A Bit of Spook For You!

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Today, I’d like to do something different and share an excerpt of a new piece of fiction that I’m working on.
Be warned, it’s horror. Mild right now, but it’ll get freaky later.
It doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m open to suggestions. Suggest something in the comments section. When it sees publication, if I use your suggestion, you’ll get a shout-out in the acknowledgements! You could be famous…
Anyway, here’s the excerpt, please let me know what you think!

****

They say I’m mad, the people here. But I’m not. Not really. They just don’t understand because they’ve never been face to face with the evil that I have.
You asked what I saw? It wasn’t just what I saw, but what I heard and smelled. Hell, the whole thing.

Have you heard of Christina Mine? No? I’m not surprised, it’s not much now. Back in its prime it was a small village of maybe 60 buildings; a store, some homes, a train station, outbuildings for the mine, a hotel and a mill that took in logs from the surrounding woods and prepped them for the train trip south. By the time I saw the area a hundred years later all that was left was the skeleton of the mill, the train station and a boarded up entrance to the mine. The closest collection of people was ten miles away. I thought it was going to be a peaceful summer, the real estate agent never said a word about anything hinky going on before I bought the place. I thought it was just a sad, neglected train station.

I replaced the windows and doors before I ever stayed overnight. A couple of times I thought I heard kids playing in the hall, but of course, when I went to look they had left. I replaced the locks after that. The day after I replaced the locks, I was out in the front yard having a smoke and happened to glance up at the second story. When I saw someone’s face looking back at me from the corner of the window, I ran inside, grabbed my gun and charged up the stairs, mad as hell. It was my place, you know? I didn’t want kids coming back in, ruining what I’d done to fix the old place up. It never occurred to me that the closest kids would have lived ten miles away.  Of course I found no one else besides myself. I double checked the locks and kept my gun close by. It never really bothered me then.

The next time something weird happened, I was up a ladder, painting the outside of the building. I had picked up a few gallons of simple white on a trip to town and only had to wait for the right day. Well, the day finally came. The bugs were scarce, there was a slight breeze and it was as bright a day as I’d ever seen. So I set my stuff up, leaned the ladder against the building and took my tray and roller up the ladder. I had been painting for a couple of hours when I heard someone laugh, kind of a chuckle, right beside me. Like anyone else would, I looked. Of course there was no one there, I was twenty-something feet off the ground! I shrugged to myself and kept painting. When I heard the chuckle again, it came from my other side. Yeah, I looked again. Nope, no one there either. This time though, I got goose bumps up and down my arms. I got off that ladder as fast as my feet could carry me.

TBC

Brilliant Achievements Take Planning

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“If there is no dull and determined effort, there will be no brilliant achievement.”
Hsun-Tzu

When I read these words the other day, I felt my blood chill. Honestly! I used to think that line “their blood ran cold” was a load of crap. I found out otherwise.
Anyway, I spent the rest of the day thinking about that quote. I think it can apply to a lot in life, and I think every procrastinator like me can take it to heart. It can apply to writing, to becoming more self-sufficient, to crafts like knitting or clay-work, homework or…anything really.

I’ve been reading “The Shy Writer Re-Born” by C. Hope Clark, and I’ve found her inspiring as well. She gives solid advice, and because she is an introvert like me, I tend to pay more attention when she assures me that I really can lay down a plan for success in my writing. If she can do it, so can I.

If I can do it, brave ahead despite my self doubt and negative crap, you can do it too. Doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s something you believe in, you can do it.
I’m talking reasonable dreams here.
Ask yourself these things:

  • What do I want to be doing six months from now? A year? Two years?
  • What needs to happen to achieve my six month goal?
  • Do I need someone else’s help? How do I get that? Where do I have to go?
  • What can I do today or tomorrow to be one step closer to that goal?
I remember years ago, someone I trusted asked me what I wanted to be doing in five years time. I answered her with “I want to be a writer.”  She asked me, “What do you need to have that happen?”
Well, I don’t remember my answer all these years later, but whatever plan I came up with didn’t stick. At the time, I was distracted by a custody case, family court and an ever-tumultuous life. I wish now I could have stuck with it, but I wasn’t ready. So I came to my goal late, but I did eventually acquire my goal. I got a book published, my life settled down, I got a couple of articles published, I won custody of my boys, I wrote stories about a young dragon that I loved, and so did my boys.
My point here is that whatever it is, you can do it.
If J.K Rowling can write about a world of wizards, Hippogriffs, magical plants and evil magic while on a fixed income with a baby … you can figure out what you want from life and work out a plan to get it!

The world will end – And I’m not preparing for it…

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A topic that I keep seeing come up more and more – thanks NatGeo! – is how crazy you have to be to be a prepper. Where is your bunker? Gas masks? Is your IQ higher than your shoe size? What most people don’t seem to understand is that most of us (oops, I’m using a broad brush too, but at least I’m informed) aren’t preparing for the end of the world.  Sure it is part of our assessment and actions – but it’s not the end all or be all.

Here at Abundant Future we do prepare for those high-impact but low frequency events, but our main purpose is to live a better life and to be self reliant and agile enough to prosper no matter what the future holds. We do prepare for natural disasters, personal disasters, or just to have a better life today through self reliance and personal productivity, but we don’t sit in a bunker on top of a stack of cans waiting for the world to end.

Now for the juicy stuff – the world IS going to end. Depending on the experts you listen to it is between 2.7 and 8 BILLION years away. That is the estimated timeline for the Sun to expand enough to cook off every living organism on the planet and then go supernova, incinerating the entire planet in the process.

I’m not preparing for that, I think that will be up to my great^10000 grand kids to prepare for.

No matter what happens even if we are hit by a mega-solar storm, or have full on nuclear war, or face a pandemic like no one has ever even thought possible; life will go on.  People are resilient, so lets look at the big picture, get some perspective and start working towards a better life every day.

Just so you can better visualize what is going on, pop over to this link and take a gander at what time really is.

http://www.waitbutwhy.com/2013/08/putting-time-in-perspective.html

 

 

Getting to the Bottom of Root Vegetables

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root vegetablesRoot vegetables are both easy to grow and good for you, which is why they are an excellent addition to any garden. Usually the first thing that people think of when they hear the words “root vegetables” are potatoes, however, there are many other varieties that should not be forgotten about. The vegetables listed below can be used in soups and stews, roasted, baked, and added to everything from casseroles to salads. Consider planting some of these in your garden:

Carrots – The most popular color of carrots, at least in the United States, is orange. However, they can come in numerous other colors as well, including purple and white. Carrots don’t like weather that is too hot or too cold, although this can vary depending on the specific variety chosen. They also prefer soil that isn’t too acidic. In order to ensure that carrots will grow successfully in your garden, test your soil and check with your local garden supply store before planting.

Turnips – Turnips like full sun and rich soil that doesn’t drain overly fast. They mature in around 60 days, but can take as long as 85, depending on the size and flavor of turnip that you’re looking for. In some climates, turnips can be planted as late as August, but this is primarily in cooler climates. Those who live in hotter ones will find that their turnips don’t grow as large.

Parsnips – Growing parsnips takes some patience, as it could be as long as three weeks before the seedlings begin to poke out of the ground. Once they do, it will take around 120 to 180 days before they are large enough to harvest. Because of this, parsnips need to be planted in the late fall along with the other winter vegetables in your garden. They thrive in cooler weather and are closely related to the carrot. Once you cut into a parsnip, you’ll notice its yellow flesh and an almost floral smell.

Radishes – Radishes grow very quickly – in around 2 to 3 weeks – and love cooler weather. You can start planting them the second your ground thaws out and keep planting them until the weather gets to be too warm. If you live in a warmer climate, the radish is a great vegetable to plant in the winter. There are many different types of radishes available, and the heirloom varieties are making a comeback. Consider planting one of these more unique types in your garden: Rat Tail Radish, Japanese Daikon and Black Spanish Round. All will make your salads, soups and other dishes a little more interesting.

Rutabagas – The rutabaga is closely related to the turnip, and is similar in shape and size. The only difference is the color – rutabagas have maroon skin and yellow flesh, whereas turnips are more purple and white. They thrive in cooler weather, and should be planted in the late fall, around 90 days before the first frost. Rutabagas like moist soil and need to be placed about 6 inches apart in order to have enough room to grow.

Are You Looking For Heirloom Seeds? Botanical Interests Has You Covered

I highly recommend you check out Botanical Interests for heirloom seeds.

Botanical Interests has over 500 high-quality varieties guaranteed to germinate and provide you great vegetables. No GMOs here. Not only is the seed inside their packets the highest quality available, their packets are designed to give you the information you need to be a more successful gardener!

Click here to find the seeds you need.

Pic by Skånska Matupplevelser  

 

Doomsday Castle – The Kardashians Go Prepping

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The new smash hit – Doomsday Castle – is taking the prepping world by storm! It has got to be the best, most informative and most entertaining show on prepping I’ve ever seen. No that isn’t sarcasm!

The show pits a very loose nit family together to help realize their dad’s vision of building a castle to protect them in ‘the end of times’. Ok, might not be a bad premise, but the execution is nothing short of a Hollywood spectacle. The most frequent comments I hear and read from those who watch it are…Drumroll… You guessed it, the many variations of ‘the daughters are hot’. (My favorite was a great little snark “I wonder if silicon stops bullets”)

The spectacle continues as the drama keeps unfolding – in the lot of them there doesn’t seem to be a want or will to do anything other than be famous and cash in. (The only exception could be the eldest sons weird obsession with wanting to prove himself) The next reality TV star family is here and they want to give the Kardashians a run for their money, showing how dysfunctional and crazy they can be. As sad as it is to say I’d bet money that within a year at least one of the kids will be featured in some racy video/photo op to make money, ala Kim Kardashian.

They want the world to know who they are, and where they are and what they are up to. Breaking not only every opsec rule in the book, but airing more of their laundry than anyone ever should. (want to see a good aerial view? Its on google maps right here!)

In the midst of the side show and the many horrible prepping atrocities there are a few neat nuggets to think about, but mostly it is a great method to learn how NOT to prep.

Going back to the original Doomsday Preppers episode that first highlighted the castle they stated he had already spent over a million dollars building it. Hopefully that was about 900K invested in the land and maybe the last 100K being foolishly spent on the castle itself. Even then I am not too sure he got a good deal for his money.

Not only did he overspend initially but he likes to spend time and money on more silly endeavors:

  • A drawbridge is too heavy and overbuilt. It might stop a car the first time, but I’d bet a few blows from a sledgehammer on the lower attachments and it would come down.
  • A catapult. Catapults were used against fixed fortifications (like a castle…) or massive quantities of attackers.  It has zero utility as a prep, but just might break apart and hurt someone.
  • A portcullis with a murder hole. You have to have a strong backup for your overbuilt drawbridge – never mind the windows big enough to drive a semi through that are wide open.

 

You have to be dutiful and wise with your time and money – these are good examples of what not to do. Instead how about a prioritized list of what you can spend your time and money on, not what is cool or fun or will get you noticed on TV. Don’t spent time building a catapult and portcullis when you could be putting up a roof, walls and windows. Or reinforcing the small livable space you do have – your windows looking outside are so crummy that water was leaking through as it rained. How is that supposed to be secure?

You also need to make sure you aren’t a hoarder, which it seemed like the father was doing. Generally I draw the line for hoarding at the level of organization/documentation and your ability to properly store it. The first episode showed them having to spend hours or days cleaning up and throwing away large amounts of junk. Had that stuff been properly cared for it probably would have been valuable but his lack of care turned it to useless junk. (The treadle sewing machine was a good idea but when you don’t take care of it and someone kicks it to pieces.)

So if you are going to prepare for ‘the end of times’ (what is that by the way?) you might want to give this show a chance and learn what not to do.

The Easiest Vegetable to Grow

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zucchiniEvery gardener knows that some vegetables are easier to grow than others. Pickier plants need a lot of care and coaxing in order to grow and mature properly. Other plants simply need to be planted in the ground, watered when needed, and then, the next thing you know, you have ripe vegetables ready to harvest and eat.

But what’s the easiest vegetable to grow? There must be one that tops the list; one that produces a ton of vegetables without taking up a lot of your time. It’s easy to name the top five of these, but harder to come up with just one plant. Out of all of the vegetables that grow in the United States, zucchini should be at the top of the list.

Unlike some vegetables, for example beans and tomatoes, that need to shored up to stakes, poles or cages for support, zucchini is quite happy to stay on the ground. It’s a very low-maintenance vegetable. Here are some other characteristics that put zucchini at the top of the list:

– Location: Zucchini likes full sun, but will also grow well in partial shade. This gives you more options when planting this vegetable, as it isn’t overly picky. This vegetable also prefers alkaline soil that falls between 6 and 7 on the pH scale, and likes soil that drains fairly well. With that said, it will grow well in many different conditions, even those that don’t quite fit the profile.

– Watering:  This vegetable prefers a lot of water, so make sure that the soil around it is kept moist. This is really the only thing that zucchini plants are really picky about. If they don’t receive any water, they won’t grow properly. The leaves and buds can also begin to wilt. If this happens, it’s just a sign that your plants need more water.

– Preventing harmful conditions: Zucchini is prone to wilt and mildew, but that doesn’t make it any harder to grow – it just means that when you water your plants, make sure that the water goes directly into the soil underneath the plant. Any droplets that remain on the leaves and stem of your zucchini will only welcome mold and mildew. You don’t want this, so be careful about where the water ends up.

– Fertilizer: If you plan on using chemical fertilizers, keep in mind that your zucchini plants only need one dose. Plant your seedlings (or seeds, depending on how you plan your garden and what climate you’re in) and then fertilize them. Water your plants soon after, and then sit back and watch your zucchini grow.

– Harvesting: As soon as your zucchini are around 4 inches long, they need to be harvested. The downside to this (if you’re worried about zucchini overload) is that as soon as this happens, the plants will seemingly explode and you’ll end up with a ton of zucchini. However, if you love this vegetable and plan on using every single one that you grow, then this is a good thing.

Are You Looking For Heirloom Seeds? Botanical Interests Has You Covered

I highly recommend you check out Botanical Interests for heirloom seeds.

Botanical Interests has over 500 high-quality varieties guaranteed to germinate and provide you great vegetables. No GMOs here. Not only is the seed inside their packets the highest quality available, their packets are designed to give you the information you need to be a more successful gardener!

Click here to find the seeds you need.

Pic by WallyHartshorn

How Spicy is that Hot Pepper?

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hot peppersThere are two main types of peppers – sweet bell peppers that come in varying shades of green, red, orange and yellow, and spicy hot peppers that are available in many different colors, including white.

Hot peppers are measured in Scoville units. The range for mildly hot peppers goes from 100 to 2000, and the measurement for other, spicier peppers extends from there. Very spicy hot peppers can contain over 1 million Scoville units. With that said, most of the very, very hot peppers are not native to the United States and prefer a tropical-like climate in order to thrive. If you live in the southern part of the country, you may be able to pull off growing some of these:

Santa Fe Grand Pepper – This pepper is on the mild side and only has between 500 and 700 Scoville units. They are bright orange or red when ripe and can be used in many different dishes. A single Santa Fe hot pepper plant can produce up to 50 peppers. This plant grows very well in the southwestern United States and is also known as the guero chili pepper and the yellow hot chili pepper.

Jalapeno Pepper – Jalapeno peppers are usually green, but can be red. The change in color is related to the ripeness of the pepper. What’s odd about jalapeno peppers is the fact that they get spicier when you eat the seeds. Without the seeds, they’re actually pretty mild, but when the entire pepper is eaten, it falls into the medium spiciness range of between 2,500 and 10,000 Scoville units.

Serrano Pepper – The Serrano pepper is eaten when it is either green or red, which makes them hard to distinguish from an jalapeno. The main difference is the level of spiciness. Although Serrano peppers are considered to be “medium” on the Scoville scale, their rankings of between 10,000 and 25,000 units put them almost into the “hot” section of the list.

Tabasco Pepper – Unlike a lot of hot peppers which prefer the weather of other countries or the southwestern part of the United States, the Tabasco pepper grows in other warm-weathered parts of the country, for example, Louisiana. Tabasco peppers are best known for their use in spicy Tabasco sauce, and they have a Scoville rating of between 30,000 and 50,000 units. They are bright red when ripe, and grow to be around 2 inches long.

Pequin Pepper – The Pequin pepper is native to New Mexico and Texas, and has a Scoville rating of between 100,000 and 140,000. This pepper is very small, and usually resembles a small, red or brown-colored grape – however, this is one “grape” that you don’t want to bite into by accident!

Habanero Pepper – While the spiciest pepper on record is the ghost pepper, or naga jolokia with its record 1,000,000 Scoville units, this pepper is not indigenous to North America. Instead, the ever-popular habanero pepper (100,000 – 350,000 Scoville units) will grow throughout the southwest, and is originally from Mexico. The habanero pepper is red in color when ripe, and ranges from 1 inch to 2 inches long.

Are You Looking For Heirloom Seeds? Botanical Interests Has You Covered

I highly recommend you check out Botanical Interests for heirloom seeds.

Botanical Interests has over 500 high-quality varieties guaranteed to germinate and provide you great vegetables. No GMOs here. Not only is the seed inside their packets the highest quality available, their packets are designed to give you the information you need to be a more successful gardener!

Click here to find the seeds you need.

Pic by SuziesFarm