Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Descent is Here

        

 

 
This abandoned restaurant is not a photo I took yesterday. It is a stock photo, but I believe you get the idea.

                            

 

     I have spent a large part of my life living in the world that exists while simultaneously preparing for one in which there is a disaster, a governmental collapse or some other kind of devastating change. I came to it as a result of writing care plans for those with serious medical problems who would require support of some kind following hospital release, and in the course of doing this in the 1980s, I found that the systems on which we all depend are fragile, if not inadequate.

              Other than episodic tornadoes, an earthquake, hurricanes and a financial collapse in 2008, other than personal tragedies, life for my family has gone on. It hasn't always been easy, buy it hasn't been impossible. So many of the concerns of the preparedness and survival community had not yet happened, until now.

              As a consequence of living on a farm, working from home, writing books from home, and aiding family, I haven't been out as much in the last couple of years.  I also don't go to a lot of cities when I do get out, preferring instead to arrange to pick something up on the edge of a city, gather it, and head home. This week, I did something different. I needed to take a relative to some places he wished to go and this involved going out for lunch and to some shops we hadn't been to in about three years. It also involved driving to a city within a days drive.

            Like many cities, this one is primarily Democrat run.  There are a few "Black Lives Matter" signs which look to be permanent.  Across the main roadway through town, there are groups of new inhabitants who are from Africa.  You can tell this because Africa, which has about fifty-two nations at last count, has many different types of distinctive facial structures and colorations.  I noticed some of them who looked like the students I had taught in college who were from Eritrea. Several of them were tall, like men, but had very skinny legs like young children. As they crossed the road in a dangerous and illegal fashion, one could see that two of the men had to have been treated for rickets, by their bony bent legs. I'd heard that this city had taken a large number of refugees from a number of nations, but I hadn't seen them until now. I couldn't help but think they had come during a time where they were likely to see some deterioration here. 

          We weren't able to have lunch at the place we had planned.  It was closed for good.  The building and surroundings were not being maintained as it had been. There was also non-specific trash in the parking lot.  We found another place for lunch. It was empty, and despite the fact we ordered the lunch special, the total for two was $27.00 .  This was in part due to the food, the drink, the sales tax and the meals tax the city levies, which must be significant.  It was a decent meal, but hardly expensive fare.  Along that stretch of roadway, a number of businesses were gone now, and a few were working on small scale renovations.

        For a formerly lovely city this was like a trip in some ways to a place that is post war.  This city used to have pretty trees, landscaped areas around stores, large clumps of multicolored daylillies, varietal roses, and bushes with lots of different textured leaves and flowers. Apparently, despite the fact that landscaping is done outdoors, the COVID era meant that landscaping and perhaps paying for landscaping ground to a halt, on  the government, private sector, retail and food service levels.

        There are more bodegas and even an El Salvadoran restaurant now. It is not unusual to hear Spanish being spoken here. Having learned French and Russian, this places me at a distinct disadvantage because I don't understand what they are saying.

        I don't shop in a lot of retail stores, which is a good thing because many of them are permanently closed. I also mentioned in a prior posting that one of the Burger King restaurants that closed about three years ago, is now being used by homeless teens and twenties, as they are climbing the fence around the children's padded play area, which allows they to safely sleep in the sleeping bags they bring in backpacks.

        I used to have a small shared office in this city, but a bus stop outside it changed the type of people who would wait there. There are now people panhandling for their copay at the methadone clinic. Who knew that methadone clinics had a copay ?  Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose ?  I let the office go in the past year thinking that it might not be a safe place to be when I need to run in to use the phone, the fax or get mail.

        There is no one thing we can point to in terms of defining the deterioration of our cities. There are many things going on and many things that would need to be addressed.  Until then, it's probably best to avoid most cities, particularly at night.

 

Monday, July 18, 2022

The Importance of Family History in Health Promotion

                   


 

       Recently, I was talking to the child of one of my father's cousins who is about my age. It was interesting to see that we shared many things. She is intolerant to milk and shares a couple of the medical diagnoses that I do. On further discussion, I discovered that our grandparents and their children are remarkably consistent in the same medical issues with which my own family has coped. For the most part, many of them live into their nineties. This is interesting because it gives any physician who is following any of us a wealth of information. Since there are a number of physicians in the family dating back all the way to the Civil War, the family has been pretty good about conveying not only the medical histories, but the eventual causes of death throughout the family. Interestingly, very few physicians really ask about family medical history, and then they are often quick to dismiss it.  Although it is true that an individual may develop an illness that has not before been seen in that family group, much of the time, the family history does give important clues to the issues that may befall individuals in the present day.

                  Case in point, my own physicians have been especially obsessed with colonoscopies and mammograms looking for cancer, when no one in either branch of our family has ever had cancer.  However, we have a compelling history for persistent arrhythmia, even in the young, which caused the death of even the young, including my beloved youngest son at 12.   We also have a compelling history for persistent low Vitamin D.  It's taken many years for an endocrinologist to say that she believes that our family has a Vitamin D utilization disorder and that is why that regardless of supplementation, we still come up low, and require prescription doses of the vitamin along with regular surveillance via labwork.

                This is important because too many times our busy physicians play the odds. They expect us, as Americans, to die of coronary artery disease, cancer, or Type II diabetes.  Some of them are singularly focused on this triad.  Sadly, if you have something else, you may well die before it is detected.

                 This is a call to get your family medical history from the relatives you believe will be the best historians. Write this down and relate it to your physicians. If your physician brushes you off, then find another.  This is also true of mental health issues. The brain's difficulty in balancing dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, etc. may well be hereditary, and under present technology is diagnosable and treatable.

                  The singular obsession with the big three, to the exclusion of the things that actually impact my own family, almost cost me my life.

 

 

 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Value of the "Free Sale"

                   


 

    All my life I have enjoyed garage and yard sales.  I have met neighbors, made lifelong friends, bought a few heirlooms, and a few times, made some money and cleared up valuable space before moving, by having my own occasional sales.  Some of the sales I have attended stand out in my memory as really exceptional sales, but many if not most, were of things I didn't need, and I came away with little, or nothing.  It's well worth stopping, but we don't always depart with things we needed.

                       Some time ago, someone started the "free sale". They are probably inspired by the "free stores" that I have read existed in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco in the 1960s, where no one threw anything away. They gave it to someone who needed it. Consequently, one didn't buy much before looking in one of these free exchanges for it.   The free sale is a garage sale where all of the items in a designated area of the sale are free.  Some of these sales have some additional rules, such as each person may take a certain number of items, but many of them do not.  Because the items tend to disappear very quickly, it's probably wise not to travel too far to free sales, but to be especially diligent about checking them out, when they occur in your own area.

                        I went to my first free sale about five years ago. It was a distance from my home but in an area I'd lived in and liked, and so I made a point of being there early. The couple was moving to Hawaii, now that their kids were grown and out of the nest, and so they had thirty years of things that might not fit within their new home, with regard to space and new decor.  They had given things they cared about to their children and other relatives, moved the things they were taking with them to storage, and now the house and the outdoor space were still filled with lots and lots of items they planned to give away. Some sales are giving away household contents but selling cars and riding lawnmowers or RVs or boats that are also at the home. I know this because I talked to them before taking any of their things. My mother used to say that she couldn't go anywhere with my father and I without our making a lifelong friend. Although I think my mother's statement is a little bit exaggerated, I do learn a lot from people in my travels. Talking to them is valuable.  At this particular sale,their rule is that they preferred their things going to individuals and families and not people who planned to sell them, and although you could take as much as you wanted, they asked that you only took things you genuinely liked. I remember the sale well.  Furniture, clothing, new ladies shoes, rugs, lamps, and all things household.  That day I came away with cases of Sam's Club canned goods with an expiration date that was still a year off. (A lot of pineapple) I also gathered about sixteen compact discs, some of which were unusual and nearly new, and reflected the eclectic musical tastes of my children. I took some really nice new books on art.  I also took home several heavy glass or crystal vases, one of which was a Murano, as I often have flowers from the farm in vases around the house.  I was the first person at the sale, but when I left forty minutes later, most of the items were gone. Neighbors who had arrived without cars had quickly picked up tables and rolled up rugs, and had quickly emptied the house, and a lot of the yard.  People who drove up as I was leaving weren't sure it was worth getting out of the car before driving off to the next garage sale.  At the time, I wasn't sure that giving away the gatherings of thirty years in one morning was economic wisdom. Certainly, I enjoyed the sale, but would our generous hosts regret giving away all those expensive towels, curtains and furniture ?    They were smiling.  They were free of the things that complicated their move, which was apparently a move they very much wished to be making.

                    The COVID era killed not only the free sales for a while, but the garage sales as well. They are only just beginning to get started again.  I went to a few of them yesterday. The people who engage in having a free sale have many reasons for doing so. Sometimes, they are shedding household objects they gathered during a marriage, and since that has ended, they are happy to let them go. Sometimes, the family or couple is undertaking a move a distance away or even an international move, and it makes sense to them to regather items they need, in the new setting.  Sometimes, they are liquidating an entire household for relatives, after someone's passing, and they can only be present a short time and don't wish to spend gasoline and time shuttling everything to a high end auction house or to Goodwill.  Such sales are now part of the landscape, and represent good opportunities to gather cooking and survival supplies sometimes. Please consider shopping at one when you can.

                      Remember that having a free sale may well be the fastest and cheapest way to empty a house and a garage, after of course, you have diligently removed family pictures, important sentimental items, coins, family jewelry, and guns. Also make much slower and much more considered arrangements for pets prior to such a sale, if they are not coming with you. Be careful about excluding the items you wish to keep from the free sale. One Charlottesville couple spent six weeks posting ads on Craigslist in an attempt to get a wrapped painting they had inadvertently given away during their free sale, which had sentimental value to them.

                   Lastly, as people empty the house, you may even find the family who is willing the enter into a contract to purchase the remaining home, as they can now see how spacious it is empty.  Keep that in mind.

                     

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Bread Might Not be So Difficult

             

                                                    These are on Amazon if you need one.

                                                    The Four Quart variety is recommended.

                                                        I have a larger one and that worked too.

 

   With supply line interruptions here and coming, please give some thought as to how you might create or pinch hit for some of the things your family uses all the time.  Being a country person many miles from a bread and milk store, this is part of our thinking.

                 I have been experimenting with making bread for the days when $6.-$9. a gallon gas makes it cost prohibitive to buy bread outside.  I have used a number of recipes, but this is the one I like the best, for its ease, it's easy ingredients, and for its ease of slicing and using for sandwiches.  It also makes pretty amazing croutons for soups and salads too.

                 The credit for this recipe belongs squarely with writer Chungah Rhee.  The recipe is hers and she has spent quite some time perfecting it while home during the pandemic.  The original recipe can also be found on Damn Delicious.


CAUTION: Please read through this recipe in advance. Do not make this bread with small children or pets in the kitchen while you are working.


 Easy No-Knead Rustic Bread

Gather

1. Instant Yeast    (Active Dry Yeast can be used but if you do

                              you must let it rise overnight, rather than 6-8  hrs.)

2.    3 1/4 cups all purpose flour      (Can use whole wheat flour too)

3.    Measure 3/4 tsp. instant yeast.   I used a tsp., and it works too.

4.    1 1/2 cups warm water.         (Mine comes out of the hot tap at 

                                                        110 degrees F.)

5.  Your cast iron Dutch oven.

 

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.

Create a well in center and add the water.

Stir with wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes. Will be sticky.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm place for 6-8 hours.

(I put mine in the oven, and placed a kettle of warm water next to it for moisture and heat) 

After your dough has doubled, which was six hours for me,  then       

           Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Place your Dutch oven, covered in the oven for 30 minutes.

(We have also been able to make this recipe using an oven at 400 F because we were baking something else at the same time.)

            Remove it and place it on a safe surface. Then placing your bread in a piece of parchment like a sling, drop in into the four quart Dutch oven.   (Conversely, you could leave the Dutch oven in your oven, remove the lid, and drop the dough in the parchment paper straight into Dutch oven and then replace the lid. This would save the dangerous work of removing the very hot Dutch oven from oven itself.)

             Use a sharp knife to make a few cuts in the top of the dough.

Cover and re-place in the oven. Remove the lid after 30 minutes. Continue baking until golden brown, which is about 15 minutes more.  Cool on a wire rack and serve warm.

             The bread usually consumed within a day.  Once cooled, the bread can be cut and used for sandwiches.  Great with soup, or as croutons for soup or on salads.   Most people find the bread is either gone within the meal or within a day, which leads me to my last point. It has no preservatives.


 

                  This was the second time I made this bread. The Dutch Oven placed in the gas oven works really well.





 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Return of the Craftsman Style Home

 

                           This is an example of a modern day Craftsman style home. The contact information on the page will allow you to contact them and buy plans for it, if you wish.


                          When we were looking for a first home, we couldn't possibly have considered building one. We knew we needed to find a small home in reasonable condition, and it's styling could not be of paramount importance.  We were lucky in that our first affordable home that we were able to purchase had been a summer home on the side of a mountain range, near a lake. It took a couple of years to complete all we had planned, but we were able to convert the home to a year round home and make it lovely enough to sell for several times what we had originally paid. A few homes later, we were finally in a position that we could have a home built for us.  In those years, the McMansion was popular.  There were many different designs of slightly scaled down mini mansions of transitional design, sometimes made with different shades of brick.  Sometimes, these homes were not only larger than the family needed, but they were designed in such a way that maintaining them was harder than first or second homeowners could do. Since real estate was going up every few years, people tended to buy on the upper edge of affordability, thinking that those empty rooms would help them grow their investments even more.

         The last time we built another home, all styles and types were in vogue.  Everything from Frank Lloyd Wright copies, to all flavor of modern homes were available. There were also modern versions of farmhouses and traditional colonial homes available. Choosing one could be daunting and I think many people let their pocketbook help them choose what to build.

                In the years past "the Great Recession" families aren't seeking to build as large a home as they once might have.  Families are focused on keeping energy bills at a reasonable rate. Many people understand that a smaller space, well organized may be as comfortable as a large space that perhaps was not as well planned as it might have been. Families may be smaller now, and a fair number of single people are buying homes. Also, although my family and I moved about every four or five years and put the profit down on the next home, people are less likely to do that now. Many people are perfectly content to buy one home, and remain there indefinitely.

            In many places, including rural ones, modern version of the craftsman style home are being built.  What IS a craftsman style home ?  Between about 1900 and 1929, some reacted against the large highly ornate Victorian home and wished to build a simpler home that could be constructed with human hands, rejecting some of the more ornate items made by machines.  These homes have a more basic design and may have stonework and exposed beams that could have been made by artisans.

            The modern craftsman style home has broad appeal now.  They range from small bungalows with craftsman styling, to a larger more modern interpretation which may include a garage, wooden built-ins, masonry fireplaces, and stone accents. Some are two story now, and a few of them are inspired by craftsman design elements, but are large farmhouse or even mansion styled.  They have in common, horizontal lines and often gabled roofing. Some have dormers in the roof boosting the space.

            This aesthetic does please a lot of people and provides an awful lot of room for personalization.  There are a couple of words of wisdom that I would like to pass on to anyone buying or building a house. First, purchase all the land you think you will need.  Needing to move later to acquire more land is always difficult, and then recouping a similar house can also be challenging.  Collect pictures of houses and plans for such for a considerable time before entering a contract to have one built.  Understand that it almost always take longer to build a home than is anticipated, .  Often, when the exterior is complete and the roof closed in and siding on, you are only half way through the process because the interiors take some time and the septic and well are usually constructed last.

             The building of a family home can be rewarding, but takes care and consideration on the part of the family who has hired a builder.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Is Kratom the Cause of the Tragic Loss of Molly Meghan Miller ?


 

                    In December, 2017, everyone in Charlottesville, Virginia was looking for Molly Meghan Miller.   Molly was a young woman who despite her many friends who were attending college, had taken an alternate path, and become a mason, and had bought a house that she and her fiance were renovating.  She had disappeared on December 29th, and the last thing anyone recalled her doing was buying some extra ingredients for a holiday meal she had been preparing.  Charlottesville was good at looking for young women.  Over the years a number of them had disappeared, and some had been found dead, and so this matter came with some urgency.

                    Despite the fact that Molly was 5'8" and 115 lbs, she had a muscular upper body, the result of her work as a mason's apprentice. She wouldn't have been easy to abduct, people speculated.

                    Although Molly's house was fully searched and she was not initially located there, ultimately a police detective brought blood hounds in, and Molly's body was found in a less obvious location in the basement she had been renovating.  After an autopsy, the medical examiner's best choice was that Molly had committed suicide.  This has not set well with her many friends and acquaintances.

                     A short time after Molly's death, her mother released a statement in explanation of what she believes happened, and to caution others with regard to the same issue.


Perhaps it is because places in the country are now selling kratom and it's finding new acceptance in a time in which many people have limited trust for their physicians, but I need to post something I posted elsewhere in 2018. Please read and distribute. Given the right circumstances kratom may be very dangerous.

Some time ago, I posted about the sudden and strange death of Molly Meghan Miller, who was missing and then later found dead in an unheated and unfinished part of her home.. It seems that the toxicology report on her death may soon be made available to her family.
. This is important because very few of us, in healthcare or not, know about kratom, it's risks and its dangers.

*****************************************************************************

(The portion of the post between the asterisk line has been written by Molly Meghan Miller's mother.)

Help Save The Next Girl shared Marian McConnell's post.
January 6 2018

MOLLY MILLER – We Believe Accidental Overdose of Kratom
 
Molly suffered most of her adult life from the excruciating monthly pain of endometriosis (a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus). While overall she was healthy, strong, and active, for about a week every month she could be incapacitated from the pain. We (and her doctors) tried everything from laser surgery, prescription pain killers, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and as of about 2 years ago, she began taking an herbal remedy, Kratom. Up until December 29th, the Kratom worked well for her with little to no negative side effects, and allowed her to function normally and have better quality of life. It was very expensive and not covered by insurance.
 
On Friday December 29th, she went to Harris Teeter and used her credit card to get the money necessary to pick up the COD package from FedEx – she always ordered the Kratom online and had it delivered. It is legal and the Police have copies of the paperwork confirming her purchases and the source (company) that she bought it from. I had accompanied her many times to do that, and had also witnessed her taking the Kratom drops (in tea) when she was having her period.
I had looked up Kratom online and seen some mild possible side effects mentioned, but didn’t investigate far enough; it was my sister who found the link that made us realize what obviously happened.
https://deserthopetreatment.com/drug-overdose/kratom/

In this article by Desert Hope Treatment Center it says about Kratom Overdose:
 
“Possible signs of a kratom overdose include: Nausea, Irritability, Agitation, Drowsiness, Elevated blood pressure, Rapid heartbeat, Psychosis, Seizure.
These symptoms can be dangerous, and that danger is compounded by the fact that there’s not yet much information on what dose is appropriate. It’s highly recommended to start out small, taking just a few grams at first to figure out how much your body can handle. What is known is that kratom produces stimulant effects at smaller doses, but as the dose is raised, it can produce strong sedative and euphoric effects. At even higher doses, it can produce hallucinations and delusions. Beyond that, overdose is likely. Psychosis mixed with panic attacks, aggression, or severe depression can become very dangerous as the individual may lose touch with reality and cause injury to others or even attempt suicide.”
 
We are 100% convinced Molly accidentally overdosed on Kratom; perhaps put too many drops in her tea, took an extra dose for extra pain, or got a bad batch, and it made her do what she did because her thought processes were distorted by the Kratom. She was happy and making positive plans up until that night; there was NO indication that she was upset or planning anything other than good things.
We are still awaiting the results of the toxicology report, which the Police specifically requested to look for the presence (and if possible the quantity) of Kratom in her system. Regardless of the results (which may be difficult to get due to the cold temperature of the house), we know without a doubt this is what happened.
With all the challenges in the world today for treating chronic pain safely and effectively, it is imperative that everyone know about the dangers of Kratom. If there can be a blessing in this tragedy, perhaps it’s that other lives can be saved by knowing that this drug can be fatal.
In our grief, this has given us relief knowing that it was Kratom, and not anyone (including herself), who drove her to behave as she did. We love Molly and will continue to pour our love and care on her fiancé Anson, along with spreading the word about the dangers of Kratom to keep this from happening to anyone else. Molly wants it that way.
Marian McConnell (Molly’s Mother)

******************************************************************************

                  I am posting this now for several reasons.  At least in Virginia, many stores that sell everything from vaping supplies to materials for packaging, are now selling Kratom.   People, particularly in the preparedness community may be looking for ways to manage transient or chronic pain.   I also know that when one of my sons survived a lightning strike that his pain was not particularly managed well, and that physicians are pressured not to prescribe opioids whenever possible.  Pain management may not be handled well by the medical community just now, and yet Kratom may be very dangerous for some.

                    It is for this reason, I must post the experience of Molly's family.  Molly should not be forgotten.  Please think twice before self medicating for any reason with Kratom.
 
                    Once again, I send condolences to her family and friends as we once again, remember the life of Molly Meghan Miller.





 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

What is Your State of Preparedness ?

              


 

   I have been passing preparedness information along to people on this blog for more than ten years. I have been providing plans for disaster preparedness to families with members who are medically fragile since prior to about two thousand.  A few of you have asked why the number of posts I have been posting here have diminished.

                 As early as the nineteen-nineties there were strong indications that hospitals, utility companies and governments were becoming overly focused on profits and less on their constituency.  The individual or the individual family was becoming expendable.  It was obvious, even then, that families needed to make plans to take care of their members themselves for periods of time. Even then, it made sense to skip a vacation that year to prepare for times without power, times where it might be difficult to buy food or medicine.  "You're focusing on the poor", I was often told.   No, actually, I was focusing on everyone who eats or who can become ill, which is everyone. I also reminded people that most people are just a few paychecks away from being "poor".

                 After I did the podcasts and published the book, our number of international readers increased, especially in Venezuela, and in France, and lately in the UK.  I have tried to expand some of my posts to include brand names of items in those places.

                 The fact is, that in 2020, if you aren't concerned about inflation, gasoline and diesel prices, corruption in government, fraudulent elections, impending wars, corruption and agendas in health care, political unheaval, a deterioration in the standard and focus of education, then you aren't paying attention.

                 My advice is as it always has been.  Buy your own home, in as rural an area as is practical or possible for your own family. Grow whatever food you can. Keep chickens for eggs if possible,  Grow sprouts on the kitchen window year round.  Adopt a dog as a sentry for your home.  Organize your home and your documents.  Make a family plan for sheltering in place and for family evacuation, and include your dog and other pets in those plans.  Each family member should learn all they can about some aspect of rural life and elf sufficiency that they can.  Educate yourself.  If at all possible, you should homeschool your children.  You will encounter the like-minded as you move through life.  Focus on your nuclear family, but if you have extended family living in your area, keep an eye on them, and let them aid you when possible.  Nurture your personal relationship with God and let your family see this.  If you can find a nurturing church, then do so, but your own relationship with God is much more important than your relationship with a church that man has created to facilitate the same.

            Learn to use the equipment you have. Make sure you have basic first aid skills and then expand upon them. Learn to consider buying some things used, before spending a great deal on a new one perhaps of questionable quality.  Learn to safely own and use firearms. Make sure that they are stored in a manner that does not endanger your children or grandchildren.  Make sure that the electronics, phones, internet devices you have, you own, and do not own you.

            Be alert to the ever increasing number of scams which exist, which are focused on parting you from your money, or even transferring the title of your home without your knowledge.  

            Protect your children, in all the manners which this date and time requires.

             Read what you can.  There are ten plus years of posts here on various aspects of this subject. This would be a great place to start.  At this point, I understand and accept that I have done my best, but that people who aren't awake now, are never going to be.