Monday, April 30, 2012

Information Is Not Knowledge

I love the name of tonight’s title.  It is a quote from Albert Einstein.  Another saying, "the gate is not the house," has the same meaning.  Just because you have a lot of information doesn't mean that you understand it or can apply it.  You don't automatically become expert.  That takes training. 
It is pounded in us to practice.  I’ve been told over and over that you are more dangerous with a concealed weapon in your pocket if you never take it out to practice than if you didn’t have it there at all.  You don’t always have to physically practice.  Mental practice works too.  You can go over something in your head, practicing over and over until your brain makes it rote.  Then you can physically practice.  I had to do this when I first started carrying a weapon full time.  When I’d go to the range to practice shooting I’d shoot then keep my finger resting on the trigger.  I spent lots of time going over the shots in my head; each time removing my finger from the trigger and placing it on the guard.  Then I practiced with the weapon.  So much easier because I trained my brain. 

Information will lead you down the path to knowledge.  Once I learned the information, practicing the skill turned it into knowledge.  Recalling the knowledge should automatically or at least rather quickly happen mentally and physically.  It becomes a normal and natural response to whatever circumstance you find yourself in.  Can you perform even when you are distracted?  This comes from experience.  I don’t always succeed although I don’t often outright fail.

We practice everything in our lives.  I can cook, clean, do my job, raise a family, grow things, build things, drive a tractor, and so much more.  I’m pretty knowledgeable.  This is what one wants to strive for in order to succeed in this world.  And when TSHTF the more knowledge, not just information, the better off we will be. 

Your strategy is in your preplanning.  We read these blogs to gather up loads of information.  Are you doing something with what you are learning or are you just storing it aside for a SHTF day?  That’s why I started writing this blog.  I wanted to chronicle some of the things that I’m doing to prepare myself and my family.  Every couple months I reread some of what I wrote.  We’ve sure come a long way over the past couple of years.  It’s gone from wanting to do things to becoming knowledgeable. 

You need to prepare with multiple strategies but remember that someone will always come up with something that you never thought of or prepared for.  “Why didn’t I think of that?”  While you need to practice so you can operate smoothly, and predicting what someone else will do may make your job go smoother, make sure you don’t get caught in a panic because they changed the rules.  One thing we need to caution ourselves on is to not spend too much time predicting what the other person will do.  Now this isn’t to say that anticipating their next move is bad but you need to make sure that you don’t rely on your prediction.  What if you are wrong?  What if they always go from the road and follow the path?  Will you always be focused on the path?  Will you be confused if they do what you don’t expect?  If so, this will lead to hesitation and you will fail. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Selling off the unnecessary

Yesterday I spent much of my day working in the garage.  I have a lot of shelves in the garage - about 300 linear feet!  One wall of shelves has been collecting junk lately and I just couldn't stand it any longer.  I sorted through everything and threw a bunch of junk away.  I also put some items into a pile for selling.  I found some stuff that I knew would sell so I put a couple of ads on Craigslist.  When I sell something this way I never give my name, address, or phone number.  I conduct all business by email and then we meet at a public place.  Whichever public place I decide I make sure it has video monitoring cameras throughout.   

My kids keep dropping stuff off here for me to store.  Sure the garage is huge and I have two barns and a shed but I don't need to keep junk.  For example, son had brought over some boy clothes.  Most of it was garbage but he insisted on keeping it for their next one.  Well, their next one came along...boy, even.  But did they want any of their stored stuff?  No.  They wanted new clothes and things.  If you aren't going to use it why do you have it?  I understand sentimental value so go ahead and pick an item or two but three bags of stained, ripped clothes?  25 bibs when the only time I've seen your kids in bibs is at my house.  I use one of our bibs.  I don't need your 25. I have six. 

It's not that we don't have a lot here.  I have a bin for each size of clothes from infant through teen, when they grow into adult clothing.  But if their parents don't want to use what I have, then once the youngest grows past that size, even I will cut way back.  A child doesn't need much more than a few pairs of pants and t-shirts, especially if TSHTF.  Cute clothes aren't on the top of the must have list.

I have several ice chests.  One has a lid that got warped and doesn't close all the way.  I'm trying to figure out if I still want to keep the ice chest.  Probably.  When I clean out the freezer I put frozen food into it.  Even with the bad lid the food stayed frozen until I was done with the cleaning.  So for that reason I suppose it's worth keeping it.  I do have a couple of new ice chests.  They are fantastic.  They claim that they'll keep ice frozen in the ice chest for five days when it's 90 outside.  When we were travelling a couple weeks ago it wasn't 90 but it was in the 70s.  I put a weeks worth of frozen food into an insulated food bag and put that into the ice chest.  Then I filled the area surrounding the bag with ice.  Not only did the ice stay frozen but the food did too. For six days!  Amazing when comparing that to the older style ice chests.  I saw one today at Walmart for $39.  Definitely worth the price.  If I have enough smaller ice chests I may get rid of the big one anyway.   

Oldest daughter has been buying furniture at yard sales so when oldest grandson moves out next year he will be able to furnish his own apartment.  All this got put into the barn.  OK, but if he doesn't use the furniture is it going to be saved for the next kid, then the next, then the next?  I took the tarp off because mice were chewing pieces of the tarp to use in their nests.    The barn is next but for now, the garage.

Oldest daughter, Army daughter, and son - they've all been warned.  Next weekend is the big clean out my garage weekend.  If they don't participate then I will choose two or three items that I want to keep and the rest will be sold or donated.  If you don't like it then you'd better explain to me why it is needed.  Or better yet, why it is needed at my house.  Next weekend should be fun.  Maybe I'll make some money that can be spent on good preps! 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yip-Yip is earning her keep

I really never liked small dogs.  Growing up we had medium to large dogs.  All my brothers and sisters have had large dogs.  As an adult I didn't get a dog until about 4 years ago when I took in my daughter-in-law's dog.  Big dog is part German Shepard, Rottweiler, and Lab.  She's the perfect blend of watch dog and lap dog.  She ran off the mountain lion.  One look at her and strangers don't come near our property.  She does stay up much of the night barking at the coyotes and other critters.  But sometimes she goes to sleep on the job. 

Army daughter's Maltese had puppies last year.  We were given one, our next door neighbor was given one, oldest daughter got the only boy, and son-in-law's aunt got the fourth.  Our puppy was accidentally killed while boy was playing with her.  I said I wouldn't ever get another small dog.  Then the next door neighbors asked us if we wanted theirs.  It seems they travel even more than I do and their dog was too stupid to get out of the rain.  She got sick and cost them a large vet bill.  I said we'd share dogs.  After all, our big dog spends a lot of her time over at their house.  I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with them feeding her all their left over people food every day!  They agreed that we could share dogs.  They asked if I'd housebreak theirs.  Sure. 

And that led to our second Yip-yip.  She's been ours for about 7 months.  Almost every night she comes in the house and goes straight to her kennel to be locked in for the night.  I cover the kennel with a towel so we don't disturb her while she tries to sleep and we are still awake.  She wakes up right around six each morning.  We let her out of the kennel, she runs outside and spends most of the day outside.  Sometimes she comes in the house to see what we are doing. 

On Thursday night I got home late from traveling, sent out some emails, then went to bed.  My boss sent an email that he was going to call me in the morning.  I sent one back asking that he call after his morning conference calls rather than before.  I was going to sleep in.  After all, oldest daughter still had the grand kids and she was going to bring them to school in the morning.  Sleeping in.   Maybe I could even get Yip-yip to sleep in since I was putting her to bed way after her normal 7:00 bedtime. 

Nothing doing!  Big dog barks a lot during the night.  I can tell that she's barking at coyotes and dogs.  It doesn't wake me, nor does it wake the neighbor.  At 4:30 Yip-yip started barking.  It's too early, go back to sleep!  No, she wouldn't stop.  Big dog was outside barking too.  I thought Yip-yip was going to bust out of her kennel, she was bouncing off the kennel walls.  So I got up and let her out of the kennel.  She went to the back door and wanted out.  I turned on the light and didn't see anything so I opened the door.  She ran out barking and I peeked my head out the door.  Two pit bulls were on my patio.  She started chasing them and big dog came running around the house and started chasing the two pit bulls as well.  Armed with my handgun, I decided to go into my room and get a rifle.  I then went outside to go find the dogs.  I wasn't worried about the big dog but I wasn't sure the pit bulls weren't going to turn around and attack Yip-yip.  I found Yip-yip and the big dog at the next door neighbors.  The two pit bulls were no where in sight.  I gave both dogs a milk bone and went back into the house.  So much for sleeping in.

This evening I was reading and didn't get Yip-yip in at 7:00.  At about 8:30 she started barking on the back patio.  Was she barking at the frogs?  Right now it's frog season.  You can't hardly walk outside at night without stepping on a frog.  It's disgusting but they sure keep the bugs down.  Yip-yip doesn't normally bark at frogs.  What's the problem?  I turned on the patio light to see what she was barking at.  I couldn't tell.  I was hoping it wasn't a skunk!  It's been about a year since the skunk came into the house.  Hurts my nose just thinking about it. 

I went out on the back patio to see what was causing her to have such a fit.  A snake.  It was huge, over three feet long.  In the 15 years of living in this house, up until this year I had only seen three snakes.  This spring we've seen about seven or eight in the back yard and barn.  It's a banner year for mice so I'm hoping the snakes eat them all.  This snake was a King snake.  It's black and yellow striped.  The snake was shaking the end of its tail pretending to be a rattlesnake.  It was really funny.  I picked up a still barking Yip-yip and together we watched the snake slither its way off the patio and into a hole next to the house.  Around here snake identification is easy.  The only bad snake is the rattle snake and California has six different kinds.  They have a triangular shaped head. Good snakes have a head that is in the shape of the end of your finger.   

Yip-yip is doing just what small dogs do.  They bark when something isn't right and they don't stop barking until the situation has ended.  Good dog.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ducklings and the incubator

We had two ducklings hatch.  Another two tried but didn't make it.  Before I left on my trip I dunked each egg in warm water.  According to one set of directions I had this will help soften the shell so it will be easier for the ducklings to get out.  I guess it helped with the two who had their little bills cracking the shells when I left.  They were the only two that hatched.  My neighbor came over and took them out of the incubator and put them into the 150 gallon stock tank that I had already set up.  Two little ducklings look very out of place in that large tank!  Today I'm going to throw the rest of the eggs away.  Next time I try setting duck eggs I will pay more attention to the humidity, especially when it's time to hatch.

The two ducklings do not look anything alike.  Their mother is a mallard and their father could be either a mallard or a pekin since we have two males.  One of the ducklings looks polka-dotted of yellow and black, which is what a mallard duckling looks like.  The other is all yellow, which is what pekin ducklings look like.  I wonder if the pekin duckling will stand more upright, like pekins do? 

This evening we are going to set the incubator up again, this time for chickens.  The incubator can hold 40 eggs and that's how many we are going to try to hatch.  Don't know how well we will succeed this time but my calendar is clear at the moment and I should be home during hatching time.  Chicks hatch in 21 days...supposedly.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Duckling Killer?

The other day I was complaining because the ducks hadn't hatched.  Yesterday, two days after they were supposed to hatch I unplugged the incubator.  I left the eggs there since I was too dejected by having none of the 20 eggs hatch.  Today I picked up a couple to try to candle them again.  They still looked like there was something in there.  So I'm ticked off.  What did I do wrong?  How could none of the 20 hatch?  Was the temperature wrong?  Was the humidity wrong?  Do they just not like me?  I don't have any idea. 

I put the eggs back into the incubator.  I'll throw them out later.  I walked by a little while later and noticed that three had little cracks in them.  One has something sticking out.  Are they now starting to hatch because they know I'm ready to throw them away?  So I may not have killed them and then I was about to kill them?  Hatching eggs is confusing.

Of course I have to leave home this evening and not return until Thursday evening.  I guess the good thing to remember is that when ducklings are sent in the mail they will go for a day or two before arriving, which means they haven't eaten or drunk anything.  So, perhaps they will hatch and perhaps they will be alive when I return home. 

The New Job?

I'm applying for a new job.  I don't really know why other than I am being urged by my brain to do so.  (test from God?)  The job is in Utah.  It's cold there and I don't like cold.  It's away from my mother, brothers and sisters, children, and grandchildren.  I like hanging around my family.  I love where I live: the already established year round garden, well producing fruit trees of every type imaginable, the weather.  It doesn't pay any more than I make now.  It will lower my retirement income.  Nothing sounds like I should even put in the application, does it? 

I never look at job boards since I like my job.  My job has been super stressful lately, mainly because other people have screwed up and I'm the fall guy.  I can take that since it sort of makes the job a challenge (how can I keep this mess out of the public eye and still do the right thing?), yes a definite challenge.  Digressing a little, I was thinking about the absolute stealing of public funds when GSA took those "planning" trips to Las Vegas for a few hour presentation.  Total theft of public funds.  Sometimes I have to take trips to plan for things (totally different situations) and it may take a week or two of planning to work on a four hour in the field lecture.  Different scenario, completely necessary and defensible, still looks bad to the public who doesn't understand why or how you set up a training class.  Nothing at all like GSA and would be dropped after the bad headlines made lots of advertising dollars.  Some of the job stress is from the human remains we dug up a few weeks ago and some from two of the three that I supervise.

I've never wanted to work for the federal government, why would I want to start now?  Why am I applying for this job?  Not sure other than I guess I'm supposed to go to Utah for an interview?  Maybe I'll meet someone on the way and have a good conversation?  Maybe if I do that then I won't do whatever else I had planned for that day...and maybe if I was in the other place I'd have been in a car wreck?  Maybe I can stop into some food preparedness stores and pick up supplies in person and with cash rather than having to ship things and leave a paper trail?  I just never know why I get pushed to do something that's totally out of the ordinary.  I don't really question it. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Saving silver rather than having a savings account at the bank

I've written about silver before and have said that I do own some.  I don't own gold since it costs too much.  I've heard of a couple of stores who will let you pay with silver coins.  If something costs $10 paper money they'll let you pay .50 in pre-1964 coin.  That comes out to about $11 if you sold the silver.  But, if they charge .50 they could technically only have to charge you tax on .50 if we were still having to deal with governmental tax. 

Silver has gone up and down in price over the last few years.  Today it's right above $30 an ounce. 

There was a conference on Electric Metals last week in Toronto and one of the topics was battery materials.  Where lead was a major component, it has lost favor because of the environmental issues.  It is assumed that a large portion of electronic waste won't be recovered, which means material within the components will just end up dissipating into the earth.  For example, when lead is used as a solder to connect parts in circuit boards that lead doesn't get recycled when IPads or Kindles or phones are thrown out.  We all know that lead is a pollutant so companies are trying to figure out what to use instead. 

Europe has now banned lead solder as well as other hazardous materials in their electronic products.  One of the major solutions is a combination of silver and tin.  These two metals are expected to be in more demand and may also end up in a shortage.  Since 2004 silver has risen from $6 an ounce up to $40 not too long ago and back down to $30 today. 

Demand for silver is expect to rise by over 20% over the next 8 years.  Now there is a lot more silver being mined now than there has been in the not too distant past but it's still expected to reach critical demand in about 6 years.  It's predicted the price of silver may rise as high as $65 an ounce.  Am I advocating rushing out to buy silver now as a great investment?  No.  I am advocating buying silver and keeping that as your emergency savings account rather than keeping the money in the bank.  If you are one who believes the monetary system is deeply flawed and may collapse then silver may be right for you.  Just a thought.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

No ducks and other happenings

Ducks, what are you waiting for?  The ducks are supposed to hatch today.  They haven't yet.  Hopefully when I wake up tomorrow morning we will have some ducklings.  Otherwise, I'm not sure what I did wrong.  I even candled a couple of eggs and all looked fine.  Maybe by morning.

I got a phone call from the local post office this afternoon.  They said that my package arrived at the post office on April 4 and should have gone out to me that day.  Then I was told that 9 packages have been deemed missing that were all at the post office on April 4th.  Either someone walked in the back door and stole them or someone who works there stole them.  The postmaster doesn't know.  He advised me to contact Target to tell them that I never got my package.  I did and Target gave me a refund.  I wonder if Target is going to charge the post office for the loss since the post office has a record of it arriving but never going out for delivery?

My tractor mower deck is working once again. Son-in-law finished up removing the shredded belt and put the new belt on.  I was out with Boy and Girl at their track meet today and missed his visit.  When I talked to him on the phone he said that he didn't know how to put the deck back onto the tractor so he didn't.  Not a problem, it's easy if you know how to do it, which I do.  I mowed the front and back and only stalled the tractor once.  The grass was a foot tall in places.  Boy and Girl get to rake it all up and put it into the chicken coop tomorrow after they finish Sunday School. 

Army daughter and her husband promised to come over tomorrow and help with whatever chores I wanted them to do.  They were going to work for 5 hours so make sure I have a list to keep them busy.  Army daughter called today to cancel.  Since she didn't have anyone to watch their 18 month old they couldn't come over to help out.  After all, it's too hard to do chores and watch the baby.  Whatever...  But, because they were coming I did make up a list of things that need to be done that I've just overlooked.  For example, my garden is fenced with 6"x16' boards.  One of the boards is broken in half and hanging.  More wood is in the barn.  It's just something that I look at and think I'll do another time and then I don't.  Now that it's on the list I'll be more likely to get to it. 

Steve recommended a book called See You in a Hundred Years. I bought the book from ebay for less than $6.00 including shipping. The book is about a couple from New York and their two year old son.  The Wards decide to live for a year as if it's 1900.  They sell everything, including their car, to buy a farm in Virginia. By keeping with this 1900 theme they removed some of the modern conveniences from their farm, including the well pump.   So far the book is worth reading just to learn about there adventure. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fixing the mower and garden planting

A few weeks ago, before the rains came I was mowing the yard with my tractor.  It has a nice 54" mower deck.  Unknown to me there was a large stick in the grass.  I ran over it and it kicked itself up and got tangled in the belt.  That shredded the belt and bits of belt got tangled in all of the pulleys.  It's a mess.  The other day I bought a new belt for it.  The first belt I had lasted 8 years, the second belt - 1 year.  It's now on the third belt. 

Since I've been so busy my son-in-law said he'd come over on Saturday to put the belt back on.  There's a little more to it than that.  After feeling successful now that  I got the trailer put where it belongs, I spent three hours this morning pulling the shredded cordage out of the pulleys.  Seven pulleys had cord wrapped inside.  Five pulleys are cleared and one of the blades now spins freely.  The last two pulleys are attached to the two other blades.  One doesn't have any cord showing but it's not spinning freely.  It spins but I can tell there's still some on the inside binding it up.  The other pulley spins very tight.  You can still see cordage but it's so knotted that I can't get it freed.  After three hours I gave up for the day.  The problem I have is that I have to take off the bolt to then take the pulleys off.  I need to get under the mower deck and block the blades otherwise when I turn the bolt the blade just spins and I'm not loosening up anything.  But that'll either be for me to do tomorrow or son-in-law can do it if I haven't gotten to it yet.  The lawn is pushing a foot in height so this has to be fixed soon. 

If TSHTF and I wasn't using my tractor?  Easy, I'd stake out some of the sheep and they'd eat the grass down.  But for now, I'll mow and give the clippings to the chickens and sheep. 

I'm planting some of my garden plants today.  Some, like the tomatoes and peppers, are just starting to grow.  The weather has been warm then cold then warm then cold.  That's not good for the plants that like warm.  But it's supposed to be pushing hot this weekend so the tomatoes and peppers will take off and may be able to be planted out in the garden in the next week or so.

Tomorrow the ducks are supposed to hatch.  Hope this works well.  I've been gathering chicken eggs to put into the incubator next.  I'd like a bunch of chickens roaming in the front pasture and bug-out renter has asked for some new chicks.  They wanted to know if I was placing an order through one of the hatcheries this year because they wanted some.  No, I'm going to try hatching them myself.  They can have some of those.  The incubator will hold 40 chicken eggs.  If they all hatch there'll be enough for all of us and maybe a few to share. 

Got to get back to work. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Homemade crackers from your stored food? and I didn't really jack-knife the truck and trailer, did I???

Kris over at wrote about making homemade crackers.  I think that's a great idea.  I do have store bought large boxes of crackers in our home storage but they do get stale and not great tasting after about a year or two.  Then they become very expensive chicken food if we don't finish them and rotate new boxes in.  I've made home made crackers before but the two recipes she linked to look really good.  One is for Wheat Thins, the other Cheez-its. and

I was looking at the ingredients and wondered if we'd be able to make these crackers if TSHTF and we had to only use our home storage and what came from the garden.  Let's take the Cheez-its first.  Grated cheddar cheese, unsalted butter, shortening, salt, flour, water.  I have freeze dried grated cheddar and also canned cheddar, butter flavored shortening (I wonder if that would work) otherwise hopefully I'll have goats by that time for real butter, regular shortening, salt, flour - I have white flour and lots of wheat for whole wheat.  I wonder if this would taste good with whole wheat?  And all shortening rather than a mixture of butter and shortening?  Would I want to use my cheddar cheese for making crackers?  Probably because you need good treats every once in a while.

How about Wheat Thins?  Whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, paprika, unsalted butter, water, vanilla.  Again I'd have everything on hand except the butter.  And, the whole wheat can be made on the spot by grinding some of my stored wheat.

One of our family favorites for crackers is a Whole Wheat-Peanut Butter cracker.  Since we are able to grow peanuts, not only do I have many jars of peanut butter in our home store I can grow more to replace what we have if I can't resupply from the store.  The ingredients are 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 cup peanut butter (either creamy or chunky), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup warm water, 2 cups whole wheat flour.  Mix it up, roll it out, score but don't cut thoroughly through until finished baking and cooled, bake on ungreased baking sheet for 7 minutes at 350 then flip and bake for another 5 minutes.  These are simple ingredients that can be made from your home storage.  If you don't want to use peanuts you can use almonds or any other kind of nut butter you want.  I wonder how sunflower seed butter would be in this recipe? 
The basic, basic, basic cracker recipe is so simple and you'd better have the ingredients in your home storage!  2 cups flour (whole wheat, white, or unbleached), 1 1/2 cups water, a little salt if you want.  Kneed the dough until it is firm.  Take a handful and roll it out.  Prick on one side with a fork.  Sprinkle with salt if you want.  Place it on the baking sheet and bake at 500 for 10-15 minutes (just watch it).   
Crackers are a good snack or as part of a meal.  In fact, tonight for dinner we had artichokes from the garden, new potato/broccoli/onion cream soup from powdered milk and garden vegetables, and home made basic plain crackers.

It's a good thing dinner was good because after dinner was disastrous!  I hadn't been able to put the trailer away because Grandson's truck that he's rebuilding was in the way.  He came over today and moved it but apparently not far enough out of my way.  It came time for me to pull the trailer onto the other side of the house and I had a very small area to pull into then try to get the trailer backed up into it's "stall".  The reason the turn around/back up area is small is that if I mess up I run over the well and pressure tank.  That would be bad!  So as I was trying to pull the truck up then back it and turn it and pull it up and back it and turn it, somehow I got it so close to the garden fence that I could no longer pull forward or back up.  I was jack-knifed.  

This is not a good way to end the day.  I unhooked the trailer from my truck so I could at least get the truck away from the fence without scratching it all up.  As I was taking the trailer off the hitch I was thinking to myself this is probably not a good idea.  How will I ever get it back on the hitch?  Then it hit me.  You have a tractor.  Use the bucket to lift the tongue of the trailer and back it up.  I did.  It worked.  Then the tongue fell off the bucket and the whole front end of the trailer came crashing to the ground and dug the tongue into the mud.  The back end of the trailer was way up in the air.  This is not good.  It's a good thing it's getting dark so there are no witnesses to this little fiasco.  I then used the bucket on the tractor to dig out the trailer tongue.  I was able to lift the bucket up enough to shove two boards under the post.  It's now up and in position for my pickup to hook back onto the trailer and back it to where it needs to be.  Tomorrow, when I'm not feeling so incompetent.    

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eating from the garden

This time of year is always delicious because the garden is producing enough to be able to make entire meals out of home grown foods.  We don't have a huge variety of vegetables yet but each week we will have more ready to pick.  This afternoon I picked asparagus, broccoli, and our first two artichokes of the season.  It was a very green meal but when combined with a home grown baked chicken it was very satisfying.  We had strawberries for dessert...not too many though since the plants are still young.

The drink wasn't completely home grown.  Boy decided he was making a "concoction".  He picked lemons and oranges, cut them in half, and squeezed them over a bowl.  He didn't use the juicer; he just squished them in his hands to show us how strong he is getting!  It was wasteful doing it this way but it sure was fun to watch him.  The peels went into the compost bin so it wasn't really wasted.  Once he got a couple cups of juice he had me dip my finger into it for a taste test.  Too much lemon!  Squeeze four more oranges then it should be good.  Once he did that I poured the liquid into a pitcher of cold water and added some sugar.  While I'd rather drink straight orange juice rather than orangeade, having the combination orange/lemonade wasn't too bad.  So, the only thing not produced here on our property was the sugar added to the drink.  Even the water came from the well and in another year instead of sugar I'll be able to replace that with honey. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Bee Hive

When I work out of town I earn $40 for food expenses per day.  Sometimes this doesn't even cover the amount spent if you are in a group and they all want to go to a nice restaurant for dinner.  But last week, when I earned $200 for food, I didn't go out to eat at all.  Since I had the grand kids with me and we brought over the trailer (I saved the state $500 in hotel expenses!), we brought food from home.  As you all know, I don't normally spend $200 in a month for food, let alone in 5 days!  This meant a "jackpot" of $200! 

When I get food money like this I don't buy little things, I try to buy something big that I normally wouldn't buy.  So today I bought something big!  I was in the city and I stopped by Dadant.  They've been in the beekeeping business since 1863!  They have a website  It was easy enough to navigate but I wanted an actual catalogue.  I walked in to their building and said I know nothing about beekeeping but I want to learn and I want to buy what I need.  They sell supplies, not the bees.  They did give me some phone numbers of people and companies who sell bees.  The guy behind the counter pointed out the book First Lessons in Beekeeping by Keith S. Delaplane.  He said it's the best book for beginners.  He told me to read the book then come back and buy something. 

No, I want something in front of me while I'm reading the book.  I've read all about supers, frames, smokers, entrance reducers and everything else.  I want a hive in front of me while I learn about this.  That way I can look and touch and make it completely understandable.  I won't get the bees yet and I understand it may be too late in the season to buy bees.  I may have to wait until next year.  But I want to be ready.  So, I bought their beginner's kit using cash and I still have money to spare!  This kit came with the book he recommended.  It also came with a hive tool (whatever that's for!), an entrance reducer, bee smoker, frames, hat/veil, gloves, foundation, feeder, smoker fuel, cover, inner cover, and bottom board.  Supposedly it's everything I will need to get started, minus the bees of course.  And I have to put it together myself.  The directions look easy and they aren't too far away if I have any problems. 

There's a beekeeping group that gets together monthly.  It sounds interesting but I can't go this month.  I don't know if I'll really be able to go to their meetings at all since they are during the week in the evening.  It's too far from home and at an inconvenient time because the grand kids are too young to stay home by themselves and if I brought them we'd be out too late on a school night.  I'm going to try to figure this out by myself.  If I have any questions I can send them off to where Sarah can guide me from her experiences!  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Trying to pay cash

I've always liked using my credit card because it was a good way to keep track of what I purchased and I always earn some cash back from their reward system.  I'm starting something new.  I'm using cash.  It's harder than you'd think if you are used to not carrying cash.  I always have emergency cash on me to make sure I can get from point A to point B if credit or ATM machines are down.  But to use cash all the time?  It's been almost 35 years since I did that. 

I'm still going to have some automatic payments that I make out of my bank account (rather than writing the check).  These expenses my sister charges so she can still get rewards: the electric bill, gas bill, Internet and cable, house payment, taxes, insurance, etc.  Big companies have this information so trying to pay cash to stay under any radar is silly.  Using the charge is an interesting idea here, as long as you are the type to pay it off each month, otherwise it's a foolish idea.  Whether I start to charge those types of bills or still just have the bank send out the payment (saving me the postage) is still up in the air. 

I'm talking about paying cash at the store or gas station.  Sure it's an inconvenience to carry around cash for everyday expenses but becoming a bit more anonymous is a good idea.  Around here you can still buy ammunition for cash.  They may want to see your ID to make sure you are old enough but they don't always make note of it.  Do you really need your bank or charge card keeping track of purchases made for your preps?  Rather than buying some of these items on line just to get the best deal, perhaps it's a bit wiser to pay a little more to a local store and not have the post office or UPS keeping track of what you get?  Don't think they don't know!

A month ago I ordered some clearance items for Girl from Target.  They shipped it UPS until it got to the local post office and then it was supposed to be delivered to my house.  It never arrived.  Target was able to look up the list of items and tell me exactly, to the minute, of when the UPS driver picked it up and what the driver's name was.  UPS could show me where the package was each day for three days.  Then it came to the post office at the nearby city.  They are now looking into what happened between their post office and our local post office.  This package will be able to be tracked down.  Don't think you can order anything on line anonymously. 

My Costco membership is a joint membership with a friend of mine who lives out of state.  We share paying the Costco and Sam's Club memberships (like getting two for the price of one!).  I bought something for Army daughter last March...a year ago...and my friend, who has the first line on the membership, was notified that one of the items was being recalled.  They were able to look up on their computer something that I purchased a year ago and send out an email to notify us of this recall.  This isn't something that you have to send in a registration card.  They keep track of every purchase.  I don't know for how long, perhaps forever? 

Most of the grocery stores around here have their club cards.  You have your number and using this will get you the discount prices.  How do you keep that anonymous if you want the discounts?  It's really easy but people don't know they can do it.  First off, they will give you the little discount card.  You can fill in the info and turn it in or you don't have to fill in the info.  Your choice.  My friend makes up a name and phone number.  As long as he remembers the phone number he can punch that in rather than having to carry around the card.  He picked an Alaska area code 907 and the seven digit number was his birthday 2301969 (Feb 30, 1969 -you didn't really think I'd give away my friend's real birthday, did you?).  He always uses the same phone number.  He always pays cash.  If you use a check or charge the store can and does keep track of your purchases. 

I vary my stores now, and I will continue to do so while paying cash.  For example, there are four feed stores I can shop at with decent prices.  If I rotate those stores I can really stock up (recleaned wheat) without anyone questioning my purchases.  Same with the grocery stores.  When my kids were young I'd shop once a month (as compared to my several times a year now).  I'd fill up three or four shopping carts.  That sure kept them remembering me, even though I didn't come in often.  Shopping in the larger city rather than in the local town is also a good idea.  I'll give it a try and see how it works out.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Getting ready for ducklings

Yesterday I wrote about having two weeks until the ducks are due to hatch.  I needed to get the extra water trough cleaned up and ready and I had this weekend and next.  Wrong.  Somehow I didn't realize that this Wednesday I'm supposed to turn off the heat and the ducklings should hatch next Saturday!  Seven more days!  Fortunately I realized that this morning when I was trying to prioritize what needed to be done this weekend and next.  You see, today we had time for some chores and tomorrow we won't get any done.  I'm supposed to go to Southern California for the day tomorrow.  We leave around 6 in the morning and will return around 7 in the evening.  By next weekend it will be too late as the ducklings will be here.

It was still kind of drizzly today and I had to clean things in the trailer, do the weeks worth of laundry, and the regular chores.  Other than the water trough I didn't have time for a bunch of extra chores.  We went out to the side of the barn where the water trough was and dumped out the rain water, turned the thing over and hit the bottom a few times to try to get some of the mud to come out, then dragged it up to the lawn.  The grand kids washed it out, getting out the mud and muck.  They did a fairly good job.  They then dragged it up to the house.  I put it on a four-wheeled furniture dolly and wheeled it into the garage. 

We gathered two heat lamps and strung them across the trough.  I put two bulbs in and turned the lights on.  We took what was left of our bag of pine shavings and spread that on the bottom of the trough.  I then got a wool blanket and laid it across the top of the trough to help conserve the heat.  I put in a thermometer to figure out the temperature.  I don't know much about ducklings but the first week for chicks the temperature should be around 95.  Each week you lower the temperature by 5 degrees.  I assume it's the same for the ducks.  I'm glad I tested the lights because the bulbs that I had in there, at the height they are at only heated the floor of the trough to 80.  I'm going to need to use a higher watt bulb or put the lamps closer to the floor.  I have to make sure the lamps are high enough for the ducklings to not reach them, so that probably means higher watt bulbs rather than closer to the ground. 

You have to have everything ready when they hatch.  They have to be kept warm and out of drafts.  They have to have food and water available at all times.  This trough it high enough that Yip-yip can't see in so she won't spend her time barking at the ducklings.  I candled three eggs yesterday.  I took a box and cut a hole on the top for the egg to be set on and a hole in the bottom of the box to shine a flashlight into the box.  The light shines up through the egg and in a darkened room you can see shadows in the egg.  The three I candled looked like they had a duckling in them.  Of course I don't know what I'm supposed to be looking so I pulled a chicken egg out of the refrigerator and candled that too.  It looked completely different so hopefully all is going well with the eggs. 

I have chick started on hand.  I have to find out if that can be used on the ducks or if I need something different.  I have waterers for baby chicks but with the ducks bills I don't know if they will work or if I need to just have bowls of water.  I also need to get more pine shavings for the bottom of the trough even though for the first few days you put newspaper on top of the shavings.  Or at least you do for chicks.  One more week!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Trying to catch up

After being away from home for most of the past month I only have three scheduled days out of town for the next month.  I'm already making lists of all the things I need to take care of around here. 

My main project will be the garden.  I have most of my vegetables in the 4 inch pots.  Some are getting really big and almost ready to transplant, others are just getting started.  A couple weeks ago (I think since I've lost track of time because of all my travels) we had a freeze that killed some of my seedlings.  It also killed some of the new growth on my year old grapevines.  The grapevines are coming back but some of the veggies will need to be replanted. 

I want to get out to the back pasture where I planted the wheat to see if any is coming up.  With the rain we've had over the past month I'm expecting to have inch or two wheat grass.  If not, perhaps I'll throw out more wheat seed. 

The front pasture is growing tall but I don't know how much of the new oats are growing or if it's just the mixture of grasses that come up each year.  It usually gets about three feet tall before it starts to dry out.  Once it starts to dry I usually put the sheep on it to eat.  If I have oat heads growing then I will not put the sheep on as early.  I'll want the oats to produce the grain.  I'd like to harvest some and let some fall to the ground to reseed itself for next year. 

With all the rain we've received lately, 2 1/2 inches this week, I don't have to worry about the trees or plants needing water! 

The trailer has three air vents on its roof.  Two blew off on one of our trips a few years ago and instead of replacing them I've just rigged it with plastic.  This has worked just fine until last night.  The plastic blew off yesterday on our trip home.  When we got home I was so tired I didn't check anything.  We just went in the house and went to bed. 

This morning I went into the trailer and saw that water had leaked into the trailer.  I got some buckets and towels and laid them throughout the trailer but I didn't have time to put a tarp or plastic on the top of the trailer.  In the seven hours I was gone today another 1 1/4 inches of rain fell.  My first task was to clean up the trailer.  It had a full layer of water on the floor and the table.  Fortunately, the sofa and bench cushions at the table didn't get soaked.  I dried everything up and then put a large tarp over the top of the trailer.  Now I have the lids to the vents and the hitch pin to buy.  It's going to be the first thing I purchase next month. 

The duck eggs are supposed to hatch in two weeks.  I have an extra water trough that I'm going to put them in once they hatch.  I need to get this done either this weekend or next since it has to be ready prior to them escaping from their shells.

So much to do.  I'm so happy to be home.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Driving a Backhoe

Today was a better day than yesterday.  We still had the same problems to deal with but all the extra workers left and only the three who work for me stayed at the job site with me and the grand kids.  We got a lot accomplished.  My brain was on overload and my crew was joking about how I get paid the big bucks so that's why I get to deal with the headaches.  Great.  So, I decided that "big bucks" needed a break.  While they were all hard at work, and the grand kids were pitching in too, I walked over to the backhoe and hopped in. 

It didn't look a whole lot different than my little tractor other than it was a big John Deere and mine's a little John Deere.  It had the front bucket like mine but in the back had the stabilizer feet and the backhoe.  Instead of two pedals for forward and back like mine it had a shifter for forward and back.  Looks like fun.  I turned the key, pressed the start button, and away I went.  (Have I mentioned lately that I love the fact that I have the opportunity to do this where I work?) I decided to grade the driveway at the job site.  I also pushed some soil around.  It was really easy and not really any different than my little tractor other than having to readjust to the different size of the equipment.  I had a great time but more than that, I operated the backhoe!  I may not be up to professional work on the backhoe but it's still another skill I can add to my list. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ever have a good day just fall apart?

This week I'm out on a project and I'm lucky that I've had any Internet access to post anything.  My week started off great.  Our project started off well.  In my midst are all three people who work for me plus seven others.  I am the state's representative so the final say comes from me on any decisions that need to be made.  At least until I call up to Sacramento and fill them in on our adventure. 

Early this morning I had to run over to a military post to teach for about an hour and a half.  It was an hour and a half drive each way.  I wasn't going to get back to my project until right after lunch.  I left one of my staff in charge.  The class I taught was very productive.  I think everyone learned least nobody was sleeping or playing on their cell phones when I was talking. 

When I returned to my project I found my staff all working together and the rest of the people running amok, backhoe operator included.  My group said that the others didn't want to listen to them so they decided to ignore them and let me deal with it when I returned.  What a mess they made but it was a blessing in disguise so I suppose I'm not too upset.  You see, their back hoeing dug up burials.  This wasn't discovered until I arrived back on the project.  About 10 minutes after getting back one of the others brought me a bag with bones.  I opened the bag and shut the bag.  Not good. 

I called Sacramento to tell them.  What I got in return was unbelievable.  They wanted me to keep on working.  Not to try to cover this up but to dig it up so we could see it better.  They were just curious.  We can't do that, don't you know what state law says?  Oh yes, you are state law.  So I called a group meeting and gave the group our options.  We aren't required to formally report this until tomorrow, we have 24 hours.  We can do A, B, or C.  HQ wants A.  Immediately our group started quoting laws telling me why we couldn't do A or B.  OK then, just wanted to make sure everyone was on board with it because I'm going to tell the big-wigs to take a hike.  If they want to come here and take over then so be it, but as long as I'm in charge I'm going to follow the law when we dig up dead people. 

I even had one person in Sacramento explain why we should do A.  After all, we can't be sure the bones are human.  What do you mean we can't be sure?  Do you know how many experts I have here?  Even though I'm the boss, I'm the least expert and I know a head sticking out of a trench.  Sure I've seen several heads sticking out of trenches, and rolling down hills, and other unpleasant ways to find body parts but this is obvious.  I bet the grand kids would know it's a human head if I called them over to look.  Fortunately they are too busy playing in the dirt piles. 

So what's the bright side?  I just saved the state about half a million dollars by finding this now rather than in the middle of their project.  They aren't looking at it like that yet.  Perhaps next week they will calm down a bit.  After all, they aren't used to me refusing to do what they want. 

OK, so not too much to write about prepping.  Life in our 21 foot travel trailer is working out fine during my week in the field.  I discovered the kids took their sweatshirts out of their clothes bin in the trailer because they wanted to wear them at home.  This means no sweatshirts to wear during the day and it's been a little chilly, especially today.  Too bad for them, they can get a little cold.  (Don't worry, I won't let them get sick) It will be a good lesson for them that they need to keep their preparedness things together and not to borrow from them. 

The grand kids saw a huge rope ladder today and wanted to make one for themselves.  I gave them a roll of a knockoff paracord and showed them how to make the knots and put together a climbing ladder.  They spent a good deal of the afternoon working on it.  Tomorrow morning I'll help them with it then we'll throw it over one of the trees here on the project.  They can spend their day up a tree.  Perhaps I'll join them!  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Solar Garden Lights

Just a short post today.  One really great light source that is cheap to buy are those small solar lights that you use along walkways.  At the end of the season they cost about $2.00 each, and during spring and summer they can still be picked up almost anywhere for under $5.00 a piece.  I have five in my trailer in the cabinet.  I keep them in their original carton that I bought when I bought the dozen (most were placed in my garden).  They stand straight up which means there's less chance of them getting knocked around and breaking any of the cheap pieces. 

I put three outside this morning and they soaked up the sun all day.  This evening I brought them in and they are providing enough light for me to do my work.  They only light up my end of the trailer.  The grand kids are still in the dark.  I don't have a lot of reading to do, if I did I think I'd need about five of these rather than three.  Still, it's a great idea to provide lighting at a very cheap cost. 

It's a good idea to have these on hand at home too.  If the lights go out you can you these at night instead of the nightlights that you may use now. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Bug-Out Practice

Yesterday afternoon I had to leave for an out of town assignment that started today and ends Thursday evening.  This assignment is interesting enough that I decided to pull the grandkids out of school to tag along with me.  Instead of making the hour drive from the project to the "local" hotel, I decided to make this a practice bug-out with the trailer. 

Justifying using the work vehicle to pull my personal trailer took some clever verbiage, but I got the ok...sort of...well, they didn't say no...  Anyway, other than packing the needed supplies for this project, which I wouldn't normally include in my truck or trailer, I didn't pack or load anything into the truck or trailer: no extra clothes, we just used what was stored in the trailer and in my work truck.  When I stopped at my office I filled the two ice chests up with ice.  With my job I have access to big ice machines, so if there is some sort of emergency I can expect to fill at least one ice chest.  I did pack food although the trailer has a good supply of food in it and my work truck has several cases of MREs.  Because we aren't going to be home until after dinner on Thursday I emptied out the refrigerator of meat and vegetable leftovers from our big family gatherings over the weekend.  We also picked two buckets of oranges and I gathered the eggs and brought them along.  From the time I started "packing" the trailer until the time we were ready to go was less than 30 minutes.  Except the trailer hitch.

Army daughter borrowed my family truck because they were doing some yard work and needed a truck to haul stuff.  Not a problem since I wasn't going to be using that truck.  What I didn't think about was my hitch was in my truck.  I have a heavy duty hitch in the trailer and I usually use that compared to the lighter hitch I keep in my truck.  That shouldn't have been a problem.  Each hitch has a hitch pin...right?  Of course, except I couldn't find the one that is supposed to be stored in my trailer.  This meant I had to wait for Army daughter to come back to my house to bring my hitch pin to me.  That was a really stupid mistake on my part.  Why?  Because after Army daughter used my truck I was lending the truck to Bug-out renters so they could go to their grandson's memorial service.  What if I had leant the truck to them and they had already left town?  It wasn't like I'd be able to rush to the store and buy another hitch pin.  It was Easter Sunday, after all. 

I would have ended up borrowing one from my next door neighbor but that's not the point.  While I was so focused on everything being packed and being able to escape quickly I forgot about having a spare $10 piece of equipment.  Lesson learned.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Too much Prepping Paperwork!

I was wading through a stack of papers at home and I realized I have way too much prepping paperwork.  Since I don't want to rely on a working computer to get information I have printed up a lot of books, reports, and pages from many websites.  Enough already!  I have stacks of papers. 

What I realize is much of what I have I no longer need.  By trying to live the preparedness lifestyle I've become expert or semi-expert at many self sufficiency tasks. 

I don't need paperwork telling me how to build a chicken coop.  I've built four of them in my lifetime including the two I have right now.  I know how to feed the chickens and care for them. 

I don't need paperwork telling me how to wash clothes by hand.  Keeping a copy of laundry formulas is fine with my stash of washing soda, fels naptha soap, etc. but chapters on hand washing?  No, I have a wash board that I know how to use.  I also have a bucket and spare toilet plunger.  I have metal buckets.  I have a washing machine and drier.  Oh and lots of clothesline and clothespins, and I can even throw laundry over the fence or on a chair if all else fails. 

I don't need paperwork telling me how to garden.  Keeping a list of companion plants is fine.  Keeping a chart of what I'm growing so I know when things are supposed to ripen, which also shows me what still needs to be planted is valuable.  But all the downloads of making garden beds, large scale gardening, and container gardening?  No, I'm past that. 

Cooking?  I love cookbooks so even though I'm not downloading lots of recipes, this is going to be a hard one to cut back on.  Still having stacks of paper and not organizing them is not too smart.  Sure, it's a good project for a rainy day but I can think of a ton of other things that need to get done on a rainy day.  This isn't at the top of the list.

Reading blogs?  I enjoy reading them and the enthusiasm that others emit provides a great push to get me off my rear to do more and learn more.  This doesn't mean I have to save entire pages when I can jot down some notes.  Over the past few years I've made great strides in self sufficiency and safety in my life and a lot can be attributed to reading what others have done and then trying to emulate them. 

Instead of downloading entire documents I'm going to do a better job with the organization of what I have.  How about a notebook that has a list of points for each topic rather than needing ten pages to describe it?  I don't need the feel good pep talk, just the facts.  Sort of like this subject today.  You certainly wouldn't download today's blog to remind you to only keep what you don't know! 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Home from my meetings but life isn't back to normal

After spending a week away from home I'm really happy to be sleeping in my own bed.  Not that San Diego sister didn't have a comfortable bed for me, but it wasn't my bed. 

The grand kids had a great time on this trip and so did the dogs.  The dogs decided to escape from sister's back yard.  She lives in an interesting neighborhood because the neighbors all know which dogs belong in the area and since these two didn't someone scooped them up and locked them in their backyard for safe keeping.  Then people kept an eye out for someone looking for the dogs.  As I was walking down the street I asked one person who was out in her yard if she had seen two dogs.  She had and said someone about 1/2 mile away took them home.  She told me where the person lived and then as I left to walk over there she called that person to say I was on my way. 

The grand kids went to the beach, to the base (sister is retired military), the San Diego Mission, and Costco.  They got to ride is sister's jeep.  They were ready to come home at the end of the trip although it was a great way for them to spend part of the spring break. 

I spent most of my time down south sitting in on lectures.  One of the topics I found interesting was a discussion on diet breadth and mobility.  Scientifically this is a study of behavioral responses to seasonality and food risk.  While staying in one place could mean you have the ability to have a greater variety in your diet by capitalizing on all the seasonal resources, you also have the option of decreasing the diet breadth with a narrower range of foods by making use of storage since you are not mobile.  By narrowing the diet and making use of storage it can free your time up to do other things rather than just deal with gathering and preparing food.  It just reminded me of my food storage program.  While I eat a large variety of fresh foods year round my storage program, although a narrower variety, will be able to keep us safely subsisting if TSHTF and grocery stores and regular "shopping" aren't available. 

The other topic I found interesting was on morphometric starch grain analysis.  (Big words meaning using a microscope to examine food remains on anything from tools to teeth)  Next week I'm working on a project out of town.  I'm hoping to be able to incorporate some of the grain analysis into this project.  It's something new for me but I think I can put it to practical use.  If I can learn what historically was grown and used in the area I live in it will be easier to figure out what native grasses and plants can be planted and will thrive without much attention or water.  Sure it's easy to go to the local nursery and get the local native plants but to know what historically grew on my property is interesting, at least to me.

I'm dragging the grand kids along on my project...they will be missing a few days of school.  We will be going to another mission too.  There are over 20 in the state and the kids want me to bring them to all of them.  This will be their 6th so we have lots to go. 

On my way home from San Diego Mrs. Bug-out renter called to tell me that her daughter's baby had arrived after being two weeks late.  Then yesterday Mr. Bug-out renter called to tell me that the baby passed away.  Needless to say, their entire family is in a tailspin.  They were supposed to come over this weekend and stay a few days while they visited with us and took care of some things in town.  Obviously that has been put on hold.  Since they are a religious family I passed along some stories that help a little, at least to slightly take away that questioning of why would God allow this.  There isn't much more that we can do other than pray their sadness will diminish enough for them to function once again.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Out of town

I'm out of town this weekend and probably won't be back posting until Tuesday.  It's an interesting conference and I'll post some of what I learned when I'm back home.