Saturday, December 06, 2008
The Saturday Radio and Internet Video Message From The President-Elect Of The United States of America...
Admin is correct in surmising that this is a momentous indicator of the horrible state of the Global Economy. Shipping is the barometer of real economic health today. When cargo shipments fall 93%, well... I think we can all understand that goods won't be back-filling those WalMart shelves in a "Just-In-Time" manner in the coming months.
via Associated Content
The Baltic Dry Index which is a direct indicator of the health of vital worldwide shipping and supply activity as well as the potential health of the global economy has recently slipped more than 93%. Its value has gone from over 11,000 to less than 800 with little except for a floor of zero to suggest the slide will stop in the near future. This means that worldwide, the demand for cargo ships and more importantly raw materials that go into producing the everyday items that consumers buy has come to a near standstill. This is an indicator of a massive worldwide slump and likely foreshadows more economic woes for not only the US, but also the entire globe.
To understand the Baltic Dry index one has to approach this economic telltale from multiple angles. Basically, the index is set where the supply of raw materials meets the demand for ships to be booked to carry those materials from country to country or continent to continent. The index is broken down into different segments that take into account the size of the ship and the type of the cargo that is being shipped. It can be observed at the Investment Tools website at http://www.investmenttools.com/futures/bdi_baltic_dry_index.htm
Generally, when the BDI is charting a gain, stocks will likely close up and countries' whose currency are good market indicators of worldwide exchange, like the value of the Canadian and Australian Dollars are on their way up as well. When the BDI is performing badly, generally the US and worldwide stock markets are likely to also perform badly in the near future and the currencies of the countries previously mentioned, who are heavily affected by the foreign goods and raw materials exchange will also likely soon show losses. This is because the BDI shows exactly where the worldwide demand for raw goods and materials rests at any given period. When these raw goods and materials are not being moved around, production of almost everything imaginable slows due to the tightening supply of worldwide goods.
Another interesting point about the BDI is that is not currently a tradable exchange and can therefore not be manipulated by speculators and short-sellers. This means that it is fairly well insulated against inaccuracy and can be used as an excellent barometer of actual market conditions. Companies would not pay to book a cargo ship for the transfer of millions of dollars in goods if they were not sure they could produce them for delivery.
While it is important to look at this recent tumble in the BDI's value as a possible harbinger of worsening global economic conditions, it is possible to speculate about the cause of this huge loss and therefore take some of the mystery and potential fear out of this gut wrenching economic development. One of the biggest factors that could be contributing to the BDI's recent massive downturn is the US turned International credit crisis. If a merchant who is selling and shipping $100 million dollars in goods can not obtain a guarantee from a bank that payment will be delivered upon completion of the sale, not many merchants would want to take the chance that their buyer would not be able to furnish the money to complete the transaction. In the past this was less of an issue even when banks couldn't entirely guarantee that the buyer could pay completely for the goods.
More on the BDI and other shipping news at the links above.
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Finally, Blackwater is getting the scrutiny they deserve.
NPR.org, December 5, 2008 · A grand jury in Washington, D.C., has indicted at least five people who worked for security contractor Blackwater Worldwide for their role in a shooting incident in Baghdad in 2007.
A sixth employee is still in plea negotiations with prosecutors, and those are expected to continue through the weekend. The indictments are expected to be unsealed as early as Monday, when the first five — and possibly the sixth — are expected to be charged with manslaughter or assault.
The grand jury had been investigating the details of the shooting, which left 17 Iraqis dead, for more than a year. The Justice Department sent a draft indictment to a grand jury a couple of weeks ago. That grand jury approved the indictments on Thursday.
Gunfire In A Traffic Circle
On Sept. 16, 2007, a convoy of Blackwater SUVs entered a traffic circle. A short time later, shooting started.
Blackwater has said its employees began firing into oncoming traffic in self-defense — that a car rolled forward after they ordered the driver to stop and they feared an attack from a suicide car bomber. A subsequent FBI inquiry came to the conclusion that the shooting was unprovoked.
I hope that they will be subject to Iraqi Law, as well.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008|
Here's a nice article by Martin Weiss, about the coming Depression, and some fairly decent advice on how to survive it.
via Money And Markets
After more than six decades of growth, America is sinking into its Second Great Depression of modern times. The place is every home, business, and community.
The time is now.
America’s Second Great Depression is not a typical 20th century recession that happens to strike a bit harder or linger somewhat longer. Nor is it merely a fictional scenario conjured up by economists with a murky crystal ball.
America’s Second Great Depression is the probable consequence of a great housing bust, a massive mortgage meltdown and the biggest financial crisis in history.
It promises to bring the worst wave of bankruptcies, job losses and wealth destruction any citizen under 90 has ever experienced.
It challenges the smartest minds in Washington, defies the deepest pockets on Wall Street and threatens to rip through our life with the force of a Cat-5 hurricane. And yet, among all those making the decisions that could forever change our future, no one has personal experience with a similar episode.
I don’t either. I was born in 1946, just as we were leaving the final vestiges of America’s First Great Depression behind. I’ve studied that historic period with books, charts and numbers, but that’s not the same thing. I’ve lived in Brazil and Japan during tough times, but that, too, was different.
What brings me closer to a visceral understanding of this crisis is the half century I shared with my father, J. Irving Weiss, one of the few economists who not only advised investors during the First Great Depression, but actually predicted it.
Just promise me one thing: No matter how dark this tunnel may seem, never forget it is not the end of the world. Our country has been through worse before, and we survived. We will survive this crisis too.
You hold your future in your hands. At this landmark turning point in our history, it’s the choices you make today that will determine your fate — and the destiny of everyone that depends on you — for decades to come. Your decisions now could make the difference between a successful career or a lifetime of struggle … retiring in dignity or becoming a ward of the state … enjoying wealth and health or risking poverty-stricken illness.
Whatever your choices may be, do not procrastinate. And whenever you take action, don’t do so in haste. Your response to the current crisis — or any new crisis that may ensue — should be both prompt and planned; both bold and prudent. I write to you each week to help you make that possible.
Here are your tasks in a nutshell:
Your first and most urgent priority is to survive the depression, while building the biggest pile of CASH you can. Whether it’s a molehill of pennies that you pinch from daily sacrifices or a mountain of dollars you squeeze out of asset sales, the more cash you can accumulate now, the better.
Your second priority is to make sure your cash is in the safest place possible. That may not be the nearest bank or the biggest insurance company. Short-term Treasury securities, despite their low yield, must be the primary vehicle.
Third, for the duration of this crisis, plus any new ones that may strike, your best friend and companion will be patience.
Don’t yield to the temptation of so-called “bargains” and “big discounts” from peak prices. Many of those peak prices were a fiction from a bygone era that may never be seen again in my lifetime or yours.
Don’t jump in too soon. You can afford to wait. Indeed, just by waiting patiently, you can build wealth tremendously.
Fourth, I recognize that not everyone is able to follow all my instructions to the letter.
You may have real estate you cannot sell or a pension fund beyond you cannot control.
You may have bonds that have no market or a business that continues to provide income.
All could be assets that you must keep; and yet, at the same time, all are assets that could be vulnerable to big losses in a continuing decline.
Worth reading the whole thing. Weiss tells a very nice, personal story in this article. Weiss recognizes the horrors to come, but, I appreciate his calm, soothing optimism. It's not that he's being Pollyanna-ish, he fully understands what is happening, and is simply trying to provide some sort of direction in a time of horrific uncertainty.
In regard to the Treasuries, I'm not in the MUST category. If Bernanke reduces rates to ZERO, one might get better, safer returns with a good, solid Credit Union Money Market savings account (do the homework and KNOW the CU is solid, and where the MM is invested first).
IF Ben reduces the rate to ZERO...
I might recommend considering reducing your 401K retirement account contributions if they are into Treasuries (and especially if they are only into stocks), temporarily, down to the minimum level that allows for maximum employer matching funds (or the level of matching that you require), and putting the difference toward debt reduction.
Target the little ankle-biters first, and work your way up. Right now, I am putting away 11%. I require 5% to make the maximum 5% Employer Matching Funds requirement-- 1% automatic, plus 4% (max) bonus for $X amount of contribution. The difference is about $100 per month. My CU's MM account offers 0.85% interest with no minimum term fees, or penalties for withdrawal. It just might be a better place to park my cash, temporarily. I'll be able to get that .85% dividend AND once I save up $3600, make a mortgage payment on the Premium, and STILL get the .85%. It's better than NOTHING plus a management fee on top of it.
Of course, I'm losing big to inflation, anyway, but that doesn't really matter right now, does it?
Are there better options? If so, please offer them.
I hope some of this helps. I think that this kind of conversation makes sense, and is worthwhile to discuss right now.
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I'm still trying to digest my thoughts on this image. Was PNAC really able to pull off all of what's stated? I can't get past the blatant anti-Israel bend to fully appreciate what might be accurate in this graphic. What do you think?
c/p the link into your browser: http://img101.imageshack.us/img101/5834/pnacplanwo7.jpg
Click for super-giant version
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008
By request. There are other posts, but this is the biggest and broadest. See my recco for the Louise Riotte book, "Carrots Love Tomatoes," below.
From My Archives-- 3/16/08 (keywords: Companion Gardening)
This article discusses the benefits of planting certain plants near each other. Everyone knows that planting marigolds keeps away harmful nematodes and certain pests like flea beetles, but there are plenty of other plant relationships to consider.
Some plants have allelopathic properties, that is, they exude some chemical from their roots that keeps other plants from growing near it. Bio-chemical warfare in the plant kingdom. Black Walnut, and Oak Trees come to mind, In the garden, tomatoes will kill any legume planted within a foot or two from them and competing. I tested this last year, by planting pole beans right next to my tomatoes (see picture in the post below). All of my pole beans did great-- right up to the last foot-and-a-half from where the tomatoes started. Same thing for beans versus anything in the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, etc.)-- they hate each other-- I learned this years ago, in one of my first gardens.
The article below, discusses the wonderful world of those plants that help others to flourish.
via Backwoods HomeThere are virtually hundreds of examples of plant companions recorded in garden lore, and modern research substantiates their effectiveness. For instance strawberries, cabbage, and tomatoes can be planted in and around sage to benefit one another in the garden. But plant cucumbers with that same sage and you’ll have a disaster on your hands.
While everyone loves the idea of seed turning to vegetable, things can (and do) go wrong during the growing season, namely pests. As Jack Kramer pointed out in The Natural Way To Pest-Free Gardening, “Insects are a highly trained, well-ordered society. So well ordered they can quickly destroy valuable plants in the garden.”
That’s where companion planting comes in. By intermixing certain aromatic herbs, or pungent French marigolds, or any number of beneficial plants and flowers, the home gardener finds a natural deterrent which helps repel insects and better protects his crop.
The need for companion plants
I began experimenting with this method four years ago when I encountered my first tomato hornworm, and I’ll be the first to attest that the combination of sweet basil and French marigolds really do keep these pesky little (or not so little) caterpillars at bay.
Much of today’s companion planting is based on the combination of both fact and folklore, but scientists have enough evidence to convince them of the following:
* Plants with strong odors do confuse, deter, and oftentimes stop certain pests.
* Certain plants hide other certain plants we don’t want detected.
* Certain plants, and especially herbs, are considered nursery plants for the good insects providing shelter, nectar, pollen, and even dark, cool moist spots for lacewings, lady beetles, parasitic flies, and wasps.
* Certain plants serve as a “trap” crop, which pushes insects away from other essential plants (rue’s bad odor and disagreeable taste will keep even the most persistent of pests away).
* Certain plants create habitats which attract more beneficial insects (such as lady beetles, praying mantis, and ambush bugs).
Ideal planting crops are plants whose odors ward off unwanted insects. French marigolds are the best example. Not only does its strong odor literally confuse pests looking for their favorite plants, but their roots give off a substance which repels nematodes. The more you have planted in the garden, the better its effectiveness.
Among the most popular of repellent plants are garlic and chives because of their powerful ability to repel aphids and beetles. Similarly, savory, chamomile, and thyme are ideal planting crops. These three herbs will attract more beneficial insects than any bright, pretty flower will. So when you’re planning your summer garden, include plenty of each.
Virtually all herbs benefit the garden in some way, whether to attract good insects, enhance the flavor of nearby plants, or to confuse those insects we simply don’t want around.
One of the most dramatic and successful companion plantings that I know of is radishes with all squashes, cucumbers and melon plants. plant a radish seed on either side of one of these cucurbit seeds, and let the radishes bolt and grow all season. Their presence keeps away squash and cucumber beetles better than any spray or other method.
The best book that I have found on the subject of Companion Planting is by the late Louise Riotte, called "Carrots Love Tomatoes." Ms. Riotte's writing is wonderfully easy to read, and her companions/antagonists research is very thorough.
If you were to buy only two books on gardening, I'd highly recommend this book, and Mel Bartholomew's "Square Foot Gardening." Armed with only these two books, and a compost pile, your gardening skills will be unstoppable.
Buy that Book by the late Louise Riotte. It is a marvel in gardening practice. The knowledge in that book, and Mel's Square Foot Gardening is all you need to know. my sidebar has all the composting information that you need, and if you're into Moon Planting, as I am, I have the current Moon Phase posted every day.
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Lovely quality, and I am all about quality when it comes to Audio and Video. Their treatment of this seminal "The Jam" song is par excellence.
"My Ever Changing Moods"
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Don't do it, Bernanke-san!!!
Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled he’s ready to dig deeper into the central bank’s toolkit after cutting interest rates almost as much as he can, opening the door to a shift by policy makers this month.
Bernanke yesterday said he may use less conventional policies, such as buying Treasury securities, to revive the economy, because his room to lower the main U.S. rate from the current 1 percent level is “obviously limited.” Even so, reducing the rate is “certainly feasible,” he said.
Policy makers may decide at their next meeting Dec. 15-16 on the details of carrying out such a shift, which might resemble the “quantitative easing” strategy the Bank of Japan pursued in 2001-2006 after driving interest rates close to zero. The Fed chief’s readiness to rely more on adding reserves to the banking system prompted JPMorgan Chase & Co. economist Michael Feroli to refer to him as “Bernanke-san” in a note yesterday.
“This sets the stage for the Federal Reserve to be more formal in its adoption of quantitative easing,” said Vincent Reinhart, the Fed’s director of monetary affairs until last year and now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
The Bank of Japan is the only major central bank in modern times to rely on quantitative easing -- the strategy of injecting more reserves into the banking system than needed to keep the target interest rate at zero.
I cannot stress how absolutely HORRIBLE this idea is. Japan IS the only country to have taken this step. They took it nearly two decades ago to get out of a massive recession that drove hundreds of Japanese Finance and Businessmen to commit suicide. Japan has yet to fully-- or even to really begin to-- recover from that recession, as every time Japan tries to raise the rate above ZERO, the Yen Carry-Trade stops, and they go back into the recessionary cycle all over again. This is Monetary FAIL writ huge.
I certainly can say that *I,* myself, will stop investing in my TSP G-Fund Retirement Account (US Treasuries, Bonds, and Special US Securities), and pour it all into "junk silver" coinage, if I cannot get a return on my investment. After the very modest annual fee that TSP charges me, I am already considering cutting back to minimal investment for matching funds, with the current FED Target Rate at 1%. I can get a better return from my Credit Union Savings Account-- even after taxes.
Imagine what China, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will do if THEY cannot yield a gain on their investments. China alone holds over $1 Trillion of US Debt The "Petro USDollar" will assuredly go away as the primary means of oil pricing and transaction, and push us deeper, and faster into crisis and total collapse. Zimbabwe would have a better economy than the US in a surprisingly short span of time. The thought of a USD Carry-Trade frightens the living hell out of me.
Badbadbadbadbadbad idea, Ben.
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This week, Mr. Kunstler wonders what President Elect Obama knows about energy, and to where, and how we need to transition in order to properly survive as a nation. Throughout the article, he drops the latest energy data, which do not sound particularly good.
A lot of readers are twanging on me for refraining to castigate President-elect Obama for deeds yet undone. They're discouraged by the advisors and cabinet sectetaries he's picked, ostensibly because the crew coming in are Washington "insiders," meaning they can't possibly see or do things differently.
My own starting point for this is the belief that in the years just ahead any sociopolitical entity organized at the giant scale will flounder -- this includes everything from the federal government to global corporations to factory farms to centralized high schools to national retail chains. So even expecting Mr. Obama's government to act effectively may be asking too much in a situation that will require mostly local action.
The meta-situation will be the overall decline of energy resources and the necessary downscaling of our activities. We are obviously in a transitional period between the old profligate energy economy and the new economy of relative scarcity. We have no idea how disorderly this transition will be, but there is certainly potential for tremendous instability in daily life.
For a while, perhaps, the federal government may retain some ability to affect the way things go, or give the appearance of doing so. This raises the issue of what Mr. Obama and his team really know about our energy predicament. The president-elect has made some noises -- recently on the 60 Minutes show -- that he understands something about the current price dislocations in the oil markets resulting from the larger financial turmoil. He alluded to the public's erroneous notion that current low-ish oil prices mean the oil problem is over. But does the incoming president know some of the following details?
For instance, does Mr. O know that global oil production appears to have peaked at around 85 million barrels a day, with poor prospects of ever getting beyond that? This single naked fact has broad ramifications, above all whether we can continue to think in terms of industrial "growth" as the benchmark for economic health. There are many interpretations of the current financial fiasco. Some of them are based on long-term technical wave theories. A more down-to-earth view suggests the shock of peak oil -- though it doesn't exclude wave theories.
Does Mr. O know that world oil discovery has fallen to insignificant levels after peaking long ago in the 1960s. Does he know we are finding no more super-giant oil fields on the scale of Arabia's Ghawar or Mexico's Cantarell, which have supplied most of the world's oil for the past forty years and are now running down? Does he know that you can't produce oil that hasn't been discovered? Does Mr. O know that virtually all the oil-producing nations have entered production decline. Surely someone has whispered in his ear about the IEA's projection that global oil production would fall 9.1 percent in the coming year.
Does Mr. O know that oil exports have been trending to decline at a steeper rate than oil depletion? That is, the exporting nations are losing their ability to send oil to the importers (like us) at a rate mathematically greater than the run-down in their production.They are using more of their own oil even while their production is going down. For example, Mexico is depleting overall at more than 9 percent a year (with the Cantarell field alone running down at more than 15 percent annually). Does he know Mexico's net exports are crashing? Mexico has been our number three leading source of imports. In a very few years they will not be able to send us any oil. A deluded American public has no idea that this is happening. Will Mr. O explain it to them?
Does Mr. O know that the "old major" oil companies (Exxon-Mobil, Texaco, Shell, et al) produce less than 10 percent of the world's oil now -- the other 90 percent coming from the foreign nationals -- and that blaming them for the situation is a waste of time. The foreign national companies are changing the landscape of the oil markets. They're making special contracts with "favored customers" rather than just putting their oil up for auction on the futures markets. One thing you can infer from this is that we're entering a period of national oil hoarding based on coming scarcity. The futures markets were based on relative abundance, and they will not operate very well in a climate of scarcity. Consider that the USA will probably not be among the "favored customers" for several oil producing nations. Figure that in with the coming loss of imports from Mexico (and Venezuela and Nigeria).
Does Mr. O know that the current drop in oil prices (due to massive financial deleveraging) has resulted in the cancellation or postponment of the very oil production projects that were hoped to offset the coming depletions? It's not worth it for an oil enterprise (private or foreign) to drill in deepwater or venture into arctic regions when oil is priced at $50-a-barrel -- if it costs $80 to get the stuff out of the ground. It's not worth digging up tar sands in Canada at that price. This halt in activity is going to boomerang back on the US in a year or so, with depletions ongoing everywhere and no new oil to take its place. Does Mr. O know that we're just as likely to see shortages as a resuming rise in oil prices here in the US during his coming term?
Does Mr. O know that the current re-inflation program being run by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve is so egregious that it may lead to loss of the dollar's legitimacy, to the renunciation of dollar holdings by other nations, to the down-rating of US Treasury debt instruments, and finally to an inability of the US to purchase foreign oil -- which comprises two-thirds of all the oil we use every day?
Does Mr. O know that we are not going to run the US automobile and truck fleet on any combination of alt.fuels? Continuing it by other means is a fantasy that will only disappoint us. The motoring era is coming to an end. Heroic investments in highway infrastructure to create jobs will be a tragic waste of our dwindling capital. The pressure for Mr. O to make these misinvestments will be enormous, perhaps insurmountable. There are probably not a thousand people in the US who agree with what I am saying -- meaning the consensus to keep the cars running at all costs overwhelms reality at the moment. Does Mr. O's concept of "change" include the possibility that we may have to live very differently in this society?
Chances are, if Mr. O knows any of these things he might be crucified in the polls and the media by acknowledging them. The only "change" that America really wants to hear about is evicting George Bush from the White House. They're sick of him and all the disturbance he has caused in their financial affairs. But beyond that, the American public is deathly afraid of the kind of changes we actually face -- such as, the end of consumer culture, the gross loss of value in suburban real estate (which forms the bulk of the middle class's private wealth), the prospect of food and fuel scarcities, the need to re-localize our lives, the need to physically shape up to stop the costly and unnecessary drain on our medical resources, to grow more of our own food, to work harder at things that actually matter, and to save whatever we can for a difficult future.
If Mr. O introduces any of these themes into the national discourse, the public and the media and the bloggers will all dump on him for failing to prop up the wild party that American life became in recent decades.
I certainly won't. I hope he does bring it all up, or at least, I hope that he will simply do those things that need done to get us where we need to be. On these issues, he really doesn't need to explain much. If he pushes forth a supertrain project, and/or massive wind/solar/tidal energy projects, all Americans really want to know is if there is a job in it for them. Most of us already know how fuct we truly are at this point. We just want to know that there IS a way out and up to something newand better-- whatever that may be-- in the forseeable future.
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Labels: James Kunstler
Monday, December 01, 2008
I really want you readers to understand how much I want us to make it through these Hard Times. I've done my best to provide the causes of how we got here, as well as a very functional road map as to how to live while the changes are occurring around us.
Start planning your 2009 garden-- NOW. I've shown you how to Container Garden and how to Window-Box Garden in an apartment, I've shown you how to garden in Raised Beds and how to Square-Foot Garden. There is always your neighbor's or friend's back yard, or renting a Community plot, and setting up Square-Foot Gardening beds. Every bit of food that you can produce and preserve for yourself right now will prove vital and enormously valuable in the months and years ahead.
This blog is searchable by tags in the search box top left, and google-able by any tag or keyword you can remember from an article-- just put monkefister along with the search words-- "garden" "gardening" "Square Foot Gardening" "food security" food preservation" canning" "freezing" and "hunting" are good starting keywords. I'll dig up any articles that you can describe to me if you ask in comments or email. Comments yields the quickest response.
It's time to get serious, folks. 2009 will be the year when Gardening will no longer simply be an option. At the least, grow some Onions, Pole Beans, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Greens. Start planning it now. I'll do my best to help you-- just ask, it's why I am here doing this.
We're not going to see the ol' "America of Yesteryear" ever again. That's going away now, and really won't be revived. It's time right now, to drop back to simplifying our lives, and remembering all of those ways of life that our Grandparents, Great- and Great-Great Grandparents taught us. That will buy us some sort of cushion while the next 2-10 years play out. Everything is changing, and we MUST adjust to a very different way of living RIGHT NOW. Conditions will improve, but, we'll be living in a new paradigm by the time we see real improvements. Dropping back to the lowest energy input methods is prudent and cost-efficient and most of all-- PROVEN.
In the span of time-- I am figuring, probably naively-- this evolutionary process will engulf between now and 2018. Gosh, that seems so far along... so far away... Look-- as long and horrible that these Bush years have seemed, it has only been less than eight years to date.
Remember when you thought that 2008 seemed SO FAR AWAY? We're only talking two Presidential terms and into the third.
Four years of hard slog back and restructuring under Obama, four years of stabilization under the new beta future (Obama or a new President?), and the next President in 2016 only needs to be sane, not start wars, and maintain... building on what proves good, dropping what proves bad or finished. We'll have a LOT of re-building to do in only ten years. The Kyoto Protocols are ten years old. I'm imagining much more real pressure new and over these next years to push the transition along. Ever the optimist am I.
Of course, all the while, the Right Wing nuts will scream "SOCIALISM!!1!!eleventy", and "You're taking us back to the 18th Century!!!!" but, we will need to drop back to Amish-style living for a while-- with the assistance of rusty engines and stuff, voltaics, windmills, and some computers and electronics. But, what we have right now is close to the high tide mark for some time. We'll get some smarter electronics in the next few years, but, not much more as everything contracts. Most of that new stuff will be over-priced for the time period, so we might as well learn to deal with what we have right now. God's forbid that the Republicans regain power in the midst of this turbulent turnover. They will fuck us all to horrible deaths.
Get that garden planned now. This year, growing food will no longer be an option. Just do it. Grow as much as you can. don't worry if some things die from lack of light. Just do it. You'll learn.
Not one to whore products or vendors, but... Buy some Alpin Aire dehydrated foods from Survival Acres, I recco Alpine Aire foods because they are excellent, cheaper, and deliver quickly, and I recco SA because I know that John is one of the only ethical souls out there in that market, who is selling good product without making a killing, but as an honest service-- and he pours that money into helping others first.
Buy "junk silver" coinage at Bullion prices, as you can (there is a link to today's Bullion prices in my Sidebar), buy a Katadyn Water Filter and extra filters, buy manual gardening tools and supplies and learn how to use them. Buy lots of Tea Tree Oil, Hydrogen Peroxide, and Isopropyl Alcohol, bandaids, bandages, medical tape or "Gaffers" tape (Google "Gaffer's Tape" --to hell with that bullshit Duct tape) and OTC medicines and vitamins and mineral supplements-- Fred's usually has some really good deals-- keep them in a dark, dry place-- in a lidded bucket with some silica gel, in the closet.
Buy a suture kit or two with instructions. Buy a few extra for practice. Take some classes, or get to know someone in the Emergency Medical fields, and ask them to help you. Buy some topical Benzocaine-- this is unsavory, but the best Benzocaine is sold as an anal sex lube called, "Tush Ease." It numbs nearly instantly and for a very long time.
No, I'm not into the anal sex. I bought some suture kits, and then thought, "Hmmm.... best to numb before stitching," and the research led me to the "Tush Ease," as the strongest legal, topical desensitizer (7.5% Benzocaine) available at a cheap price (~$4.50 per 1.5oz tube). It's great for minor scalds and burns, and bee/wasp stings, BTW.
Plant as many Medicinal plants that you can, and buy a book on how to use them. Buy Black Pepper corns by the pound from Ebay, and buy a grinder. There is no such thing as too much Kosher Salt-- I mean that. Buy Hurricane Lamps, and buy lots of lamp oil every time you see it cheap. Tiki Torches and Citronella Oil-- buy some whenever you see them cheap.
Learn to hunt and clean small and large game. Buy the guns, licenses, and ammo to hunt them properly. The investment is worth it. If you can butcher your own deer, you save between $50 and $80 to have the Butcher do it for you. It takes less than two hours to process a deer, and, unlike the Butcher option, you are 100% guaranteed the deer that you took. it takes less than twenty minutes to clean a rabbit or squirrel. Yes, it is sort of brutal and gross and smelly, and takes lots of time and patience... Get over it-- it is your food. Don't think that WalMart will always have your boneless chicken for you. Don't think that Tyson or Pilgrim's Pride (who is going into Bankruptcy) are any more kind. Doing it yourself is more humane to the animal, and healthy for you and your family-- and the Game gains real value to you as you cook it. Be sure to spend some time and money to feed those animals that you hunt in the off seasons. Sow some clover seed where you hunt, at the least. Nurture nature-- it is your link to survival.
Here's one final little piece of advice: Save up, as quickly as you can, $1500 in cash, and have it somewhere safe, and set aside, and be sure that where ever you keep it is secure. Whether a Credit Union or your mattress. Don't ever tap it for stupid stuff like beer, or a party or a plasma TV. Just sit on it. I will guaran-damn-tee you, that some day, in the next two years, you will need damned near exactly $1500 to get you out of an emergency tight spot.
And you will have it.
Anyway. I'm just offering up stuff that has proven successful in the past, and stuff that I am doing that is proving successful, now. Your mileage may vary.
At any rate, I've posted a LOT of useful stuff over the years to this little blog, and I'll help you dig for it if you simply ask.
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"Hey-- where did that other post go???"
It got changed into this for accuracy.
The following linked article, by Charles Hugh Smith, is a fantastic piece, that fleshes out the time table that I laid out in brief, in the post below. I strongly recommend just clicking the link, and following the linked resources that he provides in his post. This is good stuff.
Michael J. Panzner, author of "Financial Armageddon" prefaces his blogging of Smith's article with these words:
It's interesting how short-sighted many so-called experts are when it comes to understanding the pace and path of forces swirling through the economy.
Even when it was apparent to everyone that the bubble had burst in housing, for example, some forecasters were predicting that municipal finances would not be seriously affected.
Aside from wishful thinking, one reason for the cognitive dissonance appeared to stem from the fact that people were not getting immediate reports from state and local officials that budgets were being wracked by falling revenues and rising costs.
Yet that should not have been a surprise to anyone. There are in-built delays, such as the time it takes to build a house or the grace period allowed for tax receipts to be remitted to authorities, that would postpone the moment of reckoning for months -- or longer.
The same holds true in terms of the state of the overall economy. The optimists seem to be saying that since today's data are not so bad, fears about a serious downturn are overblown.
This is fairly good insight, but I think that Panzner is being too kind, and not noting that most of those "optimists" are getting paid by Companies, Corporations, and Think Tank/PAC-type entities to deny reality, and to trick richer fools into keeping money in this collapsing system.
And now-- the meat and potatoes. (please, just click to the link to read it all.):
Charles Hugh Smith via Of Two Minds
Wall Street Journal commentator Peggy Noonan is undoubtedly not alone is seeing no evidence of Depression in America--yet: Turbulence Ahead:"One of the weirdest, most perceptually jarring things about the economic crisis is that everything looks the same. We are told every day and in every news venue that we are in Great Depression II, that we are in a crisis, a cataclysm, a meltdown, the credit crunch from hell, that we will lose millions of jobs, and that the great abundance is over and may never return. Three great investment banks have fallen while a fourth totters, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 31% in six months. And yet when you free yourself from media and go outside for a walk, everything looks . . . the same.
Everyone is dressed the same. Everyone looks as comfortable as they did three years ago, at the height of prosperity. The mall is still there, and people are still walking into the stores and daydreaming with half-full carts in aisle 3. Everyone's still overweight.
But the point is: Nothing looks different.
In the Depression people sold apples on the street. They sold pencils. Angels with dirty faces wore coats too thin and short and shivered in line at the government surplus warehouse."
Peg would be well-served by reading up a bit on the Depression's timeline. As noted here last week, (The Coming Great Depression: Scapegoats and Exploitation) the Dow Jones Industrial Average actually recovered in early 1930 to early-1929 levels. (Look for the same this time around, too--DJIA 12,600 is in the cards a few months out, despite all the structural damage to the market and economy.)
Breadlines didn't form in November 1929--the structural damage took years to play out then, and it will take years to play out now. So don't rush things, Peggy--we'll get to a visible Depression soon enough.
Great Depression: (Wikipedia)
The Great Depression was not a sudden, total collapse. The stock market turned upward in early 1930, returning to early 1929 levels by April, though still almost 30 percent below the peak of September 1929. Together, government and business actually spent more in the first half of 1930 than in the corresponding period of the previous year. But consumers, many of whom had suffered severe losses in the stock market the previous year, cut back their expenditures by ten percent, and a severe drought ravaged the agricultural heartland of the USA beginning in the summer of 1930.
In early 1930, credit was ample and available at low rates, but people were reluctant to add new debt by borrowing. By May 1930, auto sales had declined to below the levels of 1928. Prices in general began to decline, but wages held steady in 1930, then began to drop in 1931. We can already anticipate "ample credit at low rates" in 2009, just as we can also anticipate wages holding steady for awhile even as sales fall. The wheels will fall off later in 2009 and deteriorate further in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Here are the structural realities which have yet to play out:
1. You can't force households or businesses to borrow more money and spend it. Japan's central bank has flooded that nation with liquidity and low interest money for 19 years to little effect.
2. U.S. consumers and corporations are already burdened with staggering debt. Not only can't you force people to borrow more, you also can't force lenders to loan more money to insolvent households and businesses.
3. Whatever money people get their hands on is going to paying down debt and savings. Studies of the first "stimulus package" checks which went out to taxpayers in 2008 revealed that 2/3 of the money was not spent but used to service debt or saved. Future "stimulus checks" will also fail to boost spending; people already have more stuff than they know what to do with.
4. The FIRE economy is dead. Finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) all prospered for one reason: the velocity of transactions and debt instruments. With the volume of transactions off by 2/3 (real estate) or 99% (home equity loans), the FIRE economy is shrinking fast, with no barriers to further declines. With lending standards rising even as real estate values plummet, there is nothing to stop transaction and debt velocity from falling much further.
5. Governments and corporations alike are living with Fantasyland expectations of revenue. I recently pored over the 2009 fiscal year budget of my town of 120,000 people (general fund spending is $135 million, which doesn't include capital projects or bond-funded spending) and was dumbstruck by the insanely unrealistic revenue expectations.
The city expects to reap the same amount of easy money from real estate transfer taxes (1% of any real estate transaction goes to the city) in 2009 as it did in 2007 and 2008: about $11 million.
Huh? As transaction volumes decline by 2/3 and the sales prices plummet, then how can you possibly expect to rake in the same transfer tax revenues?
The downtown shopping district was eerily quiet on Black Friday; empty storefronts are everywhere, and sales are falling even at the town's sales-tax heavyweights, the Toyota and Honda auto dealerships. Yet the city expects to haul in the same sales tax revenue as in 2008. Based on what?
The entire nation is in the grip of massive, total denial that revenues will drop in a recession. Companies are trimming travel costs, as are consumers; San Francisco International Airport was virtually empty on Wednesday, once one of the busiest travel days of the year. Airports almost empty day before Thanksgiving.
"The dreaded Day before Thanksgiving was not so dreadful after all. Bay Area airports were eerily empty for much of what traditionally has been among the busiest travel days of the year.
"There's nobody here," said Deborah Vainieri, who was waiting at San Francisco International Airport with her husband, Humberto, for a flight to Portland. In a plot to beat the crowds, the Vainieris had arrived at the airport four hours early. They walked right up to the check-in machine and were done in less than a minute."
6. If lenders make risky loans, they will go under--and most U.S. households and businesses are no longer creditworthy risks. So there you have it: This conflict cannot be resolved. Lenders who foolishly extend credit to over-indebted, risk-laden borrowers will be paid back with losses and insolvency, yet as lending standards tighten and assets plummet in value, the number of creditworthy borrowers in the U.S. has shrunk.
As noted here many times: many of those who qualify for loans are deadset against debt. That's why they're creditworthy--they've refused to take on huge debt for cultural or fiscal-prudence reasons. They have zero interest in taking on debt, even at zero interest.
You can't force people to borrow money, especially when they're already overloaded with debt, and you can't force prudent people to borrow when they have no need for more property, nor can you force people to buy real estate even as the values continue falling.
7. The U.S. already has too much of everything: too many hotels, malls, office towers, homes, condos, strip-malls, lamps, furniture, CDs, TVs, clothing, etc. As 50 million storage lockers filled to capacity with consumer crap are emptied in a desperate move to reduce expenses and raise cash, the value of literally everything ever manufactured will fall to near-zero.
As noted here many times before, the entire U.S. housing market was held aloft by two anomalies: speculators hoping to "flip" for huge profits, and a "one dwelling for every person" mentality that confused rising population with a rising number of households.
We are already seeing how population can continue rising slowly even as the number of households declines. It's called moving back home, doubling up, renting out a room, etc. There are at least 20 million surplus dwellings in the U.S. right now; there is no need for 700,000 more a year to be built, or even 70,000 more.
The FIRE economy based on transaction and debt volume/velocity: gone, over, toast. Housing market based on speculative flipping and one-person households: over, gone, toast. Loose lending by delusional lenders to risky, over-indebted borrowers: gone, over, toast. Borrowing based on rising real estate values: gone, over, toast.
The notion that we "need" more of anything: gone, over, toast. The idea that you can force lenders to lend to uncreditworthy borrowers: gone, over, toast. The idea you can force people drowning in debt to borrow more: gone, over, toast.
Be sure to check out Charles Hugh Smith's "What's For Dinner At Your House?" blog thingy. He posts recipes, tries submitted recipes, reviews them, and best of all, he gives, in most cases, a price breakdown of what the meal cost him, as he shopped for it.
Charles Hugh Smith, oft-quoted and linked here, is good peoples, and has been correct in his every summation of every step of this collapse. He's wonky without being eye-glazing, and he's personable to boot. He's open and honest, has no political axe to grind, has no Corporate conflicts of interest, and really welcomes comments and corrections. He's one of my daily reads.
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The NBER Groundhogs stuck their heads out, and declared the Recession officially started back in December 2007.
To which I think that we can all say, "DUH!"
Only just declared, it is already the longest, deepest Recession since 1982. Take the time to digest that.
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy entered a recession a year ago this month, the panel that dates American business cycles said today, making this contraction already the longest since 1982.
The declaration was made by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit group of economists based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The last time the U.S. was in a recession was from March through November 2001, according to NBER.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke today said the economy “will probably remain weak for a time” and the Fed may use unconventional methods, such as buying Treasury securities, to spur growth. Should the recession persist for another five months, consistent with Fed and private forecasts, it would become the longest since the Great Depression.
“It is clearly not going to end in a few months,” Jeffrey Frankel, a member of the NBER committee and a professor at Harvard University, said in an interview. “We would be lucky to get done with it in the middle of next year.”
Separate reports today showed the recession has deepened. U.S. manufacturing contracted in November at the fastest rate in 26 years, according to the Institute for Supply Management, based in Tempe, Arizona. The Commerce Department said construction spending fell more than forecast in October as a slump in homebuilding spread to non-residential projects.
Like I said last week. It is time to start discussing the coming DEPRESSION, now. We've all been discussing this here for a few years now, and I hope that all of these posts are proving valuable resources for how to adjust, and survive what is yet to come. Gardening, hunting, canning and freezing food are the major things that I am trying to put forward now.
Hell-- just holding onto the job and the house is taking major focus now. I can't particularly help with that, but growing and hunting your own food is a damned good way to reduce bills, and free up cash for the mortgage.
Are there any subjects that you'd like me to post about more?
I was thinking about posting a photo essay on how to clean a deer, but, I suspect the photos would get me flagged by some quisling. I think that I'll go ahead and risk it. The next deer that I, or a friend takes, I'll try and get the pics and post some instructions.
I think that I am going to ask my neighbor across the street if I can hunt some Squirrels in his woods this weekend. If he agrees, I'll post on how to clean small game. There are also plenty of videos on the subject at YouTube.
At any rate, we're now heading into the Fifth Inning-- Commercial Property and Retail Companies, already reeling, will be going tits-up in large numbers by February. Entire Malls will close. The Alt-A and Jumbo mortgages are now beginning their collapse. Municipalities, starved for tax revenues, will start shedding jobs and services by April, and those of us still able to keep our homes will see huge tax spikes in the months following Tax Day.
We've discussed this here for years now. I'm just putting a time table on what to expect in the coming months at this point.
Pare back expenses everywhere you can. SAVE CASH. Consider ditching the cable/dish TV.
Start planning your 2009 garden NOW. Use my Sidebar for the resources you need. Ask me questions, I'll do my best to provide the best answers that I can, and guide you to resources when I don't have a quick answer.
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As I have been spending nearly every weekend in the woods in West Tennessee, and this past weekend in Arkansas, I can definitely report that this year yielded a bumper crop of acorns for our area. Squirrels and deer are fat with the mast this year.
The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn't find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.
Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel roadkill.
But Simmons really got spooked when he was teaching a class on identifying oak and hickory trees late last month. For 2 1/2 miles, Simmons and other naturalists hiked through Northern Virginia oak and hickory forests. They sifted through leaves on the ground, dug in the dirt and peered into the tree canopies. Nothing.
"I'm used to seeing so many acorns around and out in the field, it's something I just didn't believe," he said. "But this is not just not a good year for oaks. It's a zero year. There's zero production. I've never seen anything like this before."
The absence of acorns could have something to do with the weather, Simmons thought. But he hoped it wasn't a climatic event. "Let's hope it's not something ghastly going on with the natural world."
To find out, Simmons and Arlington naturalists began calling around. A naturalist in Maryland found no acorns on an Audubon nature walk there. Ditto for Fairfax, Falls Church, Charles County, even as far away as Pennsylvania. There are no acorns falling from the majestic oaks in Arlington National Cemetery.
"Once I started paying attention, I couldn't find any acorns anywhere. Not from white oaks, red oaks or black oaks, and this was supposed to be their big year," said Greg Zell, a naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. "We're talking zero. Not a single acorn. It's really bizarre."
Zell began to do some research. He found Internet discussion groups, including one on Topix called "No acorns this year," reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. "We live in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., and don't have any acorns this year. Really weird," wrote one. "None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser."
Last year, we had a bad drought, and acorn production was down, but this year made up for it, twofold.
This sounds like a more patchy local or regional problem.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008
They've come quite early to West Tennessee this year. It is a fairly heavy sleeting snow coming down outside. I hope it sticks!
I'm warm and cozy, and have a pot of venison stew on, while the cats are cuddled together in the other room.
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We arrived at our host, Bill's home, outside of the small town of Prescott-- quaint, yet dying the slow death of so many other small towns with a WalMart and Home Depot twenty miles from its horizon-- lovely main street, train depot now only a museum, plenty of store-fronts just waiting to be filled once more. It's one of those towns that James Howard Kunstler would appreciate, for sure. Bill says, "It has everything but the people and commerce."
Prescott is about 25 miles northeast of Hope, Arkansas.
Bill is an, easy-going fella in his early 50's, baring a striking likeness to Walter Matthau. He is quick to smile, enjoys telling a good story in his low, quiet voice, which begs the listener to want to hear more. He's a very fine host, who thoroughly and clearly enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed his hospitality. He really wanted us to get some pigs off of his land, and did everything he could to enable it.
He bought bags of beets and sweet potatoes, and laid them out in strategic places to try and get the pigs to us. He secured us some sort of permit to freely hunt his land, for not only the pigs, but to also help cull the deer herd, which is causing over-population problems on his land. We were free to hunt anything in season. Alas, the weather just simply did not cooperate.
It started raining hard and steady, as we passed the mid-way point between Little Rock and Prescott, and it didn't stop until a few hours before we needed to return home, Saturday afternoon. Because of the rain, we were relegated to perching in some well-built covered blinds, instead of getting out on some of the hog trails running through the woods in the back of his land.
Night came early in the rainy, misty November gloom. We slogged back to camp, where I started to prepare some venison chili, while Mario and Scott shucked Oysters under the RV canopy, and Bill set up the grill. We once again feasted on Oysters prepared every which way, and warmed our bellies with chili. We shared the two bottles of wine that I had brought. Bill had never told us that the area for miles around was DRY. Had I known, I'd have brought more wine, but the food and the company were excellent, and we had plenty of both. It was probably before 10pm when we retired for the night in anticipation of a morning of hot hog hunting.
We began the chilly Saturday morning still relegated to the blinds, as the rain was still coming down hard as we made coffee, and ate some oatmeal in the RV.
Sitting in the blind, armed for pig and deer, wishing for the rain to end, I enjoyed the scenery, none the less. I was perched at the edge of the woods, at the top of a gently rolling hill that led down to a good-sized spring-fed pond. I watched a nice, healthy flock of eight wild Turkeys cruise through, checking out the cow patties searching for bugs. A Bobcat came down to the pond for a drink of water, and, apparently, to try and hunt some Wood Ducks, which it scared, and flushed, instead. Lovely birds.
The view from my blind. Click for larger view.
View of the blind from the pond:
I didn't see any deer or pigs, though. Clearly, they were all bedded down in the thickets of the deep woods, and were not moving around. Indeed, as the rain let off, it seemed that we were the only critters that were moving around.
Looking down at the pond, I kept having visions of a huge herd of hogs coming down to the water. I imagined calling the others to come down, and all of us setting up the BIG strategy to hunt them. But, the pigs never came, and the rain kept falling. We didn't get to go ranging until around around 10am, Saturday, when the sheeting rains died down to something like a spitting mist.
Bill, and my friend, Mario, were getting a bit cold, and decided to head back to the camp. Scott and I decided that we would try and get into those woods, and walk the hog trails in search of their bedding areas. Bill was nice enough to let me use his nice, old .410 for some Fox Squirrel hunting, as his woods are thick with them. He gave me his box of shells, and we set off with our rifles on our shoulders, and shotguns ('broken") resting in our arms.
Just one of the many rolling fields:
Scott is our connection to our host-- they used to work together in the NatGas industry-- and drove up from Pensacola for this hunt. Scott looks like a taller version of a younger Mickey Rooney. He wears a permanent smile, has a keen wit and an optimism and energy that is truly infectious. His potential for mischief and fun run high in the vein of Hunter S. Thompson. He's an avid outdoorsman, who prefers to be out where the telephone and power lines don't reach. My kind of folk, and we became friends quickly. We'd stop in front of briar-choked thickets through which ran obvious hog trails. We'd set up a strategy, and take turns charging into one end of them, while the other stood at the far end, ready for hogs to fly out. I hope to be able to take him up to Michigan some day, for some hunting and fly-fishing. He keeps a tattered list of places he'd like to hunt, fish and kayak in his backpack, crossing them off as he gets to them, adding more as he hears of them.
Two hours later, we didn't see a single hog, nor did we see any signs that they were even moving around. The piles of mangles and yams sat undisturbed. We followed some of those trails so deep into the thickets, that we had to cut ourselves out of the briars (mostly, cutting the briar branches off of our clothing, hands and face), and break out the compass to get our bearings on several occasions. If anything was in those thickets, they were too intent on bedding down and keeping warm, that they didn't even flush. But, during our hike, we managed to bag nine fat Fox Squirrels.
We came back to camp exhausted. We rested for an hour or so, cleaned the game, ate some lunch, and then bid farewell to Bill, who told each of us that we are welcome to come back anytime, and to bring some friends.
Driving back home, we caught up to the rain that had just cleared out of Prescott.
Back at Mario's house, we set up an Easy-Up canopy on his patio, fired up the grill, ate the last of the Oysters, a chunk of Venison backstrap that I had brought, and three of our squirrels. Mario had never eaten squirrel, or tasted really good, non-gamey deer meat. After swearing that he wouldn't eat either, and insisted that we not cook the third Squirrel for himas it all cooked on the grill, we were able to finally talk him into it, and, lo-and-behold, he was more than impressed with both. We didn't have left-overs.
Let me tell you-- nothing makes a spaghetti sauce more tasty than a squirrel simmering in it.
Mario had never been hunting before, and now fully understands how much work and patience is involved. He loved watching the day break, and listening to the world waking up around him, and spoke at length about how much he enjoyed it. Ironically, he was the only one of the four of us to actually see a deer-- he estimated it at about 75 yards from him, moving through the woods-- he was so awe-struck that he didn't have it in him to even shoulder his gun.
Hoping for a high hog count, and only coming home with a few squirrels was a bit disappointing, but being able to hike and hunt hundreds of acres of some of the most beautiful, gentle land I've ever had the pleasure to know, was certainly worth the trip. Spending time with good friends, both old and new, was absolutely priceless.
Today, I am certain that those piles of beets and yams are aswarm with fat, contented Hogs, picking their tusks, smoking cigs, and patting their full bellies. I can see it now...
Thank you, Bill, for your kindness, friendship and hospitality. Scott-- it's great to have made your acquaintance, and I know that we will be doing this again, sometime very soon.
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