"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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Okay, I'll Play

This particular questionnaire has shown up on several of the blogs that I read, so I've thought about it and decided I would go ahead and answer them.  I tried to answer them by leaving a comment on this woman's blog doing so, but I couldn't even get to question 12 out of the 20 before I exceeded the character limit.

Her list of 20 questions resembles a "push" poll. Perhaps you've experienced such things. A political operative calls you on the phone to ostensibly get your answers to a series of yes or no questions. Each question lays out a scenario or seems to report some bit of information as true, or states a theory as if it were fact and then expects you to agree with it.

I like most of the answers I found on a Texas Law Enforcement Officer's blog. I suggest you go read his answers as well.  Then go back to the main page and read his further answers to others.  Now, here are the questions and my answers:

  1. Do you believe that criminals and domestic abusers should be able to buy guns without background checks?    A:  Your question is silly. It doesn't have anything to do with what you think is a problem. Criminals, and that includes "domestic abusers," don't use legal or legitimate means to obtain firearms. They steal them or purchase them on the black market.  That's like asking if I agree that we should have background checks for buying heroin.
  2. What is your proposal for keeping guns away from criminals, domestic abusers, terrorists and dangerously mentally ill people?   A:  Outside of non-violent criminals, those who have committed capital murder, child molestation,  and rape  should be executed. Foreign terrorists should be hunted down and summarily executed after any valuable intelligence has been obtained.  Criminals with a proven history of violence and the dangerously mentally ill, should be confined to an appropriate facility.
  3. Do you believe that a background check infringes on your constitutional right to "keep and bear arms"?  A: Yes. And if we followed the answer to question #2 we wouldn't need background checks, just as we did not need them for the first 150 or so years of this country's history. Furthermore as answered in question #1, background checks have done nothing to reduce gun violence in cities with the most restrictive gun laws.
  4. Do you believe that I and people with whom I work intend to ban your guns?   A: Yes.
  5. If yes to #4, how do you think that could happen ( I mean the physical action)?    A: Banning something just means passing a law.  Kind of like demanding background checks.  See answers to questions 1 - 3.  If you mean "confiscation," I'm not going to give you any helpful suggestions.
  6. What do you think are the "second amendment remedies" that the tea party GOP candidate for Senate in Nevada( Sharron Angle) has proposed?    A: You would have to ask her.
  7. Do you believe in the notion that if you don't like what someone is doing or saying, second amendment remedies should be applied?    A:  Perhaps you don't get the fact that the reason there is a second amendment is because there was already a first amendment.  If someone is "doing" something to take away my God given rights, then according to the laws of nature and the God who created them, I not only have a right but a duty to stop it.  But under our Constitution people have the right to free speech as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.
  8. Do you believe it is O.K. to call people with whom you disagree liars and demeaning names?   A:  If someone is lying, then the appellation is correct and should be applied.  But your obvious implication is that the people you are aiming this questionnaire at engage in such behavior. Please cite any specific examples.
  9. If yes to #8, would you do it in a public place to the person's face?     A: If you purposely hide facts, distort facts, or assert things that are not true; oh yes, I will proclaim it in public, to your face, and let you have the opportunity to correct the record.
  10. Do you believe that any gun law will take away your constitutional rights?    A:  The men who wrote the Constitution were brilliant, well educated men, with tremendous command of the English language.  They specifically wrote the words "shall not be infringed." to convey that ANY restriction was prohibited.  They understood that once you started down that slippery slope we would end up in the mess we are in today. 
  11.  Do you believe in current gun laws? Do you think they are being enforced? If not, explain.   A:  You have two completely different questions there, Sparky.  See answers 1, 2, 3, and 10.  There are too many different gun laws across the country and they are enforced at different levels.  Are we talking about Chicago, IL, or Kennesaw, GA?   You are the one who needs to explain.
  12. Do you believe that all law-abiding citizens are careful with their guns and would never shoot anybody?    A:  Do you mean shoot an innocent person, or a criminal who needs to be stopped?    
  13. Do you believe that people who commit suicide with a gun should be included in the gun statistics?     A:  What do you mean by "included?"  I think you mean to include every person shot by anybody, including law enforcement in order to push your propaganda.  Just like you include ages of gang-bangers up to the age of 25 as "children."  If all data on gun deaths were broken down into all the relevant categories, the push for more gun control would be seen for the illogical nonsense that it is.
  14. Do you believe that accidental gun deaths should "count" in the total numbers?    A:  See my answer to #13.
  15. Do you believe that sometimes guns, in careless use or an accident, can shoot a bullet without the owner or holder of the gun pulling the trigger?          A:  All modern firearms designed since circa 1900 have passive safeties that make it physically impossible to discharge a bullet unless the trigger is pulled.  I challenge you to demonstrate or cite a single instance that disproves this.
  16. Do you believe that 30,000 gun deaths a year is too many?        A:    Compared to what?  45,000 deaths in vehicle accidents?  Influenza and Pneumonia kill over 50,000.  Septicemia: 34,000.  Heart disease over 540,000.  But out of the 30,000 gun deaths, how many were drug deals gone bad; gang related; Law enforcement action?  Inanimate objects do not indiscriminately kill people.  They require someone to use them.  Whether or not 50 people were killed via firearm is not nearly as important as WHY they were killed.
  17. How will you help to prevent more shootings in this country?    A:  Prevent which shootings?  See my answer to #16.
  18. Do you believe the articles that I have posted about actual shootings or do you think I am making them up or that human interest stories about events that have happened should not count when I blog about gun injuries and deaths?      A:  Anecdotes are not the same thing as data.  I can use stories about overzealous and out of control government and law enforcement officials as reason for protecting our second amendment rights.  Confusing anecdotes with data does not help your case.
  19. There has been some discussion of the role of the ATF here. Do you believe the ATF wants your guns and wants to harass you personally? If so, provide examples ( some have written a few that need to be further examined).       A:  Do you mean like the ATF sniper who shot and killed Vicki Weaver while she held her baby at Ruby Ridge?  The raid on the Branch Davidian compound that was promptly bulldozed and there were no weapons shown as evidence?  The West Point graduate who had a legal concealed carry permit who was gunned down outside a Costco store?
  20. Will you continue a reasonable discussion towards an end that might lead somewhere or is this an exercise in futility?        A:  The key word here is reasonable.  The discussion will require that both parties understand logic and reasoning.  Feelings and emotion lead to illogical and irrational conclusions that won't help anyone.  If either of the parties cannot recognize a false premise or a faulty syllogism, then it will indeed be an exercise in futility.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cutting Edge

I think I mentioned before that I started cooking when I was ten years old.  I love to cook.  Back when I used to watch that "one-eyed-brain-sucking-monster", otherwise known as the TV, one of my favorite channels was the FoodNetwork.  Especially, Alton Brown's show, Good Eats.  I love discovering new and interesting foods and recipes.  However, with some exceptions for baking, I really only see recipes as outlines or suggestions.  I'm always looking for ways to make a dish better, or at least, my own.

Miss Belle Pepaire
A big part of cooking involves the inevitable use of knives and other cutting implements.  Or at least it should. Perhaps I should back up here and say a bit more about cooking.  You see, I actually mean cooking. Although I don't really know where the line is crossed between being a cook and being a chef.  Maybe others will disagree with me, but, hey, this is my blog and I'll express my opinion.  At least here I don't have to worry about idiots who think that they have a right not to be offended.  But I digress.  On to my definition.

I think a cook is someone who prepares food according to well established recipes; and that's pretty much all they do.  That is not meant to disparage them.  There are many fine cooks, and someone who cooks well is to be greatly appreciated, since I dare say that there are far more people who cannot cook well. So, what makes a chef?  I think it is someone who can take what they've learned about cooking and create new and interesting, but -- above all -- delicious food.  [In the photo you see above, Twyla took one of the bell peppers that I grew and "spiralized" some carrot and created a little friend.] Chef's are the people who invent the recipes.  And I dare say there may be quite a few people who can graduate from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) and never really do much beyond that.  Just like I've met plenty of lawyers with the minimum curriculum vitae, but also whom I wouldn't trust to defend against a traffic ticket.

So, I can have a lot of respect for a professional chef.  But I can have just as much respect for an amateur chef; meaning someone who does it for the joy of doing it, rather than making a living at it.  Both are very honorable.  My wife, Twyla is a chef in that regard.  She creates cuisine.  She takes pride in the way it looks. She makes it unique. People have tasted her stuff and said she should sell it. Everything she makes is truly delicious.  You see, when I talk about cooking, I mean making everything from scratch. From baking bread to making sauces from various roux to butchering my own chicken, beef, and fish.  I just don't DO pre-prepared food.  That way, I avoid all the man-made chemicals and I can be sure that it's kosher.

I have my own talent for food as well.  I've been told many times that I should compete in the Pillsbury bakeoff, and I've wowed quite a few people with my grilling.  No, I'm not talking about burgers and dogs on a gas grill.  I have nothing but contempt for anything but natural charcoal or wood for grilling.  I love making people "ooh" and "aahh" when I make a chocolate soufflé right in front of them and hearing their accolades as they devour it.  Wow, did I get away from knives, or what?

Precision slices with a Santoku knife
Dull knives can make food preparation difficult and frustrating.  Because I am such a stickler for extremely sharp knives, and cook at home a lot, going to someone else's house and using their knives makes me painfully aware of how many people out there don't know how or think to care about sharp blades.  Serrated edges and the likes of "Ginsu" stuff was invented for such people.  I don't like serrated knives except for very specific and limited functions.  I keep all my knives in extreme sharpness as much as possible, so when I want to slice up some tomato or onion, I can do it by hand with my chef's knife or Santoku blade in very thin, precise slices as if they were cut on a mandolin or a commercial rotary slicer.  It makes food preparation a joy, more than a chore.

I also sharpen scissors and other cutting tools with the same care and attention to detail.  When I worked as the night shift mechanic in a factory that made the seat covers for the airlines, I would sharpen scissors and snips for all the workers on the sewing lines and cutting tables, and they let me know that they had never had anybody do it so well.  It saves a lot of time and fatigue when you can just shove a pair of scissors through a sheet of material without opening and closing them with effort.

My dad told me when I was little, that "a dull knife will cut you quicker than a sharp one."  I didn't get it at first. He would watch me struggling to cut something with a dull knife and then, after repeating that phrase, would sharpen the knife and let me use it.  Later, it dawned on me.  It's when you struggle to cut something with a dull knife that you get careless and end up hurting yourself.  I've seen it plenty of times.

So, one of the things I do to make extra money, [hey, wait a minute!  Is there ever such a thing as "extra" money?]  is sharpening knives, blades, or most any kind of edged tool.  By virtue of my wife,  I happen to be blessed with a new daughter , who is a wonderful graphic artist.  She created this business card for me.

While I am a pretty good "Jack-of-all-Trades," I decided I would try settling down on one  thing and specialize in doing it extremely well.  If more comes of it, great.  So, if you are local enough, and would like your blades in tip-top shape, you can email me:  moses5768@yahoo.com.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Rain Is Good

I once lived in Southern California for almost two years.

There is a hit song from the early 70's, It Never Rains In Southern California.  The song is true.  I think I saw maybe three days of rain out of 600.

It has it's advantages in many ways, but some people get tired of that after a while, as strange as that might seem. Of course, the nearly constant danger of wild fires can be enough to give some homeowners ulcers.

I've lived in Florida most of my life, in various areas, but mostly in the central or southern areas and on both coasts.  Florida may be called the Sunshine State, but it gets plenty of rain.  Rain up here, in the North Georgia mountains is different.  Because we are at about 2,400 feet elevation, often when it is raining, we are in the bottoms of the clouds.  It can be raining very lightly while visibility is maybe a hundred feet or less.  Our back yard gets a temporary waterfall, and streams form on either sides of the steps going down to the front yard.

My crops are getting a good soaking, and anybody who grows any kind of plants outdoors knows that rain has an effect on plants that artificial irrigation just can't match. I know it has to do with ionization and the lightning, etc., but the bottom line is that Adonai created it that way.  Man, with all of his ingenuity can try to imitate the wonderful engineering that he discovers in nature, but he can never quite duplicate it.

Another good thing about rain is that it can redirect your attention.  It rained all day yesterday and might do the same again today.  Yesterday, it meant that Twyla and I spent about two hours in Bible study.  I Samuel to be precise.  We take it slow and carefully.  I have the Hebrew Tanakh (Old Testament to Christians).  It has the Hebrew on the right side and the English translation on the left.  We also use the Hebrew/English Interlinear for further comparison. Then we have the Strong's Concordance to help understand some of the etymology of the words. You would be amazed at the stuff that you miss when you don't know what the original language says.  There is tremendous meaning in the very choice of the words, and how they are strung together. The Jewish sages have understood this for milennia, and it is the basis for the teachings of the Midrash, Talmud and the Kabbalistic writings, which the untrained have no business messing with.  But that's another post.

But my point is that it can be good to have your plans disrupted when it leads to things that draw you closer to the Creator.  Not as YOU think you understand Him or want to understand Him. But how He wants to be understood.  He dictated, (yes, I used that word on purpose) a message over a couple of thousand years, using more than 40 scribes; putting His supernatural fingerprints all throughout it, in order to tell us how we were designed to live and how to be in communion with our Creator.  Human beings royally screw up when they start thinking that they have the wisdom to decide what is right and wrong in their own minds and hearts. Without the objective truth of the ONE who created everything, we are pretty much just floundering around in stupidity.  I love the ending chapters of the book of Job, where Adonai finally speaks.   Go read it, and remember that epistemology is a good thing to understand. In other words, "How do you know what you know?"  A lot of people believe a lot of garbage that just isn't so, because they've never been educated how to think using logic and reason.

This is of such importance at this time in America's history that I think I shall post on the subject soon.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rod Serling would be proud

You are now entering a world that defies explanation.

Make absolutely sure that you have no liquid refreshments or food in your mouth before engaging the video.

You have been warned.


The cat is missing.  He went AWOL.

Here we thought he was trying to get in our good graces and try to stay inside more often, and now we haven't seen a patch of white fur in a while.  Last I saw of Casspurr, he bounded up the mountainside to the road that is about two stories above and behind the house.  That was three days ago.  I've seen neighbor's cats in the backyard, but no Casspurr.

The last night he spent inside, he bothered Twyla all night long.  Sleeping on top of her, chewing on her hair, walking around on the bed.  It was awful.  Then HE decides that he's gonna sleep all day on the quilt at the foot of the bed.  Every time I needed to back to the bedroom and saw him there I would poke him and tell him to wake up.

Maybe he got ticked off about that.  Maybe someone up the road attracted him with kitty treats.  Twyla said she's had cats who "two-timed" her.  That makes sense to me, since nobody really owns a cat.  Dogs have masters, cats have staff.  Then there's the phrase, "Cattin' around."

Dogs I understand.  Dogs are loyal.  I once had a tee shirt that said, "Lord, help me to be the kind of man my dog thinks I am."

Maybe Casspurr just couldn't stand competing for our attention with this new dog Moxie.  Moxie never seemed like a threat to Casspurr, and only seemed to want to play.

Maybe he just wants to run free for a while and will show up after he's grown tired of whatever it is he's into at the moment.  Twyla thinks a predator probably got him.  I hope not.  He is definitely at a disadvantage for two big reasons.  He has no front claws and he's stark white.  And even though he has proven how tough he can be with the local cats, something bigger and meaner is another story.

I hope he surprises me and shows up begging for one of us to pop open a can.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I've Been Quoted

A fine gentleman, defender of the Constitution, and firearms enthusiast, somewhere out in Arizona, Kevin Baker, has a great blog called "The Smallest Minority."  It is taken from a quote by Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead to name the two most famous novels.  The quote is part of his blog header and is well worth memorizing.

Kevin had a record setting comment session going regarding a small post, and out of 556 comments on the thread, he chose 'lil ole me to quote.  He didn't just quote part of my comment.  He posted the whole blasted thing!  Some of the most intelligent folks go to Kevin's blog, so I am honored and humbled beyond belief.

Unless you were willing to go read at least half of the comment thread, and pay particular attention to "Markadelphia" and the commenter's I cite, my comment may not seem very important to you, but I'm flattered all the same.   Thanks, Kevin

And now for something hilarious:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Working Stiffed
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

To Do List Overload

Busy, busy, busy.

Wow, it can be hard to keep up with this blog during the high Holidays.  Here it is yom chamishi (Thursday) and I haven't posted since yom rishon (Sunday).  My apologies if you've come by every day looking for something new.  I'll try to do better, and it should get a lot better after this week.  You see, last night at sundown began the Holy week of Sukkot (Feast of Booths or Tabernacles) and we are expecting guests on Shabbat.  There has been so much to do in preparation.  Lots of cleaning and re-decorating and such.

Add to that the stuff that suddenly HAD to be done that wasn't planned for.  Like installing the new panel and dog door on the porch that also doubles as our Sukkah for the week.  Well, um, then Moxie couldn't quite comprehend the concept of a doggie door just yet and because she wanted in to the porch so badly, proceeded to tear through the screen on the other side of the door on the deck side.   Oh sure, I can chuckle about it now, but at the time I wanted to kill that dog.  So, I temporarily nailed scrap panels up all along that side of the porch to protect the remaining screen and went on to other things.

Add caption
Other things included dealing with the broody hen, "Pretty Face."  She needed a private nursery in which to set on the eggs.  Twyla blogged about this here.  -- Oh! A very cool thing is that, according to Sitemeter, Twyla's blog had a visitor from Lithuania.  Wow!

Anyway, I took the old corner cabinet that we had bought from the thrift store in the spring and had used for the original set of chicks as a temporary shelter before I built Arks I & II, and made this little nursery.  I already had all the materials left over; the screen, boards, paneling, and the foam board from the dehydrator project.  The only thing I had to buy was a pair of small brass hinges for the top door.  This whole project took about two hours out of the day.  On Tuesday night, well after dark I transferred the hen and the three eggs to the nursery.  It really is amazing how trance-like they are after dark.  But Moxie got too excited about what was going on.  After I had gone all the way back up to the porch, she raced back down the yard and stuck her nose up under the lid and stuck her head inside.  Not that I think she meant any harm, but she needed to learn very quickly that such behavior was not going to be tolerated.

It is also interesting to observe first-hand the patience and dedication of a broody hen.  You would think they would die of thirst and hunger for all the time they spend sitting on those eggs.  Fortunately in the hottest part of the day yesterday, I looked back down to the front yard from the porch to see the hen out getting water and scratching a bit.  She seems more than relieved to not have to share space with the other hens, even though they are in close proximity in their movable arks.

You probably noticed that the header of this blog has changed once again.  I want to keep it fresh and current with the season and what's going on at Beit Ben-David.  So, what you see up there is one of the little islands of crops in well decayed straw bales.  I set out cabbage, swiss chard, brussel sprouts (yes, I really do like them), romaine lettuce, butter crunch lettuce, and spinach.  I also planted a bunch of radishes in the back with more spinach. Then there are all the additional seedlings that are about a month behind the current plants that will need to be planted soon.

What has really eaten up a lot of time, and I do mean that in a good way, is the dramatic changes that we have done inside the house.  We have spent two pretty full days of just cleaning and re-decorating for this Holiday week.  And I was supposed to have moved the wood stove into position and installed the exhaust pipe by now.  May Adonai richly bless me to accomplish this before yom shishi (Friday) noon.  Other than having that done, the rest of the house is incredibly different and incredibly beautiful.  Twyla and I keep looking at it and each other and commenting on how great it is.  Of course, she gets most of the credit, being the real artist. I'm just the skilled handyman who can make it happen.  Not that I don't have a good sense for decorating, but I like what she does and she's so much better at it.
A view from the deck

Some of the trees are shedding their leaves now and it won't be long before I'll be struggling to keep up with gathering them for compost. I've still got screens to frame for the dehydrator.  There is always something to do and never enough time to do it.

Thanks for stopping by, and I'll try to have a fresh post up for you tomorrow.

B'rakhot Adonai!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Installing A Door

Moxie has been with us for a week now.  Boy, these seven days have just flown by. Mostly because we have been making preparations for Sukkot.  Re-arranging things, cleaning, decorating.  In a couple more days, Twyla will have put the finishing touches on our front porch, which becomes our "Booth" or "Sukkah" for the seven day festival.We will eat as many meals out there as possible, and maybe even sleep out there one or two nights.

Front Porch and Sukkah
God commanded this festival for His people as a memorial of the time that He dwelt with them and they dwelt in tents in the desert after being led out of Egypt. Some believe, as I do, that this will be the time of year that Yeshua was born and it is the same time of year that He will return to begin the Messianic age on earth.  I know a lot of Christians who have come to the realization that Yeshua could not have been born at the winter solstice.  There is much more to all this, but that's not the reason for this post.  Maybe I'll cover that stuff in December.

Because Moxie is doing so well and learning so fast, Twyla and I have decided to let Moxie have limited auto access to the front porch.  That means I need to install a "doggie" door.  Actually, Moxie is really responsible for creating the need and even picking the spot.  Her first night in her new home was rather stressful and she found a weakness in a screen panel next to the door on the deck side, so she pushed her way through so she could get to the inside door.  It took two nights of training to get her to understand she could not "bark" her way into the house.  She's had a couple of moments when she still yips a little bit to make sure that we are aware of her existence, but she just about has the understanding now that barking to get what she wants won't be tolerated.  Anyway, I've seldom seen a dog learn so fast.  She loves being able to run all over the yard, front and back as if she is free as a bird, and yet she never really leaves the yard beyond the street.

In that first photo, you can see Moxie standing there.  That square looking spot to the far right is where she pushed through the screen, and that is where I will be installing a wooden panel with a door for her.

So now it is Yom Rishon (Sunday) afternoon and I've done most of the chores today and even managed to install the panel and door, and even get two coats of primer on the wood.  As smart as she is, it will probably take about 5 minutes for Moxie to figure out how to use the door.

We have made major changes inside the house that will remain confidential until all of the friends and family have been here to seem them first hand.  Then pictures will be posted showing what we did.

In other news, one of the hens, "Pretty Face" according to Twyla, has become a brooding hen.  Don't know why, it's just a gift from Adonai.  But Twyla has posted about that on her blog, so you should go over there and read it.  Hopefully we will have our own farm raised chicken to eat in December.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yom Kippur

This is one of those unique occasions that a High Sabbath falls on the same day as the weekly Sabbath.  Today is Yom Kippur, or "Day of Atonement."  This is the tenth day of Tishrei on God's calendar. In orthodox Judaism this is considered the holiest day of the year.  One of the traditions of today is not to wear any leather or animal products, since animals had to be sacrificed for the needed blood to atone for man's sin.  That's not a requirement of Torah, it's just a tradition of the elders.  The actual Torah passage on the observance of Yom Kippur is in Leviticus 16.

This is the one day of the year when the high priest, or Cohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies.  Of course, there is no Temple yet standing in Jerusalem.  The narratives about what happened at the Temple in the remaining years until it's destruction in 70 A.D., after the resurrection of Yeshua, are stunning and very telling about His identity as the true Messiah.

The Ark of the Covenant
According to the Talmud, when the two goats were used according to Torah, one goat was chosen to be the "scapegoat" to be lead out to the wilderness and be killed. The choice was made by using the Ummim and Thummim, kept in the ephod of the Cohen Gadol.  A scarlet ribbon was tied in the horns of the goat to be led out to the wilderness, and then an end of that ribbon was cut off, to be fastened to the Temple door.  If the scapegoat was accepted by the Lord, as a sign of His acceptance of the sacrifice, the remaining ribbon on the door would turn white.

The Talmud records that after the Rabbi of Nazereth was executed by the Romans, the ribbon would no longer turn white after the Day of Atonement.  Hmmm.

Because the day is about solemn reflection and repentance, it's kind of silly to wish a Jewish friend a "Happy Yom Kippur."  It would be simpler and more fitting to say, "Yom Tov."  (Good Day)  If you'd like more information on Yom Kippur just click on the link and read the post on "Fall Cleaning."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Didn't I Write That?

Trying to seem like a fair guy, I almost took the wrong side in this issue.  I even started to sympathize with David Petraeus. My own wife had immediately come down on the side of the preacher wanting to burn the copies of the Koran.  She was right, and on more reflection, understanding that Islam is not, and never has been a "religion of peace," I agree that we should remember who we are as Americans and that Islam is not and can never be compatible with this constitutional republic.  In case you are still under some illusion, let me help you out.  "Islam" doesn't mean peace, it means "submission." The word for peace in Arabic is "salaam."  And NO, we are not a democracy and if the founding fathers were alive to hear someone say it they would condemn the idea. The founders understood and stated quite plainly in their writings that this republic could only work for a people who were devoutly Christian.  They used the word religious, but at the time, they only knew ONE religion.  I've thoroughly done my research, so don't waste your time with the "deist" stuff.

I came across the letter below at Eternity Road, and being encouraged to pass it on, I re-post it here with only one bad adjective deleted even though the expletive really does seem fitting. If you do go there, read the post about sh'riah law as well. It's titled "Life In The Crosshairs."  The original post of this letter by Chuck Prime is here.

OPEN LETTER TO GEN. PETRAEUS (Please re-post to anti-jihad sites)

“Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult.” 
– Gen. David Petraeus 

General, I ask you this: what in hell is your “mission” if We The People jeopardize it by exercising our First Amendment rights in our own homeland? Is your “mission” to defend our rights against foreign enemies, or to defend foreign enemies against our rights? 
You made your choice, and you justified by claiming that you and those under your command have been taken hostage by our 7th Century terrorist enemy, and that the ransom demand you deliver to us is that we submit to your captor’s restrictions on our natural and constitutional rights – or they’ll kill you. 
I remind you and your captors that we do not negotiate with terrorists. 
And I remind you that you are the most revered general in the present day, commanding in the most powerful military in all of history, during the most justifiable war in the last seventy years. So please either remember your priorities and slaughter your captors, or resign in disgrace so that we may replace you with a warrior. And if you resign, you should do so right along with President Obama, Gen. Caldwell, Pentagon Spokesman Lapan, Sec. of State Clinton, Atty. Gen. Holder, NATO Sec. Rasmussen and all others in all branches of government and in all alliances who echoed your request, whether they did so mindlessly or with surrender aforethought. 
To have our own military leaders beg us to refrain from exercising our Constitutional rights on our own soil is completely un-American. And to have you make that request of us in the name of cowardice is a shocking and unthinkable perversion I still don’t have the words for. 
But I do have the plan for it. We The People will force the issue right here and now. We don’t want harm to come to our military, but if peacefully exercising our rightful freedom on our own property here in our own homeland endangers you, then we will endanger you! 
We will burn the Koran for freedom and post the videos for all the world to see. We can be overt or covert, named or anonymous, sparse or numerous – but ultimately we will be unstoppable, and eventually we will be effective. 
We will do this because you have no $%&$ right to sell our freedom down the river for the sake of our enemy’s sensitivity. We will do it because you more than have the power to defend yourselves against that enemy if only you would use it. We will do it because facing danger to defend our rightful freedom is why we pay you, train you, equip you, promote you, appoint you, deploy you, and – formerly! – revere you. 
You work for us, General, not for our enemy. Therefore we will regain control over you and over this war from the command center of our own backyards. We will force you to end any of your appeasement and nation-building which would restrict our Constitutional rights. We will force you to defend yourselves and us, and to do the job you were appointed to do: destroy the enemy in defense of our freedom. 

Our military has the power. We hired you to use it. Now we’ll make sure you do. 
When Americans can burn our own copies of the Koran on our own soil without credible threats from jihadists or appeasement of those threats from our President and our Generals, then we will gladly stop burning them. 

We are a free people, and although we clearly live in occupied territory psychologically, we do not yet live in occupied territory legally or physically. We will do as we please, and we will continue to expect all branches of our government to secure our right to do it. 

I remind you that securing our rights is the only legitimate reason that governments are instituted among men in the first place, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 
And not everybody among the governed consents to surrendering our rights to terrorists. 

Freedom for all,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Hate THAT Light

I love sunshine, and someday I will blog about what a miraculous thing it is to have our privileged planet orbiting where it does around the sun and how ultraviolet radiation is such a great disinfectant and antimicrobial agent.  I love light.  I love to get a tan and soak up all the rays that let my skin produce the much needed vitamin D-3 that so many people are lacking because they buy into all the silly pseudo science that tells them that salt is bad, sunshine is bad, second hand tobacco smoke is killing people, etc.  The list is too long.

Yep. I got a real education after high school, years before I set foot on a college campus, and it drove my professors nuts.  Even worse, I was paying my own way through college and when someone told me to "shut up" in so many words, I let them know that I was paying my own hard earned dollars to be there and I expected some value for my money.  My, how I digress.

I like the sunshine, but I also like the night.  Since coming to the mountains and in my later years, I've learned to appreciate the natural things more than ever.  I go back to memories and think about how much more I appreciate or wish I could have those moments back so that I could appreciate them more.  Driving a 65 foot sportfishing boat on the Pacific Ocean toward the Channel Islands before dawn and watching flying fish popping up out of the water beside me, stunned at the beauty as they gracefully glide along using "ground effect" just inches above the waves.  Sometimes 10 to 20 seconds at a time; which may not seem like much, until you count it out and imagine a fish looking like it is hovering over the water's surface.

I like the night and the amazing beauty of the stars and the moon. The quietness of most things and the sound of the nocturnal creatures that have no enemies at night.  If you have been with me since the beginning of this blog, you know about the meteor shower that occurs in August.  It's worth staying up for, and I got to share it with my sweetie Twyla for her first time.  At least one time, we both saw a great streak of light across the sky.

Once, when I was on an eight day mission as a chase vessel out in the Pacific Ocean, I got to see the night sky with no light pollution.  We were 30 miles off the shore of Santa Barbara, and I was amazed at how much glow still came up off the horizon.  The view was stunning.  A moonless night, and yet the blanket of shimmering stars was enough to make you feel like you were inside of a dome with diamond dust scattered over the outside.

The only street light for miles.
Living so many years in coastal cities in Florida, I had totally forgotten how the night sky should look.  That somehow Adonai never intended for man to work throughout the night.  If you are young, that might be fine for a season.  In the military, owning the night in combat is essential. But ask anybody with a few decades of life and they'll tell you that the body seems to work best when in harmony with daylight and nighttime.  For heaven's sake folks, even plants need night time.  They spend the daylight hours with their chloroplasts furiously making sugar and storing it, but at night time, the hormone gibberellin  causes the plant to stretch and grow taller in the absence of light. Sleep studies show that only in total darkness does the human body produce the right amount of melatonin to help you achieve the restful REM type sleep that you need.

So, I hate a certain light.  I hate any unnecessary artificial light when it isn't needed.  I really hate this light. The people who had this property before Twyla bought it,  had this light installed.  I hate it.  It reminds me of being back in the metropolitan area.  If I drive the seven or eight miles in to Hiawassee, I am not going to see but maybe two or three porch lights on a house in the distance.  And the entire road from here to town doesn't have a single light anywhere on it.  I don't want any part of city life encroaching on life here in the mountains, and yet here is this #$%^ light in my very own back yard.  I don't need it. More importantly, every time I go outside at night I get irritated by it.  It's not something I can ignore by looking in another direction. It's light is cast all over and even if I step in the shadow of the house I am aware that it is still there.  It is like somebody's fingernails on a chalkboard.  But I can't seem to remember to ask Twyla to call the utility company and have that monstrosity removed.

But there is so much to do.  Lot's of other things take up my day and, overall, I love this place, my darling wife and all that goes on with farming and developing a self-sufficient life.  Eventually that light will no longer be there.  The lamp and the pole and the wire and everything else might be there, but the light will be gone.

My next post is guaranteed to be very uplifting and positive, because we've been redecorating the house and making preparations for Sukkot.  Or I might just post about the new dog.  I promise it will be happy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sorry For The Rain

I'm trying very hard for this to be an upbeat and positive place for you to visit.  I try to think of wonderful things to post on and would like to think that I contribute in a positive way to each and every life.  Some people who know me might beg to differ because I have this irresistable urge to tell someone they shouldn't play with stuff that might kill them.  I'm the pilot in the right seat who yanks the control away and yells, "My plane." when you are about to do something that might get us all killed.  So, you might think that I just like to shock you or make you feel uncomfortable just for kicks.  I like to go for thrill rides, but I really want to live.

I'm not a Pollyanna by any means.  I do know what is going on.  But today I worked very hard.  I get up at 05:00 and I take care of chickens and I do various chores to keep a farm going.  I don't expect anyone to just provide stuff for me.  I've read about the founders of the United States and I've been a student of the real history of this continent for quite some time now. I've been a Sub S chapter corporation.  I've hired and fired people.  I've been a laborer and a manager.  Once, way back in 1986, I collected unemployment benefits for eight weeks, and I hated and was ashamed of every day of it until I got hired at a dealership servicing cars.

So, when I read stuff like this,  I just have to go blow off steam for a  while and collect my thoughts and hope that I don't meet someone who has a world view that buys into the propaganda of "Hope and Change."

I will try to be in a better mood in a few hours.  Please forgive me.

Simplicity at Its Best

I told you I was going to do this thing.

Make an incubator/dehydrator/yogurt maker.

The total cost for the basic model is about $18. The only other cost for screen to make the racks was $14.
The aluminum foil coated foam board was $9.25 and the wide roll of aluminum foil duct tape was $8 +.  Total time on creating just the box was about 45 minutes.  I hope to make the inside drying racks today.

I bought the 4' x 8' sheet of foam board at Home Depot. They don't carry it at the ACE in this little town, so it was a 35 mile round trip to Blairsville, GA.  Everything I needed for manufacture is in the photo.  Of course, I already had the drywall square and the retractable utility knife.  I like that model knife for certain projects because it uses the breakoff blades and can be extended much farther out than a conventional utility knife. It's much better for cutting softer materials, such as insulation, or materials where you keep dulling the tip, since you just snap off a little section, and voila, you've got a fresh tip.

Three panels assembled
I like to use the material wisely and not waste very much, so I divided the board according to even divisibility. So the basic panels I cut were 16" x 24".

The board only has aluminum foil on one side and a thin plastic white and printed material on the other.  You want the aluminum on the inside of the finished piece.  I wanted the box to stand up off the floor a little so that if I decide later to pop a bulb in from the bottom, I still can.  I drew a line from the edge at 3.5" and then taped the second panel on, then repeated the process on the other end of the bottom panel  to get what you see in the second photo.  The aluminum tape is very, very sticky, so you have to work carefully if you don't want to be ripping the surface of the foil up.  Peel the backing paper off the tape only as you get it into position.
3.  The bottom of the box

If you are working outdoors in the sunlight, you are going to have to wear sunglasses. I would have done this inside, but I wanted the best pictures.  And I have to admit that the picnic table makes for a great working surface.

4.  Basic finished box
The fourth panel is going to become a side that gets taped in at what looks like the top of the third photo. Taping outside corners is easy.  And you don't put the other side in until you tape the inside three panels, since it's easier to work the tape with the fourth side still off.  Taping both inside and out gives the box maximum strength.  If you wanted to make a really heavy duty version of this, you could build a wooden box to your own specs first and then just cut the panels to line the inside.  But this box is incredibly light and easy to move around, and with proper care will last a good long time.
5. Making one of the lids

You have to trim the 3.5" off the top of the two end panels once the sides are in place, then finish taping the inside corners.  If you really don't care about aesthetics, then it's done.  All you need now is either a glass or clear acrylic sheet to go on top for solar use, or cut another panel or two to make a solid lid for indoor, lamp use.  I have both.  I taped two panels together at the edges with the aluminum facing out on both sides.

I don't like the unfinished look of the white/printed/taped outside of the box so I bought a couple of spray cans of flat black enamel.  Not the $4 a can stuff, but the 97¢ stuff that HD sells.  If you're gonna put lipstick on a pig, you don't use Estee Lauder.
6. Finished box with acrylic cover

Oh, yes, mea culpa, I forgot to mention that a clear acrylic sheet (24" x 18") from Home Depot is going to run you about $10 with tax.  But it will pay for itself because you will save at least that much in electricity in a month for a small bulb to heat the inside with electricity.  On a cloudless day, the temperature in the box got up to 144° F with only a tiny air gap at one end of the clear sheet. I will learn to vary the temperature by how much of a gap I leave at the top.  When it comes to using the box as an incubator or yogurt maker, I will use a small wattage (25 - 40w) incandescent bulb and a slide rheostat (dimmer) switch, which at very low power will let me maintain 105° F very precisely for an indefinite time.  Yes, I made one of these before and I used to make batches of my own yogurt all the time.  Far better than what you can buy in the store.  Leave a comment and remind me to share the recipe if I don't do it before too long.

When I post again about this contraption, I'll provide photos of the lamp and slide dimmer arrangement.

Well, there is way too much to do, and the sun is starting to come up.  Sukkot is on its way.  Got a shipment of rye grain and garbanzo beans yesterday. Ground some up and made fresh bread and, boy, oh boy, is it ever good!

May you have a blessed day.        HaYom Tovah.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not Enough Hours

It seems like there are never enough hours in the day.

Our Shabbat Table
I apologize to my faithful readers for not posting enough.  You would think that when you get up between 4 & 5 (and sometimes earlier) and don't hit the rack until 21:00 or later that you could fit a blog post in somewhere.  On Thursday I posted because it was Rosh HaShanah, but on Friday we were preparing to have guests; Twyla's  great friend and her family came up on Shabbat and spent the night and most of the day on Sunday.

I wanted our guests to have a good time, so pretty much everything centered around that.  Shabbat was a pretty rainy day, and I'm glad I put off setting up the tent in the yard, because even though the tent is big and comfortable, slogging through a wet yard would not have been fun, and our guests seemed to enjoy "camping:" out in the house.

We played a couple of games, but I think the most fun was when I created some "madlibs."  Remember those?  You take a story (I make one up) but you leave blanks for things like verbs, nouns, and adjectives, and then you get people to randomly give them to you and fill in the blanks and then you read the story.  I think I did three or four and we laughed 'til we had tears in our eyes.  Now it makes me want to create a bunch more for the future, and Twyla wants to do the same with some well known songs.

A new family member
Moxie and Ryan
We had talked about the benefits of having a dog.  Here in the mountains with all of the predators it's not a bad idea to have a natural alarm.  Casspurr doesn't really bark at anything.  But we weren't about to just rush out and find any old dog.  As if to remind me of how important this might be, it was less than a week ago that a rather large brown rabbit went strolling through the back yard, setting off alarm bells in my head over my precious seedlings of lettuce and cabbage and herbs for the winter.

As providence (not luck) would have it, Twyla's long time friend had told her they were trying to find a new home for a stray that they had picked up, a labrador/boxer/something mix that was sweet, but a little high strung.  So we told them to bring her with them and we would see what happens.  Moxie was and is, definitely full of energy.  I took her for a walk on the leash to do an assessment, and she began understanding what I expected pretty quickly.  So quickly, in fact, that the mom was amazed.  She said what a lot of people say, "Moxiedrags me."  But it's just a matter of technique and establishing quickly who is in charge.

Moxie wants to learn
Here we are on Tuesday, and Moxie understands where the property line is.  She stays pretty much around either the front deck or the back steps.  That's right, after the first night she figured out that this is now her home.  She moves to the front or the back based on where she hears or sees us moving.  After just a little admonishment, she now knows not to rush on, or pester the chickens.  The leash means we get to go quite a distance from the house and that's a real treat and she now almost perfect heels on the walk, meaning she walks at my pace, no matter how fast or slow, on my left side.  She has "sit" down pat, and we are still working on "stay".  I can drop the leash and move up to twenty feet away now.  Her attention span will get longer with each passing day.
I estimate that within six months, I will be able to take her on walks without the leash and she will be totally controllable on voice command alone.

She started out barking for attention, not used to being kept outside. I've done inside dogs for years [not my choice], but I'm not doing that ever again, especially not in a farm situation. But with firm and consistent training over a few hours, she figured out that I wasn't going to tolerate that.  Now, if she starts to try that, I can simply call her to the door, grasp her around the snout and say, "NO BARK" and she remembers for hours.  I had to get up at midnight last night because she started in, but all it took was that one technique and she was quiet the rest of the morning.  Now, there is a fine line.  She needs to know that she is not to bark at us for attention, but that it's okay to bark at strangers or strange animals coming into the yard.  You have to know the difference in the sound of the dog's bark.

I took Moxie for a ride into town for a couple of errands.  She's a bit nervous about riding in the truck.  No sticking her head out the window.  She just lays on the bench seat and loves it every time I stroke her.  Her body language seemed to be: "I don't really care for riding in this contraption, but if it means I get to be close to you, I'll do it." Maybe that will change over time.  We'll see.

Overall, I think this has been a win-win situation for everybody.  It will be fun to see the reaction of Moxie's former family when they come for another visit.  I may not be Cesar Milan, but I come pretty darn close.  Twyla's comments and photo are over on her blog.  She's never been a "dog person," but she's going to be. ;)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A High Sabbath

Today is Rosh HaShanah. This literally means "Head of The Year." On the Hebrew calendar, or really, God's calendar, it is the 1st day of the Seventh month, the month of Tishrei.  That probably seems strange being the seventh month, but God Himself didn't call it Rosh HaShanah, He simply gave the command that on this day there would be a memorial signified by the blowing of the Shofar, or rams horn, or trumpet.  Yeah, that's what I'm blowing in the picture.

This is one of the high holy days.  Christians who study this stuff and are interested in eschatology probably know this holiday as "Feast of Trumpets."  You can read a little more about it by clicking on this link.  The Scripture reference is this: "In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation." (Leviticus 23:24) Today, beginning at sundown last night, is considered a High Sabbath, even though it falls this year on a Thursday.  Interestingly enough, that's what happened in the year that Messiah was crucified on the preparation day before the first day of Passover, that High Sabbath day fell on Thursday, which is what led to the confusion in the Church with "Good Friday" and the false idea that Yeshua was resurrected on Sunday rather than late on the Sabbath. But that's a complete post that I'm saving for Passover. It will include a lot of in-depth Scripture.

A few things are believed to have happened on this Anniversary date of Rosh HaShanah by the Jewish sages, primarily that on this day the world was created.  It's just a belief, because G-d doesn't specifically state it in the Scriptures.  The blowing of the shofar at this time is also to remind us of a call to repentance, to do T'shuvah.  Turn back to Torah and prepare for what comes ten days later, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  I'm going to post on that when the day comes.  Five days after that comes the joyous celebration of Sukkot, otherwise known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

This is harvest time. This is the time when we are wrapping up our canning and storage and thinking about the approach of winter.  Another way of thinking about harvest is an ingathering. We live in a generation that has seen a lot of the ingathering of Israel. Israel has bloomed like a rose in the middle of a desert. That tiny little country has a Gross Domestic Product that exceeds $166 billion.  That's more than all of it's surrounding Arab neighbors combined. It's existence and prosperity are a sure sign that we are approaching the end of the age, the 'Olam Hazeh.

In obedience, I will not be doing any laborious work today, so maybe later I will post photos of the new dehydrator/incubator that I made yesterday.  Thanks for visiting, and please leave a comment.

Shanah Tovah!   (Happy New Year)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Spice of Life

I like bold flavors.  One of the greatest gifts HaShem gives us is the immense variety of food. Do you ever stop to think about how many different foods humans eat compared to the animal kingdom? The sheer variety of all the single foods we can eat is one thing, but then think about all the amazing combinations with herbs and spices. The permutations are nearly infinite.  Then think about all the animals who have very little variety in their diets; or none at all.  Imagine being a Koala bear and eating nothing but eucalyptus leaves all of your life.

As if that were not enough, we humans aren't satisfied with taste alone, we have to make things pleasing to the eye as well.  Think about all the celebrations you've been to.  Every social activity that people engage in HAS to involve food. It's almost like a universal, immutable law, like gravity. Births, weddings, and yes, even funerals or wakes involve food.

But, back to the bold flavor thing. I dislike - er, I strongly dislike bland food. I like flavors that tend to jump up and slap my taste buds. As a kid I always wondered why deviled eggs were called that. What's so "devilish" about these things. Then I discovered cooking around age ten and I've been grateful for the knowledge ever since.  It never gets boring.

Today's post is about chili. Nope. Not the often incorrectly made, terribly abused stew that is misnamed. I'm talking about the basic genus of fruit from the nightshade family, everything in the genus Capsicum.  Believe it or not, "chili" includes everything from bell pepper to scotch bonnet or habañeros; jalapeño, poblano, chipotle, cayenne, etc.  All are chilis.  I like all of them. Aside from the heat, they each have their own distinctive flavor.
Two Jalapeños and a Cuke

I only grew five varieties this summer, actually they are still producing fruit. It will be interesting to see how long they go. I have banana pepper, bell pepper, jalapeño, mild cayenne, and Thai. I think the banana peppers are done but I'm not sure. They didn't get planted in the straw bales and they struggled to produce only 6 fruits.  The two jalapeños produced somewhere around 120 and are still loaded with fruit. The same goes for two cayenne plants and two Thai chili plants.  The bell pepper struggled because I didn't stake them as well as I should have and they were attacked by some insects.  This is because the bell pepper produces zero amount of the compound capsaicin (the pronunciation varies; "cap-sigh-a-sin" or "cap-say-shin"), which is the stuff that creates the burning sensation.

In the second photo are two jalapeños. Yes, the middle one really is a jalapeño; not a miniature bell. That's why I took the pic. One of the great things about growing your own, is that, like the bell pepper, you can let them ripen on the bush to that glorious red color, and thus you let the natural sugars develop that give it a sweet flavor and mellow out that pungent nightshade flavor.  The same goes for bell pepper. Green and red bell pepper are the exact same pepper. Red bells in the store cost so much more because it takes them a while to ripen on the bush. It doesn't take them long to get up to picking size, but it does take a while for them to turn red.  If you pick them after they've turned about halfway, they will typically continue to ripen on the counter at room temperature.

How hot a chili is depends on the amount of capsaicin in it's flesh. The relative "hotness" of chili is measured by the Scoville Scale. If you went to that link, you've read that some of the hottest peppers of common use can be as high as 200,000 to 300,000 units.  There are some peppers in India that go over the one million unit mark. The mild cayenne that I'm growing hits around 5,000 to 8,000 units. Jalapeños are anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000. The Thai chilis that I have are somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000.
Open Jalapeño showing the pith

Depending on the size and type of pepper, you can remove some of the heat. Jalapeño works best for this example. Most of the active ingredient, capsaicin, resides in the pith or "placental" material inside the pepper where the seeds are borne.  By removing most of this white, or lighter colored material, you can cut way down on how much burn you'll get.  When I make "poppers" for a snack, I shave out all that material plus the seeds, and fill the halves with cheese and let them simmer in a covered cast iron skillet for about 30 minutes.  Yummy!  Twyla and I keep a box of latex surgical gloves under the kitchen sink for all kinds of reasons besides the obvious medical ones, but one of the most important reasons is for when we want to cook using any hot peppers.  Usually we just wear one glove and are careful to only handle the pepper with that hand.  Even then, if you are using a really hot pepper and handling it a lot or chopping it really fine, the capsaicin can seep enough through the glove to still be a problem.
Thai chilis drying for storage.  HOT!

Of course, chilis and the active ingredient capsaicin is highly medicinal.  It is a tonic for the circulatory system. It is the finest expectorant you can use.  It is highly anti-microbial/antibiotic. It is anti-fungal and anti-parisitic. It is very good for the stomach and has even been used as part of the treatment for ulcers. Contrary to common belief, most indigestion is not due to spicy food, but is, in fact, due to a failure to produce HCl in the stomach.  Antacids typically do more harm than good.  So does drinking too much liquid during a meal.  Far too many Americans consume bovine milk and it's one of the worst things an adult can consume.  But that's material for another post.

We do love our spicy food.  Not just the chilis but horseradish and other types as well.  I would hate to have to eat sushi without my wonderful wasabi paste.  Twyla makes the most delicious spicy/sweet sauce for meats called "Jezebel Sauce"  It's a real treat. The main ingredient is horseradish.

Happy cooking!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Let's Hope So

I second the comment of The Curmudgeon Emeritus.  If the people do what those in Arizona did with John McCain, we are doomed.  But if Nancy is forced to give up the gavel we might have a chance.

Share this link.  Go get it and embed it on your own blog.  I don't need to comment any more than that.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Just Ducky Shabbat

Juvenile Mallard Ducks
We love Shabbat. Today was so nice.  This is a short post because sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words.  It was gorgeous. Barely some cirrus clouds way out on the horizon.  Warm water, cool breeze, but not too much wind.

The bluegill and shad were waiting for us to show up. Nearly a hundred.  Then after a while the ducks spotted us and quickly made their way to us.  There is a mother and her five young'uns.  You can spot mamma duck because her bill is darker and shows more wear and she's a lot more cautious and seems to be constantly warning the kids about things.

I also managed to shoot a little bit of video of Twyla feeding them. You can even see some of the fish swimming around below.

A little bit after this was taken, quite a few people started showing up. Little kids just rush ahead and start chasing the ducks and fish and so we just put the goodies away and wait for things to calm down.  Once the kids get bored from realizing they're not going to catch a duck or a fish, they move on to their other games and then the fish and ducks move back in and surround us.

Twyla got on her raft to get some sun on her back. and when my raft had leaked too much air, I went back to my chair and started feeding the fish again.
Then it didn't take long for the ducks to notice that I was putting stuff in the water again and so they worked their way back over to me.  Since this was about the 5th or 6th time we've done this, the ducks have gotten comfortable with us, so when I couldn't get the Ritz crackers out of the sleeve fast enough, one of the ducks climbed into my lap so it could get the advantage over its siblings. What a surprise. And because Twyla was on her raft, we have no pictures of that.

Twyla paddled back over to the chairs close enough to enjoy watching a couple of them chasing each other out of my lap. But their little webbed feet have little scratchy nails so I decided to direct their attention elsewhere. I started putting pieces of cracker on Twyla's arm so the ducks would come up and nibble them off.  Then I put a piece of cracker in Twyla's mouth to see if they would take it.  No problem.  Time to get the camera.  So now you understand the next two shots.

What is amazing is that it only took about 4 crackers and 8 attempts to get that last shot.

Twyla's cousin said that we have a very interesting life up here in the North Georgia mountains.  We do indeed.

I am so grateful that we have been given the Fourth Commandment to remember and keep the Sabbath holy.  Taking that commandment seriously is what provides for moments like this.  Because had I done things my way, I would have been home "taking advantage" of perfect weather to weed an area and plant more seedlings and put up some more wood for winter or a dozen other things that were "productive."  Our Abba gives us this loving commandment to just cease from the business, the "busyness" of life and just enjoy His creation for the purpose of focusing on Him and worshiping Him.  He is faithful to reward our obedience.

Not For The Squeamish

You would think with a blog called The ComPost Files, I would have already done a post devoted to just that thing. But comments by a beloved reader made me realize I hadn't done so.  Therefore, to rectify my oversight, I submit the following:
One Culvert compost bin

Composting is definitely not for the squeamish, or for those who don't like to get their hands dirty. But if you are going to try to live a self-sufficient lifestyle, you are going to have to get over those impediments.  Composting is vital.  It is a microcosm of the cycle of life.  Besides that, I've only seen a few instances where commercially made fertilizers ever outperformed homemade compost.

If you are a greenhorn to the gardening world, compost is simply the decomposed remains of organic material.  And you may need to think carefully about that, and not be quick to disregard many things as not being truly organic. Maybe a better way of putting it would be "carbon-based" [cue the sci-fi music].  There is also more to composting than just creating a pile or three, or only having a central location to do it.  Since we are doing the weedless/strawbale gardening thing, there are actually two types of composting going on.  More on that later.  If I forget, remind me in the comments section.

Once any living thing dies, decomposition begins.  Microorganisms, mostly bacteria and fungi immediately move in and begin eating.  Truly understanding this process makes me sit in awe at how G-d designed living things.  There are millions of what would otherwise be deadly germs and viral organisms surrounding us on a daily basis. Anthrax, staphylococcus, etcetera are hanging around waiting for just the right conditions to make a meal out of you, but your marvelously designed immune system is constantly fighting them.  The same goes for other animals and even plants.  I mentioned this before, but it's worth emphasizing; fruits can be stored even at moderate temperatures (50° - 70° F) for relatively long periods of time as long as the skin remains intact.

The beautiful thing is that nothing need be wasted, because all of the parts of the plant, and even some animals that we can't or won't eat can be recycled into the very food that helps new life grow.  Before I go on writing on this subject from my perspective, those of you who want much more basic information can go to this link, and then come back here and read more.  I hope that here I will tell you more things that you won't find there.  Such as: "Why do I really need to chop up the stuff that goes into compost?"

Yes, it's a hassle that even I wish I could avoid.  I would much rather just toss the old tomato vines and squash vines and large hunks of watermelon rind in the bin and just let it go.  I could do that and it would still decay, but oh soooooo much s-l-o-w-e-r.  This is because of the physics of geometry, specifically the ratio of  surface area to volume.  As any object gets bigger, the mass of stuff inside gets exponentially larger compared to how much "skin" is surrounding it. The opposite is true as stuff gets smaller, right down to the microscopic level.  So the more you break stuff into smaller and smaller pieces the more surface area is exposed which then can be worked on by the microbes.  So, how fast you go from raw, fresh vegetable waste to rich, ready to use fertilizer depends on how much effort you put into that part of the process.  It's up to you.  For me, at the end of the composting process, I just want to handle stuff that looks, feels, and smells like that stuff you pay $12 for a 25 pound bag potting soil.

Right now, I only have two large compost "bins".  One is a culvert that was left on the property. When and why is a mystery.  The other is a chicken wire cage that used to be a nursery for the chickens before I built Arks I and II.  Fresh compost goes into the culvert first.  Fresh compost can include but is not limited to the following:  any uneaten food, even chicken and fish bones; egg shells; coffee grounds and the filter paper, any and all weeds that I pull, with one exception: plants with thorns.

Plants with thorns either get burned when it is convenient and safe to do so, or they go across the street to an empty lot to naturally compost around the wild blackberries and such.  I want compost that I can handle with my bare hands.

The other composting that I do is more direct and in place. Card board and thick paper, even corrugated, is saved or even scavenged (dumpster diving, anyone?) laid out flat among the straw bales or in places where I might want to plant in the future and prevent weed and grass growth.  It will very slowly decay, retain much more moisture in the ground around the plants and straw bales, and beats the snot out of paying for fancy weed barrier cloth.  In an area where I plant directly in the ground, the mulch/compost is a blend of about one third fresh compost in the decay process, and about two thirds of finished or "dead" compost.  You don't want to "burn" your precious plants.  It's the high nitrogen compounds in fresh fertilizer or commercial fertilizer that burns the roots.  If you are concerned about aesthetics, you either need to just pray that the grocery stores remain open, or you need to learn patience.  The look will soften and improve over time, and with the help of complementary gardening, planting the right kind of flowering herbs and decorative flowers among your edibles will bring great satisfaction in the looks of your garden.  If you don't like the way your garden looks right now, just wait a month.  And whether you do anything or not, it IS guaranteed to change.

Another trick is to find some ready made compost from our wonderful garden friends; the earthworms.  I know of a nearby boat landing on Lake Chatuge which is surrounded by shade trees and lots of undisturbed ground.  Years and years of deadfall, small ground cover vines and such, full of earthworms.  This deep humus soil is nothing but decayed plant matter that is so full of earthworms and so soft that I can just rake my fingers through a square foot of it and have anywhere from six to ten earthworms to catch bluegill with just twenty feet away.  When I'm done fishing, I can fill up four or five buckets of this stuff and take it back to the house.  It's rich, ready-to-use potting soil.

If you cover your fresh compost material with a layer of dead stuff, you can keep the odor down and keep the insects to a minimum, but when you have chickens, the insects can be a benefit.  I don't know the species of flying insect that laid it's larvae in my bin, but the resulting worms were much appreciated. Such maggots or worms are chicken candy.  It's like giving M&Ms to a kid or chocolate truffles to my wife.

Sure, it's very gross to us.  But when I saw those squirmy little things there, I scooped out about two cups and gave them to the chickens and they were in ecstasy. Boy, the things we do for our animals!