Self-Sufficiency Series

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chuckle du jour

Walmart announced that, sometime in 2010, it will begin offering customers a new discount item - Walmart's own brand of wine.

The world's largest retail chain is teaming up with Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery of California to produce the spirits at an affordable price, in the $2 - $5 range.

Wine connoisseurs may not be inclined to put a bottle of Walmart brand into their shopping carts, but "there is a market for inexpensive wine," said Kathy Micken, professor of marketing at the University of Arkansas. "But the right name is important."

Customer surveys were conducted to determine the most attractive name for the Walmart wine brand.

The top surveyed names in order of popularity were:

10. Chateau Traileur Parc
9. White Trashfindel
8. Big Red Gulp
7. World Championship Riesling
6. NASCARbernet
5. Chef Boyardeaux
4. Peanut Noir
3. I Can't Believe it's not Vinegar
2. Grape Expectations
1. Nasti Spumante

The beauty of Walmart wine is that it can be served with either white meat (possum) or red meat (squirrel).

P.S. Don't bother writing back that this is a hoax. I know possum is not a white meat.

Redneck marriage proposal

This actually happened.

We have a charming and attractive 19-year old homeschool graduate who lives nearby. Recently she prepared a Christmas plate of baked goods to deliver to a local gas station/auto repair place, where the employees have always been very helpful. She gassed up her car, then went inside to pay and deliver the cookies. The following conversation occurred with a man at least twenty years her senior who was hanging around the gas station.

"So. Do you like sports?" he asked.

“No,” replied our neighbor.

“Do you hunt?”

“Yes.”

“What do you hunt?”

“Bear and deer.”

“Well, I know you can cook," he said, nodding toward the plate of goodies. "Can you get firewood in?”

“Yes, I can get firewood in.”

“Are you married?”

“No.”

“Good. I’m going to divorce my wife and marry you.”

Our neighbor replied, “I don’t think your wife would like that very much.” Then she left.

Who says romance is dead?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow pictures

Obligatory cute puppy pic.



It was a white Christmas, but barely. We got a couple of inches of snow earlier in the week and that's it. This is unlike last December when we got whomped - and I mean whomped - with six feet of snow in twenty days.




Nippy toes for the chickens.




Walking the dogs. Notice how Lydia is just a hair bigger than Major, at least in height (she has a long way to go to equal his weight).





In the dip in the road where the sun doesn't shine much in the winter, the snow freezes to the trees and doesn't move.




Absorbing the rays. It's been clear and cold, though not bitterly so (low's about ten, highs about 28) but the cattle will stand in the sun all day long, sucking down that sunshine.

Lunch with my editor

My columns editor at WorldNetDaily, Ron Strom, was in the area visiting his wife's family over Christmas. He invited me to lunch in Spokane the day after Christmas. We were joined by his brother-in-law and had a delightful time.



I figured I'd better include a photo, otherwise no one would believe the height difference. Granted, I'm a shorty, but this guy is tall. I'm guessing - 6'7"? Regardless, he was a heck of a nice fellow and I'm honored he's my editor.

Our Christmas

In our house, Christmas Eve is the big celebration day.

Here's dawn on Christmas Eve. About ten degrees and clear as a bell.



For three days - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day - I don't cook. Instead we spread out a feast of junk food. No kidding. All the forbidden foods the kids are seldom or never allowed during the rest of the year are available through these three days.

This all started out as an attempt by my dear husband to keep me from slaving in the kitchen during Christmas (he wanted to give me a break) and it somehow segued into this. I think the kids look forward to the junk food more than presents (though they're quick to deny it).

Before:



After:



We have friends who love to watch the girls open their presents because their kids are grown and live all the way across the country. This year we also had two other friends in town join us, as well as my brother and his wife up visiting. Quite a party!

The presents kept multiplying. The ones wrapped in brown paper grocery bags are from us. Everything else is either from someone else, or FOR someone else (since the presents include those from guests to other guests).





Opening presents. Before opening, Don reads the 2nd chapter of Luke out loud, then he hands gifts out one by one. No mad-cap tearing into presents in our house!



Some of our guests. There are two others out of camera range.



We ended the evening in church for a candlelight service. Home by 10:15 pm with two exhausted kids who went straight to bed.

And that was our Christmas.

Socialism explained

Here's one of the best articles I've read in a long time on the pitfalls of socialism. It is on Kitco's Commentator Corner.

To all those who long to implement socialism in this country: Be verrrry careful of what you wish for, because you just might get it.
______________________________



Will Sovereign Debt Defaults Bring the End of Socialism?

by James Turk

Copyright © 2009 by James Turk. All rights reserved.

Socialism has come to mean many different things to many people, but regardless how it is defined, in the months immediately ahead it will be put to a rigorous test. The test will be visible to everyone as countries around the globe run out of money and confront overwhelming debts that cannot be repaid as well as other wide-ranging financial promises that can no longer be met. In short, the ideological bankruptcy of socialism will be laid bare by government insolvency.

It had to come sooner or later. The reasons are not hard to understand.

The ideological bankruptcy is neatly captured by British author and advocate for individual rights, Cecil Palmer: “Socialism is workable only in heaven where it isn’t needed, and in hell where they’ve got it”. And government insolvency is explained by famed economist Frederic Bastiat, who made this levelheaded observation nearly 150 years ago about the nascent modern socialism then emerging. “The State is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” More recently, Margaret Thatcher, being a sensible politician, put it pragmatically: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.”

Take Greece for example. This past week yields on its 10-year bonds surged in the wake of downgrades by the bond rating agencies, which finally recognized that Greece does not have the financial resources needed to repay its debts, which now stand near junk levels. Not far behind are Latvia, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom and almost every other country in Europe, even though they may still flog paper rated as “investment grade.” The reality is that the rating agencies just have not yet come to grips with the breadth and depth of widespread government insolvency, or have willingly turned a blind-eye to it. And don’t forget Iceland which of course has already collapsed.

How did we sink to this state of affairs? Nobel Laureate Friedrich von Hayek provides the answer in his brilliantly insightful and prescient book, The Road to Serfdom, penned during the waning years of the Second World War.

Hayek’s central theme is that wars expand the power of the modern state because the national planning to fight the war continues even during times of peace. This perennial government planning then expands the social-welfare state over time, with harmful results. Most importantly, economic activity is impeded by the growing state as people and resources become less productive. In other words, because the government does not create consumable goods and services, it is an economic burden to the productive sector of the economy.

Then as the government grows, interest groups become increasingly numerous and powerful, leading to political corruption. More wars or even foreign policy tensions and economic crises can propel demagogues and dictatorial leaders to expand further state powers to the detriment of each and every one of us. In Hayek’s words: “Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have eroded.”

Hayek noted that the subtle damage inflicted upon the productive economy and the visible growth of the state arising from socialism become evident only over time. We have now reached that stage.

More people depend on the state than those who provide it with the money the state needs to meet its promises. Most of Europe long ago passed the 50% threshold with more people depending on government than the private sector, but even in the United States – long reigning as the bastion of capitalism, free-markets and limited government – 58% of the population derives their income from government at some level.

Consequently, we are now approaching a fork in the road. One way leads to more socialism, more demagogues and eventually a dictator who promises that he will make socialism ‘work’. The other leads to the capitalist society that America used to be, with free-markets, limited government and the unconditional rule of law.

Hopefully, we will choose correctly. If we don’t, we know from Winston Churchill what awaits us: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

O Holy Night

This is the group Celtic Women singing O Holy Night. Prepare for goosebumps - it's awesome.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

That's a lotta bull!

We raised Dexter cattle - a small dual-purpose Irish breed. The operative word here is "small." Our bull, Gimli, barely reaches my chest...and I'm 5'2".

So take a look at this:



And no, apparently these pictures aren't photoshopped.



Here's the article:

Everyone is allowed to put on a little weight at this time of the year.

But if you overdid things yesterday, this enormous beast should make you feel a bit better.

With no plans whatsoever for a January detox, the biggest bullock in Britain tipped the scales this week at a staggering 3,682lb (1,670kg).

Grandly named The Field Marshall, the eight-year-old Charolais has beefed up to the tune of 300lb over the past 12 months.

And the towering 6ft 8in creature has still not reached his full adult size. However, at 1.64 tons, he has already overtaken the record-breaking weight of his former stable mate, The Colonel, who stood 6ft 5in tall and weighed 3,500lb before he died in 2005.

Arthur Duckett, 80, who bought the white steer four years ago, said: 'He's in very good health and there's no reason why he won't keep on growing.

'He's only eight and unless something unforeseen happens he will get bigger and bigger.

'But he's not fat - he's all muscle. I could feed him heavier but I don't want to make him look grotesque, I want him to be healthy and put on weight naturally.

'That's why I keep him outdoors in a field and not inside.'

The Field Marshall shares a field on Mr Duckett's farm in Alstone, Somerset, with a 5ft 6in Highland steer and a small Friesian.

Mr Duckett, who is 5ft 8in tall, puts The Field Marshall's incredible size down to his parentage, appetite and the fact that he has been neutered, which boosts his growth

The Field Marshall has overtaken the previous record holder, his former stablemate The Colonel, who stood 6ft 5ins tall and weighed 3,500lbs, before his death in 2005.

Incredibly, the record-breaking bullock is the equivalent of a late teenager and is still growing.

He is now heavier than a Mini Cooper car which weighs 2,458lbs, and a BMW 3 series which tips the scales at just 3,053lbs.

He eats more than 17lbs of feed every day and enjoys oats, barley, potatoes, fodder beet followed by a portion of hay.

The Field Marshall was weighed at the Fatstock agricultural show at Sedgemoor Auction Centre near North Petherton, Somerset.

Visitors paid £2 to guess his weight and the winner received a tonne of cattle feed or the cash equivalent.

The charity event raised £1,641 for Taunton's Musgrove Park Hospital in Somerset.

Three years ago Arthur and his wife Helen broke records with their 6ft 5in bull The Colonel.

The Simmental Holstein breed had to be put down in August 2005 at the age of nine because of back problems.

There is no longer an official record for the world's biggest bullock as Guinness World Records does not want to encourage overfeeding.
The previous holder for Britain was a bull in Essex that died in 1830 weighing 4,480lbs.


The last record to be recognised was set by a steer called Old Ben, who died in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1910. He weighed 4,720lbs and stood 6ft 4ins tall.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Where Santa goes when he needs to recharge...

I lifted these photos and story off CNN:



On the corner of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, a large Nativity Scene is placed for all to view and all to pray. I was struck by this image of Santa praying; alone, in silence, at the end of the day, as the cars rushed by, and the magical moments of dusk unfolded. Santa praying at sunset was indeed a powerful sight. Where does Santa go when he needs to find some peace? The wish lists of children and adults are extra long this year.There are so many heartbreaking stories, as I experienced first hand. Letters to Santa can make one feel incredibly helpless. It was difficult to hear only a few. I wondered what I could possible do to help.



The Santa's of the world listen daily to the wishes and dreams of the children. I waited, and then went to sit beside Santa on the haystack. My company welcomed, Santa began to tell me numerous stories; including the meaning behind the candy cane, the story of St Nicholas, and the heartbreaks of the children.He went on to tell me how the economy has effected him personally. Hit hard, he found that prayer helped. Has anyone stopped to ask,"where does Santa go with all that he hears?" What does Santa do with the packages he knows he will never deliver, the fathers he can not bring home, or the food he can not provide to the children who whisper in his ears their Christmas wish...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pretty logo

In honor of Christmas, WorldNetDaily changed its logo to reflect the colors of the season. I just found it pretty.

Chuckle du jour

A friend sent this.

UPDATE: I got such a chuckle from this joke that I sent it to WorldNetDaily's joke page. And guess what? They used it.
____________________________

A blonde goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards.

She says to the clerk, “May I have fifty Christmas stamps?”

The clerk says, “What denomination?”

The blond says, “God help us. Has it come to this? Give me 22 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran, and 6 Baptist.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let's play!

When a polar bear approached Norbert Rosing's tethered sled dogs in the wilds of Canada's Hudson Bay, naturally he assumed the dogs were doomed.





Turns out the bear just wanted to romp.




The Polar Bear returned every night that week to play with the dogs.



(These photos appeared in an issue of National Geographic but I can't locate which one.)

The movie "Avatar" from a 14-year-old's perspective

My oldest daughter was invited by some neighbors to go see the movie Avatar this past weekend.

Having heard dubious things about it, I first read some critical reviews. The biggest complaint seemed to be that the movie had a far-left radical agenda which (surprise!) painted humans as evil while plastering eco-conscious labels on the good and green aliens. Well, my daughter is an intelligent young lady well-versed in the green agenda, so I gave her permission to go see the movie.

She came back impressed by the special effects but little else. The highly-touted special effects were, she reported, superb.

The motivation of the humans – to obtain some special rocks for sale, a huge deposit of which was located under a gigantic tree in which the aliens lived – was in question. “What were the rocks used for?” my husband asked, as we all discussed the film the following morning. “In other words, what was the big motivation to get the rocks underneath the alien’s tree?”

My daughter thought for a moment. “I don’t know,” she said. “If they said what made them so valuable, I forget what it was.” We marveled that the movie-makers didn’t deem it important enough to emphasize the motivation, at least enough for a fourteen-year-old to remember.

But she did say something very insightful: “It was as if the humans in the movie forgot WHY they were after the rocks, and the purpose just became to get the rocks because they wanted the rocks, no matter what kind of destruction they had to go through to get them.”

In other words, humans had to be portrayed as selfish greedy creatures with insufficient motivation to blow up this ginormous tree. They wanted the rocks just because they wanted the rocks, nothing more.

She told us the aliens rode horse-like creatures and flew on pterodactyl-like animals.

“How clever of the movie-makers,” I commented, “to provide the aliens with green, eco-conscious means of transportation. No need to burn that evil awful oil in order to fly.”

Our daughter said the ground on the alien planet would light up as they walked on it. “Aha!” I said. “No need for evil awful power companies to provide electricity – it’s all natural on Pandora! Amazing!”

“Some people were actually crying” as they came out of the theater, our daughter reported. She looked at them and wondered what kind of gullible fools they were for falling for the kind of bunk the movie represented.

She did acknowledge that the pastoral paradise of the alien’s planet was unparalleled. “I want to live there,” she proclaimed, as we drove past a pristine Lake Coeur d’Alene amid soaring trees and stunning vistas.

Of course, I notice the movie-makers were happy to rake in millions and millions of dollars on the opening weekend of the movie. That, clearly, is their motivation.

When the movie is released on DVD, I guess I’ll have to rent it just to see the special effects. I think I’ll skip past the plot, though.

Nice doggies...

The caption that came with these photos was: Be nice to others...because one day you may not be the "big dog," just the "old dog."








I found these photos especially interesting because I used to have an Alaskan Malamute that was a dead-ringer for these dogs.

Cell phones in church

This is a hoot! Beware of having your cell phone on in church!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Another reason to homeschool...

Homeschooling means we never have to deal with lunatics like Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings.

I’m sorry, but my beautiful daughters don’t deserve to be exposed to this kind of ugliness.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

My husband and I finally got around to wrapping the girls' presents. We just use paper grocery bags for wrapping paper, and keep the salvageable ribbons and bows from year to year.




Notice the unmade bed with the blankets hastily thrown up to make a wrapping surface. Hey whatever works, right?

Christmas boxes

Every year we help pack boxes for needy families in our area through the benevolence of the local Elks Lodge. This year - understandably - there's been a sharp rise in the number of requests for boxes (unemployment in our county hovers around 20%). This morning after church we went to help wrap presents, but found to our astonishment that everything had already been done.

Turns out there was a huge number of volunteers - around a hundred or so - who descended on the Elks during church hours and got everything finished. While our kids were disappointed that their yearly tradition of helping out was done before they could do anything, we all were impressed that so many were willing to pitch in and make it happen.

A lady named Adie (the blond woman on the right) is the one who organizes the whole thing. She's a wonderful example of the kind of minor miracle makers who reside across our country. With her are some of the volunteers who wrapped presents and packed boxes.



The boxes all laid out and filled with food (each family gets two boxes).



A list of dry foods that go into the boxes: Oatmeal, sugar, flour, stuffing, noodles, cranberry sauce, rice, pancake mix, noodle soup, peanut butter, ketchup, tomato soup, corn, green beans, sweet peas, fruit cocktail, applesauce, peaches, evaporated milk. What's not listed are the frozen or perishable foods that will also be included: frozen turkeys, frozen chickens, and frozen potatoes. Then each box will be given to a family along with gifts according to the number, ages, and genders of the kids in the families. There are also toiletries and knickknack gifts for the elderly since, after all, it's just nice to have something - however small - to open on Christmas morning, don't you agree?


Children's presents are wrapped and grouped according to age and gender.


This is the boy's side of the hall.


This is the girl's side.


Some of the leftover food, either purchased or donated by area grocery stores. This will all be given to the local food bank.


While it's sad to have so many needy families in a community as small as ours, I'm proud of this town for rallying together to help those who need help.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Nutcracker


We saw The Nutcracker last night!

Our pastor, a wonderful man, treated my oldest daughter and myself to the ballet (the younger daughter didn't care to attend - she's not a ballet nut like I am).

From my earliest days I've loved ballet. I danced from the age of 16 until we moved to Oregon in 1992, when there weren't any quasi-professional dance studios to attend. But while I lived in Sacramento I danced with the feeder company to the Sacramento Ballet and danced in The Nutcracker many times. That was many years (and many pounds!) ago.

I haven't seen a good performance since we left California in 1992, so this rendition of the Christmas classic by Ballet Memphis was outstanding. Beautifully staged, well-choreographed, the dancing was clean and tight, a true pleasure to watch.



Thank you, pastor, for such a wonderful evening!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Butchering Day

Warning: DO NOT READ THIS POST if you are vegetarian or have a squeamish stomach. This post shows pictures of our steer being butchered. I don't want anyone whining that they weren't adequately warned about the graphic nature of these photos.

Okay?

Okay. That said, last Monday we butchered our steer, Chateau (short for Chateaubriand - we always give our steers "meat" names).



We had a few inches of pretty fluffy snow during the night.




My husband was out of town (with the camera - I had to borrow a neighbor's camera, which is why this posting is so late) so a (different) neighbor came over to help.



First thing we did was herd the herd into the front pasture to make it easier for the mobile butchers to dispatch the steer. We figured having his herd around would keep Chateau calm until his time came. This was in fact the case, but we also found it was hard to scoot the herd back to the woods afterward because they didn't want to edge past Chateau's carcass. Ah well, we'll do things differently next time.



We bring in a business called Potlatch Pack, a mobile butchering service, because let me tell you these guys know what they're doing. Here the fellow (I think his name was Chance) is aiming a rifle at Chateau. One shot into the brain (a bull's-eye every time) and the steer was down. Wham, done. Very quick, very humane. After the steer was on the ground brain-dead, Chance slit his throat to bleed him out.



We herded the rest of the livestock back into the woods while Chance and his assistant Ed chained the steer by one leg and dragged him out of the pasture. Then they hauled him up onto the vehicle's hanging arm to finish draining the blood while the men don protective waterproof aprons for the messy work.



First thing they do is remove the head and feet. There are tough tendons in the back legs which they use to hang the carcass, and it's necessary to remove the head and feet to not only get to the tendons, but also to skin the steer.



Skinning the steer. Chance and Ed wear a chain belt with a holster of knives they are constantly sharpening. They are incredibly fast at skinning.



They re-hoist the carcass in order to finish skinning, as well as to gut the animal. I asked them to save the tongue and the liver for a neighbor who loves eating those organs (yuck). They also saved the kidneys for me, because the kidneys are wrapped in lots of fat and I want to learn how to render fat for soapmaking or perhaps tallow candles.



After the steer was gutted, Chance took a modified saws-all and sliced directly down the center of the backbone, dividing the carcass in half.



Then Chateau is put on rollers, all ready to slide into the truck.



There were three other carcasses ahead of him, and another came after (another neighbor was having her steer butchered today as well). Then the men were off to their facility in the town of Potlatch to hang the meat for about a week before cutting and wrapping it. We should have Chateau back, ready for the freezer, by Christmas. We plan to have fresh steaks for Christmas dinner, yum!



Those who read my columns know of my deep admiration for blue-collar workers, whom I feel to be the backbone of this country. I tell you, my admiration for America's working class is exemplified by these two young men. Here they were, working in cold weather, working hard, taking a dirty job and doing it quickly, efficiently, and (in this case) humanely. Hard working young family men doing what it takes to make a living and provide for their wives and children while providing a much-needed and much-appreciated service. What’s not to admire?