Thursday, May 31, 2012

Root cellars and cool rooms

I like reading other people's blogs because they give me good ideas about what I can do around here.  GI Jim wrote about root cellars and cool rooms the other day on his blog.  This is a great way to keep produce lasting longer.  Before you could find every fruit or vegetable year round at the grocery store most houses had root cellars, corners in the basement, or cool closets for keeping produce and other items.  Since I refuse to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the store other than bananas, pineapple, mangos, and those fruits not able to be grown here, I usually dry, can, or freeze everything to make it so it lasts throughout the year.  What if I could make things last longer than just sitting in the fruit bowl on the counter or in the refrigerator?   

I've used a zeer pot when the refrigerator has been full.  You make this by taking two unglazed clay flower pots, one a size smaller than the other but both pretty big.  Plug up the holes at the bottom.  Put a layer of sand a couple inches thick on the bottom of the big pot then place the smaller pot into the bigger pot.  Put sand in between the two pots.  Pack it well.  Then pour water into the sand so it's saturated.  Put the pot into an area that gets air circulation.  Put your food in, cover with a clay lid (the bottom part that holds the overflow water) or even a thick towel.  The evaporation of the water will cool the air in the pot down enough to use it to store fruits, vegetables, even dairy.

I've thought about making a root cellar but I can't figure out where I'd put it that would be convenient yet out of the way.  The front yard has the septic system and leach lines so the front yard is out even though it's got some good locations.  The backyard has the water lines and that's where the kids play.  I could put it out near the barns but convenience is important.  I think I'd get lazy and go without sometimes rather than making the 200 foot walk out back.  So instead I was really interested in the idea of a cool room.

Apples, peaches, plums, pears, and tomatoes will release ethylene gas when you store them.  It's best not to store these with your vegetables because they will ripen the vegetables much faster than you'd want.  Not only that but some vegetables, such as carrots, will get bitter if they are exposed to the gas.  It may be better to can or dry the fruits and store vegetables in a cool room. 

When I made my home store I designed it to have a vent from the heater/air conditioner in the ceiling. Even if I don't run the air conditioner to cool the house during the summer I can still run it for 10 minutes and that room chills down.  That's great if we have electricity.  What if we don't?  Redesigning this room to make it a cool room would be easy enough.  The most ideal way to do this would be to cut a hole in the cement floor to get the cool air from the ground to enter the room.  While ideal, it's not going to happen!  The next best thing to do is to cut a hole in the outside wall near the ground.  This hole will need to have a good screen on it to keep out the bugs but it will still work to draw cool air into the room.  In the ceiling I'll punch a hole and put a vent pipe through the attic to go outside.  Jim suggested using a non-electric roof fan that would help pull the air out.  I don't know if I'll do that - putting another vent in my tile roof.  I will first try just venting it high into the attic but may end up putting in the fan after all. 

If the room can't cool down because it's too large I can always put up a divider wall and have half of the home store a cool room and half the same temperature as the rest of the house.  It will be a good project for the end of summer. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Schools - grabbing money while taking away your rights

All I hear is that I need to get out of California and move to a more prepper friendly, less government state.  I don't know if there really is one anymore.  I'm thinking that almost anywhere you live, if it's not in a large city, you can be a successful prepper.  I know that folks in the city prep the best they can but they really have to work hard to stay under the radar. 

I've heard great things about Texas.  A family on one of the blogs I follow "escaped" from California to Texas.  They choose Texas because it's wide open and doesn't have too many rules.  I hope after living there for a while they still find that to be true.  Perhaps it's because they are in the country and not in the city?  Another blogger lives in a large city in Texas.  They seem to prep very well in their apartment.  I worry about them if the city closes in on itself and attacks itself.  Will they be safe? 

Texas schools have been in the news this past week with some really incredible stories about infringing on rights and also some stupid decisions by their courts.  The first story was about a 17 year old girl who goes to high school and also works two jobs to help support her sister.  Her parent split up and both moved away!  She is taking advanced placement and college classes.  An honor student, she is obviously keeping up with her schoolwork.  Unfortunately she misses a lot of school.  The Texas judge warned her that she'd better not miss any more or he'd put her in jail.  Why?  Because he needed to make an example of her.  He had to let people know that being a good student and working extremely hard isn't good enough if you don't earn the school district the money it gets from the federal government for having the kids show up to school.  She missed another day and he sent her to jail for an overnight stay and fined her $100!

That's not all the state of Texas is doing to try to get extra money.  They also write tickets for students who get in fights, curse their teachers or are generally “disorderly” on school campuses.  Children as young as the age of 6 have been ticketed.  The fines range from $250-$500.  I liked it better when I was growing up.  If a kid misbehaved they got sent to the principal and if they were really bad they got sent to the vice principal who was in charge of "swats".  Now, if the grandkids misbehave their teacher contacts me and they get "swats" among other things like having to do something nice for the teacher or student that they bothered.

Neither of these top tracking students by implanting chips in their student ID.  Chips in students IDs were proposed in California but was defeated in court.  (I can't always complain about the ACLU) Many Texas school districts are doing this.  They try to sell it to the parents as a way to keep their children safe.  But their real reason for doing so is to be able to locate the kids on campus to be able to count them as in attendance so they can get their daily pay.  They get state and federal money dependent on how many students show up to school.  The Northside Independent School District plans to track students at two school campuses and then eventually include all 112 of its schools and 100,000 students. 

The district spokesperson said they want to "harness the power of technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues."  For now the chip readers will be installed at the schools and on the buses.  This is such a slippery slope.  They will be tracking where kids sit on the bus, at lunch, who they play with, are they getting enough exercise, etc.  At what point are they going to be put in everywhere else that the kids go?  The mall?  The movies?  Who are the kids hanging out with after hours?  Are they getting enough exercise or sitting in front of the tv?  Oh I forgot to mention, only authorized people will have access to the information.  Right.  Get the kids used to it and they'll accept it when they get older.  Are they going into our driver's licenses next?  Credit cards?  Even our bodies?  Wait, that's already been discussed for alzheimer's patients and such.

I just got into it with the grand kids school.  Boy has been absent too many times and I got the official notice stating that he couldn't be absent anymore or I'd have to bring in a doctor's note.  I sent a note back to the principal pointing out the California Education Code which states what is an acceptable absence - just about everything is acceptable if the parent says so.  Nowhere does it say if you have too many you have to get a note from the doctor.  Of all Boy's absences, only one - a week after I received the note - was he out for actually being sick!  I, of course, refused to bring him to the doctor to get a note. 

No matter where you call home, if you have kids the outside world is doing its best to get into your business at home or make money off your family.  You have to stay on top of things whether you are in a good prepper state or not.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No bad news is not necessarily good news

Have you noticed the news lately?  There really hasn't been anything worthwhile that's been reported.  Perhaps it's because our "news" channel using an antenna is France24 or perhaps it's because the media is trying to sway people into thinking all is well?

Yahoo's headlines for today:
Blitzer says that Trump's birther remarks are ridiculous.  Now this is important isn't it?  His mother was a US citizen so where he was born shouldn't matter, unless the rule is you have to have two parents who are US citizens if you are born outside the USA or you have to be born in the USA.  That isn't clear to me although I'm sure someone will tell me.  After all, my nephew was born yesterday in England.  He is an American citizen.  Both his parents are Americans.  They are not pledging his allegiance to England.  He can grow up to be president.  Obama has been in office for four years.  Even if he loses this next election and it comes out that he shouldn't have been in office it's not like we can erase the last four years and have a do over.  (Maybe like the TV show Dallas -- that entire season was just a bad dream, everything gets to go back to the way it was.)

The head person at the National Weather Service retired due to a controversy.  His department was given money and he passed it along to the offices that needed it rather than spend it all in one place.  That was against the rules so he's now out.

Wildfires are burning in at least 3 states.  Welcome to summer.

Google wasn't much better:
Mitt Romney clinched the Republican nomination with his win in Texas.  And we were expecting ??? to overtake him?

Bob Dylan was given the Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  I've been waiting with bated breath.

Blackberry company RIM is not doing well.  This isn't expected?

US, allies expel Syrian diplomats over massacre.  Finally a story that's important news about what is going on in the world. 

But that's all for the news on the two biggest sources of news for most of the country.  I feel so safe and realize that prepping is for naught.  The world and the country are perfectly fine.  Or so I'm supposed to think.

I'm sorry to say that France24 has better headlines:
UN backed action in Syria is an option.

Second earthquake in Italy.  This one killed 16 including a bunch of rescue workers.

Thousands are protesting the elections in Egypt.  The two in the run-off are Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, and Shafiq, who was prime minister under Mubarak.  Protesters set fire Shafiq's headquarters.  The protests are because the youth who participated in the initial protests don't trust either the Muslim Brotherhood or the military.  Were they really expecting things to go well?  Muslim Brotherhood is going to win and Egypt is going to be set back decades. 

State of emergency in Peru after anti-mining protesters two were killed and a hostage was taken.  They are protesting the Tinaya copper mine which is the world's 4th largest copper producing mine.  I'm sure this won't help lower the price of copper or stop the copper thefts we have here in the US.

France has had a rash of suicides over the past couple weeks.  People are purposefully getting hit by trains.  According to the report 16 people per 1000 have the suicide "disease" as compared to the UK and Spain who only have about 7 people per 1000 with this disease.

Unity plans between Tuaregs and Islamists in North Mali collapse.  They now have a new Islamic state.  Just what the world needed...

I suppose I'd rather read the US news.  After reading what's really happening I don't feel as comfortable.  Either I'd better keep my head buried in the sand or I'd better get back to prepping. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Good Memorial Day to you

Today is the day that we give thanks to all those in our military who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom.  I wonder how many of them wouldn't recognize the country that they fought so hard to defend?  Probably most.  I was thinking about those soldiers and realized that I didn't personally know any of our military folks who gave their life for our country.  I've known plenty of  military personnel.  My father, one sister and one brother, Army daughter and son.  Lots of friends kids too.  I suppose I'm fortunate that I've never had to suffer that loss.   
Our family went to a religious service this morning and had a wonderful luncheon there.  We came home and had about 30 minutes to prepare for our bbq dinner that we were hosting.  Fortunately only oldest daughter and her family were coming and they were bringing the meat and a dessert.  The people at the luncheon today had so many leftovers they had us pack up a bunch so the two desserts I made last night were all I needed to supply, along with some sun tea that I put out in the backyard this morning.
Oldest daughter loves chickens and spent most of her time holding each of the eight chicks.  As she was petting each chick she was announcing to that chick how she was going to cook it and what side dishes she was going to eat with it.  It was sort of morbid but rather funny as well.  Good thing the chick didn't know what she was saying!  She didn't have as much luck holding the ducks but she thought she'd be funny and put one of the ducklings in with the chicks.  The duckling wanted to go huddle with the chicks who wanted nothing to do with it.  Oldest daughter took out the duckling and put it back with the other 12.  My plan was to put the ducks out front but with the hawks out front I am rethinking that plan.  There is more shelter in the backyard so they'll probably end up there. 
Girl and other granddaughter picked a couple pints of strawberries.  I'm really pleased with the strawberry plants.  They are producing nice sized strawberries and I haven't killed off too many of the plants.  They get watered when the front lawn gets watered and a few just aren't getting enough water.  I water them by hand but need to figure out how to get the sprinkler to water them better.  The rainbird waters right over them and the water doesn't drop down on top of them.  I'll get it figured out before any more die off. 
The two baby hawks put on a show for the company today.  They flapped their wings and one actually flew across the front lawn. 
After the company left and the grand kids went to bed I had about 30 minutes of daylight left to do some outside chores.  I put up some more fencing and moved the sheep into that area.  I plan on planting my avocado trees in that space so I want the sheep to eat it all down, then I'll rototill, set out the water hoses, and plant my trees.  I have six avocado trees that I've started from seed.  The trees are about a foot tall and once in the ground should just take off.  Their first few winters will make or break them but I've got a plan.  I'm going to put down black plastic on the ground around them and make one long greenhouse to go over the entire row for the winter.  That should keep them warm enough.  Once they get established they can take a minor frost but they must be established first.  Any frost before that will kill the branches back and possibly the entire tree.  I've planted three or four avocados in the 15 years I've been here but none survived.  The last one would have survived except it got knocked over by oldest granddaughter. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to destroy a garden in 30 minutes or less

After toiling for hours, days, and weeks, your garden can be destroyed in so many ways.  Let me list a few:
Drought.  Without rainfall you have to water your garden.  This isn't a problem as long as you have a spout near your garden or hoses that will reach.  If you have more time than anything else you can carry buckets of water from your water source to your plants.  This all works as long as your water source doesn't dry up - whether it be your spring, pond, or well.  Even your city water can burst a pipe and be shut down for several days.  That would be all it takes to destroy your garden if it is the middle of summer and the heat is turned up.  This is usually what kills my garden.  We don't get summer rain so that's not what I depend on to water the garden.  It's turning on the hoses and soaking the garden.  It's not hard to do.  My problem is I usually get called away to work during the summer often for a week or two at a time.  I have a neighbor that will come over to make sure the animals all have water but it's too much to ask for them to water everything.  So at some point each summer the garden dies a quick, hot death.
Hail.  Opposite of drought is the rain coming down in hard little frozen pieces.  Around here we had hail in April.  It destroyed my cherry crop.  In total we got three cups of cherries off of four trees!  If you have wheat or corn drying in your field and you get hail the moisture will ruin the entire crop, and the hail can knock it flat!  Fortuantely this isn't a big threat in our area. 
Insects.  Whether locusts, grasshoppers, moths, or tomato worms, bugs will eat your crop in front of your eyes.  There's been grasshopper swarms that have landed on crops in a big whirlwind and in a few minutes eat everything in site and swarm off to the next crop. 
Rabbits and squirrels.  These two critters will slyly get into your garden and eat your plants and your fruit.  I've walked out into the garden to pick a peach off the tree and come face to face with squirrels in the tree eating them.  I've gone back into the house to get the rifle and come back out to the tree to shoot them.  They are so bold they don't run off when you stand right next to them. Some ways to get rid of them other than shooting them are poisoning, trapping or to repelling them with mothballs. 
Deer.  We don't have deer around here.  They love gardens and people I know who have deer and gardens keep the garden fenced with 8 foot fencing.  Planting a border of chives, onions, garlic and mint are a good deterrent.  Deer don't like those smells and will tend to stay away, especially if there's something else to eat that isn't surrounded by the bad scent.  They love ripe fruit so keep up with your trees.  If the fruit is ripe, pick it!
Ants.  OK they take more than 30 minutes but if the fruit ripens on the trees the ants will get to them before we do!  The ants that we have in the garden are the biting "evil" ants.  They make it difficult to garden because they will swarm on you and bite you.  Putting cornmeal out for them to eat is an easy way to kill them.  So is pouring boiling water on their hills. 
Children.  Children running in your garden with no regards to your rows of plants is another garden killer.  Fortunately for me I don't have grandchildren who do that!  My sister has nieces and nephews who run through her garden knocking over plants.  It gets her so mad because their parents don't seem to care.
The sheep.  Today a big part of my garden was eaten by my sheep.  With all the fencing I've been doing around here, how would they get into my garden and eat all the okra, peanuts, tomatoes, and plum and apple trees? Read the item listed above - children.  Children playing in the barn and leaving gates open.  The sheep just walked out and started enjoying the garden.  I'm not a happy grandparent this afternoon.  Tomorrow morning Girl and Boy will be replanting.  I'd have them do it this evening but I'm too angry.  They get to spend the rest of their day in their rooms instead.  It's a good thing TS hasn't HTF where we must have this crop to survive. 

Friday, May 25, 2012


Yesterday I had the good fortune to be able to spend some time up at GI Jim's store.  He told me about his new blog,  While I was there I picked up my blue paracord.  I wanted that color to be able to make belts and things that were less military or survivalist looking.  He had some pink camo t-shirts.  Perfect for Girl, I think.  I never know with her...sometimes she wants only dresses, other times you'd mistake her for a boy.  Next time I'm up that way I'll have her in tow and she can tell me if she likes the pink camo. 

It's funny because one of the things we brought up were hawks.  I was talking about the two chickens being in the front pasture and wanting to put the ducks into the front with them.  I also want to take many of the chickens in the coop out and let them roam as well.  The front pasture is about 3/4 of an acre in size.  It will hold a lot of foul.  Jim told me to watch out for hawks.  He even gave me a suggestion of tying string across the pasture.  He said that the hawks will see the string and not want to fly through it to get to the foul.  Oh sure, I've seen hawks flying around but have never had any problem with them on the property.  On the other hand, of the four chickens I put in the front pasture there are now only two.  One died.  It's still out there.  One disappeared.  I figured that it ran away but thinking about it, it may have been a hawk or some other predatory bird. 

Now, I don't live in the wilderness area.  I live 10 miles outside a city of 100,000 and 15 miles outside a city of 500,000.  There's open space and farmland around me and a creek about 3/4 mile away that definitely has some wildlife in it.  I've had a mountain lion steal 20 of my sheep.  I've seen foxes come up to the door.  I've seen red-tailed hawks fly around and even an eagle has been observed nearby.  Even with all that I've never really thought about protecting my flock from flying predators.  That is until today.

I'm pretty laid back about some things around here.  On other issues I'm wound up tight.  It all depends on what it is and what my mood for the day or week is.  Really.  Aren't we all sort of like that?  Each year we get swallows building a nest at my front porch.  I have a brick post that sort of decoratively holds up a beam.  This brick post has a hollow spot because the cement doesn't come all the way to the top.  The swallows nest there and make a huge mess on the bricks and also on the front porch.  There are droppings everywhere.  I don't care.  It's cool to have a front row seat watching the baby birds mature. 

As I said, each spring I have had swallows...for the past 15 years.  Except this year.  I looked up there about a week ago and didn't see anything.  There seems to be noise coming from the post but I'm just not seeing any babies and very little droppings are stuck to the bricks.  I was dumbfounded today when I looked out the window and saw a baby hawk up on the post.  Then I saw a second.  I got the camera out and took a picture.  The second hawk was shy and went back into the post.  The first hawk, well, it loves getting its picture taken. 

One of the two baby hawks nesting inside the bricks on my front porch!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Putting up more fencing and Medusahead

I have enough fencing to put up 640 feet of new fence.  Since this property doesn't have irrigation for the pasture I wanted to separate out the back pasture into five separate sections.  Rather than the animals trampling down everything on their way to eat the best stuff I figure that if I keep them in one section at a time they will do a real good job eating down that section before I put them on another.  By doing this the other sections of pasture will be able to grow more fully. 

My plan is to have a driveway all the way down the property line until it reaches the furthest back section.  (Now I don't mean 640 acre sections, I only have five acres total.)  The property line is fenced all the way around.  I did that 15 years ago when I bought the property and Mr. Bug-out renter and I just went around the entire perimeter straightening up the stakes and fences.  Now it's time to finish the cross fencing.  The five pastures have a total length of about 750 feet, or about 150 for each pasture.  The first section was completed many years ago.  The rest, well sort of. 

The second pasture had previously been completed and I had started putting panels in the third pasture but then I took those fencing panels and moved them to the front yard pasture.  I also took a bunch of the panels to use as pens around my fruit trees that are in the front pasture.  Depending on the size of the tree each tree used either two or three 16 foot panels. 

This meant that the backyard sections were missing all their panels.  The t-posts are all pounded in but there's no fencing.  I use cattle and hog panels rather than field fencing.  The field fencing would be cheaper but I've found that between the animals and the grandchildren the field fencing always seems to fail in one location or another.  The panels can be climbed on, even by adults, and they don't bend or sag.  

Yesterday I put half of the new panels out in the pastures leaning up against the t-posts.  Tomorrow I'm going to take half the day off and work out in the pasture.  I'll take the rest of the panels and lean them up against the rest of the t-posts.  Then I'll start wiring the panels to the posts and the ends to each other.  It should take most of the morning but if I do it right it's not something that should ever have to be done least not by me.  

In one of these pastures I threw oat seeds out last fall.  In another of the pastures I threw out wheat seed.  All the pastures have pasture grasses and a bunch of weeds.  It's all stuff that the sheep like and if the things are going well then I'll let it go to seed and let the animals graze on it. 

I found a small patch of Medusahead!  That's a horrible weed that will attach itself to you boot and crawl up your pants leg.  It contains a high level of the mineral silica, making it inedible - actually the animals will try to eat it.  The silica will wear down their teeth and not only that, its spiky head and seeds cut the mouths of animals attempting to graze on it -- from cattle to deer to rodents. Medusahead makes a thick mulch that crowds out other pasture grasses.  The best way to control it is with herbicides, pulling out each plant prior to it going to seed, or burning it.  I have to get on top of this - tomorrow and the rest of the weekend or my pasture is going to be a mess.  I could burn it but the burn window around here is over.  Next spring I will be on the lookout for this invasive weed and burn every plant I see.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


This year I only planted six zucchini plants.  That's about all we can handle if the plants produce well.  Any more than that and it becomes food for the chickens and sheep.  That's OK too as free food is free food.  But, I don't want to use up a lot of garden space for animal food.  When TSHTF then the garden will be changed up a bit but until then, I'm not going to purposefully use up the extra space for zucchini. 

My favorite way to eat them is to fry them in a little butter along with sliced onions, add beaten eggs and scramble them all together.  When it's done top with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese.  At dinner my favorite way is to slice them and cook them with summer savory, onions, and tomatoes. 

Today I picked about a dozen nice sized zukes.  Since it's dinner time and I don't feel like making eggs I'm going to cook them up with savory, onions, and last years tomatoes.  It's better if they are fresh but all I have are tomato flowers at the tomatoes. 

Oldest daughter has some bell peppers ready for picking.  How'd she get them so early?  She potted the plants and had them inside most of the winter as houseplants.  Once it started warming up they went back outside.  I'm going to swap her some bell peppers for some zukes.  Then I'm going to make relish.  It's an easy recipe that my oldest sister gave me almost 30 years ago.

Zucchini Relish
10 cups zucchini, chopped up really small
4 large onions, chopped up really small
2 bell peppers, chopped up really small
5 tablespoons salt
Combine these four ingredients and let stand for 24 hours in the refrigerator.  Then rinse well until the taste of the salt is gone.
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons celery seed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Mix it all up and bring to a boil.  Then add the zucchini mixture.  Boil for 30 minutes.  Seal in hot jars.  Water bath if you choose but I don't.  With the vinegar and sugar combination I have never felt it necessary.  I've never had anyone tell me that it's great zucchini relish.  Everyone always assumes it's cucumber pickle relish.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome (HCPS) is a rare, but often fatal, lung disease.  There are many hanta viruses but HCPS in the western U.S. is caused by the "Sin Nombre" virus (SNV).  HCPS occur throughout the U.S. but are most commonly found in the southwest.  In California deer mice are the only carriers of the SNV version of this disease.  Other types of rodents rarely get infected so in this area of the country you wouldn't have to worry about them.  Only deer mice.  

You become infected when you breathe air that's contaminated by mouse urine or droppings when you are in a place with little air circulation.  Examples can be in a corner, on shelves, or boxes in your barn, in cabins, trailers, or other buildings.  Don't keep your woodpiles too close to your house.  Same with trash. 

Breathing small particles of mouse urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air is the most common means of acquiring infection. The illness starts about a week or two after exposure and includes fever, headache, and muscle ache (especially the thighs, hips, back, and shoulders), and progresses rapidly to severe difficulty in breathing and, in some cases, death.

About 10% of all cases of the virus in the country have been identified in California and of those over 1/3 were fatal!

Avoid areas, especially indoors, where the mice are likely to have been present.  This isn't possible if you are tasked with cleaning out the barn or shed!  You can take precautions, and you should...think NO doctors if TSHTF... 

Wear plastic gloves and spray areas contaminated with the droppings and urine with diluted bleach.  If I'm going to clean out my barn I'll bring out the same bottle I use each night when I spray down my kitchen and the light switches and door knobs.   Don't just sweep the waste out of the barn (like I normally did until I learned about this).  Place it in double plastic bags.  Tightly seal them and throw into the trash.  Wash your hands thoroughly afterward. 

If you have any dead mice don't touch them with your hands.  Wear gloves.  Prior to picking it up spray it with the diluted bleach and dispose of the same way as the droppings.  Again wash your hands thoroughly. 

What does the deer mouse look like?  How do you know if it's a deer mouse or a house mouse that has left that pile of droppings or has made a nest in your barn?  You won't know until you actually see the mouse.  A deer mouse is about the same size as a house mouse.  They are colored differently.  A house mouse is a solid color - usually a light brown around here.  Deer mice are grey to brown on top and white underneath.  They also have large ears that don't have fur.  Deer mice can be found throughout the state, not just where you'll find deer.  While they prefer brush and shrubs, they will enter homes, barns, trailers, and other places looking for food, water, shelter, and nesting material. 

If possible seal holes where rodents can enter. That's not really possible in my house.  Get a barn cat!  Got one!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Homemade starch and homemade glue

Right before school starts there are usually great sales on all kinds of school supplies.  If you time it right you can buy everything you will need for the entire year.  Unfortunately for us we were out of town right before school started last year and didn't stock up on anything.  In a household like mine that really wasn't a big deal.  We have lots of paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, and other supplies the grand kids need for school.  What I didn't anticipate was how much tape and glue they go through.  "Can I use the tape?" really means 1/2 the roll will be gone when I'm done taping this one little item.  I think they eat it or something.  We still have tape left, I ration it.  "You need tape?" Here's three inches worth. 

Glue on the other hand is something that we did run out of.  First they used my white glue, then they got to the wood glue, then the gorilla glue.  I bought more wood glue and gorilla glue and hid them from their little hands.  White glue?  That's something that can be made at home.  I put it into the old glue squeeze bottles.  They don't know the difference and when I see the bottles getting low I just whip up a batch.  It's easy to make and you can whip it up in a few minutes if you need some and didn't realize you were out.  Some people keep it in the refrigerator to make it last longer.  It doesn't last very long around here and instead of it going bad, just make less.

I have two recipes.  The first uses liquid starch, the second doesn't.  I like the one that uses the starch better.  You don't use starch in your laundry anymore?  Never fear.  You can make liquid starch.  It's much cheaper making it than buying it anyway!   
Liquid Starch:
1 teaspoon corn starch or potato starch
1 tablespoon cool water
1/2 cup water
Mix the corn starch with the tablespoon of water.  Boil the 1/2 cup water.  Stir in the starch/water mixture.  Boil for a bit until it starts to thicken.  Let cool.

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup liquid starch that you just made
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon vinegar
Mix the flour and sugar together in a pot.  Add the water and mix until creamy.  Heat, stir continuously until it starts to boil.  Add the starch and vinegar and boil another minute.  Don't over cook it!  Don't let it start to clump, just start to thicken. Take off the heat and cool.  It may be thin but will thicken up as it cools. 

Second glue recipe:
Same as the first but don't use the liquid starch. 

Easy recipes and it won't hurt the kids if they eat it, nor will it hurt your skin or your clothes if you get glue on you. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Change of plans and explaining a friend's parents

Today was going to be a busy but somewhat typical Sunday.  It didn't start off well.  I woke up at 2:30 this morning.  Why?  Would I sound crazy if I said God kicked me out of bed?  That sounds crazy to me so instead of telling you that how about if I say that I suddenly woke from a deep sleep and had the urge to check on the incubator.  No particular reason, just felt like doing so at 2:30 in the morning.  Oddly enough the temperature was at 105 rather than the 99.5.  I don't know why since nobody has touched it and it's worked perfectly for the past two months.  I immediately lifted the lid to cool it down and then stayed up for the next half hour regulating the temperature gauge to get it back to 99.5. I then went back to bed.
Youngest granddaughter spent the night last night and she woke up at 4:00 screaming.  Now she's 1 1/2 so there shouldn't be much reason to scream in the middle of the night.  She was sitting up in the crib and told me her foot was stuck.  She pushed it through the end of the crib.  It wasn't stuck.  She could have just pulled her foot right back into the crib but for some reason she didn't.  I guess when she woke up she didn't remember where she was.  I calmed her down and laid her back down.  Nothing doing.  She wanted to sleep with me.  Sure, this night is not turning out well so I may as well have her sleep with me.  I put her in bed and noticed the light on in the hall bathroom.  (The light shines through the bathroom window which then shines through my window.) 
A couple minutes later Boy came into my room to tell me that he just went to the bathroom and that his blood sugar is low.  What the *!*!*?  You don't even know what that means.  You are probably thirsty.  Get a cup of water and GO TO BED! 
I just knew the baby was going to wake me in an hour, just to make my night complete!  But she didn't.  I woke up at 7:30 and the grand kids all woke up between 7:45 and 8:00.  We have to be out of the house at 8:45 because we have to pick up another granddaughter and get them all off to Sunday School.  I then have to drop of the dog that we've been sitting for the past week and also drop off the baby back to her parents.  I'd have time for nothing else because the kids would all need to be picked up from Sunday School (at two different locations).  I had to get the granddaughter that I picked up in the morning home then my two home.  It was going to be a hectic day, at least until 2:00.  Then things would be back to their leisurely pace. 
We were right on track until 8:30.  Boy was sweeping the hallway, girl was going slow in her room, baby was in the kitchen eating breakfast.  The car seat was in the truck.  All three dogs were in the truck wanting to go for a ride.  What do I hear?  Someone throwing up?  I walk in the hall to see Boy throwing up in the hallway for a second, or is it third time?  "You can't walk the five feet to the bathroom and throw up in the toilet or on the tile floor?  You have to throw up on the wood floor?" That's not very loving.  OK, let's try it again.  "Let me help you into the bathroom."  I was glad the baby was in her highchair because she loves to help clean up and I certainly didn't need her help with this mess.  
I asked Girl to call her aunt to let her know that we weren't picking up that granddaughter.  Girl then had to call her other aunt to tell her we were not dropping the baby off.  She then had to call the family friend to tell him we weren't dropping the dog off.  Then she called Sunday School to tell them that she and her brother wouldn't be coming today.  
I got Boy to bed and he proceeded to tell me that he knew he wasn't feeling well.  After all he told me so.  No.  You told me that you had low blood sugar.  You didn't tell me that you weren't feeling well and at 4:30 in the morning I wasn't going to play 20 questions.  He slept all morning.  He got out of bed to tell me he was hungry.  That's nice, go to bed.  I brought him some lemon-lime soda and crackers.  He wasn't interested after all.  It's now almost dinner.  He's still in bed.  Slight fever, no appetite.
Since Girl didn't have Sunday School today she asked if she could go to her friend's house.  Sure if they pick you up and drop you off since I'm not going anywhere today with your brother being sick.  Her friend lives with her mother and visits her father on the weekends.  The mother lives about 20 miles away now and the father is about 6 or 7, which is too far for a 10 year old to walk.  Girl was telling me about her friend's parents.  They fight all the time and the mother says she will call the sheriff if the daughter is brought home late from the weekend visit with the father.  Girl wanted to know if the mother would really do that.  I told her that sometimes people who get divorced do and say dumb things just to be mean on purpose. 
Then Girl told me about the mother.  I'd met her a couple of times.  She looked very manly.  Well, according to Girl, the mom is now going by a boy name and had an operation to take away her chest.  The mom gets mad when people call her/him by the old girl name.   The daughter wants people to call her by the girl name.  Great, explaining transgender to a 10 year old.  I told her in the olden days there were some girls that would rather be boys and some boys that would rather be girls.  I said they'd just dress different and act different.  Now, because the world is so advanced with surgery that people can actually change their bodies, not just the clothes they wear.  I asked her if her friend is embarrassed that the mom wants to be a man?  Girl said she doesn't know if any of their mutual friends know.  I also said that no matter what, this person is always going to be her friend's mother.  Even if everyone else thinks she is a man, she's still this girls mother.  That can't be changed.  I explained to Girl that she is not allowed to talk about this, even to her friends, because it would be gossip.  
Instead of my busy day I had a rather slow, easy going day.  I did some laundry.  I watered the lawn and the garden.  I collected eggs.  I read a book.  There were so many things I could have done to further our prepping but I didn't.  Oh yeah, I took the jerky out of the dehydrator.  That doesn't really count. We had another chick hatch yesterday and one this morning.  That makes 8 so far.  Hopefully Boy will wake up tomorrow back to his normal self, otherwise I'll have a repeat of today on a work day.  I suppose that's what sick leave is for. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Making Jerky

Yesterday I went out to the freezer to pull out a package of meat to go with dinner.  The package was "antelope for jerky".  I pulled out a second package, same thing.  I pulled out a third package and it was antelope steaks.  That's what I was looking for.  I didn't even know that we had meat specifically for jerky in the freezer.  I guess when my friend gave it to me I didn't read every package when I transferred it from the ice chest to the freezer. 

Of course, this meant my task for today was to make jerky.  I put the two packages into the refrigerator yesterday and by today they were mostly thawed but still just a little frozen.  I opened them and the meat wasn't ready for jerky.  It was a bunch of chunks that needed to be thinly sliced then seasoned. 

I got out the meat cutting knife, a nice Forschner that I've had for over 30 years.  The blade is only about half the size it used to be because it's been sharpened so many times over the years but it's still my favorite for slicing raw meat.  I'm sure you all have a favorite knife as well.  When you slice the meat for jerky you want it pretty thin and having it slightly frozen makes it easier to slice.  I got the meat sliced the way I wanted it and then thought about how I was going to season it.  What kind of seasonings do they have on jerky from the store?  Since I don't buy the jerky from the store it took a while to remember.

There are all kinds of ways to season your jerky.  Just pick what you like.  You can make a wet marinade of a few or a lot of ingredients including: chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, curry powder, mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, or liquids including bbq sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, vinegars, and liquid smoke.  Whatever you like can be used in your jerky.  Marinade or rub the seasonings in for anywhere from an hour to over night.   

I decided to go with 1/2 teriyaki and 1/2 hickory smoke and black pepper.  It didn't quite turn out half of each.  I have three trays in the dehydrator with teriyaki and two trays with hickory smoke and black pepper.  I'm sure the kids will like the teriyaki best and I'll like the other. 

There are many ways to make jerky.  I think the easiest is how I'm making it; in the dehydrator at 145 degrees for most of the day.  When I was a teenager...way back in the olden days...I made jerky in the oven.  That is a quick method - at 180 degrees it should take less than two hours if the slices are thin enough.  I've also made it hanging it on the clothes line on a hot windy day.  It has to be windy or the flies will attack it.  I suppose if it was hot but wasn't windy and you had it hanging on the clothesline covered with tulle fabric to keep the flies off that would work.  I've seen it made by being hung in the smoke over fires.  It could also be made in a solar oven if the top was vented enough to let the moisture out. 

Once the jerky is made I store some otherwise it would get eaten quickly.  I can store the jerky in bags using my vacuum sealer.  My friend stores individual pieces of jerky in vacuum sealed bags and then puts them all into the freezer.  On a day he was some he'll just take out the amount he plans on eating and it will be thawed before he's ready to eat it.  If I want to store the jerky in bulk I'll put it into quart canning jars, put a little piece of white paper towel in, put on the lid, then seal it with my vacuum sealer.  It stores well this way. 

If you like jerky but haven't ever made it, give it a try.  It's easy to make and really good for you.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Just clearing brush doesn't mean it's fire safe

Last month in Southern California, someones preps went up in smoke.  The person had a couple of trailers, a shipping container, water barrels, solar panels, and much more.  It was all behind a chain link fence in an area that was sparsely populated.  Most people had about 20 or more acres of land.  I'm not sure if the landowner lived in one of the nearby houses.  I don't think he lived in the trailers.  This property was more about storage of his stuff. To me, he looked like a serious prepper.  Or at least, he was...

What happened, you are probably asking yourself?  It all started when one of the two travel trailers somehow caught on fire.  I don't know how it caught on fire.  I don't know if something inside overheated or what.  Nobody was on the property when the fire started.  By the time the fire department showed up it was "fully involved".  This means completely on fire.  They weren't going to save that trailer.  The heat from that fire caused a second trailer to catch fire.  This trailer wasn't fully involved when they arrived but it wasn't going to be able to be saved. 

The heat from both the trailers was so intense that the fire was causing the shipping container that was next to the trailers to heat up.  They were worried that the container would get so hot the items in the container would catch fire.  Just because there isn't direct flame on something doesn't mean it won't catch fire.  Think about roasting marshmallows.  They don't have to touch the flame to burst into flames themselves.  

The firefighters started preparing their hoses to fight the fire and try to stop damage to the shipping container.  Then sounds of ammunition exploding came from the shipping container.   The crews backed off.  After the popping stopped the crews cut off the lock and also cut a hole in the shipping container to get better access to it to try to put out the fire that started on the inside of the container.  They also removed the solar panels from the roof of the container and disabled the electrical system in order to cut the electricity dangers.  After about an hour exploding ammunition was again heard.  The crews moved away once again. 

The property owner showed up to the scene and said that he had ammunition and reloading equipment in the shipping container including black powder and smokeless gun powder.  It was in a safe inside the shipping container so the property owner didn't think that it would be a safety issue.  The fire crew backed up anyway.  As they were repositioning themselves a violent explosion occurred inside the shipping container.  One of the crew, who was over thirty feet away from the shipping container was knocked down forcefully due to the blast.  The safe that the landowner had all his ammunition and reloading equipment in was a cheap safe.  You know, one that only cost a few hundred dollars.  The kind meant to keep your kids out, not bad guys or fires.

I've read how people have bought metal boxes for their pickups and bolted them down into cement and used them as inexpensive equipment storage containers.  They are cheaper than a good safe and for some reason people will spend gobs of money on weapons and ammunition and try to skimp on the safe.  My Liberty safe cost over $1500.  It took me a long time to save up for it but in a fire like this the Liberty safe would not have failed. 

What if the landowner just couldn't afford a good safe?  What else could he have done to safeguard his preps? 

There wasn't vegetation between the trailers.  They had the brush cleared so the owner thought they were fire safe.  But he was wrong.  The distance between the two trailers was less than 10 feet and between the second trailer and shipping container less than 15 feet.  If they were further apart the heat from the first trailer wouldn't have caught the second trailer on fire.  Heat from the second trailer wouldn't have caught the shipping container on fire.  The safe wouldn't have had a catastrophic failure and exploded.  The water barrels wouldn't have melted if they were further away.   And, the landowner wouldn't have lost all his preps.   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Don't those chicks know how to read a calendar?

We've been preparing for the chickens to hatch on Saturday.  That's three weeks and everything tells me that it takes 21 days to hatch chickens.  Well, someone forgot to tell that to the chickens.  Yesterday we had three hatch, at 18 days, and today there are at least five more shells that have little pecks on them.  Those chicks are trying to escape as well! 

If you remember, the ducklings couldn't read a calendar either.  They were supposed to arrive at 28 days and showed up at 32.  Along with the chicks we have 10 ducklings - two older ducklings (3 weeks) that are outside in the extra coop, six ducklings in a trough inside that are a week old, two ducklings are with their mother in the garden.  The other duck is still sitting on her nest.  I'm expecting them to hatch sometime this week.  We will probably take most of her ducklings and leave her with just a couple, like we did with the other duck. 

It's good that I learned from the ducklings that they don't always come when predicted.  I kept more of an eye on them than I normally would.  I also raised the humidity a bit by spraying the eggs with a spray bottle of water twice a day now that they are in their resting position and not being turned.  While the books say to let the eggs be for the last three days the little chicks ran into the eggs and knocked them around during the night since they weren't moved out of the incubator until this morning.  I wonder if that will have any effect on the eggs?  If so, then I'm going to have to take the chicks out quicker even though the instructions say to leave them in the incubator until they dry.  

It's still a learning experience.  I'm also pretty excited to know that we are doing a great job at raising our poultry.  What if we didn't have the electricity for the incubator?  How would we keep the temperature at 99.5?  There's a new ice chest that advertises it will keep ice frozen for 5 days even if the outside temperature is in the 90s.  It works too, because it kept ice frozen and our meat frozen when we used it last month.  I'm thinking that if it keeps things cold it would also keep things warm.  It would be more difficult to regulate the heat but if you had a hot rock (soapstone doesn't explode so that's a real good rock to use) that you heated and then put into the ice chest it would keep things hot enough.  I think I will try doing this, not with eggs but just to see if I can keep the temperature regulated enough to continue to incubate the eggs.  Sure the hen is the easiest but if my food and my life is on the line I'm going to be proactive as well. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How many fruit trees are enough?

Last year we had an amazing crop of just about every fruit that I grew.  I have apricot, plum, pear, apple, cherry, peach, nectarine, orange, lemon, pomello, grapefruit, kumquat, fig, loquat, mulberry, persimmon, pomegranate, olive, and probably others that I'm forgetting.  Last year we canned until I ran out of canning jars, I gave fruit to my grown kids, we dried fruit chunks and fruit rolls, oldest daughter sold some at their lemonade stand, and some even went to the animals. 

This year I don't even know if we will have enough to keep us in fresh fruit.  Today I went out to water and check on the trees.  I ate the first four ripe cherries straight off the tree.  It brought back memories of last year when we stood next to the cherry trees and just stuffed ourselves until we could stuff no more!  Today I probably ate 1/4 of all the cherries I saw on all four trees!  I didn't see any apricots on the tree apricot trees.  Two peach trees have some fruit and two have none! 

What's going on here?  I know that you can have fantastic yields one year and smaller yields the next but nothing at all?  The trees look really healthy.  Then I remembered.  We had a freeze after the trees had bloomed.  It didn't seem like a hard freeze and didn't last too long that night.  I do remember when it happened that the tips of the persimmon tree all died back.  That was the only damage I remember seeing.  I guess it didn't hit me that all those blossoms were in peril. 

It's good that we canned and dried so much of the fruit last year.  If we had to live off of what these 50 plus fruit trees are going to produce this year I don't know if we'd go hungry or not without that backup.  It's something that I will have to think about to hold us over for not only this season but all the way until the summer of 2013 when the fruit starts filling our bellies once again.  I suppose I'll have to concentrate on saving some of the grapes and raspberries rather than eating everything in site.  Since we are new to mulberries, last year was our first really good crop, I am going to have to learn to make mulberry jam and also mulberry fruit rolls.  

I'm wondering if I should try to find more fruit trees and stagger the ripen dates.  I know this spring I purchased to peach trees that are ready for picking in late September or early October.  I wonder if they'll flower as early as the peach trees that are ready for picking in August?  If they bloom later it would probably be a good idea to try to plant a few more trees with varying ripening dates.   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Giveaway

Patriots against the NWO is holding a drawing for a couple of first aid books.  If you don't have one for each family member then make sure you sign up for the drawing.  It's easy, just make a comment.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Garden cart

I have a large wheel barrow, which is great for wheeling dirt and things around the yard.  If it is loaded lopsided the thing will fall over.  Many times I've watched the grand kids dump a load of whatever they are trying to haul because it was off balance.  I also have a 10 cu. ft. steel dump cart that can attach to the tractor.  It's not convenient to use for most projects. 

There are two different types of garden carts that I'm looking at.  One is a 5.5 cu.ft. plastic yard cart.  You can pull the handle or hook it up to the tractor.  It has a dump feature.  It will hold sand and small items but it doesn't look like it has a completely flat bottom so I'm not sure how well it would hold potted plants and trees without them falling over.  I'll have to look at it in person rather than just on line.  The other cart I'm thinking of is a steel cart.  It has a flat bottom but the sides are mesh so you can't haul things like sand or compost without a tarp for a liner.  The handle doesn't convert to be able to be held but also hook up to the tractor.  That's OK.  If I needed to, I could rig something so the tractor could pull it. 

Although we have the well, with a hand pump, I'm wondering what would happen if I had to pump the water by hand and haul it into the house.  A five gallon bucket filled with water weighs 40 pounds.  How many of those would I want to carry versus pulling several at a time in the cart?  It would also be real convenient to load wood into to bring from the further out wood pile to the sheltered pile in the shed to the back patio.  I don't know anyone who has either type, other than the local nurseries have the steel mesh type to hold plants as you shop.      

I got another gift card in the mail today thanks to my Discover card.  When I spend a certain amount I get a reward of money. You can get the cash or purchase gift cards.  Sometimes the gift cards are discounted.  I bought a $50 Lowe's gift card for $45.  I'm hoping to buy the garden cart with the money.  The ones I'm looking at both cost a little over $100 each, which means I have to wait until I get another gift card.  I don't have any travel scheduled for a few months, but then I'll have 12 nights of hotels, which will probably earn another gift card.  Maybe by then I'll figure out which one would be better.    

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Predicting which eggs should be incubated

It's two weeks into the three week incubation period for the chickens.  Last week I candled the eggs and it was time to do it again today.  I started off with 40 eggs and last week removed three of them.  It wasn't that the rest looked like something was growing, most did but some didn't.  It was more of a case of wishful thinking. 

It's not hard to candle the eggs.  I read all about it but never observed someone actually candling eggs.  Here's how I do it.  I lay an egg on top of a roll of toilet paper and shine the flashlight through the bottom of the roll.  When the light comes up the roll through the top of the egg it should have a dark blob in it that doesn't let the light shine through.  When I was showing girl this evening I had her take an egg out of the basket that she had just brought in.  The light went right through the egg.  You couldn't even make out the yolk.  When I put one of the brown eggs on top of the paper and shined the light you could barely see through the egg at all.  The developing chick was almost completely blocking the light. 

Last week when I candled the eggs the blue and white shelled eggs didn't look like anything was developing.  I wanted to believe that the shell color made a difference...denial here!  So I put them back into the incubator.  Tonight not one blue or white shelled egg blocked any light.  I had to come to terms with the fact that not one of the blue or white egg laying chickens let the rooster any where near them!  Bad girls! 

I did learn something from the brown eggs that didn't continue to develop.  Those shells didn't look very solid.  There were a lot of dots of brighter light shining through; like the shell had little pin pricks all over it.  The shells with the developing chicks didn't appear to have little pin pricks of light. 

Oh no, the scientist in me is coming out... What can I learn from this?  I decided to look at the eggs I had in my bowl.  How many of those had lots of dots of thinner shell?  About half.  I wonder if you can predict which eggs will develop and which won't, assuming that they are all fertilized?  On my next batch I'm going to mark the shell with a felt pen dot for those without the thinner shell.  My theory is that the less dots of thinner shell the egg has the better chance that it will hatch.  Sounds reasonable.  I wonder if anyone out there has done this to figure out which egg has a better chance at hatching?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What's under my lawn?

Since I've watered my front and back lawn several times this week it's greening up nicely.  I know it means I'm going to be mowing more than two or three times a year but to not have the foxtails on the animals or the grand kids clothes will make it all worth the extra time.  This evening I was moving the back sprinkler that's in the middle of the lawn.  I only have one sprinkler for the back and it pretty well covers the lawn which is about 80 or 90 feet square.  I moved it before I turned it on because it wasn't quite reaching the patio.  About a ten foot strip wasn't getting watered.  I must have moved it too much because the patio was soaked when I looked at it about 30 minutes later.  I turned the water off and moved it again.  I tried pushing the stake into the ground.  It wouldn't go more than 2 inches.  It sounded like I hit a rock.  I moved it a few inches away, hit something again.  Moved it a little more, hit something again.  I dug through the wet lawn and felt the rock.  It wasn't a rock.  It felt like cement.  I have no clue what is under my lawn. 

When I moved in 15 years ago the yard was split in half with a bunch of plants enclosing the lawn area to about 25 feet.  There were a couple of stepping stones but we moved them off the lawn when we tore those plants out.  I think this is further out and not related to those stepping stones.  I wonder if there was some buried path?  I hope it's a cistern.  Wouldn't that be fantastic?  It was dark out so I couldn't do much about it.  Hopefully we will get home early enough for me to take a look at the yard and try to figure out what's under the lawn.  Wouldn't it be nice if it was a buried treasure? 

Tomorrow we are going over to Army daughter's for Mother's Day.  Son and his wife are coming over too.  Oldest daughter isn't.  She is doing something with her husband and their four kids.  Her oldest is graduating high school at the end of the month and she's thinking this will be their last holiday with everyone home.  She frets too much but I can understand her wanting to have a celebration there.  

For dinner tonight we had left over home grown and butchered chicken made into a pot pie.  We added some canned carrots from a couple years ago, potatoes dug out of the garden this morning, and peas from the garden.  We had a side dish of home grown artichokes.  For dessert we had home made frozen yogurt with strawberries from the front yard blended in. 

I got an email from the feds saying that my application met their qualifications and it was being sent to some other office for review.  They will pick the top three for an interview.  Considering it's promotional or new hire and they take into consideration veterans credits I doubt I'll be in the top three.  Who knows?  Perhaps I will get to make that trip to Utah to pick up food storage items in person and paying in cash - oh yeah, and interview for the job.  I still haven't decided if I'd take the job if it was offered. 

I still like my job but with the Governor announcing the state is going to have a 16 billion dollar deficit next year there will be layoffs and the workload will increase once again making work a highly stressful place.  It's not that the state can't reduce its budget but it can't reduce its budget.  Every time they try someone sues and that item can't be reduced until the suit is over, which seems like never. 

Anyway, none of that matters at the moment.  I can't do anything about the Utah job nor about the state budget.  What matters is we are going to have home grown eggs and home grown juice for breakfast tomorrow.  What matters is tomorrow is Mother's Day...Happy Mother's Day, mom! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Comments on a book I read

About a month ago I started reading the book See You In A Hundred Years.  It was a fun story about a couple and their two year old son.  The couple decided that they needed a break from their crazy life so they came up with a plan, and a story.  You see, the husband is a writer so he had the idea that he could write about their new life.  They decided to live like it was 1900.  In reality 2000 was just ending and they were heading into New York City.

They bought a property in Virginia with a house and 40 acres.  They spent six months preparing for their big move back in time.  They pulled the wiring out of their well so it would only be able to be hand pumped.  They remodeled the house to bring it back 100 years earlier.  They kept the phone service but unplugged the phone.  That way they wouldn't get calls but could make one if there was an emergency.  They cancelled the electric service so they couldn't use lights or a refrigerator.  They cooked on a wood stove and had a second wood stove for heating.  They were going to sell the car but ended up just parking it in the pasture.  They bought a draft horse and a wagon.  They also purchased goats and chickens.  They stocked the pantry full!  They bought all the items they thought would be necessary including an antique coffee grinder.  Money didn't seem to be an issue, which always makes things easier. 

They did have food that they'd purchased, if it was also available in 1900, but their plan was to eventually support most of their eating with what they could produce themselves.  After battling bugs and drought they got their garden to grow and produce food.  They learned how to milk the goats and produce goat cheese and butter.  They even learned how to drive the wagon but they had bicycles and used them sometimes aswell. 

Their community was amused and also intrigued by their experiment.  This family made friends and brought the community together.  Many of their friends would come bearing gifts of home made food.  They did learn new skills like canning and butchering although they preferred not to butcher or hunt.  In their one season they canned 100 quarts of tomatoes, 100 quarts of green beans, and 150 jars of other vegetables and fruits.  They were given 8 bushels of apples and made 14 gallons of apple cider with their antique cider press.  They stored  1 1/2 bushels of potatoes plus pumpkins, onions, and winter squash in the cellar.  They expected this food to last for 6 months. 

I did like the book and think it would be good for someone who lives in the city and doesn't have any of these "country" skills but plans on bugging out into the country somewhere.  You'd have a steeper learning curve than this couple because they spent several months preparing to go back in time and they had lots of money. 

They did break their 1900s living a couple of times.  The biggest was when the wife wasn't feeling well.  She used their phone to make a doctor's appointment and hopped a ride in a friend's car to go to the city to see the doctor.  They relished when friends would visit or when they'd go visit someone and get to drink cold beer. 

When they started off they had a romantic view of living in the past, which I think most people share.  Every once in a while I think that I wouldn't care if the electricity were turned off here at my house.  I'd prefer to keep the propane for cooking, water heating, and heating the house rather than having to spend the time and energy cutting wood but electricity, I could probably more easily get by without it.  After all, do I need TV or Internet or refrigerator or freezer?  Right now the dishwasher is running and so is the washing machine.  Give them up?  On second thought, perhaps I'd like to keep some electricity!   

All joking aside, the book gave a good look at some of the pitfalls of leaving modern society for the not too distant past.  If TSHTF and things really go south, I think I would have an easier time than this family because I have experience in so many of the skills that they knew nothing about. 

I think our issues would come down to money.  If TSHTF I don't know what the  money situation would be like.  For the family in the book, if something broke they'd write a letter to the repair person who would then come by and fix it.  They had plenty of money to pay.  They also owned their property outright.  I don't.  That's always something on my mind.  Some of the readers of this blog and of other blogs I read live without electricity and other modern conveniences.  They do this willingly but I don't think any of them are well off, like the author of this book.  Lack of money definitely changes the experience.    

Long story short, they made it through the year.  Every skill was new and for the most part they did not enjoy their new lifestyle.  When the year ended they made the decision to stay in Virginia rather than return to New York but they turned their electricity and phone back on and I wonder, with the time passing, if they continue to can or garden or even have animals.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More Ducklings

I admit it.  The ducks did a better job hatching eggs than the incubator.  Momma duck first had a nest of 30 or so eggs.  It was from there that I put the eggs into the incubator.  She abandonded that nest and made another nest.  There she laid 11 eggs.  8 hatched on Wednesday afternoon.  We brought six of those into the house and left her with two. 

I don't expect the other duck to hatch her eggs for another week or so since she built her nest later than the first duck. 

Maybe it wasn't my bad incubator job?  Perhaps all those eggs the ducks laid in that first nest weren't intended for setting?  Maybe most weren't fertile and the ducks knew it?  Maybe I was really lucky to get any to hatch?

Because we brought the six ducklings in and put them into the stock tank that I was just about ready to take OUT of my livingroom, I put the two bigger ducklings into the spare chicken coop.  First I thought they could co-exist but I was wrong.  The older ducklings are so much bigger that they were knocking the babies over.  Now they have lots of space to roam around: there are weeds growing to give them some cover, plus there's the enclosed area - with corners that they've decided to cram themselves into.  I'm hoping they soon notice that I put out a little tub of water for them to swim around in.  I also put their feed in the pen.  They should like it once they get used to not being in the stock tank! 

Comparing the two older ducks, which are two weeks old today, and these 6 day-old ducklings, I realize I will not be able to mix the chicks and the ducks together.  This means I have to bring in yet another stock tank for the chicks.  They will go in the laundry room.  I really don't want two stock tanks in my living room.  People think I'm sort of nuts as it is.  I don't need to give them reason to believe it's true!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Horseradish, Jerusalem Artichokes, and Chores

I decided to take the morning off to catch up on some chores in peace and quiet.  It's not that I don't like having the grand kids here but the noise level is always higher than birds and squirrels.  And the questions are thrown at me every 2 minutes.  I know, I know, when they hit their teenage years I'm going to miss their questions every two minutes. 

Most everything we do around here has to do with prepping for the life as we know it to come crashing down.  If all goes as I hope (our preps not the crash, since I pray that it stops - not that it won't come. In case you don't know, it's already here and the slide down is coming faster and faster) around our home we won't notice too much of a difference. 

 I bought a large horseradish root in April.  I used half to make horseradish and the rest of it is in a bag in the refrigerator.  It is sprouting leaves.  Now I want to plant it. I know it can end up being invasive so I'm thinking about putting it in the front pasture near enough to one of the fruit trees so it will get watered but in an area that the animals can eat the leaves when it starts spreading.  Does anyone have any experience with horseradish? 

I've also thought about Jerusalem artichokes.  They look like sunflowers but have a tuber like a potato.  I've heard you can't ever dig them all up so they will return year after year.  Sort of like my potato plants!  I want to know when they start growing and how long it takes for the plants to mature.  If I put them in the front of the front pasture they'd get moisture from the raspberry plants being watered about 6 feet away but wouldn't get direct watering.  Would that work?  Would the plants be mature by the time I put the sheep into the front pasture, which is usually in June or July?

It's almost time to get the peppers and cukes in to their beds.  Other than those the garden is in.  I almost have a handle on the weeds that tried to take over the orchard.  The garden beds don't have too many weeds at the moment.  That will change as soon as I turn my head! 
For some reason I have desired a green lawn. I think it's to keep the foxtails off the dogs, not because the grand kids want it green rather than brown.  Last year big dog got a foxtail in her ear and many hundreds of dollars later the vet was able to fix her up.  I don't want a repeat of that.  Normally the grass is green for about a month or two during the spring and a month or two during the fall.  It goes dormant in winter. 

All the extra electricity to run the well won't even come near the amount of big dogs vet bill.  So, I bought four rainbirds that you attach to a hose.  Three are in the front yard and one is in the back.  The front lawn is rectangular so it's harder to get a set pattern with less than the three sprinklers.  Sure I'll have to mow but I have a 54" mower deck on the tractor.  It doesn't take too long and the grass clippings get raked up and given to the chickens.  It keeps their outdoor run cooler than just the bare dirt.  They like eating the grass when it's green.  They also get peck out any seeds and then after a year in the coop it can get raked out and put into the garden. 

I never made the sale for the collectible cards.  I suppose I insulted the idiot.  I will advertise them again.  I am still going through things in the garage for our yard sale.  Every weekend keeps filling up with other things so there isn't a rush.  Perhaps on Memorial Day weekend since we don't have anything planned until that Monday. 

Heard the latest about the vitamins coming out of China...powdered baby flesh and other herbs as a cure for everything!  First plastic in the dog food, now people in the vitamins.  I wonder what they will think of next.  And people I know think I'm crazy for not purchasing anything from China. 

Monday, May 7, 2012


Since most of what we do around here is to prepare us or give us experience in doing necessary tasks for when TSHTF I got to thinking about strawberries. Our patch is 2 feet wide and about 50 feet long.  I have everbearing strawberries and Junebearing strawberries.   That way we can have some year round but most at one time.  The grand kids love to pick strawberries so at this time of year when they complain about being hungry and I send them out to get a piece of fruit they have more choices than just the citrus.  In another month we should start getting cherries ripening but for now, citrus and strawberries. 
Half of the strawberries were planted last year and half in February of this year.  We won't have a great crop for another year.  I told the kids that after the plants are done giving us strawberries this year they will send out runners and by this time next year we will have more strawberries than we can shove into our mouths at one time.  Oh, I'm so looking forward to that!  Now we get about a basket of berries every other day.  Not bad but when we want to eat them as they come off the plant there are days when I get none for the kitchen.  If I can pick them before the kids (or my mouth) gets to them I store them up and put them into our fruit smoothie.  I will also put strawberries into the freezer.  Just cut off the cap and put them into a baggie.  Last year I ended up with one gallon of strawberries in the freezer.   
If you let the plants mat the row (sending out runners and having a solid bed of plants) you can get about a quart of strawberries for each foot of plant with the matted row about 2 feet wide.  This means we should get about 50 quarts or 12 gallons of strawberries!  Think about all the jam, ice cream, fruit smoothies, and fresh strawberries we will have!  Next year will be a banner year.
Last Sunday the grand kids were at their friends house and I noticed a six-pack of strawberries rotting on their counter.  I asked about them and they had bought a 12-pack a couple days ago.  Strawberries don't last more than a couple of days which was why they rotted.  That's almost sacrilegious around here - rotting food!  I thought about other ways to store the strawberries.  You can dry them.  Since they rot so easily you have to be careful if you set them out to dry.  You can't let any moisture stay on them or they will rot.  If you have a dehydrator, and I do, then an easy way to preserve them is to cut them in half or quarters and dry them.  Even if you don't dry them completely in the dehydrator but remove a lot of the moisture that way it would be easy to preserve them.  But that still takes effort.  Not much but some.  I suppose if you wanted to expend no effort at all you could put them into the freezer, cap and all, and when you thaw it at some later date you can cut the cap off then.  I string up my peppers and green beans and dry them on the clothesline.  I wonder if you could do this with strawberries if it was really hot and windy to quickly suck out the moisture?  It will be worth a try.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

All Plugged Up and Benefiber is Nowhere to be Found - Until TODAY!

NEWER UPDATE!!  Sept. 13, 2013... The actual brand of Benefiber is now back in the stores.  I did have someone make a comment that the ingredients in Benefiber in the US is different than the ingredients in the Canadian version.  Next time I'm in out shopping I will check it out.  Did they change the ingredients?  If so, use the Costco brand.  It's exactly the same as the old Benefiber only cheaper.

UPDATE_UPDATE!!  I was in Costco today, August 24, 2012 and I found the exact same item.  Wouldn't you know, Costco would see the issue and run with it.  There is now a Costco brand of Wheat Dextrine.  200 servings for $15.  Same exact stuff as Benefiber.  Dissolves the same.  Just cheaper and more servings.  Stock up!

Are you sure you are plugged up?  Not a problem just run to the store and buy some Benefiber.  It's good stuff.  It has no taste, it mixes with anything, and a teaspoon a day should keep things going well.  Except there isn't any Benefiber anywhere, unless you want to buy it on eBay for 5 times its regular price.  Why?  Because the main company, Novartis, recalled several of its products including Excedrin, Bufferin, Gas-X, and NoDoz because there may be some broken pills or some pills of one type may have gotten into the container of another.  Imagine needing Gas-X and you end up with a little piece of a NoDoz pill. They shut the entire production line down to retool.  Unfortunately for those who are a little plugged up, Benefiber is a victim of this shut down. 
The product can't be found at Costco, Sam's Club, or even your neighborhood store.  Novarits said the shortage isn't expected to last too long,however the recall was at the beginning of January.  It's now May and the shelves are still bare. 
Sure you can buy another brand but what if that's your favorite?  We do use Benefiber at our house.  I put one teaspoon into my coffee every morning.  I'm not worried.  I have three 190 serving bottles.  And a serving is two teaspoons.  So I've got over three years worth.  Let the shortage continue.  I'm sure as soon as it comes back on the shelves they will be lots of sales and coupons to get everyone to buy it rather than whatever brand people have been substituting. 
Now how about some other tips for constipation?  Constipation can be from many causes: lack of fiber in the diet, not drinking enough liquid, stress, and medications.  Even lack of exercise can affect your more than one way! 
Many people think they are constipated because they don't go daily. Some people just don't go daily while others may have more than one bowel movement every day.  Both are normal.
If you are constipated the first thing you should do is make sure your fluid intake is adequate.  Drink water.  Drink water, eat fiber, drink water, eat fiber.  Doesn't sound too hard.
You should eat 20-35 grams of fiber per day.  This wouldn't be too hard if you ate vegetables, dried beans, and whole grains.  If you aren't getting enough fiber start to eat more fiberous foods.  Just don't jump into it full fledged on day one or you will have terrible gas problems.  This could be a problem if TSHTF and not your toilet!  If you have whole wheat and dried beans in your storage program but you aren't used to eating them you could end up not feeling well at all!
Exercising can help get your system back into a regular pattern.  Some doctors believe that you should train yourself to go on a regular basis.  They suggest that you pick a time of the day, say right after breakfast, and you sit on the toilet for 10 minutes each and every day trying to train your body to go at that time.  Eventually it should work to put you on a set schedule. 
Back to the Benefiber.  Chemical laxatives are not really good for you.  They can actually do more harm than good because they teach your bowels to be lazy and only want to go if you use the chemical.  On the other hand, laxatives such as Benefiber are natural laxatives with ingredients such as psyllium seed.  It isn't addictive and is safe even if you take it for long periods of time.  I don't know the price but it may be cheaper to buy psyllium seed and grind it up yourself. 
Or you can be like us not having to worry about shortages because we have plenty.