Thursday, August 30, 2012

New renters at the bug-out place

Mrs. Bug-out renter is supposed to be moving sometime mid-September.  She knows she can't stay at the bug-out place by herself.  Five minutes after Mr. Bug-out renter left she started talking about finding a new Mr. Bug-out renter.  Stop it!  Stand on your own two feet for a while before you choose another wrong "perfect" match. 

She finally realized that she can't afford to live in a huge 2 bedroom apartment in the most expensive town around here like she been hoping.   She will probably end up with a nice studio in a pretty good area.  This will leave the bug-out place empty...but not for long.  Son has decided that his family should move in.  Why would they do this?  Sure the rent will be cheaper than in the apartment they are renting in a good area of town, in fact, it will be about $500 a month cheaper.  That sounds good until you add the commute into it. 

Daughter-in-law got a just above minimum wage part time job.  Son is still a bum, or as he puts it, "a stay at home dad"...except one kid is in school, the other is in preschool, and all he does is play video games.  Not my idea of what a stay at home parent does.  How about cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, and when you are not too exhausted from doing your chores all day, perhaps then you can sit down to 10 minutes of video games before you pass out from exhaustion.  But I digress...

I explained that their car won't make the three or four times per week drive into town.  It's an hour each way.  No problem, they will go get a loan with their lousy credit and buy another car.  Do you know what that will cost in gas?  And you will be out in the middle of nowhere.  Do you really know what that is like?  Or does it not really matter because you can play video games anywhere? 

Oh no, I've been assured that son will be spending all of his time working on the place.  He will rebuild the bathrooms, do yard work, put in a nice garden, chop fire wood, the list goes on and on and on. 

In the mean while, Mrs. Bug-out renter tells me that she doesn't want anyone else living in "her" house.  She will pay the rent in both places.  Really, what bank did she rob? 

Now I don't think son would make the decision to move to the bug-out place if it was him doing the commute into the city, but since it's his wife, he doesn't mind the commute.  He wasn't brought up that way so I'm not sure what screw loosened in his brain. 

Just wait until the rains start.  Are they willing to heat the house with wood?  Are they going to store some water in case the pipes freeze for a couple of hours so there's no water?  Are they willing to do any form of work at all?  I doubt it.  I give them two months, three tops.  Sure I'll make some money from their rent.  I wonder if I will come out ahead or behind...depends on what projects he wants to start and not finish.  The good thing is he can't really hurt anything and whatever projects he starts will need to be done, it's just that it will change my time table a bit.  That's OK. 

After they move out I will do a lot more work on the bug-out place to really prepare it.  If they do stay and he really does work on the place, all the better.  I just won't be holding my breath.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The broken finger

I have so much to do at work.  Hard deadline on a two year old project is coming up this week.  Will I make it?  I was having doubts last week.  Only one week to go.  Yesterday was a forced day off (state employees get a day off each month without pay to help balance the budget, and yesterday was my day off) so it's a four day week at the end of the deadline.  Just a bit of worry.  Today I went to the office and started working.  I was getting lots accomplished.  Then I got the phone call...

"Is this Girl's grandparent?"  "Yes, it is.  I will be there right away, rather in 40 minutes as that's how long it takes to get from here to there."  Got to the school and there she was.  Laying down on the nurses couch. Her hand with a bag of ice on it.  I took one look at it.  Can you move it like this?  Like that?  Like that?  OK, let's go.  The nurse looked bewildered that I didn't say anything else.  Sorry lady, I'm not discussing this with you.  After all, you just said she hurt her hand and she was crying and normally she doesn't cry.  Yes I know you can't diagnose, but I can...after all, I'm a grandparent!   I can't begin to count the times I've said to someone "I can't tell you what to do, but if it was me in your situation this is what I would do."  Yes, we always have to watch our diagnosis. 

I brought her to the hospital and 3 1/2 hours later she got released.  Cast on hand and arm.  Her pinkie finger was broken, but worse than that, they needed to pull it back into place so it would heal straight.  They stuck her with a good pain killer, put a pencil between her little finger and ring finger, and pulled away.  She cried when getting stuck with the needle, but otherwise was quite brave. 

While we were there at the hospital and also on the drive home we had a nice discussion about What If.  What if I couldn't take her to the hospital?  What if there wasn't a doctor around?  She now knows what to do with a broken finger.  Immobilize it.  What about trying to straighten it? If it was necessary then she would have been drinking lots of alcohol to help numb the pain.  We also talked about what would be needed if there wasn't casting material.  Good lessons for her.  Just wish they didn't have to be taught first hand. 

My work project?  Perhaps God is telling me something.  Don't worry, the project will get done.  Slow down.  Take some time off.  Other things are more important.  OK, two days off this week but you know what?  I am not worried about it.  The project will be completed by the end of the week.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trying to use less

If the STHF and we only had what we had on hand would it last for a week, a month, a year or longer?  Since I’ve been really trying hard to prepare I’ve been thinking about ways to cut down on our use of energy.  Today I realized some good results with our propane usage.  When I first moved here 15 years ago propane was .59 a gallon.  Filling a 500 gallon tank (which uses 400 gallons and the rest is expansion space) cost a lot of money.  Over the years the prices went up and up.  Just last February I filled the tank with 360 gallons at $2.30 per gallon.  Over $800 is a hit to any budget! 

I seem to use a lot more propane when I have other adults living here.  They don’t seem to get my frugality and would rather run the heaters than the woodstove and also use the propane drier rather than the clothesline.  Over the past several years, with the grandkids here but without any other adults I’ve averaged a little under 500 gallons of propane per year.  That isn’t bad but if TSHTF at any point, if my tank wasn’t full it wouldn’t last a year.  When I had other adults here the amount rose as high as almost 900 gallons in a year!

Today the propane delivery person stopped by because as he said, I should be low.  He hasn’t been here since February.  Cold weather went through April and he knew that Army daughter and family had been here since the prior time he’d filled up the tank.  Much to my surprise I only used 130 gallons over the past 6 months.  The price was $1.59 per gallon, so the bill was just under $200.  Not bad for the heating/hot water/cooking expenses for 6 months. 

If I couple that with my electric bill, over the past six months I’ve spent less than $500 for water, all heating, air conditioning, lights, cooking, refrigerator, freezer, TVs and computers, and the list goes on and on.  I’m impressed but not impressed enough. 

It isn’t just about the money, it's more about the amount.  At 130 gallons of propane in 6 months, my propane would last for over 1 ½ years.  Could I cut back even more?  Sure.  My sister had a solar water heater on her house years ago.  They are now starting to advertise them and stating that there are tax credits or rebates or something for their purchase.  I wonder if that holds true if you use propane.  Often you don’t get to take advantage of the programs if you use alternative fuels to start with. 

I also have a propane water heater.  My water heater says it will typically use 274 gallons of propane in a year.  So I don't use the average that it says or my propane fillup should have been 137 gallons just for the hot water heater and none for cooking.  It is a 40 gallon tank and the water is hot all the time.  I don’t keep it at the hottest setting but I keep it hot enough that I won’t run out of hot water if I want to take a shower for more than 5 minutes, or if consecutive showers get taken.  Nothing worse than being the last person in the shower and getting a lukewarm shower.  If TSHTF I would turn the hot water heater off. 

Who knows, I may do an experiment…but not until next summer (and hopefully we’ll still live a normal enough life to be able to have a full tank of propane at that time) and shut off the hot water.  If you want a shower we can heat up the water in the black bag and you can take a “solar” shower.  I’d like to rig that to the roof and use it straight into my shower.  I wonder if I could put in some type of lever to have the water come from the regular source or the water come from a source on the roof.  Something to think about. 

Then my only use of propane would be for cooking.  I’d bet that the propane tank could last for years if that’s all it was used for.  I could take the stove top propane pipe and disconnect it from the main tank.  I could connect the stove to the 20 pound tank and see how long it lasts so I could more accurately calculate how long the propane would last if only used for cooking.  More experiments to do all in the name of being prepared.  Are you trying to cut back? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The chicken stays outside!

It's been a very busy couple of weeks.  Once I got home from my travels I seemed to be overwhelmed with things to do. 

One is a very hard deadline with work.  It's a self imposed deadline, since I'm the head person on this project, but one I can't miss.  Unfortunately three other people I've given this deadline to have been just as busy.  They may miss the deadline.  Their alternative is to make 50 copies, back-to-back, three-hole-punched for everyone taking this upcoming class.  I also want a copy of their presentations.  That will probably be given to me ten minutes before their lectures start.  Two of the other instructors, neither are state employees, will have their presentations and their paperwork to me on time.  Too bad I can't dock the others or do something to get them to keep the deadline.  I've been trying to get this class really smooth because if I leave (aka retire and take a different job somewhere else) I want it to go smoothly for the next person. 

Home has been hectic.  Mrs. Bug-out renter spent a week with us.  She had a doctor's appointment and found a dial-a-ride to bring her but it wouldn't go to the bug-out place so it was scheduled from my house.  Having to pick her up and drop her off in my spare time meant she stayed over a week.  She was well enough behaved this time, and although she drove me crazy, she didn't drive the grand kids crazy.  She decided that each day after I'd leave for the office she'd go around and make beds better.  I'd come home and my bed would be made nice and a pair of PJs would be laying out for me.  Too weird...

I tripped over the electric cord and broke the lamp in the home store.  Even though it's dark in there I know where everything is so I can go in and pull stuff out without a light.  I will need one to put more food in, in order to keep it organized, but it's a good test right now to just know that I know where things are in the dark.  Can you go to most cabinets or closets and pull out what you want if you couldn't see because there weren't any lights?  In most closets and cabinets I can, and I can pretty well direct someone else to the location of just about everything.  But then again, I'm the one who puts everything away.  If there were two adults here putting things away would it be as organized?  I don't know.

Trying to find Mrs. Bug-out renter an apartment, now that Mr. Bug-out renter isn't around, is proving difficult.  The rents are too high unless she's put into some gang area, which I don't want to do...and it has nothing to do with not wanting to lose my renter.  I keep trying to get her family to pitch in but they all say that they have no money.  One of her kids is in the military and while I don't have his email, the rest of the kids do have it.  They've decided not to contact him while he's overseas so the only person who can provide some money doesn't know about his mother's need.

My garden is almost worthless at this point.  The only thing left is the eggplant, tomatoes, and a very bug attacked but still trying to hold on zucchini.  At least that makes for a great meal!  The rest died when I was out of town and it was over 100 for over a week.  In our neck of the woods, or flatland, we don't get summer rain to keep things watered.  It's a good thing that we don't have to depend on our garden for survival this year. 

On a lighter note, the chicken that hatched almost two months ago is a tame little cock.  He is lonely because the rest of the chickens are either in the coop or out in the front pasture.  He's not big enough to fend for himself in the front pasture so he just hangs out in the back yard.  He sometimes gets into a crowing contest with the rest of the roosters.  It's really funny because he's too young to really crow well, but he sure tries.  Each morning Yip-yip comes over and the two of them love to run around together.  Before we had the chicken Yip-yip would come over to play with the big dog, but now, she has someone her own size.  We had to teach her not to put the chicken into her mouth!  Now she just licks the chicken and tries to smell him in the wonderful way that dogs get to know each other.  She doesn't know that the chicken isn't a dog I suppose. 

Poor chicken though.  When it's hot out big dog and Yip-yip will both come in the house to lay down on the cool floors.  Chicken wants to come in too.  He can't.  We don't live in a barn.  Or at least I try to pretend we don't. 

I have a bunch of things to do to get ready for fall, which is hard when it's 95 out.  I have so much travel in the next two months that I will be gone as much as I'm home.  And that's if the state stays disaster free.  Or at least the southern part of the state.  Earthquake swarm STOP! 

Army daughter called today to complain about the high food prices.  She's worried that they will starve.  Perhaps they shouldn't eat what they do since I could feed her family and mine for less than what they spend.  Nevertheless, I converted her into a prepper while she lived here.  She is still fairly armchair prepping but she's willing to learn some more.  Tomorrow I will go over to her house to give her a few more exchange for lunch. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How are you going to get your firewood?

Many of us heat our houses with wood.  Some even cook all their meals with it.  We don't, we use propane, but what if there was a time that we couldn't get propane.  Is the woodpile big enough to last forever?  No.  I don't know very many people who have a large enough wood pile to last forever.  That's a lot of wood! 

How do I get my wood?  I seem to volunteer my yard any time someone has a tree that gets cut down and they don't know what to do with it.  Dump it in my yard.  I've even gone to friends houses and picked up their cut down trees.  I had one friend who had a huge elm tree that was cut down.  The tree cutters bucked it into lengths.  My friend had about four cords of wood in her yard.  I brought over the truck and trailer twice and picked up everything that she had.  Some of her other friends came over and picked up a few pieces for their fireplace but I got about 3 1/2 cords out of the deal.  It still had to be split but that wasn't too difficult.

I have three chain saws of varying sizes from 12 inches to 36 inches.  The 36 inch bar is obviously too big for me.  It was our woods saw when that was part of our livelihood.  Now, I keep trying to barter it for something more useful. 

Those of us that use chainsaws have our gas stored in the gas can.  Some of us preppers have several gas cans that we rotate to keep the gas fresh.  Keeping it fresh is much cheaper than putting in the gas preserver! What happens if we can't get to the gas station?  Doesn't matter if it's an EMP or an earthquake that stopped the trucks, or perhaps it just costs too much.  How are you going to cut your wood?  Do you have a saw?  Do you have a local (meaning you can walk there) place to cut wood?

Other than the chainsaws, I have several hand saws.  A couple years ago I bought little pocket saws for most of my family.  It's a small little saw that's really just a chain that's attached to two wooden handles.  This little saw will cut branches the thickness of my arm without struggle but it won't really work for thicker logs.  What about those huge two person saws?  They will work if you have a second person.  I don't want to have to rely on two people to cut wood.  A friend of mine said they'd possibly swap me a Putsch saw for my chainsaw.   Sounds like a good deal to me.   

Friday, August 24, 2012

Finally a substitute for Benefiber!

Benefiber has been off the market for months now.  The factory where it was made was shut down due to some machinery problems.  There wasn't a problem with the Benefiber product, just the factory.  Because of this Benefiber has been completely unavailable.  They sold out quickly and people have been plugged up since.  Every imaginable fiber powder, liquid, capsule has been tried.  Diets have been changed.  People have not found relief.  Until today.

I was at Costco today trying to get a shopping day in for Mrs. Bug-out Renter.  While I was there one of the samples they were offering was their new Wheat Dextrin product.  Just like Benefiber!  From all the discussion on my May 6 blog about Benefiber, I've learned there is a big difference in the different types of dietary fibers.  Of course, one of the easiest ways to deal with this is drink lots of water and eat lots of fiber.  Unfortunately for many, they still need a supplement.  If you still need to use a fiber the cards are in and Benefiber is the one that people want the most. 

Here are the ingredients for the different types of fiber products:
Benefiber - Wheat Dextrin.
Citrucel - Methylcellulose.
Fibercon and Equalactin - Calcium Polycarbophyl.
Metamucil - Psyllium Husk.
FiberChoice and Fibersure - Inulin (made from chicory root).

The Kirkland brand (Costco's own brand) is the Wheat Dextrin.  It is a 200 serving container for $15.  The last Benefiber I bought was a 190 serving container for $19.  More servings, less money.  Leave it to Costco to fill the void.  Once the word gets out it will be a best seller.  I still have about 250 servings of Benefiber left.  (I gave one of my 190 serving bottles away)  Yes, just like everything else I use, I had a large stock of this in our home store.  But, now that Costco is selling it, I will stock up next week when I do a shopping trip for us. Under $30 for relief for a year - definitely something that people out to stock up on.  From what I've just witnessed over the past four months, it is something that could easily have been bartered.  In fact, eBay is selling Benefiber for about one dollar per serving.  Let's see, 190 servings in my container... wow.     

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Everyone is waiting for November

The presidential election has so many people wishing things will go one way or another.  People get downright obnoxious with each other arguing politics.  Stating your opinion, especially to people who think the opposite, in my opinion is usually just a waste of breath and also done in the spirit of riling someone up rather than actually trying to convince them to understand your point of view. 

I have a facebook account that has  friends and family attached to it.  I have about 1/2 dozen people as my friends who I've never met.  I did a search for people on facebook with the same name as I have.  I just thought it would be fun to "friend" myself, or myself who isn't really me.  Three of the four people with my name friended me.  Of these one rarely posts anything.  One of the other two posts daily.  This person is from Chicago and is extremely dedicated to their political position.  Their position is completely opposite of mine.  The other person with the same name posts about the family, just as I do. 

I post about once a month.  It's either about work, because most people find it interesting, or it's about the grand kids.  I never post anything that I wouldn't mind the entire world seeing, other than I don't want the entire world seeing it.  I set all the privacy settings but even with that any total stranger can look at your list of friends.  They can click on any of those friends and if those friends have their accounts open to strangers then those strangers can see anything you've posted to your friends site.  I usually only post happy remarks.  Not politics, not pissed off about work, not even anything negative about the kids, dogs, or whatever. 

OK, I'm really digressing since I didn't intend to write about Facebook at all.  It's just there's so much political garbage on it.  On the other hand, most of the stuff is funny - as long as you don't get all huffy that 1/2 of it is about your own candidate.  I'll read  both sides, I'll laugh at both sides.  Unfortunately, neither side is really going to fix the problems that we as a country are having. 

I don't even want to talk national politics.  State politics is the issue tonight.  And somewhat federal.  It's, all about the taxes going up.  Since I work for the state I am well aware that the fake state budget is so out of whack that nobody in their right mind would ever make a budget like that for their family and call it good.  It's something like the "I'm going to win the lottery and then this budget will work".  No lottery, no chance of having a balanced budget.  So what do they want?  Instead of remembering that the amount of money available is the same amount we had 10 years ago and just cutting everything  back, the state would rather pin its hopes on the election.  The state just committed to spend 10% of the state budget, for the next who knows how many years, on high speed rail.  I'm not sure how they are going to pay for that. 

Just to balance the state budget without the rail costs is just about impossible.  What is the state proposing?  Adding higher taxes to the higher income brackets.  This November they are proposing a new tax, but only for the people who "can afford it".  The federal government plans to do the same.  Renew the tax cuts for everyone except the higher income brackets, because they can afford it.  There's some other new tax that's coming up on investments.  I haven't paid much attention to it because I don't have those kinds of investments.  But it's all about the new tax on those who can afford it.  This means there are three new sets of taxes that will probably be happening. 

Don't people realize that those with money can spend their money in two ways?  They can buy goods and services, which provide jobs and spread money around in a capitalistic way, or they can give that same money to the government, who will spread it around - often to those who choose to live off the backs of others.  Although I'm not anywhere near the income brackets that will be affected by the tax hikes I have had to cut back on some of my spending.  Instead of cutting back on giveaway programs the state is cutting the pay of state workers.  No problem.  I used to pay someone to help with yard work.  In fact, I used to hire out about $200 a month in different services.  If everyone on my street did this we'd be able to support a family.  I don't hire anything out anymore.  I doubt many of my neighbors do either.  Most of my neighbors do fit into that upper income and they are cutting back on doing anything as they just wait out the uncertainty. 

Our state budget is going to be 10% over budget if they don't pass the new taxes.  They are threatening to cut just about everything.  At some point the state, and the federal government is going to need to take a step back and realistically determine what "the people" should be paying for and what they shouldn't.  While we demand life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness, I'm not sure where things when so wrong that we expect our happiness to come from the government. 

As I wait for November, I know that December is just around the corner.  I still believe that the country is going to turn into a huge state of crazy in December.  It may be blamed on the Mayan calendar or perhaps the presidential election.  I'm expecting an interesting Christmas season. 

I'll make sure we are well stocked with as many provisions as possible.  We canned a lot but as per normal, since I am gone so much during the summer a lot of the garden died.  I've done a lot of dehydrating vegetables this season.  It takes up half the space as canning and is much easier to pack if I need to take something with me for the day or week.  This week we picked what will probably be the last of the okra.  I'm cutting it into bite-sized pieces and putting it into the dehydrator.  When you are ready to use the okra you just take what you need and put it in a bowl of warm water to rehydrate, unless you just throw it straight into a soup or stew. 

In the mean time, the job I really would like may be coming up sooner rather than later.  I guess I may be the one thought of as crazy; to leave a good paying, permanent, enjoyable, government job for one in the semi-private sector.  There's a chance I wouldn't get that job, but then I'll just stay in the one I have.  Yes, November and December will be interesting.  I can't wait.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review of Progress: Food Preparation List

I think the Food Preparation List in Rawles list of lists is very poorly written.  He says you will need an oversize skillet and a huge stew pot.  You need several huge kettles because you will probably be heating water on the wood stove to use for bathing, dish washing, and clothes washing.  He then goes on to say you need more kettles, barrels, and 5 or 6 gallon buckets. Then he reminds you not to overlook skinning knives, gut-buckets, gambrels, and meat saws.

That's it.  You don't need anything else on your list.  I think you do.  Here's a small list for the kitchen.
Grain mill.  I have one that's from the 80s.  It runs on electricity and also has a hand crank.
Camp/propane stove.  Easier than wood, although not renewable.  The house runs on propane, the bug-out place runs on propane, so does the trailer, and the camp stove.
Propane tank. 500 gallon tank at home, 250 gallon tank at bug-out place (need to upgrade that one to a larger tank...perhaps underground), two 40-pound bottles, one 20-pound bottle.  All kept full.
Solar oven. If you can afford to buy one then do so.  I can't so we have a home made one.  It works OK but won't last like a Sun Oven would. 
Dehydrator (electric and a sun box) I have my 30+ year old Excalibur that works as well today as the day I bought it.  I also take the trays and cover them with cheese cloth and hang them from the clothes line to dry the food out in the sun.  It takes a few days that way but it doesn't use any electricity.
Ice chest.  Great for a cooking box.  Heat your food to boiling, wrap in blankets, put into the ice chest for the rest of the day.  Dinner will be ready on time. I have several ice chests of different sizes.  Plus, I keep one in the back of each pickup.
Dutch oven.  Mine's cast iron.  Unfortunately it doesn't have the flat top to be able to put charcoal on top.
Stock pots.  Many. 7 qt, 15 qt., 21 qt., as many as you can get your hands on. 
Cast iron skillets and griddles.  Smaller for everyday, larger for a crowd.  I only have 10" cast iron skillets.  I have 12 inch in the heavy aluminum.  I think there is one for sale at a local junk store that I need to check on. 
Lots of pots and pans.  I have quite a few.  The normal every day set is in the house.  Another set is in the trailer, and a third set is in the bug-out place.  I have some extras that are stored in the barn. 
Sheet pans.  These I get at Sam's Club.  I love them.  They come two to a pack for about $10.  I have six, even though I only have four oven racks.  They can also be used when you want to individually freeze items in the freezer. 
Roasting or casserole pans.  Most people have things like Pyrex or Corelle bakeware.  That's great for normal everyday use.  I have those.  But I also have the half size and whole size chaffing dish aluminum pans.  I got these at Smart and Final but they can also be bought from Sam's Club.  I've had mine for over 25 years.  They still look like new and work perfectly.  I've covered them with foil and put them on top of coals, used them in an oven, on top of the stove, and also in their holder being heated with a Sterno.  You can buy the throw away aluminum pans, and I have a stack of those as well. 
Cake pans, muffin tins.  You need something for treats.  If you don't have enough muffin tins but you have muffin papers (you can buy a huge box for only a few dollars) you can place the muffin papers in a canning ring and the ring will act as the muffin tin.

We haven't even covered tools and utensils.  Get as many heavy duty ones as you can.  Just because you can stir with a stick from your tree in the yard doesn't mean you want to.  What about hand tools?  If you have food storage you probably have cans.  How many can openers do you have?  I have three swing-aways.  One is getting old and isn't very sharp.  It is going to go out to the barn after I purchase another one.  You can get them at yard sales or junk stores for not too much money.  Scour estate sales.  You will probably be able to pick up a bunch of kitchen tools from the 40 and 50s.  They used to be the rage in the 80s.  Now they aren't and you can find them cheap.  I have scraping spatulas, turning spatulas that are metal and plastic.  Go down the cooking aisle and take notes of what you would like to have if you could never shop again and you'd have to do all your food prep at home.
Knives and sharpening tools.  Get the best knives you can afford.  Make sure they feel good in your hand.  If you don't know where to start, go to your local butcher shop and as the butcher about his knives.  You will get great advice from someone who uses them as their basic tools. 
Colanders.  I have some that you hold against a pot as you are draining the pot, others are plastic and still others are metal.  They have different size holes depending on what you are draining.
Salad spinner?  Not only can you take the water off your salad you can use this thing for other purposes as well.  If you hand wash clothes and you need them to dry more quickly just put them into the salad spinner.  This only works for smaller items like socks, underware, bathing suits, etc.  It will also work for little kids clothes.  Even home made feminine pads.  Maybe you'll want more than one salad spinner. 
How many mixing bowls do you have?  I have glass bowls and metal bowls.  You just can't have too many of these. 
Measuring cups and spoons.  I have several sets, plastic and glass. You can also measure using canning jars.  Learn how to estimate teaspoons and tablespoons.  It's not that hard.
Plastic containersTupperware?  Get the heavy duty kind, not the cheap dollar store types.  Those won't hold up. 
What about plates, glasses, cups, silverware, etc?  We use ceramic dishes for everyday but I also have lots of plastic and even more paper plates.  In my opinion, if we bug-in when the SHTF I don't need to spend any time washing plates or cups.  They can go into the fire place.   A bag of 750 can last two years for one person. 
Cutting boards.  I have wood and plastic.  I also have the roast/turkey cutting board which has grooves to catch the juice. 
Paper towels.  I don't normally use them for every.  A roll will last months...unless a guest is here and uses 5 at a time!  I have about 40 rolls, just in case.  I also have the brown folded paper towels.  They don't pick up liquid spills nearly as well as the paper towels on the roll but they have their place for covering, wrapping, or even drying off your hands. 
Dish towels.  I use the white terry towels from Costco.  40 in the pack.  I also use the white wash clothes as dish rags.  You can buy them for about 20 cents each from Target or Walmart.  We go through a lot of these each day and each week I have a load to wash.  I include 1/3 cup of bleach in the washer and also hang them to dry in the sun. 
The list can just go on and on an on. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Living in a Daze

Lately work has been so crazy that I seem to be living in a daze.  I hardly know what day it is, other than with school starting I can tell you if it's a school day.  Fortunately for me, after having returned from out of town last week, I've been able to dodge the bullet and stay home.  Being gone for two weeks, and not having time to read the news, surf the Internet, or really know what is going on is a very strange way to live.  I'm just a bit oblivious to what's happening right now, other than half my garden died and the other half is growing like gangbusters.  I'm trying to play catch up on many of the blogs that I enjoy reading but once I get a couple weeks behind, then I just have to resign the fact that I need to just skip a week of what everyone wrote.  If you wrote something that you would have expected me to respond to and I didn't, I'm truly sorry.  Send me a note and I'll read what you've written - otherwise I've just written off at least a week.
Work had our normal Monday morning conference call.  Two of the three people who work under me are pissed off.  Not really at wasn't me who threw them under the bus. Really.  Everything just seems to be going wrong at work due to high stress levels and emergencies happening throughout the state.  Things aren't really that bad in the southern half of the state, it's slowed down this past weekend.  One of my coworkers was on overtime for a week, he got back this morning and then was called out again, probably for another week.  He's like me and doesn't get paid as well as those we supervise when it comes to overtime.  I'm sure at the end of this siege he will not be happy either.  At least he can't blame it on me!  Those who work for me are just as stressed as I am.  At least when they get their paychecks they will be quite a bit happier.  Every 7 days they work on this crazy schedule they end up with their normal 40 hours pay plus an additional 100 hours of straight time pay.  Yes, that's 3 1/2 weeks of pay for working one week.  But let me tell you, they probably cut their lives short a month for every week they work like this! 
My San Diego guy got thrown to the wolves.  He told someone they couldn't do something.  That person ignored what he said and gave the go ahead to do it.  The person even stated that my employee gave permission.  Slime.  It's causing quite a commotion.  It may make the news, but it hasn't yet.  I hope it doesn't and just stays internal.  I wonder whose side the governor will take if it blows up?   
Anyway, back to living in a daze.  Has silver gone up or down?  Has there been any new crises of the day or week that I don't know about?  Gas has gone up in price.  I had to fill my family truck last weekend.  With the work truck I don't bother to look at the price, I just fill it up.  I need to go to the grocery store.  I haven't shopped in a couple of months other than milk, and even that lately has meant more powdered milk than fresh.  Life is just speeding by.  That's not good because although my calendar is pretty full between now and mid October, I realize that this is on a crash course to the craziness that will  be heading our way in November and December.  Are you ready because the SHTF real soon.  I need to stop and catch my breath and spend a little more time in the prepping mode.  I plan on taking a four day weekend for Labor Day.  Sounds like a perfect time to go shopping for more preps.  Hope there's no big emergency that I have to attend to.  I don't want to go!  Breathe, 1, 2, 3, 4, breathe, 1, 2, 3, 4. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review of Progress - Food Storage

Going down the list of priorities in Rawles’ How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It, I wanted to know how I’ve done.  I didn’t have an inventory list of food when I first started so I can’t compare perfectly but I still can compare then to now.  We have a vegetable garden, I've put in over 50 fruit trees, we pressure can, boiling water bath, and dehydrate.  We raise chickens and eggs, ducks, and sheep.  At some point I'd like to get back into goats.  I just don't have time to milk so we don't have goats. 
Lay in an honest one-year supply of storage food for your family:
Start by increasing the quantities of canned foods that you use on a regular basis 
I’ve always had a good supply of food on hand.  When I started I had a four foot wide, two foot deep shelf unit (four shelves) plus another unit about the same size with five shelves.  These shelves held everything: my canned goods, dry beans, seasonings, candy, pasta, boxed mixes, everything. 

This past year we built a “home store” that is a separate room for food.  I have 4 four-foot wide shelves that are 1 ½ feet deep.  The units have 6 shelves each. This means I have almost 100 linear feet of shelf space to hold my food.  And, the shelves are pretty full.  I also have the old shelf units in the other room.  They hold the “monthly” food so instead of going to the home store we get most of our food out of that pantry and then resupply that pantry from our home store. 

Buy some short-term Get Out Of Dodge foods that don’t require adding water
Short-term means stuff that you really don’t want to be eating all the time.  I have at least 8 cases of MREs.  It’s not really very much food since there are three of us.  I probably should stock up on more of these.  About half are actual military style MREs.  They will last a good long time so they can just stay in storage.  We don’t normally eat them as part of our food storage program.  The other type of MRE that I like, and we do rotate them, are called Heater Meals.  They are a main dish that comes with its own heating bag.  You put your main dish in the bag, pour the salt water that’s supplied into the bag, then fold it over and let it do its chemical reaction magic.  The food will cook and be boiling hot in about 5 minutes.  These main dishes are stored in a heavy duty zip lock back along with snacks, handwipe, drink mix, etc.  It’s a do-it-yourself MRE.  The Heater Meal only has a couple year life so it needs to be rotated (aka eaten!).   I should probably stock up on more actual MREs and more Heater Meals.  They both cost a lot more than home made.  If I make our own MREs using pull-tab cans of tuna, beef jerky, etc. it would be a lot cheaper but they would have to be rotated much more often than the military style MRE or even the Heater Meal style.  End result?  Still lacking buy better than most people I know...because they have none!

Build a large supply of wheat, rice, beans, honey, and salt, in five or six gallon buckets
We have several hundred pounds of wheat, all stored in 5 gallon buckets. That’s heavy enough; I don’t want to go to six gallon buckets. Same with rice.  I went on a rice buying kick last year and every time I went to Costco I’d buy two 25 pound bags.  I’d throw them into the freezer for a week then take them out, have them sit on the counter for a few days to make sure there wasn’t any residual moisture, then pack into Mylar bags in five gallon buckets, put a paper towel on top, then seal up the bags and close up the bucket.   I do rotate these as we eat a lot of rice.  Every time I use up one bucket (25 pounds) I buy two more bags.  Rice is so cheap.  Less than $25 for 50 pounds.  We have several gallon cans of honey.  I bought the bee hive, which I’m going to put together this winter and purchase bees this spring…unless I have the good fortune to fine a swarm.  We also have sugar.  It’s easy to store and I do the same thing when I use sugar up.  I keep it in 2 gallon containers.  Each container holds 10 pounds.  When I use up 10 pounds I buy two more 10 pound bags.  I’ve bought it in 25 pound bags but the price is the same per pound and the smaller bags are easier to handle.  We have close to 100 pounds of sugar.  It will keep forever if kept dry and away from ants, so why not stock up?  Actually if the ants get in you can just scoop them out.  Do I have enough of these basics?  No.  And I won’t until I have a lifetime supply.  After all, if I expect to live another 30 years I could easily stock up on 30 years worth since they don’t go bad.  Come to think of it, I do have a 30 year supply of salt, even if I do lots and lots of pickling. 

Rotate your storage food consistently, using the first-in first-out inventory methodology.
All canned goods have the date on the cans or boxes written in big black Magic Marker across the front.  Between marking each and every item and putting the newest on the bottom or in the back, depending on if they are stacked or not, it takes a while to put the stuff all away.  Most of the time I don’t have things that are too far out of date.  Unless you get the storage packed foods, you will have foods out of date.  After all, most food you buy at the grocery store has a use by date of a year at most.  How can you store two or three years of stuff if it goes out of date in a year?  Easy, you don’t worry about the date as long as it still tastes and smells good.  Everything is still used in date order.  It does make me wonder if I have a bunch of items that are out of date, is it that I don’t like that item?  If that’s the case I shouldn’t keep including it in the home storage. 

A couple years ago we tried some Cracker Jacks that had been in the decorative can for about 15 years.  We spit them out right there at the table.  They were horrible!  In a quest for dessert we spied a can of chocolate chips.  They were just as old.  They were edible.  Not great but edible.  I don’t think there’s anything else in the house that is that old. 

I did find a couple of jars of grape juice that I canned in 2002.  10 years old.  Why not?  It may not have had any vitamins left in it but it still provided some calories.  That’s it for old food.  The oldest of the expiration dates on store food is 2011 and the oldest food I have from home canned is 2010.  All in all, we are doing a good job rotating food. 
Store extra food for charity and barter
For those who really care and are really hungry, wheat, rice, beans, honey, and salt are the best foods to barter.  They are also cheap to buy and easy to store.  I’ve started saving the wide mouth Gatorade bottles to store these items in.  You can put about a pound of salt into a 20 ounce bottle.  It takes up more space this way than keeping it in the four pound box but it’s a guaranteed way to keep the salt dry.  It’s also easier to give away than saying, “just a minute, let me get out my 5 gallon bucket so I can give you a scoop.”  No, if you keep it on hand in the give away size, you don’t have to go to the stash. 

Foods for barter would be different than foods for charity.  I think I would go deeper into the stash getting more variety for barter than charity.  Why? I’m assuming that the person I’m bartering with is already prepared and they have something that I need.  In that case, a special food item would probably be more exciting than their everyday needs.  Charity, I believe, would require more of the basics.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be looking for handouts.  And if someone is looking for a handout you probably don’t want to appear to have more than a little more than they do.  If you look too well to do in times of need you may be bringing trouble upon yourself in the future. 

So how am I doing overall on the food storage?  We are set for at least a year but I haven’t gone through and figured out exactly.  I probably should know whether I have enough for 12 months, 18, 24, 36, or what.  I would also like to put in more freeze dried and dehydrated foods.  That’s really going to be the direction of my upcoming food storage plan.  I’d just better hurry.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review of Progress: Water

How prepared am I?  How much have I improved over the past two years?  Have you done any type of assessment on how much you have improved or do you still think you are hopelessly failing at your preparations?  Me?  I’m thanking God that I’ve had the last two years to prepare and that time and supplies are still available, although we never know for how much longer.

In order for me to figure out just how far I’ve come, or where I’m still lacking, I’ve decided to go down Rawles “List of Lists” from How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.  Try it yourself.  But, don’t go through the entire list in one day.  If you do and you aren’t completely prepared, and I’m not sure anyone will ever be, you may get discouraged. 

Water List:
  1. Downspout conversion and water barrels
  2. Buckets or things to capture and hold water
  3. A cart to move your water from the pond, holding area, etc. to where you need it.  Proper tires on the cart so they don’t go flat.
  4. Water treatment system. Clorox and Big Berky
  5. Extra bottles of Clorox to barter
  6. Not on this list but probably on another list: Sources of water other than the city water.
How’m (bet you haven’t seen that contraction in a while) I doing?
My house first:
  1. Don’t have any downspouts or rain barrels.  They cost money.  I do have baby pools that I can move to where the water pours off the roof.  We also have a 650 gallon stock tank and 3-150 gallon stock tanks. 
  2. Have plenty of two gallon and five gallon buckets.  Two gallons are about all the grandkids can hold. 
  3. I have a four-wheeled furniture mover dolly which works great on cement.  It would not do well transporting water from the closest pond ¼ mile away back here to the house.  I have a nice two-wheeled dolly that is perfect for hauling trash cans.  I could strap a 20 gallon trash can to it and easily haul that back and forth from the neighbor’s pond.  I’d use the 2 gallon buckets to fill it.  I sure would like a heavy duty garden cart like they use at the nursery.  Again, that costs money.
  4. I have Clorox.  I don’t have a Big Berky. 
  5. I have extra bottles of Clorox.
  6. Best of all, we have a well and I have a hand pump.  It’s a crappy hand pump but it will work.  The dream is to run the well on solar rather than electricity and to put in a storage tank that is tall and would build enough pressure to easily run the hoses and the house.  The other dream is to buy or make a really good hand pump. 
Bug-out place:
  1. No rain barrels or water tanks.
  2. It has a well but it’s about 100 feet lower in elevation than the house.  It has a small pressure tank and pumps uphill.  That’s just the opposite of what I want.
  3. There is a spring on the adjacent property.  I may be able to clean that up and run a pipe.  Who has time for this?  Certainly not me.
  4. The creek ½ mile away is almost dry.  In the three years I’ve owned this place it’s never gone dry.  The pond, also ½ mile away barely has any water, but the deer are congregating there…dinner!
  5. I’d have to transport everything from my house to the Bug-out place.  That’s not a good solution.
  6. Mrs. Bug-out renter has about 100 one-gallon bottles of water stored.  Unfortunately they are all in old milk bottles.  At least it’s water.

My conclusions on the water list.  I could rig up a good hand pump for not too much money.  If I spent $1,000 I could probably have convenience along with being water independent – at least at the main house.  But overall, water isn’t a big issue and I’m ok here if I never did anything else about water.  Bug-out place?  It would be a problem but since we don’t have lots of garden to water and it would be for individual use, it’s not as bad as I first thought.  Of course, it would need to get set up for a big garden and then the water would become an issue…I’m getting a headache!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two years of blogging. Thanks to the over 100,000 hits.

Wow, it's been two years and over 100,000 hits (my counter is almost 10,000 off since I didn't discover the counter until many months later).  I thought I'd repost my first post.  Since this blog was really for me to document what I am doing to prepare, I will spend the next few posts going over my progress.  I think I will be pleased upon review, but maybe not.  This review may show me I have some glaring deficiencies in my prepping. 

From August 15, 2010 - Post #1
Two weeks ago I came home from my monthly grocery shopping at Costco and Winco and had a strange thought come over me. As I was putting everything in its place in my mini-Walmart of a garage, a question kept popping into my brain. Not quite popping, more like thunderous pounding. What If? Two simple words, yet really terrifying words when placed at the beginning of a whole list of questions.

What If today was the last day that the stores were open and full of supplies? What If the fuel supplies were cut? What If the electricity went out for good? What If I couldn’t get my propane tank filled? What If my family had to live on what I had on hand here at home? What If? What if I woke up tomorrow morning and realize TSHTF while I was sleeping? What if TOMORROW was the day? No advance warning…

When I broach the subject with my family or friends they just laugh it off, yet they’d all choose my house to shelter at when their ill preparations went sour. They would all congregate towards my property and expect that we’d all be able to survive together. They all naively assume that because I have a few acres we’d somehow all be fine.  I know very few people that I would want to live with for the short term, let alone the long term and in a stressful situation. My What If scenario does not include adding people into our household who have nothing to offer. I don’t need someone whose only ability is to complain about having to follow household rules or who wants to sit around and play video games all day.

But bringing the What If back to this moment. I’m not ready. I’d like to think I am, but in reality life would be very difficult if the power went out and the stores shut down tomorrow morning. So since I admit I’m not ready, and to be fully prepared will take months, OK let’s get back to reality, years since I don’t have unlimited funds or unlimited time. Where does that leave you? Either you just give up and say you’ll just keep reading blogs and pray that TEOTWAWKI won’t happen where you live or you get serious about preparing for yourself and your family. NOW!

This blog will post stories of what we have done, what we are doing, and what we plan on doing in the future.  Stay with us and learn.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Grazing" instead of eating larger meals

And you all thought I went on vacation and just stopped posting, didn't you?  No, I ended up having to go out of town for work and it was very last minute...or rather a phone call at 2:00 in the morning.  I've now worked almost three weeks without a day off, school starts this week for the grand kids and they don't have any of their school supplies set out, so it was time to come home.  The grand kids didn't mind this latest work schedule because I hauled them down to San Diego to stay at my sister's house.  They got to swim every day and play with their cousin.  It was a good way for them to end their summer vacation.

The state is always trying to save money and one of the ways they are doing so is by changing the food they feed us when we are working.  Every morning there's hot food consisting of some sort of eggs, potatoes, and meat.  There's also a wide variety of cold food including cereal, fruit, sweet rolls, and juices.  However you eat at home can be replicated here.  If you don't eat a good breakfast normally you usually eat a good one on the job.  Dinner is the same: meat, vegetables, more vegetables, roll, salads, cookies, cake or pie, and juices. 

Then there's lunch.  This is where the changes occurred.  I think it's for the better.  They used to give us two huge sandwiches with at least 1/4 pound of meat in each sandwich.  We'd usually pull out the meat and eat that then throw the bread out to the birds.  We'd get one or two pieces of fruit, and usually a cookie or candy bar, also some trail mix or some other type of snack, and a juice box and some other drink.  We'd sit down for lunch and by the time we were done eating it would be nap time...only there's no nap time on this job. 

They just changed lunch to what they call "grazing" lunch.  My lunch bag says 4 pounds of food and they no longer include juice or other drinks.  Imagine 4 pounds of food just for lunch!  It's really set up to be able to snack all day.  I'll list what was in my lunch today: One roast beef sandwich with three slices of roast beef, a package of beef jerky, a can of tuna, two sweet-n-salty almond bars, a clifbar, a tiger's milk bar, two 3 oz. packs of tiny carrots, a package of mother's oatmeal cookies, a package of trail mix, a package of chip's ahoy cookies, four pieces of bubble gum, 4 packs of saltine crackers, an apple and orange, four drink mixes (like Gatorade) to mix with water, and probably some other things that I can't remember off the top of my head. 

The idea of this lunch is that we are supposed to eat continuously during the day while we are working.  Studies have shown that during the last four to six hours of a 12 hour work day most people really start to drag.  By changing from a traditional lunch meal to grazing it has been found that people have a steady energy flow throughout the entire work schedule.  I do believe that I had more energy to work this past week but I also think that by eating continuously I put on some weight. 

Although a lot of food is served at breakfast it's not really heavy so it's just right for starting the day off.  At the end of the day I usually pick and choose which food I eat at dinner.  I'll pretty much go for whatever my body seems to crave...which always includes the steak.  Since steak is such a rarity at home, getting it every other day while on the job is nice and really gives a good protein boost at the end of the day.

Little kids graze, Boy and Girl just want to eat all day as well.  I don't know why adults think that it's better to sit down for three meals rather than graze.  I understand at the beginning and end of the day to just sit down and eat.  It's good for socializing.  But during the day when you are trying to accomplish something, stopping to eat, and then wanting a nap after, is just not the way to go. 

If you have to do some hard labor or you have any type of project that you are working on set up your bag of grazing food and keep it with you all day. Don't take a lunch break, just keep on going.  You may be suprised that by not taking that noon break you may accomplish a whole lot more and you will have more energy to pull you through.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Barter Bottles

Normally I just throw our 2 liter bottles and 20 ounce Gatorade bottles into the recycle bin so we can get a little bit of our taxed money back.  We rarely have 2 liter bottles because soda is a treat (although if I had my way I'd probably drink a 2 liter bottle each day) but we have lots of Gatorade bottles.  I pretty much get an unlimited supply of that.  I have a good stash of 5 gallon buckets so I haven't really thought about using the bottles for food storage.  But this morning, as I was getting ready to pitch the bottles into the recycle bag in the yard I changed my mind.

The bottles could be filled with beans and rice.  The wider mouthed Gatorade bottles may be able to hold some noodles as well.  They'd all be able to hold spices and seasonings.  Salt would work well in these.  The plastic bottles are lighter in weight than canning jars, which I use to hold a lot of dry goods in the trailer.  They do have a drawback though.  Mice can chew on them and get into them so if you have a bad mouse problem this is something you have to watch out for.  If you live in earthquake country storing in these bottles rather than jars could mean the difference between having and not having any food!  If the plastic bottles fall on the ground they won't break.  Don't use old milk containers.  Not only can't you usually get them clean enough to get the milk smell out, those bottles don't hold up well.  They are not made the same and will quickly start to decompose and split apart.  Then you'd just have a big mess.

If the SHTF and someone shows up wanting to work for food what can I do?  I can offer up some food stored in these bottles.  I figure you can probably get about a pound of beans or rice in a 20 ounce Gatorade bottle.  Loading someone down with several bottles will seem like a goldmine to someone who doesn't have food.  You can vary what you put into the bottles.  I could give them five bottles of food: pinto beans, rice, black beans, navy beans, and salt. Or maybe wheat, powdered milk, sugar, etc.  The list can go on and on and on. 

For my own use?  I'm going to fill the trailer with these and take out the glass jars.  That will give me more jars to use for canning! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Birthday Cake and other rituals kids need

If TSHTF or any other situations come along where we hit a ritual time, if sure would make things easier if we could still celebrate, even if just in a small way.  One of the things I've done since I got the grand kids was to have them help with celebrations.  In this case, Girl recently had a birthday. She designed her cake and then had to make it.  No mixes, all from scratch. 
I don't know how well a solar oven would be able to make a cake.  I know I can make brownies in it but they don't have to rise as much.  We have electric ovens in the house but the trailer has a propane oven, so theoretically, at least for a year or so, we'd be able to make cakes.  The only extra ingredient that wouldn't normally be in the food storage is powdered sugar.  But it's not hard to store powdered sugar.  If you figure 1 pound can frost two cakes then you may really only need to store a few pounds per year. 

Anyway, I just wanted to show off Girl's cake and to remind people with kids that some things just shouldn't be overlooked, whether you have a bunch of money to spend or not, whether times are good or bad, they need a few little things to keep them in a good state of mind about the future.  Crayons, tape, glue, a few toys, will all go a long ways to keeping kids happy.  Not overindulging also helps.  She's not having 20 kids over.  We are not bringing a bunch of people to some amusement park to celebrate her birthday.  I didn't spend hundreds of dollars on her presents.  She did get to make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.  She got to make macaroni and cheese for lunch.  It's chicken nuggets (her favorite) for dinner and her cake for dessert.  She got out of her morning chores but otherwise she did all the cooking!

Her presents?  A bigger bird cage for her parakeets.  A new pack of underwear.  And her very own bottle of  smelly, girly hair conditioner.  Can't get much better than that!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reflections after our camping trip

We are back from our camping trip.  First off, I want to let you know we ended up not tent camping.  We were offered, and of course I accepted, the use of an old cabin out in the woods.  It is in the process of being remodeled and rebuilt so the person wanted me to stay there to give my opinion.  I was told to bring what I would normally bring for camping because they didn't know exactly what would be completed by the time I arrived.  The first thing I noticed...a brand new hide-a-bed sofa.  That's mine.  I don't care if it's in the middle of the living room, I get the brand new bed. 

This cabin was about 650 square feet.  It had a small private bedroom with two twin beds on military style bed spring metal frames that held older twin mattresses, an open bedroom with one twin bed again on the metal frame, a room with a toilet, and a room with a shower, sink, and hot water heater, a living room with the sofa and a wood stove, and the kitchen which was my favorite room.  The kitchen was brand new.  The cabinets were handmade from local pine.  The counter top was a 10 foot long 2 inch slab of pine.  There was a huge table that took up most of the floor space but would easily hold 10 people. The stove and refrigerator were both propane.  There was a ceiling light in the living room and also one on the wall of the kitchen that were plumbed into the propane.  The bathroom and bedroom had a candle holder up on the wall with the reflective backing to help light up the room.  There was spring water continuously flowing through a pipe about 25 feet from the front door, but the cabin did have piped in water from a water tank about 1/2 mile away and uphill which made for great water pressure.   The ceilings were only 7 feet high, which made heating it much easier.  We didn't actually need the wood stove.  Running the propane lights in the living room and dining room warmed it up in the evening to take off any hint of chill.  We slept in our sleeping bags on the beds so we didn't need heat during the night.  In the morning I lit the lamps and again it took any chill off.  It didn't get that cold out since we were only around 6000 feet in elevation. 

Since we were camping with a couple of friends I offered them the cabin too.  One couple pitched a tent with themselves and their 3 year old.  The other person took the private bedroom.  Girl wanted to sleep in the open bedroom and boy wanted the floor next to me.  The person who offered the cabin came over for dinner last night.  We had five adults, 3 kids, and three dogs just hanging around.  I think this was the most pleasant time I've had camping in a long time...OK, it wasn't really camping but it sure was fun. 

I asked how long the propane would last for the water heater, lights, stove, and refrigerator.  They didn't know other than it's a 250 gallon tank.  One thing I would have done differently would have been to put in an electronic ignition propane stove top.  Even though the place didn't have electricity, I'd rather have the propane shut off and have to light it with a match than to have the two pilot lights burn round the clock.  The place doesn't have electricity but it has outlets in each room because it's set up for a generator. 

I'd also put in a solar hot water line to go with the water heater.  That would preheat the water and again cut back on the propane use.  Otherwise the place would have been perfect - if it wasn't within 1/2 mile of a large campground! 

I did have the luxury of cooking on the propane stove, which I did for breakfast.  We put a fire into the firepit in the evening and cooked the evening meal over the fire.  My cast iron cookware worked perfectly well for that.  Boy and girl learned a new skill with the campfire.  They learned to take a hatchet and split pieces of wood to make kindling.  They learned how to gather dead pine and cedar needles for the fire.  They gathered enough needles, twigs, and split kindling and stacked it all like a Lincoln Log tower.  One night Girl got to start the fire the other night Boy did.  They were given two matches.  Girl needed two, Boy, only one.  Each night one of the kids was in charge of keeping the fire least until they went to bed.  Then the grownups took care of it. 

This morning we went fishing.  We weren't successful at catching fish, which was fine with me.  If we fished yesterday I would have wanted fish for dinner!  The kids really spent their time gathering up grubs and putting them on the hooks.  The also tried casting with my rod and reel, but more importantly, they made cane poles, with long narrow branches they found in the woods. 

We picked wild raspberries, thimbleberries, and blackberries and brought about 1/2 gallon of blackberries home.  The rest ended up being eaten.  We saw one deer during a hike.  We talked about the abundant amounts of food in the woods but most people would come out and starve to death.  They'd think they can eat berries all the time or something but that wouldn't work.  There isn't even enough deer population to support people if "everyone" came out hunting.  You'd have to rely of native plants, especially the type that don't look like food! But that's for another day in the woods. 

Both the bug-out place and our home have propane.  I'm going to look into buying some lights that I can plumb right into the propane pipes.  I'd have to stock up on mantles but it's a great source of light and heat.  I think the uses for propane was the best part of the trip.  I keep wanting to get off grid, but also to not have to rely fully on solar.  Propane isn't infinite, but I could put in a much larger tank than my 500 gallon tank.  I will follow up with the cabin owner to see how long the propane lasts. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Don't stop prepping

Several people who write blogs have not only stopped their blogs but also pretty much stopped prepping.  Many have gotten too busy with what they call "real life" to worry about prepping anymore.  One even wrote that he moved from a big city to a smaller town but he still has to work and think about all those family things and since it isn't the end of the world he isn't going to live like it's coming.  No more prepping. 

What has gotten better?  Is it because they are satisfied that they moved away from the city?  So now they don't have to stock up on food, clothes, ammunition, first aid supplies, or whatever else preppers may be stocking up on.  I just don't get it. 

I understand that often when people start anything they go overboard with excitement or with the urge to "catch up", but to just stop?  There may come a time that I stop writing my blog.  I hope it's not for a while.  The only reason I started writing was to help me chronicle what I needed to do and what I've done.  Otherwise you lose sight of all the progress you've made if you don't look back every once in a while to see where you've been.  That's even what the byline says...we are a California family who not only wants to prep we want to survive.  Follow us through our trials and tribulations as we get ready. 

I pray I never get to the point where I say it's not here so it's not coming.  We are done prepping. As far as I can figure, we will never be done prepping because even if we have everything stored for the rest of my life, there is so much to learn and even more to practice. 

I will probably not be posting for the next couple of days.  The grand kids and I are going camping.  I will not have the computer with me because there's no Internet available, even on my air card.  Most of the area we are going to doesn't even have cell phone service.  I'll have my handi-talki so help won't be far away if we do anything stupid. 

GI Jim gave us a good reminder today.  The grand kids need to have their little emergency packs on them every time they venture away from our campsite.  Even if they are only walking from our site to the pond to fish, they can be distracted and go chase butterflies or something.  It's not hard to get lost out in the woods.  Best that they have their little packs with a poncho, emergency blanket, a little food and water, their whistle, and their knife.  Boy will probably be carrying around his gas mask too.  He loves that thing.   

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pickles - quick, easy, and any way you like them

When I make dill pickles I do it the easy way.  This way does require the pickles to be stored in the refrigerator.  But, knowing this, I save 1/2 of one shelf in my fridge for pickles and only pickles. 

Here's the recipe.  Send Boy outside to gather some young grape leaves.  Send Girl outside to cut cucumbers off the vines.  Send Boy outside to cut off more cucumbers!  Gather my old Vlasic pickle jars that hold about 3/4 gallon and are not much larger in diameter than a 1/2 gallon canning jar. 

Have one container with 4 cups water and 1-2 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt.  Have another container with 4 cups vinegar.  I keep the vinegar and water separate.  The reason I do this is because I don't really know how much liquid I will use other than equal amounts of vinegar and water.  If I mix the two together and it's too much then I have to throw it all out.  If it's too much and they are separate then I can pour the vinegar back into its gallon container.  It's not as difficult for me to just get rid of the salt water... or it can be used for a gargle or many other things. 

Put a couple grape leaves on the bottom of the jar.  If you don't have grape leaves then don't worry about it.  It adds a little kick but isn't necessary.  If you have horseradish leaves you can add a young one of those.  Or don't add any leaves!  Put a teaspoon of pickling spice into the bottom of the jar.  Then a pinch of minced garlic (or one clove of garlic if you have it fresh).  Throw in a couple of peppercorns if your pickling spice doesn't have very many.  Then I put in the cucumbers.  I usually slice each cuke into four slivers.  If they are really big they can be sliced into 6.  I put them in the jar.  If I lay the jar on its side I can stuff the cukes in nice and orderly, and get a lot more into the jar.  After I put in a layer of cucumbers I put in another teaspoon of pickling spice and pinch of garlic (or a clove) and some peppercorns (if needed).  Maybe another grape leaf for looks.  Then another layer of cukes.  Top it all off with another teaspoon of pickling spice, pinch of garlic and peppercorns.  I usually add a teaspoon of dill weed or dill seed, or some fresh dill head.  Sometimes I'll put in a dried hot pepper.  Whatever I feel like doing, it doesn't really matter as it all turns out great! 

About the garlic.  A dill pickle without the garlic is called a Dill pickle.  A dill pickle with garlic is called a Kosher Dill pickle.  That's the difference.  There isn't any special prayers or secret ingredients.  Just garlic or not.  I like Kosher Dill.

After your jar is stuffed with whatever you choose to put in it's time to add the liquid.  Now, when I make my pickles I normally use big jars and fill them up.  If you want to mix things up a bit use smaller jars.  Perhaps one jar with garlic, one with hot peppers, one with lots of dill.  Doesn't matter, use ingredients you like.  The way I add the liquid is simple.  I will start by pouring 1 cup of saltwater and then one cup of vinegar.  I'll just look at the jar to see how much needs to go in.  Perhaps the next round of pours may only need 1/4 cup of each.  Just try to make it even of saltwater and vinegar.  If you don't quite get it right, that's OK too!  Really, you won't mess up.

Then I put the lid on and stick it in the refrigerator for at least a week.  I have half a jar left from last summer.  The liquid is cloudy, the pickles are a very dull green.  The new ones I put in today are bright green and the liquid is clear.  It's an amazing difference in color. 

If I needed the refrigerator space these can be boiling water bathed rather than put into the fridge.  Instead, you would take the saltwater and vinegar, mix them together and bring this brine mixture to a boil.  You'd fresh pack the jars the same, although I'd use pints or quarts rather than the large jars.  After pouring on the boiling brine you put the lids on the jars and boiling water bath them for 20 minutes.