Sunday, July 21, 2019

Ideas for Fall Gardening

It is still July, and the sun is blazing hot. But now is the time to start thinking about Fall gardening. August will be here quickly, and that is when you need to plant many Fall crops. 

Here are some ideas to keep you busy over the next few months:

Grow a Fall Garden. In many places across the country, mid-August through mid-September is the time to plant your Fall Garden. Crops to consider for the Fall include lettuce, radishes, beets, leeks, onions, rutabaga, cabbage, Chinese cabbage (examples: Napa cabbage, bok choy), kohlrabi, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, spinach, and kale. The exact timing of your planting will depend on the crops you want, and your plant hardiness zone (your local agricultural extension office can help you with that).

Plant Garlic Bulbs for the Spring. September is the time to plant garlic bulbs for next year. Consider planting a couple of interesting varieties from the Seed Savers Exchange.

Harvest Apples. Many areas have u-pick apple orchards. A visit to one would make for a fun and useful way to spend a Saturday afternoon with the family. You can also visit your local farmers' market or attend one of the many small town apple festivals that are typically held in September or October.

Pick Nuts. September through November is the time to harvest pecans and black walnuts.

Plant Trees and Shrubs. Fall is a great time to plant most trees and shrubs. Check out my article from last year, Tips For Planting Fruit Trres & Common Mistakes.

Start Composting and Improving Your Soil. See my earlier article on Composting and Vermiculture

Start Making Your Lasagna Garden. Now is a great time to mark off your lasagna-garden beds for next year, lay down the newspaper and use the falling leaves and yard waste in the layers.

Start Building Your Raised Garden Beds. Raised-bed gardening is a relatively easy and very productive method of gardening. Get a jump on next year by building your raised-beds this Fall.

Grow Indoor Herbs. Many herbs, such as chives, oregano, basil, mint, and rosemary, can be grown in pots indoors during the Fall and winter.

Transplant Perennials. Fall is the best time to divide and transplant most perennials. A Japanese hori hori garden knife is perfect for this. I've been using one for a couple of years now, and really  love it - much better than a regular garden trowel.

Order Seed Catalogs. Don't forget to request seed catalogs for next year from your favorite companies. You can spend the winter months thumbing through the catalogs and dreaming big dreams.

Good Luck and Happy Fall Gardening!
Raised Bed Gardening for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know to Start and Sustain a Thriving Garden. Great intro to raised bed gardening. 4.5 stars on Amazon. 

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Syria: Christian Woman, Aged 60, Gang-Raped for Hours Then Stoned to Death by Muslim Militants

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC), a Christin human rights organization. Check out their website,, for more news and information on Christian persecution and genocide around the world.   

Christian Woman Stoned to Death in Syria 

Autopsy Reveals Gang Rape Prior to Death, Islamic Terrorists Blamed

07/17/19 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on July 8, 2019, an Armenian Christian woman living in the Syrian Governorate of Idlib went missing. Suzan Der Kirkour was 6o years old and her body was found the next day just outside of her village, al-Yaqoubiyeh. An autopsy revealed that Suzan was tortured and repeatedly raped over an estimated period of nine hours. She was then stoned to death.

The incident was confirmed by SOS Chr├ętien’s d’Orient, which wrote in a statement that “cruel was her ordeal. The reality is just as much… (a) virgin at sixty, she died under the repeated assaults of the jihadists of al-Nusra.”

“The autopsy reveals that Suzan had been subjected to repeated rape since the afternoon of Monday (the 8th) until early Tuesday morning, only hours before her discovery. As a martyr, she is joined in heaven by thousands of Christian brothers, who died in the arena of barbarism,” continued the statement.

Suzan was a gardener and Arabic teacher. Although retired, she often volunteered at the Kneye Village Church where she helped youth achieve their baccalaureate. The church was concerned by Suzan’s absence, and it was parishioners who found Suzan’s body.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also verified the incident. “Her body was found with marks of torture on it. And according to forensic medicine, the woman had been tortured for about 9 hours before she was stoned to death by unidentified persons,” read the report.

It is widely reported among locals that Suzan’s attackers were members of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group, which maintains a strong presence in Idlib Governorate. Al-Yaqoubiyeh is a Christian village, but most of the women have left because of violent aggression from the terrorists. Some estimate that only 18 women, including Suzan, were living in the village.

The Syrian Civil War has raged for eight years, opening the door for Islamic extremism to take a strong foothold. Jabhat al-Nusra is the Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda. They and many other terrorist groups are active in Idlib Governorate, which was supposed to provide a safe haven for internally displaced persons.

Instead, the governorate has become center stage for the Syrian conflict. Most Christians have fled the country, although they made up approximately 10% of the population prior to the war.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Suzan was a pillar in her community. Her untimely death and the manner of her murder is horrifying. It further deepens the shadow which has fallen upon any Christians who have remained in Syria throughout nearly a decade of violent conflict. Rule of law, justice, and accountability must be restored in Syria. Otherwise, we are witness to the slow, but fierce, extermination of Christianity from a country where it has existed for over 2,000 years.”
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Monday, July 15, 2019

China Continues to Hold North Carolina Pastor John Cao

By Tim Gamble
July 15, 2019

In March of 2017, Chinese authorities arrested Christian pastor and missionary John Cao, a permanent US resident living in North Carolina with his American wife, on charges of "illegal border crossings" between Myanmar and China. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in 2018 after a perfunctory court hearing, despite the fact that Cao had been routinely making the border crossings for three years with the full knowledge of the Chinese government. Since his conviction, Cao's legal appeals have been delayed seven times. In the most recent development, Chinese authorities are refusing to allow Cao to appear in person before the court, stating that any appeals would be "paper only." 

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reports that Cao's "health is deteriorating, and he’s lost over 50 pounds. He’s forced to share a cell with a dozen inmates and only 1 bed."

Observers believe that Cao's arrest, conviction, and denials of an an appeals process, are part of the ongoing crackdown on Christianity by the Chinese government. The crackdown consists of the harassment and shutting down of many Christian churches and schools, including the bulldozing of some church buildings, the removal of crosses from public display, the arrest on spurious charges of many Chinese pastors and other Christian leaders, among other measures.

John Cao converted to Christianity in his 20s, attended seminary in the US, married an American citizen, and settled in North Carolina as a legal permanent resident. He and his wife have two sons. He has been doing missionary work in Myanmar and China for decades, traveling between North Carolina and Asia. He founded sixteen schools for improvised children and set up various anti-poverty programs during that time.

China, which remains under strict communist control despite opening up to capitalism in recent decades,  has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. The Communist Party in China, which is officially atheist, has approximately 70 million members. However, the strong growth of evangelical Christianity in China has resulted in slightly over 100 million Chinese Christians (approximately 75 million Evangelicals and 27 million Catholics. Also, the Chinese Orthodox Church, an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church, has about 15,000 members).

This situation of Christians outnumbering official Communist Party members is at least partially behind government crackdowns on Christianity over the last few years, as they seek to exercise control over Christianity in China. Communist governments, and all other collectivist regimes for that matter, demand that the citizen's top loyalty be to the State, not to God, the Church, or even the family. The State essentially sets itself up as God, and hates competition for that slot. 

The ACLJ, which is representing John Cao's family, has an online petition calling for John Cao's release.  

Sources:  1) Information provided by ChinaAid, 2) Information provided by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), 3) Information provided by Voice of the Martyrs.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Preparing quickly for a near-term SHTF event...

Survival is a long-term project. Developing self-reliance. Learning skills. Acquiring a bug-out location or homestead. Developing and fortifying that bug-out location or homestead. Hardening your home. Planting fruit and nut trees. Developing a community of like-minded folks. These things take lots of time - years or more. In fact, the survival lifestyle can take an entire lifetime to fully develop.

But what if we don't have an entire lifetime to prepare? What if we don't even have a few years? What if the threat we are worried about is only months, or even weeks, away? There will be no time to find, buy, and develop that perfect homestead or mountain retreat. No time to find or build that perfect prepper community. No time to make major changes in our lives. No time to develop the multitude of skills that would enhance our survival. 

Don't let those worries stop you. Keep preparing, and keep pushing for your long-term goals. But, while you are working on those long-term goals, there are steps you can take right now, that can be accomplished relatively quickly, to prepare for a more immediate event.  Here is my advice to someone wanting to prepare for a major SHTF event they believe might happen in a few months: 
First, stockpile lots and lots of water, food, first aid & medical supplies, personal hygiene supplies, cleaning & sanitation supplies, and other useful items. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, stockpile wood for it now. Make sure you have a least a few hundred dollars in cash stuck back in a safe, well-hidden place.

Second, work on enhancing your personal and home security as much as possible in the coming weeks. Get a gun if you don't already have one, and learn to use it! Stock up on ammo. Consider replacing your easy-to-kick-in doors with heavy duty security doors. Consider installing burglar bars on your windows, and enhancing the outdoor lighting around your home. Make sure your smoke detectors are working, and get a couple of fire extinguishers if you don't already have them. Go over security plans with your family.

Third, do not skip or put-off appointments with your doctor, dentist, or eye doctor. Get those things taken care of now, just in case you can't later.

Fourth, do not skip or put-off any needed car maintenance or repairs. Get the oil changed. Inspect and fix the brakes if necessary. Service the transmission. Get new tires if you need them. Replace the battery if it is getting old. You don't want to have to deal with a broken-down vehicle in the midst of an emergency. If you can safely store some extra gas (in containers designed for that purpose), do so. Don't store gas inside your house or apartment!

Fifth, if you don't already have a bug-out location, figure out somewhere else you can go in an emergency - perhaps to a relative's or friend's house (somewhere away from where you are now, and away from a big city). You may even want to preposition some clothes, food, and other supplies at their house. Don't have a friend or relative you can stay with? Maybe your best bet would be camping at a national or state park, or private campground. Decide where, determine how much it will cost, and make sure you have the appropriate gear. Put together a "bug-out bag" for each family member as a part of this step.

All of these things can be accomplished relatively quickly if you make it a priority. As I said earlier, keep working your long-term plan in addition to these steps. 

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Fitness and the Aging Prepper

I'm a middle-aged man with type 2 diabetes, and vision problems related to my diabetes. My knees aren't what they used to be, and my left shoulder doesn't work quite as well as it should. But don't worry, this article isn't about me. I just want to make it clear from the start that I am no young whippersnapper who doesn't understand the difficulties older folks face. When it comes to fitness and the aging prepper, I am the aging prepper. 

We all understand the importance of fitness. I don't believe I have to sell anyone on that idea. Rather than wasting time convincing you of something you already know, this article will address three issues when it comes to fitness and the aging prepper. First, what fitness objectives we should pursue as we grow older. Second, how we can meet these objectives. Third, how we can overcome the many obstacles we face in pursuing these objectives. 

Fitness Objectives for the Aging Prepper

I have decided, as an aging prepper, to center my fitness plan around three main objectives. Here are those objectives in order of importance:

     1) To achieve and maintain a healthy weight. What is a healthy weight? It will differ from individual to individual depending on factors such as sex, height, build, and age. An even better indicator to go by would be body mass index (BMI). Consult your doctor to decide weight is right for you.  

2) To improve and maintain flexibility, agility, and balance. Flexibility is the ability to move your joints. Agility is the ability to change direction quickly. Balance is the ability to maintain a specific body position while either being still or in motion.
All three tend to decline as we age, especially if we don't take steps to maintain them.

     3) To improve and maintain physical endurance. Physical endurance is the ability to maintain effort or activity over extended periods of time. The better your endurance, the longer it will take before you become too tired or weak to continue your efforts. And the less sore your muscles and joints will be the next day.

Other fitness objectives, such as improving and maintaining speed and strength, may also be important, but I have decided on these three as the most important to work on as an aging prepper. 

Meeting Fitness Objectives

There is some bad news. Meeting these (or any) fitness objectives will take time and effort. Fitness is not something you can buy from Amazon and have it delivered tomorrow morning. You have to work at it. And the results won't be instantaneous. Fitness requires patience. But meeting your objectives will be very worthwhile.

There is some good news. It can be done. And it doesn't require a lot of money. You don't need a gym membership, or expensive equipment, or even fashionable workout clothes.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Go for a walk. Walking is great exercise, and free. Start with a 15-minute walk each day, and over the next several weeks try to work your way up to 45-minutes tor even an hour. You can walk around your neighborhood, in your local mall (a great way to walk on a rainy day), or at local parks and greenways. I even know an older couple who walk laps inside their local Walmart most mornings, rain or shine.

Be active. Yard work - such as cutting grass with a push mower, gardening, raking leaves, or chopping wood - makes great (and free) exercise. In fact, anything that raises your pulse rate and causes you to lightly sweat counts as exercise. 

Stretching exercises and calisthenics are easy, don't require special equipment, and can be done just about anywhere. Just remember the exercises you used to do in gym class back in your school days - jumping jacks, sit-ups, toe-touches, leg squats, windmills, push-ups, and so forth. You can also find lots of videos on You Tube with fitness exercises and workout programs, ranging from basic beginner videos to much more advanced workouts.
 Exercise balls aren't expensive (most are under $30, some under $20) and are a great for yoga, pilates, and other types of exercise, as well as helping improve your balance. You can simply sit on an exercise ball while you watch television or work on the computer. You'll work on your balance and burn a few more calories at the same time.    

Speaking of balance, walking around the house with a book on your head really does help. It'll improve your balance and your posture at the same time.

Consider yoga or tai chi.  Both will help with all these fitness objectives. Again, you can find lots of videos on You Tube. Avoid the new age and eastern spiritual aspects if you are uncomfortable with them, but the physical exercise part is great. 

Whatever exercises you choose, be patient. Start slowly, and gradually increase your workout as your fitness improves. And, of course, consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program or making major changes in your diet, especially if you have a chronic health condition.    

Overcoming Obstacles  

"I'm too old."  
"I'm too out-of-shape."  
"I have bad knees."  
"I have a bad back."  
"I don't have the time."   

Excuses. We all have them. Often times those excuses are very real. But they are still excuses. They are still reasons we give to not do something that we know we should do. 

Everyone has obstacles in their life. Those obstacles seem to only grow as we age. But an obstacle doesn't have to become an excuse. Instead, find a way around that obstacle. It won't be easy. It will take effort. It will take determination. It may take creativity. But you can do it. And it will be worth it.

Most obstacles (excuses) are really just mental barriers. Remember the story of the four minute mile. Prior to 1954, running a mile in under four minutes had never been done by any athlete at any level. In fact, many people thought it was physically impossible for a human to do so. But, in 1954, Roger Bannister broke through that barrier, running a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. Since then, over 1400 athletes have broken the four minute mile. The current record stands at 3 minutes, 43.3 seconds. Its not that humans suddenly become faster in 1954, but rather that the mental barrier of the supposed human physical limit was eliminated as an excuse.

What excuses, real or imagined, are holding you back? What can you do to eliminate those excuses? Or to find a way around, over, under, or through, those excuses? Obstacles are real, but you don't have to let them become excuses.

The American College of Sports Medicine's Complete Guide to Fitness & Health isn't just for young people or professional athletes, but covers the entire life span - from birth through our senior years. It has chapter devoted to flexibility, as well as on specific health conditions such as diabetes and cancer. 



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