Monday, June 25, 2007

The panther that wouldn't die...

I was about to call it a day from working the "back forty", and was thoroughly exhausted... It was pretty near slap dark, and there just beyond the dark edge of the swampy side of the woods, was the biggest panther I'd ever seen. Why, its evil eyes were glowing, and it was crouched ready to spring.

I fired my shotgun, and saw that I made a clean kill, for the panther fell dead where it stood... Cautiously, I ventured closer to find....

I had made toothpicks outta an overturned roots-up kinda stump with my shotgun. The evil eyes turned out to be the last rays of muted sunlight filtering between some of the roots...I was so sure it was the old panther that had been prowling the property like clockwork...

That was the first and last case of mistaken identity I ever made with a firearm. A memorable lesson learned.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Make your own mosquito dope

A homemade alcohol or vinegar tincture of Catnip works great for repelling the skeeters. Catnip is super easy to grow and it readily re-seeds itself for another crop of leaves and stems for next year. It is also good for a lot of other things too...a must-have on my homestead.

Heh. I recently read that some scientifical study or another indicated that some compounds in the catnip is as effective as DEET!

Catnip skeeter dope is easy to make. Here's how to do it:

Chop fresh leaves, stems. Put into a blender with just enough rubbing alcohol (or vinegar) to cover. Whiz it good. Pour the mess into a clean glass jar. Cover, keep in a dark location (or put the jar into a paper bag). For two weeks, shake twice a day, if you can remember it. Strain, pour into clean bottles. I put mine into spray bottles.

Before offering your body as a blood sacrifice when venturing outdoors, spray the catnip tincture onto exposed areas. It will buy you a few hours of nearly mosquito-free time. Reapply as needed.

I'm a believer in catnip spray and a diet that is big in B-Complex rich foods (plus extra B-Complex vitamins). Something about them that mosquitoes hate...

This may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #2: HOW TO MAKE HOME REMEDIES THAT REALLY WORK. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:

Friday, June 22, 2007

On courage...

"Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway." --John Wayne

"The death of fear is in doing what you fear to do." --Sequiche Comingdeer

"A coward dies a thousand deaths; a brave man dies but one."

"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly."

"How to make something that is difficult, easier: Don't do it less--Do it more."

"You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him."

"When you get to your wit's end, you'll find God lives there."

"Courage is fear that has said its prayers."

"The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us."

"People who lack courage think with their legs."

"A testimony is what's left after the test."

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal."

Courage, according to Maya Angelou: "I think you develop it the same way you cook... You don't start off with Beef Wellington. You start off with a hard-boiled egg, then an omlet. Before you know it, you're doing a frittata!"

What love means: a collection of children's sayings

These gems were found in "Lil Bits and Pieces", an Oklahoma based newspaper.

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate." --Nikka, age 6

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth." --Billy, age 4

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." --Terri, age 4

"There are two kinds of love. Our love. God's love. But God makes both kinds of them." -- Jenny, age 8

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day."
--Noell, age 7

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."--Karen, age 8

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." --Lauren, age 4

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." --Jessica, age 8

Thoughts on rural America in times of crisis...

Unfortunate, out-of-my-hands kind of circumstances found me trapped near Ground Zero, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina. I weathered the storm in an area generally known for its friendliness and charming hospitality.

After the hurricane, I emerged into a totally changed world. All the old rules didn't apply anymore. Nothing was as it should be. As if the devastation weren't enough, I saw some of the darkest anarchy I ever dreamed would be possible in the otherworldly polite pre-Katrina society.

True, there were places where there was no anarchy to speak of, but rather a walking-dead kind of numbness, an unreal-ness to it all. Nothing even remotely like this had ever happened before.

What really struck me, was the suddenness of the looting and brutality. As the hurricane winds stilled, something else evil and palpable was stirring. I can almost pinpoint the loosening of it...just as soon as people realized there were no real boundaries, little to no law-and-order, or communication...that's when anarchy quicky broke loose in places. It wasn't just a case of food and water deprivation. It started long before that.

Armed-to-the-teeth thugs and looters are not far behind any major crisis, anywhere. They are equal opportunity workers. Some are highly organized and brutally efficient, and wait for opportunities such as this.

For a week, gunfire could be heard in pockets here and there all along Katrina's path. Communications were next to impossible, radio/cell towers were down, gasoline to escape was scarce or non-existent in many places. No police (did the hurricane blow them all away?) law and order! Funny thing, after Katrina passed, just when I thought it just can't get much worse than this...then even more pockets of anarchy popped up here and there...these were insults to injury. Looting, murder, rapes, beatings, you name it...a man shooting his sister over a bag of ice... In places, the anarchy was totally senseless!

I saw first hand just how transparent the skin of polite society really is...even in rural America! It's NOT just about big cities, you know.

On the other hand, many neighborhoods banded together and organized armed street patrols to protect themselves, family and friends (and their homes if they still had one). Some of those without guns grabbed knives and baseball bats.

At first, the more visibly organized neighborhoods had almost no trouble with gangs and looters. It was like an oasis...folks helping one another in many ways. Things were fine, as long as food and water were abundant. As time wore on, and supplies stretched thin, things changed...

I will say this: if a widespread crisis is given the opportunity to last longer than a few weeks (or months), even the nicest, most helpful and organized neighborhoods won't be so warm and fuzzy anymore, as soon as food and water supplies start to become scarce in a prolonged crisis.

Count on it.

Edited on June 14, 2008 to add author's note:

I had a recent convos with someone who misunderstood my intentions with this article. She thought that I was trying to paint Katrina in Mississippi as a 'worse than it really was' Jericho-style anarchy situation. Although I have not heard any other viewpoints like hers from anyone else, I suspect that if one person spoke up, surely there might be more. If so, then maybe I need to clarify a few points:

1. In a severe crisis situation, given the right ingredients, things may suddenly turn ugly in places you think not.

2. In places where neighbors banded together, it was an oasis of law and order that was most unattractive to looters.

3. When supplies stretch thin enough, the' warm fuzzy kittens and rainbows' pictures will begin to fade, even in the most helpful and organized of neighborhoods.

4. Like the saying goes, "When the SHTF it will not be distributed evenly". In some rural areas, there were small pockets of lawlessness scattered in Katrina's path. This article is a snapshot of what some of them looked like. This is NOT to paint Mississippi in a bad light, nor to paint the entire tri-state area as a lawless wasteland. Violent trouble certainly did erupt in places in Louisiana, and to a lesser degree, Mississippi and Alabama because of loss of vital communication, and lack of law and order (either uniformed or in the form of neighborhood patrols).

On the brighter side of the coin, Katrina and many other disasters show many people everywhere pulling together with a community spirit that is most heartwarming. If you are well prepared, then you can be an asset to your family and possibly your community.

My entire point of this article is for people to see a need to prepare for the possibility of having to deal with sudden anarchy situations (be it large or small ones), where you live or work. Please don't be too smug or complacent about your disaster preps in this regard.

This may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:


First, here's a little video to get you in the mood for some kicking Jambalaya. Wow! can you believe a four year old kid can sing and dance like that? Oh hey, check out those cool moves, too. If you're on pokey-slow dial-up internet connection like I am, I can guarantee that the long wait will be worth your while. Enjoy your Jambalaya!
Please pull up the Hunter Hayes "Jambalaya on the Bayou" video.
By the way, I am not sending my readers to any other links that may be on the same page. Link advisory: some sites may contain tasteless or downright raunchy You Tube videos that is sure ruin your appetite for good food.

This is a book excerpt from my handbook series:

JAMBALAYA, the story and the recipe

For those of you who are not familiar with this kind of cooking, first things first:

South Louisiana cooking has become popular because of the wonderfully complex flavors that come from a blending of French, Spanish, Native American, Caribbean, African and other cooking cultures. It is highly adaptable to a wide range of ingredient substitutions, making it one of the most economical cooking styles around.

If you leave out any of what is known as the "holy trinity" (chopped onions, bell pepper and celery, sauteed in a small amount of oil), you have left out a little bit of the soul of Louisiana cooking. Some, like me, like to throw the "Pope" (garlic) into the pot (I suppose I coulda worded that better).

This Jambalaya recipe reflects some of my heritage: French/Native American/los Islenos Spanish. When my mother's mother's side of the family (early los Islenos, also known as Spanish Canary Island Settlers) came to the New Orleans area in the 1700s, they brought the recipes for their wonderful paella. Since all the ingredients could not be found in the area, they "made do" with what they found. Oysters, shrimp, crab, chicken, duck, alligator, crawfish, etc. replaced the clams and mussels called for in the original recipes. A long time ago, the locals around New Orleans called these improvised recipes of the los Islenos, "Jambon a la yaya". Yaya is the African word for rice. Now it is called Jambalaya, and it is delicious!

Now that you know one of the stories behind it, here's a good Jambalaya recipe. Save a bundle on the commercially boxed version that is sold nowadays.

PureCajunSunshine's JAMBALAYA (meat or meatless)


1/2 lb (or more) boneless & skinless meat (any kind will do: chicken breasts, rabbit, turtle, deer, alligator or just about anything that don't eat you first)

12 ounces (or more) your favorite smoked sliced sausage (I like to use Andouille, which is a delicious South Louisiana sausage that is perfect for seasoning old-time Jambalayas, Gumbos and Red Beans & Rice. Not to be confused with the continental French "andouillette", which is a tripe sausage(yuck). A good quality Keilbasa sausage may be used instead.

If going no-meat, use 4 - 6 cups cooked black-eyed peas or black beans, or 2 or 3 cans of storebought'en. Whatever you use, make sure it is flavorful and seasoned well.

1 medium-large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small-medium bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
(beginner cooks: a clove is a single "toe" taken from the main
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with the juice
a few dashes (about a teaspoon)of your favorite hot pepper
sauce (preferably Louisiana hot sauce)
2 tablespoons or more of your favorite cooking oil
1 1/2 cups of water (or stock/bouillion for extra flavor)
salt & pepper to taste
4 to 6 cups hot cooked rice
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Cajun spice blend, more or less, to taste

Cajun spice blends are found in groceries almost everywhere in Southern America nowadays, because a good thing is hard to hide...(Just curious, is it available in Northern states??) For our friends in other lands, a recipe for a famous Cajun seasoning blend will follow Jambalaya recipe.

Nice touches, if you have it: 1 teaspoon filé powder (powdered Sassafras leaf, and pronounced FEE-lay); 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato sauce/spread (such as Classico brand or something similar; 1 cup fresh green onion tops, chopped. The filé powder and green onion tops are added at the very end of cooking. Wild edibles such as chickweed, cattail roots, violet leaves, etc. can be added to Jambalaya.


Heat a large, heavy dry pan over medium-high heat. Cast iron is always good. Add a very tiny amount of cooking oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Add sliced sausage. Cook until browned (about 30 minutes). At this point it is ok if some of the browning sausage (and added meat) sticks to the bottom of the pot. This will give the Jambalaya extra flavor and a nice brown color. Remove sausage, keeping the drippings in the pan for next step. Cut chicken (or whatever meat you have on hand)into half-inch pieces and brown in remaining oil. Return sausage to pan and add onion, celery, garlic and peppers. Cook over medium heat until the the vegetables are almost tender. Add tomatoes and their juice, along with a cup of water (or stock/bouillion). Stir well. If you have bits of meat stuck to the pot, remove from heat and allow to cool a little. Work the bits loose with a large spoon. Return to heat, turned low. Add Cajun spices and hot sauce, stir well, cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on taste preferences or time allowance. Add cooked rice, stir well and heat through.

For a one-dish meal, I sometimes add a bit of cooked okra, collard, mustard or turnip greens (leftover or canned), canned corn, black beans, etc. Adjust your seasonings according to the amount of extra veggies or beans that have been added.


Here is a recipe for Emeril's Bayou Blast. This homemade version is not as complex as the commercial version, but it'll do:

2 1/2 T. paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T black pepper
1 T cayenne pepper powder
1 T oregano, dried and crumbled fine
1 T thyme, dried and crumbled fine

Combine all ingredients, mix well. Pour into a clean salt shaker.
Use on just about anything. Sprinkle generously before cooking.

This recipe is from Tony Chachere's Cajun Country Cookbook:

Tony Chachere's All-Purpose Creole Seasoning

1 box (26-oz) Morton's free flowing salt
1 box (1 1/2 oz) ground black pepper
1 bottle (2-oz) ground red pepper
1 bottle (1-oz)pure garlic powder
1 bottle (1-oz) chili powder
1 carton (1-oz) Monosodium glutamate (Accent)

Mix well and use like salt. When it's salty enough, it's "seasoned to perfection". Use generously on everything.

Tips: To season seafood use half of the above mixture and add:

1 tsp powdered thyme
1 tsp bay leaf
1 tsp sweet basil

Ça c'est bon! (that's good!),

This may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This recipe is an excerpt from . For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:

Be content with the little things

Enjoy the little things
for one day you may
look back and realize
they were the big things.