Saturday, April 21, 2018

Daily Bible Reading

This is not the normal topic of conversation for this blog, but then again, what is when you only post a few times a year.  Something I've been trying to do regularly for a few years now is daily Bible reading.  This is hard.  Life gets in the way, things happen.  The Devil is always out to stop you. 

There are many plans out there for reading the bible in a year, reading the bible in a few years.  Here are a few links.

I'm not affiliated with any of these sites, I just wanted to put a few links for someone to get started in.  I have no knowledge of how well these plans actually work.  Various plans include, but are not limited to:
  • Chronological
  • Historical
  • Old and New Testament Together
  • Beginning to End
  • Blended
I'm interested in trying the Chronological, and the Historical plans.  I may have to try those in a few years, when I'm done with my current plan.  Which is what I actually wanted to write about today.

I've never actually read the whole Bible in one year.  What I like to do, instead, is start at the beginning, and read 2 chapters a day starting in Genesis and ending in Revelations.  This takes several years.  There are 1,189 chapters in total.  Extrapolating the numbers, it would take 594 days, or almost two years to read the whole thing.  I will exclude Proverbs (31 chapters, convenient hey?) and Psalms (150, also a very convenient number).

My current schedule is to read, 2 chapters a day in one book, excluding Proverbs and Psalms.  I start with a chapter of Psalms.  I believe that any good quiet time with God starts with praise of His Almighty power, and what better way to praise God than to read the Psalms.

Next I like to read a chapter of Proverbs everyday (2 on the last day of every other month).  I find that by continuously rereading Proverbs, I find new insights every month, and it is amazing how relevant the advice is to your daily life.  Today, I read chapter 21 of Proverbs.  There were several verses that struck me, actually, Proverbs 21 has so much actionable advice, it's crazy.   The big one was verse 20.  "The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get."  We have been trying to pay off all of our debt over the last few years, and some days it's very, very hard to care about the why.  But then I think what will life be like without student loans and house payments.  And I realize that verses like this are very powerful motivators for everyday life.

Lastly, I read 2 chapters of whatever book is next.  Currently, I am working my through Ezekiel, and it's hard.  Ezekiel had a hard job.  Which of course leads me to realized that while I don't always like my job, God has called me to it, and I don't have to eat my food cooked over human dung.  Or lie flat for almost two years.  Yeah, I have a pretty good job.  Thanks, God, for that. 

The last bit of advice I have is to take notes.  Certain passages will ring true at different times of your life.  I use Evernote, and I have a notebook for every book, and every chapter has it's own page (or multiple pages, depending on how many times I've read it).  It's a nice way to look back and see what struck you as important on different days in the past.  To see how far you've come, or how far you still have to go.  Proverbs is rapidly getting larger and larger, as the months progress, and different verses stick out to me.  I've considered getting a paper notebook, but for me, the benefits of electronic storage outweigh the benefits of physical paper. 

Also as you read the Bible, you will start to see where certain verses come together, and where different authors had the same ideas.  Proverbs 21:3 matches perfectly with the ideas presented in Psalm 50.  God doesn't want or need our sacrifices.  He does want our obedience, and love. 

These are things I never would have put together without God perfectly matching up my daily readings today. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Scouting: Deer Droppings

I have a love/hate relationship with deer hunting.  I enjoy it while the weather is nice, but as the season drags on, I begin to hate it.  The only thing that really keeps me deer hunting is the allure of lots of "free" meat.  You can only hunt deer that exist, and one way to see where deer are is by reading sign. Today's sign is all about deer poop.

This is a picture of deer scat.  Rabbit scat is very similar, but is much smaller, and usually closer together.  We could tell these were very fresh from how much moisture there was in them.  Older scat will be drier, and more crumbly.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Early Squirrel Season

Squirrel Cuttings

Early fall squirrels is my favorite time of the year.  If you get a good rain, it will usually cool off enough to make being the woods quite fun.  It's still early enough, that you will almost certainly have the woods to yourself, and best of all, the squirrels are still uneducated to the dangers of humans hunting them.

Hunting squirrels is always about finding what they are feeding on.  In the last summer/early fall, they are almost always feeding on hickory nuts.  My brother and I went a few weeks ago, and we found one, and managed to shoot it, the next thing you know there wear at least 8 to 10 squirrels leaping everywhere around this tree, fleeing.  It was the most fun we had had hunting in a long time.

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During this time of the year, I prefer #5 or #6 shot in a 12 gauge.  You really need the extra penetration this will give you to punch through the leaves.  Which brings me to another reason I love this time of year.  All the leaves on the trees make it a lot harder for the squirrels to see you, which lets you get away with a lot more mistakes while hunting them.  This is a great time to bring a youngster with you to teach them woodsmanship, and squirrel hunting.  Just look for where the leaves are shaking, and you've probably found a squirrel.

While I prefer walking and making the squirrels move, another good strategy can be to find a good hickory tree, and sit off to the side with a .22 and pick them off one by one.  With a good quiet .22, you can relax, and pick off quite a few squirrels in the same tree.  This can also be great practice for larger game later in the season, and again, can be a great way to teach a child to hunt proficiently.

Foraging: Goldenrod

What to say about goldenrod?  Yes the same but different goldenrod
 that is found in teas.  Goldenrod is plant that is found abuntantly through much of the nation.  It grows wild just about everywhere.  There are over 120 species,  all of them can be used for teas, but some varieties are better than others.  Luckily, goldenrod is very easy identify once it starts flowering.

Alternating Leaves
Goldenrod is plant that can grow up to 6 feet tall.  The flowers are a very bright yellow.  The leaves are alternating, with no stem.

You can use the leaves and the flowers for a tea.  You should harvest the leaves before the plant starts to flower, as the leaves will start to fall apart soon.  Collect the flowers before they open, hang upside to dry, and use to make tea.

One important thing about foraging for Goldenrod,  they flower in the fall, and are a very important source of food for honeybees in the fall.  Be very careful how much you harvest, and make sure you leave more for the bees than you take. 
Goldenrod Plants

Goldenrod is a aquaretic (it promotes the loss of water from the body).  It has been used to help with kidney stones, and some diseases of the urinary tract.  The young leaves can be used in salads.   It can also be used to make tinctures.  It has also been used as a mouth rinse.  It has also been applied to the skin to improve would healing.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Foraging: Chantrelles (Cantharellus ...)

Disclaimer:  Never ever eat any wild mushrooms without first having a qualified mycologist positively identify them.  Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms will kill you if you eat them instead of chantrelles.  The writer of this blog is not responsible for any harm that may befall you if you eat them.  

While it's still very hot in many place around the country, it is time to start thinking of fall pursuits.  Hiking, hunting, and foraging.  We had quite a bit of rain a few weeks ago, and the temps dropped just enough to make a day hiking in the woods enjoyable.  My brother and I loaded up and headed off to the squirrel woods.  While hiking around, lo and behold to my eyes we found tons of Chantrelles (Cantharellus).

Underside of Chantrelles
Chantrelles are of the considered one of the foolproof 4 or 5 (depending on who is doing the talking).  Chantrelles are usually a yellow or orange color.  There is only one poisonous species that is similar (Jack-O-Lantern Omphalotus olearius).  The inside flesh when cut open should be white, if it's not it's not a chantrelle.  It has false gills, that are a part of the actual cap, and the false gills will usually run down onto the stem.  Jack's will grow in clusters, while chants will usually be found individually.  Jacks have true gills while chants have false gills.  And Jacks will be orange or orangeish on the inside when cut.

 Chantrelles are delicious mushrooms.  As with all mushrooms, they must be cooked before eating.  You can saute them in some butter with a little garlic or salt and pepper.  They are delicious when cooked with eggs.  Saute them, and then freeze them for use later.  You can even dehydrate them, boil them, and reconstitute them for later use.  When preserving them like this, use them in the water to make a wonderful wild mushroom risotto. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Foraging: Blackberries

Hopefully everyone can remember a time of picking and eating blackberries with their grandparents.  For years my Grandma had a secret patch, that was guarded by a big red bull.  We were always warned to stay away from the bull.  I'm pretty sure she just wanted us to stay away from the blackberries.   If you don't have a great blackberry story with an older relative, now is the time to get out with someone, (a wife, kids, Grandma/Grandpa) and make some.  I remember plenty of times being at one of my Grandparent's houses, and wandering through the woods, and munching on blackberries. 

Blackberry Plant
Blackberries are one of the foolproof berries to harvest.  As far as I can tell there are no poisonous look-a-likes, although there are a few other berries that look very similar, but they are edible and delicious.  Blackberries can be identified by the dark colored berries that are clustered together at the end of the cane.  They have between 3 and 5 leaflets per leaf.  Blackberry stems (called canes) are a light green, with alternate leaves, filled with thorns (never ever forget they have thorns, they can be quite painful), and the canes are filled with ridges and angles.

Blackberries grow from second year canes, meaning a blackberry cane will grow one year, then the next year it will produce fruit.  Depending on where you are foraging (ie, private vs public land), if you have picked all the berries from a cane, you should cut that cane off at the ground level to prune it back.  Blackberries are prolific growers, spreading from roots underground.  I've collected a few specimens of blackberries, that I am going to try and propagate in my own back yard.

3 Leaf Blackberry
Almost all blackberries I have found have been growing in the shade of larger trees.  They are not always growing in the deep forest, but the particular patch I've found are.  There are also issues of legality, if you are on private land, you must obtain the owners permission to harvest any of the berries.  On National Forest land, it is illegal to harvest berries.  On State owned lands, you will need to see what the laws are in your particular area.  In my area, harvesting berries on state land is illegal.  I wish it wasn't, I find it to be an unjust law, and while I am hunting I find it perfectly ethical to harvest a few and pop in my mouth.  I would never harvest bucketfuls though.

I've found the best time of the year to harvest blackberries is the second or third week of July.  You will find some that are ripe in June, and you will find some that are ripe all the way into September, but I find the most are ripe in the middle of July.

A few things to be wary of are snakes and bears.  Bears can be an issue depending on where you live.  They love berries, and you can easily run into them in a thick berry patch.  Snakes love to hunt and hide under the thick patches.  Make sure you are careful where you put your feet, and always look before grabbing any berries to make sure a snake is not hiding.  And always make sure you are protected from bugs.  Blackberries are infamous for chiggers and ticks.  And always look out for the thorns.  They can be quite painful.

Now to the fun part.  Blackberries can be eaten raw, made into a cobbler, and made into jellies and jams.  Here are links to a few recipes.  Try one, try all, and share your own in the comments section. 
I hope you can find a place near you to go and harvest some blackberries this weekend.  Take your kids, take your wife, take someone elses kids.  It's an easy fruit to find, and harvest, and the berries are delicious. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Permaculture Thoughts: Borage Plants

I've managed to plant a few trees around my urban homestead, and one of the big movements is permaculture.  I like the idea of permaculture, and I think it help my trees look better.  One idea I keep seeing is planting plants around your trees for compost.  The big plant that is mentioned is comfrey (Symphytum officinale) or Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum, or Symphytum asperum x officinale).  Comfrey has lots of uses, it can attract beneficial insects, it can ward off bad insects, and the most important part in my opinion is it's fast growing and can be composted right where it grows.

When discussing plants, one problem that always crops up is identification.  Many plants can go by many common names, but plants will typically only go by one scientific name.  This is not always true, as our genetic science gets better, our understanding of plants and animals gets deeper.  Things can and will be reclassified in the future.  It will be much easier to identify and use Symphytum officinale  even if it gets reclassified into  Borage officinale (this is facetious, I know of no plans to do this), than it is to look back in a hundred years and try to decipher whether they meant Symphytum officinale  when they listed medicinal usages of Comfrey, or whether they meant Cynoglossum officinale.  I am going to do my best in the future to give scientific names to all the plants that I discuss in the future.

Russian comfrey is a natural cross between two different types of comfrey (rough comfrey and common comfrey, Symphytum x uplandicum, or Symphytum asperum x officinale).  Russian comfrey is high in protein, (20-30% dried).  This is a great food for chickens and rabbits.  It is also very high in biomass.  While alfalfa can yield 18 tons per acre,  Russian comfrey can yield up to 100-120 tons per acre.  The plant is also high in potassium, somewhere between 5 and 7%.  The NPK ratio is also very similar to manure.  All of this sounds great, but I do have one problem, it is a hybrid plant, so the seeds won't produce true.   It is cultivated by the root stems.  I still prefer open pollinated, seed bearing native plants.  Russian comfrey is a cross, not a GMO, so you could plant the different kinds of comfrey, and make your own hybrids. 

If I could find some locally to purchase and grow, I probably would just for testing purposes.  I like the idea of it, but I'd have to order it.  I've never ordered live plants or seeds before, but I prefer to deal with locally owned and operated business's.  This leads me to search for alternatives.  One thing I have learned is that Comfrey is in the Borage family of plants.  And Borage plants are native to my area.  The one I am most interested in is Cynoglossum virginianum (Hound's Tongue, or Wild Comfrey).

This plant sounds promising to me, it has a very similar common name, it is in the same family, and while I may not be able to buy it locally, it is a native plant that I can probably find growing wild nearby.  But how does it compare to Russian comfrey?

This is a good question. While many people have done studies on the "true" comfrey's, I can't find any research on the Cynoglossum's.  I did find one article that discussed the nutrients of the plant when eaten.  (  When using these numbers to calculate the percentage of protein was about 3%, while the potassium was about .3% and the phosphorus was .01 to .02%.  I'm not positive that this is a one-to-one ratio as I originally intended.

There are other benefits to using the native comfrey.  It is attractive to bees, both honey and native bees.  This is a huge benefit to growing it around your fruit trees.  It also puts down long taproots, so it will help to add trace minerals closer to the surface.  Cynoglossum virginianum also is purported to have medicinal benefits.

There needs to be more research done to determine if native comfrey can replace the other comfreys in my garden, but any renaissance person worth their salt can do research.  Hopefully, I'll get a chance to get in the woods next weekend, and do some foraging for wild comfreys.