Friday, September 30, 2011

One second after

I'm finally reading the book One Second After.  It's about an EMP attack.  I'm sure most of you have read it and I'm the last one in the crowd to do so.  I'm only 1/3 of the way through which is only on day 5.  If you've read the book you know that each chapter is a new day.  I'm not going to get into the plot of the story, especially since I'm only on day five!

For me, living in the Great Central Valley, we don't get earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or any of those natural disasters.  The fires stay in the mountains, which would burn up my bug-out place but my main house would be fine.  For us a downpour of rain is an inch or two.  The only sudden event that I really think could affect us here is a EMP attack.  Sure other things can happen but we would have some warning, if we choose to heed the warning signs.  We may even have an EMP warning.  After all Iran has stated that they are planning on moving their Navy war ships near the US.

So what about the EMP?  The vehicles won't work, the computer won't work, the refrigerator, freezer, and well pump would be toast.  The country's distribution system would be nonexistent.  This really is where What if IT is today could really come into play.  Am I ready NOW?

What are my plans for tomorrow?  I'm shopping for Army daughter to buy the food for the baby's first birthday.  They are having a party on Sunday at their new house.  I also am tasked with making the cake.  The grand kids are going to a birthday party during the day.  What if I am able to get my shopping done and I get home just in time for the EMP attack?  Do I have enough on hand right now?  For how long?  Do you? 

First thing I'd do is hop on my bike and go get the kids.  Is my tire pumped up?  Do I know what they did with the hand pump?  The first thing that crossed my mind with this was I could use the electric pump.  I know the electricity would be out so I thought that I could just start the truck and run the inverter.  No, neither truck would work.  Note to self: Find the hand pump.  If it's not a good one buy a good one.  If the bike won't work then I'd jog the 10 miles to pick them up.  I'd have a backpack on my back with some water bottles and food but the backpack would also be carrying their backpacks.  They can carry their own on the way back. 

I certainly wouldn't go into the city to find out if anyone knows what's going on.  I don't know if I'd really care other than the first few days may be the safest because the more you'd get into the disaster the more desperate people will become.  I'm sure I'll be finding that out once I get into day 10 or 20 or 100 in the book.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Packing up

Son-in-law asked to borrow my truck for the next few days.  We can swap vehicles.  Sure, and don't forget to use the little utility trailer as well.  It's 5x8 which will pretty much double the amount of stuff you can bring per trip. 

Son-in-law's folks are flying in to town tonight and will be here for the next four or five days.  Son-in-law is taking Friday and Monday off of work.  Army daughter doesn't have school during this time either.  The three oldest grandsons are spending their Saturday helping with the move too.  If they just packed it up, moved it, take it out of the truck and trailer and just keep making round trips they can get it all done in a day.  If they try to unpack as they move it over there it will take the entire four days and they probably won't get it completed.  If Army daughter and her mother-in-law stay at the new place and the five boys and men do all the lifting then they could start unpacking right away.  

However they do it is their decision.  I didn't volunteer to move things, instead volunteered to watch their baby and even wash the bedding and stuff so when they put it all back together at the new place it will be all ready to go.  With only one truck (they can't use the work truck) and a couple of cars they really do have enough grunts. 

For the past ten months they've lived in our family room.  This room is huge; it's about 18x22 feet.  We moved the bookshelves into the middle of the room and divided the room in half so their bedroom was about 18x11.  Right before they moved in I had planned on splitting the room but not quite in half.  I was going to make a secret storage area across the back wall.  I was going to frame in and drywall a space about six feet wide and 18 feet across.  After I painted the wall I was going to put the bookcases against it.  Behind one of the bookcases was going to be the door to this storage area.  I'm planning on putting shelves in there and putting my food storage and other essentials there rather than in the garage.  Since the room has been literally cut in half for ten months now, moving the bookshelves back but having the room 18x16 rather than 18x22 shouldn't really be noticed.  After all, right now it's 18x11 so adding an additional 5 feet is going to make it seem really spacious. 

For the past ten months things have not at all been orderly out in the garage.  Their stuff is blocking about 15 feet of shelving that's been almost impossible to reach.  Even the food shelves are a mess.  That's because when I put stuff away I date it with a big sharpie and then put the newest stuff in back or on the bottom.  Army daughter wants the newest to be used first.  After all the rest is my storage stuff, right?  It's to be stored.  I go out every once in a while and try to organize it and rearrange the dated cans but I've really given up.  I've got some cleaning up to do. 

Yes I will miss them.  After all, how am I going to be able to laugh at Army daughter buying apples and egg whites, never minding our apple trees or 35 chickens? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Can you go with the flow?

Today was one of those days.   All was great except: 1. The grand kids had a short day at school today and were going to be home around 1:30.  2. Army daughter invited her siblings and their families over for dinner tonight since they are moving out this weekend - all 16 people.  She wanted it to be her last big dinner here that she prepared.  3.  I had to go to the office because one of the people whom I supervise (but works four hours away) was coming to my office so we could work on a project together.

This all sounds doable, right?  I knew things were going to be a little hectic at the house so I told the grand kids to stay after school for the free daycare.  They rarely stay after because they don't do their homework like they are supposed to.  Since I can usually be home by the time their bus drops them off then they come straight home from school.  Except for them having the short day today.

That wouldn't have been a problem except I had to be at the office to work on the project.  I could have had us meet at the house but I was expecting a bit of chaos because Army daughter was to be preparing dinner.  It normally takes her a couple of hours to make our regular dinner and this was for three times the number of people.  So it was an office day.  At least until 3:00.

Army daughter called at 1:00 to tell me that she had to go sign papers for the new house.  Oh and she needed to go to the bank to get a cashiers check.  Not a surprise here, at least to me.  I don't think they quite understood that you don't just write a personal check when buying the house.  She assured me that she was going to do the shopping for dinner and would be back home in time to make it. 

Army daughter called at 2:00 to tell me that she was still out running around getting things for the title company.  Again she assured me that she had it all under control.

At 3:00 I left the office to head home.  I called Army daughter and asked if she wanted me to pick the groceries up and start making the dinner.  No, she's got it all under control.  And remember I need to make the bread for tonight.  OK, remember you told everyone that dinner would be at 6:00.  You have three hours. 

So what did Army daughter need to get at the store?  You see, I was planning on having chicken tonight.  I just wanted a good count of who was coming so I knew how much to take out of the freezer.  Army daughter didn't want chicken.  She wanted a roast, but not any of the roasts I had in the freezer.  She needed to buy one from the store.  She also wanted to buy carrots from the store.  You see, our carrots are not exactly the same diameter and she wanted them all to be the same diameter when she cooked the honeyed carrots.  And lastly, even though I have about 10 different kinds of pastas in our storage program, and I make homemade noodles too, they were the wrong kind.  She wanted No Yolks noodles.  Why she is on this egg white only kick I'll never figure out.  But all this meant she had to go shopping for the proper food for dinner tonight.

The noodles were being made into a casserole.  Noodles - two pounds (you cook the noodles before combining with the rest of the recipe), 8 eggs (yes whole eggs), 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, melted butter flavor shortening, raisins and cut up apples.  It all gets mixed together then baked for 45 minutes.  You can eat it hot or cold. 

When I got home at 3:30 the first thing I did was start the bread.  I only had 2 1/2 hours from now until 16 hungry people would be sitting down at the table.  I took the eight pieces of chicken, seasoned them well and put them into the oven.  Then I started on the casserole.  I cut up four apples and added all the ingredients together.  I put them into a bowl and put it back into the refrigerator until Army daughter came home with the noodles. 

Finally she showed up at 4:30.  Only 1/2 hour until people arrive.  Let's get the roast into the oven - how about 400 degrees?  Then I got the noodles boiling.  I drained them and added the rest of the ingredients, covered it and put that pan into the oven.  Next I cut up her perfectly shaped carrots.  Doesn't she know that they don't really come that way?  They go through a machine which trims them to look the same.  Anyway the carrots went into the pot with a little water, butter, and honey. 

Got the bread into the oven at 5:00.  I cooked it at 400 because when you cook bread hot, at least to start, it will give it a jump on rising.  You can lower the temperature after about 15 minutes if you want.  At 5:10 everyone showed up.  I was done with all the preparations so I went outside and sat on the rocker to watch the grand kids run around the yard.  Six o'clock came around, everyone was there around the table and the food was all done. 

Army daughter was amazed that I was able to pull it off.  She seasoned the roast...and did a fine job at that.  But that was the extent of her putting the entire meal together. 

After dinner, oldest daughter's husband and oldest grandson went out to the orchard and picked a bucket of apples and pears to bring home.  They also took a dozen eggs with them.  As son-in-law was picking the apples he said he noticed a very strange bag on the kitchen counter.  It seems Army daughter bought a bag of apples from the store.  We were laughing because Army daughter would rather eat fruit with all kinds of pesticides sprayed on it than something that hasn't been sprayed at all.  The store fruit looks prettier.  After all, every single apple was exactly the same size and had the exact same color.  Ours are better.  They come in different shapes and sizes and some may even have a worm.

After everyone left Army daughter kept apologizing for not helping more.  I told her I wasn't upset.  What she did in error was not say that she needed help with the meal.  Important things came up because of the new house purchase and she wasn't able to do what she promised.  She just kept thinking that she would be able to do it all.  She wasn't being realistic because she didn't want to be.  If I hadn't just taken over making dinner we'd still be waiting for our food.  

It wasn't a big deal to pull the dinner together.  It's only an overwhelming task if you look at it as five times the usual amount of people or you need to make the equivalent of five dinners at one time. I suppose, to me, it's because it doesn't matter if I'm cooking for three or twenty-three, you just add more but it doesn't really take much more time.   Can you handle something like this if it was dumped on you?  Would you be angry, upset, felt taken advantage of?  In the two and a half hours from the time I got home until the time we all sat down at the table I put the entire dinner together.  In fact, it probably only took about 45 minutes of my time to put it all together.  The rest of the time I just hung out and took it easy...and took the laundry off the clothesline, and played with the grand kids and the dogs.  The dinner was good, the company was good, and I am really going to miss them when they move out this weekend. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Feed for the animals over the winter

Other than the trees and garden area, my five acres is not irrigated.  We get less than a foot of rain per year on a normal year, and pretty much nothing during the summer, so once the 80 degree weather shows up in May the grasses start turning brown.  If we get a good rainfall around this time of year then we will start to green up before everything turns to mud and muck during the winter.  If we don't get rain before it gets cold, and I don't expect that we will, then there'll be no new growth on the grasses.  This means that I have to come up with some alternative food source for the sheep.

In a normal year the sheep would be able to eat from the pasture until December or so.  Then when things get really muddy I'd keep them up in the barn and just feed them hay.  They aren't really picky about their hay and some years they've eaten hay that I'd bought two or three years earlier.  No so this year.  I only have three bales of hay in the barn. These bales are around 110 pounds each. That's not a lot of food for 11 sheep.  A couple of years ago you could get alfalfa or oat hay for about six dollars a bale.  I wish I had money on hand, I would have bought a lot.  But I didn't have any money. 

Today hay is going for about fifteen dollars a bale.  It doesn't even look good.  I've heard stories about thieves stealing hay from the fields and the hay stores in the middle of the night.  Well, I'm not about to start stealing to get my feed supply.  In fact, if feed prices stay this high the cost of livestock may get really low.  It would be worth buying a steer.  That of course will take even more food.

I could irrigate my pasture.  The reason I haven't is because the cost of pumping the water would be high.  With the price of hay I think it would be much cheaper to pay the extra electricity to pump water than to buy the bales.  This won't help through this winter though although I may try irrigating about a half acre in the back just as an experiment.

I am going to do something this year that I haven't done in the past.  I have several large mulberry trees.  Once established these trees do not need any irrigation water.  The original reason they were planted in these areas were to provide feed for livestock.  They grow many pounds of leaves and the animals love eating these leaves.  Normally we rake and rake and rake and just dump all the leaves over the fence for the animals to gorge themselves on.  What ends up happening is they stomp all over the leaves and grind them all up to almost nothing.  This really is a waste of the resource.  This year, instead of feeding all the leaves to the sheep as we rake them, we are going to pile the leaves in the barn.  Each day, instead of feeding the animals hay they'll get a bunch of leaves instead.  I don't know how long the leaves will last but if I combine the two well established flowering mulberries with the three new fruiting mulberries and the leaves from the apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, and whatever other trees drop their leaves I'm hoping I won't have to buy too many bales of hay.

It's a fine line I have to walk when trying to figure out how many animals I can keep on the property without having to supplement their feed.  It's probably only about half a dozen. I like having two rams and at least four ewes.  There's the six main stock, but they aren't for eating or selling.  For that I have to raise their young, which is why we go over the amount that can be kept on the property without supplemental feeding.   

We like meat.  We don't eat a lot although we usually do eat it around 4 or 5 nights per week.  I can usually get by with a pound of chicken (including bone) or 1/2 pound of beef or lamb.  If we only ate lamb and I was able to get 40 pounds per animal (can get more but may as well think on the lesser side) then we would go through six sheep per year.  So keeping the six main stock and rearing their offspring is about right to be self sufficient in meat.  If we added in the chickens that we could butcher then we'd really be set. 

Of course you could say that we could just hunt for our meat.  Where we are at there isn't a lot of wildlife; I've never seen a deer on our property.  We do have squirrels, rabbits, and birds but I figure this wouldn't really amount to a lot of meat.  Sheep and chickens will be our mainstay. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Preparing for the inevitable

I am a survivalist for many reasons.  I plan on surviving.  I am prepared.  This doesn't mean that preparedness is the one and only thing I think about during my waking hours.  It doesn't mean that every cent of my money goes to buying stuff for when the SHTF. 

The key to minimizing damage psychologically, physically, and in your physical surroundings is to prepare for the inevitable.  Depending on where you live depends on the inevitable.  Earthquakes happen, hurricanes happen, tornadoes happen, these are facts.  Some of these are predictable, some come as a surprise.  I suppose that's one of the reasons I don't like San Francisco...

The next step is to prepare for the unexpected.  Preparing for the end of the world as we know it may happen.  Define "as we know it".  If you take that to a large scale it can mean war, political upheaval, monetary collapse, EMP, meteorites, or aliens or zombies (just had to throw that in!).  On a small scale "as we know it" can mean illness or death of the primary breadwinner, or caregiver, a job loss - even if temporary, a house fire, burglary, broken down car, or even living through the teenage years!  (I have to do this again?  What was I thinking when I said I'd keep the grandkids????)

How much is too much to spend on preparing?  It again depends on how you define preparing versus how what is just part of your regular lifestyle.  I have room for lots of stuff so as long as I don't have more than I will use or will go bad in the next thirty years then I don't have too much.  On the other hand, if girl needs a new dress for some upcoming fancy event and she's busting out the seams of the one she has and I don't want to buy it because I haven't bought my 36 rolls of Costco toilet paper this week then my priorities are skewed.  That doesn't happen around here.  We do both.  We take trips.  We even go to the movies once or twice a year!  But prepping crosses my mind continuously.

Do we strap our water heater to the wall in case of an earthquake?  Sure we do.  It costs $10 for the strapping kit.  It sure will save on a broken water heater and busted water and propane pipes.  That's an easy prep.  So is not hanging a heavy picture over the head of your bed.  These are all preps that people do in earthquake country.  It doesn't affect your lifestyle at all other than to make you a little more prepared.  

This summer, instead of spending the $40 on a cheap plastic pool for the kids that will breakdown in the sun and be thrown out by next summer, I spent $300 on a heavy duty 650 gallon plastic stock tank that doubles as a swimming pool.  Sure it's only 8 feet by 2 feet high but compared to the 8 foot by 2 foot cheap plastic pools this is the greatest.  Not only do I not have to buy a new one (so same price is spent when added up over the years) I now have a permanent 650 gallon pool to hold water year round.  Now that's only two gallons per day if it had to last a year which isn't a lot in the overall scheme of things.  On the other hand, those 650 gallons are enough for a week if the well water isn't available for a couple of days due to a minor power outage.  I won't have to immediately rush out to get the well changed over from the electric pump to the hand pump even if it is a long term power outage.  The backup will smooth things over.  So yes, you can spend money on preps or just do preps and also live a "normal" life. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bringing the concealed weapon through the metal detector

Gee, I sort of bluffed my way through this one.  I was in San Francisco after all.  I don't think the guy knew what to do.  We went to a religious gathering and to my surprise there was a security person at the entrance manning a metal detector.  As I was walking up with my sister, her son, and my two grand kids I told sis that I was going to have to go back to the truck.  Why she asked?  I'm packing, why else? 

Then she said don't you have your permit?  Of course I do, it's required.  She said pull it out.  Why not?  So as we walked up to the metal detector the four of them walked in and I handed the guy my permit.  "What is this?"  "It's a permit to carry a weapon."  He looked confused.  I opened my pack and showed him my handgun.  "It's a permit to carry this.  This permit says I'm allowed to carry in a weapon and when I do I'm sure your metal detecting machine is going to go off.  I just want you to know that it's legal for me to bring this in."

What a bluff.  I was going in to private property.  It's up to that religious group as to whether they'd allow a gun in or not.  He wanted to see my driver's license.  I showed it to him. 

"Is it loaded?"  was his next question.  "Of course it is."  He said it would be ok to bring the weapon in as long as I unloaded it.  He'd be ok with it then.  Whatever.  I unloaded it.  Put the bullets in my pocket and walked in.  I then walked into the bathroom and loaded it back up.  Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to carry around an unloaded weapon.

I'm sure the security guy never came across a situation like that before.  In 2006, San Francisco had 8 concealed weapons permit holders.  EIGHT!  That's one per 100,000 residents.   I'm sure it's not any better now.  No wonder he was confused. 

We did have a good time while in San Francisco.  We rode the cable cars.  We even rode a bus that was so long it had accordion type bellows in the middle of it (you may be laughing at this but the grand kids have never been on a city bus, only a school bus).  We drove down Lombard street -the crookedest street in the world - in the morning and then at night walked back up it.  We ate Chinese dinner in China town, and not in a restaurant that was full of only tourists.  Half the customers were Chinese.  We went to Pier 39 and to the Golden Gate bridge, although we didn't cross it.  That was about all we had time for because parts of each of the three days were spent with tons of relatives. 

I love looking at people's bookshelves.  Even if you didn't know anything about my preparedness situation seeing my books on gardening, food storage, do-it-yourself repair manuals, animal husbandry, and some good fiction and non-fiction survival stories would be a bit of a clue that we at least think about it.  The relatives had lots of books but I didn't see even one that included any of these topics. 

Not that it would be something to bring up during our visit but the thought crossed my mind about what appeared to be their lack of preps.  Of course I didn't snoop through closets but there was no evidence of anything.  I did see open kitchen cabinets and other than the frozen waffle breakfast for 25 this morning there wasn't anything that looked long term or could feed their family of four for any length of time.  I figured that I had more food in my pickup than they had in their kitchen. 

The relative's house was a three story house with a very small back yard.  From their second and third stories you could see directly into nine other backyards.  There is no privacy there!  I don't know how city dwellers do it.  There were so many people and so much noise.  With the cars, buses, trolleys, and people, after being there for three days and two nights I'm glad to be back in my own quiet neighborhood where you don't hear anything at night except the coyotes howling.

Anyway we are out of the city and back home.  It's about 50 miles due east from the city back to the valley, then another 150 miles or so of farms and small to medium size cities.  Once we got to the great valley I asked boy what type of topographic landscape he liked best.  San Francisco, the big city park (the Presidio) with the trees, looking at the ocean, coming over the hills with the windmills, or the valley with the crops.  He chose the valley.  Good choice. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What if an EMP happened right now?

On Rourke posted a link to a person's story ( about what would happen if an EMP came over San Francisco today.  Let me tell you, we'd be in trouble.  Why? Because the grandkids and I are in San Francisco for the weekend.  If an EMP happened this weekend we'd have to walk the couple hundred miles home.  We could do that.  As soon as I'd realize that this was a big issue then we'd be out of here instantly.  That's where people would get into trouble, by waiting for the problem to go away. 

I think my biggest concern would be to realize that there is a long term problem happening, not just a short term issue.  As soon as the power went out, if I was even aware that the power went out, I'd have to go check my truck to see if it starts up.  If it does then all's fine, right?  I'd have no idea.  At least I have a full tank of gas but how long would that last in nightmare traffic? 

First the article says the traffic lights will be out.  This would cause a nightmare in this city!  Traffic is already a nightmare.  For those living close to home, and by that I mean a day walk or 20-25 miles, then there won't really be a problem because of traffic.  They can walk.  Sure they will get thirsty or hungry but they'll make it just fine.  What about us?  We are a couple hundred miles away.  The kids and I can walk.  Especially if we start off right away. 

The story starts out that after a couple of days the water supply will run out.  The pumping stations will grind to a halt.  If we leave right away we could be half way home before the water supplies would run dry.  Not a problem, we have water in our packs plus I have a filter with me. 

What about food.  We'd have enough to get us home but we'd probably be looking forward to a good meal once we got home!  The articles says that most cities will be out of food in three days.  Fortunately for us after the three days we will be out of most of the cities.  If most people have a couple days of food on hand, then I figure in about a week people will be looking for food from travellers.  We should be home in the week if we travel 30 miles in a day. 
The article talks about how within days, tens of millions of Americans will need to leave their homes looking for water and food. As long as we were one step ahead of them we'll be ok. 
What about you?  Most likely you are reading this from home and wouldn't have to worry about travelling.  If not, how would you make out?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Restricted Use - new rules

After I wrote my blog yesterday about the mouse invasion (two dead this morning under the sink) one of my readers decided to follow a suggestion I made last year about getting rodenticides from the county ag.  Buying your product from County Ag is about 1/4 the price of getting it at the store, if you can find the product at the store.  He sent me a comment, which he asked not to publish, that said he couldn't just walk in and buy the items like I said could be done. 

I had to follow up on this.  I contacted the County Ag and found out that since January 1 of this year all bait sales of chlorophancinone and diphacinone became "restricted use pesticides."  You must be a certified applicator to purchase these items.  No longer can you just walk into the County Ag office or your local Orchard Supply or Lowe's and purchase these types of bait.  They've taken "home use" applications off the label.  But this stuff is great if you need to resort to rodenticides. 

Never fear, there is an easy fix to this.  You just become certified and then you can use the restricted use pesticides.  I always thought it was a long drawn out process.  A lot of people I work with are PCAs (agriculture pest control advisor).  They have to sit through lots of classes and take what they've said was a difficult exam in order to have this license.  I don't want to do that.  So what can be done? 

The person I spoke with at the County Ag office was extremely helpful.  He gave me some background on the changes to the regulations.  These changes were first proposed about ten years ago but the EPA couldn't get it through during the Bush years.  Once Obama came into office the new regulations came into play. 

The Ag officer said the best certificate to get was the Certified Private Applicators certificate.  This certificate is for growers, nurserymen, and others using restricted pesticides to produce agricultural commodities.  He said owners or renters of country property fit under the "others" and that producing agricultural commodities does not mean selling.  It can mean that you have a garden or an orchard. 

That being the case, all I would need to do is go down to the County Ag office and take the exam.  Wait!  An exam?  Yes.  What about studying for the thing?  Well, there's a trick to the process.  The exam is free.  How about if you take the exam and if you don't pass (70%) then you can spend eight dollars on a study guide?  Or use the free study guide on the internet.  But if you try to take the exam and you don't pass you'll know what to study.  You have to wait seven days to retake the exam.  Each retake is also free.  If you pass then you get your certificate and you can instantly buy restricted pesticides.  There is no cost for the certificate (although I'm sure someone will realize they can make money off this and will eventually charge fees).

Once you get your certificate you have to renew it every two years.  You also have to take six units of continuing ed.  These can be free classes off the internet.  I think it's stupid that you have to take classes to continue with the certificate but you don't have to take any classes or even study to get your initial certificate.  If you don't take your continuing ed classes then just let the certificate expire and retake the exam. 

Of course there will be people who will not want to be certified because they don't want their name on a list.  If that is the case then find a friend who is certified and if they will take responsibility for you using the stuff then by all means use someone else's certificate. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mice! and make sure your preps are safe from invasion

After last evening's King snake surprise I thought it would be a good sign for not having too many mice.  I should have thought just the opposite.  Snake is here because there are lots of mice.  I haven't really noticed too many mice around lately.  I did see two dead ones in the garage but that's because we have mouse poison blocks in there.  Yesterday when I took out the kitchen trash (it's under the kitchen sink) I saw three or four mouse droppings.  I wasn't sure if they were mouse droppings because lizard droppings look pretty much the same and we have lots of lizards running around.  I cleaned it up and told Army daughter she needs to do a better job of cleaning up after herself in the kitchen. 

This morning I walked into the kitchen and saw that the food she dropped on the counter yesterday while she made lunch was still on the counter.  Dinner drippings were there as well.  I muttered some stuff under my breath (only 1 1/2 more weeks till they move out).  Then I opened the cabinet door to throw something away.  The trash was full and overflowing the can.  I pulled the trash out and the entire cabinet was filled with mouse droppings.  There was probably one at least every 1/4 inch.  What?  Were a million mice in the cabinet last night? 

I showed boy the disgusting mess and let him know it's because there are filthy things in the house.  Of course mice can come in even if the place is clean but it's much for enticing for them when you have things they want to eat in the open for them.  I checked the drawers where I have packages of things that can be easily eaten through.  All was well. 

Most of my preps are in heavy duty buckets, cans, and jars.  Very few items are just left in original packages.  Most get repackaged for storage.  I do leave bread out on top of the microwave to dry out before packing them up for future bread crumbs.  Fortunately there wasn't any evidence of the mice there.  I will put the bread on a baking sheet and leave it in the oven to dry out as I don't want anything around to attract them.  I brought home a box of snack items for the kids from when I was out working last week.  Those are going to be put into a gallon jar.  People think it's odd that I save gallon pickle jars and I ask others to do so as well.  Once you get the smell out they make great storage containers. 

I told Army daughter about the mouse invasion but she didn't see the evidence because we cleaned it up before she got up.  I told her that she needs to be more careful about leaving things out.  She proceeded to take the store bought brownies that have been sitting on the counter for two weeks, that nobody wanted to eat, and threw them in the trash (the chickens would have eaten them!).  She then left the house for the day.  What about cleaning up the counters from yesterday's lunch and dinner?  What about the sugar you spilled on the counter this morning when you made your coffee? 

I've heard that mice only travel about 20-25 feet from their nest.  I need to put out more mouse poison blocks. I set some traps under the sink this morning.  An effective home made trap can be made by using a five gallon bucket. You can make a ramp on the outside of the bucket for the mice to climb up more easily.  Take off the bucket handle and run a wire across the top.  Before you connect the wire center a paper towel cardboard tube on it.  In the middle of the paper towel tube rub on peanut butter.  Keep the wire stiff.  Put water in the bottom of the bucket.  Mice will climb up the ramp, jump on the tube, the tube will turn upside down and they will fall into the water and drown.  Using all these methods, by tomorrow I'm hoping most of those disgusting creatures are gone.  King snake, come back!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Snakes and snails and puppy dog tales (I know it's tails)

We don't have snails here.  That's good because they can sure do a number on the garden.  When we lived in Southern California when the kids were young we had snails.  The kids got to go out to the garden, pick up snails and were supposed to throw them against the back cinder block wall.  Sometimes they went over the wall and onto the main street.  Oops.  Flying snails hitting car windows.  That would be a sight!  I've seen a couple of slugs here but it's a rare occasion.  That doesn't mean that they don't exist, there're just not enough to cause damage.  There's always a first time unfortunately.  There are many ways to get rid of snails including putting them in beer, gasoline, stepping on them, salting them (not good for the garden), or throwing them.  I'm sure the chickens would eat them.  We don't eat them.  I know people do eat them and they like them.  We are not those people.  In a survival situation I suppose more people would be scouring their yards for snails.  If you choose to eat them you'll need to gather them a couple days before you want to eat them and give them a diet of cornmeal to get them to taste better. 

Snakes we do have.  Not too many though as in the 15 years here we've only had a few.  Once I found a baby rattlesnake in the barn.  Rattlers are the only poisonous snake in these parts.  I left it alone but wondered where the rest of its family was.  I've never seen any other rattlesnakes on the property.    I saw a garter snake in the driveway once and 1/2 a snake in the front after I mowed the really tall grass.  I didn't find the other half but then again, I didn't look real hard. 

I had a very stressful day working today although I was just sitting at my computer all day - having phone conference calls, unhappy people wanting stuff done last week, and people ordering my people to do things (had to put a stop to that right away).  Sorry, you can't cut our staff by 25% then expect us to not only do that work but even more work on top of it and spend four or five hours a week on conference calls.  I need to go out to the computers or phones. 

(Political item: if you are from California, please do not sign the petition to put state employee bargaining reform on the ballot. The way things are right now, with the additional money we are paying to retirement, pay cut (with an extra day off to make up for it that we don't have time to use), and medical, my take home pay is the same as it was in 1999!  No cost of living increases (the feds get a cola every year, not the state), raises bargained for were taken away.  I could make much more doing what I do if I went to the private sector.  I was offered 25K more per year with equal benefits.  Why didn't I go?  I'm good at what I do and every once in a while it's nice to have a government employee who can honestly say I'm from the government and I'm here to help!  Ok, back to the beginning of this rant...don't sign the petition, please.)

To relieve my stress I gave Army daughter cooking lessons today.  Stress relief?  Am I crazy?  She wanted to make beef stroganoff.  That's an easy one.  Take out the Betty Crocker cookbook and let me mark up the recipe the way I do it.  (Most recipes get tweaked to be able to use storage food)  Canned or dried mushrooms for the fresh.  Beef bouillon.  Dehydrated onions for the fresh (or can use home grown fresh but we all know that she doesn't like home grown stuff).  Sour cream powder for the sour cream.  Powdered milk for the milk.  Dried garlic instead of the fresh garlic from the yard (her choice here).  Noodles from the pantry (although I'd make them fresh for this recipe).  The only thing that didn't come from storage was the pound of beef.  This turned out rather nicely. 

She also cooked FRESH green beans.  She forgot to cut off the stems.  They were ok.  She cooked them in equal parts water and butter.  Way too much butter for my taste. 

The neighbor's puppy thinks it lives here.  It does half the time.  She comes into the house and barks at our cats.  Stop it; it's their house, not yours.  She loves to play with our big dog even if our dog could eat her in one small bite.  They play chase throughout our yard and her yard.  It's great fun to watch these two dogs play.  One is about four pounds, the other is 80 pounds.  The dogs love "swimming" in their three foot plastic pool.  The only problem is, when our dog is in it there's no room for the puppy.  She climbs in and tries so scoot herself into the water.  Today she climbed on dog's head and started tugging at her ears so she'd get out of the pool. 

Getting back to snakes, after dinner I went outside to hang the laundry.  Army daughter had come outside for something.  I can't even remember now.  As she got to the door to go into the house she started screaming and jumping up and down.  It was almost like an "I see a mouse" scream.  I looked over and didn't see anything.  Then she moved and I saw this tiny little snake.  Don't step on it!  Where did it come from?  She said it dropped from above her head and almost landed on her foot.  Above her head?  There's a patio cover there.  The only thing I could think of was it was under the tile roof.  Do we have snakes in the attic?  Did some bird pick it up to eat it and accidently drop it on the roof?  Who knows?  All I know is a baby King snake ended up on our patio.  It didn't crawl there.  

The snake was less than a foot long and only pencil thin.  Son-in-law picked it up and brought it to girl and boy to show them.  Girl wanted to hold it.  Boy just wanted to pet it.  After the snake got passed around son-in-law asked where he should put it.  How about at the wood pile by the trash cans?  Lots of things for it to eat over there.  They are great for rodent control.   I hope there are more.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hundreds of quail and goodbye fish

I have to start tonight writing about dinner.  Army daughter was cooking.  I'm glad I was paying attention to what she was doing.  She bought a corned beef brisket and was going to make that for dinner.  I watched as she turned the oven on to 350 and took a baking sheet out of the cabinet.  She started to cut open the package.  I told her she would be better off getting out a pot, filling it with water, putting the seasoning packet in the water and boiling the brisket.  For how long, she wanted to know.  Until dinner... 

Now you can bake a corned beef brisket but it takes a few more hours and a can of beer to do it right.  She had neither.  Army daughter made scalloped potatoes from a box mix.  (I'm good with that since it's in our preps)  She also made green beans.  Three cans.  Why don't you use the big bag of fresh green beans that are in the refrigerator?  She said she didn't have time.  I'm not sure what she meant.  Well, dinner was pretty good tonight. 

As I was putting boy to bed he told me to look outside and see the birds.  I looked out and there were hundreds of quail in the front.  They ranged from full grown to teeny tiny little baby birds.  He said there was a flock.  I told him it's a covey or a bevy.  It got me to thinking though.  In the 15 years we've lived here I've never seen that many quail.  Why are they here?  Then I got to thinking about the landscaping.  Of course my favorite thing to plant is a fruit tree but these past few years I've diverged in my plants.  I planted a hedge of butterfly bush.  These plants are about six feet wide and about 8 feet tall.  They were a few sticks about two feet in height when I planted them a few years ago.  It's amazing what a little water and leaving them alone did.  It's dense enough that we have birds hiding in them. 

The main source of hiding places for the birds is in my new hedgerow of brush. We've taken all the trimmings from the fruit trees and placed them across the front of the property.  The row is now 150 feet long and almost four feet high.  It's width is between three and six feet.  I do have cattle panels going across the front yard and these are resting on the panels.  Next spring when I have the sheep in the front pasture they will be less visible from the road.  This winter I'm going to put in berry bushes and plan on them growing over my hedge.  While the berries would make a hedgerow this wide after a few years I wanted it wide now.  And the unintended consequence is that I have many birds that have found refuge in these branches. 

The $20 swimming pool that I have in the back for the ducks finally cracked to the point of not holding any water.  Since I haven't bought them a new pool they've ventured into the back yard and have taken a dip in the dog's $10 pool.  They haven't yet found the kids 650 gallon stock tank...I mean swimming pool.  This morning I went out to water the chickens and saw the ducks swimming in the 55 gallon tank the sheep drink out of.  This tank is right next to their broken down pool but for some reason they never noticed it until today.  The sheep tank has had goldfish in it (6 for a dollar types) for many years.  Not anymore.  The ducks not only swam in the water but had a feast of goldfish!  Goodbye fish.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Driving and fruit trees

Boy is out in the backyard picking up pears and apples that have dropped off the trees.  He's going to feed them to the sheep and chickens.  It's taking him a long time to do this chore because he's by himself.  Girl got to go to a friend's house to play.  He's doing chores still.  I told him to hurry because he needs to help me with my chores too. 

What do I have to do today?  I bought 200 pounds of chicken food that needs to get put into the cans in the barn.  I was given a screen door that I want to put up to have a formal divider between the two chicken coops.  I'm not happy with just having the wire up between the two spaces because as it always happens, I am in one and want to go to the other.  This means I need to leave the one coop and walk around to the other.  It will be much easier to put the door in between.  I could do both of those chores myself but it gives boy a good sense of pride to be able to help the grownups with their chores. 

He wanted to know if he could press the pedals when I'm driving the truck from the front to the barn.  He went on to say that he could sit on the floor and push the pedals.  No, how about if you sit on my lap and you can push pedals and steer?  He's pretty excited but if he doesn't hurry I'm going to drive the truck back to the barn myself.  He's eight and hasn't driven since he was two or three, when I put the kid on my lap and let him steer while I slowly idled down the road.  I did that not too long ago with my four year old grandson.  I was in town and saw daughter-in-law walking with the boys to daughter's house.  I picked up the four year old and let him "drive" a couple of blocks to his aunt's house.  I took a huge chance.  We were in town, in a school zone, and I was letting the four year old drive.  Remember when that wasn't a big deal? 

Girl got picked up by her friend's mom this afternoon.  The mom said she'd come pick girl up rather than me driving her over to the friend's house.  Why?  The mom wanted to come pick fruit.  She said that the plums she picked the last time she was over were the best she had ever tasted.  It inspired her and her husband to go out and buy six fruit trees.  Good for them!  Today she picked pears and apples.  We have a few ripe oranges and a ton of figs and pomegranates but that's about all for the next couple of months.  Then the citrus really ripens along with the persimmons. 

I'm kind of feeling lazy today but have to get stuff done.  Boy just came in to tell me he's ready to drive the chicken food to the back.  I guess I have to get off the computer and work.

Patriots, practicing, and privacy

Army daughter and son-in-law have now read three chapters of Patriots.  They told me they found their first mistake in the book.  They are at the part where one person was shot and they were going to do a transfusion.  The room is set up and they get prepared by finding an artery.  Wrong.  You find a vein.  I was impressed with daughter and son-in-law.  Not because they know this but because they are thinking about what they are reading. 

Son-in-law commented on how much detail was provided.  I explained that not only is it a fictional story it is also a how-to manual.  I did tell them as they read further they will find some ridiculous things.  After all, don't we all have ultralight planes and 1,000 gallon fuel tanks hidden in the barn?  And enough money to pay cash for our house...I wish.

They made the comment that they couldn't imagine having a group of 20 close friends in college and not only would they sit around and make plans for an end of the world scenario but that they would actually follow through and purchase and prepare. 

I'm hoping that one of the things they do get out of the book is the need for practice along with the need to purchase.  It could be as simple and trying your hand at gardening, which all of us who garden know it isn't that simple.  Some years I get an over abundance of tomatoes with 10 plants and other years I don't get enough to put up when I have 50 plants.  Army daughter is to the point of wanting to put provisions away but still under the impression that nothing else needs to be done until such time when things are falling apart. 

We had our normal weekend chores to do.  It was boy's turn to clean the hall bathroom.  Four people use that bathroom.  I use mine - they all stay out of it.  Boy was about half way done with the bathroom and Army daughter came in and told him that he didn't have to finish cleaning it because she would.  So he started on his room.  Then Army daughter and son-in-law left to go to the gym.  She didn't clean the bathroom before she left so boy had to finish the job.  Had to teach the lesson that it was his job and his responsibility.  Even though someone else said they'd do it, he is the one responsible for it being done right.  He did a very good job too. 

When Army daughter and son-in-law came home they said they'd like to do one of the chores.  I told them which one.  Get rid of the goat's heads (a horrid weed) seed pods that are in the dirt of a front lawn.  They tried but couldn't figure out how to do it.  I offered a suggestion.  That way didn't work out well either.  Girl and I left for the evening so I don't know if they ever figured out a way to do the chore that I was asking for.  We'll see how creative they got. Or perhaps they just gave up.  I have more ideas on how to accomplish this task.  Since a rake didn't work maybe a broom will.  Or a blower, or a match!

Sometimes I come up with a list of chores and really have no idea how to accomplish some of them.  But in a SHTF situation you may be in the same situation.  You just have to figure it out.  Figure things out rapidly, without panic, but sensibly.  You have to be able to convey what you want to accomplish and perhaps even how to accomplish the task.  Other times you just convey what you want for a result and let others determine how to get that result. 

Last week while I was working I had this happen to me.  I got up in front of the group and said I know certain things are out there.  I don't know where.  I have nothing to tell you and nothing to show you.  But be aware because it's there just because I know it is and I will have more information for you tomorrow.  That gave me less than 24 hours to figure out what the problem was, solve the problem, and convey the information.  Last year there was a poisoning and I was told to figure out where additional sources of the poison may be.  This had nothing at all to do with my job.  In fact, the person who ordered me to do this didn't ask his own employees.  Instead he tracked me down to take care of the problem.  I had no expertise on this topic but somehow figured out how to find the answer he needed.  It took a lot of phone calls and emails and promising people that they would get paid for the day since that was on a holiday!  Within 24 hours he got his answer.

I've now been approached twice about being interviewed about emergency preparedness.  One for an internet radio show and another for the local tv.  I sent an email back to the radio show asking some questions, including do they have a basic set of questions they could give me in advance.  I haven't heard back.  For the tv news I said no but suggested one of the local surplus stores, GI Jims.  The reporter wanted to know if they could interview me if they promised to keep both me and my location anonymous.  I don't know.  Do they want to see my storage stuff and yard?  Or just want to talk?  I've given out quite a lot of personal information but not where I live (ok, the Great Central Valley), my name, what I do for a living (work, hike, play with maps).  Yes we live on five acres, have chickens and other animals to eat, a lot of fruit trees and a garden, and a well.  How much information is too much?  How much desire for privacy is paranoia?  Going back to Mr. Rawles, he refuses to state what state he lives in.  His property is under a corporation and not his name so he can't be traced.  He uses only cash and has a go between for mail delivery.  Me?  Our phone number is listed.  You can find the address and phone number on the internet.  I have a facebook page and am friends with 100+ relatives and friends.  I don't put much on mine but it's good to see what other family members are doing.  The grandkids go to public school.  The lifestyle we live and the practicing that we all do is just our normal way of living.  The grandkids don't know that it's called survivalist or prepping.  To them we have a lot of supplies because I don't like to go shopping.  The tasks they do are just because we live in the country.  They don't know any different and I'll just keep it that way. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fire Drill and Prep talk with Army daughter

This morning Army daughter came into my library just to have a chat.  I'm trying to work but it's always worth taking a break when one of my kids wants to have a real conversation.  She was asking questions about prepping.  After living here for the last ten months and seeing everything that we do, or at least as much as she can digest, she decided that she wanted to start prepping once they got to their new home.  She wants to put up a lot of food and other supplies. 

For some reason she is worried about an EMP.  She read the book One Second After.  She is so out of touch with what's going on in the world she didn't even realize that Southern California had that big power outage last week.  So it lasted a day.  They really weren't put out too much.  Although there wasn't electricity, the natural gas and water companies were still able to provide their commodities.  There wasn't much suffering.  What if it lasted a week or a month? 

She then brought up the question about what if things really got bad.  She would expect that all my kids would show up at my door with their families.  I told her that they'd have to come with their arms full.  I expect that they'd provide food, other supplies, and some sort of skill set.  She agreed and said that perhaps some things should be bought and left here.  She also said that she doesn't have many skills.  After thinking about it for a while she realized she does have skills.  She's good at hand to hand combat!  She can shoot.  She can cook...(although I'd tend to disagree!).  And she will do hard labor. 

I handed her my autographed Patriots book (runner up writer a while back) and told her to read it.  I explained that it's an exciting story but also a how to handbook.  Yes there are some parts that are a bit over the top like the extensive detail on covering up the windows and doors and having ultralight planes to fly supplies to the new bug-out place, but overall, it's worth reading.  And yes, I'll read Rawles's new book that's coming out next month. 

We had another good dinner tonight.  Yes, I did the cooking.  It was made mostly from storage foods and fresh foods.  Chicken enchiladas with refried beans and home grown tomatoes.  The chicken was Costco canned chicken at $2 per can.  I used two cans.  I used 25 corn tortillas.  I have the ability to make them by hand but today I got them out of the freezer.  Enchilada sauce made out of home made tomato sauce, some home grown seasonings and some from Winco.  Refried beans from dried pinto beans, oil, salt, and onion powder.   The only thing that didn't come from the dry food storage, although I do have 20 pounds of cheese in the freezer, was the shredded cheese.  I still haven't bought freeze dried canned shredded cheese.  That is a future purchase though because I couldn't imagine no cheese and I don't have the skills at the moment to make anything other than soft cream cheese type cheese.  We had two extra for dinner tonight and even the baby ate an entire enchilada.  Total the dinner cost about six dollars for three adults and five kids.  Not bad.

Two extra grand kids are here today.  The four year old called the other day and asked if he could spend the night.  He promised to bring his little brother too.  Sure how about Friday.  About two hours after the older ones got home from school I was in the living room just hanging out watching the baby.  All of a sudden I scooped her up and yelled FIRE!!!!!  I opened the back door and ran to the garden fence.  Granddaughter was playing in her room and she scooped up the two year old and ran out to the fence too.  Grandson and grandson were in the yard stuffing themselves with pears.  They heard the fire call and ran to the back fence as well.  There wasn't a fire.  It was just a fire drill.  They did a great job.

I never did make it to the office today.  Work got 176 hours out of me in the last two weeks.  Working at home today makes us even.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home at last and another use for paracord

I got home late last night.  It's sure good to be home other than the place was a mess.  Oops, I guess I forgot to call and tell them I was showing up.  It probably wouldn't have mattered because Army daughter and son-in-law have a very different definition of clean than I do, especially in the kitchen and bathroom.  I noticed that Army daughter bought more tomatoes while I was gone...on the vine!  She still doesn't like the ones in the garden.  I told her she could cut the vine and bring them in that way if she wanted.  It just makes me laugh.  She also said she didn't make any eggs for breakfast because there weren't any in the refrigerator.  Anyone heard of chicken coop?  Two more weeks before they move out.  I will miss them but I'll be happy to have a clean house once again. 

Army daughter had school tonight so I cooked dinner for everyone.  She did tell me to make this package of hamburger otherwise it would be too old.  Ok.  Hamburger it is.  I had girl go out to the garden and pick four ears of corn.  We also collected the eggs.  I took the dried bread and crushed it into breadcrumbs.  I took the hamburger and shaped it into a rectangle about 10 inches by 12 inches and put it on waxed paper.  I then cut the kernels off the corn (you can use a can of corn) and added one egg, a cup of breadcrumbs, an onion (I used 1/3 cup dried onion), some parsley, and salt and pepper.  I mixed that together and spread it on top of the hamburger.  I rolled it up jelly-roll style, pressed it well so it would stay together, and put it into a baking pan.  I baked it for an hour at 375.  

I also made potatoes.  First we dug them out of the ground and washed them off.  I cut them into pieces about an inch or so in size.  I put them into a plastic bag and added a bunch of seasoning including turmeric, garlic salt, crushed red peppers, onions, and a few other things I can't remember at this time.  I put a little bit of oil into a baking dish and baked them at the same time I baked the meatloaf.  

We also had some homemade dill pickles.  Grandson couldn't believe they were homemade because they were in one of those 1/2 gallon Vlassic pickle jars.  It's a nice jar and fits well into the refrigerator but they were really home made.  

I got tired of work's food, although we did get steak twice, yet it's better than Army daughter's cooking.  It's good to be home and getting to eat my own cooking. 

Another of the prep supplies I was able to pick up this week was a bunch of paracord.  When I asked for it from the supply they wanted to know if I was going to make some macramé plant holder or something since I didn't need it for my work.  I told them I was going to make a belt but also wanted to change my shoelaces on my boots.  They were getting pretty worn so I figured paracord would be the perfect shoelace. 

Someone told me that they used paracord but pulled the strands out of the middle otherwise the cord wouldn't go through the eyelets.  I didn't have that problem because my boots don't have small eyelets.  I did pull back the edge of the paracord and trimmed the inner cords back about 1/4 inch.  Then I melted the edge of the paracord to make it stiff.  It went through the eyelets just fine.  I normally double knot my laces so they didn't have a problem coming undone.  I expect these shoelaces to last a long time.  I'm going to change out the shoelaces in the grandkids shoes too.  What a great idea!  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All work and no play = me at the moment

I just wanted to write to say that I'm not ignoring the blog I'm just working, working, and working.  Yesterday I thought my field work was over so I took a little break which included a hike in the hills...wait, don't I do that for work?  The break got interrupted.  Ah, back to work: 6:00-22:00 7 days a week.  I'll try to get a little break in a day or two.     

Friday, September 9, 2011

The real reason the power went out

My sister wrote to tell me the real reason the power went out yesterday.  It was because California forgot to pay its bill.

I'm still out of town working but hope to make it home Monday.  It's interesting going to a place where there are no people and within two days 2000 people are living and working together.  The entire infrastructure is put in, people are fed, have places to sleep and work, and generally get along without any problems. 

I don't have time for TV and am not spending much time on the Internet.  I won't be around for any of the 9/11 events, other than the one where I'm working.   I think it's going to be pretty low key since I'm not sure how many people will actually be around here.  Most everyone is leaving tomorrow or Sunday.  Since I wasn't around 10 years after Pearl Harbor I don't know how the country reacted to that anniversary.  It would be interesting to find out if they are just going overboard on this or if this is the norm.  There's one person who works with me who was a firefighter in NYC in 2001.  After so many of his friends perished he quit FDNY and moved to California to start a new life. To me, remembering 9/11/2001 means being kind to the coworker as this day will probably be very difficult for him, bringing back those terrible memories even more than what he lives with each and every day. 

I talked to the grand kids this evening.  Boy wanted to know if I was near a post office or if I would have to drive through several towns to get to one.  I'm near a post office.  Good, then will I send him something?  I said that I don't know if I have stamps with me but I suppose I could go to the post office and buy a stamp.  He wanted to know if I had any Gatorade bars because I should send him one.  No I don't, but I have Nutter Butter Peanut Butter cookies.  He was really happy about that.  But I told him that I would have to bring them home to him.  I wouldn't send them but I can send him a letter.  He then told me that if I didn't have a stamp I wouldn't have to buy one.  "All you have to do is write something nice in the corner where the stamp goes and they'll send it."  Unfortunately that's not how it goes.  He said he'll wait for the snack until I get home.  

Not much prepping this week.  Not much to say either.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No power to Southern California

I spent a lot of time learning about the history of the area I'm working in.  I took lots of pages of notes.  Finally made it out to the field at 3:00.  The roads are really fluffy and need a rain to put them back into shape.  I drove over a rattle snake today.  I stopped the truck and got out to see if I hit it.  I didn't.  The thing was over 4 feet long.  It was confused and went to one edge of the road then crossed the road again, then started crossing it again.  I got a stick and directed it away from the road.  It wasn't happy with me.  Too bad.  I wasn't in the mood for squishing snakes today.

My sister called today to ask me if I knew why the power was out in Orange, San Diego, and Imperial Counties affecting over 3 million people.  Never mind that I was in the middle of driving up a hairy four wheel drive road.  Between the smoke, dust, and the front end of the truck obscuring my view I had to make sure I wasn't going to drive myself and my truck off the road. No I don't know why the power was out.  I have to get out of the truck to see where the road is.  I'll call you back later. 

I drove down the powdery roads and came across an Orange County truck.  I asked the guy if he knew why the power was out.  As a matter of fact he did.  His girlfriend just sent him a text telling him that someone accidentally cut the line and it caused a problem with the grid. The nuclear power plant in Orange County was shut down as a precaution.  He said the power was expected to come back on in 12 hours or so.

My sister isn't going to be affected by the outage.  They just pulled out their generator and their power is back on.  They don't have gas in cans but they have three vehicles which they can siphon gas out of.  Brother-in-law's mother is being affected by this outage.  She lives about an hour out of San Diego but came into the city to attend a meeting.  Instead of driving all the way into the city she stopped just outside of the city and took the public transportation train into the city.  Unfortunately for her the trains run on electricity.  Therefore she can't get back to her car.  She is about five miles or so away from my sister's house but the traffic is so gridlocked that they can't get to her.  So she is stuck at the location of her meeting. 

An email is going around the family talking about this incident.  When it got to my turn to write something I made the comment that we in California aren't used to power outages.  In other states people lose power for a week or two due to winter storms or more recently hurricane Irene.  If we have an outage it may be for an hour.  Will this cause people in Southern California to rethink emergencies or inconveniences such as this?  How long would my sister's mother-in-law be stuck?  Since she isn't physically able to walk the 5 miles to their house or the 10 miles to her car would she just be left there for a week or two if the power was out for that long?  I'd assume that traffic would clear enough and they'd get her.  But, cell phone service is spotty down there right now.  What if they went to pick her up and she walked somewhere else?  When this power outage is over we will be having some after action discussion to see what they could do to improve the situation. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another interesting day and got some preps

It's amazing what people throw away.  Today I acquired four pairs of leather gloves.  They are just plain gloves with a pull string to tighten them.  One pair was probably worn for a day and the others were still brand new.  Two pairs were large and two were medium.  I gave one of the large pairs away to a coworker.  The person who had these gloves needed to get them put away which meant finding the correct box and completing paperwork that stated they were returned.  Instead of doing that he chose to put them into a pile that was going to the trash. Having an ever open eye for stuff I could use I asked if I could have them.   I also snagged a half case of MREs.  If more things of interest come in he'll put them aside for me.  It never hurts to ask!

Now I made light of the fact that all he had to do was open a box and do a little paperwork.  I know that it isn't always that straight forward.  I remember one time I purchased a book from Amazon using a government credit card.  Great book and good use of taxpayer money.  I needed it for researching whatever I was researching.  When the bill comes I have to fill out my paperwork and send it up the line.  That person looks at it, approves it and sends it up the line.  After all the reviews by all the people to make sure my $25 book was something that could be bought with a government credit card, it probably cost the state another $200 in wages to make sure I was honest with the state money.  Whatever.  The real problem came the next month.  I got an email from Amazon saying that they realized they overcharged me on taxes and needed to refund me FIVE CENTS.  I told them to keep it!  They said they couldn't.  This cost the state another $200 in wages of people.  First I had to do my paperwork, then pass it up the line for them to do their paperwork, etc.  So the guy doesn't want to do the paperwork to put the gloves away.  I don't blame him.  And I get new gloves.

Today I had a former state senator try to get in touch with me.  We didn't connect but will try again tomorrow.  He's got some interesting information that he wants to share (sorry I can't share it with anyone) so I hope we can connect before I leave for home next week. 

I also ran into someone who is an expert in infrared thermal imaging.  He was telling me that the planes that do thermal imaging can not see under certain plants in the desert.  I don't know if it's a desert thing or if it is this way everywhere.  Also the imaging works better when there is at least a 20 degree difference between the two items being imaged.  For example, if you are trying to see if you have leaks in your doors or windows, the imaging works better if the air in the house is 70 if it's at least 90 out.  It will work if there is less than a 20 degree difference but not as well.  Of course our conversation wasn't about air leaks in the house but about people hiding under bushes or plants when someone is trying to seek them out.  If you are in the desert and it's hot outside then your body temperature is going to be similar to the air and ground and it will be difficult to spot using the thermal imaging.  I'm not sure how the plants stuff works because it seems that the plant would cool the ground which would then provide that larger difference of temperature but maybe the ground just gets too hot and then it would be cooled to body temperature under the plants.  I just don't know and he wasn't being real specific.  I don't think I'll ever have the money to buy a night scope but at least I know that it won't work as well in the desert.  I'm sure the real expensive ones would be more sensitive than the 20 degree difference that we were discussing, but still, it's an interesting subject. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The fires and Reindeer...really

First I have to write about what I saw today.  Reindeer.  Lots of them.  And a zebra and camels.  You just never know what you will come across when you are out hiking in the hills.  The pictures didn't turn out well or I would have included them in the post.  But I really did see these animals today.  I guess some people aren't satisfied with just dogs or cats as pets.

With the fires burning in Texas over 500 homes have burned to the ground.  Fires in California have burned another dozen.  In many cases the homes could have been saved if the owners had spent a little extra time making them more fire safe.  In California homeowner requirements for clearing brush around your house used to be 30 feet.  It's now 100 feet.  That doesn't mean 100 denuded feet but making it so that the fire won't carry to the house.  If you live on a slope or the area around you is sloped then you should have a cleared area larger than 100 feet.

Don't get complacent because you don't live in the forest.  Wildfires can happen in grasslands and also in the desert.  Your neighbor's house can catch on fire and it can ignite yours. 

The fury of the fire can burn down a house because of the embers that are flying in the air, even if there is nothing growing around the house, but if you have that 100 foot clearance your chances are much better.  This means that although the woodpile is really convenient on your back patio (or in my case the shed about 20 feet from the house) if it catches fire it is an added ignition spot for your house.  Think of all those embers plus the heat that it will produce. 

Let's start with the house.  If you have to replace your roof make it one that is fire resistant.  In California they've outlawed the old shake roofs.  Nothing like having the tinder right on your rooftop for a small ember to ignite the house.  The siding, patio and patio cover all can be fire resistant.  The plants you plant may mean fire or fire safety.  If you have gutters on your roof make sure they are cleaned out.  Any vents or other openings on your house should have 1/8th inch screen covering them.  Those rooftop little turban fans are great for keeping heat out of your attic and will just suck in embers flying around. 

I'm not worried about the house I live in but the bug-out place is a fire hazard.  It doesn't have even a 1 foot clearance.  It doesn't have a bunch of brush right next to the house but it does have grasses that die during the summer.  These grasses come right up to the house.  If a fire came through the bug-out place would be gone.  I'm surprised that the fire department hasn't cited me yet.  (Perhaps it's because they don't want to travel down the road.)

Rake the dead leaves, needles, and branches.  Don't just leave them piled, get rid of them or get them far away from the house.  Also make sure nothing is under the house: no leaves or trash. 

Trim your trees.  Make sure the there isn't what's called "ladder fuels" which means that if a fire is on the ground it can climb up the tree by burning the lower branches and just working its way up the branches and trunk.  Also, while it looks nice to have a continuous canopy, you should have space between the tops of each tree.  There shouldn't be overlapping branches: at least not within 100 or so feet from your house.   

We have fire tools.  Do you?  Rakes, shovels, Pulaskis, McLeods, hoes, buckets, hoses, nozzles, chain saw or hand saw?  We have all these, and more than one of most of the items.  How about a ladder that will reach your roof?  While that's not something you want out for safety reasons, if a wildfire is heading your direction and you may have to leave, leaving a ladder outside is a good idea.

A fire may come into your area so fast that you don't have time to prepare, in other cases you may have several days before the fire reaches where you live.  If you have time to prepare you are lucky.  There are several things that you can do while you wait. 

Park your car in the garage.  Back it in.  Keep the keys in it.  Keep it unlocked.  Have your bug-out bag in the car.  If you have an automatic garage door opener disable it.  You may not have electricity and when it's time to leave it's not the time to worry about having to disable the door. 

Keep your pets in one room.  That way it will be easy to gather them up when it's time to leave.

Close the doors, windows, vents, non-combustible or heavy window coverings.  Shut off all gas utilities.    Open the fireplace damper but close the screens.  Move the furniture into the center of the house away from windows and sliding glass doors.  Turn lights on in the house. 

Make sure each water spigot has a long garden hose attached to it.  Wet down the plants around the house.  Wet down the house and roof.  Turn the sprinklers on. 

You really don't want to rely on staying in a shelter.  Have a plan to stay with friends or in a hotel, which can be expensive.  Around here, hotel rooms are impossible to get when there's a fire.  The fire departments book up all the rooms. 

If you have to evacuate make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothes.  It may be hot out but you need to dress safely.  Wear heavy shoes or boots, long pants made of cotton, a long sleeve shirt made of cotton or wool, leather gloves, a hat, and a scarf to help cover your face. 

Of course you will remember your valuable papers.  That's already in your plan, right?  One thing that's been suggested to me, and I've passed it along to many other people.  If you like to cook and you have a bunch of favorite recipes, scan the recipes.  Let's just say your house burns down.  It's now six months later, you and your family are safe and in a rental home waiting for your house to be rebuilt.  It's Thanksgiving or Christmas.  It will help you emotionally if you have your own recipes to use while cooking. 

Have nothing to do next weekend?  Visit your local fire station.  They will be happy to talk to you, show you (and the kids) their engines, and give you all kinds of pointers.  You can even have them come to your house to conduct an inspection to tell you what you can specifically do to protect both the interior and exterior of your home from fire. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Map work

I suppose if you expect to bug in you don't really need to learn how to read a map, especially if you never travel far.  Even though the office I work at isn't too far from home I have a lot of field work to accomplish.  I need to learn how to read a map.  I also need to remember where I've been. 

I've used Google Earth a lot.  It's a great tool, as long as you don't focus on the fact that it's a total invasion of privacy when you get a close in view.  It is a great tool for figuring out where dirt roads are.  When you compare the picture on Google Earth and a quad map it's pretty easy to get around. 

It's important to remember where you've been.  You hear about people getting lost and walking around in circles or driving around in circles.  You need to pay attention to landmarks.  Give them funny names to help you remember. 

I'm got called out of town last night.  I'm only a couple hours from home but still in an area that I don't work in too often.  I worked in this same area about ten years ago, five years ago and again last year.  It's going to be an easy week because I won't have to worry about where I am.  It's much easier just to know where I am without having to spend time on maps.  Quad maps aren't always accurate.  It's really frustrating when I have to spend a lot of time orienting myself to a map, especially one that's not accurate. 

After whining a bit about maps, it's sort of ironic that all I've done today was put together a map.  I had to transfer information from six sets of quad maps to another set of quad maps.  After a while all the lines look the same.  We'll see if the information I was given to map is accurate on the ground.  I'll actually get to go out and hike a lot of the areas on this map. 

Can you read a quad map?  Or how about just a county or city map?  Perhaps you'll never need to.  If you can, can your spouse?  What if you just happen to take the family on a camping trip and go a little too far off the main road?  Will you get lost or will you be able to figure out where you've been? 

It could be something simple, like Saturday after the game.  We got out of the parking lot and the traffic wouldn't allow us to go the same way we came in.  The way the roads were closed we had to go three miles out of the way in order to get back to the freeway.  There weren't any signs that really directed me since I wasn't familiar with the area. A street name meant nothing. The roads sent us north and east yet I needed to go south and west.  

Practice is the only way you will get good at figuring out where you are or remembering where you've been. It's an important skill and could be a matter of life and death.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More research for the well and San Francisco and the gang fight

I've found something that looks promising for my well.  It's called Simple Pump (  The company is located in Nevada so if I wanted to go for a drive and see it all in person it would take me a day to get there.  For about $1600 they have a hand pump that will pump 5 gallons per minute with not much effort.  This pump is able to pump into the pressure tank or go into a larger tank.  They have a motor for it for less than $1000 more and it can be set up to run on solar.  They provide it all, and a live person to talk to.  On Tuesday or Wednesday we will be doing some talking. 

If I didn't have it on solar and we didn't have power to run the motor all I would have to do is crank the handle for water.  I may just go with that.  After all, I already have a good pump on the well, I just want a backup that will make me self sufficient if for any reason we didn't have grid power.  I really don't want to use one of those little pipe buckets that you drop down the well and hand pull the bucket back up.  That's a really hard way to get a gallon or two of water. 

Yesterday three of the grand kids and I went to San Francisco for the day.  We were hoping to catch a good football game.  Cal vs. Fresno State.  Fresno State lost, so I guess harassing some of my co-workers who went to Cal is off for a while.  I didn't go to Fresno State, but if you live in the Great Central Valley it is your team by default.  Every once in a while my the UC that I went to plays Fresno I'm the only one in the crowd of red that's wearing blue and gold. 

Around here one of the main gangs is the bulldogs.  They stole their name from FS.  This gang is known for tattooing the bulldog mascot on their bodies.  In fact, a couple of years ago, a jerk father forced his 7 year old son to get a bulldog tattoo. 

The game was held at Candlestick, which is where the 49ers play.  We met up with a group of friends and all sat in the cheap seats.  Although at $40 each they were anything but cheap.  A few rows over and below us a slob sat down, with his pants below his rear showing about 8 inches of his boxers.  He immediately pulled off his shirt and his entire back had a bulldog tattoo.  Great, Mr. bigtime gang member is here showing everyone his affiliation.  He was surrounded by a bunch of people who I assume were also gang members. 

There was a private security firm walking around.  While everyone else had their eye on the game, I kept a close watch on what was going on in the other row.  What surprised me was the interaction between the private security and this group of gang members.  It seemed that they were acting a little to familiar.  I like when security or police are polite but I don't expect them to be deep in conversation.  Perhaps the security member was part of this gang?

I also noticed the San Francisco cops were all milling around the stadium. I excused myself from my group and headed over to one of the cops.  I told them that the group of people just below us were gang members and if they wouldn't mind keeping an eye out on them.  They thanked me and off I went back to my seat.

Not too long after that some guy went walking in front of this group and next thing I see he's flat on the ground.  My first instinct was to rush over and see if he was ok and offer medical help.  I didn't follow that instinct!  I just sat and watched what was going on.  After all, this was happening between someone who could have been a rival gang member or just a spectator.  He didn't come up swinging but I think it was because he was drunk off his rear.  The security people hauled him off, although he was complaining about his broken glasses and the guy who purposefully tripped him.  Next thing I saw were the San Francisco police coming over.  Six of them.  Alright cops!!  Within two minutes the entire area with the gang members cleared out.  They just up and left. 

We didn't get home until after midnight so no post yesterday.  My head hit the pillow so hard after 11 hours of round trip driving to watch a 3 hour game.  This morning I was able to rehash what had happened.  First I knew the people were gang members.  Does that mean we should have left to keep ourselves safe?  No, although if I had seen a bunch of the rival gang members in a group sitting near the same area then maybe.  There are gang members everywhere: at the grocery store, the library, at the red light next to you.  Maybe even sitting next to you in church.  You just have to keep an eye out for what is going on and be able to react quickly.  You have to have a way out, or two, or three. 

They had a really bad pat-down for everyone, men, women, and kids.  I had no doubt that there were many, many weapons in the stadium.  I had a knife but the gun was locked in my truck in the parking lot.  I don't want to get so paranoid that I don't bring the kids places.  They really had a great time.  We've held drills before that they have to get down on the ground in front of their seats at other ball games.  If I held a drill there boy and girl would have done fine.  I'm not sure about the other grandson.  He doesn't get exposed to my drills as often as the two grand kids that live with me.