Thursday, March 31, 2011

Are you drinking fresh milk?

With reports that radioactive iodine has been found in stream water that cows drink and in cow milk itself in California and Washington, my question to you is do you want to have a cold fresh glass of milk right now?  My answer is no.  The media this morning had a nice chart showing that the amount of radiation in one pint of milk was equal to a five hour plane ride.  We are told that the radiation levels are minuscule compared to the exposure that we face every day.  Sure there's some radiation in just about everything.  The difference that is not being pointed out is that nonionized radiation is not the same as ionized radiation. 
Isn't that why we are supposed to be concerned with radon?  That's ionized radiation too.  According to the EPA 21,000 deaths in the US each year are caused by Radon.  13,000 people in the US die each year from drunk driving.  This means 50% more deaths caused by radon.  So perhaps we shouldn't care about the radiation coming from Japan and worry about what's in our own homes?  You better care about radon in your home but this doesn't have to be either or.  It can be both.  Care about radon and radiation from Japan. 
What about the ionized radiation coming from Japan?  First we were told there is no danger, then little danger. The EPA stepped up efforts to monitor the radiation levels across the country and they keep pointing out that it's higher than normal but still ok. 
I told the grandkids that radiation is in milk and probably other things as well.  If it's in the grass that the cows are eating, I understand that it gets extra concentrated when turned from grass and hay into milk.  What about vegetables?  Japanese imports of food have been banned in the US.  I doubt that there's much impact on our fresh food supply since we don't eat the same volume that a cow does.  But perhaps we should be watching what fresh items we eat as well?  Is it ok to eat something that has to be peeled rather than eating the outside that was exposed to the elements? Is eating something that gets it's nutrients from the ground better?  I just don't know. 
Beef cattle munch on grass, hay, or forage out in the woods for most of their lives. They only eat grain when they are brought in for their last few months to fatten up.  Most dairy cattle don't just munch on pasture grass as we are being led to believe.  Most dairy cows are in dairies that feed silage or hay or something other than just pasture grass.  Since the source of most dairy cattle food isn't the pasture grass, it doesn't make sense how so much of the milk would be affected.  Something just isn't adding up. 
I do know that I've told the grandkids that they may not drink any milk at school or if they go to anyone else's homes, unless they get the ok by me first.  I do remember a grocery store that carried milk from out of state.  I can't remember which store it was or which brand.  I'm going to check out a couple of stores in the next few days.  Until then, the kids will be drinking our stored powdered milk.  They don't like it much.  I told them that it tastes better than the soy milk that their great grandma drinks.  I also said that we'll put a spoon of either chocolate or strawberry quik in when they are drinking it.  Their cereal will have it straight.  Am I going overboard?  Who knows.  Better to be safe than sorry.  I'm glad we have lots of powdered milk here at home.  Do you?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goodbye cats

Almost two years ago I was visiting my sister down in San Diego.  A childhood family friend was also visiting.  He was telling us how he was being deployed to Japan and didn't know what to do with his two cats.  I said if he didn't mind his indoor cats becoming indoor/outdoor cats, they were welcome to come and stay with us.  I figured with having a dog, two cats, a goat, sheep, chickens, and grandchildren, who would really notice two more cats?  His deployment to Japan was cancelled and we didn't get the cats. 

Last year he called to say he was being deployed to Kuwait and wanted to know if the offer of cat sitting was still available.  Of course, so last August he came up and dropped off the cats.  He stayed for three days, having a very hard time saying goodbye to his "children".  I reassured him all would be well.

It wasn't.  The cats hid under the couch for a couple of weeks.  I thought they were going to starve to death.  I knew they were still alive because they refused to use the litter box, instead using the library floor, kitchen floor, or wherever they thought they could present me with a pile to really tick me off.  It didn't work and they finally settled down.  This meant hissing contests with our cats, jumping on me in the middle of the night, and their most interesting talent - peeing in my shower. 

They both decided that it was fun to go outside and hunt.  They started bringing me dead things that they killed but instead of leaving them where I could see them and tell them what good cats they were they'd bring them into the family room and hide them.  I wouldn't know the dead things were there until I started smelling them...and until maggots were crawling around.  They ended up becoming really good hunters - hunters who leave their catch out on the porch! 

It took a while for them to settle in and I wasn't sure that they were going to live through the seven months of "cat care" here on the farm.  Their dad just returned last week and showed up today to collect them.  He's leaving in the morning and heading back down to San Diego with his two "kids".   I told him if he gets deployed again we'd be happy to watch them.  I'm actually going to miss those two cats.

Landscaping timbers and outdoor chores tomorrow

I went to buy some landscaping timbers today from Lowe's.  I really like the look of railroad ties, but I  did have to agree with one of my readers who commented that they leach poison into the soil and plants.  Yeah, probably a bad idea to use the ties.  So, I looked into landscaping timbers and also artificial planks (plastic and a plastic/wood mix). They had the landscaping timbers priced at $2.99 each.  I went up to the front desk and asked if I could get a 10% discount if I got a charge card.  The lady said no, their special is 6 months no interest.  I asked if they had any other program going where I could get the discount.  She said to go to the outdoor section and ask the manager.  So I did.  He said ok, so I got a 10% discount on everything I bought today.  And I didn't even open a charge account!

They loaded them into the truck and oldest daughter came over to unload them.  I can move them around one handed now that they are in a pile in the garden. The garden was disked a couple weeks ago and a few weeds have popped back up.  Some got pulled today (one-handed, of course) and the rest tomorrow.  The landscape timbers will get moved around to try to figure out the exact configuration that I want.  I expect the project will get completed this weekend unless I get called out of town for work.  It's supposed to be 80 tomorrow!  I will fill the 2 gallon jug with cold water and head into the yard at 7:30, when the grand kids leave for school.  I really enjoy the peace and quiet of pulling weeds and setting up a garden. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

YouTube and Survival Food Storage

I have a really slow internet connection at home.  This means that I'm rarely willing to sit through videos.  They will run for 5 or 10 seconds, then stop for 5 seconds then run another 5 or 10 all through the video.  Tonight I had some quiet time so I thought I'd see what I could find that was interesting.  Well, I learned something.  I can set the video for 240p and it will run straight through without stopping. 

With this new discovery, I set out to review some survival videos.  I watched a bunch of videos that people posted about food storage.  The common theme was buy tons of stuff and stick it in the basement.  Keep the mice out.  This was all good but after looking at what many people stored I knew that this was going to be the topic tonight. 

I was impressed at the amount of food that people stored.  They claimed to have a years worth of food and they did.  I didn't find anyone whose storage pantry looked like mine.  One person had about 100 boxes of Captain Crunch cereal.  They also had two full shelves, about 8 feet long or more, filled with soda.  Probably one hundred 2 and 3 liter bottles, maybe 50 cases of cans.  They had several cases of fruit rollups.  They had several cases of pineapple but no other fruit in their fruit section.  They had three boxes of 40 quart size powdered milk.  At least that was what I could see.  Finally, I thought to myself, something of value (ok, the pineapple is good too).  The milk was still in the original boxes, which isn't the best way to pack them because they can pick up surrounding odors.   But then the speaker said that they were all out of date.  I'm not sure when the video was made but they expired in 2008. 

How does this differ from my storage program?  You are what you eat.  And I like ice cream!  Besides that, how do you make sure that you don't end up with a bunch of food that's old?  You use the stuff.  I know people say to stay out of your provisions.  Don't get into your stored food.  I fully and completely disagree.  You need to use it and make sure you buy more to replace what you use.  Fortunately I don't shop often because if I had to rotate everything all the time I wouldn't do it.  I'd be eating the new stuff first.  After all, why would I want to use a two year old box of cake mix when this other box was just purchased last week?  Why?  Because if you don't use the older stuff first you will just be throwing it out, or you will be using really old food when  you need to rely on the stored food in bad situations.  Are you really planning on surviving on Captain Crunch, old powdered milk, and soda? 

Now if I had the money to buy a year or five or ten worth of dehydrated and freeze dried canned goods I'd still get into that.  I love freeze dried strawberries!  I just couldn't imagine if I had a five year supply of these I wouldn't really use them and five years before they expired I eat them and nothing else. 

Canning jars.  In these storage videos I rarely saw home canned goods.  Do people just plan on learning how to can when TSHTF?  Most every storage program had boxes of new canning jars proudly stacked in a corner.  That's nice.  I have lots of canning jars too.  Usually they are filled with food.  Or at least it runs in shifts.  Some years at the end of summer I'm scrambling to find jars.  At the end of winter I usually have lots of jars available.  Why?  Because we use what we can.  They aren't just sitting on the shelves.  Now sometimes I can too much of some things and not enough of others.  The other day I made plum fritters with plums I canned in 2008.  The fritters turned out great.  That was the last of the 2008 jars.  I didn't can any plums in 2009 because we had 60 jars from 2008.  I did again in 2010.  When we eat canned fruit it is rarely from that season, it's usually a year in arrears. 

We eat fresh fruit each year but the canned fruit goes in cycles.  Some years the trees just don't put out enough fruit.  In other years they overproduce.  I can plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, figs, and berries.  We haven't had enough cherries yet to can.  We eat the citrus fresh.  When I finish canning fruit for the season we may have 300+ jars of fruit canned between fruit, jams, juice, and syrup.  While this amount usually gets rotated completely every two to three years, if needed it could be used in a  SHTF situation and only need to last up to a year.  I have the ability to can at least that many jars each year if necessary. 

I don't can as many vegetables because we freeze them.  If we were in a SHTF scenario and lost power to the freezer, if it was summer the food would easily and quickly get dried outdoors.  If it was winter, I'd have to set up the dining room (the location of the wood stove) and dry what I could indoors.  On the other hand, we do have enough store bought cans of vegetables (mostly peas, corn, green beans, beets) that I could give the freezer stuff the to animals. 

OK, back to canning jars.  Have a lot.  Have lots of lids.  I've seen the reusable lids advertised but I've never used them.  Right now, canning lids cost about 20 cents each.  The reusable lids cost between 60 and 80 cents each.  After using them four times they'd become money savers.  It would be worth getting.  You would still need to use your rings and it seems that I need to replace them somewhere between every five or ten years.  You don't need nearly as many rings as you do lids, but you can't buy rings separately, they come with lids.  That's ok.  It's always good to have some backups.  But I think I'm done buying Kerr/Ball lids.  I'm going to try the Tattlers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

City girl visits the farm

A twelve year old girl from the grand kids Sunday school came over the other day.  Her family lives in a big house in the city.  They have a maid, gardener, and pool service.  They don't get their hands dirty.  She had never seen farm animals other than at the fair, and it's been a struggle for her to talk her parents into letting her go to the fair.  It's so backward! 

All her life she's told her parents that she was going to raise animals when she grew up.  I invited her over and she talked her dad into bringing her.  She got to feed the sheep, collect eggs from the coop, and play with the baby chicks.  She cut some asparagus to bring home for their dinner.  She even pulled some weeds around the grapevines.  You should have seen her.  She was in heaven! 

As I was showing her father around, I could see the expression on his face that this was not the type of lifestyle that he wanted for his little girl.  She would get dirty. 

To top off her pleasure of being over, I had to bring them into the house.  I'm not sure if I did so more to shock the father or to bring pleasure to the little girl.  We still have the chicks in the laundry room.  They'll be heading out of the house soon, but for now, the laundry room and mud rooms have a rather smelly chicken coop odor.  Now, I do clean out the stock tank every couple of days but you know chicks.  They kick up the pine shavings into their water, poop in everything, and just make it all smell. 

We've gotten used to the smell I suppose.  But the dad.  He was horrified!  It was great fun.  The little girl spent about 30 minutes picking up the chickens.  Rubbing them and talking to them, and cementing in her mind that when she grows up she will live in the country.  Good for her!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Making Olive Oil

I finally got good directions on how to make homemade olive oil without lots of equipment.  An acquaintance of mine started out making olive oil at home and now has a full time business selling oil.  I got a couple different sets of directions so I'm going to meld them together.

First you pick the olives.  An easy way to pick the olives is to put a tarp under the tree and whack the branches with a stick or a wide toothed rake.  You can actually hand pick them if you wanted to.  After you get the olives you sort them and get rid of any that don't look good.  Next you need to crush the olives.  You can either leave the pits in the crush or you can remove them.  You should just leave them in.  When you do, it's harder to crush than taking out the pits but there's oil in them so just figure that it will be a little harder and leave the pits in.

There are several methods of crushing the olives.  Any way will work.  You can soak them in hot water for a bit to soften them or you can just crush them as is.  You can crush them by putting them into a heavy burlap sack and crushing them with a mallet.  You can use a heavy duty pot and crush them using an electric stick blender (if you do it this way add a bit of water to make it easier).  Perhaps using a cherry pitter to pit them prior to crushing may be the way you want to go (after they’ve been soaked).  In the very olden days, prior to using a large grinding wheel, olives were ground using mortar and pestle (just as the Indians ground acorns).  You pick the method; you just need to squish up the olives.  The more crushed they are the more oil you will be able to extract.

There are a couple of methods to extract the oil now that you’ve crushed the olives.  If you crushed the olives in a burlap sack you can leave them in the sack.  If you crushed them in a pot or bowl then you can either put them into a burlap sack or a muslin cloth will also do.  The best method I found for extracting oil is to make some pressing boards and a heavy duty car jack.  Take a plank of wood and use a two by four along the front and back edge to raise the plank up two inches.  The plank needs to be a little larger than the baking sheet you are going to use next.  Then take a heavy duty baking sheet (with sides) and place it on top of plank of wood.  If you want you can fashion a drain coming out of the bottom or side of the baking sheet to easily drain off the oil that you will be extracting. Then take a two pieces of pine board that are about 12”x12”x2”.  Place one on top of the baking sheet.  Next layer the olives in the burlap sack or muslin cloth.  Place the other pine board on top to make an “olive sandwich”.   You will then need a heavy rope or a chain or wire.  Wrap this under the bottom of your plank (this is why you are using the 2x4 to raise it up a little) and up over the top.  Somehow your rope or chain or wire needs to be connected into a circle around your entire olive press.  Put the jack on top of your top pine board and have the rope on the jack.  As you raise the jack you will be putting pressure on the rope, which will in turn press the boards together.  This will be pressing out the olive oil.  Press slowly to remove the oil.  Set aside the oil.  When you don’t get any more oil take the crushed olives and mix it with equal amounts of water.  Bring it to a boil.  Put it through the press again.  You can do this three or four times to get out all the oil. 

Another way to press out the oil, instead of using the rope and jack method, you can use the c-clamp method.  I have some long sliding clamps that can be put in each corner and you can keep pressing the clamps together.  Either way will work.  I don’t like the idea of using a rope, just in case the rope or chain breaks and become a projectile! 

Get a large container that has a spigot at the bottom to drain water from the bottom.  You can use one of those ice tea jars or a five gallon bucket or anything that you can fashion.  After you get out the oil mix your oil mixture with an equal amount of warm water.  Stir well for several minutes.  Let stand for several hours.  Drain off the water from the bottom.  Then add more warm water to the oil and repeat the stir, stand, drain.  Do this several times over two days.

After this is done put a coffee filter into a large funnel.  Pour the oil into the coffee filter to filter out the impurities.  It may take several hours or a day to have it all go through the filter.  You may need to change out the filter if it gets too clogged up with gunk.  With this final step make sure that you do not have water in your final product. 

This fresh olive oil won’t taste very good.  You need to let it sit for a couple of months to enhance the flavor.  There are several ways to speed up this process.  Only fill the bottles 3/4 full and use cotton to plug the bottle rather than a lid.  Keep it away from light and in a warmer room rather than a cooler room. 

Making your own oil is a great step toward self-reliance.  It's not hard to do so I hope this has taken the mystery out of it.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The new 9mm

I finally chose a new handgun.  I tested out about a half dozen.  Most of my friends who are over 60 carry Glocks and swear by them.  The younger crowd only carries Springfields (which I have a very hard time with the slide).  I liked the Smith and Wesson the best.  I bought the M&P 9c.  It's my first 9mm although I've been buying ammunition for it for about six months.  I have more 9mm than I do the .38 special ammo. 

I don't dislike the .38 special but I wish I had been more informed prior to buying it.  I do have a feeling that I will be keeping it in the safe and carrying the 9mm more often.  There may be times that the smaller weapon will fit better with what I am wearing.  We'll see.

In California there is a 10 day waiting period.  They are serious about the 10 days.  I purchased it last Wednesday at 4:00.  This means I can pick it up at Saturday at 4:00.  The store closes at 4:00 so the clerk said if I am there right at 4:00 when they close she can give it to me.  Otherwise I have to wait until Monday.  Once I get it I will call the instructor who taught the CCW class.  I'll meet with him and qualify shooting this weapon.  Then he'll give me a certificate, I'll go down to the sheriff's office, pay the $15 and add this gun to my CCW permit. 

It's a extra process since I didn't own it when I got the permit but it's really not hard to add additional guns to it. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011


This morning as the kids were waiting for the school bus I started pulling weeds by the new grapevines that I planted last year.  The vines are just starting to bud out and the weeds seemed to be taking over.  The ground was so moist that it was easy to pull the weeds.  With each weed pulled a little soil came up and attached to the soil was an earthworm.  That was an exciting sight.  When I first moved to the property 14 years ago there wasn’t an earthworm to be found on the entire property.  After we’d go fishing we’d put the extra worms we bought into the garden.  After a couple of years the earthworm production grew and grew.  And today, one in each pull.  It made me really happy. 

Then off to the office for a full brain-draining day.  Didn’t even get a lunch break.  On the drive home I kept thinking about the weeds and how I’ve sprayed some areas every year and weeds just keep growing.  That’s because I’m spraying with a weed killer that doesn’t penetrate the soil and only kills what it touches.  That’s good since I don’t want to hurt the soil but on the other hand, it’s going to take years and years of spraying to gets all the weeds down to an acceptable level.  I want to do something other than spray.  Then it hit me.  Black plastic. 

The first step is to mow the weeds (or grass if you are expanding your garden and removing your lawn) with either the mower or weed wacker (which I don’t own anymore) or put the animals on it to eat.  Get it as short as possible.  If you mowed just leave the clippings there.  Put a heavy black plastic over the area and secure it in place.  I will use log rounds, although large rocks would work if I had any.  If you want to put down a layer of newspaper or something under the plastic you can.  The whole idea is to block out the light.

Remove the plastic after a couple of weeks.  You will notice that the weeds are half-dead.  They look yellow.  Spray or sprinkle on the weeds a cheap fertilizer, whether homemade or store bought.  (This will excite the plants and they will try their best to grow but continuing with this process will kill them.)  Then disc or spade the soil and turn the sod upside down so the soil side is facing up and the weeds are facing down.  Yes, you just fertilized them and now I’m telling you to turn the soil over.  Cover this with newspapers (optional) and the black plastic and anchor with the logs or rocks.  Leave it covered for a couple more weeks. 

Remove the plastic and your soil should be ready to work and plant.  Total time, under two months.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stocking up on sandbags.

Around here some locations flood every year.  In fact, the largest lake in the state, Lake Tulare, exists only during a winter of heavy rainfall.  Then the lake has the ability to cover over 600 square miles!  Fortunately this is expected and the farmland is planted with crops that can withstand the water.  Almost yearly damaging flooding occurs in areas where water doesn’t run off into storm drains or where the ground is so saturated that it just pools. 

The fire stations usually have a pile of sand and the bags.  All you have to do is shovel the sand into the bags and take them home.  If you can’t shovel the sand, like I can’t with my arm in a sling, the firefighters will shovel it for you and load it into your vehicle.  It’s an easy way to protect your property.  Unfortunately, the sandbags deteriorate so you can’t reuse them year after year.  You have to get new sandbags each winter.  If it was me, I’d put the sand into the garden after using them for holding back the water.  Our soil is clay and could use the additional sand. 

People were interviewed on the local news about picking up sandbags.  One woman complained that the sandbags don’t work.   She won’t take advantage of the free (your tax dollars at work) sandbags even though she lives in a flood prone area.  Why?  When the water runs off her roof it gets trapped between the sandbag and her house.  She is incorrectly placing the sandbags but would rather put up with the damage then protect herself.  In the end the fire department came and pumped out much of the standing water to help alleviate the flood. 

I noticed that I have standing water right next to the house during some of these downpours that hasn’t occurred in the past.  We dug out some plants near the house a couple of months ago and this is the cause of it.  It’s not flooding the house but it isn’t good for the siding.  I’m going to be putting rain gutters up this spring (doesn’t help right now though but my one arm just isn’t going to be able to do it!).  If rain water was flooding the house I certainly wouldn’t do nothing and expect the fire department to bail me out (pun intended) or the insurance to pay for the repairs.  I’d take some tarps and use them to redirect the water if I didn’t have sandbags or I’d get out a shovel and pile soil higher next to the house. 

Having a 55 gallon rain barrel wouldn’t help.  In this area of my house about 500 square feet is draining off the roof.  If we get an inch of rain that would mean 300 gallons of water.  I’m trying to figure out how much to capture and whether it would stay stored in that spot or moved to a larger tank.  I have a cement pad next to the house that is used for a patio area for the trailer.  I have plenty of room to put a one thousand gallon water storage tank there and still have space for the patio.  I’m still thinking of putting a 10,000+ gallon tank out at the barn to capture rain coming off the barn.  A years worth of rain will fill about 15,000 gallons off the barn alone so I wouldn’t need to move water from near the house out to the barn tank.  Perhaps a tank in the front pasture to take care of the watering of those fruit trees (and for emergency drinking water)? 

Somewhere between one and five thousand dollars are going to be available this year so I will do something.    Lots of decisions still to make. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bored and wishing I could go out and do chores!

I went to the office today.  First time since my arm surgery last Thursday.  I lasted for four hours then sent an email to the boss telling him I was going home.  If he needed to reach me he could call but I wasn't going to check email.  I then came home and took a nap!  In the middle of the day!  On a work day!  The grandkids woke me up when they got home from school.  We are hungry, what's for snack?  Broken record...go pick something off a tree.  But today they got a cookie out of me as well.  Lucky them. 

We got almost three inches of rain over the weekend and it's supposed to rain again starting tomorrow.  Today would have been a perfect day to get some chores done.  The sun was shining.  It wasn't too cold.  Not only did I not work much at the office, I didn't do anything here either.  I haven't really done much outside in the last week.  I'm bored with doing nothing.  I'm anxious to go out and so something. Anything!

I am glad that I had the surgery on my arm.  I sent pictures out to family of the bruising and the incision.  It's ugly.  No laparoscopic surgery for me.  This scar is going to be four or five inches in length.  Good thing I'm not an arm model!

There is so much outside work to do.  The number one thing is to take care of my male lambs.  I don't even know if the fifth lamb is male or female.  The sheep are all locked into the stall area and oldest daughter comes over every couple days to drag a bale of hay into them.  She won't chase the sheep and I can't so I'll just have to wait another week to whether my lambs.  The baby chicks are going to be in the house for a few more weeks.  That's good because it will be a chore getting them out to the coop.  I need to make a good area for them so they will be able to keep themselves separate from the other chickens for a few weeks once they are all in the coop together.  I planted many seeds and I have lots of small vegetables growing.  I disked the garden a few days before surgery so it's about ready to get planted.  I put in an order for some railroad ties to make some raised beds, but I can't work on that until my arm gets better so they aren't going to deliver them yet.  If they did, then I'd do something stupid like try to move them one-handed.  The fruit trees are all in bloom.  They were all trimmed during the winter so there isn't anything left to do for them other than watch the fruit grow.  We will be picking our first fruit in May.  I can't wait.  Sorry orange tree...we are still picking oranges and other citrus.  That goes almost year round. 

What if this was a situation where I needed to be working out in the garden even though I can't use the left arm?  I'd do it.  I'd go slow, but I would still manage.  Fortunately, I can wait a couple of weeks until the arm heals.  That was one of the reasons I chose to have the surgery now.  Get it fixed while the timing is right.

I started writing this post a while ago.  I couldn't take it any longer.  I went out side and pulled weeds.  That's a never ending chore and with the ground so saturated it's easy to do one handed. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gas and Food prices are up - Breaking News?

An article in Yahoo News explained how the rising food and gas prices are a double whammy for rural folks.  The gist is that is costs more and now rural folks are suffering.  I agree that it costs more for us rural folks.  I'm not sure suffering is accurate to describe it, although belt tightening is definitely a consequence.  The two people they used as examples were examples of wasteful spending and what not to do.  I'm sure that the few items that have been written are just the tip of the iceberg on how these people live.  I bet neither have more than three days worth of food in the house.  I've provided a few simple suggestions to alleviate their suffering.
The article interviews two people who both live outside large cities.  One is 30 miles away, the other 45 miles.  The one who lives 30 miles outside of town said that her family lives in HUD housing, they receive Medicaid, they have food stamps, and still had the audacity to complain that even with all this they still struggle!  It’s not that I’m not sympathetic.  I would be if the person wasn’t so wasteful of what they are given.  This complainer makes the 60-mile round trip into the city twice a week for groceries.  She's not driving in for doctor appointments or work, but groceries.  She said she spent $50 on gas to fill the car and it will be gone in three days.  She was complaining that she’s had to pay $200 more a month in groceries the last couple of months – on top of the food stamps that she receives for her family of five. 
Suggestions: You get your food stamps only once per month and the government doesn't ration the money out twice a week.  Don’t drive to town twice a week to go to the grocery store; cut it back to once or twice a month.  If you run out then eat something else that you have on hand.  Sure you may not have bananas that will last for the entire month but that’s ok.  Don’t eat bananas at the end of the month, eat apples!  Don’t buy the Capri Sun that you were unloading from your car during the interview.  Drink water.  Your kids won’t like it but the fact is the stuff isn’t needed and you can’t afford it.  Don’t buy anything that says instant, quick, or is ready to eat – unless it’s fresh fruit.  Watch your portions. 

What to buy.  Look at the servings on the oatmeal container.  Buy the largest non-instant container the store has.  Since there are five of you, you will need to get 125 servings of oatmeal.  Get four dozen eggs and three loaves of bread.   Get a big box of powdered milk.  Get some apples.  That's all you need for breakfast for the entire month. For under $50 you can have breakfast for the family.  This isn't the most exciting menu but it will get them through.  Use some of the food stamp money to grow a garden. 

The second person drives her 22 year old gas guzzler car two miles, parks it, and then hops in with a friend to carpool the 45 miles to grocery shop.  She makes twice weekly trips to town and helps pay for gas.  This lady lives on 20 acres and she’s been there for 12 years.  She lives off grid in a trailer.  She runs her generator three hours a day so she can watch the news and do chores.  She raises chickens and has a garden.  She can’t wait for summer when her chickens will start laying and the garden will provide fresh vegetables. She heats with wood and a propane heater.  Her only income is Social Security.   She wants the politicians to donate their paychecks to Medicare and food and services for children.  She says they should step up because they are already wealthy and if they did this then it would give her faith and hope because she loves America. 

Suggestions: Her situation is a little different.  I wouldn’t say that she should only go to town once or twice per month as I thought the other person should.  This woman is using the trips as her social experiences yet she still needs to stop the two trips to town each week to cut down on gas expenses.  Once the good weather comes she should spend more time in her garden and expand it.  She needs to either dry or can what she produces and not depend on it only for fresh food.  Perhaps if the 20 acres is usable, she should rent some of it out to a neighbor.  Become more self sufficient and don't base your happiness on what the government gives you.

Around here weare still using canned spaghetti sauce that cost 78 cents a can (at least when we don't use home grown and canned sauce).  The store is now selling it for 96 cents and the calorie content is less!  Why?  Because they are adding more water and less tomatoes. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cheesemaking: a simple cheese is quick and easy to make

This recipe has been hitting the internet lately: it's one that I've used for a long while.  It's quick and easy, and like my bread recipe can be adjusted to any flavor you want.  You take 1/2 gallon of whole milk.  Heat it to 190 degrees (I've read anywhere between 180 and 200).  Once it gets to the 190 shut off the heat.  Pour in 1/4 cup of white vinegar or lemon juice.  Stir for a bit to separate the curds and whey.  Line a colander with a muslin towel (I use a kitchen towel and not a cheese cloth) and pour the liquid into it.  Take the four corners of the cloth and bring them together.  I then dumped the whey back into the pot and hung the tied cloth up on the knob of the cabinet.  It dripped into a bowl.  After about an hour or so I opened the cloth and took the ball of cheese out.  I put it into a plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.  That's all there is to it. 

Some people add a little salt.  You can add seasonings if you want.  Dill cheese is good.  Be creative.  It's a good use for milk and if I ever do get another milk goat or we get a cow much of the milk will go to cheese.  This type is quick, easy, and really versatile.  You can use it in any recipe that calls for ricotta or cottage cheese...Think lasagna!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Converted Army Daughter to Becoming Prepared

The grandkids came in yesterday and wanted to know what I was going to do if the radiation came close to our home.  I told them that they would not get to go outside to play and that they'd get a nice yellow lotion put on them (Betadine).  They wanted to try it out so they came into my room and I squirted some into their hand and let them wipe it on their bellies.  Wow, it turns yellow!  They were laughing.  I told them that it's really good soap and they can go wash it off their hands and it will lather up really well. 

I explained to the kids that the crops in Japan are affected and although their government keeps saying that the radiation won't harm anyone, if they offered the food to us, we wouldn't eat it.  We have a good supply and don't even have to worry about buying food for a long time if radiation affected our crops.

I guess listening to me tell the kids calmly about how this may affect our country, Army Daughter went into a panic.  What about her family?  I always say that we've got plenty of food but now that there are three more people here she is worried: is it enough?  What about if her sister and brother and their families need to come over.  Are we prepared for sixteen people?  She said that she's noticed I read those survivalist blogs and it got her to thinking, she needs to do something and NOW! 

Wow, I converted my daughter without even trying.  All that time I was trying she thought it was dumb.  I tried to assure her we will be fine.  No she argued, we need to prepare now!   Let's go to the store now before things do go bad and people panic.  Like she was, I thought?  Anyway, she had a chat with her husband who said ok, although I think it was more to amuse her than because he thought it was necessary.  She wanted me to come because I would know what to get.  Off to Costco and Winco we went.  Daughter drove her SUV, son-in-law drove my pickup.

They wouldn't let me push a cart because of my arm in the sling, but because Army daughter, her husband, and the grandkids were all there, we filled a flat cart and three shopping carts at Costco.  Then we went to Winco and filled another cart.  Over one thousand dollars later, Army daughter was happy.  They had just purchased food, household supplies, baby needs, and some fun foods, she was very talkative on the way home.  She realized that her brother and sister should either purchase items and leave them at our house, or give us money to purchase them and store them here. 

Then she started talking about safety of the property, hordes of people who may leave the city and head our way to loot the property, and on and on.  After five hours of shopping we finally made it home.  It was an exciting night. 

Of course listening to the news today you'd never know there was a problem with the nuclear plants in Japan.  All we hear is Libya and Yemen with a skiff of Egypt and Israel.  I guess the nuclear plants aren't an issue after all as they are trying to get them stabilized.  Army daughter isn't disappointed.  She said that it's a good feeling to know she is supplied for the long haul.  They may be moving to another state in the next couple months, but she wants to leave supplies here just in case.  Wow, I'm impressed. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

CCW permit is here

It took nine months from start to finish but I finally received my CCW permit in the mail.  The restrictions state it is not authorized in any courthouses, school grounds, commercial airport facility, or if I'm drunk or on medication/drugs. I am supposed to use good judgement and sound decision making in the care, transport, holstering, and/or use of the permitted weapon.  Overall, it was an easy process, just long.  I urge anyone who is thinking about getting one to get on it and get the process started.

Still worried about the radiation? Where can you buy supplies?

We all know that the stores are sold out of potassium iodide.  The bottle of iodine I have is a 4 ounce bottle.  That came from the pharmacy.  You can purchase Betadine from your local feed store or pet supply.  I know my local feed store has a quart bottle of 7.5% Betadine for $16.95.  If an adult uses 1 teaspoon per day, then this bottle provides 192 applications. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Surgery today

I'm having the surgery on my arm today.  I expect it to all go well and the biggest downfall is that I can't eat in the morning.  Surgery isn't until afternoon but no food or water past midnight.  Normally I've eaten breakfast by 7:00.  Son-in-law said that he'd get up with the grandkids and feed them so I wouldn't have to even look at food.  It won't help, I'll be able to smell it.  I probably won't write anything other than this for today.  I'll be back on Friday.  Have a good day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There's no more potassium iodide, oh no! Now what should I be doing? has a really good website that gives good information about nuclear disasters.  This is the company that sells nuclear alert key chains.  What to do if a nuclear disaster is imminent,, discusses food supplies, water, shelter, and ways to survive safely.  They have information about what to do if you don't have Potassium Iodide tablets. (What, I thought you were prepared?)
Because we are so far away from Japan there is a high likelihood that radiation that does reach here will be less dangerous due to natural atmospheric dispersion and natural decay over time before it arrives.  Not that my telling you this will comfort you.  You are kicking yourself for not preparing in advance for a nuclear reaction?  If you don't have tablets you can still protect yourself!  Apply on your skin (paint it on) either tincture of iodine or Betadine to get a similar protective effect. Do not drink this stuff!  Start this procedure prior to exposure if at all possible.  Doses are as follows: 1 1/2 teaspoons on the abdomen or forearm each day.  For children or adults under 150 pounds use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon depending on weight.  You can even use this on infants and young children under three years old.  For them use 1/4 of a teaspoon.  Don't use this if you are allergic to iodine! 
Other than taking pills or wiping yourself with iodine or Betadine, what should you be doing to prepare?  Easy!  Pastures, livestock and crops quite possibly will be adversely affected for about a month or so.  What does this mean to you?  It means that our milk and vegetable supplies for the next month or two can become contaminated.  Stock up now on fresh or frozen vegetables (or canned, dehydrated, or freeze dried) and milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products.  Fill all empty containers with water.  It's almost spring.  I know how many canning jars I have that are empty, waiting for the summer crops to be put up.  They are all getting filled. 
Two simple things to keep you safer and healthy: iodine rub and stocking up on veggies, dairy, and water. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rethinking what's in the bug-out bag

After seeing what's going on in Japan I think that we should all update our bug-out bags and items stored in the vehicles.  Think about the folks in Japan.  When the camera panned on those standing up on the hills when their homes were washing away, I didn't see any carrying backpacks.  They left with nothing.  You always need something either on you or within a minute or two of you.  For example, when I travel, my main bag is usually in my truck.  When I was just in Hawaii last week it was on my back almost every minute (not at the pool or beach, but it was within a three minute walk back).

What are the main issues with the folks in Japan?  Food, water, shelter (warmth) - let's not get into the nuclear issues.   I'm not going to give a specific list today on everything in my pack instead I'm writing about a couple of things that I carry that may be a little different than what others carry.  Also, three days is not enough food.   I have added a larger supply of food that doesn't need any preparation.  We all think about carrying our little stoves and fuel but if possible most of your food should be able to be eaten without preparation.  This should be your bug-out and short term survival bag, not a permanent bag.  True that you can go for a while without food, and the tv has been stating that fact.  But what's also true is that if you do not have food you will not be thinking clearly, and in a situation like that, it's no time to not be thinking clearly.  Pack food!  

Most people have a mylar blanket or two to provide warmth.  Not me.  I have my little sleeping bag (not the big bag that's stored in the trailer). Why?  When in a situation where you are displaced and don't know where you will be sleeping, having an actual blanket will allow you to have a better night sleep.  Mine is tied onto the bottom of my pack.  I also have an extra large plastic trash bag.  This will provide some shelter from rain as well as add additional heat.  Try this experiment.  Sleep on your own bed tonight but only use a mylar blanket then tomorrow sleep with a fleece blanket.  Even on your own bed, which will already provide more comfort than sleeping on the ground, see which provides you with a better night sleep. 

What about water?  There's water all around but it needs to be filtered.  All those people are waiting for bottles of water.  I could drink the stuff that's pooled because I have a filter. 

Don't take this wrong, I am prepared for survival and not just short term comfort.  I have about 50 other things in my bag as well.  I also know how to make a survival shelter, hunt for food, etc. But that's it for today.  The three absolute basics.  Food, water, shelter. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Chores

Here, as everywhere, spring brings a plethora of chores that need to be done both inside and out.  It seems that we put things off until the good weather arrives and then we are inspired to fix everything.  Or at least some things.  Or at least think about things.

Yesterday it was warm enough that I was able to spray paint the well pressure tank.  It had a little rust on it so instead of ignoring it, I got out the rustoleum paint and sprayed away.  Unfortunately, I needed about 1 and a 1/4 cans of paint and I only had one can of the blue.  I'll buy another and paint it next week.  We aren't going to have warm enough weather for the rest of this week to complete the project.  I have lots of white rustoleum paint.  Every year I touch up the propane tank.  When I moved here 14 years ago I found out that the tank is mine, it's not a rental from some propane company.  In that case, it's my responsibility to make sure it lasts.  Otherwise I'll either have to shell out $1500 for a new one or rent one from a propane company.  It's cheaper to buy a couple of cans of paint each year. 

The propane tank is white and the well tank was a very faded, light blue.  Granddaughter decided it should be bright blue and for some reason I agreed.  It is a little too bright for my taste but it's partially hidden by the bay laurel tree (home grown bay leaves) so I'll leave it that color.  I usually have about a dozen cans of rustoleum paint on hand - white and JD green.  I shake the cans every couple of months to keep things stirred up.  Now I'll have to get a supply of the blue for the tank. 

The drier handle looks awful after my J-B WELD repair.  I need to sand down the globs that I left and then paint it black.  It will look good after that.  I have several cans of flat black bumper spray paint.  That will look good on the drier door.  It does matter that the glob gets removed and the handle painted.  Some people may not think so but I've found that if something looks nice people have more of a tendency to take better care of it than if something looks like crap.  When that's the case then too often attitudes are it doesn't matter how the item is treated, it's junk anyway.  Although, when someone says that to me my response is always, "but it's MY junk, not yours" so treat it properly. 

The baby chicks arrived today.  I had to retrieve them from the post office this morning.  Several other people must have placed orders too because the chirping of the chicks was really loud and it didn't subside when I took away my box.  All 27 arrived healthy, hungry, and thirsty.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

J-B WELD - get some now

Do you have any J-B WELD?  Have you even heard of it?  If not, please read up on the stuff.  Everyone should have a few packages in their toolbox.  The company does have a website and the link I’m providing goes to the product use page: . No, I don't have any ties to this Sulpher Springs, Texas company. 

I’ve used it many times here at home including today, fixing the handle on the drier door.  This stuff is more versatile than superglue.  It bonds to just about anything and any combination of things. 

A friend of mine told me about this stuff when my son had a crack in his radiator.  The repair worked.  I would like to tell you that it still works but I don’t know: Son had that car repossessed (no I didn’t bail him out and make his payments!).  I’m sure it’s still working for the new owner. 

The baby chicks are coming tomorrow and they are going to be housed in the leaking stock tank.  But once they go out to the coop the stock tank will be repaired with J-B WELD and will then be put back out into the pasture. 

There are several different types of J-B WELD.  I haven’t used them all but I do have several of them here at home.  I use the J-B STIK, J-B WELD, and J-B KWIK.  After reading about the stuff on their website today I realize I need WATERWELD and PERM-O-SEAL too.

It’s easy to use.  Most of their products come in two tubes that you mix together.  You use equal portions from the two tubes.  Mix the stuff together on a paper plate or something that you can throw out when you are done.  I use a small stick such as a matchstick or toothpick to stir it up.  Clean the surface of what you are bonding this to, then apply and let cure.  It’s really easy.  After you mix it you have about 30 minutes to get the job completed and it’s fully cured in less than a day.  The KWIK product sets in just a few minutes and cures in half the time as the regular. 

STIK comes in a tube like a Gluestick.  It’s like a putty.  You knead it with your fingers then apply to what needs to be repaired.  It fully cures in under half an hour and can be drilled, sanded, filed, tapped, machined, and painted.  It will cure submerged in water or gasoline! 

J-B WELD needs to be in your toolbox now.  It’s not expensive, about four or five dollars per package. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Perhaps I shouldn't go on vacation

Army Daughter came in to tell me that I shouldn't go on vacation.  After all, don't I always say that I'd rather be home than anywhere else?  Dorothy realized it at the end of The Wizard of Oz that there's no place like home. 

Army Daughter pointed out that I was scheduled to go on a vacation with a group of friends in January.  Two friends offered to pay my way as a birthday present.  The group was going on a cruise to Mexico.  Remember the cruise ship that caught fire and then floundered until it was towed back to shore?  Our trip was supposed to be on that same ship.  The trip was cancelled because the ship wasn't repaired by the time our trip was scheduled. 

Two months later I take a trip to Hawaii.  My first time on the islands.  It's hit with a wind storm, volcanic eruption, and tsunami.  Daughter wants to know where my next trip is going to be.  She's heading in the opposite direction.  No wonder I prepare for anything!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami, volcano eruption…and you ask how my trip was!

As you know, I’ve been gone for the last week and a half.  My trip was supposed to be part fun vacation and part learning new skills and experiences.  Boy was it!  I was in Hawaii. 

I spent time learning about the fauna and flora of the islands.   The weather in most parts of the state runs between 60 and 85 for the highs and lows year round.  Hawaii would be a good place to be for self sufficiency.  Anywhere one moves to you need to prepare for the worst conditions. I got to experience the good and the bad, sort of…I escaped before I had to deal with any real incidents, I just got to watch people prepare, sort of.

I met several people who lived in homes without electricity or “running” water.  Actually the water system was really impressive and something that I now plan on doing here, possibly instead of rather than in addition to putting solar on the well.  I’ll get back to that after I tell the rest of the story about the trip. 

Honolulu is a large city and we stayed in Waikiki.  The beach was great but the city was very noisy.  My brother-in-law said that it was as noisy there during the night as in New York City.  At my house the only nighttime noise is coyotes howling and dogs barking to keep the coyotes away.  I was in Oahu when they had a windstorm that knocked out the power to much of the island.  The electric company workers were on strike so it took several days before the outlying areas had power returned. 

We toured Oahu and I spoke with many people who lived pretty self sufficiently – caching their water and eating many of the wild things that grew or trapping some of the thousands of wild chickens.  Then it was on to the big island right when the fissure cracked and the lava started spewing.  We stayed in the town of Volcano.  This was, as you would expect, right next to the erupting volcano (there are five on the island, Kilauea is the active one).  We completely circled the island, except where the lava is going into the ocean, of course. 

Then it was back to Honolulu for the flight back to the mainland.  When I got on the plane for the 45 minute flight from Hilo to Honolulu all was well in the world.  When I got off the plane, the earthquake and tsunami had both occurred in Japan.  The televisions were all reporting it and the tsunami sirens started blaring in Honolulu. I left Honolulu at 11:50 last night, just two hours before the tsunami hit that city.  I made it back to the mainland about 5 minutes before the tsunami hit the west coast. 

So much for the vacation.  How about the water system?  We make such a big deal here about having 55 gallon rain barrels or storing water in 55 gallon barrels.  Not there.  Unless you live in one of the main cities, or off the Kona coast where ocean water is transformed into drinking water, you are responsible for your own water supply.  So what, so am I.  I’m on a well.  But the well depends on electricity or solar to pump the water.  In Hawaii, most people are on a catchment system.  The place I stayed at had a 14,000 gallon tank in the backyard.  Most homes had tanks that size in that area.  In areas of more rain they had smaller tanks. 

The house had rain gutters running along the fascia.  The rain gutters ended up bringing the water into a three inch pipe that went below ground about a foot then came back up the side of the tank.  The force of the rainwater coming through the pipe pushed the water back up the pipe to the top of the tank and into the tank.  There was an overflow pipe at the top in case the tank filled up. 

The house water then came from their 14,000 gallons of stored water.  The water in that area is acidic (think acid rain) due to the volcanic activity.  The owner said that they had three filters plus an ultraviolet light that purified the water.  They also had a pump that automatically went on each time water was turned on in the house.  This provided more pressure than if the water was coming directly from the tank without the pump.  I would have thought that there would be enough pressure coming from the 14,000 gallons that a pump wouldn’t have been needed, but that was the way they did it.  When I went to the USGS office they also had a catchment system.  They just filtered their rainwater through a sand filtering system.  It seems much simpler.

On a post a while ago I wrote about how much water can be cached.  For every 1000 square feet of ground space being covered you get 600 gallons for each inch of rain.  For an area with 50 inches of rain, a 2000 square foot structure (think house and garage) can catch 60,000 gallons of water in a year.  That’s almost 200 gallons of water per day.  I don’t get 50 inches of rain per year.  We get 11 or 12.  But between my two barns, the house, and garage I can catch water from over 6,000 square feet! 3,600 gallons for each inch of rain or about 40,000 gallons!  That’s over 100 gallons per day that would be available. 

I’m not going to have a 40,000 gallon tank.  I may get a 10,000 gallon tank.  I would have more water available during the winter because the tank would be refilling after I use the water but it would have to be full at the end of March and would have to extend until October when it rains again.  Realistically I’d have about 50 gallons of water available per day. 

The family who I stayed with pointed out that in most places in the world, catchment is the way people get their water.  We are just so modernized that we forget how simple water storage can be. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Preparing for the new chicks, the lost Knox box, and packing for a trip

Since I'm going to be away from home for the next week and a half and two days after I return the new chicks arrive I figured that I'd better prepare for them now.  Since I don't know what the weather is going to be when I return I've got everything set up in the laundry room.  I brought in a water tank that was in the pasture last season but it sprung a leak at one of the seams.  I will be fixing it before summer but for now, it will be perfect for the baby chicks.  I have a heat lamp that's hanging over the tank.  I had a pile of pine shavings that I put on the bottom of the tank.  I have two little waterers that screw onto canning jars.  I set up two one quart jars.  I won't fill them until I return but it's all ready otherwise. 

I forgot to bring in the feeder from the barn.  It's about a foot long with little spaces for the chicks to put their beaks in to get at the food.  I'll bring it in when I return.  When I first started raising chicks I just put the food into a bowl but they climb in and soil the food.  It's better this way.  When I've had them in an old rabbit cage I had the food on the outside of the cage and they were able to squeeze their heads through to get to the food.  That worked great because it kept the food completely clean. 

For the first few days you can't have them in the shavings.  A layer of newspaper is put on top of the shavings.  This only lasts for a couple of days.  Then they can be directly in the shavings.  You don't want to put them in sawdust or sand because they are too stupid and will try to eat that rather than their food. 

I have two heat lamps but because they will be in the house I should only need one.  You keep the area right under the lamp at 95 degrees for the first week and lower the temperature by five degrees each week.  If they are huddling to much and not walking around during the day then you should add a second lamp or lower it a little closer.  If they don't huddle when they are young then the heat is too high. 

The front gate is great but my Knox box never arrived.  That's the box that's required to be put out front for the fire department to use.  It has a switch in it that they can flip if they need to get in and the gate is locked (it's got a remote controlled and keypad lock).  Of course, in a TEOTWAWKI situation I wouldn't want them to be able to get in but if that was the case I could disconnect the switch by removing the wiring.  Not an issue.  Of course, in these times, if I didn't have a Knox box and the house was on fire the fire department would just run over the gate.  Never mind that it's wrought iron.  I've seen them do it before.  It leaves a mangled mess and they aren't liable for destroying it. 

I contacted the Knox box company and told them that it never arrived.  It was shipped last November...ok, so I'm a little slow at letting them know, but it's not going in until the spring anyway.  They contacted me the next day to tell me that FedEx had lost it and they were sending out a replacement.  It should arrive when I'm out of town. Son-in-law has been directed to put it into the garage.

I'm looking forward to this trip.  I'll learn a lot and have fun at the same time.  No guns allowed where I'm going.  I usually don't check luggage so the first thing I do is pick up a knife.  Not this trip.  I am checking luggage so I've got a couple of knives packed.  They're packed with the fishing equipment although I'm not planning on fishing. 

I don't know if I'll be able to get onto the computer.  If I can I'll definitely write.  Otherwise I'll be back on the 11th or 12th.