Neat, cheap accessories for a “varmint rifle”

Here are two neat accessories I’ve acquired for my CZ-527 Carbine in .223 Rem.

The first is the a nifty quick-attach clamp from Amazon that allowed one to attach pretty much any flashlight between 5/8 of an inch thick to 1 inch thick to the end of a rifle. It works like a bicycle seat quick adjustment clamp and has rubber jaws, so it doesn’t mar the finish on the barrel or on a flashlight. If one grinds the end off one side, it would also work on a tube magazine of a lever action rifle, and it will work on tube magazine of a shotgun, too.

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It is really essential to have a flashlight mounted on a rifle for varmints on a farm, and it works best in this position. They almost always come at night, and any anything mounted to the scope body or anywhere above the rifle will cause a reflection off the front sight, which will obscure the sight picture. Keep in mind too that you want to keep the flashlight back from the muzzle, since the hot gasses coming out of there will ruin a flashlight. If the flashlight has a tailcap switch is is very easy to turn in on and off when mounted in front of the forend this way, too. You can’t really have too much LIGHT in terms of lumen count. Supposedly this flashlight is 280 or something. It’s not enough. I’m pretty sure 500 wouldn’t be enough either. Thankfully, the lights keep improving in power every year. I would get a light rated to be mounted on a firearm, too. The recoil could destroy less durable lights.

Another neat accessory I have for this rifle is a $2.97 brass padlock from Wal-Mart. It goes by the Brinks brand. The Master 130 that this lock is patterned off is slightly too small to be used this way. The Brinks, which is $2 cheaper yet seems just as good, fits perfectly!

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You cannot close the bolt, and you cannot remove the bolt and slip the lock off either the locking lugs or the bolt shroud. Yet the lock is easily removed by a key hung around your neck at all times and the rifle can be put into action in seconds. I do suppose it would be possible to remove the bolt shroud, the bolt handle, slide the lock off the back and the re-asseble, but that is pretty involved. It would take someone pretty determined to fire the rifle. With that kind of determination, you would have to put it into a safe to protect it. This is certainly adequate to protect it from children, however. And it allows the rifle to be kept with a loaded magazine.

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Posted in Guns, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Clothes dryer

I really find it funny how the marketing folks at appliance companies think. I am seeing now “eco” branding appearing on clothes dryers, both gas and electric. How absurd. These contrivances can neither be ecological nor economic.

Unless you live in a rather extreme environment, there is no reason why one should ever truly need one of these wasteful things. We live in a humid climate with cool to cold winters and warm to hot summers. It is not IDEAL by any means for drying things; in fact, it is so moist that many things simply grow mold that shouldn’t, like old boots and 2x4s.

We’ve had a propane-fired clothes dryer since we moved into the place, and used it about 3 times. The drum drive belt broke or slipped off a while ago and I’ve not fixed it because we don’t need the thing. Someday I will haul it out of the pantry where it is wasting space. We used to think we needed it to dry towels and cloth diapers. It does make them a bit fluffier, but it is not really necessary, and stiff, uncomfortable diapers promote early potty training!

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The truth is that a clothesline will dry your clothes in the warmish seasons when it is not raining, and an indoor clothes drying rack will dry your clothes at other times. In the winter, when you may have a wood stove going or furnace registers, place the thing near the stove so it will benefit from the drying effects. This also adds a little moisture to the indoor air in wintertime; no need for a silly humidifier! We have a big family–eight–plus all the extra laundry generated by cleaning udders twice daily.

Really, folks need to wake up and realize that almost everything you see today is part of what I call “the big lie”–a vast, near hegemonic, deception crafted by people who are paid to induce you into purchasing things you don’t really need. The marketing shill will have you think you need 1) a mechanical clothes dryer 2) the elaborate plumbing, wiring, and venting systems to support the mechanical clothes dryer 3) an indoor humidifier to raise the humidity during the winter when the furnace/stove dry it out 4) some silly dryer sheets to prevent static on your clothes (lines and racks don’t generate static). Oh, and keep in mind that lint trap you clean out IS YOUR CLOTHES being slowly destroyed. So now you have to buy clothes more frequently, including the ones that don’t go out of style, like underwear.

If people want to live in a more sustainable and ecologically benign manner, it needs to start first with recognition of “the big lie” and the attendant consumerism. Once one realizes the deception and re-focuses their life on what really matters–good food, shelter, and time expenditure–then the march toward the good life (for environment and man) can truly begin.

Posted in Dairy Cattle, Home Economics, Weather | Leave a comment

Starvation is Cruelety

I see this with alarming frequency, particularly with smaller dairy cattle (Jerseys, Gurnesys and Dexters). People who THINK they know how to take care of a diary cow, but really are just abusing (usually starving) them. This is because of either willful ignorance, because information on how to keep such animals is everywhere, or because of unwillingness to pay for proper facilities and feed. You could ask any county extension agent, and none of them would recommend keeping a cow in a backyard, which is basically what this Craigslister is doing.

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There is so much wrong here, and to somebody who relates frequently with and understands cattle, it is like seeing a picture of people in Auschwitz. This paddock looks to be less than a quarter acre, which isn’t nearly enough to set stock a lactating Jersey and her calf in. Most extension publications say 3.5 acres plus however many days of hay. Now, on well managed pasture farm with frequent rotations and improved pasture plants, it can get down to one acre or less per cow (plus hay), but this is a far cry from that. It is particularly cruel to see this picture because all around this cow is good looking corn, which means two things: it is like people dining in a fine restaurant where starving people are just outside the window and this could be an outstanding pasture. Good corn ground is great pasture ground.

The hip of this cow is projecting about 6 inches from her flank. Does that seem normal to anyone? Dairy cows aren’t supposed to be fat (beefy) like beef cattle, but when their body is half the width of their hip, it is from underfeeding.

As undersized as the paddock is, the watering bucket is still worse. A lactating dairy cow can drink 30 or more gallons of water per day. During this past dry August ours drank upwards of 35 gallons per day. That two gallon bucket ain’t cutting it.

Those hooves look like duck feet. Every hear of trimming hooves? This cow will be unable to walk properly if she doesn’t starve to death sooner.

That calf is a miserable wretched scrawny thing if I’ve ever seen one. Pathetic. It wouldn’t surprise me if she is making less than a quart of milk a day. How could she? To make milk you need water (and something to eat). Whatever milk she is making is being “robbed” from what little reserves of fat and bone her body has.

Yet the owner of said cow wants as much money for this thing as one should pay for a good cow, pretty much dooming the animal. Who is going to risk the health of their farm by brining this probably diseased animal on their place (that grass has been eaten down to the dirt, so she probably has worms) without a substantial financial incentive?

Why is it that with almost every other animal, like dogs or cats or even ducks and chickens, when the owner realizes they can’t take care of the animal, usually they can come around to giving it away to someone who can? Yet with cattle, they think its bones are made of gold and demand outrageous prices. Too proud to whitewash, too poor to paint, I guess.

Posted in Dairy Cattle, Grass, Pasture Farming, Rotational Grazing, Weather | Leave a comment

What I Mean About Worthwhile Grains

For honest reasons, I suspect, many homesteader type folks like to grow grains. This desire dovetails with the “prepper” mindset as well. And I’ve struggled with it. But we must allow our rational side inform us here, at least partly. All of the small grains: Wheat, Barley, Rye, Triticale, Oats, Sorghum, Rice and Buckwheat (which is a pseudo-grain) are harvested efficiently by large-scale mechanical means, and anyone who endeavors to grow them on a small scale in their backyard is up against the John Henry predicament. I’ve been there. I’ve grown Wheat, Rye, Barley, Flax, and Buckwheat on small scales, harvested them with a sickle and makeshift threshing and winnowing contrivances, and been so exhausted by the whole affair that I think I downright resented the little grain I got out of it. I used it for seed, which is about the only reason why anyone should grow such grains to maturity, as it is the greatest return on investment–a 50 fold increase. These grains DO have worthwhile uses, but not as grain. I certainly wasn’t going to eat it, or worse, feed it to an animal. The little of these small grains most people need can be purchased for far less than they cost to produce yourself, and with a fraction of the aggravation. And besides, there are other grain-like plants that are WORTH growing because machines are still relatively inefficient at harvesting them. Focus on these instead!

What makes a grain worthwhile? Of prime importance is that they are not cheaply available due to efficient mechanical harvest. This therefore excludes all the small grains, as well as Corn (though some exceptions exist), Soybeans, Lentils, Peanuts, and many other plants. Even though everybody with a sickle in their hand thinks they’re going to be the next John Henry of harvesters, they aren’t. I’m convinced any person who grew up in the comforts of modern living will lack even the ability to match the manual harvesters of the past. The only reason we moderns get by is our machines and use of cheap fuel. But their are some grain-like annual plants, which provide considerable amounts of macro-nutrient (Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein), yet are not easily mechanically harvested, while the harvest by manual means is fairly easy and can yield worthwhile amounts of product.

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Sunflowers are this way. These Mammoth Grey Sunflowers are very easily harvested by hand and do not lend themselves to easy mechanical harvest (Sunflowers that are mechanically harvested are not this big). Each one of these enormous heads is filled with a tremendous quantity of very fatty, nutritious seeds. All you need is a knife and a means to tote the things, and in a little time, you can harvest enough by hand to make all the vegetable oil a family would want in relatively little space. The seeds, when ripe, rub off their heads very easily, and little manual oil-seed presses are quite efficient. They also allow you to fresh-press the vegetable oil, which is greatly preferable for both flavor and health reasons, since all mostly unsaturated vegetable oils oxidize rapidly, which isn’t very good for your health, and the rancidity tastes bad. Sunflower seeds are handily kept in clean metal garbage cans with tight fitting lids, which protects them from rodents, and unlike wheat berries, are actually worth storing this way. One 31 gallon can ($17 at Rural King) of sunflower seeds is more oil than a family will eat in a year, while a family could go through ten or more cans of wheat berries for fresh-grinding flour. That’s over $250 worth of cans, and that can buy a whole lot of flour!

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Another grain that is this way is grain Amaranth. Though more trouble than Sunflowers, Amaranth is not easily harvested by mechanical means. The first time you harvest it by hand and you’ll know why, but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s because of its indeterminate growth habit (which it also shares with Buckwheat). Some of the flower heads will be full of ready grain, and on the same plant, other flowers will be growing, and they will all be at different heights and sticking out in every which way. When one harvests the plant, it is slow going. You spend a while at each one with a pruner cutting off heads and putting them in a bucket or sack and then binding them up with twine. Once that is done the bundles are hauled off to complete drying. After this comes the threshing and winnowing, which are much easier with Amaranth than any true grain, thankfully. Rub them over a window screen, and hope there aren’t too many bugs in it, and winnow with a box fan. There is also no grinding/cracking/dehulling necessary. Amaranth seeds are so tiny they can be cooked up directly. They can also be popped to make what my kids call “Barbie popcorn” since it looks like popcorn scaled to the size of a Barbie doll (this is surprising since none of my children have been given a barbie doll). Amaranth is definitely more trouble than sunflowers, but it is also very expensive to buy, and it goes a long way in cooking. Only a cup or so cooks up into much nutritious porridge that is also much higher in protein than the true grains (like Oatmeal). In any case, if something goes wrong with the amaranth, then just feed it to chickens.

Another plant I have grown is Flax for grain (not for fiber). The main problem with flax is that it just doesn’t yield much per plant (each plant makes about 10-20 flax seeds, which are tiny), so it is much of the same problem as the small grains. Plus the plants are short. Grain Amaranth, Sunflowers, Sorghum, and Corn are all as tall or taller than a man, so your back suffers the harvest much better. But Flax does yield a worthwhile amount of very high quality oil, which unfortunately tastes bad to me. The seeds can be stored the same way as Sunflowers, but the oil is very light, so it should be pressed daily, and it has a very low smoke point, so isn’t very good for cooking. In other words, Sunflowers have Flax beat. But Flax grows in places that Sunflowers wont, and it has such a short season that you can follow it easily with other crops, whereas Sunflowers can only be followed by a winter grain.

Another plant I have a troubled relationship with is Buckwheat. On one hand Buckwheat it remarkable in that it will grow in extremely poor soil, even gravel. Some of it sprouted and grew remarkably well in a pile of old roof shingles, once. And Buckwheat has a very good amino acid balance, containing much more lysine (which is usually the most deficient amino acid in grains) than the true grains. But it is a very troublesome plant to work with, and doesn’t yield much. The plants are short, so there is bending, and they suffer the same indeterminate growth habit as amaranth. The little buckwheat grains have a papery cover on them that is very difficult to remove and doesn’t taste good, and almost always contaminates the flour. It also doesn’t bake up well, or it doesn’t bake as well as wheat flour does. Making noodles from it is a nightmare. It is an OK overcrop, and it grows fast, and can potentially smother weeds with its broad leaves and dense canopy (if you plant it thick), but I’ve found it is no better than Red Clover, which also fixes nitrogen, and is cheaper to seed.

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Yet Another Rainbow

I’ve pointed out before that we get rainbows pretty frequently around here. This one was unusual in how complete it was, and how relatively bright it was. Thanks goes to Hurricane Harvey for this one. Maybe Irma will send a few, too.

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Pear Pickin’

Perhaps the only good idea the previous owners of our farm had was to plant five pear trees, which we think are Bartletts, the kind found at Tractor Supply/Homedepot for $20 each.

Pears seem to me to be even hardier and more trouble free than apples, at least where I live. We do nothing for these trees other than prune in the late winter and mow under them a few times a year. Yet they produce an abundance of pears. Despite being just dwarfs, and pretty unremarkable looking trees, they make a bushel or more per tree of good-sized pears  every year. It takes about 5 minutes to pick each tree, and is a pleasant task which kids enjoy greatly.

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Fruit and nut trees are without a doubt THE MOST WORTHWHILE living thing on a small farm. More than any livestock, more than any garden plant, more than any perennial vegetable, they produce a whole lot of very high quality food in very little space, and need little care. The only thing they need more than most things is time. I suspect these trees are around 12-13 years old, planted soon after the previous owners bought the place (2004).

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Couple hundred pounds of pears and a bird’s nest. No spraying. No fertilizing. Just mowing thrice and 5 minutes of picking and pruning per tree per year. Maybe one in fifty has a worm hole or other problem. They may not be pretty, but they taste better than store bough pears. 

A neat thing you can do with pears which are not so nice (and apples for that matter) and the occasional branch you break off when picking is to feed it to cattle. They relish both the fruits and the branches. We try to cut the fruits in half before feeding, as the animals make a funny face that looks like they are choking if you leave the pears whole. Having no upper teeth, ruminants need to pretty much smash pears against the plate on the roof of their mouth to swallow them, and they look pretty undignified when they do it.

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Orange Watermelon

The Orangeglow watermelon is excellent. It almost lives up to the seed catalog hype. Very good, sort of mango-ish flavor, and sweet, but not just a taste of sugar. Beautiful orange flesh, nice healthy rinds. Vines were very productive (yet didn’t look like much) and withstood the pests better than any other cucurbit in our patch. Only irrigated a couple of times all season.

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These are open-pollinated heirlooms, too. Considering the rather prodigious amount of large white seeds it produces (which look almost like pumpkinseeds), this means just a few plants will produce all the true-to-type watermelons you’d ever want. I like that. And considering my love of watermelon, those seeds slow me down, and prevent bellyaches.

The only risk is that my neighbor who plants hybrid Sugarbaby watermelons. Hopefully the bees didn’t visit both, but I am pretty sure they didn’t since we planted Orangeglow so late.

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