Monday, February 9, 2009

I'm a host for parasites.

We've been tracking every shekel we've spent for the past few months. It's shown us where our money is going, but unfortunately hasn't shown us many areas where we can cut back. It's also illustrated how much of my adult life has been devoted to making money for other people. As a host for parasites. I'm developing a strange desire to stop "feeding the beast", to become one of society's parasites myself. (In my daydreams, I canoe back to civilization only occasionally, to collect my welfare checks and to see if there's anything good in the dumpsters.)

These are our biggest expenses, in descending order:

mortgage (which is entirely refinanced divorce debt)
child support
vehicle maintenance and fuel

Like I said, not a lot of places to cut back, at least not without going to jail. 

Obama's curious plan to spend our way out of debt means taxes sure aren't going down, at least not for productive citizens.

There are 8 years left on the mortgage.

At least three more years of child support.

Our vehicles are old and should be replaced. That would reduce maintenance costs, but of course the savings would be more than offset by the purchase prices and higher registration taxes. 

That leaves food. Fortunately I had the sense (okay, dumb luck) to throw in with a supermodel who has a genius for frugal shopping and performing miracles in the kitchen. So life could be worse. We already enjoy foraging as a family, and I'm planning an exceptionally large garden for the coming season. And I swear I won't neglect our fruit trees this year. 

And organic, free-range fish grow in our front yard.

Thrift Store Score

Came across a heavy-duty canvas duffle. It has an NSN (National Stock Number), so it was made for some government contract. I bought it for $5. It looks new, or at least it did until my dog slept on it. Your tax dollars at work. Thank you. I plan on using it to store and organize the emergency gear I keep in my car trunk.

Also found a very heavy-duty waterproof anorak made by Patagonia. $35. It'll go inside the aforementioned duffle, since my cars always seem to break down in the pouring rain late at night. The bright color and reflective strips might be comforting while I change a tire.

Fleece neck gaiter and watch cap, $3 each. Into the duffle.

Fire extinguisher from a store that went out of business, $10. It'll look lovely near the woodstove.


I'm a southern boy displaced to 43.66 North, so I take warm clothes seriously. I've given up on gloves, my fingers get cold even when I put those disposable handwarmers inside. These mittens are the best I've come across, and they were remarkable bargains. 

Those on the left are Swedish military surplus. Canvas with leather palms and removable wool inserts. They're light, and they dry quickly when I hang them near the woodstove. I bought ten pairs for $35 total, and that should be a lifetime supply if I die when I'm supposed to. 

On the right are German military surplus, leather with fur backs. They have sewn-in liners, and I've been wearing US surplus wool liner gloves inside them as well. They've been warm even when dog-sledding in bitter cold and strong winds. I can't remember exactly what I paid for them, but it was in the neighborhood of $8 or $9 a pair, and I wish I'd bought a truckload. 

On both styles, I like the long gauntlets that can be cinched snug. And as with most military surplus, I appreciate their rugged simplicity and drab colors. 

Spring's coming, it might pay to surf the online surplus stores for sales on gear for next winter. 

Practical Knives

There seems to be a tendency in the modern bushcraft movement towards large Bowie-style knives. Such knives were originally designed for fighting, and are impractical for anything else. (Even if you're experiencing an inordinate number of knife fights on your camping trips, you'd be better served with, say, an H&K USPc .40 on your hip. As grandma used to say, "Guns beat knives.")

Knives that are practical for general camp chores, processing game, cooking, etc. will have a blade in the neighborhood of 4" long, sharpened all the way back to where your index finger goes, since that's where fine work is done. I like a minimal lower guard, and no upper guard at all - they only get in the way, and prevent the use of a proper deep sheath. No serrations, either, since they're difficult to sharpen and make fine, detailed work difficult. The back of the blade should be relatively straight, with a clip point and enough "belly" for skinning. Such a blade won't be as good for skinning as a dedicated skinning design, nor as good for filleting fish as a dedicated fillet knife, but it'll get either job done without frustration in a competent hand.

My favorite knife is a Bark River "Copperhead", but cheap Mora's from the Frost company perform every bit as well, and for 5% of the cost. They're light enough to wear as a neck knife, with a length of para cord threaded through the sheath. I secure the ends of the cord with duct tape rather than a knot so that it will come loose if necessary.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Only the Police should have Guns."

"It's their job to protect us."

Two friends who don't think quite like I do made those comments after reading my post about shotguns for home defense. I wanted to make a few additional points, but their minds are made up and they aren't going to listen. So I'll make them here:

1. Department budgets being what they are, cops tend to be rather poorly trained with firearms.  Most qualify once or twice a year on a square range, and that's about it. They have no special magical superhuman qualifications. 

2. "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." The police very rarely show up while a crime is in progress. They show up after it's all over and make a report.  Call the police and order a pizza, see which one comes first.

3. The movers and shakers in the anti-gun movement (Obama, Biden, Hillary Clitler, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, George Soros, Dianne Feinstein, Rosie O'Donnel, et al.) have one thing in common: Armed security, 24/7. They obviously value their lives and believe in a right to self-defense. Just not yours.

4. Helpless passivity may be a good choice for you. Fine. No one is challenging your right to be a pacifist. Just don't legislate everyone else into victimhood along with you.