Sunday, February 28, 2010

Square Foot Gardening

I started building the frames for my raised-bed square foot garden.
I got the idea from Mel's website and what sets it apart from other raised beds is his particular formula for the soil.  1/3 parts compost, vermiculite, and peat moss.  He has experimented and claims that only 6 inches of soil are needed to grow most plants.

I made three 4x4 frames out of 2x10s.  I used untreated pine and stained them a nice brown color (the gallon pail was on sale at Lowes for $10 (normally $30).  No pics yet - the kiddos broke my camera- so it might be a while before I have photos on my site again. :)

I am getting the vermiculite and peat moss from a garden center, the compost (I don't have any) from the city compost.  I have 16 square feet per box and three boxes.  That's 48 plants!  If this goes well this summer, I'll add more frames next year.

Also, I purchased the mini-greenhouse peat moss kit from Lowes to start my seeds.  For most of Texas and the South, now is the time to get the seeds sprouted and the garden prepped.  Seedlings will be ready to go into the ground in about 3 weeks.  The little peat moss containers are handy.  I know I can make them myself out of newspaper too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What you don't know about axes.

I grew up in the south and being a fairly warm climate, never had to chop wood or cut down trees.  So, my education on chopping tools is fairly new and I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a few things that I would like to share.

First off, an ax is is not a felling ax and it's definitely not a splitting maul.  "What's a splitting maul and why can't I use my utility ax to split wood or cut down a tree," you ask?  Well, for starters you can, but I don't recommend it.  An ax designed to cut down trees is designed to cut down trees, not split wood.  A splitting maul is designed to split wood, not cut down trees.  Your general purpose utility ax can do each of those, just very inefficiently.

Take a gander at this felling ax:

It has a very thin blade and weighs only about 3-4lbs.  This is so that it can be hefted sideways and cut deeply against the grain.  Some felling axes are double bladed and that's fine.  Blades dull and two blades will last twice as long as one.  The down side to the double bladed (double bit) ax is that the handle must be straight and may not be the most efficient swinger out there.  This fiberglass handle from Northern Tool is more durable than wood and easier on the hands in the event of a splinter.

Next, here's a splitting maul:
This maul is heavy at 8-12 lbs and is designed to deliver a lot of downward force.  The blade is fat and rounded to prevent the blade from sticking into the grain of a stubborn log.  Generally, you will spit logs much faster with one of these than any other ax-type hand tool.  You should never use the back of the maul as a sledge hammer or use it to drive in splitting wedges.  The type of metal used in this tool is very brittle and can send off shards of metal causing injury.

Splitting wedges:
Just when you thought you had it figured out, there are different types of wedges too.  Metal wedges are for splitting logs.  Don't use them for anything else.  Generally, if you are trying split some seasoned hardwood you will run into some that just won't split with the maul- that's when you use the wedge with a sledge.  Start the cut with the maul and finish it off with the wedge.

Plastic wedges are used for felling trees.  Never attempt to fell a tree with a metal wedge. Plastic ones are safer especially when you are dealing with a chain saw.  So for big trees, you run the risk of pinching your saw blade between the cut in the tree- that's when a plastic wedge comes into play.  you can use a hatchet or a splitting maul to drive one of these in- it really doesn't matter.  When you use it with a  chain saw it won't damage the chain if you accidently touch it. You could use them for splitting wood, but the metal ones are more durable.

Finally, my little stint here on explaining wood cutting tools is just the first chop at a 100yr old oak.  There are LOTs of different types of tools and many varieties in between for different applications.  Fireman's axes, hatchets, throwing hatchets, camping ones, killing ones... you get the idea.

So, the moral of the story is, if you only have one type of ax in your survival tool kit, you might want to check and see what kind it is and then go and get another one.

I recommend at least a felling ax and a splitting maul in addition to a camp hatchet for limbing.  Also, some advice:  when you buy an ax, it doesn't come sharp.  You will NEED to sharpen it either with a hand sharpener or a bench grinder.  Also, they don't stay sharp- be prepared to sharpen your tools (including shovels) with hand files and stones.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Charcoal cooking

Charcoal is the least expensive fuel per BTU that the average family can store. Remember that it must always be used out of doors because of the vast amounts of poisonous carbon monoxide it produces. Charcoal will store for extended period of time if it is stored in air tight containers. It readily absorbs moisture from the surrounding air so do not store it in the paper bags it comes in for more than a few months or it may be difficult to light. Transfer it to airtight metal or plastic containers and it will keep almost forever.

Fifty or sixty dollars worth of charcoal will provide all the cooking fuel a family will need for an entire year if used sparingly. The best time to buy briquettes inexpensively is at the end of the summer. Broken or torn bags of briquettes are usually sold at a big discount. You will also want to store a small amount of charcoal lighter

To light charcoal using newspapers use two or three sheets, crumpled up, and a #10 tin can. Cut both ends out of the can. Punch holes every two inches around the lower edge of the can with a punch-type can opener (for opening juice cans). Set the can down so the punches holes are on the bottom. Place the crumpled newspaper in the bottom of the can and place the charcoal briquettes on top of the newspaper. Lift the can slightly and light the newspaper. Prop a small rock under the bottom edge of the can to create a a good draft. The briquettes will be ready to use in about 20-30 minutes. When the coals are ready remove the chimney and place them in your cooker. Never place burning charcoal directly on concrete or cement because the heat will crack it. A wheelbarrow or old metal garbage can lid makes an excellent container for this type of fire.

One of the nice things about charcoal is that you can regulate the heat you will receive from them. Each briquette will produce about 40 degrees of heat. If you are baking bread, for example, and need 400 degrees of heat for your oven, simply use ten briquettes.

To conserve heat and thereby get the maximum heat value from your charcoal you must learn to funnel the heat where you want it rather than letting it dissipate into the air around you. One excellent way to do this is to cook inside a cardboard oven. Take a cardboard box, about the size of an orange crate, and cover it with aluminum foil inside and out. Be sure that the shiny side is visible so that maximum reflectivity is achieved. Turn the box on its side so that the opening is no longer on the top but is on the side. Place some small bricks or other noncombustible material inside upon which you can rest a cookie sheet about two or three inches above the bottom of the box. Place ten burning charcoal briquettes between the bricks (if you need 400 degrees), place the support for your cooking vessels, and then place your bread pans or whatever else you are using on top of the cookie sheet. Prop a foil-covered cardboard lid over the open side, leaving a large crack for air to get in (charcoal needs a lot of air to burn) and bake your bread, cake, cookies, etc. just like you would in your regular oven. Your results will amaze you.

To make your own charcoal, select twigs, limbs, and branches of fruit, nut and other hardwood trees; black walnuts and peach or apricot pits may also be used. Cut wood into desired size, place in a large can which has a few holes punched in it, put a lid on the can and place the can in a hot fire. When the flames from the holes in the can turn yellow-red, remove the can from the fire and allow it to cool. Store the briquettes in a moisture-proof container. Burn charcoal only in a well-ventilated area.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Last chance to prep before Iran does something

On the off chance that Iran decides to do something crazy- be it an EMP, conventional nuke, or oil denomination policy change, you have until about 10:30 tonight Central time before that window of opportunity starts to disappear.  In about 4 hrs Iranians will be waking up to start the 11th of Feb.  I have no idea when they plan to do what they are going to do... we will likely be sleeping when it happens (so they can be awake to enjoy it).

Hoping I'm wrong,


Monday, February 8, 2010

More on Feb 11th

"Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran is set to deliver a "punch" that will stun world powers during this week's 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
"The Iranian nation, with its unity and God's grace, will punch the arrogance (Western powers) on the 22nd of Bahman (February 11) in a way that will leave them stunned," Khamenei, who is also Iran's commander-in-chief, told a gathering of air force personnel."
Read entire article here.

We now have had two warnings from Iran that intends to deal "Western arrogant powers" a blow.

Couple this with the news that Syria withdrew their apology for killing civilian Jews last fall- immediately following the announcement, Israel announced they would be willing to enter peace talks.  Sounds like some political posturing.  How would it look to the world if Israel is waiving a white flag of peace and then are bombed by Iran?  Israel is hoping that the posturing will prevent an attack.

I'm not saying that Iran will strike us (America) or Israel, only that the chances of something bad happening on the 10th-11th of Feb (that's in 2 days) are increased.

I honestly DON'T think anything will happen, but on the off chance that it does, I encourage all of my readers to prepare today and tomorrow.  Gas, food, laundry, phone calls, water...  I hope I'm wrong and you can just chalk me up as a loony.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Prophets warn of coming danger

This is nothing new; but its refreshing to hear it from the prophets' mouths, both old and new.

For those who aren't familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint church, here's a link:

Just one more reason to prepare- if you are Christian, and you know the scriptures and what the ancient prophets taught, you know what is coming and that what the current prophets are teaching coincides perfectly.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

East Coast snow causes rush on food stores

The east coast is going to be up to their necks in snow this weekend.  People always freakout in the east whenever there is snow- but this time it looks like it's justified.  2 1/2 feet are predicted.  Hope you guys affected by the snow were prepared.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Shoppers jammed aisles and emptied stores of milk, bread, shovels, driveway salt and other supplies. Many scrambling for food and supplies were too late.
"Our shelves are bare," said Food Lion front-end manager Darlene Baboo in Dover. "This is just unreal."
Airlines canceled flights, churches called off weekend services and people wondered if they would be stuck at home for several days in a region ill-equipped to deal with so much snow.
Several thousand people in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania had lost electricity and more outages were expected as the snow began to bring down power lines. A hospital fire in D.C. sent about three dozen patients scurrying from their rooms to safety in a basement. The blaze started when a snow plow truck caught fire near the building.

Friday, February 5, 2010

dead battery

I have a trickle charger on my jeep that sits in my garage.  It's been charging for about a year (or so I thought).  I went to crank it up today and the battery was dead.  I checked under the hood only to find that the negative battery jumper had come loose who knows how many months ago.  Lesson: check your stuff more often than once a year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Iran launches "dirty" missile

This is a follow-up post to yesterday's. This morning, Iran reported launching a missile into space that contained a payload of turtles, worms and mice.,2933,584660,00.html?test=latestnews

Of note, turtles, worms and mice are ALL non-halal or non-kosher.

What does that mean?

Well, Iranian Shiites teach that if a believer was to touch one of these and die before repenting, it would damn him to hell.

Why would they choose to send these particular animals into space- why even handle them? This missile is supposed to represent the great achievement of the Islamic Revolution and the return to the true religion. Why then represent it with "unclean" animals?

If there was a warhead on this missile, it would be the equivalent of dipping bullets in pig's blood to damn the enemy to hell.

Food for thought. Now go and buy some food for storage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are you ready for Feb 11th? You'd better be...

First off, I need to warn you that what I'm about to write is pure speculation on my part.  I have no inside knowledge that leads me to the conclusion I'm about to share.  Secondly, I hope I'm wrong.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared yesterday in the commencement speech celebrating the 1979 Iranian Revolution that his nation will deliver a harsh blow to the "global arrogance" on this year's anniversary of the Islamic Revolution (11 Feb).

Let's rewind just a bit to put this in proper perspective. News flash- September 29, 2009: Iran Admits it has developed Uranium - a key ingredient for nuclear weapons.

Three months later on Dec 23rd, Iran's Minister of Defense announced that during the 10 Day Dawn (the first 10 days of Feb) it would launch a new breed of satellites with it's indigenous missiles.

This brings us to present day.  Let's just say that Iran has developed a few nuclear warheads.  It would not survive a symmetrical nuclear war.  To use the weapon effectively, they would likely use it as an EMP- al a "One Second After"

Suppose the "satellite launch" is only a cover for the missile that will "deliver a harsh blow" on 11 Feb.

But wait- suppose I'm wrong on the nukes.  How else could Iran deliver a harsh blow?  They could announce that they will no longer sell their oil in US dollars.  They will insist on the Euro instead.  This will bring an immediate  crash to the dollar, oil prices skyrocket.... you know the rest.

But am I the only one that thinks this threat is real?  Let's see what the US military is doing about it just this past week.
US raises stakes on Iran by sending in ships and missiles
Anti-Missile Systems Deployed to Middle East Against Iranian Threats

Iran has noticed the build-up too:  Iran Reports Naval Buildup In Gulf

So, like I said in the beginning, I hope I'm wrong.  I probably am.  But, this might be the only warning you get.
I did work for six years as an intelligence specialist and I do have a Master's degree in Strategic Intelligence- for what it's worth. I would say that the chances of an incident are much higher next week than usual.  Not that it is definitely going to happen.

What can you do about it?  Well, for starters finish any preparations you might need.  Fill your gas tanks and do all your shopping on the 9th. - might make it an extra large shopping trip.  Get that extra box of ammo you've been meaning to and call your family- just to make the final plans of what you will do if it does happen. Maybe an extra tank of propane...

I hope that I can look back on this a week and half from now and laugh- Best of luck to all of you.