Thursday, March 29, 2012

Neighborhood Break-ins

I was called by a neighbor today who told me that one of the houses down the street was broken into yesterday.  The two people who live there ran into town for 1/2 hour.  It was during this time that someone broke into their house by breaking a window.  They have a gate that is always closed whether they are home or not.  It's still easy to climb over the fence to get onto the property, someone just can't drive on.  If they were only gone for 1/2 hour then whoever broke into the house was watching the house and knew exactly when they left.  A half hour is the minimum time anyone will be away from their house, so it's even possible that when they returned the burglar was still inside, or at least on the property.   

This neighbor that called also informed me that a house across the road was broken into last month.  No I didn't know that either.  Again, a window was broken.  That house is way off the road, behind a community gate that is often times not closed.  It's easy to drive into that neighborhood.  I wasn't told what was taken in either instance. 

Neither of these two reports were comforting, especially since I had to work out of town today and the grand kids were home by themselves for two hours.  I had them call me when they got home and also right before they went to bed.  I told them to make sure the house was locked and the dogs were in the house with them.  I got home and all the doors were locked except the sliding glass door, which is probably the door the bad guys would check first.  All was well, but I will probably have the alarm set when we leave tomorrow to go out of town for five days. 

These two break ins got me to thinking about the neighborhood.  In the 15 years I've lived here these are the first two break ins.  I'm not sure about the big house (the first one that was burglarized) but it sure seems on the most recent break in that someone was just waiting around for someone in the neighborhood to leave.  Have I noticed any vehicles around that don't belong?  That's hard to say because most of the neighbors higher house cleaners and yard help and such that all kinds of vehicles come and go each day. 

The neighbor wants to start a neighborhood watch program, or at least get signs posted in the neighborhood to make others think that they are being watched.  The problem around here is that the people are either really old or are never around.  In our mile of houses I'm the second youngest, and I'm in my mid-50s. 

Everyone around here needs to be more vigilant and just pay attention to who is walking or driving around here.  The local sheriff has a unique program for rural folks.  They want you to post "No Trespass" signs on the front and back of your property.  The signs are to be at least a foot square and have the lettering at least 2 inches high.  They want at least 1 sign per 1/4 mile stretch of fence and at each driveway.  The Sheriff's Office has a Rural Crime Alert program that allows citizens to issue citations to non-occupied suspicious vehicles parked on or around their property. This program is designed to reduce rural vandalism, trespassing, burglary and cattle rustling. Citizens are provided with the booklets containing self-carbon citations. One copy of the completed citation is placed on the unoccupied vehicle and the other is mailed to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. The registered owner of the vehicle is then contacted and an investigation begins regarding the purpose of the vehicle being parked where it was cited. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More government stupid rules

Once again the state and federal governments are finding ways to mess with the individual, small family farmer, or preparedness minded individual. 

I am supposed to put an identification number on all sheep that I sell just in case any have a disease that is nonexistent!  I am supposed to keep track of the person I sell the sheep to by holding on to my files for at least 5 years...just in case the government wants to track down my sheep.  Again, for a nonexistent disease. 

Just last month I was offered an above ground swimming pool from a coworker.  I was really excited about this because I plan on raising talapia for our own consumption.  I don't plan on raising a lot of fish but if we could get a "crop" of a few fish per week on average that's all I want.  Raising the fish in my backyard means there is no way for the fish to escape the "pond" and spread into the California waterways.  My fish pond swimming pool is not attached to any creek.  In fact, the nearest creek is 1/2 mile away.  My biggest worry will be the dogs wanting to jump into the pool to swim.  Nevertheless, raising backyard talapia without a permit from the state's Department of Fish and Game is illegal.  I don't know if it's a felony or a misdemeanor, all I know is without the permit I'll be breaking the law.  Why?  Because I'm not in Southern California.  There, it's legal. 

Today I learned that the state of Michigan has a new law coming into effect on April 1.  This law pretty much outlaws pig farming if the pigs are allowed out in the pasture.  Why?  Because the state has said that over a 30 year period, from 1971 to 2011 340 feral pigs have been reported to have been sighted.  Of those reports 286 were reported seen and killed!  This means about 55 pigs have been seen and may still be running around.  Who knows, some of those 55 may have been seen a second time and were killed.  Well, with 55 supposedly live feral pigs running around the state, Michigan has determined that there really could be between 1000-3000 feral pigs.  They want to put a stop to the feral pig explosion.  Remember, the report has been 55 although it could be less.

Now I do understand pigs and if they escape they can revert back to feral in just one generation.  It's an amazing fact.  But making the leap from free ranging your pigs on your own property to them being feral and destroying the state is a bit far fetched, don't you think?  But I have a better idea.  Instead of outlawing the responsible farmers who have their pigs fenced, how about encouraging the shoot to kill if you see a pig running around on on the road or on your property and it's not your pig?  Of course, you could always call up your neighbor and tell him the pig is out.  Sort of like when three sheep jumped the fence down the road from me.  I just let the neighbor know. 

More shocking to me was the other fact I learned today.  I suppose it's more shocking because again, like the talapia rules of stupidity, the Mallard duck federal rules of stupidity will affect me.  We have the 20 duck eggs in the incubator.  It's day number 4 of incubation.  Only 24 more days until the ducklings peck their way out.  So what did I learn today about ducks?  I don't have to have a permit to own or sell Mallards.  But any Mallard ducklings that I hatch are required to be identified according to US Fish and Game regulations!!! I suppose I could tattoo them or band their legs (I'd have to have different sets of bands depending on their age).  One hatchery removes a back toe when they hatch.  Perhaps I can spray paint them with some durable paint.  Why do they have to be able to be identified?  So the US Fish and Game will know that your flock were not "kidnapped" out of a local pond. Unbelievable! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things are only going to get crazier

Today there's the report on Pic de Bugarach in France where 20,000 people who believe the world is ending have come to that area to be picked up by aliens.  Interesting.  I certainly don't believe the world is going to end on Dec. 21, 2012.  The world as we knew it has ended, and it's going down hill at a faster and faster pace. 

In less than 9 months these 12/21 predictions will have come and gone.  But be aware that as the date gets closer and closer that people may go a little more and more off the deep end.  If the world blows up then there's not much to have to prep for.  If the world just becomes a chaotic globe then people will be pushing their way around as we get closer and closer to that time.  I don't believe that 12/21 has any meaning other than it will be a countdown to man-made 12/21 chaos.  I believe that violence will be increasing as the year goes on.  It's as if 12/21 will be a permission slip to be destructive.  Sort of like winning a sporting event gives those same people carte blanche to overturn cars, burn trash piles, and loot stores.

Yesterday oldest daughter made a comment to me that for someone who doesn't believe that the world is ending on 12/21 I sure have enough stuff on hand in case it does.  I guess she's right. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

I don't own gold

There are so many commercials telling you to buy gold.  It's an investment! It should be part of your preps.  As a prepper you are supposed to have gold and silver as part of your supplies.  Or at least that's what we've been told.  I happen to disagree. 

I do own silver, but it's the type called "junk" silver.  This means that I do not own silver bars (I used to collect silver bars in the 70s and 80s - but alas, I don't have them anymore).  I own coins.  My coins aren't the type that coin collectors want to buy, the pretty shiny coins that haven't been circulated or even the coins that may have been circulated but are rare because not too many were produced.  No, my coins are all from the era of the early 1900s until 1964.  They just have a high silver content and are worth more than face value because of the amount of silver in them.

I own dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars.  I don't own a lot.  Face value is under $200.  If I did have $200 worth, its silver value would be around $5,000.  I was alive in the 60s.  Why didn't I just save every dime and quarter I ever had?  I'd be able to retire if I sold it all now!  Oh well.  Live and learn. 

Why do I have silver and not gold?  It's something that I can afford and its fun to have some old coins.  I take them out of the safe sometimes and take one into my hand and think about all the people over the 75 or so years who have had that coin in their pocket.  How did they earn it and spend it?  Just something to think about on a rainy day.  

I used to have some silver bars back when silver was under $10 an ounce.  I sold them for some reason, I can't remember why.  I wouldn't buy silver bars now.  If I was going to buy more silver it would still be in coin.  Why?  It's still money and something that most people understand has a value of not only the coin amount but a little (or a lot) more.  A silver bar is harder for most to see it as money.  

How about gold?  I used to have one $5. gold eagle coin.  I don't have it any more and again can't remember why I sold it.  Probably wanted a new jacket or something.  Gold costs too much for me to buy.  Even if I did want to buy gold, just like silver I wouldn't buy it in a bar I'd buy it in coin.  

Over the past several years there have been incidences of gold bars being tampered with.  Just recently a 1 kilo gold bar was discovered that had holes drilled into it and then had tungsten rods inserted into the holes. Can you imagine buying a $50,000 two pound chunk of gold only to find out it only had $30,000 worth of gold in it?  Ouch!  Tungsten is a metal with similar density to gold and supposedly bullion dealer can easily identify it.  But not always.  A couple years ago a 500 gram gold bar was tampered with but sold as pure by a bank in Germany.  The same has occurred in Asia where banks sold tungsten filled gold bars. 

Even Ron Paul raised the question asking if the gold bars at Fort Knox are real.  He's wanted to know if our country's gold has been sold off or if it's still in reserve.  Same with Britain.  There have been reports that Britain's Bank of England has altered gold and it's falling apart.  They insist that "most" of their gold is in mint condition.

While some say that the thought of tampering with gold is enough to scare people away from the bullion market the other side of the argument is that if there is less mint condition gold then it's actually worth more.  When the truth comes out those holding good quality gold will have a product worth much higher value.  That sounds great doesn't it?  Not to me.

I really don't care about the gold market.  I should because our country's fortune is tied up in it.  Gold in Fort Knox is supposed to be doing its part keeping our country stable.  After all, our money used to be backed up by that gold.  Now we just print pictures and words on paper and call it valuable.  So OK, gold is important, just not in my everyday life of a survivalist.

I suppose if I had a ton of money to invest then I'd buy gold.  But getting back to reality, I don't have lots of money.  Sometimes I wonder why I even have silver other than I want to have some of, water, shelter, protection, barter items, and silver.  Reading most of these great survival stories they talk about bartering a silver dime for this or a gold coin for that.  I wonder if a silver dime would really be the bartering item or if you would be better off bartering with cigarettes, alcohol, a pair of shoes, or even a good steak?  Only time will tell so I suppose I'll just keep my baggie filled with silver coins.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Incubator

I figured instead of buying some baby chicks or ducks I should just use the money to buy an incubator.  So today I bought an incubator from Tractor Supply.  I'm the kind of person who can figure out how to make something on my own if I've seen an example in person.  Looking at pictures on the Internet isn't always good enough.  I could have easily made the incubator with only purchasing a few items but the egg turner is something I would have still wanted to buy.  The incubator cost $40 and the egg turner cost the same.  My last purchase from Murray McMurray hatchery was more than that! 

Since I only have two roosters in with the hens they would not end up being purebred chicks.  Does this matter?  I doubt it but maybe someone else can chime in on this.  If I should raise purebreds then it would mean separating the "chick layers" from the rest of the "egg layers".  Now I can just gather eggs and call it good.  The types of hens we have lay brown, white, and blue/green eggs.  No one chicken doesn't lay all colors, we have about 10 different types of hens. 

Tractor Supply is getting baby chicks in on Wednesday.  According to one person working there they will be sold out by Thursday!  They are selling them between two and three dollars each.  Baby ducks are over four dollars a piece.  You can also order from Tractor Supply.  You need a minimum of 25, just like Murray McMurray.  Tractor Supply requires you order at least five of each type but with MM you can go down the list and get one of each as long as you get the 25 minimum.

Right now we have three ducks left and one of them is laying like crazy.  Instead of this first go around with the incubator raising chickens I decided to raise ducklings.  Or at least try.  I had girl go out to the barn and bring in 20 eggs from the nest.  I told her to take the ones on top as those would be the newest.  It doesn't really matter as I've heard eggs will last over two months while waiting to be set.  

How does this work?  The mother, duck or chicken, lays only one egg a day.  They usually lay 5 or 6 eggs per week, it's not usually one every single day.  They don't normally sit on the eggs until they have the right amount, whatever that number is.  Until then the eggs are left out in the cold.  They are sort of in a dormant state.  When the mother is ready to hatch the eggs she will start to sit on them to keep them warm.  Because it's normal for the eggs to sit out in the cold until she's ready to lay on them it makes it easy to gather a bunch of eggs for the incubator.  If I wanted to use chicken eggs I'd probably just go out and gather a day or two worth of eggs and use them all rather than using eggs that had been sitting around for a while.

The incubator keeps them at the proper temperature.  For chickens and ducks it's 99.5 degrees.  Chickens will hatch in 21 days, ducks in 28 so they can't be in the incubator at the same time.  You put water into the space meant to hold water in this incubator.  That will keep the humidity at the proper level.  The automatic egg turner means that I don't have to turn the eggs three times per day.  I know that I will never in the foreseeable future be home every single day for 28 days to turn the eggs!  If I was home all the time then it wouldn't be a problem but I already know that next week we will be gone for five days.  I don't think I'd be able to get someone to come in to turn the eggs.  I'm hoping the water lasts in the container for a week, if not I will have to have someone come in to add water.

After about a week we can candle the eggs to see if the embryos are growing properly.  Three days before the eggs are supposed to hatch you turn the incubator off and remove the egg turning cups.  You don't turn the eggs you just leave them in the incubator.  During this time the chick is supposed to be preparing itself for its out of egg appearance. 

I have only bought day old chicks and ducks.  I've never raised eggs in an incubator.  The only person I know who has was my nephew in his preschool class.  They were the ones that ended up giving us their chickens which almost all turned out to be roosters - and delicious ones at that!  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Losing your temper

Oldest daughter called yesterday.  It seems that her middle son, who's 16, was being a smart mouth and raising his voice to her.  When son-in-law got home from work it escalated and grandson started yelling that he hated them and wanted to live anywhere but there.  Rather than beat him, which son-in-law said he would have liked to have done, they dropped him off with me. Thanks. 

Grandson went out into the backyard and started working on his pickup.  He wasn't able to borrow his dad's battery so he didn't do much other than sit in the cab and sulk.  Son-in-law called me to tell me that grandson took a CD out of their van when he got out.  The boy wasn't supposed to have this CD and I was to take it away and preferably break the thing in half.

I went out to the yard and asked the boy where the CD was.  He said it was HIS.  I told him that my question wasn't who it belonged to, my question was where is it because I've been requested to confiscate it.  He said it was in his bag and headed into the house.  I told him he didn't have to get it right then but to give it to me when he came in for dinner.  I then left him alone for the next hour.

He came in and ate with the rest of us.  If he didn't then he would have missed out on dinner.  I don't play games like that.  After the two younger grand kids went to bed I went looking for the 16 year old.  At dinner I told him no TV or video games.  He was sitting in the family room on the couch.  He was just sitting.  I sat down and said it's my turn to lecture.  He wanted to ignore me but where was he to go?  So I just talked. 

I explained that quite often there are people who get me really mad, angry even.  Stopping what I'm doing and counting to ten is stupid.  That only pisses me off more and gets my blood pressure even higher.  So how do I calm myself down and behave properly?  Two ways.  In both cases I pretend that the spotlight is on me.  First, there's God.  Let's pretend that God has enough time in the year to observe me, and only me, for about 30 seconds or a minute.  Can you imagine God watching me yell and scream because I did brush my teeth and you are telling me that I didn't?  God has no idea what the person I'm arguing with is saying or doing.  His focus is only on me.  If I'm being judged right then and there for how my life is going to play out over the next year, I'm screwed...yes I said that to my grandson!  Second scenario - the TV camera.  I pointed to the motion detector in the corner of the room.  Let's pretend that's a camera.  The camera is focused on you.  Nobody else is in the picture.  You are yelling and screaming and it's being broadcast around the world.  How do you feel with everyone watching your behavior?  Remember, nobody is seeing your mom yell at you.  They are just watching you.  He said he'd feel like a fool.  Exactly!  Those two scenarios keep me calm...most of the time.

I won't argue with you if you are yelling and screaming if someone is doing something illegal or dangerous and trying to involve you.  Argue, fight if the cause is just.  But for something like being wrongly accused of not brushing your teeth?  Or even if the parent exaggerates that he never brushes his teeth?  And this argument is worth your 30 seconds of judgement that God is going to give you this year?  Please don't get into religious arguments here, it was to make a point, not that I think God only gives us 30 seconds of his time!  He was feeling pretty stupid after that conversation and I got a good smile out of him. 

I told him the story of the little girl down the street who has a cell phone and all kinds of pretty clothes.  She doesn't have anyone at home who cares where she is or what she is doing.  The adults in her family are all wrapped up in their drugs with no time for her.  But from the view of other kids she's got it made.  She has a phone, cool clothes, and can stay up or out as long as she wants.  But nobody cares.  It's better to have your parents care, which at times means you get in trouble.  Even if you don't think you deserve it.

Then I brought up his other statement that he wanted to live somewhere else.  So you want to mooch off someone else?  It's hard not quite being a grown up.  If you want to live here we can get you a little storage shed from Home Depot.  You can turn it into your house.  You don't need much. You'll go to school during the day and then when you are done with school you will either go off to your job or do hard labor around here.  After all, you have to earn your food.  And your clothes.  And your shoes.  Unless the pair of shoes you have now will last you for a couple of years.  I'm sure you'll take such good care of them that you won't need to earn money to buy new shoes.  How does that sound rather than living at home?

He said his parents already agreed that he can move out and at the end of his weekend with me he'll have to tell them where he wants to be dropped off.  I told him he should respond that he wants to be dropped off with them.  You owe your parents an apology.  I don't care if they were wrong.  Remember you are responsible for you and your behavior was wrong.  Perhaps a little grovelling will work...

Until then he's mine.  He's going to be working on the backyard fences this weekend.  I'll take the slave, I mean darling grandson, labor.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Antibiotics may be harder for the prepper to get

Judge Katz of New York issued an order for the FDA to ban agricultural use of some popular antibiotics.  He did this to prevent penicillin and tetracycline from losing their effectiveness in people.  Most of these antibiotics, up to 80% of all antibiotics used in the US, are used in animal feed to keep chickens, pigs, and cattle healthy.  They have also been used to promote growth in animals.  Most farmers use these antibiotics as a preventative rather than waiting until there is a problem.  This may work for the farmer but is assumed to be the main cause of antibiotic resistant diseases. 

This court order came two months after the Obama administration announced restrictions on agricultural uses of cephalosporins.  That antibiotic includes Cefzil and Keflex, commonly used to treat pneumonia, strep throat, and urinary tract infections.   

Before anyone gets too excited about this latest court order you need to realize that this is not a new fight.  It has been going on for more than a generation.  But with this administration, who knows if the ban will come to pass.  The FDA is expected to issue draft rules soon asking the drug makers to modify their rules with these medications and make them only available by prescription and under the supervision of a veterinarian. 

The judge's order is specifically for farmers who use these antibiotics to promote animal growth.  Of course the farmers are going to state that it's not for growth but for heath reasons in order to get around the ban.  And from what I’ve read, most farmers don’t use them for growth, although they used to.

Does this mean I agree with the farmers that they should use antibiotics however they want?  No, I don't think they should.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to use it as a preventative.  After all, we are told to use them sparingly on ourselves.  But I also do not want the government to add additional regulation which may make it more difficult to get these tools, which I as a survivalist want in my tool chest. 

Throughout this fight the FDA has slowly begun restricting some of the antibiotic uses.  What does this mean to me?  Antibiotics are going to be harder and harder to get a hold of.  If you have some extra money make the investment now.  There are websites that you can get them on-line for your fish and other animals.  There are doctors who will prescribe them for you to stock up on.  Just do something.

Driving in the big city

Two of the days we were in New York I needed to drive into the city rather than take the mass transit.  I used a different car each time.  The first day I drove in cousin had a GPS in her car that not only showed the maps but it also told you what lane to be in and when to turn.  Keep left, keep right, turn right in 1/2 mile.  Turn right.  Recalculating!  The recalculating part was fun.  After I got a general sense of where I was I on purpose didn't listen to the GPS.  I could hear the tone of her (the GPS) voice get more frustrated... recalculating, recalculating! 

The freeway system was easy to navigate.  I find that people are either afraid of driving on the freeway or they aren't.  Once you are used to bunches of vehicles zipping by you at high speeds then freeway driving is easy.  This included night driving but the weather was good, so again, it wasn't an issue. 

City driving was another story.  I've never seen traffic like what I experienced.  The scenes in the movies are accurate.  Drivers stop where ever they feel like stopping.  On street cleaning day (only one side of the street gets cleaned on any given day) all the cars that would park on that side of the street double park on the other side of the street for the two hours they aren't allowed to park on the side being cleaned.  That I've never seen in my life.  I felt bad for anyone who didn't know they would get trapped in by double parked vehicles.  Could you imagine getting a parking spot, taking care of whatever you needed to do, and coming outside to find a solid wall of cars parked in the lane for driving, with the vehicle owners nowhere to be seen?  You'd be stuck for a few hours.  I was really lucky because I was driving around looking for a parking spot during this time.  I knew I couldn't double park because as soon as the time passes and it's OK to park on the other side of the street then there's mass car movements and you couldn't leave your car double parked.  I was able to weave through a couple of vehicles and park along the curb.  It didn't matter if someone else came along and boxed me in since I knew the double parking would end about a half hour later.  Still, it was bizarre. 

I was in awe with how many people were stuffed into such a small area when we were in New York City.  We flew into Los Angeles and I had to teach a class in one of the suburbs.  The class was set to be taught in a training center at a police station.  As I drove from LAX to that town I took a good hard look around.  LA is much more spread out than New York.  There is some mass transportation - buses are a means for many, mostly the middle and lower wage earners.  I don't know who uses the metro in LA.  In New York it looked like all types of wage earners used the train and subway.  I'd probably be right to assume that more of the bus riders were the lower earners and higher earners would take taxis. 

Even driving from one end of LA to the other I took the round about way and headed to the edge of the city.  Just in case something happened, like an earthquake, there would be less people to deal with.  I kept the gas tank full as per my normal.  Nothing out of the ordinary happened but it sure makes me feel more calm knowing that at least I'm aware enough of my surroundings to try to keep as safe as possible. 

This is all I'm going to write on my trip.  Tomorrow, it will be back to what I'm doing for us!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The big city experience

After a week in New York City then having to teach a class in LA before coming home last night, I think I've seen enough people to last me a lifetime. Unfortunately for me next week I have to go to San Diego for a week. I just want to be home and the end of March and entire month of April are already fully booked up.

We got home close to midnight last night. The kids were so good while I was teaching the class that I told them they could choose dinner. Instead of getting something quick so we could get home quickly they choose "hot wings", which meant going to a sit down restaurant. I found a sports bar in Valencia that fit the bill. Boy had a great time since he's a sports nut. Girl did too because she got to eat hot wings which is one of her most favorite foods. Me, I cringed at spending $30 for dinner, especially since work gave me a dinner allowance of $18. Oh well, they were really good and it was a good way to end our vacation.

Boy came through just fine with his procedure. The day after we were out sightseeing. He was hurting but didn't show it too much. He was a real trouper. I saved about $4,000 by us going to New York compared to what it would have cost in California. That's good because I wasn't sure where I'd come up with the extra money!

We didn't go to Ground Zero. Boy took lots of pictures of the building that is going up at Ground Zero when we were on the boat to the Statue of Liberty. The new building is taller than anything else as it is and he was fascinated by that. I would have liked to have gone but the only way we would have been able to do so would be if we could have gone on our way out of town. The grand kids would have been talking about it and my cousins sort of put the entire episode behind them and want nothing to do with Ground Zero, the new building, the memorial, or any part of it. I wonder if most other New Yorkers have done the same? Mr. Manifesto, perhaps you can weigh in on this? 

I asked my cousin a couple of questions about preparedness. Are they preparing for another attack or something of the sort? I'm sure it won't be airplanes into buildings but what about train or subway bombings or poisonings? Do they have plans to leave the city? Do they have food and water stored? What if everything shut down for days or weeks or months? Mainly I wanted to know what they've done differently with their lives since 9/11. Do they store more food? Do they have a better first aid kit? Do they do a better job knowing where each of the family members are?
I was really surprised by their answers. They live about 1/2 hour outside of the city. They figure that if they are downtown and the trains and such stop and they don't have their car then they can just walk home. On 9/11 cousin-in-law said that he walked from the city out about 10 miles to a relatives home. Cousin also made it to the relative and then they were able to get home from there. They figure if something happened in the city once again they'd just walk. Unfortunately, when they did it last time they both weighed a lot less than they do now. It would be a much more difficult walk, albeit one that they could still do.

Not too long after the attacks they bought a couple of disaster books. Those didn't motivate them to do any real preparing. They felt that the attacks were about the worst thing that could happen on a grand scale.

They don't plan on driving anywhere else to bug-out. They figure that if something goes wrong in the city that the city people will be fighting among themselves that they won't head out of the city. They also figured that city people probably don't keep their cars filled with gas so they wouldn't get far. Perhaps they'll make it as far as the cousins town? 30 minutes away from millions of people isn't very far.

Do they have stored food or water? Not really. They live a couple minute walk from a major river. They figure that if they need water they can get it from the river. They don't own a bucket but do have some pots they could collect the water with. They figured they had a week or two of food stored in the house. They do prepare a little because during the winter they can have power outages and shops can be closed for a few days because of lack of power. Although they had enough canned and packaged food for a couple of weeks if you just counted calories they didn't have things that could be put together well for a meal.

They were counting on their gas still being available, even if the electricity wasn't. They were also counting on the water to work. They had a half a case of bottled water but they don't stock up on it. When it runs out they buy more.

They did purchase one of those first aid kits that have lots of band aids, a book telling you what to do, and not a whole lot else. This is one of the few steps they've taken since 9/11. They've never practiced first aid. While I was their one of their kids had a fever of 100.5. They had to run to the store to buy liquid Tylenol because at 9 years old she didn't know how to swallow a tablet. They only had one small bottle of Tylenol tablets in the house. They had a few other things in the medicine cabinet but I brought more stuff with me than they had in their entire house.

They did have a flashlight in their kitchen and another in their bedroom. I didn't see any in the basement but there may have been one. I asked about extra batteries. No, they didn't have a lot extra but did have the rest of the package. They do not let the children play with the flashlight in the kitchen.

They each have a bicycle.  They don't have any spare parts but I was impressed that they had bikes. 

They didn't see any need for walling off part of their basement as a safe room or a storage room.  They live in a safe small town after all.  Those things aren't necessary.  If they use 9/11 as their base for thinking about if TSHTF then sure, they don't need a safe room or storage room.  But what if the area affected is larger than from 9/11?  They thought I was being melodramatic.Do they keep track of where each other is? Yes, they do go over their expected agenda the night before so everyone in the family knows the plans of the other. I thought that was a really good idea. At the dinner table they had a conversation called "the schedule". They discussed all their schedules for the next day and made sure the communication was good when the schedule changed.
That got me to thinking about how I communicate when my schedule gets changed. I don't communicate it. I suppose it's because I'm single I don't have a spouse to notify. I wonder if most spouses would feel "trapped" if they had to communicate their every move to the other. If you look at it in an emergency context then I don't think you'd feel trapped but if you looked at it in any other way, yes, I think you'd resent having to "check in" with the spouse. Since I'm not married perhaps my kids need to know if my schedule changes. Should they know if I'm working at home or at the office or out in the field? It could matter if something happens and they can't get a hold of me because communication is down. So communicating planned schedules and changes in schedules is something I learned I'm lacking.
Have the cousins changed anything else about their behavior? No. Why? I think it's because they are in denial that something can happen. Why? Because the shock of 9/11 was worse than the inconvenience that it cause for them. The stores were still open where they lived. After a few days people went back to what they were doing prior to 9/11. They thought my line of questions was a bit ridiculous and figured it must be because I'm a Republican. Democrats would never think that way as they are much more optimistic about the future, especially if President Obama is reelected.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Big city trip

We've been in New York City since last Tuesday.  Culture shock is a good description for us so far.  I've seen more people in one day than I've seen in my entire life, except perhaps when I was in Buenos Aires.  This is different though; it seems more crowded because the buildings are so tall and there are so many people walking around.  We took the train to Manhattan and took a trip up the Empire State Building.  We are going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tomorrow.  I don't know if we will make it to ground zero.  If we do it will be on Monday when my cousin is at work.  My cousin watched the second plane fly into the tower.  She would have been a casualty that day but instead had a doctor appointment and wasn't at her office.
There are two things I want to focus on today with my blog.  One is money and how much people have, the other is how my New York cousins prep.  First the money.  Right before I left I was visiting my friend and fellow blogger Kris.  We were talking about money and how much people make.  You see, Kris doesn't make much.  She makes enough to pay her mortgage but some months she doesn't make much more than that.  She is an avid gardener and canner.  If she wasn't there would be times she'd be hungry.  Sometimes she gets feeling down because money is always a stress.  She doesn't want to feel any envy about what others make.  She truly wants to rejoice in their good fortune.  From her perspective I make a lot. I make about five times as much as she does but sometimes money is a stress for me too.  Why?  My house payment is much higher and I now have the grand kids.  I also took a 30% pay cut by getting promoted (no overtime) because this made for a better schedule once I became a parent for the second go around.   We spoke about how having money can take the stress off the basic premise of having a roof over your head but after that, people with money aren't much different than people without.  Their life stresses are often just the same or even higher. 
I thought that way until I arrived in New York.  Why?  I'm staying at a cousin's house.  We are about 1/2 hour outside of the city.  The train is about a five or ten minute walk from their house.  Their house isn't pretentious.  In fact, it's probably smaller than mine, or about the same size if you include their basement.  Their yard is about 20' x 50' which is huge from what I've seen in this area.  They only have grass growing.  No fruit trees, no garden.  They don't make or produce anything for themselves.  This is something that really surprised me.  I guess I never thought about it that unless you have a prepper attitude having money can mean putting your family in jeopardy.
Some of the things they have: a gardener to mow the lawn during the summer, a nanny who not only watches the children after school but also grocery shops, makes the children dinner and a separate dinner for the parents, a house cleaner, a house organizer, and most importantly someone to tend to the two cats.  Yes, you heard me right!  They hire someone to shop for cat food, change the cat boxes (each cat has their own), feed them, give them fresh water, and bring them to the vet when needed.  The cousins don't normally cook.  I asked why and the answer was because it's work.  They'd rather pay, other than they made pancakes for breakfast this morning.  I took a bunch of fruit and some ice, put it into the blender and made smoothies for our drink.  They were shocked at how good it was and how easy it was to make.  It's Girl Scout cookie time...they just bought 110 boxes.  We went to lunch today, 2 adults 4 kids, $90! 
Their money, and how they spend it is mind boggling, to say the least.  They make more in two or three weeks than I make in a year!  This is just as mind boggling to me as my income is to Kris.  Well, not quite.  I don't have to worry about making my house payment but other than that, Kris and I live a pretty similar lifestyle.  Our main focus is family and self sufficiency.
This takes me back to my cousins.  They make over one million dollars in a year.  This is just salary and doesn't include whatever income they have from investments.  I'm not really focused on the money, I'm more focused on their dependency on others.  They don't know how to cook.  They don't know how to garden.  They don't know how to clean.  They don't know how to repair anything. Cousin is so grateful that I clean the kitchen after each meal that they are happy to buy us lunch and little things.  After all, it costs them less to buy us lunch than they paid the house cleaner the other day, who in my opinion did a really lousy job cleaning their house. 
What about their bookshelf?  I found a couple of books that were pertinent to self reliance: How to survive just about anything (or something like that since it's not in front of me anymore) and the other, which I am reading, The Survival Guide: What to do in a Biological, Chemical, or Nuclear Emergency. It's an interesting book and was written in 2003.  Everyone in New York still had 9/11 on their mind.  
What about food?  Dinner consists of either something delivered to the house, going out to a restaurant, or having the nanny cook with food she buys that day on her way over to their house.  Lunch for the girls is usually the left over dinner from the night before.  What about their pantry?  They have some granola bars and other snack foods.  They have a box of oatmeal and two boxes of cereal although all three are about half empty.  They have a freezer filled with gourmet snack things, many of which I have no idea what they actually are!  They have a case of chocolate and strawberry milk for the girls lunches.  I found one shelf of canned food plus the almost empty box of Bisquick.  That is all that's in their pantry.  No flour, honey, cornmeal, or anything of the sort.  The refrigerator is filled with milk, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, and five eggs.  They don't have any bottled water.  They don't have a water heater as they have a hot water on demand system.   I saw an emergency switch to turn off the heating oil although I don't know where the tank for the heating oil is.  Perhaps it's buried?   
They don't have any clothes stored away.  The 10 year old was telling me that it's almost time to do their summer clothes shopping.  They buy a new wardrobe two or three times a year.  Everything gets given away at the end of the season.  After all, you wouldn't want to have clothes not in fashion, would you? 
When I drove into Brooklyn I was looking around thinking if TSHTF 99% of the people wouldn't survive. I'm worried for my relatives as they are not prepared for anything.  They seem to be under the impression that money can buy whatever they need.  At the moment, money CAN buy whatever they need.  But I think about when TSHTF, not now when they can get whatever they want with a phone call.   I'm going to ask some questions tonight at dinner...I wonder where we are going or what is going to be ordered since it's a weekend and there isn't a nanny today.  What if the food supply is disrupted?  I guess since it wasn't disrupted for them during 9/11 they don't expect anything worse to happen?  What about the hordes of people who live not too far away?  Although they aren't right on the main road they are only a few hundred feet off the main road.  They are just up the hill from the train tracks.  Have they thought about blocking off some of their basement to have a storage area that isn't readily visible?  Can this area be used to hide the family if needed?  Do they have plans to be able to get out of town?  They do own three cars.  I've driven two of their cars into the city, one on Wednesday and a second on Friday.  Neither car had more than 1/3 tank of gas.  I filled them both up.  Neither car has any food, water, blanket, or any other emergency supplies.  But then why should they if the house doesn't?  Yes, we will have an interesting dinner conversation. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Buying dehydrated food may be a good deal after all!

I'm amazed at the numbers that came up for the cost of making your own dehydrated food.   Last night I dried spinach, green beans, peas and carrots, peas, corn, and broccoli. Here are the results:

Starting weight
in oz.
Ending weight in oz.
Volume in cups frozen
Volume in cups dried

Original cost and per oz.
Cost per pound of dehydrated
1 1/2
Green beans
1 1/4
Peas & carrots

If you aren't good at charts I'll explain.  I bought a one pound bag of spinach, green beans, peas & carrots, and peas. I bought a two pound bag of corn and a 1 1/2 pound bag of broccoli. All these items were frozen and I bought the cheapest of each item.  Most were the store's generic variety.  The corn lost the least amount of weight, only about 2/3 of its original weight.  The others lost 75-90% of their frozen weight. 

The amount of space each items takes up was cut down to 1/3 of its original volume except for the spinach.  This went to 1/6 its original space.  If I wanted to compare how many canning jars each would take up the spinach wouldn't have had that much volume.  It probably would have cooked down to two cups rather than the 6 it started with frozen.

What's it mean "cost per pound of dehydrated" in my chart? If you want to buy dried vegetables from the store or on line, this is the price to look for.  Is it cheaper or close to the same price, by the pound, as listed in my chart?  Then buy it in bulk somewhere.  If it's a lot more expensive to buy it in bulk then it's cheaper to make it from frozen. 

As a space saver it's definitely worth drying rather than canning.  If you grow your own vegetables then you are way ahead of the game.  What if you have to buy them or what if your time constraints are such that you want to purchase them in bulk?  That's where this project can make a difference to determine if you want to take the time to dry frozen vegetables or if you just want to purchase #10 cans from one of the many sellers.

Let's just say you can get your frozen vegetables for about the same price I got mine.  No sense in quibbling over a dime.  I got on the Walton Feed website to look at their prices  They have food available already packed in buckets but they also have it bagged and boxed, like the product the grocery store receives before putting it into the bulk bins.  I was shocked at the prices.  In most instances it's cheaper to buy it in bulk and repackage it at home than to dry it using frozen food!  Buying it at Walton's means buying in bulk.  You have to buy between 5 and 25 pounds-however they have it packaged.  I have no idea what the shipping charges are and this may turn it around and make home dried cheaper.  Of course, growing your own and drying it is not in this comparison but it's much cheaper since we don't charge for our labor or water.

Walton Feed
per pound
Home price per pound
Green beans
Peas & carrots
4.00 –just carrots

All these numbers are just food for thought.  The spinach, green beans, and broccoli are good prices from Waltons.  For me, it may be worth buying the bulk spinach.  The broccoli and green beans will come from my garden.  The peas and corn look to be a good deal buying frozen and drying.  It's nice to have the dried vegetables available rather than them taking up a lot of freezer space.  Having them dried is also good when you won't be using an entire jar. 

This may be my last post for the next week and a half, until we return from New York.  I may get a chance to post while I'm there, but can't promise.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Drying food

Most of the time when I think of preserving food I think about canning, both hot water bath and pressure canning.  I have a freezer which I also use.  I own a food dehydrator.  It's an Excalibur, which I purchased new 33 years ago!  It was really expensive, about $100! They now sell for about $300.  I certainly recommend Excalibur as reliable.  Mine is used every month during the winter and almost continuously during the summer.  For 33 years!

I have not been very creative when it comes to dehydrating.  I dry surplus fruits and vegetables.  I make lots of fruit roll-ups of all kinds of combinations.  I've even used it to make yogurt.  What I haven't done, which I should is spend more time drying things that I would otherwise put into the freezer or pressure canner.  Things like soup, chili, or beans.  I dry fruit roll-ups so why not spaghetti sauce?  It's the same consistency and sure would take up a lot less space.  Even meat leftovers can be dried.  And, why wait for leftovers?  If you get a good deal on hamburger then cook it up into crumbles and then dry it.  It's not the same as freeze dried, which is so expensive, but it will work just fine in soup, chili, or whatever recipe you'd use hamburger in. 

Have you ever thought about Minute Rice?  You can make your own buy cooking a huge pot of rice the next time you make it for dinner.  Then take the left over rice and put it into the dehydrator.  It quickly dries out and the next time you need rice you can cook it up in an instant.  Just boil water, put in your rice and in about five minutes you have rice.  You can also throw it into a quick soup that you are making. 

Today I stopped by Winco to pick up some gamma lids for my big buckets.  They were out!  I've never seen them completely out of gamma lids.  It's no wonder, since their price is very reasonable.  Winco has a large section of bulk food in bins.  One of the things they have is dried refried beans.  That got me to thinking about some of the things they sell in bulk.  What's the difference in price if I buy it fresh or frozen and then dry it, as compared to just buying it dried in the bulk section?

I picked up 1/4 pound of dried refried beans - cost $1.00.  Theirs are made of black beans; I use pinto beans. I am going to take a can of refried beans out of my home store and dry them - cost $1.00.  I'm going to compare the two finished products to see how much more cost efficient it is to dry the canned beans rather than buy the already dehydrated beans.  There is the small amount of electricity costs but I'm not going to include that in this comparison.  I'm going to make up a batch of pinto beans and then refry them and then dry them.    Obviously the dried beans, even at a dollar a pound will be the cheapest way to go.  Having 100 pounds of dried beans is really comforting, but a lot of propane will be going into cooking those beans.  Since we are in the "good" times right now and it isn't difficult to cook up a big pot of beans, I'm thinking that having a stash of cooked and dried is something I should keep on hand, in addition to my sacks of dried beans. 

I'm also experimenting with drying some store bought vegetables.  Normally I dry the extra fruits and vegetables I grow.  Our latest project was drying lemons.  They turned out great.  It's easy to put one of the lemon slices into a cup of tea or a glass of water.  Today I bought some frozen vegetables that were pretty inexpensive for frozen vegetables, I think, since I rarely buy vegetables!  They all cost between 5 and 6 cents per ounce or 80 to 95 cents a pound.  Now that's expensive compared to fresh, but I'm going for convenience here. I bought a package of corn, peas, green beans, broccoli bits, leaf spinach, and a pea/carrot mix.  I want to see how much they weigh once they are dried. 

The store had a "vegetable soup" mix that was carrots, onions, and a few other dried vegetables.  That cost $6.00 a pound.  I didn't buy any!  It's cheaper buying it in bulk and packing it yourself rather than buying it in #10 cans.  So I guess this experiment is to determine if it's cheaper to buy it frozen and dry it myself or buy it in bulk.  Using homegrown, of course, will always be the cheapest but there are many people who due to where they live can't have a large garden.  Having a dehydrator may be the way for them to go.

I was looking through my Excalibur operating instructions, yes I still have them from 33 years ago.  One of their suggestions was to take a can of Chunky soup, and pour the whole can out onto the dehydrator tray that is covered with plastic wrap.  When it's done just roll it up in the plastic wrap.  Then when you want some soup just peel it off the plastic, put the soup in your bowl and add boiling water.  Let it sit a bit then eat.

Drying is much cheaper than canning.  You have to keep buying new lids, unless you use Tattler lids which are out of my price range.  There aren't any expenses once you have the dehydrator, and if you live in an area that isn't too humid you don't even need a dehydrator, you can dry outside, but it's not feasible year round outside.  You only need to cook up the amount that you actually need.  No waste, no leftovers.  Compare that to opening up a quart jar when you only need a cup! 

Dried foods take up a lot less space than canned goods.  You can put 10 bell peppers into an pint jar, which is about the size of a container that would hold two fresh bell peppers.  Same goes with tomatoes.  How many fresh tomatoes can you put into a pint jar?  Maybe two or three?  How about 10 if you dry them! 

Dried foods will be darker in color than fresh, especially if you don't process them with citric acid or sulphur.  I may put the peaches into a lemon juice bath to keep the color.  Dried foods are sweeter.  The sugars seem to concentrate when they dry.  I think that a lot of foods taste better dry than fresh.  I know the kids loved the pineapple that I dried the other day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

If you can't repair it, maybe you shouldn't own it

What do you think about my title?  It sounds really good although I'm not too sure how practical it really is.  I suppose if TSHTF then you better know how to repair whatever you are considering essential items. 

This weekend I need to make sure all the laundry is done so we can pack for our 10 day trip.  I also need to make sure everything is well watered.  Sure people have told me that they'll come over and water and collect the eggs but I will not rely on people to do that.  Why?  Six years ago I went on a three week trip to Antarctica and other places along the way.  It was the middle of winter here so I didn't have to worry about watering the garden.  I also didn't have the dogs at that time; just two cats.  I asked two different people to come by a couple of times to give the cats fresh food and water and maybe if they would, clean out the cat box.  I left enough food and water for the two cats for the three weeks but wanted them to at least have their water refreshed.  Sure enough one of the people didn't come at all because he knew the other person was coming and that other person happened to break up with her boyfriend the day after I left and never came over.  Two days before I arrived home Army daughter stopped by.  She was being transferred from Washington to Texas and used the house as an overnight stop.  She gave the cats water and changed the cat box.  This was 2 1/2 weeks into my 3 week trip.  Since that time I always assume that the person or people who agree to take care of things aren't going to show up.  Boy, did I digress!

OK a little more digressing from what I planned on writing about.  I started my seeds for the garden last weekend.  That wasn't good timing since we are going out of town.  Of course, I didn't know when we were leaving when I planted them so the thought didn't really occur to me that I may be leaving my plants to fend for themselves before they got put into the ground.  I have my shelving that I used last year for my little greenhouse.  It worked ok but I wasn't totally satisfied with it.  Today I laid it down on the ground and put the plants in it, at least they are also on the ground in between each of the shelves.  I covered the entire shelving unit with two layers of plastic drop cloth (free from Lowe's - when you walk out the door they have a huge roll of plastic and also twine).  I tucked the drop cloth under the top and bottom of the shelving unit.  It's now a good hothouse for the plants and they have about six to eight inches of head space to grow before they reach the top of the plastic.  Everything is well watered and I also have a couple of containers of water tucked in between the plants.  We will see how well it works this weekend since we aren't leaving until Monday.  I'm hoping that it will hold enough water that it the potting soil won't dry out and the plants will stay wet enough for the week and a half.  If not, there's plenty of time to replant.

Finally, I'll get back to what I intended to write about.  What does doing laundry and watering have to do with being able to repair things?  I'd like to keep track of what I use this weekend.  Refrigerator, coffee maker, washer, maybe even drier although the weather should be good and the clothes will probably be on the clothesline, truck, table, chairs, broom, hair brush, tooth brush, clothes, shovel, rake.  You get the idea.  Everything that I use. 

I can repair clothes.  That's easy.  When I was a young adult I got the bright idea to make clothes sewing completely by hand, not using the sewing machine for any of it.  Little did I know that was a good skill to learn!  What if my toothbrush snaps in half.  Yes, I've really broken a toothbrush while brushing!  Do I have backup?  How many do I have?  How long will my back up last?  For me, the two grand kids and how many other people?  What about the dining room chair.  If it breaks can I fix it?  Do I have wood glue?  What if the wood glue bottle gets nibbled on by mice and the glue spills out?  Then how do I fix the chair?  What about the refrigerator?  Or the washer?  Do I know how to fix these things (let alone having the parts to fix them)?  Do I have a backup if that item is no longer usable?  What do I have to replace it? 

I can fix almost anything that isn't motorized.  I have no clue about motors.  Or engines.  I can fix pipes, furniture, almost anything.  How about you?