Category Archives: American History

Living in the present

“Nobody lived in the past, if you stop to think about it. Jefferson, Adams, Washington—they didn’t walk around saying, ”Isn’t this fascinating, living in the past?“ They lived in the present just as we do. The difference was it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out for us, they didn’t either. It’s very easy to stand on the mountaintop as an historian or biographer and find fault with people for why they did this or didn’t do that, because we’re not involved in it, we’re not inside it, we’re not confronting what we don’t know—as everyone who preceded us always was.”

David McCullough, Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are

The David McCullough quote is from a piece he wrote in 2005 and I’ve included the link for it. A brilliant military strategist, Dr. Colin Gray, made a similar comment in one of his books about strategic planning, emphasizing that none of us knows the future and he cautioned against the human tendency of too harshly judging strategic planners in the past for decisions that turned out badly or assuming that they had to know, X,Y and Z would happen. He suggested that often people were operating in good faith and making decisions they believed would be successful.

Here’s a YouTube video of McCullough speaking about history and at 17:18, he makes the same point he made in that above quote about people did not live in the past:

It’s easy to be armchair critics, as I can attest to, because I’ve done plenty of that myself, but despite my judgmental habits, I’m trying to think more before writing blog posts. One thing it’s easy to do is to draw sweeping conclusions based on very tiny amounts of information and often even that information is just “so and so online said,” not verified in any way. Along with the sweeping conclusions it’s very easy to cherry-pick information that feeds our own beliefs and views.

An economic collapse, whether through a lot of unforeseen events or financial power players trying to manage a collapse they know is coming, really is an area I have no expertise on. My understanding of macroeconomics could fit inside a teaspoon, so I’ve been doing more reading.

Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum’s founder, influence-peddler among the world’s elites and present arch nemesis among the American right has been talked about frequently, so I read his book, The Great Reset, and while I found many of the ideas promoted disturbing, what bothered me the most was the certainty with which he presents all of their climate change policy assertions.

I still don’t understand all the intricacies of the “Great Reset’ agenda and here’s the thing, I believe most of the people who bought into these ideas truly believe their plans are for the good of all people and that the entire world will prosper and flourish. While I expect widespread chaos and that their plans will fail and cause massive hardship, I could be wrong. The other thing is all sorts of other events might happen that upend the Great Reset agenda completely and the world may be facing other unforeseen massive problems.

In my own life, I live a simple and modest life and hope I can keep doing so. I can’t plan for the collapse of the world economy, because I have no idea what events would unfold in such a global catastrophe like that. For me, it’s about living in the present, while trying to take practical steps like having food, water and some emergency supplies on hand, but it’s also about continuing to learn new skills and practice old skills.

These days meteorologists do a good job tracking storms, whereas in the olden days people near coasts didn’t have a week’s time to prepare for a hurricane or major storm. Currently, I’m watching Tropical Storm Ian, just as Hurricane Fiona battered Canada and going over my hurricane preparedness plans.

George Washington was planning out changes he wanted to make to his gardens back at Mount Vernon, while he was off fighting the Revolutionary War. He wasn’t planning to be the first president of the United States of America, which didn’t even exist yet. There are personal letters of Washington’s where he’s going over account books for his estate and concerned with personal family business during the war. He was living in the present.

I’ve watched YouTube preppers who fixate on all the terrible things they are sure are going to happen or that are “signs” that SHTF is imminent and then they’ll list the latest hyped up news (ZeroHedge is a source mentioned frequently with the most hysterical and alarmist predictions) and I’ve seen advice based on these alarmist news reports range from “pull all your money out of the bank” (panic-driven bank runs exacerbated the economic collapse during the Great Depression), to urging people to “pack up and move from these blue states immediately” or “get out of the cities.” I’ve seen videos urging people to get rid of all their paper money and invest it in gold and silver.

I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m not an expert on personal financial management, so I am hesitant to urge dramatic actions like that, which could cause a lot more financial problems for many people than it solves. I do believe, as a guiding principle that getting out of debt and living debt-free, is a better lifestyle choice, under any circumstance and having some emergency savings can turn a personal crisis into just an inconvenience. These two beliefs apply during times of calm and plenty and in times of chaos and scarcity.

A book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840, by Jack Larkin, explains early America’s complex economics, after the American Revolution. There was little money in circulation, so most of the actual money flowed back to the cities and rural people lived under systems of “exchanges,” that were closely linked to their social interactions in communities. Some of their dealings involved simple bartering, but some involved systems of credit and IOUs, that could be “paid off” later in goods or services.

The monetary currency circulating varied too. Larkin wrote, “A bewildering variety of foreign coins circulated: Dutch rix-dollars, Russian kopecks, as well as French and English specie. Most of the coins Americans used were the silver dollar halves, quarters, eighths and sixteenths minted in Mexico and in the South American republics where silver was abundant.” This led to a lot of confusion, as most of the early Americans in the former colonies were still used to the British shillings.

The varied and diverse ways these early Americans conducted their business transactions came out of necessity, because very few people, even back then, were totally self-sufficient, even on the larger farms. There are also accounts of a divide between how Southerners and Northerners conducted business, where the northern way of writing down transactions conflicted with the Southern habit of a handshake and a man’s word being considered a sacred bond. People in early America, just like people throughout history in times of turmoil, self-organized and found ways to manage without some masterplan or people fixating ahead of time on how to prepare for every dire scenario imaginable.

These early Americans were dealing with unforeseen catastrophes on a regular basis. Illnesses swept through and could wipe out entire families. As the frontier moved westward, the settlers living closer to that edge faced skirmishes and massacres in battles with Native Americans. Every imaginable hardship and natural disaster hit and there was no 911 to call or FEMA and the American Red Cross to mobilize. These people had to pick themselves up and work together to salvage what they could and rebuild. They were living in the present, while trying to lay down foundations for their children and grandchildren.

Building more skills, and that means practicing old skills too, seems like it will be more useful for me than getting worked up about a world financial collapse or some other hyped news story, that I have no details or information to verify it.

In my next blog post, I’m going to write about basic sewing and make a few suggestions for supplies, beyond the little sewing kits they sell for a few dollars. Learning a few basic sewing skills is not nearly as daunting as many people make it. And just about anyone can master a few basics.

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Filed under American History, Emergency Preparedness, General Interest

Short PA historical note

In my first militia post, I mentioned my direct ancestor being “tasked” to recruit men for a militia. The reason my ancestor was tasked was because in PA, as the frontier expanded, setting up legal jurisdictions was a high priority. First there were a couple forts set up in that area, then the Northampton County Court was erected and townships were established. One of the first officials appointed in those newly established townships was the Constable, who was responsible for administering law and order. My direct ancestor was appointed the first Constable of Chestnuthill Township. So, when there was a need to raise a militia, the Constable was tasked with that duty.

Each colony had its own quirks and rules, but establishing law and order and a structure for the “common defense” under the rule of law was of the utmost importance.

That ends my PA history lesson. Have a nice day.

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Filed under American History, General Interest

I can’t believe I’m writing about militias

This post is going to be about militias in America and my thoughts on a topic that’s being bandied about a lot lately – “civil war.” I might end up breaking this into more than one post, because I’ve got a lot of thoughts on this subject and although I might step on a lot of male egos, my intent isn’t to criticize any particular person, it’s to speak about ideas and approaches here. My intent also isn’t to try to silence anyone, because I’m rather a free speech zealot.

Lately, some Dems and even top level FBI officials have been labeling right-wing Americans as “domestic terrorists,” and the Biden administration has been spouting this all-encompassing term, “MAGA Republicans,” to broad-brush Americans with right-wing political beliefs as a threat to democracy. That demagoguery is totally reprehensible. Reacting to that and also to the Biden administration big green-energy/great reset transformation going on, I’ve seen some ideas that I think are total crazytown stuff being floated among some online right pundits/preppers/survivalists and most of it comes from men.

I believe some of the ideas on the right, although being hinted at and floated wrapped in euphemistic language, would be as destructive as the left’s green-energy/great reset crazytown policies. None of these more extreme ideas, from the left or right, leads to saving our republic or saving our democracy, or whatever euphemisms people choose to use to describe saving America. They lead to more chaos, irreparable divisions, and a destruction of both our republic and the representative democratic norms we value. They don’t lead to return to some bygone halcyon days of glory, the right dreams about or to the utopian system where equity, sustainability and ideal governance (ESG) people on the left blabber on about. I’ve written about the left’s insanity, so this post is going to be about some right-wing ideas I’m concerned about.

My interest in militias in America began in my teens, during the American Bicentennial. I’ve mentioned in other posts how 1976 ignited my interest in early American history, the American Revolution, and the formation of our constitutional republic.

A direct ancestor of mine was a captain of a militia in the Northampton territory in northeastern PA. Around 1774 he was tasked with recruiting 82 men, which he did without a problem. When my ancestor moved into that area of PA, it was a move over the Blue Mountain to an area that was an ancient Lenni Lenape (Delaware Indian) village, called Meniolagomeka, and the natives were forced out.  As a teen, a history I read, translated that village name as meaning the “fat-lands,” and it was rich farmland.

I think there’s a lot of misunderstandings about those early militias, because they weren’t just random people decided to form a militia. They were organized through governmental structures in the American colonies. The British colonies operated under a charter system decreed by the King of England. Even the earliest British settlers were financed and governed through various set-ups, but they were all under the British charter system. In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the first volume of the John Marshall set, The Life of George Washington, as an excellent history, full of details on the settlement of the American colonies. These early militias operated under the rule of law.

Here’s an article from the Revolutionary War Journal, History of Early Colonial Militias in America, which explains the how and why militias were utilized in early America:

“It was what the English government chose to do from the first chartered settlements in North America. England did not have the manpower or money to provide for the protection of her growing colonies on the mainland.  She was stretched thin, maintaining her growing fleet and by garrisoning her island colonies in the West Indies from the threat of her old rivals, France, Spain, and The Netherlands. Add the strife of civil war with the Cavaliers and Roundheads who were literally bashing heads, and the new American colonies quickly became low on the British agenda. However, the threat from intrusion on the mainland by England’s enemies, including the indigenous peoples already habituating the land, was a concern. A solution was sought and found in the very first settlements.  The charters of the Royal Providences, which would ultimately become the thirteen colonies of the Americas, were given authority to organize for their own defense.  Henceforth, the militia, organized and managed by local provincials, emerged in the shadow of British oversight and blessings.”

Settling the American West in the late 1800s and early 1900s presented more dilemmas for the defense of those early settlers, with the scarcity of law enforcement, and the vast spaces between homesteads and “towns,” which in many cases were just a few buildings. Challenges came in many forms, from battles between settlers and Native Americans, range wars and feuds over control of open ranges, water rights disputes and the US Army was deployed to far-flung forts on the frontier, to help protect settlers. There are many accounts of vigilante justice in the settling of the American West, but as soon as some law and order could be established through a governmental system, settlers embraced that.

Fast forward to modern history and back in the 1990s, there were three major “militia” type events, the Ruby Ridge siege (1992), the Waco siege (1993) and the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), that sparked a focus on right-wing extremism. in America. The Janet Reno run DOJ, in the Clinton administration made hunting down right-wing militias a top-tier FBI mission, while the 1993 World Trade Center bombing perpetrated by an Islamic radical was downplayed by the Clinton administration.

When 9/11 happened, the Bush administration focus shifted to Islamist terrorists, but within the FBI, I’ve often wondered if they ever shifted away from that 1990s “right-wing extremism” focus, of acting like there were right-wing militias around every corner and behind every tree in flyover country.

During the Obama administration, the DOJ shift in focus went back to seeing dangerous right-wing extremists everywhere and of course, there was Janet Reno’s DOJ sidekick, Eric Holder, now running the DOJ. It became all too common when an Islamist-inspired terrorist attack to occur in the US for the FBI to go to great pains to insist the motive was unknown, yet they had been aware of that person before the attack. Then we kept hearing about “lone wolf” attacks, as if these homegrown Islamist terrorists just became radicalized out of thin air. Added to this there was a concerted political messaging effort in the Obama administration and liberal media to pretend these Islamist-inspired attacks had nothing to do with a radical religious ideology.

So, it was no surprise really in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was running for president that all of a sudden some new and dramatic “right-wing threat” was being hyped by the Clinton campaign and liberal media – the looming threat of the “alt-right.” A few fringe far-right loons suddenly were being hyped by Hillary Clinton and the liberal media as being a massive threat and Hillary deliberately tried to paint all Trump supporters as Deplorables” and “alt-right extremists.”

So, now with this Biden administration/liberal media hype, smearing Trump supporters with an even broader brush, as “MAGA Republicans,” it feels like we’re right back to 2016 Dem spin mode. What’s disturbing though is it seems to me that the FBI has gone along with facilitating the Dem spin smear games – for decades. Current FBI director, Chris Wray, has consistently downplayed Antifa and left-wing domestic violence and focused on domestic right-wing extremism. And certainly, the FBI has left no stone unturned trying to track down every person who was at the US Capitol on Jan.6 2021.

I’m going to end this post here, because I want to delve into J-6 a bit more and the current things, that made me decide to write about militias in America.

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Filed under American History, General Interest

The loss of a great American historian


Yesterday, American historian, David McCullough, passed away. Above is an inspirational video of McCullough talking about George Washington. Please take a few minutes and watch this video. It offers some perspective we can all use.

I’ve read several of McCullough’s books and pulled a few of my favorites from my bookshelves to snap a few photos for this blog post. He had a rare gift to take dry historical facts and turn them into a moving, very human story. Here’s 1776, which was about America’s founding:

Rather than waste a lot of time following the latest partisan political drama today, I looked at the news online a bit this morning, then went outside to work in my little container garden. I’ve been cleaning up and started planting some things for a Fall garden. I’m working on decluttering inside my home too.

Cleaning out the partisan politics clutter from taking up too much of my time is part of my decluttering efforts too.

I also collected more cosmos seeds this morning. I’ve seen several YouTube homesteaders talking about learning to save seeds and although seeds aren’t usually very expensive, with sky-high inflation, it sure doesn’t hurt to cut costs wherever you can. I heard mention of potential seed shortages too. I have been buying more seeds and intend to order more online very soon.

There are loads of videos and sites online that can walk you through the seed saving process for various types of plants. I recently bought two books on saving seeds. Books are really important in my life and it’s encouraging to see so many preppers and homesteaders online mention reading books as an important part of their efforts at becoming more self-reliant. Being open to learning new things and exploring new ideas can keep you moving forward in life. Here’s a link to a free 1887 book, The White House Cookbook, which has recipes and all sorts of interesting history of White House meals.

I have a fascinating book on America’s founding fathers’ gardening and yes, procuring seeds played a pivotal role in America’s early history:

The small decluttering efforts around my home take way more time than they should, due to my penchant to attach sentimental value to possessions and my hard-to-break belief in my hoarding grandmother’s view on stuff – “I paid good money for this and might need it later.” My mother ruthlessly decluttered our home on a regular basis. I’m working on letting go of more stuff that I don’t use and have not used in years. Yesterday, I filled up a box with some hardcover books, which are more difficult for me to part with than paperbacks. It felt good to fill up that box that’s going to my local Goodwill store.

McCullough’s books are keepers and I would not even think of getting rid of them. A few years ago, I read his, Brave Companions, which is a series of stories about fascinating people in history, most of whom I knew nothing about. This, so far, is my favorite David McCullough book.

That said about my favorite McCullough book, I started his, The Pioneers, and it’s excellent too. I need to finish reading this book soon.

Being a lifelong news junkie, it’s hard to turn off the blaring “breaking news” political soap opera, but I’m still working to kick the habit and spend more time doing things that will improve and enrich my life. Social media politics definitely doesn’t do that. Reading more about America’s early history helps me clear away so much of the clutter and noise in our media and politics today and I’m hoping it will keep me focused on a better path than racing down rabid, partisan political rabbit holes or getting distracted by constant online noise.

America lost a truly gifted historian and storyteller yesterday.

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Filed under American Character, American History, General Interest

Waking up in the bottom of the ninth

When a man ain’t got no ideas of his own, he’d ought to be kind of o’ careful who he borrows ’em from.” 

– one of my favorite quotes from The Virginian by Owen Wister

This post is going to be about American partisan politics and is a follow-on to yesterday’s blog post.

So, I’m going to start with yesterday’s post, which was about the “big picture” of the left’s culture war, of which climate change activism is now front and center. That culture war stormed into American headlines in the 1960s, with protests, from civil rights to women’s rights, to environmental concerns, and especially to anti-Vietnam activism.

A few years ago, I was reading a book, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, by Roger Kimball, which explains a cultural movement in the 1950s, called the Beat movement, as setting the stage for the 1960s radicalism. Kimball writes:

“The Beats were tremendously significant, but chiefly in the way that they provided a preview in the 1950s of the cultural, intellectual, and moral disasters that would fully flower in the late 1960s. The ideas of the Beats, their sensibility, contained in ovo all the characteristics we think of as defining the cultural revolution of the Sixties and Seventies.”

Kimball, Roger; Kimball, Roger. The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (p. 46). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

Just to explain, why I often state what I see as “the big picture” or “the little picture,” it’s because that’s a common way of thinking I learned in the Army when I was young. Many businesses routinely talk about “big picture” strategy now, just as there are umpteen books and guides on using the ancient Chinese military strategy treatise, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, as a strategy guide for business. I find Sun Tzu fascinating, so I even read a “Sun Tzu for Women” book, that applied Sun Tzu war strategy into a women’s guide to “win” in business (I thought it was stupid, btw).

Beyond the strategy stuff, I think in history it’s important to try to understand events that led to the current events, rather than just reacting in outrage to every blaring headline or breaking news blip, which is the way too many people understand the world these days – based on their feelings and very superficial reactions. Trust me, I’ve got umpteen blog posts fuming about Trump’s awful behavior or Hillary’s vast corruption, etc., etc. In fact, too often I’ve written blog posts based on my being outraged by some current event rather than taking a few days to do more research, think about the matter more, and most of all step back and try to look at the “big picture,” so I’m guilty of this too.

When right-wing pundits and social media started breathlessly warning about “The Great Reset,” as if this was a brand-new nefarious plot, I started doing a bit of research, because it sounded just like what it is – more of the same far-left “never let a crisis go to waste” brainstorms from the Davos elite. The most interesting aspect of the Great Reset is that while the right-wing thought leaders in America were only reacting to some Democrats’ pandemic overreach and raising alarms about the impact from lockdowns and other pandemic mitigation efforts, the left-wing super-elites were plotting out a post-pandemic global plan to ram through their climate agenda, which had already been pushed through the UN in 2015, with their Agenda 2030 This is why I said the right usually wakes up in the bottom of the ninth, because it’s true.

We have the left hoping to incite enough fear about climate change/global warming to get people to go along with their big plans, “being woke,” and on the right now, they started bragging about “being awake.” The difference can’t be more startling, because the left has global networks pushing through their agenda, from the UN, countries around the world, wealthy elites, international corporations and that mega pit of murky money – all those NGOs funded by mega-wealthy elites, big corporations, governments and charitable organizations. The right has an assortment of hysteria-prone reactionaries and Trump sycophants, heavily invested in the constant news media/ Twitter politics Outrage Theater happenings.

Very few Americans even view Twitter politics, but almost all of the news media people, pundits, elected leaders, and political activists on both sides of the aisle invest an outsized amount of time daily, battling for control of the political spin cycles – on Twitter. I will say, Trump understood the importance of the Twitter spin battlefield and he was very good at what I think of as guerilla spin warfare – he could jump on Twitter, tweet out one, often poorly written tweet, and demolish a Dem spin narrative that major news journos, pundits and Dem operatives had spent a lot of time orchestrating, launching and then rapidly amplifying via retweets and spreading it to other social media platforms and TV news venues. Sometimes his antics were appalling, but I admit, sometimes they were hilarious.

And yes, I have been a staunch conservative my entire adult life and I jumped on more than my fair share of the right’s bandwagon of hysterical takes too. More of the thought leaders on the right should have been awake since the 1960s onward and certainly by the 1990s when the climate activism, gender activism and “fundamental transformation” activism moved into high-gear. And they’ve been completely oblivious to the orchestrated Dem/liberal media spin information war until the Trump era. If you weren’t alive in the 60s or 90s, well, rather than get invested in the latest primetime FOX episodes of Outrage Theater (yes, primetime cable news is all Outrage Theater, just different flavors), it might be better to calm down and read some history.

Roger Kimball’s book is a good explainer of the left’s culture war in America. A short and very condensed and probably oversimplified history of how that happened was many of the big activist thought leaders in America capitalized on their 60s and 70s protest success of forcing American colleges and universities to cave to their demands, then in the 80s many of the most radical activists became ensconced in American academia, politics, sitting on corporate boards, got influential media positions and thus the long march through the institutions was seeded, took root, and grew.

People on the right smugly talking about “being awake” now, 40-50 years after the left’s culture war movement has worked its way through every major institution, leaves me more than a tad concerned. All of the right’s reactionary ideas I’ve seen are short-sighted, lack any clear strategy and even more importantly they lack any clear objective. Lately, it’s all playing defense and running around getting worked up about the “Great Reset.”

Ten years ago, a lot of the right was all into the Tea Party (I was supportive), back to the Founding Fathers (always been there too) and invested in Glenn Beck’s schtick and big rallies (ever wonder where Trump got the big rally ideas…). I was a big Rush Limbaugh fan in the 90s too. It was all about getting people on the right worked up, feeding them a steady diet of wild, convoluted global & Obama conspiracy theories, hawking patriotism and waving American flags. Yet, nothing changed in Washington, even with a slew of Tea Party candidates being elected.

The “Great Reset” is just another push in the left’s much larger, ongoing culture war, which truly is at the bottom of the ninth. Their long march through the institutions is almost complete. Sounds pretty alarming and gloomy, but here again, the game’s not over yet.

Small, localized systems can adapt more quickly than cumbersome global systems. The same holds true for people dealing with shortages and other randomized problems. So, if there are problems in one state or area of a state, people closest to the problems may be able to find workable solutions to avoid chaos and create some streamlined, simple social safety nets and yes, working together and helping each other is the only way for America to unite and weather major crises.

Americans rely heavily on the complex big chain stores and big systems for our daily lives and to survive and thrive. We might have to start coming up with more flexible solutions to deal with shortages and other problems, if large systems flounder or fail. Being calm, being proactive, being problem-solvers, being resourceful and being more like our ancestors who built this great country, doesn’t take relying on Washington politicians, it will take all of us working within our own families, circle of friends and communities to pull together, as the daily partisan spin information war tries to feed division and pull us apart.

I’m reading a book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840 (Everyday Life in America), by Jack Larkin, which is part of a 6-book series on Everyday Life in America in different time periods. Larkin explained the 1790-1840 span covered dramatic changes with the creation of a new national government, distinct political parties, and a culture of democratic politics, plus the population quadrupled. However, everyday life was mostly agricultural, physically grueling, very hard, very dark at night, as homes outside cities were spread out. An immense amount of labor went into “making land,” the arduous process of clearing forests to create farmland. Beyond the sparse living conditions, information was sparse too and traveled very slowly.

People stayed focused and committed to their daily struggles, their families, and most clung to their faith. Larkin wrote, “Successive waves of religious enthusiasm, the “Second Great Awakening,” washed over communities in every region and created a powerful evangelical Protestant piety.” Here’s a link on the Second Great Awakening. That religious change led to cultural change and a great deal of American social activism, from emancipation of women movements, more abolition efforts, temperance movements, etc.

The only answers anyone in Washington comes up with lately are either throw more money at problems or they turn to the US military, heck “call in the National Guard,” is a go-to solution and now using the Defense Authorization Act, seems to be the go-to presidential solution.

Perhaps, the answers won’t be found in Washington or in partisan politics.

Perhaps, we need to start finding more answers within ourselves.

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Filed under American History, General Interest, Information War

Sowing seeds of liberty

Tomorrow is the 4th of July in America.

When I was a a kid, in school I was fascinated by history, geography and stories. Something that was missing in how I learned history, I think, is a common gap in how many kids learn history. History was taught by focusing on big personalities and big events in history and often within the framework of the big events, there’d be some sort of sequential timeline for those big events, but then we’d move on to some other big personality and some other big event.

I was missing a big picture timeline in how I was learning history in school. Many parents purchased a set of encyclopedias when I was a kid. My parents bought the 1972 set of World Book Encyclopedia, which I now have. Having this set allowed me to look up all sorts of things and to begin piecing together larger spans of history and try to figure out how previous events led to the current big event I was learning about. It’s important to understand the background of how we got to events rather than just jumping from loud sound bite to loud sound bite.

In 1976 Americans celebrated America’s bicentennial and our country was awash in information and popular entertainment centered on America’s founding. I began reading more to try to understand a longer timeline of American history However, it wasn’t until many years later when I read through the first volume of John Marshall’s five volume set of The Life of George Washington, that I really felt like I had a better understanding of the timeline of how America’s Independence Day came about. John Marshall was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Here’s a paragraph from the preface at the free guterberg.org site that explains:

“Many events too are unnoticed, which in such a composition would be worthy of being introduced, and much useful information has not been sought for, which a professed history of America ought to comprise. Yet the history of general Washington, during his military command and civil administration, is so much that of his country, that the work appeared to the author to be most sensibly incomplete and unsatisfactory, while unaccompanied by such a narrative of the principal events preceding our revolutionary war, as would make the reader acquainted with the genius, character, and resources of the people about to engage in that memorable contest. This appeared the more necessary as that period of our history is but little known to ourselves. Several writers have detailed very minutely the affairs of a particular colony, but the desideratum is a composition which shall present in one connected view, the transactions of all those colonies which now form the United States.”

Once I read through Marshall’s volume 1, all sorts of things I’d learned in school and read about early American history made more sense and more pieces of history fell into place for me. Rather than a big event here or a big event there, the American story became a much larger story with lots of chapters.

The bigger takeaway is the American colonies were filled with people who adapted not only their daily lives to survive in a harsh and unforgiving new land, but they were people who experimented with differing types of social organization and governance.

This 4th of July, our country is going through a period of growing divisions and global economic storms beginning to hit land here too. Many Americans are understandably concerned about the near future, like how expensive will gas be in a few weeks, let alone a few months or how bad will food shortages get this fall, or how on earth to afford heating oil this winter.

I’m still optimistic for America’s future, because everywhere I’ve ever gone in America, I’ve met innovative and creative people. I’ve lived around the Army community since 1979, even now I live in a town by a large US Army post and most of my neighbors are retired military or active duty military, from all over the country. Even though some may vote D and some may vote R, at their core, I know they put being American first. This same American spirit still thrives in rural America, in small towns, and although I try to avoid large cities as much as possible, I suspect there must be some glimmers of that American spirit there too.

The American experience didn’t start in 1776, it started in the late 1400s. Shortly, after Columbus’s voyage to the New World, in 1497, John Cabot, sailed out of Bristol, England and headed to North America too.

We live in a world where information travels around the globe in the blink of an eye and it’s easy to feel unsettled with so many dire events hitting us faster than raindrops in a strong storm, but if we slow down, take a deep breath, and just ponder how many lifetimes were spent since 1776 building our great country, defending our great country, and persevering against what has to seem insurmountable odds, I still believe there are enough Americans, who will pull together when the going gets very tough.

Many children, especially little girls, have loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie children’s book series, based on her childhood in the late 1800s, as her family moved to the Midwest amid the great American expansion westward and struggled to homestead in a harsh and unfamiliar land.

Wilder wrote those books during the Great Depression and facing serious family financial hardships, Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who had left home in her late teens and had worked tirelessly to become one of the highest paid female journalists of her era, encouraged her mother to write these stories and then she worked to get her mother’s stories published. There’s some dispute about how much editing and rewriting Lane did, but the stories themselves are definitely based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood.

Wilder had struggled throughout her adult life dealing with failed farming efforts, moving, and her husband being disabled from side effects from diphtheria. When they settled on their farm in MO in 1894, it took 20 years for them to turn that farm into a profitable dairy and fruit farm. Along with the farm to work, Wilder spent decades writing a column for a farm journal.

There were no overnight success stories involved with anything Laura Ingalls Wilder did – she worked tirelessly for years, as did her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Even the Little House series started with Lane trying to get her mother’s stories published as adult novels, but after numerous rejections and advice to rewrite the stories as children’s stories, the first Little House book was published in 1932. This book series reversed the financial fortunes of both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, who had both been wiped out financially in the 1929 stock market crash. After the Little House success Lane wrote some very successful novels themed on homesteading in the Midwest during the late 1800s too.

Lane later went on to write books on politics and became a thought leader within the libertarian movement. Her work Discovery of Freedom is brimming with optimism for American liberty. Along with her journalism and writing career, Rose Wilder Lane was an expert needlewoman. In 1963, Woman’s Day published the Woman’s Day Book of American Needlework, with the narrative written by Rose Wilder Lane. It’s not just a how-to guide of various needlework techniques with some dry historical tidbits, but a unique soaring narrative about the American spirit and American liberty.

Writing about patchwork quilting Lane wrote:

“Poverty came across the ocean with the immigrants. Here on the farthest rim of the known world, it became direst need. The smallest scrap of cloth was precious to a woman who could have no more cloth until the trees were cut and burned, the land spaded and sown to flax or to grass for sheep, then next year the wool sheared, washed, combed, carded and spun into flax pulled and carefully rippled, retted, dried, beetled, scutched, heckled, spun, and at last the loom made, the warp threaded, the shuttles wound and the cloth woven.” (p. 14)

“In the wilderness thousands of miles from home, depending only upon themselves for their very lives, these poor immigrants learned the inescapable fact that a person is the only source of the only energy that preserves human life on this planet. With their minds and hands they made houses, they produced food, they wove cloth and built towns, and each ceased to think of himself as a bit of a class in a nation. They knew that each one was creating a neighborhood, the town, the colony.” (p.14)

“To women who knew this, every precious scrap of cloth had a new meaning; they thought of what the small pieces, together, could make. And they began to make a pattern of them.” (p.14)

American patchwork quilting broke the rules of English quilting, with new patterns, like the Log Cabin, Bear’s Paw, Tomahawk, etc.

That brings us to something to think about this 4th of July. Lane commented that for more than a century students of folk art admired the Old World’s peasant crafts and she wrote, “Only recently have curators of American museums seen American needlework. Yet in 1776 its spirit of freedom was nearly two centuries old.” (p.14)

With our current economic situation many Americans are learning about how people survived the Great Depression and WWII ration meals, but the American timeline of struggling is much longer and filled with mostly forgotten stories of the daily toils and struggles of brave and stalwart people who dared to set forth in wild unknown lands to be free. That is our America heritage, that we should occasionally think about a bit. Those seeds of liberty came to America with the first settlers and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to continue to sow them and tend to them all across this great land.

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Finding small flickers of hope in hard times

Throughout this blogging journey a constant drumbeat of mine has been talking about my belief in learning self-reliance and emergency preparedness, which now seems more important than any of the partisan politics or culture war turmoil. While being aware of those things is important, in our everyday lives getting angry, alarmed or worried isn’t going to change a thing and it’s certainly not going to help us be better prepared, develop useful skills or navigate through difficult times.

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Townsends, which is devoted to cooking and culture in 18th century early America. There’s never any politics on Townsends, just early American history presented in a very engaging format. I learn something new in every episode and yesterday’s was perfect for the times we’re facing with rising food prices:

What’s fascinating with many of the recipes in the very old cookbooks Townsends refer to is many lack precise measurements and give sparse cooking instruction, but he does a lot of research and often compares similar recipes from the time period and then he sets off and experiments making these foods. The Townsends team sets off on bigger adventures too, like making an earthen oven or even building an actual functional cabin using only tools available in the time period. The Townsends cabin-building adventure covered several episodes focused on different aspects of the project, like making their own tools, selecting and chopping down trees, and dealing with problems, including weather.

Few of us posses the type of rugged individualism to set off into the wilds to start a new life or even to learn how to construct a building on our own, but I’ve been following a YouTube channel, My Self Reliance, produced by Shawn James, a Canadian man, who built a log cabin by himself, from chopping down the trees, to building the entire cabin by himself, on his remote property. His videos are fascinating, because in most of them there’s no talking, just him working and going about his daily tasks. He later added some outbuildings, but then decided to move to an even more remote property and has been working on constructing a bigger cabin project by himself. James started another channel where he explains the challenges and his views on various topics, including why he chose to move into the wilderness:

My late husband was one of those rugged individual type people – he just set out and tackled hard tasks and he was forever using that saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” – one bite at a time, which means that often monumental tasks seem overwhelming, but if you start tackling it “one bite at a time,” each day you will see progress and the more you accomplish, the more you’ll believe you can do more and more… and more. I, on the other hand, doubt myself a lot, second-guess myself too much and often waste too much time overthinking things rather than just getting busy doing things. I’ve never regretted trying something and failing, but many times I’ve regretted not attempting to do new things.

You don’t have to move off into the wilderness or take on building a log cabin with your own two hands to get motivated to learn new skills and learn to become more self-reliant.

I’ve said this many times and I don’t want to be taken the wrong way here, but you can’t just shop your way to emergency preparedness or becoming more self-reliant. That doesn’t mean I am suggesting people not stock up on food and other items, because stocking up is a good thing, especially with the chaotic political and economic crises escalating almost daily now. By all means stock up, but here’s the thing, stocking up and being able to utilize all those items you bought are two different things entirely. A long time ago I saw a crafting meme that captures this sentiment: “I’ve decided that buying craft supplies and using them are two separate hobbies.”

I mentioned Townsends and My Self Reliance, because they show the days, weeks, months and yes, even years of hard work that goes into living without modern conveniences and they’re constantly learning more and developing more skills.

Most of us aren’t going to set off into the wilderness or build a log cabin, but developing the type of grit and determination to learn new skills, fail, then pick yourself up and start over is crucial to not just surviving, but thriving in bad times. Each day strive to learn something new.

As a child I got only one real Mattel brand Barbie doll and it was Midge, that I received as a Christmas gift. My mother bought me other cheaper brand Barbie size dolls and other dolls and she bought my sisters and me a few sets of plastic doll furniture. I yearned for a fancy doll house and doll furniture, like the kind I saw in toy catalogs. I made a doll house out of a cardboard box and I began using small empty boxes and plastic containers to make my own doll furniture to augment the plastic doll furniture. My great-grandmother was a quilter and she had boxes of fabric scraps she had collected when she worked in a blouse factory and was allowed to take home the fabric scraps that would have been thrown away. She let me use whatever fabric from her fabric boxes that I wanted for my crafting projects. I was around 8 years old when I began gluing fabric to cover little boxes and my great-grandmother showed me how to thread a needle and gather fabric together with long running stitches, so I could create ruffled edges on some of my cardboard furniture creations. My sisters and I got a small round plastic loom in some Christmas craft gift that we used yarn scraps to knit umpteen Barbie dresses too.

I still like to figure out how to use things I already have for projects. Sometimes they work, but often they don’t. My oldest sister, who is eight years older than me, has always been a very talented crafter, gourmet type cook, talented cake decorator and the list goes on. She’s very creative. Something I learned from her is to think in terms of creating a prototype, then working out the glitches and problems in the next ones. Most new things we try won’t turn out perfect the first time and whatever project or skill you’re learning, it’s much more likely there will be some problems or failures and it will be back to the drawing board. Rather than get frustrated by failures, try to use your failures as opportunities to learn more.

I rarely watch TV these days and the odd thing was I completely disliked the “reality TV” stuff from the beginning, but now I watch a lot of YouTube, which is real reality TV, without professional producers. I started watching YouTube looking for information for various needlework and crafting projects, then it moved to cooking and from there gardening and now I watch some homesteading and prepping channels too. I realized that I could learn some needlework and crafting techniques easier watching videos, where I could pause, rewind and replay, as I attempted it myself. I learned how to make Amish knot rugs that way:

An Amish knot rug I made a few years ago.

I’ve made 4 or 5 Amish knot rugs and plan to make some more. For my first rug I didn’t have the actual Amish knot rug needle, but I watched a video where a lady showed how to make your own tool with wire, so I used a large paperclip and bent it into the shape she showed. Yes, my first bending up a paperclip for recreational use was to make an Amish knot rug needle, lol.

There are so many excellent how-to videos on YouTube, so just look around. There’s also a lot of contradictory and bad advice, so take some time to browse around before you begin a new project.

I randomly came across a Canadian lady, Jessica Wanders, YouTube channel as she embarked on a No Spend Pantry Challenge, cooking meals with only food in your pantry for a month, that I was interested in. This young lady cans a lot, but she also has a lot of store bought items too. She makes her own yogurt using a very low tech method, which got me wondering about how you could make yogurt if you didn’t have store bought yogurt with live cultures. The creative ways she uses what she’s got and tries new dishes was very interesting.

Recently I’ve been thinking about making some simple soft cheeses and learning to make yogurt. Almost every yogurt how-to begins with using some yogurt culture from store-bought yogurt and with the current shortage problems I wondered how people made yogurt before they had store-bought yogurt. People have been eating yogurt for millennia. Voila, I found a process on a YouTube cooking channel I really love, Sweet Adjeley. This lady offers clear and precise instructions, in addition she has a lovely lilting accent, so it’s a pleasure to watch her channel. She has a video on how to make your own yogurt starter using chilies in milk and she says a cut lemon can also be used. So, I’ll be attempting making my own yogurt starter in the near future.

I’ve also been trying various keto bread and low-carb bread recipes I found on Pinterest and YouTube, which might be more diabetic-friendly. I recently stumbled across some bread recipes using bean flour, which would be a great use of some of these dried beans I’ve stocked up on and also a red lentil bread, I’d like to try. Beans aren’t low carb, but the carbs in beans are slower to digest and might work better for my blood sugar levels than regular wheat bread. Most keto bread recipes have too many eggs in them for my taste. I also ordered a used cookbook (very good condition,) Country Beans for $5.33 from amazon and it’s filled with all sorts of ways to use dried beans that were new to me. Sara Lee makes a low carb bread, that I like and it’s way cheaper than the keto breads, but I want to have some alternatives, in case I can’t find the Sara Lee bread.

YouTube is filled with channels on various types of gardening and homesteading, so you can find tons of advice, how-to videos and inspiration. You can also find how-to videos on almost any type of home repair, making and using tools, doing just about anything, but you can also find a lot of bad advice, political commentary of every stripe, end-of-the world prognostications and every type of crazy imaginable. I have also found some very thoughtful motivational videos, ranging from religious to secular themed. I urge you to listen to people who motivate you to feel like you can do more things and who inspire you to keep a positive attitude, then take a deep breath and get busy working to learn new skills and get things done.

There’s plenty to be worried and fearful about with the chaotic times we’re living in, but each day I try to remember to thank God “For Lovely Things,” which are all-around us. It’s a prayer I read as a child, from a little book of prayers I received for Christmas in 1964 and still have. I rarely part with books that matter to me. I wrote about this in a 2017 blog post:

How an individual responds to challenges really does depend on that person alone, but most of us turn to other people for encouragement, support and often guidance or advice and that’s where community comes in.

America doesn’t have to end up like other countries that fall apart, unless we let it. A lot of people in online communities are talking about building community these days and that’s a very positive sign. All across America ordinary people can create small flickers of hope, whether it’s an entire community effort, one church group or even just a small group of 2 or 3 people working together. Some Americans already are doing just that, which I’ll write about soon. We don’t have to turn out like Venezuela or Argentina falling apart, which I hear about constantly among online preppers.

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I will fight you for my Russian teapot

I’ve been following the American media/politicians spin war on Twitter over the situation in Ukraine quite a bit and hadn’t gotten around to writing a blog post, so here goes.

First, Russia invading Ukraine was a full-scale invasion. Despite all the partisan takes on this, I read that as an attempt at regime change. There have been Trump talking heads pushing pro-Putin positions and the Biden White House staking out wrong positions about what was happening prior to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This incursion went past those two so-called breakaway territories, that Jen Psaki talked about in the WH’s policy-by spin-word-games effort. I wasn’t sure Putin would really go for it with a full-scale invasion, but he did and that poses a very immediate and dramatic challenge for the United States and our allies, not just in Europe, but around the world.

All those months of news with China and Russia turning into “preppers” had led me to believe they were planning a full-scale economic war, but I sort of thought they would try to take down the West via an aggressive economic war first before waging actual territorial wars. I was definitely wrong there.

I’m not going to get into all the politics today, beyond saying that one of the most disturbing aspects of the American response has been listening to American elected officials and top “experts, especially the media talking heads, many who have never picked up a book on military strategy or read anything on military history or military strategy become war-planning experts overnight. There are also many former military people who are now into politics, who jumped into the fray and are big media “influencers” beating their various war drums about what military options they think President Biden should take.

I began studying military strategy in my teens – it interests me a lot. I found this report in the loft of a garage/shed behind an old house my father was looking through. He was a supervisor for a road construction company and this old house was slated to be torn down, for a road job he was working on. I climbed the ladder to the loft and found a box with old papers and things, but this was the prize and from then on I have been hooked on studying military strategy:

I’ve believed for years many top US military and top policy officials are very weak on understanding military strategy and there’s a persistent view that permeates, where they leap into supporting the latest hot military option of the day that’s become the media buzz topic and urging that option without even thinking about the larger strategic implications. America has been entering military engagements since the 1990s based on reacting to public opinion and ideas promoted by crowds of these sort of DC insider policy thought leaders and not by seriously thinking about America’s national interests and long-term ramifications for American foreign policy. I’ve been worrying since the Somalia debacle in the early 1990s about American military strategy. By the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle last year, I was angry and very alarmed, not only about the incompetence, but also totally disgusted by all the lying from the Biden WH and coming from the Pentagon.

That brings me to what’s been on my mind a lot besides the horrific Russian aggression taking place in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis there, the looming economic hardships that will impact around the world and here in America. I’ve been very concerned how quickly many people jump into fashionable causes and engage in mindless gestures, believing they’re doing something important. Mindless performative political posturing has replaced carefully studying issues and making thoughtful judgments even among our elected leaders.

A whole lot of the people who were COVID masking zealots have now become Ukraine super fans – wrapping themselves in the Ukrainian flag and declaring their support for the courageous and unexpected heroic president of Ukraine, Volodomyr Zelensky. It’s been striking how his simple reported words, “I need ammunition, not a ride,” when offered US assistance getting out of Ukraine, inspired so many people around the world. We’ve become so accustomed to leaders of countries grabbing suitcases of cash and abandoning their countries when war breaks out, that a leader who stands and fights with his people touched a chord around the globe. Personal and moral courage are rare these days.

It’s fine to support Ukraine and it’s fine to be inspired by Zelensky, but so much of the media-driven public virtue-signaling and mass outpourings come with a very dark underside. Along with all the wrapping themselves in the Ukrainian flag type media-driven craze has come a very disturbing anti-Russian craze, with people rushing to disparage and destroy everything Russian.

The average Russian has about as much control over what their government is doing as we do here in America. While media talking heads were cheering bars pouring out Russian vodka and the ridiculous banning of Russian cats from some international cat competition. I believe in our government taking economic sanctions with real teeth, not in targeting ordinary Russian people or Russian cats, for crying out loud. I wish President Biden would stop importing oil from Russia and halt the Russia-brokered Iran deal his administration is working on, because these are real and powerful government sanctions. Picking on Russian cats isn’t.

There are so many wonderful things in every culture and their people, so it’s disturbing to see the same people who jumped on the bandwagon attacking Trump-supporters as Deplorables, then people on the right who didn’t agree with the Covid mandates and masking, rush to demonize Russians and everything Russian. People need to stop and think before rushing to virtue-signal.

While I support Ukraine in this war, I am American and the only flag I will ever march behind is the American flag. I also have spent a lot of time over the years reading American history and the American Revolutionary period has been my favorite era, although in the past couple years I’ve pushed the timeline back a bit and started reading more about the pre-Revolutionary era. The French and Indian War has taken my fancy, because I have direct ancestors who were on the frontier of that war in Pennsylvania. I want to read more books on that war. I started with this book:

Not sure how I missed reading more about this war, but it’s now on my must-read list of topics I want to learn more about. One of my German ancestors was tasked with forming a militia for the common defense when the American frontier moved westward in northeastern PA. Delaware (Lenape) Indians were pushed out of the area where I grew up. I had read some about this time period back in 1976 when I was a teenager. That year was the American Bicentennial, so people all over America were discovering their American roots. Some civic-minded people in my village put together a book:

That brings me to the photo at the top. It’s one of my most prized possessions – a truly lovely Russian teapot one of my sons brought back from Russia as a gift for me. I absolutely love this teapot and as you can see by my Matryoshka dolls in the photo above, I have a thing for other Russian things too. I stitched this cute Russian dolls piece a few years ago too:

Heck, I even have some Soviet-era propaganda posters. I’m fascinated by propaganda too:

Sorry, but not sorry, I am not getting rid of anything Russian in my home. People need to stop being so stupid and think more. Ignorance, reckless rage and mindlessly following media-driven frenzies are more dangerous than owning Russian items.

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What are you willing to walk six miles for?

This morning I thought might be a good time to step away from the politics and what’s going on in the news to chat about something else. Recently I wrote about deciding to attempt raised bed gardening and that’s still in the works, but I’ve been pricing materials and downsized my plans (big dreams) quite a bit.

I’ve got an indoor space set-up, with grow lights and heat mats for indoor seed-starting. I did some plastic containers trying the “winter sowing” method, although that seems like a technique that is pointless where I live, since seed stratification, where certain seeds need a period of cold temperatures, isn’t a process that’s going to occur here. I could be wrong. However, I’ve got 5 containers sitting outside with seeds (winter sowing) already sprouted and growing.

Long ago, when I was new to living in the Deep South, I was determined to have tulips in my flower bed in the spring. I tried for years and gave up. I tried storing my bulbs in a paper bag in the fridge in the winter, before planting the bulbs, which was a technique I read about in more than one southern gardening book. That still didn’t lead to tulip success. A few years critters dug up my bulbs and ate them.

Stores do sell blooming tulips here in the springtime, so if I feel some desperate longing for tulips in the spring at some point, I will buy one pot and put it on my kitchen table to enjoy. I realized that continually spending money on tulip bulbs, that are not well-suited to my climate, is a waste, when I could spend that money on many other vegetables or flowers that thrive here.

Being flexible and willing to adjust, as things aren’t going as I hoped or dreamed, has taken me years to develop. At the same time, just quitting and giving up is not the same as learning to adjust and adapt my plans and expectations, especially when facing failure. The hardest thing for me to learn though was that even though my original dreams and big ideas may never materialize, I often realize as I fail over and over, get frustrated, buckle down and try other options, that I gain more from the failures and getting back up to try again, than if I had achieved my dreams easily.

It’s the journey and the lessons learned along the way that matter most.

I still intend to eventually build several raised beds beyond these two, but also I’ve already filled two large, deep rectangular planters with potting soil and planted kale, spinach, radishes and carrots and all but the carrots have sprouted and are growing. I also filled a large round planter that I had in the shed and planted mixed lettuce for salad greens and that’s already sprouted too. I have these on my patio, but might move the lettuce into the sunroom to prevent rabbits from mowing it down.

The high price of materials has made me rethink and readjust my gardening plans already. I bought the materials for two raised beds, but I’m also going to try some economical container gardening options this spring rather than the many raised beds I initially dreamed of.

I like options and although I wish I was as self-reliant as my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, I am definitely not. They often didn’t have options and had to make do, under very adverse circumstances, with very little means and what they had.

Along with loving to read history and studying genealogy, I’ve always been fascinated with how ordinary people lived their everyday lives in different times. I wonder about their homes, how they cooked food, how they stayed warm, what kind of clothes they wore, etc. Before the internet, I often read books I found at the library devoted to these topics. I even found a book one time about water in everyday life throughout history, that explored all the fetching and carrying water for everyday life before modern plumbing.

The Pilgrims homes were around 800 square feet and one room. In the 1800s, the typical log cabin was between 12 to 16 feet square, one room and no windows.

Schoolchildren are often taught that President Abraham Lincoln was born in a backwoods cabin. He grew up living in poverty, but he never let that stand in his way to learning things he felt were important. Lincoln is remembered as one of our most eloquent presidents and he wrote his own most famous speeches, including The Gettysburg Address, which set forth an aspirational message of unity for an America torn apart by civil war.

Here’s a memorable quote from The Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

My favorite President Lincoln story I found in a book, The Eloquent President, by Ronald C. White, Jr. White wrote about how Lincoln as a young man diligently worked to improve his mastery of the English language:

“When Lincoln moved to New Salem he made the decision to master the English language by an intense study of grammar.  While living in New Salem, Lincoln heard that a farmer, John Vance, owned a copy of Samuel Kirkham’s English Grammar.  Lincoln walked six miles to get it.  He was twenty-three years old.” (pages 102-103)

What are you willing to walk six miles for?

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Cordage: A Very Useful Prepper Supply

This blog post is going to be about prepping, in a roundabout way. Years ago I took an interest in kumihimo when I worked at Walmart as the department manager of the fabrics and crafts department. Around stores you often see merchandise, mostly impulse purchase items, hanging from plastic strips, which we called clip strips. We had a clip strip of small, round foam kumihimo looms, that cost a few dollars. I kept looking at these looms, because I knew nothing about kumihimo. So of course I bought one, because who can pass up learning another craft or needlework technique, right?

There are crafters who make beautiful beaded kumihimo jewelry, but with my ever-growing list of crafts and needlework hobbies, I just learned how to do a few different braids, using various types of embroidery floss and yarn. I haven’t really gotten into kumihimo, but I’m glad I learned a few simple braids. Please excuse my terrible photography, but here’s the foam kumihimo loom with a few of the braids I made.

In my last blog post Sensible Prepper mentioned how it’s good to have how-to books, in case of, for instance, the power goes out or the internet’s down. He also mentioned how it’s good to have cordage, like paracord.

Cordage has been something that’s interested me for years. When I make small counted cross stitch projects, often I need to make a hanger out of embroidery floss to hang the finished piece and the most common finishing instruction is to use a technique of twisting 6-strand embroidery floss, which I’ve done for over 40 years, but then I saw a needleworker online recommend a cordmaker, that looks similar to a fishing reel. You can make yards of twisted cord in only a few minutes. I bought a cord maker, but haven’t used it yet. I will use it eventually, because I have several cross-stitched Christmas ornaments done and need to finish them into ornaments and they’ll need hangers.

Both the cheap foam kumihimo loom and this cord maker could be useful at making rope and cordage for more utilitarian purposes, I think, if you couldn’t buy any at the store. Even if you don’t have a ton of craft and needlework supplies like me, it’s simple to take apart a piece of old clothes, like a sweater and reuse that yarn or to even cut thin strips out of all sorts of materials – like an old bed sheet or t-shirt or even try cutting strips from black trash bags and making cordage in a pinch.

If you are a prepper and you don’t watch Townsends, I highly recommend their YouTube channel. They do a lot of 18th century cooking there, but so much more than that, as they explore early American life. They built a cabin, they have someone who does blacksmith work like they would have in 18th century America – to include making their own nails. A few years ago they had a guest, Dan from Coalcracker Bushcraft, which is located in the Appalachian Mountains of PA and part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the Pocono Mountains, not far from my childhood home. Dan showed how to make cordage from tree bark using a simple twisting technique:

One of my favorite YouTube homesteaders is Patara at Appalachia’s Homestead. She’s feisty and opinionated like me, so even when I disagree with her about something, I know her heart’s in the right place from watching a lot of her other videos. She did a video a few days ago with her husband, James, who is very quiet, but in this video he talked more. They both came up with their own general category type lists of prepper supplies to think about having and I found it interesting how different their lists were. James thinks outside the box. He’s like me, with his “well, I could take this and repurpose it to do X, Y, Z type thinking.” At minute 16:52, James lists twine and string and I was sitting here, going, “YES!” Patara’s facial expression cracked me up, but hey, I’m on Team James with the twine and string, but I’d add ropes, fishing line, various strength threads and needles, like having curved needles to repair heavier materials and leather needles. A pack of homecraft or home repair needles is a good thing to have or several, because often when working using heavier materials, I’ve had to use pliers to pull the needle through and I’ve had needles break.

A lot of preppers have mentioned acquiring reference and how-to books. I’ve got a whole bunch, even an old Yankee Magazine book on olden days stuff, that explains everything from how to make your own paint from scratch to how to manage a small woodlot. With cordage in mind, years ago I picked up this book on knots and ropework, thinking it would be good to learn some of these knots sometime.

Learning as many skills as you can really matters as much as stockpiling supplies, I think. A few years ago I came across this interesting effort by some crafty people to cut plastic shopping bags in strips and turn them into “plarn,” a plastic yarn of sorts, which they make into mats to donate to homeless people.

Back in the 1970s, my great-grandmother saw some crochet project in her Workbasket magazine, using plastic bread wrappers to crochet rugs, so this “plarn” sleeping mat idea isn’t new. I remember those bread wrapper rugs, because everyone in the family was saving bread wrappers for her to crochet those rugs and also, because I found the rugs fascinating and my mother was not impressed with them, lol.

Before I end this long string (or yarn)… there’s a bad pun there, about cordage, I’m going to add this link to a YouTube channel devoted to rag rugs. Erin Halvorsen is absolutely the queen of rag rugs and has loads of information and tutorials on her channel of how to create your strips for various rag rugs to step-by-step instructions on how to make the rugs. Erin has loads of videos preserving many unusual and old-fashioned techniques. In this video she makes a unique twine rag rug, where she shows you how to make the twine, using a similar twisting technique as the cordage from bark that Coalcracker Bushcraft used in the Townsends video, then she crochets the rug together:

I hope I’ve “tied” together all of these interesting ways with creating and using cordage and I hope that more people start learning to “shop” their home first before rushing out to buy more prepper supplies.

Have a great day!

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