How to Brew Kombucha

What is THAT!” hollered my young daughter when I opened the box we’d just gotten in the mail. Floating in the plastic bag inside was a whitish disk with brownish threads hanging from it that looked more than a bit like a very flat jellyfish.

“That,” I said, “is a kombucha…thingie,” I finished lamely. How to explain to a child what a symbiotic collection of bacteria and yeast (aka “scoby”) is? Because that’s what we’d just gotten in the mail, a “thingie” commonly called a kombucha mushroom, even though it’s not a mushroom at all.

“It looks like an alien!” yelled my daughter. Maybe it is, added her father. One thing led to another, and we named our scoby Gonzales–Alien Gonzales, get it? Never mind. Suffice it to say that as quickly as we could, we put Gonzales to work in a gallon jar of strong sugared tea on the counter, where a Gonzales descendent has been happily brewing ever since for the last two years.

Why, you may be asking yourself, do you have an alien-like organism floating in a vat of sweet tea in your kitchen? Ah, so that it will turn the tea into kombucha, a drink with both amazing flavor and amazing powers for healing. Or at least so its adherents (and a couple of studies) say.

I’m one of its adherents. When I’m regularly drinking kombucha, my digestion is better, my skin improves and my blood sugar seems more stable. When I first started drinking it, my gray hair even started coming back dark, but that was a passing trend at best. All of this is completely subjective in my case; I have no clear proof that drinking kombucha did any of this definitively and of course Your Mileage May Vary. But I can tell you definitively that kombucha is delicious and cheap to make yourself. You can pay upwards of $3 for a small bottle of it at the health food store, or for the price of five plain old tea bags and a cup of sugar make a big batch of it yourself for pennies a bottle.

Making Kombucha

The first step in brewing kombucha is to obtain a scoby. I bought Gonzales mail order, but here’s the thing about scobies: Every time you brew kombucha you get a new one. (That’s not actually Gonzales; it’s something like Gonzales XXIV.) It should be easy if you live in a larger area to find someone with a spare scoby to give away through Freecycle or Craigslist–heck, just email your friends and I bet you’ll turn one up. If, however, you’re out in the middle of scoby-less territory, I bought mine at Kombucha.org, which is also a good source of information. You can also try the International Kombucha Exchange, where you’ll find people who will give scobies away. When you get your scoby, make sure the person gives you at least a cup of kombucha as well.

Once you have your scoby, you’ll want to keep it in the fridge in the kombucha it came in until you’re ready to use it. Store it in glass if at all possible; plastic can leach into the kombucha, and metal is reactive with its acids. I have a Corningware container I keep mine in.

To brew your kombucha you need:

* 3 1/2 quarts of filtered water–the chlorine in tap water can hurt your scoby! Filter the water through a Brita or other water filter, let it sit out overnight to let the chlorine evaporate (happy thought, no?) or use bottled water. Doesn’t have to be distilled, just non-chlorinated.

* 1 cup regular old white sugar

* 5 regular old black tea bags–you can get as fancy as you like with the tea, but I use garden variety restaurant supply tea bags. Red Rose, Lipton, whatever. AVOID ARTIFICIALLY FLAVORED TEAS like Earl Grey or Constant Comment. If you want to experiment with flavor, try different kinds of tea like green or white, or substitute a bag of herbal or spice tea for one of the black tea bags. I like putting in a bag of Yogi Tea. Just make sure the bulk of the tea is camellia sinensis–the plain old tea plant–in some form.

* A large pot

* A gallon-sized glass jar

* A piece of cloth that will cover the top of the jar

* A rubber band or something similar that is big enough to go over the mouth of the jar

* Your scoby and at least 1/2 cup of leftover kombucha from your last batch

Be sure your hands and equipment are very clean. Bring the water to a boil in the large pot. Once it’s come to a boil, turn off the heat, dump in the sugar and add the five tea bags. Set your timer for 15 minutes and take out the tea bags once it goes off. Put the lid on the pot and leave it to cool. I usually leave it overnight.

Once your tea is cool, pour it into the glass jar. Wash your hands well, take up your scoby gently and slide it into the tea. Add at least a half-cup of already-brewed kombucha. If you don’t do this, the tea won’t be acidic enough and it’ll mold. Cover the top with the cloth and fasten the cloth with the rubber band. It’s important to put the rubber band on to keep out fruit   flies , and the kombucha needs air so don’t be tempted to just put a regular lid on. Put the jar in a dark, warm place in your kitchen. I don’t go out of my way; I have a hallway pantry where I do all my ferments and it’s not especially warm but it is out of the sun. Cooler places mean a longer ferment time, that’s all. Forget about your kombucha for at least a week.

After a week, check on your jar. You should see a new scoby forming at the top. If you see green mold, your tea wasn’t acidic enough. Take out the scoby and start over. If the mold is just on the tea, not the scoby, you won’t have to throw the culture out too, but if it’s on the scoby, you’re back to square one. This has only happened to me once in two years.

Your kombucha is through brewing when the new “baby” scoby is at least 1/8″ thick. You will know in time how long to leave your kombucha on to brew; the longer you leave it, the more sour it gets, and you’ll learn how long to leave it to get it just right for your taste. We like it half-sweet half-sour and fizzy.

Oh yes! The fizzy part. Or:

Storing Your Kombucha

Yes, kombucha is naturally carbonated! To keep the carbonation in, I use bottles called EZ Caps. Some imported beers come in bottles like this–Grolsch is one–so if you know any beer connoisseurs see if you can talk them into drinking a case for you and saving the bottles. Freecycle might also be a source for these bottles. If not, you can buy them at most wine and beer brewing supply houses. They’re not too expensive and you’d be amazed how handy they are; I don’t know what I did without EZ Caps around.

In any event, whatever you decide to do, store your kombucha in glass. Metal is reactive and plastic can leach into the kombucha. If you don’t want to use EZ Caps I’d suggest mason jars with plastic lids, but I can’t say that it’d keep the fizz in very well. Keep it in the fridge. It stores pretty much indefinitely. Over a long time it may grow a tiny scoby at the top of the bottle, and it may get more sour, so keep that in mind. If it gets too sour, it makes a good vinegar substitute in salad dressings. (DO NOT use it in pickling/canning; it has too variable a pH.)

Drinking Kombucha

Some people find that they’re sensitive to kombucha at first; it can give you stomach rumbles and be fairly, uh, cleansing to the bowels shall we say. It’s suggested you drink no more than two ounces a day until you know how your body handles it. I have worked up to being able to drink a whole 16 oz. EZ Cap bottle at a go, mostly in the summertime because it’s so dang refreshing, with no ill effects, though when I first drank it I did have a bit of a rumbly tummy–not bad, and not at all painful, but my internal flora were definitely adjusting. That’s to the good; properly brewed kombucha is one of the best of the probiotics.

But mostly, kombucha tastes great! It’s healthy, delicious and cheap. What more could you want from a science project?



Source by Lynn Siprelle

Breeding With an Old Horse

People often ask ‘Is my mare too old to breed?’ or ‘How old can a stallion be and still breed?’. This article provides a response to these questions, with advice on how to minimise the risks associated with breeding an older horse.

Stallion

A stallion can breed into his 20s and there are a number of cases of breeding into their 30s. Provided that the mating is supervised correctly and the stallion is in good health (not feeble), an older stallion can be used for stud services. From the late teens onwards, the amount of semen produced by the stallion gradually declines. Likewise, the strength of the semen overall declines as well. The result of this is that the older stallion is progressively less likely to make a mare pregnant in a single mating. However, there is no age at which one can say that a stallion can no longer make a mare pregnant. If you wish to check the reproductive capability of your stallion, a veterinarian can take a semen sample (using a dummy) which can then be sent to a laboratory to examine the quantity and quality of semen.

Although the quality and quantity of the semen declines with age, the genetic material (genes) within the semen is unaffected. Consequently, the quality of a foal produced by a stallion is the same regardless of the age of the stallion. It is only the probability of the mating resulting in a pregnancy which is age related. There is some statistical research showing a potential decline in genetic quality with age, but this difference is so tiny (especially when compared to major factors, such as stallion and mare quality) that it can be ignored for practical purposes.

Breeding is typically done using a dummy (to collect semen for artificial insemination) or by placing a mare in a station or by natural breeding in the field. The first method is of course quite safe unless the stallion has become feeble. The second method is also acceptable as long as the stallion is in good health and does not have any medical conditions which would affect this (e.g. arthritis, weak heart, muscle wastage). However, caution should be used with the third method due to the risk of physical strain or injury. Field mating has a number of risks even for a young stallion and some of these risks are increased for the older stallion:

  • Older stallions may be slower and less agile, so are less able to avoid bites or kicks by mares.
  • Older stallions can be injured more easily and are slower to recover from injuries
  • Mares often make stallions ‘work’ by requiring that the stallions chase them. When faced with a much younger and faster mare, a stallion can over exert itself to the point of serious self injury (e.g. permanent damage to the lungs).

Consequently, while field mating always requires close supervision, it needs to be monitored even closer with an old stallion, particularly if faced with a reluctant mare. In some cases, one may decide that the stallions age and health make field mating inadvisable.

Mares

Mares have been bred successfully into their 20s and even their 30s, giving birth to healthy foals without any apparent health problems for either mare and foal. However, from the teens onwards, the ability of a mare to conceive decreases, while the risk of health issues to both mare and foal (including terminated pregnancy or birthing a dead foal) increase. Consequently, one needs to consider carefully the risks when breeding with an older mare:

  • Will the mare conceive? If it is likely that she should not, before paying a stud fee try to ensure that the contract provides a refund (not a second try) if the breeding does not result in a live foal.
  • Will the foal be carried to term and be born healthy? One can never be certain, but with older mares problems are more likely. See above note on the stud contract.
  • Will the mare be affected? Prior to mating a mare, both her general health and the health of her reproductive system should be checked by a veterinarian, preferably one that specialises in horses.

The maximum age for breeding a mare depends mainly on the individual mare. A horse which has received good nutrition, has been well cared for all of its live, and has not been over-worked can be bred much later than a mare which has not had these benefits.  Also, a mare which has foaled before can generally be bred at an older age than a maiden.

Long-lived breeds (e.g. ponies, Arabians) mature and age slower than short-lived breeds. Consequently, mares from long-lived breeds can be safely bred to a later age.

Aside from the general health of the mare, there are a number of specific areas which can be examined to determine her breeding capability:

  • Uterus – Scars or Fibers. The uterus of a mare can be damaged by previous pregnancies, resulting in scar tissue or fibrosis. However, even a maiden mare can show fibrosis as early as her teens due to aging. This can may it more difficult for the mare to conceive. It may also interfere with the development of the fetus, resulting in a smaller and weaker foal.
  • Uterus – Endometritis. Endometritis is an inflammation of the uterus and occurs naturally after mating due to the introduction of bacteria and other foreign matter. Normally it clears within a day of mating, but in older mares it may take longer, which may prevent pregnancy.
  • Uterus – Cysts. Cysts become more common as the horse ages and can prevent pregnancy. In some cases, they can be removed surgically or by laser treatment.
  • Cervix. The cervix, like the uterus, can be worn as a result of previous pregnancies or as a result of age.
  • Vagina. – The vagina by be damaged, sunken or tipped back. These conditions can interfere not only with birth, but also can increase the risk of infection and thereby the risk of a terminated pregnancy.
  • Ovum – The eggs of the mare tend to become weaker with age, reducing the chances of conception and increasing the risk or early termination of the pregnancy.
  • Organs. Pregnancy puts a strain on internal organs, so even an apparently healthy horse can develop problems as her system is put under increased strain by the pregnancy. In addition to observing the general health, analysis of a blood sample to check the function of internal organs can be useful.

There are a number of tests available to check the health of the reproductive system (uterus, cervix, vagina), including: visual examination, palpation to feel for abnormalities, ultra-sound, internal camera, biopsy of uterus (taking a tissue sample for laboratory analysis),  swabs to take bacteria sample and check for infection. Some veterinarians offer ‘Breeding Soundness Examination’, otherwise known as a BSE, which use a combination of these techniques to examine the reproductive organs. However, while such examinations may identify problems which can prevent a successful pregnancy and may suggest treatments to improve the chances of success, no examination can provide a 100% guarantee that the mare will conceive or have a healthy foal.



Source by Doug M Stewart

Many Chain Hoist Types, Many Uses

There are a number of chain hoist types available on the market today. There has been a huge push, in recent years, to develop even faster, stronger and more reliable hoists than ever before. There are a number of reasons that have caused this trend and the main one is the economy. Tons of businesses, mainly industrial, are having a difficult time keeping enough business coming in to keep running, much less make a profit.

Owners of warehouse and shipping companies have taken a step back and tried to figure out where their profits were going and have come up with the fact that labor is their biggest enemy. It costs a lot of money to fill a warehouse with workers around the clock. The more of your profit you spend on employees, the less there will be for the owners to take home or put back into the company. It is for this primary reason that the chain hoist types made by the leading manufacturers are flying off of the shelves.

Out of the multitude of types of hoists, the electric chain hoists are the most popular. The reason that the electric is far more popular than the hand chain hoist is that it can run fully independent of human control. Looking back at the labor concept, the more that you can do automatically, the less people you have to pay to run the entire process. Since all of the chain hoist types can do the work of many men and women, an entire section of warehouse can be occupied by nothing more than one operator and one machine. Prior to such great developments you would need to have a half dozen or so workers to handle a given amount of product. You would also have to hire a supervisor to ensure the work is done properly and safely. That is a lot of money going out the window. Since the typical industrial hoist is simple to operate, there is no need to have highly skilled personnel using the equipment. Everywhere you turn you will find savings, from not having to pay for laborers to have time for lunch, vacations, holidays, to unemployment and avoidable mistakes.

In this day and age we are all doing the best we can to survive and to take care of our families. Gone are the days when a little waste was all right. Companies are forced to take a hard look at each and every penny that is spent. Labor has been determined to be the area of business where companies lose the most and gain the least. The use of multiple chain hoist types can make you operation work safer, more efficiently and more profitable than ever before. If your personal or corporate bank account needs a lot more money in it, then you really must consider adding automation to your daily routine and hoists are by far the best way to do that.



Source by Rupert Smith

Shakespeare Love Poems – Sonnet 130 Analysis

Another of the most famous Shakespeare Love Poems, Sonnet 130 is strange when you first look at it. It shows Shakespeare seemingly in conflicting minds about his mistress (the dark lady). The other poems he writes are descriptive, compare with the way he describes the fair youth in sonnet 18. However, its is indeed a satire in nature and there are clever facets to this poem. He talks about the mistress as having lots of bad qualities, bad breath, frizzy hair, dull complexion. But in the end, the writer still loves her.

1st quatrain

Straight away the tone is set, and the writer compares the mistress as being nothing like the sun (compare with “gold complexion” of the fair youth in sonnet 18). With the next lines, he seems to be criticising or even mocking her. It almost seems like the writer is confession of pitying the mistress and is almost ashamed of himself for being with her. The writer says “her breasts are dun” showing that her skin is dark and dull, and white skin was perceived as beautiful at the time. He describes her hair as black wires, and again black hair was seen as common and not beautiful. This first quatrain is strange and seems to have a certain lack emptiness and lack of emotion coinciding with it.

2nd quatrain

The writer continues to criticise her, saying there is no colour in her cheeks, and that her breath smells bad. Its poems continues to sound hollow and sad. At this point we still do not know where this poem is leading. The next quatrain reveals all

3rd quatrain

The 3rd quatrain opens with “I love to hear her speak”. This is typical of Shakespeare’s style to completely change the tone at the start of a quatrain. “I love to hear her speak” is an honest compliment, and may be starting to convey the idea that for all her outer faults, It is the mistress’s inner beauty that the writer loves. However the the next line seems to go back being derisive and harsh. “But music hath a more pleasing sound” It leaves us wondering why he has so suddenly gone back to being negative about the mistress. The next 2 lines seem to say “my mistress is no goddess”.

But to understand this we must understand the contemporary poets of the time for example, Thomas Watson, Michael Drayton, and Barnabe Barnes. They all wrote over-the-top, highly romanticised sonnets, with lots of elaborate description and they were not really honest. In sonnet 130, Shakespeare has given an honest description. The writer is saying what he truly sees and feels about the mistress. This is completely unlike the much earlier sonnet 18 where the writer seems to be wearing rose tinted glasses and describes the “fair youth” with all manner of descriptive adjectives.

Shakespeare is satirising and almost making a mockery of his contemporary writers. He thinks they look silly by always by being so over the top and elaborate (a bit like how the media nowadays sensationalises all their stories), and slates them for their dishonesty.

People do not want to be complemented on qualities they do not really have. If you have tanned skin, you do not want to be complemented on how white and fair your skin looks, but maybe you would like to be complemented in such as a way as “Wow your skin is a lovely shade of caramel”. Here, although the writer seems to criticise the mistress at times, he is really complementing her on qualities she really does have.

Final Rhyming Couplet

The writer ends the poem with a confession of love. For all her strange qualities which he has listed int the poem before, He still loves her. It is interesting to note that in Shakespearean English, the word belied can mean falsely represented and also sexually mounted. As this whole poem is a satire, Shakespeare could be subtly accusing his rival poets of coercion, using flattering words to get their mistresses in bed.

Here is sonnet 130, another of my favourite Shakespeare love poems, with the quatrains already separated for you to make it easier to read.

Sonnet 18

1st quatrain

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

2nd quatrain

I have seen roses damask, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

3rd quatrain

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

Final Rhyming Couplet

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

Sonnet 130 is one of the most clever Shakespeare Love Poems. It is interesting to see all the different facets of Shakespeare poetry, and this poem can be interpreted 2 ways. You can compare this with the simple description in Sonnet 18.



Source by Cluivee Lee

The Origins of Airsoft

Airsoft was first played in the late 1970s. It was based off of the concept of realistic looking guns that shot non-lethal projectiles for sport and simulation purposes. There were guns of this style before airsoft, such as the Mattel Shooting Shell guns of the late 1950s. The U.S. military even tinkered with ideas of this type after World War II. The BB guns that existed before shot metal BBs that could do a lot of damage to a person and in rare cases kill them. Mattels’ guns were an innovation at best though.

Airsoft originated in Japan, where owning real guns was illegal. The first manufacturers were long standing toy companies like Masudaya, Fujimi, and Matsushiro. These companies saw a great business opportunity and filled a void. They believed it would be a great idea to market BB guns that could safely be shot at any one person and not seriously injure them. They got the idea from paintball guns, which were fast becoming very popular at the time. The airsoft guns were spring powered, single shot weapons. Many of the first airsoft guns used unusual ammo such as the 7mm long range and the soft rubber ammo used by Trademarks’ guns. Later, they would realize that a normal size round BB would be cheaper and more proficient to manufacture.

Soon after the Daisy Company, who was known for over a century as the premiere manufacturer of BB guns in the US, decided to start marketing airsoft in North America during the 1980s. Until then, airsoft was unheard of outside Japan.  Daisy had contracted the Maruzen Company of Japan to manufacture a line of spring powered guns to sell in the US. Many of which already existed in Japan and were being repackaged and sold in the States. These guns used special ammo that was loaded into shell casings. The airsoft guns included rifles, shotguns, pistols, and submachine guns. All of these were made created by Maruzen except for one model which was manufactured by the Falcon Toy Corporation. The airsoft guns that were being manufactured were so realistic in appearance that many anti-violence organizations showed disfavor towards them in America.  

Several Japanese companies started to manufacture guns using BV, or bullet valve, around 1985. BV used a direct flow of gas from an external tank which usually was Co2 or compressed air. This powered the mechanism which allowed the airsoft guns to fire in a fully automatic mode.The Japanese economy hit an all-time low in 1990. A lot of large companies had invested in factories and during the recession these companies were unable to survive the debts that they had acquired and were forced to sell out. This created the end for gas driven airsoft in the 1990s.

Many companies were forced to close their doors and the most memorable of these companies had to be JAC. Their ambitious World War II line of guns, featuring the BAR and the Thompson, were made of metal and wood and used real gun parts like the mag shell, but it proved to be too expensive to produce during that period and caused them to declare bankruptcy. Now, contrary to belief, Tokyo Marui was not a factor in the closure of classic companies.  

In the late 90s’, classic airsoft guns began to see a bit of a new start. Companies like Youth Engineering started to manufacture guns using the old BV system. Now, in recent years the Escort Company of Japan began a vigorous campaign new gas powered guns. Escort began creating new airsoft guns in-house such as the MP5 and others. These guns appealed more to skeptics because many of them used the AEG magazines. Escort was also the first to branch out into other ideas including the first truly functional airsoft gas hand grenade and the remote detonated Claymore mine. Escort guns also offered a degree of realism that had never been seen before in airsoft when they offered the full-stroke blowback in their guns.  



Source by Eric Short

Born to Be Wild

Fun, excitement, enjoyment, sun, beach, sand, food, shopping, culture, volcanic mountains and festivals, if we could find one word for all of them…it is Bali. The colorful traditions and panoramic landscape filled with sandy beaches and volcanic mountains makes Bali an irresistible holiday destination for travelers the world over. There never is a moment one can feel bored in Bali considering that there are so many things that keeps one occupied and even just looking at the beautiful sea would make time   fly .with their prices that are hard to match on beautiful and colorful hotels in Bali is the best way to get the Bali experience.

Bali is known for its romantic sunsets and is the ideal location to see the most spectacular sunset from the Uluwutu Temple located on the south western side of this enchanting island. The Uluwatu Temple itself is a major tourist attraction and what makes this temple unique is that it is taken care of by monkeys who protect this holy shrine.

Feel On Top of the World in Bali

Visitors staying in Bali hotels would feel exhilarated when they reach the top of Penelokan Kintamani Mountain. With a breathtaking flourish, Bali opens out the best views of four of the largest lakes in this island. This place is a photographer’s utopia with the scenery and colors which are a pure feast for the mind and eye. Another trip any visitor should make is the visit to the Goa Gajah or known as Elephant Cave temple. This temple comprises of water pools and streams where one can find ancient rock carvings on the walls. The main figure engraved on the cave is an Elephant from where the name is derived.

If you want to get adventurous then Bali is the place to be in. There are numerous companies that offer various adventure sports like waterskiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, white water rafting on the Ayung River and bungee jumping. Bali also has an amazing nightlife and the sheer energy levels that you can experience in the various night clubs and bars that are open till morning will make you come alive. with their great deals on hotels in Bali transforms your dream holiday into reality.

Excite hotels takes You on an Odyssey to Brilliant Hotels in Bali.



Source by John N Nathaniel

Photographing Butterflies

As a nature photographer the day often starts with the question: where do I begin? There are so many photographic opportunities and it is not always easy to choose the right object at the right moment. But among all of nature’s amazing diversity, there is one species you just can’t take bad pictures of, namely butterflies. With the right preparation you’ll easily get one final colourful image, due to these bright creatures and the colourful flowers they feed on. While this seems an ideal subject for nature photography, yet many starting photographers find photographing butterflies quite challenging. These little winged creatures can be very active and in that way don’t keep still long enough to take the right shots. But with the following list of tips and the right amount of patience, you’ll see that photographing butterflies is a very rewarding photographic activity.

Where and when

From April till late August, butterflies can be found almost everywhere. The most common species have adapted to live in urban areas, so you can find them easily by simply walking around in your own garden. You could even attract different species by planting flowers and bushes that attract these little insects. Certain butterflies could also be attracted by putting out rotting fruit.

In the past decades butterflies have declined dramatically due to the loss of their habitats and the plants that a species of butterfly may be reliant on. To find rare and endangered butterflies you might have to drive to specific locations, where only a small population is left. Keep in mind that these populations are very vulnerable, so always try to take your photographs with great respect for nature and environment.

Because butterflies depend on the warmth of the sun, I usually go out, photographing them, in the early mornings and evenings, as they are less active then. It might then be harder to find them, so look carefully for butterflies resting on flowers or grasses.

Don’t hesitate to go out on a clouded day as well; the light is soft then, which allows you to photograph in “good” light the whole day.

Once you have found an obliging individual, approach it carefully without disturbing it and take all the shots you can. It also helps to wear dark clothing because it doesn’t scare butterflies off as easily as light coloured clothing does.

Equipment to use

I could actually write a whole article about the equipment necessary for photographing butterflies, but if you’re just a starting photographer of butterflies, I would recommend you the following material in particular. The best choice would probably be a (digital) SLR combined with a macro lens but if you don’t have that at hand, you could also use your telephoto lens. My first butterfly shots were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 995, so even a digital compact camera can get you started.

Furthermore, I would recommend a macro lens of 100mm or more, because they allow greater working distance. Moreover a longer focal length gives a nice out-of-focus background. I currently use a Canon Eos 40D together with a Sigma 150mm macro and this combination gives me very satisfying results when taking shots of butterflies.

Most of the times I use a tripod as well; you will be working with rather small apertures in order to get the butterfly completely into focus, therefore resulting in low shutter speeds. If you go out early in the morning or on a cloudy day, the available light might be poor and then a tripod really is necessary.

On a cloudy day, a flash unit can be used as a fill-flash to add an extra punch to your image or used as an extra source of light. When photographing in full sun, use a fill-flash to soften the harsh shadows.

For really small objects, extension tubes allow an even closer focusing distance. An extender will allow a greater working distance and a remote cord can avoid blurry images due to camera shake, when photographing at very low shutter speeds.

Things to keep in mind

When photographing in close-up, the depth of field is very small. So in order to have your butterfly completely in focus, you need a small aperture. For butterflies that have their wings closed an aperture of F5.6 will do, but for butterflies that have their wings spread open, you might need an aperture of F10 and higher. If your camera has a depth of field preview button, use it to see how much of your subject is in focus.

You should also pay attention to your background. Try to avoid cluttered backgrounds. By simply changing the position of your tripod a little, you might avoid distracting objects in the background. Images that have a soft out of focus background, isolating the subject, have far more impact on the viewer.

I suggest you use manual focus when doing close-up photography. The narrow depth of field requires an extremely precise focus and having your camera focusing on the wrong part of your subject can completely ruin your shot.

Look for a good composition, generally avoid placing your subject in the middle but use the rule of thirds, your image will have far more impact on its viewers. If your camera has a live preview function, you can also use this to check your composition.

Finally take a few shots and check your histogram for correct exposure.

I find that butterflies lean themselves very well for experimenting with light. Step away from the standard image and take that same shot using backlighting, you might be surprised about the results.

Good luck

As you can read there are a few things to keep in mind. It is often very frustrating when you see a nice butterfly sitting on a colourful flower, you approach it very carefully, put your tripod and camera in position and when you are about to take the first shot it   flies  off. But if you have enough patience I can assure you that some rewarding images can be taken. Think outside the box and try to add a little more drama to your shots, by trying out different techniques. Don’t hesitate to photograph from different angles, in different light and you’ll soon notice that experimenting with all these elements will improve your pictures. I hope these basic tips can get you started, but don’t forget to be creative yourself.



Source by Bart Heirweg

House Condition Surveys Explained

What do building surveyors actually do when they get to a house, the home of a seller?

Basically – they inspect systematically all the component parts of a structure for a whole raft of defect and hazard types and then translate that into the report type requested and then offer advice on that content. It is not the “what” that matters, more the knowledge and experience of the individual surveyor and the amount of time he or she is prepared to take to compile your report. This goes far beyond a detailed site inspection.

For the most popular survey product in England & Wales, a Homebuyer Report, this means the following are inspected and reported upon…

1. Chimney Stacks

2. Roof Coverings

3. Rainwater Pipes & Gutters

4. Main Walls

5. Windows

6. Outside Doors

7. Conservatory & Porch

8. Other Joinery & Finishes

9. Roof Structure

10. Ceilings

11. Walls & Partitions

12. Floors

13. Fireplaces, Chimney breasts & Flues

14. Built-in Fittings

15. Woodwork

16. Bathroom Fittings

17. Electricity

18. Gas or Oil

19. Water

20. Heating

21. Water Heating

22. Drainage

23. Common Services

24. Garage

25. Other (Outbuildings)

26. General (Site)

27. Regulations

28. Guarantees

29. Other (legal) Matters

30. Risks to the Building

31. Risks to the Grounds

32. Risks to People

33. Market Valuation

34. Rebuild Cost assessment

It is reasonable that as the Surveyor will be limited by floor coverings, linings, insulation, fittings, possessions that the report cannot be an invasive investigation after damaging the premises to take it apart to see how it is put together. Caveats will apply but these are only valid if they are reasonable in all the circumstances. With the above in mind it becomes self-evident that the more you pay a competent Surveyor the better the survey product that you will get because it takes time to inspect anything in detail; provided the individual Surveyor is competent and motivated to start with! We cannot, because of space limitations, elaborate on this but suffice to say it our experience that “cheap” and/or “too quick” often means second-rate. No substitute exists for spending time and effort before the inspection, at the property, after the site inspection and then “in the office”.

So what defines a good house Surveyor and the best home survey product? Five distinct stages create five main determining factors:-

1 – Clear and direct communication between customer and surveyor at the fee quotation stage.

2 – Being informed of your survey options to get the right survey product for your individual needs (there are many products to choose from).

3 – Finding a truly experienced and knowledgeable Surveyor for the locality of, and construction type of, the home to be viewed.

4 – Obtaining a plain language report created at the level that the customer can understand.

5 – Structured Surveyor/Customer communication post-report so that the customer has the confidence to proceed.

With the greatest will in the world this does not happen when customers choose big companies or when the option is chosen to combine the loan valuation with a private survey. You need an accessible, motivated professional who you have confidence in. It takes effort for a home buyer to get the right recommendation to a good Surveyor. That effort will be rewarded massively when defects or problems are found – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. You will need a robust professional on your team.

If you get a survey product recommendation and fee quote from anybody other than the actual Surveyor who is going to inspect your next home then that person, and the company that they are employed by, should not be considered as worthy of your custom. Move on until you find an unbiased, true professional who you can take seriously.

Don’t be fooled by Names – sometimes an Estate Agency chain can be a subsidiary company of a Bank and/or chains of Surveyors. Commissions   fly  between the two such that your best interests can take second place such that you obtain a computer generated, worthless report full of caveats not worth the paper they are written on. This is why I place so much emphasis on direct communication with customers at the fee quotation and product recommendation stage because it is here that I can define a product that meets your expectations so you wouldn’t be disappointed at a later date.

Too many buyers (and some sellers nowadays) simply accept what a non-surveyor tells them, often choosing to take survey advice from an Estate Agent or Solicitor. This is fundamentally wrong – would you buy a car without first checking that “it works” and would you buy it because your Window Cleaner said it was OK? No – you wouldn’t. So why do only 1-in-12 people commission independent property condition advice reports?

One final reminder – don’t forget that a loan/mortgage Valuation is not a survey.



Source by Stuart Parrett

Catch More Trout With This Homemade Bait Recipe

While I have experienced many different methods of fishing and used many types of bait up to and including a piece of foam rubber on a treble hook; grasshoppers, real flies (I had a devil of a time getting the danged thing on the hook not to mention how often it flew off, no pun intended, when I cast out); to artificial lures or the standard live baits such as worms usually in tandem with marshmallows or something that would help the worm up off the bottom and into the feeding zone some of my greatest successes have come from the use of a “secret ingredient” with my Velveeta Cheese.

On a fishing trip with a buddy of mine back more years than I care to count he suggested we try a new approach he’d heard of from a”friend of a friend”. So we went to the local grocery store, purchased a two pound brick of Velveeta cheese and a bottle of the “secret ingredient” which we took home. We spent the next couple of hours eating tacos his wife prepared and cutting up the two pound brick of cheese into bait sized pieces. After we finished with the bait and the tacos, not necessarily in that order, we poured the entire one ounce bottle over the cheese, put it into a sealed container for the night.

The next day we headed for Willow Beach on the Colorado on the Arizona side; a popular fishery for those who like to catch the big ones. There were six men in our party of two boats. In my boat we had the secret bait. The other boat did not. Within two hours of setting out on the water our boat had caught our limits of ten fish each using the secret bait. The other boat had exactly three fish and they were all small. Ours, on the other hand averaged more than two pounds apiece. We were fishing the same waters using essentially the same method of drifting with the bait suspended off the bottom a few feet. When we pulled ashore for breakfast and showed the others our catch we were forced to give up the secret or risk taking a long swim in the mighty Colorado. We chose the easy way out. The second boat then set out and using the secret, homemade bait had their limits by noon. Over the next ten years we fished together regularly and always had success with our homemade bait. We let a few people in on the secret but most of them thought it foolish and refused to try. Their loss I am sure.

When Powerbaits came out and forever altered the tackle boxes of countless fishermen it was only a matter of time before our secret ingredient fell by the wayside. Factoring in the cost of the cheese which as tripled in the last thirty years and the waste caused because one cannot use the cheese for anything else once it has been soaked and one can see why it fell out of favor. Besides it is much easier to just open a bottle of Powerbait and scoop out an appropriate portion to use as bait. So… our secret ingredient: anise seed oil more commonly known as licorice oil went the way of the dodo. Still I occasionally wonder if I shouldn’t give it a try especially when the fish are not biting on anything at all.

There you have it. Licorice oil and Velveeta cheese. Ironically enough no other processed cheese seemed to work as well. We did try some spicy Velveeta once and managed to catch some very nice “latino” trout. Still, if you are not having any success consider giving this one a try. It cannot hurt and you can always use the leftover cheese to make a great chili con queso dip.



Source by TJ Jackson

925 Sterling Silver Jewelry – Types of Handmade Sterling Silver Jewelry

15 generations of silversmith culture found in Nepal and Tibet has rendered a rich assortment of quality and amazing patterns for which almost any silver admirer would most likely perish for. Prior to getting too diverted by aesthetic grace as well as appeal, get informed that 925 sterling silver jewelry aren’t just about beauty, additionally, it’s about reality too. Profound spiritual value is involved emotionally with these kinds of traditional artworks. Each and every Tibetan handmade sterling silver jewelry item has their own unique and precious meaning depending on themes, inscriptions along with signs imprinted.

Listed below are some of the preferred types of 925 sterling silver jewelry:

1. Silver pendant: The product is available in gem stone encrusted, pendant locket, pendant charm, crystal pendant, lapis pendant, turquoise pendant, quartz pendant, plain silver pendant, and many more. A pendant is ideal for those who look for modest looking accent.

2. Sterling silver bracelet: Buddhist holy chants (mantras) are almost always adorned on the surface which is often believed to render safety and even tranquility and harmony.

3. Sterling silver amulet: Amulets have an enclosure inside which usually accommodates healing herbs and prayer inscribed fabric. Amulets are supposed to generally be put on lifelong in order to remove wicked spirits. A number of amulets are ritually sanctified by Tibetan priests.

4. Sterling silver ear rings: Tibetan earrings used to be very large in shape initially, generally worn by conjugal females in order to demonstrate their particular ancestral identification. At present, craftsmen manufacture identical designs in reduced sizes, well suited for western ladies.

5. Prayer box (ghau): Wonderfully designed Buddhist prayer boxes are excellent ornamental products perfect for presenting inside your family room.

6. Astamangal jewelry (eight auspicious symbols): It is a portrayal concerning eight divine Buddhist signs that is the Umbrella, Pair of fish, Kalasa (treasure vase), Lotus, Chamaru (a kind of fly), Srivatsa (holy diagram), Sankha (conch shell) plus Dhvoja (Victory flag).

7. Silver wedding bands: Started by Italian couples during the fifteen centuries, ordinary silversmiths of Nepal and even Tibet have used identical nuptial bands in distinct handmade efforts, and moreover western people really adore the idea.

8. Buddha pendants: Many of these acquire images of Buddha head, Buddha leg, and Buddha hands, meditating Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, and many others.

9. Partially valuable stones studded: Lapis lazuli, amber, coral, turquoise, amethyst and black onyx are generally embedded to the jewelry.

10.925 silver beads: 108 beads constitute a mala (Rosary), and 8 or simply 9 beads comprise a bracelet. Silver along with beads are linked together delightfully to make sterling silver beaded jewelry.



Source by Amogh Shakya