What is a "tiehacker"?

"Tiehacker" is a term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a class of people from WAY back in the hills that made a living cutting trees into ties for the railroad. I first heard the term from my wife shortly after we married. I had been working outside all day and was dirty and stinky. She had learned it from her father, and thought it just meant "a bum". Never having heard it before, I looked it up. Although I am not really a bum, I thought it was interesting, and I do have a life-long love affair going with the Ozark hills, so ... there you have it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our food supply is killing us

Couldn't help myself; I thought this was hilarious!

The Debster is doing great. She is transitioning from the walker to a cane, and has regained most of the flexibility in her new knee. Her pain level has diminished a great deal also.

Now, for the "meat" of this post:

Bluntly put, our food supply is killing us. This is from a Federal Government website:
While the American food supply is among the safest in the world, the Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually—the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year. And each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
The US Dept. of Agriculture, responsible for inspection of meat and poultry, and the Food and Drug Administration, responsible for inspection of all other kinds of food, actually inspect only a tiny percent of the food that we buy.

Much of our food is produced on huge factory farms, and the number of traditional family farms dwindles more and more every year.

The vast majority of our seafood is imported from Asia. Tilapia, shrimp, catfish, and many other types are grown in huge fish farms all across Asia. These farms are NOT subject to the standards and limits applied to US suppliers, and often utilize known carcinogenic chemicals and additives. They are usually severely overcrowded and thoroughly unhygienic. 

Proposed laws and regulations attempting to stem the flow of tainted foods from foreign sources are usually gutted or even killed by legislators that are fearful to anger a trading "partner". 

Inside the US, large-scale food producers often go for years without seeing an inspector. And if a producer is determined to be producing tainted foods, there are few consequences. The worst that they will usually get is a sternly worded letter. 

What can you and I do to protect ourselves?

First and foremost, grow as much as possible for yourself. Even apartment dwellers can grow some foods using container gardening methods. Even a small yard usually has room for a garden, and techniques such as Square Foot Gardening can maximize output from a small garden.
(Stock photo from Google Images)

Even urban areas in the city will often allow for at least a few chickens, rabbits, and the like, although you would obviously want to check your local regulations. 

Very few people, even those on large rural homesteads, will be able to grow EVERYTHING they need, and will have to purchase some foods. As much as possible, buy from local farmers markets or even directly from the farmers. If you must buy from a supermarket, talk to the produce manager. Even large national chain-stores often use local suppliers for much of their produce and so forth.

Be picky about the meat and dairy products you buy. One good option is to patronize a local butcher. Make sure the meat he is selling is chemical- and antibiotic-free. You can save a great deal of money by buying a quarter or even half a cow. The up-front cost is obviously high, but the per-pound cost is significantly less than small packages. Perhaps splitting the purchase with a friend or few will enable you to exercise this great deal.

Make sure you follow safe handling practices. ALWAYS wash your fruit and produce, even if the package says "Pre-washed and ready to eat". 

Make sure your foods are thoroughly cooked, especially eggs, poultry, and pork.

Leftovers should be promptly packaged and refrigerated, not left sitting out for hours.

There is much that you can do to protect yourself from botulism, e. coli, listeriosis, salmonella, and many other types of food poisoning. Don't count on the government to do it for you, unless you actually enjoy playing Russian Roulette.

God bless,
Ron and Deb

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A good chuckle; "reforming" Social Security once and for all

Here's a chuckle for you: 

Social Security has come to be known as the "third rail" of politics. In other words, a politician's career will die a horrible death if (s)he so much as touches this most sacrosanct of government programs. Fortunately for me (and perhaps for the nation in general), I am not a politician and never plan to run for ANY office, so I can say whatever I want without fear of being booted from office.

Way back in the 1930's, the Roosevelt administration pushed through a whole boatload of legislation to set up a "safety net" for American citizens, especially those that were hit the hardest by the Great Depression. One of the biggest parts of this was the Social Security Act in 1935. Originally, it called for a small percentage of everyone's income to be taxed, and their employers had to contribute a matching amount. 

When a person reached the retirement age of 65, they could then draw a monthly stipend to augment whatever savings and other income they might have, allowing for a better standard of living for at-risk senior citizens. It was not meant to be a sole, or even primary, source of income. There were provisions for widows and minor children, but there was no such thing as "Disability Income", "Medicare", and the like. These were all added later.

In 2013, Social Security, Medicare, and related expenditures by the Federal Government totaled a whopping 38% of the Federal Budget. As the "baby boomer" generation continues to age and retire, that number will only grow larger.

One of the major drawbacks to this program is the disincentive it provided to saving for retirement, especially among lower-income workers. Why scrimp and save and do without, when the government will pay for your retirement? Savings, even among those with robust incomes, has decreased dramatically over the years.

In my opinion, it is time to do away with this whole system. It is obscenely bloated, horribly corrupt, and a huge drain on society. Young people today are paying over 15% of their income, half directly in the form of a tax, and half paid by their employer from money that could and should otherwise be paid directly to the worker. Yet, by the time these workers reach "retirement age", there will be little available for them to draw on themselves.

Here is my proposal:
  1. Incentivise direct retirement savings by expanding the IRA and 401k programs, allowing for full  tax deductions for any amount placed into some sort of retirement account, removing restrictions and limits.
  2. Immediately eliminate the FICA tax withholding from paychecks. STRONGLY encourage employers to take the share that they had been paying to FICA and pay it directly to the employee. Create incentives for employers to do this rather than to pocket the savings for themselves, and perhaps create penalties for employers that do not. (I am not so sure about that last part; I have never been a fan of forcing businesses to spend or not spend in any way.) 
  3. Stop issuing Social Security Numbers. They will no longer be needed, and their role in identity theft will soon disappear.
  4. Since doing away with this huge program will throw a LOT of federally employed accountants and bookkeepers out of work, create temporary jobs for some of them to handle the following calculations and disbursements.
  5. Senior citizens already retired and receiving benefits will continue to receive them as usual. They worked their whole lives for them, and it would be a gross injustice to yank it away from them.
  6. Immediately stop all other "benefit payments", such as SSDI, Supplemental Security Income, and the like.
  7. For each non-retired worker that has paid into the system but not received any benefits, treat what (s)he has paid in (including employer matching funds) as a series of savings account deposits. A total amount should be calculated, including accrued interest at an equitable rate. That total amount should be paid directly to that employee as a one-time disbursement. Tax free, of course, as it simply a refund of a tax already paid. Older workers, especially, that have paid in a substantial amount over the years, should be encouraged to stash this money in a retirement fund of some sort.

There are obviously holes in this plan. For instance, funding the continuing payments mentioned in section 5. Better brains than mine could fine-tune this plan. 

Something similar needs to be done with Medicare, but I wouldn't know where to even begin.

The biggest obstacle, of course, will be finding some brave politician that is willing to risk political suicide by working this up and presenting it as proposed legislation. Something tells me that will never happen.

Oh well, it was fun to think about it, anyway.

God bless!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Update on The Debster, and cousin Crazy George goes off-grid

I thought this was worth a chuckle ...

Well, the Debster has been home for a couple of days now, and life is settling back into some semblance of normalcy. She is still pretty limited in what she can do, but is improving daily. She gets up and down the stairs from the bedroom fairly well, and is doing her prescribed exercises with only a little bit of prodding from "the management of this torture chamber", meaning me. Her incision is healing nicely. She is normally a very slow healer, so that is VERY good news. And she has begun to cut back on the pain meds, also great news. One other thing that I really hope to see happen is that as the pain recedes and she gets some normal motion back, she will be able to work on strengthening herself all around. She has been in so much pain for so long, and hence virtually an invalid, that she has allowed her muscle strength to atrophy to an alarming extent. This is going to be a long process, but I hope that by the end of the year, after the other knee has been replaced, it will speed up quickly.

I received a letter the other day from my cousin Crazy George.
Hey Ronbo! [I'll explain that later]
Well, Patsy and I finally did it! We bought a spread near [name of town redacted]. You been yammerin about self-sufficiency and going off the grid for so long that we decided you just might be right.
 We have about 100 acres. It's kind of hilly, par for the course here in the Missouri Ozarks, too rocky to be great farmland. Most of it is wooded, but there are a couple of acres fairly level and clear, with a nice sized spring-fed crick running through it.
The nearest town is about 5 miles away, and our property is about a mile down a dirt road off the county road. The closest "neighbor" is about a mile away. There are NO utilities run out here at all.

This is a stock photo of a 1971 Airstream similar to George's.
He doesn't allow photos of his. Or of anything, for that matter. Kinda paranoid.
For the moment, we are living in our Airstream camper. We haven't decided what we are going to do about a permanent abode, but we are leaning towards building a log cabin. There is no shortage of building material, that's for sure!
There is a small outbuilding that hasn't fallen down yet. I'm going to do some repairs on it, and use it to house our garden tractor and our ATV. 
We had the crick tested, and the water has no chemical pollution. So I am going to put up a 500-gallon cistern, and a generator-powered pump from the crick to keep it filled. A good charcoal filtration system should take care of other remaining impurities. Eventually we will have to figure out a better water supply; that generator uses a lot of diesel fuel. Even adapting it to run on waste oil, and bio-diesel which I will be able to make myself, it is not economical enough to be a long-term solution.
I need to run into town and pick up some supplies, so I'll be mailing this from there. Give me a call. Although I don't have cell service out here, you can leave a message and I'll be able to get it when I get to town.
Hope to see you out here visiting soon.
Well, I have to go as well. Time to get the Debster up, get her breakfast, and finish the laundry. More to follow soon.

God bless!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'm back to writing again!

I know, I know. It has been awhile. Sorry about that.

The Debster and I have both been dealing with health issues. Working full time plus taking care of the Debster, the house, and the animals has really eaten into my time.

After going to the trouble of staking out the edges of my garden, and renting a small tiller to get it ready, I wound up planting .... absolutely nothing. My feet, legs, and back have just been too sore to allow the labor involved in the garden. I have even been paying my nephew to keep the grass cut for me.

Thyroid disease finally claimed the life of one of our cats. We had two, named Cow and Bull. Brother and sister. Cow was black and white; her uncanny resemblance to the Holstein breed engendered her name, and Bull's name followed sort of logically. He is coal black. We buried Cow in the Debster's mother's back yard, where so many of the extended family pets are buried. She was a sweet thing, as cats go, and is sorely missed. 

One unforeseen result of Cow's death is the total transformation of Bull's temperament. He had always been a bit on the arrogant and stand-offish side, just a little abusive of his shy, retiring sister, and not very friendly to most people, even close family. But within a few days of Cow's death, Bull became an altogether different animal. He now sticks close to us, often sleeping with, or even on top of, me or Deb. He hangs out in the same room with us. He has even, recently, begun playing with Daisy. At least, I think he's playing. Or maybe she is driving him nuts and he is just too old to really put serious effort into tearing her apart. Whichever one it is, they both seem to be enjoying themselves.

The Debster had knee replacement surgery a few weeks ago. After a few days in the hospital and couple weeks at a rehab center, she came home Friday, on the Fourth. I don't know who was happiest to have her home. Deb, me, or the critters. Chelsea had been pacing the house two or three times a day, searching for her "Mommy", and then coming to me with a little whimper because she couldn't find her. So she is happy. Stempey and Daisy have their favorite lap to nap on again. Bull has his favorite belly to sleep on at night again. And I have my wife back! Until she is fully healed and ambulatory, my own work load will be a lot heavier, as I handle all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so forth the next few weeks. But it sure is worth it! You just never know how much you'll miss someone until they are actually gone for awhile.

Well, I gotta go for now. Need to get a brunch put together for us, and the laundry has piled up a little. 

Until next time
God bless!