Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Stay safe out there.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I have a sponsor!

It's been 2 years since I started this blog. After a few months I signed up with Amazon and started getting "free" gift cards every few months. Every once in a while I get an email from Amazon that says that I got enough clicks to earn a gift certificate. Those gift certificates have been coming more and more frequently lately. In fact, it was a year before I got my first one. The last few months have been great and I want to thank everyone who's used my Amazon store when you need something and you want to get it online. Remember, if you don't see anything that you like in my product links you can always use the search tab to find what you're looking for.

Meanwhile, I've gotten several emails from people asking me to put a link on my blog to their store or business website. I have no problem with linking blogs. You don't even have to link me back if I like what you're saying and I like what you have to say (disclaimer: I don't always agree with what bloggers that I link to have to say). Stores...I have a problem with. If you're in the business of making money then you shouldn't have a problem with offering someone money who could potentially bring you more business. If those people aren't bringing you business then stop paying them. Simple.

Imagine my surprise when I got an inquiry just a few days ago from someone who actually wanted to pay me to advertise?! If you look to the right you'll see a widget for Our Happy Homestead. I've added a few links to some of their products. Those few items aren't even scratching the surface of what they have to offer. They're also constantly adding new products. I encourage you to check them out. I'll be talking about them and their products from time to time. I encourage you to share with me any experiences that you have with them...good or bad.

If you've got an online business and you're looking to advertise then feel free to shoot me an email at artyboy@gmail.com. I'm cheap. I also care about my reader's experiences so if you're a reader and you have a bad experience with one of my sponsors I want to hear about it. I also want to know when you have a good experience with one of my sponsors.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Got a french press

A year or two ago Rangerman over at SHTF blog made a post about a french press. I'd never heard of one but the concept made sense so ever since then I've always had the idea to get one in the back of my mind. It's never been a priority but I promised myself that if I ever saw one and the price wasn't ridiculous that I'd snatch it up. Last week I was Christmas shopping and I saw one for $4. There were actually two of them. One was big enough for one cup of coffee. The other was big enough for maybe three for $2 more. I bought the smaller one. I wanted it for camping so the smaller one looked like it would fit my needs better.

For those of you not familiar with a french press it's a pretty cool little gadget. It's just a cup with a lid/plunger contraption. The bottom of the plunger has a filter. You put the coffee in the cup. Then you add hot water and let it steep for a few minutes. Push down on the plunger and the filter pushes the coffee grounds to the bottom. Voila. You have coffee. Since you only need about 1 tablespoon per cup I've come to like it a lot more than my coffee maker. The coffee is more potent and I use less grounds. I also don't have to waste a filter. When I go camping I can only imagine how much better it will be than a percolator. It packs down to a much smaller size. I'll be able to store enough coffee for an entire weekend inside of it. I won't have to worry about boil overs or weak coffee that's loaded with grounds.

Coffee makers are less work and make more coffee at once and percolators are probably more robust but the french press that I picked up seems pretty sturdy and it doesn't take any longer to brew than a coffee maker. In fact, if you're like me then you get your coffee going in the morning and it could be a couple of hours before you drink your last cup. By then it's been sitting on the burner for a while and it starts to taste a bit off. With the french press you just make it at your convenience. I'm in love with mine. They're pretty cheap and handy to have around. Especially, if you like coffee.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An article on off-grid living and some thoughts

I found this on Google news.It's an article over at CNN about off-grid living. It all seems like a great idea. And it is as long as living that way is a choice. Of course there was the bit at the end about how everyone should be doing this or we're all going to die. I contend that if everyone lived this way we'd be in serious trouble. Then again the majority of people couldn't possibly live this way. You have to be smart. You have to be resourceful. You have to have a good sense of responsibility. If you don't have the money for a really nice setup then you'll be living like a citizen of a third world country. If the situation dictates that we all have to live like that then most of us will fall into the latter category. Being forced into that situation by real environmental problems is one thing. You do what you gotta do to survive. Being forced into that situation by a government that wants to stem a problem that may not even be happening is something else entirely.

There was one little anecdote about a settlement in Scotland where everyone lives off grid. A noblewoman owns all of the land. Sure she charges extremely low rent ($15 a month) but what happens if she decides to raise the rent? Or worse, what happens when she dies? Who takes ownership of the land? What will the new owner decide to do with it? Little setups like that seem like such a great idea but there are way too many factors to consider for me to want to jump into it myself. Most importantly you're living at the behest of someone else. No thanks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Heidelberg Appeal

Back in 1992 a petition began circulating throughout the scientific community. This petition was drafted in response to the "growing concern" of global warming. Check it out here. Despite it's 4000+ signatories, including several nobel prize winners, it's largely been ignored by the global warming doom and gloomers who have managed to take control of the discussion and use it get rich, influence politics and convince people that they need to be told how to live "or else". The poorest countries have used global warming to demand the wealth of richer nations. The Chinese have used it to justify their one child per family policy. Businessmen and corporations have used it to get rich by convincing companies and governments that their technologies are "better" even though they're much more costly and inefficient. The super rich global warming doomers have even used it to justify their hypocritical extravagent lifestyles by claiming that their business dealings and investments offset their much larger than average carbon footprints. Scientists themselves use it to get grants so that they can afford to continue their "research". Meanwhile, this tight knit niche of scientists colludes amongst themselves and figures out ways to discredit and margilize anyone with a dissenting opinion.

Here's the appeal. It's short and sweet but should make sense to everyone. If you're actually honest then it's blatantly obvious that those trying to push the global warming agenda would happily wipe their ass with this because they have so much to gain by convincing the masses that it's actually happening, that it's our fault and that we have to do something to stop it.

The Heidelberg Appeal

We want to make our full contribution to the preservation of our common heritage, the Earth.

We are, however, worried at the dawn of the twenty-first century, at the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to
scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development.

We contend that a Natural State, sometimes idealized by movements with a tendency to look toward the past, does not exist and
has probably never existed since man's first appearance in the biosphere, insofar as humanity has always progressed by
increasingly harnessing Nature to its needs and not the reverse. We full subscribe to the objectives of a scientific ecology for a
universe whose resources must be taken stock of, monitored and preserved.

But we herewith demand that this stock-taking, monitoring and preservation be founded on scientific criteria and not on
irrational preconceptions.

We stress that many essential human activities are carried out either by manipulating hazardous substances or in their proximity,
and that progress and development have always involved increasing control over hostile forces, to the benefit of mankind.

We therefore consider that scientific ecology is no more than extension of this continual progress toward the improved life of
future generations.

We intend to assert science's responsibility and duties toward society as a whole.

We do, however, forewarn the authorities in charge of our planet's destiny against decisions which are supported by
pseudoscientific arguments or false and nonrelevant data.

We draw everybody's attention to the absolute necessity of helping poor countries attain a level of sustainable development which
matches that of the rest of the planet, protecting them from troubles and dangers stemming from developed nations, and
avoiding their entanglement in a web of unrealistic obligations which would compromise both their independence and their
dignity.

The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, and not Science, Technology, and Industry, whose
instruments, when adequately managed, are indispensable tools of a future shaped by Humanity, by itself and for itself,
overcoming major problems like overpopulation, starvation and worldwide diseases.


Then of course there's the Global Climate Change Petition that was signed by 30,0000 American scientists. This was a much more anti global warming document. Since only about 500 or so of the scientists were actually involved in the field of climatology in some way and it takes aim at the actual science of global warming (unlike the Heidelberg Appeal which just urges people to follow real facts and the scientific process) it doesn't have as much credibility.

Obviously, I'm in the "global warming deniers" group. Man-made global warming is overstated. There's as much evidence to prove this as there is evidence to prove AGW. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't turn our thermostats down in the winter or up in the summer. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't take a bike or the bus when we don't really need to drive a car. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't recycle. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to become as self sufficient as possible. What it means is that our leaders shouldn't use this as an excuse to tell us how we need to live our lives by artificially regulating everything to "avert a crisis". It means that scientists should stop trying to find ways to skew facts to fit their agenda. It means that the powers that be need to be open and transparent and stop treating us like stupid little kids. Be straight with me. Don't try to scare me. My natural reaction to any threat is to get defensive. It's the same for a lot of people. The debate isn't over. Global warming dissenters aren't flat earthers or holocaust deniers. When you have to resort to tactics like insults, fear mongering and outright threats because you can't argue on the merit of your argument then there's obviously something wrong and it won't be long before people start to wake up. Hopefully it happens before these morons in Copenhagen come to some kind of consensus.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

These people have a lot of balls

First emails surface that suggest that top scientists in the field of climatology have been consispiring for years to find ways to doctor data and discredit anyone with a dissenting view. Then we find out that all of the original data that these people have based their conclusions on has beed destroyed. While they do everything to marginilize the significance of these facts world leaders are getting together for a major climate summit where they're trying to figure out what exactly we can do to stop this "cataclysmic event". I thought that the cap and trade deal was a bad idea. The same group of scientists who conspired, lied and fixed data to convince the world that we're all going to die if we don't do something now want the world's wealthiest nations to cough up 60 billion dollars over the next 5 years (that's just a lowball estimate...they admit in their report that it may actually end up being much more) to fund the measuring of every nook and cranny of the earth to fill in the huge gaps of knowledge that we have right now. In other words, they're admitting that they don't know what the hell they're talking about so they need billions more so that they can try to figure it out. I'm sure that this time they'll be much more careful with their communications to each other as they figure out how to tweak the data to ensure that their gravy train continues to flow and that they're always on the receiving end. Meanwhile, China's one child per family policy is actually getting serious consideration. Here's an article from Canada's national newspaper about it. Seriously....what the fuck.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I has another new hobby

It's been a bit since I've picked up a new hobby. This time I was looking around a pawn shop and noticed a very nice Trek full suspension mountain bike (a Trek Liquid for those of you who know a thing or two about mountain bikes) in their usual gaggle of bikes. Expecting to see a $1000+ price tag I looked anyway. $129. Wow. Someone forgot a zero when they put the label on this bike. Anyway, I quickly snatched it up. The clerk commented on how the bike was labeled way too cheap and I thought for sure that he wasn't going to sell it to me. He didn't go past commenting about it, though, so off I went with my new bike.

So what made me think about looking at mountain bikes in the first place? Well, I grew up riding a lot. If I needed to go somewhere I'd get on my bike to get there. Riding my bike 10 or 15 miles to the next town for no real reason was common practice when I was younger. Then I joined the army, could afford a car and didn't even think about riding a bike again for years. A couple of years ago I picked up a cheapo department store bike. After one "good" ride (by good I mean more than around the block a couple of times) I brought it home and parked it. The seat kept falling down so I basically couldn't sit down while I pedaled. The brakes sucked. At one point I was riding down a hill and the brakes all but gave out. I almost didn't make the turn at the end of the trail. Considering that the trail was bordered by a concrete wall that led into a tunnel under a bridge at that point it wouldn't have ended well had I not made it. That ride really made me understand the importance of having a bike with quality components. Unfortunately, I wasn't ready to drop $500 on an "entry level" bike and I didn't know enough about them to trust buying a used one.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I knew enough to know that the bike I was looking at should have been much more than what was on the price tag. I took it for a ride when I got home and I was instantly hooked. That led me to start doing a lot of research. I took the bike to a shop, had it tuned up and fixed a few things. Now it rides like a dream. I can't wait until the weather gets better so that I can take it out and really get it dirty. Walking isn't enough to keep me in decent shape, I hate running and going to the store is a chore so I'm glad that I've found something that I really like to do that will surely keep me active.

So what's all of this got to do with survival? Like all of my hobbies I can't help but ask myself if it could have an impact if the SHTF. There are the obvious health benefits. Biking is a great cardio workout and it helps a lot with endurance. So even if the world doesn't end it will still have a great impact on the rest of my life. If gas gets prohibitively expensive then you can always park the car and use the bike to get around locally. Get a decent rear rack and a backpack and you could use it for grocery runs. A good mountain bike can go places that no other vehicle can besides maybe a really aggressive dirt bike. You just have to be in good shape and have a lot of experience to get there. You also need to be on the back of a bike that can handle it. Just use quality components and keep everything adjusted right.

I've found it to be a really easy hobby to get into. It can also be cheap if you know how to buy. Don't feel guilty about bringing a bunch of parts into a bike shop and asking them to install them. They're going to charge you whether you bought them there or not. Do what you can yourself. It's not really worth it to buy all of the specialized tools, though, so eventually you're either going to end up in a bike shop or you're going to spend a lot of money. Learn how much stuff costs so that you can recognize a ridiculous deal when you see one. It's really easy to get good deals on this stuff if you shop around and know where to look.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An interesting development and Sportsmansguide

So I got my first paycheck since I took out the loan on my 401k. Surprise, surprise my takehome is now more than it was after the loan payment is taken out. All payments into the account are tax deferred so if after making your payment you end up in a lower tax bracket the amount that you're taxed is reduced. That could make your paycheck bigger than before even after you make your loan payment. Any payments made towards your 401k are taken out of your check by your employer before you get the income so you're not taxed on it. Oh and the interest rate on my loan is only 5.5%. If you have a 401k, lots of credit card bills and you don't foresee losing your job anytime soon then educate yourself. This could be a very good tool to get yourself out of debt. Technically, I only owe myself the money that I borrowed. If something happens and I can't pay myself back then I have to pay a 10% penalty on the amount that I borrowed and the amount of the loan counts as taxable income for that year.

So the way I understand it you could just sack away 10% of whatever you borrow just in case you can't pay the loan back. If you lose your job at some point (really the only way that I could see not being able to pay it back) then you could just pay the penalty. Whatever you paid back into your 401k up until that point will still be there. You'll still have the money that you borrowed (unless you spent it). It would just be like paying 10% interest on the loan all at once I suppose. Since I really don't know that much about this stuff and I'm only speaking from my extremely limited experience (in other words DON'T ACT ON MY ADVICE ALONE EDUCATE YOURSELF) I would appreciate it if anyone who's in the know could explain to me why this is not a good idea. FYI there's also a type of life insurance policy that you can buy that works on the same principle except that the payments aren't tax deferred. The payouts, however, aren't taxable because they're considered loans. The benefit over a 401k is that you don't incur any penalties if you don't pay it back. I have one of those as well but it doesn't grow anywhere near as quickly as my 401k.

Aside from managing my finances I've been prepping quite a bit. I may be getting my hands on a lot of 25lb bags of brown rice. Rawles recommends this stuff for very good reason. It's a lot healthier and tastier than white rice. I'll have to buy more than I can use to get in on the deal so if anyone is interested then please feel free to email me at artyboy@gmail.com and I'll get you a very good price with shipping included.

I also put together an order from sportsmansguide. I picked up a few wool watch caps, some Merrel shoes, a new coat and some boots for the wifey. The wife's boots were as could be expected. I could have bought her a pair of boots that everyone reviewing them claimed were still comfortable after walking 20 miles but I could carry her for 20 miles and she'd still complain. So I just went for something that would keep her feet dry when she's walking across the driveway to her car. She put them on, they fit and she was happy. I was pretty impressed with the quality for the price as well. Mission accomplished.

As for the wool watch caps, they were just too awesome. Try to find wool watch caps anywhere these days and you'll probably pay $30 a pop for them. Most of the crap you find for sale are some kind of acrylic blend that doesn't actually keep your head warm. It just keeps your head dry until the snow melts through or you start to sweat. Wool works wet or dry. As long as you can keep your head and your feet warm then the rest of your body doesn't have to work very hard at all to stay warm.

Speaking of feet I also picked up a pair of Merrels. I can't speak highly enough of this brand. A few years ago I picked up a pair on clearance at some big box store. They served me well until I walked outside one day to find my dog chewing on them. He'd been using them for a chew toy all night. They were still pretty rough around the edges but after putting in some new insoles and replacing the laces they were still usable and comfortable. I've been wearing that pair for 2 or 3 years since. I've gone on a lot of hikes and spent many nights in the woods with them. Even after being chewed up they were still waterproof. I can't tell you how many streams and creeks I've stepped into. Once my brother got stuck in a really deep creek and I was in water up to my knees. My feet never did get wet. Finally, sportsmansguide put a decent pair of Merrels on sale for $70. Thank you sportsmansguide! If it wasn't for my dog trying his best to rip them to shreds I wouldn't even need a new pair but sometimes crazy stuff happens.

You're probably wondering about the coat. It aint all that. It's a lot thinner and lighter than I expected. It'll do what I expected it to do. It just won't do it as well as I expected. You get what you pay for. In my experience, if you're buying from sportsmansguide then pay attention to name brands. If they're selling a name brand that you really trust and have experience with and the price is off the hook then jump on it. They'll come through for you. If you've never heard of the brand and the price is just "pretty good" then pass. If you see "guide gear" and they're not giving it away then wait for a sale. Eventually they'll put a price on it that you just can't pass on.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finally got a few bucks to play with

Now I'm trying to come up with a few things that I need. I want to get a new canner. The old antique canner that I've been using makes me nervous. It works well but it's from the 40s. I'll be getting one of those All American gasketless canners. I also want to get a better grain grinder to replace my corona. I'll probably just get a back to basics mill. I want the country living mill but it's a little more than I'm willing to spend for something that I probably won't use a whole lot. Of course, I'll be kicking myself if there ever comes a time when I do have to use it regularly. If anyone has a better suggestion for a grinder in the $100-$200 range I'm all ears. A set of Berkey filters are also on the list. I'm going to make a water purification unit out of a couple of 5 gallon buckets. I might also pick up some of those can organizers that Ryan at TSLR wrote about the other day.

As for food I'm pretty well set. I just buy stuff here and there when I have extra cash so I'm sitting pretty in that department. Most of my preps consist of canned food, rice, wheat and beans. I might pick up a few cases of freeze dried food to round things out a bit more and break the monotony. I'm past the point where I consider it a priority, though. I just need to get some more buckets so that I can pack up some of my beans, rice and wheat in mylar.

I'm really tempted to buy another gun. I've told myself that I'm only going to get one. I've been wanting a .308 bolt action for a while. I found a Remington 770 on clearance for $320 at a local store. That was tempting. Then I found a used Glock 19 at a pawn shop for $300. It's a little rough around the edges and it just comes with one high cap mag. It's a Glock, though. Mags are cheap and easy to find and...well...it's a Glock. They just work and they last forever. I've wanted a Glock 19 for a long time and that price is almost too good to pass up. I've already got a 9mm (and tons of ammo), though. On the other hand the only bolt action rifles I have are milsurp. I've got a few hundred rounds of .308 in the safe with no way to shoot it. Yeah, I know...a dozen guns in the safe and not one is for hunting.

I also want to put a little something towards precious metals. I buy a silver eagle here and there and I've got plenty of junk silver but now I can finally start to look at small amounts of gold. Unfortunately, everyone seems to want a ridiculous amount over spot for everything. Last time gold hit record highs it dropped back down to $800-$900 for a year. I predict that it's going to go a little higher but before it hits $1200 it's going to drop back down to $800-$900 or so. Then when the cracks in the economy keep getting bigger it's going to start creeping up again. When that happens it won't stop unless something in the economy changes. As long as the fed keeps trying to control everything we're headed for disaster.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Got a new flashlight

So I got a new flashlight. If you haven't noticed by now I'm a bit of a flashlight whore. I like to have one on my person at all times. Every room in my house that I spend any time in has a flashlight stored away somewhere. When it comes to daily carry lights they just need to be small enough to fit in my pocket and I need to be able to see when I point it at something and turn it on. Brightness can become a big issue when you need something that lights up a room so if you're going super cheap you could find your carry light severely lacking if you get into a really dark room. I'm also a bit of a cheapass and I have a tendency of losing flashlights so cost is also an issue. For a daily carry light I don't like to spend more than $20.

The last one that I was carrying was a Streamlight Stylus. I was pretty impressed with it but it did have it's drawbacks. First of all it was way too long. That's why I lost it in the first place. When I'd hop on my bike it would push up halfway out of my pocket. It also used AAAA batteries. They're not exactly a common size. Most importantly, it wasn't quite bright enough. It was good for up close work but if you needed to walk down a dark hallway it didn't have enough oomph to see everything clearly. Another thing that annoyed me was that it didn't have an "always on" option. The light only came on while you pressed on the button. One time I reached for it and it was gone. It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was on my bike.

No biggie. It gave me an opportunity to try out another light. One thing that impressed me about the Streamlight was the build quality. It was built solidly. After falling out of my pocket on the highway I have no doubt that someone, at some point will find it on the ground and it will still work. That led me to the Streamlight Stylus Pro.

This is the light that I carry now. It's about the same size as a fancy pen. It's much shorter than the stylus but it's also a little thicker. It uses 2 AAA batteries so getting replacements is a no brainer. It's built rock solid so you don't have to worry about dropping it. It's got an always on button. Most importantly it's a lot brighter. My litmus test is when the lights go off in my warehouse on the weekend. Picture a gymnasium with no windows and no light. That's what my warehouse looks like when the lights go out. A year or so ago I reviewed a cheapo Rayovac light that I got at Wal-Mart for about $4. It was great for basic use but unless I was 2 feet away from whatever I was shining it on in my warehouse I couldn't see crap. The first Streamlight that I went with was a little better. I could see about 10 feet in front of me with no problem. Still, though, holding down the button all of the time was annoying. The Streamlight Stylus Pro that I'm using now was like night and day. This time the test consisted of me poking my head into the warehouse and turning it on. Suddenly, there was a bright spot on the far wall. I could read boxes on the other end of the warehouse with this thing. I really like this light. It's most definitely the best light at it's price point. You'll probably have to drop 3x as much to get better performance out of a pocket light.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Green Chili Recipe

If you grew tomatoes this year then you've probably already picked all of them and you're most likely trying to ripen the green ones before they rot. The green ones that are still green by now aint gonna ripen. So what do you do with them? Fried green tomatoes are the obvious solution but I can only take so many of those. Last year I made green tomato pickles out of them. I ended up with at least a dozen quarts. They're fantastic but I still have a ton left. This year I decided to can up some green chili. Someone asked for my recipe in the comments section of one of my other posts so here it is...kinda.

I've said before that I don't follow recipes. I follow guidelines. Green chili, like red chili, is really easy to make without following a real recipe. Here's the basic guideline that I use. You can multiply everything depending on the size of the batch. The amounts don't have to be perfect. There are a lot of mexican spices that you can add to really make it pop but between the cilantro and the peppers most people should be satisfied. Anyway, here's how I usually make it.

1 lb green tomatoes
1 lb pork
1 lb hot peppers
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups or 1 14 oz can of chicken broth

For the pork I usually just use boneless pork chops. When there's a sale I stock up on them and load the freezer. This recipe is a great way for me to get rid of the stuff that's been sitting in the back of the freezer for a year. Chicken or venison (or any other meat that you have on hand) would probably work just as good if that's what you have. For the peppers, just use what you like. If you want a mild chili then use bell peppers. I used serranos, pasillas and jalapenos on my last batch and it turned out great. I'm not a picky pepper eater so I just use whatever I have handy. Anyway, on with the process.

Core and chop up the tomatoes. Remove the seeds from the peppers and chop them up as well. Dice the onion, garlic and pork. Pour the tomatoes, peppers and chicken broth into a stock pot or a crock pot and bring it to a boil. At the same time brown the pork and add it to the stock/crock pot. After the pork is done brown the onions in the leftover fat until they're translucent then add the garlic to them. Brown them for another minute or so and then pour them into the stock/crock pot. Once everything comes to a boil drop the heat and add the chopped cilantro. Let simmer for an hour or two or let it sit in the crock pot for a few hours on low if you're not going to can it.

If you're going to can it then follow the normal procedure for pressure canning. You can't water bath can this stuff. While the chili is boiling fill your hot, sanitized jars, seal with your sanitized, unused lids and process for 1.5 hours at 15 lbs of pressure. Refrigerate any jars that don't seal and consume within a few days.

This recipe is pretty basic but I like it. It makes a pretty hearty but not too thick green chili. If you want to thicken it up you can add a teaspoon of corn starch or two or you can add a tablespoon or two of flour to the meat and onions when you're browning them. You can also let it simmer down for a few extra hours.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Doug Hoffman

There's a campaign going on in NY District 23 right now. The current representative of the district, John McHugh, was recently chosen as the new Secretary of the Army. Now they have to hold a special election for the district. They'll be electing a new congressional representative in just a few days. The Democratic candidate is endorsed by SEIU. The Republican candidate is endorsed by the Working Families party which is an arm of ACORN. From what I've read the Democrat is more conservative than the Republican in this race. Luckily, there's a conservative candidate who's gaining a lot of traction. His name is Doug Hoffman. Considering that the other two candidates are fully backing their two candidates (Obama actually held a fundraiser in NY for the Democrat) the guy is way behind in fund raising. This is a chance to get a true conservative into Congress. Go check out his website here. If you like what he stands for then throw him a few bucks.

This guy isn't in my district. I don't like the fact that anyone can support anyone's candidates whether they're in their state or district or not. Unfortunately, the big parties do it. Grassroots efforts are the only way that we'll beat the big dogs. A few bucks here and there goes a long way when millions of people can be involved. Members of Congress have a lot of impact on the country. Some people seem to think that we can't stop this government takeover. I believe that we still have time. We just need to keep our ear to the ground and find the candidates with the right values and real convictions. One at a time we need to replace the establishment elites with real people who have our best interests in mind. I think that Doug Hoffman will be a good start.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Busy prepping

With no garden to tend to I've had a lot of time to devote back to prepping. I've been canning and freezing a lot of the stuff from the garden. Last night I canned up a few quarts of green chili out of the last of my green tomatoes and some pork chops that I had in the back of my freezer. I ended up falling asleep in the middle of the processing. Luckily, my wife turned off the stove after a couple of hours. Unfortunately, she didn't take the jars out of the canner or even open the lid. Anyway, I woke up several hours later and took the cans out. They were still very warm but they'd sealed very nicely. They were just a little darker than they should be. Hopefully they don't taste too terrible.

Tonight I'm making red chili out of about half of my tomatoes that actually ripened. Tomorrow night I plan on using the last of them for tomato sauce. I really need to get a juicer. Peeling them the old fashioned way (by boiling them and then peeling them by hand) sucks! Let me know if you have a better way. The last batch turned out kind of bland but it was still a lot better than the store bought canned crap. Hopefully, this batch will be better.

As for purchases I've been watching the wallet pretty closely. My 401k is finally back above precrash levels so I'll be taking a loan out on half of it to pay off some debt and probably get some preps that I've been procrastinating on. If the stock market crashes again then I'll have some money in the bank. If it doesn't then at least the interest will go back into my 401k instead of into some banker's coffers. I have been buying a lot of canned stuff and the freezer is packed full of meat. I've been finding a ton of canning jars at the thrift store. That's strange for this time of year but I'm not complaining. I also picked up a nice kerosene heater that should keep my downstairs nice and toasty if things get hairy. I found a guy who sells 5 gallon mylar bags with 2000 cc oxygen absorbers for really cheap on ebay. I ordered some and I was not disappointed. Now I just need to get around to sealing up what I can.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's Snowing

So it's snowing here. Since I don't normally mark the date of the first snow I'm not sure how early it is (if it's early at all). I did read yesterday that some CO resorts are opening up earlier than they have in 40 years. Some Idaho schools are already calling in snow days. If this is a sign of things to come then we might have a pretty heavy winter. I don't mind too much. I'm kinda surprised that global warming hasn't completely destroyed our chances of ever seeing a snowflake again, though.

It's been getting pretty cold at night so I went ahead and ripped out most of my garden the other day. My squash plants were all dead. My zucchini exceeded all expectations and I've been drowning in it all summer. I canned some of it, gave some to neighbors and friends and ate a ton of it. I also found out that my dogs love it. I made quite a bit of dog food out of it. I just mix 1 part zucch with 1 part rice and 1 part meat (usually scraps or meat that's starting to go bad in the fridge/freezer). I also planted some patty pans a bit late in the season and managed to get quite a few of them. They were still exploding when they got hit with the first freeze. I'll plant them earlier next year.

I think that I harvested a grand total of 3 pickling cucumbers all season. My armenian cucs didn't even so much as sprout. It's too bad because those things are awesome. They're like a not so sweet honeydew. My lettuces are out of control. I left those in since all of the varieties that I planted are pretty hardy and don't mind a little snow. My broccoli plants are huge but I only harvested one small head from each of them. I also harvested a ton of radishes, turnips and carrots. My peppers did pretty well all things considered. I still have about 5 lbs of jalapenos left that I keep meaning to can up. I thought that I was going to be disappointed with my cayenne plant but it made a last minute recovery and that plant is now drying out in my kitchen with about 10 peppers hanging off of it. My bell peppers did much better this year. They actually got as big as the supermarket bells.

My tomatoes were a pretty big disappointment. They just refused to ripen. I did manage to get about 25 lbs total out of 9 plants, though. By the time the freeze killed them off there was another 25 lbs of green tomatoes still on their vines. Hopefully some of them will ripen up. I'm also planning on making some green chili out of them.

Next year I'll be doing 3-4 3 sisters plots if I'm not too busy with everything else. It looks pretty effective from what I've read. I just need to figure out what varieties of everything that I'll be planting. I'll probably go with popcorn or some kind of indian corn, some scarlet runner beans and some zucchini, butternut squash and pumpkins. If anyone has any better suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What a vacation

So I've got a week off. It was a "use it or lose it" situation so I've elected to make it a staycation. I could have spent a week in Cabo but I don't think that the wife would have appreciated that too much since she would have had to stay home. Next month I get another week off. It looks like it'll be the same type of situation. A buddy from work will be in Cancun that week, though, so maybe I'll have to figure out some way to join him. I'm not counting on that happening.

I was hoping for some nice weather so that I could at least enjoy a few days on my bike. I had planned to pitch a tent in the San Luis Valley for a day or two and scout out the region. It's looking more and more like that's where I'll be investing in my BOL. It's a long trek to get there from where I live but it's got a lot of features that I really like. Unfortunately it's been rainy and cold the last couple of days and the weather doesn't look like it will be any better towards the end of the week. Fortunately I scored 2 cases of Sam Adams and 2 cases of Miller Light for $15 last week so at least I can stay pickled while I'm thinking about what I could be doing if the weather would cooperate.

Speaking of pickles, I've been canning quite a bit. I did up 5 quarts of chili, 7 quarts of beef stew, 4 half pints of zucchini relish and 4 pints of zucchini pickles so far. I still have about 5 pounds of peppers and at least 25 pounds of zucchini to use. I also have 5 or 6 zucchinis still on the vine and at least 25 pounds of tomatoes that are still green as hell the night before we're supposed to get our first snow. Hopefully it doesn't stick... It's not supposed to freeze so hopefully they'll survive.

Using that old, antique canner has definitely made me realize the shortcomings of it. It provides a good enough seal to get the job done but it does have a tiny leak in one spot around the rim. It's not bad enough to stop the weight from getting going but who knows how long it will last. The way that it's built it doesn't really need the gasket but it does have one and it does help a lot with the seal. I'd feel better if I had an actual pressure gauge, anyway. I think that an All American gasketless canner is in my future. I'd be able to can a lot more at once, anyway, if I bought a big one.

Arguing With Idiots is out today

Glenn Beck's new book Arguing With Idiots is out today. Love him or hate him you can't deny that he tells the truth. Make sure to pick up his book if you're sick of listening to idiots spout off with their ridiculous arguments every time you try to get into an "intelligent" conversation.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inspirational "get out of debt" story

These days if you listen to the radio or turn on the TV you're bombarded with "pay off your credit cards for pennies on the dollar" or "declare bankruptcy fast and easy" all over the place. Personal responsibility isn't rewarded or even encouraged. At least some people are still willing to take the high road. These people had over $100k in credit card debt. Rather than declare bankruptcy like several people encouraged them to do they decided to work their butts off for a few years to repay what they owed.

Yeah, I get it. The evil bankers and credit card companies are out to get you. They just do whatever they can to soak you for every penny so when someone sticks it to them with a bankruptcy they deserve what they get. Forget the fact that you chose to take out the loan. Never mind the fact that you used their money with the agreement that you'd pay them back. What happens when people do declare bankruptcy and get out of debt? Most of them don't learn their lesson and end up saddled again in a few years. When you take the high road you learn a few things along the way and those lessons tend to stick with you longer.

Meanwhile, Obama finally came out and admits that race isn't the driving issue behind all of the protests. Now if he'd just admonish all of the people on his side of the aisle that still insist on playing the race card every time they start to lose an argument then maybe we could move on and have an honest debate about the issues. It doesn't do any good for him to say that race isn't what's driving the protesters. He needs to tell everyone to stop bringing up race because it's doing absolutely nothing to benefit the discussion. Maybe if these morons would stop calling us racists just because we don't like what they have to say then maybe we wouldn't get so pissed off.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Camping Options

I don't camp nearly enough. Usually I only get out for 2-3 weekends a year. I spent enough weeks in the woods in the army infantry, though, that I know what it takes to get by comfortably. A couple of weeks ago a few friends and I went out and spent the weekend in the boonies. It was a much needed break from civilization. As nice as it is to be able to flip a switch to turn on the lights or hop in the car to get to the grocery store sometimes you just have to unplug. Whenever I go camping I can't help but think to myself "what if I had to do this to get by?". It really makes me think about my preps. Now while the rest of my buddies were sleeping on queen sized air mattresses in 10 person tents or the beds of pickups I was sleeping on a portable air mattress that folds up small enough to fit in my pocket. They would have either had to drive their shelters in or carry them in during an emergency. Mine easily fit into my pack.

We were camping 10 feet from our vehicles, though, so maybe I was just torturing myself by camping with just what I had on my back. I was probably torturing myself more by hiking around with my backpack on the second day that we were out there. I didn't do more than a couple of miles but I definitely came to the realization that I either needed to lighten my pack or get back into shape.

Bedding really struck out at me during this trip. If it had been an emergency and we'd had to ditch the vehicles then I'd have been the only one sleeping semi comfortably. The rest of the guys (and even worse....their wives) would have been trying to get comfortable on a bed of sticks, leaves and pine needles. They were all sporting air mattresses that were really comfortable but that would have folded down to about the size of any of our backpacks. I had one of those cheap air mattresses that's about 6 feet long with several individual chambers that you have to blow up manually.

You know what I'm talking about. It's one of those mattresses with 6 chambers side by side. You blow each one up like ballons individually. They're a pain in the butt to inflate and they're an even bigger pain to deflate. They're stupid cheap, though, and when deflated they take up very little room and they're pretty light. They're great for a camper who doesn't want to carry around an air mattress but doesn't want to make a bed out of sticks and leaves every night. There are, of course, some other very convenient options.

You can always pick up a rolled up chunk of foam. They're extremely cheap, light and they keep your body off of the ground while you're sleeping. They're pretty bulky and not exactly easy to find a spot for on your pack (especially the ones that are worth a crap) but they're better than nothing and arguably more convenient than sticks and leaves. The ground does a really good job of sucking the heat out of you when you sleep on it so you need something between you and it. You could always play the super hardass and just build your bed out of sticks, grass and whatever else you can find.

There's always the self inflatable mattress. These are pretty light. By the time that I got out of the army this is what we were using. They're awesome but they're extremely expensive and they're still pretty bulky. They're pretty durable and extremely simple to use. The comfort level is very high. If I needed to walk somewhere and I knew that it was going to take a few days then I would want one of these on my back to get there.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The healthcare speech and Joe Wilson

I didn't even bother watching it last night. I knew exactly what Obama was going to say so I didn't waste my time. I did, however, hear a lot of the commentary today. Most of it was based around Joe Wilson's little outburst. I've got mixed feelings about it. For years the left has been playing the same little games. This time, though, it seemed to me like the guy just had an emotional outburst. How many people sitting at home watching the speech jumped up and said the same thing when they saw the president utter those words? I would have at least rolled my eyes had I watched it. He later apologized for the outburst while maintaining his view that he didn't believe the president. Honestly, I went to his website to contribute after I heard about all of this. The guy obviously strongly opposes this whole thing for the right reasons. We need more people like that in congress. I was just going to float him $10-$20 but apparently a lot of people had the same idea.

Unfortunately, when I went to his site, there was a congressional stamp that said something along the lines of "This site is temporarily unavailable due to heavy traffic. Please come back shortly." After clicking on the "official site" all day just to see if it would eventually pop up I decided that it wasn't going to happen. I did manage to stumble upon his campaign site eventually and he's accepting contributions here. No I'm not from his state. I had never heard of the guy before today. I imagine that most American's hadn't. I hate to see a guy with that much passion for a cause that I happen to be on the same side of (listen to the speech if you haven't already...that was an emotional outburst not some planned attempt at a smear) get smashed into the mud.

Ideally and on paper free health care seems to be a GREAT thing for everyone who isn't rich and can't easily afford the best healthcare possible. Unfortunately, free anything creates infinite demand. Whether we like it or not there is still a cost. In the case of something like healthcare then we can't morally deny it to anyone. This is where the illegal immigrant thing that the above congressman had such a strong stance on comes in. How could anyone morally turn away anyone in need of health care? Well...if the person in need no longer contributes to society because they're too old or infirm then it's a lot easier to turn them away. This is where the "death panels" that everyone has heard of come into play. Unless the government decides to enslave doctors and nurses and force them to provide healthcare for nothing then there will be a cost. If the cost of saving a 70 year old costs more than saving 3 25 year olds then it doesn't make sense to save the 70 year old. That's how Ezekiel Emanuel thinks, anyway. He's Rahm Emanuel's brother..you know...the guy who said that you never want to waste a good crisis.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Making money on ebay

I've been dabbling with ebay for years. It's a good way to unload some stuff that you don't need anymore or make some extra money on the side when you're strapped for cash. It really is easy money. I've bought things from yard sales and resold them for a huge profit. I've done the same with things from thrift stores. Years ago when I was playing an online video game I even sold a bunch of stuff in the game for real life cash. As long as you're not selling something that's alive, perishable or related to firearms then you'll probably be good to go. There are only a few things that you need to know when you're selling on ebay.

Sell what you know. If you don't know anything about what you're selling then you won't be able to accurately describe the item to people who know exactly what they're looking for. Those are the people who will pay the most. Get on google and do some research before you post your item up for sale. Describe it as accurately as possible and make people confident that they know exactly what they're getting.

Use other online resources to advertise. It doesn't take much. If you're selling parts from an old Honda motorcycle then find a Honda message board that will let you advertise your auction link. If you're selling a book about how to brew beer then get on a homebrew forum and post the link to your auction. Just set up an email address that you use only for registering on forums and post away. Who's more likely to buy what you're selling than someone who posts about it all the time?

Know what your stuff is worth. If you're selling something that's worth a certain amount if someone actually wants it while you're selling it then put it up for that amount and hope that someone bids. This rule only applies to low demand items that are worth quite a bit but probably won't generate much interest. If you're selling something hot that a lot of people are selling and bidding on all the time then just start the auction at $.99 and let the free market take over. I start most of my auctions at $.99. If it's a big ticket item then a lot of people are bound to watch it. In the last 30 seconds or so I always get at least close to what I expected to get. Sometimes I get more.

Part of working ebay is being able to find the stuff that you're selling for a lot less than you're selling it for. Craigslist has been a great resource for me. I also check out thrift stores and yard sales regularly. Once again, stick with what you know. Sure you could find a box of old books for $1 a box and toss them on ebay. If no one has ever heard of any of them and you don't encourage anyone to bid on them then you'll probably pay more in listing fees than you make in the auctions.

What I don't like about Ebay is that you practically have to have a Paypal account. The reason that I stopped selling stuff from my little video game is because I got burned for $150 because of Paypal's policy. Fortunately, if you're dealing in tangibles and you use tools like delivery confirmation then the chances of you getting burned are pretty low. Unfortunately, Paypal is all electronic so "they" can trace it. If you're not making "quit your job" money then I don't think that you have anything to worry about. You could always write off related expenses for the first three years until it becomes a hobby.

Overall, Ebay is a great resource for the regular joe to make a few extra bucks on the side. The trick is to find something that you know a lot about that you can conceivably sell and ship at a reasonable cost. If you're shipping small things then it's easy to make an extra buck or two off of the shipping cost. If you're shipping big things then people just expect to pay more for shipping. If you're going to go cheap on the shipping price then be sure to build it into your starting bid. I do this a lot and sometimes it really pays off. There's something about a "free shipping" icon next to the auction that make people want to bid more.

I buy a lot of stuff on ebay for resale. For every guy who's selling one little thing for $5 there's 5 guys who are selling 20 of the same thing for $20. Buy the bunch of things for $20 and resell them all for $5 a piece. If you know what you're doing it works pretty well. You just have to know what the stuff is worth and have the cash on hand to make it work. If you start playing with ebay a lot then it's pretty likely that you'll have a pretty fat paypal account most of the time. Before long you'll be sending big chunks of cash to your bank account.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The evolution of my garden

Growing up I spent a few summers working on my grandparents farm. I also helped my dad out with a small plot that we had in the back yard and the 5ish acre plot that a farmer friend of his let him plant on for several summers. I've read a lot of books so I think I have a pretty good handle on how to raise an average garden. I'm no expert but if growing food was the difference between life or death I think that I could squeak by.

Last year was my first solo attempt at a garden. I raised just about everything from seed. On one side of the yard I built 4 4x4 planters. On the other side of the yard I dug out a 20x20ish plot. I could expand that plot quite a bit if necessary. For now, that's where I stick my tomatoes. Last year I was pulling off at least 1 or 2 a day by this time. This year they're still green and it seems to me like there are nowhere near as many on the vine. The plants themselves are twice as large as they were last year. They're just not producing as much. Last year I started most of them from scratch. This year I bought all of my plants. Maybe next year I'll just try starting my plants again.

My peppers are doing pretty well despite the fact that my new shi-tzu LOVES to eat pepper plants. Out of the 16 that I started with I only have hope for 8 of them. Every time I go to skin him for it he looks up at me with that cute little ewok face and I can't help but forgive him. The ones that have survived are producing exceptionally well except for my cayenne plant. I'm a little dissapointed because I'm still using dried cayennes from the plant that I grew last year. This year's cayenne plant has yet to produce a usuable pepper. It still look OK and it has a lot of flowers, though, so maybe it'll pop late in the season. Meanwhile, my bell peppers are twice the size that they were last year and my jalapenos are so weighed down with fruit that they're almost dragging on the ground.

I tried my hands at potatoes this year. I filled an old tire with compost and planted a few potato pieces that were sprouting huge eyes. I was utterly dissapointed. I'm not sure what the problem was but next year I plan to rectify it. It was my understanding that potatoes are cheap and stupid easy to grow. I must have done something wrong.

The rest of the garden has done exceptionally well. I ended up with twice as many green beans as last year and they're still producing. I didn't harvest a single carrot last year because the plants all died. This year they're doing great. I'm on my second harvest of radishes and turnips and I'm about to plant some more. My broccoli died last year. This year I have 3 plants that are doing phenomenally. I tried zucchini for the first time and it's out of control. If I keep planting that I'll never go hungry. Last year's peas didn't do so well. This year I ended up with a bunch of them. I still can't get bibb lettuce to grow right. Instead of growing into a head it grows into a tall stalk. The russian red kale that I planted last year has all but taken over the planter that I had it in. It came back with a vengeance this year and I didn't even have to replant. Now it's almost taken over the planter that it's in. Most of the other stuff that I planted in the same planter is still doing very well.

Plant a garden. Learn some of the nuances now before it becomes life or death. Even if all you have is a small balcony you'd be surprised at how much food you can actually produce if you have to. You don't have to become a master gardener. Just learn the basics and go from there. Know what takes months to grow. Know what grows fast. Know what takes up a lot of space. Know what you can plant in a "guerilla plot" and still get produce from. Just because you don't own the land doesn't meant that you can't get some food out of it that no one else will notice. Obviously, the best option is to have a big plot in the middle of nowhere but we don't all have that option. Just learn what you can grow and do what you have to do. The "year's supply" of non perishable that you have on hand is important no matter where you live but that will only last you so long. The goal is to last longer than everyone else and still have the means to continue to produce more food. Whether you're in the middle of nowhere or you live in the middle of the city being able to garden is a skill to be valued.

Quote of the day..or month..or something

I don't post many quotes but this one applies now more than ever.

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
- C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What do YOU do for extra cash?

Recently I've been looking for ways to make some extra cash on the side. I make more than enough to cover my expenses with my 9 to 5 but I still feel like I'm barely treading water sometimes. It's nice to have a backup source of income when you need an unexpected few hundred bucks to fix something. I've got a kid on the way and a furnace that probably needs replaced. That'll cost $3-4k for a bottom of the barrel unit or $6k for a top of the line, super efficient unit that will net me a $1500 tax credit. It's true...I'm not above taking government handouts when they literally shove them in my face and say TAKE THEM!!1 If social security is still around when I retire then you can be damn sure that I'll be taking it. Let's just say that I'm not counting on it in my retirement plan, though.

Anyway, stupid little expenses come up. Maybe you're just not making enough to pay the bills. Maybe you want to pay off some bills more quickly. Maybe you just find yourself sitting around with nothing to do and you'd like to make use of that time to shore up your savings.

In the recent months I've had some wonderful luck with ebay. I buy stuff on craigslist or at garage sales that I know is worth more than it's selling for and I throw it on ebay to make a profit. If you can view this blog then you can take advantage of ebay. If you live within a reasonable distance from a post office then you can take advantage of ebay.

If someone needs help then help them out if they're willing to pay you. A couple of nights a week I've been helping my dad out at his restaurant. I work for a few hours and I make a few extra bucks. It's a win/win situation. If you're good at what you're doing then the people that you're associated with will be begging you to help them out when you have time if you're not able to do it full time.

Always come through with your promises. If you can find someone who wants you to build a deck for a certain amount of money then build them a deck, build it for what you say you can build it for and reap the profits. If you can fix their plumbing problems for a certain amount and still make some money then do it for what you say you can do it for. Once you fix their problem for what you said it was going to cost then you can count on them telling their friends about what a great experience they had. Just do what you say you're going to do and make sure that you can do what you say you're going to do. People hate unexpected costs. Especially, now, in such economic hard times. Find your niche. Do what you like to do. You will make money.

Anyone who's trying to find work will always be able to find work. If you know what your work is worth and you do a quality job then you'll always be in demand. References are gold. Just make sure that your as valuable as you think you are. At the same time you don't want to be less valuable than you think you are.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Yet another "travel trailer living" article

Found this on Google News. A family in Florida couldn't find work so they bought an RV, camped their way to CO and are starting to get back on their feet. Meanwhile they're trying their best to avoid government assistance. Too bad more people aren't like that these days.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm sick of this racism crap

I don't understand why a racist black person today is perfectly acceptable. Black people were slaves a couple hundred years ago. I get it. For years they didn't have civil rights. I understand. In this day and age they don't have a leg to stand on, though. I do understand why some of the older guys still cling so desperately to their antiquated world views and beliefs. Some of them actually experienced what it was like. What they don't understand is that, as a nation, we got over it years ago. Black people have every advantage in today's society. Obama is a perfect example of that. But "equality" isn't good enough for these people. By "these people" I don't mean blacks in general. I mean the black nationals who believe that this nation still owes us something for the plights of their ancestors. They want to play on white guilt to ensure and expand the advantages that they've "earned". They get to play the victim card whenever they get into a situation that they don't like.

Now we've got the President of the United States supporting that view. He's perpetuating it and encouraging them. Mark my words. This guy learned a thing or two while sitting in the pews of Reverend Wright's church. A lot of these people are delusional conspiracy theorists. Others just realize that they can capitalize on this whole state of mind to gain influence and wealth. Just look at guys like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. We let them run wild and play the race card wherever they go. Others see what they're accomplishing and that they're getting away with it. Now black people everywhere know that they can just play that card to get what they want. Martin Luthor King would be rolling over in his grave if he knew that the movement that he basically started had devolved into this boondoggle.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Old faithful has died

It's true. For years I've been carrying the same lighter every day. When I needed to light a smoke it's never failed me. It's lighted many campfires. Any time that I've ever needed to get a fire going it's done it's job. 4 years ago, when I met my wife I was using the same lighter. I don't know how long I was carrying it before I met her. Today it finally failed me. I can't tell you how many times I tried to get a fire going when a flint and steel or a blastmatch just wouldn't work. Every time I've ever "given up" and taken the easy way out my faithful bic has always done the job. I've got a stack of zippos that always seem to die after just a few weeks. Meanwhile, I've been hoarding bics that never fail me. You can spend $25 on a blastmatch. You can spend $3 on a magnesium bar that you need a $10 knife in your pocket to use. Go ahead and stockpile containers of lighter fluid if you want to burn through it in a few months because it evaporates faster than you use it. If you can get a knife and flint to work then you can expect to spend a while sharpening the knife afterwards. Or you can spend a couple of bucks on a pack of Bics that will start a fire with the flick of a thumb. I have bics that are at least 10 years old that still light up with no problem. Being able to start a fire with a bow & drill is a great skill. Even starting a fire with a blastmatch takes some serious technique. Starting a fire with a Bic takes very little skill. Carry a Bic and you'll always have a fire at your fingertips when you need it. Just make sure that you swap it out every couple of years.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What to do with radishes?

I'm already pulling out a bunch of radishes out of my garden. Those things grow fast. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot that you can do with them. Usually I just snack on them or cut them up and throw them in a salad. Tonight I ate a few of them and realized that there was still half a bag in the fridge and another few dozen that were growing fast in the garden. Last year I mostly just let them grow until they got so big that they were too tough and woody to eat. I'm determined not to make the same mistake this year so I went ahead and looked up some recipes.

I was surprised at how many recipes there are that use radishes. The first one that caught my eye was mexican cole slaw. I already had half a head of cabbage in the fridge so I went with that. It turned out pretty good. The other half of cabbage was used to make cole slaw out of some russian red kale that grew back from last year. That turned out really good but the mexican slaw was much better. As much as I like cole slaw you'd think that I'd plant some cabbage. Maybe next year. Anyway, here's how I made the mexican cole slaw:

Half a head of cabbage
A dozen radishes
A can of black beans
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
2 tbsp white vinegar

Shred the cabbage and chop up the radishes. Then mix all of the ingredients together. That's it. As for the red kale slaw I did the same thing minus the salsa, beans and radishes. That turned out pretty good, too.

As for the rest of the garden, my carrots seem to be coming along. I must not have planted my broccoli seeds deep enough because the plants were falling over. I shored them up with some more compost and they're still standing so hopefully that saved them. My zucchini is getting out of control. My bean plants are huge. My lettuces are doing OK. My peppers are growing, too. I think that my dog ate some of my tomato plants when I first planted them. The ones that he didn't eat are getting huge. The ones that he did are growing back fast.

The weather has been spectacular around here for gardening. It's been raining for a few hours every day. The rest of the days have been sunny and beautiful. If this keeps up then I won't even have to do anything besides pull a few weeds.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Run a cordless tool off of a car battery

Here is a cool wikihow article that could come in handy if you're out in the boonies doing some work with power tools.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What I've been up to

First of all I'm sorry that I've been neglecting the blog. I really haven't been following the blogosphere as of late. There's plenty of doom and gloom in the news so keeping up with the blogs is kind of paranoia overload for me. Unfortunately, this has resulted in less posts here. My preps are in order so I haven't been thinking about it much. Just the other day I got my very first amazon gift card, though, so I felt obliged to do an update. $12 for over a year and a half worth of posts! woohoo! Now where to spend it?

I've been following the swine flu stuff pretty closely. At first glance it seems to be ridiculously overblown to me. Seven people die of influenza every hour in the US alone even when there isn't a pandemic alert. All of the hubub about this new strain just seems silly in comparison. People are getting sick but it doesn't seem to be serious. They're getting over it fairly quickly. Biden's comments today do worry me, though. He's privy to information that none of us will ever have access to. Maybe he knows something that we don't. Then again, maybe he's just paranoid. Tamiflu and Rolenza seem to be working so that's heartening.

Ammo supplies are as tight as ever. Just the other day I got an email about a supplier that's getting a shipment in. They'll be selling Wolf 7.62x39 at the low low price of $350 a case! I'm glad I got mine when I did. Hell, at those prices I'm tempted to sell most of what I have.....almost....OK not really. Meanwhile, Obama keeps on talking about how he has no intention of reinsituting the assault weapons ban. I'm sure that he's just biding his time waiting for the right opportunity. I think he knows that a ban wouldn't go over well right about now. The voters seem to be voting with their wallets. Despite the bad economy everyone is still buying up every round of ammo that they can get their hands on and "assault weapons" are hard to find in stock. It's pretty obvious that a ban wouldn't go over well with the majority of Americans.

The stock market is still pretty volatile. Just for fun I did some research and put together a $1000 pretend portfolio on Google finance a couple of weeks ago. If I had used real money I'd be up about $350 right now. With results like that I'm very tempted to start trading for real. I still have some stock. I sold most of it before the crash but what I have left is still treating me well with good dividends and stable value so I've left it alone.

A few months ago I was listening to Bill O'Rielly. He gave some really good advice that I decided to take to heart. Have a garage sale! I've been emptying out the closet and selling a lot of stuff on craigslist and ebay. I've been making a pretty good chunk of change doing it, too. I wouldn't have a real garage sale because, to be honest, you won't get crap for your stuff. Craigslist can be a bit of a pain. You've got to deal with a lot of scammers and lowballers. If you want to sell stuff on craigslist describe your item as accurately as possible and take pictures. Learn about the scams that people try to pull (most of them are pretty obvious). Do the negotiating before you meet the person. If someone wants to dick you around just walk away. Have a price in mind and don't sell it for less than that. You can always ask for more than you expect to get and then negotiate the price when someone shows interest. Maybe you'll get lucky and get your asking price. It happens to me all the time.

Ebay is a whole different animal. What doesn't sell on craigslist I put on ebay. You just have to be careful with ebay. You can rack up fees quickly. It's also a little easier to get scammed on ebay as a seller. Ebay really favors the buyer. Despite those problems it's usually faster than craigslist, you don't have to worry about meeting people, you'll reach a lot more potential customers and most people on ebay are honest. To be honest the fact that you practically have to use paypal annoys me more than anything. Unless you get some kind of special paypal account (that costs more) you can only receive $500 a month. That's annoying when you've got a lot of stuff to sell or you want to sell a big ticket item. Another option is to try selling things on websites that are specific to the item that you're trying to sell. I haven't had any luck with that route but if you could do it then you'd avoid a lot of fees.

I've been cutting corners in other places, too. I'm always looking for ways to save a buck. Food prices seem to be coming down which is a good thing. Produce is cheaper. Meat is cheaper. Milk is cheaper. Gas is still around $2 a gallon. Just shop sales and learn where to buy what and you can really save a lot at the grocery store. Being a beer lover I heard about a distributor that opens it's warehouse to the public for a couple of hours on Saturdays. They sell damaged and about to expire beer really cheap. That's saved me a lot on the monthly beer bill. I've been swimming in Newcastle and Sam Adams for a couple of months now. Show me another place where you can get 2 cases of the good stuff for $15.

I plan on using my whopping $12 to buy something that I can do a review on. I've been wanting to read The Five Thousand Year Leap and Atlas Shrugged for a while now. If anyone else has any suggestions I'll be more than happy to look at them. I'll just sit on it for a couple more days before I use it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thought this cartoon was interesting

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It was made back in 1934. It's amazing how history repeats itself. The powers that be honestly believe that the reason that the depression got as bad as it did was because they didn't start doing this immediately once all of the bad stuff started happening during The Great Depression. That's why they're spending so much money right now. Unfortunately, it wasn't the massive spending that got us out of The Great Depression. It arguably extended it for a few more years. The only thing that pulled us out was WW2. Hopefully it won't take another war of that scale to save us this time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A little financial advice

I'm not a financial adviser so you probably shouldn't listen to anything that I have to say on the subject. Everyone else is doing it, though, so I figured I'd go ahead and give you my view. To this day, everywhere I turn, I keep hearing everyone scream "ZOMGZ PAY OFF UR DEBT!11" This was great advice when interest rates weren't that great or even absolutely ridiculous and you could invest your money in places that yielded a very high return. What can you possibly invest in right now that will yield you a better return? What you can do (if you have good credit) is refinance your debts to get lower interest rates. Got a mortgage? Refinance it and get that payment down. Got a car? See if you can get that payment down. Maybe stretch the payment out by a year or two to make it easier on the pocket book. Secured debt isn't a bad thing to have if you manage it correctly.

Most people who hate debt think that credit cards are the devil and the core root of all of our problems. If you can control yourself they can be an extremely useful financial tool. It's really easy to overstretch yourself, though. If you can't control your spending on your plastic then bury it deep enough in your back yard that you won't even think about digging it up unless it's life or death. If you can control yourself then just buy what you can afford with it and pay it off in full every month. If you overstretch yourself and can't pay the full balance one month then DON'T USE IT AGAIN until you HAVE paid it off. If you don't use it regularly then just keep a small balance on it so that your credit card company doesn't lower your limit or completely cut you off. They say that you should maintain a balance of 30% of the available line of credit.

So now you've refinanced everything so that your interest rates and payments are just a fraction of what you were paying before. What should you do with all of that extra money that you're bringing in every month? You've got a few options. The first option is to take that extra money and apply it to your smallest debt balance. Once you eliminate your first payment then take whatever you were putting towards that payment towards your next biggest debt balance. Once that debt is eliminated then put everything that you were paying towards that balance towards your next balance. See how that works? This system is very simple and effective. The key is to have extra money after your bills are paid every month. With a little bit of discipline you should be able to find some with no problems.

Before you go throwing every extra penny that you make towards your debt you'll want to have a nice cushion in your savings. Three months worth of expenses is good. More than that is better. Having enough money lying around to be able to pay off all of your debt immediately is best. When you get to that point then you'll truly have complete control over your life and finances. You can keep your money at home or you can keep it in the bank. I'm not a fan of stuffing the mattress or finding creative places to hide my cash around the house. I'd rather just leave it in the bank and be done with it. If you've got more than $250k in the bank then you might want to rethink that strategy. Out of your three month cushion I'd keep about a month's worth at home.

Despite popular belief the stock market isn't a bad place to put your money. There are some killer deals out there if you know what to look for and you have no intention of cashing in for a long time. Obviously, there is some risk. There's also the potential for some absolutely ridiculous gains. Just look at GE. It's about $6 a share as of today yet they're still paying out a $.33 dividend every quarter. Who do you think is going to get the lion's share of the government's business when they start implementing all of these alternative energy resources and the smart grid system? Speaking of which, there are a lot of publicly traded alternative energy companies that are a real steal right now. What do you think is going to happen to that stock when the stock market comes back? There are a ton of stocks out there right now that are in this position. If you have a few extra bucks that you will never miss then this could be the best opportunity in your lifetime to get on the bandwagon. I do think that it's going to get worse before it gets better but I also think that someday it's going to be MUCH MUCH better than it is right now. Do your research now, put some of your beer money into the stock market and in 20 years you may be able to pay cash for that 10,000 acre ranch with a mcmansion on top of a 20 floor bomb shelter without breaking a sweat.

Putting your money into gold and silver is another option. Money that you spend on gold and silver, much like what you spend in the stock market, should be money that you don't need and will never miss. This is your insurance policy. If the economy crashes or there's a major catastrophe then it will be the first thing that people start recognizing as money again. If nothing bad ever happens and you need some cash right now then it will always be accessible as long as you maintain physical possession. It will always be worth something.

There are some other investment options like bonds, cds, mutual funds, etc. My 401k is the closest thing to a mutual fund that I invest in. The 5% employer match is the only reason that I'm still funding it. CDs are good because they give a guaranteed return and they're insured like a savings account. They're bad because you're very limited to when you can access it and the interest isn't that great. If you need the money right now then too bad. I hate mutual funds. Bonds are good because they're guaranteed but they're bad because they take time to mature. Once again, if you need your money you have to wait for it.

Some people seem to look at preps as an investment. I guess that they could be. I see them as more of an insurance policy. Part of my budget goes towards preps. None of my budget goes towards investments. The money that I spend on investments is money that I don't need and can easily afford to lose. Whether I can afford it or not I always find a way to fill holes in my preps as needed.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fixed the Virago among other things

I got all of the parts needed for about $100. You can't even tell that it's been in a wreck now. While hunting around for parts I found some nice backrests and luggage racks. I'm seriously thinking about getting something like that so that I can use the bike for some serious touring/weekend camping trips. I've already got saddle bags for it and I bought some luggage a while back that mounts to a sissy bar thinking that I'd be able to attach it to the little grab rail that's there now. No dice. Oh well. One nice thing about the whole experience is that I've come to realize just how easy this bike is to work on, how cheap replacement parts can be had for it and how durable it is.

I've also been cutting expenses. I got my cable bill reduced by $50 a month when I called them and threatened to cancel my TV service. That will last 6 months. If I can't get a similar deal in 6 months then I'll probably just shut it off. I also canceled my home phone service which saved me another $50 and I refinanced my car which saved me about $100. Now I just need to refinance the house. I'm pretty sure that I'll get that payment down by at least $200-$300. I've also been selling some extra crap here and there. Craigslist is a beautiful thing.

I want to learn to weld and do some metal machining. A few months ago Rawles had a guy post about a home made multi machine. I've been following that yahoo group ever since. If you can weld and work with metal then you can make damn near anything.

I just saw this on Google. A couple from Beverly Hills got hit by the hard times and moved to a farm in Oregon where they now live in an old trailer. Here's the story. This is the last ditch option that everyone should keep on the table. I'm not looking forward to living like that but one of my short term goals is to insure that if worse comes to worse it will be a viable option for me.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

If you're gonna ride wear your gear

I took my Virago for a ride today and decided to hit up some twisties. It was a beautiful day but there were a lot of icy patches and tons of sand on the road everywhere I went. I ended up going down pretty hard. I was wearing good gear so I walked away without a scratch. My bike was a little beat up but fixing it should be cheap and easy. I rode it home so it couldn't have been in too bad of shape. It just took a little bit of ingenuity.

The skid mark:

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The McGuyver fix on the broken shifter that managed to hold together long enough to get home:

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Life in China

Wanna know what life in China is really like? Just ask a motorcyclist. This guy rode all over southwest China on a 200cc dirtbike and documented his entire trip. It gives really good insight into what day to day life is like for a lot of Chinese. It also gives us a small glimpse of how they regard foreigners. After reading this guy's ride report it gave me a really good idea of just how far we have to fall. This is how a lot of their people live yet somehow they're regarded as our competition. It also just goes to show that no matter how bad things seem you can always make the best of things if you've got the right attitude.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hobbies for preppers

Let's face it. No matter how bad the news gets there's always that chance that things will once again turn around and things will start to look good for humanity again. We will always have our upturns and our downswings. Things seem pretty bleak right now but all is not lost. Things aren't so far gone that there's no hope of a recovery. If things do recover then it will likely result in another period of prosperity that could last for another decade or two. Maybe what's going on right now really is the final nail in the coffin. Maybe it isn't. Maybe we're at the cusp of another depression that will last for years. Maybe we'll eventually bounce back. Maybe in 50 years automobiles will be remembered as mythical, magical artifacts and the average person won't even know what paper looks like, let alone know how to read words that are written on it. I've never been a gambling man. I like to hedge my bets. When it comes to prepping I do that by sticking to hobbies that I think could have some serious advantages if the S ever really HTF.

Camping, bushcraft, hunting and the like are obvious hobbies for preppers. If you can't stand roughing it or eating stuff that didn't come off of a supermarket shelf then you might as well quit now and hope to god that the system never collapses. A guy who has no interest in prepping but who camps a lot, knows how to shoot, owns a gun or two (and shoots them well) and who has some decent gear is going to have a distinct advantage over most of the "sheeple". For the prepper these hobbies are just an excuse to practice survival skills and buy lots of cool kit. It's also a good excuse to turn it up a notch and spring for stuff like land, campers or even a cabin. If you prep then you probably see all of these things differently than a "normal person" would. A prepper will keep his camping gear packed up and ready to go. A regular guy will probably just unpack everything and throw it in boxes until the next time he needs it. A prepper will keep his camper packed full of provisions whether he intends to use it or not. At best a regular guy will just take what he needs for the trip that he's going on. Even land and cabins will differ. A prepper will, once again, keep his cabin stocked with everything that he'll need when he gets there. If that's not safe due to threat of theft or vandalism then he'll maintain a nearby storage unit or just bury what he thinks he might need on his land. The regular guy will just leave his cabin empty when it's not in use. The prepper will also think about things like accessibility, defensibility and the logistics of actually having to live there someday. He'll plan the purchase/construction based on those things. The regular guy will just daydream about dropping everything and moving out there full time every once in a while right before he packs up everything and heads back to his real life.

Gardening is another no brainer. Learn how to garden well in the area where you want to do it and you probably won't go hungry if you've planned properly. With experience will come all of the gear and tools that you need to do it properly. The tools that an experienced gardener will acquire are exactly the types of tools that you'll want to have in your shed when things go south. I'll take an experienced gardener who knows what it takes to produce a bountiful crop over a "hardcore survivalist" with a dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammo buried in his backyard any day (whether the world is ending or not).

Homebrewing and winemaking are things that I write about every once in a while. This is one of my favorite hobbies. The only thing that I dislike about alcohol is how expensive it can get. Honestly, you won't save a whole lot of money by homebrewing unless you do it a lot but there's something satisfying about sitting back and relaxing with a brew that you crafted yourself. The equipment is what really makes it expensive. Once you have that then you really do start to save money. If you ever really get hardcore then you can save a ton by buying your ingredients in bulk. Besides having the means to open up your own speakeasy you'll also have a lot of useful equipment. The huge pots, heavy duty stands and propane burners are ideal for canning, rendering fat, making big batches of soup/stew/chili or even just boiling large batches of water. I'm sure that there are plenty of other alternatives that aren't coming to mind right now.

Motorcycling is by far my favorite hobby. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. There are guys who buy old vintage bikes that get 80 mpg loaded down, fix them up for a few hundred bucks and travel all over the world. Then there are guys who spend 10s of thousands for all of the best gear to travel the world with. There aren't many places that you can get to on foot with a fully loaded pack that you can't get to with a capable bike with twice as much gear. Motorcyclists tend to be some of the most adventurous, free spirited, self sufficient people that I've ever met. They know the roads better than anyone, they can thrive with very little and they'd rather do things rather than make excuses as to why they can't. Check out this guy's story as a perfect example. Sure it's dangerous. It's not an option for everyone. It can be expensive. Pick the right bike and it won't set you back much and it'll be damn near bulletproof. Choose your gear wisely and you'll be almost as safe in a crash as you would have been in a car and you'll be able to live off of your bike for days or even weeks with few outside provisions. I plan on making more posts on this subject in the future so I won't go too crazy about it this time.

So there ya have it. Besides the internet and a few other little things that I do when I just can't do any of the above that's what I try to focus on during my free time. Once you get those beans, bullets and bandaids squared away it's easy to get anxious. You start to think about all of the bad things that could happen. It doesn't take long before you honestly expect or sometimes even wish that society would just tank. At some point I realized that I was starting to think like that. If I didn't do something I was either going to have to unplug completely and put my head in the sand or I was going to wind up in a cabin in the boonies waiting for the blue helmets to start coming over the ridgeline. I decided to start focusing more on prep related hobbies than what I was prepping for. It does a great job of keeping the edge off. If the world never collapses I don't have to worry about being an 80 year old man looking back at my life and wondering why I wasted it waiting for "the inevitable" to happen. Then again if things do go down the crapper I'll have the tools and the know how to be better off than 95% of the other people out there. Anticipating the collapse, firm in the belief that it's going to happen any day now and acting accordingly is every bit as dangerous as denying that anything bad could ever happen.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shuttin Detroit Down

I just heard this song by John Rich on the Glenn Beck show today. I'm not much of a country fan but this one is worth checking out no matter what kind of music you listen to. Skip to about the 3 minute mark if you want to skip the commentary.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I semll a coverup...

Suuuure blame it on the hackers. Let's just hope that this thing doesn't spread!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A book review

I just finished reading the book Plague Year. It's about a nonotech virus that is accidentally released. In a very short time it spreads all over the world and completely decimates life everywhere. Luckily, the original creator built a fail safe into it that causes it to become disabled at altitude. Basically, it can't survive above ~10,000 feet above sea level. The American government ends up centralized in a small town in Colorado where they manage to save some of the greatest minds in the nanotech field to work on a cure. Other major governments manage to survive in other parts of the world and they're all racing to do the same thing. At the same time they're implementing plans to make sure that if humanity manages to get through this then they'll be in control. Meanwhile, small holdouts manage to continue to survive in small pockets all over the globe. Most of the people are desperate and are doing whatever they can do to get by. Cannibalism is widespread. The haves see this as an opportunity to enslave the have nots. The governments are barely managing to keep their people under control. Then a ray of hope emerges and hilarity ensues.

If you're into TEOTWAKI fiction then this is a good one to check out. I wouldn't put it in the same category as Alas, Babylon or Lucifer's Hammer but it's still one of the better SHTF novels that I've read. This isn't a how to on how to survive during the apocalypse like the previously mentioned were. This is a book about human nature and how people react when forced into a world ending event. It's a book that gives an accurate insight into how people of all different types will react when all hope is lost. I don't really consider the scenario to be plausible. If it actually happened then I consider the solution to be even less plausible. Like a lot of these types of novels, though, I can see the reactions of the people, from the normal dude who barely made it by his own virtue to the powerful senator who only made it because of a little luck and how "important" he was, to be fairly accurate. I do, however, find it a bit ironic that if the average person was to read a piece of survival fiction that focused on a character who just "happened" to be well prepared and because of that "somehow managed" to end up better off than most everyone else it would be written off as unbelievable and a bit ridiculous. Good luck finding me a piece of survival fiction that actually made it to print that had a main character like that (besides Rawles book which doesn't really count since no one really reads it until after they've started to wake up).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Swedish Mora Sheath

I'm a big fan of Swedish Mora knives. There aren't too many better knife options out there for less than $100. It beats everything hands down for less than $50. At ~$10 a pop they're a steal. I do have my gripes about them, though. First of all I hate the hard plastic handle. Some of the versions out there have a rubberized grip. The one that I have doesn't. I solved the problem by wrapping the handle with 550 cord. That ensured that I have an extra 10 foot length of 550 cord with me when I'm carrying the knife. It also provided a loop to make it easier to hold onto. Obviously, it also made a better grip and it made the handle bigger and wider which makes it a little easier to hold onto (for me).

The other gripe that I have is the sheath. I'm just not a fan of that hard plastic sheath. It's functional but it'll scratch up your belt when you put it on. Also, after I wrapped up the handle I couldn't get the knife to seat properly because of the rim. Then I remembered a post that M.D. Creekmore over at The Survivalist Blog made a few months ago about making a leather sheath for his mora. I don't have the tools or any of the materials for leatherworking and I decided that buying all of the stuff that I would have needed wouldn't be worth it. We had been corresponding via email, anyway, so I went ahead and asked him how much it would cost for him to make me one. Once we agreed on a price I sent the money and he sent me the sheath.

It showed up in my mailbox today. The craftsmanship was good. It was much nicer than I expected, actually. I'm no leatherworker and I don't own a whole lot of leather goods so It's kinda hard for me to write an accurate review on that end. We'll just say that I was pleasantly surprised and I won't be embarrassed to show it off. A picture is worth 1000 words so I've included some. When I slid the knife in the sheath was way too big. That was no biggie. I just cut the top off of the plastic sheath that the knife originally came with and slid the bottom part inside. It was a perfect fit. I'll probably glue it down to make it a bit more secure but I don't think that it's really necessary. It fits securely enough as is. And now for some pics:

The sheath, knife and plastic insert

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The knife and the plastic sheath inserted in the leather

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The knife snugly inserted in the sheath

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If you have a Mora knife and you hate the sheath as much as I do but you don't know crap about leatherworking then you might want to send M.D. Creekmore an email and see if he'll hook you up. I'm very pleased with his work.