Frost alert for SW Idaho

April 28, 2019

For the next few days the forecast is 33-36 degrees F. for the Treasure Valley.  According to my weather station my coldest overnight temp. was 39 degrees F.  I did not think I’d get frost, but having the frost cloth already in place sure added to my peace of mind about the plants I have in the garden bed.  I have straw around the berry plants but I have not added any frost cloth to cover the berry plants.

I need to increase the time irrigating with the soaker hose. The soil around the plants is already drying out in less than 24 hours.  I sort of expected that for the garden bed as my watering schedule has had interruptions with adding new hose and stuff.  I haven’t used a soaker hose system for the garden beds before so I may have to water longer than I originally thought to get to the roots of the plants in the garden beds.  It has been nice to play around with the soaker hose with this bed as I’m learning without sacrificing crops to over watering.  Honestly I expect the broccoli and cauliflower to bolt by June as I planted a little late for a spring crop.  That is okay as I’m trying new ways of planting and the fall crop should be much better as I’ll add extra calcium via crushed eggshells to augment the soil.

While the weather is a bit cooler I have started transplanting the plants I started indoors into larger pots. The little Jiffy planters are great but after a few of weeks, you need bigger pots and regular soil for the plants to thrive in that in-between stage of starts and garden ready plants.  I’m surprised that so many of my old seeds of 5-7 years old sprouted.  I would not rely on that, so I’ll be sprouting and starting as many plants this year for the succession garden plan. The seeds I used this year were not stored in any special way.  In fact I used a couple of shoe boxes.  Any seed I have leftover by this fall that is three years or older will be thrown away.  I’m not saying you should throw away older seeds.  Many of my old seeds surprised me by sprouting.   Buying new seed simply stacks the odds in my favor.

Talked to a neighbor across the alley, they are working on their garden area.  They say they will take any garden starts especially tomatoes. Since I’m transplanting all my starts and thinning the plants this gives me an opportunity to help out a young family grow a garden.  I always planned on helping Mom with transplants/starters, but I was a bit surprised by how many seeds actually started to become plants.  The sweet peppers are ready to plant but the some of the tomatoes and celery need to be thinned and transplanted into pots.  Mom says she will help me with process as she has a lot more experience handling those delicate plant starts.  Mom’s hands are much better than mine for that delicate work, though I do tend to be better at the brute force work.  I have a small seed starter tool but I did not use it.  Next time….

I’ve started the seasoning of my “burnt” cast iron skillet and it is going better than I expected.  I cooked some eggs for breakfast and some chicken quarters for dinner and using lard to the build up non-stick coating is going much faster than I had anticipated.

 

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Started the garden beds new irrigation system

April 26, 2019

The local Bi-Mart had 25 foot soaker hoses on sale for $8.00 each. The 25 foot hose works just about perfect for a loop inside the 10 foot garden bed so all the plants get watered and the hose has little instruction guide about how long to water based on how deep you want the water to get into the soil.   I did the first test on the first garden bed this afternoon watering the bed for about 75 minutes.  All of the garden bed is watered without any puddling.  The Frost cloth did a great job containing any excessive spray so all the water stayed in the bed. This weekend I’ll check to see how deep the water penetrated the soil to make sure I’m watering long enough for the water to get deep into the soil.

I picked up a couple of 6 foot hose “faucet extensions” that will let me daisy chain all of the garden bed’s soaker hoses. This little hose come with a valve on plastic spike so I can water beds individually and add another hose to water the cherry tree and potato buckets with out dragging a hoses all over the yard.  I like using hoses for watering the yard but I want to have all the hoses pre-positioned in the areas I need to water.  I still have a couple of garden areas to get hoses in place.  The 3 sisters garden beds and the future greenhouse/compost bins water system are still in the planning stage but I’m excited to work on those since watering systems are a lot cheaper, creative and it is easier to build watering systems with off the shelf parts.  For about $40.00 I got all of the stuff needed to water the garden beds as well as make the system expandable in the future.

I can’t recommend using Preen for stopping weeds.  The water I added to activate the the Preen weed killer seems to have made the weeds grow faster in the alley.  I’m going to keep the weeds cut back and go back to using the black walnut leaf mulch and wood ash this fall and winter for weed control in the alley. The wood mulch area looks mostly weed free and I will plant add good soil and plant some sedums and Mossy rose, to start replacing the bad weeds with plants I like for the alley.  Perhaps a few sunflowers and sunchokes to add a bit of taller elements to the alley garden.

I’m growing grass in the backyard!  Not MJ but a real grass cover crop.  I have sort of that green haze as the grass seed starts to come up and most of the grass seed is about an inch tall.  My tufts of back yard grass are also putting on growth. I will cut down the tall tufts of grass via weed wacker and wait on mowing  to let the new seedling grass put down deep roots.  It is early days reseeding the yard but it is looking very good for my basic plan

I started my first garden bed by just tilling up the local soil and then adding soil amendments.  This was a bit backwards, as making good soil makes plants grow better and cuts down most of the weeding.  My back yard grass space is surrounded by all sorts of weeds.  Yet the good soil has seemed to keep the weeds out of the area.

I’m not a scientist, I’m just a gardener looking to build a sustainable yard and garden.  I do a lot of trial and error stuff and error seems to be a big part of that learning.  My grass seed is growing in the backyard and seems weed free after 2 years of work building soil.

I did a bit of a dummy as I set my cast iron pans to clean on the stove and then got distracted.  Good news my fire alarms work great. Bad news is I destroyed the seasoning of my favorite cast iron pan.  I’m a bit peeved at myself for getting distracted so the pans could set off my fire alarms.  Now that pan has not burned off all it seasoning but the pan is rusting/oxidizing in spite of the lard I’m adding to season the pan.  I screwed the pooch by getting distracted. I might be able to fix the pan but it is better not to screw up in the first place.


Adding the back yard mulch. Mom picked up the big water tank

April 24, 2019

I got two of the garden bed pathways weeded and added a very deep layer of mulch all the way to the fence line.  I used a D shape weed hoe and it worked much better than a regular hoe to dig out the weeds.  I had a to level the ground between the fence and the garden beds as that is one of Tucker the Peke digging areas.  The mulch layer is almost six inches deep now and I hope that a deeper layer of mulch will help keep down the weeds.

It has been a couple of years since I put down the mulch between the new garden beds.  I was amazed to see how good the soil looked in the areas where the mulch had broken down.  The soil is almost black and much easier to work with the weed hoe between the garden beds.  Around the recovering Cherry tree the soil is not so good but I’m adding a bit of the steer manure compost and a thick layer of mulch to start building that soil up.  Right now the only “plant” I want to feed in that area’s soil is the cherry tree.  I have all the other plants in potato buckets or herbs in containers.  It looks like the cherry tree trunk/upper root  area is a little exposed so I will add the compost very close to the tree trunk but I will keep the mulch set back a few inches so the tree can breathe and not develop any issues from having the mulch to close to the trunk.

A few days ago I added straw to all of the berry planters.  I suspected the squirrels would go for the strawberry plants but one of the blackberry planters had the straw pushed aside and a hole dug in the planter.  I gave the the straw a spritz of the home made pepper spray and will give you an update in a few days about if it worked discouraging the squirrels digging in the berry planters.

I’m still working on the garden beds.  The pvc pipes cracked rather than bent into arches but the Harbor Freight heat gun makes the pvc pipes bend without cracking under the stress of installing the pipes in the garden beds.  I might be able to use a couple of the cracked pvc pipes by heating the area and bending the pipe into place using the heat gun to “soften” the plastic to make the pipe less rigid.  I have a layout of the drip irrigation system and a few more parts to buy to finish up the long garden beds. The new irrigation system should just water the garden beds and not the mulched pathways.  That should help keep down the weeds in the mulched areas.

I’m trying to get in the habit of weeding a little bit everyday rather than weeding a long time every week/two weeks. This is a major fault of mine in tending a garden. I’ll work very hard and a long time (for me) then spend time in recovery.  I need to learn how to “Putter Daily” in the garden rather than work very hard and then have to take a day or two to recover my stamina.  Gardens are a year round project.  While there are days you have to build and do heavy physical work, most of gardening is doing some work everyday to maintain/improve the garden.

Great news, Mom and I loaded the big 250 gallon water tank into her truck.  Mom is getting a water pump to irrigate her back pasture but the water tank will allow her to start storing water for irrigation between times the irrigation water is not available.  I know 250 gallons is not a lot of water storage but that tank is a start for Mom’s irrigation system for her pasture/garden area.  Plus the tank is already paid for, so no out of pocket costs for Mom.  As for Mom getting the tank off the truck and installed she has some great neighbor’s that have offered to help her around her place.  These water tanks are as common as mud around here so getting hoses and fitting to irrigate is easy with a bit of work planning her water system.

Mom picked up many of her pots full of herbs to take to her place.  While she is trying to start a garden area this year the local soil needs a lot of work.  Pots/ Container gardening are going to be the primary part of her garden this year.  There is nothing wrong with container gardening.  A raised bed is simply a large container garden. It is dumb to try and grow a garden in poor soil.  You are better off doing a container garden with good soil rather make a garden that has poor soil.  Trust me I know that the little skiff of top soil dropped in my area is not good nor deep. Now I have earthworm every where when a decade ago I had literally no insects in my soil. Building good soil takes time.  You  can still grow a garden or lawn as you improve the soil.

You don’t have to follow anyone’s advice.  Not mine nor anyone else.  Follow your own voice and take other people’s advice, simply as advice.  You have nothing else you must do in this world but die.  Everything else is your choice, and not paying taxes is a choice.  Perhaps a less than optimal choice but a choice none the less.

 


Mom got her tomato plants

April 22, 2019

I’m learning when you get “pony pak” vegetable need to go in the garden beds or transplanted into larger pots within a day or two of purchase because the plants get root bound quickly in those small pots.  It was amazing to see how much the Sun Globe cherry tomatoes perk up after moving them into 3 inch pots. I’m going to have to invest in getting some of those small 3-4 inch small pots for succession and starting plants for a fall crop.  I did not consider how I would plant crops in the Future green house.  I’m going to need a lot intermediate size pots and many large pots to grow plants nearly year round.  Yard sale season is starting so I’ll keep my eyes open to getting pots for the green house plants.

I’m holding off planting any Brussels sprouts as we are already seeing 70 degrees F. this week and I’m afraid I’ll grow a huge plant that will have no actual sprouts to harvest.  The broccoli and cauliflower plants seem to be suffering from transplant shock but I hope they will recover as the frost cloth provides a little protection from the sun and the plants are getting watered in the garden beds.  I’ve never used a Frost Cloth cover before so this is a learning experience for me.  My hope is the white cloth will reflect some of the heat away from those cole crops and help keep the plants from bolting in the garden bed.  I bought more seeds so I’ll do starts of those cole crops in late summer indoors and try for a fall harvest this year.

I started de-thatching and adding grass seed plus compost to the front yard grass area.  I got about of 1/4th of the front grass area done as de thatching by muscle power is a challenge for me.  I reseeded grass with a drought tolerant fescue grass seed mix then added compost and water.  The compost areas sort of stand out in the formally bare patches of grass but whether is the dark color compost or adding water that area of the yard is looking a bit better/greener already.  The backyard grass area has some new grass sprouting up and I’m hoping the grass will fill in that area.  I have not had to fight many weeds in the back yard area so I know good soil does help stop bad weeds.

I was darn happy to see one of the strawberry plants in the front yard kiddie pool bed has a couple of little flowers after the massive weed clean out and adding new soil I did last week.  If I remember correctly this Strawberry plant is an Ozark and while all the plants are greening up I was surprised to see flowers so quickly after the plants being manhandled so recently.  I have some critters digging into this bed (squirrels) but I have a home made hot pepper spray mix I’ll spray on the straw mulch in the bed.  I used a Tabasco pepper spray mix a few years ago to discourage squirrels a few years ago that was effective keeping those critters from chewing on my wood eaves and setting up nests in my attic.  The hanging bird feeder hooks have worked great.  The birds are messy eaters and squirrels have been happy to feed on the seed that falls to the ground.  Unlike many people I like watching squirrels even though they can be a little annoying at times.  A little spray bottle of home made pepper spray tends to make the squirrels go to the area I prefer in my yard.  Especially if the squirrel can find an easy meal there.  It is funny to watch a squirrel  reach for a suet cake that is at least 3-4 feet beyond his reach.

I’m often surprised by what people consider “good animals” and repelling the “bad animals”.  I think the brown little sparrows and larks are great bird watching.  Oh, the birds don’t have showy plumage but they are a study in and of themselves as “survivalists”. Squirrels are much the same as being survivalists.  I don’t mind animals that are opportunistic for a free/good meal.  I do the same thing when trying to survive  winter!   I’d shoot coyotes around the ranch that killed a calf.  I did not blame the coyote for trying to eat the calf but the cow calf was needed for me to eat in the future.   We were fellow Apex predators competing for food.  Even if you are a vegan you compete for food with other Herbivores like birds, deer and squirrels.  Trust me a deer, few rabbits, gophers, moles and voles can reek havoc on a garden.

I like wild life in the city and in my yard.  That is why I use a little pepper spray to encourage some critters to go elsewhere to feed.  But I would have no problem shooting an animal feeding on my garden nor a predator hunting my dogs and cat.  Thankfully this not a problem I need to deal with very often.


Yard and garden work in thunderstorm?

April 20, 2019

The thunderstorm did not arrive until 3:00 PM so the early part of the day was basic yard work.  I’m trying out Preen garden weed killer in the alley way.  I won’t use Round up and I’m hoping the Preen will kill the weeds in the alley before I start some new plants that do well in poor soil.  I did not follow the instructions precisely for the Preen weed killer.  I weed waked all of the cheat grass and foxtail weeds spread a layer of the Preen and then watered the area.  The alley area has layers of rock and mulch so digging out the weeds to the bare dirt/root layer is not going to happen. My hope is the weeds will start dying back and I can add a mix of sunflowers, sun chokes and perhaps some mossy rose plants to replace the weeds.

Great news most of my gardening hoses survived the winter. I did not store my hoses properly last fall so having one leak, in a cheap light weight water hose was good news.  I have been looking at ways to water my garden beds that is effective and low cost and I think I have a place to get all the parts I need and the cost will be around $50.00.  Now I’m not using water timers.  I will be the “timer” but I think it will conserve water and be a good watering system for the garden.

I was a bit surprised to see the Agriborn frost cloth does not let a lot of rain water hit the raised beds. It does make sense not to let cold water land on plants but I figured the cloth would let liquid water through the cloth.  Great news is that the cloth cover raised bed was dry enough to add plants in spite of the rain storms.  So I got the broccoli and cauliflower from D&B supply planted.  I planted some of the purple onion sets as the onions and these cole crops are good companion plants.  Garden bed #1

This is the lay out of my first garden bed.  I still need to sow the the lettuce and the root crops but I think this is a good start for the early spring garden.  A huge advantage of using the frost cloth is my digger dog Tucker has not dug in this bed.   PVC arches and frost cloth is much cheaper than installing a garden fence.  I have left some open spaces in the garden bed for succession plants starts ready to plant in a couple of weeks.  I used the the the basic lay out for the garden beds from https://www.gardenguides.com/garden-planner.  It a simple planning website, but it is free and gives you the basics for planning raised beds. I really like using the calendar planner as a basic gardening journal.  Jotting down some notes of what you have done and if it works or does not work seems to be working for me.

Sorry my fridge water tray overflowed and I had to cleanup after dumping the water tray.  Tucker followed my efforts as if wondering about the muddy paw prints comment.  I guess another job is done. That job totally surprised me needing to be done.  Well the Kitchen floor has been at least rinsed with water and semi-cleaned…..

The soil in my front yard that supports growing grass looks terrible!  The exposed dirt already looks liked poorly baked clay pottery.   I have been adding new soil and a lot compost to the back yard grass bed and the soil in the back yard bed is looking better plus the grass seed is putting up sprouts/ actually grass seedling are this spring.  I don’t like de-thatching wet grass or soil as much of the marginal grass will get pulled up in the de-thatching rake.

Once it gets a little less rainy I’ll use the de-thatching rake to “scratch” the existing soil, add grass seed along with new dirt and compost. Then work the compost and soil into the front yard with a rake.  That is about the best I can do this spring.  I do have plans for the fall that will be more comprehensive in repairing the front yard grass.

I’m a little ahead of the game, as far as the garden and building the wood pile but I’m little behind on the front yard.

Good news, I got a Dremel tool to help with small jobs around the house.  Supposedly the Dremel will sharpen tools so I’ll test that out on the hatchet.  The hatchet is critical for making kindling but it is the lowest cost ax for replacement cost if I screw up.

To recap all that has happen in April so far…

  1. I have made deeper raise beds and added more soil and compost
  2. Planted cole crops early Spring in hope the plants won’t bolt. Will replant in fall.
  3. Started plants early indoors that generally was successful.
  4. Transplanted plants into larger pots.
  5. Pots ready to go for the sprout/ kitchen herb planter pots.
  6. Pre-paid for 2 cords of fire wood delivered in third week of May.
  7. Started building the “kindling box”.
  8. Starting the garden early because I have frost cloth to protect the plants. If the weather gets wonky.

Mama nature and politicians often screw up your plans.  But overall I think this summer should be relatively simple if not easy.

 


I fixed a lamp today

April 18, 2019

Okay, it’s not a huge accomplishment but this is a lamp Mom really liked and she was ready to throw it in the trash. I picked up a light bulb replacement socket for $4.00 while I was getting the Prime rib on sale and got everything installed and working on the lamp and I only saw sparks and tripped the breakers two times.  I’m not sure how old the lamp is but the color wires  were black and brown. The socket in instructions did not cover anything as mundane as wires that are Ground or Hot wires.  That info probably would not have helped me but it would have been good info for future repairs.   That made guessing what wire equivalent to the white wire in the instructions required a couple of those test are what resulted in the sparks/ blown breakers.   For $4.00 and a bit of cursing, I learned how to fix a broken lamp and I kept that lamp from going into the trash.  I also gained a bit more confidence working with120 volt AC electricity.  When I worked with electronics in the Army it was usually 12-24 volt DC systems.  Most equipment had high wattage but very low amps.  Amperage is what kills people doing stupid stuff with electricity.

Overall I caught up on the jobs I wanted to do when I was laid up/ hurting this week.  The old box spring mattress is  out of the shop to be hauled away next Monday by the trash guys, along with a few other bulky bits of trash.  Mom stopped by and hauled a few more items I have been storing in the shop and a small bucket of kindling for her wood stove.  I’m not sure if she will start a wood fire as it is starting to warm up in SW Idaho. The kindling wood won’t spoil if not used in the next 6 months.  It is amazing how much room in the shop has been opened up by getting the old mattress and box springs out of the shop.  Heck I found a window air conditioner brand new in the box and we have no idea who bought it or when it was bought!  Not a problem as I don’t mind storing a few small air conditioners to use, have a back up and one to trade/barter.

I got my alley way area weed wacked and I’m going to try using Preen garden weed prevention, to assist with my other weed preventers.  Wood ash does help but a thick layer of Black walnut leaf mulch in the fall  seems to work about the best for stopping alley weeds. My biggest problem is picking plants that can grow in poor soil and choke out the weeds.  I get rid of all my goat head weeds and then I see the goat heads take root in the alley because people either don’t pay attention or they use Round up that kills the soil and nothing can grow.   If you want to get rid of weeds you have to find plants you like, that replace the weeds.  You will never stop all weeds as those weeds are nature’s paramedics but you can minimize the growth of noxious weeds. I have a personal vendetta against “Morning Glory”  Jamie the flowers are so pretty and it grows in poor soil, why don’t you love this plant.

Morning glory is the Kudzu of the west.  What does morning glory add to the soil? It grows fast in bad soil. So does “cheat grass” and fox tails weeds.  I don’t mind pretty flowers but when I spend hours of time cleaning all those morning Glory vines off my fences and off my roses.  I’m not a big fan of the plant.  If I had to plant a weed I’d choose dandelions at least they are edible.

Sorry about the rant but I really hate Morning Glory.  On to the fun stuff….  I planted new grass seed in the backyard and I have a few sprouts,  the big tufts of grass are also looking very healthy with the addition of compost and soil.  The new grass seedlings will need a few more weeks to see if they grow.

Idaho is going full on retard/califronication.  The state is about 44% under federal lands yet the state is buying private property with tax payer funds.

WHY? and for what purpose?

E-cigs are looking to be Outlawed in all parks.  Now wasn’t the problem of  smokers was 2nd hand smoke and the smell?  I vape and the aroma/ steam is minimal at best and not like some one smoking tobacco.  How could anyone in a park be injured by water vapor in a park?  It’s not about protecting the people it is all about control.  Hell, the local Boise council meeting had a dozen people show up and demand a mass transit system just cause…According to the local news cast that was overwhelming support for a mass transit.  Boise is creeping up on 500,000+ and the rest of the treasure valley adds another 250,000 yet 12 people showing up to a Boise City council meeting is overwhelming support for mass transit.  According to the news media.

 

 

 


Good shopping today

April 16, 2019

I have been a little sore with the spring weather but I got all the shopping done!  I’m  stocking up on as much beef at good prices before the midwest flood loses start to affect the price of beef.  Plus with the Easter holiday things like Prime Rib/Rib eye steaks are  a good price under $5.00 per pound.  My guess is this is a “loss leader” at most grocery stores at this price.  I’m seeing the beef costs starting to spike at Cash and Carry Food service store so I think rising beef costs will start hitting the grocery stores around mid May or Memorial day weekend. While I have focused on beef, it looks like pork might also see a rise in price.  Though there is a quicker turn around in raising a pig compared to raising a steer, stocking up on low cost pork might be a good idea this Spring/early Summer.  Albertson’s was out of the chicken thighs at $.77 per pound but I got a rain check to get some family paks later this week.

Mom and I used her Senior discount at the local farm store to add a few more bags of the steer manure/compost mix for the raised beds. I added a few starter plant to get in the ground this week.  I got a 4 pak of broccoli and cauliflower to plant this week along with some Sweet globe cherry tomatoes that did not sprout as well from out saved seeds.

My hope is the broccoli and cauliflower starts will put out a good early crop this spring and not bolt right away as it is still cool this spring.  I know that planting those crops  in late May or early June cause the them to bolt fast in the heat of a SW Idaho summer.

Update on my starts:  Overall I’m pleased with the progress of most of the seeds.  I did have some of the older seeds not produce but I sort of expected that to happen.  I have moved the starter pak to the south facing window and we will see if any of the non-sprouting seeds decide to sprout.  The new starts will get a bit of sun and hopefully put on new growth.  My little Kitchen herbs have done darn good and I only have a couple of the little “jiffy” pods that have no sprouts.  Overall, for my first serious try at starter plants I have about a 60-80% sprout rate which is good considering some of the seeds I used are 4-7 years old and were not stored in optimal conditions.  FYI: one of the best tools I found for starting seeds is a wooden Kebab skewer.  The skewer works great for poking the potting soil to place the seed and the rounded end is great to push the soil over the seeds.  While I have bought some plant stakes for my raised beds I think I’ll mark the skewers for the correct seed depth and then place the skewers to mark were my plants are in my raised beds to better differentiate between garden plants and any new weeds.

Weeding the garden has been one of my weak points as I don’t know what my garden plants look like in the early stages of growth.  Hopefully with the skewers and perhaps a toothpick besides each starting plant/seed I can do a better job weeding out weeds and not my garden plants.

I’m going to try using straw as a mulch again but only in my berry planter pots.  When I first tried straw as a mulch I did not consider how little of it broke down over the winter and tried to Roto-till it into the garden soil.  What I’m doing this year is adding straw in bunches but removing it to weed and using it as protective cover.  Most of the straw will be removed from the pots before the soil is worked.  My little electric rototiller does not cut straw and tilling straw just become a big wad of straw around the dirt cutting wheels/tines.  It was great today that Mom brought over a bag of straw to fill up the berry planter pots/beds.  Good news the berry plant pots are looking much better with the addition of new soil/compost and a bit of water.

The shop now looks like Home depot vomited garden products in it!  I want to get one more 10 bag load of mulch while the prices are so low.  It is a little problematic as having all the garden materials in the shop make it darn difficult to move the old box springs and mattress to removed to the trash area pick up point.  Some way I’ll make it happen because getting rid of these things will give me more room to work in the shop.

The old Chinese curse of “May you live in interesting times”. Seems to be in full affect.  We are not the first to see things change and we won’t be the last.  It is not all bad. We can buy little 15-60 watt fold able solar panels for under $50.00-$100.00.  While social networks usually sucks they can be great for getting out info early in a disaster.

Don’t get downhearted because life does not work out as you think it should work.  Life just is…and you can take that as positive or negative. Idaho seems to be going all California retard politically. But you have power about how you live and vote.  Will it make a difference?  I have no idea, but I know doing nothing is a surrender to the “Powers That Be”.