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The Forest Service hearts explosives

MONTANA

The Forest Service is getting more bang for its buck these days. Recently, rangers said they might have to blow up some frozen cows in Colorado to disperse them before they rotted; now comes the news that the Helena National Forest in Montana has already used explosives to bring down some trees -- 500 of them, to be exact, and in just three and a half days. The trees were beetle-killed pine trees that overhung some of the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, where they had a nasty habit of falling over. They were also unsafe to log in a conventional manner, reports the Missoulian. "We don't have a whole lot of really good sawyers," says Charlie Showers, engineering program leader at the Missoula Technology and Development Center. So now a "blaster" controls how the trees come down by deciding where to place the ammonium nitrate-based explosives: "Drilling a hole in the trunk and putting explosives inside does very little damage to the wood, leaving a fuzzy stump," says Showers. "Shrink-wrapping explosives to the outside snaps the tree," the article says. "Proper placement can bring down 50 trees at once, laying them" -- as Showers puts it -- " ‘like hair on a dog's back.' " 

THE NATION

Wisconsin farmer Jerry Apps, a stern-faced man who favors bib overalls with lots of pockets, first published his Rural Wit & Wisdom: Time-Honored Values from the Heartland, in 1997; now, thanks to Colorado's Fulcrum Publishing, it's been re-issued in paperback with evocative black-and-white photos by Apps' son, Steve. It's a keeper, even if a lot of Apps' advice is about what you'd expect from someone who spent years collecting tried-and-true recommendations for a happy and successful life. But there are some surprising bits you might not have heard, such as: "Never trust a barn cat," "Don't turn your back on a billy goat," and "Don't make a pet of a pig; it will spoil your taste for bacon." We also appreciated his advice for how to enjoy below-zero weather: Walk outside, he urges, and "listen and hear nothing except your heart beating." Farm work, of course, is what taught him everything he knows about life, from the routine chores that need to be done with the right attitude -- no sloppiness can be tolerated -- to his dedication to farming itself, as revealed by this pithy anecdote: "A farmer recently won the lottery. When asked what he was going to do with the money, he replied, ‘I'll keep farming until the money runs out.' "

From our friends

HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor

From a HUGE admirer

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— Dr. Stephanie Pincetl, UCLA