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!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Can a disciple of Jesus be a "prepper"?

Short answer, yes ... and no.

Before I begin, let's be clear what I mean by "prepper".

I consider myself a "prepper" at heart. I am not one of the crazies like those depicted on shows like "Doomsday Prepper". Rather, I consider what I do to be an extension of the old Boy Scout motto "Be prepared!"

To my mind, it's a no-brainer. I have lived through too many power failures, ice-storms, and the like. It only makes sense to have some basic food supplies, candles, first aid supplies, extra propane bottle for the grill, wood for the firepit, and a little cash set aside for those times when the roads are shut down, or the electricity goes out, and the stores are immediately stripped bare by hordes of panicked people.

We tend to drive in out-of-the-way places at times, in our older vehicles. To me, it makes sense to keep a kit in the trunk with basic emergency supplies in the event that we have a breakdown, or severe weather forces us off the road, in an area devoid of shelter and cell-phone signal. A couple of blankets, a small case of bottled water, a day or two's worth of dehydrated or canned foods, and the means to build a small fire to cook it on, that just seems prudent.

I don't give a rat's patoot what the government claims about inflation figures. We all know that the price of groceries goes up and up and up, while interest on bank accounts is about as close to zero as you can get. That being the case, why not use some of the cash that might otherwise sit in the bank actually losing value, and purchase extra things with long term expiration dates. I don't mean those insanely priced "50-meal-buckets" and stuff like that. I mean extra bags of flour, sugar, boxes of pasta, pancake and biscuit mix, regular canned goods, dried beans and rice, dried and/or canned milk, stuff you can get at any grocery store. Especially if you catch them on sale. With the inflationary cost of groceries, that stuff will actually grow in value at the same time your cash money will lose value. If you buy only what you normally eat, and rotate your stock, you don't have to worry about stuff going bad and yet your pantry will get a little more well-stocked every payday.

I do a little gardening, and plan to do more. Why buy it if I can grow it cheaper? Not to mention the proven health benefits of gardening, both physical and mental. Grow enough, invest in a canner and some jars and lids, and that pantry will grow even faster, stocked with good home-grown food that hasn't been filled with who-knows-what-all chemical crap.

"Survivalism", I think, is a misnomer, at least what I practice. I consider myself a neophyte outdoorsman or woodsman, not a survivalist. Yes, much of what I practice when in the woods seems like what is called "survivalism" on TV, but I just don't like the term. I have no intention of becoming the next Grizzly Adams or Jeremiah Johnson. I'm not planning on some crazy "bug-out" scheme that takes me to the deep wilderness to avoid urban catastrophe. But, I also know that things can happen during a routine float trip, or hiking or fishing or camping trip, and so the skills and basic tools to build a fire, put together a shelter, find and purify water, and forage for edible foods is simple prudence, and, in my case at least, also a fun hobby. 

And, just for the record, I worry very very little about the usual crazy prepper things like "When the stuff hits the fan" (or SHTF scenarios), or "The end of the world as we know it" (TEOTWAWKI). Is it possible that the world could blow up in our faces? Sure. Having lived through the mess in Ferguson last summer, just a few miles from here, I'd be a fool to think otherwise. Could our government get a little crazier and a civil war actually flare up? I guess so, but I doubt it will, if only because most of our population just doesn't care enough to bother anyway. Could Putin in Russia, or that little dweeb in North Korea, or some maniac terrorist, lose what little is left of his sanity and launch an EMP or dirty bomb attack on us? Yeah, I guess so. But again, very improbable. It's not enough of a worry to send me running for the hills, that's for sure.

So, what I mean by "prepping" means taking common sense measures to guard against the real situations that anyone might find themselves in.

The question is, does this jibe with being a follower of Jesus Christ?

Let's start with the classic passage about this. Proverbs 6:6-8 urges us to consider the ways of the simple ant, which is diligent in preparing her food and gathering her harvest, compared to the lazy man who prefers sleep to work, and winds up poverty stricken.

Another passage sometimes cited is Matthew 25:1-13. In the parable of the ten virgins, five of them were foolish and did not bring extra oil for their lamps, and were eventually turned away from the Wedding Feast by the Bridegroom.

These are often contrasted with passages such as Matthew 6:24-34, where Jesus says that one cannot serve both God and money, and then points out how even the simplest wildflowers and birds are cared for by God, who will do so much more for us, and thus we should concern ourselves with His kingdom and righteousness, and let the worries of tomorrow go. There are many other passages in the gospels and the epistles that exhort us to not get hung up on money and goods but rather to leave it all in God's hands.

OK. I said at the beginning that the answer to "Can a Christian be a prepper?" has both a yes and a no answer.

I'm going to start with an emphatic "NO!". Now, before all my prepper friends get themselves into a frenzy, let me explain. We must admit, there are certain aspects to the "prepper lifestyle" that are definitely NOT things a Christian should be doing or involved in.

I am no friend of the current regime in Washington, or in Jefferson City for that matter. I am convinced that our political leaders are leading us headlong into disaster. I see our rights and freedoms being stripped away as fast as they can figure out the next step. I long for the "good ol' days" when Americans were, mostly, a free people. 

There is a very vocal percentage of "preppers" that advocate stockpiling and training with military-caliber arms in order to, if necessary, fight effectively against the government. I am sorry. As sympathetic as I am with their frustration, for I feel it myself, that is still wrong. Scripture is quite clear. As Christians, our primary citizenship is in heaven, and our role here is as ambassador for Christ to the unsaved world. The governments of the world, from the smallest village council to the most pwerful presidents and kings, are in place because God chose to allow them to be there, for whatever reason He has. I have written about this before, in my post just a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read that if you missed it. We are to be peaceful and above reproach. Armed rebellion against our own government, no matter how heinous it is, is just plain wrong. If this is what you mean by "prepping", then no, a Christian has no business anywhere near it.

Besides, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, this is pretty much a no-brainer. This is not 1776. In 21st century America, even a half-trained and equipped squad of soldiers is going to take down even the most determined and well-defended home. A platoon will take out almost any "compound". Plain and simple. Armed rebellion is just a slow and painful method of suicide.

What about things like stockpiling food and supplies? That is, unfortunately, not such a clear-cut issue. What it boils down to is attitude and perception.

"God helps those that help themselves". That is NOT in the Bible, despite what some think. Ben Franklin used it in Little Richard's Almanac in 1757. The earliest known usage is from one of Aesop's Fables. In actuality, God helps the helpless. Is. 25:4, Rom 5:6, and so forth. On the other hand, Scripture also tells us that the lazy will fail, that those who refuse to work should not be allowed to eat, and so on.

As Christians, we are responsible for toiling for our food. We are responsible for providing for ourselves and our families. We are also responsible for being hospitable and charitable, responding in open-handed joy to those in need. We absoutely trust God, 100%, to provide the means to do this, but, though He has the sovereign power to do so, He is not in the habit of simply dumping a truckload of food on our porch. Normally, He supplies us with the ability to find and keep a job that will pay for these things, either a "regular" job, or perhaps as a farmer or rancher or the like.

I trust God 100% for the very air that I breathe, the water I drink, the health I need to go about my daily business. I honor Him buy using these gifts to work to provide for myself and my family, to further the work of expanding His kingdom, and to be charitable to those that have less and may be in need.

It is not dishonoring to God, it is not being distrustful of Him, to be prudent in salting away extra foodstuffs and supplies against a day of need, IF, and ONLY IF, I do so in a clear-eyed manner that gives the glory to Him and not to my own "foresight" or "prudence".

If I take the attitude, even unspoken, that "I don't really need God because I have a fully stocked pantry, a huge garden, and plenty of guns and ammo to hunt with", then that is sinful pride, dishonoring to God, and not a Christian activity. It is practically inviting God to "show me who's boss".

If God provides me the wherewithall to store supplies, and I do so in thankfulness to Him and with the intent to use them to His glory, and I do not "skimp" on day-to-day charity and God-honoring activity to do so, then all is good.

There is one other aspect that I want to look at briefly. A common theme in the prepper community is fortifying your home and protecting your stockpiles from "the zombie apocolypse". This does not, usually, refer to "the living dead" a la George Romero movies, but to the crowds of unprepared starving people that are expected to arise in periods of really widespread and prolonged social upheaval.

As Christians, we are commanded to give to those that ask of us. To be sacrificial in our charity and our hospitality towards those in need. To be mindful of self-defense and protectful of my supplies is one thing. To refuse to help even the most wild-eyed stranger that may present himself, is quite another. If I have a large stockpile of beans, and an unruly crowd demands to be fed some of those beans, I must do so, giving God the glory for providing them. And that may mean putting some protection around the pantry, to keep someone from destroying the supplies and preventing me from serving the greatest number possible.

The bottom line is this. 

A Christian has no business being in armed rebellion against the government, no matter now terrible. If that is what you call prepping, then no, a Christian may not rightfully do so.

Stockpiling of food and supplies may or may not be done in the framework of a Christian lifestyle.

If it done out of pride, and greed, and a sense of trusting only in self and not in God to provide for future needs, then no, that is not a Christian way to live and should be shunned for the evil that it is.

If it is done in a spirit of humble thankfulness, and a sincere desire to honor God by providing for your family and for others as may need it, then yes, a Christian not ony can, but should, do so as God provides the means.

And, as Frank and Fern, "Enola Gay" of Paratus Familia, and Patrice Lewis of Rural Revolution, so often exhort on their blogs, never forget that the most important prep of all is be sure of your place in His kingdom. For it will be absolutely useless to store and stockpile and consume twenty years worth of food, only to eventually die and wind up spending an eternity in hell. Prepare for eternity first, and then look to earthly concerns.

Thanks for reading!
Ron, and the Debster

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another week is done

Well, another week has gone without much to show for it. This is getting to be just a tad bit ridiculous. I really have to get off my butt.

The rains have pretty much stopped, and now the normal sweltering heat and humidity has blasted its way in. Welcome to St. Louis in the summer. Not a fun place to be if you don't like sweating like a pig and air-conditioning bills that are sky-high.

It's official. Got the bill from the IRS. Wow. And all thanks to Obamacare. I'm trying very hard not to say things that I shouldn't about our so-called president and congress. But it ain't easy right now.

Been watching "Alone" on the History Channel. Have become almost addicted to it!

The little garden is producing pretty well now.
Deb picked this pepper and tomato a couple days ago
And I picked these tomatoes and cukes yesterday
I can't wait to get a real full-size garden in next year. I'm thinking three 4'x8' beds. One would be about eight tomatoes and various squash in round cages, with maybe some pole beans and onion sets scattered between them. A second one would be smaller vegetables such as peppers, onions, beets, and kohlrabi, and a third with salad greens and smaller vegetables like carrots, radishes, and the like.
That would pretty much use up the available space in our small yard, and give us plenty to both eat fresh and to preserve for later use.
At some point, I'm also thinking of planting things like blueberries and rasberries along the fence lines.

Finished my involuntary time off work and went back Thursday night, only to get clobbered with a horrible toothache that was so bad I had to leave early. This has been a reoccuring thing for months. At first the dentist just prescribed antibiotics for the gum infection, but this time said I had to come in. So yesterday I saw him. One molar has a bad cavity below the gum line and has to come out. But that has to wait until the infection gets knocked back. So, yet another round of antibiotics and this time vicodin to take care of the immense pain until the antibiotics really take hold. I was in such pain that I had to double the dose of vicodin, which meant that it was at such a level that I couldn't safely drive. So I lost another night of work. Right now it is under control. I hope it stays that way, so I can work tonight. This is going to be a real killer on the paycheck!

Oh joy. I have jury duty the first week of August. Was originally scheduled for it in June but was able to get it postponed. But not this time. So I'll be missing work AGAIN soon. There's just no let up.

Here is a post I put on Facebook recently:

Our nation, our Western culture, is going to hell in a handbasket. To find the beginning of the slide down that slope would be a difficult task, akin to the legendary searches for the headwaters of the Nile. The rise of liberal theology a century ago? The sexual revolution of the 60's? Roe v. Wade in 1973? Pick your poison, the journey has been a long one, but it has accelerated tremendously the last 10 or 15 years, and now seems to have reached the level of an unstoppable avalanche.
We rant and rave about our recent "evil" presidents and politicians, yet we forget that if God had not allowed it, none of them would have been elected. In short, God elected Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama. He just allows us to think WE did <smile>. Why? Why has God chosen to put such people in such important positions? :People, from our local town councils to the White House, that more and more and more are actively seeking to undermine, indeed to eliminate, Him from our national consciousness.
An analogy may be found in Scripture, in Gen 15, when God chose to allow the Israelites to suffer for 400 years. Why? Because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. God allowed the Amorites to reach the final level of sinfulness before He unleashed His wrath on them.
We are under the judgement of God, my friends. His wrath is going to be unveiled in a great big way, sooner or later. There is NOTHING we can do to stop that. Nor should we even try. What we SHOULD do, indeed what we MUST do, is for all of us faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, to individually and corporately fall on our faces and repent! Repent of our self-indulgence lifestyles, our ignoring the spiritual plight of our family members, our neighbors, our friends, out nation.
We MUST put aside all the worldly encumbrances that hold us back and weigh us down. The time-wasting frivolous pursuits. The constant "keeping up with the Jones'". Mind-wasting crap like American Idol and soap operas and silliness of all kinds.
We MUST stop letting our lives go to waste! Get out there! Live for the Lord as if your life depends on it, for it really does. As if your child's soul depends on it, for it really does! As if your friend's soul depends on it, for it really does!
Heaven will NOT rejoice over that new fishing boat. Or over your latest tattoo. Or over any of the worldly pleasures we indulge in. Scripture only mentions Heaven rejoicing over ONE thing, and that is when the Son of God is glorified by the saving of souls! The angels throw a party whenever a sinner repents and turns to the Lord to be saved.
I look back on my life and I weep. I weep for all the years I've lost that could have, should have, been devoted to the work of the Lord, but were wasted on frivolous nonsense. NO MORE! I'm done with that! It's far past time to get it together and get about His business, in whatever way He chooses to lead me.
Who will join me? Who will seek to become, as Noah in the days leading up to the Flood, "preachers of righteousness"?

On a lighter note:

That's it for this week, folks. 
God bless you all!
Ron and the Debster

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Weekly round-up

Well, another week is done. Can't say that I got much accomplished. But nevertheless, it has been interesting.

First, the garden. It has been growing like crazy!

The two tomato plants are as tall as I am, and just loaded with small green tomatoes. Our plants are so large and so loaded with fruit that they overwhelmed the trellis I had them tied to, shoving it almost completely flat. I had to prop it up to keep the plants off the ground. We should be harvesting quite a few fairly soon, now that the non-stop rain seems to have finally gone away, and the sun and the heat can start them ripening. We did manage to harvest two small ripe ones a couple days ago. The Debster swears they are the best-tasting tomatoes she has had since she was a child, helping her dad pick them from their garden. Personally, I don't like tomatoes, but the Debster is more "normal" than I, so I grow them for her. And, maybe next year if I put in more than two plants, I can try making my own spaghetti sauce and stuff, which I do like. But that is for next year's blogs. Moving on ---

Two more large cucumbers here, ready to harvest. You can barely see the second one hiding below the one on top. They are now sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for the Debster. Like the tomatoes, she loves cucumbers and I detest them. Yes, I know, I am weird!

Here are two of many small zucchini that we are watching. They have a ways to go yet, but hopefully the one plant will, in the long run, yield between 8 and 12 of them. I don't care for them raw, or even cooked in large chunks, but grated into zucchini bread and stews and stuff, they're OK.

The green pepper plant has one small fruit still growing. Going to be disappointed if that is the only one we get.  The romaine lettuce, rosemary, chives, and green onions are toast, smothered by the cukes and the zuchinni. The spinach is struggling as well. Some of the basil has fought its way through the jungle and continues to grow. 

Even if we don't get a ton of produce from this year's garden, I am "harvesting" a lot of lessons that I can apply next year. So, as in most things in life, even a "total failure", which this is not, can be a positive thing if I learn from my mistakes.

Our new puppy, Gidget, is now almost 15 weeks old. She has learned to scamper up the stairs like an old pro. Going back down them is still a bit of a problem, but she is getting better. She only falls on her nose every third step or so now. By next week I expect she'll be running down them like it was never an issue. So much fun raising a really young puppy. I haven't done this in many many years, and had forgotten how much fun it could be.

We are having vehicle problems. A few weeks ago, we had to put our 2000 S-10 Blazer in the shop; it was running horribly. No power, "service engine light", and most concerning, a bad knock in the engine. With 260,000 miles on that engine, I feared the worst. Yep, engine was shot. We thought about buying a used car, but any decent used car would cost anywhere from $4,500 on up. Which we don't have, and I refuse to go into debt. 

So I talked to Terry, the owner of the shop, who is a long-time friend of the family, about options. Rebuilding the original engine would have cost well over $2,500, and replacing it with even a rebuilt engine, not to mention a completely new one, would have cost as much as a good car. We decided to go with replacing the engine with a used one. This was done, to the tune of about $1,900 parts and labor, which we did have although it wiped out most of our savings. It did come with a 30 day warranty. The engine had 146,000 miles on it.

We got the Blazer back. For a few days, it seemed OK, other than a problem with a fuel evaporation sensor, which we got fixed. So, we took it to the park two weeks ago. Uh oh! Oil pressure bottomed out to zero! That was NOT good. Parked, let it cool a few minutes, checked the oil. It was quite low. I put oil in, and the pressure came back up. Still lower than normal, but acceptable for the moment.

As we were pulling into our driveway, the pressure went down to zero again, every time the engine dropped into idle speed. The next day, I nursed it the couple miles back to the shop. We still haven't got it back yet. Terry is making sounds about maybe having to replace the engine, and the place he got it from doesn't have a replacement on hand at the moment. I am not happy, and the Debster is semi-furious. Right now, we are forced into a wait-and-see-what-happens mode.

In addition to the car troubles, we got a letter from the IRS this week. Due to Obamacare issues, we owe them over $2,400, which must be paid in three weeks. No idea where we are going to get that money. A friend of the Debster's has offered us an interest-free personal loan with very generous repayment terms, but, like I said, I hate going into debt, especially to a very dear friend. Guess we will try to work out some kind of payment plan with the Feds.

I'm not going to get into details about my problems at work, but suffice it to say that I have to take a 3-day unpaid "vacation". My own fault, completely. But still, it comes at just the WRONG time! Losing that large of a chunk of pay is really an issue right now ...

On the positive side, the Debster's health keeps improving. Her legs are really doing well, and she is getting around pretty darned well. She still goes for exercise therapy twice a week, and it is doing wonders for her. You go, girl!

Did you all notice that photo in my blog a couple weeks ago, roasting hot dogs with my nephew? 

Do you see that gut on me? That is just plain disgusting! No wonder my back and feet hurt all the time, and that I am "pre-diabetic", and have high blood pressure, and have so many other issues. I have obviously known that I have gotten really fat, but I guess it didn't strike me as such a big issue (pun intended) until I saw this picture. I MUST do something about this, or it will eventually kill me. Literally.

So, a couple days ago, I started the Adkins diet. I did this once before, 12 or 13 years ago, and lost almost 90 pounds. Then, I did what so many others did. I went off the diet and resumed my old eating habits. I gained that 90 back, with plenty more to boot. Took time, but ... here I am, morbidly obese again. So, back to the diet, with even greater reason to stick to healthy eating habits and lifestyle.

And, beginning Tuesday, I am going to start a course of physical therapy at the place where the Debster goes. Even if my insurance doesn't cover it, it only costs $5 per session, 2 or 3 times per week. A therapist will evaluate me in detail, and set a course of supervised exercises and probably also diet. So though progress will be slow, it should be steady, and maybe a picture like this next year will show a much-different man. 

Well, that's enough for now. 

God bless you all!
Ron, and the Debster

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"OTO" (One Tool Option) as a life philosophy

"The more you know, the less you need." -- Mors Kochanski, legendary Canadian bushcraft instructor.

There is a debate that crops up regularly in the bushcrafting community. It is the "One Tool Option". The premise is that you are forced into a survival situation in the wilderness, and only have one cutting tool available to you. You are going to be needing to process tinder, kindling, and firewood, skin and clean fish and game, build a shelter, and do all manner of things that require a cutting tool. So, what one tool would you prefer to have in that situation? 

The debate then rages over various knives, axes, hatchets, multitools, and saws. Since most if not all outdoorsmen carry several tools, such as a belt knife, a pocketknife, and a folding saw, the premise is in a sense rather silly. For example, my current health and fitness level prevents me from doing any backpacking, and relegates me to car camping. Since I don't have to worry overmuch about weight, I usually have a multitool, a pocketknife, a belt knife, a hand ax, and a bow saw. I'll be adding a full-size ax to that list soon. So, I have a tool for almost any cutting task that may arise.

However, the "OTO" mindset leads me to not only become proficient in using each of these tools for the task they were designed to do, but to also "cross-train". Could I clean a bluegill with my hatchet? Could I split logs with my pocket knife? 

Sounds silly, I grant you. But things can and do happen. Murphy's Law is alive and well. Tools can break or get lost. So being prepared and trained to improvise by using tools in ways that are "outside the box" is a good idea.

My personal approach goes like this: At age 55, almost 56, I am just now trying to get back into an outdoors lifestyle. I did a lot of this stuff when I was younger, and was fairly proficient. But that was decades ago. Any skills that I might still possess are very rusty. So, for the time being, I am going to concentrate most of my efforts on learning the strengths and limitations of my various tools, and practice using them for the tasks they were designed to do. (Just for giggles, I'll change up and try various other things. For example, I might use my pocket knife to carve hardwood wedges that I could use to split logs.) 

Once I am satisfied with my level of proficiency with each tool, I'll spend more time using each of them in unorthodox ways, until I have reached a point where I can be confident that if push came to shove, any one of my tools would allow me to survive if I had to.

Now, let's apply this concept to other areas of life. What about cooking? What if, instead of a whole collection of skillets, pots, pans, baking tins, and so forth, you had to prepare meals using just one utensil? Which one would you choose? Personally, I think I'd choose a cast-iron Dutch oven; it could be used for baking, boiling, and frying with little trouble. But what if I only had my tin coffee pot? Or an eight inch skillet?  Or a loaf pan? Could I adapt my cooking to make do with one of those?

How about gardening? Shovels, spades, hoes, tillers, rakes, clippers, pruners, trowels. Pick one?

Let's get a little esoteric. I have done a little preaching in my time, and have a fairly decent library of Biblical reference books. If I could only have one, which would it be? A Greek dictionary? Strong's Concordance? Robertson's Word Studies In The New Testament? (Concordance for me.)

You get the idea. Become proficient in the proper use of the tools you have. Learn and practice until you can do those things blindfolded. But don't stop there. Exercise your brain and your hands. Figure out how to use those tools in other ways. Practice those things too.

You never know when the skill of improvisation may become necessary, in any part of your life.

God bless!
Ron and the Debster