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Well, here comes the sun…

This is a very good explainer about solar cooking from The Provident Prepper channel:

The thing I like about their channel is they focus on practical solutions and they actually do a lot of trial and error experimenting in their own home with whatever preparedness topic they’re discussing. They show you what worked for them and what didn’t. I highly recommend their book, The Provident Prepper: A Common-Sense Guide to Preparing for Emergencies, which is available on Amazon. I realized that when I looked to get the link to add to this post, that I only have the kindle version, so I went ahead and ordered the paperback format. This is definitely one book that I want a hard copy in my home library.

Now to end this post on a sunny note, here’s a Beatles classic – one of my favorites:

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Here’s where to start on the road to preparedness

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Same old problems, same old results

Here’s a paragraph that fits what’s happening today perfectly, except it’s from 1970:

In early 1970, as a result of heightened public concerns about deteriorating city air, natural areas littered with debris, and urban water supplies contaminated with dangerous impurities, President Richard Nixon presented the House and Senate a groundbreaking 37-point message on the environment.  These points included:

  • requesting four billion dollars for the improvement of water treatment facilities;
  • asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions;
  • launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution;
  • ordering a clean-up of federal facilities that had fouled air and water;
  • seeking legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes;
  • proposing a tax on lead additives in gasoline;
  • forwarding to Congress a plan to tighten safeguards on the seaborne transportation of oil; and
  • approving a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of oil spills.

Of course, over the years many conservatives, myself included, have bashed the EPA for government overreach, but now one serious train derailment in a small OH town, has turned much of the right-wing media ecosystem into raging environmentalists. This politicization of everything, even has created a conservative media pushing an anti-windmill agenda (anti-green) and includes a right-wing “Save the Whales” media effort now. The assertion is off-shore windmills are killing whales. I have no idea about whale deaths, if there’s an increase and if there is an increase, what’s causing it. I’m speaking about the media hoopla that gets people riled up. I only wonder how long it will be before these new right-wing “environmentalists” create their own child-saint, like Greta Thunberg.

I was a conservationist, who believed in protecting water, wildlife and air long before the climate change type environmentalism took hold. I still believe we should try to be good caretakers of our planet, but the extremism that took hold in a lot of the environmentalism movement sounds more like politics than conservation. And that’s what I think this right-wing anti-windmill concern about whales is about and what a lot of the media hysteria about the train derailment in East Palestine, OH is about. It’s politics.

It’s really easy to spout off about the federal government and President Biden are trying to kill you, just like it was easy for the left to do that about President Trump. None of the, “I’m so angry stuff,” changes anything really or improves anything in America.

In Washington, a huge problem is accountability with how federal money gets spent and a follow-through to keep track of where all that money goes and to monitor if those funds actually fix any of the problems the funds were supposed to fix. My father was complaining about the dangerous state of American bridges all the way back in the 1980s. He passed away in 2000 and here we are in 2023 and the bridges in America are still in a dangerous state of disrepair. This same thing goes for rail travel and a lot of critical infrastructure in America.

The EPA has done a lot of work on cleaning up Superfund sites and frankly some of those sites will likely remain hazardous for the foreseeable future, due to the level of contamination and there is no way to undo all of the environmental impact from decades of hazardous waste polluting our air, water, and soil.

Instead of Americans taking sides when there’s a situation that impacts citizens, regardless of their politics, it would be nice to try to find ways to work together and find solutions rather than all the effort to score political points. If you truly believe that Democrats want you dead or that “MAGA Republicans” want you dead, then I really wonder how many people on “the other side” you talk to or know, because I honestly believe most Americans are good and decent people, who will try to help others in need and not even care if they’re D or R. I refuse to believe most Americans buy into this Red vs. Blue drama and I also believe most of that type of political extremism is generated and amplified online, especially in the news media and on social media.

I am not a social media “influencer.” I’m just a 62 year-old lady, who writes a blog, but geesh, my hope is that more Americans start tuning out the media and online partisan extremism and 24/7 incitement.

In OH, I expect dealing with the aftermath of these hazardous chemicals will take a long time – long after the raging media and social media crowd have moved on to some other hot topic to rant about. I truly hope the EPA, state and federal officials and the rail company live up to their commitments about being there for the long haul with this disaster.

Here’s a tweet with a link to a news article on the preliminary NTSB report on the OH train derailment in East Palestine:

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More right-wing media crazytown

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.

-Abraham Lincoln

I’ve had company visiting, so haven’t had time to write a blog post or follow the news closely, but here’s a short catch-up post. I did catch FOX News a bit in the past week and some news online. Frankly, the narrative FOX News and a lot of the right-wing media ecosystem have amplified is as filled with selling victimhood and wild conspiracy theories as the BLM movement, where every situation involving a black person and the police is ramped up to incite anger, rage and most of all sell victimhood.

As I’ve seen videos and watched news hyping that somehow the blue collar white people in East Palestine, OH are being abandoned, because they’re Trump supporters, well, it’s the same type of political messaging that BLM sells to black people. I watched a FOX News reporter talk to a resident of East Palestine, OH the other day to hype the “nothing is being done” and “these people have been abandoned” storyline. This resident was telling the reporter about her fears about her well water and how no one has come around to offer help.

Frankly, this ticked me off, because the truth is from the beginning the local news affiliates for that area and at all the press briefings they’ve been plastering the media with phone numbers to call, if you have concerns. The authorities have been urging residents to get their private wells tested and they have repeated these numbers to call and schedule for free testing. They also have pick-up locations for free bottled water to drink until the well water is tested. I am not angry at the resident, who said no one has come to her door to offer help, I was angry at the FOX News reporter, who didn’t tell this lady that free well testing is available and the number to call for help. – or put it on the FOX News screen during this primetime report. In fact, the FOX News coverage I’ve seen has not had these phone numbers up, like with Tucker or Hannity or Ingraham or Jesse Waters, as they hyped the conspiracy theories and the line about how this situation is like Chernobyl. It’s not even close to Chernobyl. It is serious, because toxic chemical spills are hazardous and there were several different dangerous chemicals released in this large train derailment.

However, in regards to this resident, if I was really concerned about a hazardous situation in my neighborhood, I would be gathering as much information as I could and I certainly would have been calling these hotline numbers, calling my elected officials and been trying to proactively get information and deal with the situation. I wouldn’t be sitting there saying – no one came to my door to help me. THIS is the American learned helplessness attitude that has frustrated me for years and it exists all across America – and it cuts across racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines.

Of course, the Biden administration, especially the Dept. of Transportation, has done a terrible job handling this situation, especially their public relations. Certainly, there are valid concerns with decisions that were made, but to say no one did anything isn’t true. 70 different state and federal agencies were on the ground working to deal with this emergency from the beginning. And the thing is often the people ranting about how nothing was done, have no specific actions they can list of what they need or what can be done in a hazardous waste situation and they have no interest in listening to what has been done or can be done. It’s easier to go with this right-wing conspiracy theory that the federal government isn’t helping East Palestine, because they’re Trump supporters and to ramp up the fear and hysteria.

In other news, I saw Tucker Carlson announce some protest march against supporting Ukraine that will be held in Washington DC. And I saw Marjorie Taylor Greene is hyping that America needs a divorce – splitting our country into red and blue America again. This brainstorm circulated in the right-wing pundit circles about a year ago. The people on the right selling this are as divisive and destructive to keeping the United States of America united, as the far-left radicals, who want to destroy America. Selling this “national divorce” idea is appalling and the people selling it aren’t patriotic heroes or doing anything that will help America remain a strong and prosperous nation – or even a functioning one. These people selling this are about tearing America down – PERIOD. People who sell that kind of idea aren’t going to be leaders to make America great or prosperous – they’re wrecking balls.

That’s my two-cents for today. I will write a blog post of some prepping things I learned following this OH derailment, the emergency evacuation and aftermath.

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Messaging battles surround us

I watched this video from a small YouTube prepper channel this morning and think this lady, Cynthia, did a good job presenting information on propaganda. She appears to have a lot of notes and took time to put this together. I wish she had listed some of the resources she used, besides her old dictionary and the Orwell novel, 1984, because she had some very interesting information that I’d like to read.

She mentioned the marginalization of the alternative media and dissenting voices and persecution of independent journalists (beginning at 2:02). I’ve seen plenty of that from both partisan sides in America (from ranting about fake news on one side to Twitter banning journalists on the other side.)

I’ve been distrustful of government always, likewise the media and whenever I hear a new message, my bs radar kicks into gear. I’ve probably written more on my blog about the spin information war blazing across American media than any other topic. I don’t know anything about the lady in this video, but I appreciate that she took the time to do some research, take notes and present this information in an orderly manner. Perhaps, I can learn some lessons from that, since I tend to ramble on.

In my rambling blog post yesterday, I wrote that I’m not wasting time trying to prove the government’s lying about the inflation rate and I’m not. That’s because I assume the Biden officials are lying about just about everything they tell us ( I thought the same thing about the Trump administration too.) Ditto, for Obama, GWB, Clinton (who lied non-stop). Even a president I admired a great deal, President Reagan, had some disgraceful lying to the American people with his administration. Seems to be par for the course

It doesn’t matter if the federal government inflation rate formula comes out to 6.5% (this is the site I used by looking at 80,000 consumer goods across the country, because where I live in GA we have three major grocery store chains in my town – a Kroger, Walmart, and Food Lion. There are some dollar type stores too. I also use a nearby military commissary sometimes. On the items I buy at the grocery store, many of them store brand, prices have gone up way more than 6.5%. Even the $1 French and Italian bread that Walmart’s bakery has been selling for years is now $1.47, which is a 47% increase. Dollar Tree upped their prices from $1 to $1.25, which is a 25% increase. In my example of the Walmart bread though, the loaves marked down for quick sale were $1.03 and that’s more than the fresh loaves used to cost. The Great Value brand canned vegetables, 14.5 ounces, used to be 50 cents and they’re now 58 cents – that’s a 16% increase, according to the percentage calculator site I am using.

My math skills are lamentable, so I rely on calculators and sites that do it for me. However, the bottom-line is I know the cost of the items I routinely purchase has increased significantly more than 6.5%. The lady in this video is way more organized than I am, because she said she writes the price she paid on her canned goods and other grocery items, along with the date, so at a glance she can compare previous prices she paid for items. Her advice on taking screenshots and printing out information you want to keep is excellent too, because I’ve lost information on my computer numerous times and information often does get scrubbed online. I’ve seen news articles altered in real time or disappear completely. For this same reason, I switched back to buying actual paper books, because the e-books could disappear too or if there’s some issue with the internet, be hard to access.

Even Merriam-Webster online has changed definitions of words in the midst of liberal propaganda efforts to align the definitions with that propaganda effort. None of us has the time to keep track of all of this, so for me I’ve always believed it’s important to know what my core beliefs are and dig in my heels on those.

Often the messaging does use children or victims to pull at our heartstrings.

She mentioned agendas and how money can corrupt people. I continue to write my blog for personal reasons. I do not make a cent from it and I prefer to keep it this way. In fact, I pay WordPress annually for my blog and domain name. My blog has never attracted many readers (147 at present) and my Twitter account followers is under 60, but I keep writing mostly into the wind, but I sincerely thank those who take time to stop by.

I often hear people say, “I only listen to this pundit or this news source.” or “I only listen to this content creator or that content creator.” I don’t trust any one source, actually and I look for corroboration, more details, background information. Most people don’t have time to do a lot of research, I understand, but it’s a good habit to get into to work not to react to media and social media messaging and follow the advice this lady offered.

When I see information intended to anger me, scare me, or get me worked up, I think this lady is on target to say ask a lot of questions, like who is paying for this message, what’s their agenda and I always try to figure out “Where is this messaging trying to lead me?” Often it’s to accept some new words and phrases, political cause or agenda or redefine common accepted meanings (see the gender politics words games as an example).

Once again, I think this was a well done video and worth watching. It was refreshing to see an ordinary American citizen do some research and then put in the time to put together information with notes. I watched this lady’s YouTube channel during the hurricane last summer in FL, because she’s in that area of the country.

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A long-winded ramble, again

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is how there’s so much online social media noise about “a total collapse is coming” and endless lists and advice on how to prepare for that catastrophic event. The thing is a total collapse could be a long process, with periods of accelerated economic chaos and years of lulls, it could be a rapid “collapse” or a total collapse might not happen at all. I prefer to look at a range of potential circumstances from less dramatic to the worst case, then I look at my resources, my skill level, how much time I have to invest in various options. Most people have a very finite amount of resources, skills and time to put into increasing their preparedness level. As inflation has increased our money, a key resource in buying more supplies, has less and less buying power.

If you decide to short-change on the much more likely emergency type situations and opt to put all of your money and time into prepping for the most extreme situations, you could come up short on being prepared for the much more likely emergencies. I’m not talking about basic items, like food and water, here, but about things like special gear and equipment for some worst case SHTF type events or trying to invest in too many projects that you have no experience at doing or a realistic understanding of the costs involved with those projects..

For instance, I’m not investing any money into supplies for some specific doomsday type scenarios items, like buying a hazmat suit or gas mask, when there are dozens of home repair and other items that should be done in my home or that will likely serve me better in the much more likely bad weather events that regularly hit my area. Likewise, I’m not making rash money decisions, like pulling all my money out of the bank, based on online hysteria. I’m not going to sacrifice being prepared for much more likely emergencies and focus on only worst case scenarios. A storm damaging my home is more likely than a complete collapse of the economy, so having adequate insurance on my home and personal property seems more important than some of the items on doomsday prepping lists I’ve seen. Everyone has to weigh how much money they have and then decide how they’re going to use it. For me, I assess having a jack and spare tire is likely going to be more useful than carrying around a Geiger counter – that’s what I mean about making risk assessments – it’s very personal choices. Finding some balance can be hard, because most people who focus on preparedness want to be prepared for everything.

Every financial news report I’ve seen predicts a worsening economic situation for 2023 with more shortages and higher inflation. How we go about preparing should be geared toward our individual needs and situation. I got to thinking about this after seeing more “You will need this to survive” lists online.

That got me thinking about the amount of “how-to” content online I browse through to learn various things. My Pinterest account has over 14,000 links pinned. Pinterest replaced the old days of my clipping magazine articles and recipes. Often I look at several recipes of the same dish to find one that I decide to try. YouTube advice is like that too, I consider a lot of ideas and discard way more than I decide to try. With the preparedness advice, I have to work harder to tune out the hysteria and a lot of advice that might be well-meaning, but it’s just not advice I agree with or that fits my life. I am not rushing out to stock up on another list of items someone online is warning is vital for my survival when the collapse happens. I’ll think about what I have, what I use, my budget, and even what supply issues I’m seeing in my own local stores or with shopping online.

I’m also not interested in proving the government’s lying about the inflation numbers, because I googled how the government comes up with the inflation rate and it’s a bit complicated (and convoluted). They analyze the prices of over 80,000 consumer goods across the country and then use some other data to arrive at the inflation rate. So, if I keep lists of a few dozen items I buy and come up with the inflation rate on my stuff, that doesn’t mean anything really. It’s a different methodology than the government uses and I certainly don’t want to analyze the prices of 80,000 consumer goods or figure out their methodology.

I’ll just assume whoever’s in the WH is going to use all kinds of word games (lies) and use bits of data to try to paint a happy face on the economic situation. I’m not organized enough or smart enough at math and data analysis to try to keep track of America’s economy. I try to loosely keep track of prices in my area and where I shop online and try to figure out my shopping list from that. Lately, the cat food aisle where I usually shop looks like the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, so stocking up more cat food (and dog food too) has been a priority. I googled “cat food shortage” and read a few news articles on the cat food shortage situation, so it’s not just my local store. Yesterday, I noticed in my local Walmart that the price of the French and Italian bread, their bakery has sold for $1 for years, is now $1.47. Even the loaves marked down for quick sale were $1.03. At the rate things are going I might need a goose that lays golden eggs to even afford a dozen chicken eggs.

Great sale items might be a “great deal” for other people, but might not be for me. I watched a video the other day where the lady talked about purchasing 100 avocados for 25 cents each and she made guacamole with them, put it in ziploc bags, and froze it. She said she has a year’s worth of guacamole for her family. That might be a great savings for her, but for someone else spending $25 of their food budget on a snack item might not be a smart move. Always cover the basics first, is important I think. I shop so I have basic ingredients for meals first. This reminded me of the couponing phases I went through over the years, purchasing a lot of snack and convenience food using coupons and that stuff just sat in my pantry. My husband asked me why I was buying so much weird junk food that even the kids didn’t touch. I learned to keep to what my family eats, including snacks and trying new snack items with one box or bag, to see if my family liked it. With avocados, I have purchased several at a time before, cut them up, sprinkled lime juice on them, to freeze in small bags that I can pull out and use easily. Perhaps, $5 worth of 25 cent avocados would work better for me than 100. Finding what fits you is more economical than buying foods you don’t like, don’t know how to use, or take too big of a chunk out of your food budget.

I like having mostly basic ingredients that I can use to prepare a variety of dishes and less quick meal packaged items. Avoiding trendy foods has taken me time to learn. For instance, I don’t like the texture or taste of quinoa, so I’m not stocking up on that. One of my daughters told me that if it was prepared properly I would like quinoa. I followed the instructions to the letter and I don’t like it. I also don’t care one iota about “ancient grains,” so I’m skipping those too. I don’t get excited about non-GMO, organic, or any of these other trendy terms that food manufacturers and the health food industry sell. I read labels, and try to stick to items with short ingredient lists, that I know what they are, not chemical-type names that I have no clue what it even is. I grew up when we were being sold the lie of margarine as a healthier choice than butter. If all these terms are important to you, have at it. All I can say is that if food shortage situations do get worse, a lot of us will have to get used to being less fussy and use what we can find.

Next thing I want to mention is herbal remedies and prescription medications. I recently ran into an out-of-stock issue with one of my prescription medications and had to work with my primary care doctor to get it worked out. Considering the US imports so much medication from China, shortages could become an increasing problem, so trying to stock up as much as you can is prudent. That’s going to vary with your medical insurance. I can get a 90-day supply at a time of my prescriptions medications. I’ve also been learning more about medicinal herbs.

I’ve been very interested in herbal remedies since I was a kid, but with taking prescription medications, I talk to my primary care doctor and consider his advice. I keep him informed of what herbal supplements I take. I grew up with some older relatives who were proponents of PA Dutch Powwow medicine (an odd combination of herbal and faith-healing.) My mother was a RN and she was a modern medicine person. I kind of stick my toes in both worlds. I recommend doing a lot of research about what the chemical properties in various herbs are that are purported to have health benefits, research into those claims and also check out warnings about various herbal remedies and certain medical conditions or by mixing some herbal remedies with some prescription medications.

Many herbal remedies do work, but for many there’s no research to back up the claims. For instance, cinnamon has been mentioned as helping to control blood sugar and often now it’s sold by the over-the-counter diabetes type supplies in pharmacies. However, the Mayo Clinic states the research is inclusive and advises caution on high doses for people with liver disease. We all have to make our own decisions, but trying to gather information from both herbal medicine and traditional medicine sites, plus talking to my doctor, is how I go about making a decision. I try to use more cinnamon in my diet, but cinnamon capsules sold as a supplement upset my stomach, so I opted for that approach. Even if the medicinal claims don’t pan out, cinnamon tastes wonderful in many dishes.

Just because my grandmother did it doesn’t mean it was the best thing. My maternal grandmother believed in PA Dutch Powwow medicine, but she also kept every packet of pills the doctor ever prescribed for her in her large purse. She wouldn’t throw any of it out, because she “paid good money for it,” despite all my mother’s pleading with her that pills don’t’ stay good forever. Yes, it’s good to learn as many medical skills as you can and also alternative medicine too, because we just might need them, in an emergency or if some major chaos happens. However, there’s a tendency by a lot of people, especially people embracing old-fashioned living, to romanticize what our ancestors did and discard modern science completely Some of the old medical treatments worked, but many are scary and dangerous.

I have known many people who mix up their own potions and syrups, and remedies. My paternal great-grandmother cooked up a very effective drawing salve that she used on her farm animals she told me, but it also worked on human cuts and scrapes. She also had some home remedies that were a bit questionable. A lot of home remedies for coughs and colds, teething, etc. contain a lot of alcohol. Some people are okay with rubbing whiskey on babies gums or giving small children shots of high-proof cough syrups, but it wasn’t for me. For instance, laudanum, a tincture of opium mixed with alcohol, was widely used and abused in the 19th century. Laudanum was routinely used for pain and a variety of ailments. Many things touted as alternative medicine or health/natural remedies become fads, so I tread cautiously with the health remedies getting the most buzz in pop culture and online. And yes, it goes without saying there have been alarming lapses in safety testing of many prescription medications and preventative measures too, so it’s best to do some research and ask a lot of questions. My mother kept a copy of the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) that she turned to often to check out drug information. Now, we have the internet where we can find all sorts of studies and information ourselves. With the natural remedies vs. modern medicine, I think usually when medical situations go horribly wrong or it’s a life-threatening medical emergency, most people aren’t going to go off into the woods to find an expert on home remedies or call granny, they’re likely going to go to a modern medical center for help or call 911, if they can. I am a cancer survivor and I am thankful for the modern medicine that saved my life.

Do what works for you, but we should all try to be open to new information too and be prepared for the more common emergencies rather than fixate on only the most extreme scenarios. If you believe everything is doomed, you’re hunkering down and talking yourself into a bunker mentality. If you believe everything is doomed, you’re also not likely to put much effort into fixing things or trying to make things work – it’s all about giving up on America and saying it’s a lost cause. I just can’t buy into that.

Update 1/12/2023: I just wanted to add this since we’re only in January of this year and today I encountered the second prescription medication out-of-stock issue on another medication I regularly take. I’ll have to work with my primary care doctor to work something out.

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Rough seas on the horizon

Well, it’s that time of the year, where people write and blab about the year that was or the new year we’re about to enter. This blog post will straddle the fence between the two. As long as I’ve been writing this blog (since Dec. 2012), with the New Year I’ve often written about how I was intending to shift my blog away from the partisan politics and more toward writing about history and things that really matter. Closing out this year I’ve been thinking about the winter storm that brought Arctic temperatures to a large part of the US and dumped several feet of snow on Buffalo, NY and not partisan politics. How we, in our daily lives, interact with our family, friends, and in our communities matters more than all the political drama that consumes news media and social media.While it’s important to think of particular items to stock up on or skills to have in order to survive a cold weather emergency situation, what’s fascinated me with the stories coming out of Buffalo and around the country has been how some people showed the very best of human nature, helping a stranger or even a group of strangers, while some showed the worst of human nature, like a convenience store clerk, who, with temps in the 20s, doused a homeless woman in the parking lot with a bucket of water. She was trying to get the homeless woman to leave the parking lot of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, LA.

In 2023, my blog will likely continue to be a hodgepodge of politics, a dash of history, random commentary based on what’s on my mind, and emergency preparedness. Since, I’m big on collecting sayings, above, is my fortune cookie in last night’s Chinese takeout. It seems about as profound as anything I can come up with, as a thought sailing into 2023. Let’s all resolve to keep smiling and keep our chins up… and maybe have a lifeboat, a life preserver vest, and learn to swim, along with learning to sail… Sure looks like we’ve got some rough seas on the horizon.

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Don’t discount the weeds

Since I’ve been rambling on about politics too much again, it’s time to get away from that. I stopped watching TV almost completely several years ago and I’ve never gotten into the streaming services. Instead, I began watching more YouTube videos. It’s very odd that I made this transition. I thought reality TV was total garbage from its inception and YouTube is filled with videos made by content-creators, mostly with no professional experience at media, but I’ve found that I enjoy the amateurish quality (reality) with all sorts of videos, including many crafting, needlework, frugal-living, and homesteading channels.

Last week, while watching a homesteading video, the husband narrated most of the video, but for a few minutes the wife discussed her homeschooling ideas and she mentioned a nature journaling project she’s planned and that her daughter was excited about. She held up the book pictured above. Her few minutes uplifted me and made me feel a flash of hopefulness for the future. Here was a young mother, homeschooling her daughter and putting together a nature journaling adventure. I found she had been captivated by Edith Holden’s nature journal for a long time, just like me. I found another video by this young mother from 5 years ago, where she talked about starting a nature journal. She showed a flower press her husband made for her. It’s reassuring to see young people, who just set out and try to learn new skills and make things, using simple supplies or things they have around the house.

About 5 years ago, I bought that very same Edith Holden book, when I was learning how to make junk journals. I saw numerous videos where pages of this Edith Holden book were used in junk journals, so I bought this book on amazon – used, in very good condition, for $3. Junk journaling is a free-spirited move away from the commercialized scrapbooking of a few decades ago, where you can make your own books and journals using all sorts of materials, including, old books, junk papers, pages from books, old greeting cards, scrapbook paper, and even envelopes. I discovered junk journaling on YouTube and it opened the door to another crafting adventure for me. I’ve made numerous junk journals, but haven’t had the heart to tear any pages out of my copy. I prefer to draw inspiration from and cherish the entire book.

Edith Holden was an English artist and art teacher at a girl’s school, who also worked as an illustrator for some nature publications and children’s books, according to her Wikipedia bio. This book contains absolutely beautiful sketches and watercolors of plants and animals, along with nature notes, poetry and quotes. In 1906, she created this diary as a model for her students. She died in 1920, but this diary, left to family, wasn’t’ published until 1977.

While many people associate nature-journaling and watercolor painting as some hobby of British upper-class ladies, drawing and sketching were actually very important skills before photography existed. People couldn’t just pull out a cell-phone and snap a photo or google things for information.

The British military also taught military officers watercolor painting, as part of keeping ship’s records of where they travelled. The entire idea of drawing pictures of nature was very important in early America too, as colonists set out to learn about this new land.

From 1804-1806, Lewis and Clark were sent by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the new land America acquired after the Louisiana Purchase. They did not have an artist on their expedition, so between the two men, they filled 18 small notebooks with details, maps they created, and illustrations they drew. Neither was a trained artist. Here’s a link where you can read their journals and look at their maps and illustrations. The Lewis and Clark Expedition is one of the most fascinating adventure stories in American history. President Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery in 1803 and he picked Captain Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedition and William Clark, another officer, was the second in command. Lewis was an Army officer, but he had no formal education until he was 13 years old according to his Wikipedia bio. President Jefferson set about making preparations for this expedition, which included extensive training for Lewis:

“In 1803, Jefferson sent Lewis to Philadelphia to study medicinal cures under Benjamin Rush, a physician and humanitarian. He also arranged for Lewis to be further educated by Andrew Ellicott, an astronomer who instructed him in the use of the sextant and other navigational instruments.[28][29] From Benjamin Smith Barton, Lewis learned how to describe and preserve plant and animal specimens, from Robert Patterson refinements in computing latitude and longitude, while Caspar Wistar covered fossils, and the search for possible living remnants.[30][31] Lewis, however, was not ignorant of science and had demonstrated a marked capacity to learn, especially with Jefferson as his teacher. At Monticello, Jefferson possessed an enormous library on the subject of the geography of the North American continent, and Lewis had full access to it. He spent time consulting maps and books and conferring with Jefferson.[32]

Several years ago there was a hobby that took off called “geocaching,” but the real-deal caching was a matter of life and death, not fun and games like geocaching. During the Lewis and Clark expedition “caching pits” were dug and used to store supplies and it required skilled trackers to relocate those caches in the uncharted wilderness. Truly, the Lewis and Clark journals are something every prepper should take a look at, because it’s amazing the things you can learn from their grueling journey.

Ulysses S. Grant, the famous Civil War general and US president, was also an artist. He began watercolor painting as a young man and studied art while a cadet at West Point. Grant was known for being a rough and tough general, but he was also an accomplished watercolor artist

My road to actually making junk journals started as a child, when I created scrapbooks and journals, often cutting pictures out of old magazines, pressing flowers, and using found items around my home. Back then, I didn’t think about needing certain supplies or having to follow certain rules. Like most kids, I just set off and explored new things. Some worked, some didn’t, but I felt a sense of joy and enthusiasm that can fade as you grow older and start thinking you need to use certain supplies when doing things. Scrapbooking became a popular craft a few decades ago, with mountains of “must-have” supplies being touted and sold. I have a lot of those supplies still, but I didn’t enjoy that structured way of scrapbooking

While battling cancer in 2003-2004, I purchased several books on making handmade books and it made me feel hopeful, but I didn’t feel confident enough to start making my own handmade books. That inspiration came after coming across a junk journaling video on YouTube, then realizing there was an entire junk journaling community there. As I watched more channels, I realized some were skilled artists, others brand new crafters, but what I loved was absorbing all these ideas and beginning to feel, “Well, I could do that too!” That’s what inspiration is – when you move from letting doubts hold you back, to actually taking those first steps setting out on a new path. Inspiration can come in many forms, from faith, from the beauty of nature, from poetry, books, art, but it can also come from ordinary people cheerfully showing how they’re doing something that you’ve thought about, but weren’t sure how to go about it.

The junk journal on the right remains one of my favorite junk journals, even though neither is some stunning journal or remotely art. I made these from old books, using old calendar pages as the pictures on the covers. Inside each book I added all sorts of junk, from old cards and post cards, to even labels from packages:

Amidst all the media noise our modern life is filled with, we can choose to work at unplugging a bit and really looking at the world around us.

Rather than focusing on all the bad things happening, even small things, like enjoying a beautiful sunset or spending a few minutes watching birds, or even admiring some small wildflowers growing in the crack of a sidewalk, might give you a moment’s peace or hope. You might not have any interest in nature journaling, but we can all benefit from the gifts of nature, that don’t cost a cent.

A.A. Milne, the English author of the Winnie-the-Poo books said, “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” Beauty can be found almost anywhere, if you open your eyes and look for it.

Have a nice day!

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Who’s the real fighter – Trump or Dems?

Here are two articles worth reading about this past election inner-workings. One is from the Daily Kos, New report reveals how Democrats conned Trump into picking terrible midterm candidates and the other from the Washington Post, How Trump, infighting and flawed candidates limited Republican gains

“Democrats saw exploiting individual Republican candidates as their best shot at victory — knowing the political environment was a difficult one.

“Our theory of the case from the beginning was we assumed that this was going to be a very tough election for us,” said Christie Roberts, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “We had to utterly discredit and disqualify our opponents.”

A former opposition researcher, Roberts had plotted the attack from early 2021, when she directed her committee to get involved, often in secretive ways, with Republican primaries across the country. In many cases, her work targeted an audience of one, Trump, who had the power to get a candidate through the primary with a simple endorsement.

The Democrats planted early stories about past criticism of Trump by former North Carolina governor Pat McCrory (R), aiming to push Trump to endorse someone less electable in the state’s Senate primary. (The successful nominee, Ted Budd, went on to win Tuesday.) They built up the idea in the press that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) might run for Senate, prompting Trump to lash out and make clear his opposition; Ducey passed on running.

They handed out other hit pieces against Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken and Pennsylvania Senate contender Dave McCormick, mining their old public comments for any criticism that might raise Trump’s ire. The committee even subscribed to a service that allowed for constant monitoring of right-wing radio, so divisions could be picked up early and amplified.

It was opposition research as psychological warfare, directed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and Bedminster, N.J., golf resort. During internal meetings at the DSCC in 2021, senior strategists spoke about creating a “summer of chaos” and a “fall of fighting” in the Republican Party.”

The Washington Post piece also details the Republican internal battles, inside Trump’s crowd at Mar-a-logo and Congress. When I mentioned Dems efforts to label Republicans as “MAGA extremists” as part of the Dem election strategy, that was before I read this article, but anyway, here it is is from the Washington Post:

“They described how Democratic efforts — to label Republicans “MAGA extremists,” elevate concerns of a tectonic abortion ruling by the Supreme Court and highlight threats to the democratic process embraced by GOP candidates — helped blunt overwhelming frustration with inflation and growing fears about crime. Exit polls conducted by AP VoteCast found 27 percent of voters cited abortion as the most important issue for their vote, compared to 31 percent who said inflation. Eleven percent of voters said crime was the most important, exactly the same share as said gun violence.”

And btw, Dem strategists and operatives had been working on this from early 2021. None of their spin operations are new, they’ve been perfecting turning their campaign operations into high-tech information warfare for decades. I didn’t just pull my assertions about the Dem spin information warfare stuff out of thin air – I’ve been following the Dem media spin operations closely since the 90s, as I’ve said many times on my blog. It may sound extreme to most Americans, but with Democrats it’s sophisticated, high-tech information warfare that’s all about trying to manipulate and dominating the mass media (battlefield), to drive and control public opinion in America. Dems really do want to control both politics and the media in America.

I encourage you to read both articles.

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What our future depends on: civic virtue

Today is Election Day in America, so I debated on whether to write a politics post or not. This is just a short post. My state has early voting, so I went and voted last week. There’s a straight, solid line connecting people who invest a lot of time in news and social media political drama every day and people on the left, who believe that either American democracy will end if their side loses control of Congress, and people on the right, who believe that if their side doesn’t win control of Congress our American republic is over. These same people seem very open to buying into wild conspiracy theories that cast “the other side” as evil, dangerous radicals, people who hate America, etc.

I realized that neither side of the media-driven political theater in America operates in good faith and took a step back from this, because the hysterical talking points may vary a bit between the two partisan camps and the media drama may tar “the other side” with different derogatory terms, but it’s all designed to get Americans angry and divide them. I’m determined not to hate anyone in my life and spending so much time worked up and angry isn’t good for anyone. Each day, I try to find things to be grateful for and find some rays of hope. You can find these inspirations almost anywhere. I came across one in a few seconds of a video I watched yesterday and am working on a blog post about that.

Yes, voting in one party that changes control of Congress or a state governor’s race may bring about very different policies and that’s why voting matters. In Washington, one party controlling both Congress and the White House can leave Americans who support different policies without any way to check one party rule. However, if you believe your party not controlling Congress or the White House spells the end of America, you’ve sure handed over America’s destiny to politicians and with over 330,000,000 Americans, that’s sure ignoring a whole lot of potential and American ingenuity. I prefer to have more faith in the American people than partisan politics.

A larger part of good citizenship in American than voting is civic virtue and that isn’t taught much anymore. We can all practice civic virtue by respecting other Americans views, being courteous to fellow citizens and teaching our children to respect other people’s right to have different views than our own. Unlike who wins elections today, our future really does depend on a culture where civic virtue is taught, expected, and practiced. I encourage everyone to vote, but please try not to get too caught up in the partisan drama and be respectful of everyone, regardless of their politics.

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