Wednesday, May 4, 2016

In Good Conscience, Who Can I Vote For ?

Rather than having an "embarrassment of riches" where candidates are concerned, we simply have an       "embarrassment of candidates."

           Last evening I was watching France24 when they scrolled as breaking news the fact that Ted Cruz has suspended his bid for the presidential election. For a moment, I honestly thought that it was some type of an error or misunderstanding, until I confirmed the news via the internet. Ted Cruz was not a perfect candidate, but he was a conservative and largely a known quantity. I would have voted for him.  At this point I have no idea whether I will be able, in good conscience, to vote at all in the upcoming presidential election.  The choices are just too flawed or too inept.

            Hillary Clinton has been doing whatever she wants dating right back to working as an attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas.  There have been scandal upon scandal where she is concerned, even without her philandering husband Bill.  She mismanaged the Benghazi affair resulting in the deaths of her employees. She used a private server in violation of the law for her communications as Secretary of State, probably to shroud dealings from official eyes.  She believes that children are the property of the state and that parents, if they raise the children her way, can continue to have some input in raising their children, but if they do not, the village will raise them. We have enough village idiots already. That isn't working. She has also said that she will support Obamacare when everyone concerned with it says it is failing, expensive, and will collapse. She also has health issues which make it less than likely that she will live through a serious crisis in the White House that would not allow her uninterrupted sleep.  I will never vote for her.

            Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican candidate.  Traditionally, I have gone to Republican rallies and I know a number of the candidates for elected office from Virginia.  I believe in what they say they stand for, even if the Republicans appear at this time, not to.  Donald Trump concerns me because although his family and his children believe he would make an exceptional president, he seems short on the social graces, calm, and the diplomacy necessary in which to deal with the myriad of powder kegs which presently exist in the world. I agree that the president needs to advocate for the United States, and that the one we have does not, and will not. I don't agree with his broad brush criticisms of some groups. So will I be able to cast a vote for a man who appears to be a bully ?  We are chugging toward a world war and I don't know how good a wartime president Mr. Trump would be.

           It would be difficult if not terrible to have to cast a vote simply to block Hillary Clinton from holding the office.  Tell me, what alternatives do we have ?  Someone, please give me some perspective !

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Forest Fire at Shenendoah National Forest

This photo was taken by the National Park Service.

          The next time one of you tells me that you are ready to shelter in place for anything and that you don't need a family and animal evacuation plan, I would like you to consider this.

                 Over the last several days, the Shenendoah National Forest has been experiencing a wildfire. Thus far, 2000 plus acres have burned.  Heavy smoke is causing problems for anyone with respiratory history as far away as thirty miles from Richmond.   Charlottesville, Staunton and Harrisonburg have heavy smoke and a haze is obvious over the mountains.  Yesterday, at DMV in Charlottesville, people could not stop coughing due to the smoke outside, despite the fact that the air conditioning and filters in the building were going at full tilt.
              As of yesterday, parts of the Appalachian Trail are closed. Skyline Drive is closed from Swift Run Gap to Loft Mountain.  Nicole Mittendorf, a firefighter, was in the park and is presently missing.  Please click the link for full details, if you have been in the park recently.

 Also, according to local news, this fire is visible from space.

Photo NPS Alan Williams

              Anyone with a history of respiratory chronic illness, whether they are young or old should have an evacuation plan, which may need to be activated at a moment's notice.  Even if the fire itself does not reach your own farm or property, such heavy smoke can be dangerous not only for those with respiratory illnesses but for those with cardiac issues as well.


                Thus far, the first has not yet been extinguished and we are not expecting even the possibility of rain until the weekend.  Thus far, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

            Don't let the fact that you have created a safe haven for most disasters prevent you from formulating a viable evacuation plan for yourself, your family and your animals. The life you save could be your own.

Alerts and Conditions from the Park

This is the Smoky the Bear Large Fire Incident Map

UPDATE:   According to Richmond Times Dispatch today, the fire has now consumed almost 3000 acres

  UPDATE:  April 22, 2016
The body of a young woman believed to be Nicole Mittendorf has been found in a rocky region of the Shenendoah National Forest.  Police are declaring the death a probable suicide. A medical examiner's report is pending.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Let's Discuss Elizabethkingia

This is Elizabethkingia Anophelis in a culture.


  Elizabethkingia is a gram negative bacterium which only rarely sickens humans. It is named for Elizabeth O. King, who discovered this organism.   It can cause a cellulitis, or a respiratory infection. Fever and chills may be the first symptoms. The causative organism is most correctly Elizabethkingia Anophelis. I am mentioning it here today because surprisingly, very recently there has been an outbreak of the illness in both Michigan and Wisconsin, and now Illinois.  It is an organism that may be present in some species of fish and some frogs. It has been demonstrated to survive cleaning with alcohol and it can survive in alcohol. It is also resistant to a fair number of antibiotics. Before this most recent three state outbreak, outbreaks were rare and small and occurred most often in compromised patients in a health care setting.

              There are four species of this organism

 E. anophelis 
E. endophytica 
E. meningoseptica 
E. miricola

  It most often impacts those older than 65 and those with at least one other pre-existing illness.  Don't let this make you too comfortable because the organism can afflict anyone, and it can mutate as it wishes. Recent cases in the two aforementioned states took 20 lives, and there were 61 confirmed cases. There are several other cases under investigation. There are likely to be many more. Death when it occurs, is usually due to sepsis.  Although this organism is found in dirt, no one yet knows the commonality by which all these cases are connected. The personal products of all of those afflicted are being cultured to see how these cases may have been connected.
                This disease killed yet another person as few as three days ago, and we still have no idea as to how it is spreading.

                This is a public health issue which demands our attention.  All that we can do presently, is the following:

1. Keep any and all known chronic illnesses under control.  Diabetes with hyperglycemia, COPD poorly controlled, and other chronic issues leave the patient vulnerable to infections from all sources.

2. Although I realize that good hygiene is boring, and makes most of us think of the nineteen thirties, it works. Hand washing with regular soap, before eating, before handling food, after using the bathroom,after handling pets, being obviously soiled, and on coming home after being out or outside, goes a long way to preventing sickness from organisms with which we come in contact. I don't usually use anti-bacterial soaps as a strategy of avoiding resistant organisms, although I have used them for specialized purposes occasionally.

3. Any child under two who develops a fever greater than 101F needs to see a physician. Children dehydrate quickly and may become septic more quickly than older children.

4. Anyone over 65 who develops a fever and chills with a temp of 102F or higher should be seen that day by a physician.

5. Get enough sleep. Our immune systems work best if we are optimally rested.

Please keep alert to any additional happenings with regard to this infection.



Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Trip to Cabela's


   A few years ago, my eldest son and I were headed to Nova Scotia via car.  On the way back from our blighted trip, we stopped at a Cabela's in Pennsylvania.  Wandering through Cabela's allowed us to do most of our Christmas shopping there before returning to Virginia.   Many times since then, my son and I have said to one another, "I wish we had a Cabela's in Virginia !"   Effective this week, we do.  My son has not yet had a chance to visit, but my husband and I made it to the Virginia Cabela's this week for the Grand Opening festivities.
      The Cabela's just West of Richmond, Virginia is a large structure, like many of the other branches. This one has a room for recreational boats. It has a sandwich shop and cafe. They have a fireplace in the entryway so tall that it is reminiscent of one of the grand hotels outside the Grand Canyon.  It has a room called the "gun library" which sells all manner and type of consigned handguns and rifles. I was pleased to see Sig Sauer well represented.  This is quite near the section which sells new handguns.  There was, hands down, the largest selection of varied and unusual types of ammunition I had seen anywhere, and this includes the Richmond Gun Show. There were also packages of large amounts of ammo. Some of these were not cheap, but some rounds were also not as expensive as you thought they might be when sold in a retail establishment.  I spent a lot of time in gun accessories, which is impressive.  There is a knife department, a bow and arrow section, a dog section, climbing section, shoe, coat, clothing section, etc. There is the largest fishing section I have ever seen anywhere, and I go to a fair number of sporting goods shops with all my sons.  There is also a communications or walkie talkie section. There are sections for dehydrating your own food on a small scale, and for sausage making.  There were also sections with electronics that would be of particular interest to preppers.  There is also an entire room of reduced or "only one left" items at the back of the store, yes, even in a store that just opened.  There are also the very expensive light weight sleeping bags and tents you would expect to find at both Cabela's and places like REI.  The outdoor clothing, shoes and boots are quite expensive, but of exceptional quality. I still have a jacket I bought from Cabela's in Pennsylvania which is holding up well even after rather hard use on my part.  Cabela's is not the place to go for many of the least expensive items you might need for prepping, however, it should be somewhere you visit.  Cabela's not only is the gift center for men and teen boys, but their product range is so broad that simply by seeing some of these items you can organize preps in such a manner that you may solve problems you did not yet realize you had !

This is an actual Cabela's display from their store in Alaska.  There were similar displays in Richmond.

        I returned later in the week when the crowds were fewer.  Children will especially enjoy the museum quality taxidermy displays of animals and the giant sized fish in a huge aquarium, and the unusual snacks and candy.  Cabela's is definitely a place you should visit, wherever you are.

           I don't receive any benefits from advertising Cabela's.  In fact, I am not even a card carrying member of their discount system.  I do think that you should take a trip to Cabela's whenever you can though. Have a great time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why You Should Consider A Car Auction

Ford F-150

             In most cities there is a car auction. Most of them take place in the same place weekly or monthly.  It may take you some time to locate them. Some auctions are dealers only and others are happy to do business with anyone.  For someone like me who lives in the country, it's a lot of work to seek out the car auctions and then to arrive in time for the lengthy procession.  However, it is well worth the work.
                   Yes, like the rest of you I used to go to a new car dealer, buy a car and make a monthly payment to a bank or credit union. When I have done that I have always had a great car, but a car with a lien on it requires additional insurance and so the cost of the car isn't simply the payment, maintenance and repairs. It comes with pricey insurance. In our state, it also comes with semi-annual fees for personal property tax.  Over the years with a farm, kids, animals, college for kids, the entire concept of a car payment became undesirable to me. I simply would rather own a used car for which I have paid cash, and where I get the chance to decide the level of insurance I have on it. I also like being in possession of my own title to my cars.

Yes, it's a Ford Focus

                  Typically at a car auction, you are going to need a debit card, a check for certified funds or cash. A few may take checks, but run careful checks on them in advance. Some require prior registration before bidding.  You won't be making a monthly payment to them. Most take a percentage down the day of the auction, once you've won the bid and you have about five days to make the remaining payment before picking up the car. Most of the cars are driveable because the cars did  have to get there for the auction. In our state, a special trip tag is issued by our Division of Motor Vehicles and so long as you are a licensed driver who has insurance on another car, you have a day to get the car you have bought off their property and home to yours. Your taking the title they give you to DMV and getting plates, a registration and a new title with your own name on  is your responsibility. Don't forget to put the car on your own insurance using its VIN # before you drive it home.

Toyota Tacoma

                The car auction I most recently attended occurs in the evening. Smart shoppers turn up in the daylight and look carefully at a bit more than a hundred and fifty cars.  Some of these cars are being auctioned by individuals and they have a minimum bid in mind. If they don't get it, the car will be there next week with perhaps a lower minimum. Many are repossessions owned by banks who are desperately trying to get something for them. When sales are slow both new and used car dealers will auction occasional cars in this manner.  The auction I attended had everything.  There were Nissan Altimas, Subarus, Toyotas, a mini Cooper, a  BMW, a Mercedes, a couple of VWs, Fords of every flavor, Chevys, Saturns, Hondas, a Saab, Kias, a variety of Jeeps, Mercury, Dodge, Pontiac, Chrysler, Volvo, Hyundai, Buick, Land Rover and Infinity.  SUVs, wagons, sportscars, trucks including a former modified vet's truck.  They had plenty of standard shift and plenty of automatic transmission. Occasionally they auction minibuses or motorcycles.  Sometimes other types of vehicles come up. It is not possible to look at every car pre-auction. You must make a decision as to which target cars you plan to look at, and restrict yourself to perhaps three to five of them, otherwise you will be bidding on a car you know little about.  Most have been through recent inspection, and have the paperwork in the car. If they have failed inspection, exactly why is written on the state certificate in the car.  Bring either a mechanic with you, or someone who is your family's gear head.  Fortunately, I have a few of those in my family.  Some of the cars look new and could be considered very good used cars. Others have significant cosmetic issues which can still be repaired.  The clearcoat needed attention on a number of the really good cars which is a problem in sunny Virginia. A good body shop or Maaco can take care of this for you, if everything else is to your liking.  Trucks with tow capabilities were abundant.  In this particular auction you are permitted to watch the auction staff drive the car from the lot to the auction area. You may listen to the engine. You may not gun the engine or place it in gear yourself. You may pop the hood and look at everything in the daylight prior to the auction.  With the VIN # if you have an internet enabled device you can run a Carfax report on the car if you wish. We did this on one of the cars we actually bought.

Land Rover

               The keys to success are making sure you have adequate money to make both the downpayment and then close the deal within five days. You must remove the car immediately upon paying so that they can bring new cars in.  If you are not a mechanic, then you should bring a professional or gifted amateur to help steer you. Do your brand research ahead of time.  Don't plan to get a Toyota and be seduced by the Land Rover, pretty as it may be.  Look carefully prior to the auction in the harsh light of day at the cars you believe you would bid on.  As the auction starts you will see some cars where a number of people bid. However, there are great cars where no one bids, and the car remains for sale after the auction.  Often people have never clear ideas about what they want, and something just off their radar won't get any attention. Don't get carried away. If the bidding gets too high, walk away.  . Your bid is your contract and you will be held to it. Bid on something else from your reserve list. Understand that you are buying at your own risk, so don't overpay.

               In our state, only licensed professional dealers are permitted to buy cars, fix them up and sell them again. The law also requires that the cars have warranties if they are sold in a manner other than auction.  So, this is likely not to become your next way to make money. It is however, a brilliant way to get a spare car, a car for a teen or college student, or one for a mother-in-law with an horrendous driving record.  It was a great way for me to buy and outfit an evacuation vehicle slated for occasional use.

                It IS possible to buy a beautiful car for very little money if you are willing to repair something or detail the car afterward.  Cars sell for anywhere between $400. and thousands.  The day that I was last there, cars sold for about $2000. on average and there were some amazing buys.  During the auction, there are often police present. (People may carry cash.) Your competition for the cars are often dealers, although there are dealer only auctions elsewhere.  The dealers still may not be difficult competition because they are incredibly particular and as a rule won't pay much.  Individuals and families tend to be there for a particular car. Often if someone is clearly committed to a particular vehicle, others will stand back and let them get it. (Why compete and pay more ?) On the night we last attended, there were about 150 people looking at a bit more than 150 cars.  Even dealers won't buy more than one or two cars per night. This means the odds are very good for people who wish to buy.   Some of the people who attend are simply learning and plan to buy another time.  Some couples were there for date night, because it can be fun and there is carnival style food served.

Subaru Forester

           Our extended family has bought some amazing vehicles this way.  For preppers especially, this may be a good way of acquiring a needed vehicle without taking on a car payment. It will also build to your knowledge on cars, what their parts cost, what to look at on an engine prior to purchase, and how to do routine maintenance. Most importantly, it helps you keep cash available for your emergency fund, paying down other debt, emergency food stocks etc.  Do some research as to what is possible in your own area.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Thoughts to Belgium


Brussels Airport, in happier and safer times.

       On a preparedness forum it is not always possible to address all of our eras terrorist attacks, or political issues. Sometimes attacks or political issues do bleed into our reasons for seeking to be prepared. I have compassion for all of the people in all of the places in the world who are being attacked in terrorist actions. It is natural, however, since we all write things of which we know, that I would choose to write about a terrorist attack in a place where I know families who reside there.

               This morning,  according to Belgian broadcaster VRT , there have been two explosions at the airport in Brussels and one explosion in a subway station also in Brussels. The Belgians had been anticipating an Islamic extremist attack following the attacks in France. As of this hour, 34 people are confirmed dead and 150 have been injured, the result of all three of these attacks. Since some of the injured are critically injured, more deaths are anticipated. Belgium has raised its terror threat level to the highest level possible.

               Also reported is that the subway station that was bombed is located in the area in which the European Union is located.

               There is no official confirmation yet that these attacks are the result of Islamic extremism, although it is likely, as ISIS has been looking for ways to attack the European Union, and Belgium specifically.
                We send our best wishes and prayers to the people of Belgium during this very challenging time. We send condolences and prayers as well to those who have lost loved ones or have had loved ones injured in these attacks.  Stay safe, my friends.


We have official confirmation that ISIS has claimed responsibility for these attacks.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Trip to the Country


        In our quest to live more self sufficiently, we try to provide whatever grasses are needed for our horses, alpacas and sheep.  Much of the year in this climate, there is enough grass on our own farm to graze upon.  In Winter though, we have to buy a fair amount of hay to supplement livestock food.  Whenever possible, we try to buy our hay from local sources. Not only does this help our neighbors, but it's often less expensive in terms of our trucking it to the farm. Last year however, a lot of local farmers didn't plant hay. Many of them planted corn or other crops.  Over the Winter, our sources of quality hay disappeared, and we consumed the hay we'd stored more quickly than we had anticipated.

                The solution was to travel to another rural part of the state where a particular farmer grows and stores a wide variety of grasses and hays for different types of animals.  My husband and I traveled down one weekend, and returned with almost fifty bails. As the trip began,t I thought of the journey as a real chore, until I began to see unfamiliar countryside.  Normally when I travel, I am the one driving, but this time, I was free to notice all of the farm houses, barns, rolling green grasslands.   Every ten miles or so, there was a little country store often with food, a few groceries, drinks and sometimes gasoline or diesel fuel.  The traveling went more quickly than I had anticipated.  About ten minutes before we arrived at the large farm with the hay, we passed through a small Southern town.   A few century homes, a hardware store which also sold groceries and had a butcher shop, and an animal feed store were on one side of the road.   A small diner, a pharmacy, and a consignment shop were on the other. There was also a charming county courthouse building. I really wanted to stop and look at these on the way back, but there was no parking for as fully loaded a rig as we would then have. I resolved that sometime, I would make the long trip during the week to explore the town.

                This week, we have had a couple of days that felt quite a bit like Spring, and so yesterday, the small town and surroundings were on my mind.  I took two relatives with me, and we began the trip that morning.   Most of the places I go these days are accessible by an interstate highway.  This town is not. The only way to get here is through one or two different paths on winding country roads through farm country.  This time, driving, I could not notice as many things as I had before, but it was still a lovely drive.   We arrived just before lunch.  We looked through the consignment shop first.  It was fairly small but the two relatives I'd brought with me found things they really wanted at reasonable prices.  One found some great toys and the other found some nice video games and dvds all at fair prices.   Then, we stopped at the hardware store that had the butcher's shop, and found that they also sold reasonable priced ammunition of unusual types.  Then, I stopped at the local animal feed store.  I found something I had been seeking for awhile.  I bought a couple more implements to go in my farrier kit.  Although I am not a farrier, it's nice to have a couple of the tools they use in order to keep the horses hooves neat between farrier visits.  Although I could have bought such implements online, I got a chance to look at them, hold them, and pay much less for them. I also found some unusual welding supplies priced some time ago that will please one of my sons, the sculptor.

                  Later, we decided to travel East to a neighboring county where we knew of a restaurant where we agreed that we would all like to eat.  Afterward, we stopped at a brand new pawn shop which had a great deal of lovely merchandise of all kinds.  We made the trip, ate there, and returned to our own farm using different farm roads than our journey out there.

                  As you work toward more self sufficiency don't forget to take days off in order to recharge. If you can incorporate such days with errands you need to do anyway, then it's all the better.  Don't forget that most of us have sleepy little bergs wherever we live and that often there are wonderful opportunities to purchase things we need at fair prices. Use this time to set up new supply lines. You help others as well as yourself.  Stop and smell the roses.  Buy some of the items you need online. Buy fruits and vegetables from neighbors or friends when you can.  Be open to buying items you need at new places.  Don't let prepping and the other demands of life keep you from truly enjoying your life, your family and friends.