March 18th, 2020

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Hard Things

Life is full of things which are hard or tedious or otherwise unpleasant that need doing anyhow. They help make the world go 'round, they improve skills, and they boost your sense of self-respect. But doing them still kinda sucks. It's all the more difficult to do those things when nobody appreciates it. Happily, blogging allows us to share our accomplishments and pat each other on the back.

What are some of the hard things you've done recently? What are some hard things you haven't gotten to yet, but need to do? Is there anything your online friends could do to make your hard things a little easier?
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Managed Retreat

... managed badly, but at least Australia is trying.

If they want people to move with less of a battle, they need to offer incentives and compensation for the trouble. Just uprooting people is a bad strategy: a lot of wars have started over who gets to live where. They need to make sure that there are other, preferably similar in a safer place, homes that these residents can move into and enough funds to cover the cost of the move.

And then they need to look at the beach as habitat, its wildlife. Beach plants and animals are typically less mobile than humans. Can anything be done to protect what beach remains? For instance, many places used to have oyster reefs, mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, or other natural features for protection that were removed because people found them desirable and used them up or annoying and took them away. Restoring those can help. Could the beach simply be "rolled" inland as the water level changes? This would minimize the ecological damage compared to having little or no beach there.

Amazingly, here's a town in California that's doing it better. Marina keeps buildings back from the beach -- the at Fort Ord erode inland at a whopping 5 to 8 feet a year.  That is "get the fuck out of the way" speed.  O_O  But the town is united on how to handle the challenges by shifting things away from the gnawing edge.  I note that the population is substantially poor and predominantly nonwhite.  I bet that helps.
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Healthy Food

The FDA keeps fucking around with complicated rules, often ruling out perfectly good whole foods because they're high in this or that, and requiring every food or meal to fit within multiple limitations. Healthy food is the opposite of complicated.

Conversely, another complicating factor is that not everyone needs the same things. There are diets high and low in fat, carbohydrates, protein, calories; diets without meat, animal products, or whole families of plants; and so on. One standard cannot serve everyone.

There are some basic concepts, though...

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Pollution Can Cause Weight Gain

This study indicates that pollution can cause weight gain, even when diet is controlled. 

I am fascinated because I have seen several reports that everything  is getting fatter, not just humans; disturbingly, this included lab animals on rigidly controlled diets.  I was trying to think of things that might account for that, like antibiotics (which contribute to weight gain) permeating the biosphere.  If it's air pollution, well, that's everywhere, albeit in different amounts.  It would be interesting to record the levels of pollution and weight in different places and then compare to see how closely air pollution correlates with fat.  This finding invites a lot more research to explore how solid it is and how it works.

On the bright side, pollution is one of the more fixable problems we have.  There are many ways to fight it, from switching to green energy to filters and scrubbers to planting trees.  Individuals can also choose to move from a filthy city to a cleaner countryside.
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New Crowdfunding Project: Ascendant

This superhero game, Ascendant, posits that superpowers have just emerged.  The game engine looks very interesting.  It's one of the few I've seen with a challenge factor based on how many enemies a character can defeat, and it has a detailed comparison among ordinary humans, expert humans, and superhumans.  Also, they have a super-manatee, so extra credit for creativity and clearly these folks know how to think outside the box.
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New Crowdfunding Project: FireAnt

The FireAnt gizmo fits into the corkscrew of a Swiss Army knife, consisting of a fire striker and tinder.  As firestarters go, it's pretty damned impressive, especially for everyday carry.  It's hyperlight and takes up no additional room.  The only disadvantage I see is caused by those advantages: it's tiny.  That means if you drop the fucker it may be difficult or impossible to find.  However, the bright color assists in locating it, and it glows in the dark.

If you have a knife with a corkscrew, take a look at this.

 

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Starlings

 ... are industrious fuckers.  There is currently a starling on the new suet feeder, which has a roof and is hanging at about a 45 degree angle.  The starling is clinging to the cage, upside-down, pecking at the suet.  The whole point to this style of suet cage is to discourage nonclinging birds from eating the suet.  Let me tell you, nonclinging birds are surprisingly determined when it comes to getting food out of feeders not designed for them.

LOL it's so funny to watch, I don't even mind.  When this cake is gone, I will insert another and lower the chain a bit.  It'll be fun to see if they can keep going all the way to level.  <3 backyard science.
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Homesteading Online

Here's a discussion of homesteading online: ways to work from home in a rural area.

Remember our exploration in the Rutledge thread of jobs that can be done from anywhere and jobs particular to a given locale?  These are the kinds of things you want to focus on for that pursuit.  These are things that would greatly relieve a lot of America's problems including overcrowded cities and depopulating countrysides.  Why live in a filthy, expensive city when you could live in a much cleaner, cheaper small town or rural area?  Why work in an ugly office building when you could work in a cozy home office ... or take your toys outside and work in a forest or a meadow of wildflowers.  Fewer and fewer jobs require  a facetime workplace.  We just need to put the pieces together.
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Italian Herb Liqueur

Italian Herb Liqueur is one variation of a family of drinkables that consist of beneficial botanical compounds preserved in alcohol.  Most are designed to be consumed in small amounts with a meal.  Some taste pleasant and others don't. 

Many of these are digestives, which help kick the system into action before a meal -- useful in a culture that eats a lot of heavy pasta.  It's like turning on the water before you turn on the garbage disposal.  ;)  There are other medicinal applications, such as nutrients, immunity, sleep aids, calm, resilience, etc.  Most herbal goals can be pursued in this format.  You just look up the herbs that do what you want, and choose the most robust ones.  For liqueurs, you want tough stuff -- bark, roots, seeds, etc. -- rather than delicate things like leaves or flowers.  You can include the latter too, just won't get as much good out of them.  

A related category is bitters, which are famous for mixed drinks, but you can use those in other kitchen applications also. They make brilliant "secret ingredients."  Generally, bitters are meant to be added in minute quantities to other things, while a liqueur or aperitif is meant to be taken alone an ounce or two at a time.

If you're shopping, check out Italian and other traditional European options.  Some of the best ones have recipes hundreds or thousands of years old.  They tend to work better than modern fad ones.  But you can still make your own if you want to explore.

Don't use alcohol?  Consider glycerin as a substitute medium, as in halal vanilla extract.

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Free Firewood

That is, cash-free; here are ways you can gather firewood with your own labor.  These are eco-friendly ways to use up mostly trash wood.   

If you have enough land, you can also manage a forest for firewood.  Explore guidelines for sustainable forestry, woodlots, and wildlife support.  Also check for guides to your particular locale, as forests differ greatly over distance.
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Healthy Recipes

 ... for cakes.  *drool, slobber*

Raised by hippies, I have a lot of experience with healthier foods.  Many health foods are just not yummy.  But I have a serious taste for desserts that contain actual food.  Fruit pies.  Vegetable or fruit based cakes/breads.  Cakes or cookies with nuts and fruit in them.  If it's just sugar in a low-nutrient carrier, I rarely enjoy it.  Anything buried under half an inch of sugar icing, forget it.  But oh look at this fruit cake and almond cake.  :D
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Moss

 ... is awesome in the garden.  :D  Pretty much wherever there is water and protection from sun, you will see moss.  Here we have it on the ground and on trees. 

Moss is one of several types of ancient plants -- along with liverworts and ferns -- that love damp shady places.  Because of their archaic reproduction, these are among the easiest plants to "catch" for free.  Simply create an environment they love, and they will fly in on the wind to colonize it without costing you a dime.

For nerdy fun, consider adding dinosaur statues.  These are big and pricy, but spectacular.  These cover a wide range of prices and styles.
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Road Trip Foods

Do not fill your munchie bag with ultraprocessed junk food.  Eat these instead!

If you are decolonizing your diet, consider Tanka Bars.  Hardcore folks may make their own pemmican, although honestly, I find modern protein bites tastier.  We are extremely fond of the peanut butter balls our Amish friends make, and usually buy some when we're shopping around there for several hours.

That doesn't necessarily mean you can't bring any  junk food.  Just look at what you're packing.  Do you have a balance of fat, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber?  Do you have fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts/seeds, meat, cheese, and beverages?  Smaller and larger portions, or things you can eat in any quantity?  Your exact needs may vary, but you should have a variety of options.  This minimizes the temptation to buy candy bars at a rest stop.
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How to Make Yogurt

 A useful life skill, especially if you have large quantities of fresh milk to use up.

Note that cultures vary a lot.  You can buy starter cultures of various strains, but most commercial yogurts only have 1-2 types.  However, Bellweather Farms has a whopping 12 cultures.  If you choose to start with a blob of commercial yogurt, pick one you like and pay close attention to its strains, because what you get will be similar.
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Chasing the Wild Yeast Beast

It's very easy to capture a wild yeast just by putting out a bowl of yeast food. You can also forage actively for yeast-bearing fruits

Domesticated yeast gives consistent results; that's what it's bred for.  It's also kind of boring.  What if you don't like the flavor profile of somebody else's yeast beast?   You have other options!  Wild yeast is diverse and surprising.  You can get spectacular results, far more robust and complex than anything you could buy; or you could get a disaster that pukes on your counter and tastes terrible.  Maybe you want a yeast with interesting fruity notes or a funky meatiness.  Don't like the one you got?  Compost it and start over.  You can also experiment with different food traps using all kinds of flours, sugars, and other things yeast will eat.  What you feed it will influence what yeast you catch and keep, as well as the end flavor of your products.

One of the most exciting things about yeast is that it lives so fast, you can domesticate it yourself.  Domestication happens when humans feed and breed something, selecting over time for desired traits.  Lifeforms adapt to their environments.  Creating a new breed of mammal takes many years.  Yeast breeds overnight.  You can experiment all over the place to catch one you really like and find out how to optimize its output.  Sourdough in particular is famous for enriching its flavor over time, making an old starter more valuable than a young one.

Also, once you know this, you are much less dependent on other people for your food.  If you have flour and water, you can catch the wild yeast beast and harness it for your needs.  It's that simple.
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Cheap Fences

You can make a fence out of damn near anything sturdy, and people have.  Don't just think in terms of property perimeters but also garden fences, trellis fences, traffic flow fences, and fences just because they're pretty.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.  Start where you are.

Oh, and a little trick for deer and other bounders: it's a lot easier to fool them than overtop them.  Use a slanted or offset fence.  If you want to get fancy, you can make the slanted kind tip up for mowing.
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Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets have many extra uses.

However, not all dryers sheets are the same.  They have three basic compositions: spongelike, clothlike, and paperlike.  Some are better at different tasks.  Spongelike is best for padding, clothlike for filtering, paperlike for firestarting, and so on. 

The type and intensity of ingredients matters a lot, too.  More natural ingredients and milder scent means lower chance of mishaps.  There are only a few brands I can use at all, but I find that I can reuse the sheets in the dryer a second time for a small load (or several used sheets for a larger load).

I most often use old dryer sheets to line pots or otherwise filter things, pack stuff, or make burnable sachets.  Our latest discovery for ritual use is to make sachets with a written intent on paper and a spoonful of fire-color granules tied up in a dryer sheet.  \o/  They have enough heft to aim well, unlike loose paper, and the granules make vivid colors.
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Floor Cleaner Recipes

These are for general cleaning.  Many emphasize natural ingredients. 

You can use pretty much any essential oil that you like in a floor cleaner.  Note that all the classic 'cleaner" scents (lemon, orange, pine, mint, camphor, eucalyptus, etc.) are based on materials that have actual cleansing properties.

If you need to remove more than physical dirt, however, I call your attention to Hoodoo floor washes.  You can also add individual ingredients such as asafoetida or charcoal salt.
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Butterfly Garden

 ... planning season, for most of us.  In the South, it's already planting time.  Here is a nice plan.

Prefer plants native to your area.  Here's an example from Missouri.  Try searching (your location) + butterflies + "native plants" or similar chains.

You can also help by providing facilities such as a basking stone and puddler.  Black basalt soaks up heat.  It's easy to make a puddler.  You might want to make a mix of sand, soil or compost, a little ash, and some mineral salt.  If you mix the base and then 'flavor' separate areas with mineral salt, rotten fruit, fresh manure, etc. then you may get more different butterflies.  You can make butterfly feeders from whatever you have lying around.  I haven't seen suet cages used this way before, but I may try that one.