Archive for December, 2011

Thoughts on survivalism

Posted in Survival on December 29, 2011 by AndrewS

Survivalists get a bad rap.  The name conjures up thoughts of heavily armed, camouflage-clad Christian fundamentalists living in remote bunkers and awaiting the end times.  To be fair, that demographic exists, but a more modern form of survivalism is becoming popular:  Disaster preparedness.  The way of life and amenities that Americans are used to is made possible by a number of highly complex systems, and failure of these systems can have wide spread consequences.

Long gone are the days of the United States as a nation of small farmers and city craftsmen.  Our food is grown by mega-corporations on large farms, trucked to industrial food processing factories, then trucked to distribution centers, then to supermarkets.  Seasonal foods are grown in southern latitudes and shipped north.  Most people have very little idea where any of their food comes from, let alone how to grow their own.  Supermarkets maintain as little inventory as possible to maximize profit and minimize spoilage.  This results in a fantastic selection of fresh food all year round at very low prices, but is heavily dependent on petroleum-fueled transportation.  A crisis that disables this transportation network, either by a fuel shortage or by physically breaking the network, also disables the food distribution that keeps America fed.  To quote author Larry Niven:  “They say that every society is only three meals away from revolution. Deprive a culture of food for three meals, and you’ll have an anarchy. And it’s true, isn’t it? You haven’t eaten for a couple of days, and you’ve turned into a barbarian.”

Clean water is a similar issue.  Here in Ohio, water is so cheap that it’s almost free.  We take long, luxurious showers that empty a 40 gallon hot water tank.  We leave the water running as we wash dishes.  We water the lawn, wash the car, and poop in the best potable water on Earth.  Our wonderful water is delivered straight to the tap with no hauling or purifying or effort on our part, and we take it for granted.  All this depends on a functional pipe system to move the water, and electrical power for the water treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants.  My local WTP has a generator backup and enough fuel on hand for 24 hours of off-grid water production.  Any outage lasting longer than that, and the tap runs dry.  You’ll die of thirst well before you starve to death, and sanitary conditions with no water are unbearable.

Now, our support systems work fantastically.  The last time our power was out for an extended period was the great blackout of 2003.   There was enough bottled water and non perishable food available that the major hardship was the heat, and that wasn’t that bad either.  Three or four days later, life was back to normal with only a boil advisory on the water for a few days as a lingering effect.  However, I aim to be prepared if worse crises arise in the future.  Our infrastructure is old and rotting.  Governmental mis-spending and budget issues starve our road and bridge system, and FirstEnergy’s criminal negligence of routine maintenance in our nuclear power plants and transmission lines make this a serious concern.  Add in the rising cost of petroleum fuel and food, and I see a potential crisis that bears preparing for.

The atomic winter of the 60’s and 70’s is giving way to a new set of primary concerns.  I think that within the next few decades we’ll see significant strife and hardship in the United States, for a variety of reasons.  I do disaster prep as a fun hobby that might save my life someday.

The first goalpost for disaster preparation is 72 hours of self sustainability.  The long term goal is long term self sustainability.  We’ll be chronicling out preparation journey on this blog.


Bird watching 101

Posted in Nature on December 29, 2011 by medlii

A very brief introduction to bird watching, complete with a quiz!

I love learning new things. So, when I was out hiking one day, I decided I wanted to start identifying birds and trees and flowers and EVERYTHING! This summer, Andrew bought me field guides for birds, trees, and a wildflowers. I started with the birds.

After leafing through the fantastic bird pictures and reading up on the few birds I could already identify by sight, (robin, blue jay, cardinal, sparrow), I set to work identifying new birds that I saw. I’d see a bird during a hike and say “wow, it’s too far away, I won’t be able to identify it.” Or “It had a brown back and a white belly.” There are only about 100,000 birds in North America with that description. Things weren’t going so well.

Then I read the part of the bird book without pictures and learned how to actually identify a bird. Color and markings are only a small part, and can actually be very misleading if you see a young bird that does not have its adult colors or if the bird has changed its feathers for season.

So here are what I’ve learned tips, followed by an example of a bird I ID’d today. I am by no means a bird expert (yet), and I’m sure there are others who have done it better. Intros to many birdwatching books are a great place to start too.

  1. Behavior: What is the bird doing? Is it sitting in a tree, pecking at the ground, swimming, flying? Is the bird in a flock or alone? If it’s in a tree, is it pecking at the bark? Is it moving along the tree trunk or sitting on a branch?
  2. What ecosystem is the bird in? Is this bird in the forest, a meadow, a lake, the ocean, or my suburban front yard? Birds typically only live in certain areas where they will find their favored foods.
  3. What does the bird look like? What size is it? Is it tiny, like a sparrow? About the size of a robin? As large as a crow? With practice, you will get better at identifying the overall shape of a bird. Once you know the broad families of birds, then your search is much simpler! What field marks does it have? Color is not the only important thing here. What type & color of bill does it have? What shape is the tail? Does it have any distinctive coloring, like an eye ring, wing bars, or a crest on its head?

Use your field guide or a website to narrow down the possibilities. Use your observations to guide your thought process.

And now for the example, complete with picture. I plan on posting pictures and the identification process to both help me and new bird-watchers. This is an easy one: I saw this guy on my new suet bird feeder.

Bird #1

A black and white bird, maybe the size of a robin, was clinging to the suet feeder, pecking through the grate . The bird was all black and white. Observed in December in Ohio.

Solution after the jump.

Update and progress

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 by AndrewS

Well, this sure fell by the wayside.  A lot has changed since my first and only post.  We bought a house, changed jobs, changed schools.  This will be regularly updated now, we’ll both be posting.  Lots of setting up to do.