Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bark Scorpions

With the rise of the warm weather, we've been horrified to find bark scorpions around the house. So far none have been discovered inside but there's no real way to keep them out. Undoubtedly there's at least one in here that we don't know about.

We've been besieged by bugs of all sorts lately, from flies and moths to scorpions. We've even seen a few roaches inside. There's hardly any way to keep them out of the house and with five children it's difficult to keep there from being waste food around at least some of the time.

Just something to worry about here in the desert, but I'm trying to trust here. Scorpions heeb me out beyond all measure.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

No More Dirty Hillbilly

The temperature soars up into triple digits for the past few days. We're dying in here. I think I actually was getting the beginnings of heat stroke earlier today.

I was short 4 windows in the upstairs loft and without those it was hotter than someone's attic up there. Last night we weren't even able to sleep up there and had  to come sleep downstairs. Now I've got all the windows cut out and installed but there's no breeze blowing so it's still hotter than blazes up there. It should cool off tonight though and then over the weekend the temperature is dropping to a breezy 95 degrees which will feel to us like a balmy day in Minnesota.

My wife had a great idea today that I'd simply never thought about. We have a water tower right outside the cabin where the 550 gallon tank sits elevated. It's on posts. Why not put up tarps or something and make it an outdoor shower?

So I did. I had some paneling and so I paneled in 3 sides and covered the 4th with a tarp. It's downright luxurious in there. My wife says it has spoiled her now and she'll never be happy with a smaller shower. The only problem is that it's open on the bottom so while you're showering the chickens come bother you and peck around your feet at the water. That's annoying but somewhat amusing to splash them.

Up to now we've been going up and renting a hotel room to use their bathing facilities every couple of weeks when we get too stinky. And of course when I travel for work I can clean up in the hotels I stay at. Pity the poor souls who get stuck next to me on an airplane before I've reached that hotel though.

It's somewhat wasteful of water, but we've all showered off and I can't really see that we've used more than a few gallons. Maybe if I planted a pecan tree downhill slightly of the shower then I wouldn't feel bad about that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DISCUSSION POINT: Survivalism as a Failure to Trust

First, let me point out that I have disabled the annoying word verification on commenting. It's a pain, as many of you have pointed out and I agree. I have not, however, decided to allow anonymous posting. There are still way too many people who like to snipe from cover. I'm sorry if you don't want to create an account to comment. You can always send private comments to me at miradus01 AT if you would like.

Ok, now on to the discussion point.

Survivalism as a Trust Failure in Specialization

Specialization is what differentiates human beings. There is also a substantial amount of trust involved in specialization as a society. I don't mean trust as in "I trust you with my money" but trust as in "I expect you to behave consistently."

In a complex society such as ours, we trust the farmer to grow grain and sell it to the miller, who we then trust to grind it and sell the flour to the baker. We trust that baker to bake us good bread and sell it to us. They trust that we will continue to be accountants and engineers and office workers and buy their bread.

We trust that they have not tried to pass poison off as bread. We trust that they won't suddenly stop doing these specializations and they trust that we won't suddenly quit our jobs and stop buying bread.

There are numerous safeguards built into this process to enforce this trust.

A survivalist-prepper could be considered someone who for whatever reason has STOPPED trusting in this complicated chain and decided to either buy a lot of bread ahead of time or to produce their own grain and process it into bread themselves.

A survivalist-prepper can be considered to be acting in their own self-interest and against the good of the entire group. They are not fulfilling their obligation to buy the bread. Or at least not buy the bread regularly.

However many survivalist-preppers became that way because of the many violations of trust those in the chain exhibited. The farmer grows bad grain, the miller grinds it poorly, the baker incorporates harmful non-bread ingredients, etc.

So which came first? The chicken or the egg? Do survivalist-preppers do what they do in order to avoid the trust issue altogether, or do they do what they do because of previously untrustworthy behavior on the part of the supply chain?

As always, I suspect the answers are varied and complex. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say.

Because We Let It

From the website ...

19 years since Waco - The prisons have swollen to the largest detention system since Stalin's gulags. The police conduct three thousand SWAT raids a month. The war on terror has made a total mockery of what remained of the Fourth Amendment. Torture has lost its taboo. So has indefinite detention. The feds irradiate and molest airline passengers by the millions. People are jailed for taking medicine, buying Sudafed, sharing songs, and selling milk.

Texas Dawn

While the Northeast grapples with a freak late snow, in Texas we've got it pretty good. The temperature dropped a few nights ago to a low of 39 F but it didn't disrupt anything. I didn't check the weather forecast ahead of time and the first I realized it was getting cold was when I woke up around 4am and had to hunt for some more wool blankets. They were at the foot of the bed and once I piled them back up around us, life was good again.

Out in the fields, the Spanish Dagger is blooming with its hanging buds and the Prickly Pear is putting forth beautiful yellow "roses". Our first fruit harvest on the new farm is coming up fast and it will be prickly pear. The harvest looks to be very bountiful. All I know how to do with that fruit is to make jam so it appears we'll be making a lot of it.

The garden is looking very puny this year. There's a lot of it, as I planted pretty heavily, but the carbon material I used for the raised beds is deficient in nitrogen and so the plants were very small and yellowish. I resorted to a chemical fertilizer (NPK for the win!) and that seems to have salvaged them, but can anything really make up for the deficiency during the early growth period? The plants are on the small side and are putting out blooms already. I tried pinching them back but they are very insistent. So the harvest may be on the small side.

We weren't really ready for the garden this first year anyway. Not in any sustainable way. We don't have the water for it this year. Until a pond is dug and filled by next winter's rain, water will continue to be a problem. The roof catchment is sufficient for our needs, but the garden requirements are almost double what we use. And a lot of the roof catchment was put in AFTER the heavy winter rains and we're now entering the dry season. So it's going to be a tough year.

Still, we yet live. Praise God.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Slow Rain

There's a gentle rain falling today. I've gotten the morning chores taken care of and now I'm laying down on the bed in the loft, listening to the rain pitter patter against the steel roof. Every drop is draining off into the collection tank for later use. We've got enough power left in the batteries right now to run a light on the chickens and to keep my wife's laptop going so the kids can watch a movie or two today. There's nothing much else we can do.

It seems all things today are being attended to by God. We're collecting rainwater (we were getting low too), the garden is being watered, if the rain lasts long enough the creek may refill, and after I finish some cocoa here shortly I'm considering taking a nice long nap to make up for the sleep I've lost this past week.

Life is good. Praise God!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Night Vigil - Fight On!

The soldier who has not yet tasted his own blood or heard his own cries of agony may look forward to the battle. He may yet boast of the glory he will attain in vanquishing his foe. Yet under the horror of the bombardment or the terror of the trenches he will yet find that reserve of courage rapidly depleted, so lost to him that he will wonder that he ever had it at all.

We are all Christian soldiers in the trenches. A great war is being fought in your hearts and souls right now. Satan whispers in our ears to turn us aside from the path. Take heart! If you are awake at this late hour then know you are not alone. The enemy and his minions labor long into the night to turn your heart or at least weaken your resolve. Why have they singled you out? Why are you the chosen to be tormented at this particular time?

Perhaps the enemy senses in you the potential that you cannot see yourself. The enemy has seen many a Gideon, or Elijah, or Moses in his day and may recognize some of those aspects in you. If in knowing that someday a hero might be raised who would do great works against him, would any earthly general not bend all of his will towards thwarting his foe?

If you feel the weight of temptation, past sins, or a thousand demons pressing down on you tonight then speak the name of Jesus and watch them flee. God calls you to prayer. The war is not lost and your strength has yet to be measured. You have an endless reserve to draw upon in Jesus. It is there and waiting for you but to ask.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Shape is Your Bible in?

Someone remarked today on the totally worn-out condition of my bible. The cover is scarred and torn. Pages are folded and creased and some have been accidentally torn out and then hastily inserted back in roughly where they belong. Quite often the reader of my bible would come across pages that have been stained by some food or drink I was consuming, the victim of a spill at some restaurant where I dined alone with only my bible for company.

I like my bible though and it is not ready for retirement.

Contrast this with the Christian whose bible sits in a place of honor on the shelf in their library, its cover never creased, its pages never folded, its contents never perused.

Which bible would bear more fruit in the life of the owner?

A Friend is Coming

If a friend arrived unexpected it would take you time to prepare. You would have to put on your shoes, maybe change clothes, and prepare them some food. You didn't know they were coming and so it took you time to prepare.

In the life of the prayerful Christian, Jesus is always coming. Every day. His spirit fills the room where the saint prays unceasingly. The prayerful Christian is not surprised by His arrival and presence and needs no time to prepare. The prayerful Christian is immediately ready to receive instruction.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Obligations to the World

As Christians, what exactly are our obligations to the outside world? Must we change it? Must we pound our heads against the wall repeatedly?

Recently I observed the castigation of a person whose belief in tyranny has been on display for years. In every forum post this person has advocated for tyranny and denigrated those who spoke against it. Yet when this person finally comes forth and speaks their mind in a clear pro-tyranny statement, the hue and cry was sounded and the community rallied against them.

I can barely change myself, and only that with the grace and ever-present patience and compassion of God. Why would I presume to change someone else's mind?

(Exo 14:17) And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

God has hardened the hearts of many and it is beyond us to change them. I do not know why He has done this, but it clearly is to their own destruction and to his glory. When we meet these people, what obligation do we have to try and change their hearts?

This I don't know and can provide no answers for you. Perhaps you have some for me. At this point, I retire to my book ("Christian Disciplines"by Oswald Chambers) and leave the world to its own devices.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Off Grid Chicken Brooding

About a week ago I picked up some chicks at the local feed store. They looked to be about a week old. I grabbed the usual brooder lamp and 250 watt bulb and came home.

After setting them up to brood and putting the light on we discovered a problem. Our battery system is not working very well. During the day we have more than enough power coming in with the solar array, but once the sun drops below the horizon then we're on batteries.

Now three deep cycle batteries at 115 amp hours each is SUPPOSED to provide us roughly 2080 watt hours of usage before the batteries are drained to 50% and our inverter shuts off. However running a 250 watt bulb for 3 hours shuts down the power system with the batteries falling below the critical threshold.

As best I can figure, we damaged these batteries early on in the process when we were still using them in the RV and charging them with the generator. So new batteries have been budgeted for and we're stepping up the storage side of the system.

But back to the chicks ... we can't put a light on them all night long when it's coldest.

The first night or two I set an alarm and went out and ran the generator to recharge the batteries for them. Clearly that wasn't going to work. So finally we dropped down to a 60 watt bulb and they survived that, but it STILL drains the batteries in about 3-4 hours. There's a real problem there.

So I asked myself ... how did they do it in the old days? I think the preferable method would be for a mother hen to raise her own dang babies, but without that available to them, how did the off-grid pioneers do it?

Luckily I had the all-knowing internet at my disposal. A quick search indicated that many other people have overcame this obstacle.

We heated two milk jugs full of near-boiling water and then covered them with towels, placing them in the brooder box with the babies. Around midnight or so the light will cut off but the bottles emit heat until early morning (around 7am we're waking up now). The baby chicks burrow up under the towel to snuggle with the jug like it's a momma hen. So far after a little over a week, our chicks are all still alive.

The temperature dropped back down from the high 60's last night to about 51 degrees F, but the chicks still survived next to their jug-o-warmth. They're feathering out nicely and I suspect it's just going to be easier and easier from here on out.

So there's your off-grid solution to raising chicks ... tried and tested.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On Prayer

There are days in which we have no heart for battle. When we can no longer bear the prattle of slaves trying to convince us that their chains are comfortable. Or when we can no longer suffer the voice of the taskmasters telling us to make bricks when straw has not been provided.

These are dark days and it seems like everything slips from our grasp.

My advice?

Let it go.

My good friend Timothy, when I would worry or fret about something aloud, would often ask: "Do you have a little god or a Big God?"

It's easy to say we have a Big God, but do we believe it in our hearts? Do we trust in Him completely to get us through the dark times?

I often fail at this. Here in the early hours of the morning I'm awake, worrying about the farm, the rain (which we haven't gotten), where my future income is going to come from, and every other little piddly thing which seemed to creep up around me in the night. Beset with worries, I turn to God and ask that these all be taken from me. I turn these concerns over to Him.

This is difficult to do. We are separated from God by our sin. Even though Jesus has paid the price for those sins, they haunt us and diminish us. Whether we are or not, they make us feel unworthy of God's attention.

In this theological dark age where the world abounds with bad doctrine, learning how to pray is a muddy enterprise at best. I've never been taught properly, so I do what I know. I get down on my knees and I earnestly plead with God. As if He is right there with me, because surely He is.

In the churches I attended they always stressed a proper way to pray and specific words to say. As if the summoning of God was some magical spell or incantation that would only happen if you said the words properly.

If your child came to you in pain from some hurt or injury he or she had suffered, would you not attend to them? Would you not show concern? You might compassionately rebuke them for playing in the rocks where they have been warned not to go, or you might just hold and comfort them until they feel better.

God is our heavenly father, as Jesus cried "Abba!" Mark 14:36 showed us how to pray. Do not be afraid to ask things from your Father. He knows your need and will not withhold from you those things that are good for you. Would you starve your children? Would you punish them when they had done no wrong? Neither would your heavenly Father.

It is time that we learn to pray as Jesus did. Crying out "Father!" and laying out our needs and desires before He who can do all things. Yet always remembering that it is not our will that matters but His.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fatty Fatty Potato Face

For my 401st post I wish I had something enlightening or at least entertaining to say, but alas, I do not.

Why? Because I am stuffed to the gills full of fried potatoes and sauerkraut. There was some bratwurst in there as well but I only recall eating my way through a giant mountain of my two favorite foods ... taters and cabbage.

Woe is me. I shall pay for all of that deliciousness with an upset tummy for the rest of the evening.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Who Owns Your Birthright?

In Genesis 25 we are shown the tale of Jacob and Esau. This is a story that I've struggled with from time to time and always disregarded, mostly because I didn't understand it. However the Lord has granted me a little bit of understanding on this tonight and I wanted to share it with you.

Jacob was a man of pastoral concerns and Esau was a hunter and master of the open country. One day Esau returned from an apparently unsuccessful hunt and was hungry. He approached Jacob who was cooking a stew and asked for some. Jacob, who from my reading comes across as a bit of a jerk to his older brother, told him that in order to get some stew he had to give up his birthright.

Now if you want to know more you can read Genesis 25:27-34, but I would like to discuss a point here.

Did Esau truly believe he had a birthright? Perhaps he did not and this was why he played along with Jacob and did truly end up losing it.

Is this the lesson? Do we have a birthright that we truly don't believe in? Have we sold it without realizing it? Did we falsely believe our birthright is completely secure and can never be taken away from us?

Is the world trying to buy your birthright each and every day? Will you be like Esau and sell it for the temporary pleasures of the flesh?

I think in the story of Jacob and Esau there are probably MANY lessons, as in all of the rest of the bible, but this is the one I'm pondering tonight.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stray Dogs

This morning I was awakened at 6am by my wife who pointed out there was a strange dog on the property. I asked how in the heck she knew and she said she could hear it barking up close. My ear is not tuned to such things at 6am, apparently.

Sure enough, when I went outside I saw two strange dogs who were barking in response to my own dog. Both strays were sniffing around the chicken coop in an apparent attempt to get inside.

They took off as soon as I got off the porch and came around to where I could shoot them and it was too dark to attempt a long-range shot. One was a big white dog and the other a big black one.

The white one has been here before and never caused trouble on his own. He just likes to wander about the countryside. I see him on other people's porches up and down the road occasionally, playing with their dogs. I've shot over his head on multiple occasions to scare him away but it looks like he's determined to return and this time he brought a troublemaker friend.

This is an agricultural area. Most people up and down this road have chickens, cows, or horses. Why do others insist on letting their dogs run free? It's just going to have a bad ending.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Light Days Behind

As you may have noticed, I haven't been posting much the past week. We've been entertaining guests and my time has been limited.

Our guests are a musical family who travel the nation playing Gospel and Bluegrass. Awhile back they received the call from God to sell their home, buy a bus and put their trust in the Lord as to where their next meal comes from. They are the Amber Waves Band and I highly recommend you check them out.

They stayed for a week, pulled off some repairs and modification to their family bus, and then left again to follow God's call. We are saddened to see them go but as a Christian I entirely understand. One must go where God leads you. We hope to see them again soon but until then, they are in our prayers.

So now things are getting back to normal around here and I'll resume my posting. I've got a lot to talk about, from Frank the Pig's growing appetite to the planned restart of my beekeeping empire to the expansion of my knife shop.