Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Make Christmas Pudding

Getting ready for the holidays can be very stressful.  High on that list is making special dishes.  Here is a very easy-to-follow recipe for making Christmas pudding.  I think you'll find your stress levels will go down just watching it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Caught on Tape!

He doesn't move while people are watching, but apparently he isn't always aware of security cameras:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Oh Shane, Will You Ever Learn?

I'm not sure how I've missed it for two years, but there is a deliriously funny series of pictures of notes to a Walmart employee by the management.  One of the best:
The complete list from the original poster:
  • Shane, quit offering extended warranties on the fried chickens -Management
  • Shane, stop asking, "Is that your final answer?" and offering to let them phone a friend after each order -Management
  • Shane, when a customer asks where to find a product, give them an aisle number, not directions to Albertsons -Management
  • Shane, quit putting price tags on deli equipment and trying to sell them to customers -Management
  • Shane, stop implying that Walmart keeps the "good stuff" in the back -Management
  • Shane, I don't know what "Swinecraft" is, but ham can not be sold as a building material  -Management
  • Shane, quit putting on multiple name tags and pretending to have a personality disorder  -Management
  • Shane, the deli is not an appropriate place to practice your ventriloquism, please stop making puppets out of the paper bags  -Management
  • Shane, stop putting "Stoner approved" seals on the fried chicken  -Management
  • Shane, stop putting out samples labelled as "Mystery meats"  -Management
  • Shane, stop putting "Some assembly required" stickers on the 8-piece chickens  -Management
  • Shane, any free samples you offer must come from the deli, not electronics!  -Management
While the real-life Shanenigans stopped there, on the Internet they have taken on a life of their own, with an entire subreddit devoted to Shaneisms.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

FreEBook: Bulletin of Primitive Technology

The second free publication I'm featuring is actually a magazine, not a book: Bulletin of Primitive Technology, first issue.  At 52 pages, though, it rivals much of what is being published today as e-books.  The only thing that makes it a magazine is the variety of articles.  Some are deeply philosophical, others are intensely practical.  The magazine is no longer being published, but the material has been collected into several books put out by the Society for Primitive Technology (which are not free).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Shopping List....

Everyone is on a budget these days, especially preppers.  It's hard enough when you are just trying to deal with today's needs, but when you are trying to set aside for the future, it's that much more difficult.  One way to prioritize is to buy things which are relatively inexpensive now but which will become much more expensive later on; Urban Survival Site has a list of 40 of these.  It's mostly common sense, but it's nice to have a list to make sure you are missing any.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Maze of Twisty Little Passages....

If you played D&D in your youth, you probably had to rely on your imagination quite a bit.  Someone's imagination was quite stimulated to create the most amazing D&D map ever created.  I think I would go back to playing if I could play on that!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Story Time!

Apparently there is a relatively new social media site called Vine featuring 7 second videos.  One of the funniest guys on there is Thomas Sanders.  I particularly love his "Narrating Real Life" vines which start out with him saying "Story Time!" and then cutting to some random person who he talks about what they are doing and then adds a bizarre twist.

Here is the largest compilation I could find on Youtube of his material:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

You, You, You Oughta Know

Ever have someone ask you to sum something up in one word?  And you really have a lot more to say than just one word?  Sometimes it's nice to have just the right word to say.  BuzzFeed has an article on 29 Obscure Words That Everybody Needs To Know.  My favorite is #28 on their list, 'hygge': they have a marvelous description, but basically it's a warm, fuzzy, safe feeling.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Time Tunnel: Part 1: Crash Landing

The day was peaceful and sunny.  It had been a long winter, and people had happily shed their heavy winter clothes to enjoy the rare April warm spell.  A few of the younger, braver souls were laying on blankets in their bikinis, soaking up the sun.  The traffic was moderate, normal for a weekday afternoon, and no one paid much attention to it.

Until the crash.

A bright red Honda Civic had veered out of its lane into an empty parking space and then plowed into the back of white Ford Windstar minivan.

"Oh My God!  He killed that poor man!," screamed a young woman on the sidewalk.

A body lay in the street.  He appeared to have a lab coat on, though it was enough badly tattered that is was hard to be sure.  It even had an odd, singed appearance.

Traffic quickly stopped, and a man ran out to check on the body.  "He's still breathing!  We need an ambulance!"  He pointed at one of the sunbathers who had sat up and was looking at him and yelled, "Run in your house and call 9-1-1", which she promptly did.

The driver of the Civic got out his car.  "I didn't touch him.  It wasn't my fault.  He was just suddenly standing there in the middle of the road, and I swerved to avoid him."

"Yeah, right," said the man by the body. "Have you been drinking?"

"I swear! Not a drop."

"He's telling the truth," a little boy chimed in from the sidewalk.  "The man just appeared out of thin air."

"Billy, stop it!" scolded his mother.  "Really, this boy has such a vivid imagination," she said to the men in the street.  She turned back to her son: "Men do NOT appear out of thin air."

"But I saw it..."

"ENOUGH!  I don't want to hear anymore of this nonsense."

The fire hall was just a few blocks away, so the ambulance arrived just a few minutes later.  They quickly immobilized his neck in case his spine was injured and quickly got him onto a stretcher.  By this point the police had arrived; one officer was directing traffic while another was taking witnesses' statements.

As they got the man into the ambulance, he briefly opened his eyes.  Wanting to quickly ascertain if he suffered any brain injury, the paramedic asked, "What's your name?"

"Perry Duncan"

"What year is it?"

"I have no idea.  What year IS it?"

"2003," the paramedic replied.

The two last words Perry said before he dropped off into unconsciousness again: "It worked."

Friday, August 5, 2016

FreEBook: Plant Guilds

There are a ton of free E-books to download on the Internet (and considering how little electrons weigh, a ton is a whole heck of a lot), and many of them pertain to the topics I cover in this blog.  There are two ways to approach this bounty: one is to provide long lists to download en masse, and the other is to review them one-by-one.  The major advantage of the first is that you have all the information if you lose access to the Internet; the main disadvantage is that you won't go through them when you download them, so you'll need to discipline yourself to come back to them later.

Since a number of people have already done the first option, I will not be doing it here.  I will, however, provide links to those links and even repositories.  Instead I will be providing links to individual e-books in the same annotated manner I have been for articles, videos, and everything else.

The first free E-book comes from Plant Guilds.  This is a bit of a "cheat sheet" for doing permaculture in temperate climates, having done some of the design work for you.  In it are 10 plans of plants that go together.  Most of them are labeled by the largest tree in them; the two notable exceptions are the Bee Guild, to attract pollinators, and the Wet Meadow Guild.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Fighting the Gorn

In a classic episode of the original Star Trek series, Captain Kirk has to fight the captain of the Gorn ship in one-on-one combat using only what he can find on a deserted planet.  The Gorn, while slower than humans, were much stronger, so Kirk had no hope of defeating him hand-to-claw.  What he did was build a cannon.  Mythbusters did a show that proved that it wasn't possible using the ingredients shown.  But that is not the last word!  Using an ingredient that they would not have shown on television in the 1960s, these guys show that it is possible:

This isn't really about an almost 50 year old TV episode, though. The key point here is that just a tiny bit of knowledge can mean the difference between success and failure.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Foragers Beware....

Of course before you go picking wild plants to eat, you will need to know how to identify them.  Probably of greater importance is being able to distinguish plants that look similar but are poisonous.  Outdoor Life has an article on 3 Dangerous Plants That Look Like Edibles.  They are:

  • Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) looks like carrot or cow parsley
  • Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) looks like grapes
  • Horse nettle (Solanum carolinense) looks like tomatoes
Off-the-Grid News adds several more Dangerous Look-Alikes:
  • Water hemlocks (Cicuta sp.) look like carrot
  • Blue flag (Iris versicolor) and yellow flag (Iris pseduacorus) look like cattails
  • Indian strawberry (Potentilla indica) looks like field strawberries
  • Daffodils (Narcissus sp.) look like wild garlic
  • and of course, many edible mushrooms have deadly look-alikes.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Man with a Plan

Reverse Engineer posted his Energy Problem Solutions to the Doomstead Diner.  After having lost track of a wonderful article about growing algae for oil using carbon captured from a biomass-burning combined heat and power plant, I want to make sure I don't lose this:

Here is my plan for a sustainable Homo Sap society that is not down at H-G level.  I published it on OFW in the commentariat and it got about the same reception it would have received on NBL.

Energy Problem Solutions

I detailed in a prior post how to substitute distributed intermittent electric power for the current centralized on demand power grid for the public at large, as well as how to distribute out your factories and manufacturing in the places you can actually collect large amounts of renewable energy.  Such places are near large hydro facilities, near the ocean where you can capture steady Wave Action and Wind Power, in the Desert where you can capture reliable Solar Power and in geological hot spots like Iceland and Yellowstone where  Geothermal power can be captured in large quantities necessary for manufacturing.

However, these are not your only problems of course, the biggest one being transportation.

For this, you need to refurbish and upgrade the current rail systems.  Main long distance lines need to be electrified, with the power supplied all along the line through large solar and wind arrays.  Trains may not run continuously on these lines, they may have to wait for power to be supplied to the section of track they are on.  In the FSoA, these are only the main E-W and N-S rail lines.

Subsidiary lines which run off these routes can be run with Diesel-Electric Locomotives, utilizing biodiesel.  This brings goods within around a 300 mile radius to most locations in the FSoA.

Final transportation of goods is done with either animal power or small electrics which can be charged along the distribution route from wind and solar arrays.  Again, the transporter may have to wait a day or two to get enough power to continue with the journey to the final destination.

For Ocean Transport of goods between continents, we need to go back to smaller ships, primarily Sail.  However, there should be little need to move many goods between continents since all necessary items should be produced locally, such as food, clothing and shelter building materials.

The next area we are highly dependent on FF for is Agriculture, both for fertilizer and pesticides and for the machines necessary for large scale till farming of annuals.  We need to convert to growing mostly perennials on small plots of land cultivated through permaculture by individuals.  These biomes should be set up so there are competing insect predators to replace the pesticides.  Along with the permaculture biomes, we need to set up large scale hydroponics and aquaculture farms that are water and fertilizer conservative, and we need to recycle humanure into these facilities as fertilizer.

Most metals and other basic elements can be acquired scavenging from the debris left over from the Age of Oil.  What does need to still be mined can be done with electric heavy equipment periodically as power is available.  Large scale smelting of metal can be done with Solar Thermal plants, utilizing large fresnel lenses to concentrate heat.

Precursors for organic molecules we currently get from Oil can be grown and converted and polymerized as necessary, utililizing renewable electric production.

Now, will this syste support the current 7.2B people?  That is doubtful, but I do think it could support 700M.

The system will not be built from the top down, it has to build from the bottom up.  As the grand monetary system collapses, individual communities will need to set up their own systems for internal commerce.  Communities will need to be self-sufficient in food production for probably 50 years minimum before a larger food trading and distribution scheme could be worked out.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Creating Biodiversity

On Reddit, FlimFlamandFlamJam asks, "Let's say I bought 1,000 acres of monocropped farm land. What would be the best way to go about converting it back into land with a lot of biodiversity? And let's say it's just me and I don't have a team helping me."

My answer:

First question, is the land flat or hilly?

Second question, you say it's just you. Does that mean just your muscle power, you and any animals you can control, or you and some big machinery you can rent?

Because if it is just your own muscle power, I find 1/4 acre plenty to keep up with unless it was my full-time job, I couldn't even imagine 1000 acres. That said, and if your land is flat, the main thing you can do to increase biodiversity is just start introducing plants that you think will be useful. You can use mixes from places like Ernst Seeds if you want.

If the terrain is hilly, you can start in on a better option for increasing biodiversity: creating ponds. This is best done with the keyline system in any case, but if its just your own muscle power, this is critical.

With heavy machinery, you can go a little crazier, even on flat land. You still really need to pay attention to the contours, but you do have the opportunity to reshape them. In fact, the best thing you can do to increase the biodiversity of flat land is to change it into hilly land by creating hugelkulture beds. You can do this by hand, but on the scale of 1000 acres, it would take several person-lifetimes.
And when you make water features, swimming ponds where you can dive in from the shore are not exactly the best for biodiversity. You want to really emphasize the water's edge and make it as big as possible if you want to encourage biodiversity.

If you have animals, you have the opportunity to do more than just your muscles, but not as drastic as large machines. One thing you can do is look at abandoned areas nearby and see what takes over, and then figure out what will graze on that. That will help keep things in balance without requiring your constant attention. (But don't just graze willy-nilly, or they just might avoid the thing that tends to take over.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finding Your Way

Tiny Yellow Teardrop has a good article on why you shouldn't rely exclusively on your GPS.  She recommends instead to use:

  1. Google Maps and Google Earth
  2. Paper Maps
  3. Ask the locals

Those are all fine ideas.  Another service to use is MapQuest. They generally give you a choice of routes (frequently they are: quickest, shortest, or simplest). And if you aren't satisfied with any of those, you can generally pick a point in the middle of the route and move it over and MapQuest will snap to an alternate route. And once you have settled on a route, you can print out directions, including both route map and optional turn-by-turn maps, or you can send yourself a text.

But you know what I really like to do when I am traveling a route to a destination that I frequent (and I'm not in any hurry)? Turn my GPS off and deliberately make a wrong turn and then see if I can find my way back to my route, without making a U turn. (If at some point I decide I'm truly lost, I turn my GPS back on.) I see a lot of interesting things that way.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nature Art for Kids

HomesteadLady has an interesting article on making Botanical Prints with kids.  It looks fairly simple, requiring only heavy artist paper, a mallet, parchment paper, and of course colorful plant material.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Farming the Forest

"Forest gardening" and "food forests" have been popular concepts in permaculture for a long time.  They are getting to be more mainstream now - Cornell has an online introduction to forest farming.  This looks like an interesting series of videos to watch.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

DIY Instant Oatmeal

Root Simple has a recipe for making your own instant oatmeal.  The key is precooking it in a dry oven -- I'll bet this is an excellent application for a solar oven; with all dry ingredients, you don't need to worry so much about undercooking.  I especially look forward to experimenting with different flavors and especially natural sugar substitutes like stevia.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

When You Can't Afford A Berkey....

Water is a basic need, and dirty water kills lots of people every year. Luckily there are lots of ways to make water drinkable.  No-Tech Magazine has a good review of OHorizon's open-source biosand filter plans.  It is a relatively permanent solution, with a concrete case, yet only costs a few dollars each to make in quantity, as the form is made of wood.  If you want the plans directly, go to OHorizons and fill out their form.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Greenhouses without Glass

You may be familiar with the espalier pruning technique where trees are made to grow flat, but did you know that greenhouses had their origins from the same way of growing stuff in climates that were too cold: Fruit Walls.  Low-Tech Magazine has an in-depth article about this technology from the Renaissance.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Selling the Movies...

Selling stuff can be serious business... except sometimes when it is on the silver screen.  Sometimes salespeople need some inspiration.  Here are some lists of movies that can give it to them:

Cult Movies Sales People and Marketers Should Watch

16 Movies for Sales People

"The Goods" is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Old School Warmth

The Wood Trekker has an in-depth discussion on Classic Backpacking Gear - Blankets.  Sometimes the old ways are better, but in the case of wool blankets in the period from 1880 to 1930, it really was a case of just doing the best they could with what they had.  That's still a good attitude to have, but it doesn't mean that we should blindly copy their results.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dry for Cheap...

You're probably familiar with the simple PVC ponchos and thinner-than-paper Mylar blankets that, while cheap, do not always provide the protection from the elements they promise.  Here is another, repurposed option:

The reviewer includes instructions for making it waterproof with duct tape.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hot Stuff....

You may have seen people collecting aluminum cans to recycle, but probably not like this:
melting aluminum cans
Mobile Foundry for Recycling Aluminum.  They use the molten aluminum to cast decorative but useful objects like chairs.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

This Rots....

If you want a good in-depth discussion on composting, listen to Trevor Van Hemert on The Survival Podcast.  What makes him an expert?  It's his day job!  He has a profitable business collecting compostable waste -- by bicycle -- and selling the finished compost.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

'Dem Dry Bones

You may take supplements for healthy joints, but what would you do if they were no longer available?  The Prepper Pages has instructions for Making Dehydrated Bone Broth.  Not only is this something that can be done with relatively simple equipment, it is shelf stable, so you can start making it up now for use later.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

All Cows Eat Grass

Occam's Grazer: An In-depth Introduction to Holistic Management
This is a really good introduction to holistic management, a way of raising cattle that helps restore the landscape.  This is intended for general audiences, it doesn't require a lot of background in animal husbandry.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Up All Night?

Having trouble sleeping?  Jeremiah Johnson at has 12 Natural Ways to Remedy Sleep Disorders: 8 suggestions for changes in behavior and 4 natural remedies to try.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Back From The Dead

I love it when I can pull people off my Zombie Blogroll.  Johnny Max and The Queen are back on The Self-Sufficient Homestead with Episode 202.  (They are up to 205 now.)  It has been a long hiatus, but in the meantime they have finally made the move out to their homestead.