Category Archives: Self-reliance

Water Feature

While most of the Texas Panhandle and much of the rest of north Texas still is struggling to cope with a severe drought that began in 2010, the Divine Universe has sent our part of the state so much water this spring that our personal and local drought has literally drowned.

Here at the One-Acre Ranch in Fort Bend County, my rain gauge registered an unbelievable 19.25 inches of rain over a recent span of eight thunderstorm-filled days. To put that into perspective, that is more than the average rainfall for Phoenix, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M., combined – for an entire year. It’s been crazy, and difficult to grasp the magnitude of our wet blessing knowing that simultaneously, across the country, California’s collective suffering is increasing, from yet another year of horribly dry weather.

As one might expect, a lot of water from the recent rainstorms here ran off into the Brazos River, which has been swollen for most of the month of April, along with the Colorado River to the west. But a significant amount of water also soaked down into the ground where we needed it most.

Coupled with a cooler-than-usual spring, the result is, among other things, tomato plants chest high, and weeds almost as big. Every tree, bush and plant is on full-tilt grow mode.

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At the Polka Farm in Lavaca County, 90 miles west, we’d faced hotter, drier weather and more prolonged drought than Fort Bend, but that also has changed dramatically. On Sunday I traveled out, ironically to reprogram and activate my little irrigation system. I found that our usually dry stream, affectionately named Lost Bridge Creek, had been raging, and flooded its banks, pushing so many logs downstream that they clogged both ends of our steel-and-concrete bridge. Then the creek roared right over the top of the bridge.

At the other end of the property, the creek stacked more dead logs against the barb wire fence we share with a neighbor. The rushing water’s force snapped each wire. When I inspected the still-running “dry” creek a couple of days later, I found that the 30-foot fence section that had crossed the creek now was relocated and ran parallel to it, with the posts firmly stuck in place amongst the flood debris, and the wires strung tight, as if humans had installed it there.

While it’s wonderful to have the rain, I’m wary, as the destruction from the drought still kind of haunts me. I wish I could afford to put gutters on the farm structures and build a water catchment system of tanks to hold the run-off. Maybe I can’t afford not to.

In the meantime I’ll take what nature gives me and be super grateful for it.

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Also posted in Brazos River, Farm, Garden, Nature

Credit Card Cryogenics

After learning that Target fumbled away our Visa card numbers and Buck Consultants put my wife’s Social Security number on a live web page, I thought it was time to mount a defense against potential identity theft. But I didn’t know what to do.

So I contacted digital security expert Brian Krebs, who was kind enough to provide some excellent advice: Freeze your credit files.

I didn’t even know you could do that. Both Target and Buck offered us free monitoring of our credit files – the credit history stored in databases at Big Three credit bureaus Experion, Equifax and TransUnion. But Krebs pointed out that someone could pull your credit file and ding your credit score even while you’re being monitored. You’d find out about it more quickly, one would hope, but monitoring wouldn’t prevent it from happening.

Freezing your credit file does.

I works like this: Contact the credit bureaus via their “freeze centers” (here for Experian, here for Equifax and here for TransUnion). Follow the instructions (and be prepared to answer a few personal questions), pay a fee of about $10, and you’re frozen.

From then on, if some entity wants to pull your credit file, or check your history to see if you can afford utility services or a car loan, they will have to get your permission first. The credit bureaus will call you and ask if it’s OK to lift the credit freeze, and for whom it should be unfrozen. Then, after an agreed-upon period of time, the freeze is put back in place.

After going through this exercise, I learned of one other service. Experian told us it had removed our names from their “pre-approved credit offer mailing lists” that they apparently sell to businesses. I hate getting those offers in the mail, and so I was thrilled that Experian had put a stop to it (although I am not thrilled they were making money off of my credit-worthiness to begin with).

In my opinion, every person’s credit file should be frozen by default. But that’s not the way it works; the credit system is set up for the convenience of the lending community, not the American consumer.

Now more than ever, caveat emptor.

Also posted in Corporate, Privacy

Get Back Up On That Horse

Freshly Stuffed Italian SausageOr meat grinder, as the case may be.

So our first experience with the sausage-stuffing attachment on our new electric meat grinder fell under the heading Trial and Error.

We gave it another shot yesterday evening, with much better results: A naughty grind of spicy Italian sausage, with fresh garlic, basil, oregano and hot yellow Aji Limon peppers.

Hey, this is fun! Or it would be if not for the clean-up afterward…

Also posted in Food, Food Preservation, Meat

Rome Didn’t Fall in a Day

One of the big polling companies has discovered that 42% of Americans – the most since Gallup began galloping – identify themselves politically as independent, rejecting the labels of both of the so-called major political parties. Conclusion?

Americans are increasingly declaring independence from the political parties. It is not uncommon for the percentage of independents to rise in a non-election year, as 2013 was. Still, the general trend in recent years, including the 2012 election year, has been toward greater percentages of Americans identifying with neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party, although most still admit to leaning toward one of the parties.

The rise in political independence is likely an outgrowth of Americans’ record or near-record negative views of the two major U.S. parties, of Congress, and their low level of trust in government more generally.

Unfortunately for this nation and its residents, the political system is rigged against any third party achieving parity with the two cash cows that control the process. Ask your local county elections officials how decisions are made on the scheduling and staffing of elections and the location of polling places, for instance.

Thus, all the power and all the elite corporate money lies with the folks who helped bring about and then maintain the Great Recession, the Endless War on Terror Everywhere, and the Endless Surveillance State as the new normal.

Thus will the power and elite corporate money be brought to bear to see to it that the voting peasantry’s only presidential choice will be between establishment candidates such as Chris Christie or Hillary Clinton, bringing you two different flavors of More Of The Same.

Thus, with the help of a key Supreme Court opinion, has a small minority been enabled to buy political control of a country that once prided itself on its constitutional freedoms and representative form of government.

So what do I think? I think the United States has become an oligarchy, and the window of opportunity for a fight to restore majority rule probably has closed. Writing your congressional representative? Petitions? Buying counter-lobbyists? Protest marches? Too little, and much too late. Worst of all, I think most people still aren’t aware or don’t understand the extent to which their vote has been co-opted. The revolution was not televised, because the secret court banned the cameras.

Yet I am not peddling despair today. What would be the point? When the Roman empire crumbled, its people still had lives to lead. The modern American challenge, I think, is to recognize reality, adjust to it and find a way to be at peace with the results.

Expect (and accept) that your written words, digital deeds and financial transactions will be community property, and write, act and spend accordingly. Expect (and accept) that the economy will be steered in a direction that requires you to pay more for less. When government policies and decrees cause you harm, adjust your lifestyle in a way that reduces the necessity for interacting with government entities and agents. When war and the military-industrial complex demand too much income tax, reduce your need for income. When the cost of goods and services exceeds the benefits they provide, substitute goods and services you create or produce yourself, or barter with your neighbors.

If, as a result of all the above, you find yourself stuck out on a farm scratching out a living in the middle of nowhere, then sit down at the picnic table, take a deep breath, look up in the sky – and thank your lucky stars you aren’t living in Rome anymore.

Also posted in Government, Politics, Poverty