Writing Journal

Read Becca’s Short Stories Here!

You may know I like to cook and share my recipes, that I have a chicken obsession, and that I post a lot of cat photos and landscapes on our Instagram. You may not know that I am actually a writer and an editor for a living.

My work ranges from ghostwriting email campaigns to writing audiobook scripts to editing health- and fitness-related articles for a variety of world-class websites. I also coach writers in online classes and in private one-on-one sessions. My specialty is helping people write meaningful and effective content for the Internet, but I teach other types of writing, too.

In my “spare” time, I’ve written two as-of-yet unpublished novels, and this past year, I dove headfirst into learning the art of short story writing. In fact, I got really into writing short stories, and on April 1, 2016 I sent out my first ever short story submission to a publication. I set a goal for myself—I would get one story accepted for publication by the end of 2016.

Well, by year’s end I not only had reached that goal, but I’d actually received acceptance letters for ten different stories and I was a finalist in a short story competition.

How to Read My Short Stories

So far six of the ten stories have been published, and five of those six are available to read for free online. Cool, right? Here are the stories, a little bit about them, and where you can go to read them:

The Downed —  concīs (Summer 2016)

In February of 2016, Winslow and I lived for a month in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. I did my best to walk as much as possible there and not to use our car. I frequently walked past a field of cows and the idea for this story came to me. I tried to write a longer version of it many times, and then finally hacked away as many words as I could and came to this tiny, but hopefully powerful story. It was the first story I would get published.

Before the Water Rushes In The Forge (Sep 2016)

The first place Winslow and I lived in Washington was Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula. One of our favorite things about Oly Pen life was the shell-fishing. We spent many many days timing journeys to the beach so we could collect clams and oysters. Invariably, it was us and a whole lot of retired people. And there’s something about being out there with the tide that makes you think a lot about the meaning of life.

The Velociraptors The Citron Review (Dec 2016)

We’ve raised chickens in a few different places that we’ve lived now, but they always scare me a little. They really are just scary little dinosaurs. Read this reality-based story, and then try not to think about it too much.

The Art of Lies — Five:2:One Magazine (Jan 2017)

I studied martial arts for over a decade starting in 2000. Of all the arts I studied, one of my absolute favorites was Muay Thai. There’s something truly special for me about the striking arts—all the many layers of psychology, thought, and communication—and my goal was to share a bit of what it’s like to be inside a fighter in this story.

Somehow They Know — Entropy Magazine (Jan 2017)

When I was a little girl we lived on a rural road in Mason, Michigan, surrounded by cornfields. Parts of this story take place in that driveway where I think many of my stories began somewhere deep inside me. This girl is and isn’t me; and she probably is and isn’t you, as well. But I hope you, like her, find your feathers.

The other stories I had accepted will be coming out soon, so keep an eye out for them here:

And if all goes well, I will have many more acceptances happening over the course of 2017. Who know, maybe one of those novels might even find an agent!

Do We Have a Right to Consume?

This Independence Day, I thought it would be interesting to consider WHY we gave England the boot and HOW those motivations can be related to today’s world. First, let’s take a look at WHAT happened way back in the 1700s.

England had established some colonies in North America, among other places. England governed and protected those colonies and, in exchange, or so she thought, the colonies would produce goods (and profits) that would benefit England rather exclusively. This was a trans-oceanic version of the feudal system that was much loved by royalty and much-loathed by serfs. Just as the serfs found it to be a shitty way to live, some colonists felt the arrangement was unacceptable. They banded together and, long story short, those colonies became a sovereign nation.

So that’s the backstory. Moving on to the present day, the United States has grown in power and prestige. Some believe the USA is the #1 super power in the world. That may be true. What we can say for sure is that many citizens of the US have an exceptionally high standard of living compared to the residents of much of the world. This is familiar ground if you’ve been following along. If not, here’s the short version:

Nearly half the world’s population, 2.8 billion people, survive on less than $2 a day. About 20 percent of the world’s population, 1.2 billion people, live on less than $1 a day. Nearly 1 billion people are illiterate and 1 billion do not have safe water.   – UN.org

SO, how do the story of our independence and the story of global poverty relate? Simply put, our consumption is fueled by their poverty. Were it not for millions of people worldwide working for sub-poverty line wages, living in squalor, and being oppressed and exploited, we could not possibly live how we do.

Further, and this is simple economic theory, for everything we are able to buy it is because someone else has been priced out of the market. Is overconsumption violence against the poor of the world? It could be argued that it is.

If the colonists, our ancestors and people we hold in high regard, wouldn’t stand for it, why should the billions of people living lives worse than serfs stand for it? Is it any wonder the world is at war?

Simply put, every war is a war over resources. While there may be ideologies thrown around, the hard fact is that people who are at risk of dying for lack of food, water, simple hygiene, and basic medical care are scared, and frightened people are easy to sway with a glimmer of hope.

It speaks volumes about their character that so many people suffer peacefully. Would you? How would you handle watching your family starve so that some fabulously affluent society can landfill a third of their food? We are fortunate for the prevalence of peaceful demeanors worldwide.

All the resources we enjoy easy and cheap access to are precious to others. There is nothing wrong with using what we need, but is it possible that we’ve suffered a bit of “need creep?”

This Independence Day, be thankful for what our founding fathers (and the women who rarely get mentioned!) did for us, but remember why they did it – and that we are now the takers, the profiteers, and the exploiters. Perhaps not personally, but we pay others to do what would turn our stomachs to do with our own hands.

If freedom and independence are truly valuable to you, think about how much those who have none must value it.

We Are Getting Weaker

Do you ever wonder what the motivation is for all the crazy things we do? I do, all the time. I have a theory, and I’m just going to come out and say it. The human race is getting weaker. Admitting that, let’s have an honest discussion about it.

Civilized Does Not Have to Mean Impotent

We like to believe that civilization has bred the animal out of us, that we’re programming-based organisms, but anyone who behaves 100% programmatically is a robot. So, unless you’re a robot, you are influenced by instinct to some extent. The more basic the impulse (self-preservation, reproduction), the greater the influence of instinct and lesser the influence of programming, at least when it comes to what we’d like to do, which can be loosely translated as goals.

images

Harrison Ford Gets the Reference

Weakness is the shortfall between our goals and our ability to achieve them. For example, I’d like to have sex with Scarlett Johanssen, but I have many weaknesses that prevent me from doing so (including a lack of motivation to fix those weaknesses – more on that later.) The ways we perceive ourselves as weak – mentally, physically, and emotionally – define what we’d like to be via negativa. To eliminate those shortfalls is to become strong.

Scarlett-Johansson-images-wallpapers-hd-photos-11-

Motivating, but not Motivating Enough.

What Motivates Us?

I spent years as a coach and learned a few things along the way. I discovered that technical knowledge is important. Essential, though, is the ability to motivate. With the exception of the mentally ill, people behave in largely predictable ways. Marketers exploit this, attacking the shame and fear that stem from your weaknesses by promising to alleviate them. Do you strike out with the opposite sex? It must be your skin. Or your gut. Or your breath. Is your marriage a mess? You don’t have to try harder, just read this book…

From mainstream gimmicks (why do we continue to agree to be fooled by “ab lounges” and crash diets?) to organic food to dietary supplements to overprotecting children from every conceivable displeasure to the the extreme – obsessive CrossFitters, citizen militias, even ISIS, we are all aware of and reacting in a predictable way to a sense of weakening – a widening gulf between our goals and our ability to achieve them.

We project, both egotistically and correctly, that others suffer these weaknesses as well. This projection gives us permission to “go with the flow” because, after all, if everyone is a slow-moving, slow-thinking, physically and mentally ineffective, emotionally-broken person, then we’re all still on the same level. It’s a wash, right? I’ve still got a chance.

Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way and – here’s the take-home – we know it.

Resist the Weakening

The crushing sense of helplessness that comes from contemplating our weakness and doing nothing about it is what’s bringing us down. That’s why we love watching people do things that are outside of our comfort zone.

Any social influence I’ve ever enjoyed has come from doing what others can’t or won’t do, further proof that we just need to step up. If seeing someone else succeed feels good, imagine how it would feel to experience it firsthand?

Chase the Leader

If you agree that becoming weaker sucks, then do something about it.

Self-motivation (also known as intrinsic motivation and the only kind worth bothering with) is essential to goal attainment. When 20-year-old Andrew Miller became the youngest person ever to win the 100-mile long Western States Endurance Run this year, he said, “I had a chase mindset all day.” He thought he was in second place!

Intrinsic motivation relies on internal rewards. Enjoyment, satisfaction, a sense of security, instead of extra cookies if you do your workout, for example. Intrinsic rewards are only available by doing something. You can’t buy them, be gifted them, or find them in the back of your sock drawer or between the couch cushions.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

We retain enough of our survival instincts that we can react defensively to threats. Unfortunately, as we have discussed before, the most imminent and blatant threats are often ignored until it’s too late because we strive to maintain decorum. But the constant, low-level threat, the one caused by our weaknesses and what we know they mean, wears away at us every day and makes us sad.

Stay “safely” in-bounds if you wish, but I urge you to explore the edges of your comfort zone. Identify your weaknesses, get familiar with them, then either conquer or forget them. Living with them is a too-common way to waste your life.

Start with the Biggest, Easiest Win

You’ll have to be brutally honest with yourself for any of this to work. What is wrong with how you’re living? What’s bringing you down? Make as complete a list as you can. Write it down. This is a practical, as in practice, not theoretical, exercise.

Once you’ve got your list, organize it by severity. Put the most damaging shit at the top. Be fearless. Analyze what’s bringing you down and prioritize.

Now, make a second list with all the same items on it, but prioritized by ease of fixing/least disruption to your life. If you think of new items, add them in the appropriate place to both lists.

You can probably guess the next two steps – cross-reference the lists and make…a third list! The third list is your to-do list. It should only have one item on it at first, the easiest to achieve and most impactful item. Most bang for the buck type thing. You need a win, and this is how you’ll get it.

Get to It

Nothing else to do now. You don’t need try to recruit anyone to help you or share your plans with anyone, just get to it. The possibilities are far too varied for me to try to point you to resources. The exercise of solving this problem for yourself will make you stronger in itself. Once you’ve made some progress, add another item to your to-do list.

On to victory!

-Winslow

Giraffes Solving a Problem – Banner photo By GIRAUD Patrick – Own work, CC BY 2.5

Ruminations on Energy

Living depends on solving each in a series of problems within the framework built by our beliefs, fears, desires, and convictions.

We believe that more autonomy is generally better, fear excessive dependence and the effects of greed, desire freedom and simplicity, and hold personal responsibility in the highest regard. When it comes to basic life needs, there is no reason these ideals cannot be respected.

-Winslow

Ready for a window on the frenetic shitshow in my head? Read on.

It’s not hard to realize that much of what we all consider (and in some cases truly is) necessary revolves around energy manipulation – controlling its form and flow. Much of my time is spent thinking about and working on systems to manipulate energy. From where I’m typing, I can see two solar hot air panels I just built, eight photovoltaic (PV) panels, a sunshade over the deck, a dryer, a two-burner propane stove, and a 100-pound propane cylinder.

The ability to store and release energy in various forms, as needed, is essential to living what is commonly known as a “normal life,” which we are not against in any way. The propane holds energy for us to call forth heat at a moment’s notice. The hot air panels turn light into heat (fairly efficiently) to dry our clothes and potentially heat the HPMDU. The PV system runs everything electrical whenever we need it via batteries and inverters.

The Honeymoon Will End

Early summer in western Washington is a lovely time, featuring a near-perfect mix of sun and rain, so we are in a bit of a honeymoon period. When the skies dry up (any day now) for a couple months, we will have to find water elsewhere, but from now until October, we should have little concern over sufficient supply of electricity or heat (to dry clothes.)

Beyond October, though, it gets interesting. At 48.117° latitude, there will be 16 hours of daylight today, June 29, 2016. On December 21st, 2016, there will be 8 hours 21 minutes of daylight. Half that of today. Of those eight hours, few, if any, will feature full intensity sunshine. Do we quadruple the size of our PV array and battery bank? What about heat in the winter when we need it most? How will we dry clothes when the house is cold and damp because it’s January and raining 6 days a week? What about warm water to bathe or wash dishes? FUCK.

What Is the Scope of the Problem?

I guess the first thing to do is make a list of ways we use energy so we can decide what types of energy would be most useful.

  • Refrigeration
  • Cooking
  • Heating water (bathing, dishes, clothes washing)
  • Home heating
  • Coffee roasting
  • Drying clothes
  • Vacuuming
  • Lighting
  • Air circulation and ventilation (specifically for dehumidification of interior air in winter)
  • Entertainment
  • Computers and internet equipment
  • Charging all the things (phones, emergency radios, etc.)

How Do We Fix It?

First things first, which we have mostly done (and will detail in another post) – reduce energy needs. Every dollar spent on efficiency pays back several dollars in reduced system capacity needed. We calculate that we will need about 6 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day if we include electrical water heating. Without that, our needs in winter might be as low as 3kWh, since we can move the fridger (our ultra-efficient chest freezer-turned-refrigerator) outside. For context, the average American household uses about 30kWh per day.

We don’t quite cover all the energy required to make hot water ourselves right now (it is the sole remaining item that sometimes pulls shore power), so our needs are about 4kWh/day. Refrigeration “costs” are high in the warm weather. Not much we can do about that, but luckily it coincides with plenty of available sun.

Looking over that list, I see two major forms of energy needed: electricity and heat. So how do we make sure we have enough of those two forms of energy when we need them, regardless of the solar (or wind…) resource available?

We could store energy, right? YES! But how? A few possibilities pop to mind…

  • GIANT PV array and battery bank, then run everything on electricity.
    • + Clean
    • + Quiet
    • + Simple to set up
    • ++ Runs on its own once set up
    • – Takes a huge system to make heat
    • — Expensive
    • — Heavy/bulky
    • – Can fail/hard to fix with found materials

I’ve got my eye on some more batteries I found used, but we have all the PV panels we want (they will fill the roof when deployed up there). So, more storage is on the way, but nothing like enough to go for a month or more. I put three minus signs next to expensive and heavy/bulky because those are obstacles we can’t or won’t overcome, AKA “deal-breakers.”

Next possibility:

  • Diesel-, gasoline-, or propane-powered generator
    • + On-demand power
    • – Noisy
    • – Can fail/hard to fix with found materials
    • – Must buy or make (and stockpile) fuel (requires money or one or more complicated subprocesses)
    • – [Recognizable] generators and fuel are good targets for thieves (though thieves make good targets, so maybe this one is a wash?)

Those are the two most common solutions. Neither one works for us, though. One violates limits we cannot control (weight and space limitations) within the confines of other decisions we won’t go back on and the other marries us to input from a functional civilization (fossil fuel system) and makes us targets.

Electric My Way

My relatively out-there thoughts on potential methods:

  • Wood-gas powered generator
  • Stirling engine powered generator

What I realized some time ago is that the most resilient systems are those with multiple inputs. Hybrid inputs. We have a small hot water tank in the house that’s heated with electricity. What’s to stop me from adding one or more additional heat exchanger loops out to solar hot water panels, a wood-fired boiler, an engine (water used for cooling heats the water we need hot), or even a well-constructed compost heap? There is nothing technically difficult about any of those possibilities. Maybe in another post we’ll talk about what stops us from giving a shit.

What if I built a large (500+ gallon) insulated water tank that could be easily deconstructed and moved to store a massive amount of heat from any/all those sources? Well, then, I guess my heat problem would be solved.

Regarding electricity, I want so badly for human power to be the answer, but it isn’t. If you needed 1kWh of electricity and had a lossless system for generation and storage, you would have to be a world-class cyclist and pedal for FOUR HOURS at race pace. FUCK THAT. We couldn’t afford the food. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form, yo.

The answer I’ve come up with for now is a Stirling or (more likely) steam turbine powered generator running off of biomass heat from the same outdoor boiler that will provide for our domestic hot water and heat the house. I’ve got some fun ideas for fuel sources and automation to work on that will make it an easy system to run that we can ignore most of the time.

What About Cooking?

Cooking is a pain in the ass. There are all kinds of ways to set yourself up for full-time employment as an energy storer, like building a hydrogen generation and storage system or a biomass digester to make methane, but I don’t want those jobs. Those kind of things tie you down, too. Hard to load up in the trailer and drive off with.

So, cooking. Electrical energy is perfect for it, and if I can make one of my generator ideas fly then that will solve it. Otherwise, we’re stuck with propane for the moment. Although, it would be fun to set up a small still and use alcohol as a cooking fuel…

What Do You Think?

I think that’s quite enough of my rantings for one post. Thanks for hanging with me if you did, and I hope this inspires a thought or two for you. I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Winslow

The house of Jenkins

Your Infrastructure Footprint

We Like to Provide for Ourselves

I spend a lot of time thinking generally about how we can provide for our needs. Shelter, water, food, energy, etc. Then, I pick a particular problem and attack it until I solve it or realize it isn’t possible in the scope of what we’re willing or able to do. For now.

My big, bad, meanie problem right now is how to recycle grey and black water to reduce our total water usage by at least 50%. The solution evades me, at least without a commitment to a large amount of infrastructure.

(We Pay Them, so) They Built Us a World

That’s what I want to talk about right now – infrastructure. I look around our parking spot and see that we have not only a 35.5′ fifth wheel, but a car, truck (both of which are being sold to buy a minivan), another truck to tow the fifth wheel, 8 photovoltaic panels on racks, two hot air panels (that don’t have racks yet), two rain barrels, a propane tank, a dryer and washer, an 8’X8′ deck, and some other shit. I have never had less tolerance for clutter than I do now, and I’ve never had less room to hide it.

Some of the clutter is raw materials that I’m using in projects. That stuff will be integrated into the house or a project or passed on to someone who can use it, so right now that doesn’t bother me too much. Some of the “clutter,” though, is here to stay. We just bought a used dryer and converted it to use solar hot air. We’re going to keep that, though it does have a dedicated place in the HPMDU it will soon occupy. The photovoltaics will go on the roof soon, and the solar hot air panels and hot water panels will be mounted vertically to the outside wall in the future. Our footprint will satisfyingly shrink. Less clutter. More better.

How Bad Is It, Really?

Just when I start to freak out and want to burn it all, I realize that this is most of it for us. With the obvious exception of food that we don’t yet hunt, gather, or grow, and cooking and vehicle fuel we haven’t replaced yet, there isn’t that much else out there that we’re culpable for. We have “insourced” much of our resource collection activities.

We pull much of our water from our roof – I designed it to catch rain and do so at the rate of 87 gallons per inch of rainfall. That’s going better than expected. So there isn’t a water treatment plant out there somewhere with our names on it. We produce our own electricity, so there isn’t some gargantuan coal, nuclear, or hydroelectric plant out there wrecking the world in our name. We do barter and forage as much as possible for food to consume or preserve.

I Still Loathe Stuff, But It’s Not so Bad

It looks like a lot of stuff when you pack it all into somebody’s back yard and think about having to drive around with it all, but in reality, it’s a speck of nothing in comparison to what it was a year ago. I guess it’s time to get serious about the food issue, and solve this water recycling problem. I want to get down to 50 gallons/week from our current 100. I’m pretty sure we can produce or procure that almost anywhere.

As far as the vehicle problem goes, it’s biodiesel/vegetable oil or electric. Probably stick with biodiesel for the big truck and go electric for the passenger vehicle. That’s a long-term plan, though. We need at least a year to get everything running super smoothly in the HPMDU first. Maybe the solution to the water problem will come to me soon.

What’s your infrastructure footprint like?

Winslow

Who Will Save Us? Never Them — Only Us

Terrorism Is Here to Stay

…unless we take consistent, effective action. I am tired of the sadness and anxiety that people with hatred in their hearts are causing in the world, and I hope I’m not alone. What puzzles me, though, is how collectively willing we are to continue believing that someone else will solve this problem. We must change this mindset. When did we learn to expect a no-work solution to every problem?

People using rudimentary technology built pyramids, but we cannot defend ourselves on our own soil from a ragtag bunch of assholes with good social media skills? Maybe we aren’t putting the work in.

Gizeh_Cheops_Chephren_Mykerinos_BW_1 (2)

By Berthold Werner (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We Are Being Used by Both Sides

Based on their actions, politicians see terror attacks as opportunities to forward their agendas and grow their own power, not as problems to be solved. They are hardly better than the perpetrators of the original crimes. No amount of giving up rights or paying more taxes is going to solve this problem, regardless of what they tell you.

Terrorists, both foreign and domestic, couldn’t be winning any more than they are. They require few resources to continue their evil work and are brutally effective at infiltrating each and every one of our daily lives. We let them take away our rights, our freedom, and our peace of mind. We have given them free reign.

Charlie Sheen is not a terrorist.

Not a Terrorist. Probably.

He Was a Nice Guy

Does it seem strange to you that after each of these terrible events, everyone is astonished at first, but after a few days it becomes clear that the asshole had been pegged by everyone who knows him as a problem looking for a place to happen? How many warning signs need to happen before somebody does something more than shrug it off?

WTF, people? Are you waiting for a Facebook alert or what? SAY SOMETHING. Get some fucking gumption. I am not the most socially successful person, it’s true. Know why? Because I don’t let shit slide. People who let shit slide end up as victims in this new world. You cannot live like a deaf, dumb, and blind monkey and think it’s all going to be OK. We no longer live in the time when it’s all going to be OK.

Don’t forget to trust your gut. We are all much more capable of understanding situations than we allow ourselves to be. We have been programmed to be polite and non-confrontational. That’s fine as long as everything is fine… I highly recommend Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear. Read it. Internalize it. Learn to trust your instincts again.

Book - Gavin de Becker - The Gift of Fear

Give and Get Training

Do you have military or police experience? Please talk to the people around you about how they can protect themseleves. Help them understand what to do to keep themselves safe. Do you have a concealed carry permit? If so, use it. If not, consider making it happen.

If you don’t have any training or experience, get a group of friends together and seek some out. Don’t be afraid to confront your discomfort. Personally, I’d rather be uncomfortable now than when I’m under fire!

Most of All – Pay Attention

Our world is increasingly “doing it for us.” Cars with “smart” cruise control, social media that tells us when our own wedding anniversary is, phones that remember myriad names and numbers and automatically send the annoying people to voicemail. Unless you’re ready to hire a personal security guard, though, nobody is going to pay attention to your surroundings for you.

Get your face out of your fucking phone. Make eye contact with people. Talk to people. Know your surroundings, what fits, and what doesn’t fit. If everything went dark this moment, could you tell me who’s around you and what they’re up to? Encourage others to be more aware. Look up, look around. Going for a run alone in the dark on a wooded trail? Consider not blocking out your hearing with music.

The phone is the most ubiquitous attention-sucking problem right now. I have noticed that people with their face in their phone walking on a sidewalk get a pass – people “courteously” avoid them. Fuck that. I keep right on walking, giving a loud “heads-up!” about three seconds before impact. The look of confusion is priceless. Same goes for texting while driving. Next time you see someone hurtling down the road with their eyes in their lap, give a nice, long horn blast as you pass the other direction. Maybe that shot of fear will help them to put the damned thing down for a second.

Don’t Be a Victim

Once upon a time in this country, we were hungry. We respected resolve and capability instead of victimhood and obedience, we took action instead of laying down to courteously die. It’s time to roll back the clock to a time when we took some responsibility for our own safety.

The first step is to recognize that you are the front line. That is not a figure of speech – if you are the one getting shot at, you are by definition the front line. What do people on the front line do? They pay attention, and they shoot back.

You are your own first responder. You’re already there. Backup is awesome, but you may not have the luxury of time. Be aware, be prepared, and don’t become a victim.

Identify Yourself to Others

Are you willing to pay attention, to speak up, to stand up and do something? Then identify yourself. Does this make you a target? Maybe, but guess what? You already are a target, so nothing has changed except you’ve made a statement of resistance.

Vigilant T and On Patrol Hoodie Images

Click on the picture to go to our teepublic store.

Let others know that you’re watching, that you’re not going to let it slide. I have created a couple designs for shirts that could help those of us who are vigilant identify each other. We set them up for print-on-demand through our teepublic store, which has much higher printing quality and lower prices than the horrible cafe press.

We do get a commission on these – $4 for each purchase. We don’t care if you buy it from us or make it yourself, though. We’re interested in the result. Email us and we’ll send you the graphic file if you want to print it yourself. Or, make up your own, but try to keep the eye graphic so we can all recognize each other.

Let’s fight fire with fire and use social media to spread the word – use the hashtag #onpatrol and/or #vigilant when you post pics or yourself with the T or Hoodie on, when you share information to help keep others safe (pictures, observations, etc.), or when you experience something firsthand that others need to know about.

Kahr CW9 Pistol

Kahr CW9: Getting to Know My Gun

Today my pistol and I came to an understanding. I’ve had my pistol for a few months now, but it’s been a rocky dating period. To put it bluntly, I haven’t been able to hit a dang thing consistently with it since I got it. I have zero trouble with my husband’s pistol or any other gun we own, but my own personal protection weapon was giving me fits.

Given that I do indeed carry it for personal protection, it was particularly bothersome that I was struggling with my gun. But through diligent practice, observation, and analysis, I’ve just recently made friends with it and now feel much better about its usefulness.

Kahr CW9

The gun I have is a Kahr CW9. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a good reliable personal protection gun. Kahr makes a few levels of pistols, and the C-Series is their “budget” series. After doing much research, I’ve determined this is mostly because they don’t bother finishing all the machining on these guns. This means when you take them down you have to be careful as there may be really sharp edges and burrs you can cut yourself on. But otherwise, there seems to not be much difference.

Here’s all the tech info from the Kahr Arms website:

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
  • Barrel: 3.565″, conventional rifling; 1-10 right-hand twist
  • Length O/A: 5.9″
  • Height: 4.5″
  • Slide Width: .90″
  • Weight: Pistol 15.8 ounces, Magazine 1.9 ounces
  • Grips: Textured polymer
  • Sights: Drift adjustable white bar-dot combat rear sight, pinned in polymer front sight
  • Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide
  • Magazine: 1 – 7 rd, Stainless

The grip is slim and not overly long, which may be a pro or a con depending on your hand size. It fits my hand well as I don’t have particularly large hands. It’s a single stack, which is nice because of the smaller grip, but not great because you have fewer rounds per magazine. The feel of the grip is good, though – sticky but not uncomfortable.

The CW9 is a striker fired pistol. In simple, practical terms, this means it has no hammer to fiddle around with and every trigger pull feels like a double-action pull. Given that this gun has no external/active safety, that’s a good thing. It will not accidentally go off – I promise you. But, a long heavy pull can also take some getting used to. In contrast, my husband’s pistol is hammer-fired, so the first shot is a “hard” double-action pull, but after that is a quick simple single-action shot. I’ve wondered since purchasing my CW9 if the trigger pull has been the thing messing me up. But despite changing speed of pull and which part of my finger I was using, I still was not improving my success rate.

Because the CW9 is light, it will jump around a lot in your hand if you’re not paying attention – especially if you have larger hands and aren’t solid on what will feel to you like a small grip. For a smaller gun, the grip isn’t actually that small, though.

And, of course, the small size and weight of the CW9 is exactly what you want when you’re trying to carry it in a holster, purse, or wherever for everyday carry purposes. You can’t do much upgrading to this gun, except maybe to change out the sights to night sights, and you won’t win any competitions. But most people also don’t need any of that. This is a good utility gun for a specific purpose – personal protection.

Note: One thing to be aware of with Kahr pistols is that they will ding you hard on the magazines. They are not cheap and the lower-priced pistols only come with one.

Kahr Arms PistolsThe Issues Were Two-Fold

Today, after months of bickering, my pistol and I came to terms. I’ve been diligently practicing with her. Taking her out every weekend, despite how I felt after each session. Typically, I consoled myself by shooting one of our rifles on the same day so I could tell myself, “I know it’s not me!”

But when my husband shot my Kahr, he always got on target. So it was me. Or a least it was something about the relationship between me and my gun. So I kept going out to the range. Some days I hit more, some day less. But I thought if I kept trying and kept analyzing all the possibilities, I’d eventually figure it out. Heck, maybe, just maybe, I thought, this gun is highlighting some bad habit of mine – and if I can just figure out how to shoot this gun, then I’ll be able to shoot any gun better.

1. Stance

After conversing with a friend about my pistol struggles, I realized I was carrying over physical habits from martial arts that were very useful in martial arts...but not so much in pistol shooting. I was keeping a strong and solid lower-body stance and a tight grip, but I was letting my elbows and arms absorb force instead of pushing through my arms and keeping tension. This issue actually did rear its head when I was shooting my husband’s .45, as the gun wouldn’t eject empty rounds and cycle properly. When you consider that a pistol uses the recoil to enable the cycling action, then this makes sense. I was using Tai Chi arms and elbows to manage the recoil, instead of getting it to the right place.

2. Sights

I first fixed my stance, then started experimenting with the sights. The front sight on the CW9 is fixed and the back sight can only be adjusted a small amount left-right. I’ve never had any issue with left-right when shooting this pistol, but I have chronically shot very low. My same friend who helped me have the elbow realization mentioned off-hand that he’s seen people use the same gun but have to use the sights totally differently to be able to shoot accurately. He said it doesn’t necessarily make sense, but he’s seen it enough to believe there’s something to it. So with that in mind, I decided to play around with how I lined up the dots on my sights.

My first time up at the steel plates started out no different than “normal.” Shot half a magazine into the dirt. Then, I adjusted and wound up shooting high. This was a strange relief. In that moment it occurred to me that sighting is not just about how you line up your dots on your sights, but also where you point the barrel. I know, that probably sounds incredibly lame. Like, duh, right? But you don’t normally block out an object with your barrel. But…when I lined up my dots in my new way and covered the object with the barrel – I HIT IT EVERY TIME. Seven chimes on the steel targets for every magazine. It was the sound of joy.

I shot four more magazines hitting six or seven plates each time. And on my last time up I even worked my way across the three steel plates – shooting a couple rounds in each. Something I’ve never successfully done with this pistol. Very exciting! Next time, I’m going to stand back further from the steel and see how that goes. A little progress at a time.

Kahr CW9 Pistol

Kahr CW9 Pistol

My Pistol Future

The CW9 may or may not be a long-term relationship with me. It may be that I end up getting a different gun in the future. Despite finally being able to shoot this thing, I do wish it had more magazine capacity and more ability to be upgraded and customized. That said, I don’t ever see us getting rid of this gun. It’s a great concealed carry weapon, and once you get to understand it’s nuances, it’s a very reliable shot and will serve you well at the sort of distances you’ll experience in the typical self-defense scenario.

For what it’s worth – my husband sights completely “normally” with it and has always been able to hit dead-on with the thing every time. What can I say? It likes him better than me!

 

Gun Control – The True Contention

I’m sure you all know my position on gun control, but that isn’t what I’m here to talk about today. Not exactly. However that fight ends, there is a greater issue at hand that affects all people in this country. Rather than espouse some POV I have with facts and figures to back it up and waste your time reading something you either already agree or disagree with, I’d like to look more deeply at what is really going on.

The conversation (to put it politely) about gun control is going a very bad direction. Both sides have been reduced to statistics, case studies, blah blah blah. That is like having a conversation about abortion and looking only at its effect on population. The real conversation is much simpler and more important than which guns to control or how many rounds we can have in a magazine or whether or not “assault rifles” should be legal.

This is a smokescreen that both sides of the argument have bought into. It disguises the true contention and weakens the position of all free people of the United States of America.

Liberals and conservatives – no matter how far to the left or right they fall – all want the same thing. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These few words from the Declaration of Independence form the basis of our country itself. The experience of the Founding Fathers and their countrymen and -women led to a profound vision and enduring wisdom about how a free country needs to operate.

That experience was one of being exploited by a government running out of control for its own benefit, and we are headed there again unless we smarten up. The people we are dealing with are more powerful than we are, they are smarter than we are, and they are more successful at deception than we are. The power and wealth they have now is only the beginning, though, and it comes at your and my expense.

The “sides” are not liberal/conservative, left/right, Republican/Democrat, or even right/wrong – but government/governed. We have been fooled into choosing which losing side we’ll be on. By creating these false dichotomies, we, the people, fight each other and give away all our power. You’re being set up.

Consider the post-9/11 political environment – fear mongering by Republicans led to loss of freedoms for all governed and an outcry by the left that power was being abused. The only benefactor in the end? Government. There was no improvement in our position, safety, or happiness. We are more oppressed by terrorism now than ever. I can’t even visit my father in Wisconsin without being detained at the airport for having “possible explosives” in my armpit and groin.

Similarly, the mass shootings are an opportunity for the left to get in on the action – fear mongering by Democrats has led to loss of freedoms – with likely more on the way. There was/is an outcry by the right – power abused by government. All the freedoms we’ve already lost, and the problem still gets worse, they say. By their own admittance, taking our guns has had the opposite of the promised effect, so the solution is more of the same?

It saddens me to see smart, well-meaning people I respect being used. I’m sure you would agree.

Nazis collected guns “voluntarily” – the option was being shot. The Second Amendment is no different than the first or the nineteenth. The Constitution was designed to protect the people from the government, in case the government stops being of, by, and for the people. Are there any thinking people who would disagree that the government has only its own interests at heart?

We, the people, are building our own gallows, in shifts. First one group, then the other, is taken under the wing of the government and pandered to in order to advance one united, devious plan – to strip us of power and freedom while making us think we demanded it. Government power grows, people’s freedom shrinks, the original problem persists. It’s always the same story.

They are united, we are divided. You know how that works out.

Don’t buy it. They will come for all of us.

I’ve Got More Than I Need

If you’ve been following what we’re up to – building our HPMDU and shedding a lot of dead weight that’s been dragging down our quality of life, then you know that 1. it’s kind of a lot of work and 2. it’s a big deal for us. Not everything has to be a big deal to have a big impact, though. Today, a small gesture made such an impact on me that I feel compelled to share it with you. It was a distillation of everything that we want for ourselves and the world, piled into a repurposed tuna can.

The pictures you see of us constructing the HPMDU all feature our friend Dan Brooks’ property because he has been generous (and trusting!) and allowed us to allow us to park Betty and the trailer there while we build. I bring Dan some of the coffee beans I roast and some of my home brews, we do a little work around his place, and we get to have enough room to build.

That’s not what blew me away today. What hit me hardest today was this:

Dan's Homegrown Garlic

Dan’s Homegrown Garlic

That’s an old tuna tin full of homegrown garlic, freshly harvested, still covered in dirt. Dan came out as we were finishing up insulating and putting on the subfloor (consumed in our own all-important microcosm) and gave it to us. He said, “I’ve got more than I need” and handed it to Becca, and that was it. Garlic from the garden that Dan planted, cared for through a brutal drought, and finally harvested. Garlic he planned to share with his family this winter.

Why is this such a big deal? Because it is a pure act of generosity, of friendship, and he didn’t have to do it. We can so easily get twisted up in what we “need” next that we not only fail to separate needs and wants but also overlook that we are part of a larger picture, of communities on many levels. Dan helped us to remember that today.

To that end, I want to say that Hunt Gather Brew will always be a free and open source of information. While we expect to accept donations, we will not require anyone to pay. Lately, some precious time has been freed up in our lives (mine, at least!) so I will be able to bring more and better information on all of our endeavors to you.

And those slices of delicious cucumber in the background of the picture? A gift from friends who allowed us to harvest beavers that were damming up their stream and flooding their fields. The world does not need to be an ugly place.

Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned!

Winslow

Our Mission

What Is Hunt, Gather, Brew?

You might not guess that Hunt, Gather, Brew is about taking care of yourself and improving every aspect of your life, but that’s what we are here to do and teach. While we write about many topics, the focus is always health and happiness.

Hunting and gathering often refers to food, but can apply to anything you need to look for and collect.

Brewing can (and does) refer to the homebrewing of beer, wine, mead, and cider, but also to the art of homebrewing anything you need – a radio, a bicycle, a bow, ammunition, a community, a chicken plucker, whatever you need to accomplish a given objective.

Self-reliance is a vanishing art. Did you know you can now buy pre-made Jell-O?

Becca and I spend our lives in a constant state of learning. We have no intention of stopping now, and look forward to bringing you along with us as we share the knowledge we have and experience new ways to expand our skills and abilities. We will even share the failures and the hard lessons.

Now, a few words on the why of Hunt, Gather, Brew.

It’s a sad situation out there. Happiness and well-being is in the toilet while personal debt is at an all-time high. No matter how much stuff we buy, it’s not satisfying us.

It’s interesting to note that in this article about the happiness of residents of various states that the bottom ten states scored 62.3-65.0 out of 100 while the 10 happiest states scored 68.0-70.2. That’s a pretty small spread and even the happiest state, Hawaii, got a C-.

What seems clear is that there is room for improvement.

We are living through the decline and fall of the United States as a superpower. As the value of the US dollar dwindles, the influence we once enjoyed dwindles with it. When we reach the point where we have maxed out all the “credit cards”, the best outcome is that the world will turn its back on us. The worst is that we will be thrown in to the equivalent of debtor’s prison. Need proof? Check out Greece.

If our government can’t, or won’t, take care of us but prefers instead to divest us of our money (or devalue it to nothing through poor management or as a side effect of greed), we must consider alternative methods to provide for ourselves.

Reducing your dependence on established systems before those systems collapse is key.

While many “preppers” (a term I struggle with, as it has only connotation and no denotation) envision some acute catastrophe, either natural or artificial, taking our society from fully functional to complete disarray in a matter of hours or days, that is highly unlikely. What is more likely is akin to the wrinkles forming around your eyes. At first, unnoticed, then, ignored, then deepening and forcing your recognition.

I believe we are already in the beginning stages and we all know it on some level. Social security, collected by my grandparents and, soon, my parents, will almost certainly not be there for us, despite spending our working lives paying in a constantly growing percentage of our income.

The freedoms we once knew are disappearing every day, and the voices of dissent are few, faint, and drowned out quickly by the cries of bureaucrats hawking the next defense contract we need to fund, prohibition we need to enact, or right we need to give up. No nail clippers on airplanes, and no food on the table.

This is not doomsaying, but rather an attempt to spread hope and light to combat the growing despair brought on by fear mongering that covers these erosions of freedom.

Every man or woman who lives without fear is a threat to those who use it for control.

When you can take care of yourself, insecurity is hard to come by. The more facets of your existence that you bring under your own control, the fewer ways there are to harm, stop, or control you.

To that end, this website is devoted to improving your level of security through self-reliance, even if you don’t need it right now. It’s a backup plan nobody can take from you and that will bring you a feeling of power and happiness that is all too rare.

We explore, learn, and teach ways to:

  • Take care of your body and health
  • Improve food security, quality, and enjoyment
  • Shelter yourself anywhere
  • Get around under your own power
  • Strengthen your mind and will
  • Improve physical security
  • Improve your relationships, with others and yourself
  • Enjoy the life you’re living to the fullest

While it’s impossible to predict every topic we might cover, you are sure to find information on exercise and training plans to stay fit and ready for anything, food acquisition and preservation, saving money without sacrificing lifestyle, eating well, personal responsibility, animal husbandry, butchery, minimalism, reviews of truly useful products that we use, fishing, hunting, trapping, survival, recipes, foraging, plant, mushroom, and tree identification, mechanical maintenance (cars, trucks, small engines, bicycles, etc.), beer, wine, mead and cider, and more.

Join us, please, and add your knowledge and experience to the mix!

Winslow and Becca

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