In the recent past, I read a lot of books. I mean, back a couple years ago I was reading two or three books at a time. I would pick one up and read until my head got full then I would pick up another title unrelated to the one I just sit down and read on it until my head was full of that particular book. Then I would pick up the first book and finish it and then on to a third book before I finished the second and so it went from there. The last two years I have not read that much book wise. While there are a lot of titles I want to get to, I just don’t have the time or more importantly the interest to read books the last couple of years.


Art of Balancing cover.indd


I picked up a book between holidays on soil fertility called The Art of Balancing Soil Nutrients by William McKibben. Both the title and the author caught my eye. I had meet Bill with my early affiliation with the laboratory that performs most of my analysis some 20+ years ago. So, knowing the author and also knowing how using the phrase “soil balancing” gets an agronomist all shook up, so I thought I would give the book a look.

The basic description of the book on the Barnes and Noble website I found it on said “A practical guide to interpreting soil test results for farmers and other stewards of the earth wanting to understand what nutrients are available to plants and learn how to more effectively grow crops, turfgrass and other plants.” Ok, pretty generic but it still didn’t run me off yet.

Reading the Preface also yielded “I view the information contained in this book to be a starting point….” which I found refreshing because other books by other authors on “soil balancing” are either written from the absolute standpoint or are so far out in left field you can’t read them.

So, based on the Preface alone, I threw down my $25 to give it a try. Heck, I might learn something, right?

So here is my book review.

The book is a basic introduction to soil testing and nutrient recommendations using Cation Exchange Capacity for the basis of both interpreting the soil test values as well as making the nutrient recommendation. McKibben talks about using both the basic cation saturation ratios (BCSR) and strategic level of available nutrients (SLAN) approach to balance the nutrients in the soil. He applies these methods to both low and high exchange capacity soils and explains how it differs based on CEC.

While only 8 chapters long, the book could be broken down into three sections: 1. Taking the soil sample and reviewing soil nutrients, 2. Balancing soils with low and high exchange capacities and 3. What I will call “other stuff”, paste test, irrigation water and figuring out really high exchange soils. I must admit that the last three chapters didn’t do much to hold my interest as we don’t have any irrigation around here to speak of, and any very high exchange soils and my experiments with the paste test were pretty much useless several years ago. That doesn’t mean I didn’t pick something up out of those chapters, I just didn’t spend a lot of time reviewing them.

Bill does an excellent job discussing and explaining soil nutrient balance in a way that even a beginner could understand. His examples are clear and concise which I liked very much. Bill shows examples of using a compromise between SLAN and BCSR to make a recommendation for nutrient amendments for the soil. I like this approach very much even though I lean more to SLAN than BCSR. He uses some “absolute” numbers for nutrient levels, esp. micro nutrients, which is fine but I find that one guys “desired values” are not necessary mine and don’t believe that one should take these numbers to heart. Only you know your soils and soils reaction to amendments, don’t take numbers out of a book as an absolute.

On a scale of 1-10 I give the book a solid 9 and highly recommend it to any agronomist as a basic introduction or refresher. It is by far the best book I have read for SLAN and BCSR soil testing and recommendations. It sticks to the title and premise of the book without going off in left field by having us use “magic dust”, “alternative ag techniques” or hugging trees. It educates and does exactly what the Preface says: “…a starting point….”, a very good foundation to begin refining your recommendations for your farm and soils.

Worth the time to read and the $25 to purchase.

April 19 1775. 237 years ago today ordinary citizens decided to stand their ground and resist the oppression of the British Crown. Before the day was over men on both sides would die but the birth of a nation had began. Our Freedoms and Liberties began today with the blood of men who stood their ground and has been taken away ever since by the words and deeds of politicians who have trampled on that ground.

Men like Isaac Davis, Paul Revere, Samuel Prescott, Samuel Whittemore, Hezekiah Wymann, John Parker and Joseph Warren to name a few made history by standing up to the worlds strongest army.  Dont let their work, their lives and their sacrifice go unrecognized today.  Read about your history and where your freedoms came from.

Get off the couch folks and continue to fight to keep your freedoms that these brave men gave you.  If your not voting, if your not engaged in the political process, if your not speaking out against the injustices that our politicians bring on us then your not keeping up the fight for freedom those brave men started 237 years ago today.


Well, I have had trouble keeping my blog up to date this last week. Its been pretty tough with me having the flu and trying to be at the hospital with dad. So as I sit here in the hospital waiting for his surgery I thought I would try a mobile update.

Grain prices keep going up and have reached an area where some are starting to speculate if they are good for agriculture. All I know is that it is making all of our marketing plans seem stupid right now. At some point there is going to be a correction to levels that are lower, I would assume.

One of the things about sitting here is that I am trying to finish up at least one of the five books I am reading. All of them are good and I will do a review of them when I get them finished. Plus I need to do a review of the two I finished before Christmas as well.

A speaking engagement tomorrow and two CCA meetings Wednesday and Thursday will keep any progress on that to a minimum.

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It was sometime during the Katrina mess that I heard a reporter on one of the national news outlets refer to Americans from the Gulf Coast as “refugees”.  That I think was the first time I have ever heard Americans referred to as refugees.  I realized that most Americans, especially those in big cities, expect to be taken care of by the government. 

That point was driven home recently at a meeting I was at were it was explained that 40% of Americans don’t pay ANY taxes and only receive money from the government.  These 40% are referred to as the entitled people.  They expect an entitlement or a handout from the government.

The recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and Aisia and the scenes of helplessness, looting and “wheres the government” replies from the people to the press have reinforced my thinking in being prepared for disaster when it might strike.  Two books I have read in a few years past came back off the bookshelf to be reread to make sure I was thinking correctly. 

Surviving a Disaster by Tony Nester is a short 57 page book that is excellent in getting ready to leave a disaster after it happens.  I cant say enough good things about this book.  It covers how not to be a refugee in my thinking. 

The other book is Organize for Disaster by Judith Kolberg.  This book is taken from the other end, on how to reconstruct your life after a disaster.  It deals with how to organize your belongings and information (like important papers etc) before a disaster strikes so that you can live after the disaster. 

Both books are excellent an get five stars from me.

Prepare now so that some day some reporter doesn’t refer to you as a refugee.

I finished up a couple of books I have been reading the other night.  I was switching between them, depending upon what mood I was in.  Some nights I was wanting entertainment and other nights I was wanting something serious or educational.  We will start off with the entertaining book and do the educational book another day. 

EMERGENCY.  This book could save your life. by Neil Strauss was an entertaining book to say the least, but I didn’t initially expect it to be.  When I ordered it I was expecting a serious emergency preparedness or survival book.  Instead, it was a story of one mans attempt to be prepared for the EOTWAWKI (end of the world as we know it) or for when the SHTF (stuff hits the fan). 

Neil spent an awful lot of money over two or three years learning all kinds of things that I guess I take for granted. Things like “survival camping”, shooting, first aid, ham radio, how to kill and butcher an animal and many other things that I just assume that everyone knows, perhaps because I do them or because I assume that country people understand them.  Neil even went as far as to secure dual citizenship in another country and getting another passport.  Something I have never considered, nor feel I have ever had a need to do. 

Besides entertaining, I found the book insightful due to some of the characters he introduces us to and their mindset about being “prepared”.  

While not a survival book, it was a good read, worth the time, entertaining and insightful into one mans journey into emergency preparedness.  4.5 out of 5 stars!

Well just got notice that I might have jury duty. Great.

Not that I don’t want to do it, but it is that time of year for CCA meetings and I NEED the credits because I didn’t get to go last year. AND I have spent the money to sign up and reserve meals/rooms etc at most of them.

My luck I will get the OJ trial that will go on for years………………

Finished the What Would Google Do? Book last night and my head is buzzing with ideas, thoughts and what ifs and why nots. I recommend the book highly, Five Stars! It really brought home that we live in a totally different world due to the Internet and the online community’s that are build around it. Again, things are still sinking in……………

Also started another book called Emergency! This book could save your life. So far it is interesting from a totally different stand point. It is not your typical survival or disaster preparation handbook type read, but one mans journey into “survialism”. I will give you a follow up when I get it done…………..

Spent the day at the hospital waiting on test with dad. To pass the time I began reading a book that I had on my wish list.
What Would Google Do? is a book that I learned about back in the summer and never got around to ordering until last week. It is a look at how Google has changed the business paradigm so to speak and made free access to information a money making business. Yes I said free and money in the same sentence.
I cant do the book justice in a review so to speak, I only got about half way through it today but what I read began to explain a lot of things. First it explained how the world has gotten a lot smaller and how smaller business can adapt and thrive in an Internet world. Ownership of atoms (as in buildings and inventory) are not necessary to succeed as they once were. The book points out that outside of Wal Mart, brick and mortar businesses are really not being that successful.
Businesses that utilize information to better themselves and understand the community they serve are far better positioned to survive and make a return than those that don’t. That community thing is a hard one for me to grasp right now. The book points out that the community already exist, you just have to find it and then contribute to it.
It also shines a new light on marketing of ones self and business. The old rules of “the masses” is gone and replaced by the community and the individual.
Like I said, I am not doing the book justice and I need to reread it again to get it all………..once I finish it.
But it does explain a lot to me for the Agriculture world in which I work and live. First as we see the companies that provide inputs and services shrink, they also are not providing openness and and giving a sense of trust. That will hurt them in the end. It also shows that the cooperative system that our grandparents used is dead, and the coops don’t know it. They are no longer the keepers of the secrets and afford power in numbers. The secrets are out there on the Internet and so is comparison shopping.
Lastly it also shows that in a matter of seconds, your customer can know as much or more about your product or service than you do. And that is good, not bad like a lot of retail salespeople have been taught.
Openess and access to information is the key to success in the internet age. Owing a bunch of atoms is not.
A full report when I finish.

I had a different blog prepared for today, but for some reason I just didn’t think it fit right now. Friday is “Ham Radio” day and that was the backdrop for the topic I had. It was along the same lines as what I now type about, but different. Yesterdays book review had me thinking about some books I have read lately and the dozen or so I still have on the shelf to read that I got for Christmas.

One such book I have read is Freakonomics: A Rouge Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. It is a great book written by an economist Steven Levitt. Again this is a book that will make you think. One chapter he analyzes why drug dealers most often still live with their mothers. Buy it, check it out at the library or what ever but read it. Again it will make you think. Blame the two grad level Statistics classes I had in masters program for my thinking binge.

Anyway Freakonomics has a blog on the NY Times website. There are several pretty smart people who blog on it. And they make you think. Stephen Dubner has blogged on smart people. I find his last paragraph most though provoking. No I wont quote it, you will have to follow the link and read it yourself.

How do you define smart? What is smart? I once knew a guy in college who I considered smart until one day I caught him talking to his pencil after he made a mistake on a math problem. He was intelligent, but not smart.

I meet an agronomist once whom I considered learned but not smart. He knew all about the chemistry of growing corn, but he couldn’t do it if he had to. He wasn’t smart.

I know a Extra Class Ham who knows more about electronics that I ever will, but he isn’t smart enough to get in out of the rain.

And I know a few people who don’t have any initials after their name or titles before who are pretty smart.

So: Who is the smartest person you know and why?

The Unthinkable is a great book. I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. If it doesn’t raise you situational awareness and spur a desire to get better prepared for an emergency noting will.
I finished this book right after the New Year and must say that it continues to be on my mind. It was a fascinating look into who survives and why during a disaster. The neat thing was listening to survivor and flight crew reports after the Landing in the Hudson by US Airways Flight 1549 and remembering what was said in the book. Also interesting was listening to reports from the Ice Storm 09 on the radio not long ago and again remembering what was said and not said by those who lived through it.

I cant do review justice on this book so I will let the publisher do it for me. 

I highly recommend this book.

Editorial Review
From Publishers Weekly

Ripley, an award-winning writer on homeland security for Time, offers a compelling look at instinct and disaster response as she explores the psychology of fear and how it can save or destroy us. Surprisingly, she reports, mass panic is rare, and an understanding of the dynamics of crowds can help prevent a stampede, while a well-trained crew can get passengers quickly but calmly off a crashed plane. Using interviews with survivors of hotel fires, hostage situations, plane crashes and, 9/11, Ripley takes readers through the three stages of reaction to calamity: disbelief, deliberation and action. The average person slows down, spending valuable minutes to gather belongings and check in with others. The human tendency to stay in groups can make evacuation take much longer than experts estimate. Official policy based on inaccurate assumptions can also put people in danger; even after 9/11, Ripley says, the requirement for evacuation drills on office buildings is inadequate. Ripley’s in-depth look at the psychology of disaster response, alongside survivors’ accounts, makes for gripping reading, sure to raise debate as well as our awareness of a life-and-death issue. 8 pages of color photos. (June) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

6 out of 5 stars!!!  Get the book and read it!!!!!

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