Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Home Security System

A year ago I wrote about my home security system.  Since we went from having a landline to no landline, I changed the type of system we have to one that runs on it's own cellular calling system.  The system we have is better when it comes to contacting the alarm company quicker.  Also, if your system works by using the telephone line all someone has to do is cut the line before they enter your house.  Have you seen the phone line that comes into your house?  It's normally right outside the gate in your front yard somewhere.  It's easy to compromise your system.  Sure, it will still ring when someone breaks in but it won't send a call out to the monitoring people. 

But having the monitoring people know your every move has gotten me thinking.  Do I really want ADT or some local security company to know when I am home, when I am away, etc.?  If you set the alarm faithfully then the company knows your exact schedule probably better than you do!  This can be dangerous if they keep records, and I'm sure they do. 

Our system has the away mode, the at home mode, and the off position.  When you are away the alarm goes off when the door or window opens and also when there is movement in the house.  The movement alarm is often set to not go off with pet movements.  The at home mode allows movement within the house and will only go off when you go outside.  You can also set the system to bypass a door or window. 

We are going to change how we set the alarm system, just to mix things up with the security company.  Instead of setting the alarm in the away mode when we are out of the house we are also going to use the at home mode.  The at home mode will go off when a door or window opens, not when you have movement in the house.  I'm assuming that most people who are going to break in are going to push in the doors or pry open the windows.  If they break in that way then the alarm will still go off.  If they break the windows and climb in through the break then the alarm system won't catch that.  If I keep one of the doors bypassed but still locked (trying to figure out the least likely door the bad guys would enter through) then we can go in and out through that door yet it will look like we are there all the time. 

It's a risk that I'm taking but do I really want the alarm company to know when I'm leaving and returning?  Has anyone else thought of the alarm company or it's workers using the information for illicit use?   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Keeping clothed at night

Last year I found a few fleece blankets at the second hand store for a real cheap price.  They looked fairly new.  One was in a camo pattern.  It's no longer a blanket.  I made boy a pair of pajama bottoms tonight.  They aren't finished.  I need to take a pair of his pants out of his room tomorrow and measure the waist.  Then I'll be able to put in the elastic at the waistband.  This is a present for him so I couldn't just have him come in and get measurements taken.

About once a month the local fabric store sends me a flier with their latest sales.  The price of material was ridiculous for fleece.  On sale it was between five and eight dollars a yard.  On Sale!  This means a pair of pajama bottoms could cost around $10-15 for one pair.  If I wait until Target has their sweats go on sale I can get a pair of sweat pants and have a couple dollars left over.  Depending on whether the kid wears it out or outgrows it first, and whether there's someone to pass it down to will depend on which way is the best way to go.  (I'd rather wear nice fleece than sweats to bed. - Yeah, you can tell I'm single!)

In my case, by buying the blankets, I was able to make his bottoms for about two dollars.  They are thicker than what you'd buy at the store.  I will also be able to make the length just right, with a hem that can be let down if he grows.  I expect this pair to last for at least two winters. 

This blog tonight isn't really about my great sewing expertise.  I can, and have, made entire outfits for myself using just a needle and thread and no sewing machine.  For these projects the sewing machine comes in handy.  No, it's about keeping well clothed. 

Living in an area that doesn't get snow, and even the bug-out place doesn't get snow, we don't have to worry about subfreezing temperatures too often.  That isn't to say that we don't need warm clothes.  Around here the fog will chill you quicker than a cold sunny day.  But right now I'm thinking about sleeping clothes.  We wear them.  I don't know how many of you forget to put something on when you go to sleep. 

I remember the Northridge earthquake.  My sister was in college there and I was bringing a couple of my kids to her apartment in Northridge to spend a couple of days.  When was this trip planned?  The day of the earthquake.  We put the trip off for a day but that was it.  I brought the kids and left them there for a couple of days.  I didn't want them afraid of earthquakes.  I explained that the apartments that collapsed were the ones built over the underground parking garages.  The apartments on solid ground for the most part came out OK.  Now there was plenty of damage all around but since her apartment held up just fine I didn't see much of a problem with it.  Of course, I was only 10 minutes away by car since I was working in the area, and could get back into the city with out much problem if needed.  Even back then they all had "escape" bicycles and backpacks.  Why am I bringing up this story?  Because when the earthquake hit in the early morning most of her neighbors went running outside.  Naked.  While it sounds sort of funny, it wasn't for those who couldn't get back into their apartments.  Oops.  No clothes. 

The wood stove at our house doesn't heat the bedroom area only the living area.  I don't usually heat the house at night unless it's going to get down into the 30s at night.  The main reason isn't the cost of the propane, wanting to conserve, or anything like that - although I do not like paying the propane bill!  I don't like hearing the heater running while I'm trying to sleep.  I'd rather it didn't run.  I suppose it's good practice to not heat the house at night if TSHTF and I had to conserve my 400 gallons of propane for cooking or heating water (I would probably shut off the water heater since it's a propane hog!).  This means extra blankets on the bed and warm clothes to sleep in. 

We usually sleep in sweats or fleece.  Fleece is much more comfortable which is why I buy up lightly used fleece blankets.  Now if you buy childrens fleece PJ's from the store the material will be fire resistant.  If you buy fleece from the fabric store some will be fire resistant but most will not be.  The blankets probably aren't.  But so what.  The grand kids don't smoke in bed.  Neither do I.  I'm not worried about our cigarette ashes starting a fire.  (OK we don't smoke at all, I was just being funny.)  We don't use electric blankets so I don't see the need for the fire resistant material.   

It's easy to make PJ bottoms.  There are only two pieces.  The right side and the left side.  To make PJ bottoms you need to take your fabric, fold it in half, lay your pattern on the fabric and cut it out.  You sew up each leg (the seam is on the inner leg).  Then you turn one leg with the right side out and put it inside the other leg.  You then sew from the center front to the center back.  That's mainly it.  Three seams.  Then you turn over a bit of fabric at the waist and sew it.  A friend of mine doesn't use elastic at all.  She just puts in paracord and you pull it tight.  I'd rather use elastic and paracord.  The elastic keeps the pants up, the cord makes it adjustable.  Then you sew the hem to the right length.  (Girl doesn't like hers hemmed.  It just sort of rolls up at the bottom.) If you know the waist size and hem length the entire PJ bottoms can be completed in less than 1/2 hour from cutting out the fabric to finishing up the sewing.  What's my pattern?  Their last pair that's too old and ripped up to reuse.  I cut the pants along the seam and lay it out on top of the fabric.  I just add a few inches all the way around to get the next size or two larger.  I can also take some newspaper or butcher paper, tape the pieces together and cut out a paper pattern for the next time if I don't have an old pair to use as a guide.  Tonight I did have an old pair that is ready for the rag box.  

Why such detail about bottoms?  Easy.  If the SHTF, or if you just don't have anything appropriate to wear during cold weather you could easily make these.  Kids grow out of things when you least expect it.  You may not be able to run out to the store to pick up clothes for the kids.  You could just go to the store now and buy some in every size.  That way you'll be prepared.  Or realize that they don't take too long to make, even if you had to sew the seams by hand.  If you don't sew - LEARN. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cheese, towels, batteries (can't get any more miscellaneous than that)

My first order for freeze dried foods were shipped today.  I ordered a case of cheese.  Even though I learned how to can cheese, I still want a supply of freeze dried.  It will take up a lot less space, although the price was quite high.  I don't know the actual cost between the freeze dried cheese once it's rehydrated and fresh cheese.  I remember figuring out the the white meat chicken came out to about $7.00 per pound as rehydrated meat.  It's about $2.00-$3.00 per pound fresh.  So about three times the price of fresh food.  The shipment is supposed to arrive on Wednesday.  I'm going to open one of the cans up and leave the others sealed.  I ordered 1 Colby jack, 1 mozzarella, 2 cheddar, and 2 Monterey jack.  Which should I open?  Probably will open the cheddar.  Then we can have a taste test between the fresh, canned cheddar, and freeze dried cheddar.  I'll let you know the results.

Today at work I was given six battery adapters.  They make a AA battery fit into a C or D battery slot.  I'd never seen anything like it.  Since I have an unlimited supply of AA batteries this is something to use for items that take C or D batteries but I rarely use the item.  This way I don't have to keep a lot of C and D cells on hand, just the AA.  I'm not suggesting everyone goes out and buys these adapters and stops using C and D batteries.  Rather, it's for short term use items only.  Unless you buy cheap junky batteries, a D battery should have more power than a C and a C should have more power than a AA.  Therefore, if you are using the AA, it will provide the power but for a much shorter amount of time. 

This evening I spent time working on gifts for friends and family.  I'm decorating hand towels with Christmas fabric, Hanukkah fabric, and sports teams (not shown).  It's a really easy to make gift and doesn't take that long to put together, especially if you have left over material laying around.  I asked friends and family for their left over fabric.  Items such as these just take a strip about six inches wide and about 18 inches long.  That is stuff that's thrown away by other people as scrap. 

If you want to make a gift like this the best time to buy the towels in during the January white sales.  These towels shown are from Walmart.  Not on sale they cost $2.97.  On sale about $2.00-$2.50 each.  A package of iron on interfacing costs .95 and will make 8 - about .12 each.  You can make about 12 strips per yard of fabric.  The fabric, if you had to buy it at $4.00 per yard would cost .33 per strip.  Total each towel costs $3.42 if you pay full price for all the materials.  Using scraps and sale towels these average about $2.25 per towel.  I've made some for Thanksgiving, 4th of July, and other holidays and seasons.  It's a cheap, easy to make, useful gift.  OK, not really survivalist items but even in the darkest of days if you have simple little items such as these, it will make things better.

I haven't sewn the trim on yet, it's just pinned.  Tonight I got the strips cut out, interfacing ironed on, the strips pinned to the towels.  Tomorrow or the next night I will get them sewn on.

We finished up the Thanksgiving left overs.  Tomorrow I have to start cooking once again.  The kids have religious school tomorrow afternoon so maybe I'll throw a soup together for the crock pot before I go to work in the morning. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Burglar shoots 91 year old

About an hour from here in a small country town of 4,000 a burglar entered the home of a 91 year old woman and her 63 year old daughter.  It was about two in the morning.  The women awoke and went to find out what the noise was.  The burglar shot the 91 year old in the face.  She is alive but the bullet embedded in her spine.  If she lives through this it's expected that she will be partially paralyzed.  The burglar took some things out of the house before escaping.  The sheriff has no suspects and no motive and doesn't know if it was a random incident or not.   

Last year the home of one of my friends was broken into while he was at work.  He lives in a nearby town, population 11,000. The Christmas tree was visible from the front window.  The side window was obscured by plants and the thieves broke the window and just walked in and helped themselves.  They used a glass cutter and cut a hole so there wasn't the noise of glass breaking.

In the large city about a half hour from my house, just the other day a family was loading their kids into their car, which was parked in the front of their house.  They turned the car on to get the heater going so it wouldn't be too cold.  Two of the three kids were in the car.  The parents came out with the third kid and noticed that their car was missing.  Someone stole it with the two kids in it!  The kids were let out of the car about a half mile from home.  Their vehicle is still missing but at least nobody got hurt.

I've learned to lock the doors when I'm here.  I used to brag that not only did I never lock the doors but I didn't even know where a house key was; it had been such a long time since the house was locked.  My kids think I'm a bit kooky because I carry a handgun with me while I'm at home.  Perhaps telling them this story may change their mind a bit.  You never know what may happen, even in your own home. 

Keep yourself alert.  Keep your doors locked.  Keep yourself armed. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Today is the perfect day to get some yard work completed.  The sun came out around 10:00 and it is sufficiently warm enough to wear short sleeves.  The house is clean other than the bookshelves need to be sorted and arranged properly.  That's a rainy day chore, or at least a foggy day chore.  It's yard work time.

I went out to the garden and pulled up all the corn stalks.  There was some dried ears of corn still on the stalks so those got separated and put into a can for winter use for the chickens.  (I could also use it for food for us if needed! )  The stalks went to the sheep.  Leaves have been getting rake one day and the next day you rake again, etc. 

I am piling the leaves in the barn where the hay used to go.  Hay is so expensive that the animals are not going to get any this winter.  They are not worth $20 a bale!  I have a feeling animals are going to go really cheap at the auction this winter due to the high cost of feed.  Perhaps we'll pick up some more animals, feed them on our pasture and leaves and eat them next fall. 

Since mulberry trees, in past decades, were grown specifically for animal feed I figure we should do the same.  We have two huge flowering mulberry plus the three fruiting mulberry.  We have a sycamore and another large tree that drops leaves.  Army daughter has some nice deciduous trees at her house too.  Oldest daughter doesn't have too many left since they've cut most down.  Our leaf pile will just keep growing for the next few months until all the leaves drop.  Certainly much cheaper than hay!

We don't have any pine trees on our property but the neighbor does.  I'm going to have the grand kids rake up the pine needles and spread them around the blueberry plants.  I'd like to get a six inch or so layer of needles.  It would sure help with the weeds plus they like acid soil, which we do not have.  Needles are cheaper than buying fertilizer, which I don't want to do. 

A couple weeks ago boy cleaned out the sheep pen in the barn and put all that good compost into two of the garden beds.  I spread that out and those will be ready for planting in the spring. 

I pulled some weeds that had taken over the dead squash bed and found a zucchini!  We are having zucchini for dinner.  Another garden surprise!  Watermelon yesterday and zucchini today.  After the bed was cleaned out I put in onion seeds.  I was hoping to have them started and plant the starts but I didn't get that far and since it's such a nice day out I just put in the seeds. 

I want to pull up some of the pepper plants and pot them.  They will grow in the house as nice houseplants all winter and can get replanted in the spring.  I always plant new pepper plants but these will produce peppers first thing while I wait for the rest. 

I have to cut back the berry plants.  Perhaps that will be tomorrow's task.  I am going to root about thirty berries so they can be planted in the front along my front fence.  I am going to add another layer of cut branches first.  Last years branches started off about five feet high but are now only about three feet high.  They've settled quite a bit.  We still have a large variety of birds hanging out in them.  We will put another three or four feet on top then in the spring put in the berries.  It will eventually be a 150 foot blackberry bramble.  I'm looking forward to that!  It won't get out of hand because I can mow the side that goes toward the road if it starts expanding too far and the animals will eat it down on the pasture side. 

Heard about some work a friend of mine is doing at their ranch.  They built a pond that they are filling with water being pumped from a windmill.  It's stocked with fish.  It has some solar aerators so the water gets oxygen into it.  They are in the process of building a root cellar.  After that project they are going to install solar panels.  I'm not sure if it's going to be attached to the grid or not.  They have lots of money for projects so it's always interesting to see what's happening at the ranch.  They suggested that I put in a pond to raise some fish.  I agree, I can't do it myself and can't afford to have someone else do it.  Are they offering?  If so, come on over!  Otherwise, I better just get back to raking leaves.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday: A person who is happy with what they have is rich

Did you go shopping?  Hit the mall?  I didn't.  There is nothing that we need to make me want to fight the crowds.  Imagine pepper spraying someone so they stay away from the DVD player that you want!  Or getting arrested because you stuffed a video into your pants so you could pull your kid out of the crowd without him getting trampled.  What about having a disagreement with the hair stylist leading to having an all out brawl in the hair salon?  And this is supposed to signal the start of a holy time of the year?  I just don't get it.

A lot of blog talk is about how people are reacting with the Black Friday shopping and trying to compare this to how people would react if the stores were closed and they had no more food.  There would be trouble ahead but I think a lot of those people would be sitting around waiting for someone to provide food and supplies to them.  There would be a calm before the storm.

The grand kids are spending a couple of nights at son's apartment with their little cousins.  After all, they have school vacation so they may as well hang out with the cousins.  I didn't have to work today; I spent the day cleaning the house.  I oiled the dining room floor.  I got totally surprised when I was out in the front pasture...I found two ripe watermelons hidden in the weeds.  (Watermelons in November is unheard of!) I gathered a couple more bags of give away stuff.  I also took a bag of toys out of the family room to give away.  Is it because it's all going to get replaced with gifts later this month?  NO!

Oldest daughter came over for a bit today with a grand daughter.  She wanted to know what I was going to put into the empty space.  Nothing.  How much empty space do you have?  I know, if you live in small quarters you may not have much.  If you live in a larger home (we have over 2,000 sq.ft.) there should be empty space.  An empty drawer here, an empty shelf there. 

I used to shop on Black Friday.  But I didn't shop for gifts.  I'd shop for things that I wanted that were a good deal.  The types of gifts I give aren't usually on the super sales.  But I really have all that I need.  Sure it's nice to think about things that I'd like to have.  Something that I want.  But if TSHTF today or tomorrow, nothing that's on sale for Black Friday would be something that I'd be rushing out to get.  (Yes I know some of the freeze dried food places are having sales, I'm not counting them.)

Have you noticed that people who appear to have everything often times aren't happy?  Now, I'm not saying that if you are well off that you can't be happy.  You can.  I do know plenty of well off people who are happy.  It's just that they don't derive their happiness from their stuff.  Their happiness comes from their faith and their family.  That's a lesson that people who don't have much money need to remember.  It isn't about the stuff. 

At Sunday school last week the grand kids brought home a video called Enough Already.  They watched it a couple of times but I never did.  With a quiet house I figured it was time for me to see it.  I knew it was a cute video because they were singing "enough already!"  The story is about a poor but happy family.  The dad, mom, and five kids.  They all seem to get along.  Then one day dad comes home from work and one kid complains that he needs new clothes, another needs a new blanket, another wants a new bed, another needs something else, etc.  Even the mom complains that she needs peace and quiet.  They all beg, "just give me this, we'll never ask for anything ever again."  (How many times have we all heard that?)

Dad can't figure out what to do to make things better.  He asks for advice.  He's told to bring the goat into the house.  So he does.  That certainly doesn't make it better.  The next day he goes back for more advice.  He's told to bring in a ewe.  That doesn't make it better either.  The next day a rooster.  The next day a cow.  Then a hen.  None of this makes the family happier - imagine having all these animals in the house with them.  They finally say enough.  Do not bring any more animals into the house!  The next day the dad took all the animals out of the house.  Wow.  The family had so much more room.  The house was quiet.  They were all satisfied with what they had after all.  They realized that those who are happy with what they have are rich. 

After my month of no shopping (almost) I have gone out a few times and spent money.  I bought gas, milk and other groceries that were on sale, cheese for my cheese canning experiment, and a shelving unit for my hidden room.  What I'm not going to do is replace what I'm removing from the house with new stuff.  Boy could use a few more pairs of pants but even then, I'm patching the knees in the ones he has.  He's just growing out of them.  Stop growing!  

I want my home storage to get us through until a time that we could grow or create what we need.  It is enough.  When I think about things to buy, it's always geared toward helping us to get through whatever may come our way.   We are rich.  Not because of money but because we are satisfied with what we have. 

Sorry for the rambling.  Shopping as headlines drives me crazy. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Canning Leftovers

Happy Thanksgiving!  No matter what your situation in life you can always find something to be thankful for.  In fact, you have a lot to be thankful for. 

Not that we will have any left over turkey to add to the soup but I'm planning on making soup with the turkey bones and any left over meat we may have.  When I can soup I will make 1/2 in pints and 1/2 in quarts.  If I don't have enough to fill my pressure cooker I still make the soup but I don't waste the space.  Any time I'm pressure cooking for an hour and a half I will fill the extra space with beans. 

Canning dry beans is really simple!  You take your jar and fill it half way with dried beans.  Then pour water over the beans and fill the jar to 1 to 1 1/2 inches from the top with the water.  Put on the top and stick it in the pressure cooker along with the other items you are canning.  The beans cook up just fine this way and will be ready to use when you need beans.     

Tomorrow, since many don't have to work, a fun breakfast for the kids is jam filled pancakes.  Made you pancake batter, pour it onto the griddle.  When it's just starting to set put a spoonful of jam in the middle.  Then pour more batter over to cover.  Flip as normal.  What a great surprise for the kids!

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do you raise turkeys?

A couple of my blog readers raised their own turkeys this year.  We did not.  I have never raised a turkey although I've been tempted to shoot one at the bug-out place.  This Thanksgiving is unusual for me.  We aren't heading down to Southern California to celebrate with my brothers, sisters, or mother.  I'm not having it at my house.  Army daughter is holding the celebration at her house with my kids and grand kids in attendance.  Oh yeah, I have to bring the tables and chairs or we will be sitting on the floor! 

One of the things we look forward to at Thanksgiving besides the family and football is GOOD food.  Fortunately, I am making the turkey and bringing it over.  Son is making sweet potatoes.  He usually puts too much sweetening in it but with marshmallows it's sweet anyway.  Oldest daughter is making the pies.  She is a fantastic pie maker.  Grandson came over today to collect all my pie plates.  Seems she is on a roll and ran out of pie plates!  Army daughter is responsible for the green beans and rolls.  The rolls are store bought.  The green bean casserole can't be messed up, can it?  Army daughter said she is making stuffing.  OK, but I always thought stuffing is part of turkey making.  I'll make the stuffing anyway because stuffing made inside the bird is always better than the extra you make outside the bird.  I don't think she thought about potatoes but she did buy jars of gravy.  Looking forward to it but it's just strange that it's not at my house. 

With all the good food that we eat at Thanksgiving, and no, I'm not forgetting about being thankful even though I'm just focusing on food, I was wondering what it would be like if TSHTF and we were celebrating without electricity, running to the grocery store, everyone easily able to travel over here, or even pondering about Black Friday.  (Run on sentence, I know!) What about the turkey?  So even if there's not much semblance of society as we know it, keeping holidays is one way to keep some sort of state of tranquillity in our lives.  So, what about the turkey?  What would Thanksgiving be like if you had a chicken or fish?  When we celebrate with my sister-in-law we always have a vegetable lasagna in addition to the turkey because she doesn't eat meat.  So lasagna has become part of our tradition. 

All the side dishes we eat are easy to replicate if you can't get to the store.  It's really a very easy meal to grow or make from scratch.  All except the turkey.  What about at your house?  How would you keep the holiday without the main attraction of the holiday (the turkey)?  Would you think about raising turkeys?  I never really thought about it.  I just assumed that I'd shoot one, but then so would everyone else who has property by the bug-out place.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moving food around and teaching Army daughter a thing or two about convenience food

With our food storage being in almost every room in the house I've almost completed moving the "home grocery store" to the new hidden room.  After the grand kids came back from Army daughter's house we emptied the rest of the garage shelves and loaded up the shelves in the hidden room.  This evening I moved my filled canning jars into the room as well.  The beans and boxed goods are still in the pantry in the mud room.  They will get moved in the next few days. 

I think the way we are going to use the new room is to only enter it every couple of weeks.  I'll go "shopping" there and take out a couple weeks worth of stored goods.  These will then be put into the pantry in the mud room.  It will be much easier for me to keep inventory that way. 

I was surprised at some of the food items that I found when sorting through everything!  After all, not only was I shopping over the last year but Army daughter was too.  Toward the end of their stay I was grocery shopping and putting all the canned goods into my bedroom closet.  No need to put them with the rest, they weren't going to get used anyway.  Army daughter, son-in-law, and baby moved in on Thanksgiving last year and left just a month ago.  Army daughter didn't like home made food so a lot of my home canned goods from 2009 and 2010 weren't used, yet alone items from 2011.  I can't blame that all on Army daughter.  I did find three jars of tomato juice that I canned in 2006 and a couple of jars of plums from 2007.  Oops. 

I found six jars of jam.  I don't mean my home made marmalade, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, apricot, peach, or plum jams.  I mean store bought jam.  Strawberry and blackberry store bought garbage with ingredients other than fruit, sugar, and pectin.  Have you read the ingredients in store bought jam?  Some of the items don't sound like things you should be eating.  But according to Army daughter, this is good stuff and you don't have to spend time in the kitchen making it.  

Well those thoughts may have worked for Army daughter before but now that they are in their own house she's telling me that money is tight.  Really?  And what are you feeding that adorable little girl of yours?  The $2.50 container of Gerber ready to eat macaroni and cheese still?   No, she's now making her a frozen meal of macaroni and cheese.  This was only $2.00 for 7 1/2 ounces.  So it's almost twice as much food as the Gerber for less money.  Such a deal!  About a dollar per meal.

What about making it yourself?  Even if you don't want to get the noodles for $1.00 a pound and the cheese sauce mix, or even shredded cheese, the frozen stuff isn't any different than Kraft macaroni and cheese for 80 cents a box.  And that box is 7 1/2 ounces without any water added.  It's probably close to a pound once it's prepared.  Let's see, four meals out of one box (baby sized meals, not grown up meals) so it would cost 20 cents per meal. 

Then Army daughter said that the frozen is so much more convenient.  You are right, you spend 1 minute preparing that compared to 3 minutes for the boxed stuff.  No, it takes 15 minutes to make it.  Yes, but you don't stand there for 15 minutes do you?  You take a pot out, fill it with water, and put it on the stove.  30 seconds tops.  Then you go do something else.  You come back and pour in the noodles and give it a stir.  15-30 more seconds.  You may come back once to stir it or maybe you don't come back into the room for 10 more minutes.  Then you give it a stir, drain the water, add the package cheese and a little milk.  One minute, maybe one and a half or two.  Total time spent: 3 minutes. 

Let's compare the time it took to make the meal vs. the cost of the meal.  Let's say you made something of this sort for the baby 20 times during the month.  If you spent an hour total making 20 lunches of Kraft you would spend $4.00.  If you spent 20 minutes making the 20 frozen meals you would have spent $20.  That's an extra $16 dollars you spent to save 40 minutes!  That equals $24 per hour.  (From bulk the price would be $2.00, which translates to $27 per hour more!)

I then asked if son-in-law is earning $24 an hour.  No?  But you are spending $24 per hour when you make the frozen lunch for the baby rather than $4 an hour by making it "home made".  Doesn't make sense to me.  When looking at it from that perspective she said that it was really expensive to feed the baby that way.  Will she change?  Doubt it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Working on the hidden room

I took apart some of the shelves in the garage.  I put them together in the hidden room and have started moving things in.  It's going to be so nice to have the "home grocery store" all in one place!  I had my food buckets in the closet in my room, food in the large pantry and also in a china hutch in the mud room, and then the main storage out in the garage. 

Each shelf unit is four feet wide, 18 inches deep, and seven feet tall.  There are six shelves per unit.  All my shelving came from Fresno Rack and Shelving and Bakersfield Rack and Shelving (depending on where I was working that day).  They are really heavy duty and a bit cheaper than the gorilla racks from the hardware stores.  The nice thing about getting it from the shelving company is you can get exactly what you need.  12, 15, 18, 24 inches wide.  Five, six, seven feet high.  They will cut the shelves while you wait.  I think they come with five shelves but I like six better.  It's not a lot more to add the extra shelf. 

I don't have any of the 12 inch deep shelving.  The 15 is good for holding cases of canned goods but the 18 will hold a lot more even though it's only three inches deeper.  I put 18s into the hidden room.  I have 24 inch deep shelves in the garage but those hold the bins of clothes and other larger items (ice chests, etc).  I'm setting up three sets of shelves to start.  I have room for a fourth shelf since the room is 17 feet long.  Since the room is only four feet wide, having 24 inch deep shelves wouldn't give me enough room to move around.  I can store other things along the wall if I want.  We'll see.  

I will be able to keep my inventory more accurate since everything will be in one place.  It's going to take a while to get everything located in the exact place I want it on the shelves.  I don't keep the shelves in a hodgepodge.  It's really orderly.  I think about how things are set up in the grocery store and try to keep the same groupings.  

This week's mission for the grand kids Sunday school is to be kind and helpful to your parents.  It's a hard one to teach them about honoring your parents when their parents have been abusive.  Wait, they aren't your parents anymore.  I am!  Their adoption was final a year and two days ago.  You have to be nice to me!  So today they came in my room at 6:00 to give me my menu for breakfast in bed.  They wanted to cook pancakes, waffles, eggs, and breakfast muffins.  How about a cup of coffee?  They brought me that, spilling and sipping along the way.  I got half a cup. 

Let me sleep until 6:30 please.  After I got up I headed to the kitchen to supervise the scrambled egg cooking.  I told them there were left over pancakes in the refrigerator so no making more.  They toasted some bread.  They also got out some tortillas and put the eggs and some shredded cheese into each tortilla.  They slathered it with taco sauce.  Breakfast was ready.  It was all pretty good except for the massive amount of sauce.  Why do kids always think more is better?  They get to check off helping with a meal. 

We've had some ants in the kitchen the last couple of days.  They aren't after anything, they always come into the house after the first few rainfalls.  I've been spraying the area they come in with my bleach water.  It seems to deter them.  This morning boy told me that there were ants so he sprayed the area with the bleach water but he also wanted to trap them.  He knows we have sticky pads to catch mice so he figured he can do the same for the ants.  He poured a line of syrup on the counter so the ants would get stuck!  I was surprised that I didn't get mad for more than a split second.  I caught myself before I scolded him.  Ants LOVE syrup.  We need to keep all the food put away.  Do you see I put the bowl of scraps for the chickens into the middle of the dishpan with an inch of water in the bottom of the pan?  That's so the ants can't get to the scraps.  They won't cross the water. 

The grand kids are spending the night with their cousin.  I'm going to go back to moving food.  I have a lot of office work to do tomorrow then the kids are coming home and bringing the baby cousin with them.  Don't think I'll get much food moving done tomorrow evening.   

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Canning Cheese Part 2

On November 4th I posted a blurb about canning cheese.  .  I wrote about canning cheddar cheese and also cream cheese.  Today I tried my hand at both. 
I canned seven jars of cream cheese first.  I got cream cheese on sale for $1.25 a box.  This was even cheaper than getting it in the large size from Costco.  I bought six 8-oz. boxes, using about 5 1/2 of the packages.  I canned the cream cheese in 1/2 pint wide mouth jars.  I should have used the regular jar but instead used these short jars that are about half the height of the pint jars. 

It didn't turn out like I planned.  The cream cheese oozed out while the jars were in the boiling water bath.  When I pulled them out of the water when they were done they spurted out more cream cheese.  According to the directions I had researched the cream cheese would not ooze out so you could take them out of the water right away.  Either way the jars were a mess when they came out of the water.  They all pinged so supposedly there is a seal.  After they cooled down a bit I took off the rings.  Cream cheese was caked on to the side of the jar and also stuck in the ring.  I got the rings scrubbed out right away.  What a mess! 

I'm wondering if I tried to do this too quickly.  Perhaps the cheese wasn't melted well enough before I put the lid on and processed it.  Maybe this was caused by some air bubbles.  I don't know.  I will try it again, and this time I'll use the regular 1/2 pints.

Next was the cheddar cheese.  This time I canned the cheese in pint wide mouth jars.  I used the shredded cheese from Costco.  It was the cheapest around, about $2.50 per pound.  I put the cheese into the jars and heated them up in a warm, almost simmering pot of water.  As the cheese melted I pushed more cheese into the jar.  I decided not to fill the jars up too high since I didn't want a repeat of the oozing.  I also didn't let the top 1/4 inch or so completely melt.   None of the cheddar cheese was runny melted, just gooey melted. 

I wiped each rim with a towel dipped in vinegar.  I did this with the cream cheese jars, too. I put the lids on and placed them into the water bath.  I boiled it for about 40 minutes.  I decided to take the first one out quickly just to see what it looked like.  It didn't ooze out like the directions said it may.  But I figured I'd better not take any chances.  I put it back into the water!  About five minutes later I took all seven jars of cheddar cheese out of the water.  They all turned out perfectly.  As you can see in the picture there is a layer of oil on top of the cheddar cheese.  I used the entire five pound bag of cheese for the seven pint jars. 

I don't believe the cream cheese jars could possibly be properly sealed, not after the mess that each jar had on it.  I'm putting them all in the refrigerator tonight.  Tomorrow I'll open one to see what the rim looks like.  If it's good then I'll put them into storage.  If the rim isn't good, then maybe I'll try it again only in different jars.  Otherwise, I think I hear a couple of cream cheese pies calling out to be made!   

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Noise at the back of the property

Today the grand kids were excruciatingly slow doing their chores.  I told them that they'd stay out after dark if necessary but that didn't seem to speed them up.  They should have been done with what they needed to do by ten or eleven in the morning but since their cousin was here until noon they didn't get a lot accomplished early on.  I told them to hurry with their chores because lunch wasn't going to wait all day.  This of course meant that they may as well go slow because they could just eat fruit off the trees.  Who cares about lunch.  So, they went slow.  No, slower...

At five thirty I told them I was making dinner and they needed to speed up or it was going to get dark out.  Nope, they slowed down.  Can you walk any slower??? It was just one of those days I guess.  At six dinner was ready.  They were still poking around so I said that I was sitting down to eat and I sure hoped that their dinner was still warm by the time they finished up and were ready to come in.  At six thirty I opened the door and heard an adult talking.  "Who is out there?" I asked the kids.  They said they didn't know but they were worried about it.  (They didn't come in to tell me because they were "busy" doing their chores)  As soon as I opened the door the dogs rushed out of the house and started barking by the pasture fence.  The noise was coming from the very back of the property.  I realized that it was not on our property but down a ways.  I didn't know if it was in the orchard behind us or in someones yard.  

Lucky kids... "Get in the house, eat your dinner, and get to bed."  I'm going to find out what's going on.  "Do NOT go outside.  Follow what I say EXACTLY."  They did.  After all, I was letting them come in to eat dinner before their chores were done!

It looked like people were walking around in the orchard carrying torches.  I heard someone say "glad you made it".  What was going on?  Handgun in pocket, shotgun in hand, flashlight in pocket, wearing all black clothes I walked to the back of the pasture - about 1/4 mile from the house.  There was no moon; it's coming up really late.  It's supposed to rain tonight but the sky was only half cloud covered and the rest filled with stars.  I was able to see well enough that I didn't need to turn on the flashlight.  As I was walking out there I was wishing I had a night vision scope.  Why didn't I have a spare couple thousand dollars for such a piece of equipment?  Then I wouldn't even have to walk back there, I could just look.  No such luck, I don't have a spare ten bucks let alone enough for the night vision equipment. 

I could see a cross with torches surrounding it.  We're in trouble, it's some sort of cult taking over the orchard.  I still couldn't tell if it was on an adjacent property or in the orchard.  As I was getting closer to the back of the property I was mulling over in my brain whether I should go over my back fence to get a closer look.  I wasn't going to ignore this and walk away without knowing what was going on.  I walked really quietly along the far fenceline.  I then crossed my field, along one of the crossfences.  When I was about 100 feet from the back of the property I was finally able to tell that the cross, torches, and now bonfire was a church party at the very back of the neighbors property, not in the orchard.   

Thanks neighbors for letting us know you are holding a church event.  I need to rethink what I did.  If it was a group of "bad guys" I'm sure they would have had some sort of night vision equipment.  Except with the torches perhaps it would have been too much light too close to where they were.  I don't know enough about that type of equipment.  At this season of the year my pasture is too low to hide me as I was walking.  I would have been a dead duck if this really was a drug deal, cult, or a group of ner-do-wells.  I could have gone down the road further, through an orchard near my property to get to the orchard behind my property.  Or, I could have walked the road, which I did after I figured out that it was a party.  In front of the neighbors driveway was a sign.  Follow Me... to the end of the line! 

Sis is getting more like minded and other thoughts

San Diego sister came up for a visit for three days.  Brother-in-law was out of town for a week so she figured why not take the drive up to the farm.  Nephew loves playing with his cousins and her dog likes hanging around here too.  While she was here we discussed how well they are holding up with brother-in-law having been laid off for the last three months.  They went from a 6 figure income to her military retirement pay!   Brother-in-law is designing some engineering project that he knows will take off once he gets the design and sample product make up.  He's actually working on this full time each day, so it's just that he has no income, not that he isn't working.  They are doing just fine.  Fortunately for them they put money aside while he was working.  They put extra money back into their house, with a pool, extra garage, all kinds of tools, etc.  Brother-in-law can fix anything, build anything, etc.  Other than living in the middle of a city of a million people they are trying to be self sufficient. 

I've taught sister how to garden.  She has fruit trees, grows tomatoes, potatoes, and other vegetables.  They've even started landscaping with edibles.  Their latest are the artichoke plants instead of other perennials.  These produce food as well as look great! 

Last year when I was down there we really discussed home storage.  She took it to heart and put shelves in the garage and started stocking up.  She made a chart showing the 50 or so foods she most often purchases.  She then made columns for each grocery store she shops at: Albertsons, Ralphs, the commissary, and Costco.  When she is up here she goes to Winco.  She then spent a day at each store, not looking at the sale prices but the regular prices.  She listed all the regular prices on her sheet - updating them every couple months.  She then knows where to buy what she needs and is also more aware of prices on items that go on sale.  Is it really a sale? 

She shops every two weeks for milk - cheapest at the commissary or Costco.  Other than that she shops about once a month, depending on what goes on sale that's on her list.  If it's a canned item she will buy up to a year's worth at a time.  Before she puts the canned or jarred foods onto her shelf she marks the date in a thick Sharpie.  She says that her friends just think that's her "little odd thing she does" but she's really thankful for it because they've used a lot of this food storage during the last few months. 

She doesn't really use much of the long term storage products.  She's not that far into her prepping yet.  But she will get there.  Sister and nephew left right around lunch time for the trip back home.  They were loaded up with pears, persimmons, pomegranates, eggs, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers of all sorts.  When she brings home these types of gifts it just makes her desire to prep a little stronger. 

I contacted a semi-local reader of my blog and asked if they will instruct me on a few things.  First and foremost, I'd like to watch someone butcher chickens then I'd like to do it myself.  Although we used to butcher chickens and ducks when my kids were young I really don't remember how.  Sure, I could just go out and do it but there are always good tips to learn from someone who does this regularly.  That blogger also keeps bees.  I would like to learn more about that as well.  Keeping bees would not only be done for honey but more importantly to keep things pollenized.  The only problem with bee keeping is that one of my son-in-laws is allergic to bee stings.  He will work out in the yard at all times anyway but may be more apprehensive if they bees are actually living here.  Anyway I hope to learn more.  If I do, I'd be happy to share. 

I also got an email from one of the local charities that a family is in need of clothing for infants through size 3.  Sure we have that.  Girls or boys I don't know so I guess I'll pull out some of the generic items and bring them into town tomorrow.  So that's my main task for today, go through the clothing bins in the garage.  I'll get things washed up and hung on the line.  It's supposed to rain tonight so it all needs to get done quickly. 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Long Interesting Day

Two interesting things happened today.  I found human remains and I was the guest speaker at a dinner. 

When you are out in the woods you never know what you are going to come across.  Today was just one of those days.  There were five of us working, and although I had asked if I could volunteer on this project I ended up in charge.  That was fine with me because it was a learning experience for all.  Then we found the remains.  Just a bunch of finger bones actually, not an entire dead person.  It's something that I come across fairly often (as compared to the general public) and not something that I get really excited about.  The person that was actually in charge was in a tizzy.  Who did he need to contact?  How quickly?  I reminded him what the law said so slow down, take a breath, and just go through the process.  Not too long after that we were joined by two of the area's finest peace officers.  Or rather one stuffy officer and one that was interested in our project and tried to help out.  It was fun to get someone else involved. 

On my way down the hill I stopped at GI Jim's.  I told him that I thought the interview went well.  He did too.  He said that the crew was really interested in the whole preparing topic.  One of them was Mormon and had grown up with a storage plan at home.  I ordered some paracord and a net for the kids to crawl under.  (Yes shopping, although I didn't buy anything, just ordered it)  Jim has an interesting selection in his shop.  He's always getting new items plus the regular type of items that you would expect in a surplus store.  The nice thing about his shop is that if he doesn't have it he knows how to get what you need. 

I had to rush back to town because this evening I was a guest speaker at a meeting with about 50 people.  Good sized crowd but rather diverse backgrounds between professionals and students.  I got to pick my topic so I spoke about mines.  I've read so many blogs about if TSHTF you could go out into the woods and find an old mine to hang out at.  You may even be lucky and find a gold mine.  So while I discussed the 50,000 or so abandoned mines just in California I also mentioned things like arsenic, cyanide, mercury, and other nice poisons that you can stir up without noticing what you are doing until it is too late.  I personally know of one person who is comatose from a cyanide poisoning at a mine two years ago, two twenty-somethings who hiked about 25 feet into a mine to succumbed to poisonous gas, and another friend whose son fell into a mine shaft and died.  Mines are not places you want to hang out, no matter how glamorous they may seem. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Old Topographic Maps available

I love maps.  The USGS has their Historical Topographic Map Collection with different updates of the quad maps. It is available for most states.  I used to wish that they'd get on the stick and finish up with California.  Finally they did!  Check it out. 

I found the quad map dated in the 1920s where my house is located.  This is before the road was even there.  It shows several seasonal streams that I didn't know existed.  It also shows some springs.  Really interesting stuff.  

USGS is continuously updating their maps.  The last set of our state maps were completed in 2009 without USFS land included in the update.   Next year new California topo maps are going to include more complete surface water data and they will have completed their update of US Forest Service Lands. 

Check out areas where you live.  Check out areas where you may want to live.  Warning - it's a really slow download but it will download.  Just be patient.

The BLM has old documents available too.  These include land patents, and my favorites - Government Land Office (GLO) maps and survey notes.  Unfortunately the maps and survey notes are not available on line for California.  They are available to be purchased for relatively cheap from BLM or you can look at them at university libraries or other such places.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Survival on the Line - the news report

I read what was written on the new's website.  I haven't seen the video yet.  It sounds good though.  They interviewed GI Jim.  They also interviewed a person who teaches basic prepping.  Then they had a young family live without their electricity for 24 hours. 

CBS47 Special Report: Survival on the Line

Monday, November 14, 2011

Almost done with the month with no spending and a henhouse full of roosters

I haven't gone "shopping" in a while now.  October 20th was the last day I went to a grocery store.  I didn't really go shopping, just picked up some stuff that I know always goes well in the pantry.  I haven't completely stayed away from the stores.  I haven't shopped since the last time I wrote stating that I shopped.  This past month I purchased lunch on the day I was out of town, sticky trays to catch mice, and the extra 2x4s for the hidden room.  I also ended up buying another box of wood screws - just in case.  Turns out I didn't need them after all.  But, they will go into the storage.  This has been all I've purchased. 

My tank of gas is getting a bit low for my tastes.  I have some gas stored at home and will use it to fill up the truck when it comes time to finally fill the truck.  (I rotate the gas that I store - I usually buy gas twice a month and once a month I will first fill with the stored gas, then fill the stored gas and the rest of my tank)

The chickens food is running rather low.  I didn't buy new food for them before I started this so it's been two months since I've  bought food.  I'm surprised it's lasted this long.

We've had a couple of things break in the house that I haven't been able to fix yet.  First is the light in the laundry room.  I'm going to have to replace the entire fixture since I don't like the type of bulb that's up there now.  The entire house needs to be put onto regular standard sized light bulbs.  The kitchen however, does have under cabinet lights that are the long fluorescent bulbs.  I don't have any spares for those.  I should get some because I do like those lights. 

Girl broke part of the coffee pot filter basket.  Rather, she lost the washer that fits on it so the coffee stops dripping when you pull the coffee pot out before the entire pot has brewed.  I don't have a replacement washer.  I do have an entire second set of coffee pot parts.  I like the type of pot that I have.  It wore out many years ago so I bought a new brewer exactly like the old one.  I got rid of the main contraption but kept the pot, baskets, grinder, etc.  So, while girl broke one item, I do have another to use until I am able to get a replacement washer. 

We are going to run out of the cheese.  I have some more in the freezer but I'm not going into the freezer to take it out.  During this exercise I learned how to can cheese and will buy cheese in bulk once the month is over and can it. 

Milk.  Since it's getting cool out each night (in the 40s or high 30s) I've been making a quart jar of milk each night before I go to bed.  It's going outside in the pot cooler.  No, I haven't unplugged the refrigerator!  I gave the kids powdered milk for dinner last night.  No chocolate or strawberry Quik, just plain.  They didn't even blink.  Perhaps they didn't notice since it's been three weeks since they drank real nonfat milk out of a gallon jug? 

Meat.  I have gotten into the freezer for some meat.  We have been eating very little, with meat not being the main dish but as part of a combination of foods.  A couple of times we did eat the meat plain.  The other night we had a deer roast.  It was probably a pound and a half and it lasted three meals.  Tonight we had antelope.  It was the first of the antelope that we were given.  This package weighed a little over a pound.  We ate half the package.  We would have consumed less but I nibbled (a lot) while I was cooking.  So much for this making three dinners.  Two will be all.  I used the package of dehydrated chicken, which I thought was great.  We've also used canned beef and canned chicken.  I even used flavored TVP in  the split pea soup.  All in all, we have probably consumed half our normal meat allotment, which is probably less than most people eat anyway.

Last spring my sister gave us nine baby chickens.  Three drowned in the water container.  Chickens are stupid.  The other six are doing great except five of the six are roosters.  This is not good.  They are starting to crow and just yesterday two of them got into a bit of a cockfight.  Sister is coming over this week with her little one.  He's going to get to see his chickens from preschool but after they leave I think those are going into the freezer!  We butchered chickens and ducks when my kids were younger.  That was over 20 years ago.  I guess it's time for me to remember and then teach the grand kids the fine art of chicken butchering. 

Normally, when I have old chickens I put them on Craigslist and can sell them for more money then it would cost to get stew hens from the grocery store.  Of course, I'd sell the hens and buy already processed ones.  I'd make a little money and I wouldn't have to spend the time or make the mess of slaughtering chickens.  I think we need to get back into chicken processing here at home.  It's a skill that I no longer have but would be very important in a SHTF scenario. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Survivalists Interview Coming to Local TV Tomorrow

In September I was contacted through this blog by one of the local TV reporters.  She wanted to know if she could interview me.  She said she wouldn't identify me or my location.  I said NO.  But thanks. I did direct her to GI Jim's, which is a local surplus store.  Jim, I was sure, would give an interview.  I wondered who else would do so? 

Tomorrow night we will find out.  I was watching TV last night (free TV from the digital antenna) and they showed a teaser commercial for the 11:00 news tomorrow night on Channel 47.  Survivalists and how they are preparing.  They showed GI Jim.  Good.  She followed up on what I told her to do.  They also showed a couple with two young children.  Not smart on their part. 

I don't stay up that late but I may just to watch this.  I'm sure it will be on the internet on Tuesday if I decide to go to bed on time. 

Here's their promo:
Natural and financial disasters... trouble can strike at any time. But can you avoid devastation with a survival plan?  Preparing your family for the unknown.  Groups of survivalists are preparing for disaster.  CBS47's Evy Ramos is On Your Side with what you can learn from the average family and from the extremely prepared. Monday at 11:00 p.m. on CBS47 News. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cleaning out closets

Today was one of those days that I decided to attack a closet.  Not just any closet mind you, but MY clothes closet.  That is a hard thing to do.  After all, if I only lose a little weight I'll still fit into that.  Never mind that it's 20 years old and the style is not coming back, or if it does at least I can say I'm too old for that style and will never wear it again! 

I really haven't changed weight in quite a few years so most of the stuff in the closet fits.  It's more of a matter of why is it in there if I never wear it?  A couple of years ago I got rid of a lot of clothes.  How?  For the new year I turned all the hangers the opposite direction.  Normally I hang the clothes straight in with the hook of the hanger facing the back.  I changed every single hanger so the hook of the hanger faced the front.  When I wore something I would replace it back into the closet with the hanger facing toward the back.  That way I didn't have to remember if I wore something or not.  The hanger told the real truth. 

The next new year, after going through a summer and winter, I removed the clothes that I hadn't worn.  Almost...  After all, the fancy stuff rarely gets worn.  If I was only invited to one formal occasion then of course only one of the four or five fancy things was worn.  No, have to keep those.  What about a sweater that I'm sure I'll wear next time.  Must have just run out of cold winter days.  OK, I'll save that one too.

The problem is it's now coming upon the third new year.  There were still a few things that had the hanger facing the wrong direction.  It's time to take them out of the closet.  I know.  I can give it to a grand kid.  Yes, that's what they all want, the clothing from a 50+ grandparent.  Sure.  Why didn't I think of that when my grandparents were going through their things?  Why?  Because I wouldn't be caught dead in most of their stuff. 

Now there are some things that the kids do like.  They all clamor over my work t-shirts and sweatshirts.  I pass those out as gifts.  Funny, used t-shirts are cherished.  And besides, they look really cool in them and all their friends want my work shirts too.  Sorry.  I have 11 grand kids, that's enough to pass my clothes to.  I buy new uniform clothes each year.  I get paid a uniform allowance, and unlike others I don't pocket the money and wear crappy looking clothes.  I actually buy new t-shirts and pants each year.  Keeps Americans working, you know.

Back to the closet.  There are some clothes in there that are really fun looking clothes...if I was 20!  Some probably are from when I was 20.  There are tank tops, t-shirts both short and long sleeve, pull over shirts, button up shirts, sweaters, and other tops that don't even fit into a category.  Funny thing is, during the weekend I'll wear old uniform t-shirts so I don't wreck my good ones.  How many good ones do I need? 

Also, I've been thinking a lot about the colors of my clothing.  Do I want to go for the bright, loud clothes?  Do I want to go for the non-camo but still fade into the background clothes?  I remember my CCW instructor reminding us that the more we look like we are ready for a fight the higher on the list of "strike that person first" if the bad guy really wants to start a fight.  Better to not stand out.  No camo (unless you are actually going hunting), no political sayings, no "my guns are bigger than your guns", or anything else that will let you stand out. 

When I packed for my trip to Hawaii, I took a bunch of clothes and wore only a few.  I washed my clothes and hung them up to dry.  When we went back east during the summer it was the same.  Only a few select pieces, other than the fancy stuff for the wedding, but guess what?  They were generally the same pieces that I had packed for Hawaii.  This should be telling me something. 

My clothing stash is getting pared down.  Sort of.  I still want to be able to make sure that I don't run out for myself and the grand kids.  What if today was the day?  No more shopping trips to Target, Sears, or Penney's to pick up new, non-stained clothing for us to wear.  If today was the day I don't think it would matter if the clothes were new and non-stained.  After all, it wouldn't be like we'd be going anywhere that would need fancy clothes, now would we?  Besides, I can sew and I do have a supply of fabric and notions.

I know.  I will take out half.  That's right.  Half (work clothes not included).  Not half my jeans.  Half my pants.  I have four pairs of blue jeans.  They all stay.  What about the 5 or 6 or 10 pairs of woolen pants?  What about the 5 or 6 or 10 pairs of other pants?  All I wear are jeans.  I only have jeans for my pants in the trailer for my backup, bug-out clothes.  I certainly don't need fancy pants if I'm bugging out, do I? 

Sweaters?  I love sweaters.  I hate being cold.  But even though I wore all but two of my sweaters when I had the hangers switched around, some of them I picked solely because the hangers were switched around and I wanted to make sure that I wore everything.  If I was just choosing, I would not have picked "that" one.  Some of those can go too.  Some can be put away for the grand kids...but not too many.  Unless I want to wait until they are in their 40s or 50s to give it to them. 

T-shirts?  I have some hanging up in the closet but I have a drawer filled with t-shirts.  I have to keep three or four or five of the red ones.  You never know how many grand kids I'm going to take to a football game.  Red t-shirts, red sweatshirts.  Show school spirit even if I didn't go to FS.   Other than red, do I really need two or three of each color?  I have some friends who make blankets out of their old t-shirts.  They cut out the front design and use it as a quilt square.  That's a great idea if the t-shirts were really that important.  They aren't.  I can tell you a story behind each of my t-shirts that has some fun picture or design but is it worth giving up my nice wool blanket or my real hand pieced quilt for a t-shirt blanket.  No. Then the t-shirts need to go. 

The pile of clothes is large enough to completely clothe one or two other people.  It will all go to charity. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dear Veteran. Thank You.

Dear Coast Guard Dad (of blessed memory), Navy sister, retired, Navy brother, Army daughter, Army son, Navy step-son, and all those serving in our nation's military past and present,

Thank you very much for your service to our country.  I am honored to know that you are part of my family.  While most of the country just sees this as a paid day off, I know that your dedication to the safety and well being of this country plays a huge role in that ability for the rest of us to walk around blindly thinking that freedom is free.  It isn't.  Freedom comes at a huge cost.  I truly appreciate your sacrifices to keep us free. 

For those veterans no longer with us, I'm sure you are watching over us.  For those of you who are retired or still on active or reserve duty, may you have a safe year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dinner for 11

Last night after a delicious dinner of deer roast, potatoes au gratin with bell peppers, pears, bread, and cinnamon sugar tortillas, I got everything cleaned up then started on dinner for tonight.  I took out the two quart crock pot and threw in everything left over from the refrigerator.  There wasn't much so I took a cup of split peas and some TVP bacon pieces and put them into the crock pot too.  I started a loaf of bread and decided to get creative.  After all, I always say you can't go wrong with bread once you have the basic recipe down.

The kids like cold cereal so on days that I'm particularly lazy I will pour them a bowl of something.  We have the cereal in clear containers on one shelf.  Some of the cereals are highly nutritious with very little sugar.  Other cereals are what I call candy cereal.  About half the time the kids want the candy cereal the other half they want the good for them filling stuff.  One cereal that I like to snack on is mini-wheats with the sugar coating.  I'm not sure what they do to the sugar but it's more like dried frosting.  At the bottom of the container is all the crushed bits of cereal and sugar.  I always save the crushed stuff at the bottom of the containers.  When it starts looking particularly unsightly I take the bits out and put it into a canning jar.  Normally, if I'm making granola or even oatmeal I'll throw some of the sugary crumbs in as an extra flavor and texture. 

I had about 2 cups of crushed mini-wheats with sugar frosting in the jar.  I thought, wheat, sugar, sounds like normal bread ingredients.  I should put this into my bread dough.  So I did.  I didn't put anything else unusual into the dough.  Just flour, yeast, salt, and warm water.  The dough had a strange smell (perhaps it was the dried frosting?) but the texture and flavor was alright.  

With the dough made I headed out to the office.  At noon Mr. and Mrs. Bug-out renter called from my house to tell me they were there and wanted to work on the storage room a little more.  I left the office and headed home.  This meant they were staying for dinner.  I knew baby grand daughter was staying the night so now dinner needed to serve five big eaters and the baby.  Not a problem.  A half gallon of soup and bread will be enough.  Then oldest daughter called at one.  She's dropping off her four kids for the night.  They don't have school tomorrow and they wanted to play with their cousins.  Never mind that her husband doesn't have to work tomorrow so they were going to the movies tonight.  That's four more for dinner including three teenage boys.  Then Army daughter called.  The baby wasn't spending the night after all.  Oldest daughter was going to drop off the baby along with her four but the baby would be picked up by son-in-law around 5:00.  Son-in-law called at 5:00 and said he'd be here in an hour.  You may as well eat over.  Everyone else is.  

Somehow a half gallon of soup and a loaf of bread was not going to be enough food for ten big eaters and a baby.  Around here, to fill up the kids I will make rice, potatoes, or noodles almost each night.  In order to stretch the soup to serve 10 plus baby, I made a big pot of rice.  Four cups of rice, eight cups of water.  I also made a huge pot of vegetables.  For dessert they had leftover cinnamon sugar tortillas that I made yesterday.  Everyone left the table full.  We still have some rice left but the rest they devoured. 

After dinner son-in-law, baby, and Bug-out renters left.  It's just me and six grand kids.  The big ones cleaned the kitchen.  The little ones made forts to sleep in.  Me, I'm going to curl up with a good book and go to bed.  Morning comes quickly and they'll be starving once again.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Heating the house

Two nights ago was the first night I had a fire in the wood stove.  It's an insert into the fire place, and a top of the line Earthstove at that...from the 1980s, which means it's really inefficient.  It sure would be nice to pull it out, block up the hole, and have a wood stove that would actually radiate heat all around it rather than just out the front with the blower.  It's still better than heating the house with propane except the heat goes into all the rooms but my bedroom. 
My room is usually 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house during the winter and 10 degrees hotter during the summer.  It's a great room but a really lousy design unless I have unlimited money to spend on heating and air conditioning.  I don't.  Instead, I just throw on another wool blanket during winter. 
I remember growing up in Southern California during the energy crisis of the 70s the saying was 55 at night 65 during the day.  This was the temperature in your house not just the speed limit.  The speed limit was reduced to 55, remember?  Anyway, if we were cold we'd put on a sweater or sweatshirt. Maybe even a knit cap. How about now?  I remember this past year.  Army daughter kept this house at 78 during the winter and 72 during the summer.  I could never understand that.  
I admit, keeping the house in the 50s in really chilly.  But the house will stay in the mid 60s without really trying.  If I do any baking, when I'm done I'll leave the oven door propped open.  I may as well let the heat into the house rather than let it stay in the oven to slowly cool down.  I also open up the curtains to let the sun shine in.  We close them up at night.  
We all have sweats to sleep in.  Boy would rather wear shorts and a tank top now.  Later in the winter he will put on two pairs of sweats at a time since it's cold out.  He will sweat all night.  It's sort of funny the ideas they get into their heads.   
Properties that have their own woodlots or are near the forest have an advantage over those who either have to heat by gas/propane/kerosene or electricity.  Bug-out place has plenty of trees.  The adjacent properties have downed trees.  It's only 500 feet off the national forest.  Too bad my wood stove is old. 
Around here the only time it's unbearably cold is when it's fog season.  Then it's not just the cold but the moisture.  I will run the wood stove each day then.
I've read about pellet stoves.  The wood pellets are cheap (and can be used as super cheap cat litter) and you can also use dried corn if you have a bumper crop that you aren't eating or selling for ethanol.  The problem is that they run on electricity but it's supposed to be very little electricity as compared to the heat output of burning the pellets.  I've always wondered if it could be hooked up to a solar panel and run that way?  Then it would be something that could heat the house be self sustainable if you have a garden and can grow corn.
So how do we get through winter without running out of propane like last year when Army daughter ran us dry in February?  If TSHTF I'd rather use the propane for cooking than heating the house.  It would last a very long time and would be very helpful in conserving our time and energy in having to cook with other methods. 
We can shut off rooms to conserve the heat, which I used to do before they were filled with grand kids. Heat with wood.  Cook lots of soup. And put on a sweater. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Light fixture died

When you don't spend money for a month you start to realize just how often small things need to be repaired or replaced.  About how often do you change a light bulb?  Or replace the filter on your heater/air conditioner?  Fix a leaky faucet? Or in my case this week, need to replace a light fixture? 
Several years ago my house went through a major remodel/addition.  Because I live in a highly regulated state and county, the county planning department had their say in things as minor as the type of light fixture I could wire up in my mud room, laundry room, bathroom, and closets.  This was before outlawing regular light bulbs, so in order to make sure that the overhead lights in those rooms used fluorescent bulbs specialized lights were required.  These light fixtures use large circular bulbs that don't last long, flicker, and are overall just a lousy product.  But they were required.  So in they went.  Over the past couple of years two of the fixtures, in the mud room and in a closet, failed and were replaced by regular overhead lights.  I went to OSH, looked for the cheapest ceiling fixture and replaced the faulty fluorescent lights.  
This week another of the overhead lights died - this time in the laundry room.  I switched out the bulb.  I have about 5 or 6 spare know me, must have replacements.  Unfortunately, it's not the bulb, it's the fixture once again.  Only this time I don't have a spare overhead light fixture for the laundry room.  There's a window in the room but that doesn't do any good once the sun goes down.  I can rig something up, like the brooder light for the chicken coop.  Or a flashlight.  Or just use a couple night lights.  I'd prefer a real ceiling light.  
Put this on my list of items to buy: New light in laundry room, my bathroom, my closet.  I know those two others are going to go out so I may as well have the new ones on hand.  For now though, the room will be dark since I'm still in my no shopping for a month exercise.  This doesn't qualify as an emergency or a great shopping deal that I can't pass up.  This is one of those inconveniences that I have to live with. 
Several years ago I saw chandelier for the dining room.  It was non-electric and used candles.  I thought it was a great idea but didn't want to replace the ceiling fan/light that is in there now.  I wish I had gotten it anyway.  It would have been a great light fixture to have on hand.  I have oil lamps and candle lanterns for each room in the house should we have a power outage but an overhead light like the chandelier would have been great.  Ikea has one but it's really junky.  I'd rather have none.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Outdoor "wildlife" camera

A several years ago a friend of mine showed me his digital wildlife camera that he was using to track deer.  I had seen these cameras out in the woods but had never had one explained to me.  They are great tools for the wildlife biologist, which he was.  He didn't work for the same outfit as I do but our offices were across the hall anyway.  We used to discuss field work a lot - or at least every time both of us were at the office, which was rare considering we avoid the office.  

I was thinking about when the mountain lion took 20 of my sheep.  I had a hard time convincing the county trapper that it was a mountain lion.  With a camera like this I would have had proof.  I asked him to order one for me.  I knew that he could get a good price since he had ordered many.  I gave him some money and that was the end of that.  Actually, it was, since he passed away not too much longer after that in a tragic accident.  I never got the camera. 

Since then the office has been pretty much just used as a storage room.  Nobody wanted to be in that office.  There were people in that office this afternoon and they were rummaging through the cabinets.  I walked in and asked if anyone has inventoried the cameras.  If so, was there an extra because my friend was supposed to have gotten one for me.  The person said that he has inventoried items but since he didn't have a starting inventory he had no idea if there were any extra or not.  He has said that a few have gone missing since his initial inventory.  I told him that one was supposed to be ordered for me and I didn't know if it ever was.  He opened the cabinet and showed me a closet full of cameras.  Since they were all inventoried he couldn't just give me one but he gave me one anyway and had me sign for it.  Not a problem.  At some point it will be straightened out but for now, I can't believe I have a camera.  

It's a Reconyx PC-900 HyperFire Professional High Output Covert Infrared camera.  Would I ever spend the money on something like this now?  No, but this was when I was single, no grand kids that I was responsible for, and had extra money.  So, now I have a camera.  

The camera can take two pictures per second.  It takes 3.1 mega-pixel photos.  During the day the pictures are color, at night monochrome.  It will print the date, time, temperature, and moon phase.  Ok, I don't need to moon phase...  When it takes the pictures at night there is no flash or red light.  You can walk right by the thing and you won't know it's there if you have it strapped to a tree.  It's pretty well camouflaged except I was given a Python Master Lock with a bright yellow lock.  Yes, that's covert...

It takes 12 AA batteries but can also be plugged into a power source.  The batteries are supposed to be able to take 40,000 pictures although that seems completely far fetched, but they also suggest using lithium or NiMH rechargeable ones.  It works in -40 to 140 degrees.  

You can set the camera up for motion or time lapse.  The motion detector works when the animal (or human) is a different temperature than the ambient air temperature.  There are two different horizontal detection bands and six different width zones within each band.  You can put up to a 32GB SD card in it for the memory card.  I only have a 2 GB  which is supposed to give me 5,000 pictures.  That will do since it's not going to be in a remote location where I won't be able to download the card often. 

I'm looking forward to setting this up.  I'd like to see what creatures roam around the barn at night.  The infrared flash works up to 50 feet or so at night.  It would also be a good tool to see if any human creatures are roaming around when I'm not there. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cheap dinner

Today we went to Army daughter's house for lunch.  She has discovered Costco!  Lunch was spinach ravioli's on top of a spinach salad, which was spinach, tomatoes on the vine (what can I say, she still refuses home grown stuff), and feta cheese.  It was good but also filling.  Needless to say, when dinner rolled around tonight I wasn't hungry.  I can't pull that one on the grand kids...sorry, I'm full so no dinner tonight...

Unless you are one of those people who needs to have meat every single night, and I am not one of those people, then a dinner like this is not only delicious but also good for your wallet.  On Friday I made a huge amount of homemade bread.  Since Bug-out renters were eating over for two days, bread does wonders for keeping people full.  We still had over half a loaf left.  The chickens are still laying more eggs than we can keep up with.  Eggs and bread equals French toast! 

I used four eggs, added a little cinnamon sugar, and beat them well.  I didn't add milk because I didn't need to extend the eggs.  If I needed more eggs I would have just used more eggs.  I sliced the bread into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Each piece was soaked well.  The egg didn't soak all the way into the center but about 1/4 way in.  I had some butter that's been sitting in the butter bell for the last week.  I melted about a teaspoon and spread it on the griddle with my silicone brush.  Then I cooked the bread on both sides until it was a golden brown. 

The next door neighbors gave the grand kids a jar of pomegranate jelly that they made yesterday.  I put a spoon of the jelly on toast.  That with a glass of chocolate Quik powdered milk and dinner was served.  It was delicious.  Cost?  Probably less than a dollar total for the three of us. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The hidden room

The new room is coming along.  Mr. Bug-out renter and I are building it.  We got most of it framed then realized that we miscounted the number of 2x4s that would be needed.  Although I bought two or three more than planned, for some reason I figured it at 24 inches on center when it's 16.  I don't have enough nice pieces out in the barn so I'll have to buy a few more.  I need some for the cross pieces and framing around the door.

Good lesson for my not spending for a month exercise.  Having to do a repair that takes some 2x4s could become a big problem although at this point in time the lumber is not very expensive.  At least they are available and I have the transportation to run into town and buy more.  I did not stop everything that I was doing today to go to town though.  Instead the project came to a halt.  I'm going to town on Monday when I go to work.  It will have to wait until then.  This is alright since Mrs. Bug-out renter wasn't feeling that well and wanted to go home. 

The room is four feet by 17 feet.  The door is two feet from the side wall so I can put shelving along the side if I want.  I was hoping the room would be 4 1/2 or 5 feet deep but between the electric plugs and the window, 4 feet was what it's ending up as.  I will probably put one or two 24 inch deep shelves and 2 or 3-18 inch deep shelves.  With the shelves 4 feet wide that will cover 16 feet of the back wall.  I can put a a foot deep shelf behind the door or just leave it as a 1 foot by 4 foot space.  I don't know what I'm going to do for lighting: there's no window but there are three electrical outlets.  Maybe I'll put in a motion detecting light that will turn on when the door opens.  That will come in time.  Although I'm going to buy some 2x4s to finish the project, I'm not buying anything extra during the month of no spending. 

The list of purchases over the last two weeks will be:
$4.25 - lunch with coworkers when I was traveling
$10.00 - 20 sticky trays to catch mice
$15.00 - 5 2x4s
It's nice staying out of the stores.