The Demographics of the American Food Gardener

Female Farmer

Here are some handy little statistics provided by the National Gardening Association about the makeup of the average food gardener in the United States.
54% are female.
68% are 45 years old plus.
79% either attended or graduated from college.
They average about 5 hours each week tending their gardens.
The average food garden is approximately 600 square feet.
As of 2009, 37% of American households had some sort of food garden, with 21% of those being first timers.
23% were located out west, 26% were from the midwest, 29% were southern and 22% were from the northeast.




The most popular items are in order:

Tomatoes 86%
Cucumbers 47%
Sweet Peppers 46%
Beans 39%
Carrots 36% carrots
Summer Squash 32%
Onions 32%
Hot Peppers 31%
Lettuce 28%
Peas 24%
Sweet Corn 23%
We tend to grow about everything on the list in addition to some beets, rhubarb, broccoli, and a few other odds and ends. It has been estimated that a 1/4 acre of land can feed a family of 4 year round. We do some canning, however it is usually limited to jams. Everything else is either vacuum packed or prepared and frozen. We do dry our hot peppers. There are some studies that speak to the best methods for retaining the vitamins and/or longevity to your preservation methods I would dispute the NGA’s finding on the 5 hour week, although I’d say most folks don’t calculate the time they spend doing what they enjoy. I’d also add that we don’t necessarily save money growing our own food;the time and labor my wife exerts picking beans is surely worth more than the 3 cans for 99 cents at the local supermarket. We do however, know that they are pure 100% organic.
The statistics above don’t paint the picture of grandpa and grandma in the bibs and house dress working the soil, rather it is just as likely the suburban soccer mom who wants a healthy alternative to the processed and packed, chemically preserved and shipped foods that end up in our cupboards.

“Can You Go to Walmart For Me?”

It’s my fault. I know better. I knew better… I went anyway.

I parked my truck out in the “back 40” trying to make  a conscious effort to avoid shopping carts, nincompoops without the ability to stop opening their door before it comes into contact with the vehicle next to them and gain some small nugget of physical exertion walking to the door. I had barely taken the key out of the ignition before a battered white compact pulls up into the next spot adjacent to me, using the yellow parking stripe on the passenger side as some sort of guide to straddle.  It’s a typical Sunday afternoon and I notice the regulars are all here; the driver in the large SUV blocking the lane waiting for the grandmother to finish emptying her cart into her trunk, all while three cars sit impatiently behind them. This is all so they can park 8 spots away instead of 12. Of course they can’t park in front of the store as the firelanes are already taken up by the early birds. I look both ways before crossing the pedestrian “right of way” grid since it has been interpreted by many to mean that someone walking or pushing a cart across this area only has the right of way when there are no vehicles visible.  I see their slogan “Save money live better” and I’m thinking “Stay home and live longer.”  Continue reading

Treating Rain Barrels for Mosquitoes

Treating Rain Barrels for Mosquitoes

We use the blue or white 55 gallon commonly found plastic barrels similar to the ones pictured. They are mounted beneath our chicken coupe, each fed from a downspout. If you have your barrels outside during periods of dry weather, still standing water is an inviting little breeding ground for mosquitoes. 

You can always drain the barrels if you don’t plan on using them, however if you are determined to only use rainwater for your gardening needs you really don’t want to chance dumping the water and then running short later on. I found a simply and quick solution was to just cut screens and install over the open tops. Less than $10 bought a roll of screen door material from the local hardware store. I cut them slightly oversize and secured them with twine on some and bungee cords on the others. The screens not only keep the bloodsuckers from setting up shop, they greatly filter the runoff and keep the gunk out of the barrel.  

Mosquito “dunks” are also a handy and inexpensive solution. They can usually be found in packets that will last you the summer, depending on how many barrels you want to treat. You simply drop one in and voila. They will not harm your plants. Another method that won’t require you getting into your car and driving anywhere is to add a tablespoon of liquid dish soap to the water. The soap will stay on the top of the water and create a barrier that will kill any mosquitoes before they can lay their eggs. FYI, do not use the store bought off the shelf type soaps unless it is 100% organic or environmentally friendly. Products like Dawn are harmful to plants and vegetation. Another item found in most cupboards is vegetable oil, also highly effective for killing the larvae. Depending on the size of the barrel, usually just enough to cover the surface of the water, maybe 1/3 cup, will suffocate the little buggers.



Sweet Corn Facts and Recipes

Sweet Corn……an all time southern summer favorite! It is naturally low in fat and sodium (so don’t pile on the butter and salt!), cholesterol free, and has a nice supply of vitamin C. We normally grow sweet white corn and sweet bi-colored corn. Both are equally tasty and the bi-colored can add some pizzazz to the table. Fresh corn will have firm, green husks with a pale brown tassel at the top. Sweet corn can be eaten both on or off the cob. The best thing to remember is NOT TO OVERCOOK it. If on the cob, shuck and clean the corn, bring your water to a boil, drop corn in, and cook for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and serve quickly – don’t let it stand in the water. 

Storage And Handling Refrigerate corn immediately after bringing it home. This will delay the process of the sugars turning into starch and you’ll have a much fresher tasting product. If you store it with the shucks on, you’ll keep the kernels from being mashed, bumped, and drying out. Shuck and wash just before cooking. 

Freezing Corn: This can be done with the shucks on or off. Fresh corn is definitely a local taste you will want to enjoy all year long……so take the time and put it up! Corn on the cob: Water blanch small ears (1 1/4 inches or less in diameter) 3 to 7 minutes, medium ears (1-1/2 inches in diameter or more) 5 to 9 minutes. Cool in an ice water bath for approximately the same amount of time as blanching. Cooling quickly and completely is probably the most important part of blanching! Drain and package in gallon-size zip closure freezer bags. Push excess air from the bags, seal and freeze. Leave space between each bag until frozen. 

Freezing Corn off the Cob (Kernels) Water blanch corn on the cob for 4 minutes. Cool promptly and completely in ice water for 4 minutes. Drain and cut corn from the cob. Cut kernels from the cob about two-thirds the depth of the kernels. Package in zip closure freezer bags. 

Freezing Corn In The Husks If you have the freezer room, you can freeze with the husks on in a brown bag and microwave for about 3 to 5 minutes when you are ready to enjoy! 

HINT: If you cook your frozen corn in the microwave, allow several minutes to cool before you remove the husk. Steam builds up inside the husk and if you remove this protective layer too quickly, you may get BURNED! BE CAREFUL!

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Raised Beds               

Starting a vegetable garden? Dream big, but start small and expand as you gain experience. Raised beds make efficient use of space and keep maintenance to a minimum.

GROWING your own vegetables is both fun and rewarding. All you really need to get started is some decent soil and a few plants. But to be a really successful vegetable gardener — and to do it organically — you’ll need to understand what it takes to keep your plants healthy and vigorous. Here are the basics. Kitchen Garden Planner

“Feed the soil” is like a mantra for organic gardeners, and with good reason. In conventional chemical agriculture, crop plants are indeed “fed” directly using synthetic fertilizers.

When taken to extremes, this kind of chemical force-feeding can gradually impoverish the soil. And turn it from a rich entity teeming with microorganisms insects and other life forms, into an inert growing medium that exists mainly to anchor the plants’ roots, and that provides little or no nutrition in its own right.

Although various fertilizers and mineral nutrients (agricultural lime, rock phosphate, greensand, etc.) should be added periodically to the organic garden, by far the most useful substance for building and maintaining a healthy, well-balanced soil is organic matter.You can add organic matter to your soil many different ways, such as compost, shredded leaves, animal manures or cover crops.

Organic matter improves the fertility, the structure and the tilth of all kinds of soils. In particular, organic matter provides a continuous source of nitrogen and other nutrients that plants need to grow. It also provides a rich food source for soil microbes. As organisms in the soil carry out the processes of decay and decomposition, they make these nutrients available to plants. For more on this subject, read Building Healthy Soil.

Make Efficient Use of Space

The location of your garden (the amount of sunlight it receives, proximity to a source of water, and protection from frost and wind) is important. Yet just as crucial for growing vegetables is making the most of your garden space.

Lots of people dream of having a huge vegetable garden, a sprawling site that will be big enough to grow everything they want, including space-hungry crops, such as corn, dried beans, pumpkins and winter squash, melons, cucumbers and watermelons. If you have the room and, even more importantly, the time and energy needed to grow a huge garden well, go for it. But vegetable gardens that make efficient use of growing space are much easier to care for, whether you’re talking about a few containers on the patio or a 50-by-100-foot plot in the backyard. Raised beds are a good choice for beginners because they make the garden more manageable.


Get Rid of Your Rows

Shop for Raised Beds

Make your own raised bed with our Raised Bed Corners, or choose a complete kit. Elevated raised beds allow for no-bend gardening.

The first way to maximize space in the garden is to convert from traditional row planting to 3- or 4-foot-wide raised beds. Single rows of crops, while they might be efficient on farms that use large machines for planting, cultivating, and harvesting, are often not the best way to go in the backyard vegetable garden. In a home-sized garden, the fewer rows you have, the fewer paths between rows you will need, and the more square footage you will have available for growing crops.

If you are already producing the amount of food you want in your existing row garden, then by switching to raised beds or open beds you will actually be able to downsize the garden. By freeing up this existing garden space, you can plant green-manure crops on the part of the garden that is not currently raising vegetables and/or rotate growing areas more easily from year to year. Or you might find that you now have room for planting new crops — rhubarb, asparagus,berries, or flowers for cutting — in the newly available space.

Other good reasons to convert from rows to an intensive garden system:

Less effort. When vegetables are planted intensively they shade and cool the ground below and require less watering, less weeding, less mulching — in other words, less drudgery for the gardener.

Less soil compaction. The more access you have between rows or beds, the more you and others will be compacting the soil by walking in them. By increasing the width of the growing beds and reducing the number of paths, you will have more growing area that you won’t be walking on, and this untrammeled soil will be fluffier and better for plants’ roots.

Grow Up, Not Out

Shop for Vegetable Supports

Get the right support for every vegetable. Tomato cages, trellises and more.


Next to intensive planting, trellising represents the most efficient way to use space in the garden. People who have tiny gardens will want to grow as many crops as possible on vertical supports, and gardeners who have a lot of space will still need to lend physical support to some of their vegetables, such as climbing varieties of peas and pole beans. Other vegetables that are commonly trellised include vining crops, such as cucumbers and tomatoes.

The fence surrounding your garden may well do double-duty as a trellis, so long as the crops grown on the fence can be rotated in different years. Other kinds of vegetable supports are generally constructed from either wood or metal. However, no matter which design or materials you use, be sure to have your trellis up and in place well before the plants require its support — preferably even before you plant the crop. With some vegetables, such as tomatoes or melons, you may also have to tie the plants gently to the support, or carefully weave them through the trellis as they grow.

Keep Crops Moving

Crop rotation within the vegetable garden means planting the same crop in the same place only once every three years. This policy ensures that the same garden vegetables will not deplete the same nutrients year after year. It can also help foil any insect pests or disease pathogens that might be lurking in the soil after the crop is harvested.

To use a three-year crop rotation system, make a plan of the garden on paper during each growing season, showing the location of all crops. If, like most people, you grow a lot of different vegetables, these garden plans are invaluable, because it can be difficult to remember exactly what you were growing where even last season, much less two years ago. Saving garden plans for the past two or three years means that you don’t have to rely on memory alone.

A Continuous Harvest

Planting crops in succession is yet another way to maximize growing area in the garden. All too often, though, gardeners will prepare their seedbeds and plant or transplant all their crops on only one or two days in the spring, usually after the last frost date for their location.

While there is nothing wrong with planting a garden this way, wouldn’t it be easier to plant a few seeds or transplants at a time, throughout the course of the whole growing season, rather than facing the herculean task of “getting in the garden” all at one time?

After all, a job almost always becomes easier the more you divide it up. Plan to plant something new in the garden almost every week of the season, from the first cold-hardy greens and peas in late winter or early spring, to heat-loving transplants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant once the weather becomes warm and settled.

Then start all over again, sowing frost-hardy crops from midsummer through mid-fall, depending on your climate. Keep cleaning out beds as you harvest crops to make room for new vegetables that will take their place. You can even interplant crops that grow quickly (radishes) alongside other vegetables that require a long season (carrots or parsnips), sowing their seeds together. This makes thinning out the bed easier later on, since you will have already harvested the quick-growing crop and given the long-season vegetables that remain some much-needed elbow room.

Another benefit of succession planting, of course, is that your harvest season lasts longer for every crop. This means that, instead of getting buried in snap beans or summer squash as your plants mature all at once, you can stagger plantings to ensure a steady, but more manageable supply of fresh vegetables.

Print Your Plans

If you use the Kitchen Garden Planner, you can print your plans, make notes and save them for future seasons.

Keep Good Records

Finally, we end up where we started — with the realization that, although vegetable gardening can be rewarding even for beginners, there is an art to doing it well. There is also a mountain of good information and advice from other gardeners available to you. Yet one of the most important ways of improving your garden from year to year is to pay close attention to how plants grow, and note your successes and failures in a garden notebook or journal.

Just as drawing a garden plan each year helps you remember where things were growing, taking notes can help you avoid making the same mistakes again, or ensure that your good results can be reproduced in future years. For instance, write down all the names of different vegetable varieties, and compare them from year to year, so you will know which ones have done well in your garden.

Many people keep a book in their car to record when they change their oil and perform other routine maintenance. In the same way, get in the habit of jotting it down whenever you apply organic matter or fertilizer to the garden, or the dates on which you plant or begin to harvest a crop.

Over time this kind of careful observation and record-keeping will probably teach you more about growing vegetables than any single book or authority. That’s because the notes you make will be based on your own personal experience and observations, and will reflect what works best for you in the unique conditions of your own garden. As in so many other pursuits, so it is in the art of vegetable gardening: practice does make perfect.

For another informative blog related to this article please visit

5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm

5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm

Nigerian Dwarf    nigerian dwarf

The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature breed, but also one that produces a lot of milk for it’s size. It is one of the top choices for those homesteading on a small piece of land. They can give from 1-2 quarts a day- which is pretty impressive considering they are only around 18 inches in height! Their milk is also one of the highest in butterfat which ranges anywhere from 6-10%. That means their milk is very creamy and makes delicious cheese, ice cream and yogurt. Because of their size they make great goats for kids as well as those in a more urban setting.

Nubian     nubian-goats

Nubians are a medium to large sized goat with adorable cute floppy ears. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and have the ability to produce up to 2 gallons a day, with the average being closer to 1 gallon a day. They have one of the highest butterfat contents of the standard dairy breeds at 4-5%. If you need a lot of milk and plan on making cheeses or soaps, Nubians can’t be beat. They can be a bit loud at times, I call ours crybabies, so they might not be right for those who live in subdivisions and make sure you neighbors won’t mind before bringing them home. Nubians are my personal favorites!

Alpine     alpine goat

Alpines originated in France and are a steady, dependable goat. They are medium to large in size and are very consistent milk producers with one of the longest lactation cycles. They average over 1 gallon of milk per day with a 3.5% butterfat content. Alpines come in almost any color imaginable and are adaptable to almost any climate. The average size of an Alpine doe is 135 lbs.

LaMancha     LaManchaGoat4-12_600

LaManchas are a medium sized goat that are most easily recognized by their lack of ears! They have a friendly, easy going temperament and are very hardy animals. LaManchas are good producers with an average of 1-2 gallons per day, with a butterfat content around 4%. Personally, I like floppy ears, but I have heard many LaMancha owners say that if you give them a chance you’ll fall in love and be hooked on them forever!

Saanen     saanen goat

Saanens are the largest of the dairy breeds and are often considered the Holstein of the dairy goats. Saanens can produce a lot of milk- up to 3 gallons per day- with an average production closer to 1.5 gallons per day. While they do produce a lot of milk the butterfat content is low compared to some of the other breeds. At 2-3% butterfat the Saanen’s milk will not seem as creamy and will not produce as rich of cheese or yogurt. These girls are big, so you will need to make sure you have enough of a pasture for them to stretch their legs in and a fence strong enough to withstand a larger weight.  Saanens are usually all white in color and very mild mannered. This is the breed we started with- on a 1 acre lot in a subdivision!

Each breed is a little bit different. If you are very short on space or only need enough milk for fresh drinking, Nigerians might be the best way to go. If you need a large quantity of milk to make yogurt, buttermilk, cheese, soap or just to feed a large family you will probably want to go with one of the standard breeds. I would also suggest looking for quality animals as opposed to the first craigslist ad you see. You will be much happier if you purchase a quality goat with a strong milk lines.

This post has been linked to Tuesdays with a Twist, From the Farm, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, The Homestead Barn Hop, Homemade Monday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, Modern Homesteaders Hop, Creative Home and Garden Hop,

© 2013 – 2014, Sarah Toney. All rights reserved.

via 5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm – The Free Range Life.

Raising Chickens For Dummies

Raising Chickens For Dummies

From Raising Chickens For Dummies by Kimberly Willis, Rob Ludlow

Raising chickens can be fun and rewarding. Whether you’re raising layers to get eggs with deep golden yolks or birds for tender, tasty meat or birds for cackling companionship, caring for your birds is an everyday proposition. Raising happy and healthy birds means knowing how to take care of baby chicks and what to feed them as they mature.

Daily Chores to Keep Your Chickens Healthy

If you’re raising chickens, whether for eggs or meat, you want your fowl to stay healthy. Healthy chickens need attention and care every day. The following, simple measures, taken daily, help to keep your chickens healthy:

Keep water available at all times. This may mean a heat source to keep water from freezing in winter.

Provide chickens with a quality feed formulated for their needs. For example, meat birds need a feed with lots of protein and layers need a feed that addresses their need for additional calcium and other minerals. Feeding chickens scraps and odd grains usually leads to nutrient deficiencies.

Keep chickens dry and protected from weather extremes. Their quarters should also be well ventilated to prevent lung problems.

Give chickens enough space. Crowded conditions lead to stress and injuries from fighting. Each chicken needs a minimum of two square foot of shelter and three square foot of outdoor run area.

What to Feed Your Chickens When

If you’re raising chickens, remembering what feed you need for different types and ages of chickens can get confusing. What you feed a young layer is different than what you feed a mature meat bird. The following table gives you the essentials:

Chicken Type (Age) Feed Protein Ratio

Pet, show, and layer chicks (0 to 6 weeks) Chick starter 18 to 20%

Pet and show chicks (6 weeks on, if not laying) Chicken feed 12 to 14%

Laying hens (6 weeks until laying begins) Layer finisher or grower 12%

Laying hens (through laying years) Layer feed 16% protein + correct calcium and mineral balances

Meat birds (0 to 6 weeks) Broiler or meat bird starter 23 to 24%

Meat birds (6 weeks to butchering) Broiler grower-finisher or meat bird grower-finisher 18 to 20%


How to Start Your Chickens Off Right

Raising chickens means taking care of them from the time they’re little puff balls with feet. To start your chicks off right so that they grow into healthy adults, make use of the following tips:

Brooder: Confine the chicks in a brooder with solid sides about 18 inches high to keep out drafts. Make sure the brooder is near a heat source, probably a heat lamp. Give each chick 6 square inches of floor space and put the brooder somewhere dry and safe from predators.

Brooder floor: Cover the floor of the brooder with pine shavings or other absorbent bedding. Do not use cedar shavings or kitty litter. Do not use newspaper. For the first two days only, cover the litter with paper towels or a piece of old cloth to keep chicks from eating the litter until they find the food.

Temperature: For the first week chicks must be kept at 95° F at all times. Drop the temperature 5 degrees a week until you reach the surrounding room temperature outside the brooder or 60° F.

Feed: Use baby chick starter feed for all chicks except meat bird chicks, which need meat bird starter feed. For the first day or two, sprinkle feed on a white paper plate or some white paper towels to make it easy to find. Also have feed available in feed dishes.

Water: Baby chicks need water in a shallow, narrow container so they can’t drown. Dip their beaks into the water gently as you put them into to the brooder so they know where it is. Always have water available.

Handling: Don’t handle baby chicks too much. It stresses them, makes them grow poorly, and may kill them.

Troubleshooting: Contented chicks are fairly quiet, spread out over the brooder eating, drinking, and sleeping. If chicks are peeping loudly and continuously, something is wrong (they’re probably too cold). If they are against the brooder walls spread out and panting they are too hot.

via Raising Chickens For Dummies Cheat Sheet – For Dummies.

Checkout a little something about raising goats.

Transfer Switches

The short and simple truth about a transfer switch for your home is that it is a safe and reliable method for keeping the lights on when the utility company cannot. 20150202_085339I’ve had one where we live for several years and have had only two occasions to use it. Depending on where you live and your skill level, a licensed electrician may be required to perform the installation. Most kits sold at the retail level contain basic instructions via print andor dvd to help ease the hookup. That doesn’t mean you are qualified to tie into your service panel with a transfer switch because you replaced an outlet in your mother in law’s bathroom once. Electricity is a funny thing; we invite it into our homes yet it isn’t very sociable. It has little patience for error, no sense of humor and will kill you rather quickly if you let it. 

There are three levels of backup “systems” that I will refer to. The first is what I call the “suicide cord”.  Uncle Earl has a 50′ orange extension cord that  magically has a male plug on both ends. Well, the magic was actually Earl cutting a male plug from an old Kirby vacuum sweeper and grafting it onto his extension cord with some needle nose pliers and black tape. Hurricane Curley hits and doggone if he is going to sit in a hot house all day with no a/c and watch a freezer full of  deer meat spoil. Guys like Earl don’t understand basic principals of electrical load distribution, nor do they realize that by plugging in that cord from their generator to the wall, they are sending current out of their house and to the power pole.  That’s bad juju for the unsuspecting line worker who shows up a few hours later to restore the power to the neighborhood. In fact it can, and has been deadly. The common term used for this practice is “backfeeding”. I can recall several contractors who would enter vacant properties owned by banks to do repairs or maintenance and backfed systems. They had no idea if the wiring was substandard, overloaded, damaged, vandalized, stolen, or in one case, sabotaged by a previous homeowner. It isn’t uncommon to find homes with outdated wiring, subpanels and additions or outbuilding that completely bypass the original meter. Best thing to do is not listen to Earl. Worst case is you do and end up room temperature. Earl has about $10 invested in his cord, $1 for the garage sale Kirby, $125 for his old gennie and he’s proud of himself. For those who don’t believe in the dangers of the “suicide cord” contact your local municipality and check the regulations/laws. You might also dial up your utility provider and ask them for their opinion.

The second level of backup is the transfer switch. 20150202_085317The unit is usually installed near or next to the existing electrical service panel and tied into circuits deemed vital in the event of a power outage. Most aren’t designed to run an entire household, but they will provide you, depending on your generator’s output, with lights, power to appliances, furnace, sump pump, etc. They usually include wiring and an external box for the generator to plug into. Transfer switches are designed to isolate the power so it never leaves your house. Usually with one flip of a switch you are off the grid.  The are a variety of transfer switch models, the Reliance brand is common, and you can find them at most any hardware store or big box home improvement center. The cost can range from several hundred dollars for the basic models and up, not including installation.  9937751Generators to supply the juice come in different breeds and colors. For the most simple of needs, ie a couple of lights and the icebox, a 2000 watt generator may be plenty but these can also range in output.  4K-8500k are commonly used as backups, and they can also vary from the loud and obnoxious open frame contractor style units to inverter type generators that are much quieter and deliver a “cleaner” electrical current. This is useful when you need to run sensitive electronics like laptops.

The third level comprises whole house backup systems. EGD_New_WalterThis usually begins with a large generator of 10000 watts or more, located outside and enclosed, hardwired directly into the homes electrical panel and designed to carry the entire load demand. They can be as basic as a gas unit or something that runs on propane and  programmed to start immediately following a power outage. I know of one older couple that have a whole house generator not far from us. Their entire neighborhood lost power during a recent windstorm. They were watching a movie on television, and didn’t realize they were on the backup system until a neighbor called. Setups like these don’t require that the homeowner be home, pull a rope or plug anything in. Generac and Briggs & Stratton are two companies that carry a line of permanent home backup systems. They can cost as little as several thousand dollars up into the five figure range.

You don’t have to be rural to find a product like this useful. Transfer switches, backup generators and whole house systems can be lifesavers to urban dwellers during severe weather, to those who are confined or require oxygen equipment, cpap machines, air conditioning, etc.  The last several years, no differently than before, have brought hurricanes, severe storms of snow and rain, winds and earthquakes, from the east coast to the gulf coast to the western ends of the country. A small backup system can make the difference between a dry basement and a large insurance claim after the sump pump sat powerless watching that basement flood. Being self sufficient means not being in line at 9 o’clock at night at Home Depot watching the last generator being sold. It means being comfortable in your own home rather than sitting on the front porch watching the lights in your neighbor’s window and waiting for the Red Cross.


Husky 22T Log Splitter

Husky 22T Log Splitter

I live out in the sticks. Actually on some property with some very large sticks. We live on  land populated with hundreds of mature oak and hickory trees. Beautiful, magnificent 60+’ specimens scattered around our house providing shade and windbreaks. It wasn’t long after moving in that I began to notice, however, that quite a few of them were dying, or dead. Long past their prime, they still stood tall and mighty, and while I may have been grateful for their efforts, the falling limbs and rotting trunks betrayed their condition. With each passing ice storm, gust of strong winds, and sighting of carpenter ants, it became obvious that the dead ones around our house would have to go.

log splitter (2)

Downing trees isn’t a problem for me. Been there and done that. We heat our house with a woodstove, so it’s a renewable source of free heat . I just had to get the wood split and stacked. Did my homework and narrowed down a few logsplitters in my price range. I settled on the Husky 22Ton model from Tractor Supply. Picked it up for about a grand, completely assembled and ready to go. Mine has the Briggs 675 190cc motor. Some may believe that a Honda engine is the only way to go; I don’t dispute Honda’s reputation. I have Honda motors in my riding mower, my home backup generator and my trash pump. Can’t say a thing against them. Briggs is a meat and potatoes type unit. For me, take care of them and they’ll do just as they are advertised.

So, towed the splitter home, parked it in the back near a stack of logs and starting browsing thru the english version of the owner’s manual. Pretty straightforward stuff, when to change the oil, etc. Made sure the fluids were good, filled the tank with gas, flipped the choke on and voila, it started on the 2nd pull. If you are at all familar with logsplitters, you won’t have any trouble getting the Huskee up and running right away. The splitter uses a two stage pump to bust thru the bad boys. I haven’t used a stop watch, but it seems like somewhere between 12-15 seconds to cycle back for the next log. The unit will also swing down and lock vertically so you can split the large diameter stuff that is too heavy to lift. The Huskee weighs in somewhere around 500lbs.  I towed it home at road speed, and pull it around our property using a 4 wheeler or our golf cart; either do the job just fine.log splitter

Follow Up

So, I’ve had this Huskee 22T log splitter for a little over a year. I would say that I probably haven’t used it as much as I would if I was running a tree service, but I would consider myself a heavy user for home. I’ve split a large number of oak and hickory trees, with diameters up to 28″.  It will break thru the knots and twisted wood as good as I’ve seen. I’ve used larger units up to 30 Tons. For what I have, and I have some pretty big trees, I don’t see the need for anything more powerful.The Briggs & Stratton 675 runs strong, it is still easy to start and hasn’t missed a beat.   There have been no leaks or malfunctions. If there were any negatives, I’d say they should include the log cradle with the splitter. It is listed as a $40 option, and it only took about three cramps in my lower back to go buy one. They make all the difference in the world.  Had a tire go flat over the winter.  I don’t suppose I can blame TSC for that. Are there better splitters? Yes. For less money? Haven’t found one. Would I buy this model again? Sure would. And FWIW, I do not or have every worked for TSC or Husky. Just like people to know when I find something that works as advertised.

Five Quick and Easy Ways to Start Your Campfire


Add a few of these items in your backpack or starter kit and you’ll never have to worry about crouching over a cold, smoldering pile of sticks again.

1. Lint.                                                                                                                                                       Start packing your dryer lint into a tupperware or shoebox. This stuff is a quick starter guranteed to light up dry kindling in a pinch. It’s free and, as long as you own a dryer, plentiful. Push this stuff inside of a cardboard toilet paper or gift wrap tube and you are good to go.

2. Cotton Balls & Vaseline.                                                                                                                      There are two simple methods to make this a 100% success. You can either melt the petroleum jelly in a pan over low heat, then soaking up the cotton with the liquid, and storing inside sandwich baggies, or simply daub the cotton into the greasy stuff and you are done. The cotton will burn for several minutes, long enough to light up your firewood.

3. Steel Wool.                                                                                                                                             Might be a little suprising, but this stuff is really good for firestarter, and it will ignite without even using a match. If you have two 9 volt batteries, simply place each battery on opposite sides of the wool and make contact. Voila.

4. Potato Chips.                                                                                                                                         Yes, the Fritos spread all over the picnic table from yesterdays cookout will do the trick. Actually, most any chip will do. Doritoes, Lays, Pringlesetc. Eat a couple to confirm they aren’t worth keeping and toss the rest onto your burn site and add some kindling.

5. Tape.                                                                                                                                                          Good old fashioned grey sticky duct tape. The same stuff you used to keep your wiper blade and side marker light attached to your truck. Roll it or wad it with a couple dabs of hand sanitizer to prime it. Avoid the non alcoholic sanitizer, that stuff won’t do a thing.

Now that’s a campfire.


Winter and The Media


 Winter And The Media     (2/19/2014)



It’s been a long, long winter. I’ve moved all the furniture, cleaned everything twice and run thru every show on Netflix. It’s been the same kind of winter I remember as a kid, I just don’t feel like building snowmen and sledding down the slopes anymore. The snowfall has been about what I expect as are  the cold the wind and the ice. But to listen to the media, it’s been the one we won’t forget. The winter of ’14. The talking weatherpixie for our local affiliate likes to remind us of the calamity traveling across the Rockies towards us. We’re three days from the apocalypse. The artic blast  is rocketing down from Canada  and about to smother our pilot light at any moment. All weather news all day sets up a remote at the local Piggly Wiggly, grabbing the poor unfortunate slobs as they exit the store with the most important questions they’ll ever ask someone- “Do you have enough food on hand to outlast the storm?”  Schools and churches are being warned to prepare for the homeless and the unfortunate. The lost souls who will be turned away once the hospitals overflow. The StormTeam parks their tv truck along the freeway overpass and puts the 20 something reporterette in a snowsuit with a microphone, daubing her makeup in 20 degree temperatures between the sports and lottery segments. After 3 hours and about a dozen 90 second updates, there is barely a visible flake falling from the sky, and the poor girl is left to pump up the drama with the presumption that impending doom may or may not have missed us, but irregardless, stay tuned. By now, she is unable to pronounce the letter b or p. Her male counterpart has been roaming the streets looking for salt truck drivers, police and emergency management personell who will help build the anticipation of impending and never before seen disaster that awaits. He’ll arrive at some local bank parking lot that hasn’t been plowed of the 1 1/2″ of snow or yet salted, announces his remote as “ground zero” and continues to give alternating reports with the girl on the overpass, all the while managing to slip on the ice while on camera and bruise his tailbone. It’s the Revelation, the four horseman, the end of the world as we know it. Nature’s fury has come down upon us and we are powerless to fight back. Hopefully you are prepared. Hopefully, before the chaos and civil unrest that will undoubtedly erupt, you have been to the store for bread and milk. But, whatever you do, do not remove your hands from the sides of your tv set. Do not leave your living room. We will return right after these important messages from our sponsor.


Cabin Fever   Girl Staring Out of a Window


Cabin fever , first recorded in 1918,for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations. 

I’m outside, warming up the 4 wheeler. It’s about 6 a.m., maybe 5 degrees above zero and dark. Everything is still, no movement other than my breath as it hovers in front of my face. Sounds ok I suppose, but it’s been 8 weeks straight of the same cold, wind, run to the truck, run back to the house, run to the mailbox, back to the house. Every few days, after a little more snow has fallen, I clear the drive and the walk down to the 2” sheet of ice that has been there since early December. Rock salt at these temperatures is worthless. I let the dogs out of the garage, and they gallop merrily down a trail to the pile of wood I split and carry back to the house for our stove. They don’t know any better, and I doubt they care; they just get to run, and sniff and do the morning rituals that dogs do. I don’t drive to an office or a timeclock somewhere, and for that I am thankful. I make my living from my home and the land around it. But I don’t think it matters what you do with your time by the middle of February; the sun is still low, the days are short, and the amount of time you spend inside of a house, a car, an office just seems to compact the world into the size of a closet. By now I’m counting the days until March. Surely by March we’ll be in the 50’s right? Daylight savings times must be about to end, I’m sure of it. I just need to hang on until March.

My mother told me once that cabin fever is about the same thing as living with my father after he retired. The kids were gone, yet the house had become smaller, inhabited by an all knowing, all seeing, omniscient presence known as Bill, who had nothing to do but stand next to, or behind my mother, and lend his years of wisdom to everything she did or needed to do. She took a part time job and saved the marriage, but I digress.

Now I don’t live in Alaska, or North Dakota or someplace where they have to drill a hole to fish in May. I’m in the lower 48, and I’ll admit, even in the depths of winter, I do watch the tv shows about Alaska. It is the hot state these days; there are so many variations to tune in-the wilderness shows, the reality shows, police, logging, gold, redneck programs. The upside is the absolute undiluted magnificents of a place like Alaska; the downside, which is usually never explained, and should be, is that the summer seasons are maybe three months, and you spend every waking minute of it preparing for the 9 months of winter. I can use a little optimism that spring is coming soon to pass the time, but even being positive can get old.

So now I’m back in the garage, unloading a cart full of wood, the dogs trailing behind me sounding as if they are in heels. They both lay down in short order and gnaw at the snow frozen around their paws, waiting for breakfast and some melted water in their dish. Life for them is about the now. I doubt they get too hung up in the notion of what is around the corner. Life is still good, God is great. I do need a little more than tea and sympathy to get by now and then. I’m thinking right about now, the sight of a few crocuses or tulips would do the trick.



Five Quick and Easy Ways to Start Your Campfire       campfire
Add a few of these items in your backpack or starter kit and you’ll never have to worry about crouching over a cold, smoldering pile of sticks again.

1. Lint.                                                                                                                                                       Start packing your dryer lint into a tupperware or shoebox. This stuff is a quick starter guranteed to light up dry kindling in a pinch. It’s free and, as long as you own a dryer, plentiful. Push this stuff inside of a cardboard toilet paper or gift wrap tube and you are good to go.

2. Cotton Balls & Vaseline.                                                                                                                      There are two simple methods to make this a 100% success. You can either melt the petroleum jelly in a pan over low heat, then soaking up the cotton with the liquid, and storing inside sandwich baggies, or simply daub the cotton into the greasy stuff and you are done. The cotton will burn for several minutes, long enough to light up your firewood.

3. Steel Wool.                                                                                                                                             Might be a little suprising, but this stuff is really good for firestarter, and it will ignite without even using a match. If you have two 9 volt batteries, simply place each battery on opposite sides of the wool and make contact. Voila.

4. Potato Chips.                                                                                                                                         Yes, the Fritos spread all over the picnic table from yesterdays cookout will do the trick. Actually, most any chip will do. Doritoes, Lays, Pringlesetc. Eat a couple to confirm they aren’t worth keeping and toss the rest onto your burn site and add some kindling.

5. Tape.                                                                                                                                                          Good old fashioned grey sticky duct tape. The same stuff you used to keep your wiper blade and side marker light attached to your truck. Roll it or wad it with a couple dabs of hand sanitizer to prime it. Avoid the non alcoholic sanitizer, that stuff won’t do a thing.


Eggs and Coffee and Big Fat Tomatoes



Early in our marriage, my wife and I started gardening. We lived in town on a small lot but it gave us an excuse to get outside. During each spring we made the pilgrimage to the local hardware store or greenhouse to pick up seeds, starter plants, fertilizer and soil. Now, eons later in our lives, we live on land with room to grow about whatever we want. My wife still makes out the list of items to pick up but as the years have passed, the list has shrunk. The more time I spent driving into town and  loading dozens of 40 lbs bags of powdery dirt into my truck, the more I realized there are better ways to prep a garden. People, even 50 years ago, didn’t spend three times the cost of the produce in peripherals before they even put a seed in the ground. My wife believed if it came from the greenhouse then it must be good dirt. Yes, that is likely true. It is also true that the black mulchy dirt just inside our timber line is just as good, and without a doubt 100% organic. She had her epiphany and ran with it, but I digress. While you sit in your house staring out the the window into winter pergatory and marking the days with a knife on the table, there are things you can do to prep for the growing season without even putting on a coat. 

Eggs shells and coffee grounds are in most every cupboard and icebox in America as well as every kitchen trash can. But it has become fairly common knowledge among those with the alleged green thumbs, that coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and a fantastic supplement to garden soil. They hold a ph somewhere around 6.5. Whether you add it to a compost pile or use it as a separate application to the topsoil, it is a very beneficial and organic, and didn’t I mention it was free? When adding to our compost collection, we simply try to mix it in with the dead grass, vegetation, leaves and whatever else you rake up. You can actually throw most paper coffee filters in there as well for good measure, but keep the pot in your hand. Flip that mess over a couple times each month to keep it cooking properly. 

Eggs as well, can provide a cheap and healthy boost to your flowers and produce and has nature’s seal of approval. Eggs contain a great resource of calcium and can be used in a variety of ways. They do not break down quickly; a shell simply broken in your hand can remain in that condition for several years. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they will become one with the soil. 20150131_072024The method we use is to just place them in a clear plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin. Doesn’t take very long and justifies why you keep that thing in the drawer and never use it. I’ve read online articles where folks will grind eggshells up in a blender, food processor, etc. It works, but I would advise that if you go that way, buy a second hand blender at a flea market. My experience is that the really small bits of the shell can be difficult to clean out of a blender, and I prefer not to find them later in my smoothie. There is no perfect science to the application. Some gardeners will sprinkle the bits of shell over the topsoil; others may blend it into the dirt. It continues to fertilize your garden long after you apply it. You can think of the eggshell bits as a sort of time release bouillon cube. 

Egg shells have also been used successfully as plant start containers. A half shell with a little soil, placed into the original egg carton is free, natural and disposable. Set them on a window sill or table next to the glass just as you would with store bought containers. When it is time to transplant, just move the shell holding the plant directly into the ground. Egg shells do not spoil or “go bad”. They won’t start to stink up the house, but you might want to wash them beforehand if you have any concern over bacteria from the contents.

“Egg juice” and “egg milk” are a few names we call the potion we created for spraying plants. We take crushed shells and put them inside a milk jug and fill it with water. After letting them sit for a couple of days we end up with a nice milky mixture of calcium and water that we will transfer into a watering can. We do a lot of container and raised bed type gardening and usually mixing about a cup of the solution to a gallon of water per treatment is about all we need to use for a small area of plants. The shells by the way, are reusable. 

While there are plenty of tips and tricks on line regarding how to keep insects and pests off of your plants, and we use several, one method we have found to be very successful is simply laying out broken egg shell pieces around plants such as tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, broccoli.  Snails, slugs and other assorted vile beasts bent on dining locally and after hours at your place find the sharp edges of the shell to be cutting and dangerous to their health. A snail may think it is rude, but it works and it is easy.

garden 3

In my mind I am a master gardener bar none. In reality, I’m a hobbyist slash amateur who is cheap as hell and always on the lookout for ways to save money and repurpose my trash. Our gardens don’t tower over the land like a cluster of giant green redwoods and I don’t expect I’ll be posting 200 lb Beef Steak tomatoes anytime soon. I have noticed though, that we used to have small, average looking vegetables that were slightly inferior to what you could find at walmart, using the best chemical enhancing sprays, granules, powders and solutions I could buy. Using organic methods, and tips such as these, have really paid off and now I’m only washing bug poop and dust from my beets and lettuce instead of agent pink or some third eye producing chemical from the sci fi channel. Here’s hoping you have a bountiful harvest.



US Stove 2000 Woodburner

“Go to sleep in your fireplace and you will sleep like a log.” Ellen DeGeneres


After running thru a 500 gallon tank of propane in about 45 days, I decided several years ago that I ought to be taking better advantage of the oak trees on my property. I clean up their droppings, stand beneath them and keep them company from time to time; they can return the favor. Year one I drug an old rusty Franklin wood stove out from under a pile of debris in the chicken coop. I had picked it up years earlier while cleaning out a house I had bought to remodel and rent out. Long, and heavy, I figured it would pay for itself in a shop or barn at some future point and help keep my wallet in my back pocket where it belonged. So after some course mutterings, I get the old iron widow maker into the house and over to the corner in our family room where I had already built the platform, fire and heat resistant walls,  piping etc. It looked pretty good hooked up and sitting on the pedestal, sort of like my old black lab. Well, maybe more like a gargoyle. Anyway, that moment was the high point for that old iron maiden. For the next two weeks it was a smoky, leaky, creaky, drafty, cranky and very inefficient (and somewhat unsafe) example of how not to heat your house. In order to prevent any further threats and ultimatums from my wife, that antique woodburning treasure took a short ride down to the auction house and is now someone else’s blessing.

That brings me to the United States Stove Company. I saw one of their products in the local farm store, did my due diligence online and decided their model 2000 would suit me just fine. Our house is a ranch style with 1500′ on the main level and another 1400′ of livable space in the finished, walkout basement. It is a rather long house with a stairway open on one side and located in the center of the house. The stove is heavy at 275 lbs but not as awkward as old smokey that it replaced. I unpacked it from the box, hooked up the blower and the flu (about 10 minutes) and  I was good to go. The 2000 model will put out almost 90000 btus with a 100 cfm blower to help push the heat around the house. US Stove considers this plate steel unit to be their mid sized model. The specs say it will accept up to a 21′ log; I’m pretty sure I’ve found a way to get something longer than that in the firebox a time or two. This is the third winter that I’ve used the US Stove 2000. Yes, the picture posted above shows ash and dust on the unit. It isn’t a showroom dealer photo; it is of my woodburner as it is being used.  I figured now was a better time to write a review since 3 years after the fact, I can say with certainty what I like and don’t like about this stove. First off, if you let it, it will run you out of your house. Screaming.  On a typical 35 degree day, with a slight breeze, we can keep the house at 70 on the main level. Downstairs may be 7-8 degrees warmer. In zero/sub zero temps, 65-67 is about the norm upstairs. Mind you, that is from a stove located in the corner of one end of the house in the lower level. Personally, there is something to being able to walk around your house in January in your underwear and a t shirt. I’m home several days during the week working out of my office, and my wife is home as well. As a result, I haven’t flipped the furnace on in 3 years. Of course what works for us probably isn’t ideal for the family in Minnesota that works 9-5 and is gone all the time. The stove drafts well, and the burn times can easily be controlled by the flu. The fan speed is adjustable and controlled by a knob. We usually have a cast iron kettle on top of the stove and filled with water to help with the dry winter air. Oak is the main dish on the menu, although hickory and walnut are served up on occasion. The air washed glass in front is clear and is cleaned occasionally and very easily using fine steel wool. I typically will put the last log in sometime around 9, close the flu and head to bed. I’m up by 5 and can most times simply reignite the coals in short order. What doesn’t work about the stove, for me, are mostly minor issues and likely just preference. There is an ash tray below the fire box for cleaning out the stove. I have found it to be cumbersome and tedious. It is much quicker for me to simply use a small metal scoop to empty the ash directly from the stove into a pail. The location of the blower fan is at the back and lower half of the stove. If you are intending to use the stove as a fireplace insert, you will find it very difficult to access. Likewise, while I have the specified distance between the stove and the wall, it is awkward to reach around the back of the unit and adjust the blower speed while so close to a very hot stove. I have an oven glove that I use on one hand to support myself against the stove while I reach in back.

I’m not a professional product reviewer. I am a consumer who knows what they like, or not, and why. There may be better stoves out there for similar money. I paid $599. The stove paid for it self in 60 days. The remaining winter I saved enough to pay for the cost of the install, the mantel, etc. I happy with US Stove and would buy another if I need one. But I don’t.

T Pharris

The White Hammer

Walk back from shop

“For many years I was a self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms and did my duty faithfully, though I never received payment for it.” Henry David Thoreau

Thankfully the snowstorm that massed over the northeastern coast isn’t as bad as the media played it up to be. What was predicted to be 3′ or more of snowfall over a 12 hour period, has for the most part, been much less. The 80 mph winds never came to be. As of this morning, primary roads are clear enough for travel and mass transit in the city of New York has resumed. I suppose there is a benefit to the sensationalized reporting in that when people expect the worst, they tend to prepare for the worst.  I recall an Uncle that told me as a kid that if you do, you will always be disappointed. There is great fear in the unknown and storms are no exception. Myself, since sometime around y2k I have found myself to be somewhat cynical about the world around me. The media seemingly becomes a field of whackamoles, popping up in perpetual news cycles, trying to wring the last drops of juice from the turnip of a news story, adding a little water if needed to make more, until the next scoop comes along. Egg heads on one channel debating whether the next decade will be submerged in global warming, global cooling or climate repurposing while on the next channel they consider that aliens may have had something to do with the missing Malaysian airliner. Last night I sat in a dark living room and listened to minute by minute reports of the coming “Snowpocalypse”; a different news reporter every segment saying basically the same thing in a different octave. “The approaching white hammer” “The jackpot of snow” made me smile as I pictured some producer huddled with a writer scraping the barrels of newspeak between commercials for Liptor and Allstate. Thank God that the storm was only what it was. Thank God people were spared what was predicted. I hope the television media will survive. I’m sorry if the weatherman looked a little foolish. I know I’ll still try and tune in as much as I can. I’d just like to save a little of the drama for Hollywood.

Smoky Mountains

 The stellar beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is no secret. This 521,000-acre park straddling North Carolina and Tennessee attracts 9 to 10 million visitors a year—more than the Grand Canyon and Yosemite combined. It’s the largest chunk of wilderness in the Southern Appalachians and one of the most biologically diverse forests in the country. The best news? Most visitors cluster at the same few spots. Cades Cove Loop Road alone sees 1.5 million a year—and that doesn’t include the campgrounds. Do just a little exploring and you’ll leave the throngs behind. This drive hits some of the best-kept secrets in the Smokies, from hidden picnic spots to fireside dining.

In & Around the Smoky Mountains   smoky-mountain-wildlife

1. Best Fall Fun

The Watershed Cabins resort (from $99), outside Bryson City, has on-site bocce, hiking trails, a waterfall, and a fire pit.

2. Best Picnic Spot

At 5,310 feet in elevation with giant stone tables, Heintooga Picnic Area off Balsam Mountain Road near Cherokee makes a beautiful, out-of-the-way rest stop.

3. Best Local Color

Witness the “rut,” when male elk bugle and spar for a partner, with master naturalist Esther Blakely (four-hour tour; $40). or 828/450-7985

4. Best Souvenir

Trout caviar ($22/oz.) from local, stream-fed Sunburst Trout Co. farm, sold at the new Sunburst Market on Montgomery. 828/452-3848

5. Best Campfire

Cataloochee Ranch (from $205) has down-home dinners and entertainment—think steaks and pickin’ around a campfire.

6. Best Cheap Bite

Pick up a box lunch ($5) at Hillbilly Grocery in Maggie Valley before driving Newfound Gap Road through the heart of the park.

7. Best Photo Op DSC00625

Find the 30-foot Spruce Flats Falls at the end of a 1-mile hike behind the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. This secret waterfall is not on most park maps.

8. Best Reader Deal

Dancing Bear Lodge & Restaurant is offering SL readers 25% off room rates December 2012 through March 2013. (Use code SLDEAL) or 865/448-6000

9. Best Fancy Grub

Sweet tea-brined pork tenderloin ($24) with a cornbread-and-tomato salad topped with pickled ramps and goat cheese ($6) at Dancing Bear Restaurant.

10. Best Detour

Drive the Foothills Parkway for 11 miles south of Townsend for an unobstructed view of the Smokies from the Look Rock observation tower.20140722_091432

From the October 2012 Magazine Issue|Article: Graham Averill Print Email

via Smoky Mountains Top 10 Stops – Southern Living.



Hiking and Backpacking in Yellowstone

Hiking in Yellowstoneyellowstone-National-Park-Travel-Destination-USA11


Yellowstone National Park, encompassing 2.2 million acres, is one of America’s premier wilderness areas. Most of the park is backcountry and managed as wilderness. Over 1,100 miles (1770 km) of trails are available for hiking. However, there are dangers inherent in wilderness: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, remote thermal areas, cold water lakes, turbulent streams, and rugged mountains with loose, “rotten” rock. Visiting wilderness means experiencing the land on its terms. If you choose to explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone, there is no guarantee of your safety. Be prepared for any situation. Carefully read all backcountry guidelines and regulations.

Spring Hiking in Yellowstone is a great way to both see and enjoy the park. This time period allows the unique opportunity for non-motorized use of certain park roads. Hiking, bicycling, jogging, roller blades, roller skis, and similar means of non-motorized travel are permitted between the West Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs ONLY from about mid March through the third Thursday in April. The opening day in March is weather dependant. The East and South Entrances and roads are Not Open for these early spring activities. The road from Madison Junction to Old Faithful will Not Open for spring activities during this time.  Please Note, there will be some administrative vehicles traveling the roads at this time. You may verify what specific roads are open to such activities by calling:  307-344-2109.

There are numerous trails suitable for day hiking. Begin your hike by stopping at a ranger station or visitor center for information. Trail conditions may change suddenly and unexpectedly. Bear activity, rain or snow storms, high water, and fires may temporarily close trails. At a minimum, carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It is recommended that you hike with another person. No permit is required for day hiking.

Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes and streams, bring it to a boil or use a water filter to reduce the chance of infection.

Yellowstone’s weather is unpredictable. A sunny warm day may become fiercely stormy with wind, rain, sleet, and sometimes snow. Lightning storms are common; get off water or beaches and stay away from ridges, exposed places, and isolated trees.

via Hiking in Yellowstone | Hiking and Backpacking in Yellowstone.

Road Trips


 Turkey Run State Park

8121 Park Rd, Marshall, In  Phone 765-597-2635       

turkey run (3)

  Positives-                                                                                                 Beautiful area                                                                                         Secluded Camp Sites                                                                             Lots of hiking trails                                                                                 Updated lodge with swimming pool  and a restaurant     

turkey run (2)

  Negatives-     Busy on weekends       


  My family and I have camped in Turkey Run numerous times over the years. Our boys, the typical preteen lot, would invariably whine and complain during the week before we would leaving for the park. Didn’t want to miss out on tv, their friends, the PS3, etc. “Why do we have to go? It’ll be so boring”.  The reality quickly sinks in once you arrive, that if you set up on a Friday afternoon with plans to stay thru Sunday, you really have to pack your schedule tight in order to experience everything. Put the most introverted kid on one of the many hiking trails, passing over suspension bridges, waterfalls, streams and climbable rock formations, and their natural desire to explore opens right up.  Canoing is available just up the road from the park, and offers folks a great view from the middle of Sugar Creek. There is also an onsite nature center. It isn’t that big really, but the exhibits are quite interesting, and my kids spent a long time browsing and learning some really neat stuff.  If your not into RVs or tents, there are cabins available, or you can stay at the Turkey Run Inn. They have a restaurant, olympic sized swimming pool, game room and a gift shop. RV sites are equipped with electrical hookups; water faucets are scattered thruout the park and there is usually one nearby. Dumpstations are near the exit. Checkout time for the campground is about 5 p.m. so you’ll have plenty of time on your last day to pack and go. 

turkey run

I have always found the park to be clean and well maintained. That said, don’t plan on a weekend getaway there without reservations. I have found that unless I planned ahead at least 60 days in advance, my chances of getting a decent spot were slim to none. And by “decent spot”, I mean anything not alongside the dumpstation. Go during the week and you’ll have a much easier time of it. There is always plenty of wildlife in and around the park, just don’t feed them. The Rangers will also from time to time host activities for the kids. For the price of dinner out and a movie, which will be forgotten soon after, you can enjoy a weekend getaway with your family with memories you’ll always have. Now get to it! 

TMP  January 2014

Huntington Beach State Park

16148 Ocean Highway, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina 29576

(843) 237-4440 overview-huntington

Thanks to my dawdling, we almost didn’t make the trip last summer. I like to plan vacations over the winter, work out the best routes, the best layovers, and the best dates for our destination. Little did I realize that if you want a decent spot along the ocean near Myrtle Beach during the tourist swarm, you had better book a spot early. By the end of January I thought I had everything in order and began my reservations. That came to a screeching halt in about 5 clicks of the mouse. Very few camping sites were available.  I had wanted to stay specifically at Huntington Beach. It is a state park, south of the inner city chaos yet close enough to make it to the sites in short order. Fortunately, instead of settling for a last chance, back 40 spot, I hit the website every morning holding out for a cancellation. Sure enough, after about two weeks I had what I wanted. A site just off the beach, water and electric and a couple trees to lay some shade to the camper. We are from the midwest, so I am familiar with the humidity of summer. Arriving in late July, I expected it to be hot and hazy. Yes……it was.

If you aren’t familiar, South Carolina is considered a sub tropical climate, meaning the air is thick, hot and heavy. Think walking on the moon while on fire. Even the rain was hot. Actually I prefer stifling heat over the midwest winters. I have a cousin in Minnesota who invites me to ice fish with him on their lake. Drag a shack across the ice the size of a porta potty, drill thru 28′ of ice, drop your line and sit on a stool with a frozen beer for 6 hours. I’m still trying to understand that one…

We arrived on a Monday afternoon. The office that we checked in also contains a small store/gift shop. There is a large parking lot for the public access beach. Now this is where I get to the bonus feature of the campground. There is a large section of beach, partitioned off for campground guests only, meaning that regardless if the campground was completely booked, on any given day for the week that we stayed, there never were more than a couple dozen people on the beach. No elbow to elbow dog underfoot hairy guy with the sun block type scenario. Plenty of room to roam. The same can be said for the sites themselves. The neighboring sites on either side were a good 40′ away. This isn’t a park that jams campers on top of each other to maximize the almighty dollar. Nor were the sites laid out in a cookie cutter fashion. Sites inside the loop generally had little shade an were open; sites on the outside of the loops usually had some trees and shrubbery, while another loop was designed so that you backed your camper into a dense canopy of hedge that completely enveloped your site.

Bike trails are plenty, and there is a causeway with tours and lookout posts for sighting the local gators. The latter isn’t hard; they seemed intent on observing the tourists as much as we were watching them. For different purposes I am sure.

There is a main gate with a guardpost that closes and locks at 10 p.m. If you choose to hit the nightspots just make sure you have the password to open it up when you return. Walmart, seafood, bars, entertainment, are all within 20 minutes, but we ventured out only twice during the entire week. The only negative we experienced were the ants. Bring some boric acid and sprinkle it around the perimeter of your RV. Make sure you treat the ends of your clothesline and anything else that comes in contact with your camper. Ants are smart buggers and not easy to dissuade, and it was difficult to convince my wife that was pepper in the flour box.

Campsite prices are reasonable, up to $40 per night, wi fi is available if needed, and even without cable, we picked up a dozen local stations on the television.          01/2014     TMP 



Critters & Such

“The Four Feet”

I have done mostly what most men do

And I have pushed it out of my mind

But I can’t forget, if I wanted to

Four feet trotting behind

Day after day, the whole day through

Wherever my road inclined

Four Feet said “I am coming with you”

And trotted along behind

Now I must go by some other round

Which I shall never find

Somewhere that does not carry the sound

Of four feet trotting behind




  “What A Nice Dog”  20131217_071428

                                                                                 I’m a dog lover. That said and out of the way, I do not love all dogs.  Not the ankle biters, not the droolers, not the natural born killers.  I guess I’ll rephrase that first sentence with I love my dogs.  One is a Collie; a lean, thick coated sable/orange and white specimen with eyes that will reach into your very soul.  Now that I think of it, I suppose Dracula had the same power.  He goes by the name of “Gunner” and he is about 2 years old.  He’ll also come to you by the name of “Hey”, “Come’re”, “Doofus”, a whistle, a click of the tongue, etc.  In short, he doesn’t know who he is.  He is a great dog, good with kids, loves everyone and loyal.

My wife has a Sheltie.  She goes by the name of Snickers (the dog of course). I can honestly say that this dog is the smartest animal that has ever lived with me.  Responds to every command on cue.  Very loving and beautiful dog.  It is quite clear, however,  that she  rules the roost outside.  She is the alpha dog here and everyone knows it.  So one dog is 75 lbs, almost 2′ taller with a  baratone woof and a gallop that sounds like an stampeding horse, while the Sheltie is known to average 15 lbs with short, stubby legs and a piercing high pitched bark.  Doesn’t seem like there is a lot of similarity between the two; kind of like a Mutt and Jeff type of partnership if you ask me.

So in the beginning, it was a little suprising to me, when we would take our dogs on camping trips, vacations, etc, of the response we would receive when someone would see our dogs.  It was sort of a ritual at campgrounds to go for a morning and evening stroll with Gunner and Snickers, to get their exercise, let them sniff/read, and do their business (and yes, we carried those little poop bags around with us to clean up).  On those mornings that Snickers was at the head of the leash was usually when we received the most attention. Invariably, I’d run across some other poor soul who, like me, wasn’t smart enough to stay in bed, and after the obligatory smile and greeting,  I’d hear “What a cute little Collie you have”.

Folks, a Sheltie isn’t a Collie. They aren’t related. Never was and never will be.  One barks, one chirps. One sprints, the other shuffles.  One you pick up and carry, the other you restrain. Countless times I’ve heard the uninformed call Snickers “Lassie”.  Really?  I’m an old man now, but even thru my dementia I don’t recall a possum sized canine jumping on Timmy’s neighbor and dragging him from the burning barn.  Ok, they may have Scottish descent and they may or may not have sable coats, and that is about where it ends.  I’m Korean but no, I’ve never been to Hong Kong.  Am I being a little sensitive?  Maybe too thin skinned or over reactionary?  Of course I am.  It’s a “me problem” that won’t take the place of my paying the bills or saving the world.  Before I can make my point before congress, I still have to figure out how to keep my wife from tripping over my shoes everytime she comes thru the door. But I won’t call your Labrador an Irish Setter or your Stafordshire Terrier a Pitbull.  Like you, I may not know the difference or I may not even care.  If it’s all the same,  I think I’ll just smile as I pass and say ” What a nice dog”.

        GT 2014

My  wife and I owned two dogs that we had owned before we met and brought  into the marriage.  Her dog was a pit bull/labrador cross named Zack,  and he hated me.  When our daughter was born, I said to the wife,”If he  so much as nips at the baby, he’s gone.”

We brought our  daughter home in a car seat, and both dogs sniffed and licked her, tails  wagging.  I had to pull Zack away from her because he wouldn’t stop  licking her.  Zack immediately became my daughter’s protector, and when  she was lying on a blanket on the floor, he always had to have one foot  on the blanket.

Zack loved my daughter immensely, and when she  became a little older always walked her to bed, and then slept on the  bed with her. He somehow knew whenever it was time to go upstairs, and  he would wait at the foot of the stairs for her, and then follow her up  to bed.

Zack was poisoned by some dirtbag neighbor kids, and we  had one of the worst days of our lives.  Watching my daughter say  goodbye to him as he laid still on the kitchen floor, my wife and I were  both sobbing.

At 8:00 that night, my daughter walked to the  stairs to go to bed.  At that moment, all three of us realized what was  about to happen.  After 5 years, she didn’t have Zack to accompany her  upstairs.  She looked at her mother and me with a look of horror and  panic.

It was at that moment that my dog, who loved my daughter  dearly, but was not in Zack’s league, stood up, walked over to her, and  nudged her with his head.  He put his foot on the stairs, and looked up  at her.  They walked up to bed, with my daughter holding tightly to his  neck.

For the next 6 years, until he died, Sam waited for her by the stairs each night.

Greg Heynen

Why Do Coyotes Howl?    Coyote

Coyotes have a very social life with each other, each howl means something. The long drawn out howl is an interrogation howl, asking is there any other members of my pack around and where are you. There are many other howls I don’t have the space to explain them all. The lonesome howl, the female invitation howl, pup yips and howls, challenge howls, and many more. These are some of the ones you will here. Coyotes are very territorial most of the year and do not tolerate other coyotes in their territory, this is why sometimes when you howl to call to them they answer back with a quicker more excited howl this is the challenge howl, you can sometimes give it right back to them and they get real excited, it’s kinda like two people talking crap in an argument or before a fight, sometimes the coyote will come to whip butt. They yip in packs sometimes at night when they have killed something or found something to eat. They howl for many reasons. 

Sara Corbus