Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gone to the Dogs

People who dump dogs and then leave them in a remote rural wilderness to starve to death, be ripped apart by coyotes, run over, or (at best) to survive long enough to go feral ... these people should be dragged out of their homes and horsewhipped out of town.

This evening late I found a half-starved young pup of maybe 2 months old. Hard to tell how old he is exactly but he's in that gangly puppy stage. You know, just when they stop being such a cute puppy and start looking like a goofy dog. Giant paws, long legs and big ears. For many people that's prime dumping age.

He has been living in a culvert up the road from our house. He looks like he's been out there for maybe a week or so but that's hard to tell. For all I know he was starved before he was dumped. I don't know where he's been getting water. The creek that culvert serves has been dry for a month and the nearest pond is about a half-mile away from where I found him. Might be some stagnant pools up under the road or something. I'm not sure.

He came right to me when I called to him, dragging himself along and wagging his little tail. In the truck he promptly fell asleep in the lap. No growling or biting at all. He ate a little bit of dog food with a fresh egg cracked over it and drank a lot of water, then went to sleep again. He perked up a little bit when the kids came out to meet him. He's known kids before. He went nuts when he saw them. The good kind of nuts where the dog rolls over and over on your feet wanting to be pet. The cats then came out and one by one they introduced him to the Claw of Discipline. Just a few boundary-setting nose swats to let the puppy know where he stands in the household.

He doesn't like Sam the Farm Dog though. He growled and snarled and freaked out in terror at poor Sam's approach. Sam's quite happy to have a new friend but the puppy may have been ran off from one of the nearby ranches where they keep big dogs. That may have been what forced him to retreat into that culvert.

So we have a new dog now. Sam has a friend (once they get used to it) and we'll see how this works. We haven't had a lot of luck with dogs in the past two years. Still, this little guy's luck improved about 300% when he stuck his head up out of the culvert as I drove by. I may try to find him another farm home here in the community or we may end up keeping him.

Friday, June 29, 2012

My Thoughts on Obamacare

A lot of hubbub about this latest Supreme Court ruling. I'm trying to comprehend how this is going to impact me in my new life but I'll post my initial thoughts on this.

I'm reminded directly of the part in Exodus where the pharoah tells the Israelites that henceforth they must make bricks without straw. They would have to gather their own straw to make the bricks, therefore working much harder and having no time for the worship of their God, or so the pharaoah thought.

The Israelites complained that every time Moses and Aaron went before the pharoah to petition on their behalf that things got worse.

Moses spoke of this to God and God answered that the pharoah himself would soon drive the Israelites out of Egypt in order to save himself from what God was going to visit upon him.

Being denied straw to make bricks will only impact you if you're planning on continuing to make bricks. If your plan is to follow God's call into the wilderness then what do you care what pharoah says?

There may very well be religious exemptions in Obamacare for the Amish or people who live in similar fashion. The only thing I've seen on that so far is if you're a member of a "recognized religious sect". Well, that's not constitutional either as it sets up specific religious movements as "state sponsored".

I do not believe in insurance. It is demonstrating a lack of faith in God's providence and specifically denying Him the ability to work in your life. I do not carry property insurance and only vehicle liability as required by the law. At worst I could cease to drive and therefore not have to carry the vehicle liability.

But how do I cease to live? Can I surrender my American citizenship and therefore be exempt from this without being evicted from our borders?

So I will have to pay the fine or go to jail. Either way the government has placed a lien on my labors. I must now raise an animal to pay the fine for each of us in my household, or set aside a special week to make knives specifically to pay these fines (and even then I still have to manage to SELL them). Will the government accept payment in vegetables, fruits, meat, or knives? I don't think so.

I have been enslaved to a small degree and I do not believe there is any small degree of slavery that can be withstood. We now all chop cotton for at least a limited amount of time on Uncle Sam's plantation.

I think before too long we will discover that the $300 (or whatever it costs) we will be fined will go to provide healthcare for others, primarily abortions. Will they set aside a special abortion-free fund to deal with those of us who have religious objections to abortion (just call it a conscience against murdering babies for the sake of truth)? In no way could I stand for my labors, however small, going to murder babies.

So am I in fact just waiting to go to jail? How long am I going to be required to stay in jail each year in exchange for not paying the fine? Two days? A week? Or will I be put there indefinitely until I cough up the cash?

These questions are all on my mind, but only to a small degree. God is still sovereign and I pray that He rains down such mnisfortune and woe upon these people that they will BEG me and others like me to take whatever exemptions they offer on whatever terms I see fit.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Out of a thorny patch of agarita bushes a hen came, trailing a small brood of four chicks. She's been missing since the night of the big windstorm and we thought she was lost forever, a victim of hungry coyotes or something.

Nope. She's been sitting on a nest somewhere, probably in that same patch of bushes. It's a dense pile of scrub not 20 yards from the house where she's undoubtedly been all this time. When she's in there you can't hardly see her, even though she is light cream-colored. It's very dense and thorny.

Our other broody hen is about a week late from hatching and is probably sitting on a clutch of bad eggs. I'm not sure what that deal was but we're on about day 27 and still no sign of chicks from her. This other batch is just a bonus brood.

In all of our years of raising chickens we've never had a successful brood. Something bad always happened to them. They've never gotten to this state. This is a first and a blessing from God.

I have decided not to intervene in this. I could not build her a shelter as safe and secure as the thorny patch she's found for herself and strangely enough, here in the wilderness hinterland we do not have the predator problems with chickens that we did up in Illinois in what was little more than a countrified suburb. We've put down some water and food for her and her brood and she's directing her little babies to eat. My biggest concern is that they might not find water that's easy for them to drink out of so we took the waterer from our old brooder box and put that out for them. It's small and other chickens will drink out of it so we'll have to refill it a half-dozen times per day. A pain.

Anyway, I'm thrilled beyond belief at this development. What a blessing from God!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Boots Acquired, Old Boots Retired

For 8 years now I've worn the same pair of boots every day. They've been splashed by the Pacific and the Atlantic. They've been in Canadian snow and Texas desert. They are very good boots.

But at this point you can see how clean my socks are while I'm wearing them and the leather has worn through in several places. There's no fixing that. They are done.

So I went and bought a new pair of boots today. I almost fell over at the price. A good pair of Redwing work boots is insane. And will they last 8 years like my other pair did? I doubt it.

My feet hurt from breaking in new boots. Bleh. I hate new boots.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Even the Technology People

I was speaking via email with a cellphone carrier rep regarding an issue I am having with a 3G modem and the lack of a signal for his service in my area.

He advised that I could get a network extender if I had cable broadband.

I patiently explained that we are "off grid", have no cable broadband (nor can we get it), and only have limited power generation capabilities and so my best option is to get this 3G hotspot thing working if I wish to continue to have internet.

His response to the off-grid statement ... "I envy you."

I get this a lot, and I don't understand it.

It would be like me eating a ham and cheese sandwich and someone approaching me and saying that they envy me. "Oh?" I would reply. "Go make you a ham and cheese sandwich. Want me to tell you how?"

In Galatians 5:25 we are told, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

If you SEE the benefits of an off-grid lifestyle (and they are many) and can acknowledge the better living of such then why would you not proceed with all haste to obtain it for yourself and your family?

I can understand why someone who doesn't understand it would hesitate. If I wasn't sure I liked ham and cheese sandwiches I might not rush to make myself one. That only makes sense. I might try a bite of someone else's ham and cheese sandwich first to see if I liked it before going headlong into the big commitment of making myself one.

What I can't understand is the many people who would acknowledge it as the superior way would then still refuse to obtain it for themselves. I've heard a host of excuses in the past six months:

"I'm too old."

"I don't have the money."

"I'd lose my job" (Always amusing to see this breakdown in logic ... you're too afraid to free yourself from the tyranny of wage slavery because you might not have the wage slavery to fall back on.)

Or my alltime personal favorite, "My wife would never go for it."

That one tends to provoke deep belly laughs until the tears roll from my eyes. Fellas, let me explain something ... your wife is probably tougher than you are and in order to have a healthier, happier, more centered family life which she has always dreamed about would endure cold, heat, and handwashing your dirty, skidmarked drawers if only you could pry yourself away from the televised football game long enough to discuss it with her.

Going off-grid is as easy as falling off a log. I have made it a complicated process, but it doesn't have to be. I know people who just did it, living in a tent or a van until they acquired what they needed. I know and deeply admire a family that lives in an old shipping crate through the hot Texas summers in order to live the lifestyle they know to be superior. There are many points along the sliding scale at which you can embark on this lifestyle, if you should only decide to actually do so.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lost in Time

As you've probably noticed lately, there's been a shortage of posts.

I haven't had much to talk about. Work is progressing along, albeit slowly, on the workshop. We're enjoying daily swims in the pond to cool off and I'm worrying about a hen who is sitting broody on a nest for what seems to be about a week longer than she should have been.

Other than that, this is normal living.

Theologically speaking I've reached a point where I don't have much to say. My understanding of things, as it deepens, just seems to lend itself more to quietness than speaking. There can be no good outcome of my attempting to educate the masses on religious matters. Either I'm wrong and when I realize it will feel like a fool, or I'll be right and draw the ire and rage of others and convince nobody. You could take one copy of every theological book written by the giants (Spurgeon, Bunyan, Owens, etc.) and I could build a fine workshop out of the all of the bound copies. Yet people still insist on bad theology, bad beliefs, bad actions, and bad thought. If they didn't listen to those theologians who knew more, could write better, and seem ordained by God to do so ... why would I be so vain as to think any of them will listen to me?

So I keep on keeping on. We're doing well where we're at. I have neighbors of all stripes and I seem to be getting on well with them. We've found our place in the world and a lot of the infrastructure we need for future years is being solidified and shored up this year. Not bad for the first 6 months, I say.

Praise God!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Workshop Update - Foundation Down

Ok, the new workshop has been sized out and begun. I only had a 100 earthbags and I thought that they'd go a little further, but they do not. With the size of the workshop, these bags are about 2 layers for every 100 bags. I ordered some more and they'll be here tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to take the rest of the day and tomorrow morning to rest. This is extremely difficult work and very labor intensive. Each bag is about 40 pounds and right now with only one wheelbarrow I'm having to carry them too far (80 feet from where they get filled).

So when the rest of my bags get here on Friday then we'll think of ways to refine the process. If I buy another wheelbarrow then we can have one kid filling the wheelbarrow down at the dirtpile, another kid filling the bags up at the construction site, and all I would probably have to do is move the full wheelbarrow into place and lift the bags up into place on the walls. Sounds like a much easier process. Yesterday we moved about 60 bags and I dang near killed myself. I'm estimating about a 1000 bags right now to complete the workshop structure and I can't be limited to 60 bags per day. That would take forever and the house would take 2 years to complete.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Setbacks will occur.

Last night a thunderstorm brought in a sustained 40 mph wind. Did I mention before that it never just gently rains around here? Every storm must be accompanied with major drama. This one was no exception.

The wind came from the west, which was somewhat unusual and it caught the front of the powerhouse and workshop and tore the posts straight out of the ground. The ground was still saturated from the rains the other day and the soggy clay just couldn't hold those posts in. Both buildings flipped over. The workshop was entirely demolished as it lost structural integrity. The powerhouse stayed together in one shaky piece but much of the equipment inside was damaged or destroyed.

I spent today salvaging what I could out of the powerhouse and trying to get the 24 volt system back online. No success. 3 of the 4 solar panels are destroyed, 1 possibly repairable. Only one panel is functional right now. The inverter, inarguably the most expensive piece of equipment in our entire system, was either damaged by the rough treatment or the water that got into it while it was exposed to the elements. I dried it out as best I could and gave it a test run today but that didn't work out too well. Smelled like something was burning inside so I think the whole system is shorted out.

So combined damaged total so far is about $1000 worth of solar panels and however much it will cost to get the inverter repaired. I'll call Magnum tomorrow and get some more info on that. The batteries are ok I think. They're reading at 24.6 volts after I linked them all back up and not too much acid escaped from the couple that were turned over. The only problem is that I do not have an inverter that will run the 24 volt system. I only have a 12 volt inverter. I'm not even sure where to GET an inverter that will run 24 volts other than these expensive ones.

So right now we're back to running the generator and charging up 12 volt batteries. The fridge is the main usage there so we moved everything out of there and back into an ice chest. I guess I'll still have to drive to town to get a cup of ice if I want something really cold.

They sell cheapo 24 volt inverters and I could get one delivered pretty easily by tomorrow. I could certainly use a spare one, just like I have a couple of spare 12 volters.

We thank the Lord that nobody was hurt in the windstorm and that nothing of any real importance was damaged. Our garden is more important, our chickens are more important, and our pig is more important. Nothing in our house needs electricity and we can wait to budget in these repairs at our own convenience.

I guess tomorrow I need to get to work on the new workshop!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Garden Pests

To call hornworms, locusts, and squash borers pests is sort of an understatement when you garden for survival. They kill the plants upon which you are depending for food and leave you with nothing.

There are lots of commercial, industrial chemicals (poisons) that you can spray. I'm trying to find other ways. Even if we wanted to eat poisons on our food (we don't) then we can't rely on those chemicals in a post-collapse situation. So the need is to learn other methods now while you have the opportunity.

Companion planting and DE seem to be good ways, though the DE is somewhat iffy. I don't have a supply of it ready to hand. I think in the long run, good healthy soil and big healthy plants is going to be the key. I believe that plant disease and pests are the same as human disease and pests ... in a healthy clean environment they simply do not thrive. I don't have to spray myself down with chemicals everyday to keep the ticks and fleas at bay, so why should I have to do so for my plants?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Business Opportunity

I'd like for y'all to pray for me to find a little wisdom and guidance here.

A business opportunity has presented itself and it's something outside of anything else I've ever done. Also something I've never much thought about before. A man I know runs a farm construction business and he knows where we could pick up an extra tractor with a blade and a backhoe for cheap. It needs some engine work which he could do fairly easily and it isn't very expensive. I could pay for it probably in the next couple of weeks.

The problem is that I don't know anything about heavy equipment at all. Not how to operate it or how to maintain it. No problem, my friend says. He says he has to turn down so much work because it's a two man operation and he's only one man. And there's a lot of jobs that only require a backhoe and he could just turn those over to me. He has more work than he can do already and he's fairly old and would like to slow down a little.

This is farm and ranch work, not roadwork. I would be my own boss with my own equipment and not someone's employee. It wouldn't take much time away from the farm and could provide a decent income that augments all my other revenue streams.

I'm trying real hard to see if this is an opportunity the Lord wants me to pursue and has put in front of me for that purpose. It's a strange, out-of-the-blue thing so I'm really puzzled. It's not something I ever thought about doing but then suddenly the opportunity to do it and a ready guide on the how-to has shown up in my lap.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Deer and Ponds

Doing some research today I've come to one conclusion ... pond management is difficult. What type of fish to stock for what size pond and what will or won't breed, etc. Very complicated. At only 0.6 acres, our pond isn't exactly going to be a thriving wildlife habitat but there ought to be some fish in there. We could put catfish in there but they don't breed on their own, so the book says. It would be like keeping rabbits. I'm not sure that's a bad deal but I don't know how much it costs. Clearly a lot of research is going to need to be done.

On the bright side, if I do nothing then it will sort of naturally become an ecosystem, it just takes much longer. I'm always in favor of doing nothing.

What does this have to do with deer? Nothing, but apparently a deer ate some of my okra plants.

Good news!

It rained like crazy. According to the weather chart (I don't have a rain gauge), we got about 2.5 inches.

The pond is nearly full now. The creek flowed like crazy and filled it up in the middle of the night. Unfortunately so did the root cellar. There's about a 4" of water down there. And exactly what I was afraid of happening down there, happened. One end of the main beam where it was resting on cinder blocks shifted slightly. The cinder block had a lot of weight on it, apparently, and when the ground got soaked it sank down. So now we're going to have to pull that dirt off the top of there and redesign this somehow. I'm thinking maybe cinderblocks and some posts set in concrete would work. I didn't account for the squishiness of the mud when it got that wet. Ah well.

The garden is looking pretty good but something tore up my watermelon plants. I had a bunch of baby melons out there and now they're all disconnected from the vines. I don't know what could have done that but I guess it's time to start considering the fencing around there with a lot more seriousness. I've been holding off on that fencing because I didn't really know how much I wanted to expand the garden area. Now that my water problems are solved for the year (to the tune of about 1.45 MILLION gallons of water) I simply have to decide what is going to grow where.

Things are good here as we go into the weekend! I've got a custom order to work on over the weekend that will do me pretty well and a shipment of these smallish-type bowie knives that came in. They're nice working knives and I'm excited to see what I can do with them.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What's on your plate today?

I've got a few things to do but today and this weekend are looking pretty good for me. I've got a set of custom knives to finish and then I may get to work on the new workshop some. We're supposed to be getting a ton of rain. Praise God but I hope that is so. We could use it. I'd happily sit inside all day and work on my bible studies (or nap). The cabin is a pretty comfortable place when the temperature is good and the rain is beating down on the roof.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Knife Auction

There's an auction going on for one of my knives over at Michael Bunker's blog.

I was very pleased to make this knife at his commission. Only 3 exist in the world and I believe this one is the last one actually up for sale.

If you're interested in it then check out his blog (which you ought to do anyway) and follow the instructions on making a bid. All of the proceeds support his ministry and I don't have a hand in it. I'm just pleased to see one of my knives supporting such a thing.

From John Owen and "Mortification of Sin" ...

"Now, as you may see in a garden, let there be a precious herb
   planted, and let the ground be untilled, and weeds grow about it,
   perhaps it will live still, but be a poor, withering, unuseful thing.
   You must look and search for it, and sometimes can scarce find it; and
   when you do, you can scarce know it, whether it be the plant you look
   for or no; and suppose it be, you can make no use of it at all. When,
   let another of the same kind be set in the ground, naturally as barren
   and bad as the other, but let it be well weeded, and every thing that
   is noxious and hurtful removed from it, -- it flourishes and thrives;
   you may see it at first look into the garden, and have it for your use
   when you please. So it is with the graces of the Spirit that are
   planted in our hearts.

How is the garden of your soul today? Does it need weeding? Mine does. Little weeds and sprouts of anger, lust, vainglory, and sloth are constantly popping up. I pull them as fast as I can but then I turn around and discover that a neglected weed has taken root and grown immense, shading out the good!

It is the principle work of our lives to weed this garden. More important than eating, then tending to our jobs, or resting. It is constant duty all of our waking hours.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In Defense of Eating Better Food

I have posted a lot lately on fermented foods. In fact, if one were to look at the history of my writings one might find quite a bit of commentary on food. One might get the mistaken impression that I am some sort of foodie or gourmet.

I am not.

What I am is a Christian who is engaged in strenuous labors. It is God's will that we take dominion over the earth and work the soil. This is taxing on the body and mortifies the flesh while it improves the spirit. One needs proper nourishment to undertake these labors and that is what God provided for us in the beginning.

However Satan attacks the believer in three ways: the will, the spirit, and the body.

It is the body we will principally deal with in this discussion.

I recently had a discussion with someone in which I pointed out that I do not make covenants with unbelievers (and specifically corporations in the context of that discussion). They said they do not either but not for biblical reasons ... they refrain from such covenants because those corporations do bad and evil things to you.

These arguments are two sides of the same coin. They are unbelievers and THEREFORE they will do bad and evil things to you.

The government and the corporate food machine are unbelievers. Despite the fact that there may be many true Christians (however misguided) within that machine, their organizational DNA is that of an unbeliever. Does a corporation have a soul? A conscience? One must argue that they do not. Anyone with a soul and a conscience will eventually leave such a contrived entity and therefore leave it just that much more empty and soulless.

Through these entities Satan will attempt to attack the body of the believer. They will sicken you and leave you ailing so that it is difficult or impossible to do God's will. They will distract you with health and body issues so that you cannot attend to the duties of the spirit OR your earthly labors.

It is a principle of good food that it tastes better. The Christian agrarian's desire to eat good food can easily be mistaken for gluttony, but it is not. It is a desire to eat that which is God's natural provender for us, free from manipulation and perversion. God knows what we need to eat in order to sustain our earthly health and labor and He has imbedded a desire for those good foods in our flesh that we might seek them out.

Eat better, live better, serve God better.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Fermenting Idiot

I'm not really following recipes anymore for my fermenting food. The pickles we made were super spicy but probably the best pickles I've ever had. I wonder how much more flavor they'd have had after longer than three days. I may have to hide a jar somewhere to find out.

Thanks for an ongoing food swap with my neighbor (eggs for veggies), I've been overrun with squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. So this morning we did a massive effort and filled every spare jar we had in the house. Assuming that we can use 1 quart of pickled veggies as a side dish at meals, that's about 18 meals where we'll have some veggies to eat.  The two jars of salsa don't count as they'll go fast on their own.

The recipes mostly just call for brine in these but I'm using a little bit of whey and apple cider vinegar mother in order to give them a big headstart. I love the flavor of the vinegar so it's a plus.

I like having fully prepared side dishes for 18 meals set aside. It took about an hour and a half to do that. Very time efficient. In addition, the fermentation adds extremely beneficial bacteria to our diets and helps heal and improve our digestion. We've eaten so much industrial food over the past few months that it has corrupted just about all of us. And finally, this process loses almost no nutrients as opposed to heat canning. The food will last a very long time (longer than we'll end up keeping it for) and is extra healthy and delicious.

We are so blessed that a neighbor turned us on to this fermenting method and sent us home with some jars so we could all try it. Praise God as we learn the old ways and live a healthier and simpler life.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


These are my special fermented garlic pickles. Supposed to keep them fermenting for a week but they don't seem to last longer than 3 days. At that point we can't wait any longer and eat up the whole jar.

That batch has garlic, onions, and serrano peppers. Spicy, pungent, and delicious! Like me. :)

Vaquero Bolo Knife

This one came out pretty good. Working with this extinct pine is brutal. It takes TWO sander belts to shape the handle down. The resin is very thick in the woodgrain and has dried in the West Texas desert sun for over a hundred years.

It's also nerve wracking to carve into. This may very well be the last board of this species of pine on the planet and my meager hands are going to work with it? That's like handing the Hope diamond to a novice diamond-cutter. Still, in this knife I am well-pleased. It turned out pretty close to what I wanted in my mind.

Growing Resemblance

Hrm. My wife thinks there is a growing resemblance between me and Pa Bear. I think she's gone plum' crazy. Mutter grumble mutter mutter.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Need More Tomatoes!

My family can apparently polish off THREE QUARTS of my special fermented salsa (even the spicy jar I reserve for my private vintage) in one sitting.

Clearly I needed to plant a lot more tomato plants.

Why Morgan Freeman?

In a lot of movies lately they've had Morgan Freeman playing God.


Why not R. Lee Ermey?

Saturday Picture Day

It being hot and me being worn out, I'm going to take it easy today. I walked around and snapped some photos and I'll share those with you, but that's about as much thought as I'm willing to put into anything on such a day. I'm sitting here in my workshop in front of the fan and sipping iced tea at 10am. I expect a call from the president soon wondering why I'm not contributing to the GDP today.

 We've gone crazy with the fermenting foods. We've had success with salsa so far and now we're trying cucumbers to make pickles and a cucumber relish. I didn't follow the recipe exactly (was missing some ingredients) so I added extra apple cider vinegar mother in order to (hopefully) compensate.

 I didn't get down here in time to grow garlic of my own, but a neighbor has some really great stuff for sale. We'll use some of this and save back cloves to plant in the fall. It's a heirloom variety that does well down here. The cloves are small but extremely pungent. Eating one is a manly act.

 These are the tomato plants that suffer from neglect and lack of water. I moved them up to the back porch thinking we'd see them more often and water them but, alas, now we just ignore them more closely.

 The unfinished root cellar. I need to spread the dirt more evenly now and across the front as well as put a door on it.

The big hole where our home is going to be. 60' X 40', we're going to be living in a mansion. We're still working up floor plans but I've got some of the earthbags in to do a test run for my workshop. A good floorplan will be critical for an earthbag home this big. With properly spaced interior walls I won't have to buttress the outer walls and the crossbeams will be properly supported (every wall will be loadbearing). But I also have to arrange it so that the main living areas will have natural light in some way or our partially underground and earthbermed home will be like living in the land of the Mole People.

 Giant pile of building material. We got it cheap. It's part of what came out of that big hole in the previous photo.

 I'm slowly (when I feel like it) gathering up rocks and starting to line the paths between where the new house will be and the workshop and bathhouse.

 Future site of the Possum Creek Knifeworks workshop. It will be about 18' X 15' and sandwiched in between these trees. Made from earthbags, of course. We're building it first to iron out any flaws in the earthbag construction process.

 My private contemplation area. It overlooks the fields, mesquite groves, and gardens and there are beautiful flowers blooming all around me while I sit and reflect upon the world. (Home Depot, I expect a check in the mail since I'm advertising your buckets.)

 The drip irrigation system (and Sam the sneaky camera-hound). It's really picked up this part of the garden. Each bed with a completed irrigation system gets about 10 gallons of "waste" water per day. That's dishwater, handwashing water, and occasionally someone's bathwater. A septic system is a criminal waste of resources on an off-grid homestead.

 Cantaloupes growing like crazy in the "back to eden" beds. I haven't figured out a way to build a drip irrigation system in the sprawling spirals in the eden beds but the plants I have growing there don't seem to need much water. They're going like gangbusters.

 Watermelons in the eden beds.

 3 of the 4 bee colonies I installed earlier are doing well. This one appears to have absorbed many of the bees from another colony though and that smaller one isn't thriving. Still, there's workers and a laying queen in there so they may pull through. Either way, I'm thrilled to be a beekeeper again and I'm hoping that these guys survive.

 At the bottom of our 10" deep pond is a 4" deep hole carved out of the quartzite. We tried to get through that rock layer to dig the pond out deeper but without success. The quartzite is one solid layer and extends down maybe 30 feet or so. It's metamorphic and non-porous so it holds water very well. It's almost like we have a giant stone reservoir instead of a pond. Incidentally, the guy who dug out the pond pointed out the value of this type of rock and its proximity to the surface. Between the sandstone boulders and layer of quartzite, there are a lot of companies that would love to buy up this property and use it for construction and decorative stone mining. Something to keep in mind if we ever get driven out somehow, but for now I'm more concerned about the first foot or two of topsoil and how to get it more fertile.

 The view from the pond back towards the cabin. At some point I hope that our home will start looking more like a homestead and less like a military encampment but we love it here and for our 6 month mark I'm amazed at what God has helped us to accomplish.

 Buttercup, one of our hens, has decided to go broody. She's sat on a pile of 10 eggs since the 27th so far and aggressively defends her spot against all other hens (and me). Anyone attempting to dislodge her gets a serious pecking. We'll see if she manages to hatch out any young. I keep wanting to interfere but I need to have faith in God that He endowed Buttercup with enough natural instincts here.

The workshop bench needs a serious cleaning. I didn't put any knives under glue today so I guess cleaning will have to suffice. It's an easy task to accomplish.

Well, that's the farm! We're still here on the land and thriving. I've got some fermented salsa that can be eaten today so I'll have to run into town for some corn chips. We can go through a quart of good fermented salsa in an afternoon so the three jars I have won't go very far. Need to make some more but I'm almost out of salt. When I get some more salt I'll get back to work on pickling some zucchini and making more salsa. It's a family affair and everyone has a role in the food preservation. It's a fun time.

Root Cellar Addendum

An email was passed along to me and I don't have a return address so I'll answer here. Maybe the answer is helpful to others.

The root cellar beams are not nailed to each other. They were lain down with 5" overlap on the center beam and an 18" overlap on the outside intentionally. Then 3 tons of dirt was laid over the top of them providing pressure downwards to hold them in place. I would have been happier with 6 tons of dirt but I began to distrust the strength of the center beam so I stopped. It will hold, I believe, but I want to see how it reacts between now and next year when we get the heavy winter rains.

In order for those beams to give way on anyone inside there would have to be 6" of sideways movement on the soil above them. The only thing that would cause that would be an earthquake or someone driving a battle tank over the top of it (and we wouldn't be sheltering inside in either of those circumstances).

I started to use nails and put in a couple of them before I realized that it was foolish. No nail could withstand even 1/100ths of the sideways pressure that it would take to shift those beams.

In addition, we do not live or hang out in the root cellar, at least not yet. I haven't even put food in there at this point because I want to wait a few weeks and make sure nothing shifts or holds. We're being overly cautious on that point, my friends who have built root cellars tell me, but I have not followed this process before (though untold millions of pioneers have) and I want to be cautious. The only thing that would force us at this point to seek shelter in the root cellar would be a tornado bearing down on us directly and in that event it would be far safer than in our plywood shack of a cabin.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Busy Day

I finished two more knives today. The first was part of a kitchen set that I'm doing for a gift and the other was ... well ... me playing. I have two bolo blades that I've been stuck with since last year. I don't like them much as they are made of cheap Chinese steel. I'm not incredibly pleased with the company that I ordered them from, but that's another story.

As I'm getting down to the bottom of the barrel in my blade stock I decided I'd put a specialty handle on one of those bolos. It turned out absolutely awesome and when I distressed the blade metal it came even better.

The wood I used for that handle is from a board I picked up in a sawmill scrap pile a couple of months ago. This is only the second handle I made from it and I have enough to do quite a few more. A good thing too as this may be the last of this particular type of wood in existence. That sawmill specializes in "salvage wood" and the board came from building out in West Texas that was a hundred years old or more. It's from an extinct species of pine. The rest of the boards were unusable but this one the sawmill let me take home for free. They burned the rest.

As far as I know, this might be the last pieces of this particular type of wood that the world will ever see and it's in my hands to do with as I will.

Cool, ain't it?

Kitchen chopper

Part of a set I'm doing.

Pain and Faith

My wife and I recently had lunch with a friend whose daughter (16) suffered from a severe form of arthritis. When we asked how that was going we were told that she had been healed. Not by medicine, but by prayer. A very specific form of prayer.

At first we were skeptical but our friend recommended a book. We read it and though we found some parts to be dubious, the references were sound. Faith healing is indeed scriptural.

Apparently this is one of the gifts and blessings bestowed upon us by the crucifixion of Christ. Few churches discuss it and it is an area that has become filled with charlatans. I don't know of any other Christian belief that is more mocked or made fun of, probably due to the presence of those obvious charlatans.

Yet it is scriptural. There are many, many references to this. Christ himself spoke of giving this gift to us. We don't have to pray away our pain and infirmities, but rather command them to go in the name of Jesus Christ. We have that power. In most of us, however, our faith struggles with our lack of faith. As the book describes it, imagine two horses hitched to both ends of the wagon and pulling in opposite directions.

At first I was very strong in this healing and able to remove some limited conditions that I suffered from. Minor aches and pains were banished. I have no real long term infirmities (praise God) so bruises and aches were all to work upon. I was able to draw upon the healing power of Christ quite easily.

Then I lost it. I started doubting. My lack of faith blossomed and grew with each failure. Suddenly I found I was beset by all manner of aches and pains. More than before. So I worked on it and prayed about it and I'm just now beginning to have faith in this area again. It is supernatural and weird and my wordly mind rebels against it, but is that not exactly the same as the Resurrection? A supernatural event? How can I believe in one and not believe in the other?

I'm getting better. Christ said that if a man had the faith of a mustard seed he could tell a mountain to cast itself into the sea and it would. It has been disturbing and humbling to discover I did not even have the faith of a mustard seed, the smallest of things.

So I'm working on this. A lot. From my reading of scripture, I believe this belief in healing is sound doctrine and is a gift given to every Christian. You don't have to be a tv evangelist with bad hair in order to practice it. However my natural mind struggles with faith still.

The battle continues.