So You Want to Buy a Freezer…

The first thing to consider is what you will be putting in the freezer. Do you plan to buy a whole (or half) beef once a year? Or do you plan to fill the freezer with venison in the fall? If either of these is the case you should consider buying two smaller freezers, rather than one large one. For example, I have a just over 9 cubic foot freezer, which I fill with venison every fall. We really need a bit more freezer space, because the kids are getting older and it takes more venison to last a year, but you can fit 4-5 good size deer in a 9 cubic foot freezer if you debone all your meat and have nothing else in the freezer. This equates to about half a beef. However, if I was to do it again, with a plan to either buy half a beef a year or shoot 4-5 deer a year, I would buy a 3 cubic foot freezer and a 7 cubic foot freezer instead of a 9 cubic foot freezer.

Having two smaller freezers would substantially reduce the energy cost of running the freezers. Freezers are most efficient when full, which is why many people recommend that you add jugs of water to the freezer as it empties. We would eat out of the smaller one until it was mostly empty, then move the remainder to the fridge freezer inside and shut off the smaller freezer. Then, we would eat out the larger freezer until it was about half empty, at which point we would shut off the larger freezer and move the remainder of the meat into the smaller freezer. This would be much more efficient than the current situation, in which our freezer is half or more empty for half the year.

Another thing to consider is how much variety there is in what you will be filling the freezer with. Are you buying a whole or half beef once a year, or filling your freezer entirely with venison? Or are you buying a quarter cow once a year, plus butchering 50 chickens and 15 turkeys, plus hunting for deer, duck, pheasant, and goose? If you are closer to the second situation than the first, you are likely to find that every time you go to the freezer to grab something, its underneath a bunch of other stuff. The solution in this case is to get an upright freezer and a chest freezer. Upright freezers are far less efficient than chest freezers, but they are very good at keeping multiple things separate and organized. You can have a beef shelf, a venison shelf, a chicken shelf, a duck shelf, etc. When a shelf gets empty, you can reload it from the chest freezer. This will greatly reduce the time you spend digging through the chest freezer, which often involves taking quite a bit of food out of the freezer and then putting it back in.

Often, you can pick chest freezers up for a good price on craigslist. However, if you decide to buy new, try to look at a few different brands. Figure out what you will use to keep things organized inside. I like milk crates. I can pull out the milk crate of ground venison quickly and easily to access the milk crate of roasts underneath. Also, when the freezer is getting empty, a milk crate holds 1 gallon milk jugs perfectly. You can refill these jugs with water and place them in the freezer to take up space and help the freezer run efficiently. However, some brands and sizes of chest freezer won’t fit milk crates. Find a brand that fits a convenient stackable storage container, because the last thing you want is everything loose in the freezer.

A Must-Read Comic

I don’t know that I’ve ever recommended a comic before, but this one has definitely earned it. Read it here.

How Can You Discuss Liberalism in America Today?

Earlier today, Audible recommended to me through its algorithms the book Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick Deneen. I’d never heard of the book or its author before, so I did what I usually do when Audible recommends a book to me: I read the one-star reviews. Reviewers’ biggest issue with the book, it seemed, revolved around the definition of liberalism. Just from reading the one-star reviews, it is clear that Deneen’s critique of liberalism would include modern American Republicans and self-styled “conservatives,” who are of course squarely within the Lockean school of liberalism. Yet these reviewers clearly did not consider Republicans/”conservatives” as a subset within liberalism, but as somehow opposed to liberalism. The fact that these reviewers are wrong is immaterial–they are expressing the common understanding. In light of this, how does one actually go about discussing liberalism in America today? In a two party system where both parties draw their ideology from liberalism, the larger ideology of liberalism has largely become invisible. Is there a way to discuss liberalism in America today, or has it become so ingrained, so taken for granted, that it has become impossible to discuss, critique, or evaluate?

5 Years

Once again, the blog has been neglected for months. The main reason for this is the amount of time and energy that I’ve had to focus on the final capstone project for a degree I’ve been steadily chipping away at the requirements of for the past eight years. The final project, the culmination of both an intense 16-week class and the whole 8-year journey, has been submitted and now I have only to await a grade. Hopefully, once I catch up some on the many projects around the house that have also been put off due to the class, I will be able to write more. But tonight it is raining, so I have an excuse for writing rather than working on one of my many projects waiting outside.

I didn’t even write the week of my birthday, which is very unusual. This year my birthday came and went with much less reflection on life and goals than typical. Of course, that week an important assignment was due for my capstone project, so my focus was not on the birthday. Now that I have time to think and look back, it amazes me how much has changed from my birthday five years ago to my birthday this year.

On my birthday in 2015, I had not yet met Courtney. Now, not only are we married, but we have three children and a fourth on the way. In 2015, I had never yet stepped foot in an Orthodox Church, yet today I am the father of cradle Orthodox children. In 2015, I rented a room in a 2-bedroom condo. Since then I bought a house, sold it at a profit, and bought another house with more land. In 2015, I had never killed, gutted, skinned, or butchered a deer. Now I am asked to teach others these skills. In 2015, the management of the condos where I rented a room prevented me from growing a few vegetables. This year, we have a separate garden just for potatoes and onions.

In 2015, I was almost ready to give up on having a family. Five years made an incredible difference. Over the next five years, I hope to build further on the foundation established over the past five. I hope to move us closer and closer to self-sufficiency. I still need to get much better at fishing, to establish more gardens, and possibly move again to a larger property where we can have some farm animals, along with countless other projects. I hope to document this journey here.

Hopefully, the next update in this journey will be soon.

Finally! A Footwear Solution for Women and Children

The challenge when it comes to men’s footwear is deciding which of the many excellent Made in the USA boots to buy. The challenge for women’s and children’s footwear is the opposite. While a few of the companies that makes men’s boots also make some women’s boots, with the notable exception of Red Wing’s Clara (which is very pricey), these are simply sized down men’s boots, and not at all feminine. The options that are actually made for women (excepting boots for equestrian purposes) tend to be shoddily made of pleather or cloth. And Courtney likes to wear flats, which seem to be ubiquitously made out of cheap fabric.

Elgin’s first boots

Boys boots are no better. When Elgin was little, he would refuse to wear shoes. We finally got him to wear shoes when we bought a pair of work boots for him at Sears. They looked good at first, but were pleather and he managed to wear them out before outgrowing them despite how fast he was growing. He went through a few more pairs of those boots, because he would actually wear them, and we eventually found that he would wear rubber boots (or as he calls them “poop boots”) as well. And so, for the last few years, Courtney and Elgin have worn footwear that rather quickly deteriorated. Edna fared better–she was passed down a pair of crocs that seemed to wear quite well, and she wore them until she grew out of them. Crocs seems like a good play shoe for her, but as she’s gotten older I’ve become less comfortable with her wearing them for church on Sunday, or on other more “dressy” occasions.

Elgin’s boots
Edna’s shoes are just like Mommy’s

Well, it seems that we’ve finally found a solution. Courtney came across a company called Adelisa & Co. that sells women’s and children’s shoes that are handmade in Nicaragua out of genuine leather. While I would prefer to buy Made in the USA, handmade in Nicaragua is much better in my opinion than machine made in China. The leather is relatively thin, which makes the shoes and boots softer. Edna wore her shoes to bed the first night or two after she got them. Elgin has been wearing his boots every day, and they have not seemed to need a breaking in like thicker leather boots typically do.

If you’ve been looking for a better solution for women’s and children’s footwear, give Adelisa & Co. a try. Prices are reasonable, with Courtney’s shoes at $65, Edna’s at $45, and Elgin’s boots at $55. They have a variety of other styles available as well, including a simple Oxford that looks equally good on boys and girls.

Resource Update + Teasers

I’ve added some links under the resources page, and added more categories to keep everything streamlined. Blogs are now divided into categories, mirroring those for books except for the elimination of the fiction worth reading category and the addition of a technology category. The new technology category has 2 new resources, Low-Tech Magazine and No Tech Magazine. These are related blogs/webmagazines that deal with some of the problems of modern technology and low-tech solutions to common problems–interesting and inspiring reading.

I’ve also added a podcast page to the resources. I’m not a huge podcast guy, and the only podcasts I listen to are about Orthodoxy, so I didn’t bother adding categories for podcasts. I’ve included three excellent resources here. The first is Holy Archangels Orthodox Foundation, which host a wealth of talks, lectures, and homilies by Metropolitan +JONAH. I recently finished the series on contemplative prayer, and learned a lot in the process. The other two, The Arena and From the Amvon, feature homilies by Fr. Josiah Trenham and Fr. John Whiteford respectively.

Now for the teasers: 3 potential new resources! I recently ordered shoes for my wife and oldest daughter, and boots for my son, from a new company I’ve run across. For awhile now I’ve been frustrated, because while its fairly easy to find made in the USA from genuine full-grain US leather boots for men, I’ve found nothing similar for women or children–until now. I’m waiting to inspect the product, but I may have found the solution to cheap, shoddy shoes for women and children.

Second, I’ve been in touch with a friend from high school who has an extensive background in vegetable farming, including intensive production. He is starting a garden mentorship program in which he helps you with all things garden. Layout, varieties, pest problems, all this and more! Unfortunately, the program does not have any current openings, but I have asked him to let me post here when new openings are available, which will likely be this fall or next spring. You, my readers, will be the first to know when the program is available.

Finally, I’ve been in touch with a different friend from high school, who is in the beginning stages of a business selling fabric. If you’re like us, you buy fabric for kid’s clothes at least twice a year, and I always try to get enough for Courtney to make one or two new dresses for herself every year too. My friend is working on getting some USA made natural fibers, and I’ll post a write-up here when that’s a reality. In the meantime, she does have imported flannel available, so If you are further north than us here in Wisconsin, or want to start your fall outfits early, message me and I’ll get you the information.

Glory to God for the Coronavirus

The Covid-19 coronavirus, and the Great Corona Panic of 2020 that it has inspired, have undoubtedly had some negative results. It is likely, in our degenerate culture, that some of the people who have gotten sick and have died of the disease did so without repentance, a situation that pains God Himself. Furthermore, a large number of people have lost the ability to support their families, which should be a matter of immense and pressing concern for us Christians. Thus, I don’t mean for the title of this post to be flippant, but rather for it to be a challenge to me to remember to give glory to God for all things, as St. John Chrysostom did with his last breath as he was forced to walk himself to death. Let us then turn from the enumerations of the negatives of the coronavirus pandemic and panic, which there are undoubtedly more of, and consider the many reasons to thank and glorify God for the gifts He has given of both the pandemic and the panic.

Perhaps the most obvious gift, and simultaneously one of the hardest for us sinners to glorify God for is the gift of physical pain, sickness, and suffering. Our first response to sickness and suffering is not generally to glorify God for it, but rather to ask Him to take it away from us, or even to question how He can allow it to fall upon us. Yet we are told by St. Peter that bodily suffering cleanses us from sin. This is echoed in the Akathist of Thanksgiving:

+   Glory to Thee for raising us from the slough of our passions through suffering.

And again:

Priest: How near Thou art in the day of sickness. Thou Thyself visitest the sick; Thou Thyself bendest over the sufferer’s bed. His heart speaks to Thee. In the throes of sorrow and suffering Thou bringest peace and unexpected consolation. Thou art the comforter. Thou art the love which watcheth over and healeth us. To Thee we sing the song: Alleluia!

I am reminded of a man I remember from my childhood. His name, appropriately, was John Christian, and he emanated holiness. He also suffered from very severe and crippling gout. And yet he was joyful. I remember hearing him say that getting gout was the best thing that ever happened to him, because it brought him to God. The pain and suffering of his body purified and perfected his soul.

Suffering is not the only gift God has given through this situation. Another rather obvious gift is that families are once again spending time together. The artificially created fast pace of life has shattered, as families are no longer running back and forth between dozens of obligations. This creates time for family togetherness, and also creates time for silence and thought. Modern man tends to fill his every waking moment with work, entertainment, or noise to avoid ever having a moment alone with his thoughts and God. This escapism has become harder to maintain in the current situation.

Finally, the much bemoaned economic collapse is a gift of God. Realize the the majority of what we refer to as “the economy” is an edifice built on two pillars of sand: Materialism and Usury. Both of these pillars are collapsing before us. With non-essential retailers shut down, and significant restrictions in place at essential retailers, with people freed from the soul-draining daily rush of dozens of artificially created obligations designed to reduce man to nothing but a consumer, the veil of materialism is being lifted from many people’s eyes. People are even turning back to the true and original toil of man, as can be seen by the fact that seeds are sold out in so many places. Furthermore, the inevitable collapse of the predatory system of usury is well underway.

What happens with usury is that banks create money “out of thin air” by also creating debt.

People often state that fractional reserve banking creates money out of thin air, but this is not quite right. In fact, usury within fractional reserve banking creates money out of thin air. To quote the late, great Zippy Catholic:

When you introduce usury, though, is when the black magic appears. If the loan issued by the bank is usurious then the bank is issuing a new security against its balance sheet in return for a wink and a promise by the borrower. The bank then enters the wink-and-promise of the borrower onto its balance sheet as if it were actual property.  So in the case of banks which issue usurious loans, many of the loan ‘bricks’ in their balance sheet castles are imaginary; and in the case of collateralized full-recourse loans the ‘bricks’ are made of weaker material than they appear.

The majority of the current “economic collapse” is really just a collapse of a false economy as banks are erasing money from the books that never really existed in the first place except as debt.

So let us care for those around us who sick and suffering, for those who have lost their jobs, and for those whose allotted time for repentance on earth is drawing to a close. Let us be merciful and compassionate. But let us not forget to glorify God for the many goods things that He is bringing out of this crisis.

+    Glory to Thee for all things, Holy and most merciful Trinity.

A Big Move

We moved.

We sold our 3-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom, 1900 square foot house and bought a 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom, 970 square foot house with not a level floor in the house. This cut our monthly mortgage payments essentially in half, and provided us with the cash to buy a 22 year old Astro van with less that 90,000 miles to replace our 15 year old Impala with 370,000 miles. The van is AWD, and unlike the Impala, can continue to accommodate our family if we have another child–in fact, it can accommodate 2 more children!

The move new place has its drawbacks and benefits. I’m working on remedying the worst of the drawbacks as I can. One benefit is that we now have roughly 3x the land as the old place–1.2 acres as opposed to 0.4 acres. This means more room for gardens, and we’re still trying to determine where to locate them. Another benefit is that we now have river frontage on a small river, which opens up opportunities to catch fish in our own backyard. An additional benefit is that I am now less than 30 minutes from one of the properties where I deer hunt.

The main benefit, of course, is the lower payments. At our previous place, our minimum payments were about half my monthly income. While were able to keep up with it for quite a while, with each child it got harder, and after Helen was born we began to accumulate credit card debit (which is now gone). This is the opposite of what we want. We want to live inexpensively, save a little, and have money available for charitable giving.

We also found that having such a large house allowed us to accumulate a lot of stuff that we didn’t need or use. It wasn’t that long ago that I moved myself and all of my possessions from Virginia to Florida in a Ford Ranger, but this move required a 26 foot long U-Haul truck. We are continuing to work on paring down the number of things we own, while also working to replace low quality things with high quality ones, and single function items with multi-function items where reasonable.

Its a work in progress, and the past few months have been incredibly busy. But hopefully this move will create more time (in that I won’t feel the need to work as much overtime), and I’ll try to post project and purchase updates as we continue to settle in.