Quote of the Day, April 21, 2014: “Go to the ant, consider her ways and be wise! She has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet she stores provisions in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”

How to build you’re own ant farm:

Spring is here, and with the change in weather many of us are finding that we had better make sure to clean up extra well or we might find a surprise the next morning on the dining table; ANTS. But spring is also an opportunity to get outside and start new projects, and while you’re at it, turn these little critters from pests to pets…in a sense.

First you will need all this equipment, most of it you can probably find laying around your house.

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  • Thin pieces of wood cut to lenghts of about 6 to 10 inches (or longer depending on how big you want your ant farm to be.
  • Glass taken from an old picture frame
  • Clear Shower Calking
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Small wood screws
  • Cardboard or plywood (or another piece of glass)
  • Dirt
  • Seedlings (optional)
  • Ants

First you’ll need to make the frame for your farm. These pieces of wood are about 2inches by 1inch so I turned them sideways so that I could put the thin parts together. The first step is to mark out how thin you want the space for the ants to work in to be. You’ll want it pretty thin so that you can see them as they dig.

After you’ve decided that, mark where you want the glass to sit on the bottom piece of wood. Then use a knife or screwdriver to notch along that line just large enough to be able to slide the piece of glass long ways into the wood for stability. Then use the caulking to secure the glass in place in the wood. You can use glue but I prefer the nice finish clear caulking gives.10259542_10100183122378650_1395219299_n

Then find your piece of cardboard or ply wood and place the glass and the bottom piece of wood against it. This will be the back of the farm. If you want a farm that you can see from both sides then use another piece of glass. Make sure your plywood is cut to the right size and then place the side pieces of wood on either side of the glass and caulk the edges to the glass. You may need to place a rock or something roughly the size of the space between the glass and the plywood under the edge of the glass to keep its shape while the caulking dries. Then use the screws to secure the wood to keep the farm from falling apart. Depending on where you want to display your farm you can build legs from wood as well or secure it to something else with screws.

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Next is the dirt. Try and find dirt that is similar to the kind of dirt that you will find your ants in as well. Don’t get dirt with too many clumps in it as the finer the dirt is the more obvious the tunnels will be that your ants create.

If you’re like me then you may want to add some plants for a more realistic, or at least more scenic environment. I found some weeds growing in my garden and transplanted a few of them into my farm. The roots end up looking cool as well.

Now it’s time for the finally, ANTS. Now if you look hard enough you can usually find an ant mound or perhaps a colony of ants living under a rock or a piece of wood. You can try and collect them by hand but depending on the species this can range from simply difficult to painful. Not to mention you usually end up killing more ants that collecting, and the ones you do collect end up pretty damaged.

 

 

 

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My prefered method is to make the ants come to me. Again depending on the species of any this will be more or less effective but with most ants, they are attracted to sweets and oils, especially animal fats. I create a lid out of wood and I caulk the sides to create a seal over the glass but I make sure to let it dry while off so that I can take it on or off. Then I cut a small hole in the lid, or I choose a piece of wood with a knot whole in it. Then take a long piece of wire and bend it so that you can stick it down into the dirt in your farm on one end, and then make an upside down ‘u’ shape that ends in the dirt outside the farm, near a place you there ants frequent.

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I cooked some bacon that day and took a small piece of bacon and left it in the oil for a bit. Then I cut it in half, placing one piece at the base of the wife outside of the farm and the other piece at the base of the wire inside the farm. Then I took the eyedropper, sucked up some grease, and dribbled it all along the wire, creating a kind of trail of grease. (I also use the eyedropper to add water to the plants.) Then I make sure everything is secure and I leave.

The next day, check your ant farm, if you’ve placed it close enough to an ant source you should find a trail of ants going to and fro along the wire, and tons in your farm working on harvesting the bacon and digging all through your dirt.

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Poetry Month: Looking Back on a First Born

I can finally understand why young guys sometimes leave their families.

The beauty of a woman, as stirring as that may be, is one that keeps you staring, makes you desire to ‘have’.

But the beauty of your own newborn child is different.

The longing you feel is too great.

Looking into his eyes you see your whole past, and your whole future all at once, yet pure and unadulterated, like looking straight into the face of God; too glorious.

Those who say it’s the fear of responsibility or that men don’t want the commitment are sorely mistaken.

Watching those small black pupils dilate while your face slowly comes into focus compels you to be more committed to them than you are to the idea of breathing.

It’s more the deepest desire to do right by someone that makes your skin feel like it’s going to melt and your eyes burn right from their sockets.

Yet like Jonah, running will only make it worse for the face of God hunts you down and brings old men to their knees, frail and unfit to face what they are now forced to face, though they thought they had evaded it in the days of their youth.

Fools run in terror.

For it is truly terrifying.

But those who stay must be willing to die.

Die to oneself, and now live wholly for another.

 

Life has been a bit crazy, and I’ve realized that the older you get, sometimes the less ‘with it’ you can become about the latest fashion or trends. I just found out that it’s poetry month. I don’t really write poetry, but on occasion I pen something down that others tell me sounds quite poetic. This is something I was compelled to write last year around this time, after my first son was born. It was quite an overwhelming experience. As the birth of my second child is days, if not hours away, it seems appropriate to share it now. I think what’s written above sums it up.

Quote of the Day September 5, 2013: “Self-interest and Altruism Point in the Same Direction.”

Today’s quote comes from the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun than You Think by Bryan Caplan. I don’t know much, or anything about the author, and to be honest I’ve only read the first 15 pages of this book. I was visiting my in-laws recently and they have hundreds, perhaps thousands of books. When I get some down time I often pick one off one of their shelves and give it a whirl. As I poked through their collection this one stood out. I’m pretty sure because babies are on my mind now that I have a 7 month old around the house. Just like being married, or anything else worth while for that matter, he’s a lot of work but incredibly rewarding. Now that I’m counted among the billions of parents in the world, I notice all the talk about how to teach, how to discipline, and even thoughts on how many you should have.

Many people today suggest that you should only have one, two or at the most, three children. It’s simply socially responsible they would say considering our culture’s obsession with overpopulation. And it is true as our globe now supports more than 7 billion people, that the number boggles the mind and has visibly risen by a few billion in many of our contemporary’s life times. Some say they don’t know much about population but for them personally, the thought of many kids, or even kids at all seems way too burdensome. But then there are others who say just the opposite. Children aren’t work. They are actually enjoyable. And as far as being socially responsible, the only responsible thing is to have children, and lots of them. This is the position the author Bryan Caplan takes.

When he says, “self-interest and altruism point in the same direction,” he’s saying that it is actually in the self interest of the few and of the many to have more kids. Individually he says that the reality is that kids are work, but not nearly as much work as they are made out to be. Also that they are a lot of work when they are young, but long term they pay off dividends in adult friendship, those who will take care of you when you are older, or even assets in a family business. Long term views aside, they are actually quite rewarding in the day to day as well. Also many people are far too worried about “screwing up” their kids by not being the perfect parent. His view is that the odds are kids end up turning out more or less normal anyway and that parents obviously should be careful to instill work ethic, knowledge, and values, but that they shouldn’t give themselves too much credit. Kids will turn out more or less fine. Also statistics say that most people who have kids, when asked later on in life, say they wish they had even more and very few say they regret having kids altogether. Meanwhile others who did not have kids usually say that they do, in fact, regret not having kids.So he establishes that it is in an individual’s self-interest to have more kids than they would have.

Where it links with altruism is that he also makes quite a case in favor of the idea that the more our population grows the better life will be. He is quite convincing (even if I end up not being in this little summary). He contests that we are not becoming overpopulated, and that historically, humanity has always and only flourished as our populations have increased. The more humans means the more ideas, and more solutions to the problems of the day. More exploration and more support from back home. More humans may mean using more resources, but it also means more of us to discover how to utilize the more resources that we need. Also he notes that in the 1940s there were 10 workers to every 1 senior living on social security. Today there are about 5 workers to every 1 senior. This trend means social security and other programs like it that depend on the young to produce so that the old or infirmed can be taken care of are on their way out. If we as a nation had more children in a macro sense, we could ensure that the pyramid-type programs we have set up have a base to remain sustainable. And on an even more macro and nationalistic note, countries, historically and statistically, that have viewer than 2.6 children per person cannot sustain their own numbers over time, simply due to the normal death rate that all countries experience. So if you think of the United States, for instance, as an island with no people coming in or out, only deaths and births, every person on average would need to have 2 to 3 children to simply keep the same amount of people around over time. Now since countries like the US are not closed doors, if US citizens have fewer kids than necessary to sustain their own numbers, the continent of America will not cease to be populated, but instead it will be populated by other cultures that do have more children.

I supose this could be viewed as a good or a bad thing, depending on what you think about American culture and what you think about the cultures that would overtake it. Either way it is an interesting view about having more kids is selfish, but it is also very generous and altruistic. We often think of those as mutually exclusive terms. I won’t get into them here but there are many economic theories and social and theological approaches that share that view. Obviously the self-interested who rob a bank, or commit a murder are doing things in self-interest alone and they do not actually help others. But there are other behaviors that accomplish both apparently.

How to Create a Raised Garden Bed

 

This year my wife and I decided we wanted a garden. The only problem was that we didn’t have that much space. She wanted quite a few different plants; strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and a bunch of others. We’d have to improvise. We came up with the idea for a two tiered garden that goes up against  an existing fence. I always like to draw things out first.

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First we had to level out the ground and measure out all the dimensions. Then came the bricks. We chose cinder blocks for the front of the garden. They were chosen half for an aesthetic reason, but also because the holes in them would be great to plant strawberries in. Because strawberries often spread, the holes can help keep them in their places. Tying a simple string from one side to the other helped to keep them straight, and a leveler made sure they were level on the ground.

Cinder Blocks

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Next came the wood. 2 x 8’s worked perfectly. Because of the particular size of our backyard, one 12 ft piece worked to run the whole length of the second tier. It rested on four 2×8’s that were laid perpendicular under it. Two on the sides and two placed evenly inside, cutting the space inside in thirds. All the pieces were cut to reach from the fence to me flushly with the cinder blocks. They had steaks nailed to them so they could be pushed in the ground to hold their place. Again a leveled string run across all four boards helps to keep them straight. Decide how far out you want your second tier to jet out from the wall and cut your 2 boards accordingly. Then nail them both on top of the longer boards that meet with the cinder blocks. Depending on the wall you’re garden is going up against, it’s smart to put wood and possibly a layer of plastic up to keep the soil from rotting any other wood like a fence. Put the long front piece on and your structure is ready.

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Now you’re ready to pile it on. Now we had a two tier frame that was 8inches from the ground on the bottom and 16inches from the ground on the top. This means a LOT of dirt to fill it up. Luckily for us, another part of our yard had many mid-sized stones put there by the previous owners. We had never liked the stones and were wondering what to do with them. Filling up the bottom was the perfect fix. It greatly decreased the amount of soil and compost we needed to buy and the space in the rocks creates a great drainage for the garden on top.

Next comes the dirt. Unfortunately we didn’t have any extra dirt lying around but the local Home Depot had all the soil and compost we needed. Depending on what you want to plant you can find many types of soils.

IMG_3432You’re almost done. Now its time to plant, water, and enjoy.

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