Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What the world needs

What the world needs is a lot more photos of people holding fish...

...and a lot fewer photos of people holding cameras in front of their bathroom mirror a.k.a. "selfies"!

There's something about an early morning on a Rocky Mountain trout stream that brings out the philosopher in me.  Once you're away from cell phones, TV's, computers and all the other technological distractions that bombard us daily, your mind has the freedom to relax and ponder life's deeper questions. Like what on earth would possess someone to strip down and take a selfie while standing in front of their bathroom mirror? Sheesh!

I read an article recently that shared the results of a study showing that the average person would rather give themselves a painful electric shock than spend 15 minutes alone with their thoughts. Who are those people anyway?  Gosh, I don't know about you, but I love it when I can get 15 minutes alone with my thoughts. And believe me, a trout stream is the perfect place for it!

G.W. and I are polishing up our fly fishing skills with the help of this guy, Scott Tarrant.

Scott is one of the outstanding guides working with Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs and also the owner of Watershed Fly Fishing Company.

We took a casting lesson from Scott at the practice pond beside Angler's Covey, then decided to take it out on some moving water.  With Scott as our teacher and guide, we headed out to Eleven Mile Canyon to fish the South Platte River.

This little gem of a canyon sits below the dam at Eleven Mile Reservoir.  Beautiful, rugged granite walls...

...and towering pines line the canyon.

In case you were wondering, we weren't fishing the waterfalls you see in the photos! We were a few miles further upstream from where I snapped these.

We started our morning just below the dam at Eleven Mile Reservoir. A question I hadn't even asked yet was answered when Scott slipped a seine over his landing net, muddled the stream bed and caught a couple of bugs and worms that were stirred up.  That's how you figure out what flies to use. You check to see what's in the water that day.

Scott told us that each morning there's a hatch of a mayfly species called Trico (Tricorythodes) and the trout go nuts for them. He said they hatch at 8:30 AM and sure enough, at 8:30 the air was filled with thousands of these tiny insects.

This photo is courtesy of Fly Fisherman

If you're curious about these mayflies and how to fish a trico hatch, follow this link to an excellent article by John Merwin at Field and Stream.

How to Fish the Summer Trico Hatch for Trout

But meanwhile, back at the ranch, Scott, G.W. and I watched clouds of tricos dancing in the morning sun. One thing was curiously missing though. The trout weren't rising. We fished hard and came up empty. Not even a strike. Where were the trout? Thumbing their noses at us, apparently. Other anglers around us were having similar luck (or bad luck as the case may be).

That's what makes fly fishing for trout so maddeningly attractive. Some days, it's easy; other days, you have to work for it and on still others, you're skunked no matter what.  And yet we keep coming back for more.

Scott was a man with a plan and we moved downstream just a bit.  It was the perfect place for me and G.W. since it had some challenging, fast water for G.W. to fish and also some "tamer" water for me. It also had lots of trout!  Oh yeah, baby!

G.W. and I each landed a couple of nice rainbows.  

We also hooked and lost many more. Very exciting fishing.

All the while Scott was showing us how to read the currents, and most importantly, how to mend our lines.

Learning to cast is the first step in fly fishing, but you can cast like a pro and still never catch a trout. Why? Because you need to understand how to control your line in water currents. When you don't, your fly won't drift naturally.  If the line is dragging the fly faster or slower than the current would naturally take it, your fly no longer looks like a real bug being carried in the current. "Mending" your line employs several techniques to combat this dragging and gives your fly a natural drift. 

The methods for mending your line are far beyond the scope of this article. But it IS important if you want to catch trout!  My reason for mentioning it here is that while G.W. and I were having fun catching trout, our guide/teacher was helping us learn these critical points like line mending. Scott says the river is the best teacher. I'll add that it does help when you have a knowledgeable person helping you interpret what the river is trying to tell you.

After just four hours on the water, we walked away with the knowledge we needed to go out on our own and catch trout. Are we experts? Not yet.  But we caught some fish, so we're on our way. And spent a glorious summer morning on a stream, alone with our thoughts and some trout. It doesn't get any better than this!

If you are in Colorado or planning to visit, and would like to scare up a few trout, I highly recommend both Angler's Covey and Watershed Fly Fishing Company.  Although I linked to their websites above, here are the links again.

Watershed Fly Fishing Company 

Angler's Covey

And when you stop in at Angler's Covey, be sure to look for Kate, Scott's darling Golden Retriever and store mascot/greeter.  She'd love a scratch behind the ears!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guest Author Tom Grounder - Thoughts on what to have when you prep

Tom Grounder is back with another thought-provoking article on the items you should include in your emergency preparations.  Please pay special attention to his recommendations on firearms. Tom's business is firearms training so he speaks from experience. 

If you would like to learn more about Defensive Logic, please follow this link to Tom's website

Thank you, Tom!

These are recommendations based on my experience, my own desires to prep, research into history and my belief that such actions are necessary based on what I see the direction of the country going.  Remember that I’m an optimist!! I would love my prepping to be for nothing but ignoring it is not smart in my opinion.  I’m sure that you will find those that may differ with this.  This is strictly my personal feelings based on my training and research.  Each of you should reflect and consider your ability to provide food, needs, comfort and survivability for yourself and your loved ones defense.   
I have broken into “should have” and “get it if you can” categories.
Should have: FIREARMS
1 handgun – 9mm,40 or .45 ACP.   Some recommended models = Glock, Springfield Armory, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Taurus or whatever you can comfortably afford. Do not discount of brand or lesser know handguns.   I’m personally not a Glock fan myself… But they are in mass use worldwide and have a simplicity and dependability that is unquestioned.   Cost is very nominal compared to many other handguns on the market today.  Important: DO NOT discount revolvers.  Some family members may not have the ability to manipulate the operations of a semi-auto pistol. Age, size, injuries to hands, arthritis and other restrictions make revolvers a clear choice.  This allows for additional calibers from .22LR, .38 / Special, .357 Magnum and up.  Please don’t assume that I am saying that the .44 cal is not valid.  It is,… but is not nearly as main stream as the mentioned ones above.

1 Shotgun  - 12 gauge.  Preferably “tactical” in design. (short barrel in 16-18 in long.  It should have rifled sights instead of bead for accuracy with slugs. An extended tube magazine can be added to increase the amount of ready ammo by 1 to 4 more than the original tube.  It can defend, take large game and or small game depending of the ammo load.  You get lots of versatility in one weapon by selecting from the vast diversity of ammo. If you can get one that has an interchangeable long barrel to go from defense to game….that is the way to go.  Benelli, Mossberg, Remington, Rock Island) are some makers that offers such a platform.
1 Rifle - .22 cal  / ( .22 magnum or .17 HMR optional ). Relatively cheap ammo.    .22 is still relatively cheap to shoot and becoming more plentiful. They can provide food in small game form.   If accurate, you can take fairly larger game with well placed headshots. It can defend, has decent range (out to 100 yrds.)  The .17 HMR as ballistic performance and a flat trajectory out to 100+ yards that is outstanding.  For the size of the round (17 to 20+ grains) it has tremendous energy at impact.  
1 Rifle long barrel: large caliber = .30 Caliber Variant. Such as 30.06, .308. 30-30,   .308 caliber is 7.62 x 51 mm (NATO) lots of availability.  Many available Eastern bloc long guns are available in 7.62x 54 and 7.62 x 39. Very close but with distinct performance abilities.   This ammo is not only plentiful, but is cheap. These all provide great range from 100 – 300 yrds effectively with little / nominal training and practice.   All can take large game and can defend at very comfortable distances.   

If you do not own a good long gun, consider a Mosin Nagant.  The market is flooded with them.  They are easily had for between $150-250.00.  They do require massive cleaning to prep and standard cleaning after shooting is a bit more intensive, and a degree of attention to setting the firing pin depth is required, but they have great range, solid ballistics and ammo is ridiculous in availability and price.  A 440 round tin can be had for under $120.00. 
Get if you can:
A handgun for every capable person in the family.
1 Tactical weapon  - AR-15,  M4, Mini -14 style.  Caliber of .223 or 5.56mm.  (I use the term tactical as so many are familiar with that term.)  Many AR platforms will accept both the 5.56 and the .223 and are marked as such.   High capacity magazines (20- 30 rounds) = lots of firepower.   AK- style / SKS soviet bloc rifles.  Caliber of 7.62 x 39.   Ammo is plentiful thus cheap.  Either one of these weapons can take most med-large-game.  Great defensive and offensive weapon.  Good range if needed and practiced out to 100+ yards.   The more the merrier here is the rule.  This could be costly, but if you have able bodied persons in the family, they are a huge force multiplier.  One benefit for the case of soviet bloc firearms is ammo.  Much available stock is steel cased that many have an issue with firing through a non - soviet bloc firearm.  It only makes sense to have a something made by the soviet bloc nations.  The cost and availability of the ammo, ability of these firearms to eat anything put through them is worth it!
Multiple .22 rifles = one for each family member.  Preferably bolt action or semi auto.  This is without a doubt the most efficient way to not only provide, you can practice shooting and sharpen marksmanship skills in every age range for little investment in the weapon itself and the ammunition.  Handguns in the same caliber can be a life saver for those younger and not ready for large calibers.  Most rifles and handguns are semi auto with many rounds on tap.  They may be small, but multiple rounds of 23 to 40 grains moving at close to 1200+ fps can cause a re-think of actions.
There is no other round or firearm in the world that is considered the ultimate survival than the .22LR in rifle form.  Backed with a handgun in the same caliber and you have what I would consider the most valuable piece(s) of your arsenal.
Ammo.  Buy! Buy! Buy!    How much should you have??   In a defensive firefight between two parties, the average number of rounds fired is 7 to 12 in a matter of seconds.  You should be able to sustain endless confrontations.    In a scenario of defending home territory against multiple outside forces, an engagement can go on for hours or days!  Stock up on every caliber you own.  No amount is too much.   In the event of such calamity…this will serve as your ability to defend, feed, trade…and (reality check here) to acquire with force as needed.  
That last line may be hard to digest and sounds brutal and cold, but reality and history indicates that aggressive acts will be required as needed to ensure survival.  Alliances and barters will only go so far.  
To scavenge is a dangerous and often confrontational undertaking... AND A REQUIREMENT TO SUSTAIN YOUR SUPPLIES.  What you come across may be the difference between life and death for you or others. There will be those who…under panic, fear, terror of dying, desperation, hunger, wanting to provide for their loved ones, and simply evil intentions…will want what you have.   There will be no compassion, no concerns for your welfare or survival. 
Morality and common decency will not be something that you can appeal to or have the luxury to bestow.  Decisions to act must be made quickly and implemented.  At this point, what will be your intestinal fortitude?  Rule of Survival: Avoid conflict if you can. Never take with force what you can obtain with honorable trade or by scavenge.
But if an attacker fails in his/her attempt to take from you by your defensive posture,…then to the victor goes the spoils!  Take from them everything!  Chances are they will not need it any way.  Never allow an immediate threat (at that moment) to be a threat to you later.  Be decisive, deliberate, violent, and be deadly. Remember,… they made the choice to engage you.
 Collect basic medical supplies.  Antibiotics (topical and oral), bandages, wraps, band-aids, cortisone, pain killers, anti-inflammatory,    Military crash bags are great and often come stocked.  Sun screens, chap-sticks…etc.  There is no limit to what you should acquire in regards to this area. “Quik-Clot” is a must.  It hurts… but if you need to stop bleeding in a hurry, this is the way.
Not Thought of By Most.  Toilet Paper, cake-bar / liquid body soaps, deodorant, toothpaste and brushes, lotions, feminine products for women (and girls that will be dealing with it as age comes) in the group such as pads, panty liners, and tampons.  (These have many other uses besides the intended for example… tampons make great plugs for wound control.  A puncture or gunshot wound can be contained in its bleeding by a tampon as a temporary emergency fix.)  Emergency sewing kits should be obtained as with fishing gear! Look at everything you use today to make your life “comfortable” and imagine what would be the effect if you did not have it. Stock it!

Clothing for all scenarios and weather.  Footwear is critical.   Boots with lace up, military–tactical style with good support are highly recommended with a huge supply of socks. Jeans and or Fatigue style pants with multiple pockets are good to have at all times. Address all members of the family in this.  Young kids grow rapidly so consider that.
Collect and store non-perishable or long shelf -life foods.  Canned goods, dry goods, pre–packed meals, etc.  Look for high caloric foods. Estimate one meal each per day…two is optimal.  Caloric intake target should be 2000 minimal per day.    Ideally have enough to sustain 6 months for each member of the family at two meals a day.
Batteries , Candles, Oil Lamps and Cooking Option Abilities.   Have at least one good camp stove that is propane powered. Have plenty of the bottles to run it!  Most of us have a gas grill of some kind.  Stock up on the tanks and have them full and ready! Rotate them during the safe time before something happens but always keep them full.  Batteries for any and all lights /devices you have should be stock in levels that some may consider absurd!  A good investment into a wood smoker is a great idea.  The ability to burn charcoal and cooking woods is a huge benefit.   
RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF BOTTLED WATER! STORE IT NOW!   May I recommend Daily Bread and Shelf–Reliance. Please visit their websites at www.dailybread.com. and www.shelfreliance.com My family has taken this step and it is a good peace of mind.  6 months of these provisions for three is about 2500 to 3000.00.  Payment plans can be arranged if the budget cannot support the initial full layout.

Build to Store.  As you stock, find places where you can store supplies.  This may require some creative ingenuity on your part, but get after it!  Always keep in mind the issue of security and weather if you store outside the main dwelling and never store inside such items as gas, propane and major fuels.
This list is just basics.   You’re specific needs and desires will determine what you need or want to add to it.  Take about an hour or less and look around your home with the mindset that you have lost all power with no foreseeable end in sight.  What would be affected and what would you run out of quickly? What items would have an impact on your daily life (as you know it right now) if it was no longer available?  Consider the impact in magnitude.  If it was gone, what would be affected and how would that effect your overall comfort and ability to cope with the events that you may find yourself in? 
COMFORT IS IMPORTANT!  The ability to cope (think clearly, have normalcy, retain civility, to retain a strong moral compass) is rooted in your comfort and that of those around you.  Although less than what we experience now, little things will make a huge difference when faced with stressful situations of endurance. Remember that those without that comfort will reach levels of brutality that most cannot imagine to obtain it.  There is literally is no end to want you may want.  The idea of this material is to get you to think about your situation and have you expound on it as you feel.   In the end, I truly hope that all my preparation is in vain.

I’d like nothing more than step on my porch some morning and have a big sigh of relief.    I am ever optimistic of our future, but I’m not blind.   There is never more truth in this than now,….  “Hope for the best…but prepare for the worst!”     

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Cheeper" by the Dozen - Part 2

This is Part 2 in a series of three article about my experiences using foster hens to mother chicks that I got at a local farm store.  

In part one of the series, I shared the trials and tribulations of trying to use two foster hens to adopt and raise 12 chicks from a hatchery.

You can read Part 1 here:

Cheeper By the Dozen - Part 1

Part Two - Tragedy Strikes

It's been a rough week for Team Omelette!  All of the foster chicks have died.  Heartbreaking!  

Hindsight showed me that my flock was becoming sick right before I brought the chicks in. Egg production had fallen off and their pooh was very watery.  I'd blamed those two things on molting and on a change in their diet because they were free-ranging more and eating a lot of grass.

That was not the case. They developed some kind of respiratory sickness. Right after I introduced the new chicks, I noticed that one adult bird was making a cough/sneeze sound. It was a wet, mucous-y sound. I made a mental note to keep an eye on her. But by the end of that day, six adults were sneezing. By the next morning, all of the adults were doing it.  The adult birds were still eating and drinking and moving around. There was no nasal or eye discharge.

The vet and I do not think the chicks were the source of the germs, since 1) the symptoms in the adult birds started before the chicks arrived and 2) the chicks were the last to get sick.

CAUTION! What follows here are the details of my experiences and the advice of a vet with respects to my flock and their unique symptoms. This is not a substitute for advice from your own vet.  DO NOT read this and go on to medicate your ill birds on your own. Call your vet and follow their advice.

My usual vet doesn't treat birds, so she referred me to another who is familiar with avian concerns. He recommended immediate treatment with antibiotics. Luckily, the antibiotics are available at most farm supply stores.

The difficulty is in the dosage amounts. This bag of tetracycline is measured to add to 100 gallons of water that large animals such as cows would drink.  It takes a tiny fraction of it to add to a few gallons of water for my flock.

I used my kitchen scale to weigh out the 7.62 grams of tetracycline needed to treat one gallon of drinking water for the adult birds. Since my scale doesn't measure in fractions of grams, I measured out 7 grams in one container and 8 grams in another. Combined, it averages out to roughly 7.62 grams for two different one gallon water containers.  

And the 4 grams for treating one gallon of water for treating the chicks. 

The medicine had to be mixed fresh each and every day.

Whatever this germ was, it hit the chicks hard. All of them died within about 36 hours. They would be acting normal and healthy and within a few hours would sicken and die. Even with the antibiotics. It was awful.

Four days after I started the course of antibiotics, the Team was starting to show improvements. All of the adult birds were getting better. The sneezing was subsiding.  I continued the antibiotics for ten full days to be certain all of the germs were gone.

For me, the decision to use antibiotics on my flock was easy even though I make every effort to use homeopathic means to treat illness. I felt that the situation was critical enough that I would lose the entire flock if I didn't use the tetracycline.

It was awful to lose all the babies like that. I spent a few days second guessing my actions and choices. Should I have isolated the babies and not tried to use foster hens? Should I have isolated the hens and babies from the rest of the flock? There are no clear-cut answers. I used foster hens to raise chicks in with the flock before with no trouble at all. 

I learned some important lessons though and won't write-off signs and symptoms of illness as something benign anymore. I sure don't want to go through another ordeal like this one!

In Part 3 of this series of articles, I'll detail the aftermath of the illness and what steps I took to clean and disinfect the coop.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Advanced Topics in Preparedness

Here is where the rubber meets the road for me and G.W.!  We have decided to test our readiness to face adversity with a four-month experiment.  From December 1 until March 31 we are going to make an honest attempt to live solely from supplies we have on hand.

For virtually everything in life, practice makes perfect. When it comes to "prepping" I believe that practice is vital to success. You can have shelves and shelves full of cans and jars of food along with all the other things you think you'll need like toilet paper. But you won't have the assurance that you've thought of everything until you actually live from your stored supplies.

We decided on four months because that time period is easily translated into what we would need/use in one year. During our four month experiment, we plan to carefully log everything we use. Once we have that list of four month's worth of supplies, we can multiply by three and (theoretically) know what we'd need for one year.

Doing this dry run during the winter provides some extra challenges. Our garden will be buried under snow so we can't rely on it for food like we do in summer. The chickens don't lay as many eggs through the short daylight period of winter, so we can't expect a steady supply from them. This will force us to rely on food we have stored.

If we do buy something during the four months, it will either show us a hole in our supply plan or else something about our personalities that we couldn't or wouldn't make do or do without.  We do have a few exceptions to our "no purchases" rule. We'll be in the middle of some home renovation/remodeling projects through the winter. Things we need for those projects are allowable purchases.

Over these next four months (August through November) we will be getting ready for the four months without purchases. I'll be busy canning, freezing, and dehydrating produce.  And we'll be making our lists of things we need to buy for storage. 

In my next post, I'll explain to you how we are determining what and how much to have on hand to get us through four months without additional purchases.