Thursday, June 30, 2011

The S-biner

I love shopping at Major Surplus and Survival.  You can browse their inventory online but I love pouring over their catalogue which comes out a couple times per year.  I've purchased my sleeping bags from them and lots of wool blankets too.  About once a year I stop by on one of my treks through Southern California.  They are easy to find if you are in that area but it's not in a place I'd want to be after dark. 

One of my favorite items that I've bought from them is an S-biner.  Sort of like two carabiners hooked together, it’s like a carabiner only shaped like an S with a pin on both sides.  The only place I’ve seen them is at Major Surplus and Survival.  They go for $11.95 for 6.  The ones I use are called their #4 size and are about 3 ½ inches long.  They are a lightweight metal.  They also sell one called a #10 which is about 10 inches long and made of plastic.  I’ve never used those.  They can be viewed and purchased at 

The #4 is advertised as something you can use to hold your keys.  You attach one end to your belt loop and the other end holds the keys.  They also have a style with a little lip that will open your bottle caps.  I've never used them to hold keys or open bottles.  I love using these as clips to hold fence panels together in places where I want to be able to quickly open up the panels.  It’s much more convenient than using a regular carabiner to pin two panels together.  With this S-biner you open one side or another and the clip stays attached to the other piece.  You don’t lose clips.

In the front pasture I have hog panels surrounding my fruit trees.  I cut the 16 foot panels in half and have five 8 foot panels surrounding each tree to keep the sheep from eating the leaves and branches.  There are t-posts in each corner and the panels are wired to the t-posts.  This is really inconvenient when it’s time to go in to pick fruit.  I don’t want to unwire one of the corners.  I tried using hay bale strings to tie the panels together in the corners.  That works but if it knots then you have to cut the string in order to open the panel and pick your fruit. 

Then I discovered the S-biner.  At one corner I wire one of the panels to the t-post.  The other panel has an S-biner hooked to the top and another S-biner near the bottom.  The other side of the S-biners is hooked to the panel that’s wired to the post.  It takes about two seconds to unlatch the hook to get into the fruit trees.   

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster

Bernie over at has written a book called The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster.  It's available on  Bernie has been kind enough to send me a copy (although I haven't received it yet, she said it's coming).  My plan for this book is to go topic by topic to cover all 101 items she's listed.  We are going to see how much we already do and perhaps get some tips for what we may need to work on. 

Now I know that this book is a "starter" for people new to prepping and I don't expect that I will learn a lot from it.  What I am expecting is to find a lot of sensible information in it that is written in a way to attract people who have heard of preparing but don't really know what it means, other than as Bernie put it, "Myth 5: preparing will turn me into one of those crackpots living in a cabin in the woods, dressed in military gear and threatening people with "Unabomer" Ted Kaczynski." (whose last victim, Gil Murry, was a friend of mine)  What I'm hoping is this book will be this years gift that I give to my family and friends when holidays roll around. 

I'm looking forward to receiving the book and if you have a spare ten dollars, buy one for yourself or a family member.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stupid Chickens and other ramblings

We all know that chickens are stupid.  My nine new chickens proved it again last night.  I walked into the coop this morning and saw the chickens.  One, two, three...six.  Where are 7, 8, and 9?  I looked around.  Awwwww, poor chickens.  Three of them drowned.  Because it's hot here I have a seven gallon chicken waterer that was right next to where the baby chicks hide out.  I also have two other tubs of water for the chickens.  This gives them approximately 20 gallons of water.  Neither tub is deep; in fact, when it's really hot the grown chickens will stand in the water tubs to cool down.  The baby chicks tried this trick.  They did not succeed.  The water wasn't above their heads but they probably got their feathers so wet they couldn't figure out how to get out of the water.  So now there are six baby chicks.  It really hasn't been a good year for chicken raising around here.  First with the yip-yip dog killing 13 and now these three.

After being away from the house for 10 days there were a lot of weeds to pull.  I spent about two hours on the raised beds and got them all cleared of weeds.  Around the trees are a different story.  I will tackle them this weekend.  I ate my first tomato today.  It was almost ripe.  I was showing boy the red tomato and I knocked it off the vine.  Sure I could have put in on the kitchen counter for a couple of days to finish ripening it up but couldn't resist popping it into my mouth instead. 

Got the grandkids signed up for two more weeks of summer camp.  I gave the deposit and said I'd pay the rest as soon as there was a fire.  That brought protests of "this is a religious camp, we shouldn't be praying for fire...isn't that the opposite of what we pray for?"  OK, I had to clarify...May no homes burn, may no people get hurt, may brush be removed by fire, provided by God during a lightening strike (as compared to an arsonist), as an improvement to the environment.  They were happy with that.

Son and family called and said they wanted to come over for dinner.  So with them, Army daughter's family, grandkids and me we had a full table.  I let them all know that I am going to have a garage sale in the next few weeks and if they had anything they wanted to get rid of just bring it over.  They all said no, they don't have anything to part with.  Grandkids have stuff they are going to part with; they just don't know it yet. 

This weekend is a holiday weekend.  Nobody extra is coming over.  Oldest daughter's block is having a block party and everyone wants to go there.  I don't feel like spending the money on fireworks for the backyard this year.  I think the grandkids and I will hike up the nearest hill and watch about five or six different sets of fireworks, which will be visible from there.  Because it's going to be Independence Day I think we will have a little Independence test of our own.  No electricity.  I won't unplug the refrigerator or freezer but we aren't going to use them.  No lights either.  I'll use the computer for an hour a day...or until the battery dies.  No solar powering anything.  We will use the stock tank for our only water supply and I'll shut off the breaker to the well - after I water the garden really well.  No spending money.  No driving.  Should be a good test.  Anyone else up for the challenge? 

I read the blog about the family who went hiking to try "bugging-out".  For them it was a very challenging experience and they learned quite a lot.  If I have time to pack even a small pack for hiking I could stay out for a week without any issues at all.  It's sort of second nature, and I also don't need a lot.  It would be different having to deal with the grandkids though.  Just me, simple.  Them, more issues.  Right now there is a radio commercial about a girl who goes into a sporting goods store to buy dad some camping supplies.   The store lists everything that dad desires, including a three room tent, a reclining chair, and other luxuries usually only found in some ridiculous fantasy wish list that makes camping no different than hanging out in your living room. 

The thing that drives me crazy about this ad is it's such a big deal for most people to live without their everyday luxuries for even just a weekend.  No electricity, no running water, no roof over your head.  Pick your challenge and just make due without.  Even for one or two days of the three day weekend.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Get off your phone

How dependent are you on your cell phone?  What about your house phone?  Do you still have a phone that plugs into the wall and doesn't use any electricity?  What if it all just went away?  What if you didn't answer your phone for a week just because you didn't feel like it? 

Life would be much more quiet without the phone.  I know the new phones have all kinds of applications that make them even more useful than using them to call people.  How many of us don't call people anymore.  We just text.  What if you stopped? 

 I've always wanted the work cell phone to be a simple cell phone.  No Blackberries or I-phone.  No checking email or surfing the web.  No apps.  Just make phone calls and send a text every once in a while.  I'd even snap a picture or two each month.  But mostly, the phone is used for talking.  It's an older phone that folds in half, has a very tiny screen, and has a little antenna sticking up.  That was until last Tuesday when I pulled the phone out of my back pocket and broke the antenna off.  Brother-in-law superglued it back on.  It works better than without the external antenna but at my house there's no signal.  None!

That is not a good thing when I have all my office calls transfer to this cell phone and I like to work at my home office.  I can pick up office calls anywhere...except at my house.  I contacted the IT person, who just happens to work 4 hours away, and he said he'll see what he has in his inventory.  I told him I don't need anything special, just something that works.  Ah, this is a perfect time for the governor to get up and say there is one less cell phone being used by those wasteful government employees.  Of course, I'm not wasteful.  The government is sure getting their money's worth out of me.  Except I can't answer the phone.

It was suggested that I forward my office cell phone to my personal cell phone.  That won't work because my personal phone only has 400 minutes per month on the plan.  Sure, we only use about 100 minutes a month at most but I use 300 minutes a week on my work phone.  I don't think work would be happy if I billed them the difference.  I would too!

OK I'll stop complaining about the work cell being broken.  They'll get me a new one by next week, maybe.  My question is, what if we just stopped using the phone?  I'm not saying to revert to email.  I'm saying what if we stopped with all forms of instant communication?  What if someone had to figure it out for themselves rather than call me up to explain some governmental policy?  What if they had to send me a letter?  That would put the post office back in business!  But what if the phone system didn't work for a day, or a week, or a month, or a year?

I hate using the phone.  I purposely don't have a little bluetooth device that I hang from my ear so I can talk all day long as I do my other things.  I couldn't imagine working in the garden and having to hold a conversation with someone.  Working in the garden is a good place to clear your mind or work through some problem or something of that nature.  I have a list of about 10 people that I call at least once a week.  There are some that want to hear from me daily.  I had one friend who almost called the sheriff because I hadn't answered the phone in a week.  It's nice that people care but come on! 

If I don't hear anything about my cell phone replacement tomorrow then I'm going to change my voice mail to "Sorry I can't answer.  The cell phone is broken.  When the state economy gets better they'll get me another phone.  Until then, send me an email and I'll respond when my computer gets repaired."  I wish my personal cell phone had an antenna.  I could break that one too.  Then I'd get lots of gardening done.  Seriously, how would you communicate without your cell phone?  Would you need to rethink how many people you communicate with?  Would once or twice a year letters work?  Do you even remember how to write a letter? 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The garage sale

I returned from being away for 10 days and found the garden ALIVE!  It was a little stressed but nothing was dead.  Most of the plants didn't grow as much as I expected, but that's because they weren't watered as much as I would have done so.  I put the potted veggies that weren't ready for planting in my shower.  I have a skylight there so I knew they'd get sunshine and wouldn't fry in the 100 degree temps that we had during my absence.  Army daughter remembered to water these.  She forgot to water any of the other houseplants – some of them died.  She also forgot to water the little avocado tree but I soaked it well enough that although it was a little stressed, after the watering I gave it last night it was fine today.

We also returned from our trip with 9 new chickens.  They were hatched in my nephew’s preschool class.  They are about a month old.  We didn't get into the heat until the early evening so they too made the trip without problems.  They are in their cage in the middle of the lawn today and tomorrow morning I'm going to transfer them into the chicken coop.  Since they are a lot smaller than the rest of my chickens they will have their own space to run in and out of.  They will have a water source and food source without having to hang around the big chickens.  After a few days they will all get to know each other and will live peacefully together.  I hope none of the new chickens are cockerels but if any are I'll deal with it.

Sister’s neighborhood was having a neighborhood wide garage sale.  It got me to thinking about getting rid of some of the stuff that I have here.  While I do want to keep everything that I may ever need here and on hand (I really don’t have everything I’ll ever need) how much extra do I need?  For example, when I remodeled the house we had a box of blue plastic electrical boxes left over.  How many of these will I really need?  What about the kids clothes?  I have a bin for almost every size (of course not for girl who is growing out of the 12 and into a 14).  0-3 months, 6-9 months, 1 year, 18 months, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.  The grandkids that with me are in 8 and 12-14.  I don’t want to get rid of all the clothes in the smaller sizes but do I need more than a couple of sets of each size?  There are younger grandkids but in a SHTF situation how many clothes sets do they need?  When the 2 and 3 year old come over I wash their clothes every other day so do they need more than two sets of clothes per season? 

The grandkids Sunday School had a used book sale.  All the left over books are in my barn.  The school said they don’t care what I do with them since they were all donated and they don't want the leftovers.  Most of them are books that I’d never read.  They didn’t sell at 25 cents each!  Why are they taking up space? 

I have a bunch of toys that the kids used to play with.  They don’t now.  How many do we need?  I’m not talking about getting rid of forever stuff.  There’re plenty of things around here that I will never get rid of but there are other things that I look around and ask myself why it’s here.   After a while you don’t even notice you have the stuff.  For instance, in the corner of my garage is the freezer.  It’s an upright freezer.  On top of the freezer is a huge Italian bottle.  I don’t know why I have the bottle other than it was given to me and the person said it was worth a hundred dollars.  So why have I kept it for at least 7 years?  Certainly not for the beauty or enjoyment of the thing.  Also not for the monetary value.  I’ve kept it because it doesn’t really even register in my brain that I have it.  It’s just something taking up space on top of the freezer.  It doesn’t bother me, I don’t bother it.  It’s time for it to go.  Maybe I could get ten dollars for it.  That’ll buy me some real supplies. 

If I had a garage sale I’d bring the stuff out to the road.  Nobody would actually drive down the driveway to the garage.  I’m thinking about it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My turn for cramps

My second day out in the field was much more difficult than the first day.  There were three of us compared to four the first day of this project.  Again we hiked about four miles.  This really isn’t a long way if you are on flat land.  The first day we had some brush to deal with but most was foot tall grass.  Even with the 100 degree day it was an easy day.  The second day was hiking on a bit of a slope.  I’ve hiked up and down mountains with one or two thousand foot elevation changes.  Those aren’t fun.  This day wasn’t like that.  It was up and down but only about a 200’ rise and fall. 

After the hike we were discussing the day at the trucks.  As I was sitting on the tailgate I noticed the strangest cramp.  It went up one arm across my shoulder and then down to my waist.  It came and went in about 10 minutes.  We watched the muscles tighten up as it worked its way up my arm.  We pulled out the medical bag to give me a quick check.  All was normal and we determined that it was situational.  I haven’t been carrying a heavy pack in a while.  I was making movements and using muscles that haven’t been taxed recently.  At the end of the hike I took off the pack and sat down.  

You may be thinking it was only four miles and not much of an elevation change.  What was the problem?  Why would I have such difficulty?  I wanted to chalk it up to being the oldest one out there.  That wasn’t the reason.  It wasn’t the weather.  It was only about 85 out and there was a breeze. 

The walking was much more difficult.  We were not walking on any kind of trail.  Not a human trail and not a deer trail.  We were busting brush.  If you haven’t done that it’s not easy.  About two of the four miles was in brush that was knee high or taller.  Some brush was about 10 feet high and so close together that their branches intertwined.  This meant that not only were half of my steps knee high steps but I was also using my arms to move the brush out of the way.  I would often bend at the waist as I pushed my way through.  This is hard work and I was using different muscles than the day before where we just walked.

I also had to keep my eyes open for unfriendly wildlife.  We found two shedded rattlesnake skins.  Didn’t find any live rattlesnakes but with each step I also needed to look at the ground just in case.  I had to be on the lookout for mountain lion and badgers.  What kind of protection did I carry other than the normal self defense items?  I had a whistle attached to the strap of my backpack.  One of my coworkers wore leg coverings to protect against snakes.  The boots that I wore yesterday were 9 inches high but I think if I was wearing the leg coverings I may have not had to concentrate on the ground as much as I did.  The cell phones didn’t work in that area.  We all carried radios to be able to communicate with each other and also to call for emergency help. 

I drank water on the hour drive out to the project.  There's no drinking alcohol while working (haven't had anything in over a week) and my sister doesn't drink coffee so I haven't had any caffeine since I've been in San Diego.  I drank a Gatorade prior to leaving the truck and starting the hike.  I carried half water and half Gatorade and drank all of it -160 ounces, the same as the day before.  When I got back to the trucks I was starting to get overheated and drank three more Gatorades and also put a cold water bottle on my neck and poured some water down my back.  In all, I probably drank twice as much as the day before but still ended up with the cramp.  As I was driving back I also got cramps in both my feet and had to take my boots off.  Those cramps didn't last long.   

I didn't eat as well yesterday morning or during the hiking.  Normally I eat constantly when I'm working.  I didn't yesterday.  I ate breakfast, then only had a couple of granola type bars and an orange.  This is only 1/3 to 1/2 of what I would usually eat.  So between the more difficult terrain and not eating as well I'm sure this was the reason for the cramps.

Walking is good and being able to walk for miles and miles may be needed in a SHTF situation.  I know my physical training is seasonal and at the beginning of the summer I’m not in as good of shape as at the end of summer although I'm in much better shape than most people I know.  This was a real eye opener though. Walking through brush is not at all the same as walking through grass or on a trail.  If you have the opportunity to get off the trail and beat some brush, try it.  You won’t like it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How much liquid do you need to drink?

Today I was doing some field work to help out one of the people who works for me.  He went on a family vacation and has been off for three weeks.  I was in a group of four and we spent the day hiking - working but still being outside and having fun.  When people think of San Diego County they picture beautiful beaches, Sea World, a fantastic park, and lots of things to do. People don't realize that once you get away from the ocean it is hot and dry.  Not quite desert like, although there are parts of the county that are in the desert. 

Today we weren't quite in the desert but still hiking in an area without any trees and lots of heat.  It was close to 100 degrees.  In the afternoon the wind picked up so our sweat was able to cool us down very well.  I'm glad I don't live down here but working in weather like this is a good reminder that we may be put into a situation that we are not familiar with or that we truly don't like! 

I don't mind the heat but wearing a couple layers of clothing and carrying my pack wasn't the way I'd like to spend it.  Sitting around a swimming pool would be more like it!  But work had to be done.  Since we were never going to be further than a mile and a half from our trucks we didn't worry too much about overheating.  We were away from the trucks for four hours.  During this time we walked four miles.  We also drank a lot.  I was hydrated prior to starting the hike.  I didn't carry my camel pack today, instead opting for plastic bottles.  During my four hours I drank 5 -20 ounce bottles of water and three 20 ounce Gatorades.  160 ounces total.  This is five quarts of liquid or more than one quart per hour.  That's less than I should have had but still not too bad.

One of the members of our group bragged that he hydrated himself up and drank five bottles of water prior to heading out to the field.  It took us over an hour driving just to get to the project.  When we were out there he drank two bottles of water.  He was worried that we weren't drinking enough but that he was fine.  After we completed the project we drove the hour back to their office.  When he got out of the truck both legs cramped.   I guess he wasn't so hydrated after all.  The rest of us were fine. 

We are repeating this trek tomorrow.  We will be hiking about a mile away from this project and the weather is supposed to be a little cooler.  I'll make sure I drink enough.  We talk about needing to store a gallon of water per day for drinking and cooking and a gallon for other needs.  That may be fine if we aren’t doing anything but hanging around.  Today we didn’t do any real physical work other than walk around in hot weather carrying heavy equipment.  In four hours I drank more than a gallon.  I wonder how much I would have needed if I was working in the garden or fixing fences or doing other heavy physical activity?

Disney security fails

It's a good thing that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth.  It's not like some of the other theme parks yet where the gangs have taken over. Their security was a joke.  I do know that they have a lot of undercover security but as far as getting in, why bother with security.  Six of us went to Disneyland on Tuesday.  I brought in my backpack with sandwiches, snacks, water bottles, a handgun and of course my concealed weapons permit. 

There were no metal detectors.  I could have carried in lots of weapons, both legal and illegal.  The security lady had me open the backpack, she pushed the sandwiches around, felt the outside and bottom of the pack and said have a great day.  We did. 

It was pretty crowded and I know we won't go during the summer again.  I was way past my comfort level in the parking garage, prior to even getting into the park. I did see one homeless person sleeping on the bench. Saw many people arguing about how they were supposed to be having fun.  Overall, the tension level of the people was pretty mild.  That's good because I would hate to know just how many others brought weapons into Disneyland that weren't upstanding.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Identifying every tree in America

While reading the Sunday paper today one article in particular caught my eye.  Scientists unveil new mobile app to identify trees.  Leafsnap excites users and students.  It sounds like an exciting new product from the Smithsonian.  If you are out hiking or just looking around your neighborhood and you come across a tree or plant that you can't identify, all you have to do is take a picture of it.  This application on your phone will process it and tell you what it is. 
It sounds wonderful.  That is until you read the fine print.  Yes you will be able to learn the plant diversity in your yard or park.  So will everyone else.  You see, once you take the picture, the new phone will identify where the plant is so it will be able to be mapped!  I had concerns about mapping trees when I found a group that was mapping "foraging" trees in neighborhoods.  This takes it a step further.  The research biologist with the Smithsonian, John Kress stated, "This is going to be able to populate a database of every tree in the United States.  I mean that's millions and millions and millions of trees, so that would be really neat."  Really scary.  Stay out of my yard.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The kids got lost...oops

Growing up in a safe town, and being able to ride my bike or walk wherever I wanted, makes it more difficult for me to keep my guard up.  I really don't think twice about letting kids go out to play.  I have other family members who don't think that way.  Kids always have to be chaperoned in order to be safe.  I don't believe that at all.  This doesn't mean that I will let the kids walk around in bad parts of LA without me there...ok we aren't going to do that even as a family!  It does mean that if they want to go to a local park they can.  I don't have to be there.  Of course, it would be nice if they remembered how to get back. 

We are staying in my childhood home.  The entire town is etched in my mind as well as the hiking trails, caves, and all kinds of get away spots when you just don't want anyone to bug you.  The grandkids don't know this area very well.  They do know how to get from the house to the park.  They do know some hiking trails and the creek where I used to catch turtles.  What they missed was how to get from the park to the house.  I'm not quite sure how they missed that but they did. 

They wanted to go to the park and like a good grandparent trying to put a presentation together and not really having time for them I said sure.  Just be home for dinner.  Three hours later, and about an hour after I figured they'd be beating down the door for food, they hadn't shown back up.  I'm getting hungry so I figured I'd go get them.  I drove to the park, not feeling like walking the couple of blocks.  They weren't where I expected them to be.  I drove to other parts of the park.  No kids. 

The only thing that crossed my mind is they took a wrong turn home.  It never crossed my mind that something bad had happened.  Nothing bad happened.  They took a wrong turn home.  Actually, they went a couple of streets too far.  Each street has a street sign and they walked right past the street we are staying at.  They knew the name so they were probably messing around when they walked right by. 

What they did to correct their error is where they need additional training.  Boy and girl split up to find their way back to Great grandma's house.  That was the wrong thing to do.  I found girl around the corner.  She had come to the busy main street and knew she had gone too far.  Instead of walking back to the park to try it again, she walked down a different street that she hadn't been on at all.  When I found her she was directly behind mom's house.  I pointed her in the right direction and drove away.   You didn't think I was going to pick her up, did you? 

Then I found boy.  He had made it back to the house but then decided to go search for his sister.  This was also the wrong thing to do.  After I left girl I saw him running down at the other end of this street that was directly around the corner from mom's.  I caught up to him.  He said he'd been home but was going to go for a run and get his sister.  I told him she was on her way home and now he could runback the other way to the house .  He said he wanted a ride.  Nothing doing.  Run.  So he turned around and we raced.  He in his bare feet and I in my Ford F250 4x4 pick up.  Amazing runner he is.  He beat me in the 1/4 mile.  Of course I was pretty much coasting...

Dinner conversation included what you do when you get yourself misplaced.  In a case like this, their biggest error was splitting up.  Then granddaughter made the next error.  She could get herself back to where she started but instead went in a way that she knew she hadn't been before.  They need to pay more attention to their surroundings, but all in all did pretty well for being 8 and 9 and four hours from home.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Eating seaweed puffs

Today I'm working near the beach town of Carpenteria.  It has good memories for me because as a child we used to rent a beach house here during summers.  I am going to get off early and we are going to head to the beach.  There are lots of things I can teach the kids.  Today they are going to learn about harvesting kelp.  You don't pick the seaweed up from the beach.  That's like picking up rotten fruit and eating it.  You can bring that stuff home and put it into your compost.  When you are out on a rocky area pick some kelp that is still growing.  It's easy to get at low tide.  I know you can eat the leaves and stems of seaweed raw but they really need boiling or other processing to make them edible.  Instead, take a handful of seaweed and pick off the round puffs at the ends.  You don't even have to pull the whole plant out.  Dry the puffs. That's all there is to it.  They are fun to eat and are good for you. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to make a work trip into a survival challenge for children

No, nothing has gone wrong on my trip so far.  Hope it stays that way!  But as I was driving for five hours today with two children and dog the thought crossed my mind that I should use the trip as a practice for disaster of some sort.  I always come prepared with extra everything.  That's not what I was thinking. 

Since I'm finishing working next Friday and the kids don't start summer camp until the following Monday we have the entire weekend to get home.  Although I'm "on the clock" when I'm driving, I don't get overtime, so if I take 10 hours to get home plus an extra day rather than 6 1/2 hours it won't be a big deal. 

Here's a couple of scenarios. 
1.  I'm thinking about telling Interstate 5 is closed in LA.  I'll hand them the map and have them figure out the best way to get home.  I can get from San Diego to Central California without ever getting on a freeway but I don't want to take that long. 
2.  I can tell them I lost my money so we can't go out to eat.  If I have a stomach ache then I won't be in the mood to make them anything to eat.  They will have to get into the food container and figure out how to make two meals for the three of us. 
3.  I want some hot tea for my stomach ache.  Make it for me.  (Take a bottle of water from the back of the truck, stick a tea bag in the bottle, put it on the dash.) 
4.  The power is out in the city so the gas stations don't work.  How can we get fuel?  (Full gas cans are in the back of the truck)
5.  I lost the key to the truck. (Do they know where the spare key is?)
6.  Where did I park the truck when we go to Disneyland?  How good is their sense of direction?  Can they talk it out to backtrack their steps?
7.  If the freeway is closed and with my lost money we may have to stay the night somewhere.  Where should we park the truck that is safe?  Can we sleep in the truck? 
8.  Anything else?  They are 8 and 9, so I can't have them drive...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Work trip

For the next week and a half I'm going to be away for work.  I am having a couple of fun days scheduled in the middle.  This Saturday I am giving a two part lecture for a group my mother is part of.  Each month a different person hosts dinner and some sort of presentation.  As I said the lecture is two parts.  Part one, before dinner, our trip to Antarctica.  Part two, after dinner, my interesting job.  On Tuesday several family members, including the grandkids and myself, are going to "Walt's Place" which is our code for Disneyland.  Disneyland doesn't have an issue with "packing" do they? 

While others may think my job is interesting, it is my job so it's only interesting when I get to get away from the office.  When I tell people what I do they are really impressed.  They want to hear all about it.  I tell them it's mostly paperwork...  On the other hand, the trip to Antarctica was fantastic.  I'm even going to include a few pictures that I took, and you know I rarely include pictures on this blog. 

It's odd because the last few times I've traveled to southern CA I've been really uneasy, and  almost wished that I didn't have to go.  This time I don't have any concerns about the travel.  I don't know why.  What this does mean is that I don't have my guard up as much as I normally would.  I do need to be aware of my surroundings.  Most of them would be considered "safe" places, but situational awareness is a must, especially traveling with the grandkids and dog. 

I will have the extra fuel and food, we always have sleeping bags, bug-out bags, money, weapons, and just about anything needed for any situation.  I will have the computer but may not be posting each day. 

It is supposed to be hot and being away from the garden and animals is always a concern during the summer.  Army daughter is here at home but I have no confidence in her ability to water the garden or make sure the animals are doing ok.  Daughter-in-law was over for dinner tonight and she and I picked the entire apricot tree although the fruit won't be ripe for a few more days.  I figured if I left it on the tree and told Army daughter to pick it when it was ripe it would have all gone to the birds or the ants.  This way, we will be able to eat fruit the entire trip. 

Son said that he'd come over to water the garden and also make sure the animals had food and water.  I told them they could have the eggs in exchange.  I still worry about everything.  Usually the garden and animals are fine but things just seem to go wrong when we aren't home.  I remember one time when I was about 5 hours from home and a neighbor called and left a message telling me that my back fence had been broken and the steer was walking away.  Thanks for watching him go and not doing anything other than calling and leaving a message.  I got home a couple days later and put fliers up all over the neighborhood, "missing steer".  We got him back.  We are taking two 10 day trips this summer, this one and the one to North Carolina in August.  Hopefully the garden will come through this trip and I'll have a lot picked and preserved before the next trip.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lightning Safety

Today work sent around an email on the topic of lightning safety.  It was a fascinating article so I thought I'd share it with everyone.  We've always been concerned with getting struck by lightning but less than 5% of lightning deaths are caused by direct strikes.  Ground current, side flashes, and touching something that is charged cause 85% of fatalities. 

Lightning strikes fast, usually in just a few milliseconds, so you can't escape once it is in process.  If you are in a thunderstorm the safest thing to do is to get into a building.  Unfortunately, it's not always possible.  If you are near a car or truck get into that.  If you are not near either then you may be in trouble!  Here are some things that you can do to minimize your risk when working in areas prone to lightning. 

If possible you should move indoors.  I love to stand on my back patio to watch the lightning show.  I thought I'd be ok because I wasn't out in the open.  What I didn't realize was if the patio cover was hit, instead of the lightning stopping there it would continue towards the ground, using me to conduct the current.  You see, the lightning will travel down a vertical surface to get to the ground.  When there is a gap that the lightning needs to jump, any object, including a person would bridge that gap to help conduct the current to the ground. 

Check the forecasted weather before you start your day.  Know what the local weather patterns are and work around them.  For example, if you know that the thunderstorms hit at noon be done with your outside activity before then.  Pay attention to the weather.  If you are working with others, have one person's main responsibility to be the weather.  In my line of work we have lookouts.  Their entire job is to keep everyone else safe.  They pay attention to the surroundings. 

As soon as you hear any thunder you need to get yourself immediately off exposed ground by moving to safer ground.  Get into a ravine or depression - but also be aware of flash flooding.  Avoid peaks, ridges, and higher terrain.  Avoid open spaces.  Avoid tall trees and other objects and even bushes if they are in the middle of an open area.  If the storm is coming towards a hill or mountain your best bet is on the opposite side that the storm will initially hit.  Get as far down the mountain as you can since lightning is more likely to strike at higher elevations. 

When you've blown it and you can't get to safety you will need to get into what is known as the lightning position.  Put your feet together.  This will significantly reduce the effects of ground current, the leading cause (almost half) of lightning fatalities.  Crouch to try to reduce the effect of side flash and upward leaders which together cause almost the rest of the lightning fatalities.  Wrap your arms around your legs and close your eyes.  If you have anything with you that can insulate you from the ground sit on them.  This can include a jacket, foam pad, or anything else.  Don't sit on a backpack with a metal frame!  Don't touch any metal.  Take off your rings and other jewelry. 

When the lightning hits the ground the current spreads and dissipates as it spreads.  If you are in that dissipation area, this causes a problem when one part of your body has one voltage and another part has a different voltage.  If there is a difference in voltage then this will push the electric current through you.  That's why you try to keep your feet as close together as possible. 

Side flash is when the lightning hits something tall, such as a tree, and on the way down to the ground a portion of the current shoots out the side toward something adjacent to the tall object: another tree or a person.  This is why you don't want to be around the tallest of trees or other tall objects.   

Currents will pass through long conductors such as railroad tracks, fences, corded telephones, computers, etc. and can also cause injury or death.  Fencing should have the occasional steel post to ground the fence rather than all wooden posts. 

The article that I got this information was written by John Gookin and can be found at

Monday, June 13, 2011

More fire ramblings

Today I posted a comment on Rourke's site  He was writing about the fire in Arizona.  I've written numerous posts on fires and other natural disasters.  It's part of my professional life so I am very free with providing comments, especially when it comes to wildlands and what can happen to you there. 

On the Wallow fire, the biggest fire that's happening in Arizona now (and it's looking pretty good although the report says 10% contained).  Not including the land and trees that have burned, the fire put about 4500 buildings (commercial, homes, outbuildings) at risk.  They have less than 350 engines on that fire.  There are about 4000 people assigned to the fire, but only 350 engines.  Normally you'd want one engine per house.  That's not happening. 

They do draw a really big circle around the fire and projected fire perimeter and add up all the structures to give a threatened number.  In the past few years the agencies have all done that.  In that way they can say yes the fire cost $10,000,000 to fight but if you add up the value of the structures saved it was well worth the cost.  The same is done with timberland.  They add up the value of the commercial timber to give a comparison of how much was saved vs how much was lost. 

So if a fire is coming your way, should you stay or should you go?  That will all depend on what is surrounding your home and property and what materials your home is constructed with.  Is your home worth protecting or should you just evacuate and take some of your stuff?  This question does not have anything to do with the value of the home.  If you think about it, someone in a million dollar home probably has good insurance but someone in a broken down motor home on an acre in the middle of nowhere may have nothing but what's in that motorhome.  In the fire department's view, is it worth protecting?  It depends on how safe it can be for the firefighters to protect it.  That's the question that needs to be answered. 

How do they figure out where they can protect and where they can't?  There are never enough fire engines to put one engine per house for protection on anything other than the smallest incident.  We all know that we need to keep the area around the house clear of "ladder" fuels which will carry fire up to the treetops and keep flammable items away from the buildings.  But there is so much more to evaluating which home is protected and which isn't. 

Unfortunately, for those who want to keep their homes invisible from the road, this may be the exact reason why your home will not be protected.  I just read on Survivalblog that the best way to keep your house looking like nobody is there is to keep the brush not cleared, to have junk laying around, and to not have the roof cleared of debris, stuff like that.  That's great if the SHTF in some governmental breakdown and mobs of people are coming your way.  It's the worst possible thing if you want to protect your house from wildfire. 
What is the road like to your house?  It's not just getting an engine down your road or down the driveway but is there turn around space?  Is the road more than one vehicle wide?  How steep is the road or even the driveway? 

Are trees overhanging your house?  Do you have a wood deck surrounding your house?  What's the roof made of?  Are brush and plants growing near the house?  What's the topography of the area?  Are you in an area where a fire can come roaring up a chimney?  Are you in a box canyon?  What's the slope?  Are the winds going to be erratic or will the heat be overwhelming due to your location?

Do you have a water source that the engine can use?  During the Jesusita fire in Santa Barbara I told my brother to put a big sign in front of his property: 50,000 gallon water source behind the fence.  Having a pool of that size will ensure that engines and water tankers will pump from the pool.  More protection for his house!

 Remember, the firefighters are going to put their safety first.  It's more important than your property.

I've seen plenty of burned homes.  I've seen metal sheds melt.   I've also seen plenty that have weathered the firestorm.   I've seen rock homes with metal roofs survive.  Most likely if you've prepared your property to make it firesafe, the fire isn't going to come right up to your house.  It will probably be set afire by cinders flying through the air like rain.  When these land on your roof, your wood patio, or get sucked up into your attic you are in trouble.  If you have water available, even without power and you keep your roof watered with sprinklers then it will have a chance. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 10, game over, I win! I did find something I was missing in my storage program

Ten days and I didn't buy anything except the paint for the fascia.  The only thing we ran out of was liquid milk.  The kids didn't mind the powdered milk.  I also gave them more juice.  Around here juice is a couple of pieces of fruit off the tree, blend together with a little water and crushed ice.  Delicious!  We make some unusual combinations that you'll never see in the store.  Kumquat, peach, cherry juice is one example.  The kids discovered that grapefruit is good.  We have one tree that has yellow grapefruit.  That fruit definitely needs a little sugar when you eat it.  The grandkids don't like it.  We also have a tree with pink grapefruit on it.  I picked one of those and offered slices to everyone.  Bug-out renters son said it was the most delicious grapefruit ever.  Get a 25 year old young man to say that and all of a sudden 8 year old grandson loves grapefruit.  Granddaughter wasn't home when we were feasting so I don't know if she's going to like it or not.  I'm hoping she doesn't and that boy only liked it because renters son did.  The tree is still really small and I'm only getting half a dozen this year.  I don't want to share!  In four or five more years it will give me more than I'll be able to eat.
It was a lazy day today.  I worked a little more on the chicken coop.  Renters son and boy went hunting for duck eggs and found three that were recently laid.  They are in the refrigerator for breakfast tomorrow.  I pulled a bunch of weeds and gave them to the chickens.  I set up an automatic waterer for the sheep.  Boy kept asking if we could shoot.  I told him if he got all his chores done and was good.  Well, he did, so we did.  I had him draw some targets on 8x11 paper.  He hung two up on the fence by the garden.  He wanted to shoot the .38 special.  I said let's shoot the 22 rifle.  Ok.  I got out the ear protection and shooting glasses.  He was so excited.  He had to show me how to check a gun to make sure it wasn't loaded.  We then loaded it and he got to take one shot.  He handed me the rifle and walked up to the target.  About 4 inches above the target but right through the fence.  No dead chickens with that shot.  We shoot through the garden into the chicken coop run area.  This part of their coop has a wooden wall, which I had put up specifically to shoot through.  The property is 1/4 mile deep but I figure with one or two pieces of wood to shoot through, the bullet should end up somewhere in the back pasture and not get into the dead vineyard behind us.  Actually at the end of the property are two rows of trees, then the vineyard.  There usually isn't anyone in the dead vineyard, which is almost 1/2 mile deep, and beyond that is a large embankment.  I would say it's rather safe to shoot in the backyard, especially if it's the 22.  There isn't a roost area in the part of the coop we are shooting through so it's just about impossible to actually shoot a chicken. 
I shot two shots, both in his center circle.  Renters son shot two shots.  I couple inches away from my holes but still good.  Grandson ended up hitting the target once and shooting the fence twice.  Pretty good considering the rifle is way too big for him.  Next came the .38 special.  Grandson tried to shoot it but couldn't pull the trigger.  That's too bad.  I was hoping it would knock him back a bit, although I was helping him to stay steady.  He tried pulling the trigger twice and then I said no, you aren't strong enough for this one yet.  Perhaps by the end of summer we'll try it again.  Renters son wanted to shoot it.  Ok but only one shot.  He shot it and thought it was cool.  He missed the target though but got a good hole in the coop. 
Back to not buying for the 10 days.  I figured it was going to be easy to not spend any money shopping for a week and a half.  I missed not getting a Slurpee for the kids.  That's really the only type of spending that we do that's "wasted" money...but the kids don't think it's wasted as it makes for yet another great memory of childhood.  I did find something that is needed that's not in my storage program.  Oldest daughter called to say that the two puppies she has had to be treated for worms.  It's probable that the two yip-yips and the puppy we have and our big dog have worms.  Perhaps the cats do too.  I don't have any pet wormer in my program.  It's not anything that ever crossed my mind.  In fact, I don't have too many meds for the animals.  This is the first year we've ever had fleas, ticks, and now worms.  I need to research this more and go out and spend some money.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 9, no spending, better to have the gun and not need it, and mylar bags

It's day 9 of the 10 days of no spending.  I didn't buy anything today.  It was easy.  We didn't go anywhere.  Army daughter and son-in-law went out to dinner last night and out to lunch today, but as I said before they aren't playing the game.  The grandkids and I haven't spent any money other than the three gallons of paint yesterday.

The fascia was prepped yesterday and half the fascia was painted yesterday.  The rest was completed today.  It sure is nice having a professional painter stay for a few days.  He started caulking around some of the doors and windows.  We had 12 tubes of caulk, which surprised the painter.  "You really do have everything.  My parents said you would."  Tomorrow he's going to touch up around the doors and windows.  Then he's back to the bug-out place for the rest of the week. Maybe I'll send him up there with a tube of caulking.

Last night Army daughter had a scare.  We were all up and doing our own things when she called out for her husband.  He didn't respond.  She called again.  Nothing.  She looked for him in the house.  Checked the bathroom, bedrooms, garage.  No husband.  She went outside and called for him.  No response. She came in the house.  I can't find my husband.  He's not responding to my calls.  He didn't go anywhere, his car is still here.  We went searching for him.  Perhaps he fell and hit his head.  Perhaps something sinister?  I had my weapon out.  I noticed the neighbor's back light was on.  I went through the gate.  There was son-in-law retrieving his two yip-yip dogs who ran next door when he let them out of their kennel to put them in the garage for the night. 

Saturday is chore day around here.  The grandkids have to clean their rooms: dust, sweep,  wash the floor, and put their laundry away.  Their shelves are supposed to be neat, but my version of neat and their version of neat aren't quite the same.  Usually their version of neat prevails.  They also have two extra chores to do.  Girl raked the front yard and brought branches that the sheep had eaten the leaves off to the front of the property to continue with the branch and brush along the front fence project.  Boy raked the back yard and washed out the 3 foot plastic swimming pool that the dog and ducks share.

My chores seemed to go on and on and on.  First I mowed the front and back yards.  Fortunately for me I have a little JD tractor.  It's the smallest real tractor that JD makes.  It's a step up from a riding lawn mower.  When I bought the tractor 10 years ago I decided that I didn't need their 4000 series and the 2000 series would work.  Since I have 5 level acres I didn't think it was necessary to spend the extra money on the larger tractor.  If I had was to do it all over again, I would have bought the larger tractor, but I am happy with the baby tractor.  This tractor has a 52 inch mower deck.  It made easy work of the lawn.  It's not really lawn anyway.  It's green weeds that are starting to turn brown.  It may be the last mowing of the summer.  The grandkids hope so!  Army daughter came out when I was mowing and said that she doesn't understand why I had a gun in my pocket.  After all, I was just mowing the yard.  Nothing is going to happen where I'd need a gun.  I just told her that I hope so but it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.  I'll just carry it around...even when I'm mowing the lawn. 

Then I hooked the small open trailer up to the pickup.  The trailer is a 5x8 foot trailer.  It has welded sides and a back panel drop down gate.  On the inside of the trailer I've wired hog panels that have been cut to fit.  I brought the trailer up to the front pasture and coaxed the sheep into the back of the trailer.  I closed it up and drove to the back yard.  I made a small enclosed area between the side of the barns and the property line.  This area is about 25x100.  The older grandsons have their project trucks parked over there but the weeks are waist high now.  The sheep should be happy in the area for a couple of weeks.  I need to set up a good water tub for them over there because right now I just have a small bucket that needed to be filled twice in the day.  That's too much effort and I don't want them to run out of water.  There is very little shade in this area.  This took about two hours to get them moved. 

Then I had laundry to do.  It was a nice day out and each load dried faster hanging on the clothesline than it took the next load to wash.

Lunch time...left overs from the last couple of days.  This is something that we typically do on Saturdays since we usually spend the morning on chores.  We don't have a lot of time to prepare a good lunch and dinner left overs are always fun.  Boy came in and exclaimed that it looked like we had a buffet (all you can eat and a big variety) lunch.  He was very happy. 

After lunch I swept the house and washed the wood floors.  Since dog likes to lay in her little swimming pool then roll around on the ground and then come in the house, the floors get really dirty.  The kids played in our new "pool", which is the cattle waterer.  We cover it up with a tarp when they aren't in it to keep the bugs out. 

Each of the adults, Army daughter, son-in-law, and friend's son have complained that the hall bathroom's shower isn't working well.  There's almost no water pressure.  I told them all that the shower head needed to be taken off because the water saver piece in it must be clogged.  It just needs to be cleaned.  They keep complaining.  I told all three that it's not my responsibility to fix it.  If they want a decent shower they need to fix it.  It will take two minutes to fix.  My shower works fine.  Fix it yourself.  Nobody has fixed it yet.  Boy and girl got their  showers tonight and neither had good water pressure. 

I took two 25 pound bags of rice and a 25 pound bag of flour out of the freezer.  I have several empty five gallon buckets in the closet.  I had just emptied a 5 gallon bucket of rice into the rice can and 2-2 gallon buckets.  It's my version of rice rotation.  I put the rice into 5 gallon buckets, then transfer it into to the smaller buckets and the can.  I put the flour into a mylar bag into the bucket, pushed out air, and ironed the bag shut.  I then put the lid on the bucket.  I got a new mylar bag out for one of the rice buckets and was hoping to reuse the other mylar bag from the rice bucket that I had just rotated.  I looked into the bag and saw little bits of light shining through.  The rice had punched a bunch of holes in the mylar bag.  I couldn't reuse the mylar bag but it got me to thinking.  How many tiny pin holes are in mylar bags?  I checked the five new bags I still had.  They all were fine.  I doubt it was defective prior to use.  It must just have been caused by the rice.  I don't know if it's because the buckets got moved from place to place and this jarring caused the holes.  Using the mylar is supposed to be an additional protection for the stored food.  As long as the buckets have their lids on, even if the bag does get a hole it will still be protected.  But using the dry ice, moisture protection, etc. isn't going to work if the food itself puts holes in the mylar.  Perhaps putting it into ziplocks and then the mylar.  I don't know.  Perhaps someone else has more experience with this?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 8 and what do you do with cotton balls?

It's day 8 and I'd like to say that I didn't spend any money this entire time but I did this morning.  I bought three gallons of paint to get the fascia painted on my house.  It's been warm enough outside that the wood dried out after last weekends soaking.  I'm not entirely going to count it as spending money, although it ended up costing about one hundred dollars.  The bug-out renters son is a professional painter and he came to visit his folks for a week.  He flew down here from Washington.  He wanted to thank me for helping out his mom and his way of thanking me was to paint whatever I needed to get painted.  How could I say no to this?  So today his dad dropped him off around breakfast time, I fed him along with the rest of us then we headed off to Home Depot to pick out the paint.  This project was something that was planned before I started my 10 days of no spending so I think as long as I don't spend money on anything else I'm still going great. 

I had everything else that he needed except the mesh for inside the bucket which he needed to take paint off the roller.  Sticking to the not spending money mode that I was in (other than for the paint) we decided to improvise with what we had here at the house.  I have several different types of wire and he was able to take 1/2 inch gridded wire and cut it to fit the two gallon bucket that he was going to use for the roller.  It worked great.  So, no money spent...sort of.

I was asked why I wanted to grow cotton plants.  I've always found lots of uses for cotton.  I've never tried to spin it but it would be an interesting craft to take up.  It's more for small projects and tasks.  They are disposable, which is something that I like.  Best of all, it's something that can be grown and my attitude has always been that if I can provide for myself there no reason to spend money on it. 

There's several first aid uses for cotton balls. 
1. One that we all know is if you get a shot or have blood drawn a cotton ball is placed under the bandage to help soak up blood and also to put a little more pressure on the puncture. 
2. It's also good if you have athlete's foot or something like that.  Dilute some rubbing alcohol and soak a cotton ball with it.  Dab that on to the affected areas.  Then throw it away. 
3. If you have pills or vitamins, once you open the container you want to make sure that moisture doesn't ruin the pills.  If you keep a cotton ball in the bottle it will help absorb any small bits of moisture. 
4. It's also useful for cleaning small cuts or abrasions or applying salves or creams. 

There are other, not medical uses too:
1. You can wipe your glasses or a scope with a cotton ball and a drop of water for scratch free clean. 
2.  Cotton is good when soaked in vinegar.  You can use it to freshen a room, the refrigerator, or trash can.
3.  Tinder for a fire, especially when used with vaseline or other grease.
4.  Cleaning a baby bottom if they have a rash.  It's softer than using a rag. 
5.  When using your vacuum cleaner, if you take a cotton ball and soak it in something, either vinegar or a perfume, it will scent the room as you vacuum.
6.  If you are wearing rubber gloves the gloves will last longer if you throw a cotton ball in the end of each finger tip. 
7.  They make great shot for using slingshots in the house.
8.  Cotton balls can be used in art projects.
9.  If you need to soak a small area with something, such as a stain with a little bleach, a cotton ball works perfectly.
10. They are good for putting on and removing makeup, nail polish, etc.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ticks, mice, lizards, frogs and bats oh my.

The back patio had a pile of droppings on it last week or perhaps the week before.  I looked around and didn't see anything but then saw up on the fascia that there were a couple of droppings up there too.  I decided that denial of this problem was the best way to handle it.  After all, I didn't see any mice.


When I was working in the front yard there was a mouse in the weeds.  The cat with the broken pelvis was within a foot of it but didn't bother to pounce.  What a worthless cat…but if I was still recovering from a pelvis broken in three places I suppose I wouldn't pounce either.  That got me to thinking perhaps we are being inundated by mice.  I haven't seen any evidence in the house and I keep mouse bait in the garage.  Very little of the bait has been nibbled on. 


Today I woke up and walked outside and saw a huge pile of droppings in the same corner on the patio.  I looked up and about fifty pieces were stuck to the fascia.  This is not good.  I called the pest control service.  I have mice or rats or something in the attic.  They need to send someone out today. 


I guess the good thing about that is they said sometime between 1 and 4, which meant only ½ day in the office and ½ day working at home.  Clark Pest Control showed up at 3:30 and the inspector told me that it wasn't mice or rats.  What then?  Well he'd have to look under a magnifying glass to tell me for sure but it was either lizards or bats.  Great!  Both of those creatures are excellent to have around.  Right now we have so many frogs and lizards in the yard and coming into the house that we don't have much of a bug problem.  We've had bats in the barn but very few.  I'm happy no matter if it's lizards or bats.  Make more piles.  I'll be happy to clean up your mess!


I did get a tick on me two nights ago.  I've never had ticks here, just like I've never had fleas.  But a tick was on my back nevertheless.  I had walked from the house to the barn and back to the house.  I picked it up somewhere.  Since pest control was here I told him about the tick.  He has some sort of rosemary oil organic pellets that he spread on the back lawn.  It smelled great.  He said we could use it for dinner seasoning, although he'd rather use it on the lawn. 


I need to get flea and tick collars for the animals.  I've never needed them before but I suppose we do now.  I'll check into organic, home made as that's better for long term storage.  I suppose we can sew them up something nice that can hold rosemary and other plants on their collar and let them eat brewers yeast. 

Day seven, no spending

Didn't spend any money today.  Did have the pest control company come over but that's an every other month payment and I don't owe them any money until mid-July.  The kids get powdered milk.  They like it because I sometimes let them put a spoon of strawberry or chocolate quik in it.  We are having a green salad mostly of beet greens but a few others too.  The tomatoes are getting bigger.  In two weeks we will have tomatoes.  I can't wait! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Mexico and Western Texas, are you ready?

According to the power company, if the fire in Arizona comes near their high voltage power lines, they will shut them down.  This means people in New Mexico and Western Texas, 370,000 customers, will be on rolling blackouts.  Rolling blackouts may mean an hour or two at a time or perhaps half a day, more of an inconvenience than anything else.  For those of you on wells, do you have water backup?  What about your refrigerators and freezers?   Are they full?  Full freezers hold their cold better than a half empty freezer. Do you have an ice chest ready so the things you will need for a couple of days can be in that rather than opening and closing the fridge or freezer?  If you are in a heat wave do you have a way to keep cool without your air conditioner?  Perhaps you should make some ice blocks out of old milk jugs.  You have a day and a half to prepare.  They are expecting the fire to get to the lines on Friday.

Day 6, still haven't spent money

This really isn't much of a challenge, not spending money.  Usually on Wednesdays I buy the grandkids slurpees if we go to town.  They didn't get one this time but we made snowcones at home.  We will run out of liquid milk today.  We still have liquid milk in the quart shelf-stable containers but I'm not using them for this 10 day run.  Army daughter bought some milk for her and son-in-law.  It's a different % of fat than we use so they can keep on using theirs and we'll use powdered.  After all, they aren't playing.  I'm doing this experiment to see what I may overlook over a ten day or two week period, not to really use up my preps.  We aren't running low on anything that's food related.  I'm really not kidding when I say that I've got six months worth of food in the cabinets, and that's not even the stored stuff for survival.  But, perhaps there is something that I'm overlooking.  I'm expecting to need something that's not food related. 

The grandkids worked on the chicken coop, putting up some solid walls.  They didn't use up all my nails, although I don't have a five or ten year supply of them here at home.  The wood was from the old fence panels I picked up from the junk pile at work. 

I'd love to find some cotton seeds to buy and plant a couple of cotton plants.  I haven't had any luck finding this locally, which is odd since so many large farms within two hours of here plant cotton.  They must order seeds from some large company.  

I'm not looking at the store ads, so that way I don't know what good deals I'm missing.  I did buy Royal gelatin from Walgreens last week at 5 for a dollar before I stopped shopping.  I saw Weber bbqs on sale just in time for Father's Day.  I'll wait.

Grandson came in asking if he can paint his bike.  He also wants new handles for it.  I wonder what the condition of the seat is?  I have lots of the green slime to keep the tires from going flat but I don't have a lot of other parts or accessories for the bikes.  Now if we were in a hunker down situation the children wouldn't be out riding on their bikes.  But if it's anything less than that, having their bikes is a good way to burn some energy.  I think I will make a list of bike parts they can break.  There are also solid tires which would be so much better than tube tires.  Money to spend...just not now.

The grandkids came to the office with me on Monday.  Most people left between 4:30 and 5:00.  We stayed until 5:30.  Prior to heading out we decided to have timed races in the parking lot.  Run from my truck to that red truck parked at the other building.  They are so competitive that it's easy for me to get them to do something active.  I got out my GPS which had a stopwatch.  They ran a couple of times against each other then I had them run individually but against the clock.  They kept running trying to improve their times.  Then they ran around my building.  In all, they ran a little over a mile.  Just for fun.  They weren't even winded.  I ran it once.  They smoked me.  I'm getting old...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Do you live the prepared life or do you just prepare?

Day five, still haven't spent any money.  Not a penny.  Not buying the paint for the fascia because it’s too wet.  

I ran out of something today.  Diet soda.  I buy a 12 pack each month on average.  It lasts for about a month but because we had a bunch of people over for Memorial Day it went quicker.  They brought their own and drank mine too.  I’ll drink water, ice tea, lemonade, or other things that are better for me than soda anyway.  Soda isn’t something that I have in my long term storage, except ginger ale and lemon lime, but that’s mainly for upset tummies.  I've seen pictures of other people's provisions and it's full of soda.  It's not good for you and it takes up a lot of space.  It really shouldn't be a big ticket item in your storage plan. 

Liquid milk will only last a few more days, but I’ll substitute powdered.  Hen scratch?  I’ll substitute weeds and dropped fruit.  Gasoline?  This is what I’d run out of without a good substitute – and I’m not walking or riding a bike for this ten days to make up for not having gas.  I do have stored gas in several gas cans that I could use to fill the tank.  These get rotated anyway, but it would be nice to be able to purchase gas when I rotate these…and this is just an exercise so I don’t want to actually deplete my stock…I’m not sure if I will run out because I haven’t driven my truck yet since I started my no shopping for 10 days.  I have driven the work truck but even then I haven’t bought gas…work has its own fuel tanks so that’s using stored goods there too.

This wasn’t a planned stop shopping, I just saw the article on yahoo and decided to try it, not to save money but to see what I may fall short on with my preps – both household and food.  I didn’t stock up on anything right beforehand, I just read the article on night and decided to start the next day.  What about your food preps?  Do you eat one thing and store something else?  We do store things we don’t normally eat, such as MREs but I have them in my truck and have eaten them on days when I’ve forgotten my lunch.  I also store coffee filters although I use a wire mesh basket and no filter.  (ok so we don’t eat the filters) Pretty much we eat what we store which means we don’t need to worry about having to eat a whole new diet if something happens and we can’t shop.

I hear so much about what you should and shouldn’t store.  Yes, I agree that you should store whole wheat rather than flour because flour only stays fresh for anywhere between 6 months and two years depending on if it’s in the cabinet or in the freezer.  Whole wheat can last for your entire lifetime.  But does that mean that you shouldn’t store flour?  Of course you should.  If I use 15-20 pounds of flour per month then what’s wrong with storing 200 pounds of it if that’s what I’m going to use in a year?  As long as I rotate it, then it should be in my regular storage program.  You want to keep it well sealed because it will pick up the odors of everything around it.  I buy it by the 25 pound bag and throw it in the freezer for a week to get rid of any bugs that are always present in bagged flour. Is it an issue of having enough storage space for it? 

Perhaps the biggest issue on something like that is opening up mylar bags.  We don’t like opening mylar bags.  We figure that we will only open them in case of emergency.  Just buy a bunch of these and it won’t be such an issue. is where I got mine. They aren’t expensive if you by a bunch of them, only two dollars a piece.  If you use the bags right, you can reuse them.  You will just be cutting a strip off the top and resealing with the new batch.  If I go through a bucket of flour that’s in a mylar bag, then I only open the bag once.  I don’t reseal it with the iron until I’m going to fill it with a new sack of 25 pounds of flour again. I use the mylar bags for the rice and flour mainly to keep out other odors. 

At each dinner meal we usually (but not always) serve either rice, potatoes, or noodles.  This means we store rice, potatoes, and noodles.  And lots of them.  I know brown rice is better for you.  We like white rice.  It will last forever if stored right.  At home we store it in a mylar bag in a five gallon bucket.  When it gets opened we pour it into two 2 gallon buckets and the rest goes into the rice can in the kitchen.  Then the five gallon bucket and the mylar bag is ready for a new 25 pound bag of rice.  We can use the mylar bag many times before it would need to be replaced.  In fact, the rice doesn’t really need to be sealed in the mylar bag, just pour it into the bag, roll up the top of the bag, close the lid to the bucket.  It will last without any special treatment other than throwing the entire 25 pound sack into the freezer for a few days to kill bugs. 

The beans are all coming up in the garden.  So are the potatoes.  It’s such a strange season; the middle of June and I’m still planting my crops that I usually plant in April.

Monday, June 6, 2011

More peaches and no spending

Oldest daughter and I put up over 50 jars of sliced peaches, 8 jars of peach jam, 6 jars of peach juice, and 7 jars of brandied peaches.  She also took home a five gallon pail of fresh peaches.  We have two bowls of fresh peaches on the dining room table and there’s a few left on the tree.  The peaches in the bowl are in all stages of ripeness so I expect them to last a week or two, if they don’t get eaten up in the next day or so.

When Army Daughter and son-in-law walked in their eyes popped out.  Son-in-law asked, “Why would you do this? How long will it last?”  I told him that I like knowing what is in my food and in this case, other than the brandy it’s just peaches, water, a little lemon juice, and sugar.  I told him he should read the ingredients on any jar of peach jam that he can find in the store and see what those ingredients are.  I told him that if this was just for us then it would last two years, as long as the rest of the trees produced well, otherwise it would last one year.  On the other hand, since oldest daughter is going to take some it will probably only last us a year.  Trying to put a monetary angle on it I said these 75 jars of food would cost $150-200 at the store so for $7.50 in lids and $2.50 for the sugar for a grand total of ten dollars, we just saved between $140-190 for an afternoon’s worth of work.  Army daughter took exception to my time spent since I also spent time trimming the trees, watering and weeding, and picking the fruit - no the grandkids picked the fruit! 

Army daughter said that there is no need to waste time canning.  She’d rather go to the store and buy what we need.  She’s glad that we live in a society that we don’t have to do those old fashioned things anymore.  She said that if society ever collapsed then she’d can.  I told her that would be a little too late to learn and she wouldn’t have any supplies.  I still have hundreds of jars, lids, and this year I even bought some new rings.  The rings I had prior were from 1980, so I figured I could retire most of the 31 year old rings and get some new ones.  They were half price, $2.99 for a dozen lids and rings.  You didn’t think I’d buy new rings at full price, did you?

Girl said that it was really neat that I did this old stuff.  Kind of like Almonzo’s family (she’s still reading Farmer Boy).  Did they have stores to buy jam when I was young or did I always have to make jam?  I’m NOT that old. 

Not spending any money today, day four.  Didn’t eat the tacos they brought home yesterday for dinner.  I asked if they used the coupon and they said no, but it was only ninety nine cents for the two, plus they added extra cheese and extra lettuce at ten cents for each extra item on each taco, so two cost $1.39.  Thanks but I ate the night before’s leftovers and was pretty full from stuffing peaches in my mouth all day. 

I am planning on spending money either Tuesday or Wednesday.  My friend’s son is in town for a few more weeks and he’s bored just visiting his family.  He’s a house painter by trade.  He offered to paint my fascia boards on the house just for something to do.  I have to provide the tools and paint.  I have all the tools.  I just have to provide (buy) the paint.  It’s something that I was planning on doing this summer, so the timing is bad for my don’t spend money event.  If the rain continues, we got ½ inch in less than an hour last night, then it will be too wet to paint.  I won’t buy the paint if he isn’t going to be able to paint.  Perhaps I won’t mess up my spending game.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

They don't want to play the no spending game

Army daughter and son-in-law went out house hunting again today.  They brought their baby and girl so she could play with the baby.  They left right before lunch.  I'm making lunch, don't you want to eat here before you leave?  No, they'll pick something up when they are out.  But it's quarter to twelve.  So they left.  They are picking up dinner tonight.  Why?  There's leftovers that they made for lunch yesterday.  There's leftovers that I made for dinner last night.  I can make something if you don't want to cook tonight.  No, they'll pick up tacos.  Then let me look in my coupon book.  Here's a coupon for two free tacos.  You can get that for me.  Don't I want four?  No, I want to free ones.  OK, that's sort of cheating on the no spending for 10 days but I'm counting it anyway.  They don't want to play the game.  Boy and I are eating chicken/pasta/pea casserole leftovers from last night.
Today I'm canning peaches.  Oldest daughter is coming over to help.  She knows if she wants jam or juice or brandied peaches then she has to help.  Army daughter wants to know why I'm wasting time since she can just go to the store and buy it there.  After all, she says it's better when it's store bought. (This one sure didn't pick up the make it yourself attitude that I tried to instill, did she?)
We have one tree that is so loaded with peaches that the branches want to break.  I tied the branches up last year and also propped the branches with wooden boards and am having to do the same this year.  It's really surprising to get bumper crops of peaches from these trees.  Usually it's an overbearing year followed by a small bearing year.  That's good though because last year I hardly got any canning done at all and oldest daughter and granddaugher picked peaches and sold them in front of their house in town so they wouldn't go to waste.  This summer is starting out very slow for work so I'm planning on getting lots of canning done.  I bet I can get a good three years worth of peaches canned and also have plenty to eat. 
The local nursery has a chart which shows the different varieties they sell and they are all charted by ripening schedule.  I have planted a good variety so we do have fruit ripening year round.  Citrus can stay ripe on the tree for months.  The peaches are Flordaking peaches which should have ripened May 1-25.  Last weekend, which was after May 25 was the first that they started ripening. The Pix Zee Mini (it cost $2.50 on a closeout, otherwise I would never have bought a miniature fruit tree) ripens in June and those peaches are still hard as green rocks with no coloring in site.  One apricot tree only gave us enough apricots to eat this year and the two other apricot trees haven't ripened yet although they should have ripened the last week of May.  It's just the crazy weather that has slowed everything. 
Well, back to the kitchen.  Day three, still spent zero and my two tacos are going to be free.  Yes, I know it's sort of bending the rules...