Tuesday, April 13, 2021

When I Stopped Listening

It is important to me that I do my best to understand all sides of an issue and I do my best to listen carefully when someone wants to explain their position to me.  I don't have to end up agreeing with them once all is said and done, but if discussion is going to have any value at all, there needs to be a real effort at listening.

I suppose you can consider the motivations for listening too.

I would like to believe that if I commit myself to listening, I am doing so to promote dialog or understanding.  Sometimes I listen because I want to learn.  Even better, I listen because I want to understand what is important to you.  Then, I hope I honor you when I work hard to find the grains of truth that everyone has tucked away in their position - even if it is pretty radical from my standpoint.

And, perhaps, I can then continue to grow - perhaps bringing the person I listened to along for the ride - so we can both come to a better understanding.  Maybe we can both change a little and grow a little.  Maybe we can both be better.

That's the ideal.  That's how I draw out the plan in my own head.

But, I am finding that there is one key method you can use to get me to stop listening and forsake the plan entirely.

 Whoa? Did he say we can get him to ignore us?

I Stopped Listening

... that day when you decided to use an offensive word or a disrespectful nickname for people who do not agree with you.  It didn't matter if it wasn't a really nasty word, because I could hear the disdainful tone that was behind it.

Maybe you hear that name or word so much that you don't realize you use it?  Do you really think people who don't agree with you are evil, unworthy, and past redemption of any sort?  Perhaps you don't know that my personal beliefs just might qualify me to be one of those people for whom you have so much anger - or blatant disregard.  If that is the case, do you really feel that I am not worthy of walking on the same good earth that you do?  If you don't mean that, it sure feels like you do.

And, if you back-peddle and say, "I didn't mean you, specifically," why do you give me a "pass?"   If you don't offer me a pass, does that mean all of the time we have been good acquaintances, friends, or family count for nothing?  

The china is broken and glue won't put it back to the way it was.  What can we do now?

I Stopped Listening

...when you made it startlingly clear that you understood the issue completely and that there was no other way a person could see it.

I wonder what it must be like to have every piece of information immediately available to you AND then be able to boil it all down to your personal point of view that excludes all others.  I am amazed at your ability to trust one source completely and then discard another without even reading or viewing what is offered.  You have made it clear that if I suggest anything that does not fall in line with what you now believe that I am wrong, I am stupid, and I am damned to burn in hell for eternity.

It doesn't matter that I have seen you make mistakes.  I have seen you stumble.  I know you are not perfect... and so should you.  From that imperfection should be humility that recognizes that we do not know everything and that we can be wrong.  Oh so wrong.

But, you seem to have forgotten that.

I Stopped Listening

... the moment you showed how much hate and intolerance motivated you to speak.

And, I feel bad about that.  Because I, too, am showing my own intolerance by making my own assumptions about you.  And I question myself - am I letting my own hate, my own self-pride, and my own opinions prevent me from being the one who is a bridge between worlds?  The truth hurts, because I probably am - at least at some level.

But, I tried to listen to show respect to you - someone who should be respected.

And you threw that respect back in my face by telling me that I, or people I care about, are less than valuable - less than lovable - less than equal to you.

Perhaps the only way I can continue to honor you is to stop listening to you, and try again to quietly tell you why I stopped.  Why it hurt or why it could hurt.  Why I hope you can consider making some changes.

And, I fear that when I do, you will mark me as unworthy for redemption.  And I will do the same to you.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Waking Up

 It really wasn't that many days ago that we were talking about how the cold changes things at the farm.  Our pictures featured snow or frost and the only additional colors we tended to get occurred when the sun was setting and the wind was blowing at the same time - giving us something like this:

Here we are in early April and the natural world is waking up around us.  Well, truth be told, the natural world has been waking for some time.  It's just that we humans sometimes need to have some really obvious signs to actually catch our notice.  

Crazy Maurice has been showing off his yellow branches for a several weeks now, indicating that he was rousing from his cold weather slumber.  As he mentioned in last week's blog, he's been watching the world turn and reconnecting with his tree acquaintances on the farm.

Maurice is now in full flower and the green leaves are starting to unfurl.  He is really quite a handsome fellow and we're glad he's anchoring the northeast corner of our farm.  After our discussion for last week's blog he pointed out that I had not taken a recent portrait - so we took care of that during a recent walkabout.

I realize most folks start to talk about Spring when they see the daffodil, crocus and other bulbs poking up from the ground.  After all, it is true that they are among the first green and growing things that make themselves known.  I am, of course, happy to see them preparing to bloom.

 And some of the blooms are a little quicker to open than others.  Most of our daffodils have not opened, but a few of them were brave and decided they couldn't wait any longer.  I thought this particular bloom was doing a fine job of looking good with rain droplets adorning its petals.

Sadly, daffodils don't last very long on the farm because they are usually opening when the heavy April winds are blowing things around pretty good.  

But, I think this is true for most flowers - they never last as long as I wish they would.  That is why I remind myself to stop and enjoy them whenever I notice them.  After all, a whole year's worth of sunlight conversion and energy storage have gone into producing these flowers and I don't want to fail to acknowledge that effort.

Crazy Maurice and I were also talking a bit about Pasque flowers because they are always among the first flowers on the farm each year.  The first flowers that pop up from these plants often represent most of the volume of the plant that is above ground early on.  But, not to worry, the greens will catch up with the flowers.  If all goes well, each plant will reward us with multiple flower stalks and a bloom period that may last a few weeks.  We'll take it!


Another early bloomer at the farm are the Forsythia bushes that we have placed in a few locations.  Those that reside on the borders of the farm have to fight a bit, but the one that is not far from the house is a happy plant.  Apparently the combination of just a little shelter from the harshest elements (and the neighboring fields) means something. 

What makes a Forsythia standout is the fact that they are typically covered in flowers - and that coverage seems to happen overnight.  I tried to pay attention this year and I just wasn't seeing the buds swelling.  Then, suddenly... POOF!  Flowers.

There are so many of these yellow flowers on a Forsythia that it can be pretty hard to isolate a few of them for inspection.  

By themselves, I think it would be safe to say that they are not terribly eye catching.  Don't get me wrong, I do like them and I did appreciate seeing them up close and personal.

The strength of a Forsythia and its flowers is that it shows off almost before any other plant.  Sure, the grass has greened up some.  But, nearly every other woody plant is still pretty barren. If you want to call attention to yourself, be audacious and flower before anyone else does!

All too soon, the green leaves will come in and the yellow petals will drop.  Other, showier blooms will begin drawing our attention away from the Forsythia as it goes about the business of growing and storing energy.

Before that happens, I will go out and appreciate these bushes each day.  They exhibit the beauty that a group, working in concert, can achieve.  It is something we could all aspire to.

Another early season perennial that surprises me every year - even though I know it well - is the Lungwort.  These are shade loving plants that show off before most of the other perennials have pushed anything up out of the soil for the year.  By the time we get to June, there won't be so much of them to see.

Right now, they are growing - and growing fast!  I took a picture of them one day and then again two days later and the plants had tripled in size and in the number of flower clusters they had showing.  The blooms start as a pinkish red before they open and turn to a soft blue-violet.  

If you have any Lungwort and you are able to do so, give yourself permission to get down on their level.  Sure, they look nice from a distance.  But, there is so much more to them that you can observe with a closer inspection.

Some folks might be more familiar with Virginia Bluebells.

Well, we have those as well at the farm.  Not as many as I think I would like to have, but you might not be wrong if you guessed that I could really imagine A LOT of bluebells.

There are some definite similarities between Lungwort and Bluebells, but we have found that the Lungwort tends to start at the farm first.  On the other hand, it seems as if the Bluebells are a hardier plant, showing the ability to grow reasonably well most places that have a little shade.

Either way, I am happy to provide a home for some of each at the farm.  I keep thinking that we might split some of the bigger plants to encourage them to spread and cover more ground.  But, by the time we get to that idea, the rest of the farm is calling our attentions elsewhere.

That's ok.  If these plants keep coming back year after year - looking healthy - I'll still be pleased with the results. 

It does seem like Spring is moving very quickly this year.  I suppose if we compare it to the last few years, it really is moving quickly.  There is still a decent chance that we will see another freeze or two and we haven't gotten our "three snows on the Robin's tail" by my count.  

Just as a gentle reminder - here is the snow/ice map for May 3, 2013.

Yep, we had a snowstorm in May that year.  It happens and nothing says it won't happen this year.  Yet a big difference is that the Daffodils, Pasque Flowers and other plants were just about at the stage they are right now.  That year (2013) was a slower Spring and the plants weren't much bothered by it all because those that were waking up were tough enough to deal with it.

Crazy Maurice tells me he doesn't feel much of a threat for a deep freeze this Spring.  In fact, he's sounding and looking pretty optimistic that Spring is here to stay.  On the other hand, the two of us agree that this is looking to be a dry year in our area.

After the number of wet seasons we've had, I might be tempted to welcome a dry year.  But, I know better than to say too much for fear that Mother Nature will hear it and decide to give us too much of a good thing.  And, now that I've said that, I realize that Mother Nature doesn't really care that much about what I think.  She'll do what she does and we'll do what we must.

None of that is under our control, so I'll spend a bit more time appreciating the blooms on Maurice's branches (at left).  I'll keep stopping to appreciate the Lungwort and the Forsythia.  I'll smile at the Daffodils and offer encouragement to the Bluebells.  I'll walk on green grass and even take note of the little yellow dots of Dandelions making their appearance.

There's a good deal to see when you take the time to look at the plants around you as they wake up.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Trime for Postal History Sunday

Welcome again to Postal History Sunday on the Genuine Faux Farm blog!  This is the time every week where I get to take a look at something I enjoy and in the process, we all might get to learn something new!

Let me remind you that I am always happy to take questions/corrections on past Postal History Sunday blogs and requests/suggestions for future blogs.  It does not matter if you are merely amused by the fact that someone would even bother collecting these old pieces of paper or if you are one of those people who do collect them.

Now it is time to take those troubles and worries with you as you fill in the hole for the old outhouse.  Throw those troubles right in there before you cap it off.  Remember, you should not flush them down the toilet.  If you live in the country, septic tanks can have enough trouble without you adding to it.  If you live in the city, the city sewer people really frown on people flushing things down the tubes that don't belong there!


These threads always start somewhere

A couple of people have asked me how I decide where to start one of my Postal History Sunday blogs and another asked how I decide where to start with my research when I have a particular postal history item.  Today I am going to take you on a journey as I explore a topic!  This either going to be fun or confusing.

Eh... if it's confusing, we'll just call it fun and leave it at that!

I almost always start by looking at the postal markings and the stamps (if there are any).  My initial goals are to determine the following:

  • when was it mailed?
  • what was the origination point?
  • where was it destined to go?
  • what postage was paid and how much was required?

The envelope is pretty clean and shows a nice, red City Date Stamp (CDS) that reads "Providence, R.I., Oct 12, 1858."  It was mailed from Providence to Norton, Massachusetts.  This letter needed 3 cents in postage to cover the standard letter rate inside the United States for an item that weighed no more than 1/2 ounce and traveled no more than 3,000 miles (letters to and from the West Coast required more postage).

A three cent stamp was placed on the envelope to show payment for the domestic mail service.  The stamp itself was defaced with a circular marking in black ink that reads "PAID."  We often refer to the postal marking that was used to prevent reuse of a stamp as a "cancellation device" or "obliterator."

The postage stamp is a design that was first issued in 1851, but this particular stamp is known as an 1857 issue.  Leave it to a collector to make things more complicated!

A quick look at the stamp

Collectors can be interesting creatures because they can find all sorts of ways to see differences where others do not.  I mentioned that this is known as an 1857 issue of the stamp and I know that because the edges of the stamp are "perforated."  Stamps were printed in sheets - and prior to 1857, these sheets of stamps were separated by a scissors or a blade of some sort.  In 1857, stamp production added perforations to allow people to separate stamps more easily without employing a tool.

For comparison, here is a five-cent stamp from the 1847 issue in the United States.  There are no perforations along the outside edge to aid in the separation of stamps from the sheet.

From the perspective of postal history in the United States, perforations on stamps is actually a pretty amazing innovation and worthy of recognition.  As it was, postage stamps were still a relatively new item (1840 for first postage stamp in the United Kingdom).  The introduction of perforations to make the use of these stamps more convenient (1854, again in the UK) reflects growing demand and use of the postal services as postage rates rapidly declined and became accessible to more of the public.

I could go even further and tell you that this particular stamp has a small design difference that designates it as a "type II."  If you look at the vertical line at the top left of the stamp you will notice that it looks like it will continue on to the next stamp that would have been above it on the sheet.  This is a key characteristic for one of these 3 cent stamps to be identified as a type II stamp.  But, maybe that's getting too far in to the weeds for today?

It doesn't matter if we are in the weeds because - well, I went there anyway.  So, climbing back OUT of the weeds....

At this point, I can tell you that this particular envelope is typical in all respects for letter mail of the time.  The stamp and cover are nice enough, but nothing special from a collector's standpoint.    Since I started as a stamp collector, I might opt to use it as a way of showing each of the three types of the 1857 3-cent issue on a postal item.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn't consider this to be a candidate for a Postal History Sunday entry all by itself at this point. 

The address might be of interest

The contents of this letter are no longer with the envelope, but we can look to the address and see if there is anything that grabs my attention.  This time I am drawn to the location - Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts.  This rings a bell for me, so I thought I'd take a quick look and try to figure out why I remembered that location and school.

It turns out that Wheaton College is now a co-ed, liberal arts institution with somewhere in the neighborhood of 1700 students.  Wheaton started as a college for women, established in 1834/35 as a memorial to Elizabeth Wheaton Strong by her parents.  The college maintains a page summarizing this early history.  If you wish to learn more, that is a good place to start. 

There is actually another reason why this particular address rang a bell for me.  One of the running jokes, Tammy and I have is that I know all sorts of odd little facts because...it was on a stamp.

Mary Lyon was honored with a United States postage stamp in 1987.  She was an educator, a chemist, and an advocate for the provision of learning opportunities for women and is the founder of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (est 1837).  She was an instructor at Ipswitch Seminary in 1834 and was asked to serve as the principal at Wheaton.  She declined as she was in the middle of her own Mount Holyoke project, but she recommended colleague Eunice Caldwell to serve as principal.  In addition, Lyon served as a consultant for the Wheaton school as they moved forward with the school.

What stood out most for me when I first read about Mary Lyon many years ago was that she wanted Mount Holyoke to be accessible to everyone, not just the children of those who were wealthy.

But there was a side purpose this time too!

While I like the turn this particular address took as I did a little research, what really got me started looking more closely at this cover was the fact that I wanted to pick something that looked kind of nice to go with this little coin I've had stashed in my coin bag:

What you see here is a coin that was minted in 1858 (hence part of the reason I picked the piece of letter mail I did since it is also dated 1858).  This coin was known as a trime and represented 3 cents in currency.  The trime made its first appearance in 1851.

Hmmm.  1851?  Why does that sound familiar?

An Act of Congress issued on March 3, 1851 reduced the letter rate for mail in the United States to 3 cents per 1/2 ounce for items sent no more than 3000 miles (effective on July 1 of that year).  A 3 cent postage stamp was issued on July 1, 1851 to show prepayment of this rate.  In addition, this act authorized the creation of a 3 cent coin (the first of its type) to provide the public with a convenient method to pay for these stamps. (*see notes at the end of this post)

The simple idea that a coin would be created to facilitate the purchase of stamps to pay for the postage of letters is a compelling story all by itself.  This illustrates just how important mail service had become as a primary communication method for a broad section of the populace.

The popular name for these tiny coins were "fishscales," because they were extremely thin and very small - giving a remarkable resemblance to the scale of a largish fish.  You can see the trime at the top left of the cover shown above.  Below it would be an example of a one cent piece (known as a large cent) that was available in the 1850s.  The one-cent piece is actually bigger than a present day quarter.

Can you imagine needing three of those big coins to pay three cents versus the tiny "fishscale" that would do the same job?  Personally, I would think the trime might be troublesome because it would be so easy to lose!  

For those who have interest, here is a view of the other side of the trime.  If you are a numismatist (coin collector) you might be tempted to point out to me that this is not the nicest example of a trime and you would be correct.  But, it's what I have.  It has been in my possession ever since my Dad and ten-year-old me spent hours digging through his bag of Buffalo Nickles trying to read the date on each one.

It doesn't matter what the condition is because it is loaded with personal meaning - and now it has an envelope to tie it to the primary purpose of a trime - paying for a letter to be mailed.


Thank you for joining me for another Postal History Sunday!  I hope you enjoyed the journey, whenever you decide to take it.

For those that find the combination of coins and postal history to be intriguing, I would highly recommend an exhibit put together by Richard Frajola called Paying the Postage.  I am intrigued by the fact that foreign coins were frequently accepted as payment and policy often set values for their use in the United States.  If you are only interested in the trime, you can go straight to frame 3 of the exhibit.  Some very nice examples of the trime can be seen there.


Sometimes, to keep the flow of the blog post going, I don't give every detail.  And, sometimes, I provide extra information at the end for those who want them.  Today is such a day!

* Section 1 of Postal Act of March 3, 1851 established "That from and after the thirtieth day of June, eighteen hundred and fifty-one, in lieu of the postage rates now established by law, there shall be charged the following rates...For every single letter...for any distance between places in the United States not exceeding three thousand miles, when the postage of such letter shall have been prepaid, three cents, and five cents when the postage thereon has not been prepaid...and every letter of parcel not exceeding half an ounce in weight, shall be deemed a single letter..."

* Section 3 of Postal Act of March 3, 1851 provided direction that the Postmaster General should create "...suitable postage stamps, of the denomination of three cents...to facilitate the pre-payment of postages provided for in this act."

* Section 11 of the Postal Act of March 3, 1851 stated that "...it shall be lawful to coin, at the mint of the United States and its branches, a piece of the denomination and legal value of three cents...it shall be a legal tender in payment of debts for all sums of thirty cents and under..."

The three-cent 1851/57 stamp design has caught the attention of many collectors, past and present.  If you would like to learn more, you can visit the resources put together at the US Philatelic Classics Society site.  Like so many things in postal history and philately, you can dig as deep as you wish or you can explore as broadly as you want.  And that is part of the reason I enjoy this hobby.

Have a great day!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Touchstone Gold

After a short break, we are returning to a Saturday Variety Show post where we feature a veggie variety we have grown at the Genuine Faux Farm.  This week, we're going to look at what has become our favorite beet variety to grow at the farm.  And, if you want to know what I feel about eating beets (and other things in general), you can check out the post titled Not That Simple.


I have to admit that I was never fond of red beets - and before we started growing, I believed I did not like ALL beets.  Then we tried Chioggia (a red and white striped beet) and found that I actually kind of liked those.  That, of course, led to further experimentation and we found that I actually really like golden beets!  The problem with that was that meant we had to find a variety of golden beets that would reliably produce at our farm.

Over time, we have found that Touchstone Gold has been the most reliable beet for germination, which has been our biggest hurdle for production.  In fact, we had enough trouble with beet and carrot germination that we started using valuable high tunnel space for each of these crops so we could cover some of that need in our CSA reliably.  

Beets and carrots work well in a shared bed when grown in a high tunnel.  We have put as many as three rows of each into a single bed, but we had the best results for overall production and labor conservation by sticking with two rows of each.

The photo at the right shows the broader ,yellow-green leaves of a Touchstone Gold beet.  Other, red varieties tend to have darker leaves that sometime show a hint of red or purplish veins.  

Beet seeds are typically multigerm seed balls, so each 'seed' you pull out of a packet may actually result in several different plants (typically no more than four).  If you don't overcrowd your seed planting, these plants can usually co-exist just fine without thinning.  It becomes a problem when you seed your plantings at too high of a density.  

This Cornell growing guide is probably as good as any resource if you are thinking about growing some of your own beets.  There is also a nice blog presented by High Mowing that talks about soil and beet production.  

Just remember that growing for yourself and growing in larger amounts for commercial purposes are two different animals.  From our perspective - once we manage to get beets to germinate - the biggest issue is keeping the weeds out of the crop.  The other part is remembering to keep beet production out of areas that are in the rotation for adding fertility.  Too much nitrogen, in particular, can result in gorgeous leaves, but no root.  Great if you want to harvest the leaves and sell them, not so good if you want the roots.

We have successfully grown beets both inside and outside of the high tunnel, but we find they do best in areas that have loose, sandier types of soil rather than some of the areas that have heavier soil with more clay content.  

We do not normally harvest the leaves, but we do leave them with the root in the earlier harvests so the customer can decide for themselves if they want to use one, the other, or both.  We note that the leaves of Touchstone Gold do stay a bit more tender than other varieties even as they get larger.  You might want to trim off the stem and a some of the base if that is the case.

Touchstone Gold roots can be harvested young or can be allowed to get quite large.  There are always a few beets we leave in the ground for most of the season, we find the centers of these are still solid with a fine texture.  We usually will not harvest beets until they are at least the size of a half-dollar and don't hesitate to cut up and happily roast a beet that goes well beyond the one pound mark in weight.  Ideally, we like our beets to weigh about a third of a pound.  The picture at the top of this blog shows approximately one pound in beet root.

A word of warning about letting them sit in the field for longer periods - they aren't going to necessarily remain a nice roundish ball that you want to take pictures of.  They'll start to get some crags and lumps that make them a little harder to work with.  They still taste good, but they won't market well once you let them run long.

One of the benefits we have had with high tunnel production is an extended season without planting a new succession.  With a multigerm cluster of beets, it is not uncommon for one of the cluster to get large enough to harvest while the others remain small.  If you harvest the larger beet and give the smaller ones more time, you can effectively extend the harvest.  This comes, of course, at the cost of continuing to keep the bed weeded.  But, that's why the high tunnel is a good place for us to do this.  We control the water, which helps us to control the weeds, buying us the time to play this particular game with this particular crop. We prefer to clean out the beets in an outdoor row over a shorter harvest period.

A typical high tunnel planting (shown above) in a shared bed of carrots typically yielded us 150 pounds of quality beets.  These plantings are normally 2 direct seeded rows about 60 feet long in a bed shared with carrots.  

Touchstone Gold has actually made our annual Veg Variety Winners list, landing at #9 in 2015.  

If you love the earthy taste and texture of red beets such as Detroit Dark Red or Bull's Blood, then you might not be as impressed with Touchstone Gold.  On the other hand, if you aren't a fan of red beets, but prefer a slightly drier and less earthy taste, you may actually like Touchstone Gold.  They are particularly good roasted in the oven.

I hope you enjoyed this veggie variety feature for this Saturday.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Inspector's Findings

If you have been paying attention to the blogs posted here for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, you might have noticed that we've used the input of some of the denizens of the Genuine Faux Farm.  If you missed them, Chicken Stu started us off on Tuesday, followed by some Lost Writings from the SandmanCrazy Maurice weighed in on yesterday's blog.

Today, we asked the Inspector if he would be willing to answer a few more questions that we have received for his input.

What do you do when it gets REALLY cold outside?

I'm not sure what you are asking.  It's really nice out here right now.

(The farmer tries to explain that the questioner wants to know what he does on days when it IS really cold...)

But, it's not really cold right now.  A little wet in places, but I can find a nice spot under that green tree over there that's dry.  I've made a nice little nest there where I can be forewarned when you or Pretty Lady come out of the house or are on the way back into it.

After a while, I can munch a little food and drink a little water.  Then I can take a stroll over the building without walls (the old barn) and find a spot in the old straw to hang out for a while.  

(The farmer tries to explain... again.)

OH.  You mean WAY back THEN?  Why would we want to talk about that?  It was cold and I didn't like it.  But, it's ok.  It's nice today and I can find some great places to be.

How important is dignity to a cat?

What is it with your questions for today?  A cat is ALWAYS dignified because a cat is always doing what it wants to do when it wants to do it.  How can that NOT be dignified.

(The farmer attempts to explain that it has to do with a picture of him accepting a belly-rub...)

You're offering a belly-rub?  Ok.

(After a belly-rub, the farmer attempts to explain.... one more time)

Let's see.  You're telling me that you offering a belly-rub and me deciding I like that idea is somehow undignified?  I did get you to do something I like when I wanted it didn't I?

(The farmer concedes the point.)

Do you like chicken?

You know, they're just a bit uptight, don't you think?  I mean, I'm sure they're fine and all of that.  After all, I see that you give them food and water every day.  So, they must have some reason for being here.  But, I don't really want to hang around with them much.

(The farmer points out that the hens were actually a little upset the last time he visited their pasture...)

Well, yeah.  As I said, they're a little uptight.  I was just meandering and checking the world out - no big deal you know?  It meant I had to change how I went about doing my rounds - but it's all good.  They don't really bother me, you know?

(What?  You expected a different answer?)

Give us NEW questions to ask the Inspector!

The Inspector actually likes this question and answer game!  But, we've run out of questions that have been offered up for the Inspector.  Put some new ones in the comments for the blog or for social media.  Or if you would prefer, you can email us at genuinefauxfarm (at gmail dot com).

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Crazy Maurice Awakens

Crazy Maurice (our Weeping Willow tree) has been showing signs of waking up since the days just after the cold snap in February.  You can usually spot some of the earliest and clearest signs of Spring as the stems of willows often turn a bright yellow - especially if you contrast it to either the brown or white that is usually prevalent in our Iowa landscape during the cold months.

In fact, the yellow is changing to yellow-green as the buds of new leaves start to swell.  Crazy Maurice is actually quite awake right now, but he is also quite busy.  After all, waking up after a long Winter can be an all-consuming process.

Even so, Crazy Maurice was kind enough to offer up some beginning of the year thoughts that we will share here. 



It was actually nice to have a visit from the Fuzzy Guy with the Red Hat, despite what the old Oaks on the farm say about him (note: they said it wasn't a good idea for trees to talk to farmers).  Sometimes, Fuzzy Guy comes out to my corner of the farm on that rolling, red thing that growls like it's always wanting more to eat even though it isn't really hungry.... (he means Rosie, our tractor).  But, this time, he walked out here to just look around and to check on me.

Say what you want about farmers, but it felt pretty nice to have him come out just because he wanted to see how I was doing.

Of course, he was also checking in with some of the other trees out here and he needs to see if there are things he needs to do.  I understand that.  But, still... he did come to visit me.

Fuzzy Guy told me that there are some flowers showing up at the farm including one type he calls a Pasque Flower.  Since I don't get around too much (ha ha.  That's a tree joke.) He took a moment to describe them to me.  They sound like a flower I could get to like.  They are among the first to emerge from the ground and bloom each year.  I can respect another plant that likes to get an early start on things each year - even if they are pretty darned small and even though they handle the cold months by hiding under the surface of the soil.

I made a suggestion that it would be neat to have one of those flowers within my range of sight and Fuzzy Guy said something about "We'll see...."  

This is where I wish I could teach Fuzzy Guy about using his words.  As it is, it is hard enough for me to understand him because he uses so few of them to explain things that deserve many MORE words.  I just know, for example, that these little "Pasque Flowers" deserve a much bigger and more useful name.

Anyway, I suspect this "We'll see" thing is code for something.  I mean, if he just put one of these flowers nearby, then we could BOTH see it.  Right?  So, that could be what he means, couldn't it?  But, that's not the sense I got.  

The good thing about being a tree is that I do have a little extra height that allows me to see more things at a time than short farmers.  Fuzzy Guy said he could share a picture of what he can see from my location, so I'll trust that he'll do that. (note, see above picture from last Spring)

Being one of the first to wake up enough to get a look around gives me the opportunity to welcome some of the "hops around in branches, flaps in the sky and make pretty, high-pitched noises things" (birds) as they return.  The "noisy, squawky, ground hoppers that the farmer feeds, etc..." (chickens) are a bit further away from me this time of year - and I am very fine with that.  Those things just never seem to shut up and it doesn't seem to matter what time of year it is for them to chatter.  

Don't get me wrong.  The chickens (as the Fuzzy Guy calls them) are fine visitors in the warmer months.  They can be amusing and quite absurd (a new word Fuzzy Guy tought me today! I like it!).  But, I do prefer a chance to read the news of the world as it unfolds in the Spring without their incessant interruptions.  

The grasses and clover in the pasture areas are greening up and there are hints that my other tree friends out here are getting the sap running.  

Fuzzy Guy mentioned that the Ash trees on the farm are dead or dying.  Of course, I knew this was happening because we (the trees) do share the news.  The Ashes really weren't a bad sort, to my way of thinking.  A bit quicker to accept a 'hasty tree,' such as myself - unlike the old Oaks.  Perhaps not the most creative - but they came from good seed, as we say.  Sadly, their end came prematurely.  But, sometimes there is no way of avoiding such things.

I am aware that Pretty Lady and Fuzzy Guy have planted some younger trees near the old Ashes over the years.  Since I get most of my tree news from the furthest parts of the farm from the bigger trees (because I can see and hear them), I only get partial updates about the younglings.  The Oaks claim they don't think much about us - preferring the company of our elders, but they say I am getting hard to ignore.

I think that might also be because there are so few around here that are older trees.  It's something to ponder.

Now I shall spend some time observing the turning of the Earth.  There is so much to see.  And so much to learn.  And so many words to describe it all. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Lost Writings of the Sandman

Ever since the Sandman left us in 2018, we have felt the loss of our most excellent Spokescat.  This 2015 interview with the Sandman gives you a flavor of his ability to command... well... most everything.

Since the Sandman designated me to be his most obedient servant, it was up to me to take notes when he was feeling like dispensing his wisdom.  As you can probably guess, I was not always completely ready when the Sandman was ready to speak (much to his disappointment).  There were numerous times I was fighting to scratch out a few notes while I was cultivating the potatoes or harvesting the peppers.  

You see, when the Sandman spoke, you listened.

You all know what to do.  Pay attention!  I, the Sandman, have spoken.

I was recently going through papers in the farm office when I came upon a cache of notes I had taken during some of my conversations (listening sessions actually) with the Sandman during his short, but illustrious, life. I thought I would do all of us a favor and share some of those notes.  

I am sure he would be disappointed to know that this valuable wisdom will have taken so long to reach the general public.  But, if I told him I was taking a nap - per his advice - I suspect he would forgive me.

The Sandman on Being Helpful

"I have found that humans just never seem to know what is good for them.  You wonder why I sit in your harvest trays or ask for a skritch at the times I select?  You need the reminder that I am what is good for you.  This is obvious.  Yet you fail to recognize it.  Sometimes I can hardly believe how much effort you require.

I will move you away from these failings.  I, the Sandman, have spoken!"

It is true.  The Sandman always seemed to know when I was not getting my priorities quite right.  If we dared to walk by him once with an armload of fresh produce without proper acknowledgement, he could let it go.  After all, he was a busy feline and couldn't always be bothered by us.  But, if he was giving you that look he had and you STILL walked by him going the other direction without proper recognition?

Woe unto you!  He would find some method to remind you of the greatest good.  And that greatest good was the Sandman. 

You may think that I am being facetious in my writing at the moment - and perhaps that was the initial intention.  Then, I thought about it a bit more.  

Running a small, diversified vegetable and poultry farm can take every waking hour of your day if you allow that to happen.  The Sandman regularly reminded us that a good skritch, or a few moments speaking with a wise spokescat, need to be part of the equation of a balanced and healthy life.  After all, there was plenty of time to get work done while the Sandman took a nap.


The Sandman on Proper Nap Locations

"Nap locations are all about temperature and the potential for recognition. 

Temperature is easy. A cool spot on a hot day, a warm spot on a cool day, or any spot on a perfect day.  This is easy and even humans should be able to figure that out.

On the other hand, excellent napping locations also fulfill the desired amount of recognition that a feline requires for any given moment.  If a cat is tired of the humans and their slow wit, we find a spot where they cannot see you.  And, no, I will not tell you where those locations are.

Most of the time I just want you to know that I CAN observe you if I want to.  After all, I can't have you messing everything up!

If you know I am able to watch you, you must do better!"

I think most cats are able to select nap locations fairly well, but Sandman was an expert.  He knew exactly how much exposure the humans needed to achieve the recognition that he required of us.  His cat "aura" would influence what we did and how we did those things.  After all, we did not want to disappoint the Sandman, did we?

I hope you enjoyed some of the Sandman's wisdom today!  The notes are pretty jumbled and some are blurred, but I will try to periodically take the time to get a few of them figured out every so often.

Until then, the Sandman would probably tell you to take a nap.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Chicken Stu

Stu currently holds the position as the rooster for the laying flock at the Genuine Faux Farm.  He is an Americauna rooster and has an impressive mane of feathers around his neck.  He can extend his neck to a surprising length and can make himself appear to be much larger than he is by standing tall and extending his neck and wings.  Stu made his first official appearance on the blog in the Henlet - A Sililoquy blog from last October. He is completing his first full year as the Barnyard Supervisor at the Genuine Faux Farm.

Stu follows a long line of ... distinguished?   Well, let's just say there have been other roosters that have gone before and their quality has run the gamut.  Harold and Bob were both decent Barnyard Managers.  Harold even wrote for us in 2014.  The most notorious rooster on the farm would likely have been Kronk, who would wait until the farmers would turn their backs before charging them - intent on bodily harm.  Kronk never did figure out our trick to put a shovel behind the back or our legs to protect ourselves.

Without further ado - let's turn this blog over to Stu.

A Star is Born

Hello.  My name is Stu and you can call me Stu, for short.  The Fuzzy Guy with the Red Top is fond of calling me Stew and I fail to see why that is funny.  But, you have to tolerate him because he does bring us food and water  Though, if I had my druthers, Pretty Lady (we learned her name from Crazy Maurice) should always feed us.  We like her.

I especially like her because she seems to appreciate my singing.  As you can tell, I have been working on my image as a rockstar rooster.  I've got the mullet for it, I've got the attitude, AND I've got the voice.

The acoustics in Home Base (*see note below) are pretty good for a decent concert and I really love to belt a few notes out to impress whichever farmer might be nearby.  I find that I can really project when I take in a good puff of air and then extend my neck on the exhale!  Add to that my perfect pitch and you've got to like what you hear!

*note - Home Base is the Hen Room in the Poultry Pavilion at the Genuine Faux Farm.  This is where the hens (and Stu) go every evening so they are kept safe from predators at night.  They are then given access to pasture from this room each morning.

I am particularly fond of singing when the stage lighting comes on and goes off at the beginning and end of the day (*see next note).  I know that might sound odd to you since one usually associates a performance under the bright lights of the stage.  But, I find that the drama brought about by the change from "no light" to "light" or "light" to "no light" inspires me to compose a new song on the spot.  

Of course, I am not above singing for a mid-day concert or at any other point when the mood strikes.  But, I do feel that the transition form light to dark and vice versa is when I am at my best.   

Perhaps you will come to one of my concerts some day.  I assure you, I will hit every note - some of them more than once.  I just wish my back-up singers (the hens) could get their acts together.  I did notice a new singing group last night that did pretty well, I wonder if we could work together. (Stu is referencing the frogs singing last evening).

*note - the Hen Room has some lights that are on timers to come on in the morning and go off at night.  Stu regales us with his concerts at each of these moments every day.

If I could just get Pretty Lady to arrange that recording gig, I just know I could reach the top of the charts.

Well, that's about all I've got.  Time to groom my feathers and try a new tune out in the pasture.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Check In and Little Things Again

Believe it or not, I took a little break from blogging last week - only posting on Monday and Tuesday... and the April Fool's post Thursday.... and Postal History Sunday.  But, other than that - yeah - I took a break.  This is actually fairly significant because this represents the same number of days I missed blogging from April 1st through July 30th last year.  Yeah...  four months and only three misses.  Go a week and only post four times = VACATION!

Check-in with the farmer

I realized that we tried to do a 'check-in' blog post every so often last year and we have yet to do one dedicated to just that purpose this year.  So, we're going to do a very quick check-in here.  And, then, because it's what I want to do, we're going to revisit the topic of "Little Things" that make us happy.

I will start with the "elephant in the room" that would be my own health.  We have dealt with a bit of a saga over the last year that started with the discovery that I have hemochromatosis - a hereditary condition that essentially means my body cannot rid itself of excess iron.  The solution is, essentially, to donate blood as a way to remove excess iron from my system.  Yes, it is/can be more complex than that.  But, once the iron levels are in the normal range, blood donation can pretty much keep things under control.

In the process of checking things out, scans were made of my liver and kidney.  This resulted in the discovery of a small mass in one of my kidneys that was, after a couple of biopsies, determined to be cancerous.  We were able to delay action through the Winter to work around the issues that Covid-19 were creating for the health professions and scheduled for surgery in March.  We lined everything up as best we could, resigned ourselves to the process and... bruised a leg pretty good and developed a blood clot.

So, now I'm on blood thinners for a while and the surgery is rescheduled for late April.

To make a longer story short, the process has been hard on both of us.  I share it here not because I want sympathy but because it might serve as further explanation for some changes and actions we have taken of late.  We are setting ourselves up for a full recovery, but that process requires that we identify coping mechanisms that help us get through some of the "now."

Little Things Again

I think I have always taken pleasure in little things to some degree.  One of my favorite Christmas gifts that I received more than once was my own box of Ritz crackers and maybe some peanut butter or cheese or summer sausage.  I will admit that, as a teen-ager, I probably ate more than my share of such things while I was at home.  It's what teen-agers do (they eat a higher percentage of their parents income than is comfortable for the parents).  But, there was something symbolic about these being "my" crackers and cheese and that they were gifted to me.  My sister remembered this and gifted me my own crackers, cheese and summer sausage again this year.   

It was a little thing that made me happy.

Tammy and I both still love taking some time out most days to play a game of Wingspan.  You might call it uncreative and uninspired that we play the same game most days.   I call it soothing and it makes for a little thing that we both still appreciate.  It is time we get to sit across from each other and be friends.  

Maybe that's a good bit more than a little thing.

We apparently made some of the geraniums we potted this past Fall very happy and we have some gorgeous bright blooms in red, pink, white and fuchsia.   It's a little thing, but it makes us happy.

I have been trying to hop on the stationary bike frequently, giving myself a 20 minute span to see how many "miles" I can get.  You really have to keep the speed up around 95 rpms to get to eight miles and I've done that.  Since then, I've gotten up to 8.38 miles.  It's an absurd little milestone.  But, it makes me happy.  Ya, ya.  So some of you can beat that.  Don't care.  I'm happy.

I still like that new mechanical pencil.  The crocus flowers are fading, but the daffodils are showing promise now and the forsythia bushes are showing color.  The soil still feels good under my feet and that turn played by a cello still makes me smile.

A little while ago I was able to indulge myself with the opportunity to put "care packages" together for others and mailing them out.  I took what might be an absurd amount of joy in doing that.  Since then, I have received some unlooked for mail myself - including a box with some puzzles, a game and some books.  Thanks!  It makes me happy.

We received some new music from a favorite band (the Choir).  I still take great joy in exploring new music by artists I appreciate.  In the grand scheme of life, it may be a little thing, but that doesn't matter.  I see the offering of their talents as a gift that has been shared with me.  What's wrong with letting that improve your mood?

Someone else took the time to tell me they appreciated Postal History Sundays.  Another let me know that some words I wrote meant something to them.  A friend called me because they hadn't heard from me and was concerned about that.  Another asked for my input on something they were doing.   Someone else said that I had done a good job on something.  Another allowed me to explain what was worrying me without putting words in my mouth or interruption.

These things made me feel valued.  Maybe they didn't seem like much, but that's only true if you don't recognize them and acknowledge that they do matter.

I am reminding myself to take these positives and give them all FULL VALUE.  No apologies for the fact that they might not be a "big deal" and I am certainly not sorry to say that each of them made me feel good. 

The little things are going to help us get through the big things.  What little things have made you happy lately?

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Price of Bread - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to our weekly installment of Postal History Sunday on the Genuine Faux Farm blog!  This is the place where I get to share something I enjoy and maybe we'll all learn something new in the process.

Before we get started, let's pack up those troubles and worries and throw them into the well.  We all know our worries are pretty heavy, so they won't float.  That should get them out of our hair for a while!  Please don't throw Timmy into the well, because that will cause Lassie to go get help - and we don't need anyone fishing those troubles out along with Timmy.


Not too long ago, I picked up a mailed circular that caught my eye not for the postal history, but for the contents of the item being mailed.  Anyone who has passing knowledge of European history may perk up if there is mention of a "Bread Tax."  But, it is also likely that most people, like me, won't know exactly where they heard about a bread tax or what it means.  I am guessing some vague recollection about Marie Antoinette and peasants "eating cake" may come to mind.  But, the story (as usual) is much more complex and interesting than just a side reference to the French Revolution. 

A poster for the bakery to display

Since the flyer is in French, perhaps I can help out by translating some of it to English:

"The mayor of the village of Tarbes informs the administrators the voluntary bread tax for the 2nd fortnight of June 1865 is fixed as follows:"
The average prices of wheat (three quality levels) follow on the sheet (per hectolitre).  Which then concludes with the bread prices.
"According to these prices the voluntary tax is the following:" 

 Price levels follow for white bread and mixed grain bread (Meteil).

The literal translation to "tax" is actually inaccurate, since this is clearly a price control recommendation rather than an additional cost levied to be collected by the government. The bakery posted this sheet so the public could see the recommended prices and compare to the prices being requested for their bread.

Getting from here to there

This item was mailed from Tarbes in Southern France (Hautes-Pyranees department) to nearby Vic-en-Bigorre, which was apparently under the jurisdiction of Tarbes for the purposes of the 'taxe officieuse du pain.'   

The standard letter rate was used for this item rather than a printed matter or other discounted postage rate.  The letter rate was 20 centimes for an item up to 10 grams in weight which was effective from Jul 1, 1860 - Aug 31, 1871.  

So, why wouldn't this qualify for the printed matter rate?  After all, this is a pre-printed form where some details have been entered.  It seems like it might qualify since this was probably not the only location where this flyer was being sent.

Most countries prohibited additional writing that "added" information beyond what was pre-printed if a mailer wanted to use the special printed matter rates.  The general idea is they did not want people abusing the privilege of cheaper postage for mass-produced items by sending additional notes that personalized an item.  That's where this particular item treads a fine line.  The information written in simply follow the requirements of the form.  Does that constitute additional information that could not be included in an item that hoped to use the printed matter discount rates?

Apparently, the answer at this time in France was - yes, yes it does cross that line.  So, it was sent as a single rate letter.

Vic-en-Bigorre arrival June 9, 1865
The item is postmarked on Jun 8, 1865 and was given an "Apres Le Depart" box marking to indicate that it was posted AFTER the mail had left for the day.   These markings were used by the post office as a way of explaining delays in delivery.  In this case, the item came to the post office after the scheduled train had left the station.  This piece of mail waited at the Tarbes post office until the next day when it was put on the next departing train.  It arrived at Vic-en-Bigorre on June 9 - taking the train for only 20 kilometers to the North.

"Taxe Officieuse du Pain" means what exactly?

It took a while to find the right search parameters, but once I did I was able to find a couple of books that clarified the topic for me.  The explanation given by Knoop (resource #1) couldn't be made clearer, so I use it here:

"... policy adopted by many French municipalities of fixing each week a taxe officieuse du pain and in a few cases a taxe officielle du pain.  Each is based upon the current price of corn, the calculations being made according to a fixed rule that allows for the cost of baking and for the baker's profits.  The taxe officieuse is merely semi-official and indicates to purchasers what constitutes a reasonable price for bread.  The taxe officielle is an official price which may not be exceeded for the specified qualities of bread." [1, p 72]

This flyer calculates bread prices based on the price of wheat, not corn.  But, that's not really the point.  The point is that the poster or flyer provides price suggestions for different types of bread based on the values of the various grains used to make that bread.

"The notices on which the prices are printed... have to be displayed in a conspicuous position in every baker's shop." [1, p 72]

The top corners of this sheet seem to indicate that it was, indeed, posted somewhere and then taken down.  Someone must have felt like saving these since this copy has managed to survive to the present day - in excellent condition.

How often was a new poster or flyer created and sent out from Tarbes (and other locations in France) to all of the bakeries under their jurisdiction?  Since this particular item references the "2nd fortnight of June" we might be able to conclude that a new sheet was mailed out and posted in each bakery roughly every two weeks (or half-month). 

Why unofficial bread price controls?

It turns out that the step from required to voluntary price controls was a fairly new situation in France in 1865.  Free trade for bakers was established in France in mid-1863.  Prior to that, there were taxe officielle that set prices for bread and these controls were actually a tool that was used to maintain the peace in France (and Italy - perhaps other locations as well?).

"Another sign of the times was the final extension of free trade to the bakers, with the suspension of age-old restrictions by a decree of 22 June 1863.  Regulation of bread prices (the taxe du pain) and controls over bakers had traditionally been key elements of police power.  The ending of such regulations became acceptable only with the disappearance of  massive price fluctuations and the reduction in the consumer emotiveness which had been so characteristic of the ancient regime economique.  It was anticipated that liberation, accompanied by an end to limitations to the number of bakers, would increase competition and reduce price levels." [2, p202]

The consumer "emotiveness" referenced by Price in the above quote was rooted in the extreme reliance on bread in the diet of most people during the Industrial Revolution period.  In particular, the move to urbanization resulted in fewer people working the land for their own subsistence. 

 Bakery in France circa 1900

If bread provided the majority of a person's diet, it only makes sense that shortages or high prices would cause an "emotive" response.  If you can't get bread, you can't eat - so you can't live.  Neely suggests that a common worker in France would expect at least 50% of their wages to go toward bread.  That percentage rose to 88% in 1788-1789. [3]

In short, price controls were maintained for bread to help insure that the citizenry would have access to their primary food source.  When those controls became "semi-official," bakeries were still encouraged to post the suggested pricing as a way to illustrate to their customers that they were providing a "fair price" for their products.

Did you say Italy too?

Yes, yes I did!  Well, actually, the resources I read regarding these price controls mentioned Italy.  Because of that, I have been keeping my eyes open for a similar poster or notice in Italy and finally located one.

Translated from Italian, this flyer reads:

"Rate for the sale of bread in the normal ovens of Macerata"

The effective date range is July 18 to August 3 of 1852 - once again, about a fortnight's span for effective dates.  Three prices are given.  One for brown bread, one for white bread and one for "all grains."  In this case, no information is given on the base prices of the grains themselves.

The biggest difference between this poster and the French poster is that this one shows required pricing for bread, whereas the later, French, guidelines were a suggestion and not a requirement.  In other words, these were the maximum prices that a bakery could charge during this particular fortnight and this maximum was enforced by government.

Once again, the government in the larger town or city is sending out these posters or flyers to the surrounding settlements.  Macerata would be the main city in the province of the same name in the Papal States of Italy.  This poster was sent to MonteCassiano, which is only eleven kilometers to the North.

There are two hand stamped markings on this side of the cover.  The oblong, rounded shape reads "Municipio di Macerata" and would be a governmental marking indicating that this was sent by the city government of Macerata.  The round markings shows a date of "18 Lug 52" (July 18, 1852) and the city name "Macerata."  This would be the postal marking that was applied at the time the letter was mailed.

Local mail in the Papal States

In the 1850s Italy was not a unified whole.  Instead, there were several different governments that controlled various portions of the peninsula.  Central Italy was controlled by the Catholic Church in Rome and is often referred to as either the Roman States or Papal States.  The postage rates for the Papal States during this period are a fairly complex study in and of themselves.  

The bread price notice shown above qualifies as a local letter, which means the origin and destination falls within a postal district.  In this case, the Macerata postal district.  The cost of postage was 1 bajocca (plural bajocchi) for every 6 denari in weight.  This rate was effective from Jan 1, 1852 until Dec 31, 1863.

Here is another example of local mail in the Papal States.  Just like the first, you should note that the address side of the cover has no postage stamp.  But, it does have the number "1" written in ink to indicate the postage amount due for this piece of letter mail.  The town of origination also placed a handstamp that reads "Jesi" (also spelled "Iesi" in some sources).  The postage stamp is placed on the reverse of the folded lettersheet.

This was the typical process for mail that was sent unpaid.  The amount due was written on the front (address side) and a stamp was placed on the back in anticipation of payment.  Most nations during this period would not bother with the postage stamp when a letter was sent unpaid.  This Postal History Sunday blog gives an example.

This second local letter in Italy actually includes what is often called a "Prices Current" that shows the prices of various commodities during a period of time.  This particular item only gives a grain price, which tells me that it may have a connection to our bread price control in the Papal States.  Is it possible that some municipalities (such as Jesi) sent the established grain price and expected the local bakers or local authorities to make their own calculations based on some set of guidelines?  That's a question for which I don't have an answer.

Flour War of 1775

And, this is where the history tidbit most of us have some recollection of connects to the topic as a whole ("Let them eat cake!").  

In Sept 1774, free trade in grain was established and police controls were abolished with respect to grain and bakers.  The government relaxed or removed bread price controls as part of the new "laissez-faire/laissez-passe" policy that encouraged less government participation in the economics of the country.  The "Flour War" of 1775" occurred as result of high bread prices that followed the removal of those controls. 

New freedom in pricing led to speculation in grains, with individuals hoarding in anticipation of the creation of higher prices.  As a result, there were grain shortages in early 1775 with the prior year's crops either consumed or hoarded and the new year's crops not yet mature.  

With the new "laissez-faire" system, speculators bought from regions with plenty and held onto the grain - essentially putting all regions in a position of scarcity that relied on these speculators to provide the needed grain at the speculators' price.  This differed from prior periods of shortage which were normally regional.  In those cases, the government could receive a petition and respond to alleviate the shortage by moving grain from an area of surplus - thus keeping prices steady.  Now the surplus was not under the government's control and the people who controlled that surplus wanted to get paid (and paid well).

In some locations, the people executed what they called a "popular taxation" by liberating grain shipments and selling at a "proper or fair price."  In general, rioting targeted the hoarders and others (often government officials) that were supposed to be responsible for the shortages.  The government was forced to respond with force and they re-instituted controls on grains and bakeries soon after.

Even with the restored price controls, bread was still one of the motivating factors in the French Revolution of 1788-1789.  There were poor crops worldwide for several years due to the Laki volcano eruption in Iceland (June 8, 1873).  Hungry people became desperate people.  Desperate people became dangerous people once they decided the current government (true or not) was using famine to its benefit.  Obviously, the French Revolution was far more complex than this, but it can truly be said that hunger, and as illustrated by a poorly timed economic experiment thirteen years earlier, played a role.

The cautious removal of price controls in 1863

Going back to the first item we showed in the blog - let me remind you that this was a poster that was placed in a bakery to show what the recommended prices for bread should be.  While a baker could certainly charge more for a product than the prices shown in the taxe officieuse, the consumer could make an informed choice about price based on the baseline prices offered by the government.

By the time we get to 1863 (88 years after the Flour War), improved infrastructure for communications and transportation had resulted in conditions that could potentially support free trade in grains and an open market for bakers. 

"Even so, the government remained cautious.  Local authorities were still required to establish a taxe officieuse and to publish it: this was to be the suggested selling price for bread.  Furthermore, a list of bakers selling below this price was to be published to encourage competition." [2, p 202]
The piece of postal history in this blog post is evidence of this system voluntary/recommended price control that was noted to still be in use in many parts of France as late as 1912 by Knoop. 

While you might think the French Revolution and the Flour Wars might have been firmly in the rearview mirror by this point in time, there was still resistance to the idea of a free market for bread and grains. 
"In 1863, after a good harvest, the price of bread ... was estimated to be some 2 centimes higher than if the taxe du pain had been retained.... There was thus widespread discontent with the new system.  This noticeably increased after poor harvests in 1866 and 1867." [2, p 202]
However, this time, the change to a more "laissez-faire" approach in the grain market stuck, resulting in a system that flattened out price changes.
"In spite of this, consumers were in a far better position than before because of the reduction in the amplitude and rapidity of price fluctuations." [2, p 203]


And there you have it - another Postal History Sunday that travels between postal history and the broader history that surrounds those items.  It often amazes me how simple pieces of postal history can provide me with an opportunity to take these interesting journeys.  Remember - these were items that were normal and unremarkable parts of peoples' lives in the 1850s and 1860s.  It often makes me wonder what commonplace items that reside in our own homes and businesses will be looked at in the same way as I view these old pieces of letter mail 150 years from now.

Thank you for joining me and I hope you have a beautiful, blessed day and a good week to come.

[1]Knoop, Douglas, "Principles and Methods of Municipal Trading", MacMillan and Co, Ltd, London, 1912

[2] Price, Roger, "the Modernization of Rural France: Communications, Networks and Agricultural Market Structures in Nineteenth Century France," Routledge, London, 1983.

[3]Neely, Sylvia, "A Concise History of the French Revolution,"  Rowman and Littlefield, 2008.

Lesgor, R, Minnigerode, M & Stone, R.G., "The Cancellations on French Stamps of the Classic Issues: 1849-1876," Nassau Stamp Company, 1948.