Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Final Prepping Purchases before my self imposed deadline

I had a co-worker over for dinner last night. I was talking to my mother on the phone and said I was making dinner and someone from work was coming over. She got really excited. You have "someone" coming over. Does this someone have a name? What? She's thinking I have a date coming over? Going to impress that person with my great cooking? I suppose the cooking could impress someone but no. Someone that works for me is coming over. I called this person yesterday morning and said they needed to make the 4 hour drive up to my area to do a job for me. Very rarely to I make the people who work for me do anything. They are all professionals who know how to get the job done. I don't tell them what to do. I provide expertise if and when they need it. But yesterday, I made this person drop everything, make the 4 hour drive, stay in a hotel and do a project for me today that I had to take myself off of due to a conflict of interest. So, to make it up to my employee/coworker, I made dinner. It was delicious. Homegrown eggplant sliced and boiled for a few minutes, dipped in home produced eggs, dipped in homemade breadcrumbs seasoned with home grown herbs. Baked for a little bit then topped with home grown spaghetti sauce. Topped with store bought cheese. Home made garlic bread with home grown garlic. Olive oil from an experimental pressing of our own olives. Can't top a meal like that. It was almost worth making the 4 hour drive just for the food.

Before I get into my preps for the week I want to make a comment about the storm Sandy.  I know many blogs are writing about it and everyone does have opinions and tips that we can learn.  I couldn't imagine living somewhere that I would expect once every 10 or 20 years to get flooded.  At least there's warning with most floods.  After all, this storm has been predicted for a few weeks now.  I know in downtown Sacramento the city used to flood most years.  That's why the older houses were built with a semi-subterranean basement.  You had to walk up a flight of a dozen stairs to reach the first floor.  That way, when the city flooded you would need to move your stuff out of the basement but the main part of the house would survive just fine.  When I was in New York I noticed the older homes were built that way too.  Not anymore.   Now there aren't basements and houses are built level with the floodplain. 

The destruction going on due to the fire, where they are now saying 80 homes have burned, is one of the main reasons I will never move back to a city.  If something happens to my home I want it to be from a natural disaster or even something stupid that I may do, not because my neighbor's home is burning.  I never want something from my neighbor's property to spill over to my property.

My plan was to have my preps purchased and sitting there ready for me to get to each project.  I have a good supply of food but the things around the house that need or want to be done still had a list of supplies needed before each of those tasks could be accomplished.  I wanted to have it all by Nov. 1, my self imposed deadline.  (I was figuring there was going to be mass chaos due to the media hype of Dec. 21, 2012, but that has died down due to the election coverage.  Who knows, it may pick up after the elections.  Not that I believe the world is going to end on that date, but if the media pushes it, I expect mass last minute shopping and shortages at the stores.) It's not going to happen.  I've done pretty well on gathering things but then, just like everyone else, the money supply ran out.  I refuse to carry a balance on the charge cards and that would be the only way I'd be able to purchase everything I wanted. 

I was able to pick up some items on my needed/wanted supply list.  The other day I was at Home Depot.  While I was there I looked, and drooled, over their display of a generator. I'd love to have one of those. But then I thought about it. Do I really need one? Sure since we don't have a major solar supply and I'm relying on the electric company. But do I really need one? No. It's for convenience. If the power went out then I'd have to take the meat from the freezer and dehydrate it or can it. It wouldn't all have to be done in an instant. My ice chest will keep things frozen for a week, especially if the weather is cold outside. We have several strings of solar lights that shine all night outside. I could bring them in at night and put them back outside during the day. We could hand pump the water. Wash laundry in a bucket. No, I don't need the generator but it sure would be nice to use it for an hour a day. Get all the laundry, water pumping, and anything else done all at once. But then I'd want a second propane tank so I wouldn't run out. No, the money would be better off spent somewhere else...not that I have any money left in the budget. 

I bought the 10 foot by 100 foot roll of 6 mil. clear plastic sheeting.  It sounds like a lot but I could use that up in a day.  I'm really excited about getting the heavy sheeting.  Hopefully this weekend I'll get the chance to staple it up around the front porch and also in front of the family room area.  The front porch is an area around 6 x 10 that gets afternoon sun.  If I put the plastic in that area it will heat up and then I can open the front door and put that warm air into the house.  Or, if that doesn't work I can just stand out in that spot.  I was in a greenhouse last winter at our local nursery.  It was covered in this same plastic and although it was 40 outside it was about 75 inside the greenhouse.  It was wonderful and I'd like to replicate that here.  In front of the family room is a space around 6 feet deep and 25 feet across.  It's south facing and has sun on it most of the time during the winter...or at least it will once the leaves fall off the trees that provide shade during the summer.  I have high hopes for that area to turn into a warm air trap.  In all, those two projects will use about 65 feet of my plastic.  If I cover one of the garden beds that will use about 25 feet of plastic.  That doesn't leave much left in my 100 foot roll.

I still have 20 trees to trim.  At 20 minutes each, that's 6 hours just for that project.  I have fencing to fix in the front pasture.  There isn't anything wrong with it now, but I want to expand some of the fencing around the young trees so that in the spring when the sheep are in that pasture I don't have to worry about them pushing on the fencing to eat the trees.  Why wait until they make it an emergency?  I should do it now.  I think I could use more t-posts.  I probably could always use more t-posts.  Wish money grew on some of my trees.

Maybe it will.  The job I applied for is finally conducting interviews in the middle of November.  If I get that job I will have a few more expenses here at home, like Internet and gasoline for the family truck (since the state provides Internet for my computer and I have a work vehicle, with taxpayers footing that bill- don't worry California taxpayers, I don't misuse our tax dollars!!!), but I will also have several hundred dollars available for prepping each and every month.  I have the lists ready.  Until then, we scrimp and save and prep as best we can. 


Friday, October 26, 2012

Be Careful. Your preps can kill someone

Yesterday at work an email went around about someone who was fighting a fire in a storage shed.  The shed was around 10x15 feet, which is a good sized shed.  It would hold a bunch of preps.  I'm not too sure exactly what was in the shed but there were several small propane canisters.  You know the type, they attach to portable lanterns or propane stoves. 

The shed caught on fire.  I'm not sure if it was spontaneous combustion or if a spark started the fire.  There will be more investigation on that but that's beside the point of my blog today.  If the fire starts in a shed and there's no electricity in the shed, unless it's someone playing with matches, it's often spontaneous combustion.  OK, I will talk about spontaneous combustion...

When material suddenly ignites without an external ignition source like a flame or spark it's called spontaneous combustion.  This occurs as a result of a chemical reaction happening to a material that causes the substances to heat up.  When the material is bunched up the air warms up and can't escape into the surrounding area.  This then builds the heat up to a point that the rising temperature causes the material to heat up more quickly.  The chemical reaction continues to heat, the material continues to rise in temperature.  At some point, the flame point of the material, a fire will start.  Most often we learn it's rags soaked with oil.  It can be sawdust piles and even bales of hay.  

Yes, this is a warning that you shouldn't leave your rags soaked in oil in your garage or shed.  May as well use them to start your fire.  More than just worrying about your rags you should be thinking about what is in your shed.  Are you putting all your preps into one place?  Are they safe from fire?  Not only are they safe, but would you be safe if you tried to put out the fire?  It all depends on what you are storing. 

The fire that was discussed in the email was a storage shed filled with camping gear among other things.  I know that my camping gear includes small canisters of propane.  Doesn't yours?  Do you know what happens to small canisters of propane when they get thrown into a fire?  You've read the warnings haven't you?  Keep them away from fire (which is sort of ironic since you are using them to burn a fire).  They explode. 

There was one person in the shed.  He was trying to put the fire out.  While he was in there a camping lantern and propane canister exploded. 

Here's what's left of the lantern!

Here's what's left of the propane canister!
It flashed a fireball then hit the person in the chest.  It knocked him clear out of the shed.  Fortunately he was wearing protective gear and he only ended up with a small bruise on his chest.  Why? He was wearing a hard hat, safety glasses, a shirt, heavy jacket, two pairs of pants, gloves, and heavy boots.  If this was your shed and you noticed it was on fire would you don safety equipment or would you just attack the fire?  After all, your preps are burning!  I would think most of us would just attack the fire. 

I've seen pictures of people's preps. Things are just sort of thrown together in the garage or shed. Pay closer attention to what you are doing.  When you store things you must keep in mind what could go wrong.  Don't think it won't happen to you, because it will.  Probably at the worst possible time. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Huge storm to hit the east. Are they ready?

A huge storm, which some are calling the perfect storm is going to hit the east coast next week.  Or at least they are calling it a 70% chance. With so much advance notice everyone should be completely ready for this.  Or are they going to stick their heads in the sand?  Are many people going to pretend that the electricity won't go out on them, just the people on the next block?  The food in their freezers won't go bad.  They will have lights.  And warmth.  

Is there going to be a mad rush to the store this week, especially in a few days when the first bits of clouds move in?  I'm sure there will be. We will once again see pictures of the local 7-11 stripped of the food on the shelves.  After all, isn't that the best place, and the best use of your money to get your provisions.  After all there may be a glitch in their everyday lives for a couple of weeks until everything gets cleans up and back to normal.  

Now those folks who live right along the water and think how wonderful that is. Sure, when you don't have to worry about high tides right at the same time as the storm surges.  Having a house full of food and supplies won't do you much good if the house is underwater.  
What a lousy way to live!  Being prepared is so much easier.  Choosing the right place to live is even better.  It doesn't matter if you are in an apartment, a house in the city or suburbs, or out in the country.  What matters is you've taken the most likely scenarios that may happen where you live and prepare for them.  How about those people who may get hit with this storm?  Are they going to rush out to buy plywood for the windows or is the plywood stored from the last storm and the storm before?

Right now I'm on my countdown to having everything I'd need (not everything I'd want) to live on for at least a year but trying to make it permanent.  Just in case things get crazy in November as people prepare for whatever may come in December, I don't want to have to go to the store to buy anything.  While I'm not expecting the world as we know it to end, just as most people aren't expecting that, I do believe that in many places there will be some hoarding going on as people want to be ready "just in case".  If I have everything I need, then I won't be there standing in the way as I try to get a normal shopping done.  Let them hoard.  Remember, hoarding is buying a lot when there are shortages.  Having items stored at home that you bought in times of plenty is not hoarding.  

There's enough food in the homestore that if the grocery stores stopped selling there's enough to hold us over until the gardens and animals would be at full capacity to support us for good.  Yesterday the grandkids and I went to Costco and Winco.  After we were done I told them that we weren't going back to the store again until next year, with the exception of buying milk, a turkey, and bananas.  And, you know, if I wasn't able to go back to the store to get those items we'd be just fine.  We'd have chicken for dinner on Thanksgiving.  And lasagna.  Yes, lasagna is a family tradition at Thanksgiving when my sister-in-law is over since she's vegetarian.  I think she's coming for Thanksgiving this year. 

There's enough clothing and material to wear or make what we need.  Now I'd still like to shop a couple times per year for the kids, but I wouldn't have to if things got bad.  If only I could get the grandkids to stop growing and wearing out their shoes...

I did find a major flaw in my preparedness schedule.  It's for repair of my plumbing.  My well sends pipe to two different places in the backyard and another pipe to the house.  Most of that pipe is almost 40 years old!  We are talking plastic PVC pipe.  That is not good!  Not only that but the pipe coming to the house is one size, the pipe to the garden is another size, and the pipe to the fenceline that's supposed to go out to the pasture is another.  This weekend I'm going to try to make a good assessment of what my outdoor needs are and see if I can afford to purchase them.  Needs, not wants.  I have a list of thousands of dollars of wants. 

If you had a week notice would you be able to get ready?  I'm not talking about the attitude many people have of saying they are going to max out the credit cards because who cares?  I'm talking cash on the barrel for your purchases, closets filled with provisions and backups ready.  All years I've given myself a deadline of November 1.  It's almost here and I'm almost ready.   I don't have a "perfect storm" approaching like the northeast...at least not one that is so easy to see. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our first rain and getting ready for whatever comes

We got our first real rainfall since April.  We did get one thunderstorm during the summer but yesterday was a winter type of rain, not from the remnants of a summer hurricane.  I am almost prepared for winter. 

In the back orchard once the rain comes the ground gets too muddy to even tiptoe through.  You just sink.  I have one more tree in that area that needed to be pruned for the winter.  I haven't pruned it yet because none of the leaves had started to turn yellow.  I will prune early; I did with the rest of the trees in that group because their leaves had started to turn.  The cooler weather we are getting will make the leaves start to turn, I'm sure.  And, lucky for me, it is supposed to get back to almost 80 by next weekend.  The ground should dry out enough for me to trim that tree. 

Third grandson was over on Sunday to do a few chores.  He's very slow and his work isn't the greatest, but he needed to earn some money for a band trip.  His parents want him to find other people to work for to earn the money rather than them just giving it to him.  They don't want him to do chores for them because they'd get too frustrated with his slow pace.  They sent him here.  He got some of the neighbors tree limbs that hang over our fence cut down.   Normally the neighbor hired someone to trim up the trees but since Mr. neighbor passed away and Mrs. neighbor moved away, the extras that they used to do aren't getting done anymore.  I also wanted weeding done by the raspberry plants.  I don't mind spraying the weeds to kill them but I don't want to spray too close to the plants.  Grandson got it done but what would have taken me an hour or two took him almost five.    

Since I've never let chickens just roam until this year, I don't know if they really need shelter during the winter or it they can hang out in the rain.  The front pasture is pretty open once the 3 foot tall grass got eaten down by the sheep. The sheep are now out back but there isn't anyplace to hide. The trees will all be losing their leaves for the winter as well.  Since I wouldn't want to just hang out in the rain I put up a tarp to cover a 10x10 area.  I'm thinking about putting a small hen house out in that pasture to make it easier for me to find eggs.  I figure if they want to set eggs they will probably find a branch covered shelter area away from the rest of the flock.  Keeping them out is just a learning experience for me.  

I still have chickens in the coop.  I like the coop because it's easy to scoop up the manure and use it in the garden.  Last weekend I took one raised garden bed and filled it with manure from the coop and put in an equal amount of pine shavings.  One adds too much nitrogen and the other robs nitrogen.  I'm hoping that over the winter it turns into something good for next spring plantings.  It's just in one bed so if it's a failure then it won't ruin the entire crop. 

I also  put the shavings into the stall in the barn.  Once the rains really start to fall the sheep will spend most of their time there.  In the spring we will take all that out and put it into another garden bed or two.  Each year between the sheep and the chickens we are able to fill up 3 or 4 garden beds.  I have twelve beds so it will take three or four years to fill each up.  By the time they all get filled I figure it will be time to add more.  I'm just trying to keep self sufficiency in mind. 

I also put the bee hive together finally.  My plan was to get bees at the end of winter so they could start off the spring with lots of flowers to pollinate.  I know that you can keep them overwinter using sugar water.  I just didn't want to take chances with them dying off during the winter.  Mrs. Bug-out renter has bees in the attic. I decided that I, having not one ounce of bee keeping experience, am going to climb up into that attic and capture the bees into a five gallon bucket.  I'm then going to bring them home and open the bucket right in front of the hive.  According to what I've read, they will go right in.  At least that's the plan!  And it must be true since I read it in a book.  They aren't Africanized bees because they aren't attacking anyone.  If this doesn't work then I'll have to buy bees in a few months.  Again, trying to be self sufficient...or I'm just a little crazy...not sure which.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hope you didn't want that

Way back when son was about 7 or 8 I gave all his clothes away.  His entire wardrobe, all the way down to his socks and underware.  If it wasn't the few items on his body or in the washer they were gone.  I didn't mean to but it happened.  I was sorting his clothes into the give away pile and the keep pile.  Somehow both piles got put into the trash bag and given to charity.  I then rebought some from the charities and bought a boatload of new things.  That has been a family joke for 25 years now.  

I am going through the mini-Walmart of a garage clothing storage and giving a lot of it away to charity.   I've been thinking that if TSHTF how many sets of clothes do I really need to store? What if I had to bug-out?  Or decided to take a job in a different part of the country and we had to move.  I know I wouldn't take all this stuff.  I wouldn't even get rid of it here and repurchase it somewhere else.  I suppose that's a good factor in deciding if it stays or goes.  If I moved and bought 5 or 10 acres and a big house somewhere else would I pack this all up and bring it with me?  Would I sell it and then buy it used at the next place, just for the convenience and cost of not having to pack and move it?  Or would I donate it or sell it and not replace it?  Even if I was thinking about if TSHTF and I wanted to be fully prepared, if I wouldn't purchase it then, then why am I keeping it now? 

Getting back to the things in the garage... Right now the grand kids all like wearing a different outfit every day for weeks. (Except Boy, who would like to wear the same skinny black pants and red shirt every single day!) That's pretty much what I was storing... everything they grew out of.

I went through most of the bins and kept only a handful of shirts, shorts, and pants for each age. And even then I only kept for the grand kids who are still growing.  If they may be able to grow into it, then I kept a small wardrobe for that size.  I don't think there will be any more babies coming along in our family. I kept some things for babies, but not a whole wardrobe. For each size after that, if there isn't anyone in the family left to grow into that size then I kept two outfits. They are generic too, no frilly girl or manly boy. Just t-shirts, flannel shirts, jeans, etc.. No more weeks worth for a non-family member. There's enough if someone shows up with only the clothes on their back. Here's two outfits.  That's all I'm going to do.

I also don't want the garage to become a haven for mice. Mice love piles of clothes. They chew them up and make nests. Everything gets destroyed. I could keep everything in mouse proof containers. Instead, they are in semi-mouse proof containers but less clutter means less chances of mice taking over.

Mrs. Bug-out renter has been going through her boxes. I bring half a dozen over at a time to her new place and pick up the items that she doesn't want to keep over there. She now has a bedroom, some kitchen space, and living room space. It's not like when she was renting from me and had a three bedroom house and huge garage to fill up. So she keeps some stuff and gives me back some stuff. Last week I realized that the boxes were piling up at my house. I don't want them here. I asked her what she planned on doing with the stuff, especially the clothes.  She said she just wanted to store them at my house.

No, I'm not storing boxes of your stuff.  Between the clothes and the little scraps of fabric that she may someday use for quilting something together, it looks like mouse magnet to me. Not happening.   Pots, pans, and things that mice don't eat can go in the barn, the rest I told her she has to take back, find somewhere else to store it, or I'll donate it. She said I could donate it. Good. I took a bunch of boxes that had been in the garage and brought them into the house to go through. Before they got donated I wanted to see if there was anything that we could use here.

I found a huge bag of thread. I also found lots of clothes. I found some electrical items that were from when she lived in a foreign country. That's worthless here and she's never moving out of country again. I was a bit perplexed by the thread, since sewing is one of her favorite past times. Why would she want to give that away? So I called her up.  Are you sure you want me to get rid of all this stuff?  You don't want me to bring it back?  No.  You are sure? I don't want to get rid of anything that you really want to keep. No. OK. I'll pass it around to family and give the rest away.

I took the thread out and visiting granddaughter sorted it all and put it all away for me in our sewing supplies. Girl found a box of purses. She pulled them all out and asked if she could sell them for a dollar to her friends and donate the money to the school fund raiser. Sure. Sounds good to me. The rest I decided to get rid of. We didn't need any of the clothes. Most weren't in great shape and wouldn't fit anyone around here but I did recognize several as some of Mrs. Bug-out renters favorite things to wear. I called her again. You sure you want to get rid of all this? Yes was her final reply.

So I did. Yesterday morning I gave some to the women's shelter, some to goodwill, some to Habitat for Humanity, and some to a homeless person rummaging through a big-brother's and sister's bin. As I dropped stuff off at Restore I just had to go in and do a little shopping.  I never find anything good there yet oldest daughter always finds great bargains.  I found a door lock and key set at Restore for $2.50 so I picked it up for Mrs. Bug-out renter's new room. I called her up to tell her I was going to come over this morning and put the new lock on her door and bring her out to do a little bit of shopping.

This morning I dropped Boy and Girl off at Sunday school and drove over to Mrs. Bug-out renter's new place, lock in hand. As I was replacing the doorknob she made a comment that she doesn't have her coat. Have I seen it? I remember seeing a coat in one of the give away boxes but other than that, I haven't seen any other coats. There are still boxes at the house she hasn't gone through.  I told her about the thread that I rescued out of the give away containers. She asked, "What give away containers?" The ones you told me you didn't want. Remember those boxes that I picked up last week that you went through?  Then she said she was confused because there was one black trash bag filled with give-aways, all the rest of the stuff in those boxes she returned to me were things she wanted to keep.  Oh.  I just gave away most of her clothes.  Not again!

I'm done packing other people's things up.  From now on, I'll let the grand kids and any friends pack up their own things and while I may offer to drive my truck to the donation centers, they will be with me and will hand the stuff off themselves. On the other hand, if I give entire wardrobes away every 25 years, I'll only do it once more in my lifetime.  Maybe I just won't worry about it then.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A New Cat

Last year we killed 47 mice in the house on sticky traps.  We also had rodent killer laced oatmeal that they ate, so who knows exactly how many mice we actually had.  I was catching young mice, not just full grown so that meant I was getting some prior to them being old enough to reproduce. I have seen very little evidence of mice so far this year. The droppings I saw were in the garage. None in any of the food storage areas.  I do not believe for an instant that killing the 47 mice meant I eradicated them from the property. Not in the least.

I ran across an article once that helped estimate how many mice and rats you had if you raised chickens or other homestead critters.  If you never saw any live mice running around day or night, but you have mouse dropping evidence they exist, you probably have between 1 and 100 mice or rats.  If you see them occasionally at night then you have between 100 and 500.  Occasional daytime and many sightings during the night means you have between 500 and 1000.  If you see many mice or rats running around during the day?  Up to 5,000 on your property!

How can I get the mouse population down?  Fortunately I haven't seen any rats so at this point in time they aren't an issue. I've heard if you have caged chickens then keeping a few cats in the huge poultry houses is a good way to substantially cut down on the mouse or rat population.  I don't have caged chickens.  We have chickens roaming free in the front acre and we have other chickens locked up in the chicken coop, which is about 600 square feet between the coop and outdoor run.  We usually have between 15 and 20 chickens in there although if you read chicken books they would say you could have over 100!  I do notice mice running in there stealing the food that I pay good money for.  What to do?

I plan on using sticky traps and rodenticide. I also want to use cats.  We have one cat.  He is getting older and has never been a great hunter.   

Oldest daughter brought over a stray cat and kittens last year.  She put them in the barn and the mother cat raised several to maturity.  I didn't know that you should feed barn cats.  I erroneously thought that they should just catch mice to survive.  Since I wasn't feeding them they found a neighbor who left food out for their pets.  The cats moved from my property to the neighbors.  The neighbors aren't too happy about feeding extra animals but since the cats were wild I can't lure them back over here.  So they will be catching mice at the neighbors house. 

You don't need to starve cats. They will hunt whether they are hungry or not if they like to hunt. Feeding them daily will keep them healthy.  A daughter of a friend came over the other day saying she has been out of a job for a while and can no longer pay for her cat's food and other necessities.  Could I please take her cat.  It's a male, not neutered, about six months old.  Only if my male cat doesn't mind.  Figures, our cat doesn't mind this kitten.  So now we have a new cat.  The girl said the cat has never been outside.  It's an indoor cat only.  Not for long...  It will stay inside for the next week or so to get used to us but after that, it will be like the other cat, in and out.  If it doesn't run off then it will take a trip to the vet to get neutered.  We don't need to be adding to the cat population by having kittens and I'm sure the wild cats that used to be here are going to start popping out kittens soon enough.  I think it's food will be outside though, in the barn, to try to lure it to hang out in the barn.  Hopefully it will be a good hunter. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Making individual servings of dehydrated leftovers

After having such success taking the leftovers of Army daughter's chili and putting it into the dehydrator to make individual servings of dried chili, I decided to dry some more leftovers.  The other day I took three cups of dried navy beans, boiled them for several minutes, then put the pot into my blanket filled ice chest to cook overnight.  See http://whatifitistoday.blogspot.com/2012/07/making-dinner-with-fireless-cooker.html for photos if you are confused about cooking in the ice chest. 

In the morning the beans were perfectly tender and ready for whatever I had decided to season them with.  It was going to be my favorite...baked beans.  I put the beans back on the stovetop and brought them back up to a boil.  I then added brown sugar, molasses (redundant but delicious), chopped onion, chopped bell pepper, catsup, mustard, and some beef bacon.  After it boiled for a few minutes to ensure that it was hot all the way through, I put the pot back into the ice chest.  It was going to be for dinner  that night.  All in all, my beans went from hard as rocks to fully cooked and seasoned with less than 15 minutes of actual stovetop cooking. 

Three cups of dried beans was an awful lot of beans.  Since oldest grandson had spent four days with us I figured he was going to be here for dinner that night too.  Instead, in the morning, right after I put the beans into the ice chest he said that he was going to ride his bike home.  He missed mom, dad, and his brothers and sister.  Grandparent and two cousins just weren't the same.  I think he missed the large portions of meat that oldest daughter serves each night as well.  Anyway, the two grand kids and I ate a huge bowl of beans and downed a couple of homemade rolls.  There was still half a pot of beans left.

I could have put them into the refrigerator and we could have eaten them the next day.  But since I'm trying to use the refrigerator less I decided to dehydrate the left over beans.  After all, it worked for the chili.  I took four trays out of the dehydrator, covered them with a piece of plastic wrap and spread the beans out on the plastic.  I put the trays into the dehydrator and dried them overnight at 125.  In the morning the tops were completely dried.  I flipped over chunks of dried beans to dry out the underside.  I dried the beans for a couple more hours then turned the dehydrator off.  I left the beans in there to finish drying.  I wanted to make sure they were completely dried and cooled down before putting the beans into storage. 

There were about three servings of beans left so I divided the dried beans into three baggies.  I then put those three baggies into a jar marked Baked Beans.  I can take out a baggie and put it into a jar and bring it to work.  All I need to do is add water, let it sit a few minutes, heat in the microwave, and voila, a delicious meal of home cooked baked beans.  Or, I can just store them for some future day. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review of Urban Preppers with Kids, Pets & Parents: Disaster Survival for the Family.

I was asked to review a book by James  G. Mushen titled, Urban Preppers with Kids, Pets & Parents: Disaster Survival for the Family.  My review should get posted on Amazon soon.  I liked the book and for the low Kindle price of $2.99, or free with Kindle prime, it was worth reading. I would not have been happy spending $15.95 on a paperback version.  It's not that it wasn't a good book, I'm just too experienced as a prepper to find it that valuable, although I did learn a few things and got some good links to disaster maps.  But, if you have friends or relatives who would think you were a kook if you handed them Patriots or even The Preppers Pocket Guide, this would be the perfect book for them.

There were some things about the book that I didn't care for, but they weren't included in my review.  What were those? 

Too much emphasis was placed on organic foods.  Even organic baby clothes.  Toilet paper and soap on the lists were all written as needing to be biodegradable.  Several chapters listed a bicycle as a good item to have.  One of the reasons listed was it's non-polluting.  It's a disaster: My focus is not on this minor pollution I may cause.  I don't really care if the toilet paper is biodegradable or not.  I'm probably going to burn it to get rid of it.  

I'm not sure the example of carrying 90 year old granny with bad knees on the bicycle is such a great idea (I had in mind putting her on the seat while I stood up and pedaled), although in another chapter in the book he illustrated a four wheeled bicycle for four people.  He also stated that if the roads are blocked due to traffic you can always bug-out on your bicycle.  That sounds somewhat reasonable until he used the examples of a hazmat situation or a nuclear reactor disaster.  Depending on the specific situation I may vote to shelter in place rather than be outside on a bicycle. 

He gave a pretty good list of food products to store but a few caught my eye.  Since he's speaking to the urban non-prepper, I would have added a few more.  He listed powdered milk.  Have you ever drank powdered milk?  Drink a glass of regular milk, then powdered milk.  Yuck.  Make sure you have plenty of Nestle's Quik on hand or the only thing you will be doing with the powdered milk is using it for cooking or fighting with the kids.  Sea salt?  Why?  How about salt?  Obviously directed to the urban yuppie (do people still use that word?).  He also left yeast off the list.  Now I know he said his list of 37 items would be the first off the shelf so you should make sure you have a month's worth, but it won't do much good having all that whole wheat flour if you don't have yeast. 

That's enough of my complaints on the book.  You may be starting to think I didn't like it.  That's not the case at all.  I liked the book a lot.  Here's what I wrote:

James Mushen has brought disaster preparedness for families down to earth in an easy to understand book.  This isn't a book like most, where the author tells about such imminent disaster that the world as we know it is going to end so we'd better prepare.  This is the starter version.  Mushen takes the reader from minor annoyances including power outages and garbage collection stoppages all the way to civil unrest and natural and man-made disasters. 

Along the way he gets the reader thinking about, and learning how to prepare for cooking, heating, procuring water, taking care of pets, elder parents, young children, and more all using step by step lists.  Individual disasters are listed (over two dozen!) with suggestions for preparation before, what to do during and after each disaster.  The chapter on Senior Survival itself would be well worth the price of his book. 

Something I've never seen before in preparedness books are cost estimates.  He writes about changes to your house that should be made and lets you know the approximate cost.  Flexible connection on the furnace? $75.   Anchor the storage shed?  $100.  Not only that, but in the Kindle version, when read on my computer, most items discussed in the book had working links which brought you to that item in Amazon. 

All in all, if I was looking for a book to give as a gift, or just wanted to make a suggestion to a non-prepper friend, this is a good starting point on the road to preparedness for families with kids, elderly parents, and pets.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rock-knocking and selling sheep for more preps

Girl has been telling me all week that her class is talking about arrowheads.  She wanted to know if she could bring her flake to school.  As long as the teacher says it's OK. You don't want to bring rocks to school if your teacher doesn't want you to.  She then asked if I'd talk to the class about arrowheads.  Sure.  I can give the Indian hunting and gathering speech better than the teacher.  So girl arranged for me to come to class this afternoon to talk about arrowheads.  The sixth grade teachers brought all the kids into one class so I could talk to them all.  I didn't really have anything planned, now I have 60 bright eyed kids staring at me.

So I did what any resourceful grandparent would do...not really, but perhaps what any resourceful prepper would do.  I started knocking rocks together.  See this rock?  It's called a hammer stone.  If you think of a hammer you think of a nice flat face to hit something with.  Right?  Then I took a marker, wrapped my fingers around it and started hitting it to push it through my fingers.  A hammer.  But that's not how the Indians used hammer stones.  They would look for sharp edges.  So this rock fits into my hand well and has sharp edges all the way around.  Then I took a piece of chert (my core) and hit the chert with the hammer stone.  Bang!

That got their attention as several flakes of rock broke off.  Then I drew on the board to show that you'd want the chert/ obsidian/ quartz/ basalt/ or whatever glassy type of rock you have to have less than a 90 degree angle.  Then I started drawing angles on the board.  You can't get through any type of lecture from me without my throwing math into it.  If you don't have a good enough angle the force from you hitting the edge of the core with your hammer stone will never break off a piece of the rock.  You need less than 90 degrees.  Then I hit the chunk of chert again and again.   Rock against rock.  I picked up some of the flakes from the floor.  See how sharp these edges are?  Sharp enough to cut the cording holding the teachers keys.  I picked up the teachers keys and pretended to slice the cord.  No, I won't cut this.  Then the teacher wouldn't want me to come back another day. 

I then passed the rocks around the class so each of the kids could knock rocks together.  They each got to make some flakes.  Sure you could then get a bone (or nail) and turn the flakes into arrowheads, or dart points, or spear points, or knives, but the kids had fun just with the basic flakes.  They now all know how to break rocks to make a cutting tool. 

I was able to talk just a little about hunting and gathering, but mainly the focus was on the flakes.  The kids had a great time.  One boy gave me his phone number so I could call him over the weekend to discuss making flakes.  He wanted me to talk to his parents so they could learn.  I told him he could teach them this handy new skill. 

Getting to teach 60 kids a little self sufficiency without anyone having a clue that I was coming in to do anything more than teach about arrowheads.  Not bad. 

As soon as we arrived home after school I got a phone call from someone wanting to buy more sheep.  I sold him my last three rams that were available to be sold.  I just have my breeding ram and a replacement breeding ram left.  I told this guy that I'd have more in the spring.  He bought about a dozen sheep from me this year. 

This surprise money is going straight to preps.  My goal is to do some huge "if TSHTF next week and I have one week advance notice to prepare" type of shopping sprees by the end of this month.  I've been trying to save money and selling these sheep will make the shopping a little easier.  I will be doing a couple separate shops.  First to Harbor Freight.  Their stuff isn't the best quality but some of the items I'd rather have quantity than quality.  It's the perfect store for that.  Then off to a real hardware store, then to Winco the food store, and I'll top it off with a trip to either Sam's Club or Costco.   All of it is anonymous cash except Sam's Club or Costco.  I may as well use a charge card to get bonus cash.  Those club stores track all your purchases anyway.  Fortunately, it's not uncommon to purchase 50 pounds of rice or 25 pounds of oatmeal at once. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Government forcing doctors to give them information

Today the grand kids and I went to the eye doctor for a regular check up.  I know I need new glasses.  I broke my regular pair and lost my sunglasses.  It was time to go.  Our eye doctor who we've used for the past 15 years moved his office so it's not as convenient to go.  I decided to find another eye doctor who is closer to our home.  I researched it and found a good doctor about 10 minutes from home. 

Being new, I had to fill out the normal questionnaire. Who am I, what the insurance is, address, phone number, etc.  There were a few new types of questions.  Do you smoke?  Do you drink? What medications are you on? What diseases do you have/have you had/run in your family? Do you use illegal drugs?  Do you have any allergies?  If so, what are you allergic to?  Not quite sure what these questions have to do with my vision. 

The assistant typed all the answers into the computer.  She apologized for going so slow.  It's a new program and they are being required to go paperless in the office.  She said that everything has to be put into the computer.  She asked again about the smoking, drinking, and drugs.  No I don't smoke or do drugs.  I drink sometimes.  Allergic so some topical ointments used during surgery, but since we aren't having surgery there's no problem.  She started the exam.  All went well to start.

Then the doctor came in. He finished up the exam.  We all need glasses.  He and I spoke about the grand kids and my prescriptions.  I asked for a copy of the prescriptions.  Although I was going to get my insurance covered glasses from him, I wanted to be able to order glasses on line as well. I've heard you can get them really inexpensively.  He then started putting more of the exam info into the computer.  He was grumbling about having to go paperless.  What do you mean, "having to"?  Aren't you the owner of this business?  Who is making you?

His answer was frightening.   The doctor is required to "council" patients how smoke, drink, use drugs, etc.  But that's the least of the issue.  The federal government is making him, and all doctors, go paperless.  In order for his office to get any federal reimbursement (medicare, medi-cal, etc.) he needed to be on line and in this computer system.  It's a mandate and he will be penalized if he doesn't comply.  If he doesn't have his paperwork in the federal system then he will be fined 1% this year, 2% next year, and 3% the year after, and MUST be in compliance by the end of 2015.  Tell me more, doc, about this system. 

It seems that the federal government will now have access to all medical records - medical, dental, vision, ALL.   Not only that but the feds will have this info.  Not only will they know exactly what a say to my doctor.  It will all be documented.  What my prescription is, they will know what I am allergic to, how often I go to the doctor, dentist, eye doc, any specialist. 

How can I get out of the system?  I don't know.  If I pay cash you'd think that they wouldn't have to put me in but I think they are being required to include everyone, no matter how they pay, in order to get reimbursed for those patients.  What ever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?  It's now doctor, patient, federal government.  Don't you feel so much better now?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Great deals shopping and soaring gas prices and I'm glad I'm home

I had to travel to northern California last week to teach a class.  On the way home yesterday I wanted a soda.  I could stop at McDonald's and get one for a dollar but instead I stopped at Walmart in a small town called Willows.  I planned on getting a 2 liter bottle of soda and would use the cup in my truck to drink it.  No matter what store I go to I always look at the clearance aisle. Sometimes there's something good.  Most times there isn't.  

I hit the jackpot yesterday.  They had sliced green beans (the kind that go into the green bean casserole at Thanksgiving) 4 cans for $1.25 - I bought 24 cans.  I would have bought more if they had more.  They had 28 ounce crushed tomatoes for 50 cents.  I bought all they had.  They had spaghetti sauce for 50 cents - four jars.  They had something called Betty Crocker Complete.  It's a can of soup with some chicken chunks in it, some seasoning, and a cup of rice.  You add milk and water and bake.  Those were 50 cents each, down from $3.00.  I would never have bought them for $3.00.  They were barely worth the 50 cents after I opened up the box to see what it was but it was still a deal.  Jello was .30 each.  Star and flag jello molds with two boxes of jello were $1.00 It wasn't all food.  Girls underwear was packed 3-$1.00.  I did spend the .84 for the soda. 

I ended up spending $27 rather than .84 but it was money well spent.  Did I need green beans, tomatoes, chicken/rice?  No, I never "need" anything since my homestore is usually pretty full.  But since we do eat, we do need to replenish, so buying food, especially when it's something you WILL EAT, and is a good deal is always worth buying. 

I don't always pay attention to gas prices.  If I'm filling the company vehicle I have to go to a major brand station since the independents don't take the charge card.  I usually stop at the one that looks like it will have the best bathroom.  Price doesn't matter.  That's not the case for our family truck.  I usually fill up at Costco because it's usually the cheapest around.  When I'm lucky I only have to fill up every three or four weeks.  Gas prices in California jumped this week.  When I left to go up north I paid right around $4 a gallon.  When I returned it was $4.59.  What happened?  Did some refinery get bombed?  That's not just from a regular shutdown.  It cost $20 more for me to get home than drive up north.  That's ridiculous!  I guess all those people who are now employed (wow, it's under 8%) won't notice?  OK, don't get me started.  I know the unemployment rate is higher with the people who no longer get counted, and those who had their own businesses so they never did count. 

The loss of freedoms that we are experiencing have been devastating, yet most people don't even realize they are happening.  I'm hoping that idiotocracy, the upcoming elections, Mayan calendar,  economy, and overall unrest that's simmering don't provide people with a good excuse to destroy our country.  We need to start seriously preparing for upcoming unrest.  Sure I've been preparing but I'm looking at November and December as the Y2K for our times now.  That didn't amount to the widespread disaster as predicted but the world is a different place than it was even 12 short years ago.

Now that I'm back from my month and a half of crazy schedule I'm hoping to settle back into my regular routine...regular life plus preparing for the future.  I'm looking forward to getting back to writing something each day. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Teaching others to make bread

I'm in northern California for a week to teach a class.  The instructors are all going to a coworkers house for dinner.  Each person is supposed to bring something.  MREs?  I have a truck full of those.  No, that won't work.  I was assigned bread.  Flour, water, yeast, salt.  This is an easy one.  At least it would be easy if I was home.  But I'm not. 

When I found out I was to bring bread the thought crossed my mind that I'd actually have to buy bread.  I don't like store bought bread.  Why would I ruin a good dinner with store bought bread?  I don't have any idea where a good bakery is in this town.  Why would I want to spend a bunch of money on a loaf of bread that may or may not be what I want? 

What are the other people bringing?  The host is providing the meat that he's bbq'ing.  He usually offers a nice bottle of wine to go along with it.  One of our coworkers who works in this part of the state is making a salad of home grown tomatoes and onions topped with basil and balsamic vinegar.  One of the instructors offered to bring dessert. 

I didn't have to think too hard about what I'm going to do for the bread.  I decided to go to the local Walmart and pick up the ingredients.  Flour, yeast, Italian seasoning - I've got a bunch of food in my truck but flour, yeast, seasoning?  No.  I have a bowl in my truck.  Tomorrow during lunch I will take some of the flour, add a pack of yeast, salt (which I had in my truck), seasoning and water.  With clean hands I can mix the dough by hand.  I think it will surprise a bunch of people.  What do you think?  Then I'll cover it with a towel and stick it into my truck.  It will rise wonderfully by the time the day is over and we head out for dinner. 

Making the bread with Italian seasoning will go well with the tomato salad.  I'm hoping the host has some muffin tins.  If so, then I'll take the dough and tear it into little balls, putting three or four balls per muffin cup.  I'll rub a little olive oil on top and pop it into a hot over.  They will puff up quickly and look and taste spectacular.  If not, I'll grease my bowl, roll the dough in the oil, and throw that into the oven.  It won't look as good but will still taste great.  Or I could take individual pieces of dough, flatten them out and throw them onto the bbq. 

The more I kneed the dough the softer it will be.  I don't think I'll kneed too much, a little heavier will probably work for this meal.  It will be easy to make, will teach them all that it's really easy to bake bread, and will probably taste better than any loaf of bread I could buy.  I'm looking forward to finishing up class tomorrow and getting to that dinner!