Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Combat gear

GI Jim's comments on combat gear were posted on survivalblog today.  Check it out: http://survivalblog.se/2012/02/letter-re-a-combat-gear-primer.html  I really like the idea of everyone with the same boonie hat rather than having to invest in the same camo gear for everyone.  This especially works well when you have younger folks in the group that are still growing!  About ten bucks a piece rather than fifty or a hundred is a big savings when you have to buy for more than one or two people. Thanks for the tips GI Jim.

Grapes, laundry, and a few things in between

I bought two concord grape plants on Sunday.  Grapes are so easy to start from cuttings but I don't know anyone who grows concord grapes so I had to buy the plants.  I didn't need to buy any more than two because after this first growing season, when I cut the plants back, I'll probably be able to start at least twenty more grapevines from the cuttings.  I have a small jar of rooting powder.  I don't know if it goes bad or not but I'm going to purchase a second jar to keep on hand, just in case.  It costs about $5.00.  When you want to grow new grape plants you take about a one foot piece of vine with several little nodes where branches could grow, dunk the end of the vine and at least one node into water.  Shake off the water.  Then dunk this damp vine into the little jar of rooting powder.  Once you have a bunch put them into a plastic pot filled with potting soil.  Make sure the soil stays wet - not in standing water, just water and let drain.  After several months you will have great roots on your vines and will be able to plant your new plants.  It's this easy for grapes, berries, and other plants too.  I already have Thompson seedless and Red Globe grapes.  These Concords will make a great addition to our vineyard. 

I've had several offers of free cats.  Most are indoor/outdoor cats or only indoor cats.  I had to explain to the kids that you don't take a pet that's always been indoors and not let it inside anymore.  I'm willing to get an outdoor cat or two.  I could use help killing the squirrels, mice, and bunnies and if some good hunting cats came along I'd be happy to have them. 

Our other indoor animals have searched the house looking for the older cat.  Our big cat, who weighs 17 pounds, decided on his own that he was going to sleep with me last night.  I guess he figured that I wouldn't notice the other cat was missing if he tried to take her place.  Unfortunately I noticed the 17 pounds on me since the other cat weighed 7 pounds on a "fat" day. 

Several times a week I wear a uniform to work.  I ordered two new pairs of pants a month ago.  They cost $100 a pair.  Even though I get a uniform allowance buying more than a couple of pairs each year would bust the uniform budget with no money left for t-shirts, shirts, or sweatshirts.  When I got to the office today there were two packages waiting for me.  Odd.  One pair in each package.  That's sort of a waste of postage, but whatever...  I opened the first package.  Two pairs of pants.  I opened the second package.  Two pairs of pants.  Score!  Four pairs of pants for the price of two.  I made the phone call to the company.  Can you provide me a shipping label so I can send you two pairs of pants back since you sent me a double order?  The person asked for the two order numbers and said that the order got put in twice.  No problem.  UPS will pick them up on Thursday.  They will  reimburse my credit card.  But I didn't pay twice.  I only paid once.  No, she told me I paid twice so they will reimburse my credit card.  I checked my credit card statement.  I only paid once.  Hopefully they will figure it out because there is only so much effort that I am going to spend trying to tell them that they did it wrong and I'm trying to fix it.  I may end up with two free pairs of pants after all.

Speaking of pants, I do a load of laundry just about every night.  If the weather is good enough I'll hang the load up on the clothesline before I go to bed, otherwise I'll pop it into the drier.  Most people think I'm a little crazy for doing the laundry like this.  At most I'll have to do three loads in a day if I'm doing separate sheets loads and towels loads.  Normally I don't let it pile up.  Why?  What if tomorrow you woke up and there wasn't any more electricity?  Or water?  Or the best case, your washer broke?  Although most of us have way more clothes than we need, having almost all your clothes/towels/sheets clean all the time means if anything happens, laundry isn't going to have to be on your immediate list of things that have to be done now.  Anything that takes the stress away is a good thing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dogs and Cats

Today my sweet little cat died.  She was 16 so I suppose I should be happy that she lived a good long life. Her health and mobility came to an end a couple of days ago.  I was expecting her not to last too much longer.  You know the saying that some people like their pets better than their kids.  I'm not going to go there...

The first thing Army daughter wanted to do was rush out and get me a new cat.  No.  It's not that I don't want another cat.  I don't want any more house cats.  If we get any more cats they will go out in the barn.  Now we still have a cat that stays in the house at night but is outside all day.  As I said, that cat is the last of the inside cats.  Perhaps it's because I don't want to buy any more cat litter.  Or I don't want any more cats thinking they get a larger share of my bed than I do.

I love animals.  I've always had some sort of pet, whether it was a dog or a cat or both.  I even had a goat that thought she was a dog.  She hung out with the dogs and slept in the doghouse at night.  She used to throw herself at the window because she wanted to come in with the other animals. 

I try to teach the grand kids that if you have animals you are responsible for their welfare.  They depend on us to take care of them.  That's why before we eat breakfast or dinner the dogs, cats, chickens, and sheep will all be fed.  They can't get their own meal so we are responsible for taking care of this for them.  And they eat before we do.

Many years ago, about three moves before my friend moved to Oklahoma she lived across the street from me.  One day her dogs got out and were roaming the neighborhood as a pack.  They came into my yard and tried getting into the pasture to go after my sheep.  I shot one of her dogs.  The rest ran off.  I will defend my animals from predator animals.

We almost lost Yip-yip today, too.  That would have made a bad day even worse.  Yip-yip was next door playing in their backyard.  She heard a noise in the front, and being Yip-yip had to investigate.  She came roaring out of the back and right into the path of two stray pit bull dogs.  One of the dogs chased her back into the backyard.  The neighbor's grandson was out back and he started yelling for his grandparents.  He then picked up a metal pole and started hitting the pit bull.  The grandpa came out with his gun but instead of shooting the dogs shot near them.  The grandson was able to get Yip-yip and put her into their house.  The grandpa took another shot, intentionally missing the dogs.  They ran off. 

I went over when I heard the commotion.  I saw the two dogs.  I'd never seen them before.  Neither had the neighbor.  He didn't want to shoot the dogs just in case they were from the neighborhood.  I told him that if I was the one shooting that I would have shot to kill, not shot to run off.  They were lucky that the dogs didn't go after the grandson.  Yip-yip was ok.  They didn't do anything other than get a bite out of her stupid little winter coat that she wears.  I love that stupid winter coat.  It saved her life.

This evening I got a phone call from the neighborhood drunk.  He was calling because he trapped the two pit bulls in his dog kennel.  I told him what happened and he tried to convince me that they were nice dogs.  They didn't go after his puppy.  That's great, but don't keep your puppy in the kennel with those two dogs.  No, his puppy was in the house.  He wanted to know what I think he should do with the dogs. 

I told him if I saw them again they'd be dead.  He didn't want to call the pound because they'd just be put to sleep.  Then call the pit bull rescue for the no-kill shelter.  Just get them out of here or I will.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The reinforced fence

We got two new chickens last night.  These came from the same friend who bought four pullets.  The problem was three turned out to be cockrels.  Boy chickens are not allowed in the city so she had to do something with them.  The one we got last week I put into the coop.  He is getting along fine with the others chickens.  We kept the two new ones in the carrier they came in until this morning.  I figured it was as good a time as any to start our new flock in the front pasture.  It's got a four foot high fence all around it.  The front has the brush in front of the fence.  I figured they'd stay in.  After all, a friend of mine has his chickens in a pastured area with field fencing.  His chickens stay in. 

Why would I ever think that anything would go as planned?  About five minutes after we put the chickens in the pasture the neighbor's grandson came over carrying a chicken.  Is this yours?  Yip-yip was chasing it and it ran into their yard.  I forgot about Yip-yip.  She can go through the fencing to get into the pasture.  Last year her father got into the chicken coop and killed 13 of our pullets.  We had to go to town for Sunday school so I locked Yip-yip up in her carrier in the house. 

Once we got home we changed into work clothes and began the task of surrounding the pasture with chicken wire.  We used two foot high wire with 2" holes.  All I needed was it to be high enough for Yip-yip to not be able to get in.  One side of the pasture has chain link fencing.  No problem there.  The part between the "lawn" and the pasture has field fencing with six inch holes.  That side was 150 feet long.  I rolled out the chicken wire and showed girl and boy how and where to tie the wires.  I started one on one end and one on the other.  I figured that they are so competitive that they'd have a race to see who ended up on the other person's side.  I was right!  

The side of the pasture that butts up to the driveway is about 200 feet in length.  That side took a little while longer and girl started acting up.  No problem, you can go do a different chore.  You'll wish that you hadn't acted up when you are done.  The front, another 150 feet didn't get all the way fenced with the chicken wire.  In the areas with the heavy brush across the front I didn't want to wire off the bottom two feet.  The wild birds freely go through the fence right now.  I want to make sure they have the ability to continue.  Since all I was trying to do is keep small dogs out I only had to wire about 5 feet on the driveway side and about 15 feet on the far side.  The rest in the middle is covered enough with brush that Yip-yip won't be going through there to get to the chickens. 

It wasn't quite how I planned on spending my Sunday afternoon but it was a project that needed to be done.  That pasture can hold a lot of chickens.  I don't know if I'm going to buy any more or if I'm going to pick a few of mine that are in the coop who like to set.  Who knows, perhaps they'll hatch enough baby chickens that we will be able to eat a home grown chicken every week.  That would be the life!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Debt

I wish... 

The only debt I have is my house and oldest daughter's house.  Even though they claim it as "their" house that they own, they don't.  I put the down payment on and also put on a new roof.  After that they are on their own.  My plan on that house is when I retire they will buy the house off me or I will put it on the market and let someone else buy it.  If I rented it to someone right now (oldest daughter pays all expenses now: the mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance) I'd come out a couple hundred dollars ahead each month after paying the expenses.  But I don't want the rental.  The couple hundred dollars isn't that important.

My house has a huge loan on it.  I pay a little extra each month but not enough extra to make a difference.  There's a possibility of me changing jobs next year.  The pay increase would be so great that I'd be able to pay off the mortgage five years after I take that job, if I put every bit that's more than I make right now into the house payment.  Not one to count my chickens before they hatch, I won't plan on that job and I expect to be paying on the house for a long time.  The loan still has 24 years left on it.  My plan, without getting that new great paying job, is to pay the house off in 10 years or as close to that as possible. 

I know that people say either own it outright or don't pay much on it.  I don't like the don't pay much idea.  When I'm in my 70s I don't want a house payment.  I want to be completely debt free.  That brings us to today.  On our way to our party this afternoon we were listening to the Dave Ramsey show.  The kids were asking questions about being debt free.  What does that me?  Do I have debt?  Why don't I go on the show and yell I'm debt free?

I told them I used to have debt.  I borrowed money to go to college but I paid it back really quickly.  I used to owe money for my truck.  Not any more.  It was a six year loan that was paid off in four.  The truck is 11 years old.  For the last couple of years I've been putting away a small amount of money each month into the "car payment" account.  When I'm ready for something else or in addition to the truck I will have the money put aside.  I don't want to ask the bank for money. 

I explained that I use credit cards but when the bill comes in I pay it all.  They didn't quite understand that the bill could come in but you didn't have to pay it.  I tried to provide analogies using doing chores and having to do extra chores that don't really count as the number you have to do but it just wasn't coming out right. 

If they can get the concept that you don't spend money you don't have and that you figure out what are wants compared to needs, then they will do alright in life.  By my living a pretty frugal lifestyle they are learning as they go along that we have to think logically about spending money.  A TV show was discussing consumables.  That is something that is bought and used up or not any good any more after six months.  I try to go as cheap as possible when it comes to consumables.  Obviously we spend money for food, gas, etc.  But clothing is purchased with the intent of passing it down or wearing it out.  Not getting rid of it because it's no longer in style. 

While they see that I don't spend, they see their aunts and uncles spending continuously.  It's hard to explain why it's not a good idea that son just bought another TV.  This time it's a 40".  Never mind that a few months ago they bought a 36".  They live in a two bedroom apartment, on either welfare or unemployment, and go out to eat all the time.  They just got their tax return.  $8,000 returned to them.  Not bad considering they made $20,000 last year (plus welfare, plus food stamps, plus free medical) and didn't pay a penny into the income tax system.  Girl sees her cousin getting her hair done and her nails done.  The cousin is 9!  Sorry girl.  Just because you are a year older doesn't mean I am EVER going to spend money on your hair or nails.

Kids will often listen to others rather than parents.  I'll keep listening to Dave Ramsey when the grand kids are riding with me.  With all the people calling in telling there stories perhaps it will rub off after all.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Concealed carry shirt and food storage dinner recipe

5.11 makes a t-shirt that has two pockets in it for concealed carry use.  http://www.511tactical.com/All-Products/Shirts/Undergear-Shirts/Holster-Shirt.html It's called their Holster Shirt.  It's a t-shirt, either scoop neck or v-neck, with two pouches, one on each side of the chest.  I'm going to try to make my own version of this over the weekend.  I'll take a couple of old t-shirts and cut one up and hand sew it on to the other.  My stitching will just be a long running stitch.  Once I get a good design that fits my handguns then I'll use a good t-shirt and make the final product.  Why not just buy one?  They are $75!  I'm sure I could scrounge around for a good sale but if I can make it myself so much the better.  I figure even with a well made t-shirt the entire project should cost less than $15.  I could also pick up a brand new t-shirt from Michael's craft store for $2.50. 

Tonight we had a pretty lousy dinner.  Two of the little grand kids came over for dinner.  Son and daughter-in-law brought over the "main dish".  They were frozen pizza rolls or something of that nature.  They were awful.  No, worse than awful.  How can people eat that garbage?  I'm sure they bought it with their food stamps.  This product should be banned from being bought with food stamps.  It was that bad.  Boy asked for seconds.  Sure, eat them all.  I ate one.  That was enough.  Never again.  I had leftover salmon instead.

Tomorrow we won't be home for dinner as we've been invited to a friend's for dinner.  Sunday night I am baking one of my favorites.  The recipe came from Cooking with Stored Foods by Tejada and Latham.  I  bought it back in 1981.  Wow, 31 years ago.  I must have been 2!  It's a good book and can be bought from Amazon for about $4.00.  I've tweaked the recipe a little but even the basic recipe is a good one.

Chicken Enchilada Bake
1 can whole chicken (drained reserving broth, skinned, boned and chopped) or 1 or 2 cans of chicken meat (or fresh - skinned, boned, and chopped)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (mine is from the chicken soup mix from the bulk bins at Winco) 
1 4oz. can chopped green chilies (or home canned, or from fresh)
4-6 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup oil
12-16 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 package enchilada sauce mix - made to directions or 1 can of enchilada sauce

Add water to the chicken broth to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid if you don't have enough broth. Chop the chicken meat.  In a pot combine the chopped chicken, chiles, onion, soup, and broth.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally just to combine the flavors a bit.  Remove this from the heat.

In a medium skilled heat the oil.  Dip the tortillas into the heated oil just enough to soften.  Turn over and cook on the other side.  You don't want to crisp the tortillas, just soften them.  When I fry I drain the food on a brown grocery bag that's placed in a cookie sheet.  So, once you cook each tortilla set it aside on the grocery bag (or paper towel or however you drain fried food).  Cook all dozen tortillas.  

After the tortillas are all softened I stack two or three on top of each other and slice them into four strips.  (think small lasagna noodle)  When I'm all done I will have almost 50-60 tortilla strips (4x12=48 or 4x16=64).  

I use a 10x12 baking dish.  You layer the ingredients, just like if you were making a lasagna.  First put down a layer of tortilla strips.  Don't over lap them, just place them next to each other.  For the curved ones lay one down, flip another curved one over and you sort of have a solid piece.  Don't worry about it if you have some spaces.  After the bottom layer of tortillas put down a layer of the chicken in the soup mixture, then a layer of shredded cheese.  Next do a layer of tortillas, then chicken, then cheese.  Then a layer of tortillas.  You will either get two or three layers, depending on the size baking dish that you use.  I like to top the whole thing off by pouring enchilada sauce on top and then sprinkle with onions and cheese.  

Bake for about 20-25 minutes at 375.  Let rest for about five minutes after you take it out of the oven before serving.   It serves 4-6. 

If you don't have the patience to layer it all then just mix it all together and bake.  It's not as pretty but still tastes as good.  Remember, this recipe is from the 80s.  People weren't used to spicy things then.  Now, I'd probably splash on some Tabasco sauce too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Canned Cream Cheese

Kraft makes canned cheddar cheese.  I've never eaten it but found it on Amazon for about $4.00 for a 7 ounce can.  That's about $9.00 a pound for cheese, plus shipping.  Considering I can buy shredded cheddar cheese from Costco for around $2.50 a pound, I needed to figure out if I could can this myself.  Cream cheese costs between $2.00 and $2.50 a pound when it's on sale.  I haven't seen it canned. 

Last November 4th and 20th I wrote about canning cheese.  I gave recipes for taking cheddar cheese and also cream cheese and melting them and then canning in a boiling water bath.  I was pleased with the way the cheddar cheese jars turned out but not the cream cheese jars.  We've used several of the cheddar cheese jars.  They aren't great if I wanted a piece of sliced cheese but they do make a semi-solid cubed piece of cheese if we want to slice it and eat it that way.  It shreds fine and cooks fine. 

This morning as we were eating home made bagels and cream cheese from one of those 7 jars of cream cheese that I canned I realized that I never did a follow up to tell you how the canned cream cheese really turned out.  I was really disappointed with the cream cheese when I was making the jars.  They made a mess during the water bath. There was cheese caked on the lid that I had to scrub off.  All the lids pinged anyway, although I didn't believe that the jars could actually have sealed. 

I put the jars of cream cheese into the refrigerator.  In the morning I cleaned it all up and opened one jar.  It had a completely perfect seal.  I don't know how but it did.  I had to pry the lid off and it opened with a familiar swoosh of air coming into the jar.  We ate that jar right away.  I put the rest into the home store. 

Last night after I made the bagels for today I took out a jar of the canned cream cheese.  This morning we opened it, it had a great seal.  The cream cheese seemed a little dry but I gave it a stir and it was as good as new.  It was almost as easy to spread as the whipped cream cheese you can now buy.  The consistency was good.  I had read that canned cream cheese tasted cooked and would be more like eating cheesecake filling.  That wasn't the case.  I definitely recommend canning cream cheese if you like cream cheese.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Splitting wood the easy way

What a great title.  There are two easy ways to split wood.  The easiest: Have someone else do it.  The next easiest: Use a motorized log splitter.  Neither is going to be happening around here.  Harbor Freight does have a manual hydraulic log splitter that's on sale right now for $99.  So lets just say I have to split the wood myself.  Bugout renter taught me a trick that I want to pass along.

I have a large flat round that I use as a platform to place the round I'm splitting.  I don't split a round that's on the ground.  It's too easy to mess up and hit yourself.  I place the round on the platform and put a chain and bungee cord around it.  I use the bungee cord hooked to the chain so the chain has some give to it but it's not too loose.  You place the bungee/chain about 2/3 up from the bottom of your round.  You hit the round with the splitting maul.  It splits but the piece that you split stays inside the bungee/chain.  You just walk around your round of wood and continue splitting it.  

Why is this a good way to split wood?  Normally when you split the wood your pieces fly off the platform and you have to reach down and pick them up, place them back on the platform, and keep splitting.  You split, bend down, pick up, place back, split, bend down, pick up, place back, split and on and on and on.  This new way you split, move, split, move, split, move, done!    If you can't picture it imagine your round with a big rubber band around it.  Each piece may break off but it will still all be held together with the rubber band until you remove the rubber band.  Same thing here.  The split wood all stays in place and supports each other.  It's so much easier to split wood this way.  That is if you can't do it the two easy ways I listed first.

Just had to rifle through the dumpster

OK, so the dictionary defines rifle through as searching with the intent to steal.  Well I suppose, sort of, that's what I did.  The dumpster next door is being removed tomorrow.  I went through it quickly this afternoon.  I was really only able to recover (see that's better, more like rescuing than stealing) a small portion of what I would have liked to get out of the dumpster.  Unfortunately Grumpy Old Man's (GOM) kids didn't care much at all about the stuff and much of it was broken or ruined in some way or another.  But I did find some treasures - GOM's baptismal record, his college diploma (we both we to the same university, albeit he graduated before I was born!), and family photos.  What a bunch of jerks!!!!  Between being thrown in and the rain the computer, printer, and office supplies were toast.   There were a few trash bags that were thrown in.  I opened them and found a couple of unbroken Pyrex measuring cups, a Pyrex baking dish, a nut cracker, about a dozen new boxes of Ziploc bags, a nice Webster's dictionary, and best of all, a brand new pair of good cowboy boots that either boy or girl will fit into in a few years. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A new chicken and a flooded room

What a day.  First I dropped off the junk at oldest daughter's house then headed for Army daughter's house.  With the rain we've had lately they had a little bit of a flood in the house.  The baby's room had a soaking wet carpet in the closet and out into the room. 

Last night when Army daughter called to tell me the room was wet I told her to pull the carpet up in that corner and also put a fan on in the room.  When I got there the carpet was pretty dry but the padding was still soaked.  I pulled that up and laid it over the carpet for the fan to dry it.  I explained to her that the padding may not dry well and she may be better off just buying a 5X10 piece of padding and reinstalling the new stuff.  It's not expensive.  From the inside of the house it looked as if the water just seeped in from the ground.  That's not good. 

We went outside and I discovered the problem right away.  The house has some rain gutters and only three downspouts.  One, which empties at least 500 sq. feet of roof line, dropped the water right at the corner of the house.  The downspout didn't redirect the water away from the house.  There was a cement pad there but on the outside of the pad the soil level was higher than the cement.  The rain water had no place to go so it went inside.  Easy fix. 

I explained that with an inch of rain, 500 sq. feet of roof will dump 300 gallons of water into that corner.  With no place for the water to go it went in.  They need to buy some additional hose to attach to the bottom of the drainpipe which will direct the water away from the house.  They also need to take down that hump of dirt.  I told her it could wait for the weekend unless we got more rain. 

While I was there I got a phone call from the mother of one of boy's friends.  Last month she bought four chickens so they could get fresh eggs, have bug eaters, and just have something special for her son.  The pullets were four months old.  Unfortunately for this city family one of the of the pullets wasn't a pullet.  She realized this once it started crowing.  She wanted to know if we would take it and give it a loving home since roosters aren't allowed in the city.  Sure it will go into the coop unless it doesn't get along.  Then it will go into the freezer.  I got over to her house and took a look at her cute little "Nutmeg".  It's a boy all right.  So are two of the others.  "Are you sure?" Of course I am.  Since she didn't want to believe that the person who sold her the pretty little chickens that would all start laying eggs in two months were not going to be laying eggs after all she kept those two chickens.  I told her to let me know when she wanted me to pick them up!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rain and Grain

In the last three days we've received two inches of rain.  That's great since we didn't see a drop in two months.  Around here, the soil is a heavy clay.  Once it's wet it stays wet for a long while but once it dries out it turns to cement!  I had to water the trees a couple of times during the winter which is something I rarely ever have to do.  We've had enough rain that I won't have to water for a couple of months now. 

Next week it's supposed to be in the 60s outside.  Between the rain and the sunny weather the grass should be growing fast enough to make the sheep really happy.  I think they are getting tired of leaves but they are fat and happy and almost ready to pop out some lambs.  We still have to wait for the coldest, wettest, most miserable day.  That will be lambing day, guaranteed. 

I can't believe it's almost time to start planting.  Yesterday right before it started raining I threw out about 10 pounds of sunflower seeds into the front pasture.  I also have oats planted out there.  I'm hoping that the sunflowers near the fruit trees do well.  I don't know how the rest of them will fare since they will only have rain water and it stops raining in April.  The oats should do great.  The pasture across the street has oats grown for hay.  The oats head out really well.

This next weekend, or even tomorrow since I'm taking half day off tomorrow, I am going to plant 1/2 acre in wheat.  I have no idea how it will come out because the seed is going right on top of the ground.  The land wasn't disced so it's not bare ground.  There's a light layer of dormant grasses right now.  Hopefully I'll get something.  After reading about wheat I learned that after it's cut the wheat grass will grow back in the fall.  The animals can graze on it during the winter as long as they are taken off before the wheat takes off in the spring.  That will be good for next fall but for now I'll see if anything grows.  Otherwise next fall I'll get more serious and prepare the land better.  I have enough fencing to keep the animals out of the wheat and oat pastures. 

Most of the people around here just let their pastures get waist high in weeds.  That will help hide the fact that I will be growing wheat and not weeds in the back.  The oats out front will look like the land just down the road and won't stick out. 

It's almost time to start thinking about spring planting of vegetables.  Where has the time gone?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brush piles and trash pickup and tax returns

The next door neighbor died two months ago.  He was a crabby old man of 89.  I didn't have much to do with him or his wife because they just spent too much time complaining but I did take their trash cans out to the road before trash day and brought them back up to the house after trash pickup.  Just because you don't like someone doesn't mean you don't have to help them out...

This was the same neighbor who hated my brush pile across the front of the property.  He complained to everyone and everyplace possible to try to have me forced to remove it.  Unfortunately for him there's no laws saying I can have a 150 foot long pile of brush along my front fence.  I have berries planted in front of the pile and this spring I expect the plants to take off and start to cover the piles.  It will start looking better soon.  It's too late for the neighbor though. 

After living in the house for 30 years, his three kids (all in their 50s and 60s) packed up their mom and moved her into an apartment three hours from here.  She has a brother in the town she moved to.  Of course none of the three kids lives near there.  Today the kids and grand kids were over at the house.  They had several U-haul trailers and were moving all the furniture out.  They also had a 30 foot dumpster delivered and they filled it up with whatever they didn't want from the house.  No putting stuff out on the road with a big "free" sign for them.  It was pretty sad to see someones life just get thrown into the dumpster. 

I took a stroll next door to let them know that we are watching over the place and will make sure that all goes well.  One of the sons said there's no problem with their place but he'd be happy to send their gardener over to talk to me about me hiring the gardener to clear out my brush.  No.  It's not going anywhere.  I told him my brush pile is an ecological gold mine!  The quail population just boomed this year because of the brush.  He let me know in no uncertain terms that quail aren't good for anything other than having rouge hunters show up in my front yard and shoot GUNS.  Oh no, they wouldn't do that...But I would!  He was not happy with me and he turned around and walked away grumbling.  Like father like son.

The house has been for sale for a while.  Hopefully it will sell to someone who isn't so grumpy.  The grand kids want kids to move in.  That would be nice, maybe. 

The town where oldest daughter lives has yard trash pickup twice a year.  You take all your junk, tree trimmings, old furniture, whatever you want and put it into the street in front of your house.  The city trash trucks come and pick everything up.  Usually when you put stuff out junk collectors come buy and pick a lot of it up.  Usually we clean stuff up here at the farm and bring it to oldest daughters for the pickup.  This afternoon boy and girl were helping me clean up the mess on the side of the barn.  This used to be the bigger kids play area a couple of years ago.  They'd find all kinds of junk and make secret rooms with the junk and have weeds thrown on top.  They used small scraps of fencing wire, wood with tons of nails poking through (that they pounded in to the wood), old carpet that I tore out of the house about 8 years ago, and anything they could scavenge from the yard and barns.  The bigger kids don't play there anymore.  Now they work on their truck.  So we spent a couple of hours cleaning it all up and loading it into the trailer.  It will head into town Tuesday.  I was explaining to boy that some of the stuff will get picked up before the trash collectors come.  "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  He liked that saying.  We've gone around her neighborhood and picked up about 1/2 cord of wood, oldest daughter got her sofa table from someone's junk pile.  The side of the barn is now a 25X100 foot pasture area for the sheep.  The grass is coming in well and I'm sure they will love it in another month or so when I let them graze there. 

This morning when the kids were in Sunday school I ran over to Target to return some items and also to buy boy some new pants.  All his pants except two pairs are beyond repair for school.  He's not yet into a size 10 and barely still fitting into an 8.  I hate to spend much money on clothes that he's going to outgrow.  On the other hand, he's been so hard on his clothes lately that he'll have them ruined long before they're outgrown.  While I was walking through Target I was looking for good items for prepping.  The only thing I found was a string of lights (like Christmas lights) that were solar.  But the price was almost $30.  I really didn't see anything else in the entire store that was calling out for me to buy. 

I'm trying to figure out if it's because I'm on a no spending streak again or if it's because there really isn't anything worth buying.  I'm going to have some extra money this year from my tax return.  I have my deductions set fine but somehow because of credits for having the grand kids I seem to keep getting money back.  It's not going to be anything like last year where I got double digits due to adoption credits.  But still, it's going to be a good chunk of money.  All my bills are paid: no outstanding credit cards, the property taxes are paid until next December, the insurance is all paid up.  I'd say the money would be for saving but I am adverse to putting money into the bank to save when they are paying less than one percent interest.  I'd rather invest it back into the house.  Or put it all in silver and store it in the safe until I figure out what I want to do.

Last year we spent a lot of the tax money setting the garden up.  I expect to buy more fruit trees this spring.  I am also going to personally plant fruit trees at the bug-out place.  I want to add more to the home store.  Can't ever have too much food stored, can you?  I want to get an above ground swimming pool, not our stock tank swimming pool for the kids, but one to start our hand at fish farming.  I figure if I put the pool in a greenhouse then during the winter it won't get too cold for the fish.  Also, there's solar aerators so it wouldn't need electricity to help put oxygen into the pool.  I'll buy more ammunition.  That is something that I haven't done enough of this year.  I used to buy a box of ammo each time I'd buy milk.  But lately since we've been drinking powdered milk I've gotten out of the ammo buying habit.  I'm also trying to research the sun room, but that may have to wait for another year. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Not heating the house experiment - total failure

My plan was to not heat the house for a good length of time - perhaps forever.  Well, that didn't work out the way I planned.  From the time I turned the heat off in the house near the end of December until a couple of days ago we didn't have any heat on at all: no propane central heat, no wood stove.  Of course it helped that I was out of town for a week!  Usually it doesn't really get too cold around here.  All was fine with the no heat experiment until we had almost record lows in the low 20s.  The house only got up to 56 during the day. 

I had enough of wearing thermals under my clothes, a hat, and sometimes even a jacket while in the house during the day.  I got cold.  If it's not at least 80 I'm cold.  It was starting to affect my working and since I get paid to work and I wanted to work at home rather than at the office I really needed to be able to work, not freeze.  So I turned on the heater and got the house up to 67.  I turned the heat off after that.  Yesterday when we had everyone over for dinner I put a fire in the woodstove.  The fire kept the house nice and toasty.  In fact when I got up this morning the house was still in the high 60s. 

We didn't do a good job trying to conserve heat during this experiment.  If we really needed to not heat the house I probably could have kept it warmer. I can cover all the windows from the inside of the house with plastic.  I could do a better job blocking cold air that comes into the house from the lousy design of the heating system that's housed in the mud room.  I could have blocked the heating vents that run through the attic.  

I was researching adding a greenhouse room to the front of the house.  The part of the house I would do this to has a U shape.  The garage is on one side, across the back is the family room, and on the other side is the living room.  The open side of the U faces to the south.  I've read that if you build a greenhouse using heavy plastic sheeting you can heat up the greenhouse enough to open the windows and doors into the house and warm up the house.  I don't know of anyone who has anything like this.  If you know of someone ask them about it, ok?  Or if you have a greenhouse how much warmer does is stay during the winter?  Does something like this seem feasible? 

I'm not happy about failing this experiment.  Why?  Because if TSHTF I certainly don't want any added stresses.  Being cold at home would be an added stress.  (I know those of you who really live in cold weather are probably laughing your heads off, but I get cold easily.  That's why we aren't moving to the American Redoubt!) The biggest plus we get while preparing is taking as many stressors off the table by planning ahead.  I know I could have done things differently to keep the place warmer.  But I still suspect that at some point I would have to break down and use the wood stove if the smoke wasn't going to be an issue announcing to the world that our house is a house of prepared people. 

We don't have enough wood trimmings from the trees on this property to heat the house full time but we probably have enough to deal with a dozen really cold days.  If I cut wood from the bug-out property I'd be able to be self supporting on our wood for heating.  

I'm starting the experiment again.  No heat but I'm still not going to be reinforcing the windows or doors.  I wonder how long I will be able to hold out before I get too cold. I'll use the wood stove.  If I'm gone for any length of time or if the house gets really cold I may even turn the propane heater back on just to take the chill off.  Best of all, I'm saving money on propane.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Making a Broom

When I was at the taxi driver's home I noticed the broom that the daughter was using.  It looked home made.  I asked about it and she said that her uncle makes brooms.  She explained how the broom was made.  I remember when all brooms were made out of straw.  I use a couple of straw whisk brooms for work but at home, other than a whisk broom, our brooms are all synthetic.  I wanted to learn more about the broom making process because there may come a time when we will have to make our own brooms. 

Her uncle buys straw directly from the farmer who grows broom straw.  It's a heavy duty straw and seems much sturdier than if I used the straw from oats or something.  I'm assuming that the straw that her uncle buys is really broom corn, which isn't really corn at all.  It's a sorghum that's grown for it's broom making ability.  It was misnamed "corn" because the stalks looked like corn to someone. 

Anyway, the uncle buys his bundles and then brings it home to dry.  After it's dried he takes a handful and cuts it to length.  He wires the straw to the stick then it's pressed flat and stitched.  She said that he presses it flat by putting it into a contraption that looks like a ladder.  Imagine a ladder with the top step split in two.  The straw end sticks up through the top.  Then the uncle, and his sons, sew several rows of stitches along the top of the broom straw.  Once it's sewn the bottom gets its final trimming.  These brooms will last a long time.

Before brooms were made with the flattened top the straw was bundled up and tied to a stick.  The bundle was round, not flattened out like modern brooms.  Brooms didn't last very long but they were easy to make.  This year I'm going to be growing oats in the front pasture.  I'm going to try my hand at making oat straw brooms.  Looks easy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

500th post and all I can say is I'm tired and more about Mexico

I think the title says it all today.  This is post number 500!  Wow.  I didn't think I had that much to say.  Sometimes I don't and I just ramble.  Sort of like today...

I started my day at 4:15, got the kids up at 4:45 then I left to go to work.  I had their breakfast ready and their dinner ready.  They are responsible for getting their own lunches, although I put a bunch of food out on the counter for them to choose from.  I figure if I made their lunch it would probably end up in the trash, but if they make the same thing they are more likely to eat it.  I had a class to teach from 8-10 and another from 3:30-4:30.  That wouldn't have been bad except the place I was teaching was three hours from home.  Hence the very long day.

During my six hours of driving I was thinking about our prepping.  What else was I going to think about?  Perhaps dreaming of the rain that we are supposed to get?  I was thinking about our food storage and what I learned in Mexico.  The family from Cabo didn't have a huge variety of food that I saw.  Now they did say that they shop every couple of days for fresh items.  I witnessed many people walking home carrying bags of produce and fresh meat.  At their house almost every meal included beans and vegetables.  There were also tortillas at most meals.  The meat was used as a side dish except when it was a special occasion, then it would be a main dish. 

Here if I said I wanted a beef burrito the entire burrito would be filled with beef.  It could have 1/4 pound of beef stuffed into the thing, maybe even more.  There would be very little of anything else in the burrito.  At the home of the taxi driver, I was given a beef burrito for lunch.  I got a burrito filled with cut up vegetables and chilies and maybe a tablespoon of shredded beef mixed into it.  There were beans and rice on the side.  It was a complete meal, grain in the flour and rice, protein in the beef and beans, and vegetables. 

I don't always use a ton of meat when cooking dinner.  In fact, tonight's dinner, if you can call it that, had no meat.  I put 3 cups of water, two cups of wagon wheel noodles, and a can of spaghetti sauce into the rice cooker.  I turned it on at 4:45 this morning.  It cooked up perfectly.  The kids ate every bit.  I like cooking in the rice cooker because nothing burns and nothing overcooks.  This meal was in the cooker for 13 1/2 hours and supposedly tasted like I just threw it together.  Now if I was actually home I would have added some sourdough bread or something but the kids felt very grown up getting to stay by themselves for an hour and a half and serving themselves dinner.  Me, I missed having a family dinner since we eat together every night.

Back to Mexico.  I was thinking that I am working too hard on trying to get variety in our storage.  They said they ate the same dinner for two nights in a row.  They also had about three or four different dishes that they made each week, that they repeated week in and week out.  For Sunday they had something different each week.  Sure eating a different main dish and side dish everyday for an entire month may be normal for most people in the US but do we really need to eat that way?  Perhaps we should go back to the older times.  Monday meatloaf, Tuesday spaghetti, etc.  OK not that far back, but still, perhaps a basic 10 or 14?  We can still throw in something different or special.  It doesn't have to be set in stone. It doesn't have to be as basic as three or four dishes like the family that I visited.  But it sure would make the food storage plan much easier if we didn't expect to have such a variety.  If I had 10 different dinners then I'd need enough for 35 meals of each type.  For example, if I had spaghetti for one of the 10 dinners then I'd know I'd need 35 pounds of spaghetti in my storage to last one year and 35 jars or cans of sauce.  If burritos were in the 10 dinners then I'd need 35 jars or cans of beef chunks along with 35 cups of dried beans, 70 chilies, and 100 cups of flour for the tortillas.  At least having an estimate of how much I may actually use may be a better way of thinking about storing than how I do now.  One bucket of this, a bucket of that.  Never knowing if I truly have enough food. 

That's enough thinking for tonight.  375 miles, two lectures, 25 emails for work, one blog.  Bedtime.  Happy 500th post.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Water storage

As we were driving around the town I noticed that almost every house had a tank of water up on the roof.  Even most of the expensive houses had water tanks.  It couldn't be for rain water storage as the tank was on a high point.  Most of the tanks I saw were black.  Are those for heating water?  I thought it was a good question, after all, they tried to save on their propane as much as possible.  No, that's your water storage tank.  Each home is expected to store their own water. 
Here at home if I want water I turn on the faucet and the pressure from the well tank just sends me some water.  If there is a power outage then I use some of my back up which is the ever full 5 gallon containers or if a long enough outage, the hand pump.  In Cabo the water comes from the desalinization plant, so it's clean...at least when it leaves the plant.  It runs through really bad pipes, which is what can make you sick.  There are purification companies in each town and they charge about $2.00 for a 5 gallon bottle of clean water.  The water that comes through the pipes is used for other purposes than directly drinking and cooking.  So there's this tank on the roof.  What's it for?  Since the government send swater through the pipes for only a couple hours per day (not at a set time either) (in places in Mexico where it comes from wells, during drought they may only pump water every couple of days) then you are responsible for storing your water. 
There is enough pressure coming through the pipes to fill your tank (tinaco) on your roof.  It is set up just like a toilet tank.  The ballcock will stop the flow when the tank is full.  That's your entire fill of water until the next time the water gets sent through the pipes.  Some homes have an underground storage tank, an aljibe or cistern.  The poorer homes seemed to just have a tinaco, although that's not always the case. The more expensive homes had the aljibe and also the tinaco.  The newest, more expensive homes just have an aljibe with a pump to send the water to the house, much like my well and pressure tank.   Almost all homes have a tinaco, which is the tank on the roof.
If they have the money the people will use a small electric pump to pump the water up to the tinaco to get it to fill quicker (thus making sure it's filled during the short filling time) or they'll use the pump to transfer the water from the aljibe to the tinaco.  Although people are installing pressure systems in their homes most are smart enough (the natives, not the foreigners) to keep the tinaco and just use the pump from the aljibe to the tinaco rather than pumping straight into the house from the aljibe.  Why?  The electricity may go off at any time for several hours or days.  When this happens those with the tinacos are still able to get water.  The electric pumps don't work without electricity. 
The water comes into the house gravity flow to the kitchen sink and bathroom.  In the house that I was in they went to unusual measures to conserve their water.  Under the kitchen sink was a bucket.  The sink water went into the bucket, not into the sewer system.  This water was used in their toilet.  The shower water was also recycled through a pipe that led outside.  The only water that went into their sewer system was from the toilet and most of that was recycled from the sink and shower.  Where they lived didn't have as steady of a water delivery as many of the other places. 
When I was in Hawaii last year I stayed at a home that had a 14,000 gallon water tank in their backyard.  Each home in that entire town was responsible for their own water.  They collected the rainwater and ran it through an ultraviolet light purification system.  There are people in Mexico that are using this same type of purification system rather than buying the separate bottled water. 
So what did I learn from this?  Sure I have a well and a hand pump that I can pump water out of if the power goes out for any length of time but I sure like the idea of a tinaco to store the water to give some water pressure.  Water is so heavy that I'd either need a separate water tower built (I wonder if it could be placed in the top play area of the kids jungle gym?) or the area of the roof that it would be placed would need to be reinforced.  I bet I could set something up with a tinaco and also hoses for solar water heating.  It's worth looking into.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back home finally

No I wasn't on the ship that sunk.  It doesn't surprise me that one ran aground while I was on a large ship.  After all, I was in Hawaii for the volcanic eruption and just got out of there when the sirens were blaring due to the tsunami.  If there's an earthquake, fire, or any other disaster it always happens the day after I was there.  Anyway, some of my friends and I went on a cruise.  We were supposed to go last year except the ship's engine room caught fire and the ship just floated around until tugs were able to pull it back to shore.  That was two months before we were supposed to go but the ship was still being repaired and the cruises for several months were cancelled.  Our trip was put off until this year.  My mom and nephew were also cruising with us.  Mom has been on many cruises, nephew none.  The only other cruise I was ever on was when mom and I went from Argentina to Falklands to Antarctica and back to Argentina.  That ship had 175 passengers, this one 3,500.  Way to many people for my taste.

While my friends spent their offshore time drinking, and drinking, and drinking, I did things more useful-although they would beg to differ.  I found an English speaking taxi driver and paid for a day in the life of a real San Lucas (aka Cabo) family and also a day in life of a Puerto Vallarta family.  I wanted to learn about their life style.  How they live, what they eat, day to day activities, etc.  Sure you can read it in a book but nothing beats paying someone $50 (minimum wage in Mexico is a little less than $6.00 a day...no wonder they want to come the the US) and then going to "live with them for a day".  Now in each of those cities you can find houses just like ours and larger, but that wasn't what I was looking for.  I wanted to hang out with what we would call the lower middle class.  I didn't want the extremely poor because I didn't think I'd learn enough.

My first adventure was with a taxi driver who was born in Cabo but the family moved to Santa Rosa, California when he was very young.  They lived there until he was 11.  His parents divorced and he moved back to Cabo with his mom and five of his brothers and sisters.  Two of his brothers stayed in Santa Rosa with the father.  So his English was good and he could understand my questions.  He was now married and had a little girl. 

I went to their home and hung out with his wife and daughter.  So technically she made the money.  He was able to go back out driving the taxi for a while.  Their home was a two room apartment in a triplex.  One room was the bedroom, the other the kitchen/sitting room.  The bathroom was very small with a shower, toilet, and sink.  There wasn't any storage space in the bathroom.  The bedroom had a built in closet which he was very proud of owning.  The kitchen had a small gas stove/oven and a refrigerator that was probably about 10 cubic feet.  There was a table with chairs around it and several rocking chairs, a sofa, and a small TV.  There was a row of cabinets and also a hutch that had storage.  The stove and hot water are heated with propane. 

When I want propane for my 500 gallon tank I call up my propane guy and let him know it needs to be filled.  He will show up sometime during the week, fill the tank, and leave a bill on the back door.  Sometime within the month I'll send him the money.  That's not the way it goes there.  A truck drives around with very annoying music blaring out the speaker on top of the truck.  (Sort of like the ice cream truck) The back of the truck has propane tanks that he swaps out - they look to be about 30 gallons.  You have to flag him down, just like you do with the ice cream man.  You have to have cash.  Otherwise you wait until the next time the truck with the annoying music drives by.   They use the propane very sparingly because the price is about the same there as here.

Because the weather is good year round many of the homes don't have windows.  Now I'm not talking about the expensive homes.  I mean the homes of many of the regular folks.  They have big wooden shutters that open to the inside, which will close the place up at night but during the day the shutters are open and the world can see straight into the home.  Out in the countryside there were many homes that weren't much bigger that a storage shed.  Many of those had tin roofs and no doors or glass windows.  Other homes had tarps for the roofs. 

When taking into account how these people live in good times it's really easy to realize that we can live pretty well here in bad times.  In coming days I'll write about my cooking lessons, lousy Spanish, and my trip to Walmart. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Going on an adventure - back Jan. 16th

I'm going on a bit of an adventure for the next week.  I'll be back on January 16th and will get back to posting then.  I'm not going to have any email or cell phone use during this time.  I'm not even sure if I'll have any real knowledge of what's going on in the world.  I will be in an area where I don't speak the native language, although there will be many English speakers around.  It will be interesting.  I'll miss the grand kids as they aren't coming with me. 

Last time I used my passport I went to Antarctica, among other places.  Not so exotic this time, except this area is much more dangerous.  I'll have a get-home bag with me just in case.  I will have some silver coins; they are sewn into the hem of my pants.  Don't forget about me and I'll let you know how things went on my 8 day adventure. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Grinding wheat - and trying not to starve to death

The grand kids have three weeks off of school for winter break and I've had them read two books - The Road Home and The Long Winter.  The Road Home is a modern times book about an earthquake, chaos, and how a family survives.  The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder describes how their family survived during a seven month winter out on the prairie.  They almost starved to death.  The temperatures reached 40 below. 

Not to long ago I wrote about our electric wheat grinder.  It's a great tool and has the ability to be used without power.  I decided to bring the story about the Ingalls family to life for the kids.  Let's grind wheat the way they did in the story.  You see, that family normally would have their wheat ground at the gristmill.  But not that winter.  Instead they were grinding their wheat in the coffee mill.  The book tells how they had to grind all day long to get the wheat ground into flour to make little loaves of bread.  They ate one potato and one roll at each meal and they only ate twice per day.  Even with that small amount they still ran out of food and had to take (paid for, of course, but still taken) more wheat from Almonzo's secret stash.  That still wouldn't have lasted the rest of the winter.  Two of the young men decided to take a chance and set out to bring wheat back to the starving town. 

OK back to grinding wheat.  Right before lunch today I had boy grind 1/4 cup of wheat in our little coffee mill that was probably very much like the one the Ingalls family used.  It didn't grind the wheat very well so I had him do it again.  It still wasn't well ground but we are using it like that anyway.  I had him warm up some water and the wheat is going to soak.  The Ingalls used a sourdough starter, just never using up all their dough, in order to leaven the bread.  Since I don't have a sourdough starter going I threw a little bit of yeast into his soaking wheat. 

A little bit before dinner time he's going to shape the wheat into loaves.  It's not going to work very well because the flour is a very, very, very course flour.  It's just a little more ground than if you bought cracked wheat.  I'm going to serve that and small potatoes for dinner.  When they finish their food I will ask them how they would enjoy eating that twice a day for about five months.  I'll also make a comparison between our hidden room home store and Almonzo's secret wall.  It will provide some very good conversation. 

Then I'll bring out the rest of the dinner.  Elk burgers.  Home grown tomatoes (in January!) (I dug the plants out of the ground last month and they are growing pretty well in the window in my library). And maybe if they are lucky a fruit smoothie to drink with all home grown fruit, of course.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Toilets and sewer backups - yuck

After my post the other day about hardware I got to thinking about the toilets in my house.  We have two.  We also have one in the trailer and have a rather crude outhouse in the yard.  Plus I tell boy to pee in the garden.  OK back to toilets.  I have some items to repair the toilets.  I have wax seals, rubber flappers, etc.  About six months ago I replaced the entire innards of my tank with some new fangled type of system.  It's a push button with a post that floats up and down for the water level.  You push the little button and only a little water flows through. You push the big button and it's a regular flush.  Supposed to save lots of water.  The only problem is it's already broken...cheap China junk.  I threw away the old innards.  After all, they were as old as the toilet...1974.  This means I need to replace everything. The ball cock, the handle, everything.  And get backups for it all.

I was visiting GI Jim yesterday and he gave me some other ideas.  After all, if TSHTF am I going to have the same ease of receiving water?  Am I going to be hand pumping, getting it from a solar powered pump, or will we still be on the grid?  Let's assume no grid.  If IT is today then no solar powered pump.  This means hand pumping for water.  Do I really want to pump enough to flush away 50 or so gallons each day?  NO.  If it's cold weather boy is not going to want to go outside.  How about setting the bathrooms up a bit differently?  We have a five gallon bucket and a little seat to attach to it.  That works fine for the short term.  You do realize that five gallon plastic buckets will degrade with use.  Over the years we've had dozens break apart.  Now these are the buckets we use for food storage that pretty much just sit on a shelf.  These buckets are used to haul stuff, wash the cars, etc.  But nevertheless they don't last forever.  I wouldn't expect the bucket toilet to last forever, nor would I want to sit on it forever! 

A homemade urinal?  And instead of the urinal emptying into the septic a hose (tube) could be attached with a hole through the wall to the outside.  It could either be dispersed instantly or collected in storage buckets or barrels and then used to fertilize the garden.  That's a good idea.  The toilet could be used for solids and the urinal (even make something that works for the girls) for liquids. 

The other thing GI Jim and I talked about was sewage.  I'm on a septic.  It backed up once.  Into the bathtub and shower.  Disgusting.  It was the week before Christmas.  Did I mention that there were 16 people in the house then?  The repair guy came and pumped the tank.  On Christmas Eve it backed up again into the tub and shower.  I called and left a message on his machine to let him know that any time after the holidays we'd be happy to have him come over and pump it again and fix the leach lines.  Christmas morning he was over with his son digging up our front yard.  Millions of blessings to him and his family!!!  Other than that, no problems with our septic system. 

What about people who are on city sewer?  Most people plan on bugging in not bugging out.  If the power goes out the cities will put their sewage treatment plants onto their generator back ups.  Most sewage treatment plants were upgraded due to Y2K preparations.  But generators won't be able to power the plants for very long.  Then what?  The sewage will be backing up. 

Let's hope that your house is on a bit of a rise.  Let's also assume that one of the first preps you city folks do is install a Backflow Valve.  The backflow valve is installed in your sewer lateral (the pipe coming from your house that connects with the main sewer pipe), close to where it leaves your house.  It allows sewage to flow in one direction only (out of the house) and shuts automatically if flow is detected in the opposite direction (coming from the sewer into your house).  The valve will reopen when normal flow is restored. 

That's great if you've installed the backflow valve.  If you haven't make that the next thing on your to do list!  But what happens to the sewage?  It starts backing up into the street as well as into other people's homes.  In one of the local cities near me they pump the sewage uphill to the treatment facility.  That's not a good sign if the power is out and doesn't support the pumps, now is it? 

From what I’ve read, over one million Americans become ill each year just from backed up sewer incidents.  Most of this is from the sewage coming into basements.  Raw sewage contains E coli, viruses, intestinal worms and parasites.  Most of those affected suffer stomach cramps and diarrhea, but untreated sewage can also spread cholera and hepatitis.  Gastroenteritis and cryptosporidiosis are other parasites contained in sewage. These can kill people.

The survival of the viruses, worms, parasites, etc. depends on a number of things: location (indoors vs. outdoors), season, type of surface contaminated, whether disinfectants are used, and also on environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, and sunlight. Sunlight (UV radiation) reduces the survival rate of pathogens with numbers decreasing rapidly with increasing exposure to UV radiation. Mild temperatures and higher humidity result in longer survival times.

If you have been affected by a sewage backup and you need to clean up the mess you need to take proper precautions: Wear protective gloves, eyewear, boots, and rain gear.  If you get any cuts or scrapes you better stop what you are doing and wash and disinfect the wound immediately.  Your life may depend on it! 

The following steps need to be taken when cleaning up the mess in your home:  Remove excess water.  Use a dehumidifier and keep windows open (not going to be a pretty scene if there’s still raw sewage running down the road).  All solid waste should be collected and disposed (sure, just put it into the weekly trash pickup…).  Throw away all upholstered furniture and mattresses.  Pull out the carpets and pads.  Throw away the stuffed animals and toys.  Don’t even think about trying to clean them.  All areas of the house need to be washed with a detergent then disinfected and allowed to dry. 

Now it’s time to clean up the outside.  This is assuming that the sewage isn’t still flowing down the road.  If it is, you need to seriously consider bugging out.  If it stops, and it’s summer time, then the microbial population from the sewage flooding onto the lawns and paved areas will be inactivated after a few days due to the UV radiation from the sun.  During the spring and fall the bacterial numbers will be reduced to safe levels after two to three weeks.  But remember, if TSHTF the sewage will not be going away any time soon. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stratfor Global Intelligence firm's security breach!

Just thought I'd pass on an interesting email that I received at work today. 

This past weekend the hacker group “Anonymous” threatened the release of data claiming to be associated with the Stratfor Global Intelligence firm’s recent security incident, including:

1)    “75,000 names, addresses, credit card numbers and passwords for every customer that has ever paid Stratfor; and 
2)    860,000 usernames, email addresses, and passwords for everyone who’s ever registered on Statfor’s website.”

The State Information Security Office  has received supplemental information that the data was in fact made publicly available for download on several websites (intentionally not disclosed in this message), and that those affected include many current or past state and local government employees who registered on the Stratfor website, purchased products from Stratfor, or both.  Additionally, we’ve heard that fraudulent charges have already been made with some of the compromised credit card data.

The Stratfor website (http://www.stratfor.com/) now acknowledges the security incident and informs its customers about the actions it is taking, including the offer of identity protection services.

We recommend individuals that registered with Stratfor change their passwords immediately on all systems where the same credentials were used and inform any other appropriate parties of the compromise.

We also recommend individuals that have made prior payment to Stratfor cancel any credit cards used for payment immediately and investigate their credit card statements for signs of unauthorized transactions.  If other means of payment were used, it is recommended that you monitor your financial statements for unauthorized transactions.  Individuals may also wish to take advantage of any credit protection services offered by Stratfor.

Questions regarding the Stratfor incident should be directed to the Stratfor contacts published on its website.

No job after all

Son called up to tell me that two hours before he was supposed to start working at his new job the boss sent him a text saying he hired someone else.  Thanks but no thanks.  No job.  Son was pissed.  I was sort of laughing to myself.  Why?  Because he was complaining about the lousy pay.  How's NOTHING for lousy pay, son?  I guess the $10 a hour wasn't going to be too bad after all. 

He then wanted to know if I've gotten their taxes filed yet.  I do all the taxes for my kids.  Turbotax makes it easy, plus I understand what I'm doing so it's not just letting the computer program do the work.  I understand that they gave me their W-2 info on Sunday.  I wasn't planning on doing the taxes for another couple of weeks.  Why do they want it done now?  Well it seems they don't have any money to pay the rent on the first of the month.  What?  You just bought another new TV.  You just spent tons of money on your kids for the holidays.  Daughter-in-law flew home to visit her family for a few days and you don't have any money set aside for rent?  No because he was expecting unemployment and welfare to cover it but that's not going to start for another few weeks and they won't get any money until way after rent is due.  Sorry, I'm just laughing to myself.  I've got to get off the phone.

I don't understand how people can have their values all screwed up.  Now it's one thing if you bring in very little money and you are just surviving and then you stop bringing in the money.  But even then, beans and rice, rice and beans, boring but nutritious.  I'd think having an emergency fund would be more important than the TV or travel.  Guess not.  Do I have any money to spare?  Not for that.  After all, I'm excited that we are saving five to ten dollars per day by not heating the house during the living without heat for a month experiment. 

I guess what ticks me off more than anything is that when the kids were growing up I worked hard...often with them in tow since I was a single parent.  Even now raising the grand kids I am able to work at home some days but some days must go into the field.  When possible they get dragged along with me.  I make sure they understand I have to work or they have no roof over their heads or food in their bellies.

Almost everywhere I go I see help wanted signs.  I think a lot of people are comfortable living on unemployment or welfare that they'd rather not have to put in the hours at a job (unless it's under the table so they can still collect).  (Now don't get on me if you are one of my several readers on disability or such, I'm not saying you are lazy, I promise!) It's all for minimum wage or not much more but if one parent works during the day and the other at night they may not see each other but at least their bills would get paid.  Or my son could do what so many others do.  Stand outside of Home Depot or Lowe's with a sign "willing to work hard".  People get picked up for day labor jobs all the time.  He could also go out door to door and if they have any odd jobs that need to be done.  If someone showed up at my property and was looking for a job, I wouldn't have them inside but there's outside stuff for someone to do.  They could work on the fencing.  That's one job I hate doing but would pay someone minimum wage to do.  Not to son though.  He can find a job somewhere else.  I've experienced his "helping". 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hardware necessities

I write a lot about food.  Today it's about hardware. A couple months ago I went to Orchard Supply Hardware and at the door was a store directory handout.  So, of course, I picked it up and brought it home.  It went on my pile of items to put on the list.  As I read through the directory I decided to check off the items that I had and circle the ones that I thought I may someday need but don't have on hand.  I was pleased to know that I'm pretty well stocked but at the same time alarmed to realize that if things go wrong I could be stuck with a lot of items around here that will not be worth much more than paperweights. 

I'd like to include the entire list but I'm not going to.  It's a double sided paper with four columns of items on each side.  I scribbled notes all over it.  If I get another one I will scan it and include it in a posting.  Just not today. 

Some of the items just aren't necessary but many are very useful.  Let's go down the alphabet with some examples:
A - adhesives, auto batteries, axes (10 items listed)
B - batteries, bolt cutters, boots, brackets, brooms (20 items listed)
C - cable ties, camp stove and fuel, candles, caulking supplies, clothes line, coffee filters (43 items listed)
D - dowels, drain openers, drill bits, drop cloths, duct tape, dust masks (14 items listed)

Q, X, Y, and Z are not represented.  The rest of the letters are.  I'd suggest the next time you are at the hardware store you pick up a directory.  Same goes with the grocery store.  There may be things that you may only need once a year or once every five years, but you will be up a creek without a paddle if you don't have it and you can't get it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Can I shop only every couple of months? And the house is still cold! And friends for the grand kids.

I will start off with the house.  Son built a fire into the wood stove yesterday.  He didn't like visiting with the house at 59 - they keep their apartment around 80 (but 60 during the summer).  Not a problem.  I figured we may have the fire going when we had company.  Once everyone left I didn't put any more wood into the stove.  We were done heating the house.  The wood stove did bring it up to 70 degrees by the time it was all over.  It felt warm and I had to push up my sleeves to cool down!  Now the house is back down to 64.  The temps outside are about the same.  It's supposed to be in the mid sixties during the day all week and it's not supposed to drop into the 20s at all at night.  This is going to be an easy week to keep the house unheated.  If it costs $150 a month to heat the house then so far we've saved $35! 

There's a saying we have about food: Get what you can and can what you get.  In other words, if you can grow it, someone offers you some extras from their garden, you pick it from the wild, you find the super sale, or sometimes even stop on the side of the curvy road to pick food up where the overloaded produce trucks drop bucket loads of produce over the top of the truck, get the food and do something with it!  If you don't eat if fresh then you'd better figure out a way to put it up.  Can it.  Freeze it.  Dry it.  Smoke it.  Don't throw it away!  Then use it during the year. 

I was wondering if I could cut my shopping back to every couple of months.  Even when I did the experiment of no shopping for a month I was worried that if IT happened during that time then I would have used up a months worth of supplies that weren't replenished.  Now, don't think because of that statement that I shop daily or something.  I don't.  I usually do a big shopping once a month or so but will stop by the store to pick something up if it's on sale.  I won't ever drive into town just to shop.  That's a waste of two gallons of gas! 

Some things I buy yearly.  I know that prices of baking goods go down at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas - things like sugar, flour, etc.  I stock up then if I'm buying at Winco.  Otherwise I'll just make my major purchases at Costco. 

What kind of food do I purchase more frequently than monthly?  Bananas, fresh milk, potatoes (we didn't grow a years worth) and whatever is on sale for cheap prices.  Could we live without the bananas and fresh milk?  Yes.  The kids don't even mind powdered but fresh is often cheaper!  Would I save money by shopping only a couple of times per year?  I don't think so because I'm good at shopping sales.  I will buy stuff that's not on "the list" but I've always figured if we eat it then it doesn't go to waste. 

I know how long some nonfood things around here last.  For example, I buy the bucket of Costco laundry detergent.  It lasts between five and six months.  How do I know this?  I write the date I open the container right on the container.  When it's done I get the new container and write the start and end date of the previous container, which then gives me the start date of that container.  By showing not only when I start this new container but also how long the previous container lasted I can figure out if something has changed.  I have four or five full buckets of laundry detergent in the garage.  Since I bought those I thought about making my own from washing soda, borax, and bar soap.  So I bought that too.  I probably have enough laundry soap for three or four years. 

I have several gallons of hand soap and lots of bars of soap.  I keep all the bits of soap from the hotels when I travel and also keep the small slivers from home use.  They can be melted down and reused.  I know how to make homemade soap.  During the 1970s it was popular to do things like that, so I did.  I rendered the tallow, soaked the wood ashes, and made nice bars of soap. I'm assuming that I have enough soap to last as long as the laundry detergent.  So I guess, if all goes well, in about two more years I will go shopping for two or three more years worth of soap and detergent.  I write down the start date and end dates of the liquid hand soap and liquid dish soap as well as the dishwasher detergent...just like I do on the laundry soap.

How long does toilet paper last?  Forever if kept dry and bug free.  (Mice like it too so watch out if you are storing it.)  I buy that from Costco too.  One roll has 450 sheets.  We don't use nearly as much as most households.  We go through it very slowly.  One roll will last me over a month.  I go back and forth between "family cloths" which are the baby washcloths and toilet paper.  The grand kids use the toilet paper...when they remember to wipe!  When we have guest over then the toilet paper disappears quickly.  All totaled we probably use two to four rolls per month.  I haven't had the septic pumped in seven years, mainly because very little goes into it that doesn't decompose quickly.  We have about 100 rolls on hand.  This is about three or four years worth. 

Did you know that if you dry off your razor after using it, this includes not keeping it in the steamy bathroom while others shower, then it will last much longer?  I buy the Gillette razors at Costco.  They come in a pack of 52.  Sounds like it's supposed to last for a year.  I know people that use up the pack in 6 months or less.   But for ladies, if they dry it each time, one razor can last a month or longer!  This means that your pack of razors can last for over four years.  Same for men.  Sometime they will last a month, more often it's about two weeks.  So the pack can last for two years.  Still not bad.

The next door neighbors have their grand kids over visiting for a week.  I'm really glad because my grand kids don't have other kids around for them to play with.  During the school year it doesn't matter because they are so busy with school and then helping around the house that they don't notice that the only kids they play with are their cousins.  But they have three weeks off of school right now.  They've played with each other and their cousins for the past two weeks.  Now they have other kids to play with, nice polite kids, so hurray for them.  The neighbor grand kids came over to ask if mine can go to the movies with them.  They are going to a late matinee to watch We Bought a Zoo. Sounds like a fun movie. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year and thanks to my readers

Last January I had 15 followers and 5,000 hits on my blog.  I now have 55 followers and over 45,000 hits.  Wow.  I'm surprised and also grateful.  I write this to keep me motivated.  I'm hoping I'm helping keep you motivated to prepare for survival as well.  Happy New Year.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all. 
Son and his family and Army Daughter and her family came over for dinner.  Son-in-law was going to cook but instead Army Daughter cooked with the help of daughter-in-law.  Dinner turned out reasonably good.  Son made a cake.  It was a honey orange cake. He was excited because it was his first cake from scratch.  The cake was good, the frosting was horrible.  He was so proud of the frosting that I couldn't give him a suggestion on how to make it better.  Maybe next time.
Son got a job, starts tomorrow.  He's already complaining that it doesn't pay enough.  Excuse me?  You haven't worked for a year, your wife got let go from her job a month ago and you are complaining?  Shut up.  To celebrate his new job he decided to take care of some things that he thinks are in need of repair here at my house.  I'm not sure if he did anything outside or not.  He decided that he needed to hook the TV antenna up to all three TVs.  Right now we have the digital antenna connected to the TV in the living room - no cable or satellite here.  I just hadn't gotten around to moving the antenna to the attic and connecting the wires together for all three TVs.  I figured it would be an easy job.  How could he screw it up?  Oh yeah, it's my son.  He will take any job and make it ten times more difficult, ten times more messy, and ten times more expensive. 
My suggestion, and why listen to me, I'm just old... was that if the satellite TV came into the house on a cable that he should just hook up the antenna to this same cable.  Unhook it from the satellite, hook it to the antenna.  Sounds reasonable.  Except he doesn't work on reason.  He got into the attic and started pulling wires.  Don't pull wires.  You can't pull them up without unhooking them from the wall.  The wires are all hardwired to the little plastic connector at the wall and they are attached to guides in the walls.  It's not like your apartment where it's just got a wire coming out of the wall and running across the room.  No.  He pulled wires.  This meant that he pulled the wires out of the connectors.  Then he complained to me that whoever put the wires in did a lousy job connecting them.  I put the wires in when I helped with the house remodel. 
I was able to reconnect the wire in my bedroom but it's just coming through a big hole in the wall.  It's not connected to the outlet anymore.   In the the family room he tugged on the wire so hard that it's half way up the wall.  This was a sound proofed wall and is full of insulation.  He can't just drop the wire.  He'll have to fish for it and of course he doesn't have the tools.  Then he wanted to pull the wires connected to the plug in the garage and use that since it's got a good connection.  NO!!! Don't touch it.  How about putting a hole in the ceiling in the family room and running the cord right behind the TV?  NO!!!  I don't want the wire hanging in back of the TV.  He took this to mean that it was OK to punch a hole in the ceiling over the bookcase so it wouldn't be as visible.  STOP HELPING!!!!   
They ate dinner and went home.  The TV in the bedroom and family room still aren't hooked up to the antenna.  The living room TV is working great, but then again it was working great when he started.  There's a lot of insulation all over the house.  What a mess.  And he got nothing accomplished other than making a mess in the house, putting a hole in the ceiling, and pulling out the connecting boxes.  At least it's not costing me money.  Just time to clean it all up.  Just what I wanted.   
Note to self: Make sure you have extra connectors, wire, and other electrical and cable items in your storage for when son comes over to help.
The new year is starting off just like it ended.  Should be a good year!