Friday, September 30, 2011

Sounding the alarm

So, what are the chances of my family contracting an uncommon disease within months of me writing a book about uncommon diseases?  Apparently, pretty good.  The results are in and we do, indeed, have Pertussis - commonly known as Whooping Cough.

Truthfully, I have thought for some time that we had become complacent with our own health and medical knowledge, relying greatly on the modern medical practices and expertise of our doctors and other health care providers.  We just assume that the doctors know what they are doing and we can just go get a pill.  Ultimately, that may not be the case.

I took Miss Calamity and Master Calvin to a clinic in our home town on Monday, after a reasonably frightful Sunday night.  After describing, in detail, the symptoms our family was experiencing, with emphasis on the aggressive cough culminating in throwing up, I was told that we all had sinus infections.  Really.  After repeatedly asking for a Pertussis swab to be performed on Miss Calamity, I was told that the doctor was too busy and it would be a couple of hours before we could be seen for the swab.  And, besides, It wasn't Pertussis, it was a sinus infection.

Two more harrowing days of trying to cough up our lungs (yes, I did succumb to the disease), I called our family doctor (who practices in a town about 1/2 hour away) who immediately suspected Whooping Cough.  She asked me to bring one child in to be tested while she prescribed antibiotics for our entire family.

While chatting with our doctor, she told me that they have seen over 20 Pertussis cases within the last month.  It seems to be infecting both those that have been immunized (even recently) and those who have not been immunized.  I don't know the reasons for this, but I have to wonder, if Pertussis, like so many other bacteria and viruses, has found a way to skirt our immunizations.

This is just another wake up call.  We MUST know how to identify illnesses and care for our loved ones.  The diseases that we believe to be eradicated may, in fact, just be dormant, waiting to resurface.  And we are ill prepared.  Doctors have not dealt with Whooping Cough.  It is not within their scope of reference.  The old ways of dealing with this disease have been lost.  What happens when we start seeing Typhus, Typhoid and the Black Plague?

Our family was fortunate to be able to secure the proper antibiotics to lessen the severity of the Whooping Cough, but no matter what, we can't cure it.  By the grace of God, no one in our house is in an age group that is particularly vulnerable to the lethal complications of Pertussis, but people that we have come into contact with may very well be quite vulnerable.

I would encourage every one of you to consider disease as a very real potential threat to yourself and your loved ones.  Arm yourself with knowledge, medicine and solid reference materials.  Be prepared!

In case any of you are wondering, our family is being treated with Azithromycin (Substituted for Zithromax) 250 mg tablets.  We took two tablets on the first day (at the same time) and one tablet a day for the next four days.  The children had a liquid equivalent.  As I said, the antibiotics don't cure Pertussis, but they do reduce the severity of the coughing and they make you non-contagious 5 days after you have begun taking them.

DISCLAIMER:  It is not our intention to personally test each disease mentioned in my book.  You may be required to test some of the diseases yourselves!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sickhouse

I pushed two wing back chairs together to form a bed for
Miss Calamity.  I rather think it looks like a fairy tale ship's berth.

Thank you all for your encouragements and suggestions.  We are limping along, trying to get this thing under control.

My gut feeling is that we have Pertussis.  Whooping Cough has been invading our area and I believe that we may be the latest victims.  Interestingly it seems to be affecting the immunized and un-immunized alike.  After a particularly bad night (Sir Knight almost passed out in the middle of a coughing fit, and three more children developed the tell-tale whoop) I got on the phone with our family doctor.  Her immediate assessment was Pertussis.  She requested that we bring one child in for testing, while prescribing all of us antibiotics so that we could reduce the severity of our illness.  Master Hand Grenade drew the short straw and got to have the nasal swab preformed on him.  We should know with certainty later today or tomorrow.  I will keep you posted.

Our nightly routine - Ice water, bowl (to catch anything icky), damp
wash cloth (for wiping faces) and a rag for wiping snotty noses.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Symphony of Sickness

I'm so sorry for the silence but I have a house full of illness.  The children, one by one, have succumbed to a nasty sickness that involves aggressive coughing fits.  Unfortunately, even Sir Knight wasn't spared.  Maid Elizabeth and I have been spending our days and nights caring for our ailing flock.  We send each person to bed with a bowl (they are coughing so hard that they are throwing up), a cool wet washcloth and a glass of water and then we spend our night making the rounds, checking to see if everyone is breathing after a particularly nasty coughing fit.  I will post as time allows.

Keep your powder dry.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wildcrafting - Rose Hip Jelly

We live in an area resplendent with wild roses (Rosa Canina).  Every year, when the rose hips command attention with their varying hues of red, pink and orange, I promise myself that I am going to attempt rose hip jelly.   Year after year, as late summer turns into autumn, I watch the rose hips wither and die and vow that "next year I'll find the time to make jelly".

This was the year.  As I walked with  my children, gathering samples for their nature journals, I harvested a hand full of beautiful, plump rose hips.  We brought our treasures home, drew pictures and researched our various samples.  Reading article after article singing the praises of the humble rose hip spurred me into action.  Armed with baskets and rose scissors, the kids and I scoured our country road in search of the tart fruit of the dog roses.

After filling our baskets, we carefully picked through our rose hips, removing the stems and flower remnants.  At first I just plucked them off with my fingers, however I eventually resorted to a knife because my thumbs were complaining loudly.  I rinsed the hips, making sure to toss any rotten ones and cutting off any bad or wormy spots.  After putting them (about 5 cups worth) in a pot, I covered them with 4 cups of water, put a lid on the pot and gently brought the rose hips to a boil, stirring occasionally.  I simmered them, stirring from time to time for about 20 minutes, removed from the heat, covered and let them sit in the pot overnight.

Picked through and ready to boil
Having been boiled and allowed to sit overnight
The next day, I pulled out my trusty sieve with a wooden follower and poured about 1/2 of the rose hip/water combination through it.  The water, of course, zipped through the sieve, but I really had to work the rose hips to press the pulp through.  Occasionally, I would scrape the pulp off of the outside of the sieve, into my glass measuring bowl.  I continued working the rose hips until I couldn't get any more pulp out of them and then dumped what was left into my "chicken bucket".  I poured the second half of the rose hips/water into the sieve and finished working it into a pulp.

Jam making sieve
Pushing the pulp through the sieve
I ended up with about 2 cups of pulp/juice in my measuring bowl.  I added a cup of water to bring the amount up to 3 cups.  After stirring the pulp and water together, I poured it into a pot, added 3 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of lemon juice.  Using a whisk, I stirred and heated the pulp, water, sugar and juice until it became a lovely, smooth syrup.  On medium/high heat, I continued to stir and heat until the jelly reached 220 degrees (it took about 20 minutes).  After the jelly reached the desired temperature, I poured it into sterilized jars, capped them off and processed them in my water bath canner.

The pulp and the juice
Heating, after adding lemon juice and sugar
Rose hip jelly is beautiful!  And the taste is difficult to describe - very tangy and sweet, all at the same time.  Rose hips are extraordinarily high in Vitamin C - in fact they are one of the richest plant sources available.  During World War II, British citizens were encouraged to cultivate rose hip producing roses to supplement their Vitamin C sources.  Rose hips are also beneficial for treating rheumatoid arthritis due to both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.

Rose Hip Jelly
Because the yield from rose hips is rather small, I would be very tempted to add rose hips to another, abundant fruit to increase the jelly output.  Due to the high concentration of Vitamin C, rose hips could be an essential part of a healthy, post-TEOTWAWKI diet.  I can say with certainty that I will be indulging in rose hip jelly this year and for many years to come.

**I chose not to use pectin, heating the mixture to induce a jell.  However, you could use pectin to achieve the same jell.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Armchair Survivalist - Addendum

After re-reading my post on armchair survivalists, I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify my position.

Some of you may have thought I was scoffing at your level of preparations or didn't think people should research or talk about preparedness.  That couldn't be farther from the truth!  In reality, all of us have different resources from which to draw on as we prepare for an uncertain future.  In a perfect world, we would have unlimited time and money and could build zombie proof bunkers that would see us safely through World War III.  The world just isn't perfect, and nobody (at least nobody that I know) has the time or finances to accommodate such a plan.

The real world dictates that we go to war with what we have.  My entreaty to all of you is to make sure you know how to use what you have.  If you only have a can opener and some canned goods - make sure you know how to use your can opener.  If you only have a Buck knife, don't leave it in the box - use it so you know how to when you really need it.  If you are fortunate enough to have an AR-15, don't let it become a safe queen.  Sight it in, put it through its paces, oil it - prepare it to stand at the ready.

We all learn from one another, but we can't rely on the "experts" that have never done it.  Seek out people that have skills that you don't have and learn.  Ask questions.  Be prudent.  When push comes to shove, only the skills you have learned will be of any use to you.  All of the research you have done and information that you have garnered will be like so much rubbish unless you have put it into practice.

When Sir Knight and I were preparing for Y2K we read every magazine, book and article we could get our hands on.  We drank in stories of living off the grid with nothing more than a China diesel generator and a few Aladdin lamps.  We "knew" that you could run an entire household, including freezers and refrigerators, with a few gallons of diesel and a little ingenuity.  We read product reviews and researched energy systems.  We talked and planned and bought.  We smugly waited for midnight on December 31, 1999.  We were ready.  And nothing happened.

As 2000 ambled into fall, we moved into Little Shouse on the Prairie.  Unexpectedly thrust into pioneer life, we were confident that we would have no problems with our new normal.  As we put each new skill to the test and each new tool into service, we were awakened to the fact that we were ill prepared for our new life.  Nothing worked the way the "experts" said it would.  The China Diesel leaked like a sieve.  Refrigeration was an impossibility.  The Aladdin's burned up one mantle after another and the Petromax caught the kitchen table on fire.  Cooking everything from scratch in a wood cookstove was time consuming and hard and the romantic notions of gathering in the evenings to read out loud were marred by freezing temperatures and shivering bodies.

Through the school of hard knocks, we learned that many "experts" were, in reality, armchair survivalists.  They talked a good story, but they had never lived the life.

We do need to exchange ideas.  We need to know what works and what doesn't.  But we need to be prudent when we are acquiring information.  Do we ask the guy that has written the book on off-grid living, or the guy who has lived off-grid living?

You don't have to spend a million dollars to be prepared.  You don't have to live without electricity and do your laundry on the wood stove, but you do have to know how to use what you have, whether it is a kerosene lamp or a 5KW solar system.  Preparedness is going to look different on each of us.  What it looks like doesn't matter, how it functions does.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Armchair Survivalist

Whenever I get an email that begins "Someday, I'm going to...." or "I read that you really should...", my eyes glaze over and I develop a twitch.  Over the course of the last couple of years, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in the survival/preparedness movement.  More people are talking about it and fewer people are doing it.  As preparedness has become mainstream, talking heads have popped up all over the internet, on TV, in magazines and any other medium willing to capitalize on the newest multi-million dollar industry.

Every wanna be survivalist has an opinion.  They have read every book, looked at every product and developed their survival strategy.  They all have their pet project and to disagree with them is close to a mortal sin.  They wax eloquent about their plans for food storage, alternative energy, personal hygiene and practical medical protocols.  But they have never done any of it.

Changing connectors on a battery
Our homemade clothes horse
Oh, they may have a pallet of freeze dried food in the basement, a complete backup solar system, including lead acid batteries and a stockpile of band-aids, but they remain hermetically sealed in their original packaging while the batteries discharge and sulfate from lack of use.  They are for "some day".  While the internet survivalist dispenses page after page of "first hand advice", their preparations sit, untested.

Sir Knight and I speak from 15 years of active suvivalism.  We KNOW what works and what doesn't work.  We have had an Outback Flexmax 80 charge controller fail right out of the box.  We have had lightening destroy a Trace inverter and have had generators go belly-up.  We have had an M1A fail, destroyed radio headsets and almost caught our house on fire with a Petromax lantern.  We have washed laundry on the top of our wood cookstove, used a Wonder Washer and made our own laundry soap.  We have explored the simple pleasures of the James Washer, made our own clothes horse and sighted in more AR-15's than we can count.  We have learned to make candles, milk a cow, can just about everything and make our own soap.  Our children can garden, butcher a deer and make range cards.  We are not your garden variety, mainstream "preppers".  We are get your hands dirty, figure out how to do it, walk the talk kind of survivalists.

AR with green furniture
Freshly cut soap
Using the James Washer
Making candles
Finding a vein
The reality is that we are fast approaching a critical moment in the history of our great country.  Now is not the time to talk about "what we are going to do".  Now is the time to put your money where your mouth is.  Now is the time to put into action all of those grand ideas that have been floating around in your head.  Until you actually do something, you will not know what will work and what will fail.  If a component fails now, it can be easily remedied.  Not so if it is TEOTWAWKI.  You might not have "someday", but you do have right now - today.  Make the most out of this moment.  Don't become an armchair survivalist.

Use it, use it, use it.  Survivalism is a way of life. It is not something you talk about, it is something you do.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sunrise at Coffin Rock - Part II

 Make sure that you read the beginning of this story here.  How this story ends is really up to us....

By Raymond K. Paden 

Thomas sat alone upon the cold stone, shivering slightly in the chilly pre-dawn air of this April morning. The flashlight was turned off, resting beside him on the bare granite of Coffin Rock, and involuntarily he strained his eyes in the gray non-light of the false dawn, trying to make out the shapes of the trees, and the mountains across the river. Below, he could hear the chuckling of the water as it crossed the polished stones. How many times had he fished there, his grandfather beside him.
He tried to shrug away the memories, but why else had he come here except to remember. Perhaps to escape the inevitable confrontation with his mother. She would have to be told sooner or later, but Thomas infinitely preferred later.
"Mom, I've been expelled from the university, he said aloud in a conversational tone. Some small night animal, startled by the sudden sound, scurried away to the right. "I know this means you won't get that upgrade to C-3, and they'll probably turn you down for that surgery now. Gee, Mom, I'm sorry." It sounded so stupid. "Why?" she would ask. "How?"
How could he explain that? The endless arguments. The whispered warnings. The subtle threats. Dennis had told him to expect this. Dennis had lost his parents back in the First Purge back in 2004, and his bitter hatred of the State's iron rule had failed to ruin him only because of his unique and accomplished abilities as an actor. Only with Thomas did he open up. Only with Thomas did he relate the things he had earned while in the Youth Reeducation Camp near Charleston. Thomas shuddered.
It was his own fault, he knew. He should have kept his mouth shut like Dennis told him. All of his friends had come and shook his hand and pounded him on the back. "That's telling them, Adams!" they said. But their voices were hushed and they glanced over their shoulders as they congratulated him. And later, when the "volunteers" of the Green Ribbon Squad kicked his ass all over the shower room, they had stood by in nervous silence, their faces turned away, their eyes averted, and their tremulous voices silent.
He sighed. Could he blame them. He'd been afraid too, when the squad walked up and surrounded him, and if he could have taken back those proud words he would have. Anyone is afraid when they can't fight back, he'd discovered. So they taught him a lesson, and he had expected it to end there. But then yesterday had come the call to Dr. Morton's office, and the brief hearing that had ended his career at the university. "Thomas," Morton had intoned, "You owe everything to the State." Thomas snorted.
The light was growing now. He could see the pale, rain-washed granite in the grayness as if it glowed. Coffin Rock was now a knob, a raised promontory that jutted up from a wide, unbroken arm of the mountain's stony roots, its cover of soil pushed away. There were deep gouges scraped across the surface of the rock where the backhoe had tried, vainly, to force the mountain to reveal its secrets. He was too old to cry now, but Thomas Adams closed his eyes tightly as he relived those moments that had forever changed his life.
The shouts and angry accusations as the agents found no secret arms cache still seemed to ring in his ears. They had threatened him with arrest, and once he had thought the government agent named Goodwin wouId actually strike him. At last, though, they had accepted defeat and turned down the mountain, following the gashed trail of the back-hoe as it rumbled ahead through the woods.
At home, he had found his mother and father standing, ashen faced, in the doorway.
"They took your grandpa," his father said in disbelief. "Just after you left, they put him in a van and took him."
"But they said they wouldn't!" Thomas had shouted. He ran across the yard to the old man's cottage. The door was standing open and he wandered from room to room calling for the grandfather he would never see alive again.
It was his heart, they said. Two days after they had taken him, someone called and tersely announced that the old man had died at the indigent clinic a few hours after his arrest. "Sorry," the faceless voice had muttered. Thomas had wept at the funeral, but it was only in later years that he had come to understand the greatest tragedy of that day-that the old man had died alone, knowing that his own grandson had betrayed him.
That grandson was Thomas Adams, and he was now too old to cry but in the growing light of the cold mountain dawn, he did anyway.
Thomas was certain that his father's de-certification six months later was due to the debacle in the forest. As much as anyone did these days, they had "owned" their home, but the Certification Board would still have evicted them except for the intervention of Cousin Lou, who worked for the State Supervisor. As it was, they lost all privileges and, when his father came down with pneumonia the next autumn, medical treatment was denied. He had died three days after the first anniversary of Grandpa's death.

Thomas had been sure that he would be turned down at the University, but once again his cousin had intervened and a slot had "opened" for him. But now that's finished, he reflected. He would be unable to obtain any certification other than manual laborer. "Why didn't I keep my mouth shut" he asked the morning stillness. In a tree behind him, a mockingbird began to sing its ageless song, and as if in answer, the forest below began to twitter and chirp with the voices of other birds, greeting the new day.
No, what he had said had been the truth and nothing could change that. The State was wrong. It was evil. It was unnatural for men to be slaves of their government, always skulking, always holding their tongues lest they anger The State. But there is no "State," Thomas considered. There are only evil men, holding power over other men. And anyone who speaks out, who dares to challenge that power, is crushed.
If only there was a way to fight back!
Thomas shifted on the stone, hanging his feet off the downhill side. His feet had almost touched the grass that day, but now, although his legs were certainly longer, it was at least ten inches to the scarred rock surface below. As he kicked his heels back and forth, he could almost hear his grandfather speaking to him from long ago...
"One day, America will come to her senses. Our men will need those guns and they'll be ready. We cleaned them and sealed them up good' they'll last for years. Maybe it won't be in your lifetime, Thomas. Maybe one day you'll be sitting here with your son or grandson. Tell him about me, boy. Tell him about the way I said America used to be.
"You see the way this stone points." the old man was saying. "You follow that line one hundred feet..." Thomas' heels were suddenly still. For many minutes he did not move, playing those words over and over in his mind. "...Follow that line..."
What hidden place in his brain had concealed those words all of these years. How could the threats have failed to dislodge it. He stood upon shaky legs and climbed down from Coffin Rock. In his mind's eye, he could see the old man pointing and he walked down the hill and through a clinging briar patch, counting off the paces. The round stone did seem solidly buried, but he scratched around near the base and found that the rock ended just an inch or so beneath the surface. "One man with a good bar can lift it," Grandfather had said. Thomas forced his fingers beneath the stone and, with all the strength in his 21-year-old body, he lifted. The stone came up, and he slid it off to one side. Cool air drifted up from the dark opening in the mountain. Thomas looked to the right where the scars of the State's frustration ended, only 15 or 20 feet away. They had been that close.
He squatted and stared into the darkness and then remembered his flashlight. In a moment, he was back with it, probing into the darkness with the yellow beam. There was a small patch of moisture just inside, but then the tunnel climbed upwards toward the ridge. On hands and knees, he entered.
It was uncomfortably close for the first 20 feet or so, then the cavern opened up around him. The men who had built this place, he saw, had taken a natural crevice in the granite rock, sealed it with masses of poured concrete, and then covered it with earth. The main chamber was bigger than the living room of a house, and they had left an opening up near the peak of the vaulted roof where fresh air and a faint, filtered light entered.
Wooden boxes and crates were stacked everywhere on concrete blocks, up off of the floor, stenciled with legends like, RIFLE, CAL. 30 M1, 9MM PARA, M193 BALL, 7.62 x 39MM, and 5.56MM. He pushed between them and crawled to the wall where he found cardboard boxes wrapped with plastic sheeting. They were imprinted with strange names like CCI, OLIN, WW748, BULLSEYE, and RL 550B.
He did not know what the crates and boxes contained, and was afraid to break the seals, but near the center of the room he found a plastic-wrapped carton labeled "OPEN THIS FIRST." With his penknife, he slit the heavy plastic wrapping.
It contained books, he saw with some disappointment. But he studied the titles and found that they were manuals on weapons and how to repair them, how to clean them, how to fire them, and ammunition... how to store it, and how to reload it. And here was something unusual: A History of the United States. He lifted it from the carton and crawled back to the open air. Leaning against a stone, he tore open the heavy vinyl bag that enclosed the book and began to read at random, flipping the pages every few moments. On each page, something new met his eye, contradicting everything he had ever been taught.
Freedom is not won, he learned, by loud words and declarations.
He remembered a quotation taught at the University: "Blood alone moves the wheels of history." An Italian dictator named Mussolini had said that, but now he read of a man named Patrick C. Henry who said, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Mao was required reading at the University, too, and he now recalled that this man - called a "hero" by The State - had once said, "Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun."
Freedom is never granted, it is won. Won by men who are willing to die, willing to lose everything so that others may have the greatest possession of all: liberty.
Mentally, he began to list those he could trust. Men who had been arrested for speaking out. Women whose husbands had been arrested and never returned. Friends who had been denied certification because of their fathers' military records. The countryside seethed with anger and frustration. These were people who longed to be free, but who had no means to resist... until now.
Thomas laid the book aside and then worked the stone back into position, carefully placing leaves and moss around the base to hide any evidence that it had been disturbed. He tucked the book under his arm and started for home with the rays of the rising sun warming his back. He imagined his grandfather's touch in the heat. A forgiving touch.
A long, hard struggle was coming, and he knew with a certainty that defied explanation that he would not live to see the day America would once again be free. His blood and that of many patriots and tyrants would be spilled, but perhaps America's tree of Liberty would live and flourish again.
There is a long line stretching through the history of this world - a line of those who valued freedom more than their lives. Thomas Adams now took his place at the end of that column as he determined that he would have liberty, or death. He would be in good company. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sundown at Coffin Rock

This is a two part story that was originally published in The Blue Press.  Part two will be posted at a later date.  I'll let the story speak for itself.


By Raymond K. Paden
The old man walked slowly through the dry, fallen leaves of autumn, his practiced eye automatically choosing the bare and stony places in the trail for his feet. There was scarcely a sound as he passed, though his left knee was stiff with scar tissue. He grunted occasionally as the tight sinews pulled. Damn chainsaw, he thought.
Behind him, the boy shuffled along, trying to imitate his grandfather, but unable to mimic the silent motion that the old man had learned during countless winter days upon this wooded mountain in pursuit of game. He’s fifteen years old, the old man thought. Plenty old enough to be learning…But that was another time, another America. His mind drifted, and he saw himself, a fifteen-year-old boy following in the footsteps of his own grandfather, clutching a twelve gauge in his trembling hands as they tracked a wounded whitetail.
The leg was hurting worse now, and he slowed his pace a bit. Plenty of time. It should have been my own son here with me now, the old man thought sadly. But Jason had no interest, no understanding. He cared for nothing but pounding on the keys of that damned computer terminal. He knew nothing about the woods, or where food came from…or freedom. And that’s my fault, isn’t it?
The old man stopped and held up his hand, motioning for the boy to look. In the small clearing ahead, the deer stood motionless, watching them. It was a scraggly buck, underfed and sickly, but the boy’s eyes lit up with excitement. It had been many years since they had seen even a single whitetail here on the mountain. After the hunting had stopped, the population had exploded. The deer had eaten the mountain almost bare until erosion had become a serious problem in some places. That following winter, three starving does had wandered into the old man’s yard, trying to eat the bark off of his pecan trees, and he had wished the “animal rights” fanatics could have been there then. It was against the law, but old man knew a higher law, and he took an axe into the yard and killed the starving beasts. They did not have the strength to run.

The buck finally turned and loped away, and they continued down the trail to the river. When they came to the “Big Oak,” the old man turned and pushed through the heavy brush beside the trail and the boy followed, wordlessly. The old man knew that Thomas was curious about their leaving the trail, but the boy had learned to move silently (well, almost) and that meant no talking. When they came to “Coffin Rock,” the old man sat down upon it and motioned for the boy to join him.
“You see this rock, shaped like a casket?” the old man asked. “Yes sir.”  The old man smiled. The boy was respectful and polite. He loved the outdoors, too. Everything a man could ask in a grandson…or a son.
“I want you to remember this place, and what I’m about to tell you. A lot of it isn’t going to make any sense to you, but it’s important and one day you’ll understand it well enough. The old man paused. Now that he was here, he didn’t really know where to start.
“Before you were born,” he began at last, “this country was different. I’ve told you about hunting, about how everybody who obeyed the law could own guns. A man could speak out, anywhere, without worrying about whether he’d get back home or not. School was different, too. A man could send his kids to a church school, or a private school, or even teach them at home. But even in the public schools, they didn’t spend all their time trying to brainwash you like they do at yours now.”  The old man paused, and was silent for many minutes. The boy was still, watching a chipmunk scavenging beside a fallen tree below them.
“Things don’t ever happen all at once, boy. They just sort of sneak up on you. Sure, we knew guns were important; we just didn’t think it would ever happen in America. But we had to do something about crime, they said. It was a crisis. Everything was a crisis!  It was a drug crisis, or a terrorism crisis, or street crime, or gang crime. Even a ‘health care’ crisis was an excuse to take away a little more of our rights.” The old man turned to look at his grandson.
“They ever let you read a thing called the Constitution down there at your school?” The boy solemnly shook his head. “Well, the Fourth Amendment’s still in there. It says there won’t be any unreasonable searches and seizures. It says you’re safe in your own home.”  The old man shrugged. “That had to go. It was a crisis! They could kick your door open any time, day or night, and come in with guns blazing if they thought you had drugs…or later, guns. Oh, at first it was just registration – to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals!  But that didn’t work, of course, and then later when they wanted to take ‘em they knew where to look. They banned “assault rifles”, and then “sniper rifles”, and “Saturday-night-specials.” Everything you saw on the TV or in the movies was against us. God knows the news people were!  And the schools were teaching our kids that nobody needed guns anymore. We tried to take a stand, but we felt like the whole face of our country had changed and we were left outside.

“Me and a friend of mine, when we saw what was happening, we came and built a secret place up here on the mountain. A place where we could put our guns until we needed them. We figured some day Americans would remember what it was like to be free, and what kind of price we had to pay for that freedom. So we hid our guns instead of losing them.”
“One fellow I knew disagreed. He said we ought to use our guns now and stand up to the government. ‘Said that the colonists had fought for their freedom when the British tried to disarm them at Lexington and Concord. Well, he and a lot of others died in what your history books call the ‘Tax Revolt of 1998,’ but son, it wasn’t the revolt that caused the repeal of the Second Amendment like your history book says. The Second Amendment was already gone long before they ever repealed it. The rest of us thought we were doing the right thing by waiting. I hope to God we were right.
“You see, Thomas. It isn’t government that makes a man free. In the end, governments always do just the opposite. They gobble up freedom like hungry pigs. You have to have laws to keep the worst in men under control, but at the same time the people have to have guns, too, in order to keep the government itself under control. In our country, the people were supposed to be the final authority of the law, but that was a long time ago. Once the guns were gone, there was no reason for those who run the government to give a damn about laws and constitutional rights and such. They just did what they pleased and anyone who spoke out…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
“It took a long time to collect up all the millions of firearms that were in private hands. The government created a whole new agency to see to it. There were rewards for turning your friends in, too. Drug dealers and murderers were set free after two or three years in prison, but possession of a gun would get you mandatory life behind bars with no parole.
“I don’t know how they found out about me, probably knew I’d been a hunter all those years, or maybe somebody turned me in. They picked me up on suspicion and took me down to the federal building.
“Son, those guys did everything they could think of to me. Kept me locked up in this little room for hours, no food, no water. They kept coming in, asking me where the guns were. ‘What guns?’  I said. Whenever I’d doze off, they’d come crashing in, yelling and hollering. I got to where I didn’t know which end was up. I’d say I wanted my lawyer and they’d laugh. ‘Lawyers are for criminals’, they said. ‘You’ll get a lawyer after we get the guns.’ What’s so funny is, I know they thought they were doing the right thing. They were fighting crime!
“When I got home I found Ruth sitting in the middle of the living room floor, crying her eyes out. The house was a shambles. While I was down there, they’d come out and took our house apart. Didn’t need a search warrant, they said. National emergency! Gun crisis!  Your grandma tried to call our preacher and they ripped the phone off the wall. Told her that they’d go easy on me if she just told them where I kept my guns.” The old man laughed. “She told them to go to hell.” He stared into the distance for a moment as his laughter faded.
“They wouldn’t tell her about me, where I was or anything, that whole time. She said that she’d thought I was dead. She never got over that day, and she died the next December.
“They’ve been watching me ever since, off and on. I guess there’s not much for them to do anymore, now that all the guns are gone. Plenty of time to watch one foolish old man.” He paused. Beside him, the boy stared at the stone beneath his feet.
“Anyway, I figure that, one day, America will come to her senses. Our men will need those guns and they’ll be ready. We cleaned them and sealed them up good; they’ll last for years. Maybe it won’t be in your lifetime, Thomas. Maybe one day you’ll be sitting here with your son or grandson. Tell him about me, boy. Tell him about the way I said America used to be.” The old man stood, his bad leg shaking unsteadily beneath him.
“You see the way this stone points? You follow that line one-hundred feet down the hill and you’ll find a big round rock. It looks like it’s buried solid, but one man with a good pry bar can lift it, and there’s a concrete tunnel right under there that goes back into the hill.”
The old man stood, watching as the sun eased toward the ridge, coloring the sky and the world red. Below them, the river still splashed among the stones, as it had for a million years. It’s still going, the old man thought. There’ll be someone left to carry on for me when I’m gone. It was harder to walk back. He felt old and purposeless now, and it would be easier, he knew, to give in to that aching heaviness in his left lung that had begun to trouble him more and more. Damn cigarettes, he thought. His leg hurt, and the boy silently came up beside him and supported him as they started down the last mile toward the house. How quiet he walks, the old man thought. He’s learned well.
It was almost dark when the boy walked in. His father looked up from his paper.
“Did you and your granddad have a nice walk?”
“Yes,” the boy answered, opening the refrigerator. “You can call Agent Goodwin tomorrow. Gramps finally showed me where it is.”

Editor’s note: “Sundown at Coffin Rock” is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual events or to actual people, living or dead, REMAINS TO BE SEEN.

Sundown at Coffin Rock originally appeared in the May 1994 issue of The Blue Press – a catalog/magazine published by Dillon Precision Products, Inc., 8009 E. Dillon’s Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85260. For a free catalog, call (800) 762-3845.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Product Review - Den Haan Hanging Kerosene Lamp

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Realizing that any off-grid system is vulnerable to numerous component failures, I am always on the lookout for ways to keep our family up and running regardless of whether our system is functioning or we are experiencing our own black out.  Wringers, Coleman lights and butter churns call my name.  Junk that nobody else wants (or even knows what it is) looks like a treasure trove of practicality to this country woman.

I never met an oil lamp I didn't like (except maybe an Aladdin, but that's another story), but recently I have been particularly keen on finding a nice hanging lamp.  After looking briefly on Ebay (I would have had to sell a kidney to buy one of those beauties) I turned to our local Craigslist.  Month after month I searched in vain.  I found that hanging lamps were rare and the ones I found were extraordinarily expensive.  Still, I hoped that I would stumble upon a pretty, functioning lamp in my price range.

Perseverance paid off, and I found a unique brass lamp that came from an elderly man's estate.  From what I could tell, it was completely intact, nicely preserved and in beautiful shape.  It had been used, but very lightly.  The current owners had never used it and had no idea if it was functioning.  I bought it for the tidy sum of $50 and brought it home for Sir Knights inspection.

After examining the lamp, Sir Knight deemed it usable so we filled it with lamp oil, raised the wick and lit it.  Wow!  The amount of light it put out was incredible for a simple oil lamp.  It had a round wick instead of a flat wick and the difference was incredible.  A flame spreader over the top of the wick spread the flame into the specially belled chimney creating a surprising quality and quantity of illumination.  The lamp fit into an integral frame with a shade and smoke bell (to keep the smoke from damaging the ceiling).  The underneath of the shade is painted a creamy white so that more light will be reflected, but the rest of the lamp is shiny brass.

Not long after we brought our new prize home, we received the latest Lehman's catalog in the mail.  As a matter of ritual, I sat down with my cup of tea and slowly perused the catalog to see if there was some new offering that couldn't be ignored.  Much to my amazement my treasured lamp was featured in the lighting section of the newest Lehman's!

My lamp is the Hanging Trawler made by Den Haan in The Netherlands (mine has Holland stamped on the bottom) was actually designed to be hung in a ships cabin.  It has a huge oil reservoir (30 hour burn time) and is fired by an Ideal Brenner 20# burner (which is still available, though expensive).  It is the center-piece of our living room due to its exceptional lighting quality and simple beauty.  Although we were thrilled with our lamp as a one-of-a-kind antique we were ecstatic to find that these lamps were still being made and that we could buy replacement parts relatively inexpensively.  Chimneys and wicks are available at Lehman's and burners can be purchased elsewhere online.

Having used Aladdin lamps, Coleman lanterns, a Petromax lantern and simple oil lamps, our Hanging Trawler lamp is a favorite.  Although it does not provide as much light as a Coleman Lantern it makes up for it in quiet simplicity. It is the perfect lamp to have in high traffic areas of your home that require significant lighting.  It is not ideal for reading, a Coleman or other high-output lamp would suit that need, but for general lighting, it is the perfect blend of style and function.

We give the Hanging Trawler Lamp a 4 out of 5 rating (it is rather expensive).  If you are looking for a high quality hanging lamp, we strongly recommend this lamp.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Legacy of September 11th

September 11, 2001 was hallmarked by great tragedy, uncompromising heroism and dauntless courage, but the ongoing legacy of 9/11 is that of tyranny and oppression.  While the citizens of this mighty republic were reduced to serfdom, the Muslim terrorist gained a great victory.

Briefly, our country united.  We were bound by the cords of tragedy and compassion.  We were shaken from our complacency. We were Americans. We were Christians.  But, our new found commonality was to be short lived.  As emotion gave way to a "higher level of understanding and tolerance", we sought to contain the common man's reaction.  Rather than "waking the sleeping giant" the terrorists had awakened the politically correct version of nobility.  Our "Lord's" unilaterally decided that the common man must be contained, controlled.  We were not to be allowed fight evil at its root.  We must be required to be tolerant, even if that required tolerance of the evils of Islam.  After all, our Christian empire was the cause of so many ills from which the world was currently suffering.  September 11th was just our comeuppance.

In their wisdom, our Lord's determined that the most effective way to fight the terror that had awakened on our shores was to bind the serfs.  The Department of Homeland Security rose to become our savior.  No more would we fear terror.  Islam wasn't really a threat, it was just misunderstood.  Instead, we would be trained to fear each other. Meticulously, neighbor would be turned against neighbor, state against state and brother against brother.  We were conditioned to spy, question and report any behavior that might be contrary to the governments interests.  Through their one heinous act, the jihadists succeeded in turning our country upon itself, effecting far more terror than any car bomb could possibly achieve.

As the government piled law upon law, act upon act, terrorist were born, simply because they challenged their governments motives and authority.  Returning military personnel become possible terrorists.  Second Amendment advocates were rendered little more than anti-government extremists.  Patronizing gun shows, being affiliated with the "Tea Party", driving a 4-wheel drive or voting for Ron Paul was enough make you suspect.

As time went on the power of the police, the TSA and the DHS grew while the rights of the people were stripped. Fusion Centers popped up all over the country.  Questioning government became a terrorist activity.  Our government by the people and for the people was transformed into a feudal system with Lords who must be obeyed.  Any questioning was labeled sedition.  Patriots who believed in a strong USA were labeled intolerant bigots.

I am sobered on this anniversary of September 11th.  I am reminded of the tragedy and courage.  But mostly, this day of remembrance signifies the demise of our freedom.  The Lords of our nation found, in the midst of tragedy, the tools required to strip the citizens of their remnant of liberty.  Our freedom, forged in the heat of battle, sustained by the blood of warriors, has been lost to the gods of safety, tolerance and apathy.

The legacy of September 11th is one of tyranny and oppression, not freedom from terror.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Holding the Line

Young Master Calvin was rather cranky the other night.  It was bedtime but the truth of the matter was that he wasn't the least bit tired (or so he thought!).  He hummed, he shouted, he thrashed his bed.  Knowing I couldn't allow him to terrorize the entire house just when we were settling in for out nightly slumber, I made my way to his bedside.

Explaining to him that he must be quiet I hugged him, kissed him and tucked him snugly in his bed.  With a heavy heart, I trudged downstairs.  I knew that this quiet was to be short lived.  I took up residence on the couch (getting back into a warm bed makes it so much more difficult to discipline with consistency).  Five minutes later Master Calvin was loudly expressing his dislike with his current confinement.  Upstairs I went.  The problem was quickly dealt with and I again creeped downstairs.

Within minutes, my presence was again required.  Vowing to remain consistent, I once again corrected my wayward son.  Back in the living room, I prayed for my young man.  As I prayed, I realized that I was not just correcting naughty behavior.  I was witnessing a battle.  My son was battling with himself. He was itchy, he was hot, he was uncomfortable in his own skin.  He knew what was right, but he didn't want to do it.  He wanted his own way.  And as a mom, I had to give him the tools to fight his battles.

I realized that Master Calvin had to learn to hold the line.  He had to know what was right and do it no matter how he "felt".  He had to fight this battle with himself and come out victorious.  He needed to develop the inner strength to hold whatever line had to be held, regardless of personal comfort or personal desire.

It was in this moment that I gained a more focused vision of parenthood.  I realized that it was not just poor behavior that I was correcting, instead I was giving my children the tools to build their lives.  I was instilling self-discipline, self-control and the ability to deny their fleshly desires.  In my lowly occupation as a mother, I was shaping the character of our world.

I want my children to hold the line.  I want them to stand in the gap between good and evil.  I want them to do the right thing when it is uncomfortable.  I want them to look into the face of impossibility and boldly make a stand.  And it starts in the crib.  Men don't learn to hold the line on the field of battle, they learn in the bosom of their parents home.  If we fail to give our children the tools to master themselves, we fail to give our world the men we so desperately need.

Hold the line.  Your children need you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Eagle is Soaring

Drinking Boko
After 3 months serving the people of the Philippines, Maid Elizabeth has come home.  She has returned to us changed in ways I never would have expected.  She is quieter, more deliberate.  She is confident.  She is kinder and more attentive to her siblings.  She has grown up.

Being "done-up" by a local woman
Dewey from the heat

Three months away from home was challenging for a home-body, home schooled girl.  She learned to rely more on God than she did on me.  She learned to push herself when she wanted to curl up and block out the world.  She delivered babies, she cooked, she cleaned, she shopped and she walked...a lot.  She swam in the ocean, visited a crocodile farm and flew on the world's longest zip line.  She conducted pre-natals in a tiny church in the bukid (jungle) and sipped boko (green coconut milk, full of electrolytes) to regain her strength.  She laughed, she cried and she prayed.

Ready for the zip-line
A fellow midwife being the incubator
A Bajou lady (Sea Gypsy)
Doing laundry
A street festival
Cutting up Jack fruit
Saying goodbye!
And now she is home!!!  I'm pretty sure that it will be short lived.  She is 22 years old.  God will call her out of our home and into a home of her own.  But for now, I will rejoice that my sweet Maid Elizabeth is once again working and laughing by my side.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Catching Bees....

Or perhaps more accurately, Yellow Jackets.  Yellow Jackets are one of my least favorite critters.  In the summer, they plague you when you are trying to pick berries (they seem to think they should have the berry patch to themselves!).  But even worse than being an annoyance in the summer, they are positively aggressive come fall.  In the summer they seek sweet fruit, but the fall brings out their carnivorous nature.  Just a few days ago, Maid Elizabeth (newly returned from the Philippines) noticed that Yellow Jackets had eaten their way through a package of hamburger on our counter and were systematically carrying their stolen bounty to wherever they carry it to.   This afternoon, Princess Dragon Snack became the latest victim of their cranky attitude.

Following the instructions of my friend Lady Day, the kids set about making Yellow Jacket traps.  Rather than the sweetened water in the bottle trick, we used raw meat to lure the little buggers out.  Lady Day's method is super cheap (free, if you have a little raw meat), super easy and super effective.

First you find a container (we used 4 gallon round buckets) that you can attach a piece of string from side to side.  Fill the bucket with water (however full you would like it) and pour a bit of vegetable oil (enough to make a nice oil slick) in the water.  Then, most importantly, string a piece of raw meat so that it hangs just over the water.  Yellow Jackets are greedy insects so they will grab as much meat as they can fly with.  When they attempt to fly off, they dip down slightly, get covered in the oily water and drop into the bucket, unable to free themselves.

Two minutes after putting the trap out
Five minutes after putting the trap out
We put three traps out - two near the front of the shouse and one near the chicken coop.  Within 5 minutes, our traps were filling up.  The trap near the chicken coop was really successful, catching upwards of 50 bees in 5 minutes.

If you are looking for a simple, cost effective way to reduce your Yellow Jacket population, give this a try.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Preparedness Organization - Inventory

One of the most challenging aspects of preparedness is organization.  It is one thing to have supplies put away, it is something else altogether to know where they are.  Preparedness stores can quickly become an out-of-control mess with a lack of organization.  A key aspect of effective preparedness is maintaining a comprehensive, up-to-date inventory.

Although we have been preppers for the better part of 15 years, we don't have very much space in which to properly store our preparations.  The food is jumbled in with the tactical gear.  The bedding co-mingles with the toilet paper.  Although it isn't ideal, we have to use the space we have to achieve our preparedness goals.  Because of a lack of proper storage space, acquiring more preparedness stores can be an exercise in frustration.  One thing gets shoved on top of another and pretty soon we have to repel to get to the other side of the mountain of supplies.  The reality of this situation is that if there were ever truly an emergency, we would be hard pressed to actually put our hands on needed food or equipment.

Recently, Sir Knight and I decided to tackle our organizational nightmare.  We started at the beginning of our shelving units, inventoried each item (including the number of each item), cleaned each bucket and rearranged the shelves so that like items were together.  We assigned locations for each shelving units, including shelf numbers and included those on the inventory.  We wrote everything down, whether it was food, tactical gear, medical equipment or communications gear.  We included a location for each item.  It was a long, hot project, but the end result was an extraordinarily organized storage space.  Finally, if we needed something, we could lay our hands on it!

After we inventoried our entire storage space, I created a list of each item and its location, clipped it on a clipboard and hung it on the proper shelf.  This enables anyone going into our storage room to determine, at a glance, what items are on each shelving unit.  Once the lists for the shelving units were complete I created a Master List.  The Master List included EVERY item on EVERY shelf, in alphabetical order along with its location on the shelf.  The Master List lives in the house.  If I need to know about a specific item, I can look on the Master List and locate the item within minutes.  It also lets me know if I have a specific item or if I need to acquire it.

The reality is that preparedness takes effort.  It is not enough just to buy food stores and equipment.  You have to systematically rotate and organize your stores.  Keeping an accurate and complete inventory will render your supplies readily available and easily accessible.  Don't just rest on the knowledge that you have what you need "somewhere". Make the effort to know exactly what you have and were it is located.  It will be the best few hours you ever spent.