All posts by traderscreek

Hybrid Plants

Hybrid Plants

Hybrid plants are created when breeders cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant to produce a modified variety (a hybrid) that contains certain traits of each parent. In hybridization, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve a combination of characteristics, such as bigger size, better disease resistance, fruit maturity, etc. The process of developing a hybrid can take years and may require many more years to get it right.

An example of a hybrid tomato is Juliet, a Roma-style grape indeterminate tomato that is known for its great taste and heavy production along with improved disease resistance. Another is Sun Gold, a yellow cherry tomato. In general, hybrids offer some combination of traits from each parent, when done correctly the traits are the best of each parent.

Crossing involves taking the pollen from the male flower parts and transferring it to the female. The first generation, often referred to as F-1, of offspring from this cross all look and act the same. They also show what’s known as hybrid vigor: these plants come out stronger than their parents. If you attempt to take seeds from the hybrid fruit you will either end up with infertile seeds (sterile) that will not sprout or a plant that exhibits traits related more to one of the original parents and not the hybrid you took the seeds from.

Many times the seeds of hybrid plants are owned by the developer. Trying to use them for commercial purposes may be cause for legal action – be aware of this. Hybrid plants and fruits are not necessarily better than naturally produced such as heirlooms but you would never know due to the mass marketing of commercial growers.

Defining Heirloom Plants

Defining Heirloom Plants

According to Burpee, when defining heirloom plants, “the term is usually applied to fruit, flower or vegetables varieties that were being grown before World War II”. These plants have had generations to develop the characteristics that give their fruit flavor, the plants natural growth habits and, unfortunately, this sometimes leaves the plants susceptible to disease.

Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated meaning that mother-nature does most of the work. Plant a grouping of seeds of an heirloom pepper or tomato and you will collect seeds that will produce plants with most of the characteristics of the parent plants. Considerations should be made for bees coming to your garden after having visited your neighbors’ gardens adding a bit of variance – but that may be good. Heirloom vegetables Defining Heirloom Plants they can be vegetable, berry, fruitmay produce a “mixed bag” harvest. The harvest may come in less predictably, and fruit size can vary greatly even on the same plant.

One of the main reasons I like to garden with heirlooms is you are growing a plant that is an extension of nature. Heirloom seeds are generations in the making. Nature has established the characteristics not a scientist. When growing with heirloom seeds, harvest some seeds to use next year and for sharing with family and friends to add diversity of choice for everyone’s garden and bring diversity in the natural gene pool.

Most heirlooms are not archaic plants that some adventurer discovered after fighting off hungry cannibals, as Burpee describes it: “Many heirlooms are commercially-bred varieties from the seed catalogs of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.” If you have never attempted to grow heirloom plants, give it a try, you may find flavors and plants you like.

Starting Gardens using Seeds

Starting Gardens using Seeds

Growing your own food is both cathartic as well as an environmentally conscious endeavor. Starting gardens using seeds takes gardening to the very root of the process. By taking it upon yourself to raise your own “crops”, you will know exactly what has gone into & onto your food. I have been gardening most of my life, sometimes having unbelievable years with excess so much that canning and preserving became a nightmare while in other years I scratched my head trying to come up with an answer to that year’s failure. I try to grow “as organic as possiblStarting Gardens using Seeds. Setting up trays for seeds is importante. I fight the pests and weeds as organically as possible. When the garden starts to produce and we eat the first tomato or pepper, knowing it is clean of harmful synthetic chemicals is comforting. Also knowing the food came from 200 steps away and not 2,000 miles away along with the associated costs is well, rather satisfying.

A few years back I decided to venture out and try varieties that could not be bought at the local commercial greenhouse. Tomato varieties such as Cherokee purple and yellow pear were not offered yet they are our favorites. Buying pre-started beets were more expensive than just buying produce from the local supermarket. I also want to know what the heck I am growing and eating. The goal was heirloom, organic and nothing GMO. In order to do that I had to plant my own seeds.

There are a lot of articles out on the web today about starting seeds and the ease of doing so. I recently read an article that soft pedaled the process, and in my opinion, got it wrong. Frankly, it is easier to go to the local greenhouse and buy a flat of whatever and plant than it is to start your garden with seeds. If you decide to buy plants, you will be limited to the varieties and types of vegetables you grow but you will have less sweat in the game. Going down to the store and choosing packets of seeds is easy (and fun) but you are just at the beginning of a long process. Considerations such as where to house the seedlings, the amount of space needed, planting medium, temperature, humidity, time and lighting should be thought out and handled before you ever plant your first seed.

Housing your plants & space

Before you buy the first packet of seeds, a plan needs to be made as to where your plants will be housed. Considerations as to space:
Do you want 5 plants or 100? You will need to plant more seeds per type of plant then you will end up putting out into the garden. Plan for seeds not sprouting, seedlings dying and seedlings that will not grow. My rule of thumb is, plant 1 ½ times more then you need. Your space considerations should take this into account.

Will you use stand-alone individual containers, or will you use seed trays? For corn I go with large containers right from the start. I plant the seeds in mid-April and move them to the garden in late May. Beans are started in late April in small flats and then moved to the garden in late May, same goes for cabbage, cucumbers, squash, etc. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are started in small flats in early March, right after they set their first true leaves, I move them into 2” x 2” cups before ultimately going to the garden in very late May. Spinach, beets, carrots and onions are planted straight into the garden.

Do you have enough containers? If you want ten good tomato plants – plant 45 seeds in 15 cups (15 cups being the 1 ½ times rule). Expect 8 seeds to be crap, 4 seedlings to die and 8 seedlings to be just garbage. That would leave you with twenty-five plants to choose your ten from (quick note, you want to get to 1 plant per cup, you will need to pull extra seedlings – be merciless). If the seeds all sprout, and you are like me, you can care for them, plant them in individual pots and at the end – share any excess plants with family and friends.

Is the space you are thinking of warm enough? In my first shot at starting seeds, I planted in my basement. The temperature was in the high 50’s. The tomatoes, peppers and eggplants did not spout for 3 weeks. I finally moved them upstairs and they sprouted within a week. I moved them back to the basement and the cold temperature on those warm weather vegetables stopped their growth. They went into the garden in late May and did terrible – word of warning.

Is there an ability for fresh air and/or air movement? Stagnant air can potentially lead to disease (damping off) and/or unhealthy plants. The ability to bring in fresh air or at least moving air, in my opinion, is good. If you use a fan to move air within the plant nursery, the airflow will help move stale air away along with the added benefit of making the plants a bit hardier & stockier.

Are there ample electrical outlets available? – yes you will need electricity. You will need electrical outlets for lighting. Being able to use fans is good (see above). If the area is cold, you will want to use a heater to raise the temperature.

If the seedlings turn to small plants before you can get them outside and into the garden, do you have larger containers they can be replanted in and is the space large enough to handle the larger containers needed?

Planting medium

You can, but you should not, use soil from your garden to start your seeds. Garden soil is usually heavy and may have lots of little critters, organisms, fungus, etc., issues you really do not want to deal with when starting your seeds. There are a lot of seed starting soils on the market today and most are good. The best are light mixes, vermiculite and peat along with other stuff. They will hold moisture, are lite enough for the seeds to sprout without too much wasted energy and are proper PH (proper PH is very important). If you want to create your own starter soil try: 80% vermiculite and 20% potting soil.


As mentioned before, if you plant warm weather seeds in a cold area expect little to nothing. Articles note that tomato seedlings cannot process nutrients correctly in cool conditions.  Most gardeners want summer vegetables and that means a warm “nursery”. Try to make the area around 70°F. You can spend the money on heat mats – they do work, I have one that I use to give tomato and eggplant seeds an extra bit of care. The mats are an added expense and … require electricity. The better choice is a space heater – not a crap one that will catch fire but a decent one that has good temperature control and is powerful enough for your nursery space. Remember when starting seeds, you need to do it right.


Unless you have a greenhouse and can provide roughly 8 – 10 hours of sunlight each day, you will need lights. As everyone should know, normal house lighting will not do a good job, they will work but your seedlings will not get what they really need. House lights do not provide the full spectrum of light waves that seedlings and plants need to flourish. My first “grow lights” were florescent tube full spectrum grow lights – the setup was expensive. Today there are LED’s that can be bought cheaply, and last much longer than florescent tube lights, on Amazon that can be put into any house-light fixture. 2 – 4 lights and you have a well-lit nursery for your seedlings.

Moving your plants outdoors

When the time comes, and it will be different for each variety of plant, you will set the young plant out to “harden up”. This is not so the plants are acclimated to the temperature – do not even think of doing that. Putting tomato plants, etc. out into 50°F days are 40°F nights will only stop their growth, so much so that the plants will have a tough time getting back on track. All the work you did will end up for naught. Moving the plants out should be done at each type’s ideal temperature. When starting gardens using seeds, the hardening is for the plants to get used to the direct sunlight. Plants cannot go from a “grow light” environment directly into sunlight. Too often the plants and their leaves are not ready – too much sunlight too soon can burn the leaves and kill the young plants. The best way to harden off the plants is a week-long process such as:

Day 1 & 2 – put plants in direct sunlight for no more than 2 hours. Remainder in shade or back under the grow lights. IF THE plants look good
Day 3 & 4 – put plants in direct sunlight for 3 hours. Remainder in shade or back under the grow lights. IF THE plants look good
Day 5 & 6 – put plants in direct sunlight for 4 hours. Remainder in shade or back under the grow lights. IF THE plants look good
Day 7 & 8 – put plants in direct sunlight for 6 hours. Remainder in shade or back under the grow lights. IF THE plants look good – plant them.

Mute Swan – Cygnus Olor

Mute Swan – Cygnus Olor

General: The Mute Swan was introduced to the United States in the late 19th century (1), primarily for its ornamental value. Like many such actions, it has manifested into unintended consequences and has become viewed by many as an invasive species due to its increasing population and aggressive behavior. Mute Swans have affected not only native bird species by displacing them but also aquatic animals due to their feeding on large amounts of aquatic vegetation used by fish and invertebrates.

Mute Swan was introduced to the United States in the late 19th century

Growing up on Long Island, NY, I had plenty of opportunities to view these birds. They can be very aggressive – I have watched Mute Swans chase dogs, geese and people not only from their nests but just because their “space” was invaded. These are easy birds to observe since they are use to people – yet they need their space. Even if you are motionless a bird that approaches should be treated with a lot of respect.

The male Mute Swan is known as a “cob” while the female is known as a “pen”.

Mute swans become sexually mature when they are two years old, but often will not begin breeding until they are three, four, or even five years old.

The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life.

The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life. However, changing of mates does occur infrequently, and swans will remate if their partner dies. If a male loses his mate and pairs with a young female, she joins him on his territory. If he mates with an older female, they go to hers. If a female loses her mate, she remates quickly and usually chooses a younger male. (3)

In spring Mute Swans build nests that look like large mounds with waterside vegetation. Female Mute Swans lay an average of 6 off-white to pale green eggs but can produce as many as 11 (2). Incubation takes about 35 days. The hatchlings are called “cygnets”. Within a few days they leave the nest and are able to feed themselves. They stay with the parents for a few months. Cygnets can fly at about 4-5 months of age and are considered “juveniles” at that time.

Identification: Mute Swans are unmistakable; there is really no bird in the eastern US that look like it. They are the largest birds on the water measuring 50”–60” long with a wingspan that is between 80”-94” long (over 7’). They are also heavy weighing between 12 – 30 lbs. The coloration of a mature bird is all-white with an orange bill (with some scant black markings) and a black front to their face.  Their legs are black. They have a black “knob” on the top of their bill.

Immature mute swans can be dirty gray or white. Their legs are gray to pink. The bill is gray or tan

Habitat: Lakes, Ponds, shallow coastal ponds, estuaries, ponds, bogs, and streams flowing into lakes.

Territory: The natural range of the Mute Swan is in temperate areas of Europe across western Asia.

Migration: In its natural range, Mute Swans do migrate to a point.

Food: Mute Swans feed on a wide range of vegetation, both submerged aquatic plants and grasses and grains such as wheat.

(1)    Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds

(2)    NYS Dept. Of Environmental Conservation

(3)    Cornell University

Shooting Ranges

Alabama * Alaska * Arizona * Arkansas * California * Colorado * ConnecticutDelaware * Florida * Georgia * Hawaii * Idaho * Illinois * Indiana * Iowa * Kansas * Kentucky * Louisiana * Maine * Maryland * Massachusetts * Michigan * Minnesota * Mississippi * Missouri * Montana * Nebraska * Nevada * New Hampshire * New Jersey * New Mexico * New York * North Carolina * North Dakota * Ohio * Oklahoma * Oregon * Pennsylvania * Rhode Island * South Carolina * South Dakota * Tennessee * Texas * Utah * Vermont * Virginia * Washington * West Virginia * Wisconsin * Wyoming





Guns for SHTF

Guns for SHTF

There are a lot of articles regarding the 10 must have Guns for SHTF. People that push ownership of many different guns are, in my opinion, not realistic. For one, unless you like collecting firearms, thinking you need a plethora of guns to handle normal life or SHTF situations is expensive and overkill. Second, in a SHTF situation, if you need to movguns for shtf include AR platform riflese / bug-out you need to carry light and enough supplies and weapons are only a piece – what to do with the ones left behind??? Third, supplying enough ammo and spare parts for all those guns would be too expensive – costs that might be better used for life maintaining supplies such as food, medicines, shelter, etc. What is really needed are firearms that will support and protect you, your family and possessions, something I refer to as “necessary” firearms.

Firearms, in my mind, can be broken into three simple categories:


Everything from a .22 caliber up to monster killing 50 caliber. Kill everything from vermin to… monsters. Shoot the squirrel 50 feet away for a quick meal or 500 yards for the much needed deer to feed your family. You can choose everything from a single shot (traditional perfection), a lever action (good gun with good second shot follow-up), bolt action (slower second shot follow-up but many say most accurate) or semiauto (fast second shot follow-up without moving the rifle off shoulder – AR platforms, AK platforms as well as traditional hunting platforms). My favorite here is the semiauto gun.


The “everything” in one gun. Kill birds on the wing, hunt big game and stop intruders in their tracks. If you need a long range arm – shotguns are not them. Single shot shotguns are inexpensive but it’s 1 shot then reload. Pump shotguns are easier to maintain than semiautomatics and like semiauto’s will carry multiple rounds (typically 5 shells).


The “personal” arm. Carried at your side. Used to rid your house of vermin, quick protection from a bear or draw down on a bad guy. A big consideration is whether you want a semi-auto (more work to maintain) or a revolver – less trouble to keep clean and operational (double action is better). If the pistol is your protection arm, go with the semi, the follow-up shots are fast and loading a second magazine is quick. Personally, I lean toward the revolver.

Now, Pick a Bullet:,

Each person needs to choose a firearm based on their specific needs, their abilities, available funds, job, etc. A big part of that is bullet. I would not suggest a .44 mag for my 5’5” daughter – a .380ACP would be better. What I believe, after determining gun type (pistol, rifle, shotgun), to be important is to choose a “common caliber” gun you can easily handle. What do I mean? In SHTF situations people with exotic caliber firearms, such as a .454 Casull pistol, may be able to kill zombies but may not have enough ammo to protect themselves over the long term. Run out of ammo such as a .454 and only a few other people may have extra. Run out of common caliber ammo and there will be several thousand other people who could have spare. Additionally, building a stock pile is easier and cheaper if you stay with common calibers. Just what are common calibers?

According to the NRA – the most common pistol calibers are:

1 – .22 Long Rifle – all around caliber for pistol & rifle – Really for small game. You may just piss off an intruder
2 – .38 Special/.357 Magnum – there are a few rifles that chamber this round
3 – 9 mm Parabellum – there are rifles that chamber this round
4 – .44 Special/.44 Magnum – Bear killers – there are rifles that also chamber this round
5 – .45 ACP – stop the Moros in their tracks (figure that one out) – there are rifles that also chamber this round
The most common centerfire rifle calibers are:
1 – .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO – AR round – light for deer but will do the job if accurate
2 – .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO – great all around hunting round. Several rifles will take both sizes
3 – .30-‘06 Springfield – fantastic all around hunting round. Anything on the continent can be taken.
4 – .30-30 Winchester – 10’s of thousands of rifles out there. Almost all are lever action.
5 – .270 Winchester
6 – .243 Winchester
7 – .300 Winchester Magnum
8 – 7mm Remington Magnum
9 – 7.62×39 – AK round – can be used on medium sized game.
10 – .300 Winchester Short Magnum
11 – .22-250 Remington – I own one. Light weight bullet but long range if you can handle it.
Shotguns are easy, stay with 12 or 20 gauge – enough said.

The Gun:

Should you buy multiple guns? The answer could be maybe or not necessary. What do you need a weapon for? Guns for SHTF should be chosen well. A homeowner in a rural area will have much different needs than an urban dweller. First, if lucky, suburban & rural people may be able to stay put. Their stockpile of whatever is safer. Additionally, the suburban/rural person has the ability to hunt for food as well as protect themselves from intruders. If an urban dweller is in a real SHTF scenario, bugout may be the only hope, while an urban dweller’s food hunting may be squirrels, pigeons and rats (the 2 legged kind here are the most dangerous).

Urban Dweller:

I hate to say this but in an urban area you probably need firepower and a close quarter arm more for protection than anything else. Semiauto pistols or (grab them while you can) an AR / AK rifle with a short barrel and multiple magazines probably are the best choice.

Do you need both a pistol and a rifle, probably not? Guns for SHTF are specific. I would opt for one light weight small arm and stock parts that are prone to ware out or possibly brake – based on the gun you buy, your gunsmith can instruct you on what parts if any should be stocked. If it is decided two guns are needed (desired), seriously think about staying with one caliber. Look into a 9 mm semiauto pistol and a semiauto rifle chambered in same. This way you only need to focus on one type of bullet. The 9 mm is extremely common, not overly heavy and you could actually use the rifle for medium sized game.

Suburban & Rural

This is where I truly believe a few guns could be appropriate (fun) especially if you will not “bug-out” – but please keep the “collection” limited, remember for Guns for SHTF you will need to learn how to maintain each as well as stock extra parts and ammo. Pick a workable pistol from the list of common calibers above. For a rifle, a small caliber .22 will be a workhorse gun for small game and vermin (Seriously consider a Ruger 10-22, they are fast, accurate and there are thousands out there. They also come in a breakdown model!!). 1 or 2 larger caliber guns (a shotgun would be one of those) for food and heavy protection. The shotgun is able to handle birdshot, buckshot and slugs (I would choose a 12 gauge pump – Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500. There are thousands out there for cannibalizing parts if necessary). Get both a rifle barrel as well as a smooth barrel for the shotgun. The 2nd long gun should be for distance protection and large game hunting. To me the ultimate here is the .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO. If you are a good marksman, you could get away with the .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO. I would choose an AR platform for either caliber.

If you decide that you want to own a gun or multiple guns for SHTF you should learn about them, learn how to handle them and learn how to maintain them. In that light join a gun club and visit local gun shows.