Sunday, April 30, 2023

Herb Lady

My lovely wife is constantly adding to her herbal knowledge. We have a lot of natural medicines growing wild here in the North Country. 

She’s been adding to her library. Our herbal books are not digital but on actual paper for safe keeping. In recent years she’s joined up with a botanical society and that’s also boosted her knowledge. 

The problem with herbal medicines is that they are only available in the wild during the warm months. Most plants have to be gathered during specific times. Sometimes it’s the new leaves or the flower or the berry or even the roots. Staying on top of what’s available when can be a major undertaking. 

Preserving the herbal medicines is also a major part of the process. That way you have access when you need it. You really don’t want to be wandering around the woods when actively sick. 

Over the years my lovely wife has transplanted a number of useful plants onto our property. To the average person they just looks like wild weeds. To those in the know, they are treasures.


Saturday, April 29, 2023

Rural Life Achilles Heel

I love living out in the country. Being out in nature soothes my soul. Fishing and hunting are only footsteps away. Heck, just being able to sit outside by the campfire drinking a coffee is special. It’s also great to be able to do my projects without worrying about complaining neighbors. 

However, the big downside is that modern rural life requires cars or trucks. It’s not like there’s a subway or bus stop out in the forest. Everything is a drive away. Worse yet, on any given day the three drivers in our house may need to go three different directions. 

Currently we are down to one car and my 150cc scooter. It’s going to take some time to get the Blazer street legal again. If our one remaining car breaks down it’s going to be hugely inconvenient. I’m the only one licensed to drive the scooter. 

Rural life requires wheels. My niece is looking to get a small 49 cc scooter that won’t require a special license. That’s a small scooter but big enough to make it into town. A good friend is setting me up with another vehicle, but it’ll be a few weeks before I can even look at it. It spent the winter by a cabin on a seasonal road. It ran well before it was parked, but the battery is definitely dead now. From what I’ve been told it should be road legal. We shall see. 

If that new vehicle works out that will give me more time to do a better job on the Blazer. 

Living out in the country there is almost no escaping car ownership. Such is life.


Friday, April 28, 2023

100 Year Storms

Do they still talk about 100 year storms? Once in a lifetime storms? Storms of the millennium? 

Maybe nobody wants to use those terms when those storms start to hit every few years. At some point all the “weird”weather becomes normal weather. If weird weather goes on long enough it’s no longer weather. It’s climate. 

Weather forecasts rely heavily on what happened in the past. The weather guys and their big computers crunch a lot of numbers. The problem is that the models are no longer good when basic conditions change. The planet is leaving what had been a particularly stable weather period. 

There’s plenty of debate on the reasons for the change. Some of it has to be man made. If a butterfly’s wing flap can change the course of hurricanes, then billions of tons of pollutants has to have an effect. Of course, stopping pollution should be a goal anyway as this is the planet we live on. 

There’s also scientific evidence that huge cyclical effects are happening to the climate. The sun’s energy is changing and that’s got have an effect. One can debate how much is natural climate change and how much is man made. In the end we should deal with the man made stuff as that’s something we have control over. 

That happens on a macro policy level. What does the average Joe do in the face of weird weather? You deal with it as it comes. That might involve how and what you plant in your garden. It might even be a sign it’s time to move somewhere else. If nothing else prepare for storm damage. Power will come down. Water will be unsafe to drink or unavailable. Roads and bridges could be destroyed. 

The last thing you want to do is to ignore the weird weather and assume it’ll never happen again. 


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Solar Storms

We just got hit with another CME from the sun. It wasn’t too strong, but the earth’s magnetic field is weak right now. That causes the impact to be stronger than it normally would. There were some electrical fires related to the solar storm. My information indicates that it was only 5 to 10% of the strength needed to end civilizations. 

The end of electrical devices and electronics would definitely squash our civilization. Some parts of the world would do better than others. Mostly that would be “backwards” areas of our planet -places that haven’t changed much in hundreds of years. If you haven’t climbed too far the fall won’t hurt you much.

I think of places like Dubai or Phoenix. Without modern technology the land can only support a tiny fraction of their populations. They are extreme examples but most places would suffer huge population losses. 

When you think about it this planet can be a precarious place to run an advanced civilization. At least we are aware of the danger. There are things that can be done to lessen the impact. Plans to protect the grid and modern infrastructure exist, but getting it in place has been haphazard. It’s hard to spend money on an invisible threat. 

On an individual basis all you can do is prepare with the basics of water, food, shelter and security. 

About that security issue. After a CME the vast majority of firearms will still function. Guess what happens when you don’t have the basics of survival yet have a gun and ammo? That could be interesting and I hope we never get to see that sort itself out. 

On a side note I’m a little miffed that we’ve had cloudy weather every night when there are northern lights. If we are going to have a CME I’d at least like to have a good view of the pretty lights.


Monday, April 24, 2023

The pandemic that keeps on giving

Just a reminder the virus is still going around. A nearby town’s nursing home just had a significant outbreak. Last I heard there were 30 residents infected and 10 workers. I think I’ll stay out of that town for a couple of weeks.

I’m done with it, but apparently it’s not done with us. On the bright side it doesn’t have the same high fatality rate as we’ve learned a lot over the last few years. Of course there’s the strong possibility that the newer versions are weaker -or maybe it just that some sort of immunity is pretty widespread by now. 

Overall I was fairly healthy over the winter. With my damaged lungs that’s saying a lot. Warm moist air is easier on my lungs so Florida is a pretty logical destination in the winter. However, I did fairly well with our cold dry winter air. A good part of that was probably due to my extensive collection of RZ brand face masks. Wearing a mask really made it much easier to breath outside in the cold. 

I’ve been carrying around face masks long before the pandemic. Dust and forest fire smoke were the big reasons. Once the pandemic hit I modified the masks by replacing the  one way valves with caps. That way I wasn’t spewing my germs out towards other people. 

I’ve relaxed quite a bit in recent months. That being said I stay aware of local conditions. I’m going to see if the current nearby outbreak settles down or spreads to the larger area. Even if I’d only get a little sick I’d like to avoid that too. Everybody knows that even the common cold is no fun.


Saturday, April 22, 2023

Stupid Real Estate Prices

A good friend and his wife checked out a camp just down the road from me. Their experience really brought home how out of touch I am with house prices. 

Here’s some background. The camp is located in a very rural area. It has year round road access and grid power. That’s about it. The lot is only 0.2 acre. There’s only so much you can do with a fifth of an acre. 

The building itself was a tear down. There was no fixing it. The foundation had collapsed and only some hastily erected timbers kept it from falling down. The old heating oil tank was sitting on the ground next to the house. The “new” tank had never been connected. Heat and cooking was provided by 20 lb propane tanks in the living room. The walls were falling apart. There was no fixing the problems.

Then I found out they were asking $110,000. Now there are some places where that wouldn’t even cause someone to blink. However, out here in the woods it looks more than a little excessive. Apparently it’s not out of line for the area right now. In that case my weedy and rocky archery range is is worth north of $200,000 -judging by the half acre it sits on. 

When you hold onto property for a long time it’s easy to loose touch on what land is going for. I’m still in shock.


Friday, April 21, 2023

The end of oil

No, not the end of everyone’s oil. It’s the end of my heating oil. I bought a minimum order back in March and it’s gone now. We are looking at 50 – 60 degree days and temps in the 30 to 40 degree range at night. We really don’t need heat as the plumbing won’t freeze.

However, it’s not that comfortable. Fortunately, firewood grows on trees. There’s a lot of dead and down wood around my house. Most of it is nice dry maple and that burns really well. It doesn’t take that long to haul branches over to the driveway and cut them up. 

There’s also the bonus of being able to cook on the woodstove, saving electricity. 

I might have to mess around with firewood for several weeks but warmer days are coming. Most of the time the woodstove will only have to be lit in the evening. It’s all good. 


Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Starving Time

Spring used to be known as the starving time. That’s when you find out if the food you stored last year was enough. In the old days sometimes it wasn’t. It’s still going to take some time before anything of significance is ready from the garden. While we’ve had some good weather it was snowing Wednesday morning. On the bright side now that the ice is off the lake the fishing is easier. 

The starving time came to mind when I came across a very large raven. It was on the body of a winter kill deer. The bird looked ready to take on all comers to protect its food bounty. 

This is also the time of the year when the bears come out of hibernation and are hungry. Their search for food brings them in contact with people. That usually doesn’t turn out too well for the bear. 

It’s a good time of the the year to check out your food storage. While I still have plenty of beans, my rice stocks are lower than I thought they were. Some people take meticulous records of their food storage. Good for them. I’m a bit less precise. 

Rice might be in shorter supply and more pricey this year. There are reports that world wide rice stocks are low. If you need it, buy it. Don’t wait for deals as there might not be any. Even expensive rice is still pretty cheap calories. 

You don’t want to get caught short during the starving time.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

787 Million

There’s wrong and there’s 787 million wrong. Fox News, at the 11th hour, settled with Dominion for 787 million dollars. 

That’s real money in anyone’s book. 

Apparently Fox has a lot of answer for due to their reporting. 

So what does Fox buy for 787 million? They don’t risk losing 1.6 billion. On the other hand, Dominion gets the money soon instead after numerous appeals. Fox also doesn’t have to put its people on the stand. If you are willing to pay stupid money to avoid more embarrassment and liability there has to be something big going on. This is not a small settlement. 

I’ve been saying for years that Fox is not a news organization but a propaganda outlet. 787 million is pretty good evidence Fox has something major to hide. 

I am curious to see how this will shake out long term. There are more lawsuits against Fox on the way. 

It’s a shame we didn’t get to pop some popcorn and watch the trial, but no doubt Dominion is going to pop some champagne corks. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Ice Out

The ice melted off the lake Sunday. For those of you in warmer climes this might seem pretty late. Actually, that’s about a week or two earlier than it used to melt years ago. Some years the ice didn’t leave until the second week of May.

A few really nice days in the 70s really hastened the melting. Now we are back to more seasonal days in the 50s. We are also getting some rain now, which is a good thing. After the snow melts the danger of fire is quite high as everything is dead and brown. The fresh rain will green things up and reduce fire danger.

I am looking forward to enjoying the warm weather. We’ve never had nor needed air conditioning. Occasionally we’d have a couple of uncomfortable days but it was never worth buying an air conditioner for that. Fans, swimming in the lake, and cold beer worked well enough.

However, I’m now thinking of installing a mini-split heat pump. Basically I’m looking for a cheap way to heat during the shoulder seasons. The cooling factor would be a nice bonus. Of course, it would have to be a DIY system. I’m allergic to paying for something I can install myself. I am curious if any of my readers have experience with that sort of thing. 


Monday, April 17, 2023

A Tale of Two Brothers

I just spend the weekend in the Manchester NH area. My best friend died but before he passed he asked me to speak at his funeral. Of course you have to say yes to a buddy’s dying wish. 

It was easy to say nice things about him because he was a genuinely nice guy. He always had a great attitude and never complained. The man was always willing to lend a hand and made friends easily. 

His positive attitude was a choice he made as a young child. When his parents divorced neither of them wanted the kids. There was my friend and his older brother. His brother had an awful lot of anger and struck out at an unjust world. His life was full of turmoil and he even did some time in prison.

My friend decided he did not want that much anger in his life. Instead of focusing on being abandoned by his parents, he focused on the fact his loving grandparents took over and raised him. He had a much better life because of it. 

Even when dying of cancer his positive attitude never faltered. He reflected that he accomplished all he wanted to do in life. He died at home surrounded by his loving family. There are worse ways to go. 


Thursday, April 13, 2023

Of Mice and Men

The best laid plans . . .

It’s funny how your perspectives change. Picture this. You are living a busy life in an island city. There’s a very active social and political life going on. People are caught in their sports and politics. Everyone’s hustling to make a living. 

Then the volcano erupts and buries everyone. It happened a long time ago in Pompeii about 2000 years ago. All those worries and cares mean nothing when the volcano blows.

I think about Pompeii when tempted to get too caught up worrying about things like politics. Something bigger could happen tomorrow and all those squabbles would mean nothing. A large solar flare could end civilization in a matter of days. (the sun’s been pretty active right now, by the way.) Or heck, some idiot could start a nuclear war. Maybe a freaking asteroid could fall from flipping space and snuff out a good chunk of all life. 


Then again, if the civilization ending bad thing doesn’t happen we still have to deal all the rest of the petty stuff. Some of that can got out hand, like the Nazis of WWII. So it’s not that those other things don’t matter, it’s just to keep in mind that there are even bigger fish out there in the sea.


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Almost got to ride

Dang it! I almost got to ride the motor scooter today. I’ve been waiting to ride since November. The scooter had to be pushed through a bit of snow and ice but I got it to the snow free section of the driveway. The battery minder kept the battery alive through the winter. Installation of the battery was a bit finicky but it all got sorted. The little bike fired right up. The mirrors were tightened up and adjusted and the top box reinstalled. 

I even made it to the town hall to renew the registration. 

Then the phone rang and the garage notified me that the brakes on the Blazer were fixed. While it’s safe to drive now, it’s not road legal. There’s an awful lot of body rot that needs attention. The garage gave me quite a list of things that needed fixing to past state inspection. 

Of course, while we were in town we ran a bunch of errands. By the time we got back the temperature was already dropping and the wind had come up. It’s not going to be really pleasant until Thursday, so maybe then. 

Getting the scooter out on the road is one of those signs of spring for me. Another big one is when the ice leaves the lake. There’s no sign of that happening soon. Any place on my property not in direct sunlight still has over a foot of snow and ice. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to do spring things. 

Me thinks that cabin fever is no joke.


Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Invisible Man

The State of New Hampshire made funds available for heating assistance due to the massive spike in heating costs. They raised the allowable income level quite a bit. Theoretically, we qualify. For months now we’ve been going back and forth trying fill out their paperwork. When you don’t pay taxes, don’t have a 1099 form, and don’t pay into Social Security, you don’t exist. 

Instead my lovely wife and I have been scrambling to find alternative documentation. Here it is the end of heating season and we still haven’t been approved. There’s just a couple days left before the clock runs out. Right now it looks like it could go either way. Some people in the office think we are set, others can’t believe we don’t actually have the documents they want. 

Bureaucrats aren’t very good at putting round pegs in square holes.

At least I have a Social Security number. Really I do. I know of a family where nobody has a Social Security number. How they managed to get things like driver’s licenses and passports was beyond me. The patriarch of the family tried to explain it to me but I got lost. Judges were involved. He did manage somehow, but it was even worse than my adventures in paperwork.


Sunday, April 9, 2023

Happy Easter

 Happy Easter!

Hope everyone is well. 


Friday, April 7, 2023

Work is a battlefield

By now most of us have heard about “Quiet Quitting.” It’s doing just enough at work to avoid getting fired. Have you heard about “Bare Minimum Monday?” If you’ve ever spent Sunday dreading Monday you probably have some idea where it comes from. The idea is to kinda sorta ease your way into the workweek. Monday is not a day for big ambitious undertakings. 

On the flip side there are numerous businesses looking to put an end to people working from home. Now some are looking for ways to punish those who insist on working from home but the company is not quite ready to fire them. 

A lot of my fellow Boomers say the younger generation just doesn’t know the value of work. I’m not too sure about that. Maybe they know the value of work and the Boomer generation doesn’t get it. Maybe it’s not so much the value of work but the value of life. When it gets right down to it all we have in life is time. When we sell our services to someone else we are selling bits of our life away. 

Boomers forget how many of them benefited from strong unions. There was also a culture where businesses often tried to at least give the appearance of caring for employees. Those days are over. It’s a whole different economy now. Back in my father’s time he had a house, a car, a truck, a cottage on the lake and partnership in a hunting came. My family also took a couple weeks vacation every summer and my dad took off a few weeks for hunting season. That was all on a blue collar job. 

So the younger generations have discovered their labor is being exploited and are fighting back. It’s about time. 


Thursday, April 6, 2023

Freezing Rain Day

There are times (actually a lot of times) when it’s great not to have to go anywhere. Wednesday it was about 30 degrees and raining most of the day and through the night. I’d rather drive through a driving snowstorm than in freezing rain. 

The lake is still frozen solid and my yard is snow covered. On the bright side the long range forecast has some 70 degrees on order. Looks like it’s going to be one of those years when we go directly from winter to summer. Quite a few years we seem to pretty much skip spring entirely. 

We aren’t there yet. It was good day to slow cook a tomato/bean soup in the dutch oven. Nothing like a good hot spicy soup when the weather outside is miserable.


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Welcome Finland

Finland just became part of NATO. Putin failed in one of his major goals. He did not want NATO to expand but now he has hundreds of miles of new NATO border. While Sweden’s bid to join NATO has been delayed by Turkey and Hungary it’s not that big of a deal. Sweden coordinates and acts as if it already belongs anyway. 

Finland punches well above its weight class. Just look up how well it performed during the Winter War. Fear Finland. 

When the current conflict is over Ukraine will most likely become a member too. If this war has shown the world anything it’s shown that NATO membership keeps the Red Bear away. 

NATO has its faults, but it doesn’t go around invading other countries. Many of us hoped the days of Imperial invasions were over. Sadly, Putin though he could grab a bit of land and make it his own. How has that worked out for him? 


Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Shade Tree Body Work

I took the Blazer into the garage today to get some brake work done. Changing brake lines while lying on my back in a semi-frozen driveway is not my idea of fun. The garage informed me that even with the brakes fixed it would not pass state inspection. It all comes down a fair bit of body rot. Road salt and rust takes its toll on those old Blazers. 

With the current price of vehicles it only makes sense to patch it up. The engine, transmission, and frame are all solid. Of course, paying a body shop to do the job is out of the question. It doesn’t have to look perfect and I can certainly do imperfect myself. 

Of course, I still have snow and ice on the ground here. It’s going to take a few weeks before it’s warm enough to work outside. I do miss having a garage to work in. Good thing I’ve a second vehicle. On the downside the car can’t tow the boat or utility trailer. 

Over the years I’ve done a lot of shade tree body work. That’s what you do when you have more time than money. On the bright side it’ll be a good excuse to pick up a few new tools. 


Saturday, April 1, 2023

In like a lion

There’s a saying: March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Here in the North Country -not so much. 

As I write this on the evening of March 31 there’s a raging snowstorm going on outside. March is going out like an angry lion. It’s been a weird month weather wise. In fact we had warmer days in February. 

To put icing on a crap cake my childhood friend, who was the brother I never had, just passed away. He was one of the good ones. It’s not too many people who keep the same friends for over 50 years. In a previous blog I mentioned the guy who was still working from his hospital bed. This is the same guy. 

Cancer sucks. My good friend had early detection, good insurance, good doctors, and it killed him anyway. Both my parents died from cancer. A lot of my fellow firefighters died from cancer too. It’s a serious job risk. My lovely wife’s father is currently dealing with cancer. 

March wasn’t all bad. In fact, a lot things went really well. However, on balance, I could have done without.