Saturday, October 12, 2019

Tales - Sweden's Crisis Preppers

I recently watched a very interesting show by SBS Dateline titled
Sweden's Crisis Preppers. Because Sweden is viewed as a country that takes complete care of it's citizens, I was confused by why Swedish people would need to prep. My American acquaintances often use Sweden as proof that free college and free healthcare are doable. Because I know precious little about Sweden, and because I'm ultra-nosy, I watched the episode. It was so interesting that I've watched it three times since. I think there are indeed some important lessons to learn from Sweden. But maybe not the lessons my friends have been trying to tell me.

photo courtesy of fotojet

Sweden's Crisis Preppers

Sweden is often cited as the country that is doing "it" right. The country that provides free health care and free education. We all should follow this example, my friends and acquaintances tell me. Then I learn that the citizens of Sweden being sent literature encouraging them to prepare for crisis or war via "prepping".

Say what? 

Yes. The citizens have been sent literature from their government explaining how they should prep. This video interviews a couple of citizens who are prepping, and who have received the literature (but I believe both were prepping prior to the literature). The video also shows persons who are involved with Sweden's government, military, home guard, and civil emergency agency.

What I learned was that this video highlights "one of the world's most peaceful countries preparing for the worst" by educating students and citizens about prepping and decision-making during emergencies.

I learned that in the early 2000s, the defense spending was slashed. And a military of 700,000 is now only 50,000. And half of that number consists of the Home Guard. The Home Guard is comprised of citizen volunteers who train for military and medical emergencies approximately twice a year. 

I learned that the defense knowledge was lost because people thought they were safe. Currently, the government is slowly increasing the investment into military defense. But the current plan, if war occurs in their country, is to "get other countries to come and help us".

Say what?

Swedish preppers know that if something happens "you can't depend on the government to bring you food or get you water. You have to do it yourselves." It seems that this thinking is validated by the literature that was sent to the citizens and by the government deciding there is a need to rebuild their defense.

I do feel the need to say that I've never viewed anything by SBS Dateline prior to this video. I know nothing of their typical reporting styles, trends, or biases. Here is the Youtube version of SBS Dateline's Sweden's Crisis Preppers if you'd like to watch. 

My Idea of Prepping

Preppers are often viewed as outliers. There is a stereotype that preppers are only a handful of fringe people who are a bit off. The recluses that want to live as hermits and are a bit paranoid. 

In my opinion, there are some extreme preppers who are a bit over the top. A bit more extreme than I ever could be. But overall, I think there is something exceedingly important about being prepared and self-sufficient.

There have been portions of my life when there has not been enough food to eat. I had relatives who were impacted by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Though they did not talk about it, I knew that was why they were very frugal and saved many items because they "might need that later."  I was a teenager during the midwest blizzard of '78 and we were cut off from anything for days. And now I live in Maryland, where hurricanes can cause some damage and power loss. These experiences have given me a desire to be able to take care of myself for at least a few weeks at a time.

I think prepping has a very personal definition for each person who prepares. For me, prepping means that I'd love to have a large, well-stocked pantry. I'd also love to go into retirement at The Shack with the skills to feed myself with the food and animals I've grown. For me, I believe these skills help to keep a healthier me and a healthier environment. I do not think my goal is to be 100% fully self-sufficient. I don't know if that is possible for many people and I'm certain it is not possible for me.

I do know that I don't want to depend on the government to take care of me. I don't trust that will happen. Especially in light of this new knowledge that not even Sweden is prepared to care for it's citizens during a crisis event. The video, Sweden's Crisis Preppers has only reinforced my desire to continue to increase my prepping and self-sufficiency.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Thuja Green Giant From PlantingTree

Thuja Giant Green from PlantingTree
I am very excited to share that I have found another excellent source for obtaining plants and trees for my land at The Shack. This is a nursery that delivers big, healthy plants right to my front door. 

PlantingTree is an affordable online garden center. Their website is full of information about each plant; assisting me to create a wish list of appropriate plants that will help me reach my goals on my ridge in West Virginia. 

PlantingTree Online Garden Center

PlantingTree is a family-owned landscaping business turned online nursery and garden center that offers reasonably priced plants. Their website shows their love for plants - I think they like plants as much as I do and they are clearly far more knowledgeable than I am. 

Their website has a large amount of helpful information that will allow you to choose a perfect plant for your yard or garden. 

Note: PlantingTree contacted me to ask me do a plant review. I received a Thuja Green Giant at no cost. I do not believe my review is biased by that and people who know me, know that I have no qualms about speaking out about things I'm unhappy with. 

Thuja Green Giant

I chose a Thuja Green Giant for a few reasons. Some of those reasons are:

  • deer resistant
  • drought tolerant (once established)
  • fast growing
  • evergreen
  • nesting habitat for birds
  • dense screening for wildlife
  • creates a natural privacy screen 

The folks at PlantingTree can describe the plant far better than I can. Here is one of their many informational videos:

I believe that it was Thuja Green Giants that grew as a privacy screen around the pool area at my apartment complex. Unfortunately, the new management removed these giant, cone-shaped shrubs and also removed the habitat of many birds, squirrel, and rabbits in the process. I miss those green, "feathery" giant shrubs.

The plant I received from PlantingTree was dense and healthy. It was much larger than I expected! (What I expected was a small 6-10" tall plant with drying limbs similar to holiday evergreens I've received in the mail). The Thuja was recently watered, the pot was wrapped in plastic - secured with a zip-tie, and shipped in a sturdy box that withstood our rough and tumble local shipping.

Unboxing my Thuja Giant Green from PlantingTree

Why Evergreens at The Shack?

My land in West Virginia is on top of a ridge. The views are amazing but many things about my land are difficult. It was previously an apple orchard. Although, I have no idea how apples were successfully grown there. The terrain is harsh and the "soil" is really large gravel. Planting things requires the use of a pick-ax. 

The deer and other wildlife are voracious. More than half of the things I've planted have not survived; having been eaten or rubbed by bucks during rut. There are pests that have killed the Ash trees and a different pest that killed the Elm trees before I purchased the land. It will not be easy work to learn and begin forest succession planting and management. I am only in the beginning stages of learning this process.

My land is half "yard" and half wooded area. My long term goal is to revitalize my woods and provide increased habitat for the birds and wildlife. Increasing the health of my land is going to include many things and a lot of hard work. One of the things I'm focused on is creating a stand of evergreens. 

The neighboring lot has a small stand of pines just on the other side of the property line. My plan is to mirror that stand with a larger and thicker evergreen grouping just inside my property. My hope is to provide increased habitat for birds and wildlife.

The neighbor's small stand of evergreen

If you are considering doing some landscaping and are concerned about price and quality, check out what PlantingTree has to offer. I think you'll be as happy with your new plant as I am. 

My big, healthy Thuja the day it was delivered
PS. I planted my Thuja at The Shack last weekend. The weather has been extremely dry and I'm back at the Apartment. I wish I was there so that I could water my plants daily, until it rains, but I'm not.  Watch for updates about my evergreen grove. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Why Did the Bear Cross the Road?

Why did the bear cross the road? I don't know. Perhaps to give me an unforgettable visit to The Shack. Perhaps as my totem animal bringing a message. Perhaps to scare me half to death. I'm really not sure but the experience was amazing!

I totally forgot that I had not shared this photo! What a shame. It was such a cool thing to happen.

I was camping at The Shack in June. I was trying to do some weeding, clearing of the brush pile/poison ivy patch, and just hang out and relax. One late afternoon, I went to the top of my hill and sat to relax, birdwatch, and hopefully snap a couple of photos of the Cedar Waxwings. Initially, I had my nose buried in a magazine about planting habitat for birds - making a wish list for shopping at the nursery.

The breeze was cool and felt great after the busy warm day. I closed my eyes to relax and thought of how thankful I was to be there. I intentionally tried to clear my mind of all of my usual negative thoughts. I began to mediate.

I opened my eyes and immediately, out of the corner of my eye and over my shoulder, noticed a black blob in motion. I realized what it was just in time to snap a couple of photos. This bear came up from the corner of my yard, crossed the road, and disappeared. Thank goodness my camera is usually set on a burst of photos!

It had to have been more than just coincidence that made me open my eyes at that moment and see that bear. It gave me goosebumps thinking about how statistically lucky that was. Or was it some sort of divine intervention.

What a wonderful experience.

Initially, I watched to see if the bear would come back. Then I decided that it was time to go back into The Shack and watch from the windows just in case it did come back!  Yes, you can laugh. I laughed at myself while I kept watch from inside.

What a wonderful memory. That was an extra special day at The Shack. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

August and September 2019 at The Shack

I've slacked at sharing stories about my progress at The Shack. In part, because the progress seems minimal and in part because I'm struggling with keeping up with daily responsibilities. Despite feeling this way, I have gotten some things accomplished up on my little piece of heaven. 

I keep trying to convince myself that even if I get nothing done during my trips up to my land, it is a camping trip. And what a wonderful place to relax on a day off. The views definitely can't be beat. And if I do get something done - either for my future life up there (ex. fruit trees for me that need time to mature) or for the health of my land (ex. cutting out the invasive plants to give the native species a chance) that is a bonus. 

I have to work hard to keep those things in mind and avoid the negative self-talk that stresses me out. (ex. I'm too old, too inept, too whatever, and who am I kidding thinking that I'm going to retire up on that gorgeous homestead on that West Virginia ridge). I have to work hard to give myself permission to spend time just watching the clouds go by. If I give myself enough time, I can see a T-Rex. Can you see it?

But I digress. On to the things that I/we managed to get accomplished over a week vacation and several weekends in August and September.

I have 4 pawpaw trees planted. Two in the "yard" and two in the woods. The two in the yard were purchased from Sun Nurseries and are already around 4' tall. For the past two years I see them starting to put out fruit and each year those little buds are nipped off. By deer I assume. The deer leave the tree alone otherwise, but those fruit get nipped off almost immediately. I have finally fenced those two trees and hope that deters my ravenous four-legged neighbors.  

My oldest son came to visit. It was most excellent to have him see the place and give me some feedback about my long-term plans. We discussed the health of my woods. I have so many invasive plants (garlic mustard, japanese stiltgrass, and poison ivy vines) that I worry about. But I also have only mature trees in my woods. Dying, injured trees and mature trees. Nearly no new growth. My plan is to work hard at planting seedlings in the woods. I have been gathering sugar maple seeds and a variety of acorns, I hope to be able to start many seedlings on my own.

It was also awesome that he cooked breakfast on the deck one morning. Yes, that's breakfast. A teeny cookstove and an MRE-type breakfast inside. 

In my yard I planted a Sioux Crepe Myrtle, a Chicago Hardy fig, and a Brandywine Viburnum. I also continued to work at trimming back the poison ivy and brush in one of the two brush piles in the yard. My plan is to allow the brush piles to remain but on a much smaller scale. They are good habitat for the wildlife. And I am focused on continuing to add plants that attract birds (i.e. the Service Berry is a favorite of Cedar Waxwings).

I pulled out the Pig Root weed that was trying to choke out my Service Berry tree seedling. I weeded my flower bed (where the lilac, rose, purple coneflower, and Japanese Maple are planted and doing well)

I checked my game and anti-trespassing cams.  As usual, I have deer. Many, many, many deer. So many that I worry about them having adequate habitat and food. 

We planted a Rhododendron in the woods. 

I smoked an active wasp nest out of my grill. It was the same aggressive type of wasp that stung me in the neck last year. I was prepared for them and I didn't get stung this time.

Whatever has been snacking on my purple coneflower was kind enough to leave one gorgeous bloom behind for me. I just planted it this spring so I am hopeful that it will continue to grow and spread. 

My son fell a couple of dead trees. One of which I was worried might hit the corner of The Shack if it fell on it's own. It fell in the direction he wanted it to but it was propped up on a thick limb, the steep hill, and the apple tree. 

It has been slow work cleaning up the branches and starting to cut it for firewood. But I'm making progress. Quite an accomplishment for someone just learning how to use a chainsaw. Not only am I making progress but I also now know how to take apart and clean the chainsaw.

During my visit last weekend, I focused on watering everything. It had been exceedingly dry. Clearly no rain for days, if not weeks. I'm not sure if the poor, parched viburnum will survive that drought. The lack of rain validated my plan to install a rain catchment system.

So many things on the "to do" and "to learn" list. I'll just keep puttering along and enjoying my camping trips to The Shack.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tales: True Appaloosa

Photograph of "Zip Me Impressive"
Not a horse from the movie but a beautiful
example of an Appaloosa.
What could possibly cause a 69 year old woman to leave her countryside home in New Zealand and travel - with strangers - to remote parts of Kyrgyzstan? The answer is horses. The love for her horses and her commitment to the Appaloosa breed. At the age that many folks are contemplating retirement and winding down. Instead, Scott Engstrom goes on the adventure of a lifetime. 

Thank goodness Conor Woodman filmed the journey to find the True Appaloosa so that we could ride along from the comfort of our living room. 

This video speaks to me because of the attention to horses. This story also inspires me because of the passion displayed by a 69 year old woman who wanted to do something and just went off and did it.

Appaloosa Horses

Most people in the horse world believe that the Appaloosa breed was brought to North America via Spain when the US was being explored and settled. A smaller group of people - primarily Scott Engstrom - believed that the horses originally came across the Bering land bridge connecting what is now Russia and Alaska. 

No matter how the Appaloosa horses originally arrived in North America, all agree that the Nez Perce tribe were the first North American people to selectively breed these beautiful spotted horses.

Appaloosas have some notable characteristics: mottled skin under the tail, mottled skin on the muzzle, striped hooves, white sclera around the eyes and often (but not always) a spotted coat.

At times when I was young we owned horses. My favorites were the Arabians and the Appaloosas. People familiar with these two breeds are often puzzled by this statement, since these two breeds are very different. But the Appaloosas from my childhood were beautiful and reliable. My sister owned a beautiful Appaloosa mare - so beautiful that I later purchased a painting of a similarly colored horse. 

The Adventurous Spirit of a Woman

Scott Engstrom loves her horses. A lot. So much that she contacts a man from a documentary solely because he had in his possession an Appaloosa horse in an Asian country.

Not only did she make contact, she made plans to travel from her home to Kyrgyzstan, in search of the foundation Appaloosa herd. She knew enough to be prepared to provide documentation, photos, measurements, and material for DNA testing if she found this herd.

The specific horse that Mr. Woodman had traded was not able to be found. And the search to find any Appaloosa horses dragged on - from one dead end to the next. Finally, they are told to go to a valley located between the mountains and near the border of China. This is where the "Char" (spotted) horses can be found. The only problem is that this area is only accessible by crossing the mountains on horseback.  Is this a journey that a senior citizen can make successfully?

Filmmaker Conor Woodman

Conor Woodman filmed a documentary Around the World in 80 Trades. One of his trades was trading horses in Kyrgyzstan. One of those horses was an Appaloosa. 

Ms. Engstrom was channel surfing one day and came across Mr. Woodman's documentary - and his horse-trading. She contacted him and he agreed to go with her (and film) her search for the horse that he traded. 

Sometimes people meet others through chance. I'm so glad these two met, went on their adventure, and filmed it for the rest of us to see!

I watched True Appaloosa through my Amazon Prime account and I loved it so much that I watched it again the next week. Because I'm considering watching it again today, I decided to make sure to spread the word about this video.  True Appaloosa is the documentary about Scott Engstrom's love of Appaloosa horses. Her commitment to this breed takes her to Kyrgyzstan in search of the disputed origins of the Appaloosa breed. 

Related Links:

For more information, an interesting travel destination, or gift ideas for the horse lover you know, check out the Appaloosa Museum in Idaho. 

I have always loved the realism of Breyer Model horses. And their selection of Appaloosa horses is no exception.

photo credit: Intro photo courtesy of wikimedia commons under the CC BY SA 3.0 - photographer: Kersti Nebelsiek

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Tales: Living Proof Movie Review

Tales: Reviewing Living Proof by Matt Embry
I have recently watched a movie (twice in a row) on Amazon Prime that has really opened my eyes about several things. Living Proof is about a young Canadian (Matt Embry) who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). And how this young man, his father, and others are on a journey to find answers, treatment, and possibly a cure. 

MS is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to go awry - deciding the that spinal cord and brain "shouldn't be there" and attacks as it does any other foreign thing that enters the body. 

MS is on the rise.

Living Proof gives us a peek at what young Mr. Embry is doing to delay the inevitable physical deterioration that MS patients face. He shares the details of how he personally has continued to be symptom free for 20 years. And Living Proof gives us a peek into the wider scope of MS treatment and how big money seems to control the trajectory of research, financing, and the dissemination of treatment information. This movie includes very important information about the history of MS treatment progress and lack thereof. 

Matt Embry. Filmmaker. Advocate. Outwardly healthy young man. Multiple Sclerosis patient. Son. Matt travels the world to interview the experts and the patients (also the experts) to look for answers and hope. Some of the answers may include the treatments:  stem cell treatment, CCSVI procedure, diet, dietary supplements, and medication. The more he learns about the disease, the stronger of an advocate he becomes. Not only is he fighting the disease he has to fight those who appear to want to silence him.

Dr. Ashton Embry.  Geologist. Voracious reviewer of MS-related studies and treatments. Compiler of information related to MS. Advocate. Devoted father. 

Dr. George Ebers. Neurologist. MS Researcher. Head of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford (15+ years). 45,000+ academic citations. Principal investigator, FDA. Retired. Dr. Ebers headed down his path of study due to an Aunt who passed of MS. He has some very important insights to share.

Dr. Christopher Duma. Neurosurgeon. Has used stem cell treatment with a small sample of MS patients successfully. Stem cell treatment is not approved by the FDA for MS treatment (at the time the movie was made). He faced barriers in attempting to further provide this treatment to MS patients. 

"Where the industry wants to go is to produce a drug in the form of a stem cell.  ...that becomes their product. There is an incentive for them to create that product...." rather than use the free stem cells existing in the patients body. 

Dr. Paolo Zamboni - "Found that the majority of MS patients he examined had dangerous blockages in their juglar veins".  (A medical condition known as CCSVI. Treatable with angioplasty.) 

Dr. Mike Dake - Cardiothoracic surgeon. Stanford University Medical Center. Also Jeff Beal's cardiothoracic surgeon and who performed his CCSVI surgery to unblock Jeff's juglar vein. This procedure started to send Dr. Dake into research and treatment for MS patients. He treated approximately 59 MS patients. 57 of those 59 patients had this narrowing of the juglar veins. His work in this area has not continued due to being pressured to stop. 

Judy Graham - Author and MS patient. In 1970s she began writing about her experience with MS. She then published Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally: A self-help guide to living with MS.

Ms. Graham shares her struggle with the MS Society of Canada who were by her report, "beyond abusive" with trying to limit her sharing of her experiences with MS.

Books written by Judy Graham:
Books by Judy Graham on Amazon

MS Society of Canada. "One of the largest MS societies in the world with annual revenues topping $50 million."  A primary source of information to patients with MS. -- And shockingly absent from all things the Embry family has learned and is trying to share with others. Absent with the exception of sending Matt a legal "cease and desist" letter. 

Other appearances.  I am grateful to these people who agreed to appear in Living Proof and share about their own MS battle, progress, and treatment choices/limitations:

Larry Findlater 
Viola Tsang 
Jeff Beal 
Cindy Riffel
David Lyons)
Dr. Terry Wahls

MS Hope and Direct-MS by Matt Embry and Family.

Matt and his family created Direct-MS, a charity to help collect donations to fund research about diet and MS. They are 100% volunteer-based charity and because of this nearly all of the funds raised (95%) go directly to research, presentations, and information distribution. For more information visit Direct-MS

MS Hope is Matt's own website that shares the story of his fight with MS. He does not collect donations and his goal is to help spread the information about how he has used diet, supplements (Vitamin D), and the CCSVI procedure to continue to be a healthy, athletic young man who happens to have MS.  For more information visit MS Hope

It is notable that the only observable interest the MS Society of Canada has shown in what Matt is doing is the "cease and desist" letter they sent to him related to his personal website. 

There are several messages in this movie are important. And I hope I have the ability to convince you to view this movie. Even if you are not interested in MS treatment this movie exposes some very important things related to the general topics of health, diet, research, and how our donations to charitable groups are sometimes funneled into specific areas. If this happens in the realm of MS, it only makes sense that it also happens in the areas of cancer, diabetes, other autoimmune diseases, and etc.

If the focus is on cures that generate income, it would only make sense that then areas of other possible effective treatments or cures - that would generate less income for the pharmaceutical companies - would be overlooked. Or even worse - intentionally blocked.

Thank you to Matt and all who appeared in his movie to share their stories.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Personal Disclaimer: For the purpose of transparency, I want to add that my interest in health-related research and funding stems from a variety of things. One of these things is a history of difficult-to-diagnose family illnesses. My mother and her mother passed away at relatively early ages after battling illnesses that in hindsight seem to be related to autoimmune diseases. My sister is currently diagnosed similarly. I share many of her symptoms. Our family is also rife with diagnoses such as IBS, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. I have often complained about the seemingly lack of interest in fund-raising for research for some diseases while millions of dollars are poured into research for specific diseases -- with no cures for any of them; highly funded or not. I have always thought that medication versus prevention, early/accurate diagnosis, and cures have been the focus of the medical and pharmaceutical communities. In this way, I went into this video with bias. My take-away from this video, among other things, is a renewed desire and commitment to continue to change my eating habits. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

First Hummingbird Visitor of 2019

Yay! They've finally arrived. I've had my feeder out for weeks. And I had begun to think they weren't returning this year. But, as you see, they're back!

It is Saturday. Early this morning I thought I caught a peek of one flying away from the feeder. Usually when I think I see one it'll come right back if I hold still and be quiet. But it didn't return while I was watching.


I took the feeder down, rinsed it out, and put fresh sugar water in it. I rehung it even though by now I was feeling very pessimistic. After all, I had put my feeder out during the last days of March - when the migration map showed that the hummingbirds were approaching. I was so excited about their arrival that I wrote about it here

Then nothing.

For over a month. Nothing.

I went about my business, puttering around on a lazy Saturday. 

Just a few minutes ago, while I was sitting on the couch crocheting Jenny Hats, I saw movement.  

There he/she was!  He/she took a drink then perched on the hanger. Watching me watch him/her.  The birds are always backlit. And I shoot photos through the screen. It is very hard to see what color they are. Unfortunately, if I don't keep the screen door closed my crazy cat goes out to the balcony and plans to catch the birds. You can see it in her eyes and in the twitch of her tail.

Maybe this year, I'll get better photos.  Until then... here are my photos of him/her perched there for about 10 minutes... letting my snap photos from this side of the patio door.

photo while seated on the couch ... through the screen

standing up and a bit closer to the door.. and
he/she is just watching me. Must be a bird from last
year who is comfortable with me.
He/she stayed there as I moved around, peeking
between the blinds!  Still can't get a good color
photo of the bird, but I could see a small white stripe
at the end of the tailfeathers.

Because of the white tail tips,and lack of other vibrant coloring (as far as I can see) I think this is the female of the Ruby-throated pair that visited me last year. Woohoo! Welcome back.

Related Links:

Ruby-throated hummgbird identification -

My first Hummingbird visitors of 2015. 

My review of the movie Super Hummingbirds by Nature. I love this documentary. The video recordings of a variety of hummingbirds is amazing. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.