Flagging Red Flags

For a moment, pretend you’re back in high school: a few years of your life riddled with teenage angst, whirling hormones and more concern about who is or isn’t talking to you than anything else. Undoubtedly, no matter what crowd you ran in, there was some amount of jostling for rank, and ostricization from other groups. It is the nature of the age. There was also a fair bit of bullying, maybe some name calling, and probably some empty threats along the lines of “I’m going to kill you.” Even after Columbine, these threats weren’t taken as actual threats of death, just maybe some violence or, as more likely than not, as an expression of extreme anger. Cue today’s high school climate and a phrase like “I’m going to kill you,” will see you suspended and receiving psychiatric care. And in California, you might even lose any firearm permits you have and be forced to turn in any firearms you own.

A while back, I mentioned how unsafe the NY SAFE Act was; how it discourages people from seeking mental counseling as it allows doctors (or any number of professional health professionals) the ability to inform the police department that the patient is a potential danger to themselves or others around them. In turn, the police then add the patient to a state database and revoke any firearm permits or licenses they may have – as well as any weapons they may have. Well, a few days ago, the California State Assembly advanced a bill that would expand the list of individuals able to “red flag” a “dangerous” gun owner to include employers, co-workers, and college and high school staff at a school the individual in question attended in the last six months. Previously in California, an individual could be red flagged by roommates, family members and law enforcement officers.

redflagThis might not seem like a big deal, but think about how big and how quickly the list of red flaggers grew. It went from roommates, family, and law enforcement officers (LEOs) to include an entire high school staff. And let’s face it, when you start to include school faculty like guidance counselors and teachers, you are essentially including the students. In today’s public school climate of “microaggressions” and constant appeals to authority to rectify any slightly questionable situations, this is a very dangerous movement. Consider that I feel threatened by you for looking at me angrily in PE class, and maybe I think you pitched the kickball too hard, well now I can go to any employee of the school and report you. That may not seem like much – there is a big gap between reporting a student and confiscating firearms, but let’s look at history and see how quickly these gaps are bridged when the public psyche becomes wrapped into irrational fervor.

salem
Let those witches hang!

Let’s look to the Salem Witch Trials, or The Red Scare. Both of those instances where ignited by false accusations which then led to fear in the public psyche which then led to unfair trials and death or imprisonment for those accused. I’m not sure anyone would look back at the Salem Witch Trials and proclaim they were justified. And while the Red Scare might have a few who still think McCarthy was a swell guy, the vast majority of us can look at it and recognize that many people’s careers were ruined. We recognize now that these accusations were based on fear and society allowed their fear to dictate their legislation. If those examples are too long ago, look back to the 1980s, and early 1990s.

During the 80s there was something of a scare when a day care was accused of abusing children and participating in Satanic Rituals. Just like our other examples, this fear got caught up in the public mind and soon day cares across the US where being accused of abusing children, some adults went to jail (later some convictions were overturned), but a good number had their lives ruined, all because a mother with schizophrenia made a false allegation, investigators latched on, the children were manipulated, and the public cried out. We can look at this and believe that maybe one day care in America could allow something like this to happen, but it became wide spread, and we failed to use our logical minds to stop the non-sense. Instead we allowed fear to rule.

This is exactly what is going to happen in California. As soon as students recognize that Redneck Bobby, who smells like cow manure and is repeating tenth grade for the second time and lives a lifestyle that is scary or unagreeable to them will have to change his lifestyle if he loses his firearms because the counselors or teachers see Redneck Bobby as “dangerous,” students will jump, consciously or not. This is extremely problematic and it is exactly the way you can legislate a lifestyle out of existence. Of course, California says they will only keep firearms for six to twelve months, but consider that the individual in question will have to pass some mental battery that probably isn’t necessary. Also consider how easy it is to get your assets back after faulty civil asset forfeiture. (It’s not going to happen!)

Don’t forget that it doesn’t just have to be students that can report another student to a teacher, it can be a teacher initiating the report. I wish we could say that no teacher would stoop to using something like these red flag laws to target a student for any given reason, but we all know we cannot, again, consciously or not. Rumors are just as easily spread through the faculty room as the cafeteria, and once rumors start flying, the truth can become very difficult to ascertain, especially when it’s an adults belief against that of a students.

In very few situations will these red flag laws help anyone. If there is any student that is set on committing an act of violence, they will not be hindered by something like this. Rather, this will probably make them even angrier and more apt to commit violence. And the final blow? Imagine how the atmosphere of a school will change once one student get’s flagged. An already angst ridden building will be filled with students with even more disdain for teachers and fellow classmates, there will be a complete lack of trust for anyone, a constant looking over the shoulder, a forced secrecy lest something you say be taken the wrong way. These red flag laws are absolutely abhorrent, and it is only a matter of time before the state starts using these red flag laws to inhibit a citizen’s other natural rights.

Fermented Friday #3: Oatmeal

I can’t tell you when I started dabbling in ferments. My earliest recollection is trying to make some country wine in my basement when I was probably thirteen or fourteen. It was a total crap shoot. I put some sugar in a mason jar, threw in some fruit and a bit of yeast, then flipped the jar over into a wider basin of water to create a seal of sorts. Needless to say it turned out poorly and was unsuccessful. (I’ve since made some palatable stuff…) Into college I dabbled with brewing beer and trying to make some ‘shine, but it wasn’t until I lived in South Korea for a year that I really started a love affair with fermented foods, all thanks to kim chi. It is a goal of mine to one day make some kim chi that actually tastes like an ajumma made it, and not some stateside grocer, but that’s a story for another day.

There are a million different fermented dishes you can make, some are time consuming, require special tools, and mountains of time, others, like oatmeal, are extremely simple. I first came across this idea reading one of Sandor Katz’s books. (I couldn’t tell you which one; they’re all excellent.) Almost everyone these days have heard of overnight oats. Some folks will soak them overnight, some cook them overnight in a slow cooker, some soak them and eat them raw the next morning. It may sound loopy, but here’s the basic reason why:

Oats and other grains contain phytic acid. Phytic acid is known to bind to certain nutrients therefore hindering the bodies ability to absorb these nutrients. Soaking (particularly in an acidic environment) helps to break this phytic acid down. You can achieve an acidic environment by using whey – kefir, yogurt, etc. – apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or anything else you can think of that might lower the pH. You can also skip the additives and really let those oats ferment naturally lowering the pH of the solution. Typical instructions will call for the oats to be soaked in cold water, or even left in the refrigerator, over night; the problem is, this cooler environment doesn’t allow for much fermentation. Ideally, you want to soak your oats on the counter from 12-24 hours to really break down the phytic acid, but there’s more.

Fermented foods have particularly rich flavors, sweet and sour, tart, tangy, and dense. If all you want to do is break down some phytic acid, soak your oats for 12-24 hours in a warm environment. If you want all the funky flavors of a delicious fermented dish here’s our technique.

raisins
Raisins and Spices!

Before I even throw the oats in the mason jar, I toss in a handful or raisins. The raisins add some sweetness and some naturally occurring yeast (which is a good thing.) If you don’t have raisins, other fruits with naturally occurring yeast can work – berries, apples. Once the raisins are in, I add my spices: usually some fresh minced ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric. When I can find it, I’ll use garam masala, or if I’m having a later afternoon snack, I’ll throw in a bit of curry powder. If I

oatmeal
Fermenting, by the end, that banana will no longer be recognizable.

want it a little sweeter, I’ll add in some ripe banana. Really the possibilities are endless, and it is up to you and your taste buds

floating
Ready to go. The oats are fl-oating and the bubbles are bubbling!

The amount of oats, and size of container I use depends on who’s going to be eating them with me. My son is not a big fan, but my daughter will eat a whole cup if I allow her. Once the oats are in, I cover them with water, screw on a lid, and let them go. On average, I’ll wait a good two days, though less when it’s summer, and a little longer in the winter. The trick is to really let the fermentation kick in. Typically, mid-way through day two, I’ll start to see tiny bubbles welling up from below and it begins to look like one big gloppy mess. When I see these things, I’m know I’m good to go.

These really are one of the simplest fermented dishes you can make. Once you’re happy with how the little guys are doing with your oats, it’s time to cook them. Dump them in a pain, and cook. I use a low heat, and stir. Because they’re so dense and gloppy, they tend to burn a little bit if you let them go without stirring for too long. If they’re too thick coming out of the jar, you can always add a little water.

When the oats are warmed thoroughly, we serve them! (Imagine that…). Typically we don’t add sugar, but on occasion my daughter can convince me that they need a little Maple Syrup. Either way, they’re delicious.

bowl
A little butter and milk never hurt anyone… (And the yellow is from turmeric.)

Addendum: We have experimented with adding chia to the ferment, this requires more water. We have also tried this with grits, and steel cut oats. The soak times for steel cut oats is a little longer, but both turned out equally as well. Other ways to reduce phytic acid is to sprout the item in question (think beans.)

I’m always searching for fun easy ferments (or even more difficult ones) so if you have any favorites, let me know in the comments.

Fermented Friday #2: SCOBY Doby Doo

Homestead Hack #2: Steam Your Eggs!

Steamy Eggs
Steamy Eggs!

A couple of weeks back, I mentioned labeling your eggs as they go into the carton. This hack is another egg-tip for you chicken minded – or other avian friendly – folk. In a blind taste test, I have zero idea as to the differences between a farm fresh egg and a store bought one. To me, they all taste the same. When I can tell the difference is when they’re hard boiled. I can’t actually taste the difference, but when it comes time to peel them, the distinction is clear: an older egg sloughs it’s shell easily and cleanly, a farm fresh egg is impossible to peel uniformly and half the egg white ends up still stuck to the shell. (If you’re curious as to why this happens, you can read about it on Popsugar.)

So what do you do when you want a hardboiled egg for a snack when you’re bucking logs? You could keep a carton of eggs you let “age” in the back of the fridge but that requires planning. The better answer: steam them. I’m not entirely sure where my wife read about it, but ifyou steam fresh eggs for 20-25 minutes, you’ll be able to peel them just like the well seasoned eggs you buy at the grocery store, but without all the planning! (And don’t forget to write a big old “HB” on them. No one wants to peel a non-hardboiled egg.)

Homestead Hack #1: Label Your Eggs!

Caribou Slaughter in Alaska!

No doubt by the title of this blog, you will recognize that I try to think in terms of liberty, so this next statement probably goes without saying. (The fact that I need to say it speaks volumes.) I have very little love for Trump, he has accomplished some things that have been beneficial for liberty, but he has also done his share of things that have not been so good for liberty. You also might note from the title of this blog that I am attempting to live a rural lifestyle and have a profound love and respect for the natural world. Also, my environmental studies degree indoctrinated me into believing that we need the State to protect the natural world. When this article surfaced, a part of me booed Trump and shouted, “we need the State to protect the cuddly-wuddlies!” (I mean look at those little bear cubs!) Of course, I pushed down the knee jerk reaction and started to think with my liberty-oriented brain and I asked myself the question: “How are these deregulations better for the environment than an over oppressive nanny-state dictating legislation from the other side of the country?” Well, here is my take:

The article outlines some seemingly egregious hunting laws that the new regulations would roll back, for example: you could shoot a swimming caribou from your boat, you could bait a bear with bacon or donuts, you could kill coyotes or wolves in their dens. Yes, this seems outrageous and the initial emotional reaction is “you barbarians,” but consider that much of the National Preserve land used to belong to the native inhabitants and many native tribes still use the natural resources found in the wild to provide essentials throughout the year. Well, when you start depending on the environment to provide for you, the whole “by any means necessary” idea takes on a whole new level of seriousness; food in the freezer is food in the freezer, no matter how

Alaska-national-parks-map
National Parks in Alaska

it is gotten. It may seem that these laws have been put in place to protect predators and to prevent local residents from eradicating populations of unwanted carnivores, in turn, increasing populations of omnivores and herbivores (more traditional game animals), but know that it wasn’t until 1980 that Jimmy Carter actually designated these lands as National Preserve lands, and it wasn’t until 2015 that Obama passed the laws that the Trump administration is trying to repeal. If hunting practices were so awful, populations would have died off long ago, and as far as I know, wild populations (aside from polar bears) seem to be doing well enough.

To go further, consider that you are a native Alaskan, and your family for as far back as your stories go, has harvested caribou, bears, or wolves for sustenance, clothing or preventative defense. These stories have most likely set a stage of respect and thankfulness. When you rely directly on the natural world to provide virtually every essential belonging for life, you recognize that over harvesting the caribou population is a very bad idea. You would also learn that predators cull the weak and sick members of a herd, and without those predators, the herds population will boom and along with it, sickness and disease, eventually leading to a collapse of the herd size and, in turn, a lean harvest. You would learn better than any textbook could teach how the ecosystem is related.

Essentially, this is just saying that federal laws, created some 4000 miles from a place they are specifically written for, probably aren’t necessary. In fact, Alaska has localized hunting laws based on the geographic region within the state. These localized restrictions are put into place by local biologists and local communities who have a much better understanding of the ecosystems and environmental impacts of particular animal populations than some vegan bureaucrat in Washington trying to save the environment and gain a few votes. Also, know that when you have two abutting geographic areas with distinctly different laws, but no clear demarcation, it is easy to end up on the wrong side of a border, quickly becoming an outlaw.

So Trump rolled these federal laws back. He gave the power back to the state, back to the local populations, and is allowing them to make informed decisions over something that will effect them directly, it does not seem so bad now.

Addendum: This does not attempt to discuss the issue of public land versus private land, rather I just wanted to look briefly at the direct impact of rolling back some federal regulations enforced on the local level.

Diesel Time: Bleeding the Lines

If you’re going to try to start a homestead (outside of an urban environment), there are two power tools that will no doubt make the process substantially easier (especially if you’re planning on having a woodstove): a chainsaw and a tractor. I bought my tractor not long after we moved into our house. I was hesitant to make such a big purchase, but the idea of paying someone with a riding mower to mow our massive lawn was a huge incentive. ( Don’t worry, we’re slowly letting some of it grow back).

Before actually purchasing the tractor, we considered many things which I’ll cover in the future. For now, all you need to now is that we ended up with a Yanmar 2000D – a 2-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 1970s, diesel import from Japan. And in that whole litany of descriptors, the key adjective is diesel. By no means am I a gear head, but coming up through high school (and even now to some degree) I always worked on my cars, but they were gasoline, not diesel. So while I have a vague idea of the systems, it’s a bit of a new field for me.

There are a few “tricks” to diesel machines that almost anybody with one will tell you. Firstly, diesels don’t use a traditional spark plug to create combustion, but instead rely on compression to create a spark. When you compress air fast enough it creates heat and can even create a spark. (Next time you use a hand pump to inflate a bicycle tire, feel the cylinder and notice the warmth.) If you live in a cold-weather climate, this means that you’ll be attempting to create combustion using cold air: the air has to heat a significant amount to create a spark and sometimes, this just doesn’t happen. (There is something called a glow plug that aids in the warming of the air, but when it’s the dead of a New England winter, this isn’t always enough.) Most new diesel cars have a plug on the engine that allows you to plug into an outlet and warm your engine, forty year old tractors do not, so you may need to warm the engine with a flood lamp, blow dryer or some other heat source.

The second rule of thumb is to never let a diesel run out of fuel. When you run a diesel out of fuel you start sucking air – instead of diesel – into the fuel line. When the air reaches the end of the fuel injector lines and enters the cylinders they essentially stop working. They’ll work again, but they need fuel which means you’ll have to remove the air out of the fuel system. Depending on the complexity of the system, this can be difficult. Luckily on my little 2-cylinder, it’s fairly easy.

Unfortunately, I’ve run dry a few times. The first time I actually ran my tank empty.

Fuel filter on a yanmar 2000D.
The knob-end points to the “C” when it is in the off position.

(Don’t ask me how. I was gone on vacation for a couple of weeks and when I came home, my tank was empty, and there was no evidence of a leak.) The other two times I got air in my system was because I can’t remember if the fuel shut-off lever should be up or down. You’d think it would be an easy thing to remember, but I always forget whether it’s the lever end or the knob end that indicates open or shut.

If you’ve managed to drain your tank, go buy some fuel and fill her up. Now you have a tank full of fuel, a line coming off of it and traveling around and ending in your cylinders which is all well and good, except that that line is full of air and that air is now trapped in the line.

Diagram of a basic diesel fuel supply system.
A basic Diesel Fuel Supply system.

Next step: bleed that air. Start at the tank and find the hose coming out of the bottom of the tank, this is the supply line. Follow it along until you find your first impediment in the flow. On my tractor this is the fuel filter valve (the one I can’t figure out): make sure it’s open.

fuel supply line mark up for a yanmar 2000d
The actual fuel supply line on my Yanmar.

You’ll also notice on top of the filter are two bleeder screws. A bleeder screw is a hollow screw with a hole going perpendicular to the threads; when these screws are loosened

bleed screw in a diesel fuel supply system
A bleed screw, note the holes.

they allow air to escape the system to be replaced with whatever fluid should follow. You’ll know when

FIlter and Injector Marked Up
Locations of the bleed screws.

the air has fully escaped because fuel will begin to weep by the threads of the screw. It’s important not to remove the screw completely or loosen it too much. If you take the screw out, the air will rush out and the diesel will follow and then getting the screw back in will be a messy task. Also, if you loosen the screw to the point where you can fully see the perpendicular hole, the fuel will come rushing out; you only need to crack the screw slightly.

 

Bleed Screws Wet Dry
The bleed screw on the left is open too far, if the shut-off valve were open, we’d have a mess. The screw on the right is open the appropriate amount and you can see the fuel weeping by.

Once fuel is weeping by the first screw, shut it and move onto the next. On my system this will take a little longer as the fuel fills the fuel globe. Loosen the second screw until the fuel begins to weep by the threads, and again, screw it shut. At this point, the fuel filter is now full of fuel, and the fuel line leaves the filter and goes to the fuel injector pump. This is the next impediment in my fuel line. There is only one bleeder screw on the top of my pump and as the line is very short, fuel appears quickly. My Yanmar is only a 2-cylinder which means that coming out of the injector pump are two injector lines that wrap around the front of the tractor and enter into the engine block on the opposite side of the filter and pump. Each injector line goes into a cylinder, and this is where the job can get a little tricky.

Diesel Return Mark UpIf you look at the end of each line where it enters the tractor, there is a nut that the injector line runs through. This is essentially a collar that holds the end of the injection line in place. Mine is a 17mm, if you don’t have a set of open end wrenches, you’ll need them for this. If you unscrew the collar completely, you can remove the end of the line; if you’ve run your system dry, the cavity will be dry also. If you’re totally dry, you may need to loosen both injector collars, though probably not.

Injector End loose
Just about the correct looseness for bleeding the lines.

In a properly working system the injector pump is connected to the cam shaft or the timing belt and when they turn, the pump sends fuel to the cylinders. When the lines are filled with air, the pump is attempting to send fuel, but it can’t get around the air in the system, and consequently the cylinders aren’t able to do their job. In order to get fuel to the cylinders, you’ll need to crack the collar on the injector end where it enters the cylinder. You don’t want to open it all the way. And whether or not it’s true, my experience has been that when it is too loose, it doesn’t work as I presume there is too much air and not enough fuel getting to the cylinders. I seem to have the best luck when I crack the collar a little less than halfway. Once you’ve loosened the collar appropriately, it’s time to hop on up into the drivers seat and fire her up.

Before actually turning it over, make sure you’re wrench that you used to loosen the collar is handy, as you’ll need it once the tractor gets going. Pull the throttle almost all the way open and turn the engine over. It may take a couple of tries, but eventually the fuel will get there and the engine will catch. (If you’ve tried it twice and it’s not working, try loosening or tightening the collar.)

Injector End Diesel
Fuel injector sucking fuel.

Once the engine catches, you’ll hear that it doesn’t sound quite right, this is because the fuel-air mixture is not correct and the engine is running super lean. Hop down, get on that injector collar, and tighten it down. As you tighten the collar, excess air will no longer be entering the system, and the tractor will start to idle appropriately. Congratulations, you bled you line. Now, don’t do it again.