Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

Happy New Year 2008 to you all

Happy New Year 2008

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers, friends and associates, as well as our enemies, a very happy & prosperous New Year 2008.

Christmas crisis brewing

Apparently there is a Christmas crisis brewing...

According to a UK government think tank, Christmas should be downgraded unless other religious festivals are marked on an even footing.

The Institute of Public Policy Research has suggested various ideas to make the UK more multicultural. It also wants "national culture" barriers to be torn down to help immigrants settle into the UK.

In a report due to be published in coming weeks, the organisation said: "If we are going to continue to mark Christmas - and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to - then public organisations should mark other major religious festivals too. Even-handedness dictates that we provide public recognition to minority cultures and traditions."

Duh? I beg pardon! To this one could only say that this is a “predominately” Christian country, though I am not a Christian, and if people have a problem with that then they do have an option; and that is to leave. No one has asked them to be here or to stay here.

You do NOT have the right to never be offended. This society is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you as an individual! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be. So, if someone says something you don't like either argue it out with them or leave it be.

You do NOT have the right to change our country's history or heritage. You do not have the right to impose Sharia Law on this country in any way, shape or form, or any other law. This country has a legal code and it is valid for all. This country has a freedom of religion, which means you are free, as is everyone else, to worship your God or no God; with no fear of persecution. You are given the freedom, nowadays, it was not always thus, to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. You are not forced to go to church every Sunday, as once was the case in Britain, not even on Christmas Day are you forced to attend, therefore do not try to impose your rules on us.

Unfortunately, it would seem, that the people of this country are, in general, spineless, and will permit, for the sake of “peace” to allow themselves to be trampled upon by others who do not mean to be peaceful.

© M Smith, December 2007

The story of Sheep with a message...

Not so long ago and in a pasture too uncomfortably close to here, a flock of sheep lived and grazed. They were protected by a dog, who answered to the master, but despite his best efforts from time to time a nearby pack of wolves would prey upon the flock.

One day a group of sheep, more bold than the rest, met to discuss their dilemma. "Our dog is good, and vigilant, but he is one dog and the wolves are many. The wolves he catches are not always killed, and the master judges and releases many to prey again upon us, for no reason we can understand. What can we do? We are sheep, but we do not wish to be food, too!"

One sheep spoke up, saying "It is his teeth and claws that make the wolf so terrible to us. It is his nature to prey, and he would find any way to do it, but it is the tools he wields that make it possible. If we had such teeth, we could fight back, and stop this savagery." The other sheep clamored in agreement, and they went together to the old bones of the dead wolves heaped in the corner of the pasture, and gathered fang and claw and made them into weapons.

That night, when the wolves came, the newly armed sheep sprang up with their weapons and struck at them and cried "Begone! We are not food!" and drove off the wolves, who were astonished. When did sheep become so bold and so dangerous to wolves? When did sheep grow teeth? It was unthinkable!

The next day, flush with victory and waving their weapons, they approached the flock to pronounce their discovery. But as they drew nigh, the flock huddled together and cried out "Baaaaaaaadddd! Baaaaaddd things! You have bad things! We are afraid! You are not sheep!"

The brave sheep stopped, amazed. "But we are your brethren!" they cried, "We are still sheep, but we do not wish to be food. See, our new teeth and claws protect us and have saved us from slaughter. They do not make us into wolves, they make us equal to the wolves, and safe from their viciousness!"

"Baaaaaaaddd!", cried the flock,"the things are bad and will pervert you, and we fear them. You cannot bring them into the flock. They scare us!". So the armed sheep resolved to conceal their weapons, for although they had no desire to panic the flock, they wished to remain in the fold. But they would not return to those nights of terror, waiting for the wolves to come.

In time, the wolves attacked less often and sought easier prey, for they had no stomach for fighting sheep who possessed tooth and claw even as they did. Not knowing which sheep had fangs and which did not, they came to leave sheep out of their diet almost completely except for the occasional raid, from which more than one wolf did not return. Then came the day when, as the flock grazed beside the stream, one sheep's weapon slipped from the folds of her fleece, and the flock cried out in terror again, "Baaaaaaddddd! You still possess these evil things! We must ban you from our presence!".

And so they did. The great chief sheep and his court and council, encouraged by the words of their moneylenders and advisors, placed signs and totems at the edges of the pasture forbidding the presence of hidden weapons there. The armed sheep protested before the council, saying "It is our pasture, too, and we have never harmed you! When can you say we have caused you hurt? It is the wolves, not we, who prey upon you. We are still sheep, but we are not food!". But the flock would not hear, and drowned them out with cries of "Baaaaaaddd! We will not hear your clever words! You and your things are evil and will harm us!".

Saddened by this rejection, the armed sheep moved off and spent their days on the edges of the flock, trying from time to time to speak with their brethren to convince them of the wisdom of having such teeth, but meeting with little success. They found it hard to talk to those who, upon hearing their words, would roll back their eyes and flee, crying "Baaaaddd! Bad things!".

That night, the wolves happened upon the sheep's totems and signs, and said, "Truly, these sheep are fools! They have told us they have no teeth! Brothers, let us feed!". And they set upon the flock, and horrible was the carnage in the midst of the fold. The dog fought like a demon, and often seemed to be in two places at once, but even he could not halt the slaughter. It was only when the other sheep arrived with their weapons that the wolves fled, vowing to each other to remain on the edge of the pasture and wait for the next time they could prey, for if the sheep were so foolish once, they would be so again. This they did, and do still.

In the morning, the armed sheep spoke to the flock, and said, "See? If the wolves know you have no teeth, they will fall upon you. Why be prey? To be a sheep does not mean to be food for wolves!". But the flock cried out, more feebly for their voices were fewer, though with no less terror, "Baaaaaaaadddd! These things are bad! If they were banished, the wolves would not harm us! Baaaaaaaddd!". The other sheep could only hang their heads and sigh. The flock had forgotten that even they possessed teeth; how else could they graze the grasses of the pasture? It was only those who preyed, like the wolves and jackals, who turned their teeth to evil ends. If you pulled their own fangs those beasts would take another's teeth and claws, perhaps even the broad flat teeth of sheep, and turn them to evil purposes.

The bold sheep knew that the fangs and claws they possessed had not changed them. They still grazed like other sheep, and raised their lambs in the spring, and greeted their friend the dog as he walked among them. But they could not quell the terror of the flock, which rose in them like some ancient dark smoky spirit and could not be damped by reason, nor dispelled by the light of day.

So they resolved to retain their weapons, but to conceal them from the flock; to endure their fear and loathing, and even to protect their brethren if the need arose, until the day the flock learned to understand that as long as there were wolves in the night, sheep would need teeth to repel them.

They would still be sheep, but they would not be food!

More Make Do

In the last article I did mention that I could go on. Well, now I am.

This matter of “making do” can get to a passion, which is not a bad thing. If more people were “making do”, there would be less waste in this world.

Save your tin cans. I mentioned in an article some time ago a few things that you could use cans for1. Holding nails and screws, cleaning paint brushes, holding paint while you pretty some things up.2 Punch a hole in the center of the ends of two tin cans, attach a string and you have a boy's primitive telephone. I have two cans, one used to hold minced green chilies, the other is just a little bit bigger. I use them as biscuit cutters. They are just the right size for sourdough or baking powder biscuits.

Scrap wood can be gotten from building sites. Ask the foreman and he will probably tell you that whatever is in the dumpster, you can have. Wooden pallets can be used for everything from firewood to building fences. And same for the nails! You can buy wood such as slabs or tie ends pretty reasonable, also sawdust at sawmills.

The highway department went through this spring and trimmed trees and then ran the branches and such through a chipper. A lot of it was cedar. My wife and I went and got the equivalent of a pickup load and put those chippings around the bases of the trees in our yard.

We have two 100 gallon plastic stock tanks under the porch eaves to catch rainwater. There's room for a couple of more. Beats having to buy salt, not to mention the initial cost of a softener unit. We use it for laundry and baths. Just remember to cover the tanks to keep sunlight out once they are full.

Want to keep your wooden fence posts from rotting but don't want to use chemicals? Do what they did 200 years ago. Char the end that will go into the ground, and put then in small end first. Charred wood lasts for centuries. That's why archaeologists are so happy to find it at a dig. They can date it by scientific means to find out how long ago the site was occupied.

The books by Eric Sloane, “A Museum of Early American Tools”, “A Reverence for Wood” and “Diary of an Early American Boy”, should be on you bookshelf. Our early settlers were masters in making do with wood.

The editor reminded me of this one: save those cardboard tubes from paper towel and toilet tissue. They can be used for storing electric cord or, cut to length, filled with potting medium and used to start bedding plants. When the plants are ready you just put the whole thing into the garden into the ground. You'll have a cutworm collar and the tube will rot down enriching the soil.

The plastic bags that you get from grocery stores nowadays make good wastepaper basket liners. I prefer to ask for paper bags (paper bags are not in option in many countries – Ed.) because I can use them for patterns for making moccasins and other leather goods. They are also good for draining doughnuts and other fried food, after which the oil soaked paper makes a dandy fire starter.

Speaking of paper towels: they can be used to make your own seed tapes. Lay out several sections, spray with water. Place yours seeds down, lay another paper towel on top, spray with water, and roll up. Put in a bread bag or other plastic bag until you lay it out in the garden and cover it with a thin layer of soil. This is especially good for parsnip and carrot seed. We learned this trick from yet another boot that you should have on your shelf; “The Joy of Gardening” by Dick Raymond.

Another idea from “The Joys of Gardening” is to “multi-crop”. For instance, I plant carrots, lettuce and radishes together. They seem to help each other out. The I put trellises over the row and plat cucumbers at each leg. It makes a two-storey garden. Our tomatoes have carrots planted each cage. You can plant winter squash in your sweet corn rows.
There are many books that tell you about “companion planting”. It would not hurt to buy one. You can get two or three times the produce from the same plot.

In our area we have very high humidity in the spring. At least once a month I would have to clean all my leather goods. Years ago I used to shoe harness racing horses. The trainers would rub flax soap into the harnesses to keep them soft and mold free. So I bought some ©Murphy's oil lsoap and tried it. Sure enough, it worked. Now I only have to clean my saddles and boots and other leather goods about once a year only. I have tried other oil soaps but ©Murphy's works the best.

© Owen Newman, 2007

Simpler Life - In Praise of Paper-based PDAs

In Praise of Paper-based PDAs

Even in today's digital world paper still has its place, more maybe even than before, and I am referring here to such things as Filofax agendas and the like, and even such as being compiled by the users themselves rather than by purchasing such an agenda binder as a Filofax itself and/or the inserts for such binders.

The person who invented the POCKET Mod “Paper PDA” has had an absolutely brilliant idea, in my view, especially as one can use paper that is basically waste, printed on one side already and unloved and unwanted, often because it is spam post, to turn into a small notebook of eight small pages.

Personally I have designed my own POCKET Mod online with the tool provided on the website, then printed one, scanned it into the PC, made it into a word processor document and then turned it into a PDF file. When I need some need little notebooks – I use those especially for projects and articles – I print them out from the PDF, make them up and then carry a small number of them with me.

I tend to use those small notebooks for special projects and article drafts even though I also use a Filofax, though this cannot be carried all the time for its size. I use a POCKET Mod almost daily, I must say.

Why do I advocate low-tech solutions here many will wonder seeing that, obviously, I do use a PC, and I must admit more than one even, ect.? Why indeed?

For more than a year I used to carry and use a Palm Pilot PDA but I have had nothing but problems with hand-held devices and after the umpteenth time and also wiped its backup on the PC and Palm's customer service was simply non-existent, as many people said on the Internet forums about that company (BTW, that is OLD Palm and not the company that uses the name now) I decided to revert back to the use of pen and paper, in the form, initially, of the Filofax binder.

The great advantages of pen and paper, and paper-based notes, is (1) the fact that no batteries and no operating system or other software can fail and (2) that is it not a sensitive unit that might get damaged or broken if dropped or if water gets spilled upon it, and I have to say that, as I get my pens free from Trade Shows and other exhibitions, it to me is the most effective system.

Paper-based systems still valid in the twenty-first century.

Also, I have to add, that the pages for the Filofax paper PDA that I carry are made at home by using an old Lotus Organizer program on Windows XP – the program does work on XP as well despite of its age (the age of the original program, not that of XP) which prints pages in Filofax size. I then cut the pages to the right size, more or less by eye judgement after lots of experience, making some blank (at least one side of it) pages at the same time, and then punch the holes. For this I did invest in a Filofax-specific hole punch – and they do not come cheap but then neither do the store-bought inserts. In fact I am sure that the hole punch has by now definitely paid for itself.

Pen and paper based notes, to me at least, work much better than do PDAs of whichever operating system, but then that is my personal view.

Yes, I admit, I do have to type my notes up on the PC afterwards and to a degree people may think this to be rather time consuming and a waste but considering the time it takes to input text and data onto a PDA by means of a stylus and the touch screen I do not think that it takes me more time altogether with typing up my notes.
It also give me the time, while typing them up, to already edit and make additions, etc. to my draft that I have written in pen on paper in longhand.

Using POCKET Mob notebooklets and the Scrybe online organizer (, with its off-line facility, where pages can be printed out similar to the POCKET Mod, and definitely the same pocket size, one does not even have to lug around a Filofax, though the latter does come in rather handy for contact details and other such things, so, therefore, a lot of times I still have the Filofax binder in my briefcase nevertheless. When I go somewhere without the briefcase, however, then the other two little systems suffice and fit into the shirt pocket or hip pocket of jeans or other pants.

I am not saying that we should abandon modern technology and the PC and even pocket PCs and other electronic PDAs; I am no Luddite, but what I am saying is “ask yourself whether you actually NEED one.
While I am quite the gadget man and have several – five indeed – PCs I cannot see, as yet at least, really a need for having a (new) electronic PDA and definitely no benefit and justification.
When I bought my so far first and only electronic PDA, the Palm Pilot, it was the lure of the gadget, a new toy, so to speak, but I have learned the hard way.
For the time being at least, I personally, shall stick with a paper and pen based system for on the move and I will type up my notes and article- and report drafts into the computer when back at base.

Will the hand-held PC displace paper-based systems? I do not think so. In the same way as e-books will not, I think, displace or replace proper paper books.

I have to say that with me the hand-held will not replace paper-based systems. I took a PDA a couple of years back now but with the problems I experienced with it, and the great – NOT – customer service from the company, I would not go back to one, that is for sure. It would also take a lot to persuade me to take up – unless someone, like a company, would give it to me for free (for review – wink, wink, nudge, nudge) – to go back to using a handheld computer of any kind.

Having used a Palm Pilot PDA for fourteen month, when it gave up its ghost finally, after six months of problem prior to it giving up, and, as said, a non-existent customer support from the makers, I went back to using a Filofax binder and the other paper-based systems for note taking and for contact details and I have not regretted this move one bit.
While I cannot transfer, that is true, my stuff electronically from my paper-based systems to a PC – for obvious reasons – which is obviously something that the electronic gadgets are capable of doing – the reliability and the robustness of the paper-based systems of the electronic PDAs and Pocket PCs outweigh those factors.
I just type my data and notes into the PC and often this gives me a change to make amendments right away or, as in the case of articles and such, to work on the piece by expanding the notes into a proper essay right away proper or at least into the beginning of one.

The greatest advantages of the ordinary and not so ordinary paper based PDA systems is the fact that, as said already, as aside from the pen running out of ink – that's why I always carry at least one backup pen – and fire, the notes are safe.

From an environmental aspect and that of sustainability any paper-based system, especially as I described them here as used by me, has a much smaller impact as paper is recyclable – and I am doing this already by reusing previously printed material – and also shredded can be put into the domestic composters where it will break down easily (though coated papers may not work too well or not at all). Electronic PDAs on the other hand require specialist waste facilities and treatment as neither the basic units nor their batteries can be put into landfill sites, which any way are running out at an alarming rate, due to the fact they contain toxic substances which could contaminate groundwater and soil.

I do know that some of the environmental movement might disagree with me in some respect as to advocating a paper-based system over a paper-less one, e.g. electronic devices, that is to say PDAs and Pocket PCs, but so be it. I believe that it is far more environmentally responsible to use paper, sourced, obviously, from sustainable forests and to, especially, us the backs of old printed emails, letters, etc.

© M V Smith, 2007

Cookie Jar Savings

Would you like to have a nest egg for emergencies? Here’s an old-fashioned savings plan that does not put a strain on your budget. Many a grandmother used to call it her “cookie jar fund.” It’s a simple and easy-to-do plan, and over a one-year period, it really adds up.

If, every day, for a year, say, one would place one's pocket change plus $1 in a mason jar the results would be rather noticeable. Here is how it adds up if you faithfully contribute every day:

Amount per day = one-year total:
$1.25 = $456.25
$1.50 = $547.50
$2 = $730
$3 = $1,095

Even if only the loose change per day is used it already makes for a considerable next egg. I do that all the time – that's why I never have any change in my pocket of a morning – in that every time that I come back from the stores or from going out I place the “silver” change in a jar to save for a nest egg and all copper change goes into another jar. The latter is for the Romani work that I do, as a means of showing that this, if everyone of our People would do that, a sizeable sum could be had at the end of the year with which to work for the cause.

The Art of Making Do

What, exactly is meant by “making do”?

It is the ability to create and make something out of limited resources. Ask any old timer that went thru through the Depression in the 1930's, or someone who has grown up in an impoverished area like the Southern Appalachians or Ozarks. That's what the Foxfire Books and other are all about.

For those of us who call ourselves Homesteaders, it should become a way of life. Too many, it seem, fail to recognize the benefits of such a lifestyle.

You want to build a house but the cost of materials are way out of reach? People have made houses out of railroad ties, old telephone and power poles, cord wood, recycled lumber, old schoolhouses, adobe, and much more. They have nice snug homes that have only cost a fraction of carpenter-built ones.

Making Do covers every area of your life; food, clothing, housing, transportation. Many times my wife and have had to make do because that was the only way we had in order to make it through a particular situation, and we were very glad that we had the necessary skills to do it.

How about some examples?

My wife has gotten fabric from yard sales, thread, boxes of buttons, etc. Most motels are willing to sell old bed linens. Get to know the head of the laundry and ask. My wife has used a lot of old sheets to make clothes out of. Some of them are good enough to go on your own bed.

Yard sales, secondhand stores, and farm auctions are good places to pick up furniture and appliances. Just know what your top dollar will be and don't get beyond it? People can get crazy at farm auctions and will pay ridiculous prices for junk.

The last auction I went to I bought a box of stuff for $6; it seemed nobody wanted it. In the box was an unopened can of water seal which sells for at least twice what I paid for the whole box.
There was also three cans of lye which were sold for $6 - $7 a bottle (these were the 18oz, not the 13oz) before it was outlawed. Also there were several boxes of old-fashioned starch. There also was some home-made soap, three bottles of bluing (which my wife uses), three cans of Sterno fuel; in all about $50 to $60 worth of stuff. We have so far made three batches of soap with the lye and have enough for a fourth batch. That, by the way, is added value.

We have a practically new push mower that a neighbor sold to us for $20 because he had no use for it. He was cleaning out a garage for an individual and they told him to take it.

which brings me to another aspect of making do, Dumpster Diving and salvaging. I have known several people other than myself that see salvaging as a viable way to get things.
The have gotten chainsaws, power mowers, weed whackers and lots of other stuff. All in decent shape. Maybe all it wanted as a spark plug replaced or some tinkering.

In our area, the towns will have a clean up day. Pile stuff at the curb and it will be hauled away. My wife could always embarrass me on this one. If I had a pick-up following along behind her, believe me, she could fill it.

With food, you will probably need a truck. It is amazing what is thrown away by processors. Go to a custom butcher that is not government inspected. Many times, more than you might think, people don't want the tongues, hearts, livers or other parts of an animal. Soup bones are many times thrown away. If you can trade some work like I did sharpening their knives, they will probably give you what the people bringing in the animal do not want.
I have gotten sausages, hamburgers, smoked sausage; enough deer neck to can up 50qts of deer meat.

If you live in an areas that grows a lot of vegetables for a canning company, see if you can glean the fields. We have gotten potatoes, sweet corn, sweet peas that way.
If you are in an area where they raise a lot of chickens for butcher, when they load them out onto the truck they leave a lot behind that are not big enough. They can normally be gotten for little or nothing. It saves the farmer the expense opf having to destroy them and dispose of them.

I could go on and on but I hope that I have given you, the readers, some ideas that you can use. Look around you and see what you can come up with.
Write to me at:
Big Ox Enterprises
P.O. Box 112
Old Appleton, MO 63770
I would be interested to hear what you have come up with.

© Owen Newman, 2007

Green up your garden this Autumn – Gardening Tips from Ecover

Spending time in the garden is one of the most relaxing ways to spend a weekend. It is also a great way to lower your food miles (by growing your own vegetables), encourage biodiversity (by planting for wildlife) and reduce your kitchen waste (by composting!). You might already be reducing the amount of chemicals in your home but why not follow some of our top tips for greening your garden

Read on...

Brits gave up their gun rights... again and again the slogan that we hear
amongst members of the survivalist and patriot communities in the USA and the same slogan is now being taken up by the NRA as well, it would seem.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Read on...

The Bicycle as Transport for Survival and Backwoods-Living

>One of the best modes of locomotion in the backcountry is on a bicycle. I'd be where I was going, settin' in the shade while someone else was still chasin' their horse across the pasture or gettin it saddled up. <

Is the bicycle, the bike, whether mountain bike or other, a viable option for survival transport and for transport in the backwoods? I should say so. More than viable even, in my view. It does neither use fuel nor does it require fodder. Requires no catching in the morning in the pasture or taking out of the stable, currying, feeding and saddling. Can be maintained by anyone with a wrench and a few other tools… The bicycle also has quite a load carrying capacity (depending on how well the bike is made) in itself with the right kit and with a trailer for it you can carry still more. Although often laughed at by other units, the bicycle corps of the Army does have a much greater ability than it is often charged with. No snorting horse to accidentally give your position away (unless your bike ain’t maintained and squeaks) and there is no need to tie or hobble the bike when you have to get down into position to observe an enemy or such. All that is probably also a reason why many police forces and ranger services and such once again are using bicycles in patrols.

Okay, I admit, you do not have the range with a bicycle than you would have with a car or truck but then you hardly ever hear of a bike getting stuck somewhere in the mud or running out of gasoline. Yes, there is much less speed with a bicycle and it all depends on you pedaling and your stamina and such. But then you get exercise, which is good for the cardio-vascular system. A horse is even faster than a bicycle, you say. Sure it is, on short spurts but generally its sustained speed unless you have staging posts where you can change horses is just a little faster than a person walking. So, the bicycle probably wins again. There is one advantage with a horse and that is that you can go thru mud with it where probably you would have to go round it with a bike and that you may be able to swim a river while holding on to your horse swimming. Bit difficult with a bicycle, I know and admit.

He who gives his child a bicycle give him the best toy ever and one that they will not grow out of. It will keep him occupied for hours and gives him good exercise at the same time. It also gives him some mobility with which to explore the “world”. And he can also range further in the pursuit of some kind of economical activities, such as earning money by going door-to-door sharpening knives and scissors or selling goods, such as recycled knives or even such humble goods such handmade clothespins.

© M V Smith

Put a Light in your Cabin

The humble Bottle Lamp, the one that you make for yourself from scrap, is probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to put some light into the darkness, whether that is in your home during a power outage or in a cabin or cave. It is also something that the homesteader who needs to be frugal but needs some extra lights can make use of. At the same time one recycles old glass jars and short squat glass bottles.

Some vendors of survival goods and equipment do sell what I would call a 'glass jar' with a wick, which burns lamp-oil, and call it a "survival candle", but those things ain't no candles as such at all; they really are nothing but bottle lamps. And bottle lamps you don't bother to go out and buy and spend good hard-earned dollars on; you make 'em yourself.

In other places similar lamps were used in days gone by, and in some case that ain't even that long ago as in the case of the homesteads, the squats, and outstations, in the outback of the big island continent of Australia. There the Bushmen (in no way to be confused with the Bushmen of South Africa) used to use such lamps in various ways and they were known among some of them as "slush lamps". I have made such a small lamp from and empty (obvious, you say) glass bottle (see picture) that contained once an orange drink called "Orangina" and have used it on many an occasion when the light went out or when I was living in places without electricity. But there are also various other small bottles with metal screw top lids that you could use and which are equally suitable for conversion into a bottle lamp. The metal screw top is important, though if you haven't got one on the bottle then that isn't the end of the world yet either but I'll come back to that one later on.

The little bottle lamp that I made for myself took about ten minutes to make, and no more than that, after I had drunk the drink and cleaned and dried it. I made a hole in the center of the metal screw top and fitted a hollow rivet into it and afterwards I made a wick for it from a strip from an old 100% cotton T-shirt. It does work. You can use kerosene, JP4 high-grade aviation fuel as that used by helicopters, coal oil, lamp oil like citronella and such, as well as liquid paraffin. If you find a little glass jar or a bottle that is nice and suitable to be made into a bottle lamp but it hasn't got a metal screw top then don't despair. Use a 2p coin (that is a British copper coin of 1inch diameter) or a metal disc of similar size and especially one that fits well over the neck of the bottle in question, drill a whole thru the center, put your homemade wick thru this hole and, using this coin or metal disc in place of the metal screw top, your little lamp is ready to light your home.

Only small bottles can be used for making bottle lamps. The wick cannot draw the kerosene up from, for instance, the depth of a big bottle such as a wine or whiskey one. Ideally the bottle should be short and squat; no more than 5 ½ to 6 inches high and the wider, e.g. the squatter, the better. Whiskey pocket flask, the so-called quarter bottles, that can often been found laying about having been thrown away by some wino, are fine in height but their bases are too small and you would have to make something into which you could firmly "plant" the bottle so it won't fall over once it is alight.

© M V Smith

Vegetarianism & Animal Welfare

Most of who have become vegetarians, except for those who follow a vegetarian lifestyle for reasons of religion, such as some of the Hindu faith, have done so because they think that eating meat is cruel because animals get slaughtered for it.

I wonder, however, if any of them have ever considered what would happen if all the world would suddenly go vegetarian. Have they ever considered what would happen to all the cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, rabbits, etc. that are kept for food, if we all suddenly would give up the eating of meat and meat products? I doubt that they have.

Due to the fact that the pasture land for cattle (and horses) would, if we all would go vegetarian, would have to be ploughed up as it would be required for the growing of vegetables, grain and such, in order to be able to feed the world. Those animals, bar a few, would all be the very first casualties. They would be killed and disposed off, probably as dog and cat food.

It can also be assumed that they would soon be followed by wild animals, such as deer, rabbits, and such, which would be bothering the crops.

People must wake up to the fact that, as soon as deer, rabbits, hares, etc. are no longer managed and culled for meat, they will become rampant and will invade the fields and gardens and either destroy the crops, causing famine, or they will be shot, trapped or even poisoned. Not such a fuzzy and cuddly prospect, is it now. And no, fences will not keep them out in the long run. I have seen deer jump so-called deer-proof fences in forestry and that with absolute ease. Such fences were over six foot tall.

I would suggest that we all, but especially the vegetarian lobby, took a reality check.

It is always amazing how many people do not have a cue of what they are talking about but try to “educate” and “convert” the world.

© M V Smith, July 2007

Microsoft releases new security patches

Microsoft released last week urgent security patches for all it's still supported operating systems, including Vista, the latest operating system from the Microsoft stable, and the one which was tauted as the most safe and secure operating system ever. If this is the most secure ever then g-d help the world of ICT.

Can we really trust the claims and security of Vista and other Windows operating systems? Probably not and the price tags also do not help. With Vista there is still the rumor that if you install/reinstall the OS more than three times you have to purchase a new license. Sorry, pardon me again? So, if I have a PC and install it on there and have to reinstall it and then also own, say a laptop and install it on there and then buy a new PC, say, without an OS or say an older version of Windows and want to install Vista on it it would not work because I would have to have a new license. No wonder Bill Gates is a Billionaire and the likes of you and me are not, dear reader.

Vista OS and IE7 (IE = Internet Explorer) both are “persona non grata” at all government departments and their computers in both UK and USA. Wonder why? I guess because there are too many problems that those IT departments have already discovered.

So much, therefore, for all this tauting of what a great OS this Vista was going to be, all singing and all dancing and no more problems: it was going to be the bee's knee's of operating systems, so they claimed.

Well, I, like the FBI, MI5 and others, shall stick with XP Pro on the Windows PC and in mys case Firefox as the browser instead of IE6.

As I am well aware, Vista is meant to replace XP Pro entirely so I am sure that we will be told in about a year or three that there will be no more support fo XP and we MUST therefore switch all to Vista. I, for my part, hopefully, will by then have migrated completely and entirely over to Linux with its various distros.

© M Veshengro Smith, April 2007

What computer for the homestead?

What make, what processor power, what size hard drive???

The answer to those questions, obviously, depends on what you intend to use the computer for in the first place now and in the future.

Again and again I hear from people, “I need to get a new computer” and when I ask, “Why?” they, nigh on invariably, tell me not that it is broken and they need a new one for that reason but that it is “obsolete”. When I then enquire as to why they think it is obsolete and whether it can no longer do the tasks they use the PC for the answer, also nigh on without fail, is that it can do all they things very well still but that there are faster machines out now and therefore one must upgrade. Why, precisely, must one upgrade when the PC still does what one wants it to do and that without problem? Only twice have I bought new and I do not think that I shall go down the “buying new” route ever again because as soon as you have bought the PC, even a custom-made one, from the store it is basically straight away already “obsolete” and being superseded by newer faster machines. If the PC can do what I want it to do, and most of the “older” models can do it all still quite adequately, then why buy a new one costing a small fortune. Yes, I do know that today some machines are available for a few hundred bucks only but often they are not the best machines and definitely not always by the best makers. Also, if one would want to buy “cheap” but new one might not get the quality as, say, for instance, buying a Compaq PC that is a couple of years old and that was used in a government establishment or such. Why should I pay $500 for a cheap machine new from a not well known manufacturer when I can get, say, a Compaq Evo of 2-4 years of age for half the price? (No, I do not work for Compaq).

Let's look at the simplest uses such as writing letters, journals, keeping records, doing the books, and such, plus, obviously, using email and Internet. For that you do not need the latest PC (or laptop) with the fastest processor and the biggest hard drive (though the bigger the hard drive the better as that allows you to store all your data) with all the bells and whistles that is available. In many cases a 2 or 3 year old reconditioned PC – ex business or government establishment will do nicely even if it is only a Pentium 4 1.6Ghz instead of the new models that run nearly at twice the speed. Even for Internet this is fact enough because your Internet only works as fast as your connection allows. Much more important to processor speed is RAM space, that is to say the megabytes in your PCs memory. The more you can get there the better and the faster the PC is going to work. In the UK where I live we can get PCs of the kind I mentioned for about two hundred bucks and most machines that I use are such PCs.
The processor speed is not as important as it the RAM, the memory, of the PC. The more memory it has, or that you can upgrade it to in the end, the better. In most cases the speed of the processor is not what is what counts but how much space you have in your PC's memory; the more available memory the faster the PC performs the actions.
The size of the hard drive depends on what is in the PC you can get at the moment, especially if it is a secondhand machine, but how much size in GB you need depends, again, on what you want the PC for. If you want to store 1,000s of tracks of music or videos on your PC then you better have the biggest hard drive you can get, but that does not, necessarily, have to be the PC's built-in hard drive. You can use external ones for storing such things as music and films, etc., should you be so inclined. For general, everyday use, emailing, letter writing, even accounts, database, etc., for a small farm or a small business (as in homestead operated) I doubt you need more than 15-20 GB hard drive.

The next step is the software and for the above mentioned applications you would, for starters, need so-called “office” software and if you would want to look to Microsoft to supply that need then you better look at a minimum of US$400 for such an office suite. However, there is no need to pay anything for software, as all of it is available, from different sources as open source software. is a great replacement for Windows Office and for every other task you may want to perform there is a free alternative available out there too.

In many cases it can even be possible to obtain good used PCs that work well and are only a few years old from local councils and such for little or no money at all. The problem, in those instances, often, however, is that they machines have either “cancelled” Windows operating systems on board or none at all. In those cases you then either end up trying to work with an OS that Microsoft targets as “illegal” or you have to get a new license from Microsoft, if you want to run Windows.
Yes, I do know that Windows is the most used and common computer operating system but there are alternatives out there and the laugh is that they are FREE. I hope the crash I just heard was not you, the reader, falling off the chair when I said that, instead of paying Microsoft hundreds of bucks for their Windows OS, you can get your PC up and running for free.
Let's face it; say you get a PC that has Windows installed but it is a secondhand machine and the license to the OS may be no longer valid. What do you do then? OK, in most cases the software will work (up to Windows XP Pro even) but you will not be able, in most instances, to get any updates, even important and critical security updates for the software downloaded because you do not have genuine Windows software. If you know how and where then you may be able to obtain a “cracker code” that tricks Microsoft's website into believing that you do run “genuine Windows” and you will be able to get most such updates but that may not always work. So, what then? The answer is then you either need to get a new Windows license at the tune of several hundred bucks or alternative operating system software. Even if your Windows runs smoothly chances are that your PC – even many a new one – does not come with office/productivity software, that is to say, no word processor (and you sure will want one of those), no spreadsheet (you may or may not need one of them), no database (OK, maybe you don't need one of them really either), and Microsoft Office, which includes all of those things, is notoriously expensive, as I mentioned above. So the answer is so-called “open source” software and most, if not indeed all, of that if free.
Should you consider getting a new FREE operating system then Linux is the answer and then you do not have to worry as to whether you need office software and such because it all comes bundled in with it.

This is where I shall leave you for the moment. Any questions can be directed to me at and I shall try to answer your queries to the best of my abilities.

© M Veshengro Smith, March 2007



Toerags Untility Equipment T.R.U.E.

Toerags LTD
8a Wharfdale Road

Service Rd



Dorset BH4 9BT


Tel: +44 (0)1202 766333

The term "Belt Knife" for this little 2-inch liner-lock folder with one-hand opening stud on the blade and steel clothing clip may be somewhat of a wrong and exaggerated term but, folks, I did not name it thus, the manufacturers did. The name, obviously, stems from the ideas that the knife would be attached by means of the clothing clip to a belt and worn thus via the clip, I find, being rather strong, works best on clothing, like the watch pocket of a pair of jeans, for instance.

First of I should also say that I did not receive this little blade from the manufacturer for review purposes but, actually, purchased it. This is no big deal really at only £6.99 in a store near my home. I had seen the T.R.U.E. range in their window display for some time and had intended for some time to buy one of those little blades just for the heck of it, so to speak. I am glad I did.

I cannot tell the reader where the blade and knife was actually made as no manufacturing country is given. All it says on the blade is "stainless". However, for the price it is a very well-made little piece of kit. The blade is a Bowie-style hollow ground that take a nice keen edge and it appears to sharpen up best on a steel than anything else. The handles appear to be brushed aluminum with rubber inlays. No rivets have been used throughout instead the blade pivots on a screw rivet that also holds the clothing clip, which means that it can be retightened should this be necessary, and the scales are held on also with small Hex screws recessed into the scales. There is no wobble in the blade and the liner lock holds very solid indeed. Seeing that the slots of the main screw rivet had the marks of a screwdriver having been used I would assume that those knives are actually hand-assembled and checked.

The knife comes in a cardboard "presentation" box with a 10-year warranty and I can only say that I am rather impressed, and I do not impress easily, with this little blade. I am currently putting it thru its paces in using it here and there at work and elsewhere. Already out of the box the edge on the knife was not bad at all but with a little help on a smooth carborundum stone and a an old style steel it got even better.

All-in-all, having now had the occasion to wear and use it regularly I can say that it is a useful little blade and comes in handy for many tasks, especially seeing its one-hand opening facility.

© Veshengro, 2007

PRODUCT REVIEW - LED Lenser V2 Triplex

LED Lenser V2 Triplex - A Product Review

With new light chip technology

Cloverleaf reflector system
3 high quality LED’s, in fact a high intensity LED light chip
Solid metal casing
Durable nylon pouch and lanyard included

Burn Time: Up to 10 hours from 1 AA alkaline battery.

Dimensions: 141mm x 37mm
Weight: 160gms
Power Supply: 1 x AA alkaline battery (Two sets of batteries included: 2 x AA)

The patented pure metal housing is ergonomic and extraordinarily smooth to the touch. The patented photon tube reflectors cause the high power diodes to shine with undreamed of brightness. Due to its low power consumption, 1
x AA alkaline battery will provide up to 10 hours of light.

Price: approx. GBP 24.99
Agents in the UK: Ledco Ltd.

Manufacturers: Zweibrüder Optoelectronics GmbH

Well, so much for the information from the manufacturer and UK distributor. However, I must say that I am most impressed, as as I have mentioned before on occasions, I do not impress easily, with the design and especially the light output from this little light. It is about the size of the so-called “Mini Maglite”, the one that uses 2xAA batteries as power source, but that is about where the comparison ends. The power source in this one that I have tested and am using is one single AA alkaline cell and considering that, the light output is awesome and then some more.

The light source is a three LED light chip in a cloverleaf pattern (see picture) and the
diodes produce an extremely bright and intense white light.

As far as I understand this version of the flashlight is also available in Mossy OakTM camouflage.

The only drawback that could be mentioned is that the beam cannot be focused but, then again, there are others of the same manufacturer where this is indeed possible and I do hope to be able to review – should the manufacturer/agents be prepared to furnish me with the samples for review – some of their tactical flashlights, including the new one that is aimed at the law enforcement market. I have seen it and handled it already but have not been able to put it thru its paces properly, not having a review sample to hand.

All I can say is that this surely is a lot of light in a small package and don't let the price deter you. This is a solid little flashlight made of solid stuff and I am sure it will give
many, many years of reliable service.

Reviewed by Michael Veshengro Smith ©

BOOK REVIEW - Lighting Grandma’s Fire

“Lighting Grandma’s Fire”
Mountain Skills and Valley Pastimes

By Bill Cunningham

Western Reflections Inc.
P.O. Box 710
OURAY, CO 81427
Tel.: 970/325-4490
Fax: 970/325-0782

ISBN 1-890437-33-6
152 pages paperback, many illustrations.
Price $ 11.95 + s&h
Obtain directly from publishers or at local bookstore.

If you have ever wanted to learn how to make a pair (or more than just one) of Indian moccasins, learn how to cook in a Dutch oven or how to make a pair of snowshoes then this book by Bill Cunningham could be your guide and first stop. These and a number of other skills and crafts are explained and described in the book including of “How To Light Grandma’s Fire” – the old-fashioned way, without matches or lighters. The book indeed has some nice projects in it and gives also food for thought for further ones.

One thing, however, I do have to mention as the reviewer – if I wouldn’t I would do a great disservice to my readers – and that is the unfortunate fact that yet another non-expert gives “advice” on the sharpening of knives as on pages 53-59. This “advice” is bordering on the dangerous. Whetstones should never be used dry. The author, however, recommends, indeed urges, just that. He states that “oil and water both clog the pores of the stones”. I beg to differ and I have been sharpening knives professionally as well as making them since I was six years old.

Oil or water (and I recommend water over oil) on a sharpening stone prevents clogging of the stone’s pores with grit and metal debris and not the opposite. I personally recommend the use of water instead of oil – as some stones don’t like oil – and to regularly flush the stone with water (always have at hand plenty of water while sharpening knives).

Furthermore, the grind angle that the author recommends is far too steep; a flatter one of 10-15º is what is needed; 20º is already far too steep and reaching an angle that is used for sharpening hatchets. I do, in actual fact, sharpen my hawks and hatchets at an angle of 20º. Advice on the use of wet & dry silicon carbide sandpaper (a.k.a. emery cloth/paper) – ouch! Now that hurts. Emery paper of the various grits may glued to individual boards may indeed make great knife hones but do not use like a stone in that you move the blade across the stone as if trying to cut a slice from it. Instead use like leather razor strop with the same movements of the blade across same, e.g. pulling away from you.

I do honestly wish that writers with no or little experience would stop trying to give “advice” on subjects that they are not masters in and leave the giving of advice on knife sharpening to those of us whose trade are knives and the sharpening of same, e.g. to the cutlers amongst us.
This one short chapter of – dare I say it – garbage, spoils the enjoyment of the complete book. Please people write about the things that you really know about and not about things that you know little of. I am sorry that I did have to say this but I do believe that the readers of this newsletter deserve to know the truth.

“LIGHTING GRANDMA’S FIRE” is a nice book with nice projects and it is a shame that this one chapter, for me at least, spoiled it. I would have also appreciated a more extensive bibliography as regards to Mountain Men skills and such.

M V Smith, 2007


By Jim Allen

Trailhead Press
P.O. Box 4717
ELKHART, IN 46514-0717

128 pages softback, $12.95

The Best way to get to know the lay of the land is to climb a high hill and look around. This is known as perspective. Life’s perspectives only come to those with age and experience. In his book “Sleep Close By The Fire”, Jim Allen shares 20 years of experience as a hunter, trapper, fisherman, naturalist & wilderness skill instructor. Thru stories, poems, “How-To” articles, and humor, the author touches something deep within the heart of every outdoorsman: that desire to connect with Nature.

“Sleep Close By The Fire” is indeed a book with lots of common sense advise for backwoodsmen young and old alike; often quite hilariously written – I sure did have a good laugh at a number of places in the book.

The book, as far as I understand it, is an anthology, a collection of stories and articles that have previously appeared in the Backwoodsman Magazine, and other publications.

I especially liked the place where the author talked about how important it is for kids to be “gainfully employed in feeding the family” and how much this will increase their self-esteem. Jim is so very right there. I can vouch for that as I, as a six-year-old boy began earning money sharpening cutting tools such as knives and thereby helping to feed the family by earning money as well as by hunting and foraging to put food on the table. Being able to do that and being expected to do that made us little ones feel so important indeed.

I can recommend this book to anyone looking for a common sense book to read from which also to get some guidance and hints here and there.

© M V Smith, 2007