Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ban carpet

 I have a fascination with basements because the first time I ever saw one or was in one was about 15 years ago.  In this part of the state only the real old houses have basements.  One of the reasons they did was so people had a cool place to go during the hot time of the year.  It also served as a storage area for the larder.  My house sits on a concrete slab.  I just dream of having a basement. 

A few years ago I changed the flooring in my house.  I pulled out all the carpet.  I do have a few rooms with hardwood floors and those will stay because they cost too much and I really like them.  The rest of the flooring got replaced with either stamped colored cement or with tile.  When I first moved into this house I pulled the carpet out of the hallway.  I didn't really have the money to replace it with anything and I also didn't know what I wanted to do with the floor.  I went to the store and spent about fifty dollars on a bunch of cans of Make it Rock which is a spray paint that comes out in blotches.  You spray it on and it looks like granite.  You are supposed to spray it on flower pots and stuff.  I sprayed it on the floor.  I did this for the hall and kids bathroom.  It comes with the spray and also an overcoat.  I kept it that way for seven or eight years.  It actually looked pretty good. 

I do like the feel of carpet under my feet.  Just vacuumed carpet looks good too.  I remember my first house with long shag carpet.  We had a carpet rake to make the shag all go in the same direction!  There are a couple reasons that the carpets were pulled.  First is with kids it gets dirty quickly.  Second, if you, or the people who lived in the house before you had pets, at least one pet will have used the carpet as a cat box or lawn.  Even if it's cleaned and sanitized, it doesn't come out of the pad.  When you pull out a carpet and pad you will be shocked at the pad.  Third, carpet catches fire. 

The fire aspect is the main reason I don't want carpet in my house.  You can throw a small rug on the floor in certain spots if you want to have some comfort under your feet in an area where you do stationary standing such as the kitchen sink and the laundry room.  But if we are in TEOTWAWKI, in my house we will be using candles or lamps in the evening (and also small solar lamps) rather than relying on flashlights. I guarantee that no matter how safe you think you are you or someone is going to drop a candle or lamp on the floor.  If you do that on cement, there's no harm.  If you do that on carpet your entire house can go up in flames. 

OK, have to tell another Army daughter story.  She and her husband pay for the food around here since I'm not charging them rent.  They are saving money for a down payment on a house.  They spend as much money on the food bill each month as my oldest daughter spends on her house payment.  Yesterday I looked in the refrigerator and noticed that there were lots of left overs.  Why don't we just eat this stuff for dinner?  Good idea.  Then she went shopping.  She decided to buy stuff for fruit salad.  She called to let me know.  I told her that I don't buy stuff for fruit salad, we make fruit salad.  At this time of year it's a pretty bleak fruit salad.  Oranges, grapefruit, and bananas.  Maybe an apple.  But wait until next month!  Fresh from the yard cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, berries the list goes on.  No she wanted it now.  She bought a cantaloupe, honeydew, blackberries, kiwi, bananas, apples, pineapple (two of these already cut up), and so much more.  I counted eleven different types of fruit.  Then she bought two cans of whipped cream and smothered the whole thing in that.  I figured her fruit salad cost fifty dollars!!!!!  It did last for dinner and also breakfast this morning.  I'll wait until next month.  Fruit salad will be free.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jack of all trades? Can you fix just about anything? It's easy if you observe.

How do you fix something when you’ve never fixed it before and you don’t know how?  Sometimes I wonder how Army daughter could be as high ranking as she is.  I suppose all her common sense goes to that and then there's little room left for anything else.  Her car is at the shop getting repaired.  It's been there for a couple of weeks because the local Ford dealer can't quite figure out what the problem is.  I spoke to the mechanic at work and he said it may just be one of those problems where you have to try one fix and if it doesn't work try another and another until your process of elimination is over.  Anyway, she wanted to take the grandkids out to the school, which although is the most local "park" it's still over five miles away.  OK, she could borrow my truck. Just be careful.  She's usually a good driver and none of the girls want to be put into the same category as their brother who totaled my car a few years back. 

When she came back she said there was a little problem because she hit the garage door.  Actually it was the trim around the door that she hit with the mirror as she was pulling in the garage.  She ripped it completely away from the wall.  She kept proclaiming that she was really sorry and that we better call her insurance company to pay for the repair.  What????

Fix it yourself, I told her.  How?  First look at see the nondamaged side to see what it's supposed to look like.  The rubber trim was pulled out of the wood.  The trim is held on by nails.  Go into the garage and get the same size nails.  Then pull out the old nails and put new ones in.  Don't nail them all the way in with the hammer or you will mark the wood.  You can use another nail to push them in, or get a punch out of the toolbox.  Just remember to look at what's there, how it was put together, then recreate it.  It's not really hard to do most home repairs. 

The other day she tried making coffee.  My coffee maker isn't that hard to use.  We've gone over it several times and to make it really easy, I have two of everything so as she removes something she can replace it with the identical part.  There are five parts to making coffee.  Part 1. Add the beans.  You open the top and take out the grinder.  Notice how the lid attaches.  Take the clean grinder.  Put beans in up to the line.  Put the grinder lid on.  Put it back into the spot the grinder goes in - the same spot you took out the dirty grinder. Part 2. Put in the filter. Take out the old filter with the used wet coffee grounds in it.    Notice the three pieces to the filter system: the top and bottom of the filter container and the mesh filter.  Put the mesh filter into the filter container.  Put it back in the same spot you took the other filter out of.  Look at what you just removed.  Set up the clean one the same way.  Part 3.  Take out the coffee pot and lid and put in a clean coffee pot and lid.  Do not forget to put on the lid to the coffee pot.  You did notice that the dirty one had a lid on, didn't you?  Of course not.  Part 4.  Pour the water in up to the 12 cup line.  Part 5.  Press start.  Since you didn't put the lid on the coffee pot the filter isn't going to be able to drain the coffee out the bottom.  Did you not notice that the lid has a little hump in it to push on the plug of the filter?  No?  This means the coffee is going to come out the top of the filter and spill out over the counter and floor.  Am I just a little frustrated???

I guess I've gotten used to fixing things myself.  It saves money and often time, and it makes me more self sufficient.  I suppose that's why Army daughter and her husband would rather be in an apartment in the city than "banished" to the countryside as they are now. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How safe are you in your home?

The local news reported that police are looking for robbers who tied up and beat up a woman in her own home during a home invasion robbery.  The man and woman stole the woman’s car, bank card, jewelry, and electronics.  The woman was able to get free and go to a neighbor’s home for help.  The story continued with a report that neighbors said they’ve seen a suspicious couple in the area over the past few weeks. 
I have some questions about this story.  What time in the morning?  Was the woman up and about or in bed sleeping?  Was the woman home alone?  Was this a surprise attack?  Did she have the tv or radio blasting so she wouldn’t have been aware of any noise in her house?  Did the couple knock on the door, kick down the door, walk in through an open and unlocked door, break a window, or exactly how did they get in?  How long were they there?  How did she escape?   
I used to assume my home was a safe place.  I kept the doors and windows open all night for ¾ of the year.  I lost my house key and didn’t replace it for several years.  During that time my house was never locked.  I do live in a safe place, but really, no place is safe if it happens to be the place the bad guys pick.  If I heard a strange noise I’d go outside to investigate.  I would bring a cell phone with me that was dialed to 911 (all I’d have to do is press Send) just in case I’d come across someone who wasn’t supposed to be on my property. 
I still assume my home is a safe place.  I don’t keep the doors locked all the time.  If the grandkids are home that would be a pain.  If I’m holed up in the house working on the computer or something, the doors are closed, but not always locked.  On the other hand, at night I no longer keep the doors wide open.  They are closed and locked.  I also have an alarm system at the house.  It has a door chime function and I have it set to chime every time a door or window opens.  I’ve also told the grandkids that they are supposed to call out that they are home when they come in from school or from being away for any length of time.  Otherwise if the chime goes off I will call out who’s there?  I expect an answer or I will be investigating along with a handgun and the cell phone. 
I don’t keep all the windows shut and locked when I’m home.  The windows that are usually open are smaller and inconvenient to get through or they are in the room that I’m working in.  There are four that are usually open, even when unattended.  One is above the washing machine.  It’s a short and narrow window that’s about four feet off the ground.  The second window is above the kitchen sink.  It’s the same size as the one above the washing machine.  If someone climbed through this one they’d end up in the kitchen sink.  It would make a lot of commotion.  The final two windows are in my room.  The openings are about a foot square.  Not too many people could enter through those.  All of the windows have screens on them so taking them off is another step that would have to be taken to get in.  Taking off screens isn’t going to really even slow anyone down but it will make enough noise to give me a bit of warning.  I don’t have the tv or radio on for background noise.  If those are on it’s because I’m purposefully listening to them. 
When the other windows are open they are only open about two inches then get blocked by built in window locks.  They are double hung windows and I open the top, not the bottom.  This means the opening is about six feet above ground level. 
I hate to say it but one of the best security devices we’ve gotten is Army daughter’s yip-yip dogs.  While my large German Sheppard/Rottweiler/Lab mix is a great dog who won’t let people out of their vehicles when they drive up, she doesn’t always bark to tell me someone is here.  Also, if it’s during the day she’s usually sleeping by my feet as I work.  (She’s up most of the night patrolling the yard) This isn’t the case with the yip-yips.  They bark every time someone comes, even if it’s one of the grandkids or even Army daughter or her husband.      
The last part of the story was of greater concern.  The neighbors noticed an out of place couple hanging around the neighborhood for a while.  If these robbers were casing the neighborhood, shouldn’t someone have contacted authorities?  Shouldn’t someone have passed the word around to the neighbors to be on alert?  Doesn’t anyone have a description of the couple?  Were they walking or driving when they were casing the neighborhood?  Are people that oblivious to what’s going on around them?  
I live on a main road but at the very end of the road.  We get some commuter traffic in the morning and afternoon but other than that we may only get a few vehicles per hour past the property.  I’ve seen vehicles parked out on the road that I don’t recognize, not just in front of my property but anywhere along my one-mile stretch.  If I’m driving by I stop to ask if they are lost (I don’t get out of my vehicle, I just roll down the window a bit).  It gives me a good view of them.  I also take the camera and take pictures.  Perhaps they were only there because they were a little lost.  Maybe they pulled over to take a phone call.  Maybe they are casing out the neighborhood. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Disaster billboards

I had to head up north today for work.  It was one of those three hour drives but today I seemed to get behind every slow driver.  I'm not talking about someone who was driving the speed limit in the fast lane of the freeway, I mean people who were driving 35 in a 55 on the country roads.  It was good that I didn't have to actually give my presentation until after lunch.  I really wasn't in a hurry. 

I did my normal of leaving town with a full tank of gas and a couple filled gas cans.  I can make the round trip on one tank of gas.  I don't.  Two hours into the trip I stopped and got fuel.  I completed the trip there and on the way home I filled up again.  I told all at home that I wouldn't be home until about 20:00 so this gave me extra time to explore some side roads on the way home.  I spent about 10 miles on roads that I've never been on.  I was surprised to come upon a town that I'd never been through either.  I thought I'd been everywhere. 

When I got up to my destination I went to the back of the truck (always backing in to the parking space for a quick escape) which was a couple of feet from the side of a building.  I opened up the camper shell and tailgate and got my stuff out.  Then as I walked back to the front of my truck I completely forgot about the railroad tie that was used to delineate the edge of the rock parking area and the beginning of the walkway.  I fell over.  Fortunately there were no witnesses!  At least, if anyone witnessed it they pretended that they didn't.  I tore the knee of my pants and skinned my knee.  At least I was smart enough to drop the things in my hands and catch my fall. I didn't have the large poster board in my hands when I tripped.  I would have been really upset if I messed that up since it was the main visual prop for my presentation to the legislature folks that showed up.  It wasn't until I got home and took my boots off did I realize that I twisted my ankle and it was now twice the size of my other ankle!  Oh well.  I took some ibuprofen and sent an email to my supervisor. 

The weather is supposed to be turning warmer so I spent a lot of time on the way home thinking about what I'm going to do in the yard tomorrow.  In the first three days this week I've put in 33 hours and I'm working Friday and Saturday.  Tomorrow seems like a good day to not work !  Actually, I'll work but for no money.
I like to read the billboards along the way on the freeway.  Some are funny.  Some are stupid and I can't believe that companies actually spend money on them.  I did see one that really caught my eye.  Prepare for Disaster!  Have a bag packed, Have a plan, and a third thing but I drove by and missed it.  I think it was a FEMA billboard, or maybe CalEMA.  It got me to thinking about how that billboard is probably going to be ignored by the thousands of people who drive by each day.

Prepare for Disaster!  People around here don't know what disaster means.  We don't have the devastating tornadoes that are happening in the east.  We don't have hurricanes or earthquakes.  We don't flood.  Fires are in the foothills and mountains.  What disaster was this billboard aiming for with the people driving down Highway 99 in the Great Central Valley?  A house fire?  A drive-by shooting?  Perhaps the disaster is a traveling disaster like a car accident.  The billboard certainly wasn't going to say Prepare for terrorist attack!  Prepare for economic collapse!  Prepare for inflation!  Prepare for roving gangs!

Still, it's good to get the word out.  I think when I go to work on Friday I'll bring up the billboard and see if I can get a conversation started.  Maybe that's what it's there for - to start conversations.

On a side note, Army daughter this morning said she heard gold is going up to record levels.  "That's good, right?", she said.  "That means the economy is doing better and things are doing better."  No, I told her.  It's just the opposite.  Gold goes up when confidence is low and things aren't doing well.  Perhaps I should start my billboard conversations with her.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Free wood

At work I saw a pile of pallets and wondered if I could take them home.  I went to ask the warehouse manager but he was off.  I then asked his boss.  She said she didn't know if we got a refund if they were returned or if they just would get hauled off.  She told me to ask another of the warehouse type people.  The other person that she was referring to was off as well.  I then spoke to one of the mechanics and he said that it was ok to take them as long as I didn't sell them.  Not a problem.  I loaded eight of the best pallets into the back of the truck.  We will use the wood at home as there are always projects that need wood. 

Then he told me that at another work location there was a huge stack of wood that was pallets or something but that the wood had already been pulled apart and was now a pile of stacked boards.  Those were available too.  I went to that location today and was told that not only was there this stack of pallets and boards but that under the pole barn was more wood that I could take, as long as I didn't sell it.  At the pole barn were about 10 stacks of pallets and a torn down fence.  The fence was 1x6 and 1x8 dog eared boards attached to 2x4s and a 4x4 post.  Each panel was about five feet wide.  I hit the jackpot. 

Since this truck was the one with the camper shell I couldn't get all of the wood that I wanted but I got six or seven fence panels plus about 20 pieces that were already pulled from the panels.  With a full load I happily drove home.  I can go back as often as I want for more.  Since I have to head back that way at the end of the week I'll fill the truck up again. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Power Outage

The power went off last night.  I don't know why.  We paid the bill.  Actually it went off then on then off then on then off all within about 30 seconds.  With the third off I got up from reading and went into the kitchen to get a candle.  I did have a flashlight within a six inch reach of where I was sitting but didn't need it.  Although it was dark out I can walk through my house with my eyes closed and go to the correct cabinet to get matches and also to the correct drawer to pull out a candle.  The room I was in had candle and matches too but I chose the kitchen because it was closer to where the majority of the people were.  I called out to Army daughter and son-in-law that I was going to light a candle.  As I lit the match the lights went back on again.  I put the candle into the holder and put it onto the dining room table.  I called out that I'm leaving the candle lit and on the table. 

Granddaughter climbed out of bed and came out of her room to tell me her fish tank pump was broken because it kept going on and off.  She said she thought it was overflowing.  I think she is going to be dreaming about overflowing toilets after the afternoons bathroom flood.  I told her that it was just the power going on and off.  She asked why?  I said that I had no idea why the power was going off but it didn't matter.  We didn't really need the power anyway. 

That's not really quite true.  While we didn't need the power last night because it was bedtime anyway, what if we lost power for a day or a week or a month?  A day...not a problem.  Keep the freezer and refrigerator doors closed.  Use a match to light the propane stove since the electronic ignition wouldn't work.  Drink water from the reserves.  Toilets?  We only have one flush per toilet without power because the well won't pump to refill the tank.  We do have the outhouse I built in the garden.  We also have the trailer toilet which uses much less water because it goes directly into the tank so water isn't needed to push it through the pipes. 

What about a week?  If I couldn't get some dry ice I'd have to remove the contents of the freezer, start thawing the meat and either dry, smoke, or can it.  The vegetables and fruits would also get dried or canned.  It would be a lot of work but not really a disaster.  What about laundry?  We have enough clothes to last the week, or even two.  What then?  A five gallon bucket works.  Our biggest problem would be the water.  We have plenty on hand but not enough to water the garden, the animals, and sustain us in the manner that we'd like for any real length of time. 

If the power went out for the week or longer would I still be heading off to work?  Would my work schedule go on as if there wasn't any electrical outage?  Those answers I don't know because I don't know what would be causing the outage.  Just another wake up call to let me know that I'm not as prepared as I'd like to be.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The minor flood

I was reading in my library when I heard grandson call out, come in the bathroom.  It is his week to clean the bathroom and he was working through his list (shower, toilet, trash, mirror, counter and sink, floor).  I figured it was one of his endless requests for me to come and check one item on the list.  I didn't respond right away then his voice sounded a little worried as he called for me to come.   

As I was walking down the hall he spotted me and said it's overflowing.  The water was flowing over the rim of the toilet and was starting to flow into the hall.  Army daughter came running when she heard him say it was overflowing.  She and I had two completely different first reactions.  Hers was to run to the end of the hall and get towels.  Mine was to walk into the bathroom and turn off the water valve on the wall behind the toilet.  I took the towels from her and used them to stop the flow out of the bathroom.  She went to get more towels.  I stopped her and said it's good for the moment.  She could even go back to the game the kids and grandkids were playing.  I went out to the garage and got the shop vac.  I brought it in and sucked up over two gallons of water, in addition to the water that the towels soaked up. 
I did ask where the rag was that Grandson was using to clean the bathroom.  He said that nothing extra went down the toilet when he flushed it.  I used the plunger to unplug the toilet and it opened up right away and didn't pull anything up.  The plumbing has worked just fine since. 
After we had a family meeting.  What if I wasn't home?  What steps should they have taken?  I taught the grandkids how to turn the valve to shut off the water at the toilet.   I don't think they'd be able to unlatch the shopvac from the wall so I told them that using towels to clean it up was fine. 
It got me to thinking about toilets in general.  Of course we all talk about stocking up on toilet paper.  Jokes are made about the old Sears catalogues but that wouldn't work with a septic system, only an outhouse.  Do we have enough toilet parts to make repairs?  What about the wax rings?  Does everyone know how to make basic toilet repairs?  If not, at least everyone around here now knows how to stop the toilet from overflowing and running down the hall.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Double gate and asparagus

With brother-in-law over this weekend we spent the day working on the front gate.  The wrought iron fence and gate were installed last fall but we had problems with the automatic gate opener.  We spent the day using the welder (which he brought up from San Diego - it cost $1000, I asked) and got it put together.  It uses a solar powered opener which charges a battery.  A fully charged battery should last a month during the winter fog season when we may go for a week or two without seeing the sun.  
From the street to the house it's about 250 feet.  The wrought iron gate is about 25 feet off the road.  It's deep enough for a vehicle to pull off the road safely while the gate is opening.  My concern was if that gate was compromised.  The gate is supposed to have about 100 codes which really isn't many.  The good thing is that it's a very high end gate opener (even though we aren't high end) and not too many people around here used this brand.  If someone was going around trying to open gates, they would be assuming that most people had the one or two most common brands. 
We also have a second gate on the driveway.  This gate is about 200 feet from the road.  Someone can get through the first gate but still not be able to drive straight up to the house because of the second gate.  It's just a farm gate and people can just jump right over it but it will stop the vehicle.  The main reason I wanted this was if someone wanted to break into the house, their vehicle would be visible from the road.  If this second gate wasn't there it's really easy to drive around the house and park.  It would make that intruder virtually invisible from the road. 
Brother-in-law needed to make a run to Home Depot because the mounting hardware wasn't right.  During this time I went out to the garden and dug up one of the asparagus plants.  I planted these about 10 years ago and they've really gotten large.  The one original plant was able to be divided into about 30-40 new plants.  I gave six to the next door neighbor and six to my sister to bring back to San Diego.  The rest I planted in the front along the driveway at the property line with the neighbor.  This boundary has a six foot chain link fence and is lined with olive trees.  I've been planting roses down the driveway but figured that in between the roses the asparagus would do great.  I have about 10 more asparagus plants to divide, which means I may have 100 feet or more of asparagus plants that I'll be replanting.  I'm also going to be planting some down the road near the creek.  It's a seasonal creek and it just has oats and other grasses growing right up to it.  It needs asparagus.  After they get ferned out the plants look nice with the little red seed balls on them.  If you've never eaten fresh asparagus, and the stuff from the grocery store does not count, you are missing out.  It's fun to go out with the kids and cut some spears and eat them raw right in the garden. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's not just about stuff, it's also about not stressing

Part of being a survivalist or a prepper is to be prepared for not only minor events but also major events.  When something goes wrong there are many people who want to help the victims in national or international tragedies and also more localized events such as fires, accidents or deaths.  When people help others they are also helping themselves deal with these situations.  What are some of the things you can do? 

Structure is important, not confusion and chaos.  Slow down your life.  You don’t need every minute to be planned in advance with classes or sports.  Maintain normal routines.  If you don’t have routines start to do so.     Meal time, sleeping time, and family time should be maintained as well as possible. Structure enhances your strength and stamina, especially in the face of danger.  This provides security.  You may need to follow common sense rules and adjust to threats to further your security. Children need to know that their families will be there for them. 

Assure those around you.  They need to know that everything is being done to further stop, fix, or prevent the event.  They need to know that an effort is being made to bring forth justice.  They need to know they are loved and are important to you.

Take action.  Do something.  Be calm.  Read a book to a child.  Help out your elderly neighbor.  Write a letter to a soldier or first responder.  Encourage each other.  Listen.  Offer guidance and support.  Spend time with people you like.  People need current, accurate and practical information.  It will reduce stress and anxiety.  It can assist and guide you. This doesn’t mean you should be glued to the tv or radio listening and watching evil events on the news.  The news shows repeat the same stories each hour.  Do you need to hear it two or three times?  Be positive.  Make good decisions. 

Tell the truth even when it is not good news.  Provide as much detail as in necessary or able to be understood.  Keep secrets where secrecy is needed, but speak the truth.  Counter rumors with facts.  It is normal to have negative feelings but don’t get stuck in those feelings.  Take feelings out of the equation when necessary. 

Determine what needs to be done – then figure out a path to get to that result.  When guiding others let them know what result you want.  You can even provide some examples of how it could be done.  Let them have the final say of how it will be done.  You provide the expected outcome and the time frame. They provide the results. Don’t start down the path without knowing where you intend it to lead to.

It takes courage to stand up and do the right thing.  Have courage.  Trust God. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Planting trees and a first for a five year old

The morning started off well.  I was able to work for a few hours before I had to deal with grandkids or relatives.  I had to return a call to one of the state senator's offices and didn't have a baby screaming in the background.  The call went well.  They got an answer to their question that was what they were hoping to get.  The grandkids awoke, including one extra that didn't go home with his parents last night.  That was the 15 year old who was sort of in trouble at home and sort of just staying over here to get a break.  In order for him to stay the night he had to promise to do chores.  That's a pretty good deal: feed a fifteen year old boy in exchange for chores.  I treated him the same as the other grandkids.  You are hungry.  Go pick something off a tree.
I had five fruit trees that I bought about a month ago and they needed planting soon.  I just wasn't able to plant them because I couldn't dig the holes with my arm the way it's been.  What a perfect task for the 15 year old and the 8 year old.  How to plant trees.  Dig the hole the right size, about three times wider than the container the tree is in and about 1 1/2 to 2 times deeper.  Take the soil that you just dug and put it into the big bucket.  Add some compost and mix it well.  Put water into the hole.  Figure out how much soil needs to go back into the hole to get the tree at the right level.  Hold the tree straight!  Put soil in.  Add water.  Tap it down with your foot.  Repeat the process.  Hold the tree straight!  Perfect.  They repeated the process on all five trees.  I think the 15 year old can go home and plant some fruit trees for his mom.  It's a wonderful skill.
San Diego nephew is five years old.  He loves coming to our farm and visiting his cousins.  He got to climb trees.  He fed the chickens.  He was swinging on his belly on the swing set and slipped off falling flat on his face.  I was about 25 feet away trying to root some grapevines and was supervising.  Had to drop what I was doing and go over when he started crying.  I picked him up and saw that he had a bloody lip.  It looked ok enough and I told him I was going to bring him inside to get fixed up.  After a couple of steps toward the house blood started dripping.  He had a bloody nose and a bloody lip.  Got him inside, calmly called for his mom, and sat him on the kitchen counter.  His first bloody nose.  What an exciting day! 
He called his dad at work to tell him that he had a bloody nose and a scrape on his chin.  He wanted to know if dad was going to fix it when dad gets here tomorrow night.  Sure, although dad said it would probably be fixed before then. 
After nephew was cleaned up and sent back outside to play sister and I had a discussion about our actions.  Because there was no panic in my voice, I didn't rush carrying him in (my initial assessment determined that it wasn't a major injury), and I told him that all was going to be fine and I was bringing him into the kitchen to get fixed up, he didn't panic.  He did cry because it hurt but he wasn't screaming hysterically because we weren't hysterical.  Although he is only five we didn't treat him like a little baby.  We told him what he had to do and he did it.  Then he got some ice chips to chew on and to make his lip feel better.  The ice stuck to his fingers and he ended up laughing at the ice instead of concentrating on the hurt. 
We picked artichokes for dinner tonight. They had some bugs in them that needed to come out.  I put the artichokes in a small pail and filled it with salt water.  I set the pail on top of the chicks little pen up near the patio.  The pincher bugs climbed out of the artichokes, out of the bucket and unfortunately for them, right into the baby chicken coop.  It was fun to watch the chicks gobble up the bugs.  I also took the drip hoses out of the barn and restrung them around the middle group of fruit trees.  I got that turned on for about an hour today.  It worked just fine. 
Got the kids to bed and sat down to do more office work.  I'm actually going into the office on Friday.  With the grandkids on school break I haven't sat at my desk for a week.  It will be nice to get all my work done during the day and not have to work into the evening hours to make up for the crazy home schedule.  I'm fortunate that during this time of year I can split up the work day. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How do you handle everyday stress?

Once again our house is crazy with a bunch of relatives descending on us for their vacation.  Some actually arrived before we got home yesterday.  Before I left for Southern California I wrote out a list of stuff for Army daughter to do.  One of the things on the list was to take the turkey out of the freezer on Monday, put it into the ice chest and partially put on the lid.  I figured by this morning it would be ready for me to put into the salt brine for a few hours and then stick it into the oven around noon.  It was to be the main course at dinner tonight for the 20 plus people who were going to be sitting at our table. 

I went out to the garage this morning to bring in the turkey.  No turkey in the ice chest.  Oops, Army daughter forgot.  I think it was a conspiracy because everyone was asking if I would cook a brisket instead.  Sure, I have to go to the vet this morning so cat can get his stitches out.  I'll go to the meat market on the way home.  I also had to make some photo copies because I didn't get that done the other day and nobody volunteered to do it when they were in town.  I was not happy.  In fact, I was starting to get into a bad mood having to even leave the property when I was expecting to hang out at home with the company. 

I went to the vet.  All was good with the cat.  (I think I forgot to write that renters of the bug-out property brought their dog over and he stepped on one of our cats and broke the cat's pelvis.)  I walked out of the vet and looked at my truck tire.  It sort of looked low, but perhaps I was mistaken and it was just the way I had the wheels turned when I parked it.  Then I went to the photo copy store.  I was making two sided copies and the machine kept jamming.  I was really getting ticked off but tried to be pleasant.  When I was done I went out to the truck and noticed the tire was really low - almost too low to drive on it without wrecking it. 

Change of plans, off to the tire shop.  (Note to self: Buy one of those small compressors for the truck that will pump your tire.) I got there and the guy said that since they were so busy I'd have to wait a while.  Did I want to go home and have them call me when it was done.  No, I live 15 miles away.  I'll wait here and if it's possible could they try to rush because I have company over and I really needed to get home.  Also the dog and cat were in the back seat of the truck.  I didn't have to wait too long, they got the truck up on the rack, took the tire off, and found the screw in the tire.  They fixed the tire then tried to sell me a new set of tires.  Not today.

When I left I realized that there was a reason that I had the flat tire.  I needed to slow down and get out of the bad mood.  While most people would have been in an even worse mood after the tire incident, it put me into a great mood.  God was telling me to get over myself.  It really wasn't a big deal that the turkey didn't get defrosted or that I needed to run some errands. 

I headed off to the meat market, visited with the owner for a while, then went home.  I got home and played with the grandkids for a while, then started preparing dinner.  We had a great meal. 

This would be a really stupid thing to write about today except it was really just a normal day with normal stresses.  Sometimes we get so worked up about things that aren't such a big deal that it ruins our day, our health, and our happiness.  Imagine if TSHTF and all the people at my house today were going to stay for a month or two or three rather than just a week?  How would we deal with the personality differences that are easy enough to over look for just a week?  We would need to have a solid hierarchy that was acceptable to all - with me in charge of the group of course... 

Why would I be in charge?  It's not just because it's my house or I'm the oldest of the clan.  Rather it's because I'm logical, I handle stress well, and I know how to spread around the tasks that need to be done by relying on people's strengths.  Every once in a while I just need a flat tire to remind me of that. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't leave home and expect others to take care of things

We are back from our trip to Southern California.  It was a fun trip.  We got to visit friends and relatives, which I always find enjoyable. 

Girl is in fourth grade and in California this means studying missions.  Things have changed since I was in 4th grade.  Sure it was a million years ago according to the grandkids, but so much of history has changed in order.  Now the Spaniards were evil mongers where when I was a child they were kind religious people trying to modernize the Indians.  Of course I don't believe that they were all kind, in most cases they were very harsh to the Indians.  But grandson got it right.  The main reason for the missions was to make more Catholics. 

I brought the kids to the mission in Ventura last Sunday.  We walked through the mission courtyard into the side door of the church during the middle of services.  Sshhhh I told the grandkids.  They are praying and we need to be respectful.  Boy grabbed a palm leaf and started twisting it into shapes just like the other little boys were doing.  Then the priest started speaking.  What language is it?  Latin.  In Catholic services they speak Latin.  Oh, said the boy.  "Those people are Catholics!  Just like when the missions were here."  We are still in the mission's church, so yes they are Catholics.  Boy was very impressed that next year he is going to learn about missions and he already knows that Catholics still use the mission.  I realized that the kids know Christians and Jews and Presbyterians (two of our friends are Presbyterian pastors) but they don't really understand that each religion is split into different groups who have basically the same beliefs but different ways of interpreting how to carry out those beliefs.  Starting with missions is a good start.

We had dinner with my brothers and sisters last night.  Actually one brother called from England during dinner so it counted that he was there.  Topics included shopping and the prices of everything.  I said that while I was glad I didn't have to work in Southern California on Tuesday, the downside was that I had to drive my own truck rather than the work truck.  The trip cost me $150 in gas that I wasn't planning on spending.  We somehow got on the topic of self defense.  When most were out of the room I pulled out my CCW permit and handed it to my brother-in-law.  He was surprised and asked how I got it and if I was armed and how he could get one.  I told him that the sheriff in my county encourages people to apply for the permit.  I don't know how it is in his county but because he is a business owner who often has to deal with a lot of cash, he probably could get one.  He said that they do have a gun in the house up in their bedroom.  The house also has an elaborate alarm system and they live in a gated neighborhood.  Their home does back up to open space, so it would be easy for someone to hike in to their property. 

We got home this afternoon and San Diego sister and nephew caravaned to our house.  San Diego brother-in-law is flying in for the weekend.  We were talking to each other over the phone during the drive.  She was asking about solar power, the different types, and if solar would be a good idea for them.  They are slowly coming around. 

Once we got home the kids took off playing and I went around to all the animals and plants to make sure it all survived the four days we were gone.  After all, Army daughter promised to take care of everything while we were away and I wrote out a detailed list of what to do. 

First I headed out to the baby chickens.  Son-in-law said that daughter had just watered the chicks before she left for school an hour earlier.  I'm not quite sure what she did because there are three water containers in their coop.  Two are quart jars that are attached to plastic waterers.  The third container is a one gallon milk jug that has a hole poked in the side near the bottom.  This container is in a pie-tin.  All three were dry.  I did have a small 20 ounce bottle on the side that's a rabbit waterer.  That was filled with water.  The chickens don't know how to tap on that to get water.  It's a good thing it wasn't too hot because they were pretty thirsty when I filled their water containers. 

Then I headed out to the big chickens.  I did say that they shouldn't need food or water but check on it anyway.  They did have an inch of water left in their ten gallon water trough so I guess she didn't think they needed any water.  None of the eggs were collected.  I have two broody hens so the eggs were sat on the whole time I was gone.  This means some were sat on for four days.  I collected the eggs and I'm going to have to hold each one up to a bright light to make sure that they aren't starting to grow chicks. 

Next I went to the big barn to check on the duck nest.  I saw two broken eggs about three feet from the nest.  I went into the front barn and got the animal trap.  I then took three eggs from the duck's original nest (which she abandoned for the nest she is now using) and put them into the trap.  Hopefully whatever took her eggs will go for the ones in the trap and get caught.  I'll find out in the morning.

Then I went out to the front to check on the sheep.  All were well.  Finally I checked on the cats.  They had food and water. 

Then I was off to the garden.  None of the asparagus got cut so most of the plants have ferned out.  There were some stalks coming up but the season is about over because they didn't cut any asparagus.  They didn't cut any artichokes but they are still ok.  They'll get cut tomorrow.  The newly planted grapes and strawberries didn't get watered.  It's a good thing that I watered them well before we left.  None of the peppers or tomatoes were watered. 

I know it's a lot to expect someone to take care of your plants and animals when you leave but in this case, Army daughter volunteered so I didn't have oldest daughter come over to take care of things.  I had everything written down.  I'm not sure where the disconnect was.  Fortunately nothing died so I suppose all is well.  It's good to be home and I'm sure I'll be spending extra time in the garden tomorrow to make it up to my plants and animals.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Southern California trip

I used to love coming down to Southern California but lately each time I come down I have a really critical eye.  I look at the amount of people, the roads, the built environment - buildings and structures.  It's just so crowded.  There is still a lot of farmland in this area but if TSHTF there's not enough space for everyone.  Few new homes are being built, instead multi-family housing is going in everywhere.

Coming down the Conejo grade today I had a great view of the ocean.  What crossed my mind was the tsunami in Japan.  I could picture the damage and destruction that would have been caused if the tsunami came in at Oxnard and Ventura.  I have concerns for family members that live in the area.  Between wildfires and earthquakes, none of the relatives down here are prepared at all, although sister in San Diego does have a couple weeks of food on hand. 

I lived through many earthquakes including the Sylmar quake when I lived in Southern California, the Loma Prieta quake when in Northern California, the Northridge quake when I was bringing my kids to visit my sister at CSU Northridge, and the Calexico quake last year when we were visiting relatives in the San Diego area.  Maybe they can use me to predict earthquakes!  During the Northridge quake and the Sylmar quake the freeways collapsed.  This lead to having to divert traffic for many months.  People got through it and after a few weeks the only ones who were still affected were those whose homes were damaged or destroyed.  For everyone else, life went on as normal other than perhaps a bit of a traffic change.   

Wildfires have surrounded their towns.  My brothers inlaws home burned down in one fire.  They were fortunate because they had just put the house on the market and had lots and lots of photos that the realtor took.  They were fully insured and got a great settlement.  They had a vacation home that held some of their personal belongings so they lost most of their personal belongings but still had some.  They bought a new home and were in the process of remodeling it.  They were renting another home during that time.  Another fire hit and almost burned down the home they were renting.  Life goes on.  They didn't miss a meal.  They were able to go out and instantly purchase everything they needed. 

Lots of incidents but no real hardships.  I don't think that I'm going to be able to convince any of the family down here to prepare in any way other than to have a couple of weeks of food on hand.  Bug out bags are something that will always be a foreign concept.  While I've been able to semi-convince my kids that it's worth while to be prepared for everything it's been impossible to convince my siblings or mother. 

I do believe that if there are any true disasters that any of my family is involved in they will be turning to me to help out.  How am I prepared for this trip?  It's the first time that I've traveled down here with my CCW permit.  This means I've been armed everywhere we've gone.  I've had to explain to the grandkids that concealed means you are not to talk about it.  They are not to tell people that I have a gun. 

Joke I heard today.  The teacher told the kids to write a story about what they are going to do during Easter vacation.  She said to spell the words right and make it neat.  Little Johnny raised his hand.  "Teacher, how do you spell GUN?" "G...U...N".  Little Johnny raised his hand again.  "Teacher, how do you spell DIE?"  "D...I...E"  Teacher was just about ready to report Johnny's family to the police.  She decided to ask "Johnny, what is your family going to do on Easter vacation?" "Wez gun die Easter eggs!"

I don't have the work truck with me but my personal truck.  We have spare fuel in the back of the pickup.  We have good hiking shoes.  We have food for a couple weeks, including food for the dog, which we brought with us.  We have three times the cash that I think I'll need.  We are good but at the same time I wish we were home with the sheep, goats, chickens, cats, and garden, and lots less people. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring chores

The sheep went into the trailer without any trouble this morning.  It took less than two minutes.  I drove them to the front pasture, set up the gates so when they walked out of the trailer they'd go the right direction, and out they went into the thigh high grass.  They are so happy they don't know where to eat first. 

Then it was time to start on some of the later spring chores.  I hooked the hose up in the front of the house.  Some day I will have a better set up with underground pipes but for now, it's hoses.  The hose from the front bib goes out to a four way split.  One hose waters the roses and olive trees.  One hose fills the stock tank in the front pasture.  One hose waters the flowers and plants in the front yard.  The last hose waters the trees in the front pasture.  The three hoses that water are all drip irrigation hoses.  I don't use normal emitters on these hoses though.  I just punch a small hole, using the emitter punch, and let the water drip out that way.  It works well and I don't have the expense, albeit small, of emitters. 

The stock tank always has goldfish in it to eat the mosquitoes.  I noticed only one goldfish left.  We had four or five in the tank and I remember two dying last year.  We buried those fish with the grapevines.  I will take a few of the fish out of the back pasture tank and put them up front.  I'm watering the strawberries and grapes by hand still.  I'll hook them up to the drip system sometime but right now I take the water out of the stock tank to water them.  I figure it's got some nutrients in it from the fish.  Before it gets too hot I'll set up the drip for them. 

Now it's off to inside chores.  Somehow granddaughter's socks all disappeared so we are holding a sock hunt.  She gets a 15 minute head start to find them.  Then grandson gets to look.  Granddaughter has to pay him a nickle for every one of her socks that he finds.  She owes me a chore for every one I find.  She certainly doesn't like either of those consequences.  Perhaps someday she won't be a slob.  I hope it's before she moves out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Herding Sheep and IRS agents

I didn't get the opportunity to write yesterday because I had a very long work day.  The day was great.  I had to give a lecture and it went over very well.  Sometimes I have a room full of people who would rather just sleep through my talk.  Yesterday they not only stayed awake but they asked questions too.  Wow, a successful day.  The drive was about three hours each way, and this was the longest drive I've done since my arm surgery.  By the end of the day my arm was pretty sore, but today it felt fine.

I had a chat with the IRS today.  I know it's just about crunch day for them but the person I spoke with this afternoon was so rude I wanted to reach through the phone and choke her.  The conversation went like this:, "I sent in my return on Feb. 17.  Your website said it was received on Feb. 22 and my return should be direct deposited on April 5."  I couldn't e-file because I adopted the grandkids.  Can't e-file when you have an adoption credit.  So I was waiting patiently for the return.  April 5th came and went.  So did the 6th.  On April 7th I looked at the IRS website and it said that there was a delay and I should call the IRS.  I've never heard of anything like that but I did as directed.  The polite person I spoke with that day informed me that all adoption credits automatically get kicked into the errors department.  She then told me that they had 30-45 days to review a return when it was in the errors department.  She also said to call back next week.  That was today.  I continued my conversation, "Since the lady I spoke with last week said to call back in a week, I'm doing so.  Is there anything I can help with or can you give me the status of my return."  Her response was, "you haven't sent in your return because I can't find it."  What?  How could that be since I know that it was received on the 22nd of February.  "I'm sorry, there is a problem and you have to send your return in again."  "What do you mean I have to send it in again, did you lose it?"  "No, it's not lost, you didn't send it to us" "Yes I did, otherwise your website wouldn't have said that it was received on Feb. 22 and was supposed to be direct deposited on Apr. 5 and then I was supposed to call and now I'm supposed to call back."  "Sorry, I don't see your return, and the deadline is Monday so make sure you get it in."

I called the IRS back this evening.  This time the person was much nicer and much more helpful.  She said that she found my return and if I don't hear anything by eight weeks plus one day (that's next Wednesday) then I should call back.  She kept asking if they'd contacted me.  I said I hadn't heard anything.  She said it looks like there are major issues.  Shouldn't be.  I asked if it's because the kids changed their names after the adoption but their social security number is still the same.  That would mess everything up, I'm sure.  No, she couldnt' tell me anything other than to call back next week.  And no, I don't have to send in another tax return.  She told me I should have e-filed.  But I can't e-file.  They don't allow it if you have an adoption credit.

I know there is nothing wrong with my tax return.  Everything is the same (well the numbers do change a little each year) as the past several years.  It's not a simple return because of the rentals and now the adoption but it's very straight forward.  And I didn't cheat or lie so that should make the thing smoother.  I'll call back next week.  In the mean time, I'll keep wishing the tax return would show up.  And this year I've changed the deductions so I'm not giving the feds free money to use.  I'd rather owe money at the end of the year then go through this hassle of trying to get my money back.

To get my mind off the IRS I decided that today would be a good day to move the sheep from the back to the front.  I do this by driving the pickup and trailer into the back pasture and park it at the end of the animal pens.  I then rig up the gate and trailer so the animals will go from the pen through a narrow pathway to the trailer.  Or at least that's the plan.  I got them into the outside pen, which is about 10 x 50.  I had the gate open at the end so they could go into a nice grassy area prior to loading into the trailer. 

I herded the sheep to the gate.  The ram blocked the opening so none of the sheep could go into the grassy area.  They all kept staring at me.  The ram is a big chicken.  If the sheep are running away from something he is always first to escape but if they are backed into a corner he will push the others in front of him so he's in the rear.  So much for him protecting his ewes.  He's only out to protect himself.  Anyway, it ended up getting dark and I could only get 10 of the 12 into the grassy area.  I gave up and went back into the house.  I'll get them in the trailer tomorrow.  They'll get lured in with some cob. 

Then I will drive the truck to the front of the property and unload them in the front pasture.  While you may think it would be easy to just herd them from the front to the back, after all it's only about 300 feet away, these sheep wouldn't go.  They are so afraid of going somewhere new that they would make an end around and run back into their old pasture.  They have to move by trailer. 

The front pasture is about 3/4 of an acre.  The grass is thigh high.  I've got the trees well fenced so they won't be able to eat them this year. 

I don't know which is worse, herding sheep or IRS agents.  Can't wait until both are done.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Little Head Lice?

I was talking to my Oklahoma friend today and was told that their entire family had somehow contracted a case of head lice.  It seems to be going around their school and their sixth grade daughter brought it home for the family. 

Head lice can be found on the human scalp: on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes.  They feed on human blood several times a day.   Head lice move my crawling.  They don’t hop or fly.  They are often spread by contacting someone’s hat, coat, comb, brush, or towel that is used by someone affected by the insect.

Head lice have three forms: the egg (or nit), the nymph, and the adult.  The CDC website has a good photo of the actual size of these three forms.  The egg is laid on the hair shaft near the scalp.  The nits hatch in about 8 days.  It takes about a week and a half for the nymph to reach maturity.  They can do so only on a diet of human blood.  The adult must also feed on blood.  They only live about a month as adults but lay about six eggs each day.  If the lice falls off the persons head (or is on a brush, pillow, etc.) it will only live for about two days unless there is another head that it comes in contact with.

Imagine you just went to the doctor’s office, or the bank, or a restaurant.  You sit down on their nice comfortable chair and sink yourself in.  Your head rests against the nice cushioned chair.  Finally you get to relax a bit while you wait.  But what if the person before you had head lice?  Or a person from the prior day?  What if the kids at school hang their coats up on hooks and they all get piled on top of each other? 

It’s no big deal.  Perhaps it will be just one little louse.  But what if that one was a female, just reaching adulthood?  She could lay six eggs a day for a month.  They won’t even start hatching and you’d have no idea you were infected with them until you had 75 or 80 on you.  Even then, you may itch for a second or two but you’ll just sluff it off.  In her month long life of laying eggs she will lay around 180 eggs.  If all 180 hatch and half are female, then in a couple of weeks 90 more lice will start laying eggs.  In one month, and before you really realize what’s happening you can have over 16,000 lice sucking the blood from your scalp!  If you don’t get them taken care of in another month you will have almost three million disgusting creatures on you.  Now, I’ve never heard of anyone having three million lice.  You’d probably die of anemia by then! 

How do you make sure you get rid of them in your house?  You don’t need to fumigate the house.  The lice aren’t going to live more than a couple days without sucking blood so if you just stay off the fabric sofa and chair, change and wash the sheets on your bed each day for a few days, wash all clothes that you’ve been wearing for the last couple days and vacuum your house you should be good.  Have the wash water greater than 130 degrees.  The lice don’t just walk around, they usually cling to hair that fell off your head and they just had the misfortune to be clinging to that particular piece.  Although lice and nits don’t like cold temperatures, you’d have to have something in the freezer for a couple of days for it to kill them. 

There are over the counter and prescription medications.  There are also home remedies available.  I’ll go over a few:
  1. Pyrethrins.  (Rid) These use the pyrethroid extract from chrysanthemum flowers.  Pyrethrins are safe and effective when used as directed but only kill the live lice.  You have to do a second treatment to kill newly hatched eggs.  If you are allergic to chrysanthemum or ragweed this is not the remedy for you.
  2. Permethrin. (Nix) This is a synthetic pyrethroid.  This too doesn’t kill the eggs so a second treatment is necessary.  This one is not approved for kids under two.
  3. Malathion lotion. (Ovide) Same malathion used to kill mosquitos and bugs in the yard.  You need a doctor’s prescription for this one.  It kills the live lice and some eggs so a second treatment will probably be necessary. 
  4. Benzyl alcohol lotion. (Ulesfia) It only kills live lice so a second treatment is necessary.  It’s approved for children over six months.  This needs a prescription.
  5. Lindane shampoo.  This needs a prescription but it’s not recommended since it can be toxic to the brain and other parts of the nervous system. 
  6. Lice Shield Shampoo and Leave In Spray. Lice Shield is formulated with a blend of citronella, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils. Found at Walmart, Walgreens, etc.
  7. Listerine.  Soak your hair in Listerine.  Put on a plastic shower cap.  Wear this overnight. 
  8. Vinegar.  Wash your hair in vinegar.
  9. Oil or Mayonnaise.  Rub this into your hair.  After it’s been on your hair for two hours wash it out.    
  10. Iron. Use a flat iron daily.
  11. Spend hours combing the nits out of each strand of hair.  Use little metal lice combs.  Get several!    
Figure out how you are going to control this creature and prepare.  My friend had to drive 45 miles from home to find a store that carried Rid or Nix because of the local outbreak.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

UTMs (Universal Transverse Mercator) lesson

You've heard of Latitude and Longitude.  You may have even heard of Universal Transverse Mercator UTM) but do you know what that means or how do you use it?  It's actually a much easier system to use than lat/long because it doesn't deal with curvature. The following is originally from a Powerpoint presentation that I converted to fit the blog.  After looking through it, and perhaps following along on your own USGS 7.5 min. quad map, you will see how simple a locational system it really is.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cutting back on driving

I’m really surprised by the news that people aren’t cutting back on their driving even with gas prices around here above $4.00 a gallon.  They say it’s because of the good economy.  I say they are wrong.  It’s because most people received a tax refund and are flush with money at the moment.  When the money runs out they will slow down on the driving. 

My son and his family worked very little last year.  They earned under $10,000 but with their welfare, food stamps, discounted rent, free medical, their actual income was over $30,000.  Not a lot but they still have a computer and a 52 inch tv.  They had about $200 taken out of their paycheck for federal taxes but got a return of about $7000!  More free money from the government.  They went on a spending spree.  They bought a used car, furniture, clothes, toys (including a $300 electric riding toy for the kids), and a bunch more stuff.  They go out to eat and have lots of money to spend on gas.  I figure that their extra money will run out in another few weeks. 

I didn’t even try to convince them to save any of the money.  That would have been a waste of my breath.  I did try to convince them to spend it on things that mattered.  Things that will last.  The $30 dollar dressers they got for their kids are already broken.  The gas prices will slow them down soon.

Army daughter and son-in-law want to buy a house.  They don’t have to save up much since they are both veterans and will qualify for VA loans which take little or no down.  They are trying to figure out how to save money.  They sat down and figured out what they spend money on.  They’ve never had a written plan since they’ve always had a little extra at the end of each month to put into the savings. 

When they told me how much they take home I made a comment that I take home about the same amount.  Then I said I take home more because I have some automatically put into an account to pay the taxes and insurance and more gets put into a 401k, but the actual amount that flows through my hands each month is the same as what they have.  The difference is that I pay more than twice the amount each month for the mortgage than they plan on paying for the mortgage, taxes, and insurance on their new place.  Well then, they should be able to put away a lot of money in the next couple of months since they are living with me rent free.

Army daughter was trying to figure out how to spend less on food.  She’s been buying most of the food for the entire household, not paper products, cleaning supplies, and other things, just food.  She volunteers to do this because they live rent free.  She said that her food budget is about two hundred dollars per week.  Huh? I spend that per month.  I don’t understand how she can spend that much.  That’s almost thirty dollars a day.  Then I got to thinking.  They buy a chunk of meat that costs between $10 and $15 (what doesn’t get eaten goes to the chickens), Starbucks drinks at $2 each, and little packages of stuff that cost 10 times as much than if you’d buy it in bulk.  I buy a gallon of mustard for $4 and she buys a little bottle of designer mustard for $6.  Our chickens are eating well because they throw away a lot of stuff. 

I suggested $25 a month for clothes for the baby.  She budgeted $50.  Why I asked?  Baby clothes are expensive.  Not really.  The baby is in 6 month size which will last for three months.  I could go to Target and buy a weeks worth of clothes for $50.  At $25 a month it would take two months worth of money for stuff that would last three months.  I know that I can get used, borrowed, or cheaper stuff, but they wouldn't do that at all.  I just think differently.  If I budgeted $75 for three months and spent $50 then I'd be able to buy more supplies, fruit trees, six chickens, etc.  Spend it on something tangible for the future.   

Army daughter’s budget included three round trips to town each day.  Although only her husband works she has to go in to town for appointments, shopping, college one night a week, etc.  I was trying to convince her to drive less.  After all, it takes about two gallons of fuel for each round trip.  At four bucks a gallon they are averaging $24 dollar a day in gas, seven days a week!  If I have to fill up my truck more than once a month it better be because we are going out of town because this gives me three trips into town on a tank of gas. 

I have to drive to town to go to work, although a couple days per week I can do my work at home.  On those days I try not to leave the house.  If I run out of something, which is rare, I don’t rush out to buy it. I wait until I’m going to be in town.  My normal days in town are Wednesday and Sunday.  It’s a very rare occasion that I spend money any other day.

What if It is today, I asked her?  Would she go into psychological withdrawals if she couldn't go into town and shop?  Can she differentiate wants from needs?  I challenged Army daughter this evening.  No going into a store more than twice a week.  I’m not even telling her that she has to have a list to shop from.  Just stay out of the stores.  Don’t make the trip in to town.  Right now they are spending over $700 a month on gas.  Cut back on driving. 

For her, that means money saved for a house.  For me, that means more money for preps. 

Good sale on a 12W portable solar charger

I found a good deal on a portable solar charger.  It's the Power Pocket 12W Solar Charger.  RealGoods has it on sale for $179.  This website doesn't tell you a lot about it but I googled the product and found it on a couple of other websites.   It says it will charge most small items in a couple of hours.  You can also use it to trickle charge a 12V battery.  They list it at $299 but I saw it on other websites for $259.  $179 is a good price and RealGoods is a good company.   

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Strawberries, grapes, and duck eggs

Yesterday afternoon 9 year old granddaughter helped with some of the outdoor chores.  She pounded two t-posts in with a post pounder.  She planted two grapevines and 36 strawberry plants.  When she planted the strawberries she stepped on one of the grape plants and broke the vine off down to the ground.  I expect that it will still grow.  I also took the part that she broke off and stuck the end in water and then in a rooting agent.  I planted it in a 4 inch pot so maybe we'll get another grapevine out of it.  I know that you can take a grapevine and push a stem down to the ground, secure it, cover it with some soil, and in a year it should have rooted from that spot.  You can then cut it off and plant your new grapevine. At some point I'll do this to expand our "vineyard" of six grapevines.  We have two Thompson seedless, which are the regular green grapes and are also used for raisins, two Red Flames, and now two Concords (plus hopefully the additional one will root).  I want to plant about 8 more in this one area and am hoping to get some good end of bareroot season deals.  Perhaps I'll end up planting more grapes somewhere else on the property if I can get a hold of a lot of plants. 

I never bothered growing grapes before because there was a huge vineyard right behind us with about 50 acres planted in grapes.  The landowner had said we could pick what we wanted so for over 10 years we did.  We harvested enough to make juice, raisins, and to eat fresh.  Unfortunately, last year they killed off the entire vineyard.  Our next door neighbor has over 100 vines.  He said we could pick some last year, which did provide us with some grapes but their grapes were so small that it was a hassle to even eat them.  We need our own. 

I checked on the lambs and they are all doing fine today.  They seem to have forgotten the banding from yesterday. 

We have two duck nests in the barn this year.  One nest is in the same spot as last years nest.  The other is behind the hay bales.  I think the same duck laid both nests.  Just today I saw her sitting on the nest by the hay bales.  I suppose she is abandoning the other nest.  I like the location of this one better, it's more out of the way.  The other one is in the animal pen and could get smashed by the sheep.  I'm surprised that she built it there last year or that we had any ducklings hatch.  Yes, the new location is much better.  Yesterday I counted 12 eggs.  I was wondering when she was going to start sitting on them. 

I just learned recently how the duck or chicken can lay only one egg at a time yet all the eggs would hatch at the same time.  It's because an egg doesn't have to be kept warm at the beginning of the nesting period.  If the mother doesn't sit on the eggs for a week or two it's ok.  She lays a certain amount and ignores them until she lays enough, in the ducks case, 12, and then she sits on the nest.  This way the eggs will all hatch at the same time.  The eggs can sit out for several weeks prior to being incubated.