Sunday, October 20, 2013

Smoked mullet: The PERFECT smoking wood for your home caught mullet.

When I first moved to Pine Island some three years ago now, it quickly became evident that if I was ever to gain any old boy cred in the neighborhood, I was going to have to develop a 'killer' smoked mullet recipe. So the first thing I did was copy the recipe of a long time resident up the street...had to know how it was done before I could improve on it. 

Next thing that varied from old boy to old boy recipe was the smoking wood. It was then I began to hear rumors...of old boy's now dead who used to use 'Buttonwood' as their favored smoking wood. Same with the native Americans, now long gone, who lived here on Pine Island...Buttonwood was the favored smoking wood.

So okay, nobody likes a good biology mystery more than this old science teacher so I set out to find some of this phantom smoking wood.

Just a little internet research, turned up a few clues. There are four types of mangroves in SW Florida: Red, Black, White and Buttonwood. One little science fact was the big hint that eventually led to it's discovery.

Alternate leaf arrangement----------->

See how the leaves are attached to the stem? One leaf, then a space then the next leaf. 

Compare buttonwood leaf arrangement to this. This is a Red Mangrove but just like all the other mangroves except Buttonwood it has an opposite leaf arrangement. 

Opposite leaf arrangement ---------->

So now that you know the one and only mangrove(Buttonwood) that has their leaves in an alternate arrangement you can go on to find some of them growing near the salt water. But there is one more thing to help you...they have deeply fissured bark by comparison to all the other mangroves. 

So here we have what we're looking for: Alternate leaves, deeply fissured bark but there is one last thing...this plant is not nearly dead enough to be of use. 

But this one is! Long long dead the bark is falling off. Perfect! The bark gives the smoke a bitter flavor so you don't want it on there.

Seems a lot of trouble to go to just to get a couple of fat dead sticks doesn't it? Well if you want the perfect smoking wood to compliment the perfect mullet you're just going to have to do a bit of investigating and looking around.

This is really what 'soft survivalism' is all about.
Doing what you can to make use of the wild and natural things around you in a sustainable way. It's always a bonus when they taste superior to anything you can buy in a store or at the roadside.

It took me several recipe trials to get this as perfect as it could be but it all starts here with the proper natural flavor of the Buttonwood.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Solar Broiled to Solar Exhausted

Until last Friday the 27th of September, this crawl space acted as a solar broiler for the rest of the house. The sun shown on the metal roof, the metal roof heated up the air to broiling temperature and the air-conditioner cooled the solar heated hot air in the house at no small expense. There was some rigid insulation to slow down the heat but eventually it got to the ceiling underneath and cooked the house just like the broiler element in an oven.

What to do?

Well, get rid of the hot air before it can heat the ceiling of course. There was a passive vent on the northward end of the crawl space but what we really needed was some active exhausting or moving of all that superheated air out of the crawl space.


A fan! Modeled here by Claudia and about to be installed in the southward facing end of the crawl space. Not that this is just any old fan mind you, it is a 20watt fan powered by a photovoltaic panel fixed to the roof directly above it.

Both Claudia and myself just see solar powered 'anything' as a no brainer for Florida weather. In this case, the cost of installing the fan will obviously pay for itself over time because of the reduced power bills for the air conditioner.
'Soft Survivalism' don't have to leave the grid behind entirely in order to get some benefits from solar power.

So here we goooo.
 First we remove the siding. Taking care not to break it...we're going to have to put it back at the finish with a hole big enough for the fan. 

Then cut a hole in the side with a tin snips...just big enough fro the fan after a few modifications. 

Connect the fan to the photovoltaic panel, which you can see on its side directly above the installers head lying on the roof. And yes, from this point forward the poor guy was getting a face full of hot air, directly in the face. He did mention it after getting off the ladder.

Put back the siding with a hole for the fan and vent cover.

Wipe off any smudges and we're done!

Actually, Claudia and I were really glad we took the photos as the work was being done. Otherwise, you wouldn't even know there was a fan in there. It's so quiet, you can't hear it running and it works as long as there is sunlight to power the fan.

One last thought we had is that it is really nice when the company you purchased it from sends their most experienced carpenter...'There's nothing he can't do" was what they told us and he sure seemed to know the job well enough. Not a screw or bolt out of place...just done right the first time.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I was pleasantly surprised that several people were willing to travel to Ohio to transport me to and from colonoscopy.
Good to have online friends.
Yesterday was my birthday. Tomorrow I get back on the wagon: cooking and cleaning and exercising.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I am 62 years old.
Had a colonoscopy May 6 2013, a large polyp was removed.
Had a follow up colonoscopy Aug 26.
It seems I shall live much longer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Harvested zucchini and cabbage and tomatoes from the back yard today,
Gary had a solar estimate this morning. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Possible TMI.
I had a colonoscopy in May 2013 and a large polyp was removed. Going back for another colonoscopy in late August. This stuff is expensive. Also requires a friend with driver's license to take me to and fro.
Getting old is no fun at all.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Solar Virgins No More

Both Claudia and myself can patently see the value of solar power in Florida...I mean what could be more obvious than 'solar' anything in the self-described "Sunshine State". However, getting going in the direction of solar powered soft survivalism took an unexpected turn when we started discussing 'weather station'.
We wanted a weather station that not only was accurate but also web connected so that Claudia could view the weather conditions immediately in Florida, exactly as it was in my backyard. Although I live on an island, the weather conditions can drastically differ from one end of the island to the other. So a weather station on site made sense. But then, when researching the different types of weather stations available it quickly became apparent that most of them involved 'battery changes'.
The chosen spot for the weather station was the old unused satellite dish on the left.
Except that I am not as spry as I used to be and regularly getting on a step ladder and changing batteries on tip toes did not have much appeal. I have come off a ladder before and have no desire to repeat the experience. So knowing this as a background might help explain our desire to have as weather station with as little gymnastics involved as possible.
All up, the Davis Vantage Vue weather station seemed to be the product to fill the need. Accurate by most reviews, web linked, and most importantly, the radio was both SOLAR powered during the day as well as a solar powered  battery for night time reporting.

That's the photovoltaic cells on the left of the weather station.
Actually the whole thing was well thought out with the solar cells oriented to the South for best solar efficiency. The station was dependent on this orientation(solar cells south facing) for wind direction as well. 
The installation was dead set simple itself...the clamp fitting directly over the old mounting post for the unused satellite dish...and away she went. 
I had mounted it first on a temporary pole on the ground to work out any bugs or kinks in the radio transmission so that when I finally got around to climbing up the ladder, getting on the porch roof and fitting the weather station to the mounting pole, it all worked without a hitch. Radio transmission was easily strong enough to reach the console inside the house and from there to the data logger/web interface plugged into the back of the computer.

On the left is a view of the weather station from the roof..proof again, if any was needed as to why I was rather skeptical of regularly changing batteries to power the station.

Weather Station Console inside
One last thing is that Claudia and I would like to invite you to use the web page to which the station reports...every minute or so as long as I remember to keep the computer turned on and the little program running in the background. Just click on the link below to see "Gary and Claudia's Weather Station"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 10  a severe storm went through. The power was off for 21 hours. My neighbor ran a cord from his generator across the street and we plugged in my refrigerator and computer and router.

When the power went off it flickered for a while and  partially fried my A/C; once I manage to get it turned on it works, but last night I had to turn off the power strip to turn it off. So tomorrow will have a new one installed.

I've thought about having a generator installed over the years but never got around to it.

Definitely want to look into solar to work with Gary's generator.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Last year I decided that if I made it through one of the inevitable tropical depressions without losing power that I would do something about make the investment for a generator.
But as you can see, there is a recognizable difference with this generator, it's propane powered.
Gasoline has its advantages, it's cheap readily available and I've usually got some on hand for my boat.
Big disadvantage is: it goes off...that's right, it doesn't work after a certain length of a few months of sitting in the Florida heat.
So, that being said, there is a real advantage to propane in that it never goes off, the refilling station is even closer than the nearest gas station and it will sit happily and safely in that large gray tank for years...until it's finally ready.
I got the tank on Craigs list. Oh yeah, before I forget to tell you...check the expiry date on the collar of the tank! They won't fill them for you if they have expired.
In any case, got the tank roped it fast to the boat do not want a tank coming off the trailer...and took it to the filling station. Roughly speaking, about three days worth of electrical power in there.

Another really good feature is that you can use this tank for several purposes...the connector easily comes off and the tank can be used to fire the bar-b-que or even the lawn mower...well yes, I even have a propane powered lawn mower. It also refills the little tank for the antique stove inside.
The whole idea, is not to be 'off the grid' entirely. No, it's more like being able to survive with a reasonable degree of comfort with the grid no longer functional. Here, it's almost a yearly occurrence, that a tropical storm will cut the power. Usually only for a few hours but occasionally for days at a time. That's when the generator and its non-degradable fuel source comes in handy.
Oddly enough, it's Claudia, in Ohio, who has had need for this more than me! Poor girl is at the end of the repair line, so that every power outage from trees knocking down power lines she's always the last back up and running.
But there is an even better solution and when she gets here we're going to work on it. "Solar" First for hot water. How obvious can you get? You can burn yourself from water in a hose that's been left out in the sun. So first thing is a solar hot water heater. But photovoltaic(PV) is on the agenda as well. The house is situated on a north south axis so PV collectors would be just perfect on the porch and house roof.
The big draw card for Claudia...spreadsheets and data collection to the bone this that along with a weather station it's all recordable, collectable and therefore comparable.
In a word. "Shareable"
I'm building a pc from parts from parts for the first time. I not sure but I think it most likely will be re-purposed into a 'server'. That's right, a year or two from now and you might be able to look all this up on line real time and just see for yourself what a 'soft survivalist' can do.
Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Claudia's 'flow of thought' soup

One of the luxuries of being soft survivalists is that you just don't have to be all too strict with yourself . Making soup for example. A hard ass survivalist would only accept stuff you grew yourself or foraged as a proper soup for lunch.
No such problem here. I borrowed a thought from Claudia and last night set about having 'flow of thought' vegetable soup for lunch today. The thought was...well...what do I have in the cupboard that I could start with. Answer, a packet of dried red beans.
How hard can this be, to think a little ahead? So I soaked the beans over night in the crock pot then set about finding whatever vegetables I could lay my hands on in the morning. Sure enough I found plenty. Malabar Spinach, Japanese Eggplant, Sweet Potato vine tips, Star beans, Snake beans and then a carrot from the fridge.
Dumped the whole roughly chopped mess, oh yeah, onion and bay leaf too, into the crock pot and set out on my mornings fishing expedition.
I have never made it before, I'll probably never make it exactly the same ever again. But my 'flow of thought' vegetable soup was a much appreciated welcome home.

Had two bowls of this goodness before I was done.

Didn't catch a lot of fish but I'm once again being happily stalked by my spirit animal.

Nice to see them looking out for me.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Making some progress.

My first step toward moving will be getting all of my finances (and the paperwork involved with them) sorted out, consolidated, and tracked. This will be quite a task as I am years behind in my paperwork. The goal is to get everything online and tracked and cross-referenced in spreadsheets.

The weather here has been awful; rain for a week and predicted for all next week.
I had been working on getting more healthy, but I am not going to walk during thunderstorms.  Will continue doing light weight lifting. Started with two pound dumbbells, will move up to three pounds. Well, I had to start somewhere.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What to do?

I have been wondering what to do.

Legal papers, insurance, financial accounts...


Also considering what to move, donate, trash...

So much to consider after all these years.

CORPORATE SUBVERSION: Health Care, round 1...Insulin, the stuff of life or death

It's a very simple equation. This corporation that makes Lantus has me in a very tight embrace which is: I either use its product or I die.
Not much room to wiggle around is there? Roughly speaking to buy this insulin without insurance would cost me $435/mo. Not a chance in hell I could afford it and have enough money left over to live appropriately. In Australia, under their socialist health care system, it would cost me no more than $30/mo. Well within my means and budget.
But living here in the US, where corporations reign supreme what to do.
Turns out the answer is engage the system, subversively, for your own purposes.
If you engage the system here, even in the smallest of ways, like a part-time job with a corporation, they are forced to give you a 'W2 form', in other words, a widely recognized piece of paper describing your earnings for tax purposes. Turns out this is not only useful for filing a tax return it is also useful for convincing other corporations you are indigent. That is, you earn so little money that you fall below the recognized poverty line.
You just qualified for free goods and services.
I'm sure corporations get a tax break for their largess but you don't really care about that do you? NO, you do not.
You only care that you will now be receiving free health care products. Like insulin. Like continued life on the planet.
Your only remaining concern is how do you access corporation largesse? Where do you get the application forms, what other things are necessary and how will this product be delivered to you?
Lets just use Lantus as an example:
Steps to obtaining free Lantus
1. Identify the corporation that makes it: Sanofi
2. Search the web with Google or some other search engine for things like "Sanofi patient assistance program"
3. Find the corporations patient assistance program then, try to figure out 'how to apply'. In this example, they hid it well. Unlike some others there were no online forms to download. Nope. If you were going to be successful, you had to read between the lines and call them. Nothing less than a phone call would do. Then after speaking to you they would email you an application form.
4. Fill out your part of the application form, then take it to your doctor's office, have them fill out the rest of the form and with the above mentioned W2 form, fax everything to their patient assistance program.

I wasn't willing to write this post until I knew that it works. Had the insulin in my sweating pudgy hands and had stored it in the fridge.

So now that you know it works and how it works, email me or message me or leave a comment or some way for me to get a hold of you. I've still got the forms and it would please me no end to help someone else do the same thing.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Just some background:
Have been living here for ~35 years, house and car paid for; been scouting for someone to live with/near as an alternative to assisted living.
Didn't want to give up garden/compost/cooking/clothesline.
Gary showed up (after several years as 'net friends) and offered a place to live with "soft survivalism".
Have a year and a half to arrange/move/dispose years of stuff.

Future posts will concern: here and now, or preparing/transition, or plans for there. 

The crash and burn of things mechanical

Damn. The day started out okay in most respects but then as I was about to learn, things mechanical began to go wrong...It was almost as if there was a conspiracy afoot to break things.

The worst was the shade top to the boat, I ran it into an errant mangrove branch and broke the front bow. Oh yes, there was more indignations to do you steer the boat when the canvass top collapses on your head? Well with great difficulty...until you realize you have to lash it back to it's foundations and subject yourself to the sun's full blast, if you are going to finally pull the crab traps from their watery graves. We got it done but at some cost.

Next? Bait bucket falls apart...too much sun has made it brittle and on this day the handle pulls loose, great holes appear and the bucket now has enough holes to literally resemble Swiss Cheese. Not the most useful device for holding small pin fish.

Finally, even the hose nozzle got in on the act...

Do you see that crack in the upper right of the handle???? That crack means that the pin pulls through the handle and the hose no longer squirts.

This shit is going to be expensive to replace, let me tell you.

One day, one errant mangrove branch and suddenly all other mechanicals see their chance and there you are. Dead in the water until repairs.


If  I didn't love my life so much I'd just give it all up and cry over the loss.

Never mind.

Friday, June 21, 2013


It's what Claudia calls 'soft survivalism', nothing too hard core here. Not even an end goal of completely separating ourselves from not that. It's not what we want to do.

What we do want to do is to minimize the influence of corporations and their 'consume or die' mentality. We haven't really started in earnest yet but here is one little way of reducing dependence and consumption of corporation inspired dispensability. This sort of attitude may go by other names like, 'frugality' 'sustainability' or 'corporate anarchy'. Okay, I just made up the last one myself. But in the end, they all have one idea in common and that is to reduce our outlay of money to corporations. We may still choose to outlay money but it won't have to be to a corporation.

Here's a handy dandy little device I didn't even know existed until Claudia sent me one...and yes, after this mornings trial, I can tell you it works a treat.

I had deliberately used a fairly expensive 3 blade disposable razor until it was dull. Followed the directions on the box and it was back to 'good as new' in no time. Also read the instructions for a change of pace and realized that they probably had a point with 'dry your razor to prevent microscopic rust'. So then had an old brain brainstorm and remembered I had read a hint somewhere along the line that told me how to do this effectively.

That's about an inch of olive oil in an old plastic drinking glass. No water, no air ='s no rust. Neat huh?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

A night trout before off island ultrasound.

Here we have a fine example of a 'night trout'. What's a 'night trout' you might wonder? Well it's a trout that you catch at night(obviously) off your deck, before you go off to an early morning appointment to get your testicle ultrasound.

One of the rules that apply here in Florida where I live is that whatever you catch off your dock is 'yours' no questions asked. So after turning on the 'dock light'(and underwater light) yesterday evening I got up early...way too early for most...around 4a.m. and saw this lovely specimen totally hypnotized by the dock light and had to have it.

A lucky throw with a cast net and this and several catfish, destined for the crab trap, are sitting on the boat awaiting collection and preparation in daylight hours.

This trout will be lunch, as soon as I get back from the off island(never a good thing) ultrasound and get around to fully cleaning him. All my volunteers, as I call my catches, get a swift and clean death as I do believe that's part of the deal for volunteering. So he'll be waiting for me in the fridge having been dispatched shortly after this picture with his partial remains being returned to the sea to serve as food for his brethren. 

To the greatest extent possible EVERYTHING here is recycled, one way or another.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Some background: been living in Ohio for ~35 years; moving to Florida late next year.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013