Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thinking of a Rifle for Home Defense?

Though I live in a rural area and my nephew lives forty miles further back in the sticks in an even more rural area, he has been expressing concern about break-ins and the need for a home-defense weapon. The number of home-invasion robberies seems to be on the increase. For the moment, he has settled on his .270 caliber Remington 700. He is still looking. One of his primary considerations is price, and that has to be the case for most of us.

If price is not a concern and a person is looking for one "perfect" weapon, a good choice might be a semi-automatic rifle such as a Springfield M1A, a Heckler & Koch, a Kel Tec RFB (7.62mm/.308) or one of the now-ubiquitous AR clones. Everybody is making AR-like rifles these days from Smith & Wesson to Ruger.

The advantages of the AR's are numerous. The decreased overall length combined with the pistol grip and sight set-up make these little rifles very controllable in close quarters. With picatinny rails, all sorts of lights and lasers and optical sights can be attached. Adding a flash-suppressor to the barrel — if it doesn't come with one — saves night vision. They are lightweight, accurate at longer ranges, capable of high rates of fire, and equipped with high-capacity magazines. In addition these rifles can be fired with reasonable accuracy by almost anyone. The first time I picked one up, I qualified with it at a 100-yard range. My groups looked more like patterns but were good enough for government work.

Our military is still mostly using the 5.56mm which is an excellent choice on ground squirrels. It also appears to work pretty well on bad guys at shorter ranges, and if a weapon is for "home defense", shorter ranges are what we are interested in. For most of us, any rifle is easier to shoot accurately than any handgun. The sight radius is part of it, but the anchor point on the shoulder and the contact point with the shooter's face are even more important for accuracy — in my opinion. The enhanced accuracy potential of a rifle combined with a low-recoiling round like the .223 makes sense for the person whose range time is limited. Ammunition is plentiful and still relatively inexpensive. If it comes to the point of being forced to leave one's home, the AR-like rifles make sense as bug-out weapons. Again the weight, including the weight of .223 ammunition, works in their favor. They are easy to carry and with the right sling can be ready for nearly instant deployment.

Recoil isn't an issue with the .223 in any rifle but especially in a semi-auto where energy is used to cycle the action. This helps soften recoil even if a heavier caliber is used — not much in some cases but some. Lower recoil means less flinching and better accuracy as well as faster recovery for follow-up shots.

So with all the advantages of these rifles, why don't I have one? I've almost talked myself into heading to the gunshop. In fact, however, I have my home defense needs covered. I have always liked my shotgun even with a 30-inch barrel and screw-in chokes. I still like that barrel and my choke choices, but it is less than ideal for using inside the confines of a house. Adding the shorter barrel with rifle sights and a modified choke, as noted here, has turned my 870 into an excellent defensive weapon. Then I also have a number of handguns including my XDM .40 S&W, not to mention my own home defense rifle of a rather different sort. I am not leaving my home under any circumstances so packing ammunition and heavier weapons is not a concern.

Back to the point, what if a person does not want shell out the money for a high-end military-style rifle just to repel boarders? There are other military semi-auto rifles available such as the AK's in various flavors. They may not be as accurate as the AR class, but AK-47's are utterly reliable and pack a little more punch than the .223. Then there are surplus bolt-action military rifles like the Mosin-Nagant, Enfields, and Mausers that combine toughness, reliability, and power. Recoil becomes an issue with the Mosin, as does muzzle blast. Enfields also kick noticeably, and the same is true of Mausers depending on the chambering. It can take a little getting used to.

My solution to the home defense rifle question is, as I said, a little different. I use a lever-action .30-30 Winchester Model 94 Trapper. This little rifle has a 16.5 barrel. With a large aperture receiver sight, a red dot sight, or a low-power scope, the Trapper is very fast on target. The tubular magazine holds only five rounds, but I can shove fresh rounds in the side without swapping out magazines. If I were buying today, instead of the Winchester, I would buy a stainless steel Marlin lever-action. The ancient .30-30 is still a good deer rifle. Ammunition is reasonable and available everywhere. Generally folks disparage the accuracy of lever-actions. My experience has been that this is more an issue of sights than the weapon itself. Most of us will not get the full potential out of a rifle with open sights. A minority of shooters are gifted with exceptional vision. For the rest of us, a good scope will sometimes do more for our groups than a good barrel. When testing out handloads, I slap a scope on the Trapper, and I have fired some very small groups using Speer 130-grain flat-nose over Hodgdon H322 or H4895. Switching back to the receiver sight, which is a better choice up close, and testing the same loads exposes a slight decrease in 100-yard accuracy — all on the shooter.

It is kind of a shame that Ruger no longer offers their semi-auto Deerslayer .44 magnum. That would be a good choice for a home defense rifle. A lever-action in a pistol caliber such as the .44 magnum, .45, or .357 is also a kinder, gentler sort of "assault" rifle. I believe Kel Tec makes some semi-auto .223 caliber carbines which fall into the low end of the AR-class price range in addition to the rather high-end RFB ($1800+ MSRP) already mentioned. Kel Tec also offers its SUB-2000 carbine in 9mm and .40 S&W at a MSRP in the $400+ range — which is not bad.

A home defense rifle is a good idea, though not something everybody necessarily has to have. It should be reliable, controllable, and easily handled in close quarters, but most of all, it should be a weapon with which the user is comfortable and that inspires confidence. Confidence and resolve will often dissuade attackers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Love a Happy Ending

These guys are obviously not the sharpest knives in the drawer. The story:
Four people flagged down officers late Saturday night, claiming they had been jumped and stabbed.

It turns out the three men and one woman were actually the attackers who picked on the wrong guy.

Merced County investigators say the 20 year-old would-be victim pulled out a utility tool and began stabbing the attackers to protect himself and his girlfriend.

Deputies say the four suspects are expected to face charges after they recover from their injuries.

I am going to assume that by "utility tool" they mean something like a Leatherman. I think a Wave or similar tool would make a pretty decent defensive weapon. I also think "stabbing" is probably a sort of technical term here meaning "injured by a sharp object". A multi-tool is less than ideal for thrusting but would work well enough for slashing.

I am happy to see that even in the People Republic of California -- outside the big city dead zones, at least -- commonsense can still be found.

Finally, this was not a knife fight. This was an unfair attack in which the over-matched person resolutely and effectively deployed a weapon in defense of himself and his girlfriend. Had he not done so, the thugs would have likely injured, robbed, raped, etc., at their pleasure. Three or four on one or two is a tough fight for most of us. This person kept his head and resisted with violent determination. The criminals fled the scene then stupidly brought in the police. I suppose they thought they could turn the tables on their "victim".

It would be interesting to know how the man was able to convince authorities that he acted in self-defense. Did he or his girlfriend call 911 immediately? Were there other witnesses to the events? Were the perpetrators already "usual suspects" to the police? Were the aggressors giving inconsistent stories? It would be helpful if we knew more. Calling 911 is one of the few actions the victims could initiate. Having a cell phone video of the attack might be helpful as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Learn to Sharpen Your Own Knife

A lot of people buy knives and have someone else put a “professional” edge on them. I am not one of those people. I would rather have a decent if imperfect edge that I have put on and can maintain with a single stone than to have a perfect edge done by someone else. The same is true for any tool. Part of owning equipment is learning to do at least basic maintenance. I still change the oil in my vehicles even though it is probably just a cheap and a whole lot easier to have someone else do it. Is it more cost-effective to do it myself? No. Do I do a better job than the professionals? No. But I do force myself to be just a little more familiar with the machine. I have to slop around and drag my used oil to the nearest recycling center, almost ten miles away, but I feel that it is worth the time and effort.

Going back to knives, the bevel that most factory knives have is just horrible. Yes, it is sharp and on a hard blade like a Buck, it will last fairly well. Still, the first thing I do on a working knife is to start flattening the bevel with a diamond hone. On tactical knives with thick spines that are hollow ground below the middle of the blade, this usually means that I am fighting against the thicker part of the blade. I try to sharpen every blade the same way I sharpen a flat-ground blade such as one finds on a typical stockman or Swiss Army knife. That means, on some knives, I spend a lot of time trying to cut a longer, flatter bevel with just the end of my diamond hone. It takes a lot of patience. Sometimes I think that I have totally ruined the edge; nevertheless, if a person persists, sooner or later, a good edge will be exposed by all that grinding.

I never use a mechanical grinder or sander because it doesn’t give me enough control in the process. I work mostly by “feel”. I’m not measuring anything or checking the angles with a protractor. I just know what feels like it will work – and it will if I stick with it long enough. The main thing is to be consistent on both sides of the blade – the same angle and roughly the same amount of work on each side will yield an acceptable edge in the long run.

When I finally get the main bevel cut the way I want and the edge is starting to feel sharp, I switch to a ceramic hone for the final work. I still have several classic oilstones and they are great for high-carbon steel blades on classic knives. Most newer, more rust-resistant steels do not respond as well. The little ceramic hone that I have is a three-sided stick about four inches long with rubber caps on the end that make it easy to hold. The surface of the each side is only about half an inch wide, so it lends itself to more of a stropping motion, not unlike a steel except that I only use one side at a time. I push the edge of the blade toward the ends at a low angle until I am no longer feeling the “drag” of a rough edge. Then I finish up by pulling the blade backward toward the ends, or I resort to my leather strop, depending on the situation.

Once I have a blade worked down the way I want it, I can bring the edge back in just a few minutes with nothing more than a fine (that is, not coarse) ceramic hone. That’s all I need to carry with me. I can drop one in my Dopp kit, pocket, pack, tackle box, tool bag, etc., for a quick touch up whenever a blade starts to dull.

I am not suggesting that anyone follow my method. It works for me, but anyone can develop the skill or perhaps the knack for honing a knife blade for himself or herself. My point is that it’s a skill people need and should not be afraid to tackle. And, again, as I said earlier, we should all know how to do basic maintenance on essential tools and equipment -- even if we normally have someone else do the work.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Idea Whose Time is Dumb

Goldman suggests letting the Chinese buy a big piece of Bank of America (BAC) because they don't want to buy low-yield U.S. Treasuries at this point.

Please read Goldman's arguments. From a Wall Street perspective, it makes sense because the bankers and financial manipulators have no concept of value outside of money. From my perspective, allowing the Chinese to buy up and control U.S. companies is a bad idea. The Chinese government is still Communist. They allow some freedom in the market, but they also employ slave labor, including that of imprisoned Chinese Christians.

Would Chinese investment in BAC and other shaky institutions boost the markets? Probably temporarily, it would. Keep in mind that Goldman still believes stocks are undervalued. I am not so sure. There is still tremendous bad debt that is floating around in the system. There are still derivatives being sold on the basis of somebody's magic beans. Why not draw in those Chinese suckers and relieve them of their excess cash? Because the Chinese then become players on the boards of American companies with direct CASH access to American politicians and American governance and policy. Foreign money was probably funneled into Obama's presidential campaign in large amounts in 2008. More will be funneled in during 2012. Still, it is not the same as Bank of America being able to finance campaign commercials directly on prime-time television with the Chinese holding 49% of the BAC stock.

I suggest that we let BAC go under and take some of the bad debt in the system down with them. If it collapses the market, well, that's the price of blowing bubbles. We might as well get it over with rather than perpetuate an even bigger bubble based on Chinese money rife with Chinese totalitarianism.

We have every reason not to believe the accounting given by major corporations because it has been bogus in the past. The same is true of the U.S. government. The same is true in spades of the Chinese government. Instead of them learning from us, as Goldman suggests, we are likely to see more of the Chinese government's deceptive accounting techniques in our system.

We are not going into a recession but a depression. We are going to take the whole world with us. The worst thing we can do is try to stave it off with desperate, straw-clutching measures like giving the Chicoms control of major American banks. New Deal "public works" are not the answer. The answer is to let the bubbles burst, let the economy bottom, and let people find a firm foundation free of excess regulation and control by governments. Once we find the bedrock, we can build again.

Time to face reality.

And get back on track.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Few Thoughts On Reloading

Without ammunition, a firearm is not worth much and that ammunition should be reliable. Thus it is wise to acquire and store substantial amounts of ammunition for our weapons.

I reload ammunition for four or five calibers. For a couple of those, it makes sense to do so. For another it is questionable, and for yet another or two, I do it more or less in spite of logic and reason. I decided against reloading for my .40 S&W because I can purchase bulk quantities of .40 caliber practice rounds for only slightly more than I can roll my own – not counting my time. Another reason I chose not to reload for the .40 is reliability – I think factory rounds are less likely to fail. According to my reloading manuals, if a person shoots a .40 S&W in a Glock or other handgun in which the case is not fully supported by the chamber, reloading is a bad idea. Case head failure for the high-pressure .40 can be catastrophic (this does not apply, as far as I know, to the 9mm or the .45). Factory rounds are safer.

Another consideration for reloaders or those thinking about reloading is that components do not store as well as loaded ammunition. This applies mostly to primers, but primers are, in some ways, the most critical element of ammunition reliability. Components have to be stored carefully somewhere that is dry, naturally, without temperature extremes – especially heat. Loaded ammunition, especially factory rounds, is far less susceptible to heat, humidity, and even immersion in water. I’m not saying you can soak your rounds overnight, just that a fall in the creek or getting soaked in the rain isn’t going to cause a problem most of the time. For handloaders, I suggest keeping all available brass loaded. As soon as possible after a shooting session, reload the empties.

For those who shoot ubiquitous standard cartridges like the .223, .30-30, .30-06, .308, .38, .40, or 9mm, reloading is probably not a matter of necessity. However, if a person is a big fan of some “obsolete” caliber such as the .25-35 or the .250 Savage, it is a different story. If the brass for unusual rounds can be found (or in some cases, formed), projectiles, powder, and primers can be easily acquired. Manufacturers producing low-demand cartridges must naturally charge higher prices for those odd rounds than for more common ones. The investment in equipment for reloading the less common ammunition then makes good sense.

For a person who is currently not a handloader, who has no equipment, and who has only firearms in common calibers, I recommend investing what it would cost to buy presses, dies, scales, miscellaneous tools, and components in factory ammo. Online deals are sometimes good, but there is always shipping, and ammunition can be pretty heavy. Some folks do not like buying at Wal-Mart, and I respect that, but I do purchase ammunition there when the prices are right, especially in the case of practice rounds. I also, though, try to support my favorite local gun shop and buy my higher-end, self-defense ammo from there.

I would never want to discourage someone who is interested in handloading from taking up the hobby. It is useful knowledge and a good skill to acquire. If you have the money to invest, by all means do so. I suggest going down to the library and looking for a book on the subject for some initial education. If you have friends or family members who are reloaders, talk to them about it. Check with Midway for books and DVD’s as well as equipment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

War. What is it good for?

How about bailing us out of our economic morass without a painful cut to entitlements? They used to say that war is good business. It may not be good, but it is big business. Getting stuff blown up means you get to produce more stuff. Very cool.

Over on American Thinker Adam Yoshida asks if there will be a war and offers some possibilities. I am the world’s worst prophet, but, a couple of years ago on the other blog, I suggested something similar might eventually happen.

The death of Osama bin Laden pulled Obama’s popularity out of the pits. He’s back down now after the debt mess, the S&P downgrade, and the stock market plunge, but war is generally good for a president’s reelection if he has a compliant media working with him. I know we have two or three wars currently ongoing, but, aside from the debacle, we might even say, quagmire, in Libya, Obama really can’t claim much credit for those. He needs something that will allow him to look decisive and possibly boost the economy if he plans on winning in November 2012.

Japan would be a good target since they hold a bunch of our debt, and the Japanese economy could use a boost as well. Maybe Obama and the Japanese prime minister could work out a sneak attack scenario, letting the U.S. Navy launch the attack this time. We could then let the Japanese win after a protracted war that used up a lot of tanks, planes, ships, etc., and they could come in and rebuild our infrastructure and all. I mean it seems only fair.

China would the other good choice. As the linked Yoshida’s piece says, China really is operating on a big economic bubble that could easily burst with the troubles in Europe and America. Our best bet there would not be a direct confrontation but a nice proxy war in, say, Mexico or Venezuela. I could almost (but not quite) talked myself into supporting that one if I thought it would result in a militarized southern border.

Possibly the least likely case suggested by Yoshida is an American Civil War Redux. I can imagine the federal government failing to a point that it defaults power to the states. I can’t see a coalition of states openly rebelling. Yoshida says that an internal conflict the legislative and executive branches is a more realistic spark for civil conflict. Even that is probably not going to happen in the short term; however, remember Honduras.

There, a Marxist president aligned with Venezuela’s Chavez wanted to remain in office. The Honduran Supreme Court ruled against him, and the president was removed by the military – not in coup, but lawfully carrying out the orders of the national court as prescribed by the Honduran constitution. This, of course, upset Obama and Hillary, and they tried to intervene on behalf of their Marxist fellow-traveler.

Obama has shown little respect for the Constitution. He has little regard for the wishes of most Americans who, according to his thinking, do not know what is best for them. Polls are showing an increasing sense on the part of the American citizenry that Washington is no longer operating with “the consent of the governed”. Should all of this converge, along with a media that is hardly better than Pravda back in the old USSR, we could find ourselves in an interesting situation.

I do not think that is the war that the Administration – or should I say the Regime – of Obama wants. But, we can’t always get what we want.

The British are buying bats (baseball or cricket, I’m not sure) in great quantities from Amazon as the riots continue in London. That’s better than nothing. Swing away.

Little Bill Daggett: You, sir, are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man.
Will Munny: Well he should have armed himself if he's gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No, This Is Not The Big One ... (Updated)

... it's the Big One's little sister.

First, I think that Standard & Poor is perfectly justified in downgrading the U.S. rating to AA+ since immediately after the debt limit was raised, the Treasury borrowed enough to put our debt equal to or greater than our GDP. We are in debt up to our eyeballs, and no one – except the Tea Party – is offering any realistic way to resolve the situation. We have no adults in charge. We have people who are interested in retaining power and place even if it means the collapse of civilization.

Increasing taxes, the only "solution" Obama and friends can offer, will not solve the problem. You can increase taxes until you confiscate every dime held by the "rich", and it barely makes a dent in the debt. Plus, the money of the wealthiest people will flee taxation and find various tax havens. Count on it. Meanwhile, as the economy recovers, and there is wage inflation -- a not unlikely scenario, many of us will find ourselves falling under the definition of rich. Our tax rates will rise in addition to the indirect tax of inflation, which is created and encouraged by a debtor federal government. We will be that much closer to being slaves.

Look at the news of what is happening in London today. Rioters have taken over the streets for the last several days. It is probably true that the police there shot and killed a man who had not threatened them. However, the looters are not interested in justice. They have found an excuse to pillage, and they are making the most of it. This is Great Britain – not Somalia. It has happened here in America, and there are many just waiting for any little thing to trip the trigger and set them off on a rampage against the authorities and the “rich”. Wherever you live, be on the alert. Chaos is in the air.

The market, after a sickening plunge, was starting to gain until the Fed issued their statement today, after some negative response it will probably end the day up a little. Though what the governors actually mean in terms of using “additional tools” is not clear, they may not be ready to implement more money printing. I am not sure what tools they have left. They cannot lower interest rates. They are afraid to raise interest rates. Fortunately, government bonds still seem to be in demand enough that S&P’s downgrade has not raised the government’s interest rate or forced the Fed into a buy back.

I like how they suggested that inflation – which they had previously said did not really exist or was within bounds – has mitigated. Crude oil prices have fallen over the last couple of days on fears of a worsening U.S. recession. That means we will get a little relief at the pumps, but, after all, it is approaching the end of summer. Schools around here are starting within a couple of weeks, or less in many cases. The end of vacation and summer travel – if anyone could afford it this year – results in decreased demand. I have yet to see any abatement in food prices. I’m sure the Chinese are not overly thrilled with our latest export to their country.

I am not worried about the stock market or the S&P downgrade. These are things that we are going to have to rectify over a period of several years. As a people, we have to change our attitudes and quit buying into the lies of those offering painless political fixes. No new law or set of laws, no new department or regulation is going to fix what is wrong with America and the world. Government is the problem. We need to get rid of subsidies for ethanol, milk, and bastard children. We need to dismantle the federal government to a pre-1900 level and turn most regulatory activities over to the states. Why should Wyoming and Montana have the same regulations that are needed in New York and California?

Doing away with the income tax and imposing something like the Fair Tax would be a huge step in the right direction. In fact, it would be far more beneficial to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment and institute a Fair Tax solution than to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment – at least in the short term.

Get ready for a little deflationary depression a la Japan's lost couple of decades. At least according to Denninger.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Are We There Yet?

You are familiar with the quote. Here is the context:
There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free—if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained—we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable—and let it come! I repeat it, Sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! - Patrick Henry, Speech to the Virginia Convention, March, 1776

With the deal on the debt which just kicks the inevitable a foot or two down the road, we find ourselves facing a rapidly degrading economy. This is troublesome, but being rich is not everything. Truth and liberty are far more important than money can ever be. It is not time to go to war in a physical sense, but it certainly is long past the time we should have been warring in the heavenlies, fighting spiritual battles while making our determination to "do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God."

The worst possible response to what is coming is fear, despair, and hopelessness. Act not out of fear, friends, but out of wisdom. Be courageous and persevere. Do not be frightened, scolded, or mocked into giving up truth or liberty.

We may be but hobbits, but even a simple hobbit can do the right thing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

We have a debt deal, maybe. Isn't that special, adding 2.4 trillion to the limit while possibly reducing the rate at which we go further into debt. The markets were supposed to respond positively, but, alas, manufacturing declined further, and we have a bit of a sell-off.

I feel rather like the umpire who made an atrociously bad call costing the Pirates a game a week or so ago. It was the 19th inning. Let's just get this thing over. Checks for Social Security and military retirement are already going out. No one is going to die because the limit is not raised -- unless as Iowahawk says, "Beltway policy experts begin living by own wits; after 45 minutes there are no survivors."

With the market falling and the debt increasing, Bernanke is no doubt warming up the presses for QE3.

I made trip to the store yesterday and bought some stock-up staples like sugar and flour along with more canned goods to supplement the pickles, tomatoes and beans we are canning from the garden. We even canned some cabbage. I dug my potatoes, reminded again that potatoes do better here the earlier they can be planted. I am not at all superstition, but I do note that the two or three times I planted on St. Patrick's Day, I had a larger yield and fewer rotten tubers. Once the sweet corn is harvested in the next couple of weeks, I will have space to store a ton or two of manure that can be plowed in this fall.

Every season is a learning experience. To get the most from our lessons, I recommend keeping a notebook showing how and where things were planted along with comments on how well varieties did, on weather conditions (as this year -- "hot and dry"), and other points that will make us into more productive gardeners.