Saturday, December 27, 2008

Foods Potentially Poisonous to Pets

Even though they may not be dangerous to humans, there are numerous foods that are hazardous to pets. The following is a list of foods that may be dangerous to your pet:

Alcoholic Beverages: Any type of alcohol can be poisonous to your pet and aside from intoxication, can cause a coma or even death.

Apple Seeds: Can have varied effects on pets.

Apricot Pits: Can cause respiratory difficulties such as breathing, coughing and sneezing.

Cherry Pits: Can cause respiratory difficulties such as breathing, coughing and sneezing.

Candy containing the sweetener Xylitol: Can cause liver damage and even death.

Chocolate: Although pets should never have any type of chocolate, milk chocolate is not nearly as dangerous for animals as semi-sweet or unsweetened bakers chocolate. Chocolate poisoning can cause irregular heart rate and rhythm, restlessness, hyperactivity, diarrhea, vomiting, panting, muscle tremors, abdominal pain, bloody urine, increased body temperature, seizures, coma and possibly even death.

Coffee: Can result in increased breathing and heart rate, restlessness and affects the central nervous system.

Grapes: Large amounts of grapes can be poisonous to pets and can cause vomiting, diarrhea,
lethargy, abdominal pain, lack of appetite and kidney damage.

Hops: May cause panting, elevated temperature, increased heart rate, seizures and possibly death.

Macadamia Nuts: Can cause vomiting, lethargy, hyperthermia, abdominal pain, stiff joints, lameness and tremors.

Moldy Foods: Can have varied effects on pets including vomiting and diarrhea.

Mushrooms: Different types of mushrooms can have varied effects on pets such as, depression, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, tearing, hallucinations, defecation, liver failure, seizures, drooling, urination, kidney failure, heart damage, hyperactivity and in some cases, death.

Mustard Seeds: Can have varied effects on pets.

Onions and Onion Powder: Can cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Peach Pits: Can cause respiratory difficulties such as breathing, coughing and sneezing.

Potato Leaves and Stems: Can cause problems with the digestive, nervous and urinary systems.

Raisins: Large amounts of raisins can be poisonous to pets and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, lack of appetite and kidney damage.

Rhubarb Leaves: Can cause problems with the digestive, nervous and urinary systems.

Salt: In large quantities can cause electrolyte imbalances.

Tea: Can have varied effects in pets.

Tomato Leaves and Stems: Can cause problems with the digestive, nervous and urinary systems.

Walnuts: Can cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as respiratory issues such as sneezing, breathing and coughing.

Yeast Dough: Can be dangerous as it will expand and result in gas, pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.

Source: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Safety Tips

Christmas is a special time of the year for you and your family. Following safety tips will help to keep the holiday season joyful. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Christmas Tree Safety

Consider an artificial tree as they are much safer and cleaner.

A real tree should not lose green needles when you tap it on the ground.

Cut one inch off the trunk to help absorb water.

Leave the tree outside until ready to decorate.

The tree stand should hold a minimum of one gallon of water.

Check the water level daily.

Make sure the tree is secured and cannot be knocked over.

Keep the tree away from all heat sources.

Use miniature lights that have cool-burning bulbs.

Always turn off the tree lights when going to bed or leaving the house.

Never use candles even on artificial trees.

Dispose of the tree properly after the holidays.

Home Safety

Make sure you have a properly working fire alarm.

Use only outdoor lights on the exterior of the home.

Never use worn out light strings.

Connect no more than three strands of lights together.

Never use an indoor extension cord outdoors.

Avoid overloading wall outlets and extension cords.

Keep outdoor electrical connectors above ground and out of the snow.

Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

Extinguish fireplace ashes before going to bed or leaving the house.

After parties, check under and around chairs, sofas and other furniture for smoldering cigarettes if there have been people smoking in the house.

Have at least one working carbon monoxide detector in the house.

Have a fire extinguisher available.


Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season!

Be aware. be informed. Be prepared.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Fears of Water Contamination for Small Texas Town

Here’s a local news item that everyone should be aware of in case a similar situation may threaten the water supply where you live. This could be a real cause for concern no matter where you live.

Here is a brief excerpt from that story:

“But interestingly enough, it's not so much the quantity of water which worries Janicek the most.It's water quality.Janicek said that two miles southeast of Smiley, wells were drilled in the 1960s and the water has a high salt level. So much it is not drinkable for humans or animals.”

You can read the full story here:

Smiley Residents Fear Contamination of Water Supply

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Off Road Driving

Here's something that just popped into my head.... It's second nature to me because I've done quite a bit of off-roading.

When the time comes to bug out, and I suspect it might be pretty soon, it may become necessary to go off-road, due to stalled traffic, road blocks, etc.... Joe of Viking Preparedness had an excellent post on convoys yesterday, and I felt that I could add to it with some off-road driving rules/tips.

The number one rule of off-roading is never go alone. When you get stuck, or break down, if you are alone your goose is cooked....

Never traverse a hill. Always take the hill straight on, or at a less than 45 degree angle. Let your "pucker factor" be your guide! If it doesn't feel right, it ain't. Be even more conservative if you are in an SUV, and especially conservative in a lifted vehicle.

Never "charge" a hill blind! If you don't know what's on the other side, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise! I know this from experience, brakes don't work when you're airborne, and you've just seen the pond on the other side..... Heh heh heh. If in doubt, scout it out!

Never assume you'll make it through that mud "puddle". Again, I've had the experience of a mud "puddle" suddenly becoming a sink hole. 2 trucks, 2 winches, and 2 hours later I was free again...... If in doubt, scout it out! (There's a theme developing here.....) Probe the mud hole with a stick or something to see if it is passable.

Now for some tips. If you find yourself on a dirt road in a 2 wheel drive vehicle and you become stuck, there are some things you can do. First off, don't "floor it" in an attempt to get going again, you'll only make things worse by burying yourself. Stop, get out, assess the situation, and study your options. One possibility in rear wheel drive vehicles is to partially engage the emergency brake. Most vehicles have an "open" differential, meaning power will go to the wheel with the least traction. Usually the passenger side wheel will be the one to spin when traction is lost. Partially engaging the emergency brake stops the "stuck" wheel from spinning and transfers power to the other wheel. On a front wheel drive vehicle you can accomplish the same thing by applying the brakes, very gently. In either situation, apply power very slowly and smoothly, and it might be enough to get you going again. "Poor man's posi-traction"......

Another thing to try if the emergency brake trick doesn't work is to slip a rock, piece of wood, or whatever else you can find under the tire that is spinning. This will give it more traction, and get you out of the hole.

If you even think you might be forced off-road, a come-along, tow strap(s), a length of chain, and some shackles are a sound investment. All can be gotten at Harbor Freight for 50 bucks or less. An electric winch is the ultimate "unstucker", but they ain't cheap!

A good compass, or hand held GPS, and good maps are essential for going off road. It's easy to lose your bearings, and you need something to give you direction. Those wobbly little Wal Mart compasses with the suction cup are virtually worthless, so pass them by. As a rule of thumb, the larger the compass, the better, so wander on over to a marine supply dealer and get you a good marine compass, if not a GPS. I ain't talkin' about no Tom Tom either, I mean a good Garmin or Magellan hand held GPS unit. A Tom Tom will just look at you crosseyed if you're bouncing down some power line right-of-way......

Speaking of power lines, they are an excellent "alternative highway". They are generally kept clear of trees and brush in a wide swath on either side of the towers for their entire length. Do be aware that there is usually a foundation slab at the base of the towers that might be hidden by tall grass or something. Those slabs can reach out and whack you if you ain't careful. Again, I know this from experience.....

Like power lines, Texas is blessed with a lot of pipeline right-of-ways, which are also kept clear of brush, trees, and major obstructions. They are usually kept mowed down as well, and could become handy "stealth highways" if the need be. Watch out for pipeline markers, they are usually T posts, driven in deep, and they can cause some damage to your vehicle. Some markers are welded pipe, and those should really be avoided! Here it comes again, if in doubt, scout it out!

There are also oilfield roads (but be aware that most of 'em dead end at a drilling rig or well!), park roads, ranch roads, and many other alternatives to the highway in an emergency situation. There are many, many maps available on the Texas General Land Office website, as well as from the US Geological Survey. These maps cover so much more than Rand McNally! Ranch roads, logging roads, oilfield roads, all the little county roads...... Very handy.

I guess the last thing is to consider the weather. If it's been rainin' cats and dogs, even if it's been a few weeks since the last rain, you might want to avoid off-roading if at all possible. At the very least, be extremely cautious. Snow (not that we get much down here!) can hide obstructions, holes, etc., so be especially careful in it. Ice, which is a possibility, can make things extremely treacherous. Never attempt a river or creek crossing before checking things out thoroughly first! Even a few inches of moving water is enough to sweep your vehicle downstream....... One more time! If in doubt, scout it out!

Now for the disclaimer (ugh): In no way do I advocate violating private property rights, any laws, rules, or regs, or anything like that. This is meant for informational purposes only, and in no way should be considered an endorsement of any possible illegal activity. So there! Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Boat Living Revisited

RW recently did a fine piece on Stealth Survival about house boat living. This morning, responding to a comment I'd left on another post, he asked me when I was gonna do one on house boats.... So here it is, boat living ala Mayberry.

First off, a little background: My name is Mayberry, and I'm a boataholic. Not to make light of 12 steppers out there, but I've been a boat nut from childhood. I cut my teeth on Grandpa's 18 footer, driving it since I could see over the console (he actually figured out one day that I couldn't see over the console, propped me up on his knee, and I skippered just fine after that...). My Dad has owned many boats, and I logged way more hours at the helm of his boats than he did! I also helped with care and maintenance. I've worked on, operated, built, and rigged everything from a 10' aluminum boat to a 76' twin diesel offshore rig. 90% of my "library" is boat related. Repair, design, construction, and rigging. I've got years of study under my belt. My resume includes two boat dealerships, a yacht repair yard, a boat builder, my own boat building/repair business, and my current gig with TPWD. Soooooo on with the boats!

Now, a few boat living myths...... Boats are damp. Well, they can be, but most of this comes from the days of old when men were men, and boats were wood. All boats leak a little, wood boats leak a lot. Wood boats require the wood to be wet and swelled up to seal tightly. This works fine below the waterline, but topsides dry out, seams open up, and you get leaks. This keeps the bilges damp, and therefore your interior. Air conditioning alleviates most of the dampness problems in modern boats, as does fiberglass construction, which makes the interior very comfortable. It's not required though. Well ventilated boats stay very comfortable inside, due to the cooler air temperatures typically found on the water, and the breezes the water generates. Granted, humidity is higher on the water, and things can and will get damp at times, but that can happen anywhere.

Myth number two: Boats have no storage. Horse puckey. My 26 foot Chris Craft had storage galore. Storage under the berths (beds). A hanging locker. Storage under the dinette seats. Storage in the galley (kitchen) drawers. Storage in the head (bathroom). Storage in the "eyebrow", or the forward part of the flybridge, the upper helm (steering) station, and on the sides of the bridge coaming as well. Storage in the lazarette, or the compartment beneath the cockpit sole (deck). Storage everywhere! On top of that, she could sleep 4 comfortably, had a fridge, stove, sink, air conditioning, and a full head with shower. When I (sadly) pulled that boat out of the water for the last time, it took me 2 hours to unload all the junk that was stashed aboard..... Storage abounds on most boats. Some are better than others, of course, but with a little bit of ingenuity, one can pack a lot of gear aboard, and not have a lot of clutter.

Myth number three: Boat living is expensive. Hogwash! Of course, if you buy a multi million dollar yacht and dock it at the Ritz Marina it will cost a (not so) small fortune, but their are some very reasonable alternatives. For instance, a quick search on turned up this little gem, for an asking price of $18,995 (which means it could be yours for $15,000 or less...).
Sure, it needs a paint job, but whaddya want for 15 grand? Heh heh heh...... But wait, you could find something cheaper yet! I found this 25' Catalina sailboat on Austin Craigslist for $4,500. Plenty of room for one person, can be had for probably $3,800 cash, maintenance is virtually zero, slip rent is cheap, easily solar/wind generator powered or fed grid electricity from the dock.....

Myth number four: Slip rent is expensive. Well, yes and no. Yes it is expensive when considered in addition to all the other bills associated with modern life. But by it's self, as your only payment, it's dirt cheap! Here are the slip fees from Island Moorings Marina in Port Aransas, where Dad and I used to keep our Chris Craft:
Slip Rates
Monthly Fees:

32' - $255

36' - $287

40' - $319

44' - $351

46' - $366

54' - $469

60' - $522

There is a $60 per month liveaboard fee, and electricity is billed separately. So with a moderately sized vessel (in that 32' or less range), you are lookin' at $315 a month, plus electricity, which won't be much, assuming you don't run the A/C at 60 degrees! Not bad at all from a financial standpoint....

O.k., now that we've dispelled some of the myths, lets get into the meat. A liveaboard boat is going to be a very personal choice, but there are a few generalities to take into consideration to help narrow your choices. Hands down, the most "bang for the buck" comes from houseboats. They give the most interior volume per dollar of most power boats, and even most sailboats. Power boats and sailboats each have their advantages and disadvantages as far as living aboard goes... Powerboats generally have a wide beam, or width, that translates into more interior volume. But (there's always a but, ain't there?) some of that space is eaten up by engines and big fuel tanks. Most sailboats don't have big engines or fuel tanks, but their trimmer, rounder hulls reduce interior volume compared to most powerboats of the same length.

Most larger boats' systems are very similar to RV systems. Propane or electric cooking (some boats have alcohol stoves, which are nearly worthless for cooking, and dangerous in my opinion, due to the nearly invisible flame...), independent 12 volt DC and 120 AC (shore power, and/or onboard generator(s)) electrical systems (some larger vessels have 24 volt, and even 36 volt DC systems for cranking over large diesel engines), holding tanks for waste, water tanks, and their associated pumps.... These systems can be as simple or as complex as you imagination (and wallet) can handle, from a Wal Mart battery, 2 wires, and a light bulb, to multiplex systems with microprocessor control and data busses. The options are nearly endless, though I would opt for the simple systems myself, especially considering a SHTF scenario and possible loss of infrastructure to maintain all that jazzy stuff.

Now for some fun stuff: Modifications, and "home brew houseboats"! Say you found yourself a nice older powerboat for a liveaboard. You're never gonna leave the dock, it's just your floating home. Best to buy a nicer hull with some clapped out engines. Yank those engines out, fuel tanks too, and convert the space into a nice "basement" to store your preps in. Install water storage tanks in place of those fuel tanks. Or maybe build in more bunk space. Your imagination is the limit! You could build yourself a "floater" as we call 'em down here, a floating cabin. A home built houseboat.

I've seen everything from resin coated, foam filled 55 gallon drums, to giant blocks of styrofoam, to old boat hulls used as "foundations" for floaters. I suspect the one pictured here uses the styrofoam method.... Again, one is only limited by their imagination as to what kind of floating home one can create, though local laws, regs and such tend to muck up the works now and again. Check with your local to see what yer "allowed" to do....

If all you're looking for is a floating home, propulsion isn't really that big a deal. You'd be surprised what you can tow (very slowly) with a 12 foot dink and a 15 horse outboard. With the promise of a day on the water (some gas money, and a case of beer....), most folks are more than willing to lend a hand (and a boat) if and when you need to move your houseboat. Large lakes abound here in Texas, so there should be plenty of places to set up shop, and the coast presents many opportunities for waterborne living as well.

Keep in mind that all major lakes in Texas, except Caddo, are man made, and therefore dependent on a dam for their existence. If the dam breaks....... Well, you'd be in for a wild ride, at least. And don't be a pain in the boat! Ha ha. Never, ever dump waste, trash, etc. in the water. If you do drive your house around, mind your wake. You are responsible for damage caused by your wake! Learn and abide by the "rules of the road". Respect fellow boaters, swimmers, fishermen...... And learn the meaning of water tight integrity! Otherwise, you just might get that "sinking feeling". Heh heh. Happy boating!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Survival Spotlight - Atascosa County - South of San Antonio

Atascosa County is south of San Antonio on Interstate Highway 37 in the Rio Grande Plain region of south central Texas. Jourdanton, the county seat, is located on state highways 16 and 97 in central Atascosa County thirty-three miles south of San Antonio and 100 miles northwest of Corpus Christi.
The largest city in Atascosa County is Pleasanton with a population of approximately 8,266 persons. The population density is approximately 31 people per square mile. The median income for a household in the county is approximately $33,081. Other cities include Poteet (pop. 3,305) and Charlotte (pop. 1,637).

The county covers 1,218 square miles of level to rolling land. Elevation ranges from 350 to 700 feet. The soils are generally deep with loamy surface layers and clay subsoils. In Atascosa County, the subtropical dry land vegetation consists primarily of cactus, weeds, grasses, thorny shrubs and trees such as mesquite, live oak and post oak. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of the county is considered prime farmland.

Wildlife in Atascosa County includes white-tailed deer, javelina, turkey, fox squirrel, jackrabbits, foxes, ring-tailed cats, skunks, and possums. The main predators are bobcats and coyotes. Ducks, cranes, and geese migrate across areas of the county. Many stock tanks are stocked with catfish, bass, and sunfish.
Mineral resources include clay, uranium, gravel, and oil and gas products. Other minerals and products include caliche, lignite coal, construction and industrial sand, and sulfur.

The climate in Atascosa County is considered subtropical. The winters are generally mild and the summers can be very hot. The average annual temperature is 70°F. Temperatures in January usually average a low of 40° F to an average high of 65°. and in July range anywhere from 74° F to 97°F. The average annual rainfall is approximately 27 inches. The average relative humidity normally ranges froma low of 51 percent to a high of 86 per cent. There is no significant snowfall that occurs in this county. The growing season averages 282 days a year. The sun shines an average 65 percent of the daylight hours which is good for solar power applications.

Major highways in Atascosa County include Interstate 37, U.S. Highway 281, State Highways 16, 85, and 97.

Additional information about Atascosa County can be found here:

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Survival Spotlight - Andrews County on the New Mexico Border

Andrews County

Andrews County is located in the southern High Plains. It is bounded on the west by New Mexico, on the north by Gaines County, on the east by Martin County, and on the south by Winkler and Ector counties. The center of the county is at 32°18' north latitude and 102°50' west longitude, 110 miles southwest of Lubbock. Andrews County encompasses 1,504 square miles of level, rolling prairie land typical of the southern High Plains. The city of Andrews is the county seat of Andrews County and the population was 13,004 at the 2000 census.

Sandy soils predominate except in the east, where red clay loam soil types are found. The elevation varies from 3,000 feet in the south to 3,400 feet in the north. The average annual rainfall is approximately 14.5 inches. The temperatures range from a January average minimum temperature of 30°F to a July average maximum temperature of 96°F. The growing season is 213 days.

Livestock production accounts for roughly two-thirds of the $11 million average agricultural income in the county. Crops of cotton, sorghums, grains, corn, and hay account for the rest of the county’s agricultural production. Approximately 8,000 acres of land is in irrigation for crops. Oil and gas production and its related services produce the majority of the county's income.

Andrews County ranks among the leading counties of the state in median annual income. It is also one of the leaders in annual oil production. The oil industry is a major source of employment. By the end of 1982 the county had produced over two billion barrels of oil.

The county's road network includes Highway 385 (north-south), Highway 176 (west-east), and Highway 115, which bisects the other roads at Andrews. Communities include Andrews, Frankel City (pop. 1,344), and Florey (pop. 25). Prairie Dog Town and the Oil Museum are two of the county's most popular tourist attractions.

You can find additional information about Andrews County here:,_Texas

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Survival Spotlight - Angelina County in East Texas


Angelina County is on U.S. Highways 59 and 68 northeast of Houston in the East Texas Timberlands region of northeast Texas. Lufkin, the county seat and largest town, is ninety-six miles northwest of Beaumont and 120 miles northeast of Houston, at 31°20' north latitude and 94°43' west longitude. The county is bounded on the north by the Angelina River and on the south by the Neches River. It comprises 807 square miles of gently rolling terrain and is densely forested with pine and a great variety of hardwoods.

The altitudes in Angelina County range from 200 to 380 feet above sea level. The Angelina River drains the northern and eastern parts of the county. The Neches River drains the southern and western parts. The largest body of water in the county is Sam Rayburn Reservoir. It is located on the Angelina River. The reservoir extends into Jasper, Sabine, Nacogdoches, and San Augustine counties. It covers approximately 114,500 acres and affords residents in the county good boating, fishing, and swimming. It also provides resources for municipal water storage, agricultural, and industrial needs. It is also used for flood control and to supply electric power.

Most of the county is surfaced by sandy soils containing lignite and bentonite. This soil underlies rangeland and cropland and is used for mineral production. The northernmost edge of the county, the area north of Lufkin, is covered by thin to moderately thick clay type sands over steep slopes and rolling hills. In the piney woods area, longleaf, shortleaf, loblolly, and slash pines provide excellent timber. Hardwoods in Angelina County include several types of gum, magnolia, elm, hickory, and oak.

Anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of the land is considered good for farming purposes. The major mineral resources are natural gas and oil. Average annual temperatures range from an average high of 94° F in June to an average low of 39° in January. Rainfall averages approximately 43 inches per year. The growing season generally lasts for 244 days.

More information on Angelina County, Texas can be found here:,_Texas

Be aware. Be prepared. Be informed.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Surviving In The South Texas Coastal Plains

Generally speaking, I wouldn't advise trying to survive a SHTF scenario down here, but the Karankawa did manage to scratch out a living.....

Water will be your biggest problem. The Nueces River does run down here, but it is brackish all the way to the low water dam at Labonte Park, just as you enter Corpus Christi from I-37. Oso Creek also runs along the southwest side of Corpus Christi, and it too is brackish for quite a distance upstream.

The area is considered "semi-arid", and rightly so. The average annual rainfall for the area is only 32.26 inches, with September being the wettest month at 5.03 inches on average, and that moisture usually being of a tropical nature. January is typically the driest month at an average 1.62 inches. I wouldn't rely on rain catchment for water here.....

That being said, directly on the coast the water table is fairly high, only 3 or 4 feet in places. Ranchers on Padre Island watered their cattle simply by digging pits a few feet down. This can be done in my back yard in Flour Bluff on the Encinal Peninsula as well (though it is against city "code"). Areas north and west of Corpus Christi Bay typically receive more rainfall, as do the Kingsville and Rio Grande Valley areas.

Land right on the coast is typically sandy loam, with large areas of clay as well. Crops grow well a few miles inland in the rich, brown soil. There is little tree cover from the north shore of Corpus Christi Bay and the Nueces River southward, mostly huisatch and mesquite. North of the bay, live oaks proliferate.

South of the Encinal Peninsula, the King, Kennedy, Yturria, and El Sauz ranches cover most of the land between the Laguna Madre and US 77, all the way to Port Mansfield, about 80 miles as the crow flies. The lone exceptions are Riviera Beach and Loyola Beach on the western end of Baffin Bay, near Kingsville. North and west of Kingsville is brush land, lots of smaller ranches, and little to no surface water.

On the plus side, fish are plentiful! Speckled trout, red drum, black drum, and southern flounder are the major varieties, along with sand trout, golden croaker, gafftop and hardhead catfish, the occasional snook, pompano, and offshore species like whiting, bluefish, king mackerel, spanish mackerel, wahoo, yellowfin and blackfin tuna, red/gray/vermilion/mutton/mangrove/and yellowtail snappers, amberjack, jewfish, strawberry/warsaw groupers, scamp, cobia...... We also have plentiful stone crab, blue crab, oysters, scallops on occasion, brown/white and Gulf species of shrimp, and more.

Migratory birds love this place as well. Many species of ducks and geese winter here, or at least stop by for a while (I hear mesquite grilled whooping crane is delicious! Heh heh heh....). There are many, many resident species of birds here. It's a bird shooter's paradise (both gun and camera).

And there are plenty of game critters here. Cotton tails galore, red squirrels, white tail deer out the wazoo, feral hogs, javelina, cows...... Oops, cows ain't game critters (and shootin' one of those is likely to get you shot back!) ha ha. Anyways, there you have it. South Texas Coastal Bend in a nutshell.....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Buying Land in Texas for A Retreat?

If the time is right to buy yourself some land in Texas for a retreat or bug-out location, you should be aware that buying land in Texas is no different than buying land anywhere else. You will need to be careful and make the right choices. This will insure that the Texas land that is for sale meets your needs. You should also be aware of the important legal issues that are involved.

What is a Land Deed?

The definition of a Land Deed in Texas is the same as most everywhere else. It is a legal document designed to transfer real estate property in the State of Texas. There are two types of deeds which are primarily used for the transfer of ownership of land in Texas. The first one is the Warranty Deed and the other one is the Quit Claim Deed.

The Warranty Deed

The Warranty Deed lives up to its name. It is used when the seller of Texas land uses the Deed to make certain guarantees to the buyer of Texas land. There are three basic parts (or covenants) associated with the Warranty Deed.

1.) The Covenant of Seishen in which the seller of Texas land guarantees that they own the piece of Texas land they are selling to the buyer and that they, indeed, have the right to sell it.

2.) The Covenant Against Encumbrances, in which the seller of Texas land guarantees to the buyer of Texas land that the Texas property they are selling (or the piece of Texas land) is free of encumbrances or claims against it such as mortgage liens, tax liens or any other form of liens.

3.) The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment in which the seller of Texas land guarantees to the buyer that, after the sale, should anyone show up and try to lay claim to the piece of Texas land that has been purchased by the buyer, the seller will defend the buyer’s rights to the Texas land they have bought from the seller.

Generally speaking a seller and buyer are free to negotiate and agree to alter any of the terms and conditions of a Warranty Deed until they are both satisfied with it, but, in principal, these are the three parts to it.

Quit Claim Deed

Compared to the Warranty Deed a Quit Claim Deed contains none of these guarantees. The basic situation here is that the seller of the Texas piece of land or Texas property tells the buyer: “If I own this piece of Texas land or Texas property, I am selling it to you and you take it “as is.” This is the classic caveat emptor situation – Buyer Beware!

So be careful when purchasing land for your retreat or bug-out location. Make sure you are actually getting what you are paying for and a guarantee that is worth something.

Be aware. Be prepared. Be informed.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Luke-n-Bmt - Progress After Hurricane Ike

We are doing fine, just trying to get as much in order as we can. We moved into a new house, and are wrapping up the sale of our first home. Getting the mortgage monkey off our back (the new house is from a family deal). As I watch the daily destruction of the world economic system, i find that the closing date can’t come quick enough. I want to be done with the BS that's been stuffed down our throat about this consumer/debt charade. No mortgage= pay down credit cards= making more progress on preps= getting truly independent. It will be a long road, but my wife and I are excited.

I have also been reading the blogs less. It seems nearly everyone has retreated into this angst and fear mode. Not as much productive/useful writing going on. They are either spinning their wheels about Obama taking our guns away, or have hit the wall in respect to the financial crisis(which I find to be far more pressing and depressing). I just find it hard to believe that gun control is seen as a vital issue right now. The new President will be swamped just trying to stop the bleeding (raiding of the treasury) and get people back to work. It may be on their back burner, but no gun bill is going to be the first order of business for this administration. With that said, I was amazed at how the stock of ARs and M4 clones has dwindled at my local gander mountain.

The general public shares the same fears, both of the financial collapse and of a gun grab. This hopefully also means that more people are prepping in other areas, too. Even with these insanely low gas prices, I do not trust the oil supply, as all signs are still pointing to significant production decreases. I find it hard to believe that oil companies are shelving new exploration projects just because oil is lower than 70 a barrel. It all stinks to high heaven. I hope all is well with you.

Luke N Bmt

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Real Financial Monster in Our Economy

As the number of bailouts being proposed by our politicians continues to expand at an ever increasing rate, it seems as if there will be no end to the string of bailouts sweeping across our country as many companies with unsound fiscal policies have dug themselves into a very deep financial hole. Pickdog has furnished us with a link to a very insightful article about the real financial monster in our economy. It seems there may not be enough money in the world!

Not Enough Money In The
World to Fix Things
The Real Monster in the Meltdown Closet
Written By Chris Floyd

The myth has quickly taken hold that the global financial crash was caused by bad mortgages. This has allowed rightwing hate-mongers to blame the meltdown on the "liberal" programs that encouraged home ownership among a small percentage of lower-income people (a poisonous canard that parts of the mainstream media have actually done a fairly good job of knocking down), while "progressives" of various stripes have denounced banks and other financial institutions for pushing over-easy credit on people who couldn't really afford it.

Unsustainable mortgages are a key factor in the global crash, of course. And many people (most of them white, by the way) did take out mortgages they would not be able to afford if the housing bubble ever burst, which it has, most spectacularly. And yes, it is undeniable that the financial services industry has been tempting people with easy credit like schoolyard pushers flashing reefers.

All of this was bound to end badly, and did. But this alone would not have been enough to threaten the destruction of the entire global financial system, nor cause the blind, screaming panic that has strangulated the financial markets, seized up the vital flow of money between banks, and caused the "free" market-worshipping governments of the Western world to carry out nationalizations and interventions that, in sheer numbers, dwarf anything ever seen following a Communist revolution. (As John Lancaster notes in the London Review of Books, the Bush Administration's takeover of Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac alone was "was, by cash value, the biggest nationalisation in the history of the world." And that was just the beginning.)

What has struck mortal fear in the heart of markets and governments is not bad mortgages, but the almost incomprehensibly huge and complex market for "derivatives," based in part on mortgage debt -- but also on a vast array of other sources that were "securitized," turned into tradable if ghostly commodities then sold off in a bewildering variety of increasingly arcane forms. This was accompanied by the expansion of yet another vast market in insurance mechanisms designed to protect these derivatives -- mechanisms which themselves became "securitized."

At the same time, the financial services industry used its paid bagmen in governments around the world to loosen almost all restrictions not only on securitization and the trading of derivatives, but also on the amount of debt that institutions could take on in order to play around in these vastly expanded and deregulated markets. For example, as Lancaster points out, UK's Barclays Bank had a debt-to-equity ratio of 63 to 1:
Imagine that for a moment translated to your own finances, so that you could stretch what you actually; unequivocally own to borrow more than sixty times the amount. (I'd have an island. What about you?)

The result of all this has been the construction of a gargantuan house of cards, based on next to nothing, and left alone in the shadow of building "perfect storm" of greed, deregulation and political corruption.

That storm has now struck. The house of cards has fallen down, and revealed a hole of derivatives-based debt that could not be filled, literally, by all the money in the world, much less by the mere trillions that national governments are frantically throwing at it today.

Yes, "mere" trillions. As Will Hutton explains in the Observer:

...the dark heart of the global financial system [is] the $55 trillion market in credit derivatives and, in particular, credit default swaps, the mechanisms routinely used to insure banks against losses on risky investments. This is a market more than twice the size of the combined GDP of the US, Japan and the EU. Until it is cleaned up and the toxic threat it poses is removed, the pandemic will continue. Even nationalized banks, and the countries standing behind them, could be overwhelmed by the scale of the losses now emerging.

Try to imagine that: a $55 trillion market now at risk of complete destruction. Even the derivative debt owed by individual institutions stands at nation-wrecking levels. For example, a single bank in Britain, Barclays again, holds more than $2.4 trillion in credit default swaps, the tradable "insurance" mechanism against securities default. This is more than the entire GDP of Great Britain. If all this paper goes bad, there are not enough assets in the entire country to pay it off. And that's just one bank, in one country.

Hutton gives the details:

This market in credit derivatives has grown explosively over the last decade largely in response to the $10 trillion market in securitized assets - the packaging up of income from a huge variety of sources (office rents, port charges, mortgage payments, sport stadiums) and its subsequent sale as a 'security' to be traded between banks.

Plainly, these securities are risky, so the markets invented a system of insurance. A buyer of a securitized bond can purchase what is in effect an insurance contract that will protect him or her against default - a credit default swap (CDS). But unlike the comprehensive insurance contract on your car which you have with one insurance company, these credit default contracts can be freely bought and sold. Complex mathematical models are continually assessing the risk and comparing it to market prices. If the risk falls, the CDSs are cheap; if the risk rises - because, say, a credit rating agency declares the issuing company is less solid - the price rises. Hedge funds speculate in them wildly.

Their purpose was a market solution to make securitization less risky; in fact, they make it more risky, as we are now witnessing. The collapse of Lehman Brothers - the refusal to bail it out has had cataclysmic consequences - means that it can no longer honor $110bn of bonds, nor $440bn of CDSs it had written. On Friday, the dud contracts were auctioned, with buyers paying a paltry eight cents for every dollar. Put another way, there is now a $414bn hole which somebody holding these contracts has to honor. And if your head is spinning now, add the three bust Icelandic banks. They can no longer honor more than $50bn of bonds, nor a mind-boggling $200bn of CDSs....

While every bank tries to pass the toxic parcel on to somebody else, the system has to find the money. So will compensation for the near valueless contracts and thus now uninsured debt ultimately be made - and by whom? And because nobody knows - not the regulators, banks or governments - who owns the swaps and whether they are credit-worthy, nobody can answer the question. Maybe holders of insurance policies will get the cash due to them, but will that weaken somebody else? The result - panic.

This is the ultra-dangerous downward vortex in which the system is locked. It is why share prices are plummeting. As recession deepens, there will be defaults on securitized bonds and the potential collapse of more banks outside the G7 ring-fence. Nobody knows what proportion of the $55 trillion of credit default contracts that have actually been written will be honored and who might bear losses running into trillions of dollars.

This is the beast in the dark that is haunting the feckless leaders of the developed world: $55 trillion of unaccountable debt, and no way of knowing how much of it is even now being flushed down the toilet, taking the global economy with it.

The massive interventions we are seeing might stabilize the markets temporarily, or at least arrest their free fall long enough to come up with some kind of massive restructuring of the global financial system. Or they might not. For it is by no means certain that the wisdom, and the political courage, to come up with a more viable system can be found among the world's political leaders -- all of whom, as we noted here the other day, have risen within the present system and, to one degree or another, owe their own power and privilege to the "malefactors of great wealth" and the extremist cult of market fundamentalism. There is no indication anywhere that the circle of collusion and corruption between governments and Big Money has even lessened, much less been broken, by the economic catastrophe. All of the various bailout plans and "coordinated actions" still have as their chief aim the preservation of the malefactors in their current state of wealth, privilege and domination. As Jonathan Schwarz notes:

Still, U.S. elites will try to impose as much of a structural adjustment as they can get away with, in order to make the bottom 80% of America pay the price for the elites' spectacular screw-ups. The Washington Post has already started writing about how the current crisis demonstrates that we must cut Social Security. Look for much more of this to come.

The only slim hope we have for any genuine reform -- even an imperfect, conflicted, compromised reform, which is the only kind we will ever have in this world, until the lion lies down with the lamb -- is that the sheer scale of the real problem -- the $55 trillion beast, the very real potential for the complete destruction of the global economy, and the state power that depends upon it -- might force some politicians to turn apostate, renounce the market cult, and bite the hands that have fed them for so long.

Absent this near-miraculous possibility, we will be left with yet another rickety house of cards, slapped together on the fly -- largely at the malefactors' direction and for their benefit -- while the beast gapes wide his ponderous jaws, and prepares to swallow us whole.

Thanks Pickdog!

Be aware. Be prepared. Be informed.

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.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lessons From Ike

Still think you're safe if you live inland and away from the Gulf Coast. You might want to think twice about it! I'm sure there are a lot of people in the Ohio Valley that never dreamed of damages and power outages from a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast of Texas.

That Guy In Kentucky can tell you about it! Check out his Lessons From Ike.

For those recomending moving away from the Gulf Coast as a means to avoid hurricanes, it won't always work - sometimes the storms find YOU! No matter where you live!

So to all my fellow Texans, take heart! You weren't the only ones to get hit with the fury of Hurricane Ike!

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mistakes I Have Made - Part 6

I still believe that we can learn from our Mistakes. Remember: Always be on the lookout on the lookout for the purveyor of all things bad - "Murphy". Rule #47: The simple things are always hard.

Always trying to find a way to make the "Turf" more productive, I did some research into the growing of grapes. I discovered that not only is Texas a good place to grow grapes but that a man by the name of "T. V. Munson of Dennison" is world famous for his research into grape culture and did much of his research right here in Texas. I also discovered that at some point in the past a disease called phylloxera infested much of the European grapes which was defeated by grafting European cuttings onto American rootstocks a process still in use today.

I have a large number of "Wild Grapes" growing all over the Turf. Some of the vines are as big around as my forearm. You know the kind that climb up into your best Oak trees, shade out the trees leaves and eventually kill the tree. Not only that, the only fruit they produce are the size of a "Scratch Anywhere Match Head" and are so sour, you will only taste them once. I figure that there must be a way to use this ability to grow and grow and grow for some good purpose.

Sooo…, I began to devise a "Simple" plan to do just that and perhaps even cut vine development time down considerably. The plan is to pull the vines down from the trees and train them to grow on wires that are stretched between the trees much like "Muscadines and Scuppernongs"! Train them to the same spur system that they prefer and later graft some of them onto the wild vines thereby gaining the benefit of its extensive root system and reap the bounty sure to come

The project began with the purchase of a couple of spools of "Horse Wire", six dozen large "eye-hooks" and half that number of large "turn-buckles" which should be enough to tame up 30-35 individual wild vines. Eye-hooks to attach the wires to the trees and turn-buckles to keep the wires taught over the years.

It took the better part of 2 years of spare time to pull the vines down from the trees, trim them to the length of wire from the original tree to the next closest tree (20 -30 feet on the average) about 6 to 7 feet off the ground . Attaching vines to the wire was easy - just wrap the vine around the wire several times over its length and tie it to the wire at the far end.

It took 2 years because in some instances the project required clearing brush and mowing just to get access to the vines. In other cases there were some vines that were unsuitable for the project and were remove altogether for the sake of the trees. The end result was 32 separate wild vines to begin the grand experiment with. The vines seem to flourish in their new environment, putting on lush growth with their meager grapes even growing a little bigger but not much. They are so vigorous I have to trim them back every winter as they like to escapee back up into the trees. Best of all - Even though the vines are the most luscious green things around the Turf - The Deer do not bother them at all.

The commercial grapes for use in the grafting phase on the other hand are another story. This has been an 8 year ongoing experiment with 4 separate plantings of the grafting grapes without a single vine maturing to a size that will allow cuttings to be taken. (You guessed it "Murphy" is in this game as well). Each planting is started inside its own chicken wire cage that grows with the vine as it grows to the top of the post it is planted next to for training. (About 2 years.) As it branches out and begins to get with the program - Here come the Deer! - Party Time!!! "Thank You Murphy"

Again, I have learned another of "Murphy's" rules: The Simple Things Are Always Hard". Next spring I'm thinking of planting some grafting grapes out in the wooded areas of the Turf. (Could this be another Mistake)? See ya'll again on "Mistakes Part 7".

Take Care - Belwether

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hurricane Dolly Damages - Registration Deadline for Disaster Claims

The Rio Grande Valley is continuing its recovery from Hurricane Dolly. Residents in the disaster declared counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy have until Tuesday, September 30th, to register for aid from FEMA and to submit a disaster loan application to the US Small Business Adminstration in order to help them recover.

Registration can be done online at or by calling FEMA's toll free registration line at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or for the speech and hearing-impaired at TTY 1-800-462-7585.

So far 13,463 people inpacted by Hurricane Dolly have met with disaster recovery specialists at one of the 13 Disaster Recovery Centers that traveled through the affected areas. All Disaster Recovery Centers have now closed.

Be aware. Be prepared. Be informed.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Financial News - The Pace Quickens

Financial News Item # 1: the pace quickens

WAMU goes down

Financial News Item # 2: but the price stays down? Defies economics law...

U.S. Mint suspends Buffalo gold coins after depletion


Thursday, September 25, 2008

NEW YORK - The U.S Mint said Thursday it was temporarily suspending sales of American Buffalo 24-karat gold one-ounce bullion coins because strong demand depleted its inventory.
"Demand has exceeded supply for American Buffalo 24-karat gold one-ounce bullion coins, and our inventories have been depleted. We are, therefore, temporarily suspending sales of these coins," the Mint said in a memorandum to authorized American Buffalo dealers.
The Mint also told dealers that it would work to build up its inventory to resume sales shortly.
In mid-August, a shortage of American Eagle one-ounce gold coins due to "unprecedented" demand had also forced the U.S. Mint to temporarily suspend sales of the popular coins.
The Mint said Thursday it would continue to supply the American Eagle 22-karat gold one-ounce and American Eagle silver bullion coins on an allocation basis to coin dealers.
In addition, the half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and 1-10th ounce American Eagle gold coins and American Eagle platinum were also available, the Mint said.
Coin dealers from the United States to Canada have recently reported a surge in buying of bullion coins and other gold products as troubles in the financial markets prompted people to seek a safe haven in precious metals..
On Thursday, the U.S. gold contract for December delivery ended down $13 or 1.5 percent at $882 an ounce on the COMEX division of the NYMEX, while spot gold traded at $873 an ounce.
Bullion hit an all-time high of $1,030.80 an ounce on March 17.
With files from Frank Tang
© Reuters 2008


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Practice Drills

Anyone who's ever been in the military knows, they beat things into your head with drills, drills, and more drills. You know why? It works. Right now, nearly 15 years after the fact, you could put me in the lower level of the engine room on the USS Stout, blindfold me, and I could find my way out to the weather deck in short order. After being turned all around. You could even block my path, and I'd find an alternative route. Blindfolded. I still remember where every single piece of equipment on that ship is (provided they haven't changed anything around....). I could draw you a complete deck plan.

Drills can help you and your family in the event of an emergency. Best of all, they don't cost anything. What drills do is establish everyone's role in an emergency, what they're supposed to do, how to do it, and it engraves the tasks in their minds so that they become automatic. No thought required. This is valuable beyond words when an emergency takes place.

First off, you have to make a list of possible scenarios. What can happen? A house fire, tornado, earthquake, or any other natural disaster are the obvious things. But also consider riots, food shortages, power outages, terrorist attack, or any of the other endless possibilities. You can't prepare for them all, obviously, but pick the ones you think are most likely to occur and go from there.

Sit down with your family, friends, survival group, or whatever, and make a list of emergency steps for each possible scenario, for each person involved. For example:

House Fire

*Establish evacuation routes from each room of the house, bearing in mind the most likely locations for a fire to start (garage, kitchen, furnace, fireplace, electrical panel....)

*Establish an assembly point for all members to assemble once clear of the house. (i.e. on the corner by the stop sign)

*Set up alternative lodging should your home become uninhabitable (Grandma's, friends, specific hotel, RV, etc...)

*Ensure that everyone is clear on when and where to go, what to bring, and what to do (including Grandma!)

*Establish secondary assembly point/ communication strategy should members become separated.

*Get everyone involved. "Jimmy, you get the dog. Sally, you bring the emergency pack. I'll grab the important papers and such (in their "ready to go" container), and Mom is in charge of ensuring everyone gets out."

*Practice! Have each member find their way outside, blindfolded (you won't be able to see in a smoke filled house!) Assemble at the predetermined point. Do a comm check (everybody calls Dad. If no answer, call Mom. And so on down the list....) Reiterate secondary assembly points, and procedures to follow in case of separation. Also, have everyone practice each other's role in case someone should become incapacitated. Know where your supplies are, and have them at the ready, in the same location, at all times. Have everyone lay their hands on everything that will be involved. Break equipment out and demonstrate it's use. Everyone should be familiar with everything.

Doing this will not only help your family or group in an emergency, it will also bolster their confidence in themselves. People panic because they don't know what to do. Panic kills. Knowing exactly what to do in a crisis will save the lives of your loved ones, reduce stress and anxiety on yourself, and help you become better prepared for virtually anything that might be thrown at you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Federal Resources Supporting Response and Recovery After Ike

A press release with additional information about response and recovery efforts due to damages caused by Hurricane Ike is available at;

Here are some excerpts from that news release.

Release Date: September 18, 2008
Release Number: HQ-08-223

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is coordinating the joint efforts of federal, tribal, state and local partners as immediate response activities begin to reach completion and recovery efforts begin across the Gulf Coast.

Residents from the declared disaster areas in Texas and Louisiana should register for federal assistance - including disaster housing assistance - by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or logging on to Registrations will remain open in the weeks to come to allow all those who need to register the time they need to apply for help. Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers are opening across the region and additional offices will soon open to provide expanded service. To date, 317,791 households have applied for assistance.

Federal agencies are working together with state and local partners to provide eligible disaster-affected individuals and families with a safe, secure and sanitary place to live until it is safe for them to go home. FEMA, at the request of the State of Texas, has activated its transitional sheltering initiative to allow eligible Ike evacuees from Texas, who cannot return to their homes, to stay for a time in hotels or motels. FEMA will pay for the lodging directly. A listing of participating hotels is available online at To ensure reimbursement, evacuees must first apply for federal assistance. To date, 9,179 households have applied for this assistance.

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG):

USCG is working to restore navigational and port operations. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is open from the Houston and Galveston area westward to Corpus Christi. The ports of New Orleans, Lake Charles, Morgan City, Neches River, Sabine-Neches Waterway, Galveston, Corpus Cristi and Mobile are open with restrictions. The ports of Orange, Port Arthur/Beaumont, Houston, Texas City and Freeport are open with a 16-foot draft restriction. Port Lavaca/Point comfort is open.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA):

Beaumont Airport is scheduled to resume operations tomorrow.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

NOAA aircraft are completing their damage assessment missions - imagery will be available online at
NOAA navigation response crews have completed the waterway surveys in the affected areas.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):

DOJ's Disaster Fraud Hotline continues to operate. Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, the Disaster Fraud Fax at 225-334-4707 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at Individuals can also report criminal activity to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mistakes I Have Made - Part 5

I still believe that we can learn from our Mistakes. Sometimes we just think we know what we think we know. And above all, be constantly on the lookout for the purveyor of all things bad - "Murphy". Rule #37: "He really does know what we only think we know and will make us pay the usual high price to learn it".

I thought I had done my homework and felt that I was ready to make my first batch of "Jerky". I had just finished building a real neat 2' x 2'x 3' tall dryer with three separate racks of 8 dowel rods each 1/4" in diameter powered by a 100 watt light bulb under the vented floor board. I had even located some of those new large plastic coated paper clips to use as hangers so as not to taint the meat.

Next I took out the partially frozen Venison Back Strap, cut it up into 1/4 by 1' strips 4 to 6inches long to get it ready for the brine soak. I elected to use just salt brine instead of a more fancy marinade as I was planning to use the jerky in a big pot of stew for the Scout Campout on the upcoming weekend. (Right On)

I then tossed all the back strap strips into a large bowl, added the salt brine covered it, stirred well and set it in the fridge to do its thing over night. The next evening I gingerly blotted each piece of meat before it was hung up by the homemade paper clip hooks inside the dryer. (So far all went well!)

It took all of three days for the back strap to become dry enough for it to become Jerky. The temperature in the dryer varied between 130 and 150 degrees depending on how long I had it open to check on progress. (Not Too Bad!)

On Friday after work I had just enough time to gather all of the Jerky together and wrap it in foil before the dads and their Scouts began to arrive. Just before leaving for camp I gave each of the dads a small piece of Jerky to sample. Too my surprise, not a single comment from either of them.

After arrival at camp and everything was set up and we were all gathered around the traditional campfire for the evening, I passed out small pieces of the Jerky to each of the boys as a surprise. Again, not a single comment - Not even from my own two Sons.

Later after everyone had gone to bed and as I was making the rounds of the campsite with my trusty and loyal German Sheppard ("Moose"), I tossed him a full strip of Jerky. Since he had caught and eaten a large number of scraps during the making of the Jerky, he eagerly caught the strip that I had tossed to him and began to wolf it down. What happened next gave me the only true and honest appraisal of my first attempt at making Jerky.

If you have ever given a dog a big "Gob" of peanut butter and watched the gyrations that he goes through to get every bit of goodness off of the roof of his mouth you have some idea of what "Moose" was doing as he tried to chew on the Jerky. Only, this time he was "Frothing" at the mouth and was trying to spit it out, not swallow it. When he finally got it all out of his mouth he gave me a look that only a devoted pet can give when he thinks he has been mistreated.

"Murphy" had chosen this way to show me that I really did not know all that I thought I knew about making Jerky. I finally tasted a piece of it myself - "Yuuuukkkk!" - "Way Too Dammed Salty". Needless to say - We had no Jerky Stew on this camping trip and I learned another of Murphy's Rules. "Sometimes you just think you know what you think you know." See ya'll again on "Mistakes Part 6".

Take Care - Belwether

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hurricane Preparedness Information

New Hurricane Preparedness Information has been added to the side bar for members who need up-to-date information when a hurricane is threatening our state. With the recent tragic events caused by Hurricane Ike I hope this will be of value to everyone out there.

The first additional source of information is for State of Texas Hurricane Evacuation Routes.

The second source of additional information is for Texas Road Conditions.

I hope this information will be of value to members.

Anyone wishing to join our network can e-mail me at . There is no membership fee or requirement. We do ask that when possible you contribute ideas and information which you think may be of value to others.

Thank you to all those who have donated to the Disaster Relief Fund. It is greatly appreciated.

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Member Information Update - Victims of Ike

Well it seems we had a couple of members who suffered from the devastation of Hurricane Ike. Luke in Beaumont had some roof damage to his home and lost the roof to his porch and all of his fencing around his home. Luke was pretty well prepared and weathered the storm even though it got a little "hairy". His family was able to bug-out to the Hill Country and is doing well. He's just waiting for authorities to get the power back on line and right now that looks like it's going to be a couple of weeks before that happens. He also said the water supply was contaminated by the salt water and that the sewer systems were a mess. Let's keep Luke and his family in our thoughts and prayers as he and his family work to recover from the effects of Ike.

Bobby in Galveston didn't do so well. Bobby's home was only about a block from the bay and after talking to a neighbor found out that about 3 foot of water got into the house. Bobby was able to bug-out to a safe location northwest of Houston and is currently staying in a motel till authorities can get the power back on and start letting people back in. Bobby's a little nerve-wracked at this time and I can understand why. This hurricane caused a lot of damage and it'll probably be months before the full extent of the damages are known. Let's keep Bobby in our thoughts and prayers and help Bobby get over this devastating storm. Bobby won't know the full amount of damages until they start letting people back in and won't have full computer services for a while.

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricane Ike Pictures

A picture really is worth a thousand words...... I'll let them do the talking.

New Food Storage Link

This is Deborah from the Texas Hill Country, one of the Texas Preppers members. I have some info that members might be interested in knowing:

Sharon Astyk of Causabon's Book [] - author and prepper - is starting a weekly series of posts to assist folks in creating a long-term food pantry.

She writes:

"I got a great idea from one of my food storage students, by way ofher LDS church. She told me that each month or week at her church,they hand out cards that encourages people to focus on one area offood storage, and one or two other issues - including suggestions for where to get things at reasonable prices. One month might focus on protein sources and flashlights, another on sweeteners and blankets."

Check out the rest of her post at

.. This week's purchase suggestions: pasta, popcorn and matches.

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.

Deborah from the Texas Hill Country

Monday, September 15, 2008

News Video from Hurricane Ike

"Survival" stories from those who chose to "ride it out". Not smart.....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mistakes I have Made - Part 4

I still firmly believe that we can learn from both our Successes and our Mistakes. We must always pay attention to the things that go on around us. Above all, be constantly on the lookout for the purveyor of all things bad - "Murphy". Rule #27: "If Things Are Going Real Well - Look Out It Is Fixin To Turn Sour".

It took most of that Summer to get all 12 of the "Raised Beds" constructed so no crops that year. Having read about a process called "Sheet Composting" and deciding that it was not all that difficult and that it was something I could do, that became the plan for the Fall.

I was able to collect tons of Leaf Mold from the wooded areas of the Turf and spread it all 6 to 8 inches thick on the beds. Now since I had purchased my own 8hp "Troy Built Horse" tiller, I was able to till all that Leaf Mold into the beds and let it cook till Spring when I had great plans...

Come Spring the beds looked great, very few weeds that were taken care of by a few passes with Ole 8 Horse. Then it was crazy time, I planted A bed each of Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Onions, Pinto Beans, 2 of Tomatoes, 3 of Peppers, and 2 of Potatoes. All that was left for me to do was water on the weekends and watch the crops do their thing.

Everything was growing just great, nice and green and blooming. I was beginning to feel pretty smug once again and could not wait to begin sampling some of the fruits of my labor and sharing some with my neighbors. Again, Murphy chose this time to enter the picture.

It was the week before the Memorial Day weekend as I recall. We had 6-8 inches of rain during the week. When I arrived at the Turf on Friday evening, the first thing I did was check out the garden area. Sure enough, Murphy had seen to it that a 10' wide gully had washed down the whole 100' length of the garden. It even rained again that night just to add insult to injury.

I had constructed the Beds running across the slope of the land thinking to catch as much rain run off as I could. I caught it alright… Had to rethink that whole project. Thank You For Your Help MURPHY!!!!

As usual, I hope that we learned another of Murphy's Rules and that ya'll were able to see the error of my ways. (Still not sure that I made a Mistake here - Unless not allowing for "Murphy" is a Mistake - Yeah I Made a Mistake!) See ya'll again on "Mistakes Part 5".

Take Care - Belwether

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Update - Ports

Just a brief bit of information for right now.

Ports: The U.S. Coast Guard reported that the following Texas ports are closed to all traffic:

Houston, Freeport, Galveston, Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Texas City .

The following Texas ports have limited traffic:

Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Port Lavaca.

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Update - Port and Refinery Closures and Emergency Procedures

Information about fuel supplies in Texas has been obtained and is being posted here and on Stealth Survival for the benefit of people wanting more information prior to Hurricane Ike's arrival on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Here is that information:

Update, September 11, 2008 – 2:00 p.m.

Storm Update:

As of 10:00 a.m. CDT Thursday, Hurricane Ike was about 470 miles east-southeast of Galveston, Texas. Ike is traveling west-northwestward at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. Ike is a very large Category 2 hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extend 115 miles outward from Ike's center. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 275 miles.

The circulation of Ike is so large that it is already causing water levels to rise 1-3 feet across the entire Gulf Coast from South Florida to Texas.

The best estimate right now is for landfall somewhere between Matagorda Bay and Galveston, Texas. Nonetheless, a devastating storm surge is expected for more than 100 miles east of landfall. One should not focus on an exact landfall location at this time, and all interests along the western Gulf Coast should monitor the progress of Ike closely.

Ike will remain a major hurricane when making landfall along the Texas coast during the early morning hours Saturday. There is some chance for Ike to become a Category 4. hurricane;

Operational Update:

No wide-spread outages have been reported. Historically, we do experience spot outages due to the increased demand. We are focusing on regional evacuation outages and as we can.

Other reports:

The overall fuel system is stressed with increased demand.


In the Houston area, retailers reporting retail demands that are 4-5X higher than normal but not abnormal for this type of situation.


The industry continues to obtain, position, and load fuel into the Texas regions likely to be impacted by Hurricane Ike.


Refineries are evaluating their safety considerations and shut-down processes.

Seven of nine Houston-area refineries representing roughly 1,985 million barrels of refining capacity have confirmed that they are shutting down ahead of Hurricane Ike.

Another refinery in Corpus Christi has shut down, taking an additional 288,000 barrels per day out of the fuel supply. Valero’s refinery in Port Arthur is operating at reduced levels.


It is likely that once terminals experience sustained tropical winds (39 mph), the racks will shut down loading activities until it is safe again. Tropical Storm winds are to be expected in the Houston/Pasadena area sometime on Friday morning. After Hurricane Ike passes through and all assets are operational the Truck Rack will reopen and all customers/carriers will be contacted. Racks in San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston are increasing supplies in readiness.


Grade outages reported at some stations. Demand is intense in some locations and this changes as refueling occurs and newevacuation takes place.

Dynamic Messaging:

Since Ike has entered the Gulf, TXDOT is now running messages on their dynamic message boards on the Gulf coast that a hurricaneis in the Gulf and to fuel vehicles.


The following counties have issued Mandatory Evacuations: Galveston, Chambers, Jefferson, and Orange.

Partial Evacuations: Southern Harris and Matagorda.

The following counties have issued voluntary evacuations: Nueces, Victoria, Brazoria, Jackson, and San Patrico.


TXDOT issued the waiver for overweight trucks and hours of service. (See TxOGA’s website).

TCEQ: TCEQ will exercise its enforcement discretion in advance of Hurricane Ike's projected landfall for temporary vehicle fueling facilities (Stage II Vapor Recovery Requirements) to allow for fueling of vehicles from facilities other than service stations. The length of time for this enforcement discretion is through the duration of this event. Please know that TCEQ is supportive of this proposal, to allow the flexibility needed to prepare for and respond to the catastrophic threat Texas faces from Hurricane Ike.

TCEQ is granting a 1 week extension for the Title V deviation report.

The TCEQ will extend its enforcement discretion in advance of Hurricane Ike's projected landfall to the counties to be potential impacted, and from today (September 11, 2008) through the "duration of the event." This will include:

Ongoing physical opacity monitoring and leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements, including daily and weekly audio, visual and olfactory requirements, component monitoring and inspections, carbon canister monitoring, container monitoring, initial repair attempts, final repairs, and follow-up monitoring;

Periodic monitoring of cooling tower systems;
Periodic sampling of storm water outfalls;
Periodic groundwater monitoring and inspections pursuant to agreed orders or compliance plans;
Inspections of hazardous and solid waste storage areas;
Continuous Emission Monitoring (CEMs) requirements due to the potential loss of CEMs prior to equipment being brought down;
State and federal NSPS, NESHAP and MACT requirements regarding flare operations and monitoring due to potential loss of pilot flame and inability to monitor;
State and federal NSPS and MACT requirements for floating roof tanks, including the potential for landing tank roofs on their legs;
Recordkeeping and reporting obligations related to the above; and
Other recordkeeping and reporting obligations that would otherwise be due during this period.

TCEQ will exercise its enforcement discretion in advance of Hurricane Ike's projected landfall to industry that is within an area covered by a mandatory evacuation order. The requested length of time for this enforcement discretion is from the date of the mandatory evacuation order until, through the duration of the event. This will include:

State and federal NSPS, NESHAP and MACT requirements regarding control devices (vapor recovery units, vapor combustor units, and flares), including permit terms and conditions.

Truck Staging:

San Antonio has offered Wolff Stadium as a staging area for fuel trucks and chemical haulers to wait out the storm. Please contact Debbie Hastings at 512-424-2208 (Fuel desk) for more details.


The U.S. Coast Guard ordered area the Port of Houston Port to begin closing to ship traffic today over concerns that Hurricane Ike would produce rough seas.

Port Freeport, about 65 miles south of Houston in a mandatory evacuation zone for Brazoria County, shut down early Wednesday afternoon.

Port Lavaca no ships are coming into the port.

The Port of Galveston is closed.

Recovery and Re-entry:

Employers report that they are activating their response teams are preparing for recovery including the pre-positioning of generators. We are working with TCEQ to obtain waivers specific to staging temporary fuel tanks for these generators.The re-entry letter prepared for Hurricane Gustav will be applicable for Hurricane Ike. (The letter and motor carrier waiver are available on TxOGA’s website.) As a reminder:

Please keep a list of persons to whom your company distributes this letter. This list should be available should the state request confirmation of individual names.

In addition to this letter from the state, your re-entry employees/contractors will need a letter from your corporate office authorizing them as critical personnel.

Re-entry employees will need photo identification like a driver's license or employee identification.

If personnel have TWIC cards or local credentials, please ensure that they have those as well. The more information that they have available to demonstrate their critical role in the re-entry process, the smoother it should go.

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.