Monday, January 31, 2011


I logged onto the weather this evening and saw this angry red stripe across the country:

Stay warm and dry, everyone.........

Calling all comments

In response to my post on the riots in Egypt, a reader sent this:

Today I saw a small example of what WILL happen if social unrest comes to our shores. I went to Wally World [Wal-Mart] to kill some time (with no intention to buy anything) while my husband was at the doctor's next door. We are expecting a rather nasty winter storm in my area of North Texas. The crowds were crazy and enormous! There was not a single gallon of milk or a loaf of bread on the shelves. A friend of mine saw me and asked "Are you here to stock up too?" My answer to her: "Nope, I already have!" If one little winter storm sends out the Golden Horde in droves... just think what a greater calamity will do!

I thought this was a fascinating insight. So here's what I'd like to do: if you've experienced a similar situation - social unrest or bad weather or some other situation which caused a panicked reaction in your area, please send me your story (not as a comment but as an email to I'll add your story to the body of this post so people can see what happens during unrest or chaos. (Also check out comments for those who leave stories there.)


For a tongue-in-cheek look at rioting, reader Maria sent this link to her blog.

From reader Mama Crow:
Just received this text from my aunt - she is a manager at Walmart - we live in West Texas so this sort of snowstorm thing is basically foreign to us.

OMG The crowds at Walmart. Looks worse than the day after Thanksgiving . Big snowstorm on the way so everyone has headed to the store to buy tons of food. Guess it will make our end of fiscal year go out with a bang. ( yeah, its thundering also !)

From reader Rox:
Hi, I am a regular follower of your blog and I wanted to share the short story that happened to me just last night. I live here in Illinois just east of StLouis and we are currently getting freezing rain with a major storm coming down on us the next few days. They are telling us it may be "historic". Last night we went to town to fill up the car gas tank and to eat out. I saw my neighbor, an older woman who lives alone, there with another lady having coffee. I asked her if she was prepared for the coming storm. I had planned to check on her anyway so it was good to run into her. What really got me was her reaction to my question. She asked me what was she supposed to be ready for. I said there is a predicted ice/snow storm. She lightly scoffed and asked me what did I think she needed to have ready. I suggested an alternative heat source to her electric furnace because of the high possibility of power outages. She said she could pick up a propane tank for her little gas fireplace. Then she said what all of us preppers have heard..."If things get bad, I will just walk up to your house." Like I said, she is one of the people I would have checked on anyway and will do so if this storm progresses as I expect. I had to shake my head though. Besides her, just how many other people besides my family would just assume that they could come to my house in time of disaster.


From reader Chad:
Since you asked.... We have had a few "winter" storms here in the south and I agree with Texas. People go "nuts" when the first hint of winter heads our way. Most often it's the "bread" & "milk" that go first. Makes me wonder what those milk sandwiches taste like? MM'MM GOOD! We are beginner preppers! I too have many fears that chaos will come and quickly to those who are unprepared. NO ONE, will be totally ready! Jesus warned us that we don't know the time of his return. Of course, some "wag" church (in California of all places) has predicted it for I think May 21st or something like that. The shtf will also be like this, I just hope we are "ready" enough! Keep your "powder" dry, because I think we will need it!

From a European reader:
I live in Denmark but am visiting the States right now and you're right, the queues at Wal-Mart were very long yesterday! I stay in a hotel and am OK on supplies for "just me", the rental car has a full tank of gas, I won't be venturing very far over the next few days and basically, there is not much more I can do right now as I wait and see what a North American blizzard is like.

From a prepping-for-3-days-of-bad-weather perspective, I found it a bit funny to see what people were stocking up on. Milk and bread are winners, followed closely by beer, dog food and sadly my new favourite American apple juice :-( this is a very un-scientific study, based on the queue I was in. The thing is, I have visited quite a few American homes and while I should be careful not to generalise, I will say this: the average middle-class American family already has plenty of supplies to last them 2 or 3 days. True, they may run out of milk and their favourite breakfast cereal but then they have eggs in the fridge and bacon in the freezer. Your refrigerators/freezers are generally way bigger than in Europe and I would say they generally hold enough food to feed the family for at least a couple of days.

From reader Greg:
Here is an experience we had somewhat recently that helped underscore the need to be prepared. We moved to a rural area on the Kitsap Peninsula of NW Washington State in the spring of 2008 from North Carolina. That December we had two weeks of snow which is unheard of for this area. It seemed to shut the entire Puget Sound down. Between Christmas shopping, emergency shopping, and the difficulty of transportation, store shelves were bare before the end of the first week. Eventually the snow began to melt, Christmas and New Year's passed, and things returned to normal.

...until the flooding began. About a week into January the snow melt created flooding that closed twenty miles of Interstate 5 to the south. Interstate 90 to the east was closed because of snow on the mountain pass. To the north is Canada, to the west is The Pacific Ocean. This time no trucks could get through and stores were empty by day three.

Fortunately supply lines were reopened after only four or five days. Either one of these situations could have easily been extended had the weather been just a little nastier. I can only imagine what that might look like.

That July the area had a record-breaking heat wave. 24 hours into it there was not a single fan of any size available for sale within thirty miles.

I have learned not to count on the stores and not to wait until the news says something is on the way.

From reader "R":
Just last week we had a snow storm that struck at about 3:30pm on Wednesday, it was forecast. The Federal govt let everyone go home just as the storm hit the area. The snow dumped record amounts in record time - I think about 3 inches in 1 hour, 8-10 inches total. Plows couldn't get through the traffic, we had gridlock. We had a road, the GW Parkway, which leads out of DC which was basically shut down. People just ABANDONED their cars right on the road, more than 100 were abandoned, People took 12 hours to get home on a commute that would normally take maybe less than an hour. The biggest issue? Cars ran out of gas and the idiots around here couldn't be bothered to gas up in advance. Even though this was forecast no one bothered to prepare. And the Federal govt decided to not fine or charge any of the cars abandoned on the GW Parkway (4 lane road) they just towed the cars to the scenic overview areas, sorry, I think these people need to learn a lesson and they should be charged for the tow and fined for abandoning their car (these cars were NOT pushed off the road - IMAGINE !) Here in VA they did fine people charge for the tow for those that abandoned their cars and there were many abandoned cars.

In the aftermath of this interesting event the media is playing up the story line that the govts in the area should have done a better job in clearing the roads, there are no stories about people being poorly prepared and having made very bad travel decisions.... No suggestions on how to be better prepared the next time or alternatives to driving in bad weather conditions. Here's an article.

The stores clear out quickly here and everyone seems to wait until the last minute. After a storm it seems my neighbors can't wait to get back on the roads and out to the stores thinking the magic restocking fairies have already restocked the shelves. Too many people here don't understand the supply chain.

I live here in the land of idiots.

From reader Bob:
Our local grocery store has a gas station out front and runs a program based on how much you buy gets you X amount off your gas per gallon, i.e. $100 worth of stuff = .10 cents off your gas per gallon.

My wife and I get must our food stuffs from there for that ever reason and my truck holds 30 gal.;) We made the mistake of waiting till the last day before the "points" expired to fill up. When we came around the corner the cars were three and four deep at every pump. No big deal for me but my wife is a bit impatient, but she tuffed it out. There were no big conflicts but you could feel the tension in the air people inching the cars bumper to bumper to keep someone from pushing through, etc.

The funniest thing come as I was filling my truck. I overheard another person telling the attendant that “you need to have pumps set up so people with gas tanks on the other side can get to the pumps.” He was so clueless he didn't even think to get in a line going the other direction (standard station set up 8 pumps). There will be so many sheeple lost confused and lacking the basic skills needed to live.

I just could see the implications on a WSHTF. My wife thinks I over think things too much, but when we're warm, dry, and safe she'll thank me.

From reader Lisa:
A couple of years ago we lived through Hurricane Ike. The storm was not supposed to hit Houston, but turned at the last minute giving about 36 hours lead time for city residents.

Prior to the storm, I did go to the store. It was a nut house. I had my two sons with me, and we each waited in a line to get a basket and get into the store. Of course the basics were well picked over – bread, milk, ramen noodles. Fortunately I was there to stock up on fresh fruit/veg and other non-refrigerated staples. It took hours and hours to get through the store. Within hours the gas stations were out of gas. No store had basics like duct tape, batteries, flashlights. I didn't even brave Wal-Mart! I went to Dollar Tree and managed to get enough plastic paint dropcloths to at least cover all our windows in case of breakage.

AFTER the storm, the power to the city went out - many areas had no electricity for up to a month. Because of this, all water from the utility district was contaminated and we were on boil restrictions for safety. Fortunately I had a gas stove. My sister's house was all electric, they ended up coming to stay with us. There was no AC, but it was hot (80-90 degrees, almost 100% humidity). Our area wasn't heavily damaged, but roads were flooded and fences were down. Our home backs up to open space and all kinds of people were walking/wandering at all hours of the day and night - I really wished we had a guard dog then!

Most grocery stores were not open, but the few that were had armed guards who would let 4-5 shoppers in at a time. Food was rationed - 1 dozen eggs per household, for example. No bread, milk, etc. of course. I live in a newer neighborhood and many powerlines were buried, so our electric came on within a few days and I just made bread. Making food without eggs was difficult, and of course there was no meat (it spoiled after days of no refrigeration, and the stores didn't have any either).

Last September, I had a lengthy store tour of a Kroger as part of my blogging. I spoke to the store manager and he confirmed that they carry 3-5 days worth of food for their area at any time, but when a storm is predicted they'll stock up to a week's worth (of average weekly receipts, NOT the amount of food the surrounding neighborhoods would actually eat). Wal-Mart is very proud of their supply chain efficiency, which is "real time" inventory. They no longer keep lots of stock in the back - it comes in daily on trucks.

From reader Mary:
The day after hurricane Wilma hit Fort Lauderdale, the lines formed 'round the blocks at the gas stations. Most were initially shut down – unable to pump the gas, period, or they had run out. We were blessed beyond imagination to have a small cold front pass over - I sincerely believe that prevented riots; as people were standing for hours, waiting for the allotted couple of gallons. On top of it, most were thirsty and not sure what they would have for their next meal.... Typical south Fl heat would have caused major problems!

The next few days, as some trucks arrived at those few stations that had working pumps (because they had back-up generators) the lines were RIDICULOUS!!

The sad truth is, in south Fl, hurricane awareness is huge!! Everyone hears over and over ad nauseum “have at least 3 days food and water per person” plus a myriad of supplies. Lists are posted everywhere for stores plaster the lists on the grocery bags – even hand out hurricane to-do lists. Local newspapers have complete hurricane sections. You get the picture. Nobody ever believes it will be that bad.

But the number of people crying out to FEMA and whoever else would listen - THE NEXT DAY - for water, batteries, the afore-mentioned gasoline, etc. was staggering. They did not expect this one to be so bad - they did not expect that almost all electricity would be knocked out. They did not expect not to be able to get the basics they needed and wanted by just hopping in their car and going to the corner store!

Now, since then, most of the gas stations have generators and a heck of a lot more people, also. But as far as being prepared - probably not. It won't be pretty if South Florida gets another Wilma and it will be downright ugly if we get another Andrew or Katrina!

"People are terrified to death."

In Egypt, airports are thronged by foreigners desperate to leave. Rioters are scoffing at curfews. Food is running short. Police presence is virtually gone (doubtless police officers are home protecting their own families and properties). The internet was shut down. Prisons are emptying, with dangerous criminals roaming the streets. Across the Cairo, work has come to a standstill and schools are closed.

(Photo by AFP/Miguel Medina)

Whatever the political cause of these riots – and I’ve heard several different explanations – the riots are now feeding on themselves. Sadly, it’s the ordinary people who are taking the brunt of the unrest. The everyday business owners, residents, workers, and schoolchildren are the ones having their lives disrupted. Ordinary cosmopolitan law-abiding people who are suddenly called to defend their persons and property from gangs of roaming thugs.

(Photo by Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

According to this article, people are braving the riots to stock up on bottled water and essential foodstuffs.

"There's no cash in the ATMs, there's something like 5,000 prisoners roaming the streets and there's no security," said May Sadek, a public relations agent who lives in the middle class Dokki neighborhood. There have been jail breaks from at least four prisons around Cairo in recent days.

In the absence of police protection, gangs of thugs have been looting and setting fire to buildings and cars. They've cleaned out supermarkets and shopping malls, homes and apartments. Men are forming neighborhood defense committees and arming themselves with guns, clubs, and knives in order to protect their families and homes.

For those skeptical about the attachment Americans have for their firearms, here’s a classic example of why it’s awfully nice to have a means to defend one’s self. Police protection isn’t always available, especially on an individual level.

For those skeptical about the obsession Preppers have for stockpiling food, water, and other necessities, here’s a classic example of why it’s awfully nice to have what you need already within the house, so you don’t have to risk your life out on the streets or fight other desperate residents for bottled water or a bag of beans.

What could POSSIBLY go WRONG?

A reader sent these words of wisdom from Maxine.

Let me get this straight....

We're going to be "gifted" with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, which purportedly covers at least ten million more people, without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that didn't read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, for which we'll be taxed for four years before ANY benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke!!!!!

What the hell else could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"The big eight things that lead to success"

My brother (a successful engineer) sent me this YouTube clip of Richard St. John who gives the secrets of success in eight words and three minutes.

After watching, it's hard to argue.

Random pix

We took a back road home from the city the other day and came across this barn at dusk. I thought it was lovely.

A flock of turkeys.

A little more alpinglow....

...with a distant cloud thrown in for good measure.

And one more Lydia pic.

Let's play!

Lydia was in a playful mood the other day...

...especially since Don was playing back.

Growing the economy, shrinking the ecosystem

I was in Spokane a couple weeks ago when a car pulled up beside me at a stop light. It had a bumper sticker that I just barely managed to photograph before the car drove off. (Sorry it’s blurry.) The bumper sticker said: “Growing the Economy / Shrinking the Ecosystem.”

Would it be too much of a leap of logic to conclude this driver is deliriously happy about the shambles our economy is in? Just think – the closer we inch to an economic depression, the bigger and (presumably) healthier the ecosystem! Massive unemployment = happy ecosystem!

Of course, maybe I’m looking at it wrong. Maybe the driver is suggesting we grow the economy and shrink the ecosystem…

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Astounding camouflage

For all you hunters who think you become invisible when you don camouflage clothing, take a gander at this photo and this article.

(There are a couple more camouflaged photos at the link.)

The real artists, of course, are the helpers who paint this man, not the man himself.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

In response to my Chicken Basics post, a reader sent this.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Dr. Phil:
The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it goes after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his 'CURRENT' problems before adding 'NEW' problems.

Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

George W. Bush:
We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

Colin Powell:
Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road...

John Kerry:
Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

Pat Buchanan:
To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

Dr. Seuss:
Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

Ernest Hemingway:
To die in the rain. Alone.

Jerry Falwell:
Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth?' That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media white washes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side.'  That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.

Barbara Walters:
Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heartwarming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

John Lennon:
Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

Bill Gates:
I have just released eChicken2010, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^(C% ....... reboot.

Albert Einstein:
Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

Bill Clinton:
I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

Al Gore:
I invented the chicken!

Colonel Sanders:
Did I miss one?

Dick Cheney:
Where's my gun?

Al Sharpton:
Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

Equal opportunity spoofing

Here's a piece written by a fellow named Clive Runnels with The Manitoba Herald.

Canadians: “Build a Damn Fence!"
From The Manitoba Herald, Canada; reported by Clive Runnels

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry.

"He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves. "A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives.

Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age," an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies.

"I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"

The interesting thing about this opinion piece is it's a total fabrication. The Manitoba Herald was a short-lived publication that went out of business in 1877, and Clive Runnells doesn't exist. Nonetheless, this piece has gone viral (with good reason).

Enjoy the chuckle.

Idaho kitten

One of my husband's friends sent this to him.

His reply: "I wish. None of my livestock can shoot worth a damn."

For anyone who's ever had, well, a senior moment...

I'll admit it. I haven't yet hit the big "five-oh," but there are times I've had, um, senior moments.

Here's a hilarious song to celebrate those times.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chicken basics

A reader named Christopher had some questions about chickens:

“I am about to retire from the Navy and move back to Texas. My wife and I plan on being as self-sufficient as possible, and one of the things we really want to have is chickens (for the eggs – wife and daughters won't eat anything they have ever named/looked in the eyes).

“So my questions are: are chickens purchased as chicks and if so, at what age will they start to produce eggs? And does there have to be a rooster present for them to start laying eggs?  I know you have experience with this, and I admit to having read many books, but I have never raised livestock at all.”

I thought some good basic chicken information was due, so here’s the skinny.

Most people start by buying day-old chicks from feed stores. Let me clarify: the feed stores receive day-old chicks, and you buy them shortly thereafter. You can also order chicks from catalogs such as McMurray Hatchery, but unless you’re looking for a specialized breed, it’s cheaper to buy them from the feed store because you won’t have to pay shipping.

Chicks are best purchased in late spring to early summer (at least here in north Idaho) because otherwise it tends to be too chilly for them (check with your local feed store about when they recommend you buy chicks for your area). Tiny chicks do not yet have feathers but instead have fuzz, and their ability to retain heat is limited. Prior to buying chicks, you’ll want to get a heat lamp, and a chick feeder and waterer. These are fairly cheap and can also be purchased at the feed store. You’ll also need either a large box (with a plastic trash bag lining the bottom to waterproof it) or a large plastic tub or other means to confine the chicks, since they’ll be indoors at first. (If you have a dog which seems the type to eat chicks, you’ll have to put the chicks in a closed bedroom or cover the container to keep the dog out.)

I’ve used an ordinary gooseneck lamp with new chicks and it’s provided plenty of heat. Here’s the rule of thumb to tell if your chicks are adequately heated.

• If the chicks are huddled in the farthest corner of the tub away from the heat lamp, they’re too hot.

• If the chicks are huddled directly under the heat lamp, they’re too cold.

• If the chicks are halfway between the lamp and the edge of the tub, they’re juuuust right.

Most people buy a bale of wood shavings (fairly cheap) and spread a layer of shavings in the box or tub. The chicks will foul the shavings fairly quickly, so you’ll want to spread a thin layer of fresh shavings every day (it’s not necessary to remove the old shavings, just spread clean stuff on top). The chicks will also kick shavings into their water, so you’ll have to put the feeder and waterer on a block of wood (about an inch high) to help keep it cleaner. Despite this, however, you’ll be changing their food and water a couple times a day.

Be sure to buy chick starter feed for the chicks. This is finely-ground food with necessary nutrients chicks need for proper growth. Many years ago in Oregon I thought I’d save some money and merely grind the adult food into finer grain for a batch of new chicks we got. Big mistake! The poor babies grew misshapen and malformed. Many died, and my husband had to shoot many others because they were so crippled. Only about a quarter of our chicks survived to adulthood. So buy chick starter to feed them!

Speaking of which, expect to lose about ten percent of your chicks for no particular reason. This seems to be the norm, and unless you make a stupid mistake like not getting them the proper chick starter food, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong. So err on the side of a few too many chicks rather than too few.

If you don’t want a rooster, buy sexed chicks. However don’t be surprised if you end up with a rooster or two anyway. I haven’t the faintest idea how people sex baby chicks, but it must be difficult to do because it’s not always accurate.

What breed(s) should you get? I like having a mixed flock just for fun, and some people will advocate certain breeds over others, but here are my favorites.

Rhode Island Reds
• Rhode Island Reds are considered the best overall chicken (meaning, good for both meat and eggs). They’re your classic brown hen and lay brown eggs.

• Barred Rocks have black and white stripes and are also excellent dual-purpose birds. They are actually “breastier” for meat than they look. They lay brown eggs.
Barred Rocks

• Black Australorps are handsome all-black birds that lay brown eggs. I just like the look of them and like to have at least a few in our flock.

• Buff Orpingtons are heavy birds with buff-colored feathers. They lay brown eggs.

• Golden-Laced Wyandottes are extremely handsome gold-and-black birds which lay brown eggs.
Black Australorps

• Silver-Laced Wyandottes are also handsome white-and-black birds which lay brown eggs.

• American Araucanas (called “Americanas”) are often called Easter Egg chickens because they lay beautiful blue or green-blue eggs. Lots of fun. They vary in appearance (though most have feather "sideburns" on their cheeks) and tend to be smaller birds, so they’re not great for meat but are wonderful for those beautiful eggs.

• Cornish Crosses are strictly meat birds. They gain weight with a speed and seriousness awesome to behold. Do NOT get these chickens unless you plan to butcher them at a young age.
Buff Orpingtons

Once you have your chicks at home and snug under a heat lamp in a tub or box, you’ll want to start constructing a chicken coop right away. Young chicks need protection against drafts until they feather out, but they start feathering within a couple of days from hatching. Within about two or three weeks, you’ll be able to put them in an outdoor coop as long as a heat lamp is available. And believe me, you’ll be ready. Newborn baby chicks are the most darling things on the planet, but within a short while they start to stink and they get noisy (while indoors, that is). You’ll be more than ready to move them out to their coop at about three weeks of age.
Golden-laced Wyandottes

You might want to fence (with chicken wire) a run or yard for them as well, to keep out predators such as raccoons, coyotes, or skunks. Despite any fencing, I also suggest you lock the chicks inside the coop at night (closing off all access to the chicken yard) because predators can be very wily about slipping inside and raiding the chicken coop. However we don’t have a fenced yard and instead let our chickens roam free-range. It’s up to you. (We still button up the chickens at night though.)

Chickens are diurnal birds (active during the day) and will usually train themselves to come indoors at night, especially with the enticement of some comfortable roost bars and fresh food and water inside. Even with adult birds, I suggest you keep a light bulb on at night or at least in the evening, to encourage them to come inside. (Unless you’re in a cold climate, it doesn’t have to be a heat lamp for older birds, just a light bulb.) We layer our chicken coop floor with hay. It gets dirty quickly, so just layer more hay on top. We give the coop a good deep cleaning about twice a year.
Silver-laced Wyandottes

You don’t need a rooster for hens to lay eggs, but it goes without saying the hens won’t lay fertile eggs, which means you’ll never be able to hatch your own chicks with an incubator or a setting hen. Personally I enjoy the lusty crow of a male and watching him strut around the barnyard, but I understand others may not. If you do get a rooster, a good ratio is about one rooster for every ten hens (give or take).

Araucanas (Americanas)
Hens will start laying at about five months of age. For the first couple of weeks they won’t lay every day, and their eggs will be very small. After awhile they get the hang of it and will lay regular-sized eggs, usually about five per week per bird (give or take). At this point you want to make sure they have laying boxes available. They’re easy to make with just two lengths of pine boards partitioned into about one-foot units. Spread a little hay in each unit and you’ll have happy hens.

When they start laying, you’ll want to either feed them layer crumbles or at least supplement with ground oyster shell for extra calcium (for shell strength). I’ve been known to keep empty egg shells, let them dry for a few days, then finely crush the egg shells and mix them back with the chickens’ food for extra calcium.
Cornish Cross (meat)

I just love having chickens and have been known to take a lawn chair, book, and glass of wine on a peaceful sunny evening and sit outside among them. “Communing with the chickens,” I call it. Chickens will become fond of you, especially if you toss them your vegetable or rice scraps (hint: call them every time you feed them – “Chick chick chick chick chick chick chick chick!!!” – and they’ll soon start running toward you whenever you call) and will cluster companionably around you in the heat of the day or the cool of the evening.

Don’t be intimidated by chickens. Frankly the best thing to do is just GET SOME and learn as you go. They’re the easiest livestock you can get, and nothing beats a breakfast of uber-fresh eggs from your own birds.

Dog trainer extraordinaire

The daughter of a dear friend of ours from Oregon has, rather surprisingly, gotten into dog training. It's become a passion and a calling for her, and she has so many awards lining her bedroom walls that they're starting to spill into the hallway. I've joked that they'll be able to wallpaper their bathroom next, but it's not much of a joke. This young lady has earned so many awards with her training skills and her talented animals that it's astounding.

Anyway, as a result of these accomplishments, she was featured in an issue of Aussie Times magazine. Whoot!

(Here's her write-up, with identifying information removed.)

Emily P., 15, is pictured here with her two year old Aussie, Bella. Emily is a sophomore at a private Christian school and enjoys time with her family, friends, and her pets. She has three dogs, two pet rats, and a Kenyan Sand Boa named Mr. Stubbs.

Besides receiving a Certificate of Merit from ASCA, Emily and Bella accomplished two major goals this year. In August they earned Bella‘s Novice Obedience Title in ASCA, and in September they earned Bella’s Novice Obedience Title in AKC. Then in November they got Bella’s AKC titles in Open and also in Novice Rally. Bella already has her CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certification and Emily is planning to participate in the therapy dog program with her. Emily states “Bella is such a wonderful dog. I know she will bring joy to other peoples’ lives through our visits.”

Emily and Bella train nearly every day, with their average training totaling three hours a week when they don’t have a competition scheduled. However, that training schedule gets longer and more complex when a competition is on the calendar. They train with Sally D., who also happens to be Bella’s breeder as well as one of Emily’s 4H leaders. She says, “Sally is an amazing trainer and friend. She is a huge part of my life and I love her with all my heart. Bella and I would not be where we are today, and definitely not headed in the direction we are, without her. I am forever grateful for all she has done for us. I also am so very thankful for my mom’s love and support. She gives me everything I need to reach my goals, and she is especially a wonderful ‘chauffeur!’ No matter what I want to do she is always behind me 100% and that is a really great feeling.”

Emily is interested in working with dogs as a career, whether it be showing other peoples’ dogs or training the dogs for them. She’s also interested in perhaps having a training facility where people can bring their dogs to learn to work together as a team. Whatever God has planned for her, you can bet it will involve animals in general, and dogs in particular!

(No, that is NOT her on the front cover.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cool stats

Wanna see something neat? Here is a snapshot of my blog visitors over the last year:

A lot of this I owe to the occasion mention by big blogs such as SurvivalBlog or other nifty sites. So to everyone involved, a great big thank you!!

Russian winter

A friend sent this.

For those fighting the nasty weather the East Coast has been experiencing, take heart. It could be worse. You could live in Russia.

Imminent calf?

On Sunday afternoon as I was cleaning Matilda's pen, I noticed something interesting.

Matilda, for my newer readers, is our Jersey cow. All our other animals are purebred Dexters, but I fell in love with our neighbor's Jersey a few years ago so we got one of our own in November 2008. We had a nightmare case of mastitis when we got her from a commercial dairy north of us, but she has become my all-time favorite cow because of her sweet disposition.

Anyway, our bull Gimli bred Matilda last April. Wrong time of year, since that would mean a calf would be born mid-February. So last August we had the vet give her a shot of Lutalyse (an abortant) so she could be re-bred at a better time.

Now I'm thinking the Lutalyse didn't "take." That's because on Sunday I noticed Matilda was suddenly bagged up.

I haven't been milking Matilda for the last few months out of pure laziness. Pearly, her calf, was taking most of the rich milk and it was rather nice not to be tied to a twice-a-day milking schedule that I had before Pearly was born. As a result, Matilda's udder was flaccid.

But no more. Suddenly it's huge and turgid (bagged up), which only happens in the final weeks before birth.

This morning when I let Matilda and Pearly out of their pen, I noticed a string of mucus hanging from her backside. Another indicator.

The reason this takes me so much by surprise is Matilda doesn't look near as pregnant as she did last year. I mean, last year she was massive. This year, no.

Concerned, I called the vet and asked what effect a Lutalyse shot could have on a calf if the cow doesn't abort. Could the calf be born deformed? The vet said no, Lutalyse wouldn't harm a fetus if the cow didn't abort.

So time will tell. At least our winter weather at the moment is mild with no snow on the ground, and we always tuck Matilda (and Pearly) into her pen at night, so she'll have protection if she does indeed have a calf in a couple weeks.

I'll keep everyone posted.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Singing Kumbaya while Rome burns

Of all the interesting and unrealistic scenarios that people envision when thinking about an economic crash, the most amusing and naïve is that people will finally meet their neighbors and they'll all embrace each other in peace and harmony and sing Kumbaya around communal meals.

Doubtless this comes from whitewashed fairy-tale retellings of the hardships of the Great Depression, during which friends, relatives, and neighbors often did share communal meals (stretching out their scarce foodstuffs as much as possible) and thus (so the stories go) achieved the universal peace and harmony so beloved by the Progressives.

But the reality is, a truly hungry person is far more interested in stealing his neighbor's bowl of rice than singing syrupy camp songs.

Last year I conducted a miniature experiment. I took to lurking on a progressive forum that addresses spending habits and consumerism. The members of this forum are dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint by reducing their purchasing habits. It’s a sentiment with which I largely agree, though I approach the subject from the opposite end of the societal spectrum

So anyway, last year I posed a question on this forum, namely: If the bleep was to hit the fan and you were unable to leave your urban or suburban environment, what would you do?

The answers were mostly sensible, given the nature of the forum. Many responders said they already had sufficient stores of food and water to see them through a couple of weeks of societal disruptions. But some of the replies were ludicrous bordering on the hilarious. One person confidently told how he would start foraging for wild greens. Um, wild greens? In Los Angeles or Chicago? Do you really think you can survive on filthy polluted plantain leaves growing in sidewalk cracks, assuming you even know what plantain looks like? Okay, fine, whatever.

But the silliest response was the woman who said she would form a community with her neighbors and they would all band together to help each other survive. There were a lot of “Hear, hear!” replies to this post.

Which got me thinking – why do people think everyone will be interested in holding hands and singing Kumbaya after a crisis? To be fair, it depends on the nature of the crisis. After 9/11, a lot of people truly did respond that way, but that’s because our immediate needs for food, water, medicine, etc. were not affected. But if our physical survival was at stake – if food or clean water was unavailable through the sources we normally use – then my suspicion is no one will have the slightest interest in singing folk songs. It would be every man for himself, perhaps in a distressingly literal way.

Now let me clarify my position. I’m all for community. That’s the whole reason we enjoy our neighborhood potlucks so much. We love our neighbors. We help each other out. We band together when there’s a crisis. We trade tools and equipment. We share garden seeds and surplus produce. We teach each other skills like canning and milking. We celebrate each others’ triumphs and mourn each others’ tragedies. And – here’s the key – we’ve been doing this for years.

In other words, we already have in place the framework and structure of this mythical “community” because we made the time and effort to forge those ties ahead of time. But if we waited until a crisis happened before connecting with neighbors, those ties would be fragile or nonexistent – and practically impossible to create out of thin air.

This is just a personal suspicion, but I think the Progressives who want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya have a different definition of “community” than I do. I once read a post on a different forum which addressed the issue of moving to a more rural area. “I am leery of the really conservative areas because the culture is not always favorable to sharing and community-mindedness, which will be survival values,” wrote one person.

I found it fascinating that the conservative values of independence and self-sufficiency are interpreted by Progressives to mean we don’t share and aren’t community-minded. Should this person ever move to our neighborhood, I think he would find we share all the time and are extraordinarily community-minded. Or maybe we aren't, at least by his definition. The thing is, our sharing and community ties are voluntary. Except for the bounds of Christian charity, we are less inclined to help those who think we owe them something simply because we’re the same species. Progressives never “get” this. They would rather the “sharing” and “community” be mandated, i.e. forced. Big diff.

Communities can spring up, but they cannot be based on communal – i.e. communistic – ideals. Communism dictates that everyone pools his resources into a common pot, and then everyone withdraws from that pot only what he needs. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” is the precise phrasing (Karl Marx).

But what if I have little or nothing to contribute to the pot, and you have lots and lots? Naturally I’m going to be delighted by my good fortune in having a whole pot to dip from; and you’re going to resent the hell out of me for taking some of your self-earned loot. That’s human nature, and that’s why Marxism is a crappy idea.

I recall an article called “What Is The Best U.S. State To Move To If You Want To Insulate Yourself From The Coming Economic Meltdown?” While the article itself is fairly basic, the comments that followed were fascinating. It showed a strong resentment between existing towns and “outsiders.” A Montana native wrote, “All you rich folks from California have built your own enclave around towns like White Fish and Kalispell, trying to build little Californias instead of seeking to be a part of our communities. When it hits the fan Montana would be a great place to be, but remember that your survival could very well depend on your neighbors so make friends now and develop some strong ties in your community. The best way to build social capital is to be helpful or friendly to someone else first.”

A counter opinion was encapsulated with this comment: “Some of you people posting here are absolutely full of yourselves. You are nearly all xenophobic and hate all outsiders. Your ignorance about others and even what is happening in your own states is appalling. No, I would not want to live around most of you, you stupidly think that your guns are going to save you, but you’ve yet to use them, proving that your all full of s***. This kind of thinking and the other comments I’ve read just proves to me how some of you really are. Ignorant, xenophobic and paranoid. Your sense of community is “just us,” thinking you can create enclaves without understanding. You all FORGET that we are ALL in this together, like it or lump it. Everybody needs someplace to be. You think you “own” your communities. Well, you DON’T. It’s still a free enough country where anybody can still move wherever the hell they want. Wake the hell up and realize that we all want and we all need exactly the same things. Community. Culture. Cooperation. Opportunity. Climate. Water. Land. Food. Shelter. Protection. It’s no different for any of us. You may not like [me] or I may not like you and we may not get along, but so what? We don’t have to. But I can damned well live anywhere I want (still) and so can you. If you do not like what is happening to your community — then educate the people that live there. I speak from my own experience, having lived in several of the places mentioned on this comment thread. You cannot prevent outsiders from moving in, and if they do, you are far, far better off making friends and connections with them then insisting they go live someplace else.”

(And this person wonders why he’s encountering so much hostility from the locals?)

I truly believe “community” will be critical to survival in a “bleep” situation. No man is an island, and no family can survive totally on its own. That’s because no family can have every skill and every tool and every resource in endless supply. But if a community has among its members someone skilled in medicine, in sewing, in canning, in hunting, in milking, in gardening, and in endless numbers of other skills we don’t appreciate until they’re not available, that community will be far more likely to not only survive, but thrive.

But those ties of community must be in place ahead of time. Yes, many places are clannish and won’t accept outsiders – but I’m talking about making ties where you live now, not about relocating (that’s a whole different subject and/or blog post).

So to everyone who wants to band together with his or her neighbors and sing Kumbaya over a communal pot of soup, I suggest you get busy right away. It’s never too early – but at some point it will be too late.


In last weekend's WorldNetDaily article Making a Virtue Out of a Necessity, I included some words of wisdom by Gary Foreman of The Dollar Stretcher website. He just posted the link on his website. Cool!

By the way if you haven't been to Gary's website, go check it out. It is a seriously neat and informative place for all things frugal.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random pix

More puzzle mania:

I've had this puzzle for ages - it's my favorite - and like to assemble it about once a year.

Unloading the siding we salvaged at the dumpsters a few days ago:

The pieces in good condition were stacked neatly:

We put the pieces that we in less good condition aside to be sorted.

We've had days where it actually looks like spring...

...complete with Canada geese flying overhead.

Sunset over a light dusting of snow.

We had a cake at our church last Sunday celebrating our pastor's tenth anniversary.

Interesting cloud formation.

Our rooster.