Thursday, October 30, 2008

Belwether Bill - Computer Attacked by Murphy

Just a quick update to let everyone know that Belwether Bill will be back soon. It seems "Murphy" found his computer and did a number on it. Bill's got some "nerds" working on the problem and will be back with his series on his battles with "Murphy" very soon. His upcoming posts should be quite interesting since "Murphy" decided to move indoors with him. Maybe "Murphy" doesn't like the cold weather!

Mistakes I Have Made series will be back shortly.

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Worm Grunting

Here's an interesting little bit of info.....

Worm Grunting: A Mystery Solved
It may not rank as one of the great scientific mysteries of all time, but the riddle of worm grunting has been solved, apparently.
Worm grunting, also known as worm fiddling or charming, involves driving a wooden stake into the ground and rubbing the top of it with a leaf spring or other flat piece of steel to make a grunting or snoring noise. Done in the right place under the right conditions, the result will be hundreds earthworms appearing on the surface of the ground. Worm grunting is practiced in parts of the southeast to obtain fish bait.
The mystery has been why the vibrations should cause worms to come to the surface. Kenneth C. Catania of Vanderbilt University has provided an answer: worm grunting mimics the sound of a predator, the eastern American mole, causing the worms to flee topside.
Dr. Catania is a neuroscientist who studies the senses, particularly the exquisite touch sense of the star-nosed mole. In work on moles, though, "there are a lot of little side tendrils of interesting ecology that goes on," he said. "This is one of those."
Dr. Catania worked with a worm-grunting couple, Gary and Audrey Revell, who own a bait shop in the Florida Panhandle. He found that the eastern American mole was endemic to the area, and that the moles consumed large quantities of worms. He also measured the frequencies of the vibrations as they dig and move around in the soil. The frequencies of worm grunting, while not a precise match, "reasonably overlapped" with those created by the moles, he said. His findings are published in the online open-access journal PLoS ONE.
He tested other hypotheses, including the idea that rather than mimicking moles, the vibrations match those caused by heavy rain hitting soil. Some worm species are known to surface after a downpour, but Dr. Catania found that the species he was studying was largely unaffected by rain.
Over all, Dr. Catania said, the work suggests that the worms are responding to what are perceived to be moles. And it's a very strong response. "They come out of the soil as if they are running," he said. "That is, if an earthworm could run."

Got worms? Ewwww, that don't sound right at all!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Early Voting Starts Monday

In the troubled times we are now in, it is more important than ever to get out and vote. As a survivalist, prepper, and generally independent sort, I will be voting along those lines. You can find early voting information here:

Contact your county clerk's office for early voting locations near you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Unemployment Benefits Deadline

One Day Remains To File For Disaster Unemployment Assistance

AUSTIN, Texas -- One day remains for Texas workers who are unemployed due to Hurricane Ike to apply for disaster unemployment benefits.

The filing deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 15.

To apply, workers can file online at or call a Texas Workforce Unemployment Insurance Tele-Center at:

Austin: 512-340-4300

Dallas: 972-339-6200

El Paso: 915-832-6400

Fort Worth: 817-420-1600

Houston: 281-983-1100

McAllen: 956-984-4700

San Antonio: 210-258-6600

Toll free from elsewhere: 1-800-939-6631

Lines are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Friday, Oct. 10, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays thereafter.

If claimants cannot get through immediately on the phone lines, they can e-mail their names and phone numbers to and claims takers will call them back.
To apply, workers will need to provide their Social Security number, a copy of their most recent federal income tax forms or check stubs or documentation showing they were working or self-employed when the disaster occurred. To receive benefits, all required documentation must be submitted within 21 days from the day the application is filed.

Reemployment services are available through Texas Workforce Centers or by accessing

To be eligible, workers must also establish that the work or self-employment they can no longer perform was their primary source of income.

Unemployment payments of up to 26 weeks are available for workers who lost jobs because of the hurricane and who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits from any state.

Texas counties included in the disaster declaration are Angelina, Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Cherokee, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Walker, Waller and Washington.

More Information on Texas Hurricane Ike

Be aware, Be informed. Be prepared.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Update - One Month Later

Many Texas residents are still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Ike a full month later.

Read the full story here: Damage, Recovery Still Visible One Month After Ike

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mistakes I Have Made - Part 7 - Continued

After a couple of hours I was able to modify the general population cage with some left over 1/2" mesh hardware cloth so as to be able to confine the second batch of 25 birds. I was also able to recover six of the escapees in the tall grass near the cages and add them to the overall total - Not too bad an ending of an otherwise screwed up afternoon.

After about five or six weeks the birds became old enough for me to be able to tell which sex they were and I was able to come up with 12 pairs and transferred them to the honeymoon suites. The seven birds left over were all males so I turned them loose to fend for themselves. That very evening as the sun began to set the birds began their "covey up songs" that are always such a pleasure to listen to,

For some reason those seven birds stuck close to the area and each evening I was treated to their music. Could be that they stuck around because I had the only ladies in town. Of course the fact that I set out feed for them had no impact I'm sure. In any event they became a permanent fixture on the place. So much so - that they took to following me each day as I moved about the turf doing chores. Down to the garden area, the compost piles and even down to the campground area and the bee hives.

On more than one occasion I would, without thinking drop a rake or other tool to the ground and spook them and they would flush with their typical noisy rush and startle me as well. Anyone who has ever hunted Quail knows about that noisy flush so unique to Quail.

One evening while walking from the garden area back up to the shop with the birds trailing behind as usual, I was startled by the most Gawd-Awful screeching I had ever heard. As I turned back toward the following quail I was treated to the sight of a Big Hawk carrying off one of the fat little males over the tree line screaming all the while. I just know that the hawk was a friend of "Murphy" and he was just letting me know that he was still lurking around looking and waiting.

Needless to say, it was at least two weeks before I saw or heard any of the other males again. They probably fled clear across the county line and took those two weeks just to find their way back home. I hear you Murphy, I hear you!!! (To Be Continued)

Take Care - Belwether

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mistakes I Have Made - Part 7

I continue to believe that we can learn from our Mistakes But, we must always allow for the actions of our good friend "Murphy" the purveyor of all things evil. Rule #57: "If there is a way to screw things up he will find it for you."

Shortly after the minions of the Devil himself - "Fire Ants" - arrived in this part of Central Texas quite a few forms of wild life began to be adversely affected and some even began to disappear. Cotton Tail Rabbits, Jack Rabbits, Quail and Armadillos disappeared altogether.

Even the Whitetail population suffered. It seems that the Fawns would lie silently hidden away while the Does grazed nearby. During this time the Fawns would become covered with Fire Ants. When their Mothers returned and found them this way they would begin licking them off thereby ingesting quite a few of them in the process and causing themselves great distress and in some cases even death.

I really missed the Quail singing away to each other in the evenings as they began to "Covey" up for the night. I was discussing this loss with a co-worker over coffee one day when he suggested that I raise some Quail and turn them loose to repopulate the area. Since he raised many different types of birds on his country place just across the county line from mine, I figured that he knew what he was talking about and I became interested in the project.

He assured me that they were not too difficult to raise, let me borrow a couple of books to get the project underway. He also offered to sell me some of his recent hatch for ..50 per bird which was almost 1/2 of the going price at the time. Just a little homework convinced me that this was something that I might be able to do.

I started by building three cages 2' x 2' x 8' framed 4' off the ground. I covered all the frames with 1" chicken wire and the floors with 1/2" hardware cloth. One cage was to be for general population and two were to be partitioned for couples. Within two weeks the cages were built, necessary equipment and supplies were in place and I was ready for the birds.

After work one Friday I followed my buddy to his place and purchased 50 small "Bob White" Quail. He loaned me two of his transport cages with 25 birds in each cage with a couple extras thrown in for good measure. I could not wait to get home and transfer them into their new home. Upon arrival at the "Turf" I grabbed the first transfer cage hustled over to the quail cages and poured them into the general population cage. I then went into the house to change clothes and let them settle in a bit.

After changing clothes I went out to my truck to get the second cage and transfer them as well. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the lid to the general population gage and there were no birds at all inside. It seems that they were all small enough to pass through the 1" chicken wire and disappear… Thank You "Murphy"!! Got to me again !!! (To Be Continued)

Take Care - Belwether

Friday, October 3, 2008

Texas Banks Among the Most Stable, Safest in the Nation

In a recent article Sheshunoff & Co. Investment Banking reports:

"Though 14 banks have failed nationwide in 2008, the outlook for Texas banks appears more positive, the report shows. Sheshunoff credits the strong Texas economy and continued migration into the state as two factors that have enabled the state’s banks to stay healthy despite the growing financial crisis. Meanwhile in rural areas, the high price of farm commodities coupled with the small number of real estate transactions have made it possible for agricultural banks to remain stable."

The report goes on to say:

"One measure of how well or poorly a bank is faring is its ratio of bad loans as a portion of total assets. Referred to as the non-performing assets to total assets ratio, the figure measures the quality of a bank’s assets and indicates the scope of the problem. The higher the percentage, the more troubled the loan portfolio. Although there is no hard and fast rule, a NPAs/total assets ratio of less than 1 percent is an indicator of good asset quality; the lower the ratio, the better the quality of the bank’s assets."

The report also makes available reports for banks in major areas of the state of Texas:

Asset Quality Reviews for Top Five Texas MSAs

Dallas/Fort Worth


San Antonio


El Paso

You can read the full article here:

It seems there is some good news for Texans in the current financial crisis. It looks like our Texas banks are doing pretty good through the first half of 2008.

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.