The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Another Level of Control

Here a week or two back my mother-in-law's washing machine decided to quit. Guy came and looked at it, told her what it needed. He didn't charge her anything, and said he could replace the motor, but it's still an old machine, and it will break down again. He recommended she buy a new one. So, a couple of days later, she had this new washing machine that had some electronic gizmos on it that I had never seen or, actually, never heard of. And, please forgive me here, but I just thought that my dear mother-in-law had been taken for a ride by the appliance store. 

Well, let's jump ahead a couple of weeks. This Saturday my washing machine decided it was going to retire and it quit. I checked all of the usual. Yes, there was water pressure, it was not the circuit breaker and there was electricity at the outlet. Since it was a mechanical unit, I tried some thumping, poking and prodding here and there, but still no life. And, at this stage right now in my back recovery, I cannot bend over and do the research I would normally do on a piece of equipment. 

Having decided to join the realm of my classy neighbors, there is now a washing machine sitting out in the yard. Think it can be used as a giant planter? Oh well, that one will just have to wait for another time. This happened on a Saturday afternoon. Monday it was time to buy a brand new washing machine. And, do you know what? You can't buy a regular old washing machine anymore, that doesn't have multiple energy saving features, all those little electronic gizmos that I snickered at my mother-in-law about. Well, here is my apology. 

My question is, "Why can't clothes be washed in cold water if I want to?" Now, I bought the bottom of the line that meets my need, but, it has a sensor that automatically adds warm water if my cold water is too cold. It will not allow the tub to be filled up and just wash one pair of jeans, even if you want to. And here is the one that really gets me. If you fill the machine up and let it sit for too long, it will automatically empty the machine. Now, this is not a water saving feature, so it has to be a safety feature. Can somebody in our government please explain why having a tub full of water is a safety problem? You might ask why I didn't go to a different appliance dealer. Well, something strange happened that day. The person that sold us the washing machine, was extremely knowledgeable about the products she was selling. I'm not being facetious here, she was really very knowledgeable and competent. She assured me that any new machine available, would come with these types of features.

Now the government tells us how much water we can flush in our toilets. Tells us what kind of light bulbs we can't use. Will not allow us, if we're in New York City to buy a super large vessel of soda pop. Why is it any of their business how much water we use in our washing machines? Well, actually I can understand the cold water logic a little bit. Some detergents will not dissolve well in cold water. But, you know, I think I'm smart enough to add warm water to cold water and get my detergent to dissolve. I am sick and tired of government intrusion into my life. But it doesn't make any difference what I think. I'm not trying to sound calloused or cold here, but it doesn't make any difference what you think either. The government is going to do what it wants to, any time it wants to, and it doesn't care one bit what you, I or my mother-in-law think. Did anybody ask any of you how you wanted your washing machine regulated? I don't recall voting on that anywhere. Was that on some agenda I missed? That's right, I forgot, it's on the Socialist agenda. And again, I am not blaming the current administration for all of these problems, because I can feel the fingertips of an environmentalist, former Vice President of the United States all over this one. It's just one more way to control. We have no vote and nobody cares one way or the other what anybody thinks. 

But I fooled them. I have a thirty year old toilet. I nicknamed it my Flush Master 2000. And when I feel really, really defiant, I get up, run in the bathroom, and flush that thing. Stand way back folks, cause you don't want to get your tie caught in it. Gotta have a little humor, or we're all going to go insane.

So, what's it going to be next? I don't know what's going to be next. But we all know it's not going to be good. When is the last time our government did something good for working, middle class America? I've been watching this come for years and years and years, and folks, we all know that it ain't gonna get no better. Better be getting ready.
Go to some garage sale and find a Flush Master 2000. If the porcelain is not cracked, all the internal components are easily replaceable. It will give you the feeling of independence and power. Then when you get finished, go get a 64oz. Big Gulp, cause we don't live in New York City. Well, I hope to feel better for at least a little while. 

If I were you, I would keep a real close eye on what's happening in Ferguson, Missouri. The truth about that incident, which was tragic, is going to be real hard to come by. Summer is still hot. I would just be paying attention to that real close. Last year they tried to get the Trayvon Martin tragedy going and it just didn't catch on. My compliments to the people. But if this one in Missouri catches on, and I'm sure they will pour every bit of fuel on this fire they can, it would be a good time to know where you are, and your loved ones are. Keep your gas tanks full and don't be someplace where you shouldn't be. All it
takes is one match and this thing could light up every major city in this country. And I don't put it past our people in charge, to pull something off like this. It hurts me to see what our country has come to. Pay attention. Stay out of the Middle East. Avoid Africa and anybody just returning from there. Hug your kids, kiss your wife, or husband, and enjoy a Snickers on me.

We'll talk more later. Frank

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Meal With No Name

There have been several meals I have given some kind of name just so I could post them here on the blog. This time, I'm not coming up with any particular kind of name, so it doesn't have one. Most of the meals I cook are just a combination of ingredients that sound good. I may have gotten the original idea from a recipe some time back, but most things come from pondering the ingredients we have on hand and coming up with a meal that will utilize those ingredients in a way that tastes good, hopefully. Of course, that isn't always the case, sometimes it's really good, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not anything to write home about, and sometimes it's not something we ever want to try to replicate again. This time, since I'm sharing it with you, it falls into the good category. And, actually, a couple of days ago the first time I made it, it was better than this time.

A few days ago when Frank asked the proverbial question, "What's for dinner?" I looked around at all of the fresh garden produce and said, "Potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes and meat." He gave me a very dubious look and asked how I was going to cook it. Here is what I described.

Start off with some olive oil and potatoes, frying/sauteing them first. I always salt and pepper the potatoes.

After they are off to a good start, add the onion. We really like onions cooked this way so I used 1 1/2 onions sliced rather big.


Give the onions a bit to cook until they start to clear up, then add peppers. These are sweet peppers and cook up very well. Add as many as you like.


Once the vegetables are about two thirds cooked, take ground meat and drop it around here and there. These pieces are about rounded tablespoon size. I mixed salt and pepper in with the meat beforehand. I space the pieces of meat apart so they will cook individually and end up like weird shaped, small meat balls. After I space them out on top, I turn the entire mixture with a spatula to put the meat at the bottom against the skillet. Then I put another batch of 'meatballs' on top. In all I used about a half pound of meat. Let everything cook, turning as needed, until the meat is done.

For just the last few minutes, add the peeled, diced tomatoes and only cook until they are heated through. This time I cooked them too long and they had blended away into a sauce. The first time I made this, the tomatoes were still in chunks, had a more distinct flavor and Frank liked it much better. But this step is easily adapted to your own preference. 

The only spices I added were salt and pepper. This dish would be good with many different spices, it's just that what we wanted was the flavor of the vegetables. The meat takes on a nice subtle flavor from the vegetables, especially all of the onions. This is another one dish meal that is easy to fix and utilizes some of the yummy, fresh vegetables from the garden. The variety of combinations is endless and only limited to what is growing on hand. This dish would be good on a bed of rice, or wrapped in a fresh tortilla, or on a smaller scale, inside of an omelet. 

Grow what you like and eat what you grow. It's another example of using your food storage. Don't buy a bunch of stuff that is advertised as easy to fix and nutritious in the event of a disaster and stick it under your bed or on a shelf and never eat it. Because if you end up needing it, you may find out that it is just not palatable, or that it makes you sick because you're not used to eating that kind of food. The same goes for gardening and food preservation. Last summer I finally grew a semi decent crop of lima beans. I had been trying to grow them for three years and was thrilled with my success. But, you know what? After all that time and effort, we found out we don't like them! They were really yucky, so I will not be growing anymore. I've also experimented with a lot of different peppers and have settled on jalapenos and a sweet pepper. The verdict is still out on green beans and corn. 

It takes time and effort to fine tune what grows well, preserves well and tastes good. Use your time wisely. The events of the world are a complicated cause for concern. Keep your eyes open and your mind sharp. Don't put off doing what that still small voice is prompting you to do. Listen and act. It's important.

Until next time - Fern

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Radio - Technician Class, Romanchik Manual Update

Hello, Frank here.

Hi all, hope everybody is doing well. What I want to bring you today is the update to the Romanchik Technician manual. Every
few years or so, the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, gets together with a group of ham radio operators and reviews the questions for each level of testing. This year, in July, the new questions and answers were put into effect for the Technician level exam. Now, I don't know much about this process. I would presume that it is done through some type of coordination with ARRL, the American Radio Relay League. They get rid of some of the questions and answers and add some new ones. So, if you're using the Romanchik Technician manual, which I highly recommend, then you will want the upgraded, up-to-date, ink still wet version. Here it is.

I want to send you to a post I wrote a few months back, it's called Radio - Become a Ham. It has links to many sites that will help you get your Technician's license, or for that matter, your General or Extra licenses also. Look  
around in the above mentioned site, which is Radio - Become a Ham, and it will answer most questions you have about getting your ham license. But, remember, ARRL is your best friend when you have local questions.
The FCC is the governing authority over all radio communications. There are three levels of tests, the Technician level, which for most people, with a little bit of study, is an easily passable test. The General level is just a little bit more complicated than the Technician level. The Extra class, I am told, is going to require some more work.

Some people think of ham radio as quite an expensive hobby, and it can be if that's the route you choose. There are some folks that get into the Technician class level with a $40.00 brand new, hand held radio. So, you can take it from $40.00 to as high as you want to go. Many ham operators never go past the Technician level because their goal is to work with a local ham radio club helping with search and rescue type operations. The minimum equipment required for this duty is the $40.00 radio I mentioned earlier. Then there are other folks in ham radio that want to learn Morse code and talk to folks all around the world, and this can be done also. By the way, you do not have to learn Morse code for any of the three levels of licensing. But if you want to learn it, good for you.

There are safety issues with operating a radio. You are emitting, if you are transmitting, an RF signal, radio frequency. These are things you will learn, but don't ever shortcut safety.

I have another short post I want you to read called Wanna Be a Ham? It's short, easy to read, and has some information you might want to consider. 

FEMA and Homeland Security both use ham radio operators during emergencies. As you will find in my posts, I encourage people to get their ham radio license so that they will have communications during an emergency. Who knows, there may come a day when the electricity is off. It might be a natural disaster, a hurricane, tornado, flooding, earthquake, wildfires, natural disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Ham radio can be a very handy tool. There is also the possibility of disruption from government, martial law, quarantine, use your imagination. There are lots of reasons we need alternative forms of communication. And, besides that, it's a cool hobby.

Go to "Things To Read" then, "Frank's Radio Communications". Take a look at scanners, GMRS, CB and shortwave. You may find some other interests you enjoy. You don't have to be a ham radio operator to participate in radio communications. But if you are a ham radio operator, it will extend your world of emergency radio communications a great deal. There are also radio clubs if you're the type that likes to join groups. It's a whole lot safer than bar room fighting and you may enjoy a higher level of association with ham radio folks. Read the posts. Here is the new Romanchik manual. You can get your ham radio license from start to finish at a total cost of $15.00 from the included posts under Frank's Radio Communications. That $15.00 is the fee you pay to take your test to get your license. 

That's about it for today. Here in a few days, I'm going to introduce this $40.00 hand held radio I'm talking about. I will also introduce you to some functional, commercial radios that are perfectly legal on the ham frequencies. If you're into the search and rescue thing, they're also perfectly legal there with proper permission. Take care. Safety first.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fire Ants & Aphids

Last summer I mentioned the discovery of the relationship between fire ants and aphids. Fire ants will protect and raise aphids to produce nectar for the ants to eat. The ants will carry the aphids to a plant that will provide nourishment, thus feeding both insects at the same time. I found this to be fascinating even though it can be devastating to my garden crops.  

I hadn't noticed any aphids at all this year until after I had planted my Cushaw winter squash. I noticed the ants were moving into one of the squash hills, so I sprinkled wood ashes and coffee grounds on each of the five hills. I started checking the plants morning and evening in hopes of keeping the squash bugs at bay that had killed off our yellow squash at the other end of the garden. That's when I noticed a few ants on the underside of the leaves. Then I realized that the beginning of an aphid infestation was occurring. I also discovered tiny, tiny little winged insects as well. From everything I've been able to read, I think these winged insects are the adult aphids, but I'm not sure. If you know what they are, please let us know.

Here is a close-up of the ants pouring out of the ground.

So I put coffee grounds on them.

Here is an ant tending to the aphids. There is one above him by one of the leaf veins.

Here is that aphid, enlarged.

Tiny winged insects. Does anyone know what they are?

Here is one of them enlarged. I think it is an adult aphid, but I'm not sure.

We really enjoy the Cushaw squash and hope to have a decent harvest. It looks like we will have plenty of competition from the squash bugs (I have squished a few each day), ants and aphids. I just hope we win the battle.

Until next time - Fern