Friday, January 31, 2014

The snow is melting, in some places.

I walked down to the county road. It's clear.  Outside temperature right now is high forties and the sun is shining.  The forest service road, which is in shadow all day,  has been driven on by people out four wheeling, and all the snow has been packed down into about a half inch of ice.  My road, leading up from the county road to the house, is untouched.  The snow hasn't melted at all. If it doesn't freeze tonight, and the air is warm it can melt rapidly though.  Maybe by tomorrow I can get back up to the house with the Jeep.

I turned off the pump for four hours, then went up and turned on the kitchen sink in the apartment. It took a good while for the water to stop running, which means if I have a broken pipe it can't be much of one. The apartment and shop are probably a good 50 feet higher, or more, than the pump. If there was a break, the water would have run out of the apartment and the pipe would have been empty above the break. That's my logic, anyway. Once I can get in and out to town I will see about getting the stethoscope, unless my wife brings one home with her today.

" To a mouse, on turning her up in her nest with the plough" Robert Burns, 1785.

A blog friend has been having a lot to deal with lately, with kids and work.  So many women now have to take care of the kids and hold down a full time job. My wife had to do that.   I got to thinking of this poem, because it really highlights the fact that we can plan and prepare, but we can't see the future.  

Robert Burns wrote this poem when he was plowing up a field, and accidentally destroyed the home of a field mouse in the dead of winter.  I expect with all this bitter cold and the trouble it has caused so many of us , that we can empathize with the mouse as he did.

The translated version is on the internet but I like the original best.

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
 Thou need na start awa sae hasty Wi bickering brattle!
 I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, Wi' murdering pattle.

 I'm truly sorry man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union, An' justifies that ill opinion Which makes thee startle At me, thy poor, earth born companion An' fellow mortal!

 I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve; What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
 A daimen icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request; I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, An' never miss't.

 Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
 It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
 An' naething, now, to big a new ane, O' foggage green!
 An' bleak December's win's ensuin, Baith snell an' keen!

 Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste, An' weary winter comin fast,
 An' cozie here, beneath the blast, Thou thought to dwell, Till crash!
 The cruel coulter past Out thro' thy cell.
 That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
 Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble, But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble, An' cranreuch cauld.

 But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain:
 The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley,
 An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
 But och! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear!
 An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!
It's going on three in the morning.  Cold outside but not as bad as the last few nights. The snow didn't melt any today, and it's dead quiet outside with a spectacular sky.  Millions of stars up there. The air is cold and clear, and there are no ambient lights to spoil the view. I went out awhile ago to look at the night sky and smoke my pipe, but I didn't stay long. It's still chilly.

May be able to get the Jeep out tomorrow if it gets as warm as they predict, and rains. I hope so. If  I can't my wife will have to walk up the mountain from down by the forest service road, and she's not in the best of health. But she says she is coming home as long as the road over the pass is clear.  I'm sure it will be by tomorrow evening, they have to keep the four main roads clear and that's one of them.

No one is stirring except Rowena. She came out of their latest cubby hole to get some water and a bite to eat. Tonight they are sleeping behind the big deep freezer in the pantry.  Smart ferrets, because there's a vent there and the hot air from the lower level of the house, where the propane heating system is, comes right up through that vent. They look very content, all piled up by that vent.

The dogs are quiet tonight.  Last night we had a visitor who tried to get into the trash storage area, and they made all sorts of racket.  I am pretty sure it was raccoon's.  I didn't get up and go look, because I was tired out and they didn't need any help.

When I was younger, I liked to take the dogs and walk along the creek at night when there was a moon, and snow on the ground.  It's amazing how much different the forest looks by moonlight, and the snow reflects it and makes the light even brighter.  I don't remember it being so cold, so it wasn't much of a strain to walk for an hour or forty five minutes. I stayed along the creek on those jaunts because you couldn't get lost. Things look a lot different in the woods at night at the best of times, and under a full moon and the snow, taking a trail would probably not have been wise, though I know the area around my property like the back of my hand.

 I complain about being snowed in, but it's not all that bad. You have never really experienced quiet until you've spent some time out in the desert or in the mountains in winter. When you have a comfortable house, food and drink, and all the comforts you enjoy around you, it's not so bad that you cant' go anywhere.

I did try to amuse myself today by doing some target practice off the front porch with a Model 1898 Mauser today. That was the standard issue rifle of the German Army in the First World War.  I was using some surplus Turkish ammunition that has the reputation of being a hot load, but I didn't notice any extra recoil.

After about the fifth shot, the front barrel band came off. It just came loose and went out on the barrel, but that ended the shooting session. I fixed it, no big deal, but that would sure have been awkward if I were repelling boarders.  I don't care, though. If I ever have to use weapons out here in a serious situation, I'd like to have a little style.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Everything stops.

This storm has not been a joke.  It's not one of those where you enjoy looking at the snow through the windows.

Tuesday morning it started snowing up here and it didn't stop. It snowed all night. Temperatures fell down to 2 degrees above on my porch.

There's almost a foot of snow around my place.  Nothing is moving, and there's no sound because the snow deadens sound.  I went down to the road on foot today.  Just animal tracks, no signs of humans at all.  No tire tracks on the old forest service road, no tire tracks on the county road.  No sign of the county doing anything about snow removal or cindering, or anything.  Even with four wheel drive, it would be hard to get into town and without it I think it would be impossible.

Before the snow started, temperatures dropped in a very short period of time. The wind came up and it was blowing very hard.  That's usually a sure sign of a snow storm this time of year and I gather from the scanner that people waited until the last minute to go rushing into town for food , batteries,  and other supplies.  I wonder why they do that?  Anyone who watches the weather knows when these things are coming. I will say the Atlanta weather people consistently underestimate the effect on the mountains. It's as if they don't understand that the higher up you go in elevation, the colder it's going to be and the more snow there will be.  Even so, there have been storms here they missed completely. They'll tell you the storm will pass by your area, and then it hits you squarely.  Waiting to buy your necessities until hours before it hits is so stupid that there must be other reasons. I wonder if people are trying to avoid spending their money until they are certain they have no choice? That would make sense to me, it's a delicate balancing act.

Here's another dead give away a storm is coming.  If the wind is coming from the West,  there are no clouds in the sky,  and sunrise gives you a deepening blue sky, you had better watch out.  I don't know any witty little rhymes about it but for our location it's true.

Apparently Atlanta got it good.  I hear people were abandoning their cars on the freeway and just walking off.  Officialdom came through as usual, in the face of overwhelming evidence it was going to be a bad storm they made the schools open and government employees had to come in. As a result, lots of kids got stuck at the schools and spent the night there. God help those teachers.  Since it sometimes seems that no one lives in Atlanta but government employees,  those hordes got stuck in traffic on the freeway and had nowhere to go.

I'm snowbound here. I put the Jeep down at the foot of the mountain, but the old forest service road is ice and not navigable.  Even if I got out to the hard surface road, it's just sheet ice.  A layer of snow, with a layer of frozen rain on top of it, with another layer of snow on top of that.

I'm comfortable, I just can't go anywhere, nor can anyone get in here.  If I go out to feed the dogs, and fall on the ice, that's the end of me.  No "first alert button" and "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" in a whiny tone here.

I have been cooking giant stock pots full of rice for the outside animals.  I put canned dog food, dry dog food, canned cat food, dry cat food,  Crisco, bacon fat, and everything else that comes to hand in the rice. In this weather, I think perhaps hot food is essential.  They seem to like it a lot better than just food out of cans or bags.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Something I am going to upgrade.

I have a  car battery charger. It's not exactly like this one, because I bought mine back in the late eighties, but this is close.  Mine will either charge your battery, or give you two good shots at starting the vehicle. If you don't get it running in two "cranks" a breaker shuts the unit down and you have to wait about ten minutes for it to cool off before trying again.

In doing some looking around on the internet, I find that these have largely gone out of vogue. They need an electric plug to work, and that's a big drawback if you come out of a store and find your car won't start.

However, I found lots of similar units that have nothing to do with charging. They are battery packs that give you enough power to start your car anywhere, then you take them home and plug them in to recharge. That's what I'm going to buy.  They are not cheap but they aren't ruinously expensive either, and I think one per vehicle is in order. That doesn't include the truck.  Cranking that engine with a battery unit would not work, because the truck itself carries two massive batteries. Not a problem though since I can use a spray of ether for that if need be.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Coming Dark Age by Roberto Vacca

"It is certain that free societies would have no easy time in a future dark age. The rapid return to universal penury will be accomplished by violence and cruelties of a kind now forgotten. The force of law will be scant or nil, either because of the collapse or disappearance of the machinery of state, or because of difficulties of communication and transport.  It will be possible only to delegate authority to local powers who will maintain it by force alone."

I believe this. I have been in a country where there was no law at all, and no mechanisms associated with the rule of law. What Vacca says in that paragraph was all true.

Given the right circumstances, I'm sure it could happen here. At the core, we aren't any more civilized or any less barbaric than the people in that country.  And now, we're just as balkanized and split by ethnicity, political affiliations and religious beliefs as they were.

I think what would happen here, in this county, is that the Sheriff would use his authority to call up "provisional deputies" , which means local volunteers with whatever equipment they have. In these mountains, in this culture, you could field a lot of heavily armed men that way. A great many of them would be people without much interest in sensitivity or philosophy. Many of the locals up here are very hard people.

I also think the county commissioners would gen out some bogus paperwork allowing them to take "for the common weal" anything they wanted from private citizens.  Private property would cease to exist, and they wouldn't ask first. Someone like me, who has been carefully buying and storing food, medicine, ammunition, firearms and the like would be left without two sticks to rub together. I have no doubt the penalty for non compliance in times like Vacca is writing about, would be quite severe.  Another reason to keep information that might lead to me obscure and sparse.

Where it would all come apart would be in trying to keep the Golden Horde out of here.  With a major city three hours drive away, I don't think they could.  All these roads they've built in the last 25 years, promising prosperity for all as a result, would be the end of us.  I personally live far enough out from the roads, and deep enough in the forest that I might have a chance to escape the notice of freebooters. I suppose only the actual event will tell.

Maybe I'll live out my life before that happens, but I have a feeling this is coming sooner than most of us would credit.

One day of decent weather, then more single digits.

Today was the most pleasant we've had in some time.  It got up to around 48 degrees, which feels balmy after all these very low temperatures. However, it will be single digit again tomorrow night, Tuesday and Wednesday. After that, the weather forecasters say it will be in the low twenties at night, which I used to consider cold. Now that seems quite tolerable.

I went down and checked the well head, found no sign of a leak.  I don't know of any way to tell if water is constantly running through the line up to the shop, because there is no pressure tank on that line and hence no pressure gauge. Pressure in the house is about 38, which is normal.  If the pump is actually running full time down there 178 feet below surface, because there is a leak somewhere between the well and the building, I'll find out before long two ways .One, my electric bill will be colossal. That's not the most definitive method, since it was already twice the normal due to my having to run extra heat in the outbuildings. But the other method is beyond question. The pump will burn out.  It's only built for burst pumping, not hours at a time, and it will go. That will answer that question, but it will cost me about $1000 for a new one if it happens.

You would think there would be some other method of determining when water is running through a pipe, but if there is I don't know it.  I am going to call the well drillers tomorrow and ask them if they know a way to do it. I don't want to cut the pipe, which I know someone will suggest, and I'm going to try to exhaust any other possibilities before I resort to that.

I have noticed some tempers getting frayed on some of the blogs.  I would imagine that the long cold spell, with all it's attendant problems and trouble, have worn people down.  I can understand that, and it's a rare person indeed who doesn't give way to a moment of pique when they are under stress.  Enough bad things have been happening to some people that they would be inhuman if they weren't reacting to it.  I'll be glad when the weather gets more normal and we all have less to deal with.  No one needs the aggravation of bitterly cold weather related problems.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Who's out there in the woods, devouring the dead chickens?

I don't want to go to bed this early because then I'll wake up in a couple of hours and be up all night. So I am trying to stay awake just now.

Looking at the book shelves, hoping to find something to read, I came across this.

I remember finding it in a bookstore in  a  small town just outside Atlanta.  I've never seen a copy anywhere else.  I bought it because the author was writing about why people do the things they do under stress.  That seemed like useful knowledge even though the book cost about $15.00, which was a lot for a paperback at the time.

What Gonzales does is look at people in high risk professions, and then contrast their behavior in dire situations with different psychological studies that might shed some light on their actions.  It all boils down to "why do some people do really stupid things in an emergency and others do the right things?"

Because he uses actual case studies,  it's an interesting read. You can go through the first page of a chapter and figure out what is going to happen as he sets up the story.  Reading it on through and confirming your worst fears is addictive.  On the other hand, some of his case studies show individuals who did it right, stuck it out, and survived. Many of them are not the ones you would have picked from a mixed bag of characters to be the survivors.

I'm not sure if there are still copies out there.  I would imagine you can get one from Amazon used if nothing else. My copy is marked up in all different colors, as I've read it numerous times and highlighted the things that struck me as worth remembering.

Now I think I'll go start reading it again and try to stay awake that way. The dogs are helping me. Every ten or fifteen minutes they start raising hell and rushing around outside the house.  They are gravitating to the spot where I toss dead chickens over the fence. Something is out there looking for a frozen chicken dinner, and more power to whatever it is.  Coyote, raccoon or possum would be my guess. Bobcat or the elusive red wolf,  currently being reintroduced up here, I doubt.  Not a bear.   If it were anything other than the minor players of the forest, the dogs would be making a completely different noise. This is just their moderately interested tone of barking. Something bigger would be their "bring the gun and the flood light" bark.

Journey to Town

My wife and I drove into town today.  We wanted to buy some insulation for water pipes.  Rob suggested I insulate the water line going up to the shop and apartment.  Although that's all underground and I'd have to wait for a thaw, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to check my pump itself.  When I did, I found that all the insulation had been torn out when I had the pump replaced a couple of years ago. Until now, it hadn't mattered. But there was an icicle hanging down off the shut off valve, which is probably where the pipe froze the other night.  We had a brief period of sunshine yesterday and it hit the pump cover, which is a kind of fiberglass dog house looking thing.  The frozen joint thawed, and there is water up at the building again.

I did get the insulation and after an hour of uncomfortable work all the pipes are now well covered.  If I am lucky at the worst the gland on that shut off valve may leak and I'l have to put a new one on there. That's not hard.

Over at Pioneer Preppy's blog, there was a comment to the effect that cheap versions of products we all use are getting scarce, while there are plenty of "brand name" versions of the same commodities on the shelf. That's certainly true at our Walmart.  Their house brand is "Great Value" and they sell a great many food items at a good price under that label.  But today we wound up buying the band name bacon, orange juice, coffee and other things because the house brand was sold out.

I also took our "long term" shopping list in and bought the things on it.  I have two lists on the refrigerator. One is short term items, mostly consumables like orange juice, bread and the like.   The other is labeled "long term." Those are things we just need to pick up for our store room, and I wait to buy those until I find them on sale.  That would be toilet paper, spices, large amounts of canned goods, etc.  Today we bought the things on both lists.  Maybe I spent a few dollars needlessly but I want to keep my minimum levels of important items up to speed and even add a few extras of some items.

It's dark now and I think we are finished with being constructive for today.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2 degrees above zero, and I find a gun I thought I lent my brother.

Artist: Jared Sheer

That was the temperature when I got up this morning.  I didn't sleep in the apartment , my intention was to just go out there and run some water from time to time, but I didn't and the pipes froze. Not in the apartment itself, but somewhere out on the line between the pump and the building.  The pipe is only down 12 inches. That's more than adequate in normal times, but not for three weeks of bone crushing cold.  The red clay here isn't a very good insulator, and when the ground froze down to that 12 inch line, the pipe froze.  I'm hopeful it hasn't shattered, because I bought good pipe when I installed that line. If it has, once it thaws I'll have to dig it up and replace the pipe quickly. I can't run my pump constantly and if I turn it off I have no water in the house other than from stored water.

It's snowing in Louisiana and Northern Florida tonight.  That's pretty bizarre.  The further South you go the less the homes are built for cold weather and the harder it is on people there.  I'm reading about propane shortages in other states now, not just Oklahoma.  The weather looks bad all through next week, with another dip in the temperature coming in on Tuesday.

When my wife came home tonight, she told me a lot of the teachers at her school are running their home heat full bore and can only keep the house in the low sixties.  Everyone's energy bill is going to be much higher than normal, regardless of what form of energy they use to heat.  For people on a fixed income, this is going to mean real trouble since they don't have any surplus in their budgets, and sometimes have no reserve. I know the old guy down by the county road told me he is going to be in the hurt locker, and the paper is telling everyone the county is out of fuel assistance funds.

I can't lock my gate anymore. For one thing,  the lock is frozen solid and completely inoperable. For another, the cross bar that swings to open the gate is hitting on the cliff face and hanging up. Ordinarily if that happens I can just push it past the sticking spot but now that whole cliff face is frozen solid, like cement.

It's the old Chinese curse in action.  "May you live in interesting times."

Mosin M44. They used to be dirt cheap, but not anymore!

In digging  through a dark corner of one of the supply rooms, I came across a Marlin Camp Carbine in .45 caliber. I thought I had lent it to my brother, but I guess not.  Years ago I got this gun in a lot I bid on at an auction. I didn't want it, but you had to take the whole package and there were some guns in that lot I really did want.  I've never fired it.  It's a handy little thing though, and I like .45 ACP so maybe I will start using it as a truck gun.  Mosin Nagant Model 1944 rifles are getting so valuable today that it's probably not a good idea to use one where it's bouncing around in a cloth rack hanging on the back of the front seats. This carbine should work just fine in that role.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A good movie.

This never came to our theater, but it is finally on Direct TV pay per view. I watched it and really enjoyed it. First, it portrays older men as viable human beings. That's rare today, when characters of that nature are usually there as comic relief. Second, I've always liked Robert Redford since I saw "Jeremiah Johnson" in the campus theater at the University of New Mexico in 1972, I think it was. Sorry about the add at the beginning of the trailer. I couldn't find one without it.

The Ice Age

I walked down to the mailbox today, but I was cursing myself on the way back.  I never seem to remember that walking down the mountain is one thing, walking back up it is another. Especially when it is so cold that you can't sit down on a log for a rest.  The wind is blowing out there, and it's icy.  I just got back inside from doing the afternoon chores. Mostly running water through the outbuilding pipes, checking the temperatures in the outbuildings, and feeding all the animals.  I ran the Jeep and the truck for awhile.  Had to use ether to get the truck going, diesel engines don't deal with cold very well.

I checked the propane gauge. I'm using a lot of propane but I would rather do that than be cold.

This seemed like a good time to do some reading so I'm going through Lucifer's Hammer again.  It's a really old book, maybe a contemporary of Alas Babylon.   In terms of preparedness, people had the same concerns and issues when that book was written that they do today.  I suppose the basic requirements for staying alive in a disaster don't change, even if cars and clothes, and other things do.

  The one book from that period on this subject I don't really like was Neville Schutes' On the Beach.  It wasn't a bad book, and I like a lot of his military aviation based books. It was just so grim, with not much hope in it.  If you've never read it, the story line deals with the aftermath of a nuclear war, when only Australia has been spared the fallout. But the winds are bringing it down on them, and everybody knows it.  I like stories that give you a chance to "get out alive."

  That's not terribly realistic but one of the reasons for reading is entertainment.  Maybe not the most important reason, but it's still there.  I make fun of my wife because she won't go see movies unless she knows for sure they end happily.  That's why we didn't go see "Sole Survivor" this past weekend.  But I can see her point, things are grim enough and when you pay money for entertainment you want to leave the theater feeling uplifted and positive, not sad and dragged down.

I suppose I'm that way with my books.

On the Beach was good enough to be made into a movie with an excellent cast, whatever I may think of it.

I have been digging out some old cold weather equipment that I've had stored for eons. One of the things that has come in handy is a device that plugs into the wall socket on my barn, and "jump starts" vehicles. I need to put a new battery in the Jeep, because the one I have is ok for normal events but not for this kind of weather. However, the handy dandy ancient jump starter has fired it up when need be. I'm glad I have that, because maneuvering the truck around to use cables on the Jeep is impossible in the limited space I have here.

So far the power has not gone out, but I've been running the generator with a dummy load periodically to make sure it will fire up if I need it.  Because it's diesel it's getting a shot of ether on start up as well.  Even the cans of ether are from barn supplies, and I couldn't get along without them.  It's nice to have what you need, when you need it.

The rest of today I'm staying inside.  I've had enough wind and cold.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Better Times Than These.

I'm not thinking of the Winston Groom novel.

Actually,  I was thinking of how murky and convoluted life is today compared with even thirty years ago, let alone further back into our past.

I've always had a pretty straight forward view of life.  Things are right or wrong, black or white. Doubtless that's a gross oversimplification, but it's worked for me.  I suppose I'm lucky not to have gotten into trouble with that philosophy.  Maybe it has only been viable because I tend to limit my interaction with other people so my values are not frequently tested.

Everyone has seen the quote attributed to Edmund Burke (it may actually have been John Mill who said it)

Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

 I have always believed this was true and have acted accordingly.  You have to wonder, though, if things are not so shades of gray today that this outlook is obsolete.  It's perfectly true that by intervening in some other persons situation, no matter how desperate, you are opening yourself up to all kinds of  trouble.  In some places more than others. I think you have more flexibility of action in a rural setting, because in general there is an attempt on the part of the Sheriff's Department and the District Attorney's office to use common sense .  In cities, they just arrest everybody and grind them through the legal system.  Sort of a "kill them all, let God sort them out" attitude.

Maybe men today have to be different in this respect.  If you have seen The Road, or read the book, you probably remember the scene where the protagonist and his son see cannibals running down a woman and her child.  He has only one round for his little pistol.  He and his son run off and leave the woman and child to be eaten. I know, logically, that in this situation there was nothing else he could have done. Even so, the scene irritated me and really broke the connection between me and the father in the show that up until that moment had been positive. Well,  I've never denied I have some personality quirks and doubtless I would have done better during the Crusades than I do in today's society.

I see the logic behind the new , more realistic values but I don't accept either the logic or the values. Good thing I live up here on the mountain, I doubt I would last long in a city. Which gives me more to think about in terms of what happens after my wife retires. If  I leave here, I better go to the desert and not a Florida condo. I don't want to become the next Zimmerman.

A good news story on Electro Magnetic Pulse from Fox News.

I can't get the embed feature to work on any of the Fox News videos, but this was on their news page today and I thought it was interesting.  Here's the link:

Fox News story on EMP :    EMP story on Fox News

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Caught off Guard.

The weather radio said flurries today.  That being so, I did not drive one of the vehicles down the mountain and park it  by the county road.  It's a good hike back from there, and I only do it these days if  I have to.  This afternoon about three it started snowing very hard, and now it's too late.  My Jeep trail has a cliff on one side, and a deep ravine on the other. Hitting the cliff would be bad, but going over in the ravine doesn't bear thinking about.  I can get out if there's not a freeze, and the snow just stays snow. We are going into single digits tonight. That means if it got above freezing and any of it melted during the day, I'm sunk.

Unless I bundle up and walk down the mountain, I won't know if there's snow all the way to the county road.  With this kind of snow, it's likely that the higher elevations got snow but the lower elevations got little or none.  Or, it could have snowed all over the entire county.  I could turn the scanners on and see if the road crew is out, and I may do that when I get some coffee brewed. That will tell me what I need to know. Or I could call the county road shed in the morning, but it's too late tonight.

The wind is howling.  It sounds like a freight train off in the distance.  It's plenty cold out there, and I'm not interested in getting out in it.  I got the chickens and the inside barn cat fed before the snow got too bad, and I am going to feed the outside barn cats and my dogs on the porch.  If  I can get them to come out of the straw house. Sometimes, when it's this cold, they just skip a meal to stay warm.

Well, the power is holding up.  I have plenty of propane, firewood if need be, food, water,  animal supplies and everything else I need.  I'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Alas, Babylon. Reproduced by permission of the author.

This first appeared on The Sipsey Street Irregulars. I saw it on Survival Blog.   Since Alas, Babylon is my favorite survival novel, I thought others might enjoy this piece as well.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Firearms and Ammunition of "Alas, Babylon": Pat Frank, Credible Deterrence of Evil and the .22 Long Rifle Ammo Famine. "The first thing I did was buy several thousand rounds of shotgun and small arms ammunition."

Alas, Babylon is a 1959 novel by American writer Pat Frank (the pen name of Harry Hart Frank). It was one of the first apocalyptic novels of the nuclear age and remains popular 54 years after it was first published, consistently ranking in's Top 20 Science Fiction Short Stories list (which groups together short story collections and novels). The novel deals with the effects of a nuclear war on the small town of Fort Repose, Florida, which is based upon the actual city of Mount Dora, Florida. The book's title is derived from Revelation 18:10: "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come." -- Wikipedia.
I'm pretty sure my first copy of Alas, Babylon had a cover like the one above. If I recall correctly, I first read it in 5th or 6th grade after buying it at a school book fair. The book resonated with me, as it did with many of my generation, at least in part because it represented more than just fiction, but more likely our probable future. We had come through the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world held its collective breath and we schoolchildren were trained to seek shelter under our desks at air raid alarm drills. Rosey's school in West Memphis AR -- across the river from Memphis -- even went to the trouble of issuing dog tags to students so they could be identified in case of psychic trauma, physical injury or death. We had no trouble believing that a nuclear war could claim us all.
Later, as a teenager I volunteered to help the Marion County, Ohio, civil defense RADEF officer (Radiological Defense) inventory and calibrate CDV-700 radiation detectors and studied the thick, manila-colored, paper-bound manual "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons." It came up missing over the years, probably - like many of my books - at the time of The Great Divorce (circa 1984-85).
I turn to Alas, Babylon for my insomniac reading in the wee hours of the morning several times a year. Like many a good book, you occasionally discover a point upon a re-reading that you missed before. So it was with this passage the other night:
Randy decided not actually to take off his clothes and get into bed because once he got under the covers he would never get up. Instead, he took off his shoes and dropped on the couch in the living room. He stared at the the gunrack on the opposite wall. Until very recent years guns had been an important part of living on the Timucuan. Randy guessed they might become important again. He had quite an arsenal. There was the long, old-fashioned .30-40 Krag fitted with sporting sights; the carbine he had carried in Korea, dismantled, and smuggled home; two .22 rifles, one equipped with a scope; a twelve-gauge automatic, and a light beautifully balanced twenty-gauge double-barreled shotgun. In the drawer of his bedside table was a .45 Automatic and a .22 target pistol hung in a holster in his closet.
Ammo. He had more than he would ever need for the big rifle, the carbine, and the shotguns. But he had only a couple of boxes of .22's, and he guessed that the .22s might be the most useful weapons he owned, if economic chaos lasted for a long time, a meat shortage developed, and it became necessary to hunt small game. He rose and went into the hallway and shouted down at the stairwell, "Helen!"
"Yes?" She was at the front door.
"If you get a chance drop in at Beck's Hardware and buy some twenty-two long-rifle hollow points."
"Just a second, I'll write it down on my list. Twenty-two long-rifle hollow points. How many?"
"Ten boxes if they have them."
This is one of those passages that a modern mindset would find hopelessly naive and even dangerous. Mind you, this is the morning after the bombs have hit. Whike Fort Repose has not yet been affected by blast or overcome with refugees, Randy has already passed in his car on his earlier way into town a group of escaped road gang convicts, some armed with their dead guards revolvers and shotguns. Yet he lets his sister-in-law go into town unarmed and unescorted. The very existence of the gunrack where the entire inventory of rifles and shotguns are stored openly without thought to potential thievery from a B&E artist is dated and today would be unthinkable in all but the most isolated and insular of mountain communities here in Alabama.
And what did Frank mean when he wrote: "He had more than he would ever need for the big rifle, the carbine, and the shotguns"?
What quantity is "more than he would ever need"?
Here, we need to drop back a bit and look at who Pat Frank was, where he came from and what his journey was up until he wrote those words in 1959. Born in Chicago in 1908, Frank was a journalist and information handler for several newspapers, agencies, and government bureaus. He did not come from the rural existence he described in Alas, Babylon, although he moved there after a long career as a writer and reporter, and during his early years he lived mainly in New York, Washington, and overseas during World War II. He worked for the Office of War Information and was a a war correspondent in Italy, Austria, Germany, and Turkey during and after the war.
His novel, Hold Back the Night (another of my favorites) led to Frank's recall into government service and his appointment as a member of the United Nations Mission to Korea in 1952. The Amazon review calls Hold Back the Night "an excellent account of the withdrawal from the Korean reservoirs during the very worst days of the Korean War. It is compellingly and believably written, and tells a wonderful story of courage and dedication under fire, and the interactions and bonds that form in a small unit under continuous threat of attack. The writing is crisp, taut, and believable."
It is all of that. And Frank's description of the Marines of Dog Company on their cruel retreat demonstrates that Frank had absorbed the classic foot soldier's lesson, once expressed by General Walton Walker in the early, desperate days of the Korean War: "We can win without food, we cannot win without ammunition." Here's a couple of snippets from Hold Back the Night:
"It'll take air to find that company, and support it if it's still there," said the general.
"This whole coast is socked in," said the admiral. "I wouldn't send out a buzzard to fly in this weather."
It is decided to send out a one place helicopter to find Dog Company.
"What can it do?"
"I'm afraid not much for this job, sir. It's only designed for short-range reconnaissance, and spotting. It doesn't carry anything except a second lieutenant."
"Can't it drop anything?" the admiral asked. "Medical stores or anything?"
"Not very well, sir. . . "
"Well, what in hell is it good for except spot?"
"That's about all, sir. But it does have a couple of basket letters rigged on the outside, to pick up wounded. It's picked up quite a few wounded."
The admiral scratched his chin again, and then he scratched the back of his neck. "If it can bring back wounded," he said, it can bring up supplies. Ever think of that, commander?"
"No, sir."
"Well, have those basket litters filled with supplies, and send it out. We'll find out whether that company is still there, or not. What kind of supplies do you think they'll need, general, that is if they're still on the road?"
"Ammo," said the general of Marines. "Ammo and food and cigarettes."
"What kind of ammo?"
"Rifle, M-1." -- Pages 192-193.
Earlier, Frank quotes two of the quintessential soldier expressions of the Korean War, which rank in ubiquity just below the concept memorialized by that favorite song, "The Bugout Boogie."
"It isn't going to work, Sam. We haven't got dick." That was a strange and fatherless expression birthed by the Korean war. It could mean many things but one of the things it meant was that they didn't have the stuff, the punch, the power. It was the opposite of another expression of this war, "Ammo's running out my ass." -- Page 162.
Frank, and the anonymous soldiers and Marines he quotes have it right: Plenty of ammunition is one measure of power.
"A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition." -- Rudyard Kipling
And as a reporter and student of the Korean War, Frank would have been aware of incidents such as this, described in S.L.A. Marshal's book, Pork Chop Hill:
On his way out, Locklear passed Crittenden, who said to him, "Get back to 200 and tell Fox Company that I've either got to have reinforcements or ammunition; I've got nothing with which to fight." It was hardly an overstatement. The BARs and machine guns were all dry; half of the carbines were empty; all grenades had been spent in getting to the first three bunkers. In the clutch, what saved Love Company for a little while was the discovery of two cases of grenades in one of the bunkers. -- Page 124.
So, if Frank was well informed on the necessity of ammunition to continue a fight, what then did he mean by "He had more than he would ever need for the big rifle, the carbine, and the shotguns"?
In his little neighborhood of River Road outside the fictional Fort Repose, Randy has neighbors: a poor black family, the Henry's, a spinster Western Union operator (who is joined by her friend the town librarian and a retired admiral. He also takes in for the duration of the emergency his brother's wife and two children, his girlfriend and her father and the local doctor. Between them they bring to the community arsenal one battered single barrel twelve gauge shotgun that works almost every time (the Henry's) and an automatic sixteen gauge shotgun (the admiral's). That's it.
Toward the end of the book, this community is forced to seek out, confront and defeat a small band of "highwaymen" armed with pistols and a Thompson submachine gun, Small wonder that they lose one of their number, Malachai Henry, KIA.
A clue to Frank's thinking about ammunition is found in his 1962 non-fiction work,How to survive the H-bomb, and why. Unlike Alas, Babylon, this slim volume of 160 pages only went through one edition and has never been reprinted. When I went in search of it last week, the cheapest example was $200.00. So, I did what I often do when confronted with an economic impossibility in looking for a published work -- I sought it out via inter-library loan and, presto! It appeared at my local library in two days. I now have a thoroughly uncollectible xerox of said work in my library and in explication of Frank's writing in Alas, Babylon I would like to draw your attention to Chapter 9: "Of Rats and Men, and Food and Drink and Drugs, and Animals and Ammo," which he wrote about the same time Rosey and I were being taught to "duck and cover."
In 1957-58, while researching Alas, Babylon, it occurred to me that we were singularly fortunate to live in an area abounding in small game. During this period some crisis flared -- I think it was Lebanon -- and we decided to prepare. The first thing I did was buy several thousand rounds of shotgun and small arms ammunition. "Whatever happens, we won't starve," I told my wife, Dodie. "At least we'll have quail, and dove, and rabbit and squirrel stew, not to speak of possums and coons and maybe alligator tail and rattlesnake steak. And we have a dozen varieties of citrus."
Several months later I learned more about fallout than I had known before. . . The obvious truth was and is that the same fallout that kills humans destroys other forms of animal life. And there will be few, if any, shelter "arks" for animals. . . So I belatedly discovered that buying ammunition to secure game was a waste of money. It would not only be silly and unsporting to shoot sick quail, rabbit, and squirrel, but downright dangerous to eat them. Their meat might be contaminated with long-lived radioactive elements unknowingly consumed as they dined on seeds, grain, nuts, and exposed vegetation. -- Pages 110-113.
Of course Frank was concerned about the principal threat to humanity at that point, nuclear war. The fact that such ammunition would have been of perfect utility in any other systemic crisis was not to his point. He was, I think, too hard on himself for buying ammunition. He seems to understand that as he continues:
There is another, very definite use for guns and ammo. You may have to repel two-legged beasts of prey -- men.
Here again, each man must make his own decision which will be based upon confusing factors -- moral, spiritual, material, emotional, interlaced with love for his family and normal dread of death, spliced to the situation in his own community, and the situation in the world. All I know is what I myself would do, or more properly, what I think I would do.
Assume that I own a staunch home with a deep cellar in (the mythical town of) Missile Gap (Pennsylvania), and in the cellar I have constructed a shelter, of solid concrete block, for my wife, three children, and myself. In the shelter we have water and food. In the kitchen, and the utility room that adjoins it, we have another month's supply of food. . .
On the third day, we hear scraping and shuffling over our heads -- an intruder in our kitchen.
I think, undoubtedly a looter, and what am I going to do about it?
I have a pistol . . .
I must move quietly. The intruders don't know we're down in the cellar unless they're relatives, friends, or neighbors.
So I take off my shoes and go up the cellar stairs as silently as possible. I open the door into the kitchen very carefully. I attempt to achieve tactical surprise.
If it is a genuine raider or raiding party I say nothing. I just start shooting. If i don't kill I can be certain I will be killed without mercy. And I will make very sure that the intruders are dead.
In Alas, Babylon, those of you who have read it will recall, the "highwaymen" do a home invasion on the beekeeper Jim Hickey and his family, killing him and his wife and stealing their food, including the honey and their car. They later pay for this on the covered bridge at the hands of Randy's ersatz River Road squad of militia. Frank continues with an appreciation of his situation -- and his friends and neighbors -- in own community for survival, as I have always believed, is a matter of community more than anything else.
In my own home, off the beaten track in the deep Florida countryside, it would be different. A gun rack is part of the furniture in almost every home hereabouts. All men, and most women, and all boys over twelve, handle firearms as part of their daily life. Even when they have sworn off shooting wildlife except with a camera, as i have, there are varmints to be destroyed -- moccasins and vicious alligator garfish around the dock, rattlesnakes in the grove, a rare coral snake, timid, beautiful, and fatal, slithering across a walk in the moonlight, the salamander rat that defaces our lawn. Only a desperate fool would invade property around here without first announcing himself, and his intentions.
Furthermore, people are serious and thoughtful about protecting their homes, should war come. Some miles away, one of my best friends and a few of his neighbors have combined to dig and equip a small community shelter. At the same time they are, in his words, "standardizing weapons." They have agreed to use the .357 magnum for both rifles and pistols. This is a powerful big-game cartridge that will knock down a tiger or pierce the motor block of an automobile. (MBV Note: A bit of hyperbole there, but isn't it fascinating that Americans were dealing with the same issues of "well-regulated militia" that we are faced with today -- and that our ancestors of the Founding Generation faced as well?)
If you don't have a gun and are concerned about protecting your home, I'd recommend the Remington 66, a .22-caliber automatic rifle with nylon stock, so light that your wife can easily handle it. The new high-velocity hollow-point ammunition makes it deadly, and the ammo is inexpensive. And if there is no war, it is a fun gun. Twice a year, around here, we declare open season on snapping turtles, and use the 66 to shoot off their heads. In many states you must have a permit to possess a psitol, but nowhere is a permit required for a rifle.
Also, for the inexperienced the rifle is more accurate than the pistol, even for snap shooting. If your rifle has a white bead sight, you can hit something in the gloom, in the night.
I have devoted too many words to a tertiary danger. While I was buying ammunition, my red-headed wife was doing something far more practical. She established a revolving food reserve. -- Pages 115-117.
Frank, of course, wrote about dangers as he perceived them in his own America, in his own time, some fifty years ago now. That country no longer exists. It is a different country, less homogenous, more fragile, with little of the social trust that exemplified Frank's America and the dangers are consequently greater, more immediate, more pressing, more deadly. Holding onto a food reserve, even with a community-based militia, is going to be problematic, especially without adequate ammunition. The slow breakdown described as coming over a period of months in Alas, Babylon would happen instantaneously today.
In Randy's Fort Repose, toward the end of the book, Frank describes an expedition up the river to secure salt:
Their five boats crewed thirteen men, all well armed. It would be the first night Randy has spent away from Lib since their marriage, and she seemed somewhat distressed by this. But Randy had no fear for her safety, or for the safety of Fort Repose. His company now numbered thirty men. It controlled the rivers and the roads. Knowing this, highwaymen shunned Fort Repose. The phrase "deterrent force" had been popular before The Day and effective so long as that force had been unmistakably superior. Randy's company was certainly the most efficient force in Central Florida, and he intended to keep it that way.
What works with common -- or even groups of uncommon -- criminals works with constitutional criminals and wannabe tyrants as well. I have written before for many years on the subject of Credible Deterrence & the Logistics of Liberty.
What did the Founders intend with the Second Amendment? Liberals aside, gunnies would all agree that their purpose was to codify the people's natural right to arms. As men who had been compelled to fight for independence by the British seizure of their arms, it was natural for them to ensure that the people of future generations be enabled to maintain the tools necessary to repel tyranny. But I think their purpose was not only to set up the preconditions to resist tyranny when it appeared, but also to deter it by providing future would-be tyrants with a credible deterrent that would discourage them from making the attempt to begin with.
As I wrote back then in 2007 during another ammo shortage:
And this is absent any significant push in the market. Should the Clintons return to the White House, or there's another LA riot or Katrina disaster, the rush will be on and prices that are thought to be high now will be looked upon with fond nostalgia. Unless somebody nukes China, the market forces are going to continue to squeeze us, cutting down on our range time (also important to maintain credible deterrence) and threatening to make our rifles nothing more than expensive clubs.
So I guess I've told you all of this, in part at least, as an investment tip. Buy now. Buy a LOT. Start stocking up on everything from finished rounds to reloading equipment and components. It is the only way to maintain credible deterrence with our political enemies who seek to disarm us on the quiet. We all must turn our attention to the logistics of liberty, lest we lose the deterrence and are forced to fight.
And that was before Obama, which makes those years rosy with "fond nostalgia" as I predicted.
I was in a gun store yesterday and a fellow came in searching for .22 Long Rifle cartridges. The store was out, except for some very high-end target ammo. The would be buyer was nonplussed and more than a little irritated. "Where IS it going?" he asked to anyone, everyone and no one all at the same time. "Where is it?!?"
It wasn't a government conspiracy, I told him, it was supply and demand and the demand was just absolutely unprecedented. Who was buying it? he demanded. The simple answer, I told him, was a lot more people for a lot more different reasons than in the past. First, there were a lot more weapons being sold in past few years. They had to fed. Then there was the fact that ammo in standard self defense calibers like 5.56 and .45 ACP was so expensive that owners of those firearms bought sub-caliber devices to train with the cheaper .22 Long Rifle, hence more demand for .22. Finally, I explained there was the undoubted fact that many folks were, even those who didn't own firearms, were investing in gold, silver and lead.
He looked puzzled. "Ever read a modern survival novel?" I asked him. In almost every one of them, I explained, the currency goes tits up and only items of real property retain their value. Econ 101, I explained: the value of a thing is what that thing will bring in commerce. If they no longer trust devalued currency, people will find a medium of exchange that know will retain its value. Hence, gold, silver and the poor man's investment, lead. .22 Long Rifle has long been considered a medium of exchange in a disaster scenario, the same with 12 Gauge shot shells. He began to understand.
Again, although I did not tell the frustrated customer this, I refer you gentle readers to Alas, Babylon. When the currency became worthless after The Day, the banker Edgar Quisenberry realized almost instantly that he had gone from being one of the biggest fish in the pond to flopping about the shore, gasping for the oxygen of power -- money.
Henrietta was a fool. This was the end. Civilization was ended. Of one thing Edgar was certain. He would not be crushed with the mob. He had been a banker all his life and that was the way he was going to die, a banker. He would not allow himself to be humiliated. He would not be reduced to begging gasoline or food, and be dragged down to the level of a probationary teller. He thought of all the notes outstanding that now would never be paid, and how his debtors must be chuckling. He scorned the improvident, and now the improvident would be as good as the careful, the sound, the thrifty. Well, let them try to go on without dollars. He would not accept such a world.
He found the old, nickel-plated revolver, purchased by his father many tears before, in the top drawer of his bureau. Edgar had never fired it. The bullets were green with mold and the hammer rusted. He put it to his temple, wondering whether it would work. It did.
Again in this scene, Frank has grasped and presented us with the essential. Even moldy ammunition in a rusted revolver is a means of power, even power so negatively applied and foolishly short-sighted. I continued to explain the ammo shortage to the anguished customer:
If you have to blame anybody for the shortage of .22 Long Rifle, blame Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve or the vastly expanded community Preppers who because of the Fed's actions no longer trust the currency and are trying to put their limited resources where it will retain the most value. That that happens to be .22 Long Rifle cartridges is your misfortune but they can hardly be blamed for it. They are just looking out for themselves in the most prudent and possible way they can. You might as well rage at the tide like King Canute.

King Canute commands the tide not to come in.
Just remember one thing. The rules of Pat Frank's world of Alas, Babylon no longer apply, especially as to time-stimulus-response. The day after whatever systemic collapse lays this country low, you will not be able to blithely drive down to Beck's Hardware to pick up ten boxes of twenty-two long rifle hollow-points. In the end, as evidenced by Pat Frank's non-fiction words quoted above, not even he trusted that to be true. And that was more than fifty years ago in a country that has long since disappeared. So stock up on ammunition of all calibers, including .22 Long Rifle as you can, where you can, paying what you must. It is credible deterrence in the box -- to common criminals or constitutional ones.
Mike Vanderboegh
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126
(Permission to reproduce this in its entirety is granted as long as full attribution is given.)

Lehman's non electric

 I was "talking" with a friend via the internet.  She was posting on some things she liked, and mentioned that she is on the lookout for different kinds of soaps.

I suggested taking a look at the Lehman's site. They primarily sell things made by and for the Amish. However, if you walked into a 1920's hardware store, you might think you were at Lehmans.

Here's their link: Lehman's non electric

I don't have any business connection with Lehman's other than the fact that I've bought a lot of things from them over the years.

  • Wash tub for doing laundry by hand.
  • Scrub board for hand laundry.
  • Wringer for hand laundry.
  • Kerosene lamps and parts
  • Lamp fuel
  • Well bucket (torpedo with 2 gal capacity and valve)
  • Hand tools
  • Different kinds of soap
I'm sure I've gotten other things from them but those are the items I remember.  They have a good catalog. Unless things have changed recently, it's free. You just go to their link, and there's a button for requesting a catalog.

Gung Ho. The Proactive Survivalist.

Ever so often, you come across a survival book that isn't a how to do it book. It's more of a "how I took a crash course in survival."  Sam Sheridan's book The Disaster Diaries is one of those. I bought the Kindle edition, but as I always do, once I decided the book was worth having I ordered a hard copy.  This is a strange book, but it grows on you. I've read it twice now and the second time, I got a lot more out of it.

Basically, Sheridan got concerned about the way the society is developing, and he began to be uncomfortable with some trends in our culture that were becoming more pronounced. He has a wife and a small boy. What is the absolute, utter, irrevocable responsibility of a man with a family?  To protect them and provide for them. There aren't any nuances to it, it's one of life's rules not subject to interpretation.

Realizing he was short on skills, Sheridan set out to acquire the knowledge and equipment he felt he needed to come up to scratch.  This book is a description of his efforts to do that, and runs the gamut from Cody Lundin's survival course to learning car theft and lock picking from a former Hispanic gang banger and jail bird.  The different episodes are tied together by a fictional account of disasters he guides his family through. I think he is describing dreams he had but I'm not sure. Either way, it's an effective mechanism for keeping your interest in what could have been just a laundry list of "and then I went to" narratives.  The Kindle version is very cheap, so I would recommend reading the book the first time by downloading it, if you have that capability.

I've done a post on this book , Emergency, before.  But because it fits in the Gung Ho! category, I wanted to revisit it.

Neil Strauss was not a survivalist when he started doing his research for this book. He was an author who wanted to take advantage of what he saw as a growing market for survivalist literature. By the time he finished with his research, he was a hard core survivalist and a believer.

Like Sheridan, he was motivated by the feeling that he could not take care of himself in a major disaster, let alone his girl friend. (The more you read about the girl friend, the more taking care of you realize she needs).
He started taking courses, and it's interesting to see how closely Sheridan's choices in acquiring skills paralleled the decisions Strauss made.  I don't want to steal the books thunder, but I will say you get your money's worth. What I found particularly interesting was the conversion of a typical urban thirty something into a believer.

Both of these books are about hard chargers who decided they needed to get up to speed on the self sufficient lifestyle. They rate the Gung Ho appellation.  Gung Ho is Chinese, and the literal translation means working together. In the Marine Corps, any hard working , highly motivated individual is said to be "Gung Ho."  These two guys are that, without doubt. The books represent money well spent, because you will almost certainly come away with some thoughts worth considering in your own planning cycle.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Some things you do but you don't really know why.

 Among other things, I fired out all my "ready" ammunition yesterday.  Since I keep loaded firearms in a number of places around my house this constitutes some considerable shooting.  I don't know why I should periodically fire all the ammunition I use in carry weapons or house guns, but I have been doing it for years.  Jeff Cooper, an early gun guru, did so and Massad Ayoob supports the idea, so I do it.

   In my 17 round magazines, I only load 15 rounds. In 30 round rifle magazines, I load 25 rounds. So yesterday I fired about 100 rounds of 9mm,  150 rounds of 7.62X39,  and 24 rounds of .38 special or .357 magnum.  All of the brass was reloadable except the 7.62X39.   If I go down behind my barn, I have a clear field of fire down the length of the meadow for about 100 yards.  It's nice not to have to go to the range for this kind of shooting.  After I finished with that, I took down my targets.  Then I went around to my front porch, and spent about 30 minutes firing .22LR from my Polish M1948 rifles. They look like Mosin Nagant 1891/30 rifles but were built for training so chamber .22 LR.  I have an old pot hanging out in a tree, and I can sit on the front porch and blast away at it to my hearts content.  I still have most of a case of Russian .22LR I bought from Sportsmans Guide back in the early 90's, so I'm not short of .22 LR.

Later in the day we drove up to North Carolina.  There's a pet store up there where the owner will get things for us we can't order direct off line.  My two sick ferrets need a particular high protein supplement, and the manufacturer won't sell direct to customers.  So this fellow orders it for us.  We got two tubes, then went to their Walmart. My wife found Smithfield spiral cut hams on sale for half price, so we bought some. One to eat now and several for the freezer.  

On the way home we stopped at a little restaurant on the lake and had a good breakfast.  I liked the place and though it is a ways out of town we will probably go back.

Today we are just staying home. Miriam is watching television and I plan to do some reading. I guess I will have to go up to the study and read in my easy chair, because when I went into my bedroom to read there, the bed was full of slumbering ferrets. They like my comforter, and have abandoned their boxes to move into my room. I usually keep the door shut so they can't get in there, but Ragnar was scratching on the door wanting in, and my wife felt sorry for him. It was an evil ploy though, because when she opened the door, out from behind the wood burning stove rushed the whole thundering herd, and now they are all in there.

So far it's been a great weekend, cold or not.  We have snow flurries every night, but they don't stick because it's too dry. Even with both humidifiers going full tilt, and a big pot of water boiling on the stove we can barely keep the air at 50%, and this house is just about air tight. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Snow and sleet, 14 degrees above on tap for tonight.

I've been sitting upstairs, drinking coffee and listening to NOAA weather radio.  Not long ago, they proposed to cut off our weather radio here to save money.  So many people raised hell that the big wigs in D.C. relented. It figured they would want to keep funding temperature buoys out in the ocean but stop broadcasting local weather.  I can get weather from the internet, but the Weather Channel is gone now. Direct TV dropped it.  The fact is, the weather outfit they replaced Weather Channel with is a better one, because it doesn't have all these asinine shows about prospecting and "freaks".  What has any of that got to do with the weather? The new outfit just does weather, all day, and I was watching it instead of Weather Channel anyway.  I will miss Stephanie Abrams, the statuesque amazon blond. I'll also miss Jen Cargfagno, because she was such a sweet natured person and a good wife and mom. She always worked the bad shifts so she could be with her family. But that's how it goes.

Tonight we have sleet, freezing rain and snow predicted.  Supposedly it will pass through quickly and not be a bother. I hope my wife gets away from school and gets on home as soon as she can. She has to cross the mountains to get  back here, and both passes ice up quickly. If she leaves her mom's by four, she should be home early enough to avoid the bad weather.

Parking up here is hellish. I've mentioned before that I have parking pads for the vehicles, but not much in the way of turn around room.  The pad I've been using for my wife's car has no turn around at all. I have to back it down a steep slope, through the trees, before I can get the nose pointed down slope. Last weekend I was backing up, with the door open. The ridiculous little owls eye window in the back of the car is useless. But as I passed a tree, the door was a little bit too much open and it hit the tree. Not a lot of damage but it will be a shop job to fix the thing back so it fits in the door slots correctly. Something is always jumping out of the woodwork to bite you in the derriere on this mountain.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Magazines on the stand today.

I took a drive today, just for something to do.  I've lived here a long time, nearly 30 years, but there are still back roads and some old forest service roads I haven't been on.  I passed a frozen pond and there was a herd of deer clustered around it, probably about sixteen or so of them. I doubt they were at the pond for water, since a huge creek runs by that meadow. Maybe they were just enjoying the sunshine.

I ended up in town, and stopped by the grocery store.  The new magazine that replaced "Surplus Guns" was
out on the magazine racks.  It's at least as good as the old magazine, and possibly better.  There were articles on reloading for the older guns, coverage of some surplus rifles that aren't very well known anymore,  and an article on surplus military equipment.

I also found the second issue of  "Off Grid" magazine.  Although it's almost ten dollars, it's actually a pretty good read.  Do you remember the song Tavia sang in "Fiddler on the Roof."   

Lord who created the Lion and the Lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.
But would it spoil some vast , eternal plan,
if I were a wealthy man?

When you read "Off Grid" you feel that way.  The equipment they review is superb, and would be wonderful to have.  The articles on vehicles, weapons and ancillary equipment are interesting.  It's just that a normal family in these times can't afford any of it.  They had a really good article on building a bug out vehicle in this issue, something I would absolutely love to have, but it wasn't something anyone I know (except maybe my middle brother) could actually afford.  I don't mind though, I am getting a lot of entertainment out of reading the magazine even if I can't buy the things in it.

Well, time to go put the beef broth on to boil.  When winter is here I mix it with the dog food to make it more nutritious.  If I have any bacon fat or anything of that nature, I mix that in too.  Dogs do not live by dog food alone.

Well, it snowed after all.

It did get around to snowing tonight. Big, feathery flakes.  Not the harder snow that you can hear falling through the trees,  but the big flakes you see on Christmas cards.

After awhile, it stopped and the moon came out. It's a big, full moon and the light reflecting on the snow has really made it bright outside. I used to like to go for walks on nights like this. I can follow the Jeep trail down the mountain, and when I come out at the bottom there's a good view of another mountain. It's spectacular and this would be a perfect night to go see it. After giving it due consideration, though, I decided to just enjoy the view from the upper floor study.  Getting down the mountain on foot in the snow wouldn't be all that hard, but coming back up might be more trouble than I need.  I'm glad it snowed, though.

The ferrets have not yet settled down after Jasmine passed on.  Ferrets are colony animals, and they have a hierarchy. Jasmine was the one they orbited around, and now they are unsettled. I'm not sure who will take over, with Ragnar and Rowena sick, and the other two are really not old enough yet.

They are looking all over the house for her, trying to open cabinets, pulling their bedding out of their boxes, and searching under all the furniture. Ferrets manifest anxiety by showing out, and there's a lot of that going on just now.   Turning over their food bowls,  tearing up their papers, and trying to dump over their water bowl.  Once they adjust all of that will end, but it's a hard time for them.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lots of wind, but no snow.

So far today, the snow hasn't materialized.  It's cold and windy,  but the sun is coming through from time to time.  I've been staying around the house, both because I have nowhere in particular I need to go, and because I don't want to get caught out on the road if it does start snowing.

Higher up on the mountain tops,  water has condensed out on the trees and frozen, so you get this crystal effect.  It isn't snow, it's just ice at the higher elevations, and then only on the tree limbs. I live just below the topographic crest of the mountain, so sometimes I can walk out into the meadow, look up slope, and see where the freeze line was.

Last week, the farm ponds and the small lake all froze over.  It's not that unusual for the ponds to freeze, because they are shallow. But I can only remember a few other times that the lake froze completely across. It wasn't thick enough to walk on, but it was certainly unusual.