Thursday, February 27, 2014

More People Are Leaving


        My rural county is in a fairly wealthy region of Virginia.  Some of the large farms here are held by families who have owned large acre tracts since the 1700s.  A few can be traced back to original land grants from the British king of the day. Some of the local lands were part of the vast lands owned by Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson who were Thomas Jefferson's parents.   Most of the other large tract or estate owners of contemporary times, made money in banking, insurance or electronics.  Most bought their homes at the top of the market when their homes were pricey indeed.   We came here fifteen years ago seeking expansive land and a chance for our children to raise livestock as my husband and I had in childhood.  We built two farms here, and two family homes.  We used to joke that we were the token "Middle Class" family in a county where many were much wealthier.   This really didn't bother us, and we busied ourselves acquiring land adjacent to ours, building our farms, one at a time, homeschooling and raising our children.   More middle class families joined us in the area after we came, and it's been a good place to raise a family and to weather life and its losses.
            In this location, we have been fairly isolated from the initial crashes of the economy in 2008.  Most families who had money here, had it well diversified, and so their losses in one sector didn't harm their overall finances.  However, since then, there has been a palpable and ever constant financial slippage.   The foreclosures here began in 2009 and have been a steady stream.  There is no mail actually delivered here, and we must pick up our mail at a small rural post office.  Earlier this year there were discussions about closing both our post office, and the one nearest it.  This would have left no post office for us for many, many miles.  Fortunately, a strong local lobby, including our own family, kept both post offices open if just for a few hours a day.   The two local food banks here have grown to five, and I am told they are often completely empty.   I don't know for sure because I can no longer afford to drop boxes of canned goods there,on my way back from Sam's Club, as we used to when our youngest son Daniel was still alive. He enjoyed this regular routine of ours, and it makes me sad that we can't do this any longer, or at least not as often.

              Lately, there is a new phenomenon here.   There had been foreclosures.  Usually we hear about these when the family is fighting it and hopes to renegotiate their mortgage or buy more time.  Many of them believed the present regime would help them in this, but one by one, they all disappeared from their homes.  Most people don't tell you when they are leaving, and I don't think they know.  Some of them leave their bewildered pets there, when they leave, perhaps not being able to take them to an apartment or friend's home.  We did bring home one of these pets.   Now, there are people who simply move from their homes overnight.  No one knows where they are, and their house sits empty, sometimes for a year or more, but without the notices on the front windows that tell you which bank has foreclosed, or who to call if the house is on fire or there is another emergency there.  This has happened to several homes locally very recently.

              The latest interesting trend here are the farmers who have placed their homes for sale and who are leaving for another nation.  One of these farmers is headed for Belize where they plan to "raise fruit" if they are sharing the truth with me.  Another one of these families is headed for Ecuador where they plan to do the same.  I don't speak Spanish, and despite the fact that I am fairly adventurous, I don't think I would want to sell up everything I have gathered here, move to a place where I don't understand the language, the customs, the laws, the insects, the wildlife or even the parasites, and try to earn and living, and try to acquire all the farming implements I had here, which could be a good deal more difficult to get there.  I also don't think I would want to dash my children's chances of jobs, if in fact there are any left here.  I am personally a little unhappy with their decisions because it leaves me fewer people with whom to trade goods in a true financial collapse, if one comes.  I am also left with wondering, what do they know ?   So much change locally is unsettling.

             We are also noticing a financial squeeze.  Our homeowner's insurance has risen forty percent in the last year. I have tried to find other carriers but most won't cover farms or homes on farms.   Our food prices have risen substantially.  We are combatting this by growing some of our food and by reducing meat to more of a garnish that a serving.  We also use chicken and turkey often, and beef rarely.  We are considering making our own cheese for personal use.  We still have plenty of eggs from the chickens, and rarely from the ducks.  We still pray for Obamacare to be rescinded as we watch our friends who are physicians or other health care workers look at alternatives to getting out of health care entirely.

             Utility prices have risen here.   Electricity and gas have risen substantially.  We use solar for small items here, but we don't see enough sun here in the forests to do much more with it than we presently already do. We wonder what other changes in our own environment are coming.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Consideration of Psychopaths

       This is an important blog post written by someone named Ben who has a blog called

Advanced Survival Guide dot Com.     This is definitely worth the read.

    Ben on His Dealings With a Psychopath

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sweet Barkley

Barkley,  with his Dad.    (Picture: )

          A friend of ours made a very sad announcement a couple of hours ago.    Her beloved black Labrador Retriever,  Barkley has passed, the result of an advanced cancer which was not readily treatable.  Devotees to her blog have enjoyed the wonderful adventures of Barkley for some time.  Barkley would swim on his birthday, and had special food from his devoted "mom".    In fact, I feel as if a friend is gone.

        It has always struck me as sad that we, as human beings,  often live a life of eighty years, and that our beloved canine friends often pass from Earth between eight and twelve.   I have come to believe that it often takes us, as humans, seventy or eighty years to learn as much as we need to know in order to go on to the next place, with regard to love and loyalty.  This seems to be knowledge that our beloved canine friends acquire much faster than we do, and in a much shorter time span.

         Please take a look at this link, and if you are so moved, please leave a message of condolence for the family of a fine boy.


A Moment of Perspective


        I was reading an account recently of a number of middle class people who have lost their jobs in the past couple of years and who now live in very diminished circumstances from their prior lives.  Some are living in the basements of relatives. Others are living in recreational vehicles.  I think the design of the article was intended to shock us and induce the people reading into realizing how very bad the economy in the US really is, and on that point, I agree.  I think the economy and outlook are actually worse than it has been at any time since The Great Depression.

          However, I took something else away from the article as well.  I am not my job. I am not my occupation, my degrees, or my income, my house, my neighborhood or my bank balance.  I am a human being, a child of God, a wife, a mother. I was also a daughter and a sister.  I am not a better person when I am making money, although I might be perceived to be a more powerful one.  We must have the knowledge that we are good and decent people regardless of our present circumstances.  Life is full of reversals of fortune, in both good and bad times. We need to know that we remain the same people throughout life's peaks and valleys.

          I think that one of the problems we have in American culture right now, beside the economy is a pervasive fairy tale about what life really is.  My parents grew up during WW II.   They both worked hard for their educations, and held a variety of jobs before attaining the ones for which they were eventually known.  They married later in life than I did, because the turmoil in the world at the time caused many to meet their spouses later than they might have otherwise.  They did not marry until they were in their thirties. Their first child was not born until my mother was 36.  They did not buy their first home until they were in their forties. They had experience and perspectives which allowed them to live frugally and well in bad times, and to live reasonably and to save in good ones.

         The advertising on American television might have you believe that you go to school, have sex at the first opportunity, graduate, get a grant to a great college, have a wonderful grade point average there, and then are offered five positions the last year of college, months prior to graduation. That of course, is if you aren't first discovered by a producer who makes you a star after he saw you leaving the CVS pharmacy to buy a bottle of suntan oil.  Absent from their equation is work and the number of failures at one thing or another that it takes to live a life. Learning a new job, losing a loved one, having a serious or chronic illness are all normal parts of life.   Life is hard, for most of us.  For those for whom it appears easy, the trials just have not yet become apparent.  A lack of strife means that the person may not have the necessary life skills to navigate the trials of life when they arrive. And, they will arrive. They always do.

          Remember that Jewell, the singer, lived in a car while she was playing first gigs between her life in Alaska and who she eventually became.  Remember that as much as I dislike all that Barack Obama stands for, because we don't share his ideology, that he went from a foreign student in Indonesia as a child, to a person who made use of every educational opportunity and grant possible to become at attorney and to become president.  Donald Trump has lost his fortune and declared bankruptcy a number of times, and this is why he has an understanding for those who find themselves in temporary dire straits. He kept going, and made a fortune back again and again.  I remember Eric Cantor well as a young husband and father who has built a home on speculation and was doing his best to sell it to us.  Unfortunately, that particular brick house with blue trim, and all wood floors, was just beyond the price we could afford.  He paid the construction mortgage on it for a few more months until someone else bought it.  The young husband who was trying to maintain a family nest egg went on to continue to be an attorney, and now a Congressman of some note.

        You are not what you do.   You are however, the person you make yourself.  Your role in the world could be as the inventor of the next best great thing, or you could be the mother or the grandmother or influential supportive friend of the person who develops the next great thing.  Remember that whether you are rich or poor, on the top or the bottom today that the ripple you cast with your words and your work stretches far and wide and influences people for good or sometimes for bad.  In that sense, we are all powerful.  What is important is that regardless of your present circumstances, that you stay honest, decent, and that you speak the truth, even when others around you are massaging it for personal gain.

        Money will come and go.  It is fleeting, and it doesn't travel to Heaven, at all.  Chase what is bright and good and is experiential. Keep a good heart, because all we will carry beyond this Earth, is what we house within it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Nonscientific Way of Tracking the Economy


 I have not considered the number of panhandlers increasing, in my tracking of the economy, because there could be similar numbers simply moving to new locations as laws restrict this activity in many communities. (Picture:  )

   True economists have quasi-scientific ways of tracking economic progress or deterioration.  They quote a variety of indexes and place them on graphs.  Governments furthur squeeze and massage such data by allowing or disallowing other data which can produce an inaccurate picture.  For example, the US government stops counting those who have been looking for work unsuccessfully for longer than two years or so,  thus making the final unemployment figures they release periodically artificially low.
               I have my own ways of tracking the economy for our family.  Although these are scientific based on anecdotal information, they do have some value, especially regionally. I have been tracking mine for thirty years.
               My first indicator that the economy is doing well are consignment shops and second hand shops in wealthy areas.  In a good economy wealthy people donate or consign really excellent quality goods, and they wind up in abundance in second hand shops at very low prices.  In a good economy there is less competition for these than you might think.  People are working, vacationing, and not foraging for goods.   These are the times when you can find a half krugerrand in a jewellry junk basket for twenty dollars, or a 14 karat genuine gold rope chain for thirty.   No one evaluated the coin or the necklace because the load of consigned goods was so large, and it just kept on coming.   The first indicator that the economy is slowing is seeing top flight items of this kind disappear from consignment shops or become very expensive.  Of course, this is a sample taken from multiple stores in two cities which are about a days drive from our farm.

                 A second indicator of a deterioration of the economy in the US, are nursing jobs.  Clinical nursing is a demanding and difficult profession.  Many nurses, particularly those who are raising families work periodically for agencies.  When their families income decreases, they return to work for months, or years as the case may be.  They might do contract work in month, three month or several month intervals.  In a good economy, tons of agencies are looking for experienced registered nurses for short term assignments.  In a deteriorating economy, such positions dry up. In the economy of the last three years, newly licensed registered nurses or those without experience might not be able to find new full-time jobs at all.

                The last couple of years in the US have brought some economic indicators I have never seen in my lifetime. In ordinary times in our area, many middle class families donate to a couple of the church run foodbanks in our area.  We all understand and accept that in life, difficult things may happen and that this safety net can be of great benefit to families whose mother or father may have died, or whose child has a serious illness and for whom a period of financial adjustment will be necessary.  Our own family used to buy extra packaged of canned salmon, chicken, tuna or canned fruits from Sam's Club to local food banks.  Our son Daniel used to love being part of this regular donation.  In good times, families can be helped until members of the church or county welfare officials can help the family to their feet again.  Most of the time, after transient family emergencies, the family who had received help could regain their place in the community as gainfully employed.  Often, they would have an understanding of how valuable the food bank system is.  In the past few years, several more area churches have developed food banks in order to meet a growing need.  Many families who made one hundred and sixty thousand dollars or more per year, have lost both of their jobs. They quickly move through their savings, and are depending upon a foodbank.  They remain here eating from the food bank, until their home is repossessed, at which time they leave the area. This economic time is different from others in that a larger number of people who were doing well, are finding themselves using food banking services.  The change has been so significant that county businesses have all been collecting canned goods for all of our church or agency run food banks because the demand is so high that many times during the week, they are down to nothing on the shelves.

             The third indicator,  one of the newest ways I have found in the last couple of years of tracking economic downturn, are the number of astoundingly good real estate buys which can sometimes be found on Ebay.  I am not advocating buying something without checking and doing ones due diligence, but there are times when a house in urban America can be had for no more than one dollar.  I am not saying that this is a wise buy.  If it costs you a dollar to acquire it, and the taxes are two thousand dollars a year, and the entire street is scheduled for demolition at your expense, and there is no police or fire service there, then you probably haven't make a good purchase.  Nonetheless in a lot of urban places, Detroit included, dollar homes exist.

             Ebay and similar internet sites were the first real estate indicators  that the economy was deteriorating in a major way.  In my fairly expensive county, it took much longer to see that deterioration come to suburban and rural middle class homes.   We were somewhat insulated here, but the signs of economic deterioration eventually came. The fourth indicator includes local real estate.   It took several years to see repossessions in number, but they eventually came.  At first, the houses sat empty as the banks who repossessed them waited for the economy to improve.  When the economy didn't improve, after a year or more of holding these homes in their portfolios, one by one they came up for sale at far below their tax assessed values.   At first, they were just below their county assessed values.  Now, very few people have the money to acquire and repair these homes which have been sitting vacant in all weathers without heat for often two to three years.   Now, they are markedly below their county assessed values.   Our daughter bought and restored one of these homes.  Of course, she is being challenged by the payments she must make to keep her home, as her own salary has decreased the result of increased American income taxes.

           The fifth indicator of economic deterioration can be seen on Craigslist.   On Craigslist, many people who were able to pay bills and acquire goods and animals in the last few years have found the need to sell up, downsize, part with things that could be expensive to move, in anticipation of leaving the area and becoming more capable of moving wherever the jobs might be.    In the last year episodically everything from fairly new expensive furniture, to vehicles, appliances, are available for a fraction of the actual cost and value because people are selling up, and getting out.   One of the largest tragedies and indicators that the economy continues to deteriorate is the availability of all types of animals for very little money.  Horses, purebred dogs, livestock and poultry all episodically sell for very little money.

            From my vantage point, a long term deterioration of the economy has come which is deepening rather than abating.  Although my indicators are not scientific, they do spot trends, and the trends are not good.    I am bringing this to your attention because your own indicators for your own region might be similar to mine.  They might track similar or additional factors in your area.  You might track how many Goodwill stores or second hand shops open and how many other businesses have closed.   You might track how many people you know in your county's major employer have lost jobs, or how many remain unemployed.  You might track how many of your friends are newly receiving foodstamps. I should probably track the number of people who graduated from the university with my kids who did also and have been unable to find a job that they did not already have before university graduation.  (Many have kept their part time Subway restaurant jobs but unable to find jobs in their fields, or any fulltime job at all.)

             The point is that in order to make good financial choices for your own family, that governmentally organized or squeezed figures might not be of value.  You might need to identify your own economic indicators for your own region.  You should also pay attention to the economic health of your employer.  Given these conditions, it would probably be wise to have family members working for different employers so that in the event of a plant closure, you weren't all out of work at the same time.

           Please let me know if you identify any other observations of economic indicators that have relevance here.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Update on the Pelletier Case


 We have crossed into an era in our nation in which parents have very little power with regard to their children.   This is disturbing because generally, the people who care the most and who have the greatest stake in the safety and success of a child, are the parents of that child.   Now, we all know or have known a case where this was not true, but most of the time, the parents of a child can be counted upon to make sacrifices in order to give that child the best chance for survival, for education, happiness and prosperity.   The mothers of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Temple Grandin all worked hard to do the best they could with their children, against some difficult odds, and brought their children to who the world eventually knew them to be. The same is true of Sally and Bobby who live down the street, for the most part.  A parent who will not perform in terms of helping their child to be successful and healthy, is generally an aberration.

               Some time ago, I mentioned the story of Justina Pelletier.    Justina is a Boston area teen who had been diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder.  This was not a diagnosis made by parents, but a diagnosis made by a board certified physician and professor of medicine. In fact, he was an expert in the management of this disorder.    Although this disorder can cause weakness, muscle difficulties, and other symptomatology, Justina had been attending school and had been functional as a teen.    About a year ago Justina had the flu, and her regular physician was not available, and so her parents did what good parents do....  They took their child to the nearest children's hospital, which happened to be Boston Children's Hospital.   Following an examination, the physicians there had her parents escorted from the ER and admitted Justina to the Psychiatric Ward for evaluation for somatiform disorder.  Her ongoing treatment for mitochondrial disorder ceased.   We have no idea, as a reader whether the physicians at Children's Hospital simply don't believe in mitochondrial disorder, or whether they ever attempted to contact the child's attending physician.  Apparently, Children's Hospital has an arrangement with a judge where a physician indicates that the parents are a barrier to treatment and/or a correct diagnosis, and zip........ custody of that child is given to the hospital !    This is particularly disturbing because this was done completely against the will of Justina herself.  For almost a year Justina has been held against her will in an inpatient psychiatric facility.  She has not been free to phone or to visit with her parents as she wishes.  Her visits are at the convenience of her guardian the hospital, and she on at least one occasion communicated with her parents using notes written inside origami animals she made in therapy there and then gave to them.  This sounds like something in a former Soviet prison camp or perhaps something which happened in Germany in the time of Hitler !    Saddest of all, without the treatment for mitochondrial disorder and perhaps in part due to the stress of being held in a psychiatric facility without her parents to advocate for her, Justina has deteriorated in terms of her mitochondrial disorder symptoms. What ever happened to the law which says that children or teens, even those with severe psychiatric disorders, must be held in the LEAST restrictive environment.  (So that they are able to achieve normal development and so that they don't develop PTSD and other disorders the result of intrusive management and isolation from their ordinary support systems.)

            Most frightening of all, the judge in the case has placed a gag order on this case.  The Pelletiers are unable to discuss the case.  Hmmmm.  Take someone's child from them during the course of an emergency room visit and then hold her with limited, supervised visitation for a year, and expect the family not to give interviews ?    The strength of the bond of parenthood is far stronger than the orders of any court.  Most of us would die for our children, let alone spend some jail time in order to get them out of a facility where their primary medical diagnosis was not being addressed.

           I am aware that sometimes in the many years in which I was actively employed as a registered nurse that very occasionally our hospital would seek a court injunction to get a blood transfusion or a treatment for a child for which ALL of her physicians believe she would die if this step were not taken.   These cases were rare, and the judge had a fairly high bar before ordering care families refused.

          This week, Mr. Pelletier was charged with being in contempt of court as a result of speaking of the case of his own daughter !  This young woman needs to be released to care of the physician who originally diagnosed and treated her primary medical problem.  She needs to be returned to her parents at once.  The family's attorney needs to sue the hospitals and physicians who deprived this child of her family, a year of her teen life, and her health during this medical misadventure.

           Does this hospital not see that the needs of children who require diagnostics and treatment are not likely to be met if parents know of the multiple cases of seeming child abduction which have occurred in a variety of Children's Hospitals in the US ?     Children's Hospital in Denver has quite a reputation for child collection !

    Of course, make up your own mind.    These are the links to information in the case, and a link to my original post on this matter.    I am aghast and appalled that the physicians involved and hospital administrators could not construct a better plan of meeting the patient's needs other than what looks like kidnapping to the rest of us.

Information updated to this blog on March 4, 2014:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Is Thundersnow ?

How thundersnow occurs.   ( Graphic:  )


        We have had a Winter worse than normal here, which has included some heavy snow, cold weather, and some ice.   We have been fortunate not to have lost power, although there has been a lot of interference and static on the buried landline phones.    This morning, despite my miserable cold, I was up checking on some e-mails when a loud crash outdoors occurred.   There is nothing up here.  I listened for a moment and then more of the sound came.  It was thunder, and then it was followed about a minute later by some impressive lightning.

             We have almost daily thunderstorms in Spring and in Summer here.  In fact, it can be quite dangerous.  In other posts you will see that we had a lightning abatement contractor place a variety of lightning abatement devices on our home and farm outbuildings after one of our adult sons was struck by lightning while actually within a metal roofed substantial farm building. We have learned to be respectful, if not fearful of sudden lightning.   Despite proper grounding of the house, we have also lost a couple of FAX machines over the years.  This has led us to hooking the FAX up only when we intend to send something immediately, and then disconnecting it almost immediately after.

     How common is Winter thunder and lightning or thunder and lightning associated with snow ?   Apparently, strong Winter storms and blizzards can produce lightning strikes. This is called Thundersnow.  This can also occur during freezing rain and then it is termed Thundersleet.    I have read that the Great Lakes Region of the US, and the Eastern United States are areas where this does happen.

( Graphic: )

           The most important take-away from this, is that thunder and lightning are not simply a Spring and Summer phenomenon. They can occur in most places year round.  Don't let yourself or your family members assume that you can go outside and walk across a flat stretch of yard or farm during a thunderstorm simply because it is Winter.   Stay safe, and stay warm !

Monday, February 17, 2014

Becoming Demoralized Regarding Disaster Preparedness


    There are quite a few very bright and well educated people who try to teach preparedness in some form or another to Americans, or to any nation, or anyone who will listen.   Preparedness is not about Americans against Syrians, Egyptians against anyone, or any particular race or creed against another.  All preparedness does is recognize that people live in families and that when the inevitable minor or major inevitable disasters occur, that we all have common needs.  When an earthquake comes to China, or a bombing to an Israeli or to a Syrian town, or a tornado wipes out a town in Kansas, we all need water, some food, first aid supplies, emotional support, and a warm and safe place to sleep later that night.  True preparedness has no agenda.  It is the simple recognition that challenges will come, and that we'd all best be ready.

                      Lately, a couple of people who are well known high achievers in the survival business have become demoralized.  They are tired of repeating the same things again and again to people mesmerized by their iphone.  One of them, who shall remain nameless told me that he thought he would give up relating the message of preparedness.  "It's too late", he said.  " Too many people have missed the chance to prepare." Needless to say, I don't share that view.   Whether you believe that a world or an American financial collapse will come, or whether you believe there's a hurricane coming later in the year, we all need to take reasonable steps to prepare our families.   We need to analyze what the most likely emergencies at our location might be. We need to establish an excellent home first aid kit.  We need to establish a strong evacuation kit.  Then, we need to make plans for anywhere where we spend a good deal of time.   Our workplaces, grandparents homes, a cabin or a recreational vehicle if we have one, are all places where we should consider some secondary preparations.

                     My book, Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness  is an attempt to take people who have not made plans with regard to preparedness, to having a very clear picture as to how to prepare for normal issues in the space of one weekend.  It is a starting point, but a good one nonetheless. There are also some great ideas for seasoned preppers.  From the starting point of the book, families, not extreme preppers, need to refine and add other items and other learning.  For example, if you have young children, you and your spouse should learn CPR and include infant and child CPR to that training.

                     No, I don't believe that it's too late for reasonable attempts at disaster preparedness.  You can prepare for thirty years only to find that the item you need to save a loved ones life, just isn't there.   You can take a weekend to prepare and find that you were blessed with exactly the right supplies to do the job to not only promote comfort but to save a life.  You see, no one really knows where that tipping point is.  We can't stock a hospital, but we can keep reasonable amounts of first aid supplies, and hope that we are not hit with a challenge that is too advanced for our skill set.

                    Once we have taken steps to prepare reasonably, then we need to reevaluate our preps every six months to a year.  This should include rotating stock.  You should also use some of your supplies in order to keep some familiarity and actually know how to use freeze dried food, for example.  Then, go out and live a life.  Preparedness is not all there is, but preparedness may someday make the rest of it possible.  When that fails, then stop, and listen to some music.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day


    This year, my Valentine's Day post will appear at:

      Chocolate Horses


 May each of you have a lovely day doing whatever makes you happy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thinking Ahead to Spring


   In my neck of the woods, we are snowed in with ten inches of snow with a nice half inch of frozen rain enclosing the wet snow.  We're all here, and our smarter horses and livestock are spending the day in the stalls.   I'm tired of mucking, and shoveling and snow finding its way into my boots and so I thought I might look forward, just a bit to Spring.


                         If done correctly, a fair amount of fruit and vegetables can be grown in raised specially mixed soil.  The amount of yield using this method, for an entire season can be startling.

     This method boasts:

                  20% of the space
                  10% of the water
                    5% of the seeds
                    2% of the work
                 with none of the expected weeds !

                    I can't tell whether these are pressure treated lumber, but I suspect not.  In the American South or places where termites eat mailbox posts for lunch in two weeks, I suggest you use pressure treated lumber which can last beyond one growing season before being decimated.

 These pictures were generated by the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.   They also have some excellent pages in pdf form with directions as to how you can grow many important foods in a square foot format, even if the land you have available to do so is quite limited.  There are some pleasant surprises at the link below:

                     The Square Foot Gardening Foundation

   We may be smack dab in Winter and freezing in our boots, but Winter always gives way to Spring and then it's time to consider all the wonderful things we need to do in the sunnier seasons of our lives.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Interview with Edward Snowden is Blacked Out in the US

            As I have regularly mentioned here on this blog, I no longer trust the mainstream US media to bring us factual and accurate world or domestic news.  For this reason, I listen to a trail of international newscasts each day.  Of course, all of them have their biases from time to time, but from the consistent reporting between them, one can usually get a fair picture of what is going on in the world, and also in the US.  I also do some research and read additional information when I don't quite understand one aspect or another of the news.

          This week,  I watched a lengthy interview on DW of another German networks  (ARD) really detailed interview of Edward Snowden.  I wanted to listen to him and think, "If you sign a contract as a contractor or employee of the United States then the secrets you learn about our internal functions are not to be disclosed". I was surprised at some of the things he said.  I was surprised as to a number of things, and it frightened me concerning various aspects of our (US) government even more than usual.

          I concluded that Mr. Snowden started as a CIA employee and then became a contractor working in cyber intelligence for Booz Allen Hamilton, which has a branch in the city nearest me. He actually loves America very much, and truly believes that he disclosed private information from the US government to the American people because our government is no longer following the Constitution, but is making it up as it goes along.  I found Mr. Snowden courageous and highly intelligent.   I was also deeply saddened as I heard that the US government discussed the assassination of Mr. Snowden in an attempt to prevent the disclosure of additional information.    This is an intelligent person who should be working for us.  He should be fortifying our government computer systems against foreign cyber attack.  Instead, he is sitting in Russia with little hope of ever seeing his America or his parents again.  He is also probably correct in that alphabet agencies in the US with the permission of our President probably are considering assassination as a means of protecting themselves.   Weren't these concerns we used to have with Soviet Russia ?    When did the US develop Nazi tactics ?

          This is part of that interview.   Although I watched the entire interview in English, on German television, I have not yet been able to locate the interview in its entirety for posting here.  I have included all of it that I could find.   Please tell me what you think.

           This interview has been completely ignored by US news outlets.    Why ?

More good information on this matter:

ARD the German network, cites that "due to legal reasons" the entire interview cannot be shown outside Germany.

       We are not the transparent nation that I was told we were while in college.   Perhaps with the Constitution being ignored and sidestepped daily, and Congress persons (Feinstein)   claiming that "those who serve in the military are crazy anyway" and should therefore no longer have access to weapons,  we are no longer "the land of the free and the home of the brave".

        It is said that people get the government they deserve.   I know a lot of people who deserve far better than this.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Words Regarding Preparedness, Fungal Infections and Athlete's Foot

(Rendering: ) This is a rather severe case.

     In an emergency or a disaster, there are a number of disorders and afflictions that can get a foothold more easily than in normal times.   Although 70% of the population will get athlete's foot at some time or another, a disaster is one of those times where it could really become established and become difficult to eradicate.    Theoretically, no one dies from athlete's foot, but being severely uncomfortable and having burning cracked feet and toes can become a region in which a bacterial infection could also get a foothold, and then serious consequences may ensue.    Having burning, itchy feet can also be a barrier to thinking clearly or walking large distances, both of which may be essential for your family's survival.

                        Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection of the toes and of the webbing of the toes.  It can spread to other regions of the feet and to the heels.  In fact, sometimes thick calluses with peeling on the heels and sides of the feet are actually a sign of a fungal infection which has spread from the original athlete's foot infection.   It favors damp, dark regions, and is certainly contagious.  Many people get it from gymns, school showers, hotel showers, etc.  It is also possible to get it from a spouse, or by laundering your child's socks with your own.   To avoid athlete's foot, use flip flops in hotel, gymn, and vacation showers.   Use white socks whenever you can.  (They wick moisture away from the toes better than dark ones.)    Have family members wash their own clothing once a week, rather than running combined family loads a couple of times a week.   Never try on shoes without socks.   When you buy new shoes, or consigned ones, always spray the inside with disinfectant and let them sit outside to dry.  This will take care of any fungi or bacteria which were on the feet of the last person who tried on or wore that pair of shoes.  Athlete's foot is not just one fungus, but many.  Some cases are fairly easily eradicated and others can be quite challenging.  Avoidance is always best, if possible.  The medical term for athlete's foot is tinea pedis.

                Our family lives in the South on a farm where I am sure we have an abundance of different kinds of fungi growing in fields and near livestock.  Wearing boots to muck stalls and to work there tends to hold perspiration in.    In addition, occasionally a mucky wet bath makes its way into a muck boot, as under heavy use, they don't last forever.  This is one time where a daily shower is probably a necessity in order to wash the offending fungus off the foot entirely.  The muck boot should be hosed off outside, and then placed on a boot tray in the house to dry.  White socks should be changed daily and in the hot Summer, possibly twice daily at times.   In such conditions, when the person is in the house, the feet should air in something like sandals.  This will provide the best chance at athlete's foot avoidance entirely.

              Of course, in an emergency, the ideal might be impossible.   People may be wearing socks and boots to stay warm.  If the heat is off in a cold climate, they might sleep in boots !   They may not be able to shower daily during an emergency.   They may be walking great distances and perspiring without a change of socks as a possibility. If you and your family evacuate from home during a wildfire, you may simply have the shoes and socks on your feet.     Walking through flooded areas may introduce your feet to a variety of fungi to which they have never been exposed, and an overt fungal infection may occur.

            In emergencies what can we do to limit or to try to prevent fungal infections ?  

1.  Consider passing on plastic, vinyl or "man made" shoes.   Some of these hold more perspiration than others and can predispose to fungal infections.   Leather or cloth shoes might be better.

2. If your feet get wet, try to wash and dry them as soon as possible.  Consider a simple foot powder before putting on new socks.  If you don't have foot powder, mix some baking soda with cornstarch in equal amounts.  This will help to keep them dry.  You can mix the two in a shaker container in advance.

3.  Alternate two pairs of shoes.  One can be drying while you are wearing the other.

4. Stock up on white cotton socks.

5. Place absorbent lamb's wool from a drug store between the affected toes.  This will help air circulate in these areas.

6.  Soak your feet in two quarts of water to one cup of white or cider vinegar daily.  This makes it difficult
     for the fungi to replicate.  Dry feet well afterward.
     (If you are out of vinegar, try two quarts of water to a tablespoon of salt.)   Soak for 20 minutes daily.

7. Clean your shower with bleach and rinse well to help avoid reinfection and the infection of your family members.

8. Consider washing your socks separately from your regular clothing and underwear and wash them with a half a cup of bleach added.  (You can't do this with black or colored socks.)

The following medications are available over the counter, and will treat and eradicate most cases of
athlete's foot and simple fungal infections in the heel or in many other parts of the body.

 1. Clotrimazole   (follow the directions on the tube or bottle.)
 2.  Miconazole   (follow the directions on the tube or bottle.)
 3.  Tolnaftate      (follow the directions on these too. Some may                   
 4. Terbinafine      also come in spray liquids or spray powders.)

Be very careful not to inhale the antifungal sprays as they can be quite dangerous to the lungs.

  Most cases of fungal infections of the feet will respond to regular use of one or two of the drugs mentioned above.  Make sure that your Evacuation medical kit, and your Home Medical Kit has at least two of these medications.  If unopened, they will last for about five years after expiration date and will still be effective.

     Once you have treated and cleared a fungal infection of the feet, toes, or heels, you have no improved resistance to subsequent infections, and so they may occur again, either following reinfection with the same fungus, or infection with another fungus entirely.

       Diabetics and those with impaired resistance due to other medical issues are more prone to fungal infections.  Those who eat higher sugar diets also are more prone to fungal infections.  Eating yogurt is said to be helpful with regard to prevention.  Those on antibiotics are also at risk for fungal infections either on feet, vaginally, or elsewhere.   If you are taking antibiotics, buy some lactobacillus acidophilus to supplement the positive bacteria the antibiotic will inadvertently destroy.

        If the foot becomes reddened and infected, then you need to see a doctor, especially if you are diabetic.   Fungal infections can break the skin sufficiently to allow a bacterial infection to get started.

       The take away from this post is to stock two of the four listed topical treatments for fungal infections of the feet in your emergency kit. Buy enough to treat for six weeks.  Consider getting it at your dollar store as you might wish to have enough for a couple of family members.   Also stock extra salt and a bottle of extra vinegar for soaks.  Consider stocking cotton or lambs wool to encourage circulation of air between toes.

       The absolute worst time to have severely itching and burning feet is during a disaster where water, and clean clothing and shoes may be harder to come by.   Anticipating this possibility now is an important simple task which can be worth a great deal to you or your family later.

Inching Toward Financial Collapse

 I don't know who these people are, but the information they are providing, though largely anecdotal, is also what I am seeing. I think it's important to amass emergency food, medications, batteries and whatever you need to make it through a short term collapse or perhaps one that becomes more long term. Stay calm, but do whatever you can to take care of yourselves and your families.

     To those who say the economy is recovering, someone in my family just bought a piece of land which had an assessment of $70,000. for only $12,500.  It's a nice piece of land in a good place..  Things can't be terrific if this is easily possible.

     As for the political commentary made in the last half of this video, I don't know.  Some of it may be true and other parts may not, so always listen to anything of this type cautiously.  We already know that US news sources are not covering political and economic news well.   International sources cover some things well, and other things in a biased manner.   However, you can believe that if NHK News (Japan), Deutsche Welle (Germany), RT (Russia), BBC (England) France 24 (France), and JN1 (Israel) all report something, then most likely it is true.  It is interesting to see how many times all of them report something about the US, and there is an apparent complete news blackout on  the same subject on US news coverage.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Family Finance and The General Insurance Check Up

(Photo:  )

            In one of the last posts, I gave a primer overview to essential elements of family finance.  In this post I would like to examine one of the things I touched upon in the last post.  Many people don't know of the concept of an annual insurance assessment.    As we move through our lives, many things change year to year.  The insurance we had a year ago might not be enough for the life we are living today.  Sometimes, things change sufficiently that we need to have less insurance than we had a year, or two, or five years ago.

              If you are a tenant,  although you don't need homeowner's insurance, you should at least evaluate the cost of "Renter's Insurance".   This is usually a cost effective insurance.  If a pipe bursts or your rented home burns down, your landlord's insurance covers only the rented premises, and nothing of yours.  It's up to you to have some type of insurance so you aren't wiped out.

              If you own your home, you may have realized that Homeowner's Insurance in the US, and worldwide has risen substantially in the last few years.  My own is up forty percent in the last couple of years, and in thirty years, my family and I have never claimed on homeowner's at any of the homes we owned in all those years. I read recently that insurance premiums for homeowners insurance is up in Florida more than anywhere else.   Between rising taxes in some places and rising homeowner's insurance a lot of people are finding that they pay almost as much as their mortgage used to be before they paid it off !
 There is also a trend in that many people as they edge into partial or complete retirement, and they pay off their mortgages, can no longer afford to continue paying their homeowner's insurance.  Of course, this leaves them extremely vulnerable in the event of fire or other covered calamity.   If you are in this quandary, before dropping your insurance, see if you can save substantially by raising your deductible on this type of insurance.  I have raised my deductible on homeowners in the last couple of years.  Several of our friends nationwide lost homes to fire this year and did not have homeowner's insurance any longer.  These are very trying times for many people.

             Car insurance can be a great expense for many people.   One less expensive way to carry coverage but to be able to save money also, is to carry simply liability insurance.  This means that you are covered under the law for the damage you do to the vehicles of others, but that you, in essence, are self insuring for any damage to your own vehicle.  This can be smart if you drive a Ford Escort, and not so smart if you drive a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.   Of course, I am closer in my thinking,  to the Ford end of the spectrum.   You can save substantial amounts of money by taking this approach however there are some negative aspects to minimal car insurance also.   Should someone total your car, and be liable for it, your insurance company may not intercede on your behalf and get the ball rolling with the other persons insurance company if all you have is liability insurance.  My son has still not been paid by the insurance company who represents a woman who was convicted in the totalling of his car.  The best we have been able to do is ensure that the woman's cut rate insurance company can no longer do business in Virginia.  Of course, this hasn't bought our son another used car, and the accident was three years ago. We could have sued her, but it is unlikely that she would ever have the money to replace such a thing.  Additional,  Collision insurance can be valuable if it is affordable for your particular car and your own state.
             Explore car insurance discounts for organizations for whom you are a member.  Many times, they have special plans which will result in up to a twenty percent savings on an annual premium basis.
             One of our agent claims that substantial discounts can be had if you place all of your insurance needs with one company.  I do not do this, choosing instead to buy the best and most reasonable insurance for the farm at one place,  car insurance at another, and life insurance somewhere else. This has worked for me, but since people's circumstances are different, it does pay to evaluate different companies.

              Life insurance is a very important insurance to have, but is frequently misunderstood.   Life insurance which develops a cash value can be great to have, but it is the most expensive life insurance to buy.
Term life insurance, is not only the least expensive to have, but it is often much less money than most people realize.   Life insurance is very important to have, because when it passes to your wife, children or whomever you deem your beneficiary, it does so tax free.

             When selecting life insurance, you need to consider where you are in your lifespan and what your obligations are.   If you are a forty year old man with 100K left on the mortgage and twins, then you need a fair chunk of change for life insurance.   In the event of your passing, you need 100K for that mortgage, 100K for the raising and college educations for each of the twins, and a cushion for your wife. 500K would therefore be a reasonable amount of life insurance.  If you are a non-smoker of 40, then the premium need only be about $22, a month.    Women should have life insurance also.

            As you age, you need less term life insurance, as children are raised, college is paid, homes are paid off, etc.   This is a good thing, as it does become more expensive if you need to acquire a new policy as an older person.  This is also a time when you will be relieved to be a non-smoker as insurance rates for non-smokers are much cheaper.
             You should have some money put away for funeral expenses.  (Cremation is $1200. in most places)   Life insurance is wonderful, but may not be paid within the 30 days in which the funeral home needs to be paid.

              If you are past needing 500K or 100K, it still may make sense to find a 10K or 20K policy for an older person, making the path of a spouse a bit easier.  Remember that the proceeds are tax free.

             In short, you and your family should look at all your insurances each year.   Trim the fat, and consider how your needs may have changed.    This is an important aspect of making your money do the most good for you, and for your family.