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  1. imageproxy.thumb.jpg.026840922ed484a48075e1fff69c0f9a.jpg

    Here’s a question that I get from potato lovers:  “How can I grow potatoes in abundance in limited space?”

    Growing potatoes in tires can be quite simple and here are my instructions how to do it and have a bumper crop.  You get a chance to do some recycling and vertical gardening all together.

    Depending on the size of the tires, I first wash them. If they are small enough for me to get them in my pickup truck, I’ll take them to a car wash and wash them under pressure with soap then rinse with water. Inside the tire and outside as well, making sure the tread is free from road grim and grit.

    You’ll want to set the tire away from an prevailing winds to keep their foliage from getting wind damage.  Make sure the spot you select will be free of most foot traffic and out of the way of activities to avoid the set-up from being knocked over.

    Press down any growth on the ground such as clover or grass, and lay a thick mat of saturated newspapers over the grass or area which you will be setting the tire over. Over this put down 2 nice layers of cardboard: one long ways, the other cross ways: you can cut the cardboard away AFTER you position the tires on top of the cardboard. The newspaper will soon deteriorate into the soil, but the cardboard hangs around for awhile, giving added protection against weeds and grass that would come up into the tire.

    Whether or not you trim away the rim of the top tire is your decision. Some tires I do trim, others I do not. The bigger the tire is, the more likely I am to trim away the sidewall up to its tread. (This is just my own way of doing things).

    Wet the cardboard down really good then start stuffing newspapers, leaves, straw, corncobs, sawdust or whatever you have that will absorb moisture into the inner rim of the tires so when rains come, the organic material will take up the excess moisture and hold it until the plants need it the most: moisture will “wick” away from the inner rim into the main tire container area.

    Once the rim is packed with such materials you have on hand or can obtain at no cost to you or for little cost, crumble your topsoil, potting soil and cover the cardboard with 3 or so inches of this mixture, then seat your potato seeds into that mixture. I always add a dusting of hardwood ashes I’ve kept from the wood stove over the potatoes. Potash is very good for root crops.

    Once your potatoes are in place, dusted with wood ash, cover with a layer (not pressed down) of straw, shredded newspapers, compost, or whatever mulch you’ll be using, then cover the top hole with a piece of glass, Plexiglas, or you can rig clear plastic over the top if you have nothing else to use. Glass and/or Plexiglas is ever so much easier on you the gardener, than using the plastic cover is, because the bed must be watered weekly unless rainfall measures 1-inch. You never want the soil to dry out, and potatoes (sweet and Irish) need a lot of water to return you a bumper crop.

    Irish potatoes need only 4-inches of top growth. When your tater vines/plants reach 6-inches tall, it’s time to add a 2-inch layer of mulch, and snug it up around the potato plant stems. When it’s time, add another tire on top of the first one. And just keep adding mulch, water, and tires until the stack grows 5-6 tires tall. You may need to drive a wooden stay on 2 or 3 sides of the tires so they won’t blow over when storms come, or when you brush against them, or dogs hit them while chasing a ball, or once night temps no longer offer a chance of frost, you can omit the glass top: if you have predators who might eat the tater vine, you can use an old window screen instead of the glass top. And when the temps get around or above 80 degrees, put a layer of newspaper around the upper edge of the top most tire: this will to deflect heat away from the tire and preserves inner moisture as well.

    The first blooms that form, I pinch off. This pours more growth to the roots which is what you’ll harvest anyhow. The 2nd set of blooms, I allow to form and soon after the vines will begin to dry and become mulch. You can “dig” your taters by removing one tire at a time.

    If you’ll prepare another tire spot before unloading your tater tire, as soon as you remove one tire, you can roll it over on top of the cardboard spot you’ve just made beside your tater tire, and by the time your potatoes are all lying out on the ground, you’ll have another tater tower built ready to plant into again to make another crop of late fall taters to harvest just before a hard freeze hits your area…depending, of course, on just what area that is.

    Keep It Growing!

    The post "How To Successfully Grow Potatoes In Tires" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.

  2. images.jpg.6c0540bda75928822279cb4803da7930.jpg“I wasn’t sure what to do”. If I had a dime for every time I’d heard a patient use those same words, I could retire to my homestead and hang up my stethoscope once and for all. In this case the speaker was a 20 year-old male who looked like he was a couple of dozen pounds underweight. The chart said he was here for redness and swelling of his ankle. This was almost right.

    Upon interviewing the patient, he claimed he was in his usual state of health until 4 days prior to his visit when he began having pain and swelling just above the right ankle on the outside of his leg. He denied fever or vomiting but stated the pain was now making him nauseous. He further denied trauma to the area or of ever suffering from something like this before.

    Exam of the area showed a 6x8cm area of swelling (hard to the touch) which was red and very tender. The area of redness extended well past the hardened area and was less tender but still hurt to touch. The area felt warm and tense, like a giant pimple ready to burst – which is essentially what an abscess is.

    Every day, in every emergency room in America, someone presents with an abscess – it is that common an ailment and would likely be even more common during a disaster or other wide scale disruption in society. Any break in the protective barrier that is your skin can allow bacteria to enter deeper into your tissues, where it can then hide to some degree from your body’s natural defenses and begin to do what all life seeks to do – reproduce.

    The causes for the abscess initially could be as simple as an insect bite or a shaving cut. The most common types of bacteria found in these infections is staph and strep – which (not coincidentally) are the most common types of bacteria found on the human skin.

    Once the infection is noticed by the body, it is your defensive (immune) system that causes all the outward signs of the abscess. The redness is due to chemicals released by your immune cells to alert other immune cells that they need help and to begin fighting the infection. The swelling is caused by an accumulation of pus; which is a collection of white blood cells, bacteria, and all the collateral damage being done as they fight each other.

    Left untreated, the abscess can end in one of two results. The body wins by segregating and trapping all the bacterial invaders and causing the swollen area to burst, releasing the pus and fighting off the last of the bacteria while you ooze. Or the bacteria can relocate within the body and continue its assault until it overcomes the body’s defenses (“blood poisoning” or sepsis) and the victim dies. Before we had antibiotics and an understanding of this process it was a common way for our ancestors to go out.

    With modern medical systems in place, the treatment is powerful antibiotics and often a procedure known as incision and drainage – which is exactly what it sounds like. A cut is made (hopefully with anesthesia) into the abscess and the contents cleaned from the wound. The wound is then left to heal after draining for several more days – basically an induced version of the “pop-and-ooze” the body works towards. The patient is then placed on an antibiotic and re-examined at intervals to ensure good healing.

    So what happens if you don’t have access to those powerful antibiotics? You can still resort to addressing the problem the same way doctors did for a thousand years before we had these drugs – incise and drain.

    Before you stab your buddy’s abscess with your K-Bar, however, you might want to ensure you have the right diagnosis. Cutting someone’s skin in austere conditions is opening them up for infection, if they didn’t already have one. Also, you might want to consult an anatomy text to make sure you aren’t going to sever any major blood vessels or nerves in your attempt to right the bacterial wrong. Remember the old medical adage “do no harm” applies to those who attempt to play doctor as well.

    There are instances when you might not want to incise and drain (I&D):  Extremely large abscesses, deep abscesses in very sensitive areas , abscesses in the palm of the hand or sole of the foot, or abscesses on the face. These are instances where we in the ER refer to a specialist and you should consider the risk of doing something verses the risk of waiting and watching.

    If there is anyone in your group or community that is a nurse, PA, physician, or even a paramedic see if you can get a second opinion and assistance with the procedure. You can also take classes now that will give you some minimal exposure to, and experience with, performing this skill. There are also videos on YouTube that show the procedure and explain it better than just reading about it here.

    There are many herbal treatments for abscesses that are beyond the scope of this article. These may apply to general wound care as well and I’ll address those in a future article as well.

    As for the young man in the ER – when his procedure was complete and he had his prescription for the antibiotic, he turned to me and said, “that wasn’t so bad”.

    “So you know what to do next time?” I asked.

    “Yeah, come to the ER” he said.

    Hopefully for him (and for you) there will be an ER to come to. If not YOYO (you’re on your own).

  3. rafthydroponics-300x225.jpg.1e272629487d150e6eb62475171ea6c2.jpg

    When I think of Hydroponics I also think of Aquaponics. Aquaculture is the raising of fish and Aquaponics is using fish waste water to fertilize a hydroponics bed. But also there is Aeroponics, which is the spraying or misting of roots and plants with nutrient solutions. Hydroponics is generally thought of as the growing of plants in a water solution alone, which is called water culture. However, some plants are better grown in a sterile medium of some kind like sand, gravel, saw dust, peat, straw, etc. In those cases it is called sand culture, or gravel culture, or peat culture, etc. The basics are the same, which is that nutrient rich water is pumped and gravity fed though the medium and around the roots.

    As it turns out, all plant nutrients in the form of ions of various salts can be suspended in water. These "nutrients" are all basic elements. Of the 100 or so elements in the chart of elements table about 60 have been found in plants. And, of that, only a few are considered to be essential. To be exact 16 (wikipedia says 14, different sources vary) are essential and, of those, some are more essential in greater quantity. Those are called macro-nutrients. Those needed in less quantity are called micro-nutrients.

    Hydrogen, carbon and oxygen are the main elements and guess what? Plants get most of that from air and water. Of those three, carbon and oxygen are 45% each with hydrogen at 6%. Yes we have all heard that plants breath co2, giving off oxygen, and we animals breath oxygen, exhaling co2. Of the macronutrients we also have the famous NPK or nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the primary macronutrients). The other three secondary macronutrients that most of us don't think about are calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Micronutrients needed can be chlorine, boron, iron, manganese, zinc, copper and, strangely, molybdenum. Of those, we might have thought of iron, manganese, zinc and copper, but not the rest. And there are a few elements outside that which some plants might need, such as selenium or nickel. There was one plant, a tree, found recently where they discovered gold in its leaves. There was not enough gold to try to get rich getting gold from its leaves; however, the tree might be used as an indicator that there is gold in the ground beneath it. As far as they could tell, the plant has no use for the gold, it just happened to draw it up with other nutrients.

    About 15% of a plant's mass is dry weight. 90% of that dry weight is hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, and it gets much of that from the air and water. This means that 1.5% of a plant's weight are nutrients. Of 100 pounds of plant matter, 1.5 pounds are nutrients. The point being the nutrients you buy for hydroponics are very compact compared to the plants they will produce. Or to say it another way, a little plant nutrient will go along way.

    If you research you might find information similar the following.

    Carbon 45%
    Oxygen 45%
    Hydrogen 6%
    Nitrogen 1.5%
    Potassium 1.0%
    Calcium .5%
    Magnesium .2%
    Phosphorus .2%
    Sulphur .1%
    Chlorine .01%
    Iron .01%
    Manganese .005%
    Boron .002%
    Zinc .002%
    Copper .0006%
    Molybdenum .00001%

    Aside from plant nutrients, another major factor which is to be considered is the pH. 7 is neutral pH. Less than 7 is acidic. More than 7 is alkaline. PH of 6 to 7 is best for plants to properly convert the salts to something they can use. The pH is different for various elements, however. So a plant requiring one element more than others might want a pH that is suited more for that element.
    popbottles.jpg
    With all but aeroponics, air is needed, as well. This can be achieved with aquarium air pumps and air stones. If you think about it, soil has air in it, and that air  is more carbon dioxide rich than the atmosphere. The rotting plant matter and humus and manures help to provide a looseness which gives the soil more air. In aeroponics, the roots are sprayed or misted so air is a constant. In hydroponics, water levels need to be raised and lowered to to help with aeration.

    Some advantages of growing with hydroponics versus soil are:

    • The growing medium can be totally sterilized. This means no diseases, fungus, weeds, bugs, etc. to bother your plants while they are growing. One interesting method for this is using steam, though I'm not totally sure how well this would work out on the homestead.
    • No weeds.
    • No bugs (probably indoors only), at least it reduces bugs outdoors.
    • Lower chance of diseases.
    • Plant nutrition and pH can be controlled precisely at each stage of plant growth and evenly to all plants at the same time.
    • You can space plants closer together and get more yield per square foot.
    • You can automate the watering more precisely and there is less water loss due to evaporation versus flooding or other typical irrigation methods.
    • More sanitary because you are not using manures, which could transmit human diseases to fruit.
    • Plants mature faster.
    • Plants are not stressed as much during transplanting. Transplant shock is not as severe. Start your plants in, say, sand or vermiculite, then transplant to the growing medium.
    • Pesticides and herbicides are not necessary. Pesticides are not necessary if grown indoors, but some may be if grown outdoors. Herbicides won't be necessary at all; however, you might have to protect the nutrient solution from sun light so that algae won't grow in it.

    What might some possible disadvantages be?

    • Cost and labor in designing and setting up the system, containers, pumps, etc.
    • If using a medium (sand,gravel, saw dust, etc.), a change, or at least cleaning of the medium, is necessary after so many cycles.
    • Roots clog the medium.
    • The nutrients needed probably come totally from industry byproducts. Yes nutrients are terrible dangerous chemicals (satire alert). What? Not organic? If a bag of sulfur can be labeled organic, I'd say these nutrient solutions are organic, too. My concern here is that we are dependent on the systems of support for the nutrients.  (Nutrients would be a good prepper item to stock up on with possibly an infinite shelf life).

    In soil, apparently we have nutrients as ions, meaning basic molecules that contain any of the 16 nutrient elements. There are different molecules for different elements. We generally call this chemical fertilizers. Organic is where plant and animal matter have been decayed or broken down to the point that it has become these chemical molecular ions. Some of these elements also come from rock, gravel, clays, and sands that have been broken down to where the roots can grab them and use them. Much of the soil is not usable by the plant and is simply good for aeration and supporting the plant structurally while it lives.

    Plants roots absorb nutrients via chemical magnetism between molecules.  Soil nutrients are - ions which are attracted by + molecules inside the plant cells. Water is pulled into the plant via a suction created by evaporation of water from plant leaves. Nutrients move to the leaves where they are turned into food for the plant and its parts by photosynthesis. Strangely, plants can take in water and nutrients through their stems and leaves, as well as roots. The point is that nutrient solution in contact with plant parts makes plants grow.
    carrots.jpg
    I say all the above to give you an introduction to hydroponics. I myself have yet to try this method of growing food. But I'd like to try it for some staple items. Corn, beets, carrots, potatoes and rice come to mind as staples. About the grains, such as wheat, oats and such, I'm not sure on how easy it would be or how to go about it.  You may have heard of fodder systems for feeding livestock. This is a form of hydroponics. I would think root crops would be nicely grown in a sand culture. Corn might be best grown in a gravel culture, I would probably support corn with string as it grew. Other plants such as tomatoes, melons, squash, lettuce, greens, etc. might be good grown in water culture.
    milk-jugs.jpg
    The basics should all be about the same. You will need some kind of containment for the air, water or medium culture. This container will need to be water tight. Solution will flow from one end to another through it and the medium. Pumps will be needed to circulate the solution. Alternatively, if your setup doesn't actually flow, then changing out the solution will have the same effect.  So, on the small scale, pumps are not absolutely necessary. However, aeration will be using the fish tank pumps and stones.
    canningjars.jpg

    For plants where roots will hang down into the water, something will be needed to support the plant itself. Anything with a funnel shaped hole might suffice. And this might be one good reason to raise your own cotton. After you have sprouted your plants in perlite, vermiculite or sand, or whatever, you can transplant it to the bed by stuffing its roots down through the hole then supporting the plant with cotton. Alternatively, peat or rockwool (an insulation) might be used, as well. Could recycled fiberglass insulation work? For making holes you could get a cone shaped bit from the hardware store and drill the cone shape hole into 1" plywood. If using styrofoam, one might just cut the hole the proper shape with a pocket knife. And styrofoam will float in the water solution.

    Alternatively, one might make cone shaped pieces from any plastic material and insert that into a flat hole in flat material. Have you ever made a paper funnel for pouring oil into your car? Same concept. The thing is that you need to have this cone shape to allow the roots to be lowered below into the solution and to hold the stem. Again, some material needs to be packed into the cone to hold the stem in place.

    Hydrogen 1.0079
    Carbon 12.0107
    Oxygen 15.9994
    Nitrogen 14.0067
    PHosphorus 30.9738
    Potassium 39.0983
    Sulphur 32.065
    Magnesim 24.305
    Calcium 40.078
    Iron 55.845
    Chlorine 35.453
    Manganese 54.938
    Boron 10.811
    Zinc 65.39
    Copper 63.546
    Molybdenum 95.94
    Nickel 58.6934
    Selenium 78.96
    Aluminum 26.9815

    The above table is the atomic mass of each nutrient (element). Atomic mass is defined as 1/12th the mass of a carbon 12 atom. This gives us a ratio for figuring atomic mass of molecules. We can then determine what percentage of the molecule is our nutrient. Using this, we can figure ppm mg/l. That is parts per million milligrams per liter. A good digital scale, such as a scientific or scale used to measure gun powder, might be used to weight out a fertilizer salt to be added to a solution. Just as percent means out of one hundred, ppm means out of one million. One microliter is one ppm of a liter. 1,000 microliters would be a milliliter. PPM, though, is a ratio that is used with any measuring system. PPM for gallons would be 1 millionth of a gallon. And one ounce of a gallon is 7,812.5 ppm.

    Sources for plant nutrients

    • Dry fertilizer compounds
    • Liquid fertilizer solutions
    • Teas (manure tea, compost tea)
    • Home mixed liquid fertilizer solutions

    The last one, of course, will be made from the first three. Some compounds are more soluble in water than others. This means they dissolve well and stay suspended. Solubility ratios might be 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:15, 1:60, 1:300, 1:500. Compounds that are less soluble tend to be better for gravel and sand cultures and anything but pure water culture. The end result is that you mix up something liquid that can be added to your tank of water at a nutrient level, which will feed the plants and yet not burn them with too much nutrient. This is called a nutrient formulation.  Nutrient formulations are like recipes for nutrient solutions.

    Fertilizer compounds should give you amounts of each compound (molecule). It should give you the name of the compound and possibly the molecule itself. You will need to calculate a ratio for each compound. First, you will need to figure the molecular weight of a compound. A nutrient will be one atom in that molecule. You will need to figure the total weight for that element. A molecule may have more than one atom of the nutrient. Online Molecular weight calculator. You could try to calculate molecular weight yourself and then check it with an online molecular weight calculator.

    1 mg/l is one ppm. You will divide the nutrient weight by the molecule weight to get a ratio. This ratio will be .2358, for example, or .4231 or .1258. Let's say you need 150 ppm of the nutrient in the solution. This means 150 mg/l. By the way, it's probably best to just calculate this in mg/l and later convert to ounces per gallon if you must. So we divide 150 ppm by a ratio, say, .3092 and get 485 mg of your fertilizer compound to get the proper ppm in your 1 liter solution.

    Compounds are usually not 100% pure and may be, for example, 40% up to 98% purity. I would assume the impurities are not harmful to plants and they should tell you what they are. Let's say in the above example the compound was 85% pure. 85% is .85. We divide 485 by .85 and get 570 mg. I made up the numbers above, but you get the point. Now we multiply 570 by the total number of liters of water in our system. Say, 100 liters, which would give 5,700 mg or 5.7 grams.

    Factors that affect the formulation might be the following.

    • Plant species and variety
    • Stage of plant growth
    • Part of plant being harvested (stem, root, leaves, fruit etc. )
    • Hours of sunlight
    • Intensity of sun
    • Temperatures

    You will most likely be mixing your solutions from solid fertilizer compounds or from liquid solutions or both. In order for you to use some manure or compost tea, you would have to test your tea solution for nutrient content. This is not cheap or fast. Though there may be some general data already established  for popular manure teas. For example, fish waste for a given type of fish in aquaponics. Or for a given compost recipe. Local county extension offices would probably test a tea solution for you and maybe for free. However, most people probably wouldn't bother unless you are wanting to find non-industrial organic solutions.

    You may experience nutrient deficiencies. This can be a complicated issue. Testing can be time consuming or expensive. You can get strip test kits from the hardware store. But you, as a homesteader, will basically have to watch for symptoms and then change out or amend your water. I won't really go into talking about symptoms in this article. Conversely, having a toxic nutrient level is usually not a problem. And, again, there might be differing nutrient requirements at different stages of growth.  That means there may not be a single generic one size fits all nutrient solution. Some further research and study here will be necessary.

    As preppers we might simply experiment with hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. We might have a small system setup so that, if needed, we could fire up the hydroponics system for a few months and produce some staples.  Or one might live off the produce day in and day out. In the case of a greenhouse or poly tunnel, we could live off of some of it year round. Hydroponics is not without work, however. It is merely another way to skin the cat.

    If you wanted to try aeroponics  you might check out www.dripworks.com Drip Works for some drip and spray emitters and other components. However, I don't have a clue if these will clog or stop up due to the solution not being pure water.

     

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    Recent Articles

    You’re at 10,000 feet. It’s been a few days at this altitude and you wonder when you’ll stop breathing hard. Not that it matters because if you’re not able to track, shoot, and pack out that elk, it’s likely your family will not survive the winter.

    The exhaustion threatens to beat you down. You’ve given your extra rations to your wife and children. Now there are new mouths to feed. You weren’t sure you were going to see them again after it happened. Now that they’ve shown up, rations are going to have to be redistributed. After all, they’re like family.

    Building a raft, a snow hut, debris shelter, working a bow drill, digging holes, carrying injured family members – that exercise program you bought didn’t prepare you for any of that.

    Fit for What?

    Information on physical fitness is a lot like the food supply in the United States. There’s a lot of it and most of it is not good for you.

    There’s fitness as sport, workouts to get you “beach ready,” exercise routines that have as their goal nothing more than leaving you in a pool of sweat or vomit, "8-Minute Abs", and body destroying cardio fests.

    When anyone embarks on a fitness regimen, the question that should be asked is: “What am I trying to get fit for?” It is particularly critical to have the right answer to this question in a prepping or survival situation. Fitness is relative and depends on the goal.

    Your gym work has to support the technical skills you’ve developed and the tasks you will need to perform.

    You may be walking long distances; have to engage in hand-to-hand combat; lift and carry heavy objects; sprint away from danger; have the energy to do the planting, feeding, and mending on the homestead; or pack out the elk you shot.

    Is it possible to train to accomplish all these tasks and still have time to eat and sleep? What if you weren’t the all-state quarterback in high school? What if you don’t have the time or money for a gym membership? What if you’re in your mid-50’s (like me) or older?

    This isn’t about “working out.” Working out is for stressed executives, soccer moms, and former high school athletes trying to relive their glory days. This is about training.

    The First Rule

    The first rule is to avoid injury. Whatever program you choose shouldn’t hurt you. This is not about competition. Pain and injuries to shoulders, knees, and lower backs are epidemic in gyms.

    Expensive Tissue

    When most guys go to the gym, they try to do what the culture and our instincts tell them to do: build as much muscle as possible. As guys, we are usually more interested in “show” rather than “go.” There are a couple of problems with this approach. One problem is that muscle mass is metabolically expensive. It takes a lot of energy to move that extra weight.

    The big muscled guy will tire out much more quickly because of the additional oxygen required by his larger frame. In addition, bigger muscles aren’t necessarily stronger muscles.

    If food is scarce, having a low body fat percentage and six-pack abs will be more of a sign of impending starvation than sex appeal.

    In the words of strength coach James Radcliffe, “Bullets are better than bowling balls.”

    Human Movements

    You could argue that you need to have endurance, agility, speed, flexibility, strength, and quickness. You don’t have time to work on all these specific attributes. These are good if you had the time but I think for a prepping/survival situation, there’s a better way to approach your training.

    Your training program should improve your ability to move the way humans were born to move. The training will help you to do it with power, efficiency, and strength. The movements are squatting, pushing, pulling, lunging, rotating, and gait (walking or running).

    All these seem simple until we try to do them under load or for long duration.

    Going Long or Going Strong?

    If you are new to training, or you haven’t exercised in a while, know that almost anything thing you do will get you better (assuming you don’t hurt yourself) for about six to eight weeks. Then your progress will stall. This can be okay depending on your starting condition and the intensity of your program.

    Strength
    [blockquote cite="Strength coach Mark Rippetoe"]Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.[/blockquote]

    Think of strength as the big glass that you will pour all the other physical qualities into. Being strong makes it easier to endure.

    Sports physiologists talk about different types of strength: absolute strength, relative strength, explosive strength, strength endurance, power endurance. Power endurance is what you want to work on. The following discussion of energy systems will make the reasons for that clearer.

    Energy Systems

    I could get real geeky here but I’m going to try to avoid that. We’re going to be talking about three main energy systems:

      • Alactic anaerobic
      • Lactic anaerobic
      •  Aerobic

    sandbag-shoulder.jpgThe alactic system is used for short bursts of power for sprinting fifty yards, knocking someone to the ground or pulling a slab of concrete off of your buddy. The lactic system is used for muscle-burning activities like running 800 meters, the high intensity exercise programs like P90x, or wrestling around on the ground with a bad guy. The aerobic system is used for things like long distance running or hiking. Which one is most important to train? I would argue that being able to do repeated bouts of explosive, powerful movements (alactic) for extended periods of time (aerobic) makes the most sense. Training these two make the most sense because of the tasks you will most likely have to accomplish in most survival scenarios. Training in these energy systems is also less likely to compromise your immune and musculoskeletal systems.The aerobic system is an important base for just about every movement. Please understand that I am not talking about chronic endurance training of the sort that marathon runners undertake. This will cause you to lose muscle mass and explosiveness and leave you prone to injury and illness.

    You are probably stronger in one of these energy systems than the others. When it comes to physical training, most of us play to our strengths. This can be a mistake. At 55 years of age, I can do 15 pull-ups and deadlift close to 400 lbs. at a bodyweight of 178 lbs. I don’t like working on my endurance. The takeaway for me is that the thing I’m reluctant to do is exactly the hole in my armor that I need to cover up and I’ve adjusted my training program accordingly.

    Principles Over Tools

    I’m as much of a gear head as the next guy. This carries over into my fitness training. It’s something that I’ve only recently gotten under control. There are all kinds of tools to get the job(s) done. You have kettlebells, dumbbells, cables, clubbells, barbells, “ab blasters,” suspension trainers, fancy machines, a universe of running shoes for different situations, and the Shake Weight.

    You can actually get everything done with just a duffle bag or Alice pack. Add some gym rings and you can go to another level.

    If all you have access to is bodyweight, you can make incredible gains in the areas you need them. I can detail a variety of programs using all these tools in a later article.

    You should cross train. What I mean by that is you should combine lifting heavy objects with an endurance activity like ruck marching (start with weight as light as ten pounds and work up to 40 or 50 lbs.). If you have access to a pool, lake, pond, or the ocean swimming is a great addition that can work all the energy systems.

    Figure out ways to increase load. If you don’t have access to weights, use big rocks or a duffle bag containing chains or pea gravel wrapped in plastic garbage bags.

    Start running hills. This can help ease you into sprinting. Some of us have too much mileage to do anything that resembles fast running and that’s okay. You can substitute jumping and medicine ball exercises to aid your explosiveness.

    In the end, your strength and fitness have to complement your technical training. If you can’t repair a motor, take care of your livestock, use a gun properly, or use a map and compass, all the physical training in the world won’t keep you from going over the edge.

    Think about pressure testing your strength and skills by entering adventure races, orienteering competitions, local Strongman or Highland Games competitions, and IPSC contests. It can only help.

  4. Who am I?

    Hello. My name is Jeff Dols and I am the proud owner of Fallen Oaks Farm. This column will be dedicated to chronicling my journey to transform my 17 acre property into a permaculture farm. Five years ago, my wife and I moved to Loudon, TN to get out to the "country" where we could have more space for ourselves and what would become our herd of dogs, cats, parrots, horses, pigs, chickens, and goats.

    After buying the new house, it was time to make room for the horses and pigs that belonged to my wife. They were living out at her parents place since we didn't have room for them at our old house, and there was almost no fencing at our new house. For the first year, we set about fencing off areas for the horse pasture and the pig pasture. I learned a great deal about the many types of soil on my property, and I also learned the important of wearing gloves whilst pounding in t-posts. After several months, several hundred posts, and a few thousand feet of fence, the pastures were finally done and we welcomed the pigs and horses out to the new homestead. From there, we soon acquired a small goat herd so that I could chase my dream of producing my own goat cheese (a dream I am happy to say I have finally achieved). And finally, we added a small flock of chickens for eggs production.

    Permaculture

    About a four years ago, I became familiar with a gentleman named Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast (thesurvivalpodcast.com). Thanks to Jack's podcast, I became aware of something called permaculture. From the moment I first of heard of it, I was hooked. I began trying to learn all I could about what it meant to develop a permaculture system. If you do not know what permaculture means, that's okay. I will be talking about it plenty in future posts, but it revealed a real passion that I didn't know I had. I've learned that I want to be closer to the land, to know where my food comes from, and to help my community do the same.

    It was again Jack Spirko that first taught me the word PermaEthos back when it was in its infancy and was meant to be a community in the wilds of Texas. Needless to say, that vision did not last, and soon turned into something entirely different. PermaEthos would now transform farms into showcases for Permaculture's benefits, and the project would be initially funded by a Permaculture Design Certification course. The sale of the PDC was limited to only 1000 students, and on the day of the sale I recall sweating in the shade (I was putting up more fence) beneath a tall pine refreshing my phone's browser feverishly while waiting for the sale to go live. When it finally appeared I frantically smashed away at my phone with aching thumbs as quickly as I was able, and to my relief I became founding member #150. 

    Using what I have learned in the PermaEthos PDC, it is my goal to turn Fallen Oaks Farm into a permaculture farm to provide my community with fresh, wholesome food, and to help people to develop similar systems for themselves. I want to be able to show visitors how everything in the system from fruit trees all the way down to mushrooms, it working together and then be able to provide them with the very same plants they've seen. My dream is to become a Permaculture teacher and consultant so that I might spread the knowledge and understanding that I have gained. It's going to be a long journey, but I look forward to every bit of it and sharing it with you. Until next time, take care!

  5. Rob Kaiser
    Latest Article

    9 years ago.

    Screen-Shot-2017-07-02-at-10.03.34-AM-30

     

    This “Facebook memory” popped up today in my news feed while having coffee and relaxing on this long holiday weekend.  It is a long weekend on account of:

    Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.[1] The Congress actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2.

    This is a photo I took of myself long before selfies were a thing.  I was working as a consulting utility forester, working with major gas/electric utility systems to address their vegetation management needs. Much of this involved working and walking alone to assess the terrain, habitat, and environmental conditions where the work needed to take place – it was a great job.  If you’re interested in learning more about this type of work, visit this site here.

    There are so many times that I think about what activities I’ve chosen to engage in for a primary source of income over the years.  While the decisions I’ve made and the actions that I’ve taken have never resulted in what many would consider a large income stream – they have resulted in happiness and a good quality of life.

    This year, I will turn 40.  As part of my personal wellness program, I see a counselor regularly.  One thing I recently observed is that I *never* find myself bitching or complaining about my work.  I’ve created a life where I’ve spent half of my years on this planet working outdoors during all seasons.  It seemed natural.

    However, it wasn’t good enough.  For the last few years, I began voraciously “chasing my dream” of becoming the next rock star market farmer, permaculture farm designer, community organizer, green industry entrepreneur, writer, blogger, content creator, or whatever else I found myself focusing on at that time.

    Much of this work was performed to my own detriment.  I pursued the “good cause” and failed to embrace many of these principles I stood and for and preached in my own life – specifically “self care.”  The article titled “Why Many Farmers Eat Like Crap” sums it up very nicely.  I began to hate my #hustle.

    This year, I decided this year to step back from the pursuit of those dreams.  The reality is that many of those dreams were little else other than someone *else’s* dreams that I admired.  I’ve shifted focus to living the life *I* am living…now and in this moment. It’s all I’ve ever done and all that I know how to do.

    One man whose dreams I was chasing was Curtis Stone.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for Curtis and the work that he’s done.  He’s a mentor and a friend.  He has always advised people to keep their ideology in their back pocket.  I’m going to take this a step further and suggest you put your dreams there too.

    That’s not so say that you should leave them there, but sometimes it’s important to take time and reevaluate what you are chasing and why.  Sometimes, when we get so caught up in the #hustle, we lose sight of the life we’ve been actively creating for ourselves.  Let’s give ourselves some credit every once in a while.

    Rather than tirelessly chase dreams, think about the dreams you’re chasing.  Why are you chasing these dreams in the first place?  What’s you’re purpose in life?  If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

    You don’t necessarily need to figure it all out right now, because it’s also very easy to sit around getting nothing done while contemplating your navel and the universe.  However, I do encourage getting these thoughts down on a regular basis.  This will help you identify the purpose in mission is your life.  The why.

    Last September, I wrote a blog post titled, Three Primary Components of a Deliberate Living System.  This post and many others like it helped me determine my why.  Blog posts since then have been sporadic at best and the weekly email I used to send also seemed to lose its’ purpose.  It began to show in my work.

    It bothered me, but I soon decided that I needed to do what’s best for me.  I needed to begin practicing self-care first.  All of this is relevant and culminates in the content of this long blog post that I find myself writing today.  It is relevant because the development and creation of Deliberate Living Systems was based (in part) on the idea of self-sufficiency, freedom, and independence.

    As we read at the beginning of the article, “Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.[1] The Congress actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2.”

    As the forefathers of this country declared independence from the British Empire, I find myself continually thinking about ways that I wish to declare independence from the systems of support and the mindsets that I know.  I am my own sovereign being and I encourage each and every person that reads this to understand that this is the truth – but only if you want it to be and allow it to happen in your own way.  You cannot live through other people’s dreams…

    …you must find your own.  You must find your purpose.  You must find your way.  You are creating your own Deliberate Living System.  The primary components that comprise your systems will change, but before you can recognize this as truth, you need to understand and identify what those components are in the first place.  I’d encourage you to take some time and do so this weekend.

    There is no better time to celebrate Independence Day than to figure out what it is that you seek independence from and how and why you seek it.  Declare your independence today and celebrate the life you are actively creating.  Moreover, share it with someone and talk about what you’re doing to make it happen.  Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend.

    Live deliberately, my friends.

    Screen-Shot-2017-07-02-at-12.18.20-PM-30

    The post "Independence Day" appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.

     

  6. If you follow my blog at all, you’ve no doubt noticed that I have not had the time to write any posts this summer.  We have been busier than normal with the farm, and most of my “spare” time has been invested into the podcast that I’m doing weekly with Diego Footer of Permaculture Voices called “Grass Fed Life“.

    For those of you who really value the information I’ve put out on the blog over the past three years, hopefully you’ve found the time to the listen to the podcast.  Episode number 22 (8 Reasons Why You Might NOT Want To Start A Pastured Poultry Enterprise) came out today, and with it there are now over 23+ hours of audio for you to listen to.  Contained within that audio is a lot of what I hope you would agree to be very valuable information.  In all sincerity, there is way more content there than I could ever write for the blog during the same time period.  We have covered everything from production on poultry and pork, to marketing dynamics and business basics.  All in all, I think it’s a pretty solid replacement during the growing season for the written blog.  But rest assured, I’ll get back to writing more blog posts this winter.

    Many of you have been e-mailing and asking about when our next workshop would be scheduled and I’m happy to announce that we have one on the calendar for November 3rd-5th near our farm in Martinsville, IN.  The Farm Business Essentials 3-day workshop is going to be intense, and I’m extremely excited about it!  My excitement stems from two main sources:  First, the curriculum we’ll be covering in this workshop is the meaty stuff that really matters if you want to make a legitimate go of farming for profit.  This is the teaching that I really get into and enjoy sharing because it is so profoundly important to your success.  Second, I’ll be co-teaching this workshop with my friend Diego Footer.  Diego brings a lot to the table in terms of transitioning from one career to another, as he is currently working to build an income source that will allow him to work from home and spend more time with his young family.  On top of that, he has spent countless hundreds of hours talking with and interviewing farmers in the regenerative agricultural space.  The knowledge base he has to share in a workshop of this nature is incalculable.

    I want to be clear that this workshop is specifically aimed at for profit farming, and not homesteading.  The main focus will be aimed at helping aspiring farmers and existing farmers create a personal plan to transition towards an intentional part-time or full-time farming venture.  We’ll certainly spend some time (about 25% of the workshop) on the “nuts and bolts” of how-to produce poultry and pork as well as an exhaustive tour of our farm.  But the majority of our time will be focused on things like selecting the appropriate enterprise(s) for you on your farm at this point in time.  We’ll also cover things like how to set realistic expectations for your farm, how to get your family on board and how to create a comprehensive year to year growth plan.  We’ll also talk about balancing family with farm business startup, running a business, scaling up production while balancing marketing and refining your farm venture to decrease costs while increasing profits.  This is not a class you will sit in and simply listen to the speakers talk – this will be an interactive experience where your participation will be expected in order for you to get the most value out of the workshop!  You can read the entire itinerary on the Permaculture Voices website.  We also have hotel accommodations listed as well for those of you coming in from out of town (please note the group rate discount code!).

    So what’s included and what is the cost?

    We have worked very hard to try and pack a lot of value into this workshop, and I think we have done just that.  Please note that our three days together are going to be long and intense!  But if you are serious about farming for profit, then please consider investing into yourself!  For an in depth conversation about the workshop between myself and Diego, please listen to Episode 22 of Grass Fed Life.

    $499 PER PERSON – EARLYBIRD PRICING ($599 after October 1)

    $449 PER PERSON WITH TWO OR MORE REGISTRATIONS ($499 each after October 1)

    We also have 12 VIP Spots Available (as of this writing only 3 of these remain available): 

    There is no extra costs for these spots.  The first 12 registrants will be given VIP status. Each VIP attendee is invited to a special dinner on the farm on the night of November 5, will receive the whole PV3 Broadacre Video Package ($99 value), and get a free 1/2 hour of consulting with Darby AFTER the workshop. Darby will answer any questions that you might have and address any issues that you might need help with. These VIP spots are limited to the first 12 registrants.

    There are a total of 25 workshop tickets available.  The attendance of the event is limited to make the event more personal and allow a more customized and tailored content for the attendees.


    What is else is included:

    • Lunch provided each day.  Local and organic, meat provided by Darby’s farm.
    • Snacks, coffee, water, and tea are provided throughout the workshop.
    • Printed workbook containing all workshop notes and worksheets.
    • Pre-Workshop Videos- Available immediately upon registration.
      • Darby Simpson: Farm Marketing & Business Planning: Real World Proven Strategies (3HR)
      • Greg Judy: Successful Implementation Using High Density Planned Grazing (3HR)
      • Greg Judy: The Economics For Leasing Land, How To Find It and Develop It For Maximum Income (3HR)
    • Farm tour of Darby’s farm.  See the systems in action.
    • Access to 3 monthly follow up webinars AFTER the workshop to help keep you on track and answer any follow up questions.
    • 30 minute consult PRIOR to the workshop to help make sure that your concerns are addressed during the workshop.

    Please note that this is the only workshop and/or speaking event that I currently have on the calendar.  If the above content sounds like a good fit for where you are at with your farm, then please join us for this upcoming event this November!  I’ll look forward to meeting many of you in person and I promise you’ll get way more value than you pay for at this event.  Knowing what I know now, if I could travel back in time and attend something of this nature I would do it in a heartbeat.  I feel strongly that this is one of the best investments you can make into yourself, your family and your farm business!

    The post Farm Business Essentials: November Workshop appeared first on Darby Simpson.


    View the full article

  7. Primal-Power-Method-Bison-Chili_opt.jpg.a493b0b9f5bdcf6e41127b5500e6b238.jpg

    Primal Power Method Bison Chile Recipe

    Here is a tasty recipe created by one of my favorite Primal Power Method followers – Corina Luu

     

    Ingredients

    • 2 pounds grass fed Bison
    • 1 large red onion
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • 1 28oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
    • 1 15oz can tomato sauce
    • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
    • 1 cup beef broth
    • 1 Tbsp chili powder
    • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
    • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
    • 2 tsp cacao powder
    • 2 tsp ground corainder
    • 1 tsp granulated garlic
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1-2 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (your taste preference)

    Directions

    1. In a large Dutch oven cook bison, onion and garlic together until bison is browned.

    2. Add your broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and pureed pumpkin (stir well).

    3. Add in seasonings, mix well and cook for 20 minutes so that all your flavors blend together.

    4. Scoop some into a bowl and add your favorite toppings (see Rosemary Bread recipe).

    Enjoy!

     

    Make sure to stay in touch with Gary by following the links below:

    Purchase my Primal Power Method books at:

    Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Gary-Collins/e/B009MSJDD6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
    iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/gary-collins-ms/id829355948?mt=11
    Primal Power Method Website – http://www.primalpowermethod.com/product-category/books/

    Get your free Primal Lifestyle gifts here:

    http://www.primalpowermethod.com/email/newsletter-signup/

    Gary’s Links:

    Website http://www.primalpowermethod.com
    Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/primalpowermethod
    Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/primalpowermethod
    Twitter – http://twitter.com/PrimalMethod
    Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/PrimalMethod
    Instagram – http://instagram.com/primalpowermethod
    Source article is from Primal Power Method

  8. MJ Banner

    The Urban Guerrilla
    “Hops, it is from more than just BEER”
    By Michael Jordan
    A.K.A: Freyr MOJ, the Crimson JUGGERNAUT

    Hops growing up

    Hops, world renowned for the use in beer, is making a big comeback for gardens and baking. I was asked what I do with hop, well I make starts every year. Hops is getting expensive, so, over the last 10 years, I have been growing my own. Yes, I do brew beer, but there may things hops is good for.

    Hops are primarily used to reduce tension and aid in sleep. As a sleep aid, hops can be used in a sachet inside of a pillow. The aromatic properties of the herb will help one to fall asleep. For tension, hops can be taken to help relax the muscles and soothe anxiety. As a digestive aid, hops can help to relax spasms of the digestive system and aid in digestion

    Dosage: As an infusion, drink one cup in the evening to aid sleep. As a tincture, take 20 drops in a glass of water 3 times daily for anxiety. Take 10 drops with water up to 5 times daily for digestion. As a tablet, take for stress or as a sleep aid. As a capsule, take 500 mg, 3 times daily before meals, to help increase appetite. A sachet may be made and placed in your pillow to aid in sleep.

    Safety: You should not use hops if you suffer from depression. Consult your health care provider before beginning use of any herb.

    The shoots that corkscrew up out of the ground in the spring are quite tender and can be sautéed like asparagus. Combs stuffs hop leaves with hop flower petals, cheeses, and aromatics before tempura-frying them to make a cheesy-herbal beggar's purse.

    One of my favorite things to make with hops is bread. The hops give the bread a distinctive, though not very pronounced, hoppy aroma, and also, as I thought it might, a bitter finish, which is quite nice, once you get used to it. You probably need to like hops a lot though. The crumb is relatively heavy for a white-flour loaf, but soft and moist; the crust is soft and chewy. The flavor and aroma is awesome. This bread helps me with sleep and tension.

     

    Hops closeupSoft Hops Yeast

    Equipment:

    3-quart sauce pan

    1 quart glass jar with lid

    small sieve

     

    Ingredients:

    1/3 cup dried hops

    6 cups quality water

    1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast or

    1/3 cup good soft yeast from the previous batch

     

    Process:

    1. Simmer hops in water for 1/2 an hour letting the steam escape, to make a strong tea. The water will boil down to about 3 1/2 cups.
    2. Sterilize jar and lid in boiling water. I do this by pouring boiling water into the jar and over the lid.
    3. Place flour and salt in sterile jar, and strain boiling tea over the flour. Stir thoroughly. It is important to scald the flour to keep the yeast from souring.
    4. Cover loosely and allow to cool.
    5. When it is cool (not cold) add yeast and stir to incorporate. Cover loosely and keep at room temperature. It will bubble and ferment, producing a quality yeast.
    6. When it has fermented (6-12 hours), cover tightly and store in a cool place.

     

    Yields: 3 1/2 cups soft yeast.

    Keeps 2 week, properly stored. When the yeast has a strong tart smell and watery appearance, it is too old for use.

    Soft Hops Yeast Bread

     Ingredients:

    • ¼ cup corn meal
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 ½ cups water
    • 2 ½ cups milk
    • ¾ cup soft hop yeast
    • 10-12 cups flour, divided

     

    Optional Glaze:

    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon water

     

    Instructions:

    1. In saucepan, combine cornmeal, salt and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer ten minutes, to form a thin gruel. Transfer to a non-metal mixing bowl.
    2. Stir in milk, to cool the mixture.
    3. Add yeast and 4 cups flour (I use whole wheat) to make a thick batter. Mix thoroughly and cover. This is called a sponge.
    4. Let sit in a warm (room temperature) place 2 – 12 hours. It can be worked again when the surface appears somewhat watery, though it is best to mix the sponge in the evening and finish making the bread the next morning.
    5. Stir in 4 cups all-purpose flour, to form stiff dough.
    6. Turn out onto a heavily floured surface, cover with more flour and knead to incorporate ingredients (10-15 minutes).
    7. Leave dough on the work surface, to rest while you clean out and grease the mixing bowl.
    8. Knead dough for twenty minutes, to develop the gluten. Return dough to mixing bowl and cover.
    9. Let rise in a warm area until doubled in bulk. This rising will take 45 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how long the sponge was allowed to develop.
    10. Knead again, divide and shape into loaves. This recipe will make three 4” x 8” loaves, or two 5” x 9” loaves. It can also be divided and shaped into rolls or hamburger buns.
    11. Place the dough in greased pans, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. This rising should take no more than an hour.
    12. Mix glaze and brush on loaves or rolls.
    13. Bake loaves at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, for 50-60 minutes, or until the bread comes away from the sides of the pan and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. - Rolls and buns are baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 25 minutes.
    14. When bread has baked, turn out of pans onto a wire rack to cool. For a softer crust, cover loaves with a hand towel while they cool.

    Note: This dough tends to rise up and not out, so make the base of the loaves or buns the desired size of the final product.

    hops bread

     

    Yeast Cakes from Hops

     

    • 1 cup mashed potatoes
    • 1 cup potato water
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 cup dried hops
    • 2 Tbsp. sugar
    • 4 cups corn meal (approx.)
    • 1 dried yeast cake (optional)

     

    Boil 3 or 4 peeled potatoes in unsalted water. When done, drain the potatoes and mash them well, but save the potato water to use later. Cover the hop blossoms with water and bring to a boil. Drain off the water and save it, too. (Ella's mother dissolved a dried yeast cake left from her last batch into this water as a booster.)

    Put flour in a pan and slowly stir in the potato water you saved. Be careful not to use too much water. Mix slowly so that the flour won't be lumpy. If the mixture is too runny, it might be necessary to cook it until it is a thick paste-like dough.

    Add mashed potatoes and sugar. Mix well and then slowly add the hop water until you have a medium soft dough. Let rise double. Then punch down and work in enough corn meal to make a stiff dough. Roll out the dough on a board to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into cakes. Let the cakes dry, turning them often to make sure they dry evenly. When you think they are good and dry, hang them up in a muslin bag for a few days to make sure they won't mold. After this you can store them in fruit jars or however you wish.

    We followed this recipe using the called for amounts of ingredients and found it made two large pans of yeast cakes. Whereas this amount would be fine in a large family where bread is made often, it was much more than we needed. You may want to cut it down some, especially the first time you make it.

    So then next time you plant something, try some hops. Not only will you have a great vine plant to weave in and out of your trellises, you have a plant that you can use to make something more than beer with.

    MJ Bottom Banner

  9. Lynn Cochrane
    Latest Article

    If you would like your Christmas celebration on a smaller scale this year, you might consider using a rosemary plant, available at plant nurseries, as a Christmas tree.  A dense, evergreen, aromatic shrub, it has resinous, needlelike leaves and soft blue flowers. 

    The upright varieties are hardier, while prostrate ones are more tender. “Arp” is the hardiest rosemary, taking temperatures as low as -10 degrees F.  Instructions for overwintering are to wrap in plastic sheeting and shelter from winter winds.  Many folks grow them in pots and bring them in for the winter, just in time for use as a Christmas tree.  It succeeds best in a light, dry soil and sheltered situation, such as the base of a low wall facing south.

    Rosmarinus - Officinalis - RosemaryRich in tradition, the Spaniards revere it as one of the bushes that gave shelter to the Virgin Mary in the flight into Egypt and call it Romero, the Pilgrim’s flower.  It was introduced in England by Phillippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III in the 14th century.

    When trimming your “tree”, save the needles for use in cooking.  Rosemary roasted potatoes are especially delicious.  The best lamb roast I have ever eaten was in New Zealand, with a rosemary herb crust.  Known as the herb of remembrance, rosemary is said to improve memory and fidelity for lovers.  Because of this symbolism, it is used at weddings, funerals, decking churches and halls, and as incense in religious ceremonies.

    This is one of the greatest medicinal herbs, especially considering how affordable it is.  Rosemary increases the blood supply to the skin, reducing pain in rheumatic muscles and joints.  Rosemary baths help with low blood pressure, varicose veins, bruises, and sprains.  Because it helps to relax muscles, use for indigestion, cramps and irritable bowel syndrome.  Its fungicidal action kills Candida albicans, the cause of yeast infections.

    Dilute the essential oil using 10 drops per tablespoon of vegetable oil, such as olive, sunflower, almond or jojoba oil.   I use the essential oil in pain relieving formulas.  It is also a good rub, applied topically, for congested lungs.  Add a few drops to the bath after a long, tiring day.  It can be applied to the scalp to promote hair growth.  Rub on your temples to lessen headaches.

    Rosmarinus_officinalis-Rosemary.thumb.jpg.72916b424a95f35ed64e5e840f4bf009.jpg

    Essential oils are too highly concentrated to use internally.  Harvest the aerial parts of the plant (the needles and flowers).   It is best to steep one ounce of dried herb, or two ounces of fresh herb, in 5 cups of water. Make it fresh each day.  Drink hot or cold. A tea can be used for colds, flu, rheumatic pains, and indigestion. It is stimulating, so avoid use before bedtime.

    Since this herb is a uterine stimulant, it should not be used medically during pregnancy.  You should never ingest the essential oil.  Small amounts of rosemary used in cooking do not pose a risk of any side effects.

    Enjoy the holidays, and winter, with rosemary!

    Sources:

    The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody, DK Books, 1993

    A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve, Dover, 1971

    Prescription for Herbal Healing, Phyllis Balch, Avery, 2002

    Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset Publishing, 2001

    Rosmarinus Officinalis illustration, from NRCS Plants Database, Britton, N.L.

    Disclaimer:

     Herbal medicine and teas, as a method of healing, are not recognized in the USA.  Lynn Wallingford makes no health claims.  Any herbal or tea information is not intended to treat, diagnose, or prescribe in any way, and is for informational purposes only.  She does not take responsibility for your experience using them.  She trusts that you will consult a licensed healthcare professional when appropriate, especially pregnant women, nursing mothers, anyone over 60 years of age, anyone under 12 years of age, or anyone with a serious medical condition.

  10. pretty-loaded-9620.jpg

    “Here, shoot this,” said Tom.

    “What do I do? How do I hold it and what if I push the wrong button?” Molly replied. “Ok, I’ll shoot it.”

    Boom! “Ouch! Damn that hurt! Is it supposed to hurt like that?” cried Molly.

    “Were you even aiming the gun at the target?” Tom yelled. “That shouldn’t hurt. Let’s try this again.”

    Does the above scenario sound familiar? That was me nineteen years ago learning how to shoot. I have to admit that I loved the fact that I could shoot the gun, but I was terrified each time, because I didn’t understand what I thought was a complicated thing capable of killing me. I knew I needed to hold perfectly still during each shot and I failed at that miserably. I didn’t understand how to truly use the sights on the gun and looking at the target confused me because I couldn’t focus on the sights and target all at once. Finally, I didn’t get a chance to look at the box of ammo and wasn’t shown how to load the gun on my own, it was just handed to me.

    It’s not rocket science that men and women are different creatures, so why do some people teach men and women the same way to shoot? Let’s face it, men are more logical and have great spatial skills and they can pick up a gun and seem to have a pretty good idea of what to do. Women, on the other hand, are emotional and we have to go through every single step to understand how the gun works.

    Frank, an instructor of mine, told me to learn from Vicki Farnam and Diane Nicholl in the book Teaching Women to Shoot so I could really help address women’s issues when it comes to shooting firearms effectively. The authors were pioneers in helping women shoot and as I read the book I finally started to understand what I needed to do. I had a lot of “Aha!” moments and after nineteen years these authors addressed issues I had dealt with for many years.

    The fundamentals of shooting need to be addressed one by one and presented in detail and in an orderly sequence for women to comprehend them. I will address the following areas that need to be taught to women: safety, gun parts, slide lock, fit, grip, stance, sight alignment, trigger control, recoil, and follow through.

    The first step with teaching guns is always teaching the four universal safety rules as follows:

    1. All firearms are always loaded.
    2. Never point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to kill or destroy.
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger until on target and ready to fire. This is known as the master grip.
    4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond.

    Next, show the master grip and focus on ALWAYS keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

    In our Pretty Loaded gun class we go through a power point that explains all the parts of the gun and we show a video to the students so they can visualize how a semi-automatic pistol and revolver works. It’s very important for women to understand every part on the gun, because it is very intimidating to not know what each button or lever does.

    I always take the time to reiterate that the only thing on the gun that will make it go “boom” is pressing the trigger and the trigger requires 5 to 12 pounds of pressure depending on the gun. I have actually had students think that the magazine release or slide lock lever fired the gun also.

    We then talk about clearing the gun and doing a chamber check and go over this slowly with each student until they are comfortable. Women struggle with this part depending on the size of their hands, the size of the gun, and their strength.

    Have the woman point the gun down range with a master grip and turn her body 90 degrees to the right (assuming right handed shooter). The gun should be held close to the body and rotate the gun so the ejection port is tilted towards the ground. Place the weak hand over the top of the slide as far back as possible and do not cover the ejection port. The strong hand is then positioned on the gun so the thumb is underneath the slide lock lever. Then push the hands away from each other, pushing the slide lock lever up when the notch is above the lever. This is an area where we always make them focus on where the gun is pointed during this process. The slide locking back needs to be mastered safely and many times to make it comfortable for them. 

    The next topic is how to hold the gun properly and this is where you need to pay attention to grip. A lot of women hold the gun the wrong way and then they end up being injured by slide bite or they limp wrist the gun and it doesn’t cycle properly. To grip the gun, place the grip of the gun in the web of the strong hand between the thumb and index finger. The strong hand should also be as high as possible on the back strap of the gun. The weak hand is then placed as high as possible on the side of the gun and is wrapped on top of the strong hand so the index finger is under the trigger guard. The thumbs should be pointing up and parallel to each other and touching the slide (I know that some people advocate a thumbs forward grip, but the “lineage” of my instructors has been thumbs up). I tell my students that the strong hand has a push feeling and the weaker hand has a pull feeling so the gun is secure.

    A gun that fits the woman is very important and it will be more comfortable and precise to shoot so make sure the slide should line up with the bones in the forearm.

    The weaver stance works well with women because the weight of the gun is kept closer to the body with the arms bent and this helps with muscle fatigue. The strong side foot drops back and the other foot is forward as if in a fighting stance. It is important to not let the shooter lean back at the waist to counter balance the weight of the gun.

    The next thing to focus on is sight alignment. To do this correctly, the front sight is aligned with the top of the rear sight with equal space on either side of the front sight while pressing the trigger. It is important to explain that our eyes only focus at one distance at a time and it is impossible to keep the sight and the target in focus at the same time. Once things are lined up, focus on the front sight with the back sights and target blurred. A great tip here is to explain the arc of movement and it is impossible for anyone to hold completely still. It is important to continually reconfirm the position of the front site and make any adjustments as she presses the trigger.

    Trigger control is very important and it is critiical to not allow the finger to fly off the trigger after the gun fires. The finger holds the trigger all the way to the rear during recoil and after the sights are aligned the finger allows the trigger to move forward enough to reengage the sear so the trigger can be pressed again for the next shot. With most modern semi auto pistols, this audible and tactile position is called the “trigger reset”. This takes some time and muscle memory to master this, but should be addressed immediately.

    Recoil is probably what scares most women about shooting a gun. Recoil produces movement and noise and this can startle women, making them more anxious. It is very important to have good ear protection and sometimes doubling the ear protection helps with this problem. The most important thing is not letting the woman shoot too big of a gun for her hands or too large of a caliber. This is where the proper grip and stance will really help with recoil. Make this initial experience a good one so they are not anxious every time they shoot.

    Follow-through is the last issue we address. If they look over the sights at the target just before, during or after the trigger press, then the shot will be a miss. Proper sight alignment and minimizing the movement of the gun for a fraction of a second it takes for the gun to fire and the bullet to travel the length of the barrel and past the muzzle will improve accuracy.

    The final thing to teach women is how to read a box of ammo and look at the gun to see what ammo works with the gun. The more you can have them take responsibility for their gun and “own it” will make them remember important information. The difference between target and defense ammunition is something to carefully point out as well. All ammo is not created equal, and it’s especially important to be sure the defensive ammo of choice functions well in that specific firearm before deeming it worthy of trusting your life to.

    The next time you want to take the woman in your life shooting try to follow the steps above and you will probably have a great experience. Even better? Get a trained instructor, especially someone who works well with women if they are available in your area.

    Be Safe. Be Empowered. And become LOADED!

     

  11. Ivan Loomis
    Latest Article

    yogapants1.thumb.jpg.5b9a61b435ccbb12c2162f32bebd1050.jpgWhile the dynamic of today's nuclear family has changed some in recent decades, the ruts of historical roles of family members are still deeply etched. Hopefully, the tide of the two income household will reach a high water mark, and more families will try to see to it that one parent can stay home with their children.

    Whether roles within the family fall along gender lines or not, the roles are usually well defined. Myself, being the man of the house, find I feel ultimately responsible for not only being the provider but also being the protector. As the protector we want to don the sword and shield and protect our family should the need arise. But therein lies the rub…

    As the provider for my family, I am often gone. My work takes me far away and for lengths of time. And whether your job is across town or across the world, and regardless of if it is for few hours a day or weeks at a time, you are gone. And who then is left to protect your family? No matter how much we want to be there for our family, we are often gone for large swaths of time throughout the day. But for example, in my case, my wife is…

    Personally, I love training. I love shooting. I love spending days on the range. I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and development through professional firearms courses. But all of those come with a substantial time and financial cost. And while I should practice, maintain and further develop my skills, I have found those costs better spent if spread between my spouse and me.

    While I am with my family X amount of time, my wife is with them nearly ALL the time. So it only makes sense that an investment in the safety of your family is an investment in the training of your spouse. Sometimes this can be tricky.

    Some people are afraid of or don’t like firearms. This often stems from a lack of knowledge and experience on the subject. But at any rate, it needs to be dealt with delicately. Usually, this does not involve you taking your spouse to the range. Here is where a professional course is worth its weight in gold…

    About 3 years ago my wife and I attended a 3-day level 1 pistol class. It took the students from no skills to shooting dynamic drills by the end of the course. It isn’t to say it was just for beginners, but it was structured in a way that everyone, regardless of skill level, was pulling information out of it along the way. But it wasn’t throwing new students into the deep end either.

    The class was phenomenal. Not only in the information covered (there are only so many ways to teach sight alignment, trigger control, etc.) but in how the information was put into perspective. The drills were often put into the context of a scenario. Such as being in the checkout line at a grocery store when someone starts shooting the place up. Or a parking lot at the mall…

    The instructor did a great job of bringing the reason for the skills home to the students. He did this in a way that made sense and touched on the reality of the world we live in, regardless of how we may perceive it at times.

    In talking with the instructor off line, I was thanking him for putting on such a great class and commenting on how much my wife not only enjoyed it but also how the lessons were driven home in the examples he gave. He, in turn, brought up a funny analogy that seems to have held true with respect to shooting.

    To paraphrase: “Someone’s first experience shooting is like losing their virginity. If it is a bad experience it leaves a long lasting impression. And conversely, if it is a good experience, people get hooked.”

    Two days after that first pistol class we took, my wife woke up that morning and said to me, “I keep having dreams about shooting since that class.” She then left the boys with me for a little while, went across town and bought herself a Glock 17.

    Go talk to someone that has been shooting and doesn’t like it though… It will usually come out that their first experience was not a good one. And for some reason, someone usually thinks it is a good idea to hand a new shooter a 12 gauge shotgun right out the gate. Don’t do this… Set them up for success.

    While you can most certainly impart the firearms knowledge you have, it is money well spent to find a legitimate class. There is a reason Professionals have made a Profession out of teaching firearms skills. With this in mind, choose that first class wisely.

    My wife has since been to a number of classes, some great, some ok and some sub par. Find a reputable instructor. There are some great ones out there and a number of them travel. Chances are you can find something relatively close. Do your research as well and look for After Action Reports and reviews from students. And of course don’t be afraid to contact the instructor directly and ask if the class your looking into is a good fit with respect to skill level.

    While there are a lot of teachers out there, two that my wife and I have experience with that stand out are Matthew Graham of Graham Combat and Chris Costa of Costa Ludus. Both are highly recommended.

    And lastly, should you go through a course with your spouse, go to opposite ends of the firing line. You are there for your individual learning experience. You can chat and compare notes during lunch. Get the most out of the experience you are paying for.

    Stay armed and stay proficient…

  12. 069-014-300x199.jpg

    I have come to notice a certain trend among the homesteaders and permaculturists I surround myself with. It seeps its way into their consciousness around this time of year. The final harvests are done, the frost has set it, and I can see it arise in all of them: a melancholy dread of winter. Yes, there are certain little things they get excited about like baking and maybe the holidays, but in general, the people I know in this space get pretty darn sad when fall hits.

    I have also seen a few articles floating around the internet in which people suggest activities to do to avoid these winter blues that so many people experience and I do think those are great. I think it is important to stay active by doing things you love. However, I can’t help but feel like these suggestions were just ways to merely endure the winter and not truly enjoy or benefit from it like I believe you can. I wanted to think about this in a deeper sense. Why do so many people despise being cooped up in a house for more than a few hours? Why can’t they just be still for more than a day? Where does this dread of winter or inactiveness in general come from?   I really wanted to delve into these questions and explore options of how to combat the sometimes paralyzing depression people feel when the cold months roll around. So I started to think about these things and I made a few little observations.

    There is something about those of us who choose this homesteading life style, we are often go-getters. We are do-ers. We are the people who have a million projects happening at once and even if sometimes they don’t get finished, we are always working on something. I think that is such a huge part of why I respect this crowd so much. I admire hardworking, passionate people. But I think that this particularly determined, energetic personality can have a few problems as well. For instance, I think one of the biggest reasons why these do-ers cannot handle being cooped up or even alone with themselves is because they spend 90 percent of their time avoiding working on themselves. Think about it, we spend so much time trying to make our land better, make our earth better, make our world  better that we often times forget to work on things that have to do less with the big scary world and more to do with our personal mental well-being. Sometimes it feels easier to control other things in our lives than our sometimes flawed personalities, but at the end of the day the only thing you actually can make better, is yourself. Improving who you are is so important in this chaotic world because sometimes it is the absolutely only thing we can do to make the world a better place. We can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves. If we all just do our little part and work on becoming good people, then maybe the world wouldn’t be so corrupt. After coming to this conclusion about where this dread comes from, I thought about some ways of thinking that would benefit anyone slipping into the sadness of winter and turn this time of year into something extremely powerful for themselves and those around them. I think in all honesty it comes down to this one statement:

    Stop Avoiding Introspection.

    This is the first step of really allowing yourself to grow over the winter. You have to stop avoiding reflection and start looking deeply at yourself. Let yourself turn inward and cast away the layers of denial you have created over time. I am not saying you have to induce your own coma, I am not asking you to meditate for 3 months. You can even look at this like a project in itself, if that makes it easier for you. But I just want you to really try to take a good hard look at yourself and try to think about who you are as a person and what you want or need to work on within yourself.

    Instead of just finding little tiny ways to just tolerate the winter,  or endure the loneliness, I want you to full on embrace it. I want you to take this opportunity to really dive into yourself and ask yourself, what have I been saying I would work on, in regards to myself, for years? If you are feeling particularly stir crazy you could even make a list. Lists are in. Lists are hip. Lists make you feel productive. Make a list with this question at the top: “What have I always wanted to improve in myself?” OR “What have I always wanted to change about myself?” Now, I am not encouraging self loathing or self criticism. God knows we already get enough of that from the outside world. Trust me, I am all for embracing flaws and loving ourselves for who we are but let’s face it, sometimes you just need to cut the bullshit and realize there are always aspects of yourself that need improving, just like there are always facets of the farm that need fixing. With this list, I want you to be really really honest with yourself. That is why I recommend writing it down. For some reason when we write, when our pen hits the paper, all the barriers of denial we so easily create come crashing down. I love that about writing. You can’t lie to yourself when you are writing. So write it down. And you don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. This can be a journey between you and yourself. All of the versions of you working together to come together to build one complete, whole self.

    However, if you are having trouble coming up with anything to work on, this might be a good time to bring in some back up. Sometimes asking the people closest to you what you need to work on can be very eye-opening, enlightening, and beneficial. It’s important to keep an open and clear mind when having these conversations though because sometimes it can really hurt to hear someone you love spurting off a list of your faults. But you just have to try to remember that you brought it up and they are telling you these things because they love you and they want you to be the best version of yourself just as much as you do.

    So you’ve made the list. Now what? Working on yourself is hard. How do we start? Where do we start? It is so easy to just ignore our own personal growth needs and focus on something else because we are taught to put everyone else around us first. I am not saying this is a bad thing to teach but sometimes it leads to the exclusion of teaching self care, and that, my friends, is a bad thing. In fact, some people will probably think that this much thought about oneself is narcissistic, or even unhealthy. But I wholeheartedly disagree. Self exploration is vital to our human existence.

    To start, I’d say look at your list and choose just one of the items on that list. One probably seems minuscule in the grand scheme of things. You’re probably thinking, “How could I possibly spend an entire season just thinking about one aspect of my personality? I know it seems like a bit much but it is so much easier to take this whole human growth thing one trait at a time. It is surprisingly hard and draining to mold yourself, so it needs repetition and time. And it needs thought and reflection. It cannot just be put on the shelf for another day. It needs consistent exploration and guess what, you have time for that in the winter!

    Once you have made the choice about what aspect of yourself you’d like to really hone in on, here comes the hard part. Force yourself to take baby steps. Like I said, patience and consistency will be your best friends. Just make a conscious effort to think about making the improvements, every day, just a little bit, and be happy with that. It’s okay if at the end of winter you haven’t bloomed into the flawless human you wanted to. It’s okay if you only made a little bit of progress. Do not lose hope in yourself. Even if it is just a little bit of growth, it is still something  of incredibly extreme value you can take away from the months you originally thought grew nothing but heat bills.

     

    The post "How To Combat Cabin Fever Through Introspection" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.

     

     

  13. 180_Tack_Bearline_Recovery_1.JPG

    Okay, I'm a nut about motorcycles. Just ask my wife and she'll simply roll her eyes in confirmation. Like many riders, I started riding when I was a little kid on my hand-me-down Honda Trail 50 and it has been my passion ever since. It's been 30 years since first discovering this love of mine and luckily I've learned a few things along the way. One quickly realizes that if you want to continue your journey in this fantastic hobby, you will want to outfit yourself with the best protective gear you can afford. You also figure out that there are a few tools and emergency items you'll want to have along with you as well. I consider these statements to be pretty obvious ones and like to think I do pretty well to abide by them since we all know what happens when you don't. Right, Murphy's Law gives you a sly smirk and proceeds to promptly bite you in the ass as it is tasked to do. Unfortunately this past weekend I discovered that I am not above that law. 

     
    I am telling this quick story because it has to do with one of our products at 180 Tack, the BearLine+. I always carry my personal BearLine+ in the tail bag of my trail bike on any ride I go on. It's just there, just in case and not only because I am a co-founder of this company but because I truly value it as a tool not to be left at home. I dutifully point it out any chance I get to those who feign the slightest curiosity. We put the "+" sign at the end of the name because it is much more than your average hang-a-meal bear line. In my hobby, it's a life saver! No, of course I don't mean I'd actually parish without the BearLine+, but I would be stuck for a very long time off trail without it possibly wishing I could die as I struggle with the weight of my 400 lb motorcycle. 
     
    180_Tack_Bearline_Recovery_2sm.jpg
    If you have ever lost your dirt bike or 4-wheeler over the side of a steep trail edge where the only way to continue on is to get your machine back on the trail, you know what I talking about. Frankly, it sucks! Even if you have a riding buddy with you to help work it back onto the trail, they are heavy and it's extremely exhausting. The BearLine+ is the absolute necessary tool to have with you in these situations.That's because this versatile system acts as a compact winch system because you can arrange the 500 lb test paracord and climbing-rated carabiners into a block & tackle system allowing you to easily hoist your machine back onto the trail. 
    180_Tack_Bearline_Recovery_3sm.jpg
    The reason I bring up this weekend's ride is because it was the first time I failed to have my BearLine+ system on my bike and it was, of course, during this ride that we needed it. My riding buddy and I came around a corner to find another rider about 25 ft off the trail down a very steep embankment. He was already exhausted from trying to get his bike back up to the trail and he had only been there a few minutes. His rear tire was dug in and his bike was going nowhere. We fortunately did luck out in this particular situation because 4 other riders came across our little scene and were available to assist. Of course the first tongue-in-cheek question posed by one of those riders was "does anyone have a come-along?". You can imagine my frustration when I had to explain that "I own a company that manufactures this great product and if only I had it with me today, I could show you how well it works!" But I did not have it this day of course and could not demonstrate it. Luckily, between the multiple riders we had available, we were able to sweat and grunt to get the heavy bike back to the trail where it belonged. But, most of us also ride in places where we're not likely to run across 5 other riders to help us out of our predicament. So, by learning my lesson and posting this quick blog about it, I hope I've convinced you to take a hard look at your tools and emergency equipment you bring along with on your next adventure. The BearLine+ will always be in my tool kit from now on. No excuses will be tolerated! ~ Travis
     
    You can find the 180 Tack BearLine+ by following this LINK Don't leave home without it.
     
     
     

     

  14. pain2-300x225.jpgEvery day I meet people who are in chronic pain. In fact, twice in the past I had chronic pain. Once in my lower back and once in my left knee. At its worst the back pain kept me from standing upright or walking, and the knee pain kept me from walking up or down stairs or inclines. Military medicine wanted to operate both times.

    The first time I was living in San Diego and I found a movement specialist in Los Angeles who showed me how to correct the back issue, with movement not surgery. Years later I was living in Washington when the knee became debilitating, so I flew to LA again with the same results. The knee was rehabbed with movement instead of surgery.

    Most of the people I work with now are everyday people who want to move better and feel better. However, being close to Fort Lewis I see military and law enforcement personnel everyday who are walking around in pain. Why? Compromised movement plus the load of equipment equals lasting effects.

    Why is back and knee pain in particular so hard to diagnose? Mostly because Western medicine is made up primarily of systems specialists, and chronic pain is often the effect of whole body issues. When my lower back was in pain, the doctors and physical therapists I went to focused on the back. However, they were unsuccessful because the back was not the issue, merely the symptom. My back pain actually came from a misalignment of the sacrum and the right pelvis bone. Instead of manually adjusting the two, I was given a prescription of simple exercise that allowed the effected muscles to relax and the bones to naturally reseat themselves. But the misalignment is just part of the story.

    Have you ever seen a baby so flexible it put its toes in its mouth? Of course, now if I brought in an anesthesiologist right now and put you under do you think your toes would make it your mouth? Surprise! They would. We think of our flexibility as if muscles stretch like rubber bands. But the elasticity of our muscles has little to do with our joint range of motion. Instead our nervous system places restrictions on our movement as a result of trauma we experience throughout our lives.

    Here is an example: at birth you are completely flexible, at age 5 you roll your ankle, at 10 you have a bike wreck, at 12 you fall out of a tree, at 16 you have a shoulder injury from baseball, then you start driving, watching TV/computer screen, wear glasses, get a tattoo, and finally have a really stressful day a work – and your back starts hurting.

    If your back is the result of cumulative stress, then all the Motrin, cortisone shots, spinal manipulations, surgeries, etc… that are frequently done will not get rid of the back pain.

    Finally, one day you come to see me. I watch you walk across the room. I look at which compensation based on past trauma, or current habits, is most effecting your movement. We work on that and get measurable results. With those results we prescribe movement and dosages to start correcting the problems and get you out of pain.

    If you are in chronic pain, you are not preparing for SHTF, you are in it now and under more stress it will only get worse. By learning to understand and resolve chronic pain issues now you can get out of pain and be better prepared to help those around you during a crisis.

    So, as for stress. Physical stress is cumulative throughout our lives. It may be the result of trauma, or posture, or repetitive movements. Physical stress from movement is the lowest of the five stressors that contribute to chronic pain, but the most often contributor so this is where we start making corrections.

    The next higher stressor is your vestibular system. This is your sense of balance and movement and is often a contributor if a person is extremely sedentary, or has sustained a severe traumatic injury in the past, like an auto accident.

    The next higher stressor is vision. Our eyes perform 29 functions. When we fail to exercise them adequately, maybe by starring at a computer all day, they begin to fail us and cause high levels of stress on our nervous system.

    Next up is nutrition. If you do not have adequate vitamins, minerals, and water your body cannot maintain or repair itself.

    At the top of the pyramid is mental stress. This is stress derived from how you react to external stimulus such as family, work, living conditions, or threats.

    When all these stresses combine, it can push you over your personal stress threshold and result in chronic pain. But, long before they get to the pain stage, they begin to effect performance. So, stress affects all of us and needs to be resolved as much as possible. Over the next few articles I hope to give you some tools to self-assess and start to control stress to improve both pain and performance.

     

    The post "Stress Part One: Cumulative Stress and Chronic Pain" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.

     

  15. balance.jpg.3f8188a127a3d84a79d06bdbc534f8c7.jpg In part one, I wrote about physical detoxification and about food and environmental pollution detoxification. I  focused on how the foods we eat, the water we drink and the skin care products we use impact our health. I am now going to talk about the mind-body connection. And how our minds/attitudes can change our physiology, how to take control of our health, and heal ourselves with very little, if any, medical intervention.  I was going to write on how light and electrical pollution has been found to be very dangerous to our health; however, due to the length of this article, I will be posting another article on the dangers and solutions to electromagnetic exposure in the near future.

    Let's get started

    The term, mind/body connection has been thrown around and misused in many circles. Our minds are our bodies and vice-versa. The only thing that separates the two, in reality, is the fact that our brains have no pain receptors. Therefore, we cannot tell when something is going "right" or "wrong" in our brain. Inflammation of the brain has been linked to depression, Depression is caused by inflammation and so it leads to reason that decreasing inflammation can help a depressed person. Just like a diabetic who has neuropathy in their feet and cannot feel the nail, they stepped on, our brains are in a similar situation. Inflammation can have many causes. Stress and a poor diet are the primary culprits. Increased cortisol levels are a result of stress, which, in turn, causes inflammation.

    Let's take a look at stress:

    According to Mayo Clinic: "Your body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators and other aggressors. Such threats are rare today, but that doesn't mean that life is free of stress. On the contrary, you undoubtedly face multiple demands each day, such as shouldering a huge workload, making ends meet and taking care of your family. Your body treats these so-called minor hassles as threats. As a result, you may feel as if you're constantly under assault. But you can fight back. You don't have to let stress control your life.

    Understanding the natural stress response

    When you encounter a perceived threat- a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance- your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation, and fear.

    When the natural stress response goes haywire

    The body's stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels and other systems resume their regular activities. But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Digestive problems
    • Heart disease
    • Sleep problems
    • Weight gain
    • Memory and concentration impairment

    That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life." Even "good" stress can cause the adrenals to overreact.

    Coping with stress

    Stress Coping ScaleIn order to treat stress, we need to realize we are under stress. For example, it is not natural for a person to sit in a projectile (automobile) and go 70mph, but many of us do this daily. Our modern lifestyles do not allow for much in the way of alleviating and managing stress in a healthy way. Many people will resort to drinking to calm their nerves. This is a temporary solution which actually makes the cortisol levels in the body rise. Alcohol and cortisol levels Also, we are very much isolated in our modern world. There have been studies showing that breast cancer survivors are five times more likely to survive if they have a strong support system of friends and family. Social isolation causes cortisol levels to rise, giving way to inflammation in the body. This affects all our organs, but especially our heart and endocrine systems.    Social isolation also leads to higher cortisol levels 

    Tips on coping with and alleviating stress

    It is important to realize that each person will react to stress in a different way. Age, sex, cultural background, social support, emotional, physical and spiritual health all contribute to how a person reacts to and handles stress.  The following is a general guideline for handling stress and stress reduction

    1. Plan ahead. The simple act of planning almost anything helps reduce the potential for stress tremendously. Look at all aspects of your life. From meal planning to physical activity to social functions to a quiet time for meditation- these all help reduce stress and keep our lives in balance.
    2. Rethink your priorities. In our fast-paced world, we can start to take on too many projects and start to feel overwhelmed. I recently heard a saying "You can do anything but not everything." This applies to all parts of our lives. Sitting down and writing out priorities will give you a better picture as to what is truly important in your life. I use a planner to put down those things that I must do, should do, and want to do. Make sure you have meaningful social interaction as one of your priorities, along with meditation and prayer every day to calm and clear the mind.
    3. Reduce unnecessary clutter.  Whether it is actual physical clutter or clutter in not organizing or the clutter in our heads, getting rid of that which does not serve us is a step in the right direction. Clear out those things that do not serve you anymore. Whether it is a garage or closet that needs organizing or thoughts that serve no productive purpose, work on streamlining your life as much as possible.
    4. Learn to relax. Learn to achieve an inner, calm, peaceful state no matter what your outward circumstances. Meditation and prayer have been found to significantly reduce stress levels. 15 minutes a day has shown to reduce cortisol levels and increase productivity. It has been said that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God. Even if you do not subscribe to a religious precept, meditation will help calm the mind, thereby reducing stress levels. Here is a link on how to meditate  and a link on how to pray
    5. Release the stress. This can be accomplished by exercise, which uses up the adrenaline produced by stress, writing in a journal, talking to a friend or safe person, looking at the stress in a different light (I like to look at what's causing my stress and ask myself if it will really matter in 100 years from now- if I answer "no", I let it go). If overly tired, take a long hot bath. Add lavender and citrus essential oils to the bath. Our sense of smell is directly wired into our limbic system, which processes emotion and learning. Here is an excellent article on aromatherapy and its uses.
    6. Learn deep breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose. Hold for two counts. Slowly exhale through your nose. Do this five times. Studies have shown that doing this simple exercise reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. Anytime you start to feel stress coming on, try this simple exercise.

    In conclusion - Our bodies and minds are not separate. What happens to one part happens to another. We need to look at the whole picture- what we eat, our activity level, social/support system, our attitudes and spiritual activities, and find a balance that works for us. Only then will we be able to live the most productive and fulfilling life we were meant to live all along.

    Part 3 of this series will go into the very real dangers of man made radiation and some proven protocols to rid our bodies and reduce our exposure and damage it has on our bodies.

  16. Backyard SW

    The Soil

    One of the first challenges a modern homesteader is faced with is poor soil. In rare instances, soil may not be your immediate issue, but you should be looking downstream to make sure this does not become a future concern. This challenge is easily overcome in the short term, but without sustainable systems and a balance of plant life, this can become a continuing problem. To address the poor soil issue and to become a more resilient homesteader, it is essential that we deal with those things that affect soil quality and provide long terms solutions to maintaining and improving soil fertility.

    Composting

    One of the easiest things we can start doing to build rich soil is to begin composting. Compost is easily made from table scraps, cut vegetation such as weeds and grass clippings, and other debris such as paper, cardboard, sawdust, coffee grinds, and lots of other household wastes. I won’t go into the details of how to compost, but it is important that you start transitioning as much of your household waste into enriched usable compost for your garden beds. We are currently composting about 40% of our household trash, which is 100% of our food scraps and about 20% of our other waste. I am hopeful that we will be able to compost 100% of our paper trash as well, so the only thing we are paying for removal will be our plastics, metals, and sewage.

    Water Management

    The next thing we can do to enrich our soil is to increase the moisture levels. Our soil is very dry and clay colored, which is pretty common in the eastern range of Colorado. The soil consists of some decomposed granite, but mostly clay and dirt, which is a term I use to describe dead soil. There is little to no moisture in the soil and any moisture put into the soil quickly dissipates. This is usually due to the lack of biological material in the soil. Biological material becomes depleted through farming, and over grazing. Farming, or more accurately plowing, turns over the soil, causing the under soil to become exposed. The UV light from the sun kills all the micro-organisms that have surfaced, reducing the fertility. Repeating this process each season further depletes these micro-organisms, which, in turn, further reduces the amount of nutrients that can be retained within the soil. Let’s think of the soil as a lake that is teaming with all sorts of micro-organisms, and if we want bigger organism in this lake, then we need to identify and correct the problem at the smallest level to have the greatest impact over the long term. If we can provide an environment within the soil directly conducive to maintaining and growing these micro-organisms, then we can begin to build fertility back in to the soil, and have our soil produce fruit and vegetables for us. How do we get fertility back into our soil? Let’s continue and examine the water situation and determine if there is enough rainfall, and at those specific times needed by the plants and trees we intend to grow. It is not our intent to just turn on a garden hose and water the garden if we go a week or more without any rainfall. That puts us at a deficit, as we have to pay for those utilities. We may also decide to implement a gray water solution to be able to provide for our water demand in times of drought. We should address this issue through known techniques for water retainment, and maximize our retainment strategies for snow and rainfall, to either store that water or divert and spread that drainage over the backyard. 

    Backyard Diagram

    Notice the water movement, sun direction, and drip-line irrigation systems along with water storage barrels and pond, and hugel beds/enriched soil areas

    The Landscape

    There are several techniques that we can use to provide moisture and fertility back into our soil. Let’s start analyzing the possibilities and determine which work best in our situation. Our backyard has a standard down slope away from the house, which is approximately a decline of 1 foot per every 15-20 feet, but, over time, a channel has formed from the gutter downspouts and created a valley where most of the water travels. Unless we plan to plant our entire garden into these valleys then we need to start spreading the water across other areas of the backyard.

    Water Storage

    To determine the amount of rainwater, you can use a simple calculation found at: http://rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu/calculators/. This will give you a reasonable estimate for your storage solution. There is a really nice spreadsheet you can use at the above link to calculate your total annual rainfall catchment system. We then will include a pond at the end of the swale system to retain any run off that may be leaving our property. This will serve us in watering our vegetation, and perhaps a place to grow fish and experiment with some aquaponics. Aside from providing a rain water or gray water storage system, we need to look at how we can provide water across the whole area. The options I’m considering are: a drip-line irrigation system; several soaker hoses; mini or micro swales; hugel beds; or a combination of some or all these.

    Drip-Line Irrigation

    This system will require the purchasing of tubing and hoses that connect together and are placed in the garden beds. This system is a good way to regulate the water for a specific area and to move water to areas that may be difficult to irrigate by other means. These system can also be put on a timer and can be controlled for plants with specific watering needs. These systems are relatively low-tech and are easily set up by the typical homeowner. The materials are relatively inexpensive compared to a full on sprinkler system, but can incur additional cost if you intend to put the system on some type of environmental control system to control watering. These systems are extremely useful for greenhouses, perhaps cold beds, and raised garden beds.

    Soaker Hoses

    These are typically for smaller watering requirements, such as a tree or small stand of trees, that you intend to continually water throughout the day. Though these can be more effective if placed on a timer and are set to water periodically. These connect directly to a typical garden hose and are used to saturate an area.

    Swales

    Swales can be constructed to slow the water as it moves over the land after the rains.  By constructing a swale, you can channel the water and slow it down so that it has a greater chance to be absorbed by the landscape and increase the soil fertility. Swales are typically 10-12 feet wide, are a couple feet deep, and have a 3-4 ft berm on the downhill side. They are constructed on contour to allow the water to fill the swale and slowly trickle down through each swale system. Swales can be scaled down to most situations. However, I have a concern of building one that is less than 3 feet wide, as I am not certain they will be as effective at allowing a reasonable amount of absorption into the berm.

    Hugel Beds

    These are a great way to retain water in a specific area, and are great for creating a rich soil planting environment. Typically these are to be constructed on contour and are used for water retainment. The concept is that you dig down about 2 feet into the soil, then several feet wide and as long as you desire. After moving all of the soil to the side, you place hard wood into the channel you just created. Using logs, branches debris, cut wood, and other slash, until you have about 2 feet above the surface covered. Then you pile on mulch and other trimmings and clipping before returning the soil back onto the mound. You are free to mix in manure, compost and other enriched soil as you continue to build the height of the mound to approximately 6 feet tall. The concept is that the wood in the hugel bed will soak up the run off and will provide an environment that will enrich the soil as the wood slowly decomposes.  This happens in nature when a tree falls over, the ground lays claim and begins to break down the fallen trunk. We can accelerate this process by covering the wood with soil, creating a mound, and then further planting on this mound. This is made more effective when placed on contour so that, as water moves over the area, it will be retained in these hugel beds.

    The Plan

    Backyard Diagram 2

    HC: Honecrisp Apple; Frt Cocktail: Fruit Cocktail i.e. Peach, Plum, Apricot, and Nectarine; Crtl: Cortland Apple.

    Notice 2 Cherry trees, one on the side of the house and one on the north side of the backyard.

    Which systems are the best water retention, and provide the most fertility to the soil? Well, I think I may be employing each of these in some facet, though I don’t have a need to construct a 6 foot tall hugel bed or a 10 feet wide swale. I will probably be cutting these down to size and perhaps building hugel beds and swales on a much smaller scale. The biggest thing that concerns me with constructing swales is that I am removing top soil from an area, and that area is not very permitting for a path, as it may contain water during certain times, i.e. after it rains. I will probably need to experiment more with this idea, and make that determination. The next question is where do I use drip-lines, soaker hoses, hugel beds, and swales. It should be fairly easy to move the water to the outside edges with either a drip-line or soaker hose. To determine the others may be a bit more difficult, as I also have seven fruit trees to plant, so it may not be effective for me to decide where the swales, and hugel beds will need to go in until I map where the trees need to be planted. It seems that I may be grid-locked, so let me review the situation. Looking at the diagram above shows the optimal water movement across the backyard. If I plan the swales to move the water in these directions, then I should be planting my trees on the downhill side of the swale or hugel beds. I will be planting the trees in two clusters and then three single standing trees. The diagram shows the tree placement and selection, based on the sun requirements and other concerns. I want to keep the trees within the fence line so as to prevent fruit from falling in my neighbors yard. Now we need to overlay the two diagrams and determine where the swales and hugel beds need to be placed. Tree #4 will probably need to be moved to the south to be planted on the downslope of the swale cutting through that area. The hugel bed should work in place of the existing raised bed just to the right of the patio. The raised bed can then be relocated to the other side of the patio along with expanding a few more beds into that area. Placing a small pond at the end of the swale system will allow the catchment and redistribution of water throughout the entire area. Eventually, we can make the determination to keep fish or other aquatic life in that small pond, if there is to be water present year round. This will give us another opportunity to provide an enriched water source for the garden plants.

    Conclusions

    I am still undecided about the swale system, as of this writing, and will be repositioning the trees, as needed, within the vicinity of the diagram above. The water retainment system, though still a sketch, now has a plan and we can start taking necessary actions to shore-up this design. The soil should be well nourished throughout the system and some of those dry areas should be made more fertile through the use of the hugel bed, drip-lines, and swale systems. I am confident that this is a strong design and will allow us to plant more varieties into different areas. I will be working on the next article in this series so, if you have suggestions, comments, or see omissions, please feel free to include in the comments section below. This is a working plan, and though we have a direction, there is always room for improvements and considerations along the way. Thanks to all those that have expressed such a high interest in this topic, it is through your feedback that I have decided to carry on this series of articles.

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    Evan Folds
    Latest Article

    the-food-movement-300x267.jpg

    People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health. And are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.” – Wendell Berry

    Growing a garden and taking control of your own personal agriculture might be the most important thing you can do for yourself and for the planet.

    The way we produce food in the modern world is broken and people are waking up to the shortfalls of our food system and the reality that “food” is being manufactured for profit, not nourishment. Britain, for example, imports — and exports — 15,000 tons of waffles a year, and similarly exchanges 20 tons of bottled water with Australia.

    According to USDA data, crops such as broccoli and wheat are showing a 50% decline in key nutritional components in the last 50 years. Food system emissions account for up to 29% of the total greenhouse gas emissions and the average meal travels an estimated 1,500 miles to our plates. In fact, the large majority of the supermarket contains food-like substances that should not qualify as food in the first place!

    People are becoming increasingly aware that using toxic chemicals to grow food makes no sense and are learning and asking the right questions about the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and other risky conventional methods of agriculture.

    The reality is that eating is an agricultural act and we vote for what we want offered in our food system with every bite that we take. The single most potent tool towards making sense of our food system is for every single eater out there to start a food garden.

    It doesn’t matter if it is in the front yard, in your closet or a container on the balcony, growing our own food needs to become the rallying cry of the day. Let’s call it The Food Movement, with the focus to grow healthy people, plants and planet.

    Even if it is a single tomato plant on the deck, the principle of growing something that you eat is therapeutic and rewarding. Growing a garden is easy to do, but most don’t get started for fear of “screwing it up”. Am I starting the seeds correctly? How do I know when and what to grow? Should I use conventional or organic fertilizer?

    The questions become overwhelming and can never end. The fun irony of this sentiment and the secret to learning to grow an amazing garden is in the perspective you hold in your approach and the making of mistakes. Often times it is the “mistakes” that result in the greatest yields!

    Remember that plants want to grow. Our job is to nurture the natural systems at hand to get the most out of the garden. A perfect example of this is to consider the living microorganisms that live in your soil that make up what is called the “soil food web”.

    Just like in the ocean, the soil is comprised of varying trophic levels of life. The smallest organisms are called bacteria and they perform the role of the plankton of the soil. They are prey for the higher organisms called fungi, protozoa and nematodes. The importance of this soil food web cannot be overstated, imagine you took the plankton out of the ocean?

    In concert with plants that feed them through their roots, microbes make soil. It is the responsibility of these microbes to self-organize into a system of symbiosis with surrounding plants to help them eat, protect them from disease, and recycle organic matter into perfect plant food.

    Consider that, in the forest, the trees don’t eat the leaves that fall, but what the microbes make of them. This is what we call “composting”. It should be happening everywhere, not just in the compost bin.

    In keeping with the forest analogy, consider that the forest grows trees without any fertilizer. The reason is that the soil is at least 100 years biologically mature and the soil has never been killed through development or use of toxic artificial biocides and fertilizer.

    In short, the more biologically active the soil, the less we are required to fertilize.

    It is not possible to fertilize your soil into health. Fertilizer is a crutch. In fact, if you are using artificial fertilizer you are taking advantage of your soil. It’s really no different than fast food for plants, and we all know what happens when we eat fast food for every meal.

    The most potent way to grow your soil is brewing compost tea.  Compost tea is a concentration of compost created by aerating water and presenting microbes from good compost with organic fertilizers; such as molasses, fish, kelp, etc. In the presence of air and food, the microbes grow to extraordinary concentrations.

    Compost tea is very easy to make and can be brewed using your own compost, as long as you properly inoculate the pile with a broad diversity of microbes.

    Unfortunately, soil in the average landscape has been significantly disturbed through development and chemical abuse, so it cannot be taken for granted. Microbes move micrometers in their lifetimes, they don’t jump over the fence. So if they are not deliberately added, most times they are not present.

    On the positive side, this helps explain many of the typical gardening issues you may encounter with pests and disease. A healthy garden self-regulates, it checks pests and disease with beneficial bugs and microbes.

    The truth is that growing a garden should always get better with time. It is only when we use an artificial approach when this is not true. So our goal should be to grow our soil, not our plants.

    Remember that the only true metric for success is the quality and yield of your plants. The healthier perspective you hold towards living systems the healthier your garden will be.

    What you think, you grow.

     

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    Tomato seedlings growing away

    It’s silly, I know, to humanize plants, seedlings and seeds, but with so much information out there, much of it contradictory and most of it ‘ticklist’, it’s something that helps my little mind prioritize and it sorts things out in my head. Sow in March directly into moist raked soil – says the packet. Well what if it’s still cold in March? What if there’s not enough oomph in my soil? Obviously you need a degree of knowledge for successful growing of crops, but empathy, and connecting with an intrinsic common sense, goes a long way. One of my tools is to treat my seedlings like I would any little person, and if you listen and watch hard enough, the answer is often there.

    After all, I’m spending a lot of time with these little fellas, they are getting a lot of attention, both in terms of how much they get from me, and how their performance reflects on me professionally, so they become ‘my girls’.

    The tomatoes are important at Pattendens (my main place of work). The clients eat a lot of them. 4 varieties this year, 3 cordon and 1 bush, and they have already been pricked out and potted on, this is an important step – they sit on propagators, so I am always keen to get them potted up as soon as the seed leaves are unfurled. Having their own pot means they are able to grow away without getting spindly in the race for more light with their mates, also the tendency for the whole pot to dry out is increased if we have a number of seedlings in one pot. 

    The organised chaos of the Polytunnel
    The organized chaos of the Polytunnel

    Aubergines and Melons have been moved on in exactly the same way – all now sit individually in a heated propagator, the first perilous part of their journey to fruition completed. Moisture levels are checked regularly – not too much or too little – a balancing act for me as I only get to visit twice a week, although I will pop in midweek if I feel the need. It’s a bit like having a small baby, high  inputs at this point, but it does get easier.

    Clump of Plants with Roots

    I leave the watering can on the propagation mat in the greenhouse. It warms the water nicely so my girls don’t get a cold shower. Instead the watering becomes ‘a treat’ – a warm watering from a fine rose. A cold soaking every now and again might not impede germination and growing on fully, but I can’t help but feel it doesn’t help. I try to leave as much space between plants, to enable airflow and eradicate the build up of disease, I am giving them the room to grow – just as I stand away from my daughters and allow them to explore and grow without their embarrassing dad too close.

    I will find different spaces within these protected environments for plants and seedlings with different needs. I am always attempting to ‘read’ what is going on and then act on those conclusions.

    Past the danger of mice?

    Past the danger of mice?

    Out in the garden, I am doing similar work. Old bits of glazing go down on the soil, ready for sowing. This will warm the earth beneath, giving any subsequent sowings a better chance of ‘getting away’ – like baby turtles hurtling to the waves, so germination will be the first big test and I will be there to nurture and aid. We have mice at Pattendens, too – and I don’t like to put down poison, though I wouldn’t be averse to a cat or two in this space. But I have to think differently if I want peas (and I do). It appears, after a few years of wrestling with the problem of mice eating my peas before they get going, that the solution is to germinate them indoors and plant them as small plants. The pea before germination appears to be the treat – not the small plant (that appears to be pigeon fodder – but nothing a little chicken wire doesn’t fix.) And the broad beans, whilst being a very easy baby, requiring little care and being happy plunged into cold Autumn soil, will turn into a gangly juvenile. Hazel coppice crafted into a support structure will protect these youths from getting too ‘leggy’ and the inevitable flopping, just like a drunk sixteen year old not understanding his limits.

    It’s useful, at least for me, to think like this when dealing with plants that we annually grow for crops – they require care and attention, and the inputs are pretty large. If we think like this, it becomes less of a to do list and more natural. I have had clients and friends quite fairly say that the price of fruit and vegetables are so low, that it makes no sense to grow your own, and to an extent they are right – but that argument misses the main points. Yeah – it’s a hassle, if you’re not naturally inclined to grow stuff (actually, I believe we are ALL naturally inclined – it’s just that we’ve forgotten over the centuries) and modern life gets in the way of nurturing something to fruition – there is often something that feels more urgent or important to do, and we have instant gratification everywhere. BUT if we swing the thinking around a little (or a lot) and looking after a tomato plant, or a row of spuds can be life changing. Bear with me.

    The reason growing your own is so special is because it is not always easy. Like life itself, supporting a rubbish football team and going through adversity, you come through stronger, more philosophical and more able to deal with the future. You also learn how to grow good food, which is no small thing – especially in this uncertain world. It’s a learning curve you will never master, you will be forever a student because, for all the advice and books and courses, and maybe even this blog, mistakes will be made. Anyone that says different is almost certainly fibbing. Growing food will always throw you a curve ball – because that’s intrinsic in the nature. It’s why commercial agriculture uses so many ‘weapons’ to curtail the chances of those curve balls – of course, in the long term, some might say those practices are storing up one whoopass problem in the not too distant future, but maybe that’s for another day. The point is that growing food is an experience that can help the individual grow and heal. Nature can be read, and this is a intense course. The advantages of growing your own are actually infinitesimal- it’s healthier both for you and the planet. It’s also tastier. In the end, it can be cheaper, though certainly not at first, but the real bonus is a connection with your piece of earth, and the mental gymnastics and common sense practiced to perform to coax life and food from it. This allows philosophical thought and an escape from the vast amounts of bull shit that is heaped upon us every day. It connects us with the rythms of nature and unearths the meaning in things. It cuts through the noise and creates peace. Of course that’s until you get potato blight or Carrot root fly. Nobody said bringing up kids was easy!

     

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  17. fitness-cover-005-e1394568186155-300x161

    There is a tremendous amount of written information on the important subject of fitness and health. But there is one common thread that holds true in all of it. You can acquire all manner of information and read every possible perspective from information, based on examples of personal experience to purely technical data of a scientific based nature, like physiological outcomes and expectations. But the one fact that is a constant is this, if you do NOT put the information to use or actually test it for yourself, it is not only somewhat worthless, but you will not see any actual benefit, unless some effort is expended. So talking about it and acquiring information is a first step, and an important step, but taking action is what actually makes it happen and has any real effect. I hope to help you do that part just by wrapping your head around it, and pointing you to that action!

    We all react slightly differently to the food we take in and the physical stimulus we apply to our bodies. So it makes a lot of sense to realize that a sort of “playing with it all”, as though it is an experiment, will likely yield all manner of feedback we can use to expand our efforts and results. Having this attitude and frame of mind is actually critical to the results one will achieve. It helps create a relaxed mental state about starting your own program, which is of course a personal journey of sorts. A conscious decision to improve one’s health and overall physical functions.

    The purpose of such endeavors is, many times, spawned by the acceptance or realization that we need to lose some weight or are experiencing some sort of physical problems/injuries, or maybe just want to feel better and perhaps look better. There are many motivating factors, as we are all slightly different physiologically and psychologically. I would point out that, if you take a perspective of purely health benefit, guess what happens; the good looking/feeling parts will automatically be a byproduct of your efforts and all else will simply follow. So focus on the health issues, like reducing body fat, blood pressure, cholesterol, and just how good it makes you feel. Realize looking good and all these benefits will simply be a byproduct of your own personal program, as well as clear mindedness. Healthy diet/nutrition is key to this effort but not the only component, for sure. A balance of all factors is necessary.

    This is a very empowering concept because it helps us wrap our head around the highest purpose to accomplish our goals in such endeavors. This mindset will help you stay focused, yet relaxed mentally, so you do not defeat yourself and, therefore, can reach a higher state of accomplishment. When all is said and done, the only thing that matters is your actual results that you can see and feel. The benefits will be mental, as well as physical, because the body, mind, and spirit are very much interconnected. The shin bone is definitely connected to the thigh bone, as a metaphoric analogy, but completely accurate and valid. Remember, when we are exerting that energy, we are circulating blood to all parts of the body and that, too, is highly beneficial for many reasons. Blood carrying oxygen and removing toxins is a very good thing. So it really is all about our mindset and how we think about it, and then take action to bring it all to fruition.

    Recently I interviewed a guy named Gary Collins. He may be familiar to some of you. He is almost 25 years younger than myself. Gary is a professional in the field, I am not. I am a common sense guy that found what works and how to heal myself. But I realized we have reached a very similar place in our health/fitness endeavors. The underlying common denominator was putting out the effort to make our thesis or goals come to fruition. Gary takes a much more technical approach than myself with data. I was motivated largely by an effort to heal myself after a major accident to regain and, hopefully, surpass my previous physical capacities from sports related endeavors of many years. And, with a lot of effort and tweaking, it worked ! It seems Gary has had some similar experiences and motivations. My own experience has been a lot of reading, but mostly hands on trial and error of what worked and what didn’t. I am simply built that way psychologically. I am all about hands on, try it and see what happens, after gathering the necessary information. You will find that some will work for you and some not so much. So we have to fiddle with it all a bit and fine tune our own program that fits us both physiologically and mentally. I gained a new level of understanding from my interaction with Gary for numerous reasons. He has a lot of excellent information, and zeros in on the most basic points to focus on that actually matter and will yield results. I highly recommend his book on the Primal Power Method. I just finished it. The information about the glucose/insulin connection was the most important and relevant for me. Although there are many good points and a wealth of data to be gleaned. Gary breaks it down to its simplest forms. I like that part , because that works for me. He explains how to apply the information, rather than just, here is the data. And he is not hung up in Paleo dogma so prevalent from many sources. He does NOT say or claim that Paleo whatever will make you fit and or healthy. He squarely shows it to be just a piece of the puzzle, but for good reasons.

    I clearly state on my site fitness page that I am simply a common sense guy that set about to heal himself and willing to share the things I learned to accomplish that goal. For me, all I need to know is the results of those endeavors. I really don’t care how I got there, except for the fact that it is just good information at that point. Something worked. Another major issue I had to cross was simply being honest with myself about my current condition and where I was headed and how to get there. Being injured, the outcome was all unknown. So a trial and error method was completely necessary and appropriate. For me, that always works the best and I imagine for many, as well. I have a basic workout and some basic minimums at my site, as well, to help as a reference point to get you started. I offer some proofs of sort or guidelines to help you to your goals and success. Below is a simple chart of photos that will help you identify your current physical condition of body fat. The photo method is really simple and that is why I use it and mention it. It is a great guideline and reference point. There is a full page link on my site that gives much more info. If you are honest with yourself, it does NOT lie! The purpose is to NOT defeat yourself or injure yourself and to have the correct starting point of reference for yourself. As well, simply by looking at yourself naked in the mirror does not lie. So these are excellent reference points, based in reality, that are the absolute best place to start. There is also more technical measuring methods at my site, as well in the links.

    For Men                                                                          For Women

    image001                      image001
    image001                      image001


    Remember women’s body fat is slightly higher

    So why am I focusing on body fat? It is the single most important factor most of us face to good health and fitness. A person with lesser body fat will have all the benefits mentioned above and will have a higher state of physical ability and performance. A person with 10% BF will simply outperform a person with 20% and the 25% plus person is not even in the ballpark of equal performance of overall strength, stamina, endurance. They will simply not be able to keep up past a certain level, in a very short time frame. As well, the benefits of the healthy state are ever present in equal abundance and relationship. How do we gain control over the body fat? With a combination of nutrition and physical stimulus. What we put in our bodies is our fuel and is critical. And simply taking count of our current habits can cause us to make some simple, but profound, changes that will help us immensely and rather easily. We do not have to suffer for food in any way. I explain what I eat in great detail and I do without nothing really, except JUNK. I simply eat real foods and it all tastes great.

    I  have seen many people who talk about Paleo this and that, or various other techniques, resolutions and plans over the years, and they are not fit. You can see it easily visually. So I pretty much discount most of what they say, because it is obvious they are 25% body fat or more. Talk never works for me. I am all about results and that takes action, not talk. Bottom line, it is our specific effort and mindset that really matters the most to making any real accomplishment or changing our fitness/health for the better. So we must take the information and put it into action and not just talk about it or think that simply eating meat or limiting white carbs is going to accomplish fitness or health. It won’t, it can’t. It is just a small piece of the puzzle and still must be tempered per individual. You have to take action, although the Paleo thinking can help for sure, it is NOT a panacea or fix all. There is more to the picture and that boils down to taking action for yourself.  That is what separates the talkers from the doers and accomplishers, simple as that. It always reminds me of back in the day when many people, where I lived in Eugene, were continuously talking about and complaining about pollution and the evils of the world, while smoking a cigarette or a joint. No question a nonsensical set of double standards and completely self defeating, hey? But supposedly mellow , whatever that means. I saw this a lot and still do in a slightly different way, when I see people talking Paleo and they are obviously not fit. And there is definitely a relationship to fitness and our health. So we can fool ourselves and create our own illusions in every part of our lives. As I see it, our government does that to us a bunch, so I don’t really want anymore if I can help it.

    So wrap your head around your current state of fitness/health and take charge of your body, mind, and spirit. The benefits will be many and, when all is said and done, it won’t make a bit of difference how you get there, only that you arrive! Amazing, hey? There is an abundance of good information out there, but it does all simply come down to you and your actions. By the way, I am probably a 75% Paleo guy and have been for a long while, well before it was a popular item. But I don’t even consider it Paleo actually and I am very healthy and fit, with little effort. The only fitness God I worship is the results God! You can choose any level you want to reach. I was crippled for 5 years and healed myself and now going to a slightly higher level with little effort or angst. I am heading back to below 10% BF for a while and see if it works for me this time any better. I lost another 10 pounds this winter, so it will be fairly easy. As Joni Mitchell said quite a while ago “it all comes down to you.” Nothing has really changed.

    I am all about our Inner Powers in every aspect of our life. We just have to recognize and utilize them in every event and purpose. Good on Ya and good luck in your endeavors. Keep it fun and enjoy. Hope you can glean some helpful insights from my own experiences at my site. It is FREE!    Steve Baze    wwwdowntoearthprepper.com

     

    The post "Perspectives of Fitness and Health, a Mindset" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.

     

     

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    Advanced physical force and intermediate force are the tools and skills that go beyond physical force in the Use of Force spectrum but are still not considered lethal force. They included advanced martial training; such as expertise in multiple weapon types,  professional-level martial training, chemical sprays, electro-muscular disruption technology, and adaptations of lethal force to minimize damage (such as bean bag shells for shotguns).

    This article is NOT a primer on what is legal or not legal in certain states, as the laws vary. The reader is encouraged to research the laws pertaining to their state and to consult their legal counsel to verify their understanding of these laws.

    Advanced martial training is included in intermediate force only from the standpoint that such training brings additional scrutiny to the protector when utilizing this skill set. This is NOT the notion that 'hands and feet are registered as lethal weapons' because that is a myth. However, credentials in advanced martial skill can be used to question if the level of force administered was necessary for protection, or if it was excessive. This is sometimes initiated through 'disparity of force' arguments. In disparity of force, a lone protector against multiple attackers may be able to respond to the altercation with lethal force, even if none of his attackers are using lethal force instruments, only because the 4 against 1 scenario provides enough justification that life or great bodily harm is a reasonable possibility. Similarly, in an altercation between a mid-20's athlete arguing with granny over a parking space, if granny starts swinging her cane, the other individual may not necessarily be able to justify a physical force response, because granny is no real threat. Expertise in martial training may be used to demonstrate a force disparity based on capability. Remember, a prosecuting attorney's job is to get convictions, and any legal avenue he can bring to bear on the case may be used.

    Chemical weapons are often allowed to use anytime physical force is justified (again, check for yourself in your state). The most widely accepted is OC spray, which stands for oleoresin capsicum. It is an inflammatory, so when sprayed affects the eyes, nose, and mucus membranes of the target. While some people are not as affected by this type of attack, it will have an effect on most of the population. The inflammatory effects take time to onset. This can be between 10 and 20 seconds, depending on the target. In that onset time, the target will feel discomfort, but will not be overly incapacitated. Repeat offenders who have been sprayed multiple times are also far more likely to control any anxiety over getting sprayed, so while the spray will affect them, any panic associated debilitation will be averted. Users of OC spray are well served by having a strong martial background so that they can protect themselves while the effects of the spray set in.

    Another advanced force item is an electro-muscular disruption. TASER is a popular brand device for this. In the case of these devices, an electrical signal is imparted to the target using frequency and high voltage to disrupt the nervous system's ability to send signals to the body. The effects are a kind of stun because the target can no longer control most bodily functions. These effects are instantaneous, but the nature of the device is such that one shot is usually all that the device has the capacity for. In that one shot, two probes must make contact with the target to create the signal loop. Fortunately, the probes' small wires can also act as a signal loop so contact with the wires is sufficient to get some effect.

    There are other intermediate force options available, primarily to law enforcement, which include bean bag rounds fired from shotguns, using weapons such as flashlights and batons in a controlling way, and other alternatives. These options are not generally available to civilians or may constitute lethal force. For instance, a night stick used by a police officer trained in using it as a grappling aid would fall under advanced physical force. If the same scenario was played out between non-LEO civilians, the use of the weapon may constitute lethal force.

    Advanced physical force options are an excellent way for a protector to be able to help ensure he is not harmed by using these tools in an effective and law-abiding way. A fight against a thug may have been a challenge, but if the thug has been hit with pepper spray, it makes the protector more likely to prevail.

    There are multiple courses around the country that instruct intermediate force options available to the non-LEO civilian. Like all protection training, these courses should be explored and attended, and proficiency gained, before relying on the force option for personal protection. Each of these options has very unique characteristics and require an understanding and proficiency to correctly employ. Paying for a pepper spray canister from the hardware store does not generate this proficiency. Training does.

     

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    My Story

    A radical way to never pay for food, no food stamps needed.

    A million years ago I heard of dumpster diving through the gutter punk propaganda. When I was 17, I figured freedom was outside of a job, so I dabbled with the notion of voluntary poverty. My first boyfriend and I left Texas to sleep on the streets of Philadelphia for a week. I will say up front that it was one of the best weeks of my life. During that week we were part of the street community and got to know a bunch of travelers. That’s where I first heard of dumpster diving. I had no idea what dumpster diving meant and it went on the back burner for about 5 years. When I was 22, I typed “dumpster diving” into the search engine of YouTube and was surprised at what I saw. Hello, someone’s pulling food out of the trash. I remember thinking that it seemed novel and how I wanted to try it, but there was a mental barrier that prevented me from even formulating the steps to simply trying it. It resumed back burner status for another 4 years. When I was 26, a good friend told me that he was getting into dumpster diving and invited me along. I’ve learned a lot in 4 years.

    Fruit and Vegetables

    You’ve got to try it. I know how fantastic the mind can be, making up scary stories, but the mind has nothing on reality. I’ve seen hundreds of dumpsters and would estimate 9 out of 10 dumpsters are clean. Not everyone is a complete slob when throwing out their trash, so set that aside and consider this; in the last 30 days my husband and I spent $50 on food and have not touched 70% of it. When saving for our tiny house and land, we had to whittle our food budget down to $140 a week, but in reality we’d spend an average of $200 a week on food. Now it’s almost like we’re getting paid $800-$1,000 a month to dumpster dive our food or rather, instead of paying ourselves and having more money, we just work less because we have fewer expenses.

    I’m going to lay out the steps then address some commonly asked questions.

    Vitamins and Juice

    Phase one: Just get inside a dumpster, any dumpster, whatever is closest.

    There’s generally 3 sizes of dumpsters that I come across. The small ones that say “organics only” are for produce. Those are the size of residential plastic flip-top trash cans. There are the large metal trash cans that I can’t see over and have to usually climb in or peek through the sliding metal door. There’s a slightly smaller metal trash can that folks a few inches taller than me can see into. They don’t have sliding doors but large flip-lids.

    That first week of diving, we knew that coffee shops threw out pastries so we went to one. That was my first time getting INSIDE of a dumpster. I was excited to cross that bridge and was unaware of discretion. I opened bags that clearly had coffee grinds in them and got my hands dirty. I felt liberated in that trash can and knew I was willing to follow this through. I think we ended up finding some sandwiches that were tightly wrapped up and completely edible, bags of cookies from 7-11 and 2 boxes of $50 Neiman Marcus chocolates! Finding things of value, even if it wasn’t something I wanted, meant that I would be provided for.

    Plenty to go round

    Phase two: Find food and eat it

    The first time I ate food from the trash was the first time I opened the organics only dumpster behind the Mexican store near my apartment. I hit a goldmine! The top 3 feet of the trash can was dozens of perfectly ripe bananas. I ate one and felt liberated. I took my bag off, filled it as high as I could and walked home. I loved that dumpster.

    If you have any thoughts of food in the dumpster being dirty or smelly, then it’s a sign that you’ve probably have never gotten food from the trash. The majority of the food dumpsters where I dive contain food that looks right off of the shelf. There’s a documentary called DIVE that shows a group of homies that live off of the dumpster finds and they eat better than ever. I’ve heard more than once there is an improvement of food choices once you dumpster often, and there are enough people out there living exclusively or supplementary on dumpstered food that it’s worth looking into.

    Cooking-Food-from-the-Dump-1024x303.png

    Phase three: Branch out

    After we got comfortable with dumpstering a few local spots, we started branching out. Diversifying has been a double-edged sword for us. For one, it gets us out of our routine, which makes for a really fun adventure, but it also creates varying levels of disappointment. Let’s say we hit the streets to find new places but it happens to be trash day so we drive around and it’s nothing but dead ends. Sad face. But sometimes we’d hit a goldmine and we’d all feel like a million bucks.

    In the beginning, we had the Mexican grocery store and in the back of our mind we knew doughnut/bagel/coffee shops where always an option because they trash everything daily, but we wanted to really look around. Dumpster diving is known for it’s endless amount of junk food. When something comes to its “sell by” date, it’s often that a whole case that gets trashed. Just the other day we dumpstered 2 cases of unopened honey buns which was over 10 pounds! For a long time we avoided dumpster diving but not because we didn’t want to eat from the trash. For 9 years I was vegan, for 2 years I was raw vegan and for 4 years I was paleo/WAP. I have a long history of having a really neurotic (orthorexic) relationship with food and a lifetime supply of bagels and doughnuts wasn’t going to cut it. I’ve come a long way, I’m willing to enjoy a wide variety of junk food and fresh food. Back in the day the fresh food issue was still at hand. Once we branched out, connected with other divers in our area, and didn’t just write certain places off was when we found the mother load of daily fresh produce. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of places throw out produce but often it’s a mixed bag of decent, rotten and bruised produce, however our mother load always looks better than produce I’ve seen being sold on shelves.

    Dairy and Junk Food

    Phase four: Dream big

    Don’t think, “Oh the trash can is going to be dirty with nothing I like and I’m going to get caught….” That’s not dreaming big. On the Facebook dumpster diving page www.facebook.com/groups/freeusa/ (closed group) a women dumpstered 38 kind bars from an office supply store. We’re always on the look out to have snacks that my husband can take to college and eat between class. Seeing her picture was pretty inspiring. She branched out, tried new places, maybe got into the dumpster and her family is better off for it. Dreaming big is looking at your needs and wants and expecting those things to be provided to you, but not at a cost. You’re not putting someone out by meeting your needs, these are things that are going to the dump that still have value. My idea of “dreaming big” is never paying for food outside of social events. My friend who invited me out 4 years ago never pays for food and on the dumpster Facebook page there are others just like him. Whether it’s supplemental or exclusive dumpster diving food can be a part of your dreams.

    Food-from-Dump-4-1024x316.png

    Phase five: Repeat set four

    I was working 50-70 hour weeks for too long and burned out. I stopped working and we were living on the cheap, spending  $1 on food which was pasta and rice. I really had it in my head that in order to live within my means I had to lower my quality of life because I had been living off meat and veggies. I think that humbled me a lot. Chilling out on of my orthorexic tendencies really made way for some serious dumpster diving. Now we have fresh squeezed OJ every day, fruit smoothies for snacks, I made homemade tomato sauce,  and we dumpstered a 20 pound spiral cut ham.

    Dumpster diving can meet more than just your immediate needs.

    We give away a lot of food to those who are interested in what we’re doing. We keep snacks in the car and when we pull up to traffic lights where hobos are asking for money we hand then 8 bags of M&Ms or a bag of potato chips. On the Facebook dumpster diving page, a pastor posted a picture of 50 pounds of meat that he and his wife were going to grill for the homeless. Some people wish they had more money to help while other people help out by diving food for those in need. There are families on tough times who dumpster dive to make ends meet. Dumpster diving and prepping go hand in hand. Ask any dumpster diver to show you their pantry, fridge, freezer or backup freezer because they are set!

    Alcohol

    Is it legal?

    I doubt it, but every place is different, I just assume that the law would rather you starve and die before you’re allowed to touch their precious trash before it’s hauled off…. but that’s not always the case. The way I think of it this “if there is $200 in that trash can would I get in?” and the answer is always yes. When diving, I always think about “What if a cop rolls up, what am I going to say?” I think I would probably say that our country is broke and I’d rather reserve food stamps for someone who really needs it. (I’d try to make that sound the least “hippie” as possible) Plus there is The Good Samaritan Law and the 1988 supreme court (California Vs Greenwood) trash picking ruling. It says picking trash is legal if you’re not trespassing.

    Food not Waste

    Do you actually get in the trash can?

    I’m always willing, but seldom do. We dumpstered a grabbing stick and I’m impressed with how handy it is! Getting in the dumpster isn’t required.

    When is the best time to go?

    We all go at different times and all have success. The key is consistency! Pick a handful of stores and check them every day for a week.

    Where is the best place to dumpster dive?

    Every dumpster ever, I’m not kidding. Whether you’re looking for food, clothes, shoes, pet food, etc., imagine every dumpster having something you need. Remember the case of kind bars at an office supply store! Plus the more you look for something the more in the zone you’ll be. Compactors are not your friend but keep an eye out, next to compactors can be a small dumpster with a gold mine in it.

    Bringing home the groceries

    What kind of people dig through trash?

    I asked our dumpster diving group what their skill or education levels are and here’s what I got: “Associates in Science (nursing), CNA,  Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, office manager,  freelance writer, AA graphic design,  AA in business, Masters Industrial Hygiene/Hazardous Materials,  BA in Education,  BS in Business Marketing,  GED with some college,  B.S. in Mass Communication, plus 1 years study for a master’s degree, Bachelors in Environmental Science,  Bachelors in Psychology, and marketing minor in business administration, PhD and work at a university”;  the list went on but I barely graduated high school, so I’m not trying to do a song and dance about dumpster divers being top notch, well groomed people. I’m really trying to illustrate a spectrum for those who are only imagining hobos.

    How do you know what’s edible or not?

    If the food isn’t identical to what you’d pay for, then leave it where you find it. Smell will tell you most of what you want know. Smell and sight together will damn near paint a perfect picture. Use your brain, use Google’s brain and watch Dive the documentary.

    Get in there

    If I can answer any questions,  I would love to hear them all.

     

    The post "Dumpster Diving – Food for Freedom" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.

     

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    The Four Boat Anchors Holding Back Permaculture

    Where does the future of Permaculture lie?  Well, I would like to start off with where it doesn’t lie as that may lead us along faster if we are open and honest about it.  These are areas where I feel we are wasting time if we put any real effort into them…

    • Influencing the individual politics of others
    • Bitching about what is wrong with the current system
    • Doing everything for free or as a “nonprofit”
    • Focusing on PDCs over on the ground “workshops” and multiple income sources

    I honestly believe each of the above represents no less than a series of boat anchors that hold back permaculture from moving forward at a much faster pace and gaining broader main stream acceptance.  Indeed if each is examined with a basic analysis of what it creates versus what it impedes the true way to move Permaculture into broader acceptance becomes clear in my opinion.

    Boat Anchor One – Influencing the Individual Politics of Others

    Let me be clear, I feel we are largely past the point of political solutions to most of mankind’s problems.  I classify myself as an anarcho libertarian but I really don’t care what you call yourself, I really don’t.  You can be a liberal, a conservative, a centrist, whatever, as long as you are using and practicing permaculture, I feel we are going in the right direction.  Make no mistake I am happy to debate politics with you, just not as a permaculture teacher or evangelist.

    Permaculture-AnarchistIt is my personal contention that permaculture is an anti-political movement, one that is more anarchist than anything else.  Yet I will admit I am not an authority when it comes to this claim, I prefer to cite permaculture’s founder, Bill Mollison in making this claim.  Bill said the following in an interview you can view at this link http://www.scottlondon.com/interviews/mollison.html`

    “Permaculture is anti-political. There is no room for politicians or administrators or priests. And there are no laws either. The only ethics we obey are: care of the earth, care of people, and reinvestment in those ends.”

    Friends, I just don’t think it gets clearer than that!  Too many permaculturists seem obsessed with solutions through legislation, “We need the government to _________”.  I laugh at this because what we in Permaculture most need from government is for them to get the hell out of our way.  Doubt me?  Try to set up an ecovillage and really live fully off grid.  When you do, the first real problem you will encounter is the government, along with a mile of codes.  Frankly urban farmers and front yard gardens are assaulted almost daily in many parts of the US.  Hell, why do you think Joel Salitan wrote a book called, “Everything I Want to do is Illegal”?

    To me Permaculture is our best solution because it calls for action rather than committees and endless discussions about why the other side is the problem.  Let me put it this way, if you are worried about carbon, leave taxes out of it when spreading the permaculture message.  Stick to how to build self-sufficiency and less carbon will go in the air and more will go in the soil.  One hugul bed will put more carbon in the soil then a hundred CFL bulbs will prevent from going into the atmosphere.  You want social justice and food for the poor, go plant a garden where it will feed the poor.  It is that simple.  Now the truth is, when you plant that garden, likely the only problem you will tend to encounter is government obstruction.   You may want to consider that the next time you put your faith in a state based solution.  The key is though none of this is important if what you really want is more permaculture systems, permaculture businesses and permaculture living.

    Teach permaculture thinking, and by that I mean the design science of permaculture.  Once people have that it will influence them, it will lead them to better choices.  You don’t have to tell them where they are wrong in your view, just show them how to be productive and you will accomplish more.  There have been thousands of people turned off by what most would call “leftist ideology” in permaculture.  Frankly, if you choose one side of the current political spectrum as your platform, you just shut down 50% of your market.  I’d call that cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Let me be clear, it doesn’t matter which side you choose, you cost yourself 50% of your potential market, either way.

    The big reason to get off the politics though in permaculture is it works, it converts the unconverted.  To be blunt, when taught pragmatically, permaculture converts the heathens!  Preaching to the converted about things you all agree about does almost nothing to further permaculture thinking and design implementation.  Teaching things like technique, design and function stacking is what does that.  Does it really work?  In early 2013, Geoff Lawton approached me and asked that I promote his online PDC to my audience.  I was happy to do so, well, the results were over 500 registrations out of my audience alone.  The majority of these people are either politically right leaning or are libertarian oriented such as myself.  In other words not the usual suspects.

    So where do you apply your political goals?  In political arenas, and if you want to take permaculture with you God speed!  I would love to see both liberals and conservatives shoving permaculture thinking at their elected officials.  Hell, wouldn’t you like to see a couple million letter to congressmen that read, “Dear Honorable ______, I would like to know how your current policies are taking responsibility for ourselves and that of our children?  Further I would like to know how you are caring for the earth, caring for people and returning all surplus to the system you are taking it from?”  I think it is a long road and you are talking to people more concerned with power rather than solutions but, hey, I want permaculture everywhere so go for it.  Just understand, you insist on making permaculture a political ideology, you will never grow it as rapidly as it can be grown on its own merits.

    I would like to ask permaculturists that use the phrase “climate change” in every third sentence a simple question.  If God himself spoke to your face and said, “I control the climate, fossil fuels have nothing to do with it”, would you still be as passionate about permaculture as you are now?  Frankly my answer is yes I sure as hell would!  I am trying to feed people, create individual liberty, stop desertification and prevent soil erosion along with a million other things.   And hey if you really believe we need carbon sequestration, set a goal to get 10,000 feet of hugul beds installed or to get 100 food forests planted and don’t worry who the hell does it.  I mean, what is really important, the solution or who is “right” about the problem?  Please read that last question again and it you have a hard time answering it, think about what that really means.

    Boat Anchor Two – Bitching about what is wrong with the current system.

    This one there is a place for, that place is waking people up, but once they are awake, shelve it and focus on what to do right, not what others are doing wrong.  Frankly I am a permaculture maniac when it comes to spreading the word.  I know it works, I know how important it is and I will get a person interested by any tactic that will work as long as it is ethical.  If showing them a factory chicken farm will do it, done!  If explaining our main export is top soil will do it, done!  If explaining GMOs and the reality that Roundup and Atrazine are in our food supply will do it, done!  If explaining that I can cut their electric bill will do it, done!  If showing them a beautiful food forest will do it, then I will do that.

    The last item is the one I prefer, I feel it works better.  You show someone massive productivity, great quality food and ease of maintenance and you generally get a question along the lines of “How can I do that”?  If I get that question, I answer it, if I get a question like, “What can I do about GMOs?” I answer that.  The key though is once I get a “how do I” or “what can I” from someone, I don’t really need to talk about what is wrong ever again; I simply need to show them and teach them what works.

    At this point I want to instill the following in a person, the prime directive and the three ethics.

    • Prime Directive – The only responsible action is to take responsibility for ourselves and for that of our children.
    • Ethic One – Care of the earth.
    • Ethic Two – Care of people.
    • Ethic Three – Return of surplus to the end of the first two

    If I can get them that far, from that point on, all I want to discuss is design science and system implementation.  If they just want a garden, great we start there.  Gardens are the gateway drug to permaculture.  Sure they will have more weed issues and struggle a bit more in the beginning than if they sheet mulched and planted a more involved polyculture with some minor earthworks, but that is their choice.  When they get tired of fighting but hooked on good food, they will ask for more.

    I am not focused on the farm conglomerate with 10,000 acres of GMO soy.  It concerns me, but I know I won’t change their minds with words or calling a congressman.  Nor will I focus on the CAFOs.  I am instead looking for the land owner barely getting by with 100 acres and some cattle who will consider a permaculture system.  I want to tell this person, I can do the following for you…

    • Produce more and healthier cattle than you are right now that will sell at a premium
    • Reduce your expenses
    • Also produce hogs on that same land
    • Also produce chickens on that same land
    • Also produce over 100 varieties of nuts and fruits on that same land
    • Eliminate or drastically reduce irrigation
    • Enable you to hire more people at a great wage and still make more money for yourself
    • Make your land so productive and valuable that you will never risk losing it
    • Make your land so beautiful that your community will want to help you protect it
    • Build your top soil and fertility
    • Use heavy equipment for 2 weeks in a way that will eliminate your need to use it ever again
    • Give you more water than you know what to do with
    • Eliminate any need for fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides
    • Give your farm so much value some people will pay just to come look at it
    • Make is so beautiful and stable your great grandchildren will cherish it and you for creating it

    When I think about that, I have no time for bitching about what is wrong with our current system.  People do that daily, they gripe and moan and complain and then go to Walmart and buy the very crappy food they are bitching about.

    On that note, I am not about to tell a single mom barely getting by how shitty food at Walmart is for her kids.  She knows that and doesn’t need me to make her feel worse about it.  Here is what I want to tell that mom, let me show you how to…

    • Grow food in your back yard from things you can get for free
    • Teach your children responsibility, work ethics and to care about themselves and others
    • Cut the cost of your grocery bills
    • Create a place your children want to spend their time and their friends want to be there too
    • Empower yourself to not be dependent on others
    • Know that you will be okay even if support systems like water or electricity fail
    • Feed your kids food of such high quality that it will put food from yuppie places like Whole Foods to shame
    • Inspire your entire neighborhood to do the same things
    • Solve problems, move yourself into a better place in life and understand true wealth
    • Set you and your family on fire with the knowledge that what you do matters

    This approach works because it focuses on what people can do and most importantly what they can do now.  Some in permaculture seem addicted to problems, that is all they wish to discuss, Monsanto this and factory farming that.  Hey I get it, but do you know what happens if you tell a person long enough about how many problems there are?  First they get pissed off, then they start talking about what should be done, then they get overwhelmed, then they go back to business as usual and feel defeated.  They simply feel there is nothing they can do.  You want permaculture to move forward, show people what to do, help them do it and ask them to pass that on.

    Rich stars on TV may advocate organic food and talk about the evils of factory farming, but one guy with a shovel can do more to fix that problem than any such people will ever do.   You want to fix our current issues, hand out shovels, rakes, hoes and instructions on how to use them.

    Boat Anchor Three – Doing everything for free or as a “nonprofit”.

    I find this one to be a well-meaning sentiment but largely connected to the first boat anchor of political ideology.  We have entered a world where profit is equated with “evil corporations” and all corporations are evil in the minds of many people today.  Then that same person who fears the connotations of evil corporations, incorporates but as a nonprofit.  Let me say something as a business person, totally devoid of permaculture, just as a flat business principle.  You don’t set up a corporate structure on any feel good ideology, political correctness or anything other than practical, pragmatic and legal reasoning.

    A nonprofit corporation is just as capable of doing evil as a for profit corporation.  In fact, in some cases, they can do more harm by hiding behind the lacy white curtain of “nonprofit status”.  Over 300 million given to the Red Cross for the Haitian earthquake, blowing away like a fart in the wind springs to mind! Plenty of big nonprofits collect millions and millions of dollars and have CEOs with the same G class jets as Exxon and Monsanto CEOs.  Being a not for profit corporation is a technical and legal decision.  I have set up companies as both not for profit and as for profit and I prefer for profit, mainly because the government has less to say about how I run my business.

    There are times specifically when working with government agencies or specific NGOs (non-governmental organizations) where this status makes a lot of sense or is it becomes practically mandatory.   I will leave the not for profit discussion with this piece of advice; before setting up any business entity, discuss it with a qualified business attorney with a solid understanding of tax law.  Don’t do it on LegalZoom.com, on your own for ANY BUSINESS, and know why the hell you are choosing the specific form.

    I bring the above up only because the zeal to be a nonprofit company in permaculture is seldom fueled in my experience by any of the value of that structure.  It is mostly fueled because of this concept that to profit is somehow wrong or evil.  Look guys, here is a permaculture principle, “obtain a yield” and how about “a yield is technically unlimited”?  Well, in a business, yield is profit that is why a business exists to make a profit.  Businesses that make no profit end up bankrupt, got it?

    When many starry eyed permaculture newbies want to become a professional permaculture teacher/consultant/writer/superhero/etc and race right for 501C3 status here is what they are actually saying, “I want to make enough money to pay myself and perhaps my employees a reasonable salary; I don’t want the company itself to be profitable”.  Great you don’t need 501C status, the year of waiting to be approved and the additional restrictions that it comes with it for that.  Instead, just pay out all profit as salary, if you feel overpaid, donate the surplus.  Done, your company makes zero profit; you pay the taxes as an individual and donate any of the evil money that is “too much for one person to have” to whatever you want.  Sadly though if this is how you think, likely those evil profits will never show up and you will be working a typical wage slave J-O-B in order to fund your “business”.

    Let me put it to you this way, permaculture is the greatest system of design, Bitcoin_Digital_Currencythinking and problem solving ever created.  If you really get it, you should be able to build a back yard oasis one day and paddock shift systems bordered by food forest strips the next.  Then you should be able to solve the functional problems of a typical business that has nothing to do with farming the very next day.   Sure you might bill the mom in the burbs at a lower rate than the farmer with 80 acres and you might not, as with all things permaculture, “it depends”.  If that mom in the burbs is well to do and can afford it, she gets my market rate.  If she is not so well to do but simply middle class maybe I work the rate a bit lower.  If she is dead broke, she can pay me with adding to my portfolio, a letter of recommendation and a promise to be a force of good in her community, but she is going to provide value for value or I ain’t doing it. Does that make sense?  We all have “value” and value should be exchanged for value in business.

    Whether you are teaching and consulting or running your own farm, permaculture needs to be profitable if you are doing it as a business.  Don’t get me wrong, if you have a job you want to keep, pay your bills that way and just love doing permaculture that is fine.  If you have extra time and want to organize “permablitzs” at no real fee, go ahead, that is awesome, but you won’t pay your mortgage that way, so don’t delude yourself into thinking you will.

    Let me put it to you this way, money is not evil.  Money is nothing but a symbol for energy agreed upon as such by members of an economy.  It is merely a means of exchange, nothing more. It isn’t alive; it doesn’t make its own decisions.  Money, to put it in a permaculture metaphor, is like a giant bulldozer.  In the hands of one man it can destroy a forest or put a strip mall in where a park used to be.  Yet in our hands it can build a damn, rip a key line, build a swale and establish a food forest.  Oh and for that dozer to do all those wonderful things you know what you need?  Money!  You need money to buy or rent the dozer, money to fuel it, money for a good operator to run it, money for infrastructure for the dozer to install, etc.

    Simply put, many in permaculture suffer from a poverty consciousness.  Permaculture is about abundance, one can’t really create abundance with a mindset glued to scarcity.  So if you have a poverty consciousness and want to succeed in a permaculture business, get over it.  Then you can be as charitable as you want and hell, you will likely end up having a great deal to give.

     

    Boat Anchor Four – Focusing on PDCs over on the ground “workshops” and multiple income sources

    I have had a few conversations with “successful permaculture businesses” and when reviewing their revenue teaching 2-6 PDCs a year provided from 75-95% of their income.  Whoa!  Talk about exposure to a down economy!  Hey guys, isn’t this supposed to be about sustainability?  How sustainable is a field with one crop?  Now bridge the gap in your mind, how sustainable is a business with one revenue source?  The PDC is the big money maker for many “pros”, some because frankly they are simply that good and that in demand.  For those folks, great, rock on.  Yet there can only be so many people of that status in what is, at least for now, a relatively small emerging market.   For many, the reason PDCs are the main source of revenue is only because it’s the one thing they can sell enough of at a high enough price to survive.

    I personally don’t try to make a lot of money on permaculture but we do fairly well with on the ground workshops.  I can do this because I am not in permaculture for money; I have a business that pays my bills.  I do permaculture for the pure evangelistic zeal of spreading it.  Yet I do know how to run businesses, so if I were to quit my career as a Podcaster, how would I build a profitable permaculture business.  I would do something like this

    • Install the best green and shade houses I could afford – plant business selling plants and cuttings
    • Install a blow you away permaculture site on my own property – feeds the above and tours for a fee
    • Save and market the shit out of seeds, specifically stuff that isn’t in every catalog – seed business
    • Set up pasture based laying chickens and if possible meat birds – eggs sold to neighbors may be meat too
    • I would run 6-8 large scale on the ground workshops a year, dirty hands stuff – student fees
    • I would likely teach 2 PDCs a year at most, I would follow Bill Wilson’s model and do part online and on site. http://midwestpermaculture.com/about/our-certification-courses/ – Yes a solid income from PDCs

    I would however, really make my mark as a local consultant.  I would go to every botanical garden, nature center or arboretum in 100 miles of my home and learn every plant that can be grown in my area.   I would have meet up groups teaching basics like sheet mulching for free and for small fees in some instances.  I would find a local herbalist and become a local plants expert.  I would visit every place with a lawn where someone would talk to me and show them photos of what it could become.  I would never answer questions from people the way we do in a PDC with “it depends” rather with, do this or do that, or tell me more so I can answer that for you.

    The focus on PDCs as a gold standard for revenue, to me is a boat anchor because, while I wish every person on the planet would do it, it simply really isn’t for everyone.  A PDC is really quite demanding, it requires a very high level of thinking and like most educations; it is more about how to learn rather than what you learn.  When you leave a PDC one of two things happens.

    1.  You now have a way of thinking that leads to a lifetime of developing, teaching, designing but above all learning.  You have been converted into a student of permaculture forever.  A status you will never graduate from.
    2. You think to yourself something like, “none of my real questions about what to plant in my yard where answered with anything other than ‘it depends’, why did I pay 1,200 dollars for that”?

    You see, a PDC doesn’t actually make you to be a great designer; it gives you a foundation so you can become one.  A PDC is a gateway to a lifetime of study, research and gaining experience.  A permaculturist, if he or she is really good, is an architect of natural systems.  One doesn’t become an architect in a 72 hour course.  Many people take a PDC and sadly end up with feeling like option 2 versus option 1 above and I think, at least to a degree, it is because we oversell PDCs.

    I recently taught a course with a fellow teacher.  An individual with what I would call a Ferrari level permaculture education.  A teacher certified by the PRI as a teacher, a guy with almost every course you can take under his belt.  The man is brilliant in every way a permaculturist can be.  Yet, at the end of this class as students presented designs (this was not a PDC) he kept saying things like, “You did that design and you don’t even have a PDC”.  Frankly about 90% of the students had not taken a PDC before this class and my co-instructor was actually apprehensive about teaching a course as complex as we put together to people who had not yet taken a PDC.  Again, I think this is because we have over sold the PDC to even ourselves.

    I think there are two types of people that should take PDCs, they are

    1. People that want an actual career of some sort in permaculture and know exactly what they will and won’t get at a PDC.
    2. People that don’t want a career but know exactly what they will and won’t get at a PDC and still want to take one.

    Both should see PDCs as a foundation, not as a one-time event.  If you go to a good school to learn about self-defense with firearms, they will spend most of their time teaching you how to train on your own once you leave.  So it is with a PDC.  You are exposed to systems, designs, patterns, function stacking from concepts used all over the world; many will never apply to you directly.  Most of us will never develop a chinampa because we won’t have a location suitable for doing it.  Yet every PDC I have ever been part of has chinampas as part of the instruction.  The reason to me as it leads so many, “Well, what if I did _______” thoughts.  That is the point; the point isn’t to try to build a chinampa system in a Chicago suburb on a 10th of an acre or in a California desert where it just doesn’t fit.  The value in the knowledge of a chinampa, even if you never build one, is what elements of it you can stack into a more appropriate solution for a design’s needs and restrictions.

    This is the thinking one should go into a PDC with.  If not likely you won’t really get the most out of it.  Many people will be much better served to go to an intensive workshop about sheet mulching and urban back yard design that is tailored to where they live.  So guess what folks, sell that to them, deliver it and do a damn good job with it.  Teach them about 50 or more plants and show them how to catch roof water, don’t talk about it, do it, show it, and really teach it.  Show them how to get IBCs cheap, don’t just say it, show it.  Give people sources of materials and plants not just what stuff to use and buy.  Form relationships with suppliers; network the shit out of those relationships as well.

    My point is this.  In permaculture there are many vertical markets.  The top level educational market of PDCs and advanced earthworks, soils, urban design, long term internships, etc. is actually a very narrow vertical.  The larger markets are things like…

    • Local demand for how to design my own back yard
    • Seeds and plants
    • Site level consulting
    • Dozens more

    The truth is a lot of people in our world are broke because we are busy trying to sell something expensive to a group that is also often broke.  There are millions of people that want at least a piece of what we have to offer and many of them have money, lots of money.  Sell to them and sell them what they want and what they actually need.  If they don’t need a PDC, sell them what they do need. If you do that you might find that many will start buying.

    Conclusion

    Some may think I am overly harsh in this article.  I am sorry if anyone feels that way but I come at this with a very long track record of being successful in business.  I am not here to talk about mud fairies and rainbows.  I see permaculture as a solution to many of the most critical problems in our time.  I want as many on board with as much as they will get on board with as I can get.  The “hippy market” is small and mostly, not fully, but mostly broke.  I can’t get permaculture into 1,000,000 new back yards with that approach, and neither can you.  If we want the vast majority to get at least a little tuned in to permaculture we have to take it to them, in their language on their level.

    I will be doing a presentation on these concepts at Permaculture Voices in March of 2014. In my presentation I will lay out detailed plans for making Permaculture profitable and main stream.  If you would like to learn more about this conference where over 40 of Permaculture’s biggest names will be presenting, visit www.permaculturevoices.com

     

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  21. Gentry

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    Water is the key to life, so it should come as no surprise that water is a fundamental building block in every permaculture design.  It is important to understand how to capture, direct, store, and utilize this resource in order to integrate it with other design components.  The strategic placement of water elements in correct positions on the landscape cultivates a self-sustaining, low maintenance, resilient system.  But how do you build one of these systems? And where do you even start?

    Prior to creating water elements, a baseline knowledge of earthworks is needed.  Earthworks includes understanding concepts such as slope, aspect, orientation, level, and contour. It also includes usage of surveying equipment, hand tools, and possibly large machinery.  Exposure to these topics and tools is necessary to be able to read the potential of land and to develop successful connections among individual elements.  Some basic terminology regarding earthworks are:

    • Slope: Slope is “rise over run” that many of us encountered during geometry class.  Basically, it is the measurement of incline or decline across an area.  This is very important to understand with regard to water flow.  (It also gave me the answer to my decades old question of, “When will I ever use this in real life?”)
    • Aspect: This refers to the directionality of sloped land.
    • Orientation: Orientation can be described as, “the position of one object in relation to another object.”  An example of this would be orienting the long side of the pond towards the prevailing wind.
    • Level: Level means at the same height or depth.
    • Contour: This is a line in the landscape or on a map that is at the same elevation.

    Once a solid foundation of these land sculpting principles and equipment is attained, the focus can then shift to water elements and their benefits.

    Three main water components utilized in many permaculture systems are ponds, swales, and hugelkultur beds.  A pond will benefit the system in many ways. This single element has many multifunctional uses and potential connections. Water can be held in a pond at a high point on the land allowing easy integration with gravity fed connections to lower points on the land.  A pond could be stocked with fish to increase food security.  In addition to the practical reasons, a pond can be included as an oasis of beauty and diversity.

    Another water element often used in permaculture design is called a swale. A swale is a ditch dug on contour to passively collect water.  Ensuring the bottom of the ditch is level minimizes erosion.  This component is used to increase the water table on site by soaking excess water in place.  Attaching a swale to pond maximizes the volume of water collected over an area.  Swales are widely utilized because they are excellent tree growing systems. Water and nutrients are delivered where the tree roots need them.

    A third feature related to water is the practice of burying bulky, woody material in soil and then using that area as a growing space.  This concept is known as hugelkultur.  It is a low maintenance growing system. “Hugelkultur” is a German word translated to mean “hill or mound culture.”  Depending on the size and shape of the mound, this element could reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation. The woody material sunk in the soil breaks down releasing nutrient. As the wood decays, micro pockets of air are created, eliminating the need to till the growing space.  Hugelkultur is a solution for a growing area receiving too much rainfall. The plants and roots are growing in drier soil above the wood base. Amazingly, hugelkultur is also a solution for a growing area receiving too little rainfall.  Over the course of two or three seasons, the woody material sponges up water holding it in place instead of letting it run through.  Plant roots go deep into the soil to mine the water held by the decaying wood.  A hugelkultur bed, by its very nature, has varied microclimates. Areas near the top are drier, and soil near the bottom is wetter.  It also has a sun side and a shade side, generating warm and cool pockets in the soil.

    Earthworks-150x150.png       Pond-150x150.png      Terracing-150x150.png

    On paper these components and concepts individually may make sense. But how do they come together? How are they built from the soil up?  The biggest question is still, “Where do I even begin?”

    Paul Wheaton has recorded an earthworks and hugelkultur workshop answering that very question.  This workshop starts at the beginning with planning and site analysis, then it expands into functional design, finally demonstrating how to get started. It covers how to avoid common pitfalls, getting shovels in the ground, hurdling challenges, and completion of the system.  Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture Earthworks and Hugelkultur Garden 3-DVD Set demonstrates the construction, implementation, and strategy behind the individual concepts and their critical connections.  24 hours of classroom and hands-on workshop content will be condensed into 3 DVDs showcasing how to design for one pond, one swale, and one hugelkultur bed built into a terrace.

    Get an excavator-eye view as a pond is built without a pond liner.  This style of design mimics a true ecosystem just as Mother Nature would build.

    See how real world challenges are identified and designed into or out of the system. Contaminated run-off water from a nearby street flows on to the property. Observe the strategy put in place to mitigate the pollutants while the additional water resource is captured, cleaned, and cycled through the permaculture system.

    Time is spent teaching tool usage as well. Learn how to use laser levels around the property to accurately mark elevation.

    Hugelkultur design is examined in detail as multiple variations are outlined.  The type of wood to use is analyzed.  The example hugelkultur bed is built on a terrace and shaped in a sun scoop so that the planting area is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

    The 3-DVD set has been set up as a Kickstarter campaign.  A Kickstarter campaign is a way for individuals to determine if a project has an audience prior to putting in hours of labor.   Community will gauge the value of a project by pledging a monetary amount. If Paul Wheaton’s Kickstarter campaign reaches the goal, then the DVDs will be made.  The completion date is set for June 2014.

    If you like this sort of thing, you can support Paul here.

     

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    Knife-at-180-300x225.jpg

    Introduction

    Maintaining cutting tools is very important to their safe and pleasant use.  No one likes struggling with a dull knife and the extra effort needed to push or pull a dull knife through can create momentum behind the cutting tool that can make for a dangerous situation to you and those nearby.

    There are many complicated and expensive systems on the market designed for tool sharpening.  Most of them do a very good job in a specific area or with one type of tool.  When a sharpening system is designed to handle multiple types of jobs, that is usually when the learning curve, accuracy, and price goes up.

    Many people try to sharpen their knives and get frustrated with their chosen system and then say it doesn’t work.  Well, it usually isn’t the sharpener; it may just be that the sharpening system they’ve chosen really isn’t appropriate for the type of tool needing to be sharpened.  For example, a two wheel high-speed grinder may be fine for lawnmower blades, wood lathe turning tools, and the garden shovel, but I would cringe at the thought of getting that near a fine carving tool or an expensive kitchen knife.

    There is no ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to sharpening – even though many manufacturers would love for you to think so and that it’s THEIR system that is it.

    I’d like to show how to sharpen tools – and mainly knives, very inexpensively, quickly, and with a very short learning curve.

    Sharpening Principles

    First, a bit on sharpening itself.  Go back to your 8th-grade geometry lessons;

    Two non-parallel lines will eventually cross at a single point.

    Two Non-Parallel Lines

     

    Now, extend that into three dimensions and the lines become planes.

     

     

    Where our planes cross, the point now has become a line.

    Point Becomes a Lines

     

     

     

     

    Look at the two planes as being the two sides of our knife, or bevels, and the line as being the resulting edge of those two planes coming together in a flat, single line.  That is our goal in sharpening – it’s really just that simple.  Don’t worry about your edge, just flatten the bevels and the edge will take care of itself.

    So enough with the nerdy math stuff – let’s get to building.  We’re going to sharpen knives using abrasive films, i.e. – sandpaper.  Yes, it can be done, and it’s very simple – believe me, even if you’ve given up on messy oil stones, expensive Japanese water stones, or even diamond stones – don’t despair.  Invest  the very small amount of  money it takes to get started in this, then invest a little time and practice with this sandpaper system that will teach you the principles of sharpening much better than a single expensive diamond stone will.  Then take what you learn and revisit (if you want) those expensive stones that are sitting in the drawer in the garage and you may find that they work much better than they ever did.

    Setup

    For those familiar with finishing wood or auto body work, this will sound familiar.  What we’re going to do is remove metal from our knife blades starting at a certain grit of paper (we’ll discuss where to start in a bit), to establish our bevel (geometric plane).  This grit will create a scratch pattern in the metal consistent with the size of the grit particles attached to that paper film.  These grit sizes are referred to by number; the higher the number, the smaller the grit size (more on that later).

    Now, once we have a consistent scratch pattern with one grit, we then move to the next smaller grit to remove the scratches from the last one.  This goes very quickly once the initial grit is finished.  The real trick is to decide how coarse of a grit to start with.  I’ll discuss this in more depth later when we get started on our first knife.

    Parts

    To put your sharpening system together all we’ll need is a hard, flat surface with a sharp edge, like a countertop or a workbench and sandpaper.  Not just one sandpaper, or a few pieces of sandpaper, but ALL the grits of sandpaper.  Here is what I’d recommend for a full lineup that should handle any knife – Grits starting coarse to fine;  60, 80, 100, 120, 150, 180, 220, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000.

    I am using aluminum oxide based sandpapers from Norton.  It doesn’t matter where you get your sandpaper or what brand you buy;  light colored papers make it easier to judge the feedback during the sharpening process.

    Supplies

    Most of these grits of sandpaper from 60 up through 400 grit can be found in a standard hardware or woodworking store, perhaps in the paint section.  For the finer grits 600-2000 you’ll have much better luck in an auto parts store – these ultra-fine sandpapers are usually reserved for  auto body painters.

    When making your sandpaper purchases, buy full 8 ½ x 11 sheets for the most part, you’ll want extra sheets in the papers up through 400 – those will get used up the quickest.  The higher grits 600 and up usually are found in ½ sheets and are more expensive.  That’s ok because these finer papers don’t wear out nearly as quickly.

    Some other items you may want to add would be a portable/permanent board to create your sharpening station on that can be moved out of the way when not in use, a can of spray adhesive, and a wide-point, black permanent marker.  If you go the portable board route, add a couple of clamps to hold it in place when in use.

    Supplies for Board

    Assembly

    Let’s put this together.  If you got full sheets of sandpaper, the first step would be to cut or tear them to size.  If you will be working on 5” or shorter blades, ¼ sheets should be plenty of room.  Fold each sheet of sandpaper in half and then half again.  Tear it in to quarters over the sharp edge of the table.

    Paper Grits

    IMPORTANT:  Use the marker to write the grit size on the back of each quarter sheet – once they get torn up, you may not be able to tell what grit each piece is anymore.

    If you’ve decided to go with a separate board and spray adhesive, lay out your pieces in grit size order.  Lightly apply the spray adhesive to the back of each piece and line the pieces up with their short edge right on the board’s edge.  Continue down until a piece of each grit paper is attached to your board.  I would also then write on the board near each piece of paper its grit number.

    Sharpening Board Complete

    Note above that each sheet of sandpaper is lined up with the sharp 90⁰ edge of the board.

    The setup is finished at this point – let’s move on to how to use your new tool.

    Use

     

    Take a look at the knife that you want to sharpen.  You have a decision to make about where to start on the sandpaper board – you won’t always want to start at the coarsest grit;  look at your edge;  is the knife already fairly sharp?  Are there nicks in the blade?  Are the bevels already well defined?  Is there rust to deal with?  Do you want to reshape the edge or the cutting profile?  These are the questions that will help you determine what grit to start on.  Here are some basic guidelines:

    1. No matter where you start, always continue all the way to your finest grit paper and DO NOT SKIP GRITS!  Very important!
    2. Whatever grit paper you decide to start on, completely get the shape and bevels to look exactly the way you want them to before moving on to the next finer grit.  If this requires a lot of effort and is taking too long, you need to drop back to a coarser paper and start again.
    3. Wipe off the blade and your hands between grits – you don’t want to contaminate the finer paper with grit and steel particles of the last paper you just came from – it will slow everything down.
    4. If you want to keep the shape of the knife, it’s relatively sharp and just needs a good ‘touch-up’, start at 180 grit.
    5. For a nicked blade or one that needs to have the bevels established, start on a fairly course paper like 80 or 100.  Even go to 60 when the blade is badly damaged.
    6. Keep your movements small;  it’s much more accurate and helps maintain consistency.  Large sweeping motions are difficult to control.  This is a dry system (no wet sharpening), we want  to keep our movements short and precise.
    7. Use good direct lighting and if you need a magnifier, you can find great reading glasses at a dollar store that really help with seeing what you’re doing.  As you progress and practice, you will probably do this more by feel than watching.
    8. Use sandpaper like it was free.  Change paper often.  Worn sandpaper will not cut well and frustrate you – trust me;  just peel it off and get a fresh piece.

    An easy way to determine if you’re finding and working the bevel correctly is to use the black marker to color the length of the bevel.  When you’ve removed (worn away) all the marks, you’re finished on that grit of sandpaper.

    Knife at 180

    Take your knife and lay the blade down flat on your chosen first piece of paper with the cutting edge facing left and the ricasso or plunge cut even with the edge of the board.  Now to find the bevel – with very little pressure, slide the knife to the left slowly and begin to raise the back of the knife until it just catches on the paper – you’ve found the bevel.

    Now, place your index finger on the top of the blade and start moving the knife back and forth (tip to handle) in short 1/8” – 1/4” (2mm-3mm) motions with more pressure at the tip of the blade and the handle slightly raised.  You should begin to see a grey or black spot forming on the sandpaper where the blade is making contact with the paper.

    Knife Shavings 5

    Keep moving the knife is small strokes as you slowly rock the pressure and point of contact from the tip end of the blade back towards the handle.   The great thing about this method of sharpening is that you get immediate feedback by seeing where the steel is coming off on to the sandpaper and you can manipulate that very easily; (more here, less there, etc.).  Continue on this bevel until you have an evenly wide black line on the sandpaper from the tip to the plunge cut.  Once you’ve done that, flip it over so the edge faces right and on a fresh spot of the paper, repeat the process.

     

    Knife-Shavings-4-150x150.jpg     Knife-Shavings-3-150x150.jpg     Knife-Shavings-2-150x150.jpg      Knife-Shavings-150x150.jpg

    Note in the above progression that the steel is being removed starting at the tip of the blade and moving toward the base as the point of contact is rocked towards the handle of the knife.

    Knife at 400

    Note how there are two even ‘feedback marks’ of steel filings removed from each side of the blade on this piece of 400 grit sandpaper all the way from tip to the base of the blade.  This is a good sign that it is time to move to the next finer grit paper.

    Once both sides are even and ready, wipe the blade and your hands down and repeat on the next finer grit paper.  What you will find however is once you’ve gotten past that first ‘shaping’ grit; each successive finer one will go very quickly.  All you are doing now is removing the bigger scratches and replacing them with the next finer grit scratches.  By the time you get to 2000 grit, the edge will be polished and you should be able to see your reflection in color in the edge.

    As you move towards the finer ‘polishing’ papers in the 1000+ range, the knife will be getting very sharp – be aware of how you are moving the knife back and forth so as to avoid cutting in to your sandpaper.

    Knife at 600

    Your ‘feedback’ lines will be harder to see on the silicon carbide papers in the finer grits.  Once you start to reach the last few, there will be very little steel removed from the blade but you should notice the reflection of the metal getting shinier as the steel is now getting polished.

    Test it however you feel comfortable doing so – please practice safety – this knife will be VERY sharp.

     

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    • Those were just design ideas. Ya there may be better ways to do them. Auto venting of some kind would be nice. For the rain catch I just assume anything that you could make to work.Those were just design ideas. Ya there may be better ways to do them. Auto venting of some kind would be nice. For the rain catch I just assume anything that you could make to work.
    • Guest Patrick
      Wow, I LOVE the idea of the sideways water barrel with the water collection on top! Apologies if I missed it, but What do you use for the “tarp” on top? 6 mil plastic? Something more robust? I also love the hotbox idea… Do you vent my just raising the roof on it? Why are the walls so high? Thanks!
    • Guest grace
      Great article and the pictures were really helpful too.
    • I’ve seen the latest model of the Work Sharp system at Cabela’s last weekend, and put off buying it because the price was at $99. After researching I think I might be heading back up there to purchase. I’m one of those people, who can’t seem to find a sharpening stone when I need it. This would solve that problem as It would be staring at me from the bench. Do you think this would be a good investment in leiu of a bench grinder?
    • Guest Jerry Hambley
      You guys should check out the latest Ken Onion edition of the Work Sharp system. You can watch the video demo here. Several new features that make a good system even better in my opinion. http://www.worksharptools.com/knife-tool-sharpener-ken-onion-edition.html
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