Thursday, November 29, 2012

How many guns go to school?

Way back when I was in high school people brought guns to school.  It was encouraged since many schools had shooting teams.  It wasn't an odd sight or anything that would bring about panic.  Not today.  Now the laws, at least in California, are that you can not bring a gun on campus.  I wonder how many of the bad guys are going to follow that rule?  I bet most gang bangers who are always armed don't lock their guns up when they go to watch their kid in a school program.  Even those convicted felons who are allowed to have weapons are probably carrying their guns. 

What is the law abiding citizen supposed to do?  I have a concealed weapon permit.  Our county sheriff happily passes them out.  She said that she encourages carrying weapons because our sheriff's department is unable to quickly respond at times.  But when I go to the school I'm supposed to keep the weapon at home.  I suppose I could keep it locked in the truck and not park on campus.  Then if someone starts shooting I could merrily dash back to my truck, all the while shouting to stop shooting until I get my weapon to shoot back.  I don't think that would work.  I know many people who break the law (and I'm certainly not going to admit to that...) and carry on campus.  As long as there aren't metal detectors at the entrance to the school they just come on in and keep their concealed weapon concealed. 

If a shooter started taking out the kids, I wonder what the penalty would be for the concealed carrier who took out the shooter?  They'd probably get nailed with a felony for having the weapon on campus, never mind that dozens of lives could have possibly been saved. 

I was thinking about the campus shootings throughout the country since those days that kids were allowed to carry weapons to school.  This week Girl had a performance at school and the auditorium was packed with about 250 people.  What would have happened if there was a shooter?  I know it's not the normal for nice country schools to have a shooter, but what if?  I bet there were several dozen people watching the kids that were armed. None were gang bangers, just concerned citizens.  There are a few teachers who read this blog.  What would you prefer?  A weapon free zone or weapons allowed?   

Army daughter called today to ask if I could watch granddaughter.  She is sick and the little one is running her ragged.  She needs to keep her head over the pot and then sleep.  Husband can't get off work.  Please can I come get the kid?  Sure, I'm about done with today's office packing.  I can leave a little early to pick her up.  The only problem is now that it's evening, whatever Army daughter has, I think I'm getting it too.  Just what I need.  A two year old here when I'm sick.  No matter how she's doing, tomorrow morning she gets to pick the little one up. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When packing a 72 hour kit - think!

I was reading a newsletter from Sun Oven that was to teach how to pack the food for a 72 hour kit. They showed a great picture with all the food you'd need.  It even had the three days worth of meals all planned out for you.  It made packing for the small emergency really easy.  The problem was when you analyze the food that they told you to gather, it's really one day of food at minimum.  Not three.  Day one: One granola bar and a package of instant hot chocolate.  While the TV commercials may tell you that a granola bar is a great substitute for your morning meal, how long will that hold you over?  An hour?  No food until lunch.  And for lunch?  A cup of instant tomato soup, a piece of beef jerky, a fruit rollup and a peppermint candy.  That's it.  No food again until dinner.  And for dinner?  1/2 a package of Top Ramen and another granola bar.  That's all for the entire day.  And it's repeated for the two other days of your three-day kit.  Now they substitute the fruit rollup for a single serving can of fruit and one package of instant oatmeal for the breakfast granola bar. 
While something is better than nothing it's easy to pack a 72 hour kit.  It doesn't take a lot of money to do this.  Make it count.  Don't purposefully short yourself on your food.  If nothing else figure out the calories that you are putting into the bucket.  It should be at least 2000 calories per day, not 2000 for three days as Sun Oven is showing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

No wonder the state is broke

I'm cleaning out my office.  I have 16 file drawers, four bookcases with six shelves on each, and four boxes stacked in the corner. If I looked at every file it would probably take the entire three weeks.   I'm not doing that.  Right now I'm going through the books.  Mine, state, mine, mine, state and so on.  After 16 years in one office it's not surprising that so many of my own things have migrated here.  I went into the warehouse and asked if I could have some old boxes.  No.  Go use your state credit card and buy some new ones.  What?  There's a whole stack of used file boxes that nobody wants.  If I use those, then the people still here can buy the new ones.  No.  Then it would come out of their budget rather than mine.  But why do I want new boxes?  And you know they are going to charge on my budget all the way until the end of the fiscal year in June anyway. 

The decision was made that I would go buy the boxes and use the state charge card.  I drove the 5 miles in the state truck on state time to buy the boxes.  I got there, picked out my boxes, and went to pay with the state charge.  The charge card didn't go through for $75.  It seems the state didn't pay their bill on time this month due to Thanksgiving.  So now, the stupid citizens of this state (because they just voted in more taxes since the state is broke) have to pay the interest on the late charge accounts for our entire statewide department.  I left the boxes there and drove back to the office. 

If I get a good system of packing the boxes, bringing them home and unpacking, then bringing those back to the office I'll be able to get by without buying any boxes.  It's just really inconvenient for me to do it that way.  I can unload several boxes of copier paper and get some boxes that way too. 

We are supposed to get rain later this week.  I haven't had the kids rake the leaves out front because once they do the front will turn into a muddy mess.  Since I have to walk out there each day to water the chickens and ducks I'm going to have to figure something out.  Maybe if I dump a couple of bags of shavings it will pack down enough to keep the mud away.  It's worth a try. 

The strawberry plants are making a comeback after the ducks decided their favorite food was strawberry plants.  Big dog loves sleeping in the strawberry bed as well.  If I didn't do something the strawberry bed would be an empty bed.  That would be a waste of two years of trying to get the strawberry bed going.  I started out with about 2 dozen plants.  I'm letting them send out runners and figure by this next summer the bed should be pretty well covered.  If I don't blow it by letting the animals destroy it all.  I covered the 75 foot by 2 foot bed with chicken wire.  I used a 4 foot wide wire so it's arched into a tube.  I'm keeping it up by tying a thin wire from the top of the arch to the wire supports for the grapevines.  It's working - no dogs or ducks.

Did you spend any money on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?  I didn't.  Not a penny.  The gifts for friends and relatives are all home made and food related.  Even the grand kids have their lists: home made, not too expensive, and way too much money.  Most items on my list are home made.  Of course I'm dreaming of the new tires for the truck to magically appear as a gift.  They won't.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Note to self: shopping list and chore list

It's easy to remember what big items we need to replace.  If the toilet stops working we figure out the problem and run to the hardware store to purchase what we need.  If the backyard hose needed a new washer you wouldn't stop what you are doing and run to the store, would you?  I wouldn't.  Then, when I'd go to the store I'd forget most of the little things that are needed.  I've started writing down lists of items needing to be purchased. 

While reattaching the hoses last spring I had to change out four or five rubber washers.  Those washers either got hard or disintegrated.  I didn't have any on hand so I took washers off other things.  Note to self: spend a couple bucks and get a couple packs.

Army daughter busted a light bulb.  The heat lamps for the baby chicks need regular light bulbs, not florescent.  Note to self:  Go through house and inventory the types of light bulbs.  Standardize where possible.  Buy light bulbs.

I never bought the vent covers for the trailer.  I just keep covering the vents with plastic.  Someday I'll remember.  Not if I don't write it down.  When great grandparent asks what I want for my birthday I always come up with something stupid because I can't ever think of anything.  Note to self: Look at the list when someone asks what you want. I'll take two vent covers please.  Here's all the information for buying them on line or at the local camper world. 

What about in the kitchen?  San Diego sister likes to make a trip to Winco when she comes up here once or twice a year.  She went shopping yesterday afternoon.  On her way out the door she asked me if there was anything I needed from the store.  I pride myself in never needing anything from the store.  That doesn't mean I don't shop, it means that I have a complete home store that I don't run out.  I don't ever need to pick something up right away.  But since I recently decided to keep a list of things that went flying through my brain I actually said yes.  There is something I need.  I ran out of almond extract.  I couldn't remember what I used it for when I ran out (I made macaroon cookies) but I had written it down on a paper taped onto the refrigerator.  If I didn't have it written down I wouldn't have remembered.  After all, I couldn't even remember what I used it up on! 

This note to self also works for chores that need to be done.  While I do a few things each day, on the weekend the grand kids and I usually spend several hours cleaning, fixing, and just doing general chores around the place.  If I had to sit down on Saturday morning and think about what needed to get done we'd probably miss out on some things that should be high on the list.  Instead, at my breakfast place at the counter (the kids usually eat breakfast at the kitchen table and I at the counter stool) I keep a chore list.  I write things down on it each day, either at breakfast or whenever something comes to mind.  Then on Saturday morning I go through the list and write down about twice as many chores as I expect we will accomplish.  I put a B or G or M (boy, girl, me) in front of each chore.  Some chores may have BG or GM, etc if I expect more than one person to do the chore.  The rest of the chores we try to get through during the week.  It all starts again the next week. 

Now, if I know I'm stopping at a hardware store or a grocery store I can pick up those things I need but would forget about.  Note to self really works.  It can save you time and money.  Then you will have more time and more money for more note to self items. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving and how many of these people do I want in my group?

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  I'm sure nobody will be reading this until the day after Thanksgiving, so happy leftover day.  I hope you aren't standing in some stupid line to buy things you don't really need.  Spend your money wisely! 

We had 18 people over.  It was supposed to be 19 but one called up and said she wasn't feeling well.  No problem, I'm not upset.  Sort of relieved actually.  I don't mind having friends who are needy but when I've got a crowd around I don't want to have to be distracted by someone sitting around like a worthless lump feeling sorry for themselves.  That person wasn't too sick to come, instead she just wanted us to make such a fuss and say she should come anyway.  No, my response was I'm sorry to hear that.  When I'm in town on Sunday I'll stop by and drop off a plate of food.  That was it, end of conversation. 

We had a great time with the group that came over.  Even oldest daughter was nice and polite and didn't have a gutter mouth.  She and her husband spoke kindly to each other and not one yell or scream at any of their kids...four of my darling grand kids.  OK, not always darling.  I was looking around trying to figure out who in this group would I want in "the group".  I think about this every time we have any kind of family gathering. 

Number 1 in the group.  Younger sister and her husband and son.  Positives: level headed, mechanical, hard working, enjoyable to be around.  They hunt.  Sister has listened and learned about food storage and gardening.  She grows a good sized garden now and buys groceries in bulk.  They now have two shelving units in the garage for food storage.  Negatives: Son has some mental issues that are able to be dealt with now as a young child.  When he grows up he may get out of control and cause major problems for the group.  He needs a tremendous amount of supervision.  Still, they are worth having in the group and having more adults in their immediate circle would ease the burden of the child. 

Number 2 in the group.  Mom.  She's getting older and can't really do a whole lot except she can clean the kitchen!  She will also keep the kids entertained for an hour or two each day. 

Number 3 in group.  Son, daughter-in-law, and two adorable grandsons.  Son is really maturing now that they moved into the bug-out place.  He's actually doing repairs to the place and taking pride in "ownership".  Wait a minute.  I own the place.  OK he's taking pride in it because it's not an apartment and he knows they can live their forever if they choose at a really cheap rate.  He still spends way too much time on video games and TV but if TSHTF and those things weren't available he'd do just fine.  He was also an army grunt for 3 years so he can shoot among other things he was taught. 

Number 4 in group.  Oldest daughter and family.  I still am wrestling with this one.  Today they were well behaved.  Tomorrow they may be screaming at each other and posting lousy remarks about each other over facebook.  While son-in-law is a mechanic, the tension and stress levels they possess are most often OK to be around for a few hours but day after day, week after week, in an already stressful situation is not going to cut it. 

Number 5.  Army daughter?  Here's another one that would do well in the group as being hard workers.  Son-in-law is changing his mind about being a gun free home.  He was a medic in the Navy and a trained firefighter.  But there's usually some conflict between Son, Oldest daughter, and Army daughter.  If they can't get along when times are good will that miraculously change when TSHTF?  Adding stress to the mix isn't going to make them get along.  It will only make things worse.  So how do I choose which of my kids I'd want in the group and which I'd exclude?  Include them all with a strict understanding that they'll be out if the conflicts continue?

Number 6 in group.  The next door neighbors.  The hunt, garden, can, and are just overall nice kind people.  And they own Yip-yip, so since we share the dog we may as well keep them in our group.

Number 7-12  The people I've met by writing this blog.  They are all good people and I'd love to have them as part of our group if things ever went south. 

Only one more month until "the end of the world" according to some.  You know, it's odd that it was all the news could talk about a year ago.  I was expecting shortages of food and such with people starting to panic.  Now you hear nothing about it at all.  Sort of like the Debt ceiling was all over the news and the country was going to fall apart because it needed to be raised.  Nothing has changed yet debt ceiling was never mentioned in the latest presidential election.  Thanksgiving is over.  Is there something simmering between now and the end of the year that will boil over?   Spend a few dollars less on junk from China when buying your Christmas presents.  Spend a few dollars more on your preps. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Keeping equipment in good condition

San Diego sister and her family are coming for Thanksgiving.  Brother-in-law is allergic to cats so when he's in our house he is miserable.  He's a good sport about it but you can see his eyes get puffy.  They always sleep in the trailer so at least he can get a decent night sleep.  Since they are coming tomorrow morning the grand kids and I got the trailer ready for them today. 
I'm sure glad the fan hasn't been hit!  We haven't used the trailer since April and sitting for half a year has had consequences.  The food storage was just fine.  I have a couple cases of MREs plus real food.  When we used the trailer last time I put together an ice chest filled with leftovers but we were able to eat well for that week.  I restocked the trailer and as far as food and drink goes all is well. 
The bedding was still in good condition.  I have four heavy duty 5 degree sleeping bags plus four fleece liners that can be used as sleeping bags during the summer.  They smelled fresh and didn't have any damage from bugs.  I moved the table down and set up that bed and folded down the back couch for the second bed.  There's also an overhead bed but it normally stays closed up and used as a storage area for the sleeping bags, pillows, and extra blankets.  When Boy, Girl, and I use the trailer I take the couch, Girl sleeps at the table bed, and Boy likes to sleep on the floor by me.  So we don't need that upper bed.  It's good because it's got a 150 pound weight limit.  I can imagine someday when both kids grow up that I'd be the one sleeping up there as I'm the only one that will probably be under that weight.  That's not going to happen.  Boy can stay on the floor! 
I ran the water in the toilet and dumped it into the holding tank.  Then I took the sewage pipe and hooked it up and attached the pipe to the septic system pipe.  About 15 years ago we dug a line to the septic tank from where the trailer is on the side of the house.  It's perfect, sewage hookup right on the side of the trailer.  I got it hooked up, pulled the black and gray water pulls and you could hear the water draining out of the two holding tanks.  But then, water started dripping out of the hose and onto the ground.  Gross!  There are two little leaks in the hose.  I told the kids not to go on that side of the trailer.  The solids aren't going to leak out but it's still something that will need to be replaced.  I just never thought about it that the hose may leak.  The trailer is almost 30 years old, I should be thinking that some things are going to wear out.
The heater works, there's propane in the tanks.  The two tanks on the trailer are so old that they can't be refilled.  I'll have to replace the tanks.  I do have another tank that we use for the bbq and we have the 500 gallon tank for the house.  If I had to take the trailer somewhere else we'd have about 30 gallons.  Not enough.  I need to get a new propane tank and get it filled.  We should use those old tanks for the bbq, not the trailer. 
Two of the three roof vents blew off a couple years ago.  Each winter I cover them up with plastic.  I've never bought the two cover replacements.  Now that winter is coming again I need to either cover them back with plastic or buy the cover replacements.  Again, it's money I don't have at the moment. 
We have an electric outlet by the trailer that's set up for the trailer's power cord. Got that plugged in and we had power in the trailer. The lights worked, the water pump worked. Thinking about it now, I forgot to check the refrigerator. I'm sure it's fine but I'm going to have to make sure the door is closed!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Unloading the truck

Yesterday I spent four hours unloading my pickup.  It didn't really take that long to just take everything out.  As I took everything out I had to sort through mine or states.  I'm not quite done sorting but I'm getting there.  Because I probably won't have a vehicle assigned to me in my new job I won't be carrying a full load of equipment in that vehicle.  I will, instead, be adding more to my everyday carry in my own truck. 

What do I now have extra of?  My work truck had a sleeping bag, two weeks of MREs, a couple cases of water and Gatorade, two pairs of boots, rain gear, two weeks of clothes, a backpack, hardhat, gloves, two medical bags, GPS, Kestrel (weather machine), camera, snow chains, shovel, rake, fencing tool, water purifier, and a bunch more stuff.  Other than the two medical bags (one is mine and one is the states but the stuff is all mixed up between the two) everything got put away.

I have one pair of heavy boots in my family truck, one pair in the trailer, and now four pairs in my closet.  What do I need with another two weeks of pants/t-shirts/underclothes, etc?  Wait until Boy or Girl grow into them? The tools will just go out to the barn or into the tool chest depending on size.  The GPS and Kestrel will be put away until the others break.  Snow chains?  That's easy, they go into the family truck, which didn't have a set.  I can always use good leather gloves.  Not that I'll ever go through the six pairs of long gloves plus the dozen pairs of regular gardening variety leather gloves...

The best of the extras are the medical supplies and the MREs.  I forgot that I had two stethoscopes in the bags.  I also have two additional cervical collars and a large splint.  That's always good to have.  And the endless supply of gauze, which I stocked up on after I was first on scene (and only one on scene for 20 minutes) at a double fatal rollover accident.  No, I didn't need the gauze for the dead people only the alive people!  One accident can use up lots and lots of gauze.  I also had a birthing kit.  Hope I never have to use that! 

Having the two cases of MREs will really help stock up on the MRE supply.  I'll put more into the family truck because I only have a few days worth of food in that truck. 

The problem I have now that my family truck will be my main vehicle is it doesn't have a camper shell or toneau cover.  It's easy enough to throw a few tools in the back, but I can't really keep all my supplies in the back.  I keep them under the seat now but since I'm adding additional supplies I'll need more supply space.  I am going to have to inconvenience myself a bit by putting supplies in a bin and while I'm driving keep the bin in the bed of the truck and while I'm parked put the bin inside the truck.  Inconvenient but necessary. I may end up investing in a shell, which would not only hold my stuff more conveniently but also will hold me safer and drier if I need to sleep in the truck. 

For now, I'll continue to sort through the medical gear. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The NEW JOB!!!

I'm absolutely blown away.  I got the job.  I was told I'd be notified in two weeks.  Instead they called the day after they finished all the interviews - three days after my interview I got the offer.  Not only did I get the job but they are paying me the top salary for that position.  I'm still in shock.  The grand kids asked if I was going to turn the heater on tonight since we are going to be "rich".  No.  I'll burn a fire in the wood stove. 

There will be a couple of huge changes with this new position.  First, I will no longer work for the state of California.  Second, I will not be sent out of town for weeks on end every time the state has some emergency.  Third, I have to give back the state truck, computer, printer, cell phone, Internet connection and my badge.  I really like the Ford F250 4x4 pickup.  It's been a fun vehicle as long as I didn't have to turn around on a two track trail!  Fourth, the new job is only four days per week but very long days.  I will be away from home 13 hours a day for three of the days.  The fourth day I get to work at home. 

Being gone long hours is going to be the hardest part.  I'm going to have to plan meals.  No more getting home at 3 in the afternoon and putting together dinner by 6.  I'm not going to even be getting home until 6:30.  The grand kids aren't quite old enough to put together a good dinner each night - but they can learn! 

I'm actually going to like the meal and chore planning part of this new lifestyle.  Putting everything into a prepper perspective, if TSHTF and life changes where I can't spend hours each day hanging out in my kitchen or garden I will need to be more organized and more focused.  Perhaps on Sunday I will make all the meals for the week and stick them into the freezer?  Or I can get a simple recipe using our home store ingredients and have the grand kids make dinner two of those three days.  If Boy makes dinner one night and Girl makes it another, then I will only have to make it on one of my long days.  Even if we start off with Top Ramen, Macaroni and Cheese, or Beefaroni, at least they will be able to start having some responsibility in making meals for more than just themselves.  They do a great job pouring a bowl of cereal and glass of milk at breakfast and making a sandwich for lunch.  Now we can try dinner. 

I'm going to be almost 50 miles away when I'm at the new office. This is a lot different than the less than 15 I am now. I need to completely change the contents of my get home bag.  The weather conditions where I work now and where I live are the same.  Perhaps the temperature is 5 degrees different.  Not so with the new job.  I'm going from 500 foot elevation to 5500 feet.  When I was there for the interview there was snow on the ground.  I'm not used to snow, or ice, or cold!  Where a pair of running shoes would get me home from my present office, I need a good strong pair of boots, a sleeping bag, clothing for a blizzard, and so much more packed up in the get home bag. 

I also need work on the grand kids ability to survive on their own for several days if I can't get back quickly.  On the other hand, they offer local rental housing at the new job if we want to move.  It would definitely be more secluded moving there but it's only for the time you work.  When you leave the company you have to move.  There's a lot to do and a lot to think about over the next month.  

But there's still tomorrow.  I have to go out to the backyard and prune fruit trees and finish getting the garden cleaned up for winter.  I also have Army daughter's 2 year old here.  The little one is getting the best of Army daughter and son-in-law.  And she's only 2!  

It's been a good day.    

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The wind storm

According to the weather channel it's 65 outside right now with winds at about 5 miles per hour.  I'm not sure where they are getting their readings because it no way reflects what's happening at my house.  It's about 50 and the winds are steady 10 mph with gusts in up to 20.  I know.  I have my weather machine.  Or perhaps I'm just in a dream state and don't really know what's going on.  After all, about 1/2 hour ago PG&E (our power company) called with an automated call letting me know that my power is out and will be restored in about 3 hours.  The call told me to press 9 if I knew of downed power lines.  It may be windy but my power is on.  Not even a little flicker have we had to disrupt the microwave clock. 

I have the wood stove burning even though the Great Central Valley has a no burn day.  That's right, our air district tells us when we are allowed to burn wood in our fireplaces or wood stoves.  And they have a toll free number that your neighbors can call anonymously and rat you out.  The burn police then show up at your door and give you a ticket with a fine of $50 for the first offense and a couple hundred if you keep ignoring them.  Never mind that you just want to get warm.  Fortunately for me, if you live on acreage and you use propane you don't fall under their restrictions.  I can burn whenever I want.  Not only that, but I can have a bonfire outside and burn brush debris, even though that's not allowed due to air regulations.  All you have to do is call it a warming fire.  Or in the case of my kids, they can have their friends over and call the debris burn a bonfire for a party.  Then it's all legal.  When the government first started in with these no-burn day rules they made sure everyone knew that they would only have one or two no-burn days per year.  People didn't protest too much.  They even had a test run for a year before the regulation took effect.  Amazing that during the test year there were hardly any no-burn days.  Now, it's several times per week that they call for no-burning. 

Not only is it cold but we are supposed to get some rain tonight and some more tomorrow.  Because of this I have the laundry on the inside laundry rack in front of the fire.  I have a clothesline strung across one of the dining room chairs over to the patio door handle.  I still don't feel like using the propane drier or even turning on the house heater.  I know I'll be using both next week when we have company because I don't push my ways on visitors.  I may be comfortable wearing a stocking cap in the house all day and a sweatshirt on top of my long sleeves, most people don't dress like that in their homes. 

I was talking to my daughter-in-law the other day and she said that during the winter they keep their house near 80 and during the summer around 70.  The 80 sounds good during the winter, especially since the bug-out house has such a great wood stove.  But 70 in the summer is downright cold!  They have $300 a month electric bills for their air conditioner for a 1000 square feet.  Unbelievable!  Us, our house is usually 85 during the summer and 65 during the winter.  I figure that's 20 degrees cooler than the outside temps during the summer and 20 degrees warmer than the outside temps during the winter. 

If TSHTF and there weren't any utilities, would you have enough propane to last forever?  No, it would eventually run out.  How about wood?  Do you have a wood source that is close by?  And something to cut it with?  Here on our main property I could probably cut 1/3 cord of wood every year from our fruit trees.  It's not a lot but it would keep the place warm enough during the coldest of days.  (blankets keep us warm during the nights)  What about cooking and heating water?  If you have something like a little rocket stove you can cook with twigs.  We can scrounge enough of that to cook forever.  At the bug-out place, there's enough wood to use the wood stove whenever necessary and the property is only a couple hundred feet off the National Forest so there's a huge supply really close by. 

About half the leaves are still on the trees.  Hopefully the wind will blow most of them off.  We need to get them raked up and some put into the chicken coop and the rest go out to the sheep to eat.  Perhaps this weekend the wind will stop blowing and the rain will stop drizzling. 

I didn't feel like cooking tonight even though I got home from work early.  Instead I filled the rice cooker with 2 cups of dry white rice, four cups of water, 4 teaspoons of instant beef broth mix, cut up the leftover beef from the last two weeks (about 1/2 cup total meat), a dehydrated 1 pound package of frozen stir-fry vegetables, the last of our fresh zucchini sliced in thin rings, and a couple dashes of soy sauce.  20 minutes later, delicious dinner, with 2 minutes of prep time.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Browsing through the free books for Kindle and computers

I've been spending lots of time working, and cleaning out my office at work.  Over 15 years in one place means lots of stuff.  I interviewed for a new job, and if I get it, I'll only have about two weeks to finish up my work projects and clean out the office, storage building, and truck.  Not much time so I'm starting now...just in case I get the new job.  I'll write about the possibilities of what may happen with our lives if I do get the new job.  But not tonight.

Every once in a while I go through the Amazon free Kindle book section.  Even if you don't have a Kindle you can download the books to your computer and read them on the computer.  I do have a Kindle.  I was given the basic Kindle by a friend who bought one with the latest greatest features.   I found a few good free books today.  Some are older books that are available in other places on the Internet as well.  Some are published books that are either in a series (and they give you the first to hook you in the series) or are touted as complimentary review copies.  If you review one of these complimentary copies, then by all means after you read them put up a review on their page.  I haven't reviewed any of these, other than the first one listed, since I just downloaded them today.

The first is the disaster preparedness guide that I reviewed not too long ago.  It wasn't the best book at all for disaster preparedness but I thought it was a great book for someone who hasn't ever thought of disaster preparedness.  I did like the portions of the book that listed the costs for the projects.  That is unique to this book.  For free, it's worth reading.

A couple of religious downloads were next.  First is a Bible, not the standard version that many people use but I like having a bunch of different versions.  You can find dozens of versions for free, this just popped up today.

Next was a book that looked like it would be good for 5th grade or so on up.  I haven't read this so I can't tell you if that's too young.  It's from Focus on the Family so there shouldn't be language or situations written in a way that a sailor would blush.

Next book was authored by a Navy Seal who writes of his inspirations and then going back to his religious foundation and spreading the word to those he meets.  He finds that after a while he isn't quite fitting in with his group of seals.

Finally, one of my favorite topics: food.  It's a book of homemade mixes, although I'm not sure how many of them I'd actually use.  At least it can get you to thinking about putting together some mixes.  You home storage doesn't have to include all beans and rice but you don't need store bought boxed brownie mix either.  You can make your own mixes and store them in individual canning jars.

Next is a pressure cooker (not canner) book that if nothing else will maybe convince you to buy a pressure cooker.  You can quickly prepare meals, and if fuel is at a premium, this is one method that many people overlook.  San Diego sister was given an electric pressure cooker from her mother-in-law.  She never used it so she gave it to me.  I tried it but it's really too small to be of much use.

Last is the Golden Age Cookbook.  It's about 100 years old.  I like the recipes because much of it can be found in your home storage.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Have you cleaned out your closet lately? and remaking candles

Since today was a day off work I decided to tackle a couple jobs that I've been putting off.  The grand kids got to do some work too.  They weren't happy about that since they proclaimed it's a day off school so they shouldn't have to do anything.  Fine, don't eat and I also won't heat the house today.  They didn't like that idea.  What did they do today?  Stacked about 1/3 cord of wood in the shed, trimmed one of the fruit trees, picked pomegranates from next door, fed the chickens and brought in the eggs.  Girl even made dinner (mashed potatoes with chili and cheese on top).  There was still plenty of time to play. 

I didn't get off so easy.  I decided to vacuum the window sills and ceilings with the shop vac.  Since the house doesn't have any carpet (just a rug in the living room) it doesn't get vacuumed very often.  Swept alot, but not vacuumed.  I then vacuumed along all the baseboards and the biggest chore, the dining room floor, which is tongue and groove oak and every groove is recessed.  It collects a lot of little bits of dirt even if we do sweep all the time. 

With that chore done I had to do the closet.  I hate this closet.  It's in the hall and it's a small closet, only about 2 1/2 feet wide.  Somehow when anyone has some little item that they don't want to put away they shove it in there.  And I mean shove.  This closet also gets attacked by mice.  That's a bad combination - shoving stuff in and mice eating their way through it all.

There are three shelves plus the floor.  You wouldn't think it would take several hours to clean this out but it did.  There wasn't much that the mice had gotten into yet there were mouse droppings all over.  I pulled everything out carefully so as to not drop droppings on me.  I piled it all on the dining room table.  (I don't even want to hear about how unsanitary that was.)  I vacuumed out the entire closet then went through everything prior to putting it all away.

I threw out a bunch of stuff.  Putting on the prepper hat I looked at everything in a new light.  What if TSHTF today?  Would I want this?  Yes or no?  If the answer was no then I asked a second question.  Is it something that we are going to use this year?  If not then why am I saving it?  Because maybe someday we will have another 1 year old birthday party for a girl so we need to save all this pink junk that says 1-year old?  No! I didn't buy that, Army daughter did, but the baby is over two.  Why do I have this???  What about the bucket of sea shells we collected about 5 or 6 years ago?  I dumped them in the front flower bed by the grapes.  Not doing any good shoved in the closet.  If the grand kids want to see the shells they can look in the gardenbed.  They certainly weren't ever going to see them in the closet.

What's left in the closet?  Holiday decorations that fit into two Rubbermaid bins.  Do you go overboard on holiday decorating that each and every holiday takes days to put up and take down?  A bin of craft beads, glitter, Popsicle sticks, and other things to keep kids occupied for hours.  A bin of last minute gifts for kids and adults.  And a bin of candles and candle holders.  That's all.  Everything else fit into a big black garbage bag and into a smaller bag to go to Goodwill or some other donation center. 

Then I took some of the candle pieces and melted them down and poured them back into a candle jar.  When some candles burn they leave big chunks of wax unburned.  Do you throw the candles out like this?  I don't.  Sometimes I'll use wax bits to help start a fire if the wood is wet.  Otherwise I put the bits into a baggie and when it's full I melt them down and pour them back into a jar.  I have one old pot that I dedicate for melting the wax.  You don't put the pot straight on the burner, it can too easily catch fire.  You put the pot into a larger pot of boiling water.  In my case I use an old pan with a 2 inch high rim.  I fill it with water and put my 1 quart pot into that water as a double boiler.  The wax melts quickly.  I have wicks that I can use or if I don't feel like messing with them I will take a birthday candle or a burned taper candle and use it for the wick. 

Cleaning that closet was something that I was dreading but I also knew that if TSHTF cleaning a closet of junk would not be something I'd be spending time on and now, having extra space available (remember I got rid of over a garbage bag fill of junk) is always something that is useful. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our first freeze and buy now, bill me later

The temperature is supposed to hit 32 tonight in town, which means it may even get into the 20s here at home.  I have two choices with the garden, I can either cover everything up or I can pull everything up.  I decided to pull everything up. 

Covering the rows would be a good idea.  It would keep everything a few degrees warmer, and the plastic would warm the soil and crops during the day as well.  But the crops I'm growing right now that would be affected by the cold are eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers.  I have about 30 eggplants on the five plants and buckets of tomatoes.  I'm probably not going to get any more zucchini this season, even if I protected the plants from the freeze.   I picked my five small zucchini. I decided to pull up the eggplant and cut the tomato plants off right at the ground.  I tied a cord around each plant and hung them upside down in the garage.  The garage will stay around 50.  The fruit will ripen as the plants die.  I still had two pepper plants growing but I forgot to pull them up.  Now it's dark and cold and I just don't care that much. 

I'd have a different attitude if the SHTF tomorrow.  I'd be pissed off at myself for leaving those two plants and not going out to retrieve them.  They could be transplanted into a pot and grown indoors.  If it doesn't freeze and kill them tonight I'll pot them up tomorrow. 

We've had rain two nights in a row now.  I hung laundry up yesterday afternoon and they finally dried around 5:00 this afternoon....just in time for another load to get hung on the line.  The grand kids want to know when I'm just going to put the clothes into the drier.  I told them when it's foggy.  I tried explaining that it costs about a dollar for each load but they just aren't getting the concept.  They also wanted to know when I was going to turn the heater on in the house.  I told them a couple days before Thanksgiving when we have company.  Until then, put on an extra blanket if you are cold.  It can cost up to $10 a day to run the heater.  If they aren't interested in bringing in wood to run the wood stove on the weekends when I'm home to keep it going then they will just have to deal with a cold house. 

The next door neighbor gave Girl a couple of National Geographic magazines.  Girl read out loud about the elephant slaughter for their tusks.  She wasn't quite getting what was going on so I had to explain about bad guys killing the elephants just for their tusks.  Now if they were using the entire elephant, then I wouldn't have the same problem with it as killing them, taking the tusks and letting them rot.  There was a coupon in the magazine for National Geographic for kids.  Only $15.  Girl told me that she had some mail to send out.  What?  You don't have the money.  She said the postcard said that you could enclose the money or they can bill you.  She checked that they could bill her.  Do you have the money in your room?  No??  You can't buy something if you don't have the money.  She said she'd earn it by the time the bill came in.  No!  You earn it now.  You are not allowed to buy anything if you don't have the money up front.  Do you understand?  But why?  Because, you will ruin your life if you always try to play catch-up and pay the bills when they come in with money you don't have.  I'm half expecting her to put the postcard in the mail anyway.  We will see if the magazine shows up here.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day.  Not Monday, like everyone thinks.  That's just a day off work in honor of the hard working military who isn't getting the day off.  Dad served.  One of my brothers and one of my sisters served.  Army daughter (that's easy to figure out) and son served.  I was thinking about joining the marines right out of high school.  In a way I wish I had served the country in the military, but now, I'm glad I didn't because the life I have now would not have been my life.  Instead, I'll just have to honor the rest of the family and everyone else who has served our country.  Thank you.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The plastic isn't quite working out as planned

My plan was to make an enclosure out of plastic by my front door and also in front of the family room.  I want to make mini greenhouses where I can open the living room door or the front door and have nice moist warm air come into the house.  First, the plastic isn't clear like plastic wrap or cheap drop cloths.  It's white.  It lets light in but you can't see out.  The front door plastic covers the front door and one living room window and the bigger area in front of the family room covers the living room door that goes outside.  This means I can't see out from the windows to the front porch, the driveway, and half of the front yard.  If I want to see out front I have to go to my library but even there most of the driveway is cut off from view because of the plastic across the front porch.  In order to see up the driveway I have to go to the kids rooms.  I can see on the porch from the living room but can't see any further out.  So for safety measures, it's a bad idea. 
If I keep those windows and doors locked then is it much of an issue at this time?  Probably not.  I don't answer the front door anyway.  People who know us come around to the back.  People who don't, they don't get out of their vehicles because big dog won't let them.  Still it's disconcerting to not be able to see out.  I'm probably going to take it all down.  But, it is working and while it's really chilly outside it's at least 10-15 degrees warmer inside the plastic enclosures.  If I set them up really well, which would mean tacking a board to the fascia, not just stapling the plastic to the fascia, then it would be more secure.  I saw one really nice clear sun room that would work beautifully in front of the family room.  Unfortunately that means a lot more money than I have to spend.  At the moment, my spending has to be zero. 
The neighbor brought me over 1/2 gallon of pomegranate juice.  I immediately took 1/2 gallon of sugar and added it to the juice.  I boiled it then simmered it then poured it into my jars that I bought earlier in the year from Speciality Bottle.  I made labels with our last name then a clip art of a pomegranate and then Grenadine Syrup.  It turned out great.  I got on line on Amazon and they had gourmet grenadine for $4.49 for 5 ounces.  My 5 ounce bottles of syrup, including the cost of the bottle, were just a little over one dollar.  Maybe I should go into business?  They will make nice gifts.  I'm hoping the neighbors will bring over more juice.  If not, I'll be picking off their trees in another week and then I'll be able to make my own juice. 
Here's the information on buying the bottles, just in case you like the idea of making fruit syrups or sauces for gifts.  If I'm just making for our own storage I wouldn't be putting it into these bottles, instead I'd just use regular canning jars.  But having kids around, I pour it from my canning jar into these bottles.  It's easier for the kids to not use way too much if they are pouring it out of the bottle with a plug dripper insert. 
5 oz. Round glass bottle with cap .79 each (10 oz. bottles are .97 each)
Plug Dripper Insert .09 each
Shrink Bands $5.00 for 250

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pomegranates - not election news!

It's election evening.  The California polls will be closing in 1/2 an hour.  I voted at my local precinct today.  There were two people in front of me.  That was our crowd.  I voted, got two stickers (one for Boy and the other for Girl) and left.  Right now Fox news is calling it 162-162. ABC says 172-163.  Will California push Obama over the top?  Who knows.  The world will go on if my man doesn't win.  I would say we won't be as safe or as prosperous, yet someone who voted the other way will say the same exact thing.  It all depends on our perspective doesn't it.  On my facebook page one friend posts about those evil Tea Party people intimidating voters from voting and another about the Black Panthers intimidating voters.  I don't think I'll stay up late.  When I wake up in the morning I will know who won. 

So tonight instead, I'm going to write about pomegranates.  Pomegranate trees can be grown in a wide range of locations.  They are hardy to about 15 degrees!  Once they are well established you don't really have to pay any attention to the  tree (or bush).  You thin it out every few years if the fruit starts getting small.  You water it if there's drought.  We have one small tree that I planted a year and a half ago.  It has one pomegranate on it.  I told the kids they can't pick it until Thanksgiving.  The empty house next door has one pomegranate tree that's loaded.  We are going to go over there and pick the tree.  Better us than the birds.  The neighbors on the other side have three trees.  They are picking them and making jelly.  Today they made 60 1/2 pints.  That's almost 4 gallons of jelly!  They use it for gifts year round.  We got a warm jar today.  Thanks neighbor. 

He said we could come over and pick their trees since they are going to still have lots of fruit left.  I asked how they juice the fruit and was told that they bought a professional juicer on line last year for about $300.  Way over my budget.  I have an electric citrus juicer from the early 80s.  I wonder if that would work.  He said yes but rather than the spinning kind of citrus juicer it's better to get the pressing kind.  We'll we could do it by hand, I suppose. 

Instead the neighbor offered to juice pomegranates for us if I could use the juice.    Absolutely, I'll use as much juice as you squeeze.  I can can it as is and have  pomegranate juice for drinking or for recipes year round.  Since this year I've told everyone that all my gifts are going to be food related, I've decided to split my bottles that I earlier bought.  Half of the bottles will be used for hot sauce, the other half for grenadine syrup.  This syrup is easy to make and is good in drinks and also as pancake syrup.  You juice the fruit, then take equal amounts of juice and sugar.  You boil it then simmer for 15 minutes or so to thicken it up a bit.  Then you pour it into the jars and seal them up.  You don't have to boiling water bath them but I will for any that gets put up into regular canning jars rather than the special bottles. 

If you don't have a juicer there are still ways to remove the seeds. You can also remove seeds by splitting the fruit apart in a bowl of cold water. It's easy to remove the seeds this way. The seeds will sink and the membrane will float. When we sit at a table and eat the fruit we just tear it open and pull out the seeds. Once you have a pile of seeds there are many ways to juice them. You can take them and add them to water and simmer them, like you would with cranberries. Or you can put them in a plastic Ziploc bag and roll a rolling pin over them. You can also put them into a fruit grinder. 

What about using the seeds and not grinding them?  You can eat them fresh.  You can also dry them and eat them dried, like raisins.  I've never dried them but I'm going to try that this year.  You can also take the sweetened juice and turn it into  a fruit leather.  The kids would love that.  So would I. 

The fruit is good and it's good for you.  The seeds have riboflavin, A, B2, C, and E.  The rind is a source of potassium, phosphorous, calcium, and beta-carotene. It can also help control diarrhea and yeast infections.  The juice stimulated the appetite.  It's a good painkiller.  It was also used by the Russians against radiation sickness after the Chernobyl accident many years ago.  It's even supposed to be a miracle drug: curing stroke, arthritis, tuberculosis, Alzheimer's and cancer.  (Note: I take no credit for these's internet rumor that I haven't verified!)

Not only is the fruit useful but everything on the tree is useful.  The bark and roots ground up and made into a tea get rid of intestinal parasite worms in people.  The flowers made into a tea can aid sore throats.  The rind can be dried and powdered to use as a tooth powder or as a vitamin supplement.  

If you have the space, you should plant a pomegranate or two. 

Friday, November 2, 2012


I'm introducing the grand kids to sprouts.  We have them in Chinese food and they've also had them in salads but until this week, they haven't grown them.  It's easy and I let them put their sprouting jars together themselves. 

First we choose the seeds to sprout.  While I like alfalfa, mustard, and radish sprouts, I thought we'd be better off starting out with the sprouts they are most familiar with - mung beans - the "bean sprouts" you find in the store and in your typical Chinese dish. 

Next we went out into the garage and took some of the plastic screen pieces (from when we replaced a window screen, you wouldn't think I'd throw the screen out, would you?).  We took quart size wide mouth canning jars and drew a circle around the rim on a piece of paper.  That was cut out then placed on top of the screen.  The circle of screen was cut next.  I hot-glued the screen onto a wide-mouth jar ring. 

We poured a tablespoon of seeds into each jar.  Then water was added and swished around then poured out.  We put the jar in the cabinet to keep the light off the sprouts.  Bad idea.  It's easy to forget about the jar when it's in the cabinet.  The next day we swished water in them and poured it out.  Not wanting the seeds to dry out once again we left the jar on the counter.  Then we poured water in a couple times a day to keep them moist, and drained the water out right through the screen. 

After another day the seeds started sprouting.  Boy wanted to know if those were little maggots in with the seeds.  Gross.  No, those are the roots starting to grow.  Rinse and drain a couple times per day.  We left the jar on the counter for one more day then put it in the cabinet for another day.  Tomorrow they will go into the refrigerator and for lunch, delicious sprouts. 

That's all there is to making sprouts.  You can eat them, or you can plant them!  Since it's not time to plant beans we are going to eat them!  Yum.   

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cleaning up after Sandy

I've heard from several friends and relatives and they've come through the storm without too much damage.  The cousins we stayed with during our trip to New York six months ago had a tree fall on their house, but fortunately it didn't cause too much damage.  They even said some of the public transportation, including some subways, are once again running.  One of my coworkers families have a home on the Jersey shore.  I know his family is fine but I haven't heard about the home yet.  From the pictures I've seen of those areas just above sea level, it wouldn't surprise me if the home didn't survive.  There are a couple of readers who also live in the hard hit areas.  I hope and pray that they made it through safely.

Those folks whose homes are destroyed have a long row to hoe.  Even if they had preps in their homes, if they didn't have some prepositioned somewhere else they may be as bad off as the person who didn't prep.  Except those who are part of the preparedness community will probably be better off mentally as compared to those who didn't prep. 

The folks I'm disgusted with are the ones who are just looking for handouts or they are complaining due to their own lack of preparedness.  I don't mean those who have their lives turned upside down because their homes were destroyed, I mean those who were not prepared.  Remember the basics?  Keep your fuel tank at least 3/4 full.  Keep a bug-out bag in your car, include cash, food, water, clothes, and other items to get you through for a week or two.  Remember, these people had plenty of advance warning!

There's a shortage of fuel?  Did you expect that there wouldn't be?  Watching someone on the news this afternoon complain that they waited in line for an hour to get fuel only to be told that it was cash only.  And the other gas stations around were out of gas.  He didn't have cash and didn't know where the next closest gas station was. 

Others were complaining because they needed to do some grocery shopping.  Oh I forgot, it's the beginning of the month so your EBT card just filled up today.  You must not have had any money left on the card from last month to stock up on groceries before the storm.  Yet, if you hadn't bought soda, steak, or cookies, I'm sure there could have been a little money left for beans and rice.  I'm sorry, I just don't have any sympathy for people like that.  Even Mrs. Bug-out renter, who is very poor but doesn't qualify for food stamps, has already stocked up with enough food to last a month at least. 

I got into a discussion with one of my friends about the people who were told to evacuate but didn't.  Then in the height of the storm they are screaming that they need to be rescued.  Not only does their life get put into jeopardy but so do the lives of those who are trying to rescue them.  But my friend pointed out that not all of them had places to go or the means to do so.  True.  Those folks who were part of the 80 homes that burned in the one neighborhood had reason to be rescued.  Many of them may not have had anywhere to go or the means.  But, I do question that of the beach front homes.  Those on the strip of land that are a few feet above sea level.  Why did people stay in those houses?

Most of those people who stayed did so because they believed they could ride out the storm.  They were tempting fate.  Many lost. 

Both republicans and democrats are trying to politicize the storm and the aftermath, although they don't want their group to be thought of as politicizing only the other guys.  This is all caused by global warming, I've been told.  It's man caused not nature caused.  Give me a break.  Has anyone studied climate history other than me?  The president said that the government will stay for the duration and help everyone that needs help.  I suppose if I truly needed help I'd appreciate it but I just see it as a way for those with their hands continuously out to keep them out just a little bit longer.  This is a big opportunity for Obama to score points a week before the election.  See, now I'm making the storm political...

My blog tonight is just a little reminder.  In the east they had over a week warning that TSHTF.  Over a week!  In my neck of the world, in the Great Central Valley and the rest of California, we won't get a week notice that a disaster is imminent.  Perhaps a small rumbling prior to a huge earthquake.  Maybe some Santa Ana winds prior to a firestorm.  Nothing like the forewarning they had.  Keep your fuel tank filled.  Keep bug-out bags in the car.  Have some of your preps prepositioned. 

How do you do that?  Buy a big Rubbermaid container or two.  Fill it with food, clothes, cash, sleeping bags, etc.  Store it at a relatives house.  Have them do the same at your house.  It's not a lot different than me keeping several changes of clothes for me and the grand kids at each of my kids houses.  It's easy enough to justify...just in case we are visiting and they decide they want to spend the weekend they already have things there.  No need to say no because they don't have a bag packed.  This is just a tiny thing you can do to get yourself a little prepared.  It's easy.  Try it.  And fill the gas tank.