Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are you ready for winter?

I haven't been posting here for several months. I do believe that I am back now. I have had a lot going on in my personal life, and I won't bore you with the details here.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. I have been thinking a lot lately about trading in my Ford F-150 in order to get a used Jeep Wrangler.

I don't like the idea of having a car payment, so that will probably wait. I could technically afford it, and my impulse is to make it happen. I have told myself that I need a 4x4 in order to get further back into the woods and get the trails widened in order to start on the driveway.

In reality, the first thing that I should be doing is negotiating with my neighbor in order to get my easement settled along his northern border.

Well, anyhow, I just wanted to let you know that I was back. Sorry for my lapse.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rain water harvesting

Here's a short video of our rain water harvesting system. It currently holds 220 gallons and is powered by a 12v pump from a bank of marine batteries that are in turn charged from an array of solar panels.

If you have any specific questions I could probably answer them. It really wasn't that difficult to put together and only took one day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Results Are In

If you have a few minutes, you can answer some multiple choice questions and then find out what kind of handgun they say that you are. The most interesting outcome from this is that you get to find out about some handgun that you probably never new existed. So now I know about this H&K P7 and I also know that it would cost $1,900 if I could find one. I don't think that I will bother searching for one.

I am a: Heckler and Koch, Model P7 in 9mm
Firearms Training
What kind of handgun are YOU?


The decision to equip West German police with an advanced 9mm service pistol and replace existing 7.65mm-caliber weapons was prompted after the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre.[1] The new firearm was to meet the following requirements: chamber the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge, weigh no more than 1,000 g (35 oz), the pistol's dimensions would not exceed 180 x 130 x 34 mm, it should have a muzzle energy of no less than 500 J and a service life of at least 10,000 rounds. The pistol was also to be fully ambidextrous, safe to carry with a loaded chamber and able to be quickly drawn and ready to fire instantly.[1] As a result of a competitive bid the German police forces selected three different pistols into service: the Swiss SIG-Sauer P225 (designated the P6) and two German designs—the P7 (officially designated the PSP) and the Walther P5.
Series production of the P7 started in 1979. Shortly after, the pistol was adopted by the German Federal Police's counter-terrorism unit (GSG 9) and the German Army's special forces formations.[1] The P7 was produced primarily by H&K but also under license by the Greek defense firm Hellenic Arms Industry[2] as well as in Mexico by the Departamento de Industria Militar (DIM), as a sidearm for general officers and staff.[3][4] The pistol was also exported to several countries.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Quick Video

Here's a short, panoramic type video. I was standing in the Southeastern end of the property. When construction of the log cabin begins, this is where it will be located.

On Golden Ponds

I found this picture awhile ago and that's when I began thinking about a possibility of having a pond down at Pine Grove. Of course, I also would like to have a tractor like that too!

If it ever does happen, out of the 6 acres I would estimate that 2 acres will be cleared out for the homestead and pond and leave the remaining 4 acres as woods.

I've also been reading up on sustainable firewood harvesting. It is conceivable to harvest one cord of firewood per year/per acre. The winters here in the Midwest are hit/miss and 4 cords per year should suffice just fine. Over the course of a few years, the reserve stack of firewood would remain at about 5 cords which should see us through the worst winter season.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

4th of July

Earlier in the week I picked up the deck for the mower from the repair shop and got it reattached and tested. It's in pretty good shape for being 33 years old.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day down at Pine Grove. I widened some of the existing trails, made a few new ones, and trimmed some branches from a few Cedars.

Remember that pool of water in the creek bed that I found? Well, according to the number of fresh deer tracks that I saw, they are also taking advantage of the new trails.

I also hooked up about 5 or 6 dead fall trees and towed them up and out of the woods. I'm going to send a text message to our West neighbor and let him know they are there and he can have them for firewood if he wants them.

Towards the end of the day, the steering on the Bolens Lawn Tractor went bonkers. Upon closer inspection, a weld had broken loose so only the left wheel was operational.

I managed to get it loaded back up on the truck, so this week I can remove the wheel and weld the linkage bar.

On the return drive home, I noticed a lot of people heading down to the Ozarks for the 4th of July weekend.

Have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Form over Function

Topographical overlay
Here's the topographical layout of Pine Grove. As you can see, just to the East of the middle of the Southern border is the lowest point.

Using this natural shape of the land as a guide, that is why if I were to ever construct a pond on the property, I would have it located here.

I am not sure if I will ever undertake that task, but as I make progress on cleaning up the parcel, I will have this in mind.

For example, when deciding where to clear out the trail which will one day become the driveway, my thinking is that the entrance is at the NW corner. Then the path goes down towards the SE and around what would be the damn side of the pond, loops back up towards the NE corner and that is where the log cabin would be located.

I think that I've always liked this stage of projects. When it's all just a bunch of theories and plans, and anything is possible, nothing is set in stone. It's easy to make changes because one only needs to erase a line and redraw it somewhere else.

Eventually, things will be decided upon and the real building process will begin. From that point on, we can make minor course corrections, but to change the destination becomes increasingly difficult.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Billy Goat Brush

The mowing deck on the Bolens Lawn Tractor is in the shop for repairs. A new drive spindle, some bearings, and a new main pulley (heavy, and the most expensive part) will have her all fixed up within a week.

On thinking about how I was making trails before, I realized that I should use the right tool for the job. Yesterday I rented a walk behind brush hog and spent the day clearing some space through the brambles at Pine Grove.

It was $108 for a full day rental, and considering that it's going to cost 4x that amount to have the mower deck repaired, I think that it was worth it. This machine had no problem mowing down the weeds and saplings. Anything over 2" or so it would let me know that it wasn't made for such a task.

The pathways are now ready to be maintained by the lawn tractor, and I will need to build a bridge, because in the middle of the thick brush which is now cleared, I found a pool of water in the creek bed.

In a way it is good to see because it is the creek bed area that I was thinking about clearing out in order to make a pond. However, it's also right at the southern fence line which is where the driveway would be. Well, plans are made for changing I suppose.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Making trails

Making trails
Spent most of yesterday down at Pine Grove. Used around 4 gallons of fuel in the lawn tractor and got about 3/4 finished with clearing out the perimeter.

I dropped a 30-pack of Bush Light at our neighbors porch. I now have his phone number and can TXT him in advance to see how the weather has been and if the gate will be open or not. We're still working on a more permanent way to enter the property. I think that I will ask him if he'd like to trade some firearms or something.

The last part of the day was spent in the brambles and sadly I was out of fuel before I was out of daylight. The brambles are very thick, but it was easy, monotonous work. Move forward a few feet, back up, lower the deck, move forward. Rinse. Repeat.

The 1978 Bolens lawn tractor has been doing a pretty good job. I'm mowing with it through a bunch of little saplings. A brush hog would make the work much easier, but the lawn tractor was only $275 and the brush hogs that I've seen came with a used price of $600+.

I think that with this Bolens being an older lawn tractor, it is much more capable and forgiving than those newer mowers would be.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial weekend trip

With great intentions we loaded up the lawn tractor, several weed eaters, chainsaw and other various hand tools. Today was supposed to be a day of trail clearing.

After the 90 minute drive, we discovered that the neighbor had gone away for the weekend, or so it seemed.

The gate that he'd previously said was going to be okay to use in order to access our property was shut tight. A nice chain and padlock would prevent us from driving in.

I spend about 20 minutes with one of the weed eaters and cleared away some weeds next to the NW corner of his property, right by the county road.

I left a note in his mailbox and told him that we'd come down to do a days work but were unable to do so. I also mention the area that I'd trimmed and said that I would like to talk to him about making that the permanent easement entrance to our property. I left my phone number and asked him to call.

We left the fully loaded truck on the roadside and walked back to the property. I showed the family the trail which I had already began. I guess they weren't as excited about it as I had been.

We spent another 15 minutes back at the truck checking for and removing ticks. We found another 9 of them after we got back home.

Happy Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Great Disconnect

[I liked this so much that I copied it from here]

As a thoroughly modern people, we have become disconnected. Oh, we are connected to many things - cell phones, ipads, computers, ipods, xbox, television, any number of electronic devises - but we are disconnected from real life.

Life has always been full of hardship and joy, mourning and exaltation. Living life required you to get your hands dirty. When babies were born, the reality was that it was messy, bloody, painful and potential deadly. Everyone who lived, had to deal with it. There were no hospitals or doctors (or if there were, they were very limited) and most people greeted a birth as yet another part of life - with either a good outcome or bad. People raised their own children - they were connected. They didn't have the option of hiring a nanny or sending their children to daycare. They dealt with the day to day drudgery and blessings of caring for their offspring. Men worked to care for and provide for their families. Women lived lives of service to their husbands and children. Parents cared for their children. Children grew up and cared for their parents. When life came to an end it was handled skillfully and lovingly by the same people that the deceased had walked with in life - their family. The family was very connected, from birth, through every season of life and into the grave. What a simple, perfect, beautiful way to live life. Connected from the cradle to the grave through grief and glory, good times and bad.

And now, we are connected to our games. Or our computers, or our phones. We have exchanged the real world for the fantasy world. We no longer get up close and personal with the realities of life. We hire someone to help deliver our babies, on our schedule, and devoid of pain if at all possible. We hire other people to raise our children. We pay someone else to cook for our husbands and clean our homes. We hire someone else to grow our food, butcher our meat and milk our cows. Someone else provides our water and produces our electricity. Someone else teaches our children. We send our parents to nursing homes and expect someone else to care for them. When someone we loves die, someone else washes them, dresses them and prepares them for the grave. Someone else digs the hole and fills it in. We are absent from life. We are no longer engaged in actively living. And we are missing out.

When we were connected to our family, we were connected to our neighbors and we were connected to our communities. If someone was in need, we, as a family member, neighbor or community saw to that need. There was resolution and accountability. Taking care of each other was a matter of life and death. It was not a perfect system. People fell through the cracks. Families were not perfect. But it was personal. It was connected. It was real.

If the balloon goes up, economic disaster strikes or an EMP hits, our lives will get very real, very fast. Once again, we will have to be an active participant in birth, in raising and teaching our children, in ministering to our husbands, in caring for our parents and in preparing and burying our loved ones. We will have to get our hands dirty with growing our own food, butchering our own meat and milking our own cows. We will have to provide our own water, clean our own houses and provide our own power (whatever that may be). Are you ready?

It is time for us to reconnect with the real world. We need to reap the blessings of knowing, loving and serving our families. We need to take care of our children. Love our husbands. Care for our parents. We need to take care of one another. We need to relearn how to use our hands and our brains. We need to reconnect with everything that truly matters.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Off grid expansion

Craigslist has been a blessing once again. I was able to secure another solar panel for much less than retail price.

This week's score was a BP Solar 12v/50w panel. It is in brand new condition.

I now need to re-work the mounting structure to accommodate this new panel, as it is a different size than my two Siemens panels. Once that has been done we will have a total of 136 watts of power.

So far this year, we've mowed the lawn twice, using an electric mower powered from the inverter. It has worked well, but towards the end of the job I could tell that we were getting pretty low on juice. I don't think that our batteries are in the best of condition, even though I have checked and maintained the fluid levels.

I am continuing to look around for some better storage batteries and will be patient until I do. It will have to be something local as shipping for deep cycle, or any automotive battery, is pretty expensive.

Do you have any recommendations for the best battery for the buck?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poorly planned day

Friday evening I hooked up the trailer and got everything ready for the trip down to Pine Grove on Saturday. I left early in the morning and spent the day clearing an entrance. I did not plan very well.

I had only taken two machete's with me, and for whatever reason it didn't dawn on me to load up the chainsaw, a rake, rope, shovel, lawnmower, or anything else.

So, the day was spent chopping away at the undergrowth with a machete. I even managed to saw down two small trees using the saw blade on the back of one of the machetes. (functional, but not much fun).

I also didn't plan my entrance as well as I had thought. Once I pulled the truck into the woods, the idea was to turn left and then back the trailer up in to a small clearing.

Well, I didn't leave enough room and once I unhooked the trailer, it was blocking my means to drive out, so I had to clear out some more brush and then by way of a 39-point turn, I was able to drive back out.

A few times, I took a break and was marking the north property line with some string, and I also wondered to the east end of the property and discovered that the little stream was actually running! It had rained on Friday night, but most of the ground wasn't wet at all.

Initially, I had made the assumption that the creek bed was just a watershed trench, but maybe it is something more (hopefully). I will have to walk upstream on the next trip (if the stream is running) and see if perhaps it is coming from a spring.

I ate an MRE for lunch (beef patty, yum!) and as poor planning was the theme of this trip, I didn't bring along enough water and the temperature was almost 90 degrees. I had thoughts of spending the night, but I was tired and thirsty.

Next trip down will be given much more thought. I promised myself that, for sure!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Preparing for higher food prices

Like a majority of my fellow citizens, I don't make a whole lot of money, but we manage to make ends meet.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Consumer Price Index is on the rise for most all areas, but especially for the price of our food. Anything that you can manage to purchase today, and store for tomorrow should be considered money saved. The prices are not likely to be going down at all within the next 30 years (they didn't within the last 30 years).

If you can find the space, or perhaps re-purpose some storage space for food storage, you might want to consider making that happen as soon as possible.

Just remember to store what you eat. If your regular diet consists of saltine crackers and a can of spam, then by all means, stock up on as much as you can.

Otherwise, hang on to reality as much as you can while you consider what you might be planning for next weeks meals.

A majority of what we purchase already has a storage life of at least one year, but with proper rotation and daily use, you will soon feel good about buying the groceries for October and spending April's money to do so.

There are certainly a ton of books on the subject of food storage that you might consider buying, but there are also a number of websites which offer the same, if not more, information for free.

If you are still not comfortable trusting yourself to implement a food storage and rotation system which will work for yourself and your family, then ask some other people within your family, or around your neighborhood, and ask them if they have noticed any increase in the price of food. It might just be the ice-breaker that you need.

I happen to love black beans and rice, and both of them have a very long shelf life.

If you want, I can post some more information on this subject. Yes, I was one of "those people" who prepped for Y2K, and I can tell you that even though nothing happened, I eventually ate everything that was stored. I maintain the same rational each month when I pay for my auto-insurance. I don't expect that anything will happen, but if/when it does, I will know that I was prepared as best as could be.

Lastly, I will leave you with an observation that I have made over the last few years. I see a lot of people trading in one form of "consumerism" for another when deciding to prepare. Keep this in mind as you ponder what the future might have in store for you, and for your family.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Final payment

As of today, Pine Grove is ours! The last payment was made this morning and a notarized property deed is now in our hands.

We'll need to take care of the recording at the county court house sometime soon.

I have been watching the 10-day weather forecasts for a bit now. I'd like to start camping as soon as possible, but with sunshine and 70 degrees one day, and 4-inches of snow the next, it's probably best to wait.

My rule of thumb used to be to wait until after the first week when the night temperatures were all above 50-degrees. That might still be the way to go for this year.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Not so neighborly neighbors

About a month ago, I did something which I have not done in a long, long time.
I wrote a hand-written letter.

The purpose of this letter was to introduce myself and my family to the landowners of the property immediately north of Pine Grove. I will call her Mrs. R.

I thought that I was pretty cordial and did a fine job of letting Mrs. R. know who we were and what our intent was for the property, all while maintaining adequate OPSEC (Operations Security, aka a low profile).

Well, her response finally came (turns out the she sent her first response to the wrong address and her letter came back. Oh well, it happens and at least she was nice enough to include another note to that effect.)

Anyhow, Mrs. R. starts off by telling us that she has no intent to sell her acreage nor does she wish to grant us permission to access Pine Grove through her property. (That is fine with me, and I didn't tell her that our Western neighbors had already given us permission.)

She also went on and on in another paragraph about how she doesn't trespass, nor does she care for them, and that she inspected her property recently, found some missing fence and called the Sheriff.

She ends her letter by chastising me for purchasing a land-locked parcel of land and then makes the assumption that I must be related to the seller of the parcel. Well, she is wrong, and my overall impression of her is that she's a bitter old woman. Too bad.

So, I guess that I will write a letter back to Mrs. R. and let her know that I respect her decisions and I might even add that I found a dead deer on Pine Grove and I hope that she wasn't the one who killed it.....or I may just decide not to sink to her level and leave that little jab out of it.

I have since consulted with a land survey company from the area and asked them about easements to the property. This is what they had to say,
One way is to have us write an access easement description over a
strip of land, across an adjoining land owner, and see if they will
grant you rights. Basically the adjoining land will have to sign for
the strip, based on some agreement (money, closing title).

If an adjoining land owner is unwilling to sign an easement or
agreement, you can consult attorney and go through the legal process
to see if you can get rights through the court system.

Either way, you will need some sort of easement description for the
strip of land that you will use for ingress and egress.
Well, I think that our access from the Western neighbors property will be just fine and will certainly be cheaper and less hassle than making a legal fight out of this.

I think that the Western neighbors would be willing to make a legal easement for us if I say that they could continue to hunt on Pine Grove while we are away.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Site review: The Survivalist Blog

Okay, I will admit it, I like good quality knives, so when I found out that I might have a chance to win one for free, I decided to go ahead and write this site review. Trust me, I would have reviewed it anyhow, but now I have more motivation for doing so. Ahhh, so is life! ;^)
The prize: A nice all-purpose knife

I have been an avid reader of M.D. Creekmores Survival Blog for a fairly long time now, and I think that he does an outstanding job of maintaining it. He is a full-time blog writer & emergency preparedness consultant. He also lives off the grid in the Appalachian Mountains.

His site offers fresh content, updated often, and the people who leave comments on his postings seem to all be a great bunch of folks.

Now, unlike a lot of other "survivalist" related websites, this one isn't focused around "doom-n-gloom". Sure, there might be tough times ahead (name one time in history when there hasn't been) but M.D. doesn't seem to feel the need to constantly harp on one perspective or the other. Instead, his message seems to be quite clear and concise. I take it as one of, "Almost everything will become less difficult tomorrow, if you take the time to prepare today".

Generally, on Friday or Saturday there is a weekly posting which he calls, "What Did You Do To Prep This Week?"

This weekly posting usually receives 150-200+ comments and believe me, there's a ton of knowledge in there, just free for the taking. Not only does it act as a barometer of sorts for keeping me on my toes, it also serves as a springboard for ideas. Trust me, there are far more creative people out there than myself, and some of the best ideas that I have seem to come along when I least expect them too.

Overall, this site should be one of your daily "go to" sites.

So, if you somehow found your way here, hello and welcome, but now you should definitely head over to

[UPDATE 04-FEB-2011: I won! There were quite a few entries. You can read them all from here:
Clay and Robin, the owners of Sharp's Saddlery, contacted me through email to make sure that I got exactly what I wanted, and it's already been placed in the mail. I should receive it today or tomorrow. I also discovered a dozen or so new blogs that I'll be reading from now on.]