All posts by Mandi

Frugal Fun: Dinner Party

duck pie
A silly homemade pie I served with soup and biscuits.

In our society, it’s become harder to make genuine connections with people.  While social media is well and good for keeping in touch, it’s not the same as spending time with people in person.  Unfortunately for a tight budget, “catching up” has become synonymous with going out for an overpriced coffee and an undersized muffin at some chain coffee shop.

However, you can be proactive and host people at your house for a dinner party that won’t ruin your budget or your waistline.

Don’t be afraid to make “poor food.

Soups, beans, stews and pastas are all delicious and budget friendly.  Most people do enjoy that kind of home cooking. For guests, I have made a ham and bean soup with fried hoe cakes and homemade peach jam. I would recommend finding out if they have an intense hatred of beans, first though. Otherwise, your first dinner party might be your last.  Any soup can be made elegant with the addition of a rustic bread or decadent dessert.

Be creative with meals.

Fried eggs, scrapple (if you’re from around the Delmarva Peninsula… if not, bacon is good, too), and biscuits make a lovely breakfast for dinner. Bake pizza crusts ahead of time and have the guests help with assembling them. Better yet, make each person a small crust of their own with a wide range of toppings to choose from. It’s also a great conversation starter: “you like pickles and peanut butter on your pizza?!?”

Ask the guests to contribute something.

Majority of folks ask if they can bring something.  We’ve been conditioned to instantly say “no, of course not!”  Instead, ask them what they might like to bring that would complement your meal or what their specialty is. When people ask, they do want to bring something, they just need some direction.

Have fun with table decorations. 

I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy something, but it is fun to decorate the table with something as simple as a table cloth or a vase of flowers from the garden.  Decorations can make the dinner feel special, even with more humble foods.

Choose “theme” meals. 

I’ve been known to make Chinese, Indian or Thai themed meals. Now, are they as good as “authentic” meals? Probably not. However, they are tasty all the same! There are about
a gajillion different recipes available online. Try something new and add some fun embellishments.  It’s also a great way to incorporate homeschool activities.

Your slow cooker is your friend.

No, seriously, it is! There is no rule that says you have to make a labor intensive meal to impress the tar out of your friends.  Make the day less stressful on you and use a tasty slow cooker recipe. If you feel funny about serving straight from the cooker, you can put the food in a fancy dish or bowl for the table.

Choose one part of the meal to emphasize.

By making one part of the meal the focal point, the rest of the meal can be fairly simple.  For instance, bake your own bread for the pasta, but don’t worry about making a complicated side dish. The meal will seem elegant and all parts will be able to stand together without competition.

Keep it real! 

 The point of a shared meal is about sharing fellowship with people you care about, not about the food.   Remember is that your friends are just that because they
like you, not because they are after your cooking.  If you’re friends with me, the food’s just an added bonus. 🙂

Does anyone else have some suggestions for dinner parties? Favorite recipes? Tips?


Little Bit of Meat into a Big Meal

Squirrel vegetable soup. Yum.
Squirrel vegetable soup. Yum.

Squirrel season opened here on Sept. 15.  Matt went hunting for squirrels the next day.  He took aim at one of the furry critters, switching to an open choke.  Only he didn’t.  He switched to a full choke.  After he heard the resounding “boom,” he realized his mistake.. He cringed, seeing that the squirrel landed 15 ft away behind the tree.  This is going to be bad, he thought.  He was right.

Being the ethical hunter that he is, he brought the decimated remains home to salvage what he could.  It wasn’t much, all things considered.  Basically, the bottom half was the only part he could save.

You ever seen a squirrel?  They’re little things.  A half a squirrel is smaller still.  What in the heck am I going to do with a half a squirrel, I thought to myself.

This afternoon, I put it in a pot of water and let it simmer a long time.  It tenderized the meat, making it easy pickings and created a broth.  If you’ve never had squirrel, I’ll let you in on a secret: it tastes similarly to chicken.  A nutty chicken, if you will.  I know the ubiquitous joke is that every meat tastes like chicken, but squirrels actually do.

At any rate, I was torn between a stir fried rice and soup.  I finally settled on a soup.  After simmering the piece all afternoon, I fished it out, let it cool, and picked off the meat.  I put it back in the pot, adding slices of carrots and celery, along with plenty of garlic.  I simmered until the vegetables were soft, then added corn and egg noodles.  Instead of noodles, I had wanted to have potatoes, but I found my bag of potatoes had been reduced to a moldy saggy sack of yuck.

Once the noodles were al dente, I removed from the stove and served.  I find that if you remove the soup before the noodles are totally cooked, the noodles don’t disintegrate as leftovers.

You wouldn’t believe it, but that little bit of squirrel ended up making a rather large pot of soup.  If I want to stretch it further, I would add a can of peas or some green beans.  Corn bread, biscuits, crackers or even just plain bread with butter make an excellent accompaniment.  That soup will feed our family of four for dinner and lunch, providing I make sandwiches to go with it at lunch time.

Remember, if you’re trying to stretch your budget or the food you already have in the house, soup is a great way to do it.

That Sinking Feeling: Common Fishing Sinkers

There are almost as many varieties of sinkers for fishing as there are hooks.   Actually, there’s probably more varieties of sinkers.  Each type has its specific reasons for its design, use, application.  Most sinkers, except for very small ones, are usually made with lead.  Care should be taken with handling them, especially children.

Sliding inline sinker

Sliding inline sinker
Sliding inline sinker
Another view of the sliding inline sinker
Another view of the sliding inline sinker

It normally has a hole in it that can move up and down the fishing line.  They come in various shapes from conical to eggs to spheres.  Frequently, these are used in trolling, but I use them when casting small lures that I want to get to deeper water.

Inline Stationary sinkers

Inline stationary sinker
Inline stationary sinker

They normally have an eye on each end so that the main line can be tied at one and a leader with a line of chosen length and a hook can be tied at the other.  I don’t normally use these, because there is not as much versatility with them as with other types of sinkers.

Bank sinker

Bank Sinker
Bank Sinker

These are normally hexagonal tear shaped sinkers with a cast eye at the top.  They are predominately used in low current, low tidal fluctuation when you don’t want your bait to move.  The biggest disadvantage I see with it is that with the cast eye it’s sometimes difficult to get a snap swivel through the eye.

Non-slip sinkers

Non Slip Sinker
Non Slip Sinker

They look like a tire with no hole in the middle.  Are normally used in muddy bottoms and slow moving water.

Bell Sinker

Bell Sinker
Bell Sinker

These are shaped like a solid bell.  Normally with a swivel molded into the top.  Normally used when it is not an issue if the bait or rig move some in the water.  Frequently, I will use this sinker because it will move on the bottom and shift with the tide.

Pyramid Sinkers

Pyramid Sinker
Pyramid Sinker

As the name suggests, it’s shaped like a pyramid.  IT has good holding power even in heavy current or tide.  It will normally hold bottom so used when you are trying to cast in a specific location.  Can be problematic when fishing in an area with a muddy bottom.

Hurricane sinker


Looks like an elongated and slightly rounded pyramid.  Frequently seen in surf fishing.  Greatest advantage is that they hold like a pyramid sinker of larger weight, particularly in sand.  The biggest disadvantage is that they hold in sand, meaning I have lost rigs because they have held too well.   I frequently use them in the surf or when live-lining bait, particularly when using a fish finder rig.


All of these and many other varieties of sinkers can be found in partial ounce sizes (fraction of an ounce) all the way up to multiple pound cannon ball sinkers. Choose the one best suited to your situation.  Hopefully, this article gave you a little direction in which one to choose.


Real Life: Dinner Fail (Almost)

This ain’t Pinterest.  This is real life.  I try to shoot as straight as possible, since I don’t want people to feel like doing the things we do is impossible.  Part of our method is to be as transparent as possible, even when it doesn’t show us in the best light.

First confession: We don’t eat clean all the time.  Sometimes, I will throw a prepackaged bag of noodles filled with MSG and unpronounceable ingredients  into a pot and call it dinner. I’m trying to get better about this particular issue, we do have a lot of premade food in our extended pantry.  Most of it was given to us, but it beckons from time to time.  Our sons actually think that Ramen noodles are a treat, since they get them so infrequently.  (I pretty them up with vegetables and meat, but still, not really healthy, though I can delude myself enough about it.)

Second confession: Even though I advocate meal planning, I don’t always do it.  Heck, sometimes, like this Sunday, I go through all the effort of meal planning.  Then, totally ignore it. It’s not practicing what I preach but we all fall short.

Pantry (and sis) Saved the Day

Today, I was feeling very unwell.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but I turned the television on at around 1 and let the boys watch Netflix while I laid on the couch, hoping my sinuses didn’t finally explode like they felt they might.  Come dinner time, I couldn’t think of a single thing to make.  Everything sounded too daunting, nothing was thawed.  (Yes, I realize the irony that I could have avoided all this had I actually followed my meal plan and taken the pork chops out last night for a crock pot meal.  Quiet, you.) Leftover icecream cake was looking more and more like a very real option.

Fortunately, I was on the phone with my sister, who uses her Bluetooth to talk during her second shift driving 18 wheel trucks.  She said, “just make spaghetti.”  I thought to myself, okay, Matt isn’t home.  The kids and I could just have spaghetti and sauce.  Sauce is a vegetable and you don’t need meat at every meal, right?  I committed to the pasta.  I went into the extended pantry to get the jar of sauce, and my brain finally kicked on.  Hello, I have cans of meat, both home canned and commercially canned, grab one of those, you dummy.  Not only did I grab the can of chicken, but I also decided to fancy it up with a can of mushrooms.

These all came from my pantry. And, for those of you interested, all bought on rock bottom sales.
These all came from my pantry. And, for those of you interested, all bought on rock bottom sales.

I cooked dinner which took hardly anytime.  After grace, I enjoyed this quick pantry meal.  And then I wanted to smack myself.  I have written two ebooks on frugality, one of which focuses on the kitchen.  I knew that an extended pantry is the way to avoid eating out or take the effort out of meals.  Why hadn’t I just done that without the prompting of my sister?

It tasted just as fantastic as it looked.
It tasted just as fantastic as it looked.

And I came to this conclusion.  I need someone to tell me what to do.  Not all the time mind you, but when I’m sick or sad, I need someone to just tell me to put one foot in front of the other.  This is the premise behind my homemaking journal, since I am not one of those blessed people who are naturally organized.  As I sat there at dinner, I decided to make a list of a few meals that I could keep in my homemaking binder.  These meals would be quick pantry meals that I could make out of our storage.  Not only will it make last minute meals no-brainers, it’s also a way for me to practice cooking from our food storage. I’ll be ready for an emergency, but it also helps to rotate the storage.

Emergency Pantry Meals

  1. Pasta + sauce+ canned meat of choice (chicken, ground beef, ground venison, ground pork)
  2. Jar of soup +bread product (bread, crackers, pita)
  3. Homecanned jar of sweet and sour chicken, bourbon chicken, etc + instant rice
  4. Jar meat (thicken with flour) + jar of carrots served over instant mashed potatoes
  5. Jar of sliced potatoes +ground meat+ pint tomato sauce+ can of peas for burgos (excellent recipe from the More with Less cookbook

Now I have this short list installed in my homemaking journal so that I have someone to tell me what to do. Someone eminently qualified.  Me!

What other pantry meals can you think of?  Share with me so I can add to my list and others can benefit from your unique and fabulous wisdom.




A Few Reasons to Prep (Plus the winners announcement)

The term “prepper” evokes images of wild  eyed wanna be commandos in fatigues with guns slung over their shoulders, muttering about the government takeover perpetrated by a secret society.  While there’s nothing wrong with holding these beliefs (I entertain them myself from time to time), that pervasive image turns off many people from emergency preparedness.  This is a huge problem because emergencies can happen at any time, without warning, and don’t have to be of epically catastrophic proportions.  Everyone needs to have some sort of back up plan because s8&^ happens, even it doesn’t hit the fan. And it ranges from the personal to events on a global level.

Job loss-  The economy being what it is, job loss is not an uncommon event.  If you have a stocked pantry, you will have one less bill to worry about.  Speaking from experience, I can tell you it will be a blessing to be able to feed your family regardless of whether you have a regular pay check.  In 2013, I was maneuvered into resigning my position teaching.  (It’s a long, dastardly story that I won’t share right now).  My teaching salary had been a major portion of our income.  Matt had his tree business and hoped to pick up the slack.  Unfortunately, his partner left the business, taking the chipper with him, limiting the jobs Matt could do.  Then, the economy took another hit, and the calls quit coming.  During this period, cash became more and more scarce.  However, all we had to do for food was go to our huge pantry downstairs or one of the freezers.  We had more than enough to see us through.  If we hadn’t had that stockpile, I’m not sure what we would have done.

Loss of a spouse-  This event is far more unsettling to consider, but it must be done.  If you are part of a couple who depends on two incomes, you need to think about what you might do if they passed away suddenly.  If you have food stockpiled, you wouldn’t have to worry about a grocery bill.  Moreover, you wouldn’t have to drag yourself into the public, grocery shopping, when you should really be at home, taking care of yourself and children if you have any.


Natural disaster- As many of us watched, during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, people were grossly unprepared for living without electricity.  Potable water became a precious commodity as the emergency progressed.  If you live on the east coast, hurricanes are a very real threat, but other parts of the country have their own natural disasters.  Considering they are difficult to predict and often strike without warning, it is best to keep supplies on hand at all times.

Governmental collapse- I hesitated to put this reason in here, since it sounds so crazy.  However, if you have been paying attention to places like Greece and Valenzuela, it’s not that far out of the realm of possibility.  Okay, some of you may think my crazy is showing, and maybe it is, but I”d rather throw this out there than not. Better for you to have supplies and me be wrong, than the other way around.

This list is just a few reasons to start your own stockpile of supplies.  You can start small and work your way up, but just get started.  It’s better to be proactive and feel like you’re doing something rather than feel helpless later.


I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for the winner of our newsletter drawing.  In a very scientifically random fashion, we put all the names on a slip of paper and put them in a pickle jar.

Our very scientific method
Our very scientific method

When we went to draw a name for the 72 hour kit from Patriot Pantry, the boys fought over who got to draw.  In order to keep the peace, we decided to add a bonus drawing.  The grand prize winner will get the 72 hour kit while the runner up will win some homemade soaps.  And the winners are…. drumroll please…..

For the homemade soap:

Dan Shortridge! You've won two bars of our homemade soap!
Dan Shortridge! You’ve won two bars of our homemade soap!

And the 72 hour kit goes to…..

Marie Miller, you're the winner of the 72 hour kit.
Marie Miller, you’re the winner of the 72 hour kit.


Congratulations to our winners.  If you’d like to be qualified to win occasional giveaways and other goodies, sign up to be on our newsletter.

Join our list. We’d never sell your address. Scout’s honor. (Matt used to be a Boyscout, so that’s totally legit.)

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The Real Deal on Rods and Reels

Though rods and reels are not necessary for successful fishing, they make the likelihood of success much greater.


Fishing rods vary as much as anglers who use them, but can be broken into two basic groups: spinning rods and conventional rods.  As the names imply, it corresponds to the type of reel used on the rod.

  • Spinning rods, or spinner rods, normally have fewer guides or eyes (the loops on the rod) which have larger diameter to the reel seat, descending in size as they progress towards the tip. Frequently, they also have longer handles below the rod seat.


  • Conventional (bait caster) rods generally have more eyes or guides that are roughly the same size for most of the length of the rod. Generally, they have shorter handles below the rod seat.


While you can get away with using a conventional reel on a spinning rod, you cannot get away with using a spinning reel on a conventional rod.

Characteristics of Rods

Rods are normally categorized by: weight of rod, length of rod, type of reel used on the rod, the action of the tip of the rod, materials used to make the rod and whether it is designed for fresh or salt water.  (this is not as key with rods as it is with reels. )

Weight of rod: there are ultralight, light, medium, heavy, and offshore.

Length of the rod: can be anywhere from 3 ft to 18 ft.

Materials: bamboo, cane, fiberglass, graphite and some space age polymers.  Graphite, fiberglass or a combination of the two are my preferred materials.

 Action on the tip of the rod: ultra fast to slow, and every variant in between.  Each manufacturer of rods seems to have a different system.   The rod action refers to how much of the rod bends when force is applied to the tip.  The slower the action the further the rod bends. The type of fishing, bait and/or rigs, and personal preference determine which action you should use.  I personally lean towards medium to medium fast actions, except in surf fishing.

Slow action, note how much of the rod is bent.
Slow action, note how much of the rod is bent.
Fast action: very little of the rod bends
Fast action: very little of the rod bends

There are a multitude of companies that make fishing rods with a wide price range.  Two brands of rods I use most are St. Croix and Tica.  This does not mean these are the only two brands I own, as I own many brands.

If I could only have one rod, it would be an 8.5 ft conventional  rod, medium weight with a medium fast tip.  The reasons being it is long enough to cast respectable distance in the surf but short enough to still be used from a canoe.

You can find fishing rods from $20 to close to $1,000.  It is in my opinion that you should buy the best you can afford; however, if you need to cut costs, I would save money and purchase a less expensive rod and invest that surplus into buying a higher quality reel.   It is possible to purchase a good, solid rod that with care, will give you many years of service for under a hundred dollars.  Generally, I look for rods at the $100 mark, unless it is a custom made rod.


The two most commonly used types of fishing reels are the spinner and the conventional (bait caster).  Both have advantages and disadvantages.  I use a combination of the two of them. The use of one over the other is more dependent on the species of fish I’m targeting than anything else.

Fresh or salt water

Both types of reels come in both salt water and fresh water versions, which is more critical when fishing salt or brackish, a salty water that is not as high in salinity as the ocean.  My general rule of thumb is that if there are no lily pads or frogs, it’s brackish water, because neither can live in even slightly salty water. The biggest difference between salt and fresh water reels is the materials used to manufacture them.  Salt water reels are made of corrosive resistant materials that will stand up to more abuse.


Spinning reels are deemed right handed or left handed depending on what hand you hold the rod with.  Right handed means you hold with the right hand and crank with the left.  Left handed is the opposite.

Conventional reels are right or left handed based on the hand you’re reeling in with.  When using a conventional, I favor left handed so that my hand actions are the same with both reels.


Spinning Reels

Old Faithful Diawa spinning reel
Old Faithful Diawa spinning reel

Advantages: easy to learn, most people can cast accurately, birds’ nests (tangled line) are almost unheard of unless using braided line, a faster retrieve is possible, certain fishing techniques can only be done with spinning reels

Disadvantages:  more moving parts, more likely to break, doesn’t hold as much line as a comparable size conventional, faster retrieve means cannot apply as much force, so it’s harder to overpower the fish. When casting, heavy weight with a lengthy rod, like in surf fishing, you can’t load the rod to get the distance you need out of the cast.

Variations in spinning reels

Anti-reverse levers

Some reels have them and some don’t.  They enable you to turn the reel backwards to let line out.   On reels that don’t have this lever, normally you can’t take the anti-reverse off.  I personally don’t own any reels without anti-reverse levers.

The black lever on the bottom is an example of a anti-reverse lever
The black lever on the bottom is an example of a anti-reverse lever


.  Drag is how much force has to be applied to the line to pull line off the reel.  On a top drag- the drag controls are on top of the reel, while on a bottom drag, it’s on the bottom.  A third option is a double drag system normally referred to as a bait-runner, where you have a “fighting drag” and a “bait running drag.”  Generally, the fighting drag is on the top and the bait running is on the bottom, controlled by a lever.  The bait running drag is a lighter drag so that a fish can take hold of the bait and not feel resistance or only minimal resistance, commonly used with live lining bait which uses whole live bait.  This is done because frequently fish will grab prey and move with the prey in its mouth.  While they are swimming, they were proceed to swallow the entire bait, making a hook-up more likely. If a fish feels resistance when it grabs a whole bait, it will let go.

Top drag
Top drag


Baitrunner lever drag
Baitrunner lever drag
Baitrunner reel
Baitrunner reel


Which end up?

Spinning reels are versatile, in that you can change the location of the handle, switching it from a right handed to a left handed reel.  If you are holding a spinning rod in your normal fishing stance and the rod is not between you and the reel, you are holding the rod wrong.  All reels on the retrieve turn counter-clockwise.  If you are not turning the reel clockwise, you are holding the rod incorrectly.

Proper holding of a rod and reel
Proper holding of a rod and spinning reel



Conventional Reel

conventional reel
conventional reel

Advantages: carry more line that a spinning reel of comparable size, less moving parts, the cranking power transfer is greater, fully load a rod when casting a heavy weight to get distance required for long distance casting, certain techniques can only be done with conventional reels.

Disadvantages:  takes longer to learn how to use them effectively, hard to learn how to cast accurately with them, birds’ nests are common while you’re learning how to use them

A catastrophic bird's nest. I lost a four ounce sinker and a blue fish rig. To add insult to injury, I jammed my thumb because when the bird's nest happened, the line snapped.
A catastrophic bird’s nest. I lost a four ounce sinker and a blue fish rig. To add insult to injury, I jammed my thumb because when the bird’s nest happened, the line snapped.


Lever drags are almost always on very large, off shore conventional reels, where you press a lever forward to increase your drag.  I only own one conventional with a lever drag, and I use it exclusively for shark fishing, a Penn Squaw l 60LDLH.  The lever drag is also the free spool lever.  The way the lever drag works is that you press the lever forward to increase drag on the reel.  The big drawback with this system is that every time you cast or drop overboard, you have to reset your drag

Lever drag is the lever between the handle and the case of the reel.
Lever drag is the lever between the handle and the case of the reel.


Star drag is normally a wheel that looks like a star behind the crank handle that is turned to adjust the drag.

I prefer reels whose drag systems make a significant amount of noise.  This can make a world of difference when a fish strikes and you are not looking at the rod.

Star drag is the piece that resembles a star in between the handle and the case.
Star drag is the piece that resembles a star in between the handle and the case.

Spool Engagement Systems

Button systems require, obviously, pressing a button to shift the reel into free spool, meaning the spool spins freely.  With most button systems, you crank the handle to take the reel out of free spool.

Button for engaging free spool
Button for engaging free spool

Lever systems have a lever that you move to engage the free spool.  For the majority of lever systems, you have to put the lever back to the original position to take it out of free spool.  There are some reels that cranking the handle will take the reel out of free spool.  I prefer that system over the others.

Lever for engaging free spool
Lever for engaging free spool


Spool Tension controls

 Single side spool tension is normally a knob on the opposite side of the reel that is adjusted to determine the rate at which the spool spins in free spool.

Dual side spool tension is a knob on each side of the wheel to adjust the tension.  This system requires more fine tuning, because it must be balanced to keep the spool centered in the reel.  Because of this fine tuning, you can greatly reduce your likelihood of bird’s nests while casting.


Spool Tension knob
Spool Tension knob
Spool Tension adjustment on opposite side of the reel.
Spool Tension adjustment on opposite side of the reel.

Level Wind

A level wind is a device that rides on a worm screw, some conventional rods have them and some don’t.  As you retrieve, the level wind distributes the line evenly on the spool.  Without the level line, you have to do this manually or birds’ nests are guaranteed.  The disadvantage to level lines is some reels the level line slows the rate at which the line can leave the spool in a cast, limiting the casting distance.  This is why I favor Abu Garcias in the surf, any time I’m going to be casting for distance.

Level wind
Level wind


A clicker is a button on a conventional rod which makes noise when the spool moves.  Normally, this is used when night fishing and live lining bait, so that you can hear when a fish picks up the bait. Frequently, while night fishing with conventional reels, I will put the clicker on and put the reel in free spool and let the rod sit in a rod holder until I hear a fish hit.  The clicker also behaves much like a bait running drag on a nonadjustable spinning reel.



Buying Gear

If I have to choose between putting money into a rod and into a reel, I’m going to choose the reel, because while neither is necessary, a quality reel on a mediocre rod is far more effective than a mediocre reel on an excellent rod.  If quality reels are bought and taken care of, they can last longer than your lifetime.

For example, one of my Abu Garcia 10,000 reels I inherited from my grandfather and he used it extensively in surf fishing, making it well over thirty years old.  I have a GreenE 70 that was made in the early 70s.  Not to say that none have needed repairs, but all work done has been far less expensive than buying a new reel.  Many of my Penn 209, both left and right handed version, my father and I both used when I was a child and I got them when my father moved away from that type of fishing.  Some of those he had from before I was born in 1977.


 Preferred manufacturers for conventional reels:

Penn–  Some models I use are the Penn 209LH (left handed)and  Penn No. 9LH.

Abu Garcia- Some models I use are the Abus Garcia’s  10,000 Ambassador, Abu Garcia 7,001i, and the Abu Garcia 6600


Preferred manufacturers for spinning reels:

Shimano-Bait Runner reels

Penn-spinning reels of various sizes.


I am in the process of testing two Okuma bait runner reels.( I’ll let you know how they work out.)


Find a reel and rod you are comfortable with.  While we have included links to Amazon, of which we are affliliates, you will do yourself a great service by finding a local bait and tackle shop.   IF they sell basketballs and baseballs, that’s not a bait and tackle shop.  If they have more than three departments, it’s not a bait and tackle shop.  Purchase the best you can afford, and you’ll end up with a piece of equipment that can be handed down for generations of anglers to come.

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8 Ways to Keep Rabbits Cool in Summer

Imagine wearing a fur coat during the sweltering summer heat.  Imagine you can’t take it off.  That’s kinda what it’s like to be a rabbit.  Heat can be very dangerous for rabbits, even fatal.  Additionally, when bucks (male rabbits) get too hot, they become sterile.  But not just for that day.  Oh, no.  They can become sterile for up to the next 60 days, which will really put a crimp in your rabbit breeding plans.  I have a few different techniques I use to keep my rabbits as comfortable as possible.

  • Water- go out and change their water as frequently as you can, switching it for cold water. Or, if you’re with the times and have an ice machine in your fridge, put some ice cubes in their water.
  • Goodies- if your rabbits are used to eating raw fruits and vegetables, keep some cold in the fridge that you can take out to them. Obviously, you do not want to start them on whole foods this way if they have only been eating pellets thus far. I like to give mine cold carrots from the fridge.
  • Open air- I have a couple of cages that I have not build a hutch for. I keep them on the ground so that they can be cool and have air flow.  Do not place it in a sunny area, but if you have space in your yard that is heavily shaded, you could place your bucks in the open air cages during the day.

    My Harlequin buck in an open air cage with a huge bottle of ice.
    My Harlequin buck in an open air cage with a huge bottle of ice.
  • Planned breeding- make sure you do not plan for rabbits to kindle (give birth) during the hottest parts of the year. It can be particularly hard on the doe and the kits, sometimes resulting in death.  I make sure I don’t have any expecting does between June and July.  I rebreed at the beginning of August so that the kits are born the beginning of September.
  • Hutch placement- if you have shade available, make sure you have your hutches in the shade.  Try to situate them so that they are not facing south, so the hot sun doesn’t blaze in their hutch.
  • Basement- if you have a basement and not too many rabbits, you could move them to the cooler basement for a short period. If you only moved your bucks,  you might be preserve their ability to breed them after the heat wave is over.
  • Wet blanket- you could use wet blankets but I use my laundry that needs to dry. (Multi tasking at its finest.) As the clothes dry, the evaporation cools the cages within.  You can also hose the blankets down periodically during the day, if you were so inclined.  Coupled with the next tip, the rabbits stay pretty cool.

    Drying clothes while keeping my rabbits cool.
    Drying clothes while keeping my rabbits cool.
  • Frozen bottles- I save Matt’s Diet Mountain Dew bottles (nasty habit, I know) and any other bottle I can refill with water. I freeze them when I know a heat wave is coming.  I put the bottles in with the rabbits who will snuggle with the bottles to cool off.  Be warned: I once had a buck who would attempt to mate with his bottle.  You may die of laughter.  You’ve been warned.

    My Silver Fox doe cuddling with her frozen bottle of water.
    My Silver Fox doe cuddling with her frozen bottle of water.

While hot weather is not ideal for rabbits, implementing some of these strategies will help them make it through the heat.  Anyone else have any other tips to share?

Beat the Heat: Our 15 Best Tips for Living without Air Conditioning

In honor of today’s high of 99, I thought it would be apropos to share our best tips for living without air conditioning.

. We live in Delaware where the average high temperature is around 90F with a few days approaching and exceeding 100F and the humidity ranges from 82-100% all summer.  One thing people are frequently surprised by is that Matt and I choose to live without air conditioning. Yep, you read that right.  Without air conditioning.  Voluntarily.

We believe that air conditioning is a waste of electricity (yes, fans use electricity, but not nearly as much.), can be unhealthy for the lungs and bad for the environment.  Now, if you choose to use it, that’s cool (see what I did there?).  We’re not judging anyone else, of course.

For a while, we tried air conditioning, too.  As a tree surgeon, Matt found that being in the air conditioning in the evenings and night time just made the daytime heat feel that much worse.  I had far more sinus infections and bouts of bronchitis. We find it’s easier for us with our outdoors lifestyle, primarily fishing, tree removal and gardening in the summer, to avoid air conditioning.  Once you’ve adjusted to it, the heat is not particularly that bad.  We have some tips and tricks that we use to cope with the heat.

  1. Acceptance. For real, just accept that you’re going to be hot in the summer.  That’s just how it works.  You’ll be far less grumpy if you acknowledge and embrace that fact.
  2. Proper window usage. During the day, I keep my windows covered by large pieces of fabric. (In your house, you might use curtains, but my boys seem to think that curtain rods are merely indoor monkey bars.  I can’t keep them up for anything.) I tack the fabric to the wall above the window.  No, it doesn’t look fancy, but it does the job.  In the evening, once it is cooler outside than in, I open the windows and put window fans in to draw the cool air into the house.  Then, in the morning before it gets too warm outside, I take the fans out of the windows and shut the windows to keep as much of the cool air as possible.
  3. Basements. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this trick, but it worked wonderfully.  When I had a basement with an entrance inside the house, I would put a baby gate in the door way and place a fan in front of it. It would pull the much cooler basement air up into the house during the day when the windows were shut.
  4. Stay inside. Avoid the outdoors during the hottest part of the day, if you can.  Particularly avoid difficult physical labor in full sun, unless your job requires it.  Otherwise, they might fire you if you don’t
  5. Go outside. Conversely, go outside in the morning and stay out until you can’t stand it anymore.  The house will feel very cool by comparison.  Plus, fresh air is good for you!
  6. Water work. Do you have any work you could do outside that uses the hose?   We wash the dogs, something they hate but the cold water is nice.  Scrubbing coolers, though never fun, is made more bearable by being able to sink your arms into cold, soapy water.  I guess you could wash your car, if you’re into that sort of thing.  (We just wait for a rain storm or until we drive under an irrigator placed close to the road.)

    Alice is really unimpressed with her bath.
    Alice is really unimpressed with her bath.
  7. Stay hydrated.  Drink. A lot.  Not alcoholic beverages, or at least too many since they dehydrate, but water, flavored or otherwise, is great. I find a few drops of orange essential oil encourage me to drink more.  We go through about a gallon of iced tea a day between us. It’s so cheap and easy to make that we keep at least two gallons in the refrigerator at all times.
  8. Eat cold foods. Not only does this include things like popsicles and ice cream, but you should also keep snacks and meals cold too.  Plan ahead if you know a heat wave is coming.  For instance, we went to the store to stock up on sliced cheeses, meats, and fruits.  I made a huge bowl of pasta salad for us to eat for meals, since I add meat and cheese.
  9. Eat water filled foods. We eat a lot of vegetables and fruits with high water content, such as sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, chunks of watermelon and cantaloupe, and grapes.  It’s a great way to snack and stay hydrated at the same time.
  10. Stay out of AC. If you can, stay out of places that use air conditioning.  If it’s unavoidable, try going earlier in the day when the difference between the inside temperature and the outside temperature is not as high.  Of course, by time I leave the grocery store, I’m freezing and ready to go warm up in the hot car.
  11. Get up early. I find it’s easier to get up earlier and get things done, particularly outside, while it’s still relatively cool out.  During the warm season, we will put off breakfast in order to get work done first.  As the day progresses and the red in the thermometer rises, we tend to have less and less motivation until it cools off again much later in the evening.
  12. Naps. There’s a reason that many countries near the equator still have siestas during the hottest parts of the day.  Naps help guard against the energy-sucking heat.  While I find it difficult to get my sons to nap anymore, we do have quiet time at 2pm in the afternoon when they are allowed to watch a movie, one of the few times the tv is on during the day.  They are required to lay on the couch and not allowed to get up. I use that time to quietly work on the computer, sitting right in front of a fan.
  13. Water play. Play in the water. If you live close enough to a water feature, you could drive to the ocean, river or lake.  Pools are great if you know someone with one.  In our house, this frequently is just filling a pot with water and allowing the kids to use squirters I got from the Dollar Tree to squirt each other.  I also let them use the hose to “water the garden” which usually ends up with them as wet as the plants.  If you have a slide, you can drag your hose over to it and make your own water slide.  That was a huge hit here!
    Kaz goes first.
    Kaz goes first.
    Then comes brother Bear
    Then comes brother Bear
    A big smile for some big fun.
    A big smile for some big fun.

    Smiles all around!
    Smiles all around!
  14. Cool showers. Before bed, the boys take a bath with cool water to help them cool down before bedtime. The water evaporating off of them helps to cool them down further while they sleep.  I take cold showers before bed, if I’m feeling particularly warm, for much the same reasons.
  15. Love the one you’re with. I hesitated to share this one because it’s kinda personal, but Matt assures me that we’ve been married eight years and have two kids.  No one thinks we’re not, so might as well put this out there.  (Sorry, Mom Mom, if you’re reading this).  If you can muster the strength, show the one you love that you love them.  After a sweaty bout of lovins, you’ll be so tired and the evaporating sweat will cool you off enough to put you to sleep.  Plus, all those lovely wellness endorphins that go along with it.  Give it a try. At any rate, your relationship would be better off for it.


While going without AC is not for everyone, if you’re looking to lower your electric bill or are ready to make the leap for more philosophical reasons, give these tips a try.  They work here on the Kemp Freehold.

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Matt on a rare fresh water expedition.
Matt on a rare fresh water expedition.

As the above equation demonstrates, there are many factors that influence your success in fishing.  Some of the factors are ecological, astrological, some are meteorological, physiological, and this list could go on ad infinitum.

Time of Day

I’ve been asked many times as to when you should fish.  My answer is always yes.  Meaning that it is far more important to take advantage of an opportunity to fish than to worry about what time of day it is when you’re fishing.  That being said, I prefer fishing at night for a myriad of reasons.  There are far less people out. The biggest fish I’ve ever caught was at night.  My highest numbers were caught at night.  Being out at night is far less taxing on the body than being in the sun.


Short Term Weather- My experience is when low pressure moves through, the fishing is better.  Yes, this means fishing in the rain, but don’t go fishing in thunderstorms.

Long Term Weather- If there’s a drought, that affects the salinity in the bays and tidal rivers which means certain species of fish can end up where they normally aren’t.  The reverse of this is true for really wet seasons.


Force of wind effects the ability to fish both by the roughness of water, the ability to cast and moving schools/shoals of bait fish.  Heavy winds can be both beneficial and detrimental, so can sustained winds from a particular direction.  The key here is learning how to exploit what is at hand.  There are also certain species of fish that seem to not feed as much when the wind is coming from a specific direction.


Current effects where fish will be, where food sources will be, types of fish present, types of food present, and approaches that need to be taken to catch fish.


Tide cycle is roughly twelve hours, so generally there are two high tides and two low tides each day.  How quickly the tide shifts, meaning how quickly it takes to reach high or low tide, is dependent on your distance from the Equator and the North Pole. This is also influenced by how far away from the ocean you are when fishing.

In my area, the tidal switch normally takes four and a half to five hours, with roughly an hour slack water, when it is high tide or low tide.  There is no tidal influence on the water during this time.  This does not mean there will not be current or wind movement of the water.  Certain species feed heavier while the tidal shift is happening and don’t feed as heavily during slack water.  As far as which is better, outgoing or incoming tide, depends on location.

Moon Phase

Lunar cycle is 28 days.  Yes, the tide is directly tied into the moon, but it also effects fishing, particularly night fishing.  In my experience, I’ve caught very little on the new moon.  The closer it gets to the full moon, the better the fishing usually is, that being said I normally don’t fish out going tides during the full moon. The tides both low and high are more severe during the full moon, so there tends to be more detritus in the water during the outgoing tide of a full moon. The influence of the moon affects fishing both day and night. The phase of the moon which is best for fishing depends on which species is being targeted.

A ring perch caught and released during their spawn.
A ring perch caught and released during their spawn.


These factors include when food sources hatch, when food sources spawn, and when they shed or molt.  The spawning time of the species of fish being targeted also influence fishing. Most species of fish population density gets greater during the spawn, so they are easier to catch.  Understanding the life cycle of animals the fish is preying on will help to know when to use lures that imitate that prey or bait that is that prey.  For example, blue crabs population’s  biggest molts usually happens around the full moon.  During the full moon, there are more soft crabs (crabs that have molted but their shells have not hardened yet) and peeler crabs (crabs that are about to molt) for the fish to target.


Understanding how a fish is built and therefore feeds greatly enables you how to present your bait in the most effective way.  For example, a white perch has a mouth that is on the front of his head near the bottom but still in front.  Meaning he usually attacks prey straight on or from underneath.  So you are more likely to catch a perch using bait that is suspended in the water column than resting on the bottom.

Black drum’s mouth is on the underside of their head they feed with their mouths on the bottom and their tail up.  In shallow water, some species of fish like the black drum, you can actually see their tails out of the water.

Frequently fish with their mouths on the bottom are what is called scent predators as opposed to sight predators.  Scent predators track their prey by scent, and these species typically have barbels that assist with the location of prey.

Some species of sight predator fish, like fluke, flounder and catfish, are ambush hunters, meaning they wait for something to swim by and then they attack.  Typically, they lay on the bottom around structures on the bottom. Others, like blue fish and mackerel, swim continuously looking for prey.



My real point behind all this is that there are many things that need to be considered to be effective at fishing.  You can’t just drop a hook with bait on a line and expect to catch fish.  One of the things I have learned from a lifetime of fishing is that the only absolutes are those regulations placed on us by law.  There is no box to think outside of.

All this being said, my point is that there are many things that influence your success at fishing.  Though sometimes, even under the most ideal conditions fishing is not favorable and sometimes under the worst conditions, fishing is favorable.

Do yourself a favor and go fishing and if you can, take a kid with you.


A throw back to a day fishing with my first born, Henry. He's a strapping lad of 17 now.
A throw back to a day fishing with my first born, Henry. He’s a strapping lad of 17 now.

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72 Hour Kit Review and Giveaway!

Here is what all four packages look like after they are removed from the larger package.
Here is what all four packages look like after they are removed from the larger package.

Prepackaged Kits and You

Getting started with emergency preparedness can be a daunting task.  There are so many different issues to consider that many folks give up, even though they know that they should be doing something.  While I do not advocate making it the only part of your emergency preparedness storage, prepackaged kits can be an easy way to start.

My Patriot Supply sells 72 hour kits for getting started, along with many other kits.  This kit in particular has four serving packages of each: Blue Ribbon Creamy Chicken Rice, Liberty Bell Cheesy Potato soup, Traveler’s Stew and Granny’s Homestyle Potato soup. They use non-GMO ingredients and their food is made in the USA, in case that stuff is important to you. (It is to us, but I know that’s not a priority for everyone.) If you go to their site and sign up for their newsletter, you will be privy to the many sales that they have which make it easier to build your food stockpile for less money.  Who doesn’t like a deal?

Taste Testing

Prepackaged food conjures images of disgusting, tasteless, unidentifiable gruel.  I’ll be completely honest: even I did not have high expectations when I ordered the 72 hours kit from Patriot Supply.  I thought that at best it would be passable freeze dried food that we could keep that would be light weight, easily transportable and long lasting, since the mylar sealed bags can be good for up to 25 years.  Taste good, though?  Seemed too much to ask.

Blue Ribbon Creamy Chicken Rice

With trepidation, I cooked up the Blue Ribbon Creamy Chicken Rice.  It required 20 minutes of cooking at a simmer, so you will definitely need a heat source to cook it, not just add boiling water.  (Not to worry, we plan to cover that topic in another post.) At first, I despaired of it thickening up and thought perhaps we would end up with soup.  Not such a bad thing, except the temperature was 95F so the last thing we wanted was soup for dinner.  However, after I cooked it and let it cool as the directions state, texture was similar to the flavored rice from Rice-a-Roni or some other prepackaged mix.  But that’s where the similarities ended.  Patriot Supply’s rice was so creamy and delicious that it tasted practically homemade.  We ate it as a side with some cold chicken we had, but I ate some of the rice cold the next day (for testing purposes, of course).  It was just as fantastic as the day before.

When they said creamy, they weren't kidding!
When they said creamy, they weren’t kidding!

Matt gives it two thumbs up.  As an avid outdoorsman and all around adventurer, even having hiked the Appalachian Trail for six months, he has eaten a lot of instant meals: MREs, C-Rats, K-rats… (Maybe some other acronyms but I kinda started to space out.)  He too was surprised and thrilled by the flavor and texture of the rice.

Liberty Bell Cheddar Potato Soup

After such an excellent first experiment, I was eager to try another meal from the 72 hour package.  I selected the Liberty Bell Cheddar Potato soup, because, hello, potatoes and cheese.  I followed the instructions, simmering the soup on the stove, while stirring frequently.  I learned the hard way, do not abandon your soup, you will scorch the bottom.  Fortunately, I caught it before too much damage was done.

I added the parsley garnish from my herb garden out front.
I added the parsley garnish from my herb garden out front.

After letting the soup cool, I ladled it out into dishes.  For this dish, my guinea pig was my mother in law, who was a great sport about it, considering the high had been in the nineties again that day.  Taking a spoonful, I was not disappointed.  .  I had figured that the soup would be basically a thin compilation of potato flakes and powdered cheese. Instead, the soup had a very creamy and cheesy base with shreds of potatoes in it.  My mother in law noted that the cheese did not have the “fake cheese” flavor that is common to many premade mixes.  It was delicious and we practically licked our bowls clean, much to the dogs’ lament.


It is without reservations that we recommend these products from Patriot Supply.  No, we have not received any compensation from the company.  They are just that good.  We intend to purchase a few kits to give away as Christmas gifts to certain family members and friends who would appreciate them. Also, they are fairly slim and compact, a boon for putting in a five gallon bucket 72 hour kit or in a Bug Out Bag.  (Also stuff we’ll cover in other posts)


Now, for the exciting part, we will be holding a drawing for all folks who join our newsletter, with the prize being your very own 72 hour kit.  We will hold the drawing on July 31, 2016,  so use the link to join our newsletter.  Not only will you get a chance to win, but we will be sending out freebies and updates that are only available to our subscribers.   Come join in the fun!


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