January 2008


My trusty little car just turned 100,000 miles the other day. It used to be a big deal some years ago. Men would lean on their vehicles and with a prideful tone say “Yep, she turned 100,000 miles and is still runnin’!” But today, its not such a big deal…and I am thankful for that. They have made car making so efficient. The metalworking is a lot more precise when making all the engine and transmission parts. So things last longer…well at least the Korean and Japanese vehicles do.

This is not a slam on American vehicles. I love the Jeep Cherokee and the 85 F-150. But the foreign cars are really making the American manufacturers step up to the plate in the area of quality. There is no reason to spend the kind of money that is posted on a fluorescent sticker on a car window only to have major repairs a year or so later…even 5 years later! And the Japanese and Korean car manufacturers have proved that.

We have a 2002 Hyundai Elantra. We bought it with 30,000 miles I think, maybe less. I cant remember. We bought it in 2003. We have had no major repairs done to it since we bought it. The only things that have malfunctioned are the pull handle for the trunk release, the clock comes on and off whenever it wants and we have a red “Air Bag” light that stays on. Thats it! We just keep the tires up to snuff and change the oil ever 3,000 miles…or more. They basically made money on the warranty that we purchased because we never had to use it. We are considering extending the warranty however since the car is getting up there in age and mileage.

We have been so pleased with the Korean brand that we purchased a Korean minivan, a Kia Sedona, this past summer. So far so good. We bought that for about $5,000 LESS than the other American models. It was loaded with options, had 27,000miles (the American models had around 40,000), and was only about 1 yr older!

So all this to say that I am not ashamed of, but am rather happy with my little import, even though I’d still enjoy driving a truck or Jeep again.



That is, the trading of natural gas to wood for heat. I (along with a few friends) have finally gotten my house to a point where we can enjoy the warmth of wood heat. Along with that trade, comes work. Now, instead of getting up and turning the thermostat up with the flick of a wrist, I go outside and split wood with the tools shown above. Not only am I saving money by not using natural gas, but I am getting warmth twice! Once by actually splitting the wood, and again by burning it!

It is so tempting to enjoy the ease of natural gas heat. It is so conveniently piped from some gas well out in the middle of nowhere right to your boiler in the basement.It sits there waiting for you to release it into the flames to be burnt up along with your paycheck! Oh, it hurts to see the gas bill in these colder months!

But on with the tools. The larger of the two is a splitting maul. This tool is so wonderful. The dead weight of the heavy sledgehammer-like body with a sharp axe-like blade does wonders to wood that is stubbornly solid. Where a normal axe would take many swings to split a piece of log, one or two “womphs” of a maul will do the trick.

The other tool in the picture is a hatchet manufactured by Gerber. It has a synthetic handle and is a bit larger than your average axe. I use this to make kindling out of already split wood. It does a great job and has kept its edge well.

Yeah, I could use a power splitter. But as I have been told by a friend of mine while talking about physical health, “If you don’t use it you lose it.” It also builds character. Although, I know a lot of folks around here who have had this kind of character building all their life, so they enjoy their powered splitters. I can’t argue with that.


Driving on our back roads after a snow storm i have begun to notice birds, usually sparrows, clustered in small groups on the road. At first it struck me odd that they would suddenly decide to sit together on the road. It didn’t take long (seconds really) to come to the conclusion that they must be feeding on the road salt that had been applied during the snow storm. I couldn’t come to a reason as to what made road salt so attractive to birds. I figured that most animals can be drawn in to a salt block or suet for its salt content. But I never connected road salt with birds until I saw it before my eyes.

I decided to look it up and I found that there are more concerns than just the birds eating the road salt. These were concerns I had in the back of my mind as well. Like, with all this salt being applied, it is certainly making its way into the streams through run off. And when thinking about run off, I remembered that I have a road right above our house in which run off migrates from to our spring in extremely wet conditions. So this left me wondering about salt in wells and cisterns. I don’t know if its any better, but the road above us is a local road and so they use cinders…I don’t know if they mix salt with it either.

Many states and provinces are turning to alternative de-icers and traction medium for the above reasons. Road salt usage in the US ranges from 8 to 12 million tons per year. That’s a lot of salt! Here is a very good article I read on the toll of road salt. Concerning birds, this article stated that “seed-eating birds may not be able to distinguish between road-salt crystals and the mineral grit their diets require. Laboratory studies of sparrows consuming salt particles at the upper limits of their known preference range reveal that ingestion of 0.25 NaCl particles (266 mg/kg) results in a breach of homeostasis; ingestion of 1.4 particles (1,500 mg/kg) may result in death (median lethal dose = 2.8 at 3,000 mg/kg). This means behavioral abnormalities can occur in small bird species with ingestion of a single salt particle and death can occur with ingestion of two particles.” Just two particles! The birds I saw seemed to be chowing down on the stuff!

It seems that road salt takes a toll on birds, plants, infrastructure and humans. So far, any alternatives are inefficient and cost way too much for it to be practical. In my opinion, cinders work great!

I wont get into it now, but I also had thoughts about run off from gas stations…..where does rain water go after it picks up its petroleum passenger in the gas station parking lot?

Growing up I became very comfortable with my surroundings. My folks never moved until I was up and out of the house basically. As a kid, I had my 3 neighborhood friends, my church friends and my school friends too, but those three worlds never really crossed paths. There was no adjustment needed. I liked things how they were, and things were going fine…then at around 5th grade, my parents decided to send us boys to a different school!! This is about the time that I realized my underlying introverted and shy personality. This was a complete nightmare to me when discussed that evening at the dinner table. Regardless of all the really important reasons for switching schools…in my mind, back then, it was the most horrible idea ever.

I was being ripped away from what I knew, what I felt comfortable with, my best friends who I had known my whole elementary school life! This was a pure disaster. I could feel the anxiety thickening as the new school year approached. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I was the “new kid”. No one knew me, and I didnt know anyone else. That was hard, coming from an environment where I enjoyed some popularity. The whole day was full of awkward moments. Before school started, there I stood by myself just watching all the other kids catch up about their summers. The bell rang and we filed into the school. I remember praying “God, please dont let lunch time come!” Sure enough, the bell rang for lunch and it was time to “interact” or be alone…so alone it was, and again on the playground. The hardest part is being the outsider and pretending like you dont mind…hoping time would go by much faster. One day a boy by the name of Nathan introduced himself to me..it might have been the first day, I’m not sure. I soon realized he was the cast out, trying to make an ally as quckly as possible. Its tough in grade school, and he was just trying to survive. I became good freinds with him. I dont think it took long for me to make freinds now that I look back at it. Somehow my friendship with Nathan ended, I dont remember if it was him leaving or what. The point of all this was my experience of having to meet new people and adjust to new things. I didnt like it. I had to do it many more times over the years, and I didnt like any better as the years went on. My neaighborhood friends soon had their school friends over, and I wouldn’t hang out, in fear of the unknown “intruder”.

I say all this because its interesting how I have changed. For the most part, I enjoy meeting new people. In a room full of people, I desire to get to know a few that I dont know already, I just dont like being pushed into doing it. I am not exactly sure where or when the change took place. It seems that it took place somewhere after I graduated highschool. I can remember looking forward to a new college, a new adventure. Meeting new people and living away from my home was something I looked forward too. However, to this day, I still HATE ice breaker activities! This is because it forces a “meeting” rather than allowing a relationship to spark naturally. I think ice breaker activities are the worst idea ever! Though, I must admit, the aftermath of these activities usually are positive.

Now, to be clear, by “introvert” I mean that I was/am not one to be energised by being around people. As a child, I was comfortable with the amount of people I knew and did not need to know anyone else….or so I thought. I was “shy” in the fact that I became anxious when facing a situation of meeting new people. To this day I guess I would say that my shyness has worn away, but I have still kept my introverted side. After being around alot of people for a while, I need to be alone, to recharge. During family gatherings or party’s this really shows itself in me. I’ll need to wisk away to an unoccupied room or outside for fresh air…alone. I feel worn out

I am going to a mens leadership conference this year. In the registration form they ask if you need lodging. If you do, they will set you up with a family’s home to stay in for the week, along with a few other men attending the conference. My natural instinct is to just stay at my parents house just a few miles away. But this year I am asking for lodging. You see I have come to realize that the end benefit of getting to know new people grossly outweghs the initial hurdle of meeting them. And that hurdle is getting ever snmaller as the years go by.

Lets just hope their are no ice breaker activities that week!

Usually women are known to talk about clothing. I mentioned to a friend of mine that it feels less masculine when talking about a favorite pair of pants and why they are your favorite. But he said to me that there is nothing effeminate about finding a good pair of pants that last. I have accepted this as true. So here I am talking to you about good pants!

I think I have finally found a pair of pants that really pass the test for me. These are made by Carhartt. Carhartt is known for their rough, outdoor, working clothing. They do well in that area. I own a few articles of work wear made by them. And I must say, that between my bib overalls, work pants and coat…I can work quite comfortably in extremely cold temperatures. Though, more and more I have been purchasing Carhartt clothing for casual wear. They have done well in this area also. Their materials, seams, cuts and styles all fit very comfortably…and last.

I just came across a pair of pants that they make that are thinner and softer than their normal line of clothing. They are sturdy and fit well. They are comparable to cargo khakis, these particular pair are sort of olive green in color. They fit a bit loose and the inseam is long and wide enough to come down and cover tops of your shoes or boots without looking like bell bottoms. They held their size through washings as well. The pockets close by velcro, so there is no annoying buttoning needed. The pocket flaps have minimal stitching and material bulk so they are not bulky which keeps them from curling at the corners…so annoying with pants that do this! Also, the main front pockets have a slant in their opening so your hands naturally slide into them instead of having the opening run inline with the seem of the pant leg, which is a very uncomfortable position to slide your hands into.

So, another thumbs up for Carhartt!