Farmstock 2013
Windmills, mining and music with an old friend

I had a chance to make farmstock last year. It was right after the ietf conference, and I needed a break. Farmstock is a small event - nothing like woodstock! that my childhood friend, Mark, puts on in the summers. He’s been working the last 15-20 years now, building up that farm, planning to retire there, as soon as the kids are through college.

It’s kind of an odd place - although the hills are as rolling and as green as anywhere else in Pennsylvania, the hills are built from strip mine tailings, and the occasional explosion shatters the air, with an attendant cloud of dust.

“They put out a ‘Right to blast’ notice”, Mark says - explaining as the first explosion rumbles through the ground - “They got a permit that’s good from January 1 through December 31st. They’re supposed to blow a horn 3 times. They never do that. We just feel the ground shaking and see the the dust fly. Problem with coal plants, you know - It costs more to start up the things than it does to idle them. And: Everybody wants the light switch to just flip on.”

I’m thinking - It’s an odd thing, wondering if your water table’s polluted, and you can measure the amount of bad chemicals in the ground at all but “still within safety margins” - and still farm. He gets the soil and water tested every year, though, just to be sure.

On the hill on the other side of river a dozen windmills turned rapidly, sucking energy from the onrushing storm.

The party rained out at a little after 8, about an hour after the band started. Those thunderstorms came in fast - less than fifteen minutes from the moment of “well, it looks like it MIGHT rain” - to “oh, god, let’s get everything inside!”

After a truly magnificent display of thunder and lightning, we got a few hours respite - the fire kept going, and the beer kept flowing. (Mark plays banjo, I play guitar, we have nothing in common, so we faked it through GCD songs, mangling stuff like, “Oh, Susana” thoroughly along the way.)

Me being me, playing while the rain tapped on the roof, I wondered what sort of weather control would be needed to make it windy all the time, and what sort of effects that would have on things like pollination. You’d only have to figure out two extra months of wind, steer some sunlight in the right directions, make it always rain somewhere.

The next day was beautiful - the air was clear, the birds chirped, everything was green and crisp. The windmills had spun to a stop. And the power was still on. And the blasters took, at least that morning, off, so no clouds of dust filled the air.

Mark took us around on his 1950s era tractor, all 8 horsepower of it, (60 years old and still easily repairable) - and I had to go back to my previous life, happy that my friend had found a somewhat peaceful part of the universe to make his home in, and still looking for mine.

  • This story sat in my “scratch” buffer in emacs for nearly 2 years, as a mute reminder that maybe I should get back to storytelling * about things I don’t quite understand.

Find me elsewhere.

Best of the blog Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
Authors I like:
Doc Searls
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
David Brin
Charlie Stross
Eric Raymond
The Intercept
Chunky Mark
Dan Luu's rants about hardware design
Selenian Boondocks
Transterrestial Musings

August 11, 2013
559 words