Friday, November 29, 2013


Earlier this year, I read Cliff Dowdey's "Lee's Last Campaign" which detailed Robert E. Lee's maneuvers from Wilderness to Petersburg in 1864.

One of the main problems the Confederacy and definitely Lee struggled with was the concept of troop concentration, that is, bringing all one's troops together into a single, formidable fighting force.

Had Lee been able to do that when he so desired, perhaps things would have been different for the Confederacy. Who really knows? I have, however, been thinking about how his struggle could be related to far wider implications in the struggles of every day life.

Maybe that's extreme-sounding. The truth is it's easy to be overwhelmed by the ever-present and sometimes seemingly ever-expanding to do-list. Even simple things begin to look like relatively tall orders and nothing gets done. A scattershot approach, where a little bit of this and a little bit of that are accomplished, doesn't get one too far.

But when you marshall all your resources to take on a singular task and go after it relentlessly until the mission is accomplished, suddenly there's the feeling of real progress and the juggernaut of domination marches on.

I bring this up as a personal reminder to myself that it is always better to do one thing well than to do 90 things at once half-ass. Sometimes that is not an option, but it is no way to live when it is. In our modern world, it is so easy to go all ADHD and try to do everything, or become distracted while doing one thing so you can handle another. Slowing down and putting one foot in front of the other with one project in mind at a time is what actually gets you somewhere.

Other stuff--even tantalizing new projects--can typically wait.

At least that's what my fortune cookie said.

Over & Out,


Sunday, November 10, 2013

A sweet Fall as Falls go...

It's not my XJ...not yet, but this
pic pretty much captures my sentiments this Fall.

This has been the most spectacular Fall in the Northern Shenandoah that I can remember. Maybe because it began in August. The last 3 or 4 summers here we baked in August with unrelenting 100 degree days. This time around August was unseasonably cool and pleasant.

The temperate weather--cool sunny days--has lasted until today (11/10/13). Clare wanted more beach time and for the summer not to end. Me, I've hit my full Fall stride. It's two point 5 weeks before Turkey Day, and it's still amazing outdoors.

The leaves held onto the trees for a good two weeks of awesome and then some. Our sugar maples near the road usually turn late in the peak and this year has been no exception. At present, the last few leaves are flying off the trees as the locals tune their hunting rifles, and our winter view of the Massanutten Mountain has returned. I can't say I am complaining.

On the inside of the homestead, construction and in some cases destruction continues, more of the former than the latter though at this point.

There can come a time (at least for me) I think when you own a house and then fully buy-in to it. I think I am at full buy-in. Before I could have left if the right opportunity presented itself. Now I'd be hard pressed to do so.

It's definitely because of the structural changes and the new look and feel of the home. The massive beam in the kitchen, new cabinetry and other upgrades are really beginning to coalesce and work for us, I think. There is more done than not and I am juiced by it.

One major improvement that's made a serious difference is the 10ft transition strip between floors where the old wall used to be. We previously experienced a serious draft from the crawl space there, but after emptying two cans of spray-in insulation all along the space and covering it up with some beautiful heart pine, the temperature in the house is far more stable. If the fire in the woodstove winds down, the house doesn't instantly become an ice box and you can feel the winter breeze outta no where.

Don't get me wrong. There's still a draft, but a much, much smaller one. I can burn far less wood and stay much more comfortable. The new open design seems to be working as planned when it comes to heat and I have to run away from the kitchen at some point because I am breaking a sweat in a t-shirt. Clare, on the other hand, finds this the perfect inside weather. That's ok. A warm wife is usually a happy wife, and that's what I am all about.

Anyway, I am in a seasonably festive mood this year. The holy days ahead do not seem burdensome and progress on the house is more rapid than not. The more wood I see on the walls, the better. A definite win.

Hope all is well in your endeavors. Take names.

Over and Out,


Sunday, September 01, 2013

P-83 Review

My father-in-law asked me to make a gun purchase with him and I couldn't have been happier to have done so.

Not wanting to break the bank and invoke the ire of his wife, and not needing the most tacticool weapons out there, the Polish mil-surp variants available at the local Gander Mountain were under consideration. Specifically, the P-64 and also the P-83.

We looked at the P-64 and then it's updated version, the P-83. It was an easy choice.

The bang switch on the P-64 felt like a 1970's arcade game, the kind that will malfunction on you by the time you get to level boss. The P-83, by contrast, was extremely smooth by comparison. Even compared with other modern weapons, I was impressed. With additional 9x18 capacity over the p-64 (ok, it's only two rounds, I know, but still...), there was really no downside in making a decision between the two.

With new Glock 19's retailing for an eye-popping $699.99 at the store, 3 Benjamin's and change and a couple boxes of ammo later for a desk gun felt pretty ok. Upon leaving the store, my father-in-law then asked (tasked?) me with further inspecting the weapon and putting it through its paces. No problemo.

A quick internet search revealed how the weapon breaks down. At first I thought it was difficult, and then I saw that the unloaded gun should be placed on a table with both the underside of the barrel and grip touching the surface. In the trigger well a switch is then depressed and the slide cocks back, up, forward and out and you are ready to service the pistol. I didn't play with it long enough to say for sure, but it does appear that the hammer needs to be back for success.

Some CLP and a bit of Slipstream Grease later, I took this well-worn-in weapon to the backyard range with a clipfull of Hornady 9x18 HD grade ammo. After testing to make sure the safety/decocker worked with a live round in the chamber, I was pleasantly shocked when firing.

Trigger pull, felt-recoil, and overall ergonomics felt great. My Polish brethern got this one right. Putting the gun back on target was a snap. Accuracy seemed ok, but really I was just studying how the gun fired and felt, so no targets other than a beach ball and a far off weed-tree were used.

Initially, I was concerned with the mag-release being on the bottom of the handle, but in working it, I quickly came to the realization that the hands can move very naturally in accessing the button, snagging the spent mag, and grabbing another. In fact, I was very please that my big hands fit this mid-size gun very well throughout the process.

To sum up, this little gun is actually pretty sweet. Yah, it's not a tactical polymer, I get that. But there are different tools for a different jobs. For a stamped weapon out of the Eastern bloc, this little thing is quite the gem. I wish capacity was higher, but at least surplus ammo is available and (relatively) cheap online in bulk. One potential down side of this guy is finding a serviceable holster for daily carry. Milsurp will not do. Something in leather and kydex would be lovely.

Overall, my opinion of this gun went up in studying it and breaking it down. It appears and seems extremely reliable and durable. I would happily obtain one myself if I had the chance and the spare change.

Over and Out,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Climbing Upwards

Sometimes life feels like a big hill with an upward climb that never ends.

Sometimes there are snakes on the path and other obstacles, or refreshing streams and gorgeous views, but at the end of the day, the climb must resume.

About 2 weeks back we finished installing the beam at the house. The big 12ft 8x8 oak beam and 2 oak posts. The open space and addition of 40 sq. ft  has done wonders for our lives. We no longer feel we are living in close quarters. It's beautiful and strong. The place has truly transformed.

Getting to this moment though has been an uphill climb. I spent many hours selecting, moving, and preparing the wood and the site for installation, making sure everything was up to all local and regional codes and would make the inspectors happy. I even bought a truck, in part, to get those beams and other lumber to the homestead. I went by myself on crazy wood-snagging adventures to get those beams, depending a little bit on luck and God's Providence to cut and move these multi-hundred pound monsters into my rig.

And it all worked out. It took some time, but it worked out.

There is still more to do, true, but the main event is over. It passed inspection and now shelves and furniture as well as a new dishwasher remain. There are other aesthetic features to handle to be sure, but the rush to get to them, while pressing, is not quite as stressful.

With all that said, I hope the heating season is far more pleasant this time around than it has been the last 4 years, since now the hot air can flow freely throughout the space. I am hoping that our winter feels a bit more luxury and a little less pioneer.

Ok, a lot less pioneer.

Which reminds me, it's time to order some more slab (fire) wood.

Over and Out,


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Retreat Locales, Thoughts on Skoelsen, Rawles

Fox Hollow Circuit Hike Trail Head at Dickey Ridge,
Shenandoah National Park
This afternoon Clare and I had the mutual bright idea of heading up to nearby Skyline Drive for a picnic at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center and Picnic area this afternoon. It was a perfect day, and the short (1.3 mile Fox Hollow hike) is a very enjoyable family friendly jaunt, which tours the remains of the old Fox homestead that existed there years before FDR's administration bought them and the other 2,000 residents out to form the National Park.

The view from the Visitor Center proper (not shown) is fabulous, looking west across the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain to the far ridge that is known (or was known), as I understand it, as the Devil's Backbone in the far distance. To the right is a picture of the East-Northeast View, which, I believe, looks toward High Knob (the mountain on the right. Beyond it is I-66, which is the commuter corridor that takes one to Washington, DC.

As far as I am concerned the Shenandoah Valley has it all, but is under-sung in certain circles when it comes to its appeal as a potential prepper redoubt. Retreat locale gurus Joel Skoelsen and J.W. Rawles have contributed much excellent data and research to the discussion of retreat locales. And while I respect their opinions, I think there is more to be said about the East Coast and retreat locales in general when it comes to a societal collapse, or "the crunch" as Rawles speaks about it in his novels.

Their main criticism, as I understand it, is population density. Rawles only recommends several states in the Upper Mountain Northwest as a viable option for survival, whereas Skoelsen recommends several regions cut off from population centers. In their world view, if you live on the East Coast (or an East Coast State) chances for survival are slim, or go down drastically because of such a high population density.

I agree with that basic premise, except with regard to one thing. Terrain.

Navigating the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains is not easy. Skoelsen believes that residents living in the Shenandoah Valley are too close to high population centers (Baltimore/DC/Northern VA) and will suffer numerous roving bands and so therefore recommends the Piedmont Region (Eastern/Northen Tenessee & Eastern Kentucky) for extra insurance against them.

That is fine and all, but my personal opinion after spending my free time this summer hiking in the mountains is thus: anyone traveling on foot scavenging for food and crossing these mountains is basically pretty screwed. I am in decent shape and love to hike. Still, these hills are not easily crossed. Anyone "heading to the hills" better have their gear in order, a pre-defined route, and plenty of food and lots of practice. That equals about 1-2% of the population.

EMP, Economic Collapse, or Nuclear War, as the East Coast goes, I think we in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond (West Virginia) have a better chance of dodging the bullet than most. I will take those odds and for numerous reasons. See for yourself. This region is not a known nuclear target (or at least if it is, it is not being published.) In an EMP Collapse, unless autos work, as mentioned above, few people are going to be crossing these mountains. In an economic collapse, I surmise everyone will be just as screwed and be lucky to have the needed gas to drive here, and the stragglers that do come out this way would actually be few in number.

I believe there are many fine places to live to avoid the societal shit-storms dead-ahead. I've considered other regions, but for one reason or another (finances being one of them of course) am definitely ok with the Northern Shenandoah Valley region. Here is my list of the pros that make this region and those around it an excellent choice for a retreat locale:

1.) Beautiful and remote without being in BFE. The valley is about 70 miles from Washington, DC. You are close to the amenities and resources of a major metropolitan city yet isolated by rugged terrain from it.

2.) Excellent growing season and soil. Water, springs, rivers, creeks, and brookes are available in abundance. It is an outdoorsman's paradise.

3.) Where I live in particular, disgruntled mountain folk still dwell in high numbers. They are survivors and have an air of ruggedness. They do not like outsiders. This isn't always good, but these people are not fools. They don't trust others easily.

4.) Not downwind of nuclear power. Lake Anna is 63 miles away, but the Shenandoah is nearly always upwind of that locale.

For me at least, these considerations make this area an attractive place for preppers who have or want to live on the East Coast. I'd say most rural places in the Valley are pretty sweet locations for all of the above mentioned reasons. I think there are other places up and down the Eastern Seaboard that meet much of this criteria as well, but you have to look for them.

The final consideration is that in life and in the days ahead, we will need each others' skills and talents to survive. No man is an island for long, or generally wants to be when it comes to providing essentials for oneself and others, regardless of how self-sufficient.

Anyhow, if you have found this article online and have a question about the Shenandoah, be sure to comment in the notes.

In the mean time, stay safe out there.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Swimming Holes

This has been a fast-moving but nonetheless very enjoyable summer to date. The weather, with the exception of a week-long heat wave, has been pleasantly mild, unusually so for Virginia.

Clare has been spear-heading many of our family adventures, leading us on summer hikes to waterfalls and out of the way swimming holes. The one shown to the left is the upper pool of one known as "The Ponds" in the foothills of Shenandoah National Park. The pictures don't do it justice, honestly. This pool is the deepest and jumping in is a lot of fun.

The water is chilly but refreshing on a hot summer day. Worth the .8 of a mile hike in. We went with a couple of Clare's Starbuck's peeps and had a good time. I was fortunate in that one of our companions enjoys many of the same topics I do, which is a rare treat.

Other adventures have taken the family to Buzzard Rock, White Oak Canyon, and Elk Wallow up in the National Park. This is the first year we have been taking serious advantage of this amazing resource. The mountains are all around us here and boast plenty of hiking. However, it is all too easy to stay on the main roads and leave nature to itself. I don't think that's what God had in mind when He created it, though.

It's actually starting to feel like the summer is ending early with the very cool evenings we've had. I know Virginia is super tricky and fickle, however, and do not underestimate its powers to bring us back in to 100-degree temps in short order.

So yah, summer adventures. We have a few still on the docket, culminating in an eventual beach trip. I'm looking forward to that. And then it's on to the heating season, Fall colors, firing up the woodstove, and hopefully, the new Cherokee.

I love summer, but Fall is going to be sweet to be sure.

Over & Out,


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Golden Opportunity

So, things did not go as planned.

I went up to NJ. Bought the Jeep sight unseen, per the listing, and the thing ran like shit, unlike the title of the listing "1999 Cherokee 4x4**runs great**".

Honestly, I know better. I was too trusting of the process, figuring that the Jeep would not be misrepresented by an ebay seller who wants to retain positive feedback. With that said, I got most of my money back and returned the beat-to-hell xj. The body was clean, but mechanically, it was a crapfest. Lesson learned.

So what to do? As it turns out, Clare reminded me of a gent back in Harrisburg, who had a Jeep Cherokee for sale at a good price. It was gold and I gave him a text. With the remainder of my cash, my father-in-law and I went to down to check it out. It was clean and mechanically sounded great. I was comfortable with it and made an offer. The gracious seller took it, and I drove 130 miles home with the windows don into the sunset with my new Golden XJ.

Frankly, it totally kicks ass. To me at least. That's the one I wanted to begin with, but the seller was out of town in Alaska when I contacted him. It needs tires on all 4 corners, but runs great for a vehicle with 220k on the clock. I know. 220k. That's a lot, but it's all there.

There is some body damage and quirks to be worked out to be sure, but overall it's solid. The interior is very clean. Minimal rust. Newly tinted windows. Lift. 31s. I couldn't be happier with it, considering what I paid.

God draws straight with [my] crooked lines sometimes. Even though my journey to Hackettstown did not go as planned, I am overall grateful for things working out as well as they did.

Pictures will be forthcoming at some point. It probably looks like hell to everyone else, but to me, well, it's golden.

Peace Out. --Nick-Dog

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cherokee Dreamin'

So this past Tuesday, I found an ebay auction for a 1999 Jeep Cherokee XJ by a wholesaler
up in Jersey. Forest Green. 4.0. 4x4 Automatic. 177k. No noticeable debilitating rust.

The ebay post was thorough and included video of a walk-around and test drive.

As I watched, feelings of being and working at the dealership began to course through my veins. Desire for a new Jeep took hold of me. I talked to my wife--she could see the Jeep lust in my eyes--to obtain "permission" for a new Jeep. The auction was ending in 20 minutes. The opportunity for an ebay snipe
glistened before me. Current bid: $649.00. No reserve.

Hells yes peoples!

Max bid: $752.13. With less than a minute left, I became the high bidder and auction-sniped some poor bastard--another dealer I'm sure--out there on the interwebs, claiming rights to ownership at $685 as the clock reached zero.

Sure, I will be paying a $145.00 processing fee and $25 out of state temp tag fee, for a grand total of $855.00. And then I have to get it and bring it back.

Now the Jeep has some issues, but none that affect driveability. The interior smells like old pet, the windshield has a minor crack, and the bumper suffered an injury. It needs a stereo. There's a couple of other minor issues, but those are the main ones. Honestly, anything under 2k is going to need some work.

I have been staying up at night combing the Craigslist ads for Cherokees from Maine to Spain, looking for sweet deals like a man obsessed. All things considered, this seems like a good deal on the one hand.

So Monday will see my father-in-law and I heading up to Jersey in the AM to pick up the new rig. Hopefully, everything will go silky smooth.

Honestly, I've been wanting a Cherokee for 6 years. My plans for the thing are pretty much made. I will post periodic progeess here. The long term vision is to obtain a used pop-up that we can take camping on weekends, now that we have something formidable enough to tow.

The juice is flowing freely. I am so excited about this. We might even get to stop at Cabelas in Hamburg, PA on the way back.

Hells yes peoples!!!

Over and Out, --Nick

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Advice to those just starting out, or to my 21-year-old self....

When I was 21ish, I wanted guidance from wise people who had trod the path ahead of me, so as not to make theirs or common mistakes in life.

Honestly, I did find a few wise men over time, but what I found is that at the end of the day, no one has all the answers. Most people have very few of them, but those who've lived an admirable life are worth listening to, regardless of age.

From my 34-year-old vantage point, it is idealistic to think that a sage can tell you everything you need to know. They can be helpful to be sure, but ultimately, advice needs to be measured by what is within. Elsewise, it is effectively useless.

And with that, here is MY sage advice to a 21-year-old, for whatever it is worth:

1.) Hard skills are often more important than soft skills. If you go to college, get a degree that will make you bank, not one that will keep you in the poorhouse. Usually, that is a technical degree of some sort.

2.) Question the motives and wisdom of others. Keep your own counsel. Trust your gut instincts.

3.) Read the Book of Sirach.

4.) Question the system, then opt out by your life-style choices.

5.) Invest in rural/semi-rural land sooner rather than later. Obtain or build liveable accommodations, then build your dream place next to it if you want.

6.) I advise a life that looks like a homesteader. To that end, a massive shop on your property is one of the most significant and awesome things you can do for yourself. For the do-it-yourself type, it will save you money and give you space to do everything you want and then some. Few shops are too big. Seriously.

7.) Invest in quality tools. Learn to use them. Learn to plumb. Then see #6.

8.) Money attracts money (in my limited experience). If you have a ton, make it attract more by your lifestyle choices and investment strategy. Don't let it burn a hole in your pocket (which is what I generally do).

9.) Don't buy depreciating assets. Consider this with every purchase. Every time you buy a depreciating asset, you become poorer.

10.) Follow the K-I-S-S method in most things and save yourself some headaches.

11.) Theoretically, if you are an idealist, you can anything, right? However, realistically, one only has time and space (and energy/resources) to do several things well. Consider this before loading up your life with excessive projects. You can't do them/it all.

12.) Unless it is your passion/true desire to restore old things, start fresh. It is hard to work with what is old than to build from scratch something new.

13.)  Don't swim against the current. Get out of the river and walk your own way.

14.) Become an expert judge of character.

15.) Craigslist is your friend. Try not to pay retail if you can avoid it.

16.) Avoid people who love conflict. Avoid situations that could potentially bring about conflict. The great general is not one who wins 100 battles, but avoids a 1000.

17.) Make your bed every day, first thing.

18.) "Peace is the tranquility of order." If you seek peace, seek order, organization, and a space for all things.

19.) What you own owns you.

20.) Know your enemies. No matter how cool you are, some people are your enemies because they choose to be.

21.) Be concerned about personal security and safety. We don't live in la-la land.

22.) Do not play fantasy games that are violent if you yourself are not willing to purchase a sword (aka host of weapons) to defend all that is good and worthy in your life.

23.) Take care of your body, mind, and spirit. Rest when you need to. Develop a martial fitness.

24.) Character is more important than image, but to many, image matters more.

25.) Be honest to yourself about your own bullshit. Hold yourself to a higher standard than others.

26.) You are the company you keep.

27.) Dress for the occasion.

28.) Honor the Lord who honors you by maintaining your existence and holding you in being.

29.) Discipline is not a 4-letter word.

30.) Have a back-up plan, and a back-up plan to the back-up plan.

31.) Value is a state of mind. It is entirely subjective but seemingly objective. It is malleable and not fixed.

32.) Manage your own money like a persnickety housewife.

33.) Be your own bad-ass on your terms. You can't live someone else's version of you.

That's it for now. Just needed to get that out there for some reason. Hope you've enjoyed.

Over and Out,


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Holding the Center

A man walking up the mountain to enlightenment encounters an older man walking down the mountain with a radiant smile and a stick with two jugs of water on his back. Curious, the younger man asked the older man with the smile, "What is enlightenment?!"

Still smiling, the older man put down his water jugs, looked to the sky, opened his arms and breathed in the warm, morning sun. After a moment, the older man stopped what he was doing, returned to a normal posture and looked at the young man.

"What comes after enlightenment?" the young man again queried.

The old man pointed to and then once again shouldered his water jugs, settling them squarely on his shoulders, and once again began carrying his load down the path.

The moral of the story is that after enlightenment we all need a drink.

Actually, that is not the real moral of the story (but I suppose it could be). The real moral is that enlightenment, actualization, or self-realization is not an end, but a beginning. Getting to somewhere in life is only part of the journey. What comes after our goals is equally important and equally part of life. It's not always exciting and usually looks like work. The old saying that it's not the end that counts, but the journey has meaning here.

Recently on facebook, I posted up a video of a hardcore isometric breathing exercise practiced in Goju Ru Karate called Sanchin kata. For three years, students had to endure this training and other strengthening exercises before they were ever shown techniques. Of course, technique is important, but by the time one had finished their initiation into the art, they were already bad asses and could handle most situations. Their character was forged along the way, and perhaps without realizing it, they had achieved their goals.

This is sort of a romantic way of saying don't eschew the journey. Pick up your cross. Do your duty. Event if you haven't achieved your desired outcome, what matters is what and who one becomes along
the path.

For me this is a hard saying. The daily loadout can be overwhelming sometimes and not in conformity with our desires. Sometimes the problems that arise are outright bullshit, or seem to be, especially since they come at the "wrong time."

The truth is we can't always pick our battlefield, regardless of our visualizations and ideals. Sometimes we simply need to set our jaws and ready the artillery. Learn to take the hit and hopefully to dish one or two out.

Kick ass and take names.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Bad Weather

I've been blogging about the coming economic S-storm for years. So have many other people. Here are some additional reflections that I need to get off my chest:

1.) When I look back to 2008-2009, I think wow, back then I was more intrigued than worried, but still worried. Now I am less intrigued, but still worried. I guess what I am trying to say is that we can be years away from the economic event still. Sure, things have not truly improved, IMO. We have been strung along for many months now into the present day "recovery" which is not a recovery. It is a papering over, one that could last for years to come. A feeling of economic morass or gradual decay can continue to be the prevailing climate for years.

2.) The shift is actually happening now. It is occurring as we speak. Just because CNN isn't covering it doesn't mean there haven't been casualties. The S has hit the fan for some people. Many of them have re-adjusted and moved on. Others have not. Everyone is looking towards an event that will change everything. I think there will be one, probably many, but significant things making that possible are happening now and will continue to do so.

3.) The time is now to prepare, while it is still easy to do so. Make the big changes now, while it easy to do. Ammo, for example, is still scarce in my neck of the woods, but 6 months ago, it was more or less abundant. Resources will not always be there. Additionally, moving or taking on a large project will likely be easier now than in the future, due to cost and possibly available materials. The home center might not always have what you need. Stocking up now on known needs is a good idea.

4.) It is never to late to engage in long-term goals. Food storage is one that rings a bell for me. I recently found a local supplier that can obtain bulk comestibles at huge discounts. Getting to a year of food storage can be done if it is achieved, like many other things, in manageable steps.

5.) The media doesn't matter as most think it does. The left and right dichotomy means very little when it comes to fundamentals--most will vote away our liberty if they can get away with it. Having followed the right-wing group think for many years, I believe that the fundamental argument is about liberty and that the artificial philosophical construct on all news outlets makes sheeple more manageable. Being independent and going your own road is a habit that is going to mean more in the days ahead.

6.) Inflation is emerging more and more as a felt reality. Our grocery bill would be astronomical if it were not for stores like Smart Shopper. The big box chains are pricy too, but not as bad as the local markets. Food production moving forward is going to be more and more critical to routine survival. Gardening is key if you want to eat well. The same goes for canning like a moe-foe.

7.) Paying off debt is more important than acquiring a new thing. This goes for anything, including "small" purchases. Debt=slavery. Lack of debt=freedom. I really wanted to buy a new vehicle but am holding off because I believe that I should pay cash. It's going to take me longer to get what I want, but so be it. Rome wasn't built in a day.

8.) Again, not buying useless things or making useless purchases is huge. Decoupling from having lots of shit collecting dust will bring freedom and peace hitherto unknown. It is a neverending process--the more I get rid off, the more I have to work to make sure things don't come back to fill empty spaces. The operative word here is mobility. You can be more mobile in life when you pare down to the essentials. Figuring out what those are is never-ending process sometimes, but mobility=greater freedom, less attachment to things that can get one bogged down.

9.) The time is now to bug out. Setting up a homestead in a rural area takes time. If that is the eventual plan, doing it now while the market is heating up, makes sense. Of course, there are logistics to be considered, but getting to your perfect place should be part of the plan now, not something to put off.

10.) Be real with yourself. Some people believe nothing will happen. Meanwhile, our gov't prints 85 billion dollars a month. Gregory Mannarino, an economic analyst I follow, repeatedly says "You wanna be on the right side of that trade when the economic shift happens en total." I believe he is right. The game is rigged. Figure out your own shit and act accordingly. Now, not some make believe day in the future, is the time to take action.

BONUS 11.) Every day I work, I usually have to write for some student that "the primary cause of the Great Depression were the inflationary policies of the Federal Reserve." The roaring 20s occurred in part because the Fed created easy money for institutional investors and companies. I believe Silent 'Cal chose not to run in 1928 because he knew the bust that was to come would be bad. Where the Federal
Reserve has brought us today is infinitely worse. That should tell us something.

Right now, as of this writing, there is still time and great opportunity to plan and make changes in our lives. In the future there will only be increasing uncertainty and fake recovery until we reap what we have sown. I write this list for myself as a reminder of resolve. Additionally, I don't want any readers of this blog--myself included--to kick our own ass for not taking advantage of the opportunities and time we had to prepare for a trip through the economic Black Forest.

Not everyone is going to make it out alive. For those that do, it will most likely not have been an easy journey.

God Bless.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Tool Fear?

Just a quick post geared to those who are afraid to pick up a tool for one reason or another, especially for those who believe that any attempt to fix something results in a cluster bomb or making the situation worse.

Some of my buddies are not tool-guys or do-it-your-selfers. Unplugging the toilet is about the extent of their comfort zone with tools (if you can call that a comfort-zone).

I am not calling anyone out here.... I just want to say that sometimes I feel like I get more credit than I deserve regarding fixing stuff or making things.

The truth? It's not that hard. Really, it's not.

It just takes time, patience and common sense to make things. Watching lots of youtube and reading articles helps answer questions, but at the end of the day, hopefully, one realizes, "Gee, that's it."

Yep, that's it.

For me, building stuff is sorta where I landed and sorta where I started. I've built many dreams over the years of an idealistic life. At some point, you just pick one and go with it, after having lived a few of those dreams.

Right now, I am in the midst of tearing up my house, redoing the kitchen. It's been a slower process than I've liked. Messy, but not terribly difficult. When it's done, it's gonna be bad ass. The design will be better but the ooo's and ah's will come principally from the look of the reclaimed wood going in, not from any special skills beyond the reach of normal people.

Moving forward, if we don't get EMP'd, I look forward to building more things. I've switched my schedule yet again to accommodate building chairs, pushing out a set every week from my home shop. This is kind of a dream, but also a necessity. Sitting on my ass in front of a computer reading the same history is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered, and sometimes very difficult.

I think that this past year, the honeymoon of being self-employed, has worn off and self-discipline feels easier, that is, when it comes to doing paid for work. I enjoy both tasks, but it's hard sometimes, nonetheless to stay focused.

Speaking of which, I better get back to work...

Oh, and with regard to tools, fixing/building things, and such, the best advice I ever gave myself went like this: "Just shut the F-up and do it."

I think that's good advice in general. STFU, man-up and kick-ass as much as possible in every way possible.

Over and Out,


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Week of Doom

Sometimes the way things work in life you take the test first and study later. This last week was a bit like that in some respects.

I had been putting off some routine maintenance and a power steering pump replacement for a while, but the time had come to pull out the brass tacks and get to work. In the end, this relatively straight-forward but absolute PIA procedure took a week of on-and-off work on the van. There were many Lenten hurdles along the way, with the following list just being the most prominent highlights (good and bad) that come to mind:

  • repeated trips to the auto parts store for expensive rent-a-tools (you place a deposit to cover the tool if you don't return it)
  • losing a part of a $100.00 "free" rented tool in the ivy/grass near my house while the wind is howling. I swore up and down, breaking my Lenten promises as I searched in vain for over an hour for this black metal thing that still remains at large.
  • the nice person at the autoparts store not charging me 100.00 for a damaged tool
  • snapping a pulley
  • snapping the tensioner on the engine
  • swearing profusely
  • fantastic scenic "test drives" on the literal back roads (one road is called "Back Rd.")
  • obtaining a delicate part (plastic hose) for free from the junkyard, whereas the nice fellas at Chrysler wanted to charge me $40.00 and wait 4 days to get it and hope they ordered the right thing.
In any event, the van is now done...for now. Everything is working ok that I replaced, but now I believe I need to clean the injectors, or rather, have them cleaned. Another 100 down the rabbit hole.

However, I should not complain. Today, while at mass, the Gospel passage covered how Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service to help Jesus carry his cross. And it pretty much hit me hard how this relatively small hardship during Lent (fixing the van), while it sucked, was a special cross sent my way on the march toward Calvary.

You see, while fixing my car, I was sometimes pretty frustrated and pissed. When that little black thing flung off my 3-prong puller and I couldn't find it, searching for an hour,, it just felt like a BS situation. I knew it was BS. I was like "C'mon God. C'mon! Why me?!" I prayed to St. Anthony to find it, but my heart wasn't in it. I just wanted to swear. So I did. A lot. It didn't help, especially since I gave up swearing, even privately, for Lent. I know that sounds horrible, but it is the truth. I needed to do it. It's a hard thing to do, but with God's grace I've had some success.

But I blew it on the test. I flippin' blew it. I shook off the dust, went into the house warmed up, feasted on the lunch my lovely wife made for me, and had some coffee. I was still mad, but I was renewed. I made a bunch of progress on the project and finished it in several days.

Like Simon of Cyrene was innocently making his way into Jerusalem, so, too, did I try to make my way to Good Friday. I have failed at my other penances. Perhaps I was trying to do too much, but I was hoping that if I just did a good enough job this time around at any rate, I could get to Good Friday unscathed. Not so. With the van projects and all the ensuing hurdles and obstacles, God pressed me into service on the road to Calvary, even though I was trying to mind my own business, so to speak.

What did Simon of Cyrene think when they yanked his formidable self from the crowd to help Jesus? We don't know. On the one hand, it was supremely unjust. On the other, Simon was supremely privileged. This incident shows us in life that even though we may not deserve to be saddled with some BS situation, God saddles us with it, because ultimately, we are needed to carry through for some higher purpose. Our attitude, in some respect, determines how much merit comes from our sufferings and shows us our weakness in the crucible of conflict.

So the next time something happens to one of us that sucks and is unfair for no particular reason, I recommend not swearing, looking at things with a calm, determined mind, resigned to our fate perhaps, but set on victory. And if God wills it, to offer up the small cup of our suffering to Him for our benefit and that of our loved ones.

Over & Out,


Saturday, March 16, 2013


I needed to get this one out of my system before I continue with my other tasks.

Yesterday, was in some sense, the fulfillment and completion of a daily dream I've had...for years.

So what might that be, you ask?

Driving in my full-size pick-up on a beautiful Virginia day into the sunset (ok, into the late afternoon) with a bed full of gorgeous, hand-picked reclaimed lumber, that is to say, Southern Yellow Pine, for step 2 of my house/kitchen renovation.

I took my time out at the barn, picking the best wood I could find. Satisfied I grabbed some more, anything that might be considered a target of opportunity. All of the wood came from the ceiling a downed chicken coop addition to our barn. It had probably been baking for 5 decades or so, and so the resins in the wood come to the surface, coloring its knots and distinctions and create a rich color and character.

It feels good to bring all this stuff back home, and de-nail and stack a large quantity of wood, look at it in satisfaction and begin to see it, in my minds eye, being installed in the heart of our living quarters. As funny as it may sound, I felt as if the ground in my property shook with anticipation and excitement, happy to welcome my revered softwood from elsewhere in the valley, sensing the happy changes that are to come in our home.

Clare and I have a running bet that I will/will not finish by May 1. While I don't think I will have everything done by then, I am going to be close, I think, and then I can rest somewhat and focus my energies elsewhere on the property and house.

Right now, we are aiming for an addition from Actually, it will be another smaller house, tacked on to the back of our existing home. However, I have to pass this through the county first, and, of course, find the funds. If I were going to buy land to build, I think I would go with a First Day cottage for aesthetic, comfort, space, and economic considerations. It's worth checking out, at any rate.

Ok, that's it for now. More Later.

Over and Out,


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Marlin 336cs Review

Well, well, well.


This past weekend I made some swaps. I bartered an extra shotty for a splendidly broken-in Marlin 336cs in 30-30, the consummate backwoods gun.

In every pawn shop and gun store in my area, there is usually one or more of these levers on the rack, not to mention in the gun-safes of mountain folk. A couple years ago, after reading Mad Ogre's review of the weapon, it got me thinking: I need a Marlin lever action. One day, I thought.

Fast-forward to the present and I can whole-heartedly say, I am not disappointed. The AR-15 I sold off was awkward and gangly to me. The 336, however, snaps to attention, ready for duty. Placing the vintage irons on target is easy and smooth, and the gun's natural ergonomics lend itself to a backwoods environment, where a mixture of serious shooting and play are pretty much the same thing.

I inaugurated the gun by taking aim at the assortment of inflated toy balls that had become trapped in the forest out back. Watching them ping 20 feet in the air was the highlight of my gray day and made the potential disturbance of one set of neighbors totally worth while.

Felt recoil was very manageable. Powerful, but not bad, and the lever was perfectly worn in for fast follow-up shots. It is easy to see why this gun is a legend among levers. A unique blend of grace and utility, it's everything you need, and nothing you don't. I suspect this is how it feels with other lever actions that serve as primary weapons.

For my part, as discussed with my compadre, Martin, I don't feel under-gunned with this in the least. Hammering targets 75 yards out off the irons feels like child's play. I simply didn't feel the same way about my AR-15, not that they suck. Simply put, the Marlin shines in ways I simply had not expected years back: they are innocuous to behold but deceivingly deadly, light, very maneuverable, and wonderfully accurate.

In the hands of the right hill-billy, the Marlin is a force to be reckoned with, not something to be taken lightly. And I can honestly say that I feel much comfort adding this to my standard battery of arms and making it my go-to long rifle/everything gun.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Thoughts on End Game

This post/rant has been percolating on my mind for a while. Read at your own risk.

We are now entering the End Game of the status quo of life as we know it.

While more people continue to wake up to the Matrix, plenty more continue to swallow the blue pill. Nothing is wrong. Things will get back to normal. Or, what do you mean "get back?" Things are normal. Socker moms still have their SUVs and non-believers go merrily on their way.

For some, that is true, but the paradigm has begun to shift. It is happening now, as the powers that be position themselves the best they can for planned economic upheaval on a global scale.

In Japanese war strategy, it is said that timing is everything. If you are too early to the party, you may pay the price by telegraphing your move, giving your opponent(s) intel they don't deserve. If you are too late, chances are you're already punished. The idea is to hit the sweet spot sometime in the middle.
With that in mind, the timetable for mega-collapse is a question mark until it happens. My hope is that going forward, our family systems of personal self-reliance--chickens, firewood, garden, water catchment, security, etc.--will already be in place the way I want them to be at that time. Hopefully, it will be more of a question of maintaining systems rather than starting new systems of self-sufficiency when the balloon goes up. The idea is not to be in a position to have to start EVERYTHING right now. I wish I could say that is how I've lived these past 5 years or so, but if you know me, you know that it's been more a case of learning the hard lessons first than getting it all right out of the box.

In any event, I think if there has ever been a time to say, "Get your final shit in order because there may not be much time left before we are forced to live with what we have," I think that time is now. I hope that time is, in reality, a long, long way off, but all my best instincts tell me its not.

I could be wrong. But if you are late to this party, you aren't just going to miss the good drinks and the prom queen, you are going to get a punch in the face and then thrown in the Octogon. I am expecting things to suck pretty hard, but I am hoping that I can make it suck less by playing this game on my terms, that is, by opting out of as many systems of dependence as possible as time allows for as long as I can.

The times ahead of us will be a time for daring and discipline, for hard calls and self-sacrifice. For relying on instinct over intel and being forced to do the basics well. In the end we can only do what we can do. The rest is up to God.

The time is always now.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This, That and the Other

Well, the new year is well-upon us. We've already celebrated Lee-Jackson Day in the olde Dominion, which means the march towards February draws ever nearer.


You know, it's kinda crazy. I am almost more excited about bags than my wife these days. I picked up a new EDC bag, an Everest Sling Bag in black, and I'm digging it. In fact, it is roomier and more functional than I had initially believed, and for $22 shipped, it was a deal.

My operator's bag and Bauer bag served their purpose, but were ultimately unwieldy for me. The Bauer bag looked cool and was durable, but lacked form and swung around everywhere when I walked. The pockets were always a concern, since they remained open and if thrown around would lose their contents. The Operator's Bag was spacious and bulky, but ultimately looked like a computer briefcase and was not something I wanted to continue using. Carrying it over the shoulder was a chore usually and it was unhappy to open and close all the time. I stopped wanting to carry it because it seemed to lend itself to gathering junk and the zippers started to break.

Enter the sling bag. Over the shoulder and tight to the body--it comes with an optionally used waste belt to keep it put. It's not too big or too small, but just right, and one could fit a decent amount of gear in this thing fairly simply, including Dave Canterbury's 5 C's. The top flap actually unfolds and reveals a pocket on the bag, perfect for a set of gloves and a bandana or cap to hang out in and be grabbed in a hurry.

Overall, I like the bag and like the way it rides. I hope to do a video review in the future of the pack and its contents, just for the hell of it and because I have the itch. There's aren't a lot of people I know locally who dig gear and Bushcraft, so I guess you could say I need to find other ways to express my enthusiasm.


You know, there's a lot of hype on a 72-hour kit, and outdoor survival, EDC and all the rest in the prepping world, so now that I have my thoughts somewhat organized on the matter, I am going to put them
out there for the record.

First, I think the best approach to emergency gear is a tiered approach: 1.) What's on your person; 2.) what's within arm's reach (your EDC bag); 3.) and what's in your pack and other gear that may be available, either in your car or homestead/camp.

A decent EDC bag eliminated the need for a fanny pack approach to carrying stuff. My daily on person EDC now consists of two knives, (a FERO rod shall be ordered shortly, 'cause Bass Pro Shops sucks nuggets--a topic for another post), wallet, phone, and sidearm. Everything else I need for immediate 72-hour survival goes in the sling bag with room to spare.

This negates the need for a traditional "Bug Out Bag" loadout, which I now pproach as my overnight bag with changes of clothes and other items as needed. Frankly, the only place I am generally buggin' out to is my in-laws. Only in the worst possible scenario would I be camping in the woods or elsewhere in an emergency situation, in which case my EDC should be able to get me through.

This isn't to beat a dead horse, but I think the philosophy of carrying a minimal but solid EDC (with an overnight bag in the car if you commute far away) is a good way to go.

Back to the main subtopic.

Re-discovering Bushcraft has opened my eyes to a number of things. The first is that not everyone has to become a Bushcrafter to learn how to survive a 72-hour or minor emergency-type scenario. It helps, but is not necessary. Some basic skills, knowledge, and gear will do the job.

But if you are obsessive, like me, Bushcraft is the next logical step after basic and advanced preparedness. At some point, you are still "a prepper" or "homesteader" but want more primitive skills,
and the Bushcrafting world is where you end up.


After refinancing our property, I am more content to work on being here, where I am at. I have no ambitions to leave our 1.3 acre property anymore, except perhaps to camp or whatever. That said, there's
plenty to do here, like cutting firewood and building a fence, among other things.

How does this relate? Well, I'm starting to see this place as my permanent camp set-up. My house is mix of rural cottage and quasi-cabin. It will retain that blend moving forward, but seeing it as such--instead of just another fixer upper--gives me the motivation to continue what I've started and make the place a more happy and liveable longterm structure.

With that, I am considering doing some video for the hell of it on my latest projects. I spend too much time on the internet

Over and out, Peep(s). God Bless.