Almost There

At least, in the Northern Hemisphere. “Almost where?” Well, really, pick your place. (“Hell in a handbasket?” Why, yes…) Fall is also almost here, with all that entails–we had our first delivery of firewood this week, which means that 1) it’s going to rain, and 2) we’ve got some stacking to do.

We heat with woodstoves, as I believe I’ve mentioned. The house is going on 130 years old, and predates central air. As such, it’s not designed for it, and was never retrofitted for it. Doing so would entail massive changes to some of the domestic infrastructure, as well.

And yes, it’s a delivery of firewood, from a local garden center (less than 5 miles from the house, as the crow flies). Why not cut it ourselves? We’ve got woods, after all… Well, from everything I’ve seen, a well-managed woodlot can produce about a cord per acre per year of firewood; judging by the seven winters we’ve spent in this house, we run through between four and six cords a year. I estimate our woodlot as about three acres, maybe four. So, we’d still be ordering a little, or else over-thinning the woods. And given the clear-cutting of over 150 acres on the properties next to us, for the purpose of housing developments, I’m loath to do too much more than the occasional trim.

The weather has also broken enough that we’ve been able to use the oven. I mean, we’ve cooked with it, of course, but we’ve had every fan in the house blowing, to try and alleviate the heat. But with fall approaching, and temperatures “only” reaching into the eighties during the day, I’ve been able to start making sourdough bread again. The starter survived its long, cold sojourn in the refrigerator pretty well, and was up and running nicely in just a couple of days.

It’s also time to start thinking about preserving things for the winter. (Yes, it’s always time to think about preserving things for the winter–but this time of year is when we really get serious about it.) I’ve got plans to cure and smoke a bit of meat–I’d like to do a few pork bellies of bacon, at least, if not a ham or two. Then there’s the ancillary smoked cheeses and veggies and other such things. (I’ve even seen folks smoking honey, which looks interesting, and may be worth an experiment.)

All of which to say, it’s the anniversary of 9/11 as I write this, and I really don’t want to think much about prepping right now. I didn’t directly lose anyone on that day. But I was active duty military at the time, and to say it upended the daily routine would definitely not be overstating the case. And there have been several folks shifted to the rolls of the Eternal Watch since then.

So, this week, I’ll ask that you take a little while to think about those events. But more importantly, look around, and take count of what you’ve got, and spend more time appreciating that.  Until next time!

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Watching the World Burn

Or, well, the Amazon, anyway. And if Dear Leader has his way, likely the wilds of Alaska soon, too. And now, as I type this, he’s apparently considering “changing the rules,” such that the children of U.S. Servicemembers born overseas won’t automatically be U.S. citizens. (!!!)

I’m not here to talk news, though–I start hyperventilating, and eventually pass out. No, let’s talk prepping…

I’ve been noticing a trend in some of the online fora, of late. I don’t know if folks have run out of “normal” stuff to discuss, or what the reasoning is… But some of the “preps” they’re discussing are, to be blunt, crazy. I’ve got two cases in point, and they come from the r/preppers subforum on Reddit.

First, there’s a discussion about a “TSA-friendly Get Home Bag.”  Now, my first reaction upon reading this was, ‘you’re doing it wrong.’ In the event that things go bad, enough that you need a GHB, then 1) going home via airplane is probably not gonna happen, and/or 2) the TSA is likely the least of your worries.

But I get where they’re going, sort of, particularly after reading the post. They put together an emergency bag that they could bring with them on the plane (plus some stuff to be checked), that would help them in the event of an emergency at their destination–rather than a GHB, I’d maybe think of it as the easily-portable part of a 72hour kit. Having the nucleus of the kit, they won’t have to assemble the whole thing when they get where they’re going–just some food and water, which they can grab from the corner store.

So, what was in the bag?  I’ll probably go over specifics in a future post, and discuss things I’d personally tweak. But in the meantime, for the really curious, I’ll link to the Reddit post here.

The second post that had me raising an eyebrow was an extended discussion about how to listen to recorded music after the apocalypse. They talked about the pros and cons and longevity of an assortment of MP3 players. They talked about the batteries, battery life, battery lifespan (which is a different thing), and how to charge them. They talked about recording formats. They talked about phonographs, and CD players, and all assortment of things.

But a disturbingly (to me) small number of people suggested “learn to play an instrument” (or some variation thereof). I might even go a step further, and suggest learning to make an instrument–the various skills needed for that can be readily applied to other tasks. But having an actual musical instrument, and the ability to play it, covers a number of “post-apocalyptic checkboxes”. It’s something to pass the time, it’s entertainment, it’s potentially a source of income or barter…

That’ll do me for this week. My finger is better–we’ll call it 95%, or thereabouts. I can’t quite close a fist with it yet, not easily (if forced to, I’d make it work). But it doesn’t hurt all the time, so there’s that.

What asinine prepping things have you seen lately? Post about it in the comments; I’ll maybe collect them, and we can occasionally poke fun at them. Cheers!

Posted in Critical Thought, Make it Stop, Planning, Post-Collapse | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Recovery Mode

Thanks, everyone, for your concern regarding my finger. I went through a full antibiotics regime, and the infection has been gone ever since. Now it’s just a question of letting the cells repair themselves, and getting the swelling to go down. (A matter of time, and it’s slow going–that area is only served by relatively small vessels, so it can’t just flush out everything.) In the meantime, it’s self-induced PT, to work on flexibility, plus the occasional Epsom salt soak.

The question of tetanus shots was raised in the comments–I have, since about age sixteen, averaged a fresh tetanus shot every three to five years. Recommended minimum for adults is every ten… That’s actually something I’m pretty good at keeping up with; having worked with (against?) biological weapons while in the Navy, I take such things seriously. (Yea though I may joke about it, from time to time…)

I spent the week after the last post at Pennsic, which I believe I’ve mentioned in the past. (It’s the largest “War” in the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is a medieval re-creation group. For a quick glance at Pennsic, I recommend the first episode of “Off the Cuf”, available on Amazon Prime.) It was its usual glorious self, and a good time was had. Attendance seemed a little off, probably due to the extensive rainfall that happened before the start. Things dried out pretty well, though, by the end.

And it was at the end, as I was retrieving my car from parking, that I saw something that struck a chord. A trio of children–maybe as old as teens–taking shade from the sun and dust in the shelter of a fabric “wall”. Something about the light, and the situation, put me in mind of various post-apocalyptic movies (Road Warrior, Book of Eli, that sort), and it occurred to me that a post-Big-Collapse “refugee camp” would probably bear a resemblance to Pennsic, at least superficially–or, if nothing else, to the “half-camp” during breakdown.

I’ve often contemplated what things may look like in a post-energy-abundance world (after “extreme peak oil,” when you’d have to be filthy rich to get a gallon of gasoline). Would we shift back to a somewhat medieval, feudalistic system, with occasional big Fairs or Markets to shop for “big things” acting as the main driver of long-distance trade? Would merchants of various things start traveling the “fair circuit,” much as the merchants for the various SCA events and big Renaissance Faires do?  Would we one day travel the couple of hundred miles to go to Pennsic, not to “re-live medieval times as they should have been,” but to trade with our neighbors to the lands North and East of us?

Back in the real world, though, I’m more and more concerned we’ll see a serious economic crunch in the fairly near future. The bond market inverted pretty sharply, from what I could tell (I’m not an economist, so my ‘predictions’ are flimsy at best, and my understanding of things not much better). At any rate, as of this writing, the DOW dropped 800 points today, and who knows what tomorrow may bring… The President is tossing about tariffs willy-nilly, and damn the consequences… And Europe seems to be following suit, between both their extensive trade with us, and the UK continuing to make a complete hash of Brexit.

No real point to it, this week, other than things are looking dark-ish at the moment, so I’d advise looking at your preps and your plans. Until next time, be safe out there!

Posted in Critical Thought, News, Politics, Post-Collapse | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Fixing It

Or, rather, fixing me. I’m going to keep this short, unfortunately, as I’m experiencing a very slight, very local “sort-of” emergency. To wit, I got an injury–stabbed by a rose thorn–on my hand, and it’s infected, and swollen like a balloon, making typing difficult. Antibiotics have been acquired, but they don’t exactly work instantly.

In the meantime, I’ve been pondering the President’s racism, and some thoughts about it. It’s abhorrent, of course; it’s also somewhat enlightening that lots of folks don’t seem to consider his words racist, or (if they do) that he himself is racist.

I know very much what racism looks like. My family hails from the South, and my father as a self-admitted racist (whom I’ve confronted about the subject)… I’ve heard all the same things from them. I’ve also heard that racism is learned, not inherent; I certainly absorbed some when I was growing up. For the record, I recognize it, don’t like it, and have been actively been trying to correct that deficiency in myself, and weed it out of my psyche anywhere I find it. I flatter myself that I’ve been at least somewhat successful, but I also recognize that I’m not perfect.

(In a semi-joking, “ha-ha-only-serious” way, I like to point out that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, and so I actively try to dislike everyone equally, regardless of race, color, creed, etc.)

There’s that. I’ve also stated here before that it seems the Right’s creed is “I’ve got mine, f**k you.” What I haven’t had, for quite some time, is an equivalent-but-opposite for the Left. It’s a work in progress, but I think the best I’ve got so far is, “Treat everyone nicer than required.”

So, I’ll be back, hopefully with functioning extremities, in a couple of weeks. Feel free to chat amongst yourselves in the comments–I won’t be responding, but I’ll check in every day or so to “approve” new commenters, so long as everybody stays polite…

Posted in Make it Stop, News, Quick | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Or Better Yet, Try to Fix It

We’re back! I hope everyone had a pleasant Independence Day, despite the shenanigans going on in the Capitol.

Speaking of such, how about the mess Dear Leader has gotten himself into over this last week? Despite anything his apologists might say, his comments were intrinsically racist. Enough so, that his admonition, “go back to your country,” is enshrined as an example of a racist comment in the Government’s Equal Opportunity manual.

Then there’s the notion of the whole “love it or leave it” sentiment. I’ve heard it before, on multiple occasions. And I’ve always thought it much more useful to try to fix the things that aren’t working so well. (Much more American, too…) But then, that end of the political spectrum seems intent on turning the country into a White Christian (Patriarchal) one, and to hell with everybody outside that stereotype. (Me, I’ve always been one to try to improve the quality of life for everyone, regardless of skin pigmentation, or religion, or sexual orientation…)

I’ve really got two concerns, where all of this goes, though. The first is that (with a small handful of exceptions) nobody but the Left is calling him out for this. The second is that a sizable portion of his base are positively eating this up. Complete with the false outrage in response–which is a slightly more grown-up version of “no, you!”.

As Steven King (yes, that Steven King, the author) asked, when criticizing this whole state of affairs, “What’s next, armbands?”

To try and bring things back into the “prepper” realm a little, A quick thought. This has been bouncing around in my head for a little while, and needs to get out.

A common refrain I’ve seen around various parts of the prepper community is that (individual X) will be brewing beer as a trade good, once we’re “back to a trade-and-barter economy.”  I literally can’t count the number of places I’ve seen that.

What struck me, though, is that nobody is stockpiling the resources with which to make the beer. (And precious few of them have the practice to make much more than barely drinkable swill, but that’s a separate post.)

Seriously. I’ve looked into this. Beer takes four ingredients (to be recognized in its modern form): malted grains, hops, water, and yeast.

Hops grow like weeds, mostly. And while they’ll certainly grow in most parts of the country, they won’t necessarily grow well. And your harvests will be small, the first couple of times around. So there’s that.

Yeast can be found/”captured”/harvested, so that’s not as big of a deal. And show me a prepper who hasn’t thought about water, and I’ll show you a prepper who’s faking it.

Barley, though. (Or wheat, or oats, or rye, or even millet… Just about any grain will do, in a pinch.) Once your “stash” is gone (which will happen surprisingly quickly, unless you’ve got literal tons of the stuff–in which case, the trick will be keeping it viable for brewing), it’s gone, and you’re left with bartering for more, or growing it.

Let me tell you a little about growing it. You’ve got to have space for it. Lots of space. You can probably be just about self-sufficient for barley if you’ve got a half-acre devoted to it, and nothing else. (That will get you quite a bit to use, and just enough left over to plant next season.) It takes months to grow, and you’ve got to harvest it just right–after it’s fully ripened, and before it gets eaten by birds/deer/other critters.

Then, once you have it, you’ve got to thresh it and winnow it. Then you have to malt and kiln it. These are time-consuming, labor-intensive processes. Malting in particular takes a particular set of know-how; properly kilning the malt takes another. I’ve done all of the above, in small-ish batches (about 5 pounds of grain, overall), and it’s rough. (A little ingenuity and mechanization would ease the threshing and winnowing, but still…)

So, when they think they’re going to become the local alehouse, I think they’re maybe fooling themselves.

Mead, on the other hand, is another question.  Sure, you’ve got to learn beekeeping, but that’s surprisingly low-effort in comparison to grain. And your efforts will be paid off with honey, and wax (both valuable potential trade goods). Plus potentially better garden harvests. And your “excess” honey can be easily made into mead, with some of the equipment that would otherwise go towards beer, and a bit of time…

Are there downsides? Yes, naturally. There’s Colony Collapse to worry about. And the Varroa mite (the mite and CCD are probably somewhat interrelated). Bee stings, and allergies to them. Bears and other pests. And a variety of other things.

But overall, I think it’s a much more easily sustainable option, particularly in a “TEOTWAWKI” situation.

What say you, dear readers? How many beekeepers are out there among you?

Posted in Critical Thought, Government, Make it Stop, Post-Collapse | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Words Have Meaning

Short-ish rant, this week. I’m struck by the apparent notion that a variety of things that would benefit the populace at large, or at least large chunks of it, are all “socialism.” At least, so sayeth our esteemed Senate Majority Leader.

According to him, reversing gerrymandering would be “socialism.” You know, undoing the damage done by a horde of Republican state legislatures, in a number of states. (PA, MD, VA, WI, and I’m sure many, many others.) I’m not saying Democrats don’t do it, or wouldn’t do it… But the D’s certainly seem to be much more on the “up-and-up” with regards to it.

Statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.? Yep. Socialism. Cementing the fact of the citizenship of the three-and-change million residents of Puerto Rico, thus their entitlement (oh, jeez… that word) to being rebuilt in a relatively timely fashion after a devastating hurricane. (I may be being optimistic, but having a bit more federal oversight might alleviate some of the political corruption down there, too…) And I’m sure the residents of D.C. would like some voting representation, given that they’re taxpayers, and all. Seems there was a war once, where that notion played a part. (Oh, and let’s not look too hard at the fact that P.R. statehood was a plank in the 2016 Republican platform, and was supported by Reagan and both Bushes… But now it’s socialism.)

Medicare for All? Socialism. (I’ll grant that, depending on how it’s implemented, it’s possibly at least partly socialism…) But providing healthcare to all of our citizens, as does every other industrialized nation on the planet is somehow “bad” because… reasons.

Not asking for citizenship on the census? Socialism. Never mind that it’s not the purpose of the census to determine such things. (The census determines how many people live here, and where, as its main goal–for determining representation in the House. All the other data they collect? They don’t really need it, when it’s all said and done)

None of that, of course, is inherently Socialism.  (Socialism is, of course, where “the proletariat seizes the means of production from the bourgeoisie.”  I would accept “the nationalizing of industries” as an answer.) Are they, maybe, social? Well, yeah. Lots of things are “social,” without being “socialism.”

And the false equivalency of “Nazis” with “Socialists,” since “it was the National Socialist Party, and it has it in the name!” can stop right now. The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea is neither the people’s, nor is it a Democracy or a Republic. Even though it says so, right in the name. (One of the first massacres the Nazis perpetrated was driving out all of the Socialists, let us not forget…)

Yes, they are “concentration camps” along the border. Almost by definition. Don’t like them being called that? How about disband the camps. Stop detaining people in them. Treat people, I dunno… Humanely?

And “Nationalist” does most definitely not equal “Patriot.” A better equivalency these days would be “racist,” or even “White Supremacist.” Those aren’t perfect definitions, no… but they’ll do for starters.

I was looking at the calendar a bit ago, and I realized that the next day I’m scheduled to post would be the Fourth of July… I’m going to skip that one, and will be back on the 18th, assuming we’re all still here. Happy Independence Day! May it be full of friends, fireworks, and good food. I’ll talk to y’all in a month!

Posted in Critical Thought, Government, Make it Stop, Quick | Tagged , | 2 Comments

It Could Happen

On my commute to and from work, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. (My drive is about 45 minutes one-way with good traffic, and has been up to 3 hours with bad.) I listen to casts on a variety of topics–news, sociology, business, and personal finance, mostly. But one recently has caught my attention, and I’ve been catching an episode a day for the last week or so: “It Could Happen Here.

The overall topic is examining the possibility of, events surrounding, consequences, etc., of a potential second Civil War in America. I’m on episode eight or so thus far, and while there are a few minor points I might quibble about, it’s pretty realistic, believable, and quite sobering. The paranoid part of me wonders if maybe this isn’t how we’re going to go…

The author/announcer is generally on the left (although he describes himself as having “libertarian leanings”). He does, to my eye, a decent enough job of trying to balance things out: it’s not all about how the far right is going to rise up to destroy things–although it’s largely that. (When the reality is that over the last several years, about 64% of “terrorist attacks” in the U.S. have been right-wing extremists, 23% have been Islamic, and 3% have been left-wing [numbers are by my recollection, and come from the SPLC], things are going to skew one somewhat.)

He spends a lot of time drawing on experiences (memoirs, studies, personal visits) from various points in history when the shit really hit the fan–the Holocaust, various genocides, Syria, Iraq, and others). It’s really well-researched, and quite well thought-out. There are, as I said, a few points I might quibble with. I like to think that there’s a certain degree of “American-ness,” for lack of a better word, that would push things in unexpected, novel ways. (Perhaps I’m just kidding myself. Also, perhaps, there’s no guarantee that any “unexpected, novel” differences would be for the better.)

Parts of it are rather grim. More than a few times, I caught myself saying, “they’d be doing that because…”, only to have the announcer reaffirm what I said (but with sociology, history, and statistics to back it up). I will say, however, that I don’t believe we’re quite as close to tipping in that direction as the announcer thinks. I don’t believe we’re all that far, mind you–but there are still saner heads out there, trying to be heard.

Regardless, it’s interesting, and definitely food for some thought. What say you, good readers? Has anybody else given this one a listen? What are some other good podcasts for folks of our persuasion? Let us know in the comments1

Posted in Community, Critical Thought, Planning | Tagged , , | 6 Comments