Quick Links

Book Reviews *** Pictures *** Videos *** DIY *** About Me

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lot's O' Stuff

Hope everyone had a great Christmas, wishing everyone a safe and happy and prosperous New Year! Now with that done, here's an update on things. Last Monday, I did something I haven't done in a coon's age, (and just how long IS a coon's age I wonder...), anyhow I went to the big, big town, about 3 hours away, with a friend. My friend had a doctor's appointment about an elbow injury and didn't know if she would be able to drive home, so I went as a potential surrogate driver. Turns out that they didn't do anything on this trip, just x-ray'd her arm and told her she had bone spurs, her choice is to have surgery or live with it, she has to think about it and decide what she wants to do. Before we went to the doctor, we hit Pizza Hut, did the buffet, it's been so long since I've eaten pizza that I didn't make. Mind you, I make a pretty mean pizza, but getting to eat pizza from a restaurant is a major treat for me. I ate until I was absolutely stuffed.

After the doctor visit we went to Wally World, a super one, haven't been to one of those in a long time, I couldn't find anything! Oh I could see the signs everywhere for this and that, but I still walked around almost in a daze, all the people, all the cars (in the parking lot), it was almost too much for me to deal with, though I will say that for the most part I didn't run into any majorly misbehaving children. The adults were a different story, at least when I was in line, this goth-looking girl/woman was standing behind me, about 6 inches from me, I could see her out of my peripheral vision, she never actually touched me, but I could almost feel her breathing. Every step I took, she mirrored me. Eventually I started playing with her, I would move my cart a couple of inches and step up the tiniest step I could, she would step the same. Maybe she was trying to make me feel uncomfortable enough to find a different line, didn't work though, I finally stepped from between the baskets so that she would have to make some major moves to stand that close to me, problem solved.


While at the store, I decided to buy a comal, this is a flat, cast iron pan mainly used for cooking tortillas and doing things like pancakes, grilled cheese and such. This is something we eat several times a week, I have wanted a comal for a long time, so I took advantage of the situation and purchased one. This particular one is made by Lodge Logic, it's also pre-seasoned, this is important as seasoning a new cast iron pan takes a lot of time, effort, work and in my case, propane. Not to say it's not worth it in the end, but not something I relish doing, so the pre-seasoned pan is a major bonus for me. Of course it worked perfectly, I rinsed it with hot water, placed it on the burner and rubbed it with a light layer of Crisco, the first tortilla tried to stick, after that one, it worked like a charm. We ate tortillas, refried beans with a little cheese, hot sauce and sour cream, it was a good dinner.

I made my tortillas a little different this time, on occasion I add yeast, it makes a slightly puffier tortilla, depending on how long I allow it to rise. It also adds a yeasty flavor (which I really like), I just have to remember to proof the yeast before adding it to the flour, there isn't enough moisture in the dough for the yeast to really dissolve and develop if it's put in dry. This time I did it, but I didn't allow the dough to really rise very much, we were hungry and wanted to eat soon. The last two tortillas I rolled out, they had had more time to rise and develop some extra flavor, I made this thicker than all the rest, made it more like a flat bread than a tortilla, those were for me, LOL!


I also purchased more yarn, I have really gotten into this loom knitting thing, even though I have only made 2 hats to date, the hats turned out great and I want to make more. My MIL sent yarn for Christmas, she did a great job picking out the colors and yarns I like, but like any yarn addict, you can never have too much yarn, so I purchased more yarn, another set of knitting looms, Knifty Knitter Long Loom Set w/Hook &; Yarn Needle, 4/Pkg. and a pattern book called  More Knitting Wheel Fashions. The yarn that works best with the knitting loom is the thicker yarns, referred to as chunky, it's possible to use thinner yarns if you double or triple up on the yarn, (use 2 or 3 strands instead of 1).

My new favorite yarn is called bouclé yarn (pronounced boo-clay), it's a curly, fuzzy yarn, not necessarily thick, I use 2 strands instead of 1, that's what I used to make our hats. I'll post pictures of my hats and any other items I make soon. I am working on a new hat, just like the first 2 hats I made, this one will be for Bob, the only difference is the color, the first hats were made from a variegated bouclé in greens and other earth tones. This one is made from bouclé but in a charcoal gray color. Once I have that one completed, I'll make another for myself but with a little different look, yeah I know, pictures! I'm charging my camera as I write, it was dead or I would have pictures already.

It's been pretty cold, had wood fires every night, can't take the chance of breaking the water pump again. We have also had some big winds, as big (if not bigger) than how it was the first year we arrived here. It's been pounding everything, last night I had a hard time sleeping because of it, about the time I would be almost asleep, another gust would blast us, shake & rattle everything and wake me up. Once I heard something heavy fall over, it turned out to be a door that is propped up outside, I'm happy it wasn't part of the roof or worse, one of the solar panels.

Speaking of solar panels, for the last couple of weeks, we have had more cloudy or mostly cloudy days than sunny ones, it's made things a bit spare around here electric wise, we have enough of a system that if the batteries are full, we can go a day or two without sun, after that we have to really have to be careful about how much power we use for things besides lights. Having 1.5 watt LED lights really make a difference though, we can run them with little concern about how much they are drawing. (Thanks K!, You know who you are!).

I know this is a long post so I'll cut it off here, hope everyone has a safe and prosperous New Year! Oh it just started snowing with sleet mixed in, after such a sunny start to the day, oh boy, this is going to be an interesting rest of the day and night!








All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader),


Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

This photo was taken by myself on October 22,2006.

Here is wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a very safe and happy New Year!

It's been kinda slow around here, nothing much has been going on. The weather has been nice, cold at night, warmish during the day (as long as the sun is shining). Yesterday started out warm and sunny, then the clouds rolled in, the temps dropped from 47 degrees F to 32 degrees F in just about an hour. With it came the snow, what started out as a few drops of rain became blizzard like. The wind was blowing the snow sideways, we could not see past the closest trees much less see the mountains around us. It went on like that for the rest of the day and into the night. Last night was a snuggle up, drinking lots of hot cocoa and coffee, sitting around the wood stove night. I can understand why, in the past, so many babies were born in the summer, when you have long cold nights, with nothing else to do but snuggle up with your spouse under the covers, yeah I can appreciate all those babies being born the following summer. :)

So I wish you long nights snuggling under the covers with your partner, wives with your husband, husbands with your wife, keep warm, keep safe, have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!












All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader),


Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Show Links

OK, I finally have the direct link to Big John Lipscomb's show. I was a guest on his show Dec 14, 2009. I had a really great time on the show, Big John really made me feel comfortable. A big thanks to Randi for all the great work she does in the background, after listening to the show, it's clear that Randi had a big hand in the interview. Thanks to everyone for the great questions in the second hour.

Listen here:

http://www.donttreadonme.tv/121409.html


Hour 1.


Hour 2.



All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Humanure


Sit, flush and forget, that's what most of us do, multiple times a day. We use perfectly good, drinkable, potable water to flush our waste, what a waste it truly is. After we flush, we don't think about all the water that is used and wasted to process the sewage that is created, chemicals are pumped into our water system, the water we DRINK, so that we can do it all over again. I'm starting to sound pretty green aren't I?

Honestly that's not the reason why I stopped using a flush toilet system. For us, it was a case of necessity. We were moving completely off grid, building a cabin, there is little water, at least little water to waste on flushing a toilet. We had no well, no septic system, no flush toilets. We needed a good way to deal with our toilet waste so I started researching how to eliminate our eliminations.

That’s when I found Joseph Jenkins and Humanure. Well, first I learned about composting toilets. These are usually all self contained units, looking like uber toilets, they tend to come with an uber price tag too.


Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilets
How they work is they contain your waste within the unit, you add cover material, usually sawdust or something like that. Many of them have heaters,  vents and fans to help dry out the waste. After a period of time, you empty the container and finish composting outside if need be. The biggest problem with these is the price tag, usually thousands of dollars, plus these tend to be rather large, bulky units.


It turns out that Joseph Jenkins figured out a very simple way of composting bodily waste using little more than a 5 gallon bucket, a toilet seat and lid and some organic cover material. You split the composting  into two parts, with the majority of it going on outside in a compost pile instead of inside the unit. The system is so simple, nearly fool proof, I quickly decided it was the right way to go for us, or perhaps more accurately, it was the best way for us to go.


sawdust toilet
This is also a common question I get about living off grid, how and where do I go to the bathroom? It's quite simple once you know about composting and sawdust toilets. We have been using this system since Dec 2007, we have tweaked the system a couple of times, other than that it has worked like a charm for us.  The main thing we have changed is the outside portion. We started out using a wire enclosure to hold the compost pile, we are not on level ground and once the compost pile was as tall as I am, the whole thing began to tilt, we were afraid it would topple over and we did not want to have to deal with that kind of mess.

Bob created a 2 barrel system to hold and compost our humanure.  This system composts fast, there is little to no smell, the only time it has any odor is when we are dumping the bucket into the first barrel. Once the door is closed, no more smell. The bottom composter has no smell, well I take that back, it does have a pleasant, humus, dirt smell, nothing like what originally went in.
Here is a video about that:




Joseph Jenkins has been kind enough to shoot videos of his system and place them on YouTube, you can view them here, there are 14 videos, they will play one after the next:



You can read and download (free)  Joseph Jenkins Humanure book here:
http://humanurehandbook.com/index.html
This contains everything you ever wanted to know about sawdust toilets, including instructions how to build one yourself. You don't need to live off grid like I do to use a sawdust toilet, many people have and use sawdust toilets along side their flush toilets. I read about one lady who had a flush toilet and a sawdust toilet in her bathroom. She placed instructions on the door, stating that you could either use the pure drinking water wasting toilet, or you could use the Earth friendly, no water wasting sawdust toilet. She said that most people opted to use the sawdust toilet.



All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!







Sunday, December 13, 2009

Big John's Radio Show reminder

Don't forget, Monday I will be on Big John's radio program, from 7 to 9 pm central time. You can call in during the second hour and ask me questions or just say "hi".

Click to listen here,
or,
click to listen here.

All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader)


Thanks for visiting!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holy Cow!

I don't know who or what this LinkSwarm is, but I think I am in love... seriously, thanks Regulator, whoever you are for posting my blog on LinkSwarm. Ya'll are making me feel all warm and fuzzy, if this keeps up, I'm going to shear myself and spin some yarn out of it. :)

I was looking at my tracker this evening, normally I have, oh maybe 100 plus or minus unique hits a day, some days more, some days less... I look and I see that I have 262 hits and it isn't even 7:30 yet. I haven't had action like that since Mayberry posted my plea for help on his blog, if you have followed my blog for a while, you remember what happened.

When I checked to see where all this traffic was coming from, I saw that it was coming from LinkSwarm, I've never heard of it before, but for some reason my blog has been posted there and I am getting lots of hits from it. I have always pretty much ignored link farms, I considered it a less than way of getting traffic, I think this site, at least on the surface, looks a step up from the link farms I have seen in the past. Gotta check it out more carefully and see what they are all about. 

EDIT
I have noticed on LinkSwarm some comments about my blog, namely about how can I be off grid AND have an internet connection, blog and a PayPal account. Well, to answer your questions, it is quite possible to be off grid and still have internet access, living off grid doesn't mean living in a cave, wearing skins and eating worms. I am 100% off grid, I am not hooked up to any utilities, I don't even have a power pole, or telephone pole or any other utilities on my property. I generate my own electricity, haul my water, use propane for cooking and heating water, use wood for heat, I have a WIRELESS internet connection, and yes, I have a PayPal account, how else do you think I buy things? Oh, and I'm not a guy, my hubby is though. :)


All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Show Reminder

Just a reminder, a week from tonight, Monday Dec 14, from 7-9 pm CST, I will be a guest on Big John's radio program. The second hour you will be able to call in and ask me questions.

I realize that some of you will not be able to listen live, so if you have any questions that you would like to ask, write it here in the comment section, I'll do my best to answer your questions.

I just received an email from Tammy B, she asked quite a few good questions. Here is what she asked,
Since you have been off the grid for a while now, I wondered if you would mind answering, discussing maybe what you would have done differently if you were starting out now, what 3 to 5 things you need most right now, what you would buy if money were no object, how the Berkey water system is working, how many solar panels you have now, what do you miss the most?, etc.,

thanks - inquiring minds want to know.
 First I want to thank Tammy B for those great questions. I'll answer those now.

What would you have done differently if you were starting out now?
Perhaps planned out the layout of our buildings and such on the property, we have just placed things as we went along, I would prefer some of the buildings (outbuildings, sheds and such) had been put in a different location,


What 3-5 things do you need most right now?
There are always lists of things that are needed and wanted. Right now we need to get pipe to plumb our water system, tanks and such. Always could use more building materials (wood panels, dimensional lumber, cement powder...). We need to get Bob's big army truck from Dallas to here, we could use that for hauling water and such, the truck is not drivable and would need to be trailered here. Bob wants to get 2 or 3 G M alternators, to make a system to charge up the batteries. Of course, I would like to have more deep cycle batteries and solar panels.

What would you buy if money were no object?
Pretty much all the things I listed on the previous question. Honestly, if I were to hit the lottery, not much would change, I might buy up more property lots, I would finish our skycastle, complete with good insulation. I would have enough batteries and solar panels so that we would have to have weeks of cloudy skies before we ran out of power. I would make sure the bug was street legal, and would buy a second bug, just like the one I have now for a backup.

How is the Berkey water system working?
It is still working just fine, we have it plumbed into the water system, to fill it with water all I have to do is pull a lever for a few seconds. This was one of the best things we have purchased.

How many solar panels do you have now?
We have four 55 watt Siemens solar panels, and we have four sets of 45 watt Harbor Freight solar panel kits.

What do you miss the most?
This is really bad, I miss eating fast food. We have a McDonald's in the next town, it's not something we get to eat very often, I do miss eating fast food on a weekly, or semi-weekly basis. I know we are healthier for it, and I'm not complaining, but sometimes I just really miss calling Domino's Pizza or getting a burger from McDonald's or Jack in the Box. I also miss the spur of the moment meals I used to cook, the deal is before, when there was a grocery store just minutes from my house, if I decided I wanted to make a meal using ingredients I didn't have, I could just hop in my car and within a half hour, I could be back home with said ingredients in hand, cooking the impromptu meal.

The other thing I miss the most is my family, we both left our families behind, some 500 miles away, so hopping in the car and going for a visit is not a practical thing for us to do.

That's just about it, don't forget to tune in next Monday to Big John's site to listen to the show. Call in during the second hour to ask me questions, or post questions here.

Click to listen here,
or,
click to listen here.

You can also download the show at no charge for 24 hours after the show airs on Big John's site.

All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!


Blog Reader

While reading a fellow blogger's blog, I found an interesting text reader that can be integrated into a blog. I liked how it worked and sounded so I signed up. It's called Odiogo, it basically reads your blog out loud, turns text into voice. It sounds pretty good, though it's not perfect, my name for instance, it pronounces it incorrectly, if I spelled it "wreetha", then it would be pronounced right, but that is a small thing. I might add another line to my blog posts with the correct pronunciation. I will also have to watch my punctuation and spelling, it reads, quite literally what you write, I have already found some typos that the spell checker didn't catch in some previous messages. I also discovered that the podcast isn't created right after a message is posted, and if you change edit a post after the podcast is created, it doesn't change in the podcast, I hope it catches the changes later, oh well, that just means I'll have to be more careful about what and how I write, have to get it right the first time. :)

I will probably keep this for now, it looks like a good thing.


All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader)


Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Easier Internet Privacy

Thanks you A Big Fan Of for this info.



OK, this is the best I have found yet for personal (internet tracking) protection, as well as being the easiest! Go here, do this:


http://geekdrop.com/content/how-block-trackers

It uses 3 components,
  • Firefox (I use this and prefer it).
  • Adblock Plus (an add-on for Firefox).
  • The little red button on the previously mentioned link/page.
The red button is an automatic subscription to a list of trackers to be blocked, it's pretty comprehensive, and it includes Feedjit, my personal nemesis of a tracker. 


All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

West Texas Winter Wonderland

Words cannot describe how beautiful this place is when it's dusted with ice. It truly is a west Texas winter wonderland.

A couple of days ago, the temps dropped down into the low 20s F, the highs during the day were in the mid 30s F, it was cooooold. It got cold enough inside the skycastle that our water pump froze and cracked the upper housing. Fortunately it's relatively cheap to replace that part, only $30 vs the cost of the whole pump at $130. We are still using the pump as it is, it's not leaking right now, but it could start any time. The part should come in next Tuesday, catastrophe averted.

Here are some pictures I took today. The snow had mostly melted away yesterday when the sun came out for a few hours. This morning everything was shrouded in mist, it stayed that way all day. Everything has this interesting layer of ice crystals, not icicles hanging down, these ice crystals grew sideways and up, in the most delicate formations I have ever seen. Many of these pictures show the mist, fog that is all around, ordinarily you would see mountains in the background, but today, we are surrounded by an almost ethereal mist. Enjoy





All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pre-Interview Phone Call

Yesterday I had a delightful conversation with Randi, she is the show manager of Don't Tread On Me Radio Show, Big John's show. This was a mini-interview, I suspect this was as much to have some talking points as much as it was to determine how well I will do during the live interview. I think I did pretty well, we talked for an hour and a half and could have continued for hours more I'm sure. One thing I realized is I'll have to try to keep myself on track, giving concise answers so that there will be time to get everything in, it's all too easy to go off track, on a tangent and forget the original question.

One thing Randi asked of me was about the Thoreau quote engine I have on my blog, she asked me if I had read Thoreau, I was quite embarrassed to admit that I had never read Thoreau. I have had the book Walden in my hands, I have scanned the book, but never read it fully. I decided that will not do, so I did a search for Thoreau and mp3, I found a wealth of audiobooks, since these books are public domain, it's legal too.

I downloaded the complete book here: http://librivox.org/walden-by-henry-david-thoreau/ I am listening to it as I type. I'll finish it well before I am on Big John's show, so if anyone asked me about that again, I'll be able to proudly be able to say that YES, I have "read" Thoreau. :)

Thanks Randi for the wonderful chat, I look forward to more. :)



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Big John's Radio Show

I have some exciting news, I am going to be a guest on Big John Libscomb's radio show. The date and time are December 14th (Monday) at 7pm central time.  We will be discussing homesteading, our life as lived 100% off grid in the high desert mountains of far west Texas. It's a call in show too, so call in if you want to ask me anything.

I feel so honored that Big John wants me on his show, I "found" Big John just after his last radio show went off air, I was disappointed that he was going away, but figured he had good reasons for it. Now it seems that Big John is ready to start that back up again, I am thrilled that this is happening and that I will be a part of this too.

Thanks Big John! :)




All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I Am Thankful

This is going to be a short list, culled from the long list of things I am thankful for.

In no particular order

I am thankful for my relationship with God,
I am thankful that I met Bob and he is in my life,
I am thankful that most of my family is alive and well,
I am thankful for my little dog, Pekoe,
I am thankful that I am getting to live the life I want to live,
I am thankful that I have everything I need,
I am thankful that I (generally) have everything I want,
I am thankful that Bob and I are healthy and generally happy,
I am thankful that we have enough food to eat,
I am thankful that we have really great friends (both cyber and real),
I am thankful that I am able to find more than enough work and still have time to do the other things I want/need to do,
I am thankful that, in spite of how screwed up this country may be getting, that I still live in the best country in the world (JMHO),

I am also thankful for each and everyone of you who take time out of your day to visit this blog and read about my life, I appreciate each and every one of you. :)

Of course there is more to be thankful for, so what are you thankful for???

Happy ThanksGiving, Turkey Day, T-Day, TG-Day and all that.




All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A "Real" Job?

I have to say that I LOVE my little bug, there is nothing like driving someone elses car for a day to make me realize how great my rattly, bone jarring, bouncy little bug is. :)

Yesterday I had to go into town, something I don't do very often. I usually bum a ride with someone when I have to go into town, right now my bug is not street legal, no tags, no inspection so I can't drive it outside the neighborhood (all the roads where I live are private roads so one can drive anything in any condition, legal or not)... I was loaned a truck to go into town.

Now as to why I had to go into town... I actually had a job interview, gasp!. The interview and paperwork were merely a formality, I was hired before I ever got there. One of the ladies who lives nearby is going in for back surgery, she will need someone to come in for a couple of hours a day to do the things that she will not be able to do until she is healed up, She asked me if I wanted to do it, she said I would get paid an hourly wage, I said "sure". All it will entail is cooking meals, dishes, laundry, general straightening up, and any physical help she may need.

She loaned me her truck to drive into town to do the interview and paperwork with the home care agency she uses. She told me that I could do any shopping I needed while in town, so I did. I hit several stores, the dollar store, the grocery store and the hardware store. Stocked up on some essentials and came home. It was dark when I got home so I kept the truck at my house overnight, it's not a good idea to drive around where I live after it gets dark, it's rare to find any of the locals driving around either once the sun goes down. The reason is because of the animals, deer, donkeys and other critters that move around in the dark, if you hit one, it will tear your car up, not to mention if something goes wrong, you break down, it's going to be a long, dark, cold walk home, not something I relish doing.

I just got back from taking the truck back and getting my bug. Again I say, I love my bug, it works so well out here on these mountainous dirt roads, I am sitting much closer to the ground (I used to drive a mid-sized and a full sized truck, so I don't mind sitting up high), plus feeling like I have more control for turning and stopping makes me feel so much more secure while driving.

So after my friend has her surgery, I'll be "employed" for a while, making a real paycheck with taxes being taken out and everything. The taxes coming out will be a good thing, I do claim my "barter" that I get from the Country Store, with the changes in the tax laws, I don't know if I would have to pay in this year, so having taxes coming out night offset that.

I don't know how long I'll be doing this "job", for now it's 21.5 hours a week, so it will not interfere with working at the Country Store. My friend told me that she qualifies for home care now, and would continue to qualify after the surgery, so it seems that I can do this for as long as I want to, so we will play it by ear for now.

Did I mention that I love my bug?




All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Warning - Politics Ahead

I do not want FORCED health care coverage, I do not want nationalized health care, especially if we are all forced to take it under penalty of fines and jail time, I don't care what they call it, I call it wrong to make me a criminal because I choose not to participate in this folly, The funny thing is I would be in the lowest financial group and would probably get my coverage subsidized, I would benefit from this, but I don't want it, I don't want to be forced to take it.

It would seem that the congress is exempt from this "wonderful" coverage, they get to keep their own cushy health care, one congressman thought that was wrong. If this nationalized health care is so great for all Americans, then the congress should also have to take this coverage. The following I received from Bruce Hopkins from http://www.internet-grocer.net

HR 615
On Tuesday, the Senate health committee voted 12-11 in favor of a two-page amendment, courtesy of Republican Tom Coburn which would require all Members of Congress and their staff members to enroll in any new government-run health plan.
 

Congressman John Fleming has proposed an amendment that would require Congressmen and Senators to take the same health care plan that they would force on us. (Under current proposed legislation, they are exempt.)
 

Congressman Fleming is encouraging people to go to his Website and sign his petition.  The process is very simple.  I have done just that at:
     http://fleming.house.gov/index.html .

Senator Coburn and Congressman Fleming are both physicians.  Regardless of your political beliefs, it sure seems reasonable that Congress should have exactly the same medical coverage that they impose on the rest of us.

Please urge as many people as you can to do the same!


I signed it, no matter what your political affiliation is, don't you think this is a good idea? Thank you Congressman Fleming.



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Great (Pinto) Bean Experiment

Tuesday
I ground about 6 pounds of dry, uncooked pinto beans. The idea is to cut down the cooking time. I ground them using a heavy, cast iron corn grinder. So I ground the beans in batches, first I picked the beans, if you have never cooked beans like this, you'd be shocked at what ends up in the package with the beans... rocks, dirt clods, mystery beans, corn, bug eaten beans, mystery seeds, bits of this and that, and the occasional non-organic item, I have no idea what the white, plastic thing is that I found in the beans.

After I picked the beans, I would place a handful of beans in a barely dampened towel and shake the beans around in the towel. Beans tend to come covered in grit, dirty, one should wash them, but since I was about to grind them, I didn't want to run the risk of grinding moistened dry beans, they might not store as well.

I ran them through the mill on a medium setting, enough to break them into smaller pieces, then I ran it through again on a tighter setting to grind it to nearly a powder, about the consistency of cornmeal. Now, what to put the bean meal in... I thought about zip-lock bags, then decided against it. Mountain Man Bob drinks lots of coffee with creamer, I try to buy the largest and cheapest creamer in the store. We have LOTS of empty (large) creamer containers, so I grabbed one of them. It worked perfectly! Each container holds about 1 and a half bags of bean meal. I filled 3 of them.

That all happening yesterday, I'm not as sore as I thought I might be, especially my right arm, my grinding arm. My hands are a bit sore, but all in all, it's not bad at all.

Last night I wanted to test how this bean meal cooks up. I put about a cup and a half of bean meal in a pan, added twice as much water and gave it a stir (no salt yet, it toughens the beans), I started them on high until it boiled then dropped it to low. I covered the pan and let it go. It really went through the water, about every 15 minutes, I would add another half cup of water and stir. About 2 hours later, the beans still had a raw bean taste and were gritty. I added a pinch of baking soda and continued cooking and adding water.

Well, it ended up taking nearly 4 hours to cook, that is far too long for me. The idea is to cut down on the cooking time, therefore using less propane. Once the beans were done, I seasoned them, salt, pepper, ground coriander seeds, filé powder... they were pretty tasty.

I decided to go ahead and try dehydrating the cooked bean paste. I poured the bean paste into sheet pan lined with parchment paper, I made sure the layer was thin. I placed this in a small (microwave sized) convection oven, propped the door open about a half inch using a butter knife, then turned on the oven on low. It took a few hours to completely dry. I had to stir the bean paste around, break it up to allow it to fully dry. Then I took the dry bean paste and ran it through the food processor to grind it into small pieces. It looks like coffee.

The only thing I didn't do was rehydrate it and taste it. I'll do that later.

Since I determined that the bean meal doesn't cook any faster, I took about a cup and a half of bean meal, added water and covered, it was left to sit all night, the idea is that soaked beans cook faster. We will see today.

Thursday
OK, the soaked bean meal did cook faster, in about 2 hours, but it's still not any faster than cooking whole beans. So now I have decided the only way I am going to cook pinto beans faster is to use a pressure cooker. Fortunately we have 2 of them, a big one for canning and a smaller one for cooking. Just have to check the rubber gasket to make sure it's still OK, might do a test boil with just water to make sure it seals good.

BTW, dehydrating the cooked beans did work, I put some of the dehydrated beans in a pan, poured in quite a bit of water and heated it all up, They were pretty tasty.

Honestly, after all of this, I have decided that for now, I can and will continue buying instant refried beans, I can get them at the store in town, I can also get them from Sam's Club, they sell a 3 pound bag of instant refried beans for around $6, can't beat that for now. Unfortunately the only Sam's that carries them that I know of is in El Paso, at least 3 hours away. For now I know someone who goes out there several times a month (doctor visits), so I can stock up on them. At least I know that I can dehydrate refried beans for storage and eating later. :)




All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beans, Beans and More Beans

I am about to log off for the night, but wanted to tell you, no, tease you with an up and coming post I am working on about beans. Specifically pinto beans, I am working on a 2 part experiment with them. Thanks to a friend who loaned to me a piece of equipment that is making this experiment possible,

Beans plus corn grinder equals less cooking time
minus moisture (dehydrating) equals instant refried beans

My toes are getting cold, it's time to crawl in the warm bed... :)



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Free eBooks

I found a good source of ebooks (pdf's), these are all out of print books, about homesteading, check it out, oh and they are free to download. I snagged a few myself. :)

http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/0302homested.html




All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!
.
.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanks To You!

Woohoo! I received my first check from ClickBank! That's the hardest one to get, to keep down fraud, before you can get your first payment (as an affiliate) you have to get 5 unique sales with 2 different payment methods (and PayPal doesn't count for a payment method). Then you have to wait a bit after the last sale, just in case there is a refund given. After the first paycheck is earned, then you don't have to wait as long for payments.

It's taken a while, but I finally completed their requirements and they cut me a check. I want to thank everyone who purchased an ebook through my blog, this would not have happened without you.

If you are scratching your head about now wondering what I am talking about, assuming you are reading from my blog and not from a reader program, look to the right of the page, you might have to scroll down a bit, you will see "DIY Sponsors", this is where you will find the ebooks. These are all done through ClickBank, for those of you who have blogs, I highly recommend this company, you can make a few extra bucks by offering ebooks that relate to your blog.

I know that some of my readers do not like advertisements, and to those, I say sorry, but considering all of the FREE info and entertainment you are getting from this blog, I'd say quit yer b*tching, I say that with a smile on my face though. :) I am opening my private life to you, I am giving my time, all with no charge, the advertisements are one of the small ways I earn some money (it's not a lot, I'm not getting rich here) to keep this site going (internet access costs me dearly) and helps me to purchase those pesky little things we all need, food, supplies and such.

So again, I say thank you to everyone who has purchased ebooks through this blog, I do try my best to check out the ones I offer, don't want the garbage, there is a 60 day money back guarantee on all ebooks, so if you are on the fence about buying one, go for it, if you aren't happy you can get your money back, no questions asked.



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Honor Of Those...

Veterans Day 2007 poster from the United State...
...who fought and continue to fight for all of us. In honor of all those who died for us. In honor of all of those who served and continue to serve.

My son in the Army, stationed in Iraq, I also have several friends and other family members who are war veterans, I thank each and every one of you who fought for this great Country, the United States of America.




Wretha

Thanks for visiting!
.
.
.
.
.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Off grid updates

Now that the rainy season has ended, and the really hot days have passed us by, it's time to get back to work on the old, er make that relatively new homestead. This is the beginning of our third winter living out here. A friend asked me today if I liked it out here, my answer is, YES!!!! This is the place I have been trying to get to all of my life. Now that I am here, my main goal is to enjoy, thrive, and live.

It's time for more soilcrete pouring, more rock work, more building on the skycastle. We are going into our third winter in our off grid home, second full year. We have learned a lot, still have a lot to learn though. Don't really know if that ever stops, nor would I want it to.

The nights are really getting cold, at least for us, I know there are many places that get far colder than we do. It's been getting down into the upper 20s F and lower 30s F most nights. Fortunately it warms up into the 50s, 60s and even 70s F during the day, as long as the sun is shining. On the rare cloudy days, it will stay cold all day.

The wind has picked back up too, we have been going around picking up loose items that might blow around, picking up things that have already blown around and generally battening down the hatches. The other night, it was blowing pretty hard, the gusts were very hard. I heard the sound of something rather heavy sliding across the roof. Considering our solar panels are up there, that's not a sound I want to hear at all.

I grabbed a flashlight, went to the door, ready to brave the ladder if need be, it turned out that it WAS the ladder I had heard. It had slid from one side to the other and was leaning on another roof area. I was able to go back to bed and sleep better knowing our solar panels weren't trying to fall off the roof.

I took some video and some snapshots today, it's a beautiful day, perfect clear skies, very slight breeze, it's close to 50 degrees F outside, in the sun it's just perfect, not too hot, not too cold.

Enjoy the pix and vids.






Wretha

Thanks for visiting!
.
.
.
.
.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Human Powered Gadgets


I have heard about these before, now I want one, it's called a Vortex Blender. This is a food blender that is human powered. It appears to be sturdy, it's a 2 speed affair. I understand that it's a bit noisy on high speed. You clamp it to a table or other sturdy surface, fill it, cover it and crank away. This was originally created for tailgaters and campers, while I do not fall into either category, I know I would put it to good use. Does anyone reading this have one or have used one? If so, what do you think of it?

I have a wimpy hand crank food chopper/mixer (not a slap one), it looks like a food processor, has three blades in it, it does ok on soft foods, but it would never work for real food, or ice... 

The other thing I have thought about was getting an old electric food blender in a second hand shop, and trying to convert it to human power blender,  maybe with a flywheel and some gears... I did a quick Google search but didn't find much for DIY hand cranked blender, I got mostly articles about the Vortex Blender. Surely someone has done this, I'll keep looking, if I find anything, I'll post another message about it.

I think it would be great to have a table set up with interchangeable, hand cranked kitchen goodies... yup, I dream big and sometimes complex...  I'll toss the idea to MMB, if anyone can do it, he can.




All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's Officially Cold

Last night was officially below freezing, at least according to my thermometer. It got down to 28.9 F outside, inside the sky castle was 37.4 F. Yep, we let it get that cold inside. Why you might ask? We decided last winter not to kill ourselves trying to keep the sky castle warm. Here's the deal, if you have a warm, toasty fire in the wood stove, you go to bed with things being warm. The fire dies out long before morning, so SOMEONE has to get up at least once during the night to stoke the fire, or allow it to go out, halfway through the night, the temp drops to shivering cold, so you start looking for more blankets, wish you had worn warmer jammies, or suffer. We discovered if you go to bed with the appropriate warm clothing, and warm blankets, it's quite easy to stay warm in bed all night. Fortunately where we live, no matter how cold it gets over night, once the sun comes up, as long as the sky is clear, it warms up into the 50s and 60s, typical high desert. Open the curtains on the east side of the room, the sun shines in and you have instant warmth.

Last night, before it got really cold, I went under the sky castle to look for something to snack on in our stash, that space is unfinished , but the walls are thick concrete, the floor is still dirt, I noticed that even with the openings to the outside, it was significantly warmer down there than it was inside the sky castle. MMB and I talked this morning about finishing the bottom floor space and using that as the winter bedroom.

Before someone suggests that we insulate the sky castle, it's something we are going to do, for now it's uninsulated, and that is just how it is.

Now I have to go make breakfast, pancakes and fried Spam. :)



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Looney Tunes: Old Glory (1939)

As many of you know, I don't own a TV (gave it to our neighbor), I get most of my entertainment through the internet. I don't watch a lot of TV shows, fortunately the ones I do like are streamed over the 'net. Tonight while checking out Fancast, I found a Looney Toons section, I love the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. I found this particular cartoon, it's too bad that this isn't shown like it used to be. Anyhoo, watch, enjoy, remember...






All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tough Times Survival Guide vol 1 – book review


Reading, learning, it’s what I enjoy doing. Before the internet, I would go to the three local libraries in my hometown, I would check out as many books as each on would allow, take them all home, read-read-read until I had gotten through all of them, then I return the books to their respective homes and start all over again. I tended to read non-fiction, I preferred them over fiction most of the time. With the exception of a few notable authors such as Stephen King, Jean M. Auel, and such…

With the advent of the internet and ebooks, I mostly read what I can get in digital format, including audiobooks. So these last couple of books I’ve read, I have held in my hand, turned pages, it was quite old-school for me. J I love it. Now, on to the book review.


Tough Times Survival Guide Vol. 1


Have you ever listened to a compilation music CD? You know the kind that has multiple artists on it; they usually take the best or favorites from each artist from a similar genre and put all on one CD. With compilation CDs, they give you the chance to listen to a variety of different artists in the same genre, this exposes you to artists you may have never heard of before, chances are you probably wouldn’t have picked up their work unless you had heard the song on that compilation CD first.

Well that is what this book is like, instead of being written by a single author, Paladin Publishing took the best from a multitude of authors and combined it to make the book Tough Times Survival Guide Vol. 1. Just like compilation music CDs, getting this book will allow you to read the works of many different authors and you just may find a few that you are very interested in, you really like what they have to say and now you can find more works by this author.

Tough Times Survival Guide Vol 1 is a compilation of 25 different authors who write about making do, finding work, staying safe and becoming more self-reliant. This book focuses on money related/financial subjects. But it’s not what you might think. You will not find stock tips in this book, instead you will learn different ways to stretch your money, how to live on very little money, how to survive in these perilous times.

One of my favorite chapters is the first one, it’s about fixing things instead of replacing them. Mr. Romney gives some very good tips about repair trade secrets; I especially like the epoxy tips, such as fixing engine motors and such, the formulas and exact products are listed making it easy for you to find exactly what you need to make these repairs, and much more. Who knew you could do so much with epoxy?

Gleaning and scrounging are other subjects discussed in this book, I got some ideas that I might not have come up with on my own. Of course another favorite was the author of Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead, that was right up my alley.

If you are willing to roll up your sleeves and swallow your pride, you can find lots of useful stuff in dumpsters, much more than trash. You’d be shocked to see what people throw away, perfectly good electronics, foods that have gone out of date (but are still good), clothes…  With the tips and tricks in this book, you will learn the ins and outs of dumpster diving, which ones to look in first and which ones to stay away from.  You can not only furnish your own place, you can find and repair items (electronics, gadgets and such) and sell the refurbished items for cash, or trade or barter with it.

Another good chapter is written by one of my favorite DIY authors, James Ballou, I did a review of one of his books Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance. His chapter in this book is about homemade drills, a very handy thing to have around.  I highly recommend  James Ballou’s books, read my review of one of his book here: http://www.off-grid.net/2009/10/03/makeshift-workshop-skills-for-survival-and-self-reliance-book-review/

How would you like to learn how to build your own computer, or better yet be able to find free computers?  You can learn about tent living and how and where to get free firewood & other fuels. There’s even a chapter on how to live on the streets, something I hope I don’t have to do but it’s still good knowledge to have. It may even make you look at street people with a new eye.

Ever heard of the “underground economy”? Learn about alternative employment, from self-employment to the tax-free underground economy. There are many ways of making money besides the regular 9-5 job.  You’ll find tips on how to get a job, what industries to look at when looking for quick employment…  You’ll learn some banking tips that will help you keep more of your money instead of lining the pocket of the bankers.

In this book you’ll find:
1. The fine art of gleaning food
2. Full-time tent living
3. Secrets of haggling
4. Bill collector psychology
5. Free fuel for cold times
6. Where to find free computers
7. How to get a job in a war zone
8. The lucky 7 dumpster diving spots
9. What to do before you’re fired
10. The top 10 websites for getting by in tough times
Plus 15 more essays written by top Paladin-Press authors or specially commissioned for this book.


If you are a survivalist, homeless (or about to be), living on the edge, unemployed or underemployed (and who isn’t?), this book is for you, it contains useful, easy to implement ways to save and keep more of your hard earned money, and who doesn’t want to do that?

You can find this book, as well as the next version of this book here:
http://paladinpress.com/product/1192/79

or buy it here TOUGH TIMES SURVIVAL GUIDE, VOLUME 1

Click here to listen to a podcast interview with some of the authors of this book.

Read my other book reviews here:
Click here to see my other book reviews

Click here to read my book review process. 



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!



Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ain't It The Truth

I found this on another blog, (thanks Hermit),



As I grow in age, I value women over 40 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 40 will never wake you in the middle of the night and ask, 'What are you thinking?' She doesn't care what you think.



If a woman over 40 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do, and it's usually more interesting.



Women over 40 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it.



Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.




Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 40.



Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 40 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.



Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk, if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.



Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize.



For all those men who say, 'Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

For the record, I'm 44 and proud of each and every one of those years, wrinkles and gray hairs, I wear them as a badge of honor.


It would seem that this has been attributed to Andy Rooney, but after an unsuccessful search for the video to accompany this text, I find that Andy Rooney didn't actually write this, Snopes link,  it seems that this was taken from here http://www.suddenlysenior.com/praiseolderwomen.html written by Frank Kaiser. No one seems to know why it was attributed to Andy Rooney, including Andy Rooney himself.



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance - book review



 I typically do reviews on eBooks, but a while back I was contacted by James Ballou to do a review of a hard copy, Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance, published by Paladin Press. Of course I was thrilled to review his book; honestly I had seen it previously and had been interested in reading it, so I jumped at the chance. It turns out that my instincts were correct, this is a great and useful book!

I contacted Paladin Publishing and they not only sent me James Ballou’s book, but a couple of others as well, I will be posting those reviews soon.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a hard copy book, with the advent of the internet and the digital age, I have long since converted to eBooks and audio books. It’s good to have hard copies of books; digital copies can be lost, corrupted or otherwise unreachable, if you don’t have your computer or mp3 player handy AND charged up, then you are out of luck. It’s nice to take book in hand, turn the pages and read, no batteries required.

When I received James Ballou’s book, the first thing I noticed was the quality, this book is big and the print is easy on the eyes. It is a paperback, but a very well done paperback book. There are lots of illustrations and pictures for those of us who enjoy visuals (I am included in that group).  There are 208 pages, 9 chapters and lots of reference materials and sources. James is not afraid to give credit where credit is due.


This book is essentially a set of instructions that show you how to create tools, how to repair and construct many useful items using little more than salvaged materials that you probably have laying around. The following will give you an idea of what this book contains, it merely hits the highlights of each chapter, James explains things in detail, but in a manner that most of can understand, this book was written for the common man (and woman), you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or have a degree with an string of letters following your name to understand this book.

In chapter 1, James starts out with the basics, from rocks and clay, animal products (horn, antler, hoof, bone, leather, sinew…), wood, plastics and metal. Talk about the Stone Age, Fred Flintstone would have been proud!  James even gives a recipe how to make your own plastic out of milk of all things.

Chapter 2 contains information about rope and cord. The different types of rope and cord, how to make your own from various materials. He discusses knots and their uses; I especially enjoyed the section about net making.

Chapter 3 is all about makeshift metal work. James explains how to create a forge, it looks fairly straightforward to make one, and James is a master at making something that could be complicated look easy to make. Metalsmithing is one of those things that we typically send out to someone else to do, with the knowledge in this book, and a bit of skill and a willingness to learn, this is something that many of us can do.

Chapter 4 is the chapter that I enjoyed greatly; it is all about improvised tools. You will find no power tools, cords or batteries here, just straight forward, simple yet extremely useful hand tools that you can make yourself.  Need a rasp, a saw or drill? No problem, make them yourself! How many times have you used all of your clamps to hold a particularly complex wood project together and you needed just one or two more? No problem, just make another, it’s very likely that you already have the materials to make all the clamps you need.

Chapter 5, expedient repair methods. Nothing lasts forever, that is especially of a tool or other gadget that you need to use right now! Sometimes it’s not convenient or possible to run to the store to buy a replacement; James shows how to repair many things using what you already have around your home. He explains the different methods and materials to do the various repairs you may run into on a daily basis. Glues, tape, cord, wire and more, James explains each material and gives examples of how each of these materials can be used to repair the various things that can and do break.

Chapter 6 is all about soldering, brazing and welding. This is another set of skills that most people don’t think they can do, it’s usually considered easier to send your broken items out to be fixed, usually at a premium price.  If you are willing to learn, it is possible to do this yourself, especially soldering and brazing. Though honestly, unless you have the proper equipment for welding, this may be one area that is best left to the experts. But after reading this chapter, at least you will be familiar with the different types of welding, techniques and such, it is good knowledge to have, and it may be something that you are willing to tackle yourself, it would certainly be a valuable skill set to have.

Chapter 7, things you can make out of other things. After reading this chapter, you will see your environment with new eyes; you will see the potential in everyday, ordinary objects that surround you, the potential to make something else out of what is already there.  Breaking things down to their component parts and using those parts to make or repair other things. Wire coat hangers and metal coffee cans can be repurposed to make dozens if not hundreds of useful items.  Wooden dowels, broken steel files, nails and a multitude of other things can be remade into more useful items, tools and such. You can even make a set of sandals made from an old tire. James gives a very good list of makeshift items that can substitute for other items.

Chapter 8, practical tips for the craftsman or handyman. This chapter shows you the tips and tricks of the trade, things that the experts already know but you might not necessarily be privy to. Some of these you might already know, but there are a lot of tips & tricks that will save you time, save your fingers, tools, and sanity. You will hit yourself in the head and say, why didn’t I think of that before?  Such as how to drill or cut in a straight line (it’s not as easy as it first appears), the proper way to pull out a nail (how to get more leverage and not damage your walls), an ingenious way to remove rust from metal (hint, it doesn’t require much elbow grease at all), and much, much more.

Chapter 9, theorems and formulas for inventors and builders.  This is a very good chapter for me; it contains mathematical formulas for many handy things. Temperature conversions, determining the mechanical advantage of pulleys, block and tackle, incline planes, gear ratios, calculating dimensions and more, you will find it in this chapter.

The final section contains a comprehensive list of resources and reference materials compiled over the years, books as well as websites are listed here.

All in all, I give this book 2 thumbs up, it contains very useful information that will save you time, money and headaches. Mountain Man Bob was also very impressed with this book, and that means a lot! It’s difficult to impress Bob, who is the ultimate do it yourselfer, James managed to do it and he did it with style! In fact, the reason it took me longer than usual to write this review was because I had to pry the book away from Bob!

Another thing that is clear to me is it appears that James has actually DONE all of these things, he isn’t just spouting theory or repeating what someone else has done.

So whether you are a survivalist or a weekend warrior, you will enjoy this book, and you will learn a great deal, I highly recommend this book.

You can purchase this book from Paladin Press, don’t forget to check out the other books they publish as well, including James Ballou’s first book, Long Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age.

James was kind enough to answer a few questions, enjoy!

Mini interview


First I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to review your book, it’s been a real pleasure to read and I know we will be using the info contained in this book.
Thanks, Wretha! I am honored and grateful that you’ve taken the time to review this book, and for your overall positive take on it.

What made you decide to write this book? What was your inspiration?
Years of camping, hiking, experimenting with things, searching for creative ideas, and contemplating all sorts of survival scenarios more or less channeled this kind of “make-shifter” mind set I’ve acquired, and at some point I envisioned a kind of niche for a book like this. So I began gathering ideas, researching certain related topics, and experimenting with projects and techniques until it all more or less came together in the form of this book. I will admit that I have never seen another book quite like this one in so many ways.

How long did it take to put this book together?
This project took more than a year to finish. I tend to approach these things slowly and methodically, but every part of this book was enormously fun for me.

Is there going to be a part two to this book?
Yes! The second Makeshift book is somewhere close to being halfway complete right now. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes you think you’ve jammed every idea you’ve ever thought of for a particular topic or category into a list, but the list still never stops growing? That’s how it is with this subject matter – it really is endless.

I know this will be like asking which child is your favorite, but humor me… For you personally, what would you say is the most useful thing you have in this book?
Believe it or not, that little cord wrap trick I attempted to illustrate on page 115 is one that I use routinely, perhaps more than anything else described in this whole book. I realize it’s sort of common knowledge, but it is an incredibly handy (and easy to apply) technique for things like whipping the ends of rope with small cord, attaching wire eyes to a fishing rod with strong thread, binding all sorts of different things together and so on. With a tight wrap of cord, it creates a very strong and enduring, neat wrap that requires no bulky knots.

Did you grow up with tools and the knowledge of how to use them or was this something you learned as an adult or later in life?
My Dad always had some tools and a workbench all the time I was growing up, and he encouraged my brother and me to use them safely. Even with all of his emphasis on safety I still managed to clobber my fingers with hammers and run sharp chisels and gouges into my hands fairly often. We would get really creative sometimes, making our toy guns out of wood and things like that. I never perfected any special skills with tools, but I experimented a lot.

What books are you working on now?
As I indicated, the second Makeshift book is a work currently in progress. I am really excited about it, and I tend to let myself become consumed by it at times – developing ideas, attempting to build weird projects, researching different creative how-to subjects and skills, and then putting everything into some kind of order so that others can pick it up more easily. We’ll see how it turns out.

Is there anything you would like to add, this is the place to do it.
I would just like to encourage readers to adopt this make-shifter’s mind set and go out there and get creative. What could possibly ever be more fun?

Click here for James Ballou’s book Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival snd Self-Reliance

Click here to listen to a podcast interview with the author.



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]