Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I didn’t really look up to any sports figures when I was growing up. The other kids in school worshiped baseball, hockey, basketball or football players. I didn’t get it. Why should we admire and emulate some guy who’s main claim to fame is the ability to do some tricks with a ball or a stick?

I read a lot of S/F and Fantasy, and liked the works of many different writers. However, I realized pretty early on to separate their works and their personalities. There was always the suspicion that some of the writers I enjoyed would turn out to be jerks in real life. After I grew up and actually got to meet some of them, I learned that yeah, some are jerks. Some were just fine -pretty much like most any other group of people.

The closest thing I had to a hero was my dad. He was there for me. Dad taught me all about being a man. I learned how to be tough and how to fight. Dad’s a bad ass. I once saw him fight off a guy bigger than him and half his age, then stare down over 20 of the guy’s friends. He also taught me to never pick fights, but if you have to fight, finish it.

I learned how to treat women by watching my dad. He loved my mom and was unfailing loyal and supportive of her. His strongest contempt was for men who hit and abused women. In his eyes, that was the most unmanly thing a guy could do.

Dad taught me how to use tools and how to fix things. Just as important as the specific skills he imparted was the confidence to attempt things I never did before.

While my dad and I enjoyed a lot of the same things, I became interested in things he knew nothing about and didn’t understand. That was fine with him. He reserved judgment and encouraged me to discover things for myself.

Of course, dad being a real human being, he has his faults. Who doesn’t? Still, he’s the closest thing to a hero I’ve got. Not too bad for a guy I’ve known all my life. In a world where “heroes” have feet of clay, that’s saying a lot. I’ve been pretty lucky.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good ladders

It’s no secret that I’m frugal, cheap even. I don’t like to spend money I don’t have to. No need to get the Cadillac solution when the bicycle solution will do.

There are a few places where I do not skimp. I’m a big believer in quality ladders. Part of that comes from having been a Firefighter and learning a thing or two about ladders. Mainly though, it just makes sense. Cheap ladders can kill or maim you. It doesn’t take much of a fall to cause serious injury.

I’m a big fat guy so get heavy duty fiberglass ladders. I like fiberglass over other materials. Wood rots. Aluminum ladders tend to be too bouncy for my tastes and they also conduct electricity. A 28 footer is about as big a I feel comfortable handling alone.

I also have a 10 foot fiberglass stepladder. When you live inside a dome, having a safe way to reach that high ceiling is almost a necessity. It’s also the right height for adjusting my solar panels.

Both ladders are needed to reach the top of my roof. The 28 footer gets me up a couple stories. I carry the stepladder up to a second floor roof and from there reach the top of the dome. That’s how I clean my chimney. By saving the cost of a good chimney sweep, those ladders paid for themselves long ago.

Quality ladders aren’t cheap, but if you do your own home maintenance and repairs, they pay for themselves. Some areas of the country, single story ranch houses dominate. It doesn’t take much of a ladder to do what you need to do. In snow country, people tend to build higher rather than spread out. Roofs have steep pitches to shed snow. Don’t even think about messing around with cheap ladders.

Of course, if you are terrified of heights, don’t bother buying any ladder at all. Take the money you’d have spent on a ladder and hire someone to do the job for you. Unlike many of our fears, the fear of falling is a rational fear. Falls kill people every year.

If you aren’t sure about heights but are willing to try, many places rent good ladders. Try before you buy. Often people find that after a short while, they become comfortable working on ladders. You might be one of those people.

If you do get a ladder, get a good one, and learn the ins and outs of that particular model. Never get so relaxed that you cut corners and get careless. Quality can’t make up for stupid.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Hopeful days

I’m not all doom and gloom. There are some hopeful signs, positive actions, new technologies, progressive movements, and new ideas.

The first step is letting go of the world view that others have chosen for you. There are many ways of doing that. For some, it’s a simple as turning off the TV. Once the withdrawal pains are over, they notice it’s a whole different world. It won’t take long before they are amazed at all the drivel missing from their life. Some have described it like waking from a bad dream. For a percentage of people, it’ll be like a hard core alcoholic who can never touch the stuff again without being drawn down the sewer. Others might be like those hard drinkers who can occasionally imbibe, but are constantly aware of their consumption and the affect it has on them.

World views can be changed by leaving or joining a church. It could be as simple as reading a single article or book that sets them down a new road. Maybe they observer other people doing things different -and being happy. Perhaps one day a person wakes up and realizes the old way of life isn’t working, hasn’t for some time, and they don’t even want it anymore.

Once a person opens up to new ideas, they find the world is full of them. It could be turning a backyard into a permaculture garden so they can work fewer job hours yet eat better. Maybe they get hooked by alternative energy and the idea of grid independence. Some regain their health through paths that don’t involve doctors and hospitals. One of my favorites is discovering how inexpensive sailboat living can be. It could be figuring out a way to live car free. People look at everything differently: work, food, housing, transportation, community, relationships, faith, values, family -everything about being human. They pick and chose the tools for the life they want to live.

As individuals begin to live individually, they show to the rest of the population that it is possible. There will be those who resent it as they don’t like to be shown they actually hold the keys to their prison cell, but it takes an effort to swing the door open. Fortunately, other people will just be happy to find a way out, no matter how difficult. Here’s the thing, as more people break out of the old ways, it becomes acceptable to do so. The lone freak can be ignored. Whole segments of society breaking free can’t be so easily dismissed.

I expect it could get rough for a while there. Those heavily invested and served by an old pattern won’t give up power easily. The system’s death throes will have to be avoided as best as one can. The new ways will have birth pains: false starts and dead ends. Not every path will work for every person, but isn’t that the point? You have to find your own way.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dicken’s Kids

The neighboring town had a small winter festival parade. Quite a few of the locals came out to enjoy this simple pleasure.

One of the things that stuck out was the poverty of the kids on the street. They looked like something out of a Charles Dicken’s novel. They were poorly dressed, dirty and their complexions had that the pasty look of poor nutrition. There were a lot of them. One kid didn’t even have a coat, but had wrapped herself in a blanket to see the parade.

I grew up in a dying mill town. It’s not like I’ve never seen poverty before. This is a different sort of poverty. In my day, very few of the poor kids were actually dirty. Their coats might have been ragged hand me downs, but they were better than blankets. There were a lot fewer of those kids back then. Few of us were rich, but our parents wouldn’t let us out of the house with dirty faces and greasy hair.

It’s not just the physical poverty. There’s a poverty of the soul. It’s as if the parents of these kids gave up all hope and stopped caring. At one time, people in general tried to better themselves, not only materially, but mentally and spirituality. In a society where we’ve stopped being citizens and are now known as consumers, there is no cultivation of the inner values. Without money, these kids have nothing at all.

In the middle of the festival, I could not help but think the kids deserve better. As a society we should do more, if only so we could walk with our heads high.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

War Drums

Sometimes there’s nothing worse than a successful little war. Gulf One went so well we had Gulf war Two. That didn’t go quite so well. The Libya no fly zone worked pretty well for the US and NATO. They might try it again.

The US just parked an aircraft carrier next to Syria. Oh oh. There’s talk of a no fly zone. Syria is having a civil war right now. It’s no longer just demonstrations. The resistance is fighting back. It’s ugly there, and getting nastier. Just to make it interesting, Russia has sent ships to Syrian waters. Let’s just say they aren’t there to help us.

Why the hell are we getting involved in Syria? That country has nothing we can’t do without. Yes, it’s having a revolution. It can do that just fine without us.

Does it make sense in the lager context of the region? Israel wants to attack Iran so bad it can taste it. Actually, they want the US to get involved on an attack on Iran. Israel might be an old friend, but is it a good friend? The CIA lot of a bunch of its agents in Lebanon, probably due to poor trade craft. (hubris?) Hezbollah is heavily supported by Iran.

Don’t forget about Egypt. There’s people protesting and dying in the streets once more, calling for the end of military rule. The military has close ties with the US. My guess is that in the end, the real winner from all this will be the Muslim Brotherhood -not quite so good a friend of the US. When democracy yields a pro-US government, we are all for it. When it doesn’t, it seems a friendly dictator is much better.

Why is the US beating the war drums? What benefit is it to the government? Is it to distract us from the economy falling apart? It would be a good pretext to crack down on US protests. Historically, governments in trouble turn to foreign wars to dampen down domestic resistance. All those people in uniform would stay in uniform rather than come home to be unemployed.

How about rising oil prices? They are going up. War won’t bring them down, but it could redirect the blame. It’s much easier to blame dastardly foreigns than examine the likelihood of Peak Oil being real. No doubt Iran has the ability to close the Straights of Hormuz where a significant portion of the world’s oil is shipped. Should that happen, expect the restrictions on drilling in wildlife refuges, the sensitive arctic, and off shore regions to be lifted. War has some big returns for the oil companies. They get to charge more for the oil they do have and get to drill in places now off-limits.

The argument goes that we must prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. Why? What would they do with them? Attack Israel? That would only insure Israel’s 300 or so nuclear weapons would rain down on them. Give terrorist a bomb? Not likely. They know it would blow back on Iran. Terrorists are much more likely to get a bomb from Pakistan as it suffers its own unrest. To prevent the world from becoming radioactive? Then maybe we should have done something about poorly run nuclear power plants built in risky areas. What a nuclear armed Iran would do is insure other countries would not attack. That’s pretty much it.

They are beating the war drums. That doesn’t mean we have to dance.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Not much slack

I like to try new things, be it new experiences or building some new gizmo. The problem is that I’ve never had much room for failure. If my time and energy is invested in something, it’d better work well enough to justify the resources.

When I was first striking out on my own, I made some hard nosed decisions based on my limited resources. After High School, I went to the local community college. My grades were good enough to go too better schools, but those schools were expensive. As it turned out, after one semester, I dropped out of the community college. My savings were all gone. The courses were challenging enough that I had to quit my part time job. Lack of sleep was really getting to me.

College is supposed to be this great stimulating experience where we can entertain new ideas and deepen our appreciation for the world. It should be a time to experience new philosophies and study the great thinkers of the past. When I was 18 it was all about getting a return on my investment. Back then, I didn’t think my potential income would justify going into debt. I was probably right.

Other kids picked the right ancestors. They could go to the good schools without worrying about working to pay for it. Changing majors and schools was no big deal. It didn’t matter if the credits didn’t transfer and it took a couple more years for the degree. Some could do fun things like take year off and backpack through Europe. Deep family pockets guaranteed things would not go too badly. You need time to find the career you truly love, no problem. Run out of money on your backpacking tour? Daddy will wire you more and pay for the plane ticket home.

When I cut the roof off the lake cabin and replaced it with a dome, it had to work. It was a big roll of the dice. Had I made some major error in my calculations: structural or financial, we’d have huge debt and no place to live.

Solar energy had to work. It would have really stressed the budget if it didn’t. My system was only about as expensive as a decent new snowmobile, but I couldn’t afford one of those either.

When I bought an old Mercedes Benz to experiment with waste veggie oil, it had to work. My wife needed that car to go to her job. In fact, she was driving it back and forth to work long before I got all the bugs out of the system. She’d put in a 12 hour day, then find herself bleeding air out of fuel lines on the side of the road.

Fortunately, my experiments that have fallen flat have cost me little cash. My failed waste vegetable oil heater cost me less than $20. That was mostly for saw blades, welding rods, and nuts and bolts. The rest of the materials were from things most people would have sent to the dump. It’s failure wasn’t due to the materials, but because of a poor fuel feed design.

Working class people don’t have much slack for failure. They buy a house, because they are told property values will always go up. The don’t. Don’t worry about being able to afford the house, as over time your wages will go up. Those don’t go up either. Kids take on huge college debt to get that good paying job that isn’t there. The working class never fully recover from those failures.

They have no extra resources to recover. If something doesn’t work out just right, it’s disaster. If you are upper class, not only do you have your own resources, family wealth, and you have access to lines of credit that regular people can’t even conceive.

When you don’t have money, you’d better have brains. Thanks to the Internet information is available. However, you have to be able to sift though that information and judge it’s value. You have to know what you don’t know and figure out how to learn it. You plan things in great detail in hopes that everything will go right. Even so, sometimes there are circumstances beyond your control. Maybe it’s a small detail you had no way of knowing, a defective part, or the fact that something successful on one place might not work as well at your place.

Quite a few of us have been doing a lot with little. We’ve had years of working without a net. I’m curious to see how well the rich would do with our limited resources.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cold mornings

The idea of woodstoves is terribly romantic. Picture a kettle merrily steaming away on a wood cookstove. There you are sipping warm hot coco as that radiant heat soaks into your bones. There’s no electric or gas company involved. All you have to do is light up some of that sustainable harvested local wood.

My kitchen woodstove is all that, and more. It also includes waking up to a cold house. My classic old cookstove doesn’t sustain a fire very long. It has a small firebox and isn’t an airtight stove. In the morning, don’t expect to find more than the occasional stray hot ember left. A few hours after I go to bed, the stove has died down and the the house starts to cool. By morning, it’s darn right chilly.

I get up while my wife is still sleeping. If I was smart, there’s split and dry wood ready. Sometimes I have to out where it’s truly cold and haul in some firewood. Might even have to split it with snow blowing all around me. Believe me, that’s a chore best down ahead of time when the sun is shinning.

Then I light the fire. In no time at all, it’s warm -about 2 feet from the stove. The rest of the house takes a few hours to really get comfy. I put a huge kettle of water on the stove. That takes a while to heat up, but there’s enough water to fill the peculator, make oatmeal, and to act as a humidifier.

By the time my lovely wife gets up, the coffee is made, the kitchen is warm, and the stove is good and hot for cooking breakfast. For her, most mornings, the woodstove isn’t an inconvenience at all. That’s fine by me. If the wife ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Now when I fire up my big basement woodstove, there’s a chance the house will be warm in the morning. That stove will still have a deep bed of hot coals. If the wood is seasoned hardwood, it can hold a fire for 12 - 14 hours. It also uses a lot more wood than the old kitchen stove, so it doesn’t get lit until it’s really needed. When the temperature drops below zero Fahrenheit, it takes both stoves to really warm the place up.

I’d like to replace the basement stove with a rocket mass heater. All that thermal mass would still be radiating heat in the morning. My wife isn’t convinced yet. She remembers the fiasco with the waste veggie oil heater, so hesitates when I mention experimental stoves.

The experimental veggie heater worked fine when set up in the yard. However, when installed in the basement, the veggie fuel tank got warmer and warmer. The oil flowed better and better and fed the stove faster than it could be burned, flooding the combustion chamber. Then the pool of oil in the bottom of the chamber ignited. Let’s just say it set off every smoke detector in the house. A plume of black smoke blew of the chimney that could be seen from across the lake. I shut off the fuel and the heater eventually burned itself out. The experiment was over. She wasn’t going to let me try to build a better fuel regulator.

When heating oil was a buck a gallon, I’d just set the oil heat to kick in once the house started to cool. Now that heating oil is around $3.70/gallon, I really think hard about turning the furnace on or not. These days it only runs when we are going to be away for a few days. Buying fuel is cheaper than replacing plumbing.

Of course, after the holidays, I’m heading south for the bulk of the heating season. I’ll let others have the romance of the woodstoves.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Letting the neighbors know

When you live in a sparsely populated rural area who you call neighbor changes a bit. Around here, it’s people within about a 2 mile radius.

I’ve been letting my neighbors know that my lovely wife and I will be away this winter and that people will be house sitting. It’s not necessary to tell all the neighbors. As long as a few of the more outgoing ones know, everyone will know. Such is life in a small town.

People want to know what’s going on. I don’t want my guests to be mistaken for thieves or squatters.

Then there is the inevitable question and answer game of who they are. Everyone has a relationship to someone else. Once they figure out which family they come from, who’s kin to who, it’s all good. The guy has ties to this area so it’s fine. He has an aunt and distant cousin with cabins around the lake.

It seems that a lot of property has gone missing in nearby areas. One of my friends had a generator disappear. This was a heavy 5000 watt unit secured with a 1/2 cable. The cable had been cleanly cut. A place near him was totally cleaned out and destroyed with an ax. That’s just adding insult to injury.

Having people watch the place is nice. I don’t worry too much about property. Let the insurance company do the worrying, I say. However, there are some things that money can’t replace: one of a kind items, art, photos, and other odds and end that only have value because of the memories that are attached.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ever growing project list

Seasons are changing. My project list doesn’t seem to get any smaller.

My projects break down into three areas of concern right now. The house, the vehicles, and the boat.

House projects are mostly centered around cold weather preparations. I’ve gotten lucky, as it has been a fairly mild fall. I just finished resealing some joints on my kitchen woodstove. It’s one of those things you keep an eye on when you have an old stove. I noticed they had to be redone when I changed out the kitchen stovepipe. I bought enough stovepipe to replace the basement stove’s, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s been mild enough that I haven’t felt the need to use that stove yet. Chimney could use a good brushing too.

It’s time to change the angle of my solar panels for the winter sun. There are some pretty fancy and expensive systems that do that automatically. My cheapo DIY system requires that I climb a 10 ft step latter with a couple wrenches every 4 months or so. At about the same time I do that, I also check the water levels in the battery bank and top them off with distilled water.

I’ve other little house projects that I’ve promised my wife I’d finish. She’s been patient, but even she has limits. The lady wants a new custom bed frame. It’s reached the point where she’d started to do the measurements for me to cut the lumber. When she starts to do stuff like that, it’s time to move the project up the priority list.

My vehicle projects are in slow motion. I’m still waiting for the DOT to straighten out the small paperwork glitch that’s held up registering the camper conversion. While that’s been going on, I’ve slowly gathered most of the parts I’ll need to convert it to run on waste vegetable oil.

Just to keep me out of trouble, the header pipe on my pickup rusted through. It’s in a tight place with little room to cut rusty bolts. My mechanic could do it in short order using a lift and a cutting torch. However, I’m pretty sure he took the week off to go fishing in Florida.

I really want to use the camper conversion to haul the sailboat down to Florida come January. The paperwork hold up bugs me no end. Worse come to worse, I can put new tires on the old truck and make one more long distance trip with it. If the paperwork comes though on the camper, the truck tires can wait until I come back in the spring.

Then there are the boat projects. In some ways, I’m ahead. The bottom paint is all done, thanks to a break in the weather. There’s nothing the boat absolutely needs to be sea worthy. It’s the little extras I’m working on now. The new cabin hatch with solar panel mount is not completed. A new fuel locker panel could use more varnish.

I want to replace all the wires that go from the outboard to the battery. The insulation is starting to crack. Wrapping the bad sections in electrical tape was an acceptable field repair, but not really a long term solution. All the wire will be replaced with heavy enough cable to run a electric trolling motor. The outboard plug is getting replaced with a heavy duty trolling motor plug. The idea is that I can charge the battery from the gas outboard, or use the same wire system to run an electric trolling motor. How’s that for a redneck hybrid system?
With all these things to keep me busy, it’s a wonder I ever found time to go to a job.


Monday, November 21, 2011

News Coverage

If you’ve checked out International news you’d have seen some in-depth reporting in Egypt about the new protests there. On the business side of things, maybe you’d have seen detailed analysis of Russia’s deepening economic ties with other nations and the talk of a new EU type system centered around Russia.

If you’d have been watching American news, you’d have gotten more pedophile reporting and maybe seen a bit about celebrities and their expensive shoes.

It is still possible to see good reporting, but not through the US media.

The lack of real news coverage is to the point where it’s an embarrassment. The lack of factual news coverage keeps Americans in the dark about important things that are going on in the world. Worse, many people get their “news” from programs that aren’t really news programs at all, but political propaganda.

A democracy, to function properly, needs a well informed populace. That isn’t happening. Controlling information controls the ideas that make it into public discussion. If most people are ill informed the issues cannot even be properly examined. They do not’t even know what the issues are.

It is said that the in the Valley of the Blind, the one eyed man is king. It doesn’t really work out that way. The one eyed man is shunned and ridiculed for the things he sees, but no one else does.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Radical Retirement

I was reading an article the other day that stated people are going to have to work well into their 70s and even 80s before they’ll be able to afford to retire.

Like that’s going to happen for most people. Are they crazy? Sure, if you are the CEO of a big company and have a small army of assistants, working until 80 doesn’t sound too bad. Heck, it’s the sort of work you do if you are king. Your hands never get dirty and people kiss your butt all day long.

How many 80 year old professional Firefighters do you see? I think back to all the guys I worked with back when I was a Firefighter. Many are dead, mostly from cancer and heart disease. By the time these guys get into their 50s and 60s, they are getting knee and hip replacements. One of the guys on my crew has had 5 knee replacements and his current ones aren’t doing very well. Many of us suffer from COPD and other vague debilitating conditions the doctors have a hard time classifying. There’s a reason the profession has early retirements. If they didn’t, almost everyone would either die on the job or retire through disability.

A handful of professions allow early retirements. If you do retire at the earliest possible opportunity, it’s usually at a greatly reduced income level. For example I’m friends with a guy who retired at the minimum age with 50% of his former income. After paying for medical insurance, his income is closer to about 40% of what it once was. He’s adjusted. His house, fishing camp, and vehicles are paid for. The house is heated with firewood he cuts himself. There’s very little he can’t fix or build from scratch. His hobbies are fishing and hiking; both are pretty inexpensive.

Then there is this guy at Early Extreme Retirement. He lives on a bit over $7,000/year and does not suffer. Lots of good advice on his site.

I’ve another friend who works a factory job in KY. He’s socking money away like crazy to the point where he’s living on much less income than his peers. They make fun of him, but he’s going to retire well before they will -if they ever do. His aggressive savings plan does two things. It provides him the money to retire on, and he gets used to a lifestyle that requires a lot less money.

There are people who sell everything and move to places with a very low cost of living. Some are moving onto cheap sailboats. There are people who are putting their funds into things that reduce their cost of living: solar panels, gardens, small livestock -the whole back to the land gig. Other people have moved into old trailers on junk land.

People move to places that don’t require a car in which to function. They either bicycle, walk or use public transportation. Expenses are cut to the bone so they can live on savings, tiny pensions, or maybe a minimum wage part time job. There are plenty of creative solutions out there if only you look outside the box a bit.

Why do it? Freedom. The ability to do something else with one’s life. Maybe a chance to ponder life’s big questions. Some do it so as not to contribute to a corrupt system. Nothing wrong with that motive. Life is too short to spend the bulk of it satisfying the whims of other people.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

More electrical adventures

My buddy, Paracynic and I changed out his old electrical entry panel for a new one. His house had cutting edge technology -of the 1960s. Let’s just say he got tired of trying to find old glass and cartridge fuses. He hated that system ever since he bought the house.

The entry panel is where the main power feed to the house gets split off to all the other electrical circuits. Changing one over isn’t a small job and my friend didn’t want to attempt it alone. It took a couple hours just to figure out what all the old circuits did and where all the wires went. Once we understood how everything was laid out, we went to the the building supply store to find modern replacements. Circuit breakers are a heck of a lot more convenient than glass fuses. When they do trip, all you have to so is flip them back. Finding glass fuses in a junk draw, while in the dark, is no fun at all.

We killed the main power to the house, tested to see that everything was truly off, then set to work. It’s a bit tedious. There are a lot of wires to keep track of, but with a bit labeling, it’s not all that hard. I’m a big fan of cordless bit drivers for all the screws involved. I’ve a nice Bosh bit driver that is small, powerful, and even has a built in LED light. We wore LED headlamps and that helped a lot. The work is well lit up and your hands are free.

We buttoned up the job in a little under 3 hours -not bad for a couple of amateurs. The wives showed up just as we were finished. My buddy’s wife was wondering if we finished the job or hadn’t started yet.

Too bad we didn’t a bit more time before the ladies showed up. We’d have turned all the lights off and lit the woodstove. Our wives would have found us sitting in the dark, drinking beer, and mumbling about waiting for parts to come from Pakistan.

Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t get a chance to pull our little prank.


Friday, November 18, 2011

The future of transportation

I’m a big fan of moving things by water. If you aren’t in a great hurry, it’s about the cheapest way there is to transport cargo. Plenty of freight moves by water and it’ll get only more important in the future.

Air travel is one major fuel cost spike away from being a tiny niche market for the rich. Trucking is also susceptible to the price of fuel. Deterioration of roads and bridges is already hurting the industry. Rail is pretty efficient, but don’t expect major expansions of the system. What we have now is pretty much what we’ll have in the future -if we can keep even that. Everyone is tight for money.

Water transportation has its problems too. Many working harbors have been bought up for fancy waterfront condos. Can’t have those stinky working class boats cluttering up the view. Harbor facilities are susceptible to big storms. Harbors silt up. There are only so many good deep harbors in the world.

There are low tech, old fashioned boats that could take up the slack. If their main system of propulsion is by sail, all the better. Check out this reconstruction of a scow. The Crystal River Boat Builders are building a copy of this old Civil War era 36 foot boat. It sails, has a flat bottom, good cargo capacity, and shallow draft. I can see cousins of this boat plying their trade up and down the coasts and rivers.

Of course, you could put an efficient little diesel engine in it, or maybe even solar panels and electric propulsion. Boats like this could supply towns and cities that lack good harbors and do it cheaply. It could be run up on a beach, unloaded, then floated off again with no harm done. Shallow draft boats could haul cargo far up rivers too shallow for conventional boats.

The key to future transportation just might draw heavily from our past.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Unraveling before our eyes

It’s not often we get to see a big lumbering beast come apart at the seams. The European Union long fraying at the edges, is starting to lose some vital organs. It’s one thing when a tiny country like Greece is in trouble. It’s something else entirely when a big economy like Italy is on the skids.

Greece and Italy both have something in common. Neither of them are being headed by an elected official. Instead, they being run by hand picked technocrats. The EU gets upset by the very mention of Greece giving the citizens the right to vote on their fate. That idea got scrapped pretty quickly along with their head of state.

Anybody else suspicious why countries have to bail out banks that make bad decisions? In a capitalistic society, business that make bad decisions fail and smarter businesses take their place. Instead, we have countries saving banks -to the point where the countries themselves are in danger of failing. It’s all very curious. Turns out countries are not too big to fail as they are failing.

How long can these shenanigans continue? I don’t rightly know. Frankly, I expected the whole house of cards to come falling down long before now. I did not factor in the creative abilities of the masters of deception. Like a juggler who keeps adding balls, clubs, knives and running chainsaws to the mix, everything is still up in the air and spinning around. Everything is moving too fast for the eye to follow, the circus goes on. All that action and theater keeps us transfixed in amazement.

I had to ask myself, what is the incentive for the extraordinary effort to keep the game running? Well, every year the average Joe gets a little poorer. Somewhere, someone has got to be getting a little richer, maybe a whole lot richer. As long as there’s something left to steal, the games continue, the beast shambles onward.

When the EU finally gasps its last and ugly beast dies, the stink will travel around the world, sickening us all.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Weather windows

Life in the big city and life in the country take two different views of weather.

The city tries to ignore it, keeping it at bay with a climate controlled hive. The business of the city is independent from the cycles of weather. Worker bees are plugged into their cubicles, toiling away from the sun, wind or rain.

In the country the weather may be what determines your day. Is it too wet to plant the garden? Better clean the chimney before it snows. Make hay while the sun shines, and all that stuff.

Most lives in the industrial world are on city time -schedules, shifts, and deadlines. Sure, there are days off, but for most people, the free days are scheduled. On those few days off, you are permitted to be on rural time.

Problems arise when people try to fit outdoor activities into the time slots allotted by a life otherwise controlled by industrial time. Almost every year, people die hiking in the mountains. Weather is a major factor. People hike when they shouldn’t, but that’s the time they had to go.

Some years back I planned a winter overnight hike with some friends and a couple of my kids. Our destination was on of the mountains straddling the Maine/New Hampshire border. I had a rotating work schedule, the kids had their own schedules, and my friends worked jobs of their own. As the day approached, weather predictions for the weekend looked bad -temperatures 30 degrees below zero, and windy besides. We rescheduled, in spite of the logistical nightmare of getting everyone’s schedules to line up once more.

Other people should have rescheduled that weekend. Two people froze to death while hiking on a mountain less than 15 miles from where we’d planned on camping.

The following weekend, temperatures were much more moderate and we went and had a good time.

When I started sailing, I read that a schedule was a dangerous thing. I’ve discovered it to be true, and I didn’t even have to learn the hard way. Some days I’d look at the predicted weather, the waters in which I wished to sail, the size of my boat, and decide I didn’t have to sail that day. In fact, I’ve even turned the boat around when wind and waves proved to be quite different than predicted. Living an outdoors life, one learns to respect the weather.

As for those people in the concrete cocoons? They are only isolated from the weather as long as the works of man function properly. Should the power fail, which is happening more often, the outside world soon intrudes. They soon discover man’s triumph, the ability to ignore the outside environment, is a local and temporary condition.

Plan accordingly.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More boat projects

I took advantage of an unusually warm New Hampshire day and applied more bottom paint to the boat. It’s not often we get temperatures in the 60s during the month of November. I feel really good about being able to get the job done before heading south. I thought the final bit of painting would have to wait until we got to sunny Florida. While the Florida heat’s nice, the only place I could work on it at my dad’s is infested with fire ants. Fire ants are not my friend.

My custom tiller is finally completed and delivered to my house. The old “temporary” tiller had been hacked out of a 2x4. The new one was lovingly crafted from a select piece of mountain ash. It’ll be a real pleasure to sail with that in hand. A good friend of mine made it for the cost of materials.

I ordered something called “water bricks” from Amazon. They are rectangular 3.5 gallon water containers that stack up like Legos. Four of them will give me an additional 14 gallons of water and they should store well. Water is fairly heavy, 8.33 lbs/gallon -much easier to break it down into 3.5 gallon jugs than 5 or 6 gallon containers. No sense getting water containers my wife won’t want to lift.

I also ordered some marine strobe lights for the life jackets. Since we are sailing longer and longer distances, and occasionally at night, they might come in handy.

Every little thing done now means I can go sailing sooner once I get to Florida in January. I miss it already.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Small in size, limited in duration

Preppers like to think of themselves as being ready for trouble. Some people are in pretty good shape: food, water, medical supplies, alternative energy, land, gardens, bug out vehicle, guns, skills, and maybe even a community of like minded people. Actually, only a fairly small number of people are that prepared. Many have part of the package, but are working towards being better equipped.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, those preps are will only get us through situations that are small in size and short in duration. The acute phase of most things is over fairly quickly: earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, ice storms, tornadoes, floods, and so on. Afterward the initial shock, there may be days, weeks or even months of disruption. Eventually, debris is cleared, roads reopened, power restored, and houses rebuilt.

A well equipped prepper can deal with those disruptions much better than most people. While affected by troubles, the basics of food, water, shelter and security are taken care of.

That’s pretty much the level of trouble we are prepared or preparing for. Unfortunately, once in a while trouble is much bigger and lasts much longer.

Say you are a French farmer during WWI and the all the world’s great powers have decided to fight in your potato field. Imagine being a Russian during the revolution -and being a target of the revolution. Picture the poor saps in the path of Genghis Kahn. These aren’t situations you can handle with stored food and a few weapons. You are a flea in front of a bulldozer.

There have been times when most of humanity suffered. Even the period of “The Little Ice Age,” from about the 16th century to the 19th was a tough time for most people. Crops failed over very large regions. Imagine what a sudden true ice age would do? How about a massive comet strike? World wide plague? There are big disasters have have happened in earth’s history and will happen again.

What can a person do about really big disasters lasting long periods of time? Sometimes, nothing -they die. It happens all the time. The building falls on them, armies run them over, or the darn comet hits them in the head. Stuff happens.

If your luck is a bit better than that, drastic action is still called for. Some things you can’t wait out. Imagine someone going into their bunker to wait out the Russian Revolution and Communism. That’s a long lifetime of darkness and canned food.

For some things, the only practical action is to get out and stay out. If all the armies of the world are heading your way, don’t pick up a rifle, pick up your luggage. If food and water are a problem where you are, go where that isn’t a problem.

It’s not easy. Travel, especially during times of turmoil, can be difficult. When you really need to cross borders is exactly the time when governments make it very difficult to do so. If you do get into a safer place, problems of money, customs, language, race, and culture shock can be overwhelming.

There are some techniques and preparations that are useful. A person who’s traveled to foreign countries and speaks several languages has huge advantages. They know how to blend in with different people and how to function in new places -even if it’s a place where they’ve never been before. Adapting to new places is a skill and they’ve had practice at it.

Money makes all this easier. Things falling apart in your home country? Just go to your house in Rio, or maybe your ranch in New Zealand.

Middle class people have to be a bit more clever. A lot of whites fled South Africa at the end of Apartheid. They were worried about a black take over. Some may have had good reasons to worry, but that’s another story. To stem the tide, South Africa put tough restrictions on moving money out of the country and on travel.

Some got around that by putting all their resources into really nice sailboats. One night they sail out of the harbor and keep on going. That last night sail, a bit of gold or some diamonds might have found their way down into the bilge. Many of these boats eventually ended up in certain Caribbean islands where passports and citizenship papers could be had for reasonable prices.

What if you are poor? Then things are tough indeed. Just look at Mexicans crossing the border illegally. It’s a hard way to get out of Dodge. If you don’t have papers, or money, you’d better have a cousin who’ll give you a hand. Poor people get by with relationships. The hardest thing is to be poor, have to flee, and not have a friend in the world.

Most people won’t run, even when the smart thing to do is run. It is hard to leave everything behind. By the time it’s obvious it’s time to go, it might also be impossible. A prepper’s defense for the really big things is to keep his eyes and mind open. Being in the first group to recognize a big and long duration problem gives the wise person a head start. The danger for a prepper is that because they have make preparations, they might want to wait things out. That could lull them into making a fatal mistake.

As a thought experiment, imagine you have 30 days to leave your country. Where would you go and how would you get there? How would you survive in your new home?


Sunday, November 13, 2011


It was stovepipe replacement day at the Sixbears domicile. Today I tackled the stovepipe on the kitchen woodstove.

Every time I do this, a little blood is spilled. Stove pipe is a bit of a pain to work with. The pipe needed to be cut to size and that leaves ragged edges. Then that ragged edge needs to be slipped over the next length of pipe.

My intent is always to not get cut this time. I start out with eye protection and gloves. Sooner or later the gloves come off. Can’t handle little metal screws with gloves on. Sure enough, that’s when I skun my knuckles. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Stove pipe is one of those things that needs to be inspected on a regular basis. They tend to rust away from the inside. That was the case with the one I replaced. The stove hardly runs all summer long, and moisture can build up where you can’t see it.

The pipe was starting to show early signs of corrosion. It might have been safe to use for a couple more months, but why take chances? One of my lovely wife’s few rules is that I can’t burn the house down. I guess it’s worth a skun knuckle to prevent that from happening.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Experimental Vehicle #4

I’m gathering the materials that I’ll need to convert my ambulance/camper project to run on waste veggie oil. This will be the fourth vehicle of mine that I’ve converted. The previous were two Mercedes diesels, a 240D with manual transmission and a 300D automatic. The third vehicle was a Ford F250 pickup truck.

The new vehicle is basically a 350 van with a 7.3 turbo powerstroke diesel. I’m going to repurpose parts salvaged from the Mercedes conversions. I’ve two fuel tanks to choose from, some copper pipe, filter heads, heater cores, clamps, hoses, and various bits and bobs. I salvaged a homemade filter heater from the 300D for use on the pickup, but the truck is still in service so I can’t use that right now. Instead, I’m using something from the 240D.

I thought long and hard about reusing the 6 port transfer valve. It gave great service on the 240D for 400,000 miles. My only concern was the fact that it does have so many miles on it. I decided a new one was in order, just for heighten reliability.

If I was rich, I’d use all new parts for everything. As it is, I’m going to be tearing things apart and getting greasy. It can be messy work. Oh well, that’s what soap is for. If I was afraid to get my hands dirty, I wouldn’t be doing this sort of thing in the first place. Come to think of it, if I was rich, I wouldn’t be messing around converting old diesels to run on alternative fuels.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Tourism Economy

Every time I hear a politician with a plan to increase the tourism economy, I cringe a little. I’m a resident of New Hampshire, a real tourist destination. I realize how important that part of the economy was to our economy in the recent past. The future of tourism looks a bit sketchy to me.

Tourism relies on a number of factors. Those who promote tourism act like all you need is a place that people will want to go to and to promote the heck out of it. There are other concerns. Tourism assumes people will be able to travel. It assumes they will have money and time to spare.

Working people are putting in as many hours as possible. I know of folks who are afraid of taking even the few weeks of vacation they have coming. Others work without vacations and competition is rough out there.

Real wages for the middle class haven’t gone up since the 70‘s. That doesn’t point towards people having a lot of excess cash to vacation with. I think that’s a contributing factor to people taking shorter vacations. Instead of two weeks at the lake, they may only stay 3 or 4 days.

High fuel prices can destroy the vacation economy all by itself. It’s the big expense for airlines. They can’t absorb higher fuel costs and must pass them on. If the price of fuel doubles, how many big RVs do you think you’ll see on the road? Already, my lovely wife and I have noticed that campgrounds have a lot more local people in them. I’ve met many a camper who travels less than 75 miles. Many say they used to travel further, but no longer.

While a local region might benefit from tourism, the whole country can’t run that way. Tourism depends on the surplus from areas that produce things. Someone has to be generating wealth. Otherwise it’s like a town that tries to get rich by everyone taking in each other’s laundry. That’s about as effective as your typical perpetual motion machine.

In my region there’s been an attempt to replace lost manufacturing jobs with tourism jobs. It might help keep the unemployment numbers lower than what they would be otherwise, but most tourism jobs pay a lot less than manufacturing. Often it’s a different group of people who gets those new jobs. How many 50 year old former pipe fitters do you see waiting tables?

I’m not saying that tourism is all bad. I’m glad it puts pressure on the state to keep our environment clean so that people will want to come here. There’s incentive to keep wild areas wild and beautiful. However, I don’t think tourism is the foundation to a solid economy.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Already against the next war

Now I’m not sure where it’ll be, what the justification for it will be, or who’s going to be involved. All I know for certain is that I’m against it.

There will be another war. There always is. That doesn’t mean I have to participate. I won’t. I refuse. They will receive no support from me at all.

Maybe WWII was justified. That was before my time. I grew up with Vietnam on the television -napalm, agent orange, and body counts on the 6 O’clock news. In the end, we see the hippies protesting in the streets were right.

As for Afghanistan and Iraq, there wasn’t anything there worthy of the life of one US Marine. Even the survivors leave a bit of themselves on foreign soil. Sometimes they leave a limb; sometimes they leave a part of their soul.

The people have been lied to (remember weapons of mass destruction?), young men and women have bled, and CEOs made a lot of money.

I am not a pacifist. I’m willing to fight against threats -threats to me and mine. Not to some “allies” that just happen to have good lobbyists. Not for some politician’s reelection. Not for some company’s bottom line. Not for the stock market.

Not as a distraction from real problems.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November on the lake

My lovely wife and I took advantage of unseasonably nice weather for a little sail on the lake. Temperatures got up in the 60s and the sun was shining. Not bad considering we had an October snowstorm. Today was a real bonus.

This is the last trip with the crappy cobbled together tiller. Sunday, I’m picking up a custom ash tiller, well varnished, that a friend made.

The test of the new anchor was a success. Before the storms, we set an anchor off the bow and tied the stern to a tree on shore. In spite of some very windy weather, the anchor didn’t drag at all. The boat was right where we left it.

After an afternoon of sailing, we loaded the boat on its trailer. The next time we unload it will probably be in the Gulf of Mexico. I was extra careful to get the boat loaded exactly right for the long trip.

While the sun and air was pretty nice, the water was painfully cold. Some years people are ice fishing on the lake by Thanksgiving. As nice as the last few days have been, we could still get ice in a couple weeks.

By the way, did you notice that my belly got a good coating of bottom paint?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Better than sunglasses

My eyes are light colored and sensitive to the sun. I’ve always worn sunglasses, but I’ve found something better.

I get my sunglasses at the building supply store. Mine are safety glasses. Many of them look like regular sunglasses, but have better coverage and impact protection. Really good ones cost about $30. As an added bonus, they tend to be resistant to breakage and scratching. Using safety glasses as daily wear means your eyes always have that little extra level of protection.

Shooting glasses work pretty well too, but the good ones are bit out of my normal price range. Many of them look a bit clunky so most people won’t wear them as regular glasses. Still, if you find a pair you are comfortable with, they do provide good daily protection.

If you are going to wear sunglasses anyway, might as well protect your eyes from more than the sun’s rays.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Current camper project status

This is what the project currently looks like. My lovely wife applied more coats of paint. Finally covered all the ambulance red.

All the red flashing lights have been disconnected and blacked out. The lightbar above the cab is now three spotlights. The nice thing about all the spotlights is that they run off the auxiliary battery and not the starting battery. If for some reason that battery gets drained down, the vehicle will still be able to start.


Nautical class warfare

One of the really attractive things about living on a sailboat is the possibility of doing it on very little money. There are individuals living on boats for as little as $300/month -couples doing it for $500. In most places that won’t get you a fleabag apartment.

Now to live on so little, certain adjustments have to be made. One key component is the ability to anchor out. Living on your own hook is free. Moorings and marinas cost money. They also require things like insurance. Those added expenses can change the whole dynamic.

There seems to be a trend against poor boaters. Police are doing dark of night raids in many places. Some anchorages in Florida are getting a bad reputation. I’ve heard of crackdowns in a half dozen places, the last one being in Key West. More than anything else, they appear to be harassment raids. They never seem to board the new 5 million dollar yacht. No, it’s the folks in the 30 foot, 40 year old fiberglass production boat who gets it. I’ve yet to hear of these raids discovering anything of significance.

It’s definitely class warfare. The people with the 10 million dollar waterfront homes don’t like the fact that the guy anchored off their beach in a funky boat has a better view than they do. Then there’s the money that can be squeezed out of boaters by charging mooring and dockage fees. If they can’t afford to pay to stay, then they are harassed until they move.

Florida sticks out, but it’s not the only place making it harder on the little guys. Even my state of New Hampshire has made it illegal to stay overnight on a boat. The rich cottage owners on the big lake Winnipesaukee didn’t like poor folk anchoring off their beaches. They seemed to be having too much fun.

I’m wondering if this won’t eventually backfire on those communities. Boats will move to friendlier waters. Communities who make them welcome benefit. Even the most frugal boater has to buy supplies, equipment, and materials.

This winter, as I sail around Florida in my tiny cheap sailboat, I’ll see what’s really going on. Being who and what I am, I’ll be checking for ways around the system. My lovely wife and I plan to someday live part of the year on a sailboat -a slightly bigger sailboat maybe, but we won’t be mistaken for the 1%. (or maybe even the top 75%)

I’ve chosen to look upon these assaults on freedom as a game to be won. I never could resist a new and interesting game. If the rich want to get all official and high and mighty, it just might be time to hoist the colors and break rules with a zest only a pirate could appreciate.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Too soon

Today I saw the local Walmart had a visit from Santa. That’s way too soon in my book. We just got over Halloween, and we are weeks away from Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time please?

How desperate are stores getting?

It’s bad enough that everyone goes nuts the day after Thanksgiving. Personally, I make sure to do no shopping at all that day. Some crazy things, like a shopping frenzy, I’m happy to avoid. At least Black Friday is after turkey day. That’s barely acceptable.

In the spirit of getting the holiday stuff done early, I’d like to be the first to wish everyone a Happy Easter.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

A solution that ain’t gonna happen

The October snowstorm took down a lot of power lines. Thousands of people are still in the dark. Some of the newscasters commented that putting power lines back up on poles puts them at risk all over again. Falling trees and other hazards will take them down again. It’s only a matter of time.

One solution is to put all the power lines underground. That ain’t gonna happen. Some neighborhoods and developments do have lines underground. The time to do it is during new construction. Water, sewage, gas, and cable are being buried. Might as well bury power at the same time.

Areas with underground wires are less prone to outages. Of course, most likely the main supply lines are above ground. When those go down, power is going out anyway. It does eliminate much of the house by house repair work.

Most lines are on poles. There is a huge investment in that legacy system. My guess is that it’s still cheaper to repair the system than to replace it. It’s not like you can just dig a ditch and put the old overhead lines in the ground. They aren’t designed for it. All new wire would have to be used. Imagine what that would do to electric bills.

Funds are not available to make the system more robust. As it is, many power companies are running with a lot fewer personal. That’s one of the reasons it’s taking so long to repair the storm damage. Companies have few repair crews and rely on crews from other areas to supplement in an emergency. It works well enough when the damage is localized. When the damage is widespread, there are no free crews to assist other locations. They are busy enough with their own problems and could use help themselves.

Individuals can expect longer and more frequent outages. Deal with it. Have a plan to survive on your own. Alternative energy systems are nice, but if you can’t afford them, you still have options. It’s surprising how many people don’t even have basics like warm sleeping bags and cold weather clothes. I’ve heard of people who couldn’t figure out they could use a frying pan on their propane grill so they didn’t cook anything. Other people threw out all the food in their refrigerator because the power went out. Never mind that they are surrounded by snow and ice that could turn their refrigerator into a big cooler. Sometimes it’s as simple as moving food into an unheated garage.

Do a bit of thinking and planning ahead of time. That way when a disaster hits you can act instead of trying to figure out what to do in a stressful situation. The grid is susceptible to many threats and timely repair is not a guarantee. Don’t wait for the power companies to solve this for you. They don’t have the funds, equipment, personal, or inclination to harden the system. You will be on your own -maybe for hours or days, but perhaps much much longer.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Doing the bureaucracy shuffle

I attempted to register my ambulance/camper conversion. Notice the word, “attempted.” Of course, there is a snafu. There’s a minor paperwork problem that needs to be sorted out. There are budget cuts in the state office that handles these sorts of things. They are at about half strength, and also acquired more duties. Things that once took days now take weeks.

I’ve got to give my town clerk credit. She tried every work around that she could do on her end, but to no avail. At least she was able to give me the proper forms. We are at a bad point in history. The bureaucracy is getting more and more overburdened and inefficient, yet we are still expected to follow the rules.

The town clerk had a hard time even getting the state offices on the phone. To save money, they now only have one phone line. If a town clerk has an involved time consuming problem, the calls just keep stacking up. Once my clerk had the state on the phone, she had the presence of mind to also ask if there was anything special that I needed to do to the former ambulance. The good news is that as long as there’s no change in the body dimensions or transmission, the town clerk can just change the title from “ambulance “ to “camper.”

All in all, it’s a darn good thing that I did not wait until the last minute to sort out the paperwork. While I wait for that to be straightened out, I’ll continue working on the project.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Future prospects for minions

Minions never fair too well when the evil overlords are taken down.

“Just following orders,” doesn’t cut it at the war crimes trials.

Our world is at a historic crossroads. Rule of the many by the few is starting to chaff. The rich have robbed the poor for too long and they ain’t gonna take it any more.

As you go through your day to day life, ask yourself: Am I on the side of the angels? Am I making the world a better place or am I serving evil?

Simple questions. Naive even. We are supposed to grow up and leave ideals behind. Why is that? How is it that doing the right thing became the wrong thing?

You’ve got to ask yourself if you are a minion or a self actualized sovereign individual. It’s a choice. Choose wisely.

The evil overlords will get their comeuppance. Do you really want to be one of their minions when the deal goes down?


Break in the weather

By the afternoon temperatures had risen into the 50s. That was warm enough to paint. My lovely wife and I put one more coat of blue on.

Normally, the proper thing to do would be to wait for it to dry before changing colors. Who’s got time for that? Snow delayed the project once already. I hastily changed rollers and put on a very thin coat of green.

With luck, perhaps two coats of green tomorrow? We shall see.

The idea is to get the basics done as quickly as possible. If it becomes necessary to do some little touch ups, it can wait until we get to Florida. Winter, as we just saw, can strike at any time here in New Hampshire.

As you can see, the lightbar is still on the vehicle. It would have been impossible to remove it without disassembling too much of the interior. The lightbar was installed well before the interior was finished. It’s a maze of wires, pipes, hoses, cables and panels back there. I’ve decided to repurpose the lightbar.

The photo doesn’t show it too clearly, but nothing remains in the lightbar except 3 spotlights. The lights have been rewired so they no longer flash. I can turn them on from the driver’s seat. That was pretty interesting in itself. All the rotating lights and red lenses have been removed. Once fully reassembled there will be only 3 clear panels and everything else blacked out.

It’s coming together, not as fast as I’d like, but there’s little I can do about the weather.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Snowstorms in October are not all that unusual where I live in Norther New Hampshire. In fact, there hasn’t been a month here in which it’s never snowed. I remember years when it started snowing in October and that snow lasted all winter long.

Monday’s sunshine has already made fair progress melting the snow. It’ll be gone in the next few days.

This past October had actually seemed much warmer and wetter than when I was growing up. When I used to go hunting as a kid, it was difficult to be quiet due to all the dry leaves. Mornings were a lot frostier too back then. The last few years have been pretty wet and warm.

Climate and weather are two different things. We can’t make general climate pronouncements after one spat of unusual weather. That being said, in the last 4 or 5 decades, I’ve personally noticed some changes. For me, the real big indicator is changes in wildlife.

There never used to be wild turkeys in Northern New Hampshire. The Fish and Game biologists used to say it was too cold for them to survive. Two days ago my dog chased one out of the swamp next to my house and the turkey flew over my head. I’ve had whole flocks of those big birds cut in front of my car on the drive home. They are even up in the very northernmost tip of the state near the border of Canada.

Then there are the ticks. Growing up, I didn’t know what a tick was. Winters were too cold for them to survive. Over the years, I’ve watched their range move closer and closer. The White Mountains held them back for a few years, but they’ve made the jump. Ticks are everywhere in the state these days.

Scientists and politicians can debate climate issues all they want. People who spend a lot of time outdoors, and are of a certain age, know there have been changes. Warmer? Cooler? Wetter? Dryer? or maybe just more unpredictable and changeable?