Thursday, September 15, 2011

My two cents on guns

There have been a lot of posts about guns lately on the blogs that I read. My understanding of guns is pretty basic. Guns are not toys. Treat every gun as if it is loaded. Never point a gun at anyone in jest; in fact, don't even lay a gun in your palm with the barrel facing out at anyone. Don't carry a gun if you don't know how to use it, and don't pull a gun on anyone unless you're prepared to shoot.

But the actual mechanics of guns can be confusing. Some have safeties and some don't. Some you have to cock before you can shoot them, and others can be shot without cocking. Some have a big kick and make a loud noise. Some have moving parts that will hurt your hand if you hold them incorrectly while firing. Different calibers fire different size bullets and leave holes of varying sizes in the target. And then there's bullets: hollow point, full metal jacket, buck shot, bird shot, etc. I'm becoming more familiar with these terms, but mostly they don't mean much to me.

I'm leery of posting how many and what kind of guns we have. I want to keep any ne'er-do-wells guessing. We don't spend a lot of time or money on all the extras you can buy for guns; just occasionally we might have better sights added or get larger magazines. But it seems like every gun we have, has its own special points that you have to remember. In a situation where I was forced to pull a gun to defend myself, I'm not sure I would remember which gun has to be cocked, and which gun has a safety and where it's located, etc. I'm not sure I could reload under pressure.

I wish I had learned more about guns when I was younger and my mind more supple. I would have grasped it all better. Living in the city, I don't have much opportunity to practice. The hubster is not a fan of indoor shooting ranges. We occasionally get invited to some private outdoor ranges. That's pretty neat; I've gotten to fire quite a few different guns that way. 

In a situation like a home invasion, I would probably reach for the Magnum 357. I have fired this gun on a few occasions. It's not too heavy and I'm prepared for the kick after firing. It has no safety and doesn't have to be cocked before I can fire it. The top part of the gun doesn't come flying backward after I fire, to hit my supporting hand if I forget to keep it low enough. It will stop a man in his tracks. It seems like the easiest gun to use that we own, at least for me, at least until I have all the features down pat about the other guns we have. The only thing I don't like is that, being a revolver, it can only hold six bullets and then I'd have to reload. But I doubt that in a home invasion-type scenario, I would need or have time to fire more than six bullets. Unless it was a horde of zombies.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hornworms

As much as I dislike the pests in my garden and the damage they do to everything I try to grow, occasionally I think I should have been an entomologist, because I find bugs fascinating.

My "favorite"--if you can call it that--garden pest is the hornworm. I don't know why, but I find it kind of fun, hunting these guys. They camouflage so well on a tomato plant, it's like I've "won" when I finally track down a worm that's been decimating my plant.
Can you see the hornworm?

How about now?





There are tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms, but they look very similar. "Worm" is a misnomer, since they are actually caterpillars. The ones currently plaguing my garden are tobacco hornworms. If you can catch them early, they might be only an inch long and as big around as a pencil lead, but they quickly grow to the size and width of my ring finger. Usually, you'll see the damage to your plants before you see the worms.

If you find the branches of your tomato plants have been denuded, you've got hornworms.

I've heard that if you spray a plant with soapy water, this will aggravate the worms and cause them to move around, making it easier to see and catch them. I tried this once with minimal luck, and found it just as easy to hunt for them myself.

Typically, I start looking for a worm where I see the damage they've left behind. A second clue is the feces, or worm dirt, which they just let fall. I can usually find the culprit quickly if I look above the worm dirt and below the denuded branches.After I find the worm, I shake the dirt off the leaves so that the next time I see worm dirt on a plant, I'll know it's new.

The size of the worm dirt will give you a clue as to what size worm you're looking for.
Removing a hornworm can be tricky. Their bodies stick to the plant, making it difficult to separate them from the limb. Usually if I grab the worm from the hind end, it is easier to separate from the plant. Their back legs are a little more grabby than the front ones, so removing them first gives better control. Occasionally, though, they just don't want to let go. Using a twig or the point of a pocket knife (or anything small and pointy, really) to place between the worm and the plant usually goads them into releasing their grip.

What to do with the hornworms? Well, you can just stomp on them, if you're so inclined. They also would make good fish bait, or you can put them on your bird feeder. If all else fails, you can just throw them in the garbage.

If you take action as soon as you notice the damage, tomato (and other) plants typically recover from a hornworm attack fairly easily.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review--The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse

Fernando Aguirre is currently dealing with the aftermath of the 2001 Argentinian economic collapse, a scenario that many Americans (me included) believe is presently staring the United States in the face. To help us out--well, and to produce a little extra income for his family--he wrote a book based on his experiences. He gives thoughtful and thought-provoking advice on how to deal with loss of income, increasing crime rates, and corrupt officials, among other things. Here are a few of my observations:
  • From the get-go, "FerFAL" takes a no-nonsense approach to what he has to say. He tells it like he sees it, and doesn't try to take it easy on the reader. He really wants to get across the seriousness of the situation, while still letting you know that even though it might be TEOTWAWKI, it's not the end of the world. 
  • He spends a great deal of time and effort stressing the importance of self defense. He discusses guns and knives in some detail, as well as some general tips for hand-to-hand fighting. Simultaneously, he stresses making a conscious effort at being aware of your surroundings at all times, staying out of danger zones, and not traveling alone: in short, not making yourself a target, which is a type of self defense that anyone can learn. 
  • He also stresses cleanliness. As more people become homeless and medical care less available, diseases and infections become more prevalent. Simple things like washing your hands when you get home, trying to touch your face (especially your mouth) less, and practicing general hygiene will become more important. This is something we could all get in the habit of doing now. 
  • He eschews the idea of "heading for the hills" and trying to make it on your own or with a few close friends or family members. He recommends the "safety in numbers" approach, while still cautioning against living in a bad neighborhood. Know your neighbors, build alliances if and when you can. 
  • I read through some reviews for the book on Amazon as well as on FerFAL's own blog. He gets a lot of negative feedback about the incorrect English, lack of photos or illustrations, and lack of editing in the book. He states at the beginning of the book that no publishing company would touch the manuscript, so he printed it himself, and that since English is not his first language, there would admittedly be some grammatical and spelling errors. While I understand where he's coming from, I do think it hurts his credibility in the eyes of many people when he can't be bothered to find a way to edit the book before publication. That being said, I tend to be a grammar nerd as well as a previous journalism student, where it was drilled into us that grammar errors were not acceptable (something that apparently isn't stressed as much any more, judging by the media these days). If I met FerFAL in person, I wouldn't correct his speech. He writes like he talks. 
This is not a feel-good book, but the author does try to make the point that even though things will get more complicated, it's not the end-all: people will adapt and life will go on. Even though he doesn't use the word "happy" or any of its synonyms, I got the subtle hint that we shouldn't despair, but plan to make the best of a bad situation.