Archive for the ‘firearms’ Category

Goodbye to 2007, reflections, and a few interesting discoveries

January 1, 2008

And I wish I could say I’m going to miss this year, but the truth of the matter is, it’s been a mixed bag, so I don’t know if I will or not. But at least it’s been interesting. . .

Yesterday I heard of a Scottish custom for celebrating the changing of the calendar that I really like. At midnight you open the front door to let the new year in, then rush to the back door and open it to let the old year out. Beats the heck out of getting smashed and throwing up all over yourself and everyone close. . .

But I couldn’t help but wonder: What if you reversed the order and let the old year out before you let the new one in? Would it stop time for the moment? (I’m not usually this weird but I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on physics, and the lecturer has me thinking about the non-absolute characteristic of time. So that speculation isn’t as far fetched as it seems.)

There’s an article in the current issue of Archaeology magazine about the henge builders (think Stonehenge). One of the things we discovered this year was that we have our very own henge on this place, although it’s made of trees, not stones.

One of our serious landmarks is a very large (over 200′ tall according to my astrolabe) pair of Douglas fir trees. They escaped the logging that was done in the early 1960s (just before Ben bought the place) because they functioned as the tailholt for the tower cable (an anchor that holds the lower end of the cable in place). A piece of the cable still sticks out from where they have grown together over the years. They’re very very lovely, but that’s not the most remarkable thing about them.

The most remarkable thing about this pair of trees is that on the winter solstice, the sun sets right between them. It’s a beautiful thing to see and a good thing to know (especially if calendars should disappear one of these days, not a totally unthinkable event in these interesting times).

It’s very cold since the rain stopped, but that has its advantages, too. I started the kitchen stove first thing this morning because it puts out heat so much faster than the living room stove. So by breakfast time I had a hot oven, and we were able to feast on skillet-baked cornbread, bacon, scrambled eggs, and fresh, sweet orange wedges, the kind you only seem to be able to get in the winter.

One of this year’s real plusses is that I’ve had the time to become very good friends with my wood cookstove. I haven’t attempted a cake yet (mostly because none of us particularly likes cake), but I’ve run just about everything else through it. I’m getting very spoiled.

I discovered a piece of cookware I don’t have (Ben says that’s impossible). I don’t have an apfelskiver pan. I think that’s a very good thing. They look like a great deal of trouble to bake, and I suspect that other apple things taste as good or better. So I’m not looking for one.

And of course, I discovered White Lily flour. I’m still making discoveries about how to use it, when to mix it with other flours to get the desired result (for example, scones made with pure White Lily flour are too cakey for my taste, but if I add a little hard wheat flour (about 3 parts WL to 2 parts hard wheat) the texture is perfect.

And speaking of scones, you may remember that one of my goals was to find the perfect scone recipe. I hit it second time out, so now I’m messing with various additions for flavor. I used to think that apricot scones topped with apricot or peach jam were the best, but that was before I added some crystalized ginger to my plain scone dough.

The local co-op has a million varieties of organic crystalized or candied dried fruits, so I’m not through experimenting. But it’s hard to imagine anything better than that ginger. . .

One recent discovery is wonderful. Living off the grid as we do, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in flashlights. We’ve tried a number of LED mini-maglites with varying amounts of success. The problem with most of them is that a) they cost about $20, and b) they may be very bright up close but they don’t project. But I stumbled onto this weird little mini-mag (brand Performance Tool, made in China, of course, in a variety of bright metallic colors and basic black, but since I rarely chew on my flashlights, I doubt that there’s a problem here). It’s about 4 inches long, fits nicely in pocket, purse, or glovebox, uses 3 AAA batteries (don’t know the life expectancy yet, but with the LED lamps I’m expecting wonderful things), and projects its brightness about 25 yards (or roughly as far as you can shoot accurately with a pistol, even a good one). I liked it so much I bought a bunch of them ($3.50 each at Bi-Mart) and have scattered them around in useful places. I even have one by the stove for an oven light. And since I ended up for some strange reason (tied, I’m sure to a battery-buying binge I went on when I moved out here) with a surplus of AAA batteries, I think I’m getting a double hit here.

I think I’ve finally identified my mystery birds, and it’s so dumb that I really feel stupid. But I think the birds with the beautiful song are sparrows, house or song, I’m not totally sure. But if that’s the case, I can’t believe we’ve never had them around until this year. But they can come sing to me any time.

And of course I’ve discovered Super Mario Galaxy. I’m sure it will take me the rest of the winter to finish it. Most days I play only during the evenings when the generator is running and during the times I’m not busy getting dinner together or the leftovers put away. I’m trying to average one star a day, but some days I don’t play at all, so then I have to try to make up for it. The stars are getting harder and harder.

I think I’m basically too impatient to be a very good Wii player. My favorite approach is to run full tilt at whatever is my target. But sometimes my speed is better than my accuracy. This often leads to a less than satisfactory result. Come to think of it, there are a number of things that I approach exactly the same way, sometimes with exactly the same result. Hm-m-m-m-m-m. . .

Here’s what I’m hoping for in 2008:

  • Peace
  • More good weather than rain
  • Peace
  • A satisfactory resolution to my brother’s troubles
  • Peace
  • Lots of visits with friends
  • Peace
  • Some good writing
  • Peace
  • One belly laugh (or more)¬†every day
  • Peace

You get the idea. . .

Now once again I have lumped so many topics together I’ll probably get another note from that guy who complained before, which is OK. At least I knew he read the whole thing. . .But I’m going to sign off. I’ve got to go write a poem about Appalachia, and I’m not sure where to start.

The best to all of you in 2008. Stay in touch.

Gun totin’ granny, the bureaucracy in action, and other fun stories

November 14, 2007

I picked up my concealed handgun permit today, having completed the safety course, filled out reams of paper work, and had my background thoroughly checked, both my criminal and mental history, and solicited references from a couple of friends.

The best part of it is, for a mere $65 and a few hours time, I’ve been certified as sane and non-felonious for the next four years. I think that alone is worth $15 a year.

Most of the people who know me are surprised that I even applied for one. But I think that’s because they live in town. I, on the other hand, spend a fair number of hours each week driving alone on a gravel road (11 miles each way) with no cell service available. It pays to be prepared. I’ve owned a great pistol (.38 Special S&W that’s really accurate) for years. Now I can carry it with me when I’m off on my wild adventures. And if I have to get out and hike a mile or two to the nearest phone, I’ll feel much better about it.

There are a couple of different ways to meet the consumer safety course requirement. One is to spend 6 hours on two different weekends in a classromm about a 2-hour drive away, looking at PowerPoint slides and listening to an instructor drone on. The other way, and the one I elected to pursue, is to go to a certified instructor for one-on-one training. I’m so glad I did that. The woman I learned from taught firearms proficiency at the police academy for four years and now has a private security company. She also has a great shooting range in her back yard set up to simulate a variety of shooting situations.

I’ve done a fair amount of shooting, but it’s virtually all been target, which is great for practice but doesn’t prepare you for the unexpected. I learned more in an hour with Kay than I could possibly have hoped for. I scored a resounding 97% on my shooting test (I really only had difficulty with a little exercise designed to simulate shooting while taking cover–my creaky knees were a problem, so I’ll just have to hope that any gunfights I’m involved in are out in the open–just a joke. . .).

I also paid the land taxes today while I was in town. Ben somehow added 47 and 46 and got 89, so the check he sent in with me was $.04 short. I told the nice clerk I had $.04 in actual cash and would make up the difference. She said she’d have to issue me a separate receipt and wouldn’t I like to modify the check instead. I said “no,” I’d pay her the four cents. I did and she did and I suggested that it probably cost a great deal more than four cents just to issue me the separate receipt, at which she nodded ruefully. But that was the only way to get the taxes paid in full.

I also finally bought a Wii today. I’m probably depriving some poor child of what he wants for Christmas, but as Ben pointed out, we’ve bought virtually every Nintendo machine made for the last 19 years, and there’s no reason to stop now. I gave up last holiday season when they were in short supply (translated–impossible to find), but now we have the console, a second controller, a “classic” controller for use when I download the older games (I am so impressed that Nintendo is making this capability available–I can jettison our other three game boxes and still play all the other versions of Zelda), and the new Zelda, Super Mario Galaxy, and Tiger Woods golf. Winter’s almost here, so it was time to do this.

Speaking of winter, it’s totally clear here tonight, which means it’s going to be very cold. The stars are amazing, expecially since the moon is just this little teeny waxing crescent, but the temperature is already nearing freezing. We’ve got both fires going so the house will be at least lukewarm in the morning.