Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Hurricane Bill and beach survival

August 26, 2009

I was up in the Pinetree State last weekend.  I’ve picked up surfing.  I’m not sure what that has to do with suburban survival other than getting exercise, GETTING OUTSIDE EVERYDAY and keeping safe around the ocean.

In case you haven’t heard Hurricane Bill swept up past the northeast last weekend.   CNN reports, “Girl dies after wave knocks her into ocean.” A young girl, along with 2,000 other spectators, was with her dad and closer than she should have been when a large wave swept her and like ten other people from the rocks into the surging sea.  The father and another kid were rescued by the Coasties, but tragically this young girl was killed.

Most beaches were closed to swimming.  A little south of where I was, Hampton, there were numerous rescues. In other places people standing on slippery rocks to get a better view of the monster waves were knocked over.  Some people got broken bones.

In Massachusetts a man fishing was swept out to sea and drowned.

When I got up to Maine on Friday night the waves were maybe 3-4 feet.  That’s a pretty good size wave.  Saturday morning they were maybe 4-6 feet and building all day.  Sunday the waves were maybe 8-12 feet with a few even bigger.

I’m telling you a 2-3 foot wave is big.  When these waves are pushed into shore by a hurricane they are big, powerful and fast.   A 12 foot wave can snap a surfboard, tear a board leash or smash someone into the rocks or the sand.

Many people don’t understand the strength of the ocean.  I’ve surfed a bunch this year.  I’m in the ocean a lot, a lot.  I know my limits though.  I’m not going to paddle out with 10 foot waves.  There were some real good surfers there though that were experienced enough to be out there.  They make it look like fun, but it’s also very tough, a lot of work and takes much experience.

If you don’t know what you are doing, if you don’t spend a lot of time in or around the water and if you aren’t a strong swimmer, you better have a real healthy respect for the ocean and what she can do.  And those who do spend a lot of time around the ocean do have a healthy respect for her.

There was a very heavy undertow on Sunday.  It was so strong that it was hard to stand knee deep in the water.  So I’m standing there and two little girls come into the water.  They are maybe 7 or 8 years old.  They are waist deep.  I have my eye on them because if either of them lose their footing they are going to be carried wherever the ocean feels like taking them.  So a minute of so later their fat, middle-aged father comes into the water.  I can tell he is a stranger to the ocean because he grimaced from the cold and pulls his arms over his head like the little girls.  Just then foam from a big wave comes and sweeps one of the little girls right off of her feet and maybe 15 feet down the beach.   I know if one of the girls gets carried away this fat guy will not be able to chase her down so I tell him that it is a very dangerous day with big waves and extremely strong undertows.  Luckily they got out of the water.

Surviving the beach:

  • You have to watch out for riptides and undertows.   A riptide is just the water that has been pushed up onto the beach by the waves flowing away from the beach.  Undertows usually move more or less parallel to the beach and back out to sea.  As you stand in the water you can feel an undertow pulling at your legs.  Riptides occur at low points of the beach.  The waves come in leaving a bunch of water on the beach that needs to flow out.  If there is a low point on the beach then the trapped water will find that low point and flow out to sea like a river.  At low tides you can sometimes see where a riptide can happen because at low tide you’ll see little streams of water flowing out.  Well at high tide with big waves lots of water will be rushing out of those little streams creating strong currents out to sea.  You can’t fight undertows or riptides. The ocean will win.  You need to relax and not fight the current.  Your number one goal is not to get tired floundering around.  If you tire you drown. Then because riptides flow perpendicular to the beach you should try to direct yourself parallel to the beach.  Swim easily, smoothly and gently sideways and out of the rip.  Don’t even try to swim back into shore until the current is finished trying to pull you out.
  • Stay away from rocks or be extremely careful on them.  Rocks that look black are particularly slippery.   Many people fall, bang their heads and then drown.  Wet rocks are real slippery. Rocks that are regularly beneath high tide will have barnacles on them.  Barnacles are sharp and will cut you. If you fall off a rock into the ocean you will have to crawl out onto barnacles in order to get out of the water.  It’s not fun.
  • If you can’t swim don’t go in the water. There can be sudden drop offs and hidden objects.  And if you can’t swim and lose your footing; well then you’re in trouble.
  • Always observe.  Check out the water to see if there are any rocks.  Sometimes when I’m in the surf there are large pieces of wood and other trash floating around.  Get hit by a big tree branch and it may hurt you.  Is there any sea life, jellyfish or man-o-wars?  Surfers? Then be aware of where they and their boards are.
  • Know when high and low tides are. That way you won’t over extend yourself and be on a sandbar with the tide rushing in all around you.  If the tides come in fast you can easily find yourself surrounded by water.
  • Waves look like fun and are a lot of fun, but they can be dangerous.  You can escape waves by taking a breath and diving under the crashing wave.   If you are at a beach with waves treat it like a baseball game and watch the waves.  Don’t stand in the water with your back to the surf or you could get surprised and knocked down.  You can’t fight waves either. If you find a wave crashing on you then you just need to go with it.   Loosen up and just let the wave carry you.  You will pop to the surface when it is done with you.  Don’t stiffen and try to fight it. If you find yourself carried out by the current you may be able to ride a wave in.  Just go with the rhythm of the ocean.
  • Be careful where rivers meet the beach and ocean.  The currents at the mouths of rivers can be particularly treacherous.
  • Know which way the wind is blowing and be aware. If you are on a raft or a float and there is are offshore winds you can get blown away from shore pretty quickly.
  • Don’t be afraid or too embarrassed to yell for help.  People drown because they didn’t yell for help.
  • Protect yourself from the sun and weather. It may mean SPF30 and an umbrella or a long sleeve shirt and hat.  If it is sunny make sure to have sunglasses.
  • And for the love of God watch your kids at the beach. Things can happen very quickly.  Watch your kids especially if it is a beach with surf.

The beach is a great place and you should GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY © but know the dangers and risks so you can avoid them.

p1010011Crazy, huh?  They’re like parrots of the north.  If you watch dragonflies closely when they are flying you can sometimes see them catching flies.  You can actually see the dragonfly open its mouth in mid flight and gobble a mosquito.  It’s what they do.

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Summer Solstice

June 29, 2009

I’m not a fan of the Summer Solstice.  The summer solstice traditionally falls on June 21st.   That is the longest day of the year.  From here until the shortest day of the year, on December 21, every day is a minute or two shorter than the day before .  sun_woodcut1Then, thankfully, each day gets a minute or two longer.    I call the time after summer solstice the long decline into darkness.  I don’t like when the sun sets at 4:00pm.   I start work pretty early.  I try to be there by 7.  If I work till after 4pm that means I can go days without seeing the sun.  That’s not natural.  Humans need sunlight both physiologically and psychologically.  I don’t need a doctor to tell me that.  And that is why although summer is my favorite season that the summer solstice bums me out.  Because I recognize it’s the changing of the seasons.

People have been celebrating the solstice ever since we began to track the sun and celestial bodies.  Stonehenge is aligned to mark the solstice.   To herald in the beginning of summer the ancients used to build bonfires, get drunk, sing and dance.

How in tune are you with the seasons?  It’s not too late.  Make a resolution to sit by more campfires.  Go swimming in a lake or the ocean.  Go camping.  Ride your bike.  Play tennis.  Have a barbecue.  Rent a kayak.  Walk barefoot.  Eat watermelon and spit the seeds.  Plant some flowers or veggies.  Walk your dog or your kids.

No matter what season you are celebrating…GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY! I thought that this Robin’s egg was a good picture to go along with the one about the shortening days.

p1010011Robin Redbreast
By: William Allingham

Good-bye, good-bye to Summer!
For Summer’s nearly done;
The garden smiling faintly,
Cool breezes in the sun;
Our Thrushes now are silent,
Our Swallows flown away,–
But Robin’s here, in coat of brown,
With ruddy breast-knot gay.
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
Robin singing sweetly
In the falling of the year.

Bright yellow, red, and orange,
The leaves come down in hosts;
The trees are Indian Princes,
But soon they’ll turn to Ghosts;
The scanty pears and apples
Hang russet on the bough,
It’s Autumn, Autumn, Autumn late,
‘Twill soon be Winter now.
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
And welaway! my Robin,
For pinching times are near.

The fireside for the Cricket,
The wheatstack for the Mouse,
When trembling night-winds whistle
And moan all round the house;
The frosty ways like iron,
The branches plumed with snow,–
Alas! in Winter, dead and dark,
Where can poor Robin go?
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
And a crumb of bread for Robin,
His little heart to cheer.

Bug Out Vehicle (BOV)

June 16, 2009

Someone sent me an email with pictures of a great BOV.  Check it out.

ATT00000It reminds me of a Unimog.

ATT00010Looks rugged.  I wonder how the mileage is.

ATT00009Even load a bike on it.

Now check out the inside.  It’s plusher than my house.

ATT00001

ATT00002

ATT00003

ATT00004

ATT00005See the coffee maker built in over the sink?

ATT00006This has to be German or Swedish engineering.  It’s so organized.

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ATT00008Get Outside Everyday!!

P1010097Just a little waterfall near me house.  Do you know the places in your AO that are nice to walk?  Do you know all the paths and trails within a few miles of your house?  You know where berries grow wild?

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Assembly Required

June 5, 2009

This blog has to do with suburban survival so I sometimes deal with boring things, like BEING ABLE TO READ AND FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.

Have you ever put a gas grill together?  I bought a relatively cheap gas grill that cost under $100.   The last time I put a grill together I screwed up one of the left legs and one of the right legs and ended up having to take almost the whole thing apart before I put it back together with left and right legs in the appropriate places.   I wasn’t going to let them happen again.

memorial day 0919Here I have everything laid out on the picnic table.  The label on the box said it would take 35-45 minutes to put the grill together.  It took me 20 minutes to unpack and organize everything.

The other thing that helps me when I do some assembly project is to turn the thing the same way as the drawing in the direction.  It makes it easier to make sure that I am putting left where left is and right where right is and front to front and back to back.  Got that?

I also find it helps to  slow down and move deliberately.   The old adage measure twice cut once, holds true.  Read the instructions slowly and carefully.   Then read them again.  You almost want to cross things off as you do them to make sure that you don’t miss anything.

memorial day 0927The fasteners were well organized.  I took a break to go to Home Depot for something else.  Altogether I would say it probably took me between three and four hours from beginning to end.  And you’ll be happy to know that it works fine.

So remember –

1.) Before you start to assemble something new make sure that you take everything out of the packaging, organize the parts and familiarize yourself with them.

2.) As you assemble the thing orient it so that it is turned the same way as the drawing/pictures in the assembly instructions.

3.) Slow down and move deliberately.

4.) Read the instructions slowly and carefully

Get Outside everyday!

You have to know what this is –

memorial day 098

You may notice that it’s starting to look a little dark out in the picture.  Please don’t be afraid to go out walking in the woods at night.  The woods are another world at night.

I don’t do the religion thing.  I don’t care what you do or whether you do anything at all.  But this dandelion flower to me is like Proof of God.  I don’t even like the word “God” because it is too limiting.  But looking at this perfectly symmetrical flower you just know that there has to be a Major Force at play.    It’s like a perfect geodesic dome.  Then you think that it is a way for the plant to propagate.  And in order to do all that it had to look nice enough to attract bees and other buzzies to pollinate it.  Amazing.  There is your Proof.

And since we are on the subject of dandelions you do know that the dandelion is mighty yummy.    The flowers make a brightly colored dandelion wine.  Imagine cracking a bottle of dandelion wine during a cold January day.   I like the young leaves added to salad.  People say dandelion leaves can be bitter, but they’re not as bitter as arugula.  If they’re too bitter for you just boil them a bit.  Some folks dip the flowers in batter and fritter them up.  Root tea has a ton of medicinal uses, but you would know that if you read my entry on field guides and had your own field guides.  And I’ve read that you can roast the root till brown, grind it and use it as a coffee substitute.

My favorite field guides

May 17, 2009

You gotta have a bunch of field guides.  There are field guides available on just about every subject of nature that you can imagine.  I have ones on: bats, animals, rocks and gems, birds, edible plants, medicinal plants, forests, different regions, plants and flowers and wildflowers. The Internet is also a huge resource.  I don’t know how we got by before The Googles were born.

When I walk in the fields and woods I’m always looking around, looking up and down.  If I see something that looks interesting to me and I don’t know what it is I’ll break off a branch or some leaves and bring it home to identify it.  If you do this too then you know that you need to have at least three or four field guides in order to be sure that you identified your subject correctly.

Some field guides will only show a plant when it’s flowering and many plants only flower for a week or two so if you want to identify it the other 50 weeks a year you may be out of luck.  Different field guides have different pictures or drawing and different descriptions.  That’s why it’s good to have a bunch of field guides, so you can cross reference.

One of my readers, (Yeah, I do have a few.) I thank each and everyone of you,  readership is the greatest form of flattery and I don’t ask you to buy my crap either.   Someone asked me to tell you what field guides I use so here it comes…

204670104Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants is by Wildman Steve Brill.  Mr. Brill is the guy that forages and gives classes how to forage Central Park, NYC.    Amazing how much wild food there is growing free and wild in Central Park.  There aren’t any color pictures in this book.  Heck, there aren’t any pictures at all, BUT there are good drawings.  This might not be a good first field guide to get, but it is large and the descriptions and uses of plants are great.  This guide is organized by season.  Mr. Brill is very straightforward he will tell you if a wild plant isn’t worth harvesting.  I particularly like some of the history of the plants that he tells the reader about.  There is even a section with recipes.  It’s 317 pages long and a big book maybe 8 1/2 * 11.

Angier Field GuideAngiers Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants doesn’t have any pcitures either, but the drawings are in color.  This guide is organized alphabetically, which isn’t a lot of help in identifying things, but that’s why you have have to familiarize yourself with all of your field guides, because then when you are walking you will see something that you recognize.  There are good descriptions in this book.  It is 255 pages long and small enough to put in a pack.

Eastern EdiblesGuide to Northeastern Wild Edibles by Kavasch has great color photos.  I think it’s out of print, but you can get used copies off of the Internet.  It is organized by season.  It has a handy feature, a ruler markings inside the back cover, not a big deal, but still a great addition.  It’s really a good guide.  This book is 64 pages and small enough to carry in a pack.

Audubon Eastern ForestsThis isn’t so much a field guide on edible plants as it is a general guide to different types of forests in the Eastern US of A, like Boreal, Transition, Deciduous, Oak-Hickory, etc.  It’s by the Audubon Society so it’s well written and the many, many color pictures are great.  For example, in the tree section there are color pictures of the trees and also drawings of the entire tree outline and the critter section has color pictures and maps to show where the critters reside to help ID them.  It’s 635 pages long and kind of big to carry backpacking for a distance.  Great for a day pack though because you can really have fun with it because all of the bases are covered: trees, birds, mammals, snakes, insects and spiders, mushrooms, wildflowers, butterflies and moths and amphibians.

New EnglandField Guide to New  England is another Audubon book.   This is a more specialized field guide as it is only for New England.  Although, I’m certain that many of the plants also grow near you too.  You can really learn alot about your natural surroundings from this book.  This book at 447 pages is small enough to pack with you.  Not a whole lot of info on edible stuff, but it’s a great all purpose field guide.  The pictures are great and there are multiple pictures on every page.  it’s broken up by: geology, habitats, conservation and ecology, weather (IDing clouds is pretty cool), the night sky (once again pretty cool), flora, invertebrates, vertebrates, park and preserves of the region.

The two coming up are probably the most useful to me.

Peterson EdiblePeterson field guides are good stuff.   In this one of Edible Wild Plants there is only a small section with color pictures, but there are a ton of very good black and white drawings.   If you don’t know what it is you’re looking at and you are trying to ID it the Peterson books make it easiest.  This one on edible plants is organized by: flowering plants, woody plants, miscellaneous plants, finding plants where and when they occur and food uses. The flower section is broken up by flower color and the woody plant section by type of leaf.  It also obviously tells you what parts of each plant is edible and how to prepare it.  If you need to forage this is definitely one book that you want to have. Each description also has symbols which makes it easy to tell a plant’s uses at a glance.  It’s 300 pages and small enough to pack.

Peterson MedicinalThe Peterson Field Guide of Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs has multiple color pictures on every page.  This Medicinal Plant field guide is organized by flower color, shrubs, trees, vines, ferns and grasses.   The good pictures make it easy to ID the plants.   Like the previous Peterson guide this one also uses symbols next to the descriptions to make it easy to see the uses.  The best part of this guide is the index to medical topics at the back of the book.  So if you have an ailment you can look it up and find a plant that may ease your symptoms.  The index by medical topic lists things like: abrasion, analgesic, anemia, anticancer, bites, dog, bleeding, blood purifier, carbuncles, cirrhosis, colds and you get the idea.  This book is another MUST HAVE.  It is 411 pages long and small enough to pack.

Get Outside Everyday and put your books into use.  I think the following two pictures are two types of wintergreen.  If you know for sure please let me know.

This I’m pretty sure is Wintergreen.  The next time I see it I’ll have to smell it.  It may be Pipsissiwa too.

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I looked this one up and I came up with Chickweed Wintergreen, but I’m not convinced.  It looked like Star of Bethlehem, but I know that’s not right.

P1010001

Protests

March 21, 2009

Hoo boy.

Just as winter falls down to spring things are heating up, figuratively as well.  Did you see or hear that farmers in Connecticut were out protesting the economic fallout on them?

farmers2

And come they did. Farmers left their spring chores, and vocational agricultural schools sent busloads of youngsters, to form a crowd of more than 100 (plus one cow) on the Capitol steps.

“Do you want a sticker,” called Hillary Woronik, a teenager from Lebanon, and a proud member of Future Farmers of America, as she waved a stack of green stickers at new arrivals. “Keep farms local.”

“Among the legislative proposals being protested is a bill that would eliminate the farm sales tax exemption and farm fuel tax exemption. The end to the tax exemptions is being proposed to help close a massive state budget gap, but farmers say it would put many of them out of business because their profit margins are so low.”

Protests are breaking out all over.  The pot on the stove is covered for now, but it is coming up from a simmer to a boil.  The bankers and government types are the frogs in the pot of cold water.  They don’t feel the temperature of the water that is surrounding them getting warmer.

That pot is going to boil over.  Groups in Massachusetts had protests the other day.  There were protests in a dozen communities.

boston

“Nearly a dozen protests occurred in Massachusetts alone, including in Worcester, Lawrence, and Andover.  Harris Gruman, executive director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council, said his organization is hoping to push Congress to take action against companies like AIG, while also working to “restore middle-class purchasing power.” “We want Congress to build a recovery for everybody, and not just banks – especially after they have misused the money they were given,” Gruman said. Caraballo, the janitor and a member of SEIU Local 615, marched, in part, to represent several colleagues who had been laid off recently.”They lost their jobs, their healthcare,” Caraballo said, blaming Wall Street’s risky decisions that have hurt the economy. “That angers me.”

I don’t understand why poor and middle-class folks hate unions so much.  If you are poor or middle-class and you hate unions, you’ve been fooled by Republicans and charlatans like Limbaugh.

aigprotestpink__1237521674_8885

Gallery of some pictures of the protests in Boston.

I wish I heard about the protests in advance.  I’m surprised I did not.  There are few things I enjoy more than Civil Disobedience.   Engaging in Civil Disobedience isn’t only your right, it’s also your obligation.  It’s part of the advance payment each of us needs to make in order to live in an ostensibly free society.  Remember the First Amendment, MEMORIZE IT. Now this is from my memory, “the right of the people to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of their grievances shall not be abridged.” I just checked.  I was admirably close, but I’ll keep it the way I wrote it rather than the actual words written because I like my ending more.

I expect we will be seeing many more protests over the coming months.  I also expect that the protests and marches will attract larger and larger crowds.  I wonder what will happen when the police or protesters get carried away and some people are bloodied, seriously injured or worse.  I wonder what may happen when people get really angry and resort to the destruction of private property, Molotov cocktails or toss newspaper machines through banks’ windows.

Imagine some economy related protest.  A window is broken.  A pregnant woman gets pushed to the ground.  The police are blamed.  The police call in backups in riot gear.  The clubs and gas come out.  Maybe the rubber bullets and tear gas balls.  The protesters start overturning cars and throwing things at the police.  A cop is hurt.  Maybe a group of cops are cornered by the crowd.  The cops end up using deadly force.  Maybe someone in the crowd is armed shoots at the cops.  Imagine seeing on the news and cell phone video a bunch of citizens getting shot by the authorities. “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?

How’s that quote go about the tree of liberty  needing to be refreshed from time to time?  BTW I know it, I’m hoping you know the quote too.

Another day I’ll write an entry about my experiences with civil disobedience.

Anyways, Get Outside Everyday! I thought the following two pictures were pretty nice.  Nothing special.  You do know what these are, right!?!?

p1010001It was a little muddy, but still this must have been a heavy creature to leave such deep prints.

Here’s another cool picture.

p1010007Look at the color of this blue jay feather.  It is so blue.  Amazing.  Proof of God?

Misc.

March 11, 2009

We got some snow last week so I went back to that abandoned ski area that is not too far away from my house.  I hiked up and skied down eight times.  I was beat.  One trail is through this awe inspiring birch forest.

sk2This place is like magic.  If I was to die here and be buried amongst these trees that would be ok.

It was most likely the last day it was possible to go out skiing for me so I wanted to be sure to take advantage of it.  Here is the trail through the birch.

skYou can see the huge office buildings in the background.  This a heavily populated area a couple of minutes off of a major highway. You wanna know what I don’t get?  I was hiking/skiing for maybe two hours and I didn’t see another soul.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, the first warm day since November and I didn’t see another person enjoying the out of doors.  People – you need to GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!

Here’s another trail I was skiing down.  I’m telling you that I was pushing it by squeezing out one more day skiing.

sk3You can see my tracks on the right hand side of the trail looking up.  If you aren’t familiar with snow you can see that you really don’t need very much in order to slide stuff (skis, sleds and goods) over it.  And sliding stuff is much better than carrying stuff.  You can see it was another beautiful day spent outside doing stuff and getting exercise.  You figure that exercise is a form of prepping?

The pussy willows are blooming.  sk7And I saw so many deer rubbings.

sk4How many deer rubbings do can you count in each of these pictures?

sk5Then not too far from my house is a local farm where they grow their own grass fed beef.  I don’t know about any of you, but grass fed beef in New England isn’t too common a sight.  This beef is so good.  It’s some of the best that I’ve ever had. Plus I’m able to shop locally.  You need to shop locally whenever it makes sense and you can.  Get to know the farm stands in your area. Believe me you don’t want the Super Walmart to be the only source of food in you area.  You need to give the little guy the business.  Join the local chapter of the organic farmer’s association in your area.

The beef is a bit more money, but it goes right into the hands of a family that lives near me and it is a great product.  These guys taste great.  Thank you cows.

sk11I get to see my food and watch it eat.  I like that.  No ugly feed lots or slaughter yards.  Doesn’t my food look content?  Thank you guys.  I really appreciate your sacrifice.  The family also sells maple syrup that they boil themselves.  I can’t stand fake maple syrup like Mrs. Butterworth’s.  That’s not maple syrup.   It’s corn syrup.    Don’t be a rube spring for the good stuff.  It lasts forever.

Things are breaking down in Russia.  I saw an article in Newsweek about it.

“Now serious unrest seems imminent despite those autocratic moves. “We are expecting mass unemployment and mass riots,” says Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB colonel and current chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee. “There will be not enough police to stop people’s protests by force.”  The Kremlin evidently sees worse trouble ahead. In December it shelved plans to retire 280,000 Army officers (part of a sweeping military reform). A long-expected reduction in the number of Interior Ministry troops was also abruptly canceled. At the same time, the Interior Ministry set up a special command center in Moscow, packed with surveillance equipment designed to deal with street unrest. The Duma, on Kremlin instructions, added seven new articles to the criminal code. One expands the definition of high treason and espionage to include advisory “and other” assistance to foreign and international organizations; another makes “participating in mass disorders” such as the one in Vladivostok a “crime against the state.” More sinister still, defendants accused of the new crimes can only be tried by a special court of three judges, not by a jury—a system reminiscent of the Stalin-era troika courts that sent millions to the Gulag.

And like the bailouts in the US that favor wealth holders more than wage earners, “major beneficiaries of both handouts include oligarchs like MMK’s owner, Victor Rashnikov, and Russia’s current No. 1 billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, owner of the AvtoVaz auto plant.”

The PTB better realize that using the poor and bail out the insanely wealthy is a recipe for social collapse.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!

March 1, 2009

This news just in 12+ inches of snow.  I couldn’t be happier.  This means at least another two or three weeks of skiing.  I love the snow.  I hate the snowplow, more below.  It can’t snow too much in my mind.  If I woke up tomorrow morning and there was four feet of snow on the ground I would be overjoyed.  I’m not afraid of being snowed in for what a day, a week or a month.  We’d be fine.

special_560x389Are you prepared for the electricity to go out?  Ready to live without lights, heat or a stove for a while?  Got flashlights, batteries and lanterns?  Warm clothing?  Have some fresh water stored or a way to melt snow? A way to stay warm when the heat goes out?  Sand, shovel and jumper cables in the car?  Have candles?  How about way way to open and heat your canned food without electricity?  Got activities to keep you busy – books, games, hobbies or battery radio? Wood, propane & C0leman fuel?   Maybe some booze or beers tucked away?

And look at this list not a single firearm, bullet or high capacity firearm needed.  Spend your money where you want.  Please don’t take this as a dig against firearms.  I love my guns and I think everyone should own a few and daily carry too, but a gun should be just one of the many tools in your toolbox.

Anyways, if you aren’t familiar with snowplows this is what happens, when the snowplows plow the street they leave a big, big pile of snow at the end of the driveway.  And if you aren’t familair with shoveling snow, snow is frozen water, water weighs a lot, shoveling water is heavy, heavy work.  So what happens is you shovel your driveway and just when you finish the plow comes buy again leaves an enormous berm of snow at the end of your drivway.  Everytime the plow comes by it basically plows you in.  So the system is shovel out and get plowed in.  Shovel out and get plowed in.

Drought

March 1, 2009

You guys following what’s happening in Cal-eye-forn-eye-aye?  There’s been this ongoing three year drought that’s battering California.  Making a living off the land has always been a tough way to survive.   It seems you either have too much water or not enough water.  I’m happy to be living where I do where lack of water is not an issue.   Water is our lifeblood.  Without abundant fresh water you die and then I take your stuff.   “Economists at the University of California Davis estimate that the drought could cost 95,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in revenue this year. Much of the pain is centered in the San Joaquin Valley, where idle fields idle workers.

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This area of the San Luis Reservoir near Gustine was previously underwater but was dried out in January because of drought conditions. (Patrick Tehan / Mercury News)

Because so much food is grown in California on top of everything else, you can expect higher prices for produce in the supermarkets.  “Last year, during the second year of the drought, more than 100,000 acres of the 4.7 million in the valley were left unplanted, and experts predict that number could soar to nearly 850,000 acres this year.  All of which could mean shorter supplies and higher prices in produce aisles – California is the nation’s biggest producer of tomatoes, almonds, avocados, grapes, artichokes, onions, lettuce, olives and dozens of other crops…

drought_t3501

Docks at Lake Pillsbury, north of Santa Rosa, sat high and dry in late January because of below-average rainfall. (Associated Press file) -

These pictures are reminiscent of the old black and white pictures from the Dust Bowl years.  This is the result of too many people placing unreasonable demands on nature.   How many swimming pools you figure there are in California?  At a time when food crops are drying and dying could there be a bigger waste of water than all the swimming pools in Southern California?  In the coming years as there are more people and more swimming pools you can expect the water problems out in the Western US to escalate.  I mean look at Vegas too.  There are too many people living in too dry an area to be sustainable.  I wouldn’t ca_dmwant to own property in Nevada.

If you live in California I don’t know what to tell you.  Maybe move someplace there is more water more consistently.

I was out walking the other day and stumbled upon this old piece of what I think is animal hide nailed into a tree.  At first I thought it was a fish, but it looks like deer spine.  That’s what that white thing at the top of the picture is white spine bone.  Not sure what it comes from or why someone would nail it to a tree though.  a17

Does anyone know what this is?

Unemployment

February 19, 2009

Okay, let’s say the Boss came into your office or asks you to come into hers and she says, ‘Well, times have been real bad.  We’ve all had to make cutbacks.’   BTW if the Boss ever shows up with someone from Human Resources don’t even wait for them to speak.  Just start packing up.

What do you do next?

I’ve been laid off a number of times.  I hate to say you get used to it.  You don’t.  It’s never easy, but there is something to be said for not being too vested in your job.   There’s also something to be said to burning bridges sometimes.  I mean who would want the bastard to have a way to get over to you.  Some bridges are best burned.  That’s just me though.  And I know it’s bad advice.

I can really feel for people, getting laid off is as shocking to a family as a death or divorce.   If you’ve been working the same job for 15, 20 or 30 years what else do you know.  You’d be like a prisoner who spent his entire adult life in prison and then upon his release steals a pack of gum to get sent back.  If you’ve been somewhere for 15+ years what else do you know?  Then if you have kids and get laid off…

Well what do you do now that you’re driving home and wondering how to tell your husband, wife, parents, girlfriend, boyfriend or roommates? Well in no particular order: collect unemployment, stay positive, assess the situation, network, budget/debt management, look for jobsdevelop a cash business, keep a schedule and exercise.

1. Collect unemployment – first things first.  Get in touch with your state’s department of employment assistance or transitional assistance or whatever government name they have for it and open a file.  if you can do it on-line then do it on-line.  If you need to do it by phone then make sure that your portable phone is fully charged before you call.  Use a speakerphone so that you can do other stuff while you wait on hold for an hour.  If they call, return their phone calls.   If you need to fill out a form or take a class then do it as fast as possible.  Keep track of who you speak with and what was said. You have time now.  If you need to keep a log of your job search then do it.   You’ll need to update your claim every week.  Make sure that you do it.  Otherwise your claim will be closed and you’ll have to start from scratch again.   Don’t ever lie to the unemployment people.  It’s a serious offense and even with everything they got going on now they like nothing better than to screw with you.  Don’t lie to them.  They have secret Government ways of finding out.  So treat collecting unemployment as a job.  You’re lucky to be getting it so make sure you do what they ask of you.  Check out what option you have for health insurance.  Maybe it’s COBRA or some state policy.

2. Stay positive – Tough to do when you’re worrying about your next meal, paying the rent or getting necessary medicine, but you have to do your best.  Maybe it’s going to church, temple or the mosque.  For me it’s walking my dog and spending time outside.  I’ve found over my short life that some people, places, events and things are energy vacuums.  You need to avoid energy vacuums.  If you know a particular person is going to give you hard time about something then avoid them.  If your mother or your ex always dumps on you then don’t give them the opportunity.  You don’t want to be sitting around all day with other unemployed people who are negative.  If they are positive and doing and going and making things happy or happening then that’s another story.  Avoid the energy sucks in your life.  You know who or what they are.

3. Assess the situation – Spend some time just figuring out where you are at and how you got there.    Where did you think you would be at this point in your life and where you are at.  What’s changed and what hasn’t.  Should you consider moving someplace different to increase your chance of finding work?  Go to school?  The state may pay.  Get some retraining or learn a new skill maybe.  Maybe you need to change your living arrangements or sell the boat and jet skis.  Don’t become an unwitting observer of your own life.

4. Network – Now is time to get out there.  Have any favors that people owe you or friends in position to hire you?  You need to speak with everyone you meet.  You never know where one simple hello may lead.  The more you do the more people you meet, so do more.  Just because you are unemployed it doesn’t mean that you should sit at home.  Volunteer at the town kennel or the senior center.  The Internet, Facebook and Myspace are great to network.    If you belong to any organizations or associations like the VFW, AmVets, Italian American Club, Masons or Order of the Arrow than work it.  Check on your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters.  Now isn’t the time to be hiding out in your mountain top bunker by yourself.

5. Budget/debt management – You have to try and get your finances in as best shape as possible.  If you have the where with all to write out a budget then do it.  Get an understanding of how much income you are taking in every month and what your monthly expenses are.  If you need to, for a week keep track of every cent you spend and write it down in a little notebook.  Set priorities for your bills and debts.  Make sure you put unsecured creditors last.  That’d be like credit card companies.  Try and figure out where you can cut back.  Forget about the coffee out everyday.   It’s bad for the environment anyways.  Forget about the lottery or going out to eat.  Only you know where you can cut back. Don’t ever go shopping without a listUse coupons if you have the patience.  Make shopping lists.  Sell your junk that is in your shed or closet.    Have a yard sale or post crap on E-Bay.

6. Look for jobs – Personally, I never like job fairs.  It’s like ants at a picnic.  Use the Internet and sites like Craigslist.org.  If you went to college check with the alumni folks at your alma mater.  Check USAjobs.gov.  Most states and municipalities are hurting, but they’re still hiring who they need.  Consider part-time work or a few part-time jobs.  I like the idea of having a number of part-time jobs, diversification of your income is good.    Looking for a job is a job.    You really should try and spend an two or three hours at least five days a week looking for a job.  It takes a lot of time and it sucks.

7. Develop cash business – If you’ve always wanted to “follow your heart” or try something different and never had the balls to actually do it, now may be the time.   I believe just about anyone can accomplish just about anything they set their mind to.  You can too.  If you’ve always wanted to write a book, become a taxidermist or whatever else it is, then think about turning it into a business.  Turn your hobbies into a business.  In our New Economy v.2 having an independent income stream will be a very good thing indeed.   Don’t get all crazy though and start spending a bunch of money you don’t have to make money.  If you plan on “investing” in tools, equipment or such for a new business, don’t do it without first developing a detailed business plan.  That said though, look around your house, you already have the tools for your hobbies, sports and recreational activities.  Teach people to tie flies.  Put in vegetable gardens for people.   Fix bicycles.  Tutor someone’s kids.   Babysit or take care of someone’s elderly parents.  Maybe run errands or clean houses.  Fix cars for folks.  Cook meals for working people so when they get home from work dinner is already made.  Specialize in small engine repair.  Catch fish and sell em to your neighbors.  Set up your own little farm stand or sell bouquets of flowers.  Maybe learn how to homebrew beer and wine.  Mow lawns or trim hedges.  Your imagination and other people’s doubts are your only limitations.  If you’ve had a desk job your whole adult life you’ll be pleasantly surprised how nice it is to do something different and maybe move around for a change.

8. Keep a schedule – You can’t be sleeping all day.  You may not have a paying job, but you can still be useful and contribute.  Try to wake up and go to bed the same times each day.  Don’t stay up all night playing video games.  Make Mondays be a drag and look forward to Fridays.  Clean the house.  Cook meals.  Go to the library.  Get out.    Keep busy and make your unemployment be like a job.  Make a schedule so you get out of the house everyday to get the newspaper, look for jobs or walk the neighborhood.  Make a list of things that need to be done around your home – filing, painting, cleaning, snaking the drains.   Have meals at regular times.  Set your alarm clock, wake up, shower and shave.  You too ladies.  You can’t start living like a pirate now, no matter how nice it sounds.  Unless of course it’s a pirate you want to be then be the best damn pirate you can, be the captain of other pirates and be a pirate’s pirate.  Anyways…

9. Exercise – This is a biggie.  You have to get some exercise everyday.  You have the time now so there is no excuse.  Exercise will relieve stress, help you sleep better and keep you healthy.  Ideally, You Get Outside Every Day so you get some fresh air and sunshine.  Walking is great exercise.  Explore trails near your house.  Do stuff around your yard.  If you are lying awake in bed at night worrying you aren’t exercising enough.

If you are not laid off yet: don’t get your personal identity from your job, arrive early, don’t surf the Net at work.  Start saving a little cash every pay period.  Pay down your secured debt as much as possible.  Whatever your job is, keep current on new trends or breakthroughs.  Take classes.  Start buying some extra food and other non-perishables like toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent and so on to store.  If you are working and having a tough time meeting your bills then make some changes while you still have steady income.  I’m not telling you what to do, but if you are still contributing to a 401k or 403b really think about what you are doing.  Especially if you are like me and don’t know what you are doing.  The days of buying and holding are behind us.

Get outside everyday!

I was out skiing.  There really isn’t much snow left but I know the last places that melt.

v3

Look how blue that sky is and the way the blue changes from kind of white near the horizon to bright blue of the heavens.  Crazy.  Anyways, this big field is actually sort of a bowl.  It doesn’t look very steep, but I guarantee if you aren’t a good cross country skier you will fall.  So when I ski this area I kind of follow the tree line on the left down to the bottom of the little slope.  At the bottom of this little hill is a good size pond.  It’s out of the picture to the right.  Then I ski back up and ski down again a bunch of times.

So at the bottom of the hill lo n’ behold what do I see………………but a………………

v5Chicken of the Woods! I don’t eat the stuff, but it is a good find nonetheless.  Believe me, what I eat is directly related to my level of hunger.  No offense, but I would eat you too if I was hungry enough.  And I would expect no less from you.  Anyways, Chicken of the Woods is pretty unique looking as far as wild edible mushrooms go.  I’m not one to collect mushrooms, but there really isn’t anything else that looks like this that is poisonous.   They grow on trees, even dead trees.  They’re orange and yellow.  They don’t have gills.  They’re best to eat when young.  You can cut the edges off of them.  That’s where the best taste is.  I read that you should avoid the ones that grow on conifers.  As with all wild edibles, test them first before eating in quantities.

YOU GOTTA DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH though until you are comfortable with what you know.  Don’t Eff around with mushrooms.  You have to put in the research time or you could die, and then what good will all those high capacity magazines do for you? Just kidding.  You  can keep them ………..for now.

v7Here’s another picture.  You’ve seen these haven’t you?  Google Chicken of the Woods and then commit it to memory.

Coleman stoves

January 30, 2009

I figured I’d follow up my other entry on Coleman lanterns with one on Coleman whitegas stoves.    Coleman makes rugged equipment.  It’s not unusual to have one of the old greencolemanstoves last for generations, really generations.  You can keep your European fancy equipment.  I’ll stick with Coleman.  Doesn’t just seeing it bring back memories of crackling campfires, ghost stories, smores and swimming in freezing lakes?

Anyways, these big green two burner stoves are great.  You can cook anything you need to on them.  One burner can boil water while the other burner is cooking up your meat sauce or bacon on one and eggs on the other.

As I’ve said before I like whitegas.  It seems stable to me and stores a long time.

For this entry though I’m going to focus on My Leetle Friend, my Peak 1.  The Peak 1 is great.  It’s small enough to throw in a backpack and hike miles and miles with, but it boils water pretty efficiently too.  A little fuel seems to go a long ways.  I’d say a full tank in the stove and an extra pint of fuel in a fancy metal container is enough to last for an entire weekend of winter camping for two – melting snow and heating meals.

BTW if you want to save on fuel, once you have some water in a bottle just keep adding snow to it.  The water already in the bottle will melt the newly added snow so you don’t have to use the stove to melt more snow.

Anyways, the Peak 1 has little legs in the bottom that fold out.  First things first, flip out the three little legs.stvYou just flip those puppies down.

Next stand it rightside up.

stv1Say hello to my leetle friend!”  You unscrew that cap to fill it with fuel.  Unfortunately, this stove only takes whitegas.  Coleman also makes dual-fuel stoves that will burn unleaded gas too.  All you do is unscrew the cap and fill her up.  Be careful not to overflow.  Funnels are a big help here.  Once you have it filled, retighten the cap.  Keep an extra cap in your house or gear.

Just like with a lantern you need to pressurize the fuel.

stv3This is the pump handle (just like the lantern).  Turn it counterclockwise and pull it up.  See the little black flame control lever? It’s all the way to the left in the off position.

stv5Then making sure that your thumb covers up the little hole in the top of the pump handle you pump it up.  It may take 5, 10 or 30 pumps.  It depends on how much fuel is in the tank.  Once you feel some good resistance slide the handle in and twist it clockwise to lock it into place.

Next up, turn the fuel lever to counterclockwise to open up the fuel line.

stv2This is the off position, but just like the little drawing shows turn it the other way to open it up.

Next I light a match and get ready to turn the stove on…

stv6Then you turn the black flame adjustment handle to the right to the Light Hi position.  Now you should start to hear the hissing of the gas being forced out.  If it doesn’t sound a little scary you may have to pump it up some more before lighting it.  Now touch the flame to the burner and she should light.  It will sputter.  Until the generator (that little brass tube over the burner) gets heated up the stove will sputter and burn funny.

stv7Now you need to repressurize the tank so unscrew the pump handle and give it another 10 or 15 pumps till you feel resistance again.  I also slide the flame control (the black handle) back n’ forth a few times.  It seems like if you turn the stove down low and then up high a few times it helps to really get it going correctly.  So go high – low – high – low – high – low.  I don’t know why, but it seems like it makes it catch good.   You may have to pump it a few more times.  You’ll know when it’s going good.  It kinds of makes a whooshing or shooshing noise, like a little jet plane.

If you notice where the burner is there is a metal windscreen.  It’s that thing divided into four quadrants.    This keeps the flame from being blown out by the wind.  That’s good.  Especially because it’s integral with the stove.  Good feature.  Look for a integral windscreen on any stove you buy.

Once you are done using the stove you shut off the red fuel lever and let it die down.  It will take a minute or two for the flame to totally die out.  The stove will remain hot for awhile too so you can’t pack it up right away either.

  • Another reason I like this stove is that it is small enough to pack up inside of my pots and pans.  That way my cooking gear acts as a metal container for the stove.  It nests nicely right inside of them, then the whole thing goes in a ditty bag.
  • Another good thing with the stove is that it gets going fast and doesn’t make smoke so if you want to lay low you can cook at night or during the day without fear of being detected.  Doesn’t leave a trace.  Safer to use then campfires when the woods are dry.
  • The fuel is widely available.  The cost has literally doubled though in the past ten years.
  • If you decide to buy one I’d get a dual or multi fuel stove.
  • My stove clogged up from a lot of use so I was able to buy a replacement generator off of the Internet.  I like this.  The parts are widely and easily available.  And if I can take it apart and put it back together so that it still works fine anyone can.
  • As I wrote above this stove is rugged.  I’ve dropped it and its gone rolling and comes out ready to drink fuel and piss fire.
  • BTW the big two burner classic green stove up above basically works the same way – fill it, pump it, turn it on & light it.   Once you get one burner lit you turn on the other burner.
  • Even the fancy European gas stoves work the same way basically.
  • Remember when you take the fuel cap off it will hiss in your face because it will depressurize.  Try not to wet yourself.  Kidding.
  • You really shouldn’t use these in unventilated areas because you can die.
  • If you don’t have an alternative way to prepare meals than your kitchen stove adding one of these to your preps would be a good thing.
  • During the summer when the house is way hot, I’ll use the big green two burner out back to prepare dinner so I don’t heat up the house any more.

Follow up to my seething rage from yesterday about the financial system, “…the New York comptroller reported $18.4 billion in 2008 bonus payouts at a time when taxpayers’ money was shoring up a financial system in crisis”  WTF! WTF!! WTF!!! They take money from people that got laid off, people that get paid by the hour, people that earn weekly wages or are collecting unemployment and redistribute it up for millionaire and billionaire BONUSES!!  This is BS of the highest magnitude.  We barely make ends meet and our freaking government is taking money out of my pocket and sending it up the food chain.  WTF kind of trickle up economics is this!?!?!  Something is gonna break between the bailouts going to bonuses and Citigroup’s fancy jet plane.

Gittin out pics-

sweet-birchThis is sweet birch also known as black birch.  Notice the striped bark.  As it gets older it becomes rugged and crevassy.  And another picture.

sweet-birch-1Notice the way the smaller branches look and kind of reach away from the tree.

Anyways, you’d recognize black birch by the way the stems and twigs smell.  They smell like wintergreen.    You can make a nice wintergreen tea from the little branches.  Because it tastes so nice you can use the twigs as a sort of toothbrush to get rid of bad taste in your mouth.  The active substance in the twigs is the same compound as in aspirin.  A little tea will  help to dull minor aches and pains that you may have too.  If you’re hiking and kind of sore and you see a black birch you could take a few little twigs and chew on them to dull you aches and pains.  You could make a tea to help reduce a fever.  I bet you could even make a tincture from the bark and alcohol and apply it to sore muscles or stiff joints.  Just like medicine though, too much of a good thing can make you sick or worse.  Native Americans had zillions of uses for birch bark.  I think I read that you could even make a flour from the seeds.

Farmers Associations

January 12, 2009

I love the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA).  We all know that it’s good to hang out with like minded people so that we can exchange ideas and learn new stuff. leftheader(Come to think of it it’s good to hang out with people that you don’t agree with too so that you can exchange ideas and learn new stuff. Hmmmm.)

Anyways, I’ve been a member of NOFA for a long time.  If you are interested in growing food, food safety, organics or eating healthy (who isn’t?) you really should join the state chapter of your organic farmers association.  Just Google your state name and “organic farmers association.”

My member ship is $35 a year.  They also offer low income memberships.

Why I like being a member i.e. what I get out of it:

  • Quarterly issues of the Organic Farmer – it covers food, organics, government issues and hints, tips and tricks to grow more stuff using better methods.  The last issue had a great 8 page section on mulches.
  • Six issues of the state chapter newsletter.  These have ads for jobs, land and swaps.
  • Annual Organic Food guide that tells ya where all the organic farms, markets, stores and suppliers are located locally.
  • Discounts on the Summer and Winter Conferences – more below! This is what got me thinking about writing this blog entry.
  • Discounts on the Practical Skills Workshops – more below! Ditto.
  • Discounts on the group bulk order – Man, this is the coolest thing.  If you are an organic gardener you know that you don’t feed plants.  Please do not feed the plants. Organics is all about feeding the soil.  Water solubles are bad.  Minerals and stone dusts are good because they don’t get washed away and break down slowly.  (Sorry that’s another blog entry.)
  • Anyways, the deal with the bulk order is that you get to join together with other members and due to economies of scale buy stuff on the cheap.  I’m able to order composts, organic cover crops seed, sets for onions and potatoes, organic fertilizers, organic pest control supplies, all kinds of organic soil amendments like azomite, granite meal, gypsum, colloidal phosphate, potting soils and all kinds of other useful things too.

Now for the nuts of this entry……….

The best part of being a member of the Association are the conferences and Practical Skills Workshops.  For example, the Practical Skills Workshops run throughout the year.  Each one probably costs 40 bucks or so.  They cover such things as: High Tunnels for Season Extension, Breadmaking with whole grains, Cheesemaking, Solar Hot Water, Shamanic Plant Journeying, Biodiesel,  Draft Horses, Veggie Oil Car Conversion, Rustic Stick Furniture, Draft Horses *Advanced*, Composting Toilets, Tofu and Tempeh, Organic Home Lawn Care, Foraging for Wild Edibles, Making Soap with Goat’s Milk with soap-making, Couples Massage, Medicinal Herbs, Yoga for Farmers and Gardeners, Cheesemaking #3! – (ADVANCED*) making difficult cheeses,  Winemaking, Canning your Garden, Seed-saving : keeping your favorites for next year, Tinctures, Salves, and Lotions.

And that’s just this year!!

At the Winter Conference.  There are maybe 30 different classes on things like what I listed above plus: beekeeping, raw milk, nutrient dense crop production, raising pigs, pastured poultry, plants and plans for an organic garden, nursery management, pest and disease control and so on.  The conference runs all day.  There are classes from 8:30-10, 1-3 and 3-5.  During each time slot there are maybe 6-8 classes offered so you just choose which one to go to.  So I can go to three different classes during the day.  There is also a potluck lunch where all the attendees make something depending on the first letter of your last name and we all break bread together.

The Summer Conference is basically the same deal, but we take over a college/university for three whole days and nights.  There are dinners and contra dances and raffles and entertainment and things for the kids to do too.

Probably one of the best reasons to join is that you get to plug into the community of farmers, growers and gardeners so if you have crop, garden, plant or pest problems there is a whole network of supportive people anxious to exchange info ideas, tips and tricks.

I can’t stress enough how good it is to join your state’s chapter of the organic farmers association.  It’s a no brainer.

IMHO what you learn about growing food, storing food, growing animals and building soil is more important than all the guns and ammo in the world. Chance of shooting Zombies = .000001%.  Chance of putting good organic food on the table = 100%.  Don’t be a dullard, play the odds.

Git outside everyday-

p1010100I was out skiing through the woods off piste (I like saying, “off piste.” It means “off path.”) and came upon this rather large pile of deer poo.



A good book

January 10, 2009

A good book to have is Peterson’s Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs.

home4schoolgear_2028_17435632This is a must have.  To me it’s as important as band aids.  The color pictures that accompany each description help a lot in identifying plants.

The book makes it easy to find stuff.  The contents are organized by flower color, then shrubs, trees, woody vines, ferns, grasses and grasslike plants.

I don’t like Amazon, but this is a cool feature to check out a book, http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0395988144/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link.  Click on the link and then click on the menu on the left hand side and you can look through the book.

The best part of the book is Index to Medical Topics in the back of the book.  Here you can look up symptoms and ailments and get a list of plants that will help your illness.  Just a quick run through and I don’t know what 1/2 of these are: abdomen, abortifacient, abrasion, abscess, aches, acne, adaptogen, Addison’s disease, afterbirth, ague, alcoholism, allantoin, allergenic, alpecia and there is another page and half of just bad stuff that starts with an A.

Stop and think about that for a second.  If you have a headache you look up headache and see that you can use prickly poppy, virgin’s bower, passion flower, pink lady slipper and maybe another 30 plants.

To be able to cross reference ailments and plants is invaluable.

My gripe is the same with this field guide as with all the others, there is a lack of pictures for out of season plants.  You know it’s fine to identify a plant by the flowers as long as the plant is flowering, but most plants only flower for a month or two out of the whole year.  How do you identify it when it doesn’t have flowers on it?

And that is why you need multiple field guides, to cross reference the same plant.

When I eventually write my field guide each plant will have four pictures, a picture from each season, to go along with it.

All the books in the world about the outside will do ya no good if you don’t Get Outside Everyday!

x9You gotta look closely at this picture.  Click on it to expand it if you got old eyes like me.  There are a TON of deer tracks here in the snow.  The four brown leafy areas in the foreground of the picture are where deer slept.

x8Ahhh, sweet, sweet carnage.  Not that I have bloodlust or anything, just taking in the circle of life.  I was out following some coyote tracks on my skis for maybe a mile (?) when I came upon this bloody scene in the snow.  I’m guessing Mr. Red Squirrel met his demise and Mr. Coyote had a warm meal.  Any thoughts?

Get outside every day!

Talking about a revolution

December 31, 2008

Talking about a revolution.

Don’t you know you’re talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don’t you know they’re talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don’t you know you’re talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

Poor people are gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people are gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs

Don’t you know you better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run
Oh I said you better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run

Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution
Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution oh no
Talking about a revolution oh no

While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don’t you know you’re talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

And finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution
Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution oh no
Talking about a revolution oh no
Talking about a revolution oh no

T. Chapman (1988) [smart lady, graduated from Tufts University.]

Get outside every day.

Bushy tail track

Bushy tail track

Just some bushy tail tracks in the first snow.

p1010096

Water and ice.

One of the best days of the year!!

December 20, 2008

We got our first significant snowfall.  I went out skiing before the snow stopped falling.  One of my ski buddies, Running Bear, called me last night around 6 and said, “pick you up at 8?”

If you live in an area that gets snow and you haven’t tried cross country skiing (Nordic skiing) then something must be wrong with you.  What’s your malfunction, boy!?! You can get a full set up, boots, poles skis and bindings for probably around 150 bucks.  I beat the hell out of mine and they still last ten years.  For the type of snows we get around here skis beat the heck out of snowshoes.  The big advantage of skis is the glide, plus you get to ski down hills.  I can’t think of a more efficient human powered mode of travel in the snow then Nordic skis.  On a good year I can ski over 100 days.  That’s pretty good.  So this year, although I’m not working as much as I’d like, now that we have snow I’ll be skiing a ton and getting in fighting shape.

Mmmm snow.  Beautiful, delicious, delectable snow.  There’s that list running around, 100 skills every man person should know.  Nordic skiing should be on that list.  If you live in the North and don’t know how, make it your New Year’s resolution. It’s easy on the knees too.

Ski at night!

Ski at night!

Tough to see, but here are some beautiful white pine trees covered in snowy vanilla frosting.  This was the height of the storm.  We were getting an inch or more an hour, 23 degrees and the winds were 20mph+.  It was fun.The first ski is one of my favorite days of the entire year. Nordic skiing is the best exercise I can think of.  You swing your arms and skate your legs.  I used to winter camp and ski.  That’s tough carrying a 50 pound pack on skis.  Once you start leaning a little to one side the pack will pull you right over.  Who cares, when you fall you land in THE SNOW!!  Haha.  It’s fun!

Ski at night!!

Ski at night!

My ski buddy Running Bear with Green Eyed Dog in the background. You can see Green Eyed Dog’s eyes glowing and his white vest to the side of Running Bear’s left leg.  If you ski a lot the position Running Bear is in is a common position.  You stick your poles into your armpits and lean on your poles to catch a break.

We’re powder poachers and I’m proud of it.  Where we went last night there is new “management” and the new “management” implemented new rules and regulations.  What is it with some people?  You give them a little power (flashlight, keys and radio) and all of a sudden they think that they are Master of the Universe.  One of the new rules is that they don’t like us there at night.  SCREW THEM!!

Those are MY WOODSMINE! I don’t care what the name on the deed says.  I’ve been there thousands of times, literally thousands, through all the seasons and all kinds of weather over a period of 30+ years.  Think about that, thousands of times means once, twice or three times a week for 20 years.  Then some new folks come in and try to tell me when I can and can’t go there and what I can and can’t do.  It’s plain rude.  Those woods are my temple.  Really,  that’s the way I look at it.  And the “management” thinks they can keep me from my woody church because they have some official labeling on their trucks and patches on their shoulders.  SCREW THEM!! I’m pretty confident saying that no one in this area currently alive knows these woods better than me.  Sure, maybe 300 years ago the settlers and local Indian tribes may have, but not now.

snow6

Ski at night!

So how do we get around the new “management’s” lack of hospitality? We park across the street from the woods, run across the street and bushwhack through the woods to the trails.  This is not advised for others to do at night in heavy wind driven snows unless you are intimately knowledgeable of the terrain.   Then we ski till we get near the top of the mountain.  At that point it’s too rocky and steep so we remove our skis and hike the rest of the way using one ski in each hand as a walking stick.  Once we get to the top we put our skis back on and then the fun begins, ski to the bottom.  Why snowshoe when you don’t get the benefit of the skate and glide?  Don’t fight gravity.  Use it.

Ski at night!

Ski at night!

If you engage in aerobic activities in the winter you know that you need to dress appropriately.  You have to dress for how hot you may get when your heart is doing 150 beats a minute.  I was overdressed.  Although it was 23 degrees out I had my jacket totally unzipped and I was still sweating.  You have to be careful not to sweat too much.  You also want to wear underwear that wicks your sweat away from your body.  No cotton, because “Cotton is death.” Got polypro and Goretex?

Abraham’s rule of the day: You can’t complain about the snow or cold if you stay inside.   Keep your sitting inside on the couch watching TV mouth shut.  Just get outside.

$’s and sense

December 18, 2008

Have you been watching the US$ the past few weeks?  Wow.  The issue as I see it and I may be wrong, I’m not a currency trader, is that at some point the rest of the world will may lose its confidence in the “full faith and credit of the United States government.”  If that point is reached then we become like Iceland at best.

Riots in Iceland

Euro to $

Euro to $

So in the past 30 days one US$ went from being worth .78 Euros to .68 Euros.  Hmmm, run some numbers in my head .10/.78 = 10%+.  Think about that.  The US$ now buys 10% less in Europe than it did just a week or two ago.  Courtesy of http://www.x-rates.com/d/EUR/USD/graph30.html

US$ to Yen

Yen to US$

And the US$ is also obviously losing ground to the Japanese Yen.  In the past month the purchasing power of the US$ in Japan has also gone down by more than 10%.  http://www.x-rates.com/d/JPY/USD/graph30.html

US$ to Swiss Franc

Swiss Franc to US$

http://www.x-rates.com/d/CHF/USD/graph30.html

All are pretty precipitous drops.  What this means now is that anything that we buy overseas just went up in price by 10%+.  The good thing is that our exports became cheaper to the world markets.

usdi

USDI

This is the US$ index 90 day chart.  The interesting thing here is the red line.  The red line represents a 20 day moving average.  Notice the movement downwards. http://quotes.ino.com/chart/?s=NYBOT_DX&v=d3&w=1&t=l&a=20

It’s currently at 78 or so.  There seems to be support (magic hands) at around 70.  If it drops below 70 for a week or two I’d get real concerned.

Still our whole economy is a confidence game.  If the point comes that folks who purchase or hold US$ denominated assets lose confidence in the US government’s ability to back up the Trillions of US$’s being created by the outgoing Bush administration (not by PE Obama who hasn’t even been sworn in yet) then we are done.  The US government won’t be able to sell debt to keep our ship of state afloat.

Look at the rate of the drop and consider whether the point of loss of confidence has happened or is approaching.

Think about it.  Every $ created, and Trillions have been created by the current administration in the past three months, reduces the value of all $ already in existence.  It’s dilution pure and simple.

How would you react if you had huge investments, maybe your life savings like a 401k, in the US$ and the US government kept diluting the value of what you held?  Would you keep buying US$’s or would you be looking to cash out?

Our lenders are in a tough position though because if they dump too rapidly, others follow suit and it becomes a race to the bottom.  The trick is how to divest cautiously so that it doesn’t force down the value of what they remain holding.  Our lenders have a vested stake in propping up the US$.

As I wrote above though, expect everything that you buy that is imported to go up in price.  It’s not a bad time to stock up on imported items that you like.  Just about all of our clothing and footware are imported.  I like olive oil and coffee.  What do you like?

Still the critical issue is whether or not we reach a tipping point when the rest of the world loses confidence in the US$.  If that point comes then the flow of goods (including oil) into the US comes to a grinding halt.  We won’t be able to afford the fuel to run sorties over the 50 states.

Walkn about pics-

These boots are made for walking

These boots are made for walking

Please don’t be afraid of getting muddy.  Dirt is one of the cleanest things I can think of.

Glacial erratic

Glacial erratic

It may be tough to see in this picture, but there are a bunch of boulders.  They are glacial erratic.  Glacial erratic are giant rocks left behind by the last ice age. About 10,000 years ago Glaciers creeped down from the Great White North into my neck of the woods.   As the glaciers retreated or melted they left behind stones that were dragged far away from their origin.

p10100321

Sassafras in winter

This is sassafras in the winter (no leaves).   Sassafras is easy to spot when it has its leaves because the leaves look like mittens or hands.  The leaves got a thumb.  In the winter it can be spotted because notice how the bark is kind of smooth with spots of green?  Boiled sassafras roots make a great tea.  Mmmm, iced sassafras tea.  Just thinking of it reminds me of warm summer days.  The dried leaves are crushed to thicken soups, and if you live in mosquito land, gumbo.  I think down in swamp land they call the crushed leaves file’ powder as in gumbo file’.   The twigs make tasty toothpicks too.

Ice storm

December 16, 2008

We got a rainstorm the other night, 3+ inches of rain.  Folks a few miles away got an inch or more of ice.  My house was drying out today.  Folks a few miles away were chilling out.  Literally, no power, no heat.  Are you prepared to stay warm?  Are you prepared to vanquish the darkness?

One of the places that I go walking is a little hill.  The summit is maybe 700 feet or so.  The base is around 300 feet, so the gain is 400.

At the base of this hill it was drying out from last night’s rainstorm.  At the top it was covered in ice.

ice

ice

It’s amazing what a small change in elevation can do.  You have to keep that in mind when you are getting dressed or packing.

p1010061What you see on the ground isn’t snow.  It’s ice that’s falling from the trees as the day warms.  If you look closely at the ground you can see all the branches that have snapped off the trees from the weight of the ice.  Ice weighs a lot.

p1010058

Some tree covered in ice.  It’s like a winter wonderland.  As if each branch was dipped into glass.

p1010057

I like the way the sun is shining through the ice on the tree.

p10100441This is a good picture that really shows the weight of the ice and how it bends trees and branches to the point of snapping.  You should take a look around your property and make sure there aren’t any branches or trees that may come down during a storm and knock out your wires.  If you haven’t laid awake listening to trees and branches snapping during an ice storm it is something else.

p1010055You can see next year’s buds being kept on ice for the spring solstice and Greenman to arrive.

p1010054I call this construction, “White Pine Amidst Ice.”  Just kidding, but it is pretty.

p1010047Nice trail.

So what was I reminded of today?

You gotta get outadoors everyday.

I have to check around my house to make sure nothing will come down on wires, roof or sheds if there’s a storm.

Weather can change dramatically and rapidly.

If your power goes out do you have another way to stay warm?  And another one after that? If my electric goes out I can’t use my furnace, but I have a woodstove.  If that doesn’t work I have a propane heater.  If that doesn’t work I have a little camping heater.   Can you cook without electricity?  Do you have a backup plan to that one?  Do you have the cast iron to cook over a fire if need be?  Do you even have a spare propane tank or extra bag of charcoal for your grill?

Generators, batteries, solar chargers, Coleman fuel, propane, blankets, sleeping bags, flashlights, lanterns, candles, propane heater, charcoal, firewood, saws, mauls, light sticks, fleece, long underwear, head lamps, cast iron cookware, handwarmers, hats, gloves, Dutch oven, grills, axes, matches and lighters, portable TVs, wind up lights and radios.

Lastly, you need to know how to shut off the utilities to your house.  Learn how to shut off the water main and drain the heating system, shut off your natural gas, turn off the furnace and pull the main breaker to your house.  The time to figure out how to do it isn’t when you need to.

BTW our power went out today.  It didn’t take me long to pull out a couple of battery lanterns, the b attery TV set and a radio.  We weren’t affected in the least.  I did find out that the batteries died in the radio.  No problem, we have lots of extra batteries.  It feels good to be prepared.  Are you?

Our government

December 13, 2008

For the people, of the people and from the people.  Interesting concept in dreamland.  Application of our supposed democratic republic in reality though, well that’s something different.

From the movie Independence Day:

“PRESIDENT: I don’t understand. Where did all this come from? How did this get funded?

MOISHE You didn’t think they actually spent ten thousand dollars for a hammer and thirty thousand for a toilet seat, did you?”

Do you?

Article I, § 8 of the Constitution is pretty clear, Congress gets to spend the money.  It’s part of the separation of powers.  That’s why the line item veto is unconstitutional.  Allowing the president the authority to veto specific items in an appropriations bill is akin to empowering the executive to controlling the purse strings. Clinton v. City of New York, 524 US 417 (1998) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton_v._City_of_New_York

The Constitution requires bicameralism (both houses of congress have to approve a bill) then the bill needs to be presented to the chief executive for him to sign, veto or do nothing(pocket veto).  There aren’t that many options.

If you prefer to keep your head buried in the sand then stop reading now and go read the comics.  I call them the way I see them.

So what happens when things get fakakta (that’s yiddish for pooh, not Winnie.)?  That was the problem with Iran/Contra.  Congress didn’t approve the action or the financing so there were no checks and balances in place.  No oversight.  The president at that time did it all.

This is where it’s going to get crazy, and quite frankly unbelievable.  I don’t want to believe it.

What am I trying to get at?  What if I told you that elements within our government may be running illegal drugs in order to fund black operations?  Do you get that, that rogue elements within our government could be running illegal drugs in order to fund operations without congressional approval or oversight?  It’s illegal.

Now the president’s “extraordinary rendition” program is well known.  You know the program where we take suspects and fly them out to countries like Eqypt and Syria in order to be tortured.  Yup, that’s right we even outsource torture now.  You might ask yourself why if Syria is on the list of those who get a lump of coal do we send prisoners there.  Interesting, huh?

“Outsourcing Torture – The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program.” http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/02/14/050214fa_fact6

So you got that so far?

So what would you think if some of the CIA planes that were used to transport suspects to be tortured in Syria or to Gitmo were later found crashed with tons of cocaine on them?  Well I hope you’d find that interesting to say the least.

Let me put it together for you again, elements within our government may be smuggling illegal drugs in order to fund black operations without congressional oversight.

I’m sorry to maybe open your eyes to what your own government is doing.  It’s terribly disheartening when we have spent so much $ and ceded so many of our civil liberties to the War on Drugs to only discover that our government could be at the center of it, or at least directly involved.

Do you doubt it, then let me know.

“MEXICO CITY (AFP) — A private jet that crash-landed almost one year ago in eastern Mexico carrying 3.3 tons of cocaine had previously been used for CIA “rendition” flights, a newspaper report said here Thursday, citing documents from the United States and the European Parliament.  The daily said it had obtained documents from the United States and the European Parliament which “show that that plane flew several times to Guantanamo, Cuba, presumably to transfer terrorism suspects.”

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j6QonBKKMo2gw1e3ql-xUcQEZbVg

This is some crazy Shiite, huh?

CIA Torture Jet wrecks with 4 Tons of COCAINE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oszATUJ4IRE

The last rays of sunlight glint off its wings of the plane, which looks for all the world as if it were carry potentates from the US Department of Homeland Security to a conference on drug interdiction at a posh Cancun hotel.

Except this plane isn’t carrying diplomats or FBI agents…

Instead, it is loaded with 128 identical black leather suitcases, each tightly packed with cocaine, an incredible quantity of cocaine, 5.5 tons in all. Stenciled on the side of each suitcase was a single word: Privado.

Inside the suitcases, the packages of cocaine were stamped with different symbols: a scorpion, a star, a horse, among others, as though they were going to different drug gangs for onward smuggling up through Mexico to the U.S.”

http://www.madcowprod.com/08232006.html

“A Beechcraft Super King Air 350 (N675BC), registered to a suspected CIA front, Aviation Enterprises, Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware, was recently spotted alongside a Russian-made AN-124, suspected of being a major drug transport cargo plane, in Colombia.

The “specially configured” King Air flew from Tampa to Guantanamo Bay on October 22, 2007. From 2002 to 2006, the King Air was registered to Prewitt Leasing Inc. of Bedford, Texas.”

http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_wayne_ma_080401_is_cia_using_renditi.htm

The Real Drug Lords
A brief history of CIA involvement in the Drug Trade
by William Blum

http://www.serendipity.li/cia/blum1.html

The Holidays

December 4, 2008

No one wants the stupid crap that you feel you need to buy for them and no one wants to buy stupid crap for you.  Stop it. No one wants another tie. When you give something to someone else you’re basically telling them to buy something for you.  Stop it.

grinch_santaPlease don’t buy into it.  At this point no one should be buying anything that isn’t a necessity.  If it doesn’t make life easier for you or help you to prepare for the future than you don’t need it.  No more electronics.  No more exercise equipment that you don’t use.  No more video games.  Even rethink toys for the kids.  No more crap that sits in the basement, draws, attic or trunk of your car unused.

Don’t get caught up in thinking that there needs to be a ton-o-pile of gifts under the tree.  Don’t make yourself crazy.  The world is changing.

Give to your heart’s content, but be practical.  Give stuff that people can use, that makes them safer or will help them to be prepared if our banks close or supply lines go down.

The best things to give are those things you make yourself.  Can some pickles.  Make candles.  Make jars of dried pea soup mix or bread mix.  Give a neighbor a coupon for a free driveway shoveling or an oil change.  Don’t give your elderly mother something that will sit in her basement collecting dust.  Clean her gutters,  Wash her car.  Sharpen someone’s knives for them. Clean their gutters.

Clothing is good.  Tools are good.   Cookware is good.  Kitchen knives.  Camping gear.  Make a meal for those you love.  Freeze a lasagna or a casserole for someone that may be short on funds for food.  Give canned goods.  Give someone a book or two of postage stamps and some envelopes.  Mow a lawn.

If you’re worried that friends and family are ignoring the future rushing towards them then give them something that will make them more secure like flashlights, wind up radios, a book on Peak Oil or preparing, a first aid kit, a sewing kit, a home tool kit,  a bug out bag or survival kit or work gloves.  Reference books are always great.  How about a field guide of birds or animal tracks and a pair of binoculars?  A cookbook for a friend that eats out a lot.

Don’t waste your money.  Don’t get caught up in the commercials and commercialization of the holidays.  It’s not what you give that counts.  It’s what you think and feel.

People are hurting.  Even people you may not suspect are having financial troubles may be.  The last thing they want is something that they can’t use.  They may want paint to paint their house or get their brakes done.  Think what people need and may not be able to buy for themselves.

Spend time with family.  Instead of hitting the mall spend some time with your friends and family, speak to your kids or better yet play a game with them.  Instead of giving your group of friends a bunch of junk agree to forego it and have a pot luck dinner.

Please rethink what giving means in the new world that is evolving right before our eyes.

Blue heron standing on a stick you may have to click on the pic

Blue heron standing on a stick you may have to click on the pic

carnage

carnage

Big ol’ pile of fur in the woods.  Just my guess, but I’d venture to say that it appears a hawk or osprey done ate a squirrel.  Anyone have another guess?

Martial Law

December 3, 2008
Police state

Police state

Everyone is blogging about it.  It’s troubling that so many of us feel the same way in an ostensibly “free” country.  What do you think is going to happen when the banks and the stock market are locked down so you can’t trade or make withdrawals?

Our congresspeople were threatened with martial law if they didn’t pass the Troubled Assets Relief Program (“TARP”).

Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) discussing Bush Inc.’s threatened martial law

Rep. Sherman (D-CA) discussing Bush Inc.’s threatened martial law

And there are 20,000 more troops on the way to keep the lid on things come…

“Pentagon to deploy 20,000 troops for domestic emergencies”

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gJd63da5mM0wM8hDw0VkfJjebZbg

Are you ready to be stay in your home for a few days or a few months?  Best way to survive is to employ the three L’s – lay low or leave.

How to Survive Martial Law-

http://www.geocities.com/northstarzone/LAW.html

Survive Martial Law-

http://www.scribd.com/doc/3545879/Survive-Martial-Law

Bunch of PDF’s to download-

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2008/02/372126.shtml

First ice

First ice

The first ice of the season on a little pond.

First ice

First ice

Just some frost crystal poking up.  I like the geometric way these things look all angular.