Problems and Solutions

 

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We’ve been cutting a lot of wood on the back acreage.  I bought a 1991 Arctic Cat Lynx 300 last fall and it’s the best $700 I’ve spent on homestead equipment.  I was a Polaris man growing up.  This Arctic Cat has expanded my horizons.

We’ve had an easy winter.  Lots of rain and not much snow.  That makes it hard on the old snowmobile, especially in the sink holes.  We ran into a slight problem yesterday.

20 minutes with the Echo Timberwolf 590  chainsaw and a little grunt work and we made ourselves a solution.

She’s saying, “I’m gonna get mud splattered, I’m gonna get mud splattered!” I told her that if mama had a fit, she could blame me. 😉

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

C’mon. I’m a Fungi. Fun Guy. Whatever.

I’ve covered nearly all of our new 30 acres on foot and with a gun. In my travels, I’ve seen lots of mushrooms and fungi.  One of the major reasons we moved here is because we bleed money on food every month.  We’ve got four children and two of us.  I’ve got multiple food allergies and intolerances.  That’s why I’m skinny.  We spend about $750 – $1000 a month on food alone.  Along with what we intend to grow, I’m interested in getting to know about fungi.  And because I’m a dad, I have to make a ridiculous pun about fungi and being a fun guy.  It’s right there in the title.

The forested part of our land is overgrown, falling down and about twenty years overdue for a cutting.  We’ve got a lot of small birches that have been wind damaged or given way to the poor management practices of the previous owners.  One thing I’ve noticed a lot of are these little guys.

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There’s a bazillion of them.  I decided to do some research.  They are called birch polypores.

From Wikipedia:

“Piptoporus betulinus, commonly known as the birch polypore, birch bracket, or razor strop, is one of the most common polyporous bracket fungi and, as the name suggests, grows almost exclusively on birch trees. The brackets burst out from the bark of the tree, and these fruiting bodies can last for more than a year. Technically, it is an edible mushroom, with a strong, pleasant “mushroomy” odor but a bitter taste. The velvety cut surface of the fruiting body was traditionally used as a strop for finishing the finest of edges on razors. It is also said to have medicinal properties.”

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From medicalmushrooms.net:

“One of its most important health benefits is boosting the immune system. This is particularly important because a body with a strong immune system does not suffer ill health easily. The fungus also boasts antiseptic properties. It prevents infections when used as bandage. In fact, some testimonies by people who have used it are interesting and fascinating. Users have said that not only does the mushroom heal the wound, but that it also leaves no scar even when the wound was deep.

The Birch Bracket Mushroom is anti-inflammatory. This means that it is capable of reducing or entirely numbing pain without touching on the Central Nervous System. Such natural products are in great demand because many ailments cause inflammation at some stage, and often synthetic medications trigger unwanted side effects. In other instances, medications themselves cause inflammation and products from this mushroom can be taken alongside such medications to neutralize inflammation. 

Other reports (Keller et al, 2002) mentioned Piptamine as an antibiotic in Piptoporus Betulinus. In the studies, the extracts successfully wiped out the bacterium Escherichia coli. It also killed other harmful bacteria mainly Bacillussubtilis and Biomphalariaglabrata which was not spared either. This confirms that this mushroom is extremely important in the field of medicine.

Research done earlier on had confirmed the presence of nucleic acid in the mushroom that was able to attack and incapacitate the virus encephalitis (Kandefer-Szerszen et al, 1979). The mushroom therefore can claim to have anti-viral properties.

The mushroom, Piptoporus Betulinus, is hailed as being able to fight tumours. Research done based on white mice proved that the Polysaccharides in the mushroom are were to curb the advancement of Ehrlich solid cancers by 90%. They were also able to restrict the advancement of Sarcoma 180 by the same percentage. (Ohtsukaet al, 1973).”

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Well, crap.  I guess I have to try some, right?

Another interesting fact, and pardon me for going geek, is the fact that Otzi the Iceman carried birch polypores on him.  If you don’t know who Otzi was, read up on him.  There are lots of articles and documentaries.  I’ve been studying that case for a long time and it is completely enthralling.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

 

Multipurpose Hunting Tools

I went home a few weekends ago (home being northern Maine).  I brought my boys there to hang out with my family and to do some grouse hunting.  It was pretty windy that day, but my cousin managed to drop one bird in my lap.  I got to try out an old Remington 870 (full choke) I recently picked up and I was very pleased with its performance.

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My cousin showed me his new ammunition belt.  I shot a glance at it and thought it might be a little overkill, as it was packed with 12 gauge shells, but then he explained it to me.  He had grouse loads, buck shot and slugs.  Different rounds for different tags.  It struck me that what he was doing made absolute sense for me.  Here on our new farm, I’m hunting grouse, turkeys, and deer, now that it’s November.  I nailed a couple of turkeys, too.  They aren’t trophy winners, but they certainly tasted good.

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I dug through my storage when I got home and found a bandoleer I made about seven or eight years ago.  I made it just to make it.  Talked about the zombie apocalypse when I showed it to buddies, just for laughs.  It cost me about $3.00 in hobby leather and took me about 4 hours to make.  I’ve got it loaded it with 5 shot, 4 shot, buckshot and some slugs.  As you can see, I was wearing it on both occasions.  I figure if I get out into the wooded area of our property, making my tools work for me in different circumstances just makes sense.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.

The Wall of Axes

We bought a farm on 30 acres and moved in a two weeks ago.  Half of it is open fields and brush and the other half is well forested and has been mismanaged for a long period of time.  When unpacking, I decided to take inventory of what I have and don’t have to help me through the situation.

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Lots of axes and a few handsaws.  Don’t worry; there’s a 59cc chainsaw as well, which isn’t pictured.  I do need to pick up a peavey.  Somewhere in the move, I lost mine.  Not sure how you misplace a peavey, but if anyone can do it, it’s me.

I took my first hike to the back of the property and into the woods.  I brought the boys along, just so we could take stock of what resources we have back there and so that they could get a sense of what is now theirs.  I figure we’ll clear brush and branches this fall and get in there to cut firewood this winter.  I’m going to try to twitch the wood out with a small snowmobile.  Our farm is currently being farmed organically by a neighbor.  Here’s what he’s doing with the cabbage.  You should see the tomatoes and peppers!

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We hiked into the woods.  Lots of conifers and most of the hardwood is small and young.  We saw a lot of situations like the picture below.  I was actually really excited to see so much blown-over timber because we’re going to need dry firewood and I don’t want to buy any this year.

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Below, you can see newer growth coming up under older trees.  Some of the older trees need to be thinned to allow the smaller ones to come up through.  I’d say some of the smaller ones need to be thinned as well.

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I saw a lot of duff disturbances like the one pictured below.  I’m attributing them to skunks.  I think they’re nosing around, looking for grubs or other things to eat.  I suppose a bear might do it as well, but I didn’t see any sign or scat.

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Most of the boundaries are defined by rock walls.  This area is still farmed heavily and was back when the house was built in 1900.  I love the rock walls.  There’s a lot of work and character in them.  Think about all of that sweat.

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Many piles of deer scat.  I’d like to think they are from multiple deer, but my feeling is more that it’s one deer that’s heavily haunting the area.  I plan to get a game camera at some point to find out if we’re dealing with a buck or a doe.  Doe hunting in Maine is on a lottery system.  I missed the resident deadline by about a week.

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No farm would be complete without it’s own swamp, right?

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Not sure what the bone is from.  If I had to guess, I’d say it was from a fawn deer.

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Not a bad hike.  Stay tuned.  We’ve got a lot to deal with, including wormy apples, a collapsing roof on a shed, bush hogging and more.

 

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike Oscar Hotel

Assimilation

We turned the Penske truck in at the York location and worked on setting up shop.  Finding a rent in Maine that is month-to-month and will accommodate a family of six is difficult.  You might as well tell your future landlord that you have tuberculosis and a penchant for accidentally crapping your pants every time you cough and that you don’t believe in showering because the bedbugs like water too much.  Really, landlords aren’t fond of children or short term rentals.  I completely understand why.

We ended up in an “undesirable” part of Maine, which actually isn’t that bad.  It’s a quiet street in a neighborhood full of old people.  The kids are having fun with the fact that there’s a sidewalk out front and a paved driveway.  They’ve gotten lots of road rash from dumping their bikes and scooters on the pavement.  The house we’re in is…..a bit of a rat hole.  I don’t say that out of a lack of graciousness, but most of the doors don’t close, there’s a pretty obvious mold problem and the 1960s carpet on the stairs smells like urine.  Oh, and every single-pane window was painted shut. 20 minutes with my knife solved that problem.  The list is much longer, but there’s really no use in writing it down.

With all of this, we’re all struggling on some level.  For me, I can’t go outside and work on something, which is what I do.  Even the three wheeler is off limits. There’s no good space to ride, it would upset the neighbors and my tools are in storage.  My wife doesn’t keep the house in tip-top shape as she usually does, because she realizes that there’s no sense in trying to polish a turd; it’ll still be a turd.  The children are tired of my paranoid speeches about watching out for strangers, staying out of the road and not having a big back yard to play.   We’ve broken our rules of excessive video gaming and movie watching, mostly because at times, there’s no other choice.

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We’re having adventures as much as we can.  We’ve hit the beach several times.  That seems to be our happy place.  We’ve gone to see my family and the kids loved that. Uncle Bern cut the boys loose with axes, which they were totally into.

I’m not working yet, either.  I’ve had a few interviews, but no callbacks, which I’m not too sad about.  In most cases, I could tell that I wasn’t the right fit for the job or that I just didn’t want the job.  I’m going to try temping next week so that we can stop the negative cash flow.

What I can say is that I understand a little better why the world is so screwed up.  People live like this every day.  There’s nothing specifically wrong with this lifestyle, but I think it lacks direction, which can be bad for the human psyche.  This is why people get depressed and go crazy.  There’s simply not enough to do.  Maybe if we didn’t have the internet and social media, people would get more involved in their communities again.

It’s all part of the transition.  It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.  We keep reminding ourselves that this is the necessary step to get us where we want to be, producing our own food and being closer to the land.  It’s easy to lose sight of that as an apartment dweller.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

 

 

 

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

On the 16th, we signed papers on our house and packed up the Penske truck.  I thought I’d have more emotions about the process, but I didn’t.  It was done.  I appreciated the place for not falling down while we were birthing four children, but really, it was time to give the west a rest.

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I’d love to tell you a grand tale about a wonderful road trip across our beautiful country, but really, riding in a 26′ Penske truck is a bit of a dragonfly experience.

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Dragonfly (adjective):  /Drag n’ Fly/ –  Drag up one hill and fly down the other.

It’s a term that Snuffy (dad) used to use about various semi trucks he was assigned to over the years.  The Penske truck had an engine governor set on it for 70 mph and let me tell you, it worked.  It couldn’t crack 70 mph down a hill with a strong tailwind and a kick in the behind.  By the time we reached Kansas, I was praying for a downhill stretch and by the time we reached Pennsylvania, I was cursing every uphill stretch.  I’d say the average mph for the entire trip was about 55.

Kansas was the only place where I got nervous.  A 26′ moving truck is much akin to a sailboat, and let me tell you, the winds in Kansas can be forceful.  The Mrs. and kids were about 30 miles ahead of me.  They’d grown tired of waiting for me and the big yellow dragonfly miles earlier and we all decided that if they got to the campground an hour ahead of me, that would be a bonus for the kids.  She called to say that she had just skirted a thunderstorm coming from the north and that she thought I’d miss it as well.  I was white-knuckling the wheel when I talked to her and let her know that I was fine.  Really, I was lying.

By that time, the box truck was waving and humping all over the road to the point where I thought it might be prudent to pull over and wait it out.  I’d slowed down to 50 mph and put on my flashers, all the while looking out for funnel clouds that might present themselves.

Then traffic stopped.  The truck began to rock hard and quarter-sized hail started hitting the windshield started about five minutes later.

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Crap.

I texted my wife and told her what was happening, all the while underplaying the seeming severity of the situation.  I pulled out the handheld CB radio I’d procured at the Goodwill months earlier and cracked the on button.

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I’ve heard people say a lot of negative things about truckers (as a subculture), but they are the sages of the road.  They’ve been there, done that and they fully understand the rules of the road.  CB chatter isn’t what it used to be due to the accessibility of cell phones and marine radios, but for most truckers, they are still a standard piece of kit.  I suggest carrying one of these with you on any road trip.  The handheld version limits transmission distance, but if you’re in the middle of the mess, it can (sometimes) give you a way out or basic information that you’d otherwise be lacking.

They said that the wind had blown a semi over about a mile up the road.  I put on my glasses and sure enough, I could see it laying on its side in the distance.  I held onto the wheel as the truck heaved and pulsed in the wind.  I saw people getting out of their vehicles in an attempt to get information about what was happening.  The wind was blowing.  Plenty of lightening.  Hail.  Seems like getting out of your car and walking around is a great thing to do in flip flops and shorts.  I can’t even count the number of people I saw doing just that.  If the pesky .gov wasn’t protecting so many stupid people, the world would be a whole lot more interesting for awhile.

Anyhow, the tow truck arrived and everything was uprighted and pulled away.  By the time the accident was cleared, the bad weather was done and I continued on my way.

So, for future reference:

A handheld CB radio and a pair of binoculars are good pieces of kit to bring on any road trip.  

Other than that, the trip was uneventful at a sloth’s pace.  I can tell you that I’m much more comfortable driving a truck that large than I was when I started.  If you’re considering it, don’t be afraid.  There’s an adjustment period, but it happens quickly.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

 

Feet Per Second

I’ve got yard rabbits.  Like, rabbits that I let loose in 2014, expecting they’d be eaten by the fox during the night.  They’ve been here ever since.  Many rabbit folk say that a domestic rabbit can’t live on forage alone.  They’re wrong.  The two girls in my yard have done just fine.  In fact, they’re fat with hardly any help from me.

I caught one last year in a live trap and bred her to a buck.  Just to see if it worked.  It did.  A month later, I saw her pull fur.  Four weeks after that, I saw pea-sized bunny babies skittering out from under my shed.  There were seven in all.  All but one were killed by predators.  The last one we figured was a buck, due to the way he was built.  We called him Thunder.

Thunder was about a year old.  Rabbits can breed at 4 months (that’s pushing it a bit), but we’d seen no action between he and the girls until recently.  When he did mount them, they kicked him off.

Apparently, he closed the deal with one of the does, though.  I caught her pulling fur and stashing it under the deck the other day. Being that we’re selling the house, that isn’t ideal.

I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse to pick up some .22 shorts.  I usually buy CCI shorts and look for something in the neighborhood of 710 fps. I know those rounds are quiet and I can do basic jobs without being heard around the house.  They were out of CCIs.  All they had were these.

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None of the boxes listed feet per second.  Based on grains, I thought I’d be be okay with the 20 grain rounds, but the sales guy pushed me to buy the subsonics.  I grabbed the Super Extra Shorts figuring they’d be pretty close to the 20 grains and pack a little more punch at 29 grains.

When I got home, Thunder was out in the yard.  I got the kids’ bolt action Davey Crickett .22 and nailed him in the head with a 20 grain.  It was over long before he knew what was happening.  I looked him over.  He was very healthy.  He had never spent a day in a cage and I’d fed him vegetable scraps at most.  He was a self-made bunny.  He was as big as my cage raised rabbits, if not larger.

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Afterwards, I decided to try the Super Extra Shorts, thinking they would be similar to the 20 grains.  Man, was I wrong.  I stood in the dining room and fired out the back door and the gun made quite a *crack*.  I laughed and slid the door shut quickly and my wife scolded me for a moment.  I’m certainly glad I didn’t try the subsonics.  The .20 grains will do for now.  Though at $5.00 a box, they’re a little cost prohibitive.

I didn’t worry about the cops showing up.  I learned that lesson through my dad.  He came to visit a few years back and was working on my black powder rifle on the back deck.  He got something stuck somewhere and ended up firing off a shot in the back yard with no lead.  It was pretty loud.  I freaked out, but the old man just stood out there, still working on the gun.  Nobody came.  Mind you, my neighbors are probably 150 feet away.  I asked what he was going to do when the cops came and he said he would tell them exactly what happened and ask them if they wanted to fire off a shot.  By that age, he was at the point where he didn’t give a crap.  Now I understand why.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.