"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Being Dense is Good

Have you ever stopped to really consider that the modern convenience of refrigeration is REALLY modern.  I mean, it has only existed since the early 1950s? Somebody figured out that the Second Law of Thermodynamics meant that it was possible to figure out a way to use chemistry and modern machinery to make heat flow  in such a way to cool things down, even in a tropical environment.  Amazing.

But modern, or should I say "post modern" man has become so irresponsible and lazy that he just takes this modern convenience for granted.

I'm pretty sure that anybody reading this has experienced a power failure and has had the experience of losing food and having to clean up the mess of thawed out freezers and refrigerators. Imagine the cleanup in New Orleans after Katrina.  Sorry for that mental image, but I've got a point to make.

What if refrigeration wasn't just temporarily gone for a few days? What if you were pretty sure that it was gone for the indefinite future?

Canned tomatoes and pickles
That's what we are planning on.  We still freeze stuff.  But we "can" a lot of stuff.  I put the word can in quotes because I have no idea how many people might come to this site and not understand this archaic term.  It's funny because the home, or do-it-yourself process doesn't involve cans, but rather jars.

Anything you see or buy in the grocery store that comes in a can, you can "can" yourself. (Why do I suddenly have this image of kicking legs and ruffle skirts?)  We haven't done it yet, but one of the next things we will can is chicken.

Left hand
Two things I need to type out at this point:  I just came back from a seminar about butchering animals.  I hurt myself pretty badly yesterday around noon. I was cutting up my spent tomato vines and other plants and in a rush I snipped my pinkie.  Okay, I really snipped my pinkie.  OKAY.  It's darned lucky I didn't hit the bone.  Picture to follow.  Shut up.  You know you want to see it.  It's a good thing there was a nurse in the house. She had me bandaged up and back to work in about 15 minutes.

So I'm sitting here trying to type and I've got duct tape on my left pinkie and it is seriously slowing me down.  Normally I can just type my thoughts, but this is like having a stroke or something.  It's taking forever to get the words out.  Now I know how stroke victims feel.

UPDATE:  Now I'm back to typing okay, but before I go back to doing any more gardening, I will have to bundle up the finger again.  So, where were we? Ah, the canning thing. I have to admit right here that Twyla is the one doing the canning.  I might help out with some of the prep work, like peeling and slicing, but she's the one who pays attention to the recipes and the time in the hot water bath. I chose to write about canning today because I went to a seminar last night at the church on butchering domestic and game animals, and the subject came up in passing when the risks of contamination were talked about.

Life is full of risks, but they are manageable when one uses caution and that rare thing called "common sense."  Sure, there is a possibility that you could get botulism poisoning from canned goods, even from store bought, factory produced food, but there are warning signs.  It wasn't that long ago that I opened a national brand can of tomato sauce and it turned out to be under pressure.  "DANGER!" I threw that can away.  Just use your head.

sliced for drying on silicone silpat
Canning is one of the safest and easiest ways to preserve your own food for long term storage.  With rare exceptions, most bad bacteria and other microbes that can harm you will easily die when exposed to temperatures of 140° - 160° F. Canning involves immersing the food and container in boiling water for anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.  As the jars and lids cool down and you hear that distinctive pop as the vacuum sucks the lid down tight, you know you've got a good, airtight seal.

Apples, Tomatoes dehydrated
Another method of preserving food that takes up a lot less space is dehydration. For example; tomatoes are about 90% water, and it's the existence of that water that provides a medium for the microbes to rapidly decompose the fruit. Remove almost all that water and the remaining acid and other protective components will make the food last longer.  Vacuum pack the product and it will last for years.

Volume wise, this method is great because of how much food can be packed in such a small area. The jar of tomatoes you see on the right is approximately a dozen, and they are not even tightly packed.  I could add almost a dozen more and re-vacuum pack the jar.  There are more than a dozen apples in the other jar.  All the nutrition is there with no added chemicals or artificial preservatives.  These were done just using the gentle heat of the pilot light in the oven, since we have propane for the stove and oven and central heat.  And while the tomato is not really "sun-dried" I dare anyone to tell me they can taste the difference.

dehydrated tomatoes
Since we only have a couple of silicone silpats, another way to lay out fruits and veggies for drying without sticking, is to crumple a sheet of aluminum foil and then flatten it out, then swab it with a vegetable oil.  You don't want to cut the tomatoes too thin. You will be amazed how a slice of tomato nearly a quarter inch thick will shrink down to a paper thin piece.  My next project is to create a dehydrating box out of some relatively cheap materials.  I plan on taking step-by-step photographs of the process, in case anyone would like to duplicate it.

Another thing you should know is that there are lots of things that don't really even need refrigeration.  Chances are that everybody reading this has mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup in their fridge.  None of those things need to be in there.  Seriously. Did you know that even eggs can go two to three weeks in just moderately cool temperatures.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Passion for Mystery

We walked across the road this afternoon to see if we could still get some grapes from the neighbor's vine, or maybe a few blueberries, but, alas, we had waited too long.   Pretty much all but a very few of the grapes were all gone except for a few little clusters here and there, but nothing worth carrying a pot over to collect anything.  But we gave our neighbor a dozen eggs and chatted, and while looking around, I spotted this fruit that I'd never seen before.  It's about the size of a goose egg, and I managed to get  one picture along with some grapes next to it for perspective on size.

Those tri-lobed leaves with the holes in the foreground are on the same vine as the fruit.  The third shot shows a flower but it's either on its way to closing or opening, I can't tell for sure.  It has fine little purple petals. The leaves are younger and easier to see in that shot.

Now, neither Twyla nor I have ever seen one of these in situ before, so we didn't have a clue what it might be, although I've seen pictures of paw-paws and thought it might be, since paw-paws are indigenous to this area.  But paw-paws grow on trees, not vines.  Being up here in the mountains of North Georgia, I would never suspect a subtropical type plant.

The neighbor said it was poppy, and that it was also a hallucinogen. None of that made sense to us since poppies are a flower that does not grow on a vine and poppies are an opioid, not a hallucinogen.  Well, curiosity got me, so I asked if I could take one and check it out.  After surfing the internet, I think I may have found the answer, but I would like to have someone with more experience confirm this for me.

You see, the fruit that I took is obviously pretty immature, and if the fruit is what I think it is, there are quite a few varieties and they can look very different from type to type depending on where they are grown.

Some varieties are purple and some are yellow.  Some pictures on the net show seeds about the size of apples or grapes, which is what I seem to have here, while some descriptions say you need cheesecloth or a fine sieve to separate the juice from the seed.

So help me out folks.  What do you think this is?

I will wait until another one of the fruits is ripe, and then cut it open and see if it more closely matches one of my suspected species.  Until then I'll just do a little more searching, or maybe one of my dear readers will make a positive identification.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think it is.  Maybe I should come up with a prize for the first person who correctly identifies it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

One Man's Trash . . .

is another man's treasure.

But seriously, here is a link about a Japanese man and his invention that converts plastic back into oil. Or mostly does so. It is a video that is only about 5 minutes. It is well worth watching even with the English subtitles.  Now, greenies and tree huggers will probably find this to be an onanistic delight.  But me, being my analytical and skeptical self --  well, I've got several questions.  First, the video seems to be produced by some United Nations University, ostensibly a subsidiary of that vile organization.  That makes the whole thing suspect right there.

For a brief moment you can see the temperature gauges on the machine and the readings are around 350° C, which is about 660° F.  It takes a considerable amount of fuel to create and maintain that level of heat.  The video never tells us what the fuel is or how long it takes or how much fuel or BTUs or joules it takes to convert how many pounds or ounces into oil.  This is important.  Would you ever buy such a machine and run it at your house if it cost you $30 worth of propane or gas or whatever to convert a couple of bags of your plastic garbage into $3 worth of oil?

If after the initial conversion of an amount of oil, that oil could be used to power the unit for subsequent conversions and then the garbage itself provided all the fuel, that would make a bit more sense.  But if that's all the machine did, you'd be pretty crazy to spend several thousand dollars on a machine that doesn't pay for itself, let alone make money.  You see, if the machine was cost effective, some private company would market it in a heartbeat.  Due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the machine would need maintenance, and a whole big money making market would grow exponentially out of that.

But the video unfortunately focuses on the global warming hoax.  The ridiculous idea that we need to reduce CO2 emissions.  In case you missed my previous post mentioning this; the current estimated CO2 level is about .0385% of our atmosphere.  That's very low.  We would have much better plant growth and crop yields if the level were closer to a full 4 percent.  Shoot, it doesn't even begin to get difficult to breathe until you exceed 7 percent.  The price of corn has shot up again in the past month due to this insane idea of making ethanol.  This is an extremely inefficient use of a food product which is hurting the poor people who rely on corn as a staple of their diet.

Am I against the machine?  Of course not, if it can be made cost efficient. If all it did was pay for itself it would be worth it to drastically reduce landfill space.  I'm all for reduce, re-use, re-cycle.  Twyla and I save every scrap of paper and cardboard because it becomes weed-barrier mulch in the garden.  I don't use those plastic bags in the produce section of the grocery store, I just put the unpackaged produce in my cart and carry it home.  Every scrap of organic material goes into the compost bin.  We strive to have as little trash as possible.

We have more oil sitting under the plains States here in the USA, than what exists under the entire Arabian peninsula, according to expert testimony before the US Senate.  Yet we will continue to buy oil from a regime that funds Wahabi extremist Muslim terrorism because of a lie, and because of environmental nutjobs and "progressives".  Ignorance is bliss only until you see the train bearing down on you. Ignorance is actually a dangerous thing.

That is all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Golly, it's yom chameeshee ("day fifth" - Thursday) and I have so much to do.  Welcome to my most incoherent blog post to date.  Go ahead, mark it on your calendar.

Yom Chameeshee
I have no clue how anyone can be bored.  I really don't.  I haven't had any steady employment since I moved up here at the end of February, by that I mean that I don't have a regular job with regular hours, but Adonai always provides just what I need, just when I need it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I work hard and get the job done as needed, and I don't expect anything for nothing. That's another subject.  I am just amazed that there are people who feel that they have nothing to do.  Twyla and I never have enough hours in the day.

If I wake up past 06:00, that means I've slept in.  Sometimes I'm asleep by 22:00, but occasionally I'm up 'til midnight.  I still rise between 04:00 and 05:30.  If I make enough noise when I get up, Brewster the Rooster will start crowing.  Since the cucumbers and squash and tomatoes are done, it's time to sprout and plant the cold weather crops: iceberg lettuce, romaine, butter crunch lettuce, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage, etc.  I'm also trying to sprout salsify (pronounced "sal-suh-fee"), also known as oyster plant, because it has a subtle taste of the marine bivalve, but of course, being a vegetable it is kosher, or more correctly, we would call it pareve, or "neutral".  Can't wait to see how successful is that endeavor.  As you can see from the picture, it looks like a white carrot. There is also a black skinned variety that is popular in Europe.  If you would like to read some more information on this plant you can click here.

Right now, I have knives to sharpen, seeds to sprout, plant beds to organize, wood to move, grain to grind, bread to bake, more bread to make, notes to take.  And I don't want more sleep, I want more energy.  I almost resent the fact that I need to sleep. Tomorrow is yom shishi (day sixth) which is Shabbat eve.  Shabbat starts at sundown and we try to have everything done in time so that when we light the candles and consecrate the bread and wine and give thanks to Adonai, we can enjoy the next 25 hours just resting and thinking about what a great gift it is to have Shabbat.
salsify root

I hope that by tomorrow I will have something more interesting to post on, but for now, this will have to do.  And if you want to see what Twyla has posted on today click this link.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

That'll Fix It!

Oh yeah!  In a country of 300,000,000 people, if 1,000 come down with salmonella poisoning, what do you do?  You spend even more money that you don't have to hire more bureaucrats to harass, intimidate, shuffle paper, point fingers, pretend to be important, do nothing about the real problem, keep you safer.

That's what this bureaucrat wants to do, and you can read about it here.  Yep. That's the answer. Everybody knows that the banking industry is in great shape because of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Name me a single person who doesn't love dealing with the DMV. Find any veteran who doesn't think that his medical care from the Feds is the cream of the crop. Who can deny that nearly every child in America who attends a government indoctrination center public school graduates with the knowledge and wisdom that commands a six figure salary, ever since Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education in 1979.

"A society gets the government that it deserves." I wish I could remember who first said that. Most people don't really know the history of this country. That's because you have to do a lot of study on it after you graduate from high school and college.  John Adams said that this Constitution would only work for a righteous and religious people [and by religion he ONLY meant Christianity] and that it was "wholly inadequate" for any other. DeToqueville said that when America ceased to be good, it would cease to be great.  In his pre-anointing speech, the dear leader said that "we are the ones that we have been waiting for."  The hubris in that statement is breathtaking. I think it is time that the 53% of the voters who brought us to this point looked around and quoted Pogo:  "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Okay, I've vented enough for now, back to farming.

Monday, August 23, 2010

So Sorrel

Back on the subject of herbal medicine . . .

For whatever reason, (our ancestors called it providence) I would pick this stuff as a little kid and eat it. I liked the tangy flavor.  Pretty amazing that I didn't accidentally kill myself by tasting different plants.  But again, that providence thing.  I have eaten stuff that made me sick, but didn't kill me.  In case you were wondering, daffodils are a powerful emetic. I learned that the hard way when I was 10. Ahhh, digression. But hey, this is my blog, not a Tolstoy novel.

Sheep sorrel in pot with acidic mulch
This little herb that I like so much is considered a nuisance weed by many.  Most people haven't got a clue what it is. To them, it's like crabgrass. This is called Sheep Sorrel.  Not to be confused with common sorrel or plain sorrel.  In reality, it's one of the most powerful medicinal herbs around. So much so, that it is one of the main ingredients in the Essiac® herbal tea treatment for cancer, even up to stage IV ("make sure your will is updated"). Burdock is another main ingredient and I'm pretty sure we have that around here and I will blog on that later.

Sheep sorrel, Rumex acetocella, is delicious in salads, but I even like it by itself.  Here is an excerpt from a website that sells the bulk Essiac tea:

Sheep sorrel is a rich source of oxalic acid, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. The combination of these vitamins and minerals promote the glandular health of the entire body. Sheep Sorrell also contains carotenoids and chlorophyll, as well as citric, malic, and tannic and tartaric acids. 
The chlorophyll can serve many functions in the body. For one, it carries oxygen throughout the bloodstream. This is significant because cancer cells cannot live in the presence of oxygen. Chlorophyll closely resembles hemoglobin in its functioning: both are capable of carrying oxygen to every cell of the organism. When chlorophyll molecules carry oxygen through the bloodstream chromosome damage can be inhibited to effectively block cancer. Chlorophyll also helps block germs and harmful bacteria.
Single Sheep Sorrel leaf
Most of the other sites that I checked out say most of the same stuff. That first ingredient; oxalic acid, is what gives the sheep sorrel its distinctive tanginess, and it is also what gives it its one side-effect; diarrrhea.  BUT, and this is a big BUT, you would have to eat something like a couple of quarts of this stuff to get that effect, unless you have some parasite or other digestive ailment that reacts immediately to all this healthy stuff.  This tends to be true about a lot of things.  The FDA and other idiotic and unnecessary agencies are fond of telling the world that good things can be toxic if you take it in quantities that it would take a herd of cows to eat in a day  in high doses.  Don't get me started on the FDA.  Worse yet, don't get me started on people who think we should even have an FDA. Grrrrr!!

The point I want to make here is: Why wait until cancer begins developing in your body before you change your eating habits?  And no, I'm not talking about eating like you live in a primitive country or giving up all your favorite things, but when I think of the average diet of most Americans, I shudder.  And don't get me wrong, I eat things that other health nuts wouldn't touch, primarily chicken, beef and fish.  But Twyla and I do eat kosher.  Certainly no pork or other animals not considered clean by Torah standards. I used to.  And I thought that giving up shrimp and lobster and oysters was going to be very hard, but guess what?  Not really.  Since I began eating kosher, I haven't had a cold, or any digestive stress or constipation.  I feel so much better.  Imagine that.  The creator of the universe actually knew what he was talking about when he told us what to eat and what not to eat.  For those of you Christians who think that Torah dietary laws are no longer valid, you need to go read Matthew 5:17-20, and then Acts 21:20-24, and those are just for starters.

Anyway, this is another herb in the long list that I will continue posting on.  See the archives in the right hand column to find my past posting on ginger.  If there's an herb you'd like for me to research and post on, leave a comment below.

B'rakhot Adonai,   Moshe

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bumming Herds

Wow, just wow!

Here is another video just taken this morning.  The hummers are extremely active this morning.  I don't know if having rain since 02:00 has anything to do with it, but the entire backyard looks like the scene from Independence Day with all of the F-18 Super Hornet fighters and the alien fighters just zipping around through the air.

There are just too many to count.  Twyla and I stand there in awe, looking at all of these birds flitting all over the place.  Half a dozen or more sitting on the wire that stretches from the house to the tree.  The distance is about 40 feet to the tree. The slope is about 15 degrees.

Because they all move so fast, we estimate something like 40 birds. At some moments, all 8 ports on each feeder will be full with another 6 to 8 sitting on the wire above, and then in our peripheral vision we can see several pairs chasing each other, with several more pairs sitting in the trees higher and farther out.

I had to edit this clip down from a full minute to just a few seconds because blogger wouldn't upload the full video.  Maybe later I will try to create a separate page that has the full video as well as other still shots.  This next still pic is great because the exposure was such that the faces and such are crystal clear, while the wings are moving so fast that they are virtually invisible.

We really love our little hummers!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gadgets, Tools, and Fools

Right after I was discharged from the Navy due to my inadequate hearing, I got a job as a mortgage loan processor. One of the underwriters that I worked with was a woman who made fun of the idea that you needed certain tools to do certain jobs.  I kid you not. She actually claimed that you should only need pliers to fix just about anything. Never mind that she didn't do anything like that for a living.  She just complained about how her husband had all these tools in their garage because he claimed he needed them.

Prior to attempting my Naval career, having been a Lieutenant Commander in the NJROTC in H.S., I had been a store manager for Discount Auto Parts, and had worked at a Ford dealership, doing brakes, air conditioning and various other repair work, and had even been a service advisor/customer liaison for the high-tech, ignition system, emissions control service area. I can tell you that the engineers who design cars are quite fond of designing machinery that require very elaborate and specific tools for maintenance and repair. There is a running joke that you can probably hear in any repair shop anywhere.

1st Mechanic: "Now why in the &*$^# did they make it THAT way?!?!"

2nd Mechanic: "The engineer probably caught some mechanic sleeping with his wife."

I give you that little introduction merely to emphasize how much I appreciate things that are simple and also extremely useful.  Some tools are simple and just do one thing and do it perfectly.  Some tools do really complicated things and require some skill to master.  So when you come across a tool that is incredibly efficient and simple and lets you do ten times more work with a minimum of effort, it's worth celebrating.  When it does so without the need for electricity or some non-muscular power source, it's even better.

That's why I love this little gadget:

This little baby cost us less than $30 brand new through Amazon and was probably invented a hundred years ago (I'm going to research that).

In case you have never seen one of these before, it is an apple-peeler-corer-slicer. Yep. All three are accomplished while turning the crank for about 5 seconds.  If all you want to do is peel, just undo the wingnut on the end there and swing the corer/slicer out of the way.  If you just want to slice and core, lock the peeler out of position.

Yesterday, Twyla and I processed 48 apples for making apple sauce.  Her very special apple sauce, and I highly recommend that you go see what she had to say about it on her blog. Now, had we peeled, cored, and sliced all those apples using a standard peeler and knife, it would have taken us a couple of hours, at least.  But with the two of us; me running the apples through the gadget and her trimming odd spots and cross cutting the slices into the stockpot, it took us a total of about 20 minutes.

It's very cool that the apples were free, and in fact, we could make a couple more trips to the source. Forty-eight apples made about six quarts of applesauce. We would like to do about a hundred more apples to be dehydrated and vacuum packed.  (I haven't blogged about it, but we did buy a FoodSaver vacuum machine.)

We try to get machines that do not depend on electricity or other fuel, but we weigh the labor saving against how much the tool will help us prepare food for storage.  I already have ideas for how to make a manually operated vacuum pump for future use. If we run out of mason jars or vacuum bags, I'll figure out how to store dehydrated meats and vegetables in other ways.

If you have any questions, that's what the comments box down below is for.

Shalom v'yom shishi tov,  Moshe

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Soft Shell Eggs

There are things that you get to experience in farming that you just never can when you live the urban or suburban or faux country life. There are people who have their summer vacation get-aways up here in the mountains, but that's nothing like living here full time and trying to create a place that can survive if "the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it" (TEOTWAWKI) takes place.  When you've always gotten your milk from the grocery store, you've never experienced milking a cow or goat and the immense difference in taste of raw, unpasteurized milk. I've had people tell me they didn't like tomatoes and then after I got them to try one of my home-grown, vine ripened tomatoes, they said, "OMG! That's what they're supposed to taste like?!?"
Golden Comet Hen with egg

You probably didn't know that from the moment they are picked, many vegetables, especially peas and corn, begin to deteriorate in flavor.  This is because the delicate sugars and the enzymes start to break down. That's why eating peas right off the vine in my garden is like candy. After they've set around in transit from some farm in California or Chile or Peru, or wherever, they just aren't going to taste as good.  I bring this up because not only do most people never experience how food ought to taste, they also don't experience a lot of the challenges that come with growing their own food.  When you get that burger or that fried chicken, or whatever, it is extremely far removed from all the steps it took to get it to your stomach. Those pretty white eggs come in a nice little carton after having been dropped by chickens fed a factory produced feed out of a machine, the chickens themselves fed by automated feeders, and the eggs are automatically sorted by size. You never get to see what happens when things don't go perfectly.

In reality, about 1 in 30 or so eggs fail.  You might get a longer streak with no problems, or you might have several in a row where the shells fail. Most of these cases, the parts that you eat are perfectly fine if handled carefully. A complete failure is when you open the door and there's just a busted egg laying in the bedding material. If the shell is all gone, this is a bad thing, because it means the chicken(s) ate the shell, which means they need calcium and aren't getting enough.  Time for crushed oyster shell.(BTW, humans can only assimilate decent amounts of calcium from vegetable sources, so don't waste your money on supplements from non plant sources). Otherwise, you can occasionally get an egg that is soft, as if the shell were made of thin leather.  Such an egg will be quite translucent, as the photo shows.
Translucent Egg

One of the problems with taking pictures is that they can't always relate to the viewer certain aspects. It is very hard to tell that there really is an egg between my forefinger and thumb in this picture.  I even turned the dimmer switch down on the halogen light to improve the view, but it didn't help as much as I hoped.

When you get such eggs, there is nothing wrong with the contents. You simply snip the end with scissors and empty the shell.  The resulting collapsed shell looks like the third pic.

It is fairly common for the first eggs from the chickens to come out soft like this.  Since they've begun laying, we've had about a gross (144) of eggs, and in the last half of that group there have only been about two or three softies.  What has really been amazing is how many huge JUMBO eggs and double yolk eggs we get.  I will try to remember sometime in the near future to buy a dozen eggs from the grocery store and  post a picture that shows a side by side comparison of our eggs versus theirs.

When we went to Asheville, NC to get rhubarb from Pauline, she showed off her chickens, and she also had some Golden Comets and some Black Sexlinks. She told us she had given some eggs to somebody and when she offered them more, they refused them.  Their reason?  "They were too rich."  Now THAT's rich!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Muskrat Love

Do YOU remember Captain and Tennielle?  For those of you who may not know, they had a song that was popular when I was in high school; "Muskrat Love"  Kinda silly, but then, most popular songs are.

I've seen lots of critters in the wild and live at the zoo, but I'd never seen a real live muskrat until this summer.

There is a creek that runs along the road that goes from town up to our house on the mountain, and as we were passing one day, I thought I saw a beaver swimming in there, but it turned out to be a muskrat.  You can't really make it out in the picture because of the glare on the water, but it has a long, black, round tail, and the face is a bit nicer than most rats I've seen.

Still waiting to sight my first bear and hopefully take pictures of that event.

Yom Revi'i Tov  (Happy Wednesday)


Monday, August 16, 2010

When There Is No Doctor

Everybody say hello to Ginger.

As a flavoring, I've always loved ginger.  It can go well with both sweet and savory dishes.  For versatility in cooking, that's hard to beat.  This has been my first attempt in growing ginger and so far, so good. Since ginger is really tropical, we will have to keep it in pots so it can move back and forth from the greenhouse.The following segment was lifted directly from the University of Maryland Medical school:

Ginger, the underground stem, or rhizome, of the plant Zingiber officinale has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times. In China, for example, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Ginger has also been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions. In addition to these medicinal uses, ginger continues to be valued around the world as an important cooking spice and is believed to help treat the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and even painful menstrual periods. Native to Asia where its use as a culinary spice spans at least 4,400 years, ginger grows in fertile, moist, tropical soil.
All I did to grow these little plants was to break off a couple of "fingers" from a ginger "hand" that we bought at the local grocery store. I let the little root stub dry out for about a week and then planted it in my own mix of potting soil with just the very top edge exposed to the sun and kept the soil moist.  I've got about a half dozen of these plants in process now.

Since even the head actuary for the Social Security Administration has come out with his own report explaining how there is going to be a dramatic loss of doctors and available health care professionals and facilities once the new "health care" bill goes into effect, it would behoove one to start making plans for the kind of medical care one could expect in places like Cuba or Canada or Great Britain or Zimbabwe, or even worse, like  North Korea.  Add to this scenario the conditions that will exist under "cap and trade", and travel with anything other than bicycles and horse and buggy will be extremely rare, so getting to any kind of modern medical facilities will be a monumental task.

That means that out of sheer necessity, people are going to have to return to the tried and true methods of herbal medicine that have worked for millenia. In some ways, this is really a good thing, since man-made pharmaceuticals tend to make the "cure" worse than the disease.  If you pay attention to the side-affects of most drugs, any natural alternative is far superior.  In addition, many drugs don't really treat the cause, but merely treat or mask the symptoms.

Twyla is a nurse with over two decades of experience including surgical O.R. My university studies were in pre-med biology. I've been dabbling in the use of herbal medications since 1980, and I've often had success where the most help I've gotten from an allopathic doctor was "I don't know; maybe."

Therefore, I'm going to post from time to time on one or possibly two or more herbs or plants that have medical uses.  I'm going to try to give you the best possible pictures and descriptions to help you identify these plants. This is going to be about facts that can be verified.  I'm a big believer in epistemology and logic.  REAL science. Whenever possible, double-blind studies are the best way to verify the truth or falsity of a theory. Anecdotes are useful to discover possibilities, but they don't prove anything.  You must be able to isolate and control variables, and more importantly you must have enough understanding to distinguish between what is objective fact and what is subjective opinion, something that is sorely missing in the modern world.  Most people wouldn't recognize a faulty premise or a coherent syllogism if it walked up and slapped them. This is mainly why the world is in the mess that it's in.

Shalom,  Moshe

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dirty Pizza?

Could this be a new advertising method for Subway?  You know Chick-fil-A has it's schtick about saying "No" to "burgurz".  Or could it just be that a store opened up next door that actually cleans pizza.  How exactly does that work?  Is it just a coincidence that there's a Chick-fil-A sign visible in the picture?

If you have any ideas, maybe you could leave them in the comments box below.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hummer Video

This really doesn't do the view justice, but I thought I'd try putting this up for you to get a taste of what we get to see.  If this works out, I may make a separate page with several videos.  I'll try to keep them edited down to just a minute or two of the best clips so it won't be boring.  This clip is only 34 seconds long.

You only get to see about six to eight in the frame, while there are a dozen more flitting about or on the wire waiting their turn.  It really is amazing.


The Beard Contest

Well, that's what Twyla calls it.

If you are a Navy person, you will especially appreciate this photo. For those of you who don't know, the goat is the official mascot of the U.S. Navy.  Don't ask me why, I haven't researched it.  There I am with my NAVY cap and blue windbreaker. This was taken this past winter as Twyla and I were out exploring the local area and looking at old barns in the neighborhood, so no, that's not our goat.

We are thinking seriously about getting some pygmy goats in the future.  Start off with a male and female and see what develops from there.  It will mean some kind of good fencing or tethering.  In order to do tethering, we would need a good guard dog to at least warn of predators, if not to outright chase them off.  Adonai would have to send us such a dog, because we aren't going to buy one.

Short post today, because it's SHABBAT SHALOM!!

UPDATE:  The answer for why the goat is the mascot of the Navy.

It brings me no joy or pride to share with you why the goat is the mascot. It's downright disappointing.  It has nothing to do with the nature of the animal or heroics or anything that makes good sense.  I guess I'll have to retain my pride in naval tradition from the likes of John Paul Jones, and the Sullivan brothers.  But here's the story on the goat:

The legend of Bill the Goat:

In the 1880s, ships sailed with livestock in order to provide sailors with fresh food.

There is a legend that a Navy ship sailed with a pet goat. The goat died during the cruise. The officers preserved the skin, to have it mounted when they returned to port.

Two young ensigns were entrusted with the skin. On the way to the taxidermist, they stopped by the United States Naval Academy to watch a football game. At half time, one ensign decided to dress up in the goat skin. The crowd appreciated the effort. Navy won the game.

In 1893, however, a live goat named El Cid made his debut as a mascot at the fourth Army-Navy game. El Cid was a gift to the Brigade of Midshipmen from officers of the USS New York. The goat helped Navy win 6-3 over Army that year, so he was adopted as part of the team.

There were other mascots in those years, including two cats, a bulldog, and a carrier pigeon. However, the goat has served without interruption since 1904.

In the early 1900s, the beloved mascot was finally given a name. On the return trip to the Naval Academy after Annapolis' triumph over West Point, the goat was led on a victory lap through the train and did not leave the midshipmen until they reached Baltimore.

It was then that the goat was given the name "Bill", which was the same name of a pet goat kept by Commander Colby M. Chester, Commandant of Midshipmen, from 1891-1894.

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Ambitious Project

If you've never had to pay a huge bill for electricity or natural gas or heating oil or propane, you've either been miraculously blessed or you haven't lived long enough. I have nothing against fossil fuels and I don't resent the companies that produce and deliver them. Such fuels are incredibly efficient at delivering unbelievably great amounts of "work" with unbelievably tiny amounts of waste. In fact, we've become rather too efficient at making them burn without leaving enough carbon dioxide to replenish the supply in the atmosphere.  Currently, the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere is less than 4/10ths of one percent.  It would be far more beneficial to plant growth around the planet if it were closer to about a full three percent.  More on that subject further down the page.

A house on the way there
Twyla and I traveled to a remote spot in western NC to buy an old porcelain on steel wood cookstove. The house it was in was being renovated rebuilt, by a 70 year old Viet Nam veteran who served with special forces and Navy SEALS. (Hang the ridiculous celebrities of today, this is the kind of person that impresses the socks off of me.) The house was probably built sometime before 1900, judging by the exposed timbers and such.  I wish I had taken more pictures. It was at the very end of a road that was only gravel a half mile after the winding blacktop ended.  I'm talking about a single lane blacktop that you could only go 15 mph on, not because of a sign, but because of necessity, and you wouldn't want to go any faster than that for fear of missing out on the great scenery.  It was somewhere north of the French Broad River.

1913 Karr: most parts removed
The stove that we bought from this gentleman was a KARR model built in Illinois in 1913.  A comparable model stove in really good condition on eBay would sell for about $3,000. Twyla spent enough time looking on the internet when we were trying to decide on what stove to get. We found the add for this particular stove in a publication at the grocery store.  The stove is quite a bit worse for wear than most, as you can see in the picture, but I'm Mr. Fix-it, and the sweat equity and challenge made the $350 price seem very reasonable. The first pic of the stove shows it after we unloaded it in the driveway.  The top sections and 100 pounds of other parts are sitting elsewhere waiting to be de-rusted.  There are a few things that need to be repaired; new hinges, etc.  I've got a vendor working on the estimate for all the exhaust parts I'm going to need to install this thing.  You can't see it from the front, but it even has a water jacket with plumbing connections so that it can heat water.  The next set of pics shows the place in the house where this baby is going to set. It's like the breakfast area off the kitchen, pretty much centrally located relative to the whole house.

Step one was to take out this built in shelving unit.  This is where you get to see the late 60s/early 70s decorating style. That nasty pattern was there originally, and then somebody built the shelving in a long time ago. The more neutral looking linoleum was installed around the shelving several years ago.

Then we went to Home Depot and found some 12" tile on sale for just 90 cents a square foot to install. Dark grout was a must. I've got a lot of experience doing ceramic tile, so it only took a couple of hours to install it, and the next day I put the wood trim around the perimeter.  Our hope is to eventually have all the carpet ripped up and replaced with hardwood. I'm pretty good at that as well, and some 3/4" red oak would be perfect in here.

With some hard work and the blessings of Adonai, we will be pumping plant food out of the chimney come November.That's right; plenty of wonderful CO2.

If that information shocks you, you might want to stop reading right now, because this blog is going to be a big defender of genuine science and not give any quarter to the idiotic crap that passes for science in the major media. Consensus of people with Ph.D. behind their names is not scientific. And in case you didn't know, most of the "scientists" who have signed on to the global warming hoax have their fields of study in things other than meteorology or earth sciences that would be relevant to the atmosphere.  And even among those who seem to have relevant credentials, the information leak on the East Anglia University data fraud demonstrates that such people don't really care about facts, they just have an agenda to promote global socialism.  Facts are facts independent of opinion. Computer models that don't include vital variables such as water vapor and solar cycles are just so much nonsense. This is why over 17,000 credible scientists have signed on to a petition debunking the belief in global warming.  You should be able to find plenty of links on the internet by reasoned, rational scientists who have thoroughly debunked this hoax.  You can start with Dr. Ian Plimer.  If you want more links, just ask.

The thing that I love about real science is how experimentation and observation makes it so easy to debunk the garbage out there. My favorite example in this case, is that you can seal a greenhouse and pump more than ten times the normal amount of CO2 into it, and in a matter of hours the chloroplasts in the plants will detect the extra level of carbon dioxide and respond by stepping up absorption and conversion to energy storage, thus returning the atmosphere inside the greenhouse to the previous gas ratios.  This has been demonstrated over and over.  If we produce more CO2, the planet won't get warmer, we'll simply have more plant growth.

I could go into details about chlorofluorocarbons and ozone, but this post is long enough, and if you are really interested in this stuff you probably already know that it's a hoax, but if you need more information, I'll help point you in the right direction.

Psalm 19: Tehillim l'El Elyon

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament tells of His handiwork.

Got up at 04:00 to go out in the backyard and lay down to watch some of the Perseid meteor shower.  There were a few really great streaks across the sky.  Pretty nice, considering we are in the mountains and surrounded by trees.  We can see barely 40% of the sky.

I wish I could remember more about what I've learned of the stars.  The gospel story is in the stars. That's what Genesis 15:5,6 is really all about. (Cross reference Galatians 3). The zodiac and astrology are a corruption of that gospel message, and so it is difficult to get believers to understand that God put his gospel message in the stars. Most people are unaware that prior to the first century, many synagogues were built by the Jews with the "zodiac" symbols in mosaic form in the floor.  They understood the 12 constellations to be representative of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Because there is much to understand, much has been misunderstood.  What a shame.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What a Grind

This is our new grain mill. It's brand-spankin' new. But it's very old fashioned. The motor is my arm. To be completely honest, it's really my whole upper body. Believe me, when you've finished grinding enough grain for  a loaf of bread, you've had a little workout. But this is really a good thing. I can feel it in my biceps, triceps, pectorals, deltoids and the rest.

The real reward is the most delicious bread you could possibly have, and more importantly, it's far more nutritious than anything you could buy in the store, and that includes your local "fresh" bakery.  How can I say that? Because with rare exception, I'm betting even your local bakery buys its flour already ground in very large commercial bags of 50 - 100 pounds each. Flour that has been processed so that it can maintain a very long shelf life, having many of the best nutrients purposely removed.  In fact, you might not know that it is required that key ingredients be removed during the processing to render the flour "safe" meaning that it can't explode if rapidly dispersed.  But even back in the days before such factory processing was done, the mere act of grinding grain exposed it to rapid oxidation. Such oxidation means that the flour loses up to 90% of its best nutrition within a week of being ground.

Hard Red Wheat
I will warn you that you might run into websites that challenge that assertion. They don't back it up with any facts, mind you, but you should already know that you can't believe everything you see on the internet. Think about it.  If you break the skin on a piece of fruit, what begins to happen to that fruit? Did you know that whole grain kernels have been found in storage that are hundreds of years old that are still capable of sprouting.  Why is that?  The big food companies that produce flour have to add vitamins and other things to the flour to keep it from rapidly spoiling. Any microbiologist can tell you that enzymes and amino acids and other organic compounds rapidly deteriorate once they are exposed to air.  You can do your own research, and you can believe what you want to, but my scientific mind and common sense tell me that this is the most nutritional way to go.

Organic Quinoa
We will be adding several more varieties of grains and even legumes to our inventory, but the two that we started with are the hard red wheat, and organic quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah").  Because Twyla has a thyroid condition and fibromyalgia, she is sensitive to gluten, but my suspicion is that she is mostly sensitive to the additives in most processed, factory produced foods. The quinoa is something that she can eat instead of pasta.  Since I already had a manual pasta maker, that's going to be one of the things I look forward to making. It will be very economical compared to buying already made quinoa pasta (about $6 for a one pound box). The red wheat is much cheaper; it works out to about $1.50 per pound. Of course it's not tremendously cheaper than store bought bread, but it is cheaper. But more importantly, it is nutrient dense food that will keep that way right up until we grind it and turn it into bread.  One very cool thing about grinding the grain is that the volume of the grain about doubles when it is ground, so a cup of red wheat and a half cup of quinoa becomes about 3 cups of flour.

Why a MANUAL grain mill?
Maybe you've heard of "cap & trade"?  A proposed bill that the leftists in government would like to impose on the United States. Along with other nefarious and unconstitutional acts, this would pretty much destroy energy production in this country, and you could expect for us to become a third-world banana republic in short order.  Of course, something else could happen.  Some natural disaster, or terrorist attack.  Did you know that all some rogue enemy has to do is to explode a nuclear weapon somewhere in high altitude over North America and it would destroy all the electronics for hundreds of miles from the electro-magnetic pulse or EMP.  It could take weeks or months to restore power, if ever. The neat thing about this model of grain mill is that the pulley that comes with it is a v-belt machine pulley, which means that I could mount a small motor on the board next to it and just get an old standard automotive v-belt and I could grind 10 pounds in ten minutes. Or, I could take an old stationary exercise bike and run a belt from the wheel of that thing to the pulley.There are many ways I could make it work easier.  But had we bought an electric model?  In a power shortage or outage, it would just become an interesting door stop.

In some future posts, I'll be sharing about the restoration and installation of an old porcelain and steel wood cook stove that dates from about 1913. That's going to become our primary source of heat during the winter in our little corner of the mountain.

I don't know if I've shared enough information to satisfy you. If you'd like to know more, please leave a comment below.  For now, I'll leave you with my basic bread recipe:

About three cups of flour (the blend I talk about above)
One egg (yep, from our own chickens)
One cup of milk (evaporated, or reconstituted from dry, or whatever)
Two teaspoons of yeast
Half cup of water
Three tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil)
Two tablespoons of sugar
A scant pinch of cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg, or all three (they are not for flavor, they actually enhance the yeast growth, but the flavor is an added benefit)
One teaspoon of salt

Dissolve the sugar in the warm half cup of water and add the spices. The water should be warm and not hot, or not above 95 F. Then add the yeast and let it dissolve and give it about 15 minutes to bloom and start eating the sugar. Then whip in the egg and milk and oil until blended thoroughly, then start blending in the flour and salt.  I have no set measurements for any of this. You may need to add a little more flour or water depending on the texture and handling of the bread.  I adjust the mixture until the dough ball can be kneaded without sticking to my skin. No moister and no drier than that.  Then it goes back in the bowl and covered with plastic wrap or into a ziploc bag and then into the refrigerator. If that seems odd, don't let it put you off.  Allowing the dough to rest and rise very, very slowly makes for a much smoother, even texture in the final product. Your patience will be rewarded.

B'rakhot Adonai,


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chicken Arks

A beloved reader of this blog wanted more info on the chicken arks.  I also know of a dear lady friend who wants chickens, but her hubby is against the idea, ostensibly due to predators.  So herein, I will give some more detail about the arks and why they are working so well for us.  I will also give some basic instruction on the construction of said these movable coops.

Being very limited on capital resources, the goal was to make these arks in the cheapest possible manner while still meeting the requirements of A) not losing any chickens the the various predators, B) providing the highest nutritional standards of fresh vegetation and "other" natural foods besides the cracked corn and laying pellets, C) being able to move the chickens around the yard which both provides the fresh greenery and fertilizes future planting ground.

Most of the wood that went into the construction of these arks was salvage wood that I merely asked for and received from somebody down the road who had it laying out near a barn.  There are lots of such places in the area, and we have many more ideas for the use of such wood, but that's a subject for another post.  The point is: you can get a lot of stuff for free if you are just willing to ask.  The lumber was old pressure treated decking, well-weathered.  This is important, because you would never want to use fresh PT wood as something that the critters would be in constant contact with, due to the chemicals involved.  I think it is safe to say that this wood has since had most of the bad stuff leached out of it.  Of course, it is only the wood that is used for framing of the arks.  We had to buy some 1/4 inch oriented strand board (OSB) for the bottom and sides.  A  4' x 8' sheet costs about $8 (your price may vary).  I got the basic plan by googling "raising chickens" and came across http://www.raising-chickens.org/chicken-tractor.html which has a series of somewhat detailed photos to show you the basic design.  The size of their ark was too small for my tastes.  I wanted a design that would hold six chickens comfortably and provide at least a day's worth of grazing space.

I started with the idea that I wanted the base to be 4 feet by 8 feet for each ark holding six chickens a piece. That provides 5.33 square feet per chicken.  Now, if you are thinking  that seems like a tiny amount of space per chicken, just keep in mind that the chickens that lay your store bought eggs just sit in a cubical just big enough to lay their eggs and are just fed and watered by some machinery.  Our chickens get fresh air, sunshine, stray bugs, our personal attention and petting.  We pay attention to how much fresh vegetation they get.  And my next post will probably gross most of you out when it comes to feeding chickens.

We bought a hundred foot roll of the 48" rectangular wire fencing material.  I still have enough left to do a couple of more arks or to create cages of some other sort. The reason for using this instead of chicken wire is because it seems more open, but it is much stronger against predators than chicken wire. We have too many cats around here right now for snakes to be an issue.

There is enough space in the "loft" for a dozen chickens to roost, but there are only six, so they have plenty of room.  There is an opening in the middle of the floor with a ramp attached with hinges underneath. There is a rope and a pulley that I use to draw the ramp up to the floor when I need to move the ark. I attached a standard rope cleat on the end to secure the rope.  The pulley is hard to see in the photo.Ark One is about 40 percent heavier than Ark II because I was experimenting with design and what I learned from the first model, I applied to the second. To move the arks I made a single axle to place under one end of an ark when I want to move it.  It's very simple. Just a 2 x 4 with a couple of utility wheels fastened on with "shoulder" type lag screws; 3/8" diameter by 3" long, with flat washers. You should know that Twyla doesn't have the strength to move either of these arks.  I think most healthy men and some women could, but you need enough strength to pick up one end and use your foot to position the axle and then pick up and move the ark with the fixed handles at the other end.  If you are going to build one of these contraptions, you need to size it accordingly.

Once again, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.  Thanks for stopping by the farm.

Monday, August 9, 2010

First Year Success: Straw Bales

This first picture shows our harvest from just one Sunday morning two weeks ago. Cucumbers, from only six plants, tomatoes from about six plants - with many more green ones still hanging - yellow squash, and jalapenos. (Danged if I can remember the ASCII code that lets me put that little squiggle worm over the n.) We have had this wonderful crop from a very small space of ground because we stumbled upon the idea of straw bale gardening. When I get better at inserting that html code stuff here, I'll make it easy for you to just click on the word or phrase to do the linky thing, but for now, if you just google the phrase, you can find several pages that tell you more. However, we want to share with you what we have learned.

If you think it's too late to start this process, you'd be wrong. There are plenty of winter type crops that you could be practicing with soon. I'm going to be planting cabbage, lettuce, mustard, broccoli, and a few other cold hardy plants, plus more spinach. I'll be using the remains of the straw bales that provided the crop you see above. But first, some background.

Why do this straw bale gardening?
Here in the mountains of North Georgia, unless you live on an old flood plain next to a river or a creek, your basic ground is going to be red clay and sand with lots of quarts and granite mixed in. It doesn't make for the best basic soil to grow most food plants. We've only been here for a year. Actually, I didn't move up here to be with Twyla until February, or Febu-ugly, as I like to call it. When we started discussing the garden plans it became apparent that preparing the ground would be slow, back-breaking work, and while I'm in pretty good shape for my age, I'm no spring chicken and I did work my way back from having had a herniated disk in my back years ago, so I didn't like the idea of swinging a pick-axe for hours to get a few square feet of arable land. Twyla discovered this straw bale thing on the internet, and after reading about it and discussing it, it made sense.  No digging, except to level the bales, which means no deep digging.  In the photo above, you see we laid out the bales in single rows.  While it worked out okay, I will not be doing that in the future because as the bales decompose, they do so unevenly and the tomatoes tend to fall over.  Also, the squash plants want to stretch out and put down extra roots, so a broader base would be helpful.  Therefore, we will be doubling the bales together, long-side to long-side, with a bit more space between the bales to walk. This more recent picture shows why.

The tomato plant could have used another couple of feet away from the yellow squash.  That is one huge yellow squash plant in the foreground. There is one zuccinni plant behind the yellow squash.  This one yellow squash plant has provided up to 15 squash and is still producing and blooming. For contrast, I took a photo of the yellow squash plants that were just planted in the soil along the steps on the west side of the house. We've only collected about four squash total from the eight plants that were just stuck in the regular dirt and provided with mulch and fertilizer. The cucumber plants (6) were most prolific. We have harvested at least 120 and there are still more to come and there are still blossoms coming out.

Not a pretty sight, huh?

If you want to try this straw bale thing, get the bales at least ten days ahead of time.  Position and level them carefully, with the understanding that they are going to decompose and collapse. Don't undo the baling twine.  Soak them with water at least once a day, everyday.  Expect to see mushrooms pop up after a while.  I actually got some porcinis come up and ate a few of them.  If you are sure you know what you are doing when it comes to identifying mushrooms, it shouldn't be a problem.  If in doubt, don't.

When the weather starts to turn a little cool, and I know that the existing vines are all spent, I'm going to salvage all the straw bale material and create new beds for growing spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, mustard greens and more.  I will turn the front porch into a greenhouse with clear plastic sheeting.  That will be after we celebrate Sukkot.(Feast of Tabernacles).

If you have any questions, please leave it in the comments. I'd be happy to help.

Shalom v'berakhot Adonai,


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Those Humdinger Hummers

I've had hummingbirds around other houses where I've lived in the past, but I've never seen so many as what we have here. Twyla and I have had as many as 16-18 in our field of view through the sliding glass door at the back of the house. We estimate that there are easily more than 30.

This necessitated getting another 32 ounce bottle feeder. The problem is; the 100 lb. test monofilament line broke at the connection and so the plastic base crashed to the ground and broke last night. I had already purchased some solid steel wire, used for electric fencing, to replace the existing line, but I wouldn't do it yesterday, because it was Shabbat.

Well, last night I was climbing up through the brush to string up the new wire to the young poplar tree on the hill and back down to the pulley on the house. But now we are down to the single eight ounce feeder, which the hummingbirds can drain easily in about 4 - 5 hours. We will try to swing by Fred's this afternoon to see if they have any decent hummer feeders.

I know that it may be hard to believe that we have that many hummers, so I'm hoping to capture a minute or two of video to post here so you can see how amazing it is. There is nothing quite as awe inspiring as watching more than a dozen hummers vying for space on a couple of feeders. They are all Ruby Throats, though the majority, or at least 75% seem to be female, or there are a lot of juvenile males that haven't gotten their ruby colored throats yet. They could also be called "Emerald Backs". The females don't have the ruby throats but their backs have that gorgeous emerald glittery look.

Climbing the hill at 22:00 hours (10:pm) in heavy brush is not fun. Then I seemed to "sense" something moving about, but couldn't quite make it out at first. Then I caught some glimpses of bats flitting about, just a few feet above my head. Apparently I had scared up some insects by my moving about and was creating some easy access to a meal. It was then that I realized that I had never noticed that there really were never any moths or other nocturnal insects hanging around the one lone street lamp that sits on the northeast corner of our lot. Gotta love them bats.

If you like reading about our hummers, please leave a comment below.

B'rakhot Adonai,


Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Aquarium: Lake Chatuge

Twyla and I go to the lake as often as we can. Summer is short in the mountains. I feed the fish every time we go.
It has gotten to the point that when we get to our regular spot, the blue gills are hovering there, waiting. We plop our folding camp chairs down in the water with the seats at about surface level. While one of us is reading our devotional material, the other is tossing bread or cheese into the water around our legs.
As you can see from the picture, I can now get down in the water and feed them directly out of my hand.
While it doesn't quite make up for my old 75 gallon salt water tank that I had down in Tampa, it does provide some fascination and entertainment.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Incredible Edible Eggs

We raise chickens. This is the first of two "arks" that I built so that our chickens could be as close to "free" range as possible.

You see, there are lots of predators here in the mountains. We have coyotes, bears, owls, snakes, mountains lions, bobcats, hawks, etc. I haven't met anyone who has chickens in this area who has not also lost some chickens to predators. So I built these movable cages. I have six hens in one and 5 hens and a rooster in the other. If I get enough comments or requests, I'll post more pictures with details about how they work.

The chickens can go up the ramp at night and roost up there, and that's where they lay their eggs. As of this writing, we are averaging 8 eggs a day. There is no comparison between these eggs and what you buy in a regular grocery store. These chickens get to eat cracked corn, a special laying pellet formula, plus insects and grub worms and lots of green vegetation. The yolks of the eggs are a deep orange and have a "heartier" flavor as best as I can describe it. Some of the chickens consistently lay double yoke eggs.

We discovered that of the vegetation available, chickens love two things most of all. Dandelions and radish tops. Chickens love grubs and caterpillars, but don't care at all for earthworms, (which I think is very cool, and not at all a coincidence).