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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for October, 2012

Claire Wolfe

Cop tases 10-year-old boy

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

because the kid didn’t want to help wash the thug’s car during a school career day.

And the cop was immediately arrested for assault, right? Right?

Claire Wolfe


Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

This has nothing directly to do with any of the usual topics. It started out to be a short vignette in a group of short vignettes. Then it grew. It won’t be to everybody’s taste, but it’s something I needed to write. To my mind, it has as much to do with freedom as anything else I write, but not necessarily in an obvious way.


The summer I was five, my family drove to the train station — a very exotic thing in itself! — to pick up an old lady none of us had ever met.

I remember her: a squat matron in sturdy shoes and support hose. I remember her name: Lucinda. But above all I remember the magical book she carried. It was a black binder full of typewritten pages, tracing my mother’s family back to 1720 (and the first ancestor who came to the U.S. from Germany). The book contained other anecdotal bits and pieces tracing us 200 years further back (to, I’m eternally proud to note, a jailbird).

Lucinda was traversing the country, collecting names and dates and family histories. That was a strange and amazing thing to me.

Later that same day, we put her back on the train and never saw her again. Somehow, we ended up with a copy of that book (how, I’m not sure, because making copies wasn’t a trivial thing in those dark ages; I do remember that ours had the fuzziness of a third generation carbon). As a young adult, I ended up with it. But by then I was too blase to care. I lost the book and with it all but my memory of a few names, dates, and anecdotes.

I’ve always identified more with the pure Irish side of the family, my father’s ancestors, who disappear at the potato famine. But through Lucinda, I knew I had real history. Connections with people who had done things, sometimes bold, principled things.

I’m not a genealogy buff. Just occasionally curious — and offput by genealogy sites that say, “Click to see record,” but when you click show you nothing but a pitch for paid membership. (It’s not the fee I mind; it’s the sneakiness.)

Yet somehow, not being close to my immediate family (most of whom are dead, anyhow) makes me long to feel a strong connection to … something. Other people and their histories. Revolutionaries and rebels (the German jailbird was actually a religious dissenter, as were the ones who immigrated to America). Artists and writers. Stubborn cusses. Ordinary people who just lived and died.

The longer I live the more I realize that no matter how much I think of myself as an individual, and a modern one at that, there are threads of these people in me — threads of DNA and even of character and interests — traits, strengths and no doubt weaknesses — that I share with mysterious strangers from 500 years ago.

Which just seems weird, but endlessly fascinating.

While idling around over the weekend, I found a (legal) backdoor into the real data on one site where I had an otherwise useless free membership and feasted on history. Still nothing on my dad’s family. Or on my maternal grandmother’s (a line I’d really love to see because that — among the Scots-Irish-Welsh-English mongrels in Grandma’s family — is where the artists and writers are). But there was my maternal grandfather’s line, the one Lucinda traced so diligently all those years ago.

There was Lucinda herself; she died only a couple of years after visiting us. And there were all those Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutch) ancestors, going back beyond the Revolution, in which several of them fought.

I followed links and counted generations. I even found some early photos, grave inscriptions, and brief histories of militia memberships and farm ownership. The most fascinating — and appalling — thing was looking at Grandma and Grandpa’s progeny. I always knew I had a hellacious number of aunts and uncles. But that site really brought home the life they lived just a couple of generations ago.

Starting 11 months after they married, my Grandma gave birth to a child on average every 15 months for the next 20 years. Sixteen children. I had always been told 15, but nobody told me about one who died two days after birth. Grandma was pregnant for 144 months of her life, 12 full years of pregnancies.

Not only that, but her oldest daughter died in childbirth when Grandma’s youngest kids were still in grammar school — and she and Grandpa raised the daughter’s children, too.

Man. I’m so glad that times have changed.

Of course, I knew most of the children who lived — my mother, my aunts, and my uncles. They were a remarkably shallow and silly bunch for the most part. But not stupid. Hillbillies, but with a stand-tall kick-ass pride in being anybody’s equal. They could be shy and humble. But boy, if somebody tried to lord it over them, they’d put a stop to that, and damned quick. (I always heard that my uncles who served in WWII made life hell for their commanding officers. I learned much, much later that one of those troublemakers also won the Bronze Star; he was prouder of being a pain in the butt. Or at least more willing to boast about it.)

I couldn’t always say I liked these people (nor they me, I’m sure). But I could say I like being of these People through the generations. And even though those old, stiff-necked German patriarchs and I are universes apart in some ways, I feel their stubborn strength in me in my best moments to the point where those little shared threads of DNA feel like filaments of steel connecting the generations.

Claire Wolfe

The apple saga continues

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Community cider pressing pot-luck last weekend! I wasn’t there, but furrydoc took along a box of apples from my tree and took these pictures:

First the apples were washed, either in a dilute bleach bath or a vinegar bath (for those who didn’t like the idea of bleach on their apples). Then into the grinder and the press.

The juice went into buckets. The pulp was caught in cheesecloth and taken to the host family’s animals.

The juice …

… is incredible. And I’m not just saying that because it has my very own backyard apples in it.

My apples are tart, so furrydoc found another attendee who brought super-sweet golden delicious and they mixed them. The juice is slightly more tart than I’ve ever had — which to my mind is just right. And oh heavens, the burst of pure apple flavor! It’s like no juice I’ve had before.

Furrydoc brought home about three gallons (not all from these apples, but people brought so many apples that many didn’t want to take home all the juice). I had asked only for a quart, partly because I’m not normally a fan of juice and partly because furrydoc has voracious teenage apple-devouring machines at home who need more of everything than I do. She ended up offering me a full gallon. I took two quarts. But now I’m looking at the 50 or so pounds of apples I’ve stashed in the basement and wondering whether there’s apple pressing in their future.


So far from this tree …

* Furrydoc and I have both dehydrated batches of apples

* I made Ellendra’s Fan-d@mntastic Apple Crumble (mmmmmmm)

* I made and froze apple-apricot chutney

* I canned seven pints of tomato-apple chutney (recipe courtesy of furrydoc and her husband)

* As soon as my magical Norpro Apple Mate 3 arrives from Amazon, I’ll make curried apple chutney, too. (Yes, when the zombie apocalypse arrives, I’ll be well supplied with chutney.) I borrowed that model of peeler-corer-slicer from — who else? — furrydoc and quickly discovered it’s essential equipment for processing a lot of apples.

* Today, using a bit of that fresh juice, I’m going to mix up some of Pat’s Apple Barbecue Sauce. I’ll substitute Mae Ploy Thai sweet chili sauce (known around the Desert Hermitage as “crack sauce” for its addictive properties) for the regular chili sauce and see how that goes.

There’ll be at least one more baking of that scrumptious apple crumble. Probably at Thanksgiving. And well … after that there are still three boxes of washed, wrapped, carefully stashed apples down in the basement. I’ve put this Victorio Food Strainer and Sauce Maker on my Amazon wish list & we’ll see how the winter goes.

So far, so very, very good. And there are still more apples falling from the top of the tree. All I have to do is get them before Nadja does. Unfortunately, she’s fast.

Thanks once again, guys, for all your sage advice about apples and apple trees. This is delicious fun.

Claire Wolfe

Tuesday links

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
  • Well, in some places that was as bad as everybody thought it would be. Oy, that picture of seawater flooding into the PATH station — impressive. A lot of phony photos of Sandy have been circulating, though. I’m not sure this one of a Niagra of seawater flooding into the World Trade Center construction site is real; it’s credited to the AP, but there so much to sort out yet.
  • Is anybody hereabouts planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month? I’m thinking about it, but the idea scares the bejabbers out of me.
  • “The Island Where People Forget to Die.”
  • Hoplophobes: If the Second Amendment offends you, no problem. You can always try and kill the First. (H/T J)
  • Camille Paglia’s been awfully quiet lately. But the lady with the great gift for words shreds Obama from the left.
  • The WikiWeapons folks are back at work.
  • It’s kinda funny. In the last desperate days and weeks before the election, “right wing” commentators are doing elaborate analyses of poll numbers and concluding (e.g. here and here) that Romney’s got it in the bag. While Dems insist that the polls don’t matter one bit because Obama has 270 electoral college votes in his pocket. Meanwhile someone who was there as George HW Bush blew his re-election says he’s hearing the same-old, same-old. So who’s it going to be, people? Not that it matters, but who’s it going to be?
Claire Wolfe


Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Yeah. Oops. But “evidence”? Oh, c’mon.

Claire Wolfe

Preparedness priorities, part VI

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Storing water

Again, I’m going to deal with the simple stuff here. I won’t cover things like rainwater catchment systems, homemade water towers, or underground cisterns. Once again, I’m just sticking with things anybody could do simply.

The most basic thing

Everybody should have a few days supply of water in every vehicle and every bug-out bag. The “official” recommendation is a three-day supply. A week is better, but water is heavy and three days supply will get you through most mobile emergencies.

As with everything else, we need to evaluate our own circumstances and needs. Do you live in a wet or dry climate? A cool one or a hot one? Is your typical vehicle trip across town, across country, or into the back country where you could get stuck and die? Might you have to live in your vehicle without outside assistance for a few days or a week after a natural disaster? Is there a chance you’ll have to exert yourself and therefore require more water than average?

The very, very easiest, no-brainer thing to do is buy Coast Guard approved pre-sealed emergency water packets.

They’re handy. They store and carry well. They can be tucked into little spots here and there without taking up one big mass of space. They can last years without attention. They’re designed to prevent nasties from getting inside. They’re even cheap as survival preps go, only about $8 for a three-day supply for one person.

But they’re expensive as water goes.

In other words, they’re a good solution if you might have to carry your water in a bug-out kit or tuck it under the seats of your vehicle. For home storage there are better ways to go. Ditto if your vehicle has plenty of good storage space.

Other portable or semi-portable water storage

If you expect to have to carry your water on your back, another option is hydration packs (the ultimate of which is the GeigerRig).

Hydration packs range in price from $15 hardware-store crap (which I guarantee you’ll regret once you’re sucking desperately on their slow & faulty valves) to … well, GeigerRigs and CamelBaks.

There are also old-fashioned canteens and more newfangled totes. I’m always on the lookout for these at garage sales (more about safety aspects of buying used containers next time). They’re not ideal solutions, but I currently have things like these with my bug-out bag and in my vehicles:

They cost me $1 apiece and the time it took to clean and fill them.

For your vehicle, there are also the various five-gallon containers you might carry to a picnic or on an off-road trek.

Any containers that you fill yourself, or for that matter, any containers of liquid you store in a vehicle, should be checked every six months or so for damage. Extremes of cold, heat, and sunlight can play havoc with even well-built containers.

The water in self-filled containers should be replaced once or twice a year. That helps ensure that you won’t get “growy things” in your water supply. (More about that next time, also.)

Always fill with clean tap water. If you must use any dubious water source, or if your container itself might not be entirely pristine, you’ll need to filter or purify. (Yes, that’s for next time, but we’ve covered that topic before.)

Seven-day home storage

Besides having at least a three-day supply of water with every bug-out bag or vehicle, we should have a minimum seven-day supply at home.

A lot can happen to our household water supplies, and this is one area where there’s little excuse for being unprepared, since water storage can be as simple as washing out and filling up containers we already have.

The very, very easiest solution for a lot of us is just to take those thick plastic juice or two-liter soda bottles we have around, wash them well with hot, soapy water, fill them with tap water, and stash them. (Depending on what was originally in them, our water might pick up a slight taste, but that’s a small issue.) Do that every time you empty a bottle, and pretty soon you have a good stash. And no hassle.

Another favorite is five gallon hard-plastic bottles like you see atop water coolers.

They can be clunky to lug around or pour from, though (always look for the ones with molded-in handles). So even better might be one of those bottles with a battery-operated pump installed on it or one with a valve built into it.

Down in the desert where the well water was undrinkable, all the grocery stores sold these for less-than-Amazon prices. Here in the northwest I see them only from water-delivery services or at garage sales.

In the desert, too, grocery stores carried the same hard blue bottles in the three-gallon size. That was a mercy for female arms (have I mentioned that water is not only heavy, but gets heavier every second?). Amazon has them, too. But I’ve never seen such a thing here.

Nearly every grocery store sells drinking water in 2-1/2 gallon squarish containers with valves near the bottom. I have a couple of these that I’ve stashed for several years without problems. But the plastic they’re made from is not meant for long-term use. So I’d consider those a handy solution for stocking up on water before a storm, but not an ideal vessel for long-term storage.

Really, there are all kinds of containers that will serve for home storage. Here are just a few I pulled from various closets and shelves around my house.

(BTW, that one-gallon Arrowhead water jug has been banging around the back of my vehicle or in my garage for four years as a dog-water bottle. It’s scuffed and discolored and dented, but it’s never leaked a drop.)

If you live somewhere where you might get advance warning of a water-wrecking disaster, you of course know the old trick of filling up the bathtub. If you might have to use bathtub water for more than a day or two, you can buy bladders like this one and this one that let you store a lot of water, debris-free. (This is the only storage method in this article that I have no personal experience with; it’s also obviously not a long-term storage method.)

How and where to store at home

This is also simple but important. Water should be stored:

1. In a dim, or better yet dark, place.
2. A location where the temperature stays cool (but above freezing) and relatively constant.

This could be a closet, a basement, a foundation crawl space, a root cellar, or even just a little-used room with blinds on the windows. (Even when I lived in pretty crude conditions in the high desert, we were able to do this; we used the insulated power shed. There’s always someplace.)

Less satisfactory storage containers

… and how to make do with them.

Milk jugs: Everybody will tell you that you shouldn’t store water in plastic grocery-store milk jugs. Indeed, those jugs are designed for one-time use. But doesn’t it pain you to throw out something so screamingly useful?

The fact is that you can use them if you do it judiciously.

Take those empty milk jugs and do this:

1. Wash the jugs and caps very well with hot, soapy water.

2. Fill the jugs with warm water and add a teaspoon or so of bleach, then let them sit a few hours.

3. Empty out the bleach solution, rinse well, fill with clean tap water, and seal.

4. Write the date on the jug with an indelible marker

5. Store in a dim, cool place. With these jugs it is especially important to avoid sunlight and temperature fluxuations.

6. After six months rotate the old jugs into the recycler and replace with newer ones.

Flats of storebought drinking water: Every grocery store sells flats of bottled drinking water. You know the ones. The flats hold 32 or so bottles of take-it-along size drinking water. And they sell for really cheap — $3.99 on sale.

And boy, talk about no-hassle storage. Just stick ’em someplace and you’re good.

Well, you’re good for a few months. Maybe up to a year. But again, store these very long or in the wrong conditions and they leak. They’re also flimsy and very easily crushed. So buy ’em happily, but keep ’em in the cool dark, buy a new flat every couple of months, and use up the oldest one.


That’s it for now. Next time:

How much water should you store per person/per animal

How to keep it safe

Plastics and stored water

Filters and purifiers

Longer-term storage (without major hassle)

Claire Wolfe

Good luck with Sandy

Friday, October 26th, 2012

With post-Sandy comments

You folks on the mid and upper east coast — batten down the hatches and good luck with that b***h, Sandy.

I hadn’t been taking the Sandy reports very seriously. (How many media-touted mega-storms fizzle every year?) But this morning I heard a normally dispassionate meteorologist here in the west compare Sandy to The Perfect Storm of 1991 — only worse. Then he likened it to the west coast’s Columbus Day Storm. That one remains the biggest “wind event” to hit the U.S. since records have been kept; even the fringes of it, which I experienced as a kid, were monumentally memorable.

So best hopes to you all, my friends back there, and also to you I don’t know. Hope your generators are primed, your fuel stores freshly topped off, your emergency kits ready, your water storage checked … and I hope you don’t turn out to need any of it.

It does sound like a monster’s headed your way.

Claire Wolfe

Sometimes snitching is good

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

As we say in the snitch book, sometimes it’s self-defense. And defense of others.

I’m sure David Codrea will say it if he hasn’t already, but yep, this is about another of those “only ones.” Those special, noble, trustworthy ones that the antis think should always be able to outgun the rest of us.

I think we all owe this guy’s wife our thanks.


Added per David C’s comment below: “We’re the Only Ones Anthrropophagic Enough.”

Claire Wolfe

Thursday links

Thursday, October 25th, 2012
  • Can you fix a scratched DVD with a banana? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • Oleg Volk doesn’t approve of the fixation on great marksmanship.
  • Life in Uruguay. I think I could get used to it. Always has kind of struck me as “Switzerland south,” but cheaper.
  • The Flagstaff, AZ, cop who committed one of the most prolonged and barbaric puppycides has resigned.
  • It may be news to the Wall Street Journal that overseas banks, including the famous Swiss banks are tossing American clients out with the trash. But some readers hereabouts know it all too well. From first-hand experience. At least the WSJ has noticed that’s one reason so many Americans are giving up U.S. citizenship. Once a great boon, that blue passport is becoming a burden to many.
  • Travis Corcoran of “I Am TJIC!” infamy is writing his first novel, with overtones of The Probability Broach and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. He’s started posting little teaser bits of it as he re-drafts. It has intelligent dogs. What’s not to like?
  • Speaking of books, David Young, who’s written a couple and is working on another, has a thing or two to say about the future of ebook distribution and the Death of Amazon. I don’t want to see Amazon die (and I think predictions of its death are way premature. But competition? Now, that’s good.

Pop Quiz: Can you identify this object?

The winner gets … well, the great satisfaction of being right. The losers get …

Claire Wolfe

Tell me about emergency generators

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Yesterday morning somebody had an offer up at the post office: Troy-Built 5500-watt generator, Briggs & Stratton motor, six years old, hardly used, $350.

I’m not buying this generator because it doesn’t have an electronic start. I know from daily experience at the Desert Hermitage that if my life depended on successfully cord-starting a generator, they’d soon find my mouldering bones in the sand, cord still grasped in my skeletal fingers. (I have no problem starting a lawn mower, but that generator we had for a while: &^%$#@!) Fortunately, we mostly had electric starters.

Other than at the Hermitage, where a generator was a life essential and the ones we had were shared, I’ve never put a priority on owning one. It’s an expensive item that I couldn’t justify on my budget or for my needs.

But now I’ve got a freezer full of meat. So talk to me about generators, people.

I want a medium-sized one (3000-5500 watts) primarily for running appliances during short-term outages — keep the freezer frozen and the fridge refrigerated a few hours a day, maybe run a sump pump (though so far my basement is remarkably dry for an area where the water table is about two inches below ground).

But it must have an electric start. Or somebody will have to persuade me that “even a girl” can pull the cord on their favored model.

Problem is, it’s hard to find an affordable (for me) electric-start generator.

Electric Generators Direct has an excellent walk-through-the-process of finding a generator that’s right for your needs. Very helpful site (don’t know about their prices or quality; have never bought from them). But the “walk” to an electric-start generator was a walk into sticker shock — and for the most part into generators heftier than my needs.

Amazon has less expensive electric-start generators, but I’m not seeing solid old brand names connected with those budget prices, of course. This Champion and this Briggs & Stratton seem like very good buys as far as bigger generators go. But they’re definitely overkill for my anticipated needs.

So what do you more experienced people think?


I’m not done with the Preparedness Priorities series yet. Should have an installment later this week on water storage. And am talking with a potential guest blogger about an installment on first aid and medical (that one might take a while to appear). In fact, I’d consider a generator post part of that series, only in this case you guys get to dispense all, not just your usual share, of the wisdom. :-)

Claire Wolfe

Snitching: a model case

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Snitching: This is how it works. This is a classic case of how cops twist people into doing their will.

Naive young kid in trouble with the law. Scared. He’s maybe not the brightest bulb (though he may think he is). Cops “befriend” him and magically make his “crime” go away. Cops pay him — quite a lot for a part-time job for a kid. He’s so eager to “earn” the money and please his handlers that he persuades himself that he’s a “hero.” SO eager to please that he starts twisting and exaggerating the “evidence.” Classic. Absolutely.

Except that this kid grew a conscience.

(H/T D for the article)

Claire Wolfe

Preparedness Priorities, part V

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Risk assessment

I’m not a methodical person. My own best decisions have always been made by gut, and my best actions taken on “informed instinct.”

Of course, not everyone works that way. And when facing a bewildering variety of unknowns, even “gut” people need tools to help them sort through the alternatives.

Fortunately, some blog readers are experienced professionals in fields like security and emergency management. Today, I’m turning the blog over to one of those, MJR. Here’s his take on how to assess risks and decide which ones we should act on.


MJR writes:

One of the little things you might want to think about, concerning figuring out what to do and in which order when prepping, is a basic risk assessment for each risk you identify.

This assessment is broken down into the following:

  • Identify, characterize, and assess all the threats to you from whatever source.
  • Assess your vulnerability to these threats.
  • Determine the risk (i.e. the expected likelihood and consequences of specific types of harm to you).
  • Identify ways to reduce those risks.
  • Prioritize risk reduction measures based on a strategy you will make.

The formula for the above is:

Impact of Event x Probability of Occurrence.

Now in plain English…

To figure out how bad the risks are first start with the rate (or probability) of an occurrence taking place, (event occurs once a year, once in ten years, once in 100 years etc.). Rate each risk from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest chance of something taking place.

Then multiply this number by the impact severity of the event, rated from 1 through 5. This range is usually arbitrarily divided into three sub-ranges. The overall risk assessment would be Low, Medium or High, depending on the sub-range containing the number that you arrived at.

For instance if your answer was between 1 and 8 the risk is low. If the answer is between 9 and 16 then the risk is moderate and if the answer is between 17 and 25 then it is high.

Here is a graphic that shows how probability/severity can be laid out in a grid (Ed: This graphic also uses a slightly different scale for evaluating and planning):

Source of graphic

There is probably a heck of a lot that I am forgetting but this is a good starter if you want to judge how bad the things you are facing really are.


Claire here again: When I sat down to try these calculations, I found it helpful to make two different charts — one for disasters that might be catastrophic but short and another for hard-times scenarios that might hit less hard but unwind more slowly. While some types of preparedness planning apply to both, in other ways, they have different requirements.

It also didn’t take long to discover that — no surprise — a lot of subjectivity and guesswork goes into this. First, you have to correctly identify all kinds of threats; it would be easy to miss one.

And probability? That can be a stumper. Even if you live in an area with predictable disasters (e.g. in tornado alley or hurricane country), what are the chances you or your community will personally get hit? You can only give it your best estimate.

Where I live, the absolute most catastrophic blow would come from a Cascadia mega-earthquake and tsunami. These hit on average every 300 years. It’s been almost 313 years since the last one. But geology doesn’t give a darn. Sometimes there’s a 600-year gap between “Big Ones.” Or the pressure can release in a series of major quakes instead of one mega. In any case, severity is “catastrophic” on the grid — a big “5” without doubt. But likelihood? Three? Four? Five? Only Mother Nature knows for sure.

Interesting exercise, definitely. And it might help anybody put some of those extreme zombie apocalypse fears into perspective.

Thanks, MJR.

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