Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to write in the How To book

I was asked to provide an example of my how to book.  Here it is.  It's so simple anyone who can read can do it right. 

How to run the dishwasher.
Load the dishes.  You can put plastic things on the top or the bottom rack.  Put one scoop of detergent into the cup that closes with the lid.  Close the lid.  Put one additional scoop on the door or toss it onto the dishes.  Close the dishwasher.  Push hard and you will hear the door click shut.  To start the dishwasher press normal wash and then press heat dry.  If you look just below those two buttons you will see a green light at the normal wash and NO light at the heat dry.  If you see a green light at the heat dry then press the heat dry again so the light goes out.  When the normal has the green light on and that’s the only green light on, then press the start/cancel button.  The dishwasher will start.  The dishwasher will be done in about an hour.  

Sometimes after you unload the dishwasher, when you close the dishwasher door the dishwasher starts running again.  Press the start/cancel button and it will stop.  The plastic dishes will not dry in the dishwasher because we do not use the heat dry button.  You will have to dry them with a dish towel prior to putting them away.

Where to find dishwasher detergent.
Dishwasher detergent is located on the kitchen counter just above the dishwasher in the glass container with the wire strap glass lid.  There is a red scoop in the jar.  You will use two scoops total when using the dishwasher.  Each scoop holds 1 tablespoon detergent.

If this detergent jar becomes low, you can find additional detergent in the accordion door hall closet.  If you open the left door, additional boxes of detergent will be on the third shelf from the top on the far right side of the shelf.

Where to find dishtowels.
Do not use paper towels to dry the dishes.  Dishtowels are located in the drawer to the right of the sink.  If you run out of dishtowels you can find rags that can be substituted for dishtowels in the hall closet at the end of the hall.  Open the top right door and the rags are located on the second shelf from the bottom.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The How To Notebook

Yesterday I wrote about my need to have house rules written.  Today I will tell you about the How To Start It notebook.  This wasn't my idea originally.  A couple of years ago when son and daughter-in-law and baby were in their near fatal car accident, we stayed up in Washington State for several weeks while waiting for daughter-in-law to come out of her coma.  An acquaintance of mine had a condo up there that they used as a vacation home and he offered it to us to use free of charge.  We graciously accepted. 

The door had a combination lock key holder, like the realtors use, and he gave me the combination.  Once inside the instructions were to look for the notebook on the kitchen counter.  It was an amazing notebook and I've tried to emulate it in my house.  Every time someone comes here to the house it seems I realize I need to add an additional chapter.  It will make a good playbook for visitors at our home.

The book is divided into chapters.  The chapters consist of general house items, then is broken down into living areas and sleeping areas. 

Table of Contents: 
How to turn on the heater.
How to turn on the air conditioner.
How to turn on the water heater.

How to run the dishwasher.
Where to find dishwasher detergent.
Where are the dishes, glasses, silverware, pots and pans.
Where is the food (of course this is immediate need, not the long term stuff)
How to use the oven.
How to use the icemaker/water dispenser.
How to use the coffee pot.
Where is the coffee, filters, and condiments?
How to use the microwave.
Which lights should you use?

How to run the washing machine.
Where to find laundry soap.
How to run the drier.
Where to find drier sheets.

Where to locate towels for the shower and sink.
Where to locate towels for the kitchen.
Where to find bedsheets, blankets, and pillows.

And the list goes on and on and on.

I have a couple of copies of this playbook.  I also have an extra chapter at the end that my sister has at her house.

Secret Chapters:
List of weapons.
Location of weapons.
Location of ammunition.
List of money.
Location of money.
And this list goes on.

The secret chapter list does not list my address, phone number or anything else that would associate it with me. 

List of secret codes and pin numbers:
1-10 (0)

So if my code is 1432 I would not write January, April, March, February.  That would be too easy.  I use birthdays.  You can use family or famous names, it's your choice.  For example, January is Paul Revere's birthday, February is Hank Aaron's birthday, March is Pete Rozelle's birthday, April is Steven Seagal's birthday.  Therefore, my code would be Paul Steven Pete Hank.  I don't use these names but I use family names for the months.  There's only one Chad in the family so he stands for the number 8 because of his August birthday.  Beck also stands for 8 because of an August birthday.  I can even write the pin number on a debit card.  If someone stole the card they wouldn't have a clue as to the code yet for me, it's as plain as the nose on my face.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

House rules

The company has left.  Daughter, son-in-law, and new grandchild moved in.  After the baby being in the hospital for her first 7 weeks of life her parents decided they wanted to be around someone experienced in babies.  They packed up their apartment and moved home.  They are adding to the medical preparedness of the household as he was in the Navy and she in the Army, both with medical backgrounds.  They are both out of the military and he just finished college and she is in the middle of college.  He has a job starting in April with the fire department so from now until then they will be here at the house.  They aren't the type to sit around so that is good. 

This is a good test of adding additional people who are self sufficient but need to follow house rules.  By being in the military they understand chain of command.  This will make things easier but presently there aren't any written rules.  I know that it's the best way to go to make sure that none of the major items are overlooked or not observed.  The list needs to include items required by everyone in the household and another list of age appropriate requirements. 

For example, I expect the grandchildren to do their homework without me having to harp on them about this.  We do have rules for the grandchildren.  There are separate rules for the school year and for summer. 
Both kids up by 6:00.  Girl: make bed, sweep kitchen and hall, brush hair.  Eat breakfast.  Get dressed. Out the door at 7:20.  After school: homework, pick fruit, set table, help with dinner if it's not ready, dinner. Shower. Bed.  On weekends same chores in morning, clean room: dust, change linens, sweep floor, wash floor, take out trash.  Even Saturday, clean bathroom.  Plus two additional assigned chores.  These are all to be done prior to playing, watching tv, calling friends, etc.

Boy is pretty similar.  In the morning he showers, put bedding into laundry, unloads dishwasher.  In the evening he feeds the dog, picks vegetables, and serves the plates.  Saturday chores are same as girl with the exception of odd Saturdays he cleans the bathroom. 

There's no running in the house, no leaving toys on the floor, and other basic rules, although only the chore chart is actually written.

What about the adults?  There are glasses left all over the house.  What about our unwritten rule of no eating anywhere except the kitchen, dining  room or outside?  What about shoes left everywhere?  How about shoes in the mudroom in the cubbies and boots in the garage?  The baby is great but the house doesn't need to have the baby things on every surface.  You can't see the bathroom counter because makeup and hair stuff is everywhere.  No PG 13 or R rated movies on with children under 13 around, in fact, no tv on during the day. 

I said that I appreciated them doing the dishes but to please hang the wet towels on the hooks rather than leaving them on the wood counter tops.  Same goes with the laundry.  You can use the dining room table to fold laundry but you can't just pile the laundry on the dining room table and leave it there.  That doesn't mean pile the laundry on a sofa instead.  You don't leave the doors open when it's 35 degrees out because you will be back in in just a minute.  If people don't know the rules they will continuously break them albeit unintentionally. 

Written rules seem stupid if you just have your immediate family in the house.  Everyone knows the rules as they grow up with them.  If you have new people coming into the house continuously you will either be giving orders all the time (do it this way, do it that way) or you will keep your mouth shut and let if fester until you explode.  Neither of those ways are good.  How are they supposed to know?  After I write this I will put a set of written rules together.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Plates and glasses and the trip up the hill

We never made it to the bug-out place yesterday.  We did this morning and I'll write about the trip after I get the rest of this off my mind.

After having 21 people here for Thanksgiving, and having 14 for dinner last night, the kitchen supplies have been put to the test.  For an emergency situation I have 1000 paper plates in the garage.  That would be ok for three or four people but now I know that I would need so many more.  We didn't use paper, we used dishes.  I have regular dishes with 10 in the set, old dishes with 8 in the set, and good dishes.  My good dishes are a set of 25 Homer Laughlin pottery so they aren't china or anything fragile.  We also have plastic plates.  There's a set of 8 in the trailer, 8 more in the kitchen, and just before Halloween I bought 32 plastic plates - 16 orange and 16 black.  I also have 16 plastic bowls.  With as many people as we had we went through over 100 plates or bowls  and about 80 glasses each day.  This would mean my 1000 plates in the garage would last a week and a half.  Not good.

I have several sets of silverware, probably enough for fifty people at one meal.  I am probably ok there.  I have plastic silverware also but maybe only 200 of each. 

If people all showed up here if TSHTF they may bring food, clothes, and tools, but dishes probably aren't high on the list.  We put the dishes in the dishwasher and also washed dishes by hand.  There was complete kitchen clean up after each meal.  But would the dishes last?  Grandson was unloading the dishwasher and broke one container.   How many would get dropped and broken? What about the glasses?  Would we be using plastic only?  I don't have any metal camping plates.  Do I need to invest in that?  Can I buy any that aren't made in China?

Our trip up the hill... Sister and three little ones went with me to see the bug-out place.  Brother-in-law was still working on the gate opener (by himself).  Sister liked the pretty drive and was very impressed when we got stuck behind a cattle drive down the middle of the road.  We were stopped for about 5 minutes while the cattle moved a quarter mile and from one side of the road to the other.  She didn't think that would be legal in San Diego!

She didn't like the property though.  It was too far out of town.  It would take an hour and 15 minutes to get to Home Depot.  From my house it only takes 30.  From her house to a Home Depot is about 5.  Anyway, she liked the trees and grass.  The buildings were not impressive, but then I have said I wouldn't care if a forest fire burned them all down.  I'd like to put something else up if I was living their permanently.  What she didn't care for was that the place wasn't built up.  There were no fruit trees. The garden is about 10x10.  There is no lawn.  Just a house in the middle of the oak woodland.  I explained that my house has 13 years of improvements to the property.  This one only has renters who have just started clearing the brush.  I was impressed by the amount of brush that has been cleared. 

I forgot to bring up my chain saws so renter is stuck for a while because his electric chain saw can only go as far as the extension cord.  The well has power but it's 220.  Oh well.  Next time I'm out there I'll bring the saws.   He's got plenty of firewood so I don't think I could talk him into cutting the branches and brush by hand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday shopping

We all laugh about the crazy people who rush to the stores to buy stuff.  Most of the stuff they buy will be broken or used up in a month so why would anyone do this?  Holidays are coming up and we are pretty well set.  Last month I bought a Daisy bb gun for grandson and a sling shot for granddaughter.  I think some are going to think I'm a bit nuts. 

I must confess that I did go out shopping on Black Friday.  Mom, Sister, nephew and I went to Tractor Supply Hardware. We got there at 4:30 in the afternoon.  So much for rushing to the stores.   The four year old nephew got to see tractor implements.  He was thrilled.  Mom bought some toy trucks and tractors for her neighbor boys.  Why did I have to rush out on Friday?  TSH had American made t-posts on sale for $3.99.  I bought the rest...35.   Gee, if I had come earlier they would have had more in stock. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Taking a trip to the bug out spot and Thanksgiving dinner prep.

On Friday, while the brother-in-law and son-in-law and a couple of grandsons are working on the electronic gate opener for my wrought iron gate (and I'm sure my son will be no where in sight), sister and I are going to take a drive up to my bug-out place.  This past week we've had about 2 inches of rain on the valley floor which means 3 or 4 inches at least up the hill.  I don't think the creek is running too high yet, but if it is, we may not be able to drive all the way out there.  We may have to stop at the creek, cross the foot bridge, and then walk the mile to the house.

Once there, we will take a tour of the place.  She will get to see the out buildings and also listen to the future plans I have for it.  I'm hoping she will give me some suggestions.  I'll visit my friends who are presently living in the house.  The male renter has been doing lots of clean up including cutting up brush and downed trees and putting up a good supply of fire wood.  They are heating the place with wood.  I think they are mainly using the downed wood on the property but it almost backs up to the National Forest (500 feet away going through a property that the owner shows up to about once a decade) and would be easy to collect fire wood there.

Sister made a comment that she's trying to talk her husband into moving closer this way but she doesn't think it will happen.  They just spent a lot of money adding to their house and yard.  It's a beautiful home, if you don't mind being in the middle of a million people or two.  I will let her know that if things ever get really bad down in Southern California that they are more than welcome to head this way.  They can stay either at the farm or "up the hill" as we like to call the bug-out place. 

Sister did take a step toward prepping.  On Wednesday, she decided to check out Winco.  It's a great grocery store where I do half of my food shopping.  The rest is done at Costco and Walmart.  I was showing her some of my spaghetti sauce cans.  I said that I bought these (a group of 36 cans) for 79 cents each.  I bought more when they went up to 88.  I have about 75 cans of spaghetti sauce. They are now going for 94 cents.  I remarked that I was glad that I bought them when I did.  She was excited to hear they were 94 cents because where she lives the sale price is a dollar.  I also told her the olives were 88 cents a can.  Costco has been selling them for over a dollar a can for the same size cans and the same brand.  She spent $162 dollars and bought 151 items.

I also had her help me make the rolls for Thanksgiving dinner.  She said that she tried it before but it didn't turn out right.  She thinks it was because the yeast was old.  Did it make bubbles?  She couldn't remember.  Anyway, she saw what the batter should look like, how to kneed the flour into the batter, and how to shape and bake the rolls.  She is going to try it again.  She was trying to figure out the cost savings and didn't think it was worth the price to make bread.  At Winco you can buy a one pound loaf of bread for 79 cents.  To make the bread it will cost 30 cents for a pound of flour, but you will use less than a pound of flour because the water adds weight to the flour, as does any other ingredients that are included.  So let's say it costs her 25 cents for the flour, another nickle for the yeast, and a couple cents for the salt.  It's still just over 30 cents a loaf rather than 80.  She said that her time is worth more than the 50 cents she would save.  On the other hand, if she wanted raisin bread, which costs almost $3.00 a loaf, then it would be worth making. OK, she's semi-converted.  At least she is learning the skills.

With all the people running around the house, I didn't think it was safe to run the wood stove.  The way the dining room is set up people would be getting too close to it and nobody that was coming for dinner, or the week, have any experience with being around a wood stove.  Instead we are running the propane heaters.  I've become this automated voice...every time the back door opens I call out "close the door".  I can hear the propane being slurped out of the 500 gallon tank and into the central heating system.  The kids aren't so bad.  They are trained to come in and out of the mudroom.  From that room they come into the laundry room.  Each room has a door that gets closed so there's two small rooms before they get into the main part of the house.  The outside air doesn't get very far in when they come in.  The adults on the other hand use the door off the dining room.  They will stand there with the door open, or worse yet, open the door and walk out and leave the door open since they are coming back in in just a minute.  Fine, you fill my propane tank!

We ended up with 21 people for dinner.  Everything went well.  The babies were all happy.  The children were all well behaved.  We even had an extra dog so six dogs had a great time playing.  None of the trees had damaging effects from the freeze on Wednesday night and I'm hoping that all will be well after tonight's freeze.

Can't wait for the morning to head up the hill.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cover the trees and company has started to arrive

I always wait until the last minute the last minute to cover my sensitive trees.  It is supposed to get in the high twenties tonight.  That's really the lowest temperature it gets all winter and for it to come in November is a bit unusual.  I got the trees covered this evening after dinner.  That's better than in the middle of the night when frost is already on the ground.  That's what I did last year.  We didn't lose any trees then and I don't expect to lose any this year either. 

The kumquat trees (would remind you of a small sour orange) can take weather into the mid twenties and they are about four or five feet tall now, so I'm not worried about them.  They will make it through the weather alright.  The fruit may not all make it, but that's ok too.  The trees are so loaded with kumquats that we won't be able to eat them all and there's only so much kumquat marmalade that we will eat each year. 

The two tangerine trees still need to be babied.  They are a couple of years old but around here it seems to take six or seven years for the citrus trees to come out of their shock and start producing.  At this time they are much more tolerant to the colder temperatures.  The outer branches may die back but the trees won't die.  I this the two new tangerines wouldn't make it if they weren't completely protected.  Right now they just have plastic covering them.  Last year I rigged up a different kind of cover.  I was able to secure old fire shelters (fire departments changed out from the old shelter to the new shelter).  These old shelters have a heavy duty shiny aluminum which I had facing toward the inside of the tree on the west side of the tree and I had the plastic on the east side of the tree.  That way, in the morning when the sun came up over the hill it would shine through the plastic to the aluminum and helped warm up the little tree shelter.  It worked well enough that I didn't lose any of the trees last year.  They came through winter really healthy.  I'm sure I'm going to do that again this year, but it won't be before the first frost tonight.  Each time I wait I ask myself why I didn't get the plastic on a week before the expected frost?  I always seem to have other things come up.

I do have my avocado tree which I am pampering.  This is the third one I've planted over the past 13 years.  This one has been in the ground for three years now and I expect it to take off next spring.  It came through this summer really healthy looking and put on quite a bit of growth (it's only 3 feet tall, but it's thick and lush).  It's extremely well covered in plastic and shouldn't have any damage. 

The Thanksgiving company started arriving yesterday.  As of today we have four extra kids, three extra adults, and two extra dogs.  It was very noisy having six kids under 10 running around.  Then the four year old wanted some entertainment.  Please get out your music box.  This meant the accordion.  Are you sure you don't want me to play the piano.  No, the one that I hold in my lap.  Why not?  The house is already chaotic, what's more noise going to hurt?  As I was playing Back in the Saddle Again, everyone was talking about how families used to keep themselves entertained by talking, playing games, and playing music.  While the house was loud, the tv and radio were never turned on.  I'm sure that will change because tomorrow there will be some die hard football fans here who wouldn't dream of missing a game to instead sit around and be entertained by an accordion.

One of the house guests is allergic to cats.  This isn't good considering we have four of them running in and out of the house.  That family asked if they could sleep in the trailer.  They have a motor home that they share with other family members and it wasn't their week for it so they didn't bring it here.  It's fine with me.  I just removed some of the personal items that I didn't want them coming across by accident. 

I'm trying to type this with a one year old grandson on my lap.  He couldn't sleep and before he woke up the rest of the house with his crying I picked him up and put him on my lap.  He's sleeping sitting up but at least he's quiet.  It's peaceful here as the rest of the house is asleep.  The chores are done and the bread dough is rising on the counter.  Nothing else is prepared for tomorrow.  We'll that's what the morning is for.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving is at our house

We are having Thanksgiving at our house this year.  I'm figuring about 10 kids between the ages of 2 months and 16 years, and 11 - 15 adults.  Usually we get unexpected visitors as well because the kids invite their friends over.   In addition to our one dog and two cats, plus the two cats that we are watching while their owner is overseas in the Navy, we will also have four additional dogs.  These dogs travel with their owners.  I just figure if we make a lot of food for people and pets all will be well. 

It does get to me thinking that if TSHTF I expect all these people to want to move in here with us.  What qualities do they bring?  Some bring a lot of useful skills, mainly mechanical, some can cook, others have no skills at all.  If I think about the amount of food that I will go through in the three or four days that we will be feeding everyone, I realize that we go through the same amount of food in three weeks to a month.  Our food supply wouldn't last at all. 

My sister and brother-in-law are high on my list of people I would want to stay with us.  I am convincing my sister to do a better job of buying food in bulk.  We were out in the garage tonight and I pointed out the two cases of green beans I picked up six months ago.  I told her they were 50 cents a can.  Now they are 58.  To her that was still a better price than she can get where she lives, but I pointed out that it was a 16% increase in price in just six months.  Things are not going to be getting any better.

She did say that she wants me to help her with making bread.  She tried my recipe and got it wrong.  This I don't understand.  I've never had a bad loaf.  Yes, I'll teach her several different ways to make bread while she is here.  Perhaps I'll put her in charge of making the rolls for Thanksgiving.

A couple of months ago we had the wrought iron fence put in across the driveway.  This week brother-in-law is going to install the automatic gate opener, the solar panel to power it, and the code box to open it from the outside.  We are going to have two automatic gate openers, like garage door openers, which will be kept in each truck.  Today I purchased the required Knox Box which can be opened by our local fire department.  When they open the box the gate automatically opens.  I am going to have my brother-in-law rig a kill switch on that so they don't have access when I don't want them to have access. 

Sister asked if I could do some target shooting in the backyard while they are here because her four year old has seen guns but never been around them when they were being shot.  I asked her if she and her husband wanted to do some shooting as well.  She said yes.  Yes, they are high on my list to convert to my way of thinking. 

If I don't post again until after Thanksgiving, please have a very happy Thanksgiving, and remember to thank God for all our bounties.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Elderberry harvest is almost here

It’s almost time to take the family up to the mountains and pick elderberries.  We’ve never made wine but make lots of jam and also use the berries just as we would blueberries in pancakes and muffins.  There is more to the elderberry than jam, wine, and pancakes.

I was looking at a book an acquaintance of mine wrote called Medicinal Plants Used by Native American Tribes in Southern California.    The book lists almost three dozen plants used by Native Americans.  There are nice color photos so you know exactly what the plant looks like.  More than that, it provides specific information about each listed plant.

Let’s take the elderberry.  Another common name is Blue elder.  The book provides the names many of the tribes called it, if that interests you, and also provides the family and scientific names.  The book tells you where you can find the plant and also the harvest time.  I’m not too thrilled about the harvest time listed for elderberry though.  It says flowers often can be found at various locations.  What?  If you are picking berries, they may look ripe in the early fall but they don’t taste good.  The berries don’t sweeten up until after the first few frosts.  But hurry if you plan on picking them.  The deer and other animals will beat you to them if you wait too long.

The best part of the book is the listings of parts used and traditional knowledge, including which tribe provides this knowledge.  They also provide the references they used so you can research this more if you wish.  I’ll list some of what’s written:
Blossom…. Contains aspirin and used for fever, aches, pains, blood thinner.
Blossom…. Poultice used to rub aching joints and limbs for rheumatism
Blossom…. Infusion taken for upset stomachs
Flower….Used for female complaints
Root….Decoction taken for flu
Root…. Tea used as strong laxative
Wood…. Used as splints for broken bones
Berry…. Eaten fresh or dried for storage and later consumption, when they are boiled like raisins
Stem….Juice used as black dye
Stem….Hollow stems used for containers, flutes, splint-stick rattles, fire drills, various tools

There is also a listing of western medicinal information and precautions and contraindications between sources. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dangerous Goods/Haz Mat Transportation Incidents

You've seen the numbers on the placards on trucks.  What do they mean?  If one of these trucks gets into an accident are you safe?  How far away do you need to get?  Is that distance downwind or upwind?  There is a small book out that is worth keeping in your vehicle.  Leaving it home in your library won't do you much good.  It's an Emergency Response Guidebook: A Guidebook for First Responders During the Initial Phase of a Dangerous Goods/Hazardous Materials Transportation Incident.  This book provides an index of all the codes.  It also gives you the safety recommendations and emergency response information to protect yourself and the public.  There is a table of placards and codes to provide a quick response.

Sometimes vehicles will have placards with pictures or numbers.  They may also be different colors.  You may have a placard that says 2.1.  That's flammable gases.  Others may just be numbered.  Let take 33/1203 or even 1203.  Most people recognize 1203 by the type of truck it's in.  This is listed as  gasoline/ petrol/ motor spirit.  33 is a European and South American code, but trucks in the US sometimes carry it as well.  3 is flammability of liquids (vapors) or gases or self-heating liquid. The number 33 means double the problem.  If it was just a 3 then a 0 would be put after it, 30. 

Substance 1203 lists code 128 as the proper response.  Listed are the potential hazards including explosion, vapors, runoff, etc.  It also lists potential health hazards.  Next is public safety.  How far away should people be evacuated.  Even if you aren't on scene to help, at least you will quickly know how far away to get yourself and your family! 

Next comes the emergency response.  If there is a fire the book tells you what to use to put it out.  Remember some substances will get worse if you put water on them.  Fortunately, for gasoline, this is not the case.  For a small fire you can use dry chemical CO2, water spray, or foam.  If there is a spill or leak the first thing you do is eliminate all ignition sources.  Ground any equipment you are using.  Don't walk through the leak.  Try to plug it if possible.  Don't let it run into creeks, sewers, or other water sources.  There is also a section on first aid.  You need to get this right because what's good to aid for one chemical may be deadly for another.  In this case, move the person upwind to fresh air.  Remove and isolate any contaminated clothing and shoes. 

All this sounds like common sense, but gasoline is something that we are around a lot and know about.  Start looking at the trucks that go by, or at the placards near buildings.  Do you recognize those?  Learn what they are and what the safety measures are.  If you are in the city and something goes wrong, this may be another tool in your tool kit for where it's safe and where it isn't.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food list again

I looked at the list I just posted and thought wow, if I add it all up, that's a lot of pasta.  Then I really thought about it; almost 80 pounds of pasta (not including the boxes of mac and cheese or the ramen noodles).  That's not really that much.  If I use one pound a week, then that will only last a year and a half.  I guess I need to buy more!  If nothing else, writing this blog is making me realize that I'm not as prepared as I thought.

Food Lists

Like most of you, I have a list of what food I have on hand and what supplies I have on hand. Even if you have everything in one place, keeping a written log of what you have on hand is well worth the time it takes to put it together.  This list isn't an up to date list, but it will give you an idea of how mine is written up.  I tried marking the chart each time I used something from the pantry, but I just didn't mark it every time so I figured I wasn't going to mark it at all.  Instead, a couple times a year I do a big shopping, and right before I go I update the list.  Doing it that way gives me a good perspective on how much food and other supplies we use in any given time period.  Here's the Pasta/Rice/Potatoes list.  These products will really last a long time and are not expensive to buy.  We can also grow potatoes and pasta is really easy to make.  The only item on the list then that we can't provide for ourselves, if needed, is the rice.  The white rice will keep almost indefinitely.

angel hairlbs.5
falafal mixlbs.5
linguini fettuccinnilbs.7
mac and cheeseboxes22
noodle wide egglbs.2
noodles otherlbs.3
noodles pennelbs.4
noodles rotinilbs.6
potato mashedservings80
potato shreadslbs.14
potato slices lbs.10
ramen noodlespacks50
rice whitelbs.100
rice wildlbs.1

Friday, November 19, 2010

Adoption Day

Grandson came home from school early yesterday with a fever.  After a trip to McDonalds for an ice cream for lunch, we drove home and he went to bed.  He slept all afternoon, right through dinner, all night, and woke up at 8:00 this morning.  He's feeling much better as he demanded a bowl of oatmeal as soon as he woke up this morning.  That's good because he's going to court today sick or well.
Granddaughter got up this morning with a huge smile on her face.  Today's adoption day.  "This is just like a birthday, right Grandma?"  Such a Hallmark moment!  I'm starting to get teary eyed.  She's so sweet.  I said yes, it's like a birthday.  She said, "That means we don't have to do any chores!!!!" 

Cleaning up the garden

Yesterday afternoon I came home from work early to work in the garden before it got dark.  I had some office work to do but was able to finish that up in the evening.  Today it was in the mid-70s.  It's supposed to rain tonight night and I think that will be it for the nice weather until spring. 

I pulled in all the irrigation hoses.  Around here we get very little rain during the summer, usually less than a tenth of an inch all summer.  The garden has to be irrigated.  None of the vegetables will do well without watering, no matter how much I put mulch or any kind of ground cover around the plants.  The hoses didn't get rolled up, just pulled into the barn.  I wanted to get as much done as I could before dark so I figured that rolling them would be a good project for another day.

The trees in the back garden still need irrigation because they are younger trees, all under 10 years old.  The middle group of trees has been in the ground a longer time.  I wouldn't have to irrigate and the trees wouldn't die, they just wouldn't produce a good crop of fruit.  I don't have to irrigate them as much as the younger trees though.  The front trees have to be watered a lot.  They have only been in the ground for a year or two and still need to be pampered.  The way I figure it is the tree is in shock the first year it's in, the second year it's just getting settled, and the third year it's ready to grow.  It takes several years after that for them to become sturdy and strong.  I didn't pull up their hoses and I don't plan to move them. 

I don't know if I like the way the garden is set up.  I am planting in long rows.  This works well for the corn but I think I am going to come up with something else.  Planting the way I do, I have to fight the weeds continuously.  I am thinking about going back to raised beds.  I had raised beds in my backyard in the city.  It was more to make it look nice, as I was already considered odd because we kept chickens in a backyard coop.  25 years ago, this was definitely not normal!  I found out the city I lived in allowed four hens in your yard as long as they were at least 10 feet away from any house.  Not a problem.  I could keep four hens.  I told the neighbors the city said i could keep six, then I kept 8.  Nobody complained because I sold them eggs for a dollar a dozen. That was on the expensive side but everyone was intrigued by the odd eggs...they were brown! 

When I first moved to this place I had four raised beds.  I didn't like them.  I didn't like the wood they were made out of. I didn't like the location they were placed in.  I didn't have good soil, I just dug some up from another spot in the yard.  Needless to say, I took them out a couple years later and started planting in rows in the large garden area. 

I'm thinking about putting in 16 foot long by 4 foot wide raised beds.  I could probably put in twelve of these and still have room for corn.  I could plant these more intensively and also would be able to plant the permanent beds and not have to worry about them.  Right now I have asparagus growing in the garden.  When I disc the garden with the tractor I have to swerve around these plants.  I also have some artichokes and I have to do the same thing.  I wouldn't need to disc the garden if I put in the raised beds. 

It would also be easier to irrigate.  Each bed could have plants that needed similar amounts of water.  It would work out well. 

I need to do a bit of planning this winter and do it right in the spring.  If I can figure out where the new beds are going to go, when the chicken coop and barn stalls get cleaned out, instead of the spoils being spread throughout the garden, I'll have it placed in the location of each of the new beds. 

I also have a few areas of the garden that self seed each year.  This year I had squash growing everywhere.  If I have two or three beds of squash, then the self seeding will be where I want it and not growing into the walkways as they did this year. 

Next year I'm going to rig up a timer and figure out about how much water I am using in the garden.  I'll need to measure how many gallons per minute I'm using, then time how long the water is on.  I wonder if there's a water meter that I can run off the hose bib?  I haven't seen one but it sure would be nice to have.  I want to know if my garden is sustainable if I save the rain water in a large water tank.  I figure I can capture 12,000 gallons of water off the barn runoff.  Do I want a holding tank that big?  That will cost a lot.  Do I use that much water?  Only next summer will tell...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More on food and edible landscaping

Food is one of the big three: food, shelter, security.  It's one that people can't live without.  You can be homeless, you can hide (a type of security), but you have to eat.  How do you become more food self reliant?  Depending on where you live you may have to reevaluate how and what you eat.  For example, if you live in the city you may be eating less meat if you have to produce it yourself, especially for those who live in apartments.  Raising meat is not possible.  What about those who live in a house on a small lot?  You can raise much of what you eat.  You just have to change your way of thinking and put out the effort. 

Edible landscape is one of the new trends.  You can pack a lot into a 1/4 acre yard.  There are several websites of families doing just this.  If you plant a tree, make is a fruit or nut tree.  If you put in flowers, make them edible.  Shrubs can be herbs, fruit, or vegetables.  I have only planted one type of plant on my property in 13 years that isn't useful for eating or drinking or using it for medicinal purposes.  That was a butterfly plant.  It spreads, has purple flowers, and attracts butterflies and bees.  Everything else is edible.  Even when I lived in the city over 20 years ago, I only planted edible landscaping (other than a lawn play area for the kids). 

I write a lot about my son and his family.  They have a little patio but no plants.  They have indoor plants, but none are edible.  Why not?  Because they get their food for free from the government so why put out the effort.  Did you know that with food stamps you can purchase vegetable seeds and plants at the grocery store?  It's true.  Kind of like the story...teach a man to fish and he will be able to provide for his family.

15 percent of American's are "Food Insecure"

The food stamp program ensures that Americans don't go hungry.  One in eight people now use food stamps.  My son and his family account for 4 of the 42 million Americans using this handout.  They get $400 a month right now, down from $650 (because he now has a job making $2,000 a month).  Poor them.  It's now just half way through the month and they've spent $300 of it.  They also used up their WIC checks.  What are they going to do?  They only have $100 left for the rest of the month.  They are going to starve!!!! 

I wrote up a meal plan for them to get them through the rest of the month.  In fact, this meal plan will feed them for about a month on their $100 and they would eat well.  The problem with my meal plan was that they had to make stuff from scratch.  They have to take out the Starbucks drinks at $2.00 a bottle.  No more beef jerky, Luna bars, or bags of potato chips.  Poor them.  The cruel taxpayers of America want them to suffer. 

There is fraud all over the place.  The grandkids that live with me don't get food stamps but they do get free lunch at school because they are technically foster kids, even though I make plenty of money to support them.  They bring lunch from home but still eat the free hot lunch at school so they can eat with their friends.  According to the latest government reports one million more school children are getting free hot lunches at school this year than last.  The school my grandkids go to gives free breakfast to all the kids.  (No they don't reduce the parents food stamp money even though the school feeds the kids two of their three meals each day)  The grandkids eat breakfast at home but sometimes take a second breakfast as well.  If the kids need the food because the parents don't feed them...after all, there's not enough money for their Starbucks drink and to give the kids a sack lunch...then by all means the school should feed the kids.  But fraud is rampant.  I know.  Today the school suggested I commit fraud. 

I went to the office to tell them that on Friday the grandkids were noo longer going to be foster kids.  I'm adopting them and it's final on Friday.  No, I don't need to hear the backwoods jokes about how my grandkids are my kids, or their sister is their mother, or any of those stupid things.  It's more a tragedy that they have crappy parents and have to move in with "old folk". 

Anyway, back to the fraud story.  Since the kids were not going to be foster care, they aren't going to qualify for free lunch once they come back to school after Thanksgiving vacation.  Does the free lunch qualification start the day of adoption, the first of the month, or when?  I was told that it's the day of the adoption.  OK, I need to pay for their hot lunch.  Just because they bring lunch from home doesn't mean that now I don't want them getting a second lunch if they want it.  I just need to put the money into their lunch account.  Let's see, $2.00 per kid per day is $10 a week.  How about if I give you a check for $100.  That will cover 10 weeks of school which should take us to the end of February. 

No, said the office personnel.  Nobody follows up on the free lunch qualifications.  Since the kids qualified at the beginning of the year nobody will know that now they don't qualify.  You can save your money and not have to pay for their lunch until next school year. Yes, the school was telling me to commit fraud.  Who do they think pays for the school lunches of all the kids whose families don't pay?  Oh yeah, me, the taxpayer. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moving to Alaska

A friend of mine called today to tell me that he has a job offer in Sitka, Alaska.  He wanted to go over the pros and cons of moving from Colorado to Sitka.  Being a California resident my entire life I wouldn't want to be in either place.  Then I started looking at Sitka to try to give an honest opinion. 

Looking at it from a survivalist perspective, it looks pretty good.  It's about as isolated as can be.  You can't drive there, although there is an airport.  It's a four hour boat ride on the ferry from Juneau, which is another place you can't drive to.  It faces the Pacific Ocean so I'm sure the wind blows.  The temperature surprised me.  During the summer it was cooler than Colorado but during the winter it was about 10 degrees warmer.  It usually doesn't go much below freezing during the winter, instead staying in the mid to high 30s at night and in the 40s during the day.  During the summer it gets into the 40s at night but into the 60s during the day.  That's too cold for me for summer as it's my ideal winter!  There are plenty of forests around so I'm sure there wouldn't be a firewood issue for heating the house. 

I was thinking about gardening.  With a greenhouse you could garden year round.  You'd have to get cool weather varieties but you could grow just about everything.  This is really good from a survival standpoint.

There wouldn't be a water issue.  They get around 80 inches of rain per year.  That's much more than the 12 he gets at his home in Colorado.  If he had several rain barrels to catch water for home use he'd not have to be on a well or city water at all.  Remember the formula for figuring out how much water you can harvest...1000 square feet of roof will provide 600 gallons for every inch of rain.  The driest month in Sitka averages 4 inches of rain.  That's 75 gallons per day to use if he captured it all that month.  And that's the minimum he'd have available all year.  Most months he'd have 200 gallons available each day. 

He hunts and fishes.  One of the main sources of income in Sitka is fishing, so from a self sufficiency standpoint that looks good. 

Is there a downside?  Prior to his Colorado move he lived in Idaho.  That was a really good area, although he was on a major highway going between Idaho Falls and Wyoming.  He could easily make a trip into Idaho Falls to do whatever kind of shopping he wanted to do.  We even went to the orchestra once.  Hunting, fishing, skiing and hiking were all just outside his back door.  Now he's at the edge of a city and has all the city amenities.  He fishes close by but goes to Montana and Alaska each year for hunting and fishing.  Since my opinion is slightly taken into consideration, would I talk him out of moving or tell him to pack his bags today?  I really can't stand where he's living in Colorado.  But I said that Sitka was not the place for him. 

Some people think they'd like living away from the city.  They have this wild dream of being in a secluded area and living like Jeremiah Johnson.  But get back to reality.  Many people do live far from large cities.  That's what we talk about when we think bug-out place.  I know lots of people who have to drive and hour or two for their shopping. If you are used to being near a populated area, is that really the type of life you can live in a "normal" world?  I understand wanting to get away when TSHTF but that's really not now for most of us.  So why did I try to talk my friend out of moving to Sitka?  There wasn't a Costco, Starbucks, or Barnes and Noble, three of his favorite places to be.  He's at Starbucks almost every day, Barnes and Noble twice a week, and Costco once or twice a month. 

If you are going to relocate you need to seriously consider your life now.  I would love to move to my bug-out place that I bought at the beginning of the year.  The downside is it takes an hour and a half to get into town from that property and now that grandkids live here permanently, it's not something that I want to do for the next ten years.  If TEOTWAWKI happens and we couldn't stay where we are at, then living an hour and a half from the city would be good.  We wouldn't be coming in to town a couple times a week in that situation anyway.  But it's not TEOTWAWKI.  I don't think my friend would make it in Sitka more than a year. 

The tractor

We own a John Deere Tractor.  It's the smallest diesel tractor that John Deere makes but it's a real tractor and not the garden variety.  This tractor gets all kinds of use from discing up the garden and pasture to rocking the driveway.  We have a front end loader bucket, disc harrow, a box scraper with rippers, a blade, and my favorite, a 54" mower deck.  We would be able to do all the work around here without it but it sure saves time and my back. 
We've had it for 7 years and have probably only spent about $150 total on all maintenance.  I've changed filters and had to put in a new battery.  A wheel broke off on the mower deck last week.  Or at least I noticed it last week so I assume that's when it broke.  I looked all over the yard and can't find the broken part.  I'm thinking the dog buried it or something because it's nowhere to be seen and it couldn't just disappear. 
It should have a real service done on it by experts, and I am not one.  The company I bought it from is an honest, honorable company.  They are going to come pick it up, work on whatever needs fixing, and bring it back.   The service manager asked if anything was wrong with the tractor.  I said no and I'd like to keep it for another ten years without anything going wrong.  I told him he needs to do whatever needs to be done.  It's nice to be able to have service companies around who you trust to do a good job and not rip you off. 
I'll probably use it a time or two before it gets picked up for service.  I have more rock that I want to spread out before the rains really come.  Around here, if it's not rocked or has a good layer of vegetation or bark you will sink to your ankles in mud.  We've made a good rock path between the barn and the chicken coop.  I have a path going to the front door which could get another layer.  Our John Deere is great and I'd recommend it to anyone.   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Police and Fire Scans over the internet

This is a great site.  You can listen to police and fire scans from your local area or where ever you plan on traveling.  http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/  Right now listening to the city police scanner.  A drug bust of a couple of known felons.  And now there's a black Mazda that they are looking for.  Ten seconds later a black female walked into a house.  They have her locked into a room.  This is all 20 miles from me.  I can also listen to the local fire department and the sheriff.  Invaluable stuff.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's in your vehicle?

My library is truly diverse.  Today I was looking through a book called Practical Archaeology: Field and Laboratory Techniques and Archaeological Logistics by Dr. Brian D. Dillon.  One of the chapters was titled The Archaeological Field Vehicle.  In other writings, Dillon writes about his vehicle, a 70 something Chevy truck with over a million miles on it.  In this book, the discussion centered around being able to get your field work done in the middle of nowhere and having the proper vehicle preparedness to do so.  On page 79, Figure 5 he provides a checklist with 100 items including tools, spare parts and supplies that he carried in the vehicle during extended trips in rough areas outside the US. 
1: Shop Manual
2: Timing Light
3: Tach/Dwell Meter
4: Compression Tester
5: Tire Pressure Gauge
6: Hydrometer
7: Circuit Tester
8: Feeler Gauges
9: Spark Plug Gauge
10: Combination Wrench Set
11: 10" or 12" Crescent Wrench
12: 6" Crescent Wrench
13: TorqueWrench
14: Socket Wrench Set (3/8 or 1/2)
15: Socket Extensions
16: Socket U- joint
17: Socket Wrench Step down/up
18: Breaker Bar for S.W.
19: Spark Plug Socket for S.W.
20: Impact Wrench Drive
21: Hex Wrench Set
22: Oil Filter Wrench
23: Adjustable Pliers
24: Vise-Grip Pliers
25: Needle-Nose Pliers
26: Wire/Sheet Metal Cutter
27: Large (12") Phillips Screwdriver
28: Large (12") Slot Screwdriver
29: Small to Medium Slot Screwdrivers
30: Small to Medium Phillips
31: Metal Chisel
32: Metal Punch
33: Ball-Peen Hammer
34: Putty Knife
35: Flat, Round, Triangular Files
36: Sand Paper
37: Easy-Out (Extracter) Set
38: Metal Drills/Drill
39: Gear Puller
40: Valve Spring Depresser
41: Hacksaw
42: Siphon Tube/Brake Bleed Tube
43: Oil Filler Spout
44: White Paint (Liquid Paper)
45: Flashlight
46: Flares
47: Fire Extinguishers
48: Lug (X-bar) Wrench
49: Hydraulic Jack
50: Sheepherder's Jack
51: Tire Pump
52: Crowbar
53: Wheel Chocks/Jack Blocks
54: Shovel
55: Bucket
56: Rip Saw
57: Machete
58: Axe
59: Length of Carpet
60: Towing Chain
61: Towing Rope
62: All Hoses
63: All Belts
64: All Gaskets
65: All Fuses
66: All Filters (x 20" more)
67: 2 Sets Spark Plugs
68: 2 Sets Points, Rotor, condenser
69: Distributor Cap
70: Plug Wires
71: 2 Mounted Tires
72: 2 Inner Tubes
73: Water Pump
74: Oil Pump
75: Gas Pump
76: Carb Rebuilt Kit
77: Timing Chain
78: U-joints
79: Oil (enough for change)
80: Rear-end/Trans. Oil
81: Wheel Bearing Grease
82: Engine Oil Flush
83: WD-40 or Liquid Wrench Spray
84 : 3-in-1 Oil
85: Carburetor Cleaner Spray
86: Quick-Start Spray
87: 1 Quart Brake Fluid
88: Radiator Flush
89: Radiator Stop-Leak
90: Gasket Paper
91: Gasket Sealer
92: Heavy Duty (Ignition) Wire
93: Light Duty (Accessories) Wire
94: Assorted Electrical Connectors (clip, spade, bolt-on, etc.)
95: Electrician's Tape
96: Tube Patch Kit
97: Assorted nuts, bolts, screws, washers, cotter pins, etc.
98: Epoxy or Super Glue
99: Duct Tape
100: Hand Cleaner/Rags

I figured that this is an excellent list for someone who expects to have a vehicle and isn't sure what they should carry.  With everything listed I'm not sure there is room for any other survival supplies, but it's a good start for what should be in my garage, if not in my vehicle.  I don't think I would really need to carry all of this all the time, especially if I was going between my bug-out place and home but I definitely rethought my ideas of what I should have on hand.

The Flag: Inciter of Racial Tension

It seems the Denair school got so much national flack that they changed their mind.  After all, they only said what they did to protect the safety of the student. The middle school kid can put the flag back on his bike. The controversy is over, everyone in the national media please go away. 

The controversy is not over!  This is just another example of what’s ahead of us folks. 

Last Monday a 13 year old boy was riding his bike on the school campus.  He had an American flag on the back of his bike.  It's been there for the past two months.  A couple of students had complained about the flag, not the fact that he was riding on campus.  It seems that last Cinco de Mayo several Mexican students brought in Mexican flags that they waived around and were told that they had to put the flags away.  So now, in fairness to the Mexican kids, instead of telling the kid to walk his bike on campus, he was told the American flag had to be removed from his bike. 

The school administrator’s reason?  The American flag could spur racial tensions.  You’ve got to be kidding.  We aren’t talking the stars and bars but the 50 star flag.  In America the American flag can spur racial tension?  Pick another country that would be stupid enough to say that.

The people who complained weren’t citing their religious beliefs regarding Exodus, Chapter 20, which says that you aren’t to make a graven image, and to them a flag is an image.   No, they complained because they want equal time for "their" flag.  The complainers were first or second generation Americans from Mexico who idolize their native country over the country they live in.  The reason they don’t live in Mexico is because it in NOT a land of opportunity.  Why then are they trying to bring everything they don’t like about Mexico here to the US? 

I’m not saying this is going to be what causes TEOTWAWKI but it sure could be.  No, the controversy is not over. 

I usually don't get political or bring these topics up.  My blog is about how my family is trying to figure out how to prepare for an upcoming mess of a world.  This is not an issue of not liking Mexicans.  I am a second generation American with my relatives coming from a country that offered no freedoms.  The country told you how to live, how to worship, where you could travel, what job you were allowed to do...  In fact, when my grandparents left  their option was leave or die.  They left and came to America.  They gave up their language and their countries customs.  They did not give up their religious customs.  It would be nice if this state and this country starting thinking about who does come here.  Adopt this country, adopt the customs of the country.  It's pretty simple. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Home Security System

Many people have home security systems.  I am one of them.  I recently changed my system and I thought I'd share my reason why.  Home security systems can monitor burglary, fire, and carbon monoxide.  Your system can be set up to make noise until the system is reset.  They don't send a signal anywhere, they just make noise.  You can purchase systems like this at your local hardware store.  You can also use a professional monitoring system in this way if you do not keep your contract in force.  The second type of system is the type that most people have.  These systems are monitored by a 24-hour monitoring center.  After the alarm goes off they contact either you or the local authorities, or both, depending on how you have the information set up.  It's this type of system that I'm going to discuss today.


I have a system run by ADT.  I do not know anybody at all who works for the company other than the few people that have come out to set up the system.  I had the initial system put in about ten years ago.  Since then I expanded the house and updated the system.  I let the contract elapse for many years since I couldn't see spending the $20-30 a month. 


I was getting a discount on my homeowners insurance for having the system.  About a year ago I realized that if a fire or burglary did occur and my insurance company found out that I didn't even have the system working that they would probably be reluctant to pay any claim since I had in my insurance agreement that I had the system in working order.  Therefore I reinstated my security system and figured that after getting the discount, the system was costing less than $10 a month.  OK, I could go for that. 


The Pac Bell phone service in my area is lousy.  At least once a month the landline goes down for anywhere from several hours to several days.  The power to the lines is so bad that I can't even get low speed Net Zero internet here at the house.  Forget any high speed anything.  I rarely use the house phone and had a separate cell phone that I also rarely used.  (work pays for a wireless internet card)  I decided to cancel the house phone.


My dilemma was over the security system.  How would that work if I didn't have a house phone?  I contacted ADT and they had someone come out to explain it to me.  It was really interesting.  I'll explain the system as connected to the landline.  When you have phone service the security system can work.  If your phone line is down you don't have security service.  Sure the system will make noise if something goes wrong but it will not send the signal to the monitoring service.  If you have a landline, take a look at the wires coming into your house, or onto your property. 


There is a main phone box at the end of my road, about a mile and a half from the house.  There is another small phone box within 500 feet of the property.  From that, the line goes underground to my house.  Once it gets to the house the cord goes up the outside of the house to the connector box.  For those of you that don't pay for inside wiring, this is the spot where the phone company ends their responsibility - I digress, sorry.  Your vulnerable area is between where the line comes up out of the ground and goes up the outside house wall until it actually goes through your wall to the inside of the house.  If the "bad guy" cuts your phone line with a wire cutter, scissors, a knife, clippers, or whatever, your phone system is dead, which means your security system is dead.  Bottom line, for all those people who put monitoring stickers around the property and on their windows, why don't you just put up a sign that says cut my phone line and you are in?


There is more to the story.  Let's say that the burglar forgets this simple technique of getting around your slick monitoring system (yes I know it will still make noise, but if you aren't home do your neighbors really care, or can they hear it) or better yet, you don't have any outside phone wires because they are all underground and comes up in some secret location that the burglar can't get to.  What if the burglar gets into your house, opens up your closets quickly to find where the panel box is in the house?  They can unhook the phone wire at that location and stop the phone call to the monitoring company.  Less likely scenario than cutting the wires from the outside of the house but it can happen.


Even if nobody trips the alarm a notice is sent to the monitoring company every time the system is was activated or deactivated.  For example, you set the alarm and leave.  The alarm company gets a notification through your phone line.  You come home and turn off the alarm.  Another notification gets sent that you turned off the alarm.  They know your every move.  Very intrusive, but you hope that they aren't working against you (or the government isn't using their records to figure out when you are home and when you aren't).  When you get back home and you go to turn off the alarm system you usually get around 30 seconds to turn it off.  After the thirty seconds if you successfully shut off the system, the alarm won't sound but you the system will still send a notification to the company that the system was turned off.  If you don't turn off the system then the alarm will go off and the notification sent is that the system wasn't shut off properly and there is possibly a break in.  Depending on how slow the phone system is, the alarm company may not get the phone call for almost one minute from the time the burglar actually breaks into your house.  I've heard of places where the burglars are in and out within a minute after knowing where to look for valuables by either looking through windows or by having a floor plan of your house (either it's a tract home or courtesy of the county planning department's public files).  


ADT offers another option which costs about $100 to install, although I was able to talk them into a $25 install, and it adds $7 a month to the bill.  (Added $7 but I no longer have a $35 lousy Pac Bell landline) I put the alarm system on a cellular connection rather than using a landline.  I don't have it attached to a cell phone; they actually install a transmitter into the inside panel box.  This system is far superior to a landline system.  First, there are no outside wires to cut.  Second, and most important, the length of time that it takes to notify the alarm company is significantly shorter. 


Let's go back to the almost impossible scenario of the burglar breaking into the house and finding the alarm box and pulling the phone wires from there.  They have 30 seconds from the time they get into the house and then up to 30 more seconds to find the box and disable it – a full minute to disable the system before the company is notified.  When it's on the transmitter system, the transmission takes place between two and three seconds after the door or window is opened.  Yes, I said seconds.  So, even if someone opened up your front door and the panel was in the closet right next to the door, the transmission would be sent before it could be disabled.  They've gotten the transmission that the alarm has been tripped.  Once you enter your code into the key pad another transmission will be sent letting them know that you've turned it off.    


To quickly summarize, if you have an alarm system and it's attached to a landline to contact the monitoring service the bad guys can shut down your system before they ever step foot into your house.  It's fast and it's easy, so you may as well not pay for the burglary monitoring.  If you have the transmitter system they can't shut you down unless they take out the cell towers. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The grapes

The large farm behind me grew grapes and that landowner had told us that we could pick all the grapes we wanted.  Each year we picked lots of grapes to eat fresh and made enough raisins to last all year.  A couple of years ago the land was put up for sale.  Since that time the grapes have mostly all died.  There went my grape supply.  Another neighbor said that I could pick some of their grapes but I decided I better plant my own.

I planted four grapevines last spring and hope to plant more this spring.  When you transplant bareroot trees or vines it takes a year or two before they really come out of shock at start growing well.  I expect the grapes to grow some this spring and who knows, they may really take off.  I figured that I needed to make some kind of arbor for them and since it was a nice day out today, today was the day to do it. 

I decided to use some of my new t-posts.  It was an easy project.  I pounded in a t-post a foot away from each vine.  I pounded in three additional posts for the location of the vines I hope to plant in the spring.  I may put in more but I really don’t need to get the arbor in for those until I decide if I will plant them or not. 

I think I want to have them line the front yard area and use them as a break between the parking space and the “lawn”.  The lawn looks great in my front yard during the spring and even right now in fall since we’ve had some rain and then a warm spell.  I don’t water the lawn because that would mean I’d have to mow it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d like the look of a lawn, I just would rather not spend the time on its upkeep.  Boy wants to mow but he’s not quite old enough.  I’d like him to keep his toes for a couple more years.      

There are so many different ways you can train grapes.  My friend has an open patio cover and the grapes climb on that and hang down over his patio.  It looks wonderful.  That is until they start rotting because he doesn’t pick them, or the animals climb on the patio and house at all hours to steal the grapes, or they fall onto his patio and make a slimy mess.  Perhaps if it wasn’t attached to the house and had a dirt floor, such as a gazebo in the backyard.  I would like one of those too.  Of course, if I had a gazebo it would have a hot tub in the middle of it.  Wishful thinking…

When we went to the friends house the other day to pick the berries, I noticed he had grapes trained on the wire with t-posts set up at each plant.  I liked the way it looked and figure that it will be easy to care for and also easy to get to the grapes.  After I put in the posts I strung a double fencing wire across the whole thing, then wrapped it around itself and put a second layer of the wire on.  It looks great and took less than an hour to put in the posts and stretch the wire.  I had to hang flagging across the wire because it’s at neck height.  I certainly don’t need a kid to run through the yard and run into the wire.  I don’t want to deal with that medical issue.  By next summer the grapes should have grown enough that the wire will be visible.    

I need to buy more t-posts for the front fruit trees.