beetle bank.

As nearly as I can tell, neither farmers nor beetles were consulted about beetle banks. I know that no one ever checks that there are, in fact, beetles, in the beetle bank carefully set aside for their personal pleasure.

A header becomes a beetle bank (no less than 1.5meters wide all around the field) if the farmer on the required page of the required form agrees that he will conform to government requirements for a beetle bank. In other words, a header is a beetle bank if the government says that it is.

I am personally rather fond of beetles. I know that Coleoptera is one of the largest orders within the insect world. I remember fondly collecting June beetles on the screen door of my home in Indiana as a kid and singing to ladybugs. I cannot even bring myself to wage war against beetles in my garden. I conspire with the birds. I hurl the beetles away from my beans and squash and let the gulls and the crows take advantage of the offering. I am an accomplice to their murder, but I deal with them in a very green way. The gulls, crows, and starlings need to eat, too.

And so I would cheerfully give up a meter and a half around the fields if the beetles asked me to do so. It is the phony green facade of it all. Oh, my friends at this point will be shaking their heads knowing full well that I never met a rule that I Iiked (even some that I made up myself) and I never like to do something that I have been told to do, at least not in the way that I was told. I admit this readily, but don't you, too, wonder about the pointlessness of an empty beetle bank?

I am also subject to enough whimsy and hopefulness that if they told me to build beetle banks and they will come, I could be appeased briefly. I would, however, then be doubly disppointed to find the banks empty again.

If you struggle with the agricultural example, let me share with you another example of what I consider a step too far. I don't smoke; I don't like being around smoking. Because of my own personal preferences, I only squirmed a bit when the government banned smoking in public places. I am very fond of civil liberties, even those of smokers. When I discovered the ban on smoking included the cabs of lorry drivers who are prohibited from having anyone else in their cabs anyway, I thought it was just a glitch in the law that would be quickly amended. Instead, the lawmakers proposed banning smoking in private automobiles. Again, because my ox was not gored, I wrinkled my nose in distaste and disbelief but left well alone.

The step too far came when I discovered that the ban on smoking included a considerable sum of money not for anti-smoking programs but for anti-smoking cops. This seemed heavy handed, but I was not moved to action until I read about an anti-smoking cop who visited a local butcher's shop. The butcher was not smoking; no customers were smoking; no one in the back was smoking, but the butcher was given a warning. Why? He had not properly posted the no-smoking signs in his shop. The no-smoking cop returned and when the signs still had not been posted (no one was smoking this time either), the butcher was fined and taken to court. That, for me, was a step too far. A friend argued that the butcher had not complied with the law and so the only recourse was to apply the law. I agree, but I think the law is misguided. The point, I thought, was to get people to stop smoking where it interfered with other people, or, in the earlier example to make a home for beetles.

Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have argued against the stipulation that an individual should be required to have 50 pounds worth of property and own an ass in order to be eligible to vote in the newly formed colonies. If this were the case, he said, if the man's ass died, then the man would no longer be eligible to vote. Thus, he concluded that it was the ass and not the man who had the vote. And so with this legislation which does not stamp out smoking or make the world safer for beetles.

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At 2:28 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

humm - isn't it almost inevitable that if you leave a secure margin it will rather quickly become inhabited?

At 9:02 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Well, I would hope so, but it's just one of those things that no one really knows or cares or checks that it actually works for its intended purpose. We would have left the headland (as Morris tells me it is properly called) anyway, but now we need to fill out a few more forms. For all I know,the beetles might prefer nesting in the paperwork.

It's very hard to legislate good farming or good gardening or good tending of the earth. For example, this holier than thou legislation is proposing to collect rubbish every 2 weeks instead of once a week. Why? Because they say that will encourage people to compost and recycle. No logic. To help people recycle, collect recycling at the end of the road on the weeks when you don't collect rubbish. Give people free compost bins, set up wormeries in classes at school and community centers. Have senior citizens demonstrate how they used "recycled materials" before it was fashionable as rag rugs or.... Those would encourage people and recycling. Punitive or nonsensical laws don't do it.
I have a compost bin and I recycle paper glass and aluminum. There is no plastic recycling up here. So I am as a knitter and now someone who knows a bit about traditional ropemaking looking at ways to use the plastic that goes around the hay bales as yarn or rope or tapestry background. I may, if I get up the nerve, even get some folks together to demo how to use this stuff at the local Agricultural fair with some other crafters. Forgive me for rabbiting on, but there is so much talent and positive energy up here that is just ignored and patronized that sometimes I get a bit crazy.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

first - I love the phrase "rabbiting on" and haven't heard it elsewhere.

second - glad that you responded in depth - feels more like conversation.

I think I responded because I'm trying to find some secure corners to grow alyssm, california poppies and a few other wild flowers. Corners that I won't need next year for some other purpose, but that can sit there and provide a home for some of the tiny critters that fly and crawl and do good work in my garden.

(reminder to self, put in the garden this year, don't let the season escape again!)

I agree with your recycling comments completely. Re-use and recycling are quite different, and re-use is harder and requires a lot more support to figure out. We recycle some plastics, glass and cans. I almost never have cans, though. Recently I bowed to my internal pressure and got a 2 gallon PUR water filter to sit on my counter, and a small one to sit in my fridge - my recycling bin is often close to empty now. Amusingly, I'd stuck to purchased water for convenience, and now I find the PUR filters more convenient, since I'm not forever lugging gallon jugs of water from the car!

At 8:03 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, I am glad you liked long response. I was feeling a bit guilty.

California poppies will spread, won't they? I think Alyssum is an annual--at least it was in Indiana. I put some in the very front of my pink bed just last week for a spot of color and nice low growth.

For good things in the garden I love marigolds (good old Tagetes or Calendula) or nasturtiums.

You just never know when you are going to want a corner of your garden for something, though, do you? I remember the sad truth about perennials--about 10 minutes after they have (finally) spread and matured, they are overgrwon and having to be torn out.

The season up here can be pretty short. My kitchen garden is going to be half the size it was last year and I am not going to plant the things that it is easy to get up here--neeps (turnips), cabbage, leeks, parsnips, broccoli and brussles sprouts. Cool weather crops in a cool weather climate. But I want a riot of zucchinis (called courgettes over here) and real tomatoes though I will need a mini greenshouse or a polytunnel or something but I miss tomatoes. And lettuces of the interesting varueites and herbs--jus tthe basics--parsly, thyme,chives. Maybe my dill will rise again. I loved the buttery aroma from the garden, but I didn't use it much in cooking.

The water up here tastes delicious, as does the air, but I would love to have a Brita filter.


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