Monday, December 31, 2012

How do you get kids to do what they are supposed to do without supervision?

I can't believe how incredibly disappointed I am in the two grand kids.  Normally I wouldn't write about such things but it was such an eye opener for how little I can count on them when I'm not overseeing what they are doing.  If we work together they are usually pretty good at getting a task done.  Boy much of the time will do any and all tasks I assign just so he can show me how grown up and helpful he is.  Girl is getting into the preteen see how lazy she can be...just on this side of getting in trouble for helping as little as possible.  I'm not angry with them, just disappointed and dumbfounded at how wrong I was that they were ready to be given a little independence.

Today was the big day of me letting them stay home by themselves for the entire day while I was at work.  They'd never been left home for more than two or three hours at a time.  Today was going to be a long day.  I leave at 5:30 and normally arrive home at 7:00.  I figured I'd be working a shorter day today and would get home around 5:30 or 6:00.  Sure they could have failed worse than they did, but they didn't only because they didn't think about it!  If they were a little older they would have gotten into much more trouble.  They couldn't have done any less of what I was expecting them to accomplish.

Here's the list that I left them with this morning.  They were both awake when I left at 5:30.  They ended up going back to bed, which was good.  A few less hours for them to not do what they were supposed to do.  Here's the note I left them with:
1. Last night when I went to put the dinner dishes in the dishwasher I noticed that it was only half unloaded and the towel left in the dishwasher.  Boy, please unload the dishwasher (his normal M-F chore before breakfast) and Girl, load the dishwasher up with last night's dishes since I couldn't do them because you didn't finish unloading it (her normal weekend chore).
2.  Each of you put your own dirty dishes in the dishwasher after breakfast and lunch. - normally I tell them to put them in the sink and I load them into the dishwasher.
3.  No phone, computer, or music until all the chores are done. - regular household rule for all of us.
4.  Don't forget to make your beds. - regular rule for all of us before breakfast.
5.  Your clothes are in the drier.  Please put them away and also the clothes in front of your place at the kitchen table.  - Always a hard task...don't take the clean clothes and stuff them under the dresser or on the closet floor.
6.  Get the leaves raked.  Give the leaves to the sheep. - This was supposed to be done on Saturday but we had fun this weekend and didn't get around to the extra chores. 
7.  Each of you give the chickens and ducks in the front pasture 1/2 scoop of grain.  Throw it out there as far as you can.  They will like that! - Normally they fight over who gets to feed the front fowl.
8.  You can have candy after lunch!
9.  Pretzels and hot cheese puffs are for snack.
10.  Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, cereal for breakfast.

If they worked diligently they'd have to work about two hours.  Of the list, they did accomplished #8, 9, and 10. They started #6 when I called at 4:30 to tell them I'd be home before 6:00.

What did they do instead?  I put them in a list...
1. Cooked popcorn in the microwave.  Burned it because I could smell it 6 hours later.
2.  Got into the home store and ate a can of bean dip.  Not with the chips, just the bean dip.
3.  Ate my cotton candy, which I bought the other day and announced that we are going to have this for my birthday!
4.  Got into my CDs and played the music.
5. Texted and called her friends.
6.  Played the PS2.
7. Played tag in the house.
8. Got on the computer.
9. Used the good dishes for breakfast and lunch.
10. Got into the home store and drank soda.
11. Made and drank a 1/2 gallon of koolaid.
12. Played football.

Are any of these items really a really big deal?  No, absolutely not.  They didn't get into the alcohol.  They didn't burn the house down. They didn't have friend over.  They didn't watch R rated movies.  I locked the safe so they didn't get into the weapons.  They didn't leave the property.  Nothing so terrible so it seems to the outsider that I'm overreacting. 

If they had accomplished what they were supposed to accomplish the only items on the second list I would have been upset with were making the popcorn and playing tag in the house.  Instead I'm left with two children who can not be given simple directions and have me be able to expect, or trust, that they will be followed.  This test of reliability was a simple one.   I thought that they'd be so excited to show me how grown up they were that they'd do what they were supposed to PLUS do the other things.  They failed miserably because I don't see eating candy, pretzels and hot cheese puffs in addition to breakfast and lunch and doing nothing else on the list as a success.

We were going to go out to dinner tonight to celebrate New Year's Eve and my upcoming birthday.  I canceled that and we had leftovers instead.  I laid it on really thick about how mad I was at myself.  How could I have thought that they'd be mature enough to be able to stay home by themselves?  That was just as irresponsible of me to leave them alone as it would have been to leave their five year old cousin home alone.  I really blew it.  I guess I messed up taking this new job.  I will probably have to quit it and I won't be able to get my old job back.  We'll have to move and live in a dive apartment in a gang ridden neighborhood because I blew it thinking they'd be old enough to watch after themselves.  My fault.  Sorry kids.  I didn't realize just how wrong I was in thinking that they'd be able to be responsible.

They were sad little pups on their way to bed.  I figure Boy will probably have nightmares tonight.  He usually does when his conscious in bothering him.  Girl knows that she is probably going to be losing her phone and computer for a good long while. She was hiding her tears.  

My worry is if TSHTF.  Will they be total failures at that too?  Will they put all our lives in danger because they can't even do the simple task unsupervised?  They do fine supervised but as soon as the supervision is gone they do nothing.  Or was this their test of freedom and "being grown up" and the next time they will preform properly?  What if I got caught in a snowstorm and didn't make it home that night?  What if? 

So tomorrow, instead of having a great and happy new year's day, they are going to be doing what they were supposed to do today...and then some.  And on Wednesday and Thursday of this week they will go to son's house to be babysat.  He will make sure they don't get to have much fun either.  I'm sure he has a whole list of chores for them to do.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Getting organized with our new life

I'm very grateful that I have a new job.  I loved the old job, and I was extremely good at it.  In an economy like we have, and a government like we have, I've been ridiculed for leaving my "cush" state job to go into the private sector.  Being driven to give work my best, I wasn't one to take advantage of the state.  I put in my time and more.  I didn't worry about being laid off or fired but with that came lack of pay and benefits that kept getting undermined.  It used to be if you worked for government you'd get less pay but great benefits.  (Government rule of thumb - the less educated you are the government pays better than private sector wages.  The more educated you are, you are better off in the private sector when it comes to pay.)  I wonder what type of person is going to replace me at the state job.  Now, I know one of the people I supervised will at some time promote into my job, but who will take theirs?  Because of the new retirement rules it will probably be some slacker who won't mind the less pay and less benefits in exchange for not being able to get fired no matter how lousy of a worker they are.  I'm still in awe over the pay and benefits of the new job.  I get paid more, they offer better retirement than the state, and I get raises and bonuses!  But they can on a whim fire me or lay me off. 

I had to return my super deluxe Reconyx spy camera.  I think I hated to see that go more than the work truck (and not having to pay for my gas).  The grand kids and I went to Dick's sporting goods yesterday.  It's a new store in the big city near where we live.  They had several game trail cameras in stock - although no Reconyx.  I bought two at $110 each.  I returned them today.  They were lousy.  I set one up on a chair in the dining room.  I pointed it down the hall.  I even told the kids that they'd be on camera every time they came out of their rooms and went into the hall.  Before I went to bed I paraded up and down the hall several times.  This morning I checked to see the pictures and it only captured about a dozen shots.  So back they went.  Does anyone own any of these types of cameras?  I'm looking for something that doesn't cost as much as the Reconyx (about $600 each).  But I need it to work so if that's the cost then that's the cost. 

With my new job I'm figuring I can spend somewhere between $500 and $750 a month on preparing.  But this doesn't just mean buying cool toys.  December's prep money was spent buying insulation and wallboard for the bug-out house, which we worked on last weekend.  Comfort is important, whether it's in our house that I hope to be able to stay in or the bug-out place.  This weekend I spent much of my time working on the fencing in the back pasture.  I've had the pastures divided into three parts but I wanted to divide it even further.  The back pasture is about 3 1/2 acres and it's are being split into seven separate pastures.  The fencing is the heavy duty cattle/hog panels.  They are 16 feet long and 4 feet high.  I have a 5000 foot roll of wire that I use to wire the panels together.  Have fencing tool, can build fences!  I didn't get them all done.  I'm about 20 panels short plus about 20 t-posts short.  Not too long ago I bought about 50 or 60 t-posts.  I like using them as I never seem to have enough. 

I also want to change the fencing around some of the fruit trees in the front pasture.  I had originally cut the panels in half and put the trees in the middle of an 8 foot square fenced area.  That didn't work!  The sheep were able to push on the panels enough to eat the trees.  Not learning my lesson I added a fifth panel.  That will be enough to keep them away.  No, it didn't.  Another year of them pushing on the panels to get to the trees.  Before the winter is over I want to put full 16 foot panels around each tree.  If I put a t-post in each corner and also one in the middle of each panel the tree will be 8 feet from the side.  Even the tree branches will be too far for those pesky sheep to reach.  Since each tree has 4 or 5 8-foot panels already, I only need about 20 more panels for the front. 

Let's see.  That's 40 panels I'm short.  At $20 each on sale, that's $800 plus t-posts.  Another minor project costing major money!  If I buy the camera and the panels, I've spent my prepping money through the spring! 

The grand kids did get in some fun this weekend.  Extra grand kid came over for the weekend so the three kids and I went to the movies.  It's hard to find a movie that two girls and a boy will all like.  Since they are all 10 and 11 I am very careful about what movies they watch.  Or at least I'm careful with the two that I'm raising.  Oldest daughter lets other granddaughter watch TV and movies that I won't let Boy and Girl watch.  I'll allow some PG and all G movies.  That doesn't give us much of a selection of movies.  I picked two - Wreck it Ralph and The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  Boy got done with his chores first so he got to pick.  You guessed it. Wreck it Ralph.  It was a cute kids movie.  We will watch the other movie next weekend if Girl gets her chores done without too much nagging from me. 

With this new job I leave very early in the morning and get home after our "normal" dinner time.  Everything is changing.  For the first two weeks of my new job I had the grand kids farmed out.  Tomorrow I have to go to work and I'm going to leave the kids home.  They have their regular chores to do and a chore to do that should take them two hours.  Other than that, they can play, read, ride their bikes in the yard, and go over to the next door neighbor's house.  We'll see how they do.  In one more week they start school so we don't have to worry about both their school and my new job yet. 

I have tomorrow night's dinner already cooked.  I just need to heat it up when I return home.  My breakfast is packed into my backpack.  The kids normally make a bowl of cereal on school days (unless I cook something) so they are going to just do their regular breakfast tomorrow.  They usually make their school lunch so it shouldn't be much different with them making their lunch at home tomorrow at lunch time.  I told them they can't cook anything. 

Girl and I went grocery shopping today.  I pretty much bought my normal...wander the store and buy more things to stock in our home store.  We didn't need anything.  We never do since I have so much food on hand.  Even so, I always stock up on more.  The kids like Top Ramen but you have to cook that on the stove.  I found some in the Styrofoam cup that you just add boiling water and let it sit for three minutes.  They even have two or three pieces of dried carrots and peas in the container so they can call it noodles and vegetables!  The kids will be able to heat the water in the microwave and then make the noodles if they want.  It's not as cost effective buying it in the cups but it's more convenient and at this point I need to get a few convenience items for them.  You'll still not catch me buying frozen meals!  I'd rather make my own and freeze them myself.  The kids can use the microwave to heat them if that's what I'm going to do in the future. 

This past two weeks I've gotten myself organized enough that I'm getting to bed early, I'm keeping up with the dishes and laundry, and I've even gotten more organized on the outdoor chores.  I'm writing lists for everything.  To do lists for me and for the kids.  Give it a few more weeks and the new routine will seem like old hat. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

There's a lot I don't know!

Did you think I must have been deep in an underground bunker for the last two weeks?  I don't think I've ever gone for 12 days without posting...ever.  Did I take a break for the 12 days of Christmas?  I suppose I could use that as an excuse.  No.  That's not the reason at all.  It's much more exciting, or boring, depending on your perspective. 
My last posting was on Dec. 13.  After that we went to San Diego for a long weekend.  I had to work in Riverside and San Diego, and also drop the grand kids off at San Diego sister's house for the week.  I was planning on picking up my new little tilapia fish too.  I sent an email to Tilapiamama and she said that she didn't have any fingerlings ready.  I called the pet store down there that she supplies fish to hoping that they'd have some.  They didn't.  Both said they'd have some in a couple of weeks.  That doesn't do me any good at all.  I'm going down to LA in the middle of January; I may have to make the trip down to San Diego at that time if they have some fish available.  Otherwise, I don't know when I'll be heading back down to San Diego.
I left the grand kids down there because I started my new job on the 17th.  I haven't finished my old job yet.  That doesn't happen for another week.  This week I worked an 80 hour week, plus more that I will write about in a few more paragraphs.  My new job is 1 1 /2 hours from home.  I leave at 5:30 in the morning and return at 7:00 at night.  I've never been away from home each day for work for any type of extended period unless I was on an emergency incident.  Now it's going to be this way for four days each week.  Since I was out of town the weekend before I started I didn't have any preplanned meals for my first week at work.  I stupidly figured that I could quickly make something up for me since the kids were away.  I was wrong.  Instead I hardly ate.
Day one - living at 400 feet elevation we get fog, rain, and sunshine during the winter.  It's pretty much spread out equally between fog and sunshine.  My new job is over a mile high.  This means snow, ice, and sunshine, plus the fog until I make it up the hill a bit.  I've driven in ice and snow before.  We took a trip to Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas during winter vacation a few years ago.  But I didn't drive on ice and snow on windy roads in the dark.  My ice and snow driving was during the day on pretty straight roads.  I learned that I don't know how to drive on ice and snow!  On day 1 I left at 5:30, drove up the hill, then hit the snowplow cleared roads.  Fortunately for me, there were very few cars on the road (there's usually a train of about 50 cars heading to my office, I've been told) and those who were on the road were really pissed that I was driving so slow.  I didn't know the road, the curves, the turnouts, the uphills and downhills.  I drove slow.  I pulled off to the side as often as possible.  I got honked at, bright lighted, but not run off the road.  I made it to work on time.  While at work, my first day on the job, the discussion turned to chains.  I didn't own any.  I have 4 wheel drive in my truck.  They told me that when the chain sign is lit you have to carry chains or you can get a ticket.  It doesn't mean to have to use them but they have to be in the truck.  So Monday night I drove back to the city before I went home and picked up a set of Z cables.  Got home, didn't eat dinner, just went to bed. 
Day two of the new job - Left at 5:30.  Drove up the hill.  It was snowing.   As I was on the flats at the top of the mountain I thought perhaps I should put my chains on.  Problem was, I didn't know how.  I was too tired the night before to even open the container.  I turned off the highway to the seven miles of up hill, down hill road to get to the job. After driving a mile I realized that I was GOING TO DIE!  The road was icy.  I didn't have a clue how to drive it.  I pulled over a mile into this last 7 mile drive and called my new boss.  I'm going to be late.  I pulled over on the side of the road.  I have to wait for who knows how long until I get my wits about me and put on the chains, which I have no clue how.  The boss said he was sending people out to meet me.  About 30 minutes later two of my office mates showed up.  By that time it was light outside.  One said he'd ride with me in my truck.  Either he would drive or I could.  I decided that I would drive if he would talk me through HOW to drive.  So he did.  At the end of the day another coworker had me drive to the big shed.  There I learned how to put chains on the truck.  It was actually easy once I got them all untangled.  I kept the chains on for the seven miles then took them off once I got to the flats of the mountain top.  That night I bought new tires for the truck.  Didn't get home until almost 10:00. 
Day three - drove to the job.  Only shrieked out loud two or three times as I was driving the last 7 miles.  The way home, no problem.  Stopped for someone else's accident to see if they needed any assistance.  Felt kind of good to see someone else crashed due to ice and snow and NOT ME!  They were OK.  Waived to the store as I drove by GI Jim's.  Someday I'll get to stop by there and buy some more items on my list.  Got home at 7:00.  Turned on the computer for my other job.  Worked until 10:00.  I've also been working the other job during my breaks and lunch.  Two full time jobs is too much.  I'm glad the grand kids aren't home during their three week school vacation. 
Day four - piece of cake.  I still don't know what I'm doing on the job but the drive was good.  No shrieking at all.  Got home and cleaned the house.  Then worked the old job. Then picked up San Diego brother-in-law (BIL) from the airport. Sister is bringing the kids back tomorrow late afternoon.  BIL is going to work at the bug-out place doing insulation and drywalling.
Friday.  Off.  I'd like to sleep but I couldn't.  Had to go to the old job.  I drove the work truck to turn it in.  BIL drove my truck to the office to pick me up.  Then we headed for Home Depot but on the way he said I just lost a belt.  What?  Then the warning lights on the truck all went on.  Then the water temperature went up!  We got to Home Depot, then walked to the auto parts to buy a new belt and pulley.  Then bought everything we needed for the bug-out place.  BIL then worked on the truck and I walked to the car rental place.  You see, on Friday I needed to bring the truck to the body shop to fix the damage from when it was hit the week before.  Got an all-wheel drive SUV then back to Home Depot right when BIL finished replacing the pulley and belt.  I had some of the necessary tools for the repair.  Fortunately we were at Home Depot and he bought some additional tools.  Dropped the rental vehicle at the body shop, went to the bug-out place and started with the dry wall installation.  We were able to get across the creek.  Got to see Girl and Boy since they were in San Diego all week with their cousin.  Went back to town in the late afternoon to get the truck to the body shop before they closed.  Picked up the rental from the body shop and drove home with about 15 minutes to spare before sister and kids got to the house.  Friday night we headed back to town to pick up more insulation, dry wall, lights, wiring, and other stuff.  Headed back to the bug-out place, crossed the creek.  Unloaded it all, crossed the creek again and went home.  Got everyone to bed around 11:00. 
Saturday.  I had to work...remember 2 40-hour jobs?  I got up early.  BIL went to the bug-out place.  The rest of us stayed home until the late afternoon.  We made another trip to Home Depot then back up to the bug-out place.  Grand kids wanted to hang out with me... Next weekend you'll get to see me lots!  Promise. BIL stayed at the bug-out place overnight.  The rest of us got back to the house around 8:30.
Sunday. Headed back to the bug-out place.  A lot of work has been accomplished.  I left everyone there since sister's truck was still out there.  You couldn't cross the creek with vehicles due to all the rain but they were parked on the correct side of the creek.  Daughter-in-law wasn't.  Her car was stuck on the wrong side of the creek and she had to get to work.  Lucky me.  I drove her to work, then went to the auto parts store to pick up chains for the rental car.  Remember, no chains equals big fine... I dropped Boy and Girl off with oldest daughter.  Then I went home and went to bed.  Sister, BIL and their boy got home around 9:00 at night.  I pretended to be asleep, otherwise I would have stayed up until all hours visiting since they were leaving on Monday.  No, I needed sleep. 
Monday.  Worked up the hill.  Great drive.  I think I like driving the SUV rather than the truck on these roads.  Feels like I have a little more control.  Or perhaps I'm just getting used to the drive.  I just don't know.  At 10:30 in the morning the boss walked in and said to go home early for the holiday.  OK.  I left, drove down the hill and went to the other job.  I worked there until 5 then went to oldest daughter's house to pick up the grand kids.  I've missed them. 
Today, it's Christmas.  Brought grand kids and daughter-in-law to the bug-out place.  Planted asparagus seeds along the property line at the bug-out place.  Brought other grand kids back to their house in town.  With school vacation it's been musical cousins around here.  I don't know if anyone has been at their own house for more than a few days.  Me, I went to work at the old job this afternoon.  Got off at 5. 
Working two jobs for two weeks is difficult but a blessing as well.  I was able to buy the materials for the bug-out place.  I was able to get the truck repaired (OK BIL did it), well I paid for the parts!  BIL said the ball joints sounded like they were going out on the truck.  When it comes back from the body shop I will have the money to repair it.  And, there's enough left over to take the kids out next weekend.  I told them that they could each pick something fun to do and we would do it. 
The old job ends next week.  The new job will not be as enjoyable as the old job, that's for sure.  But, I will not have to work evenings or Fridays or weekends with the new job.  I won't be dragging my computer home with me or on vacation or anything.  That and the boost in pay will make it all worth it.  But it was a challenging first week. I didn't know that I didn't know how to drive in ice and snow.  I'm certainly no expert yet, but I'm sure I will be by the end of the winter.  There's enough open space by my new office that I can drive too fast and spin the car, just to practice getting it under control.  After not seeing my home during daylight hours for a week, when I finally did see it all in the light of day I found a dead chicken and two dead ducks.  They ran out of water in their pools so the ducks died from not being able to swish the dirt and grain out of their nose and mouth, and the rooster died when he climbed onto the sheep's water trough and fell in.  More lessons learned.
 I will not have time to blog Monday through Thursday in most cases.  Perhaps if I have a slow period during the day I can write something up but probably not for a while.  I need to get more organized.  I need to not plan on doing much of anything away from home on the weekends until we get that organization.  I need to make lists of what I do want to accomplish during my days off.  Something that seems so minor as a change in jobs sure has thrown our lives into a bit of chaos.  Glad the world didn't end on the 21st!  Or perhaps it would have been good if it did.  Then I'd be able to stay home...or at the bug-out place which is now well insulated and has new wiring!  Hope you all had a great Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Damaged truck and last travel for a while

Last night we went over to Oldest Daughter's home for dinner.  It was dark and rainy outside but inside was toasty warm because they had been cooking and baking all day.  We had just finished eating when one of the grandson's came in and said he looked out his window and saw someone hanging around my truck.  Son-in-law jumped up and so did I.  He opened the door just as one of the neighbors was walking up the walkway. 

There's been an accident.  He was backing up his truck and trailer all the way down the street when the trailer veered a little.  Being dark and rainy he didn't notice my truck.  The trailer smacked it.  The passenger door on the drivers side and the bed of the pickup are dented.  There a large scratch on the drivers door too.  I never saw his truck and trailer.  After he hit my truck he drove it home and then walked back to see the damage and let us know.

We didn't stay too much longer after that.  I got home and put Girl and Boy to bed and gave the insurance company a call.  I sure like working with my insurance company and I have the option of working with them and letting them deal with the other insurance or me dealing with the other insurance.  I'll deal with my own folks thanks.  Today I took the truck to the body shop.  They'll send me an estimate, not that it matters.  I just want them to fix it.  I'll bring the truck back in sometime next week for them to start the repairs.  They said it will take a couple of weeks to complete the job.  My truck may be 12 years old but it doesn't look like it and I want this repair to make it look new once again.

The grand kids were surprised that I wasn't angry at the neighbor.  No, I told them I wasn't angry at all.  The guy wasn't drinking or distracted.  He just blew it but took full responsibility.  No excuses.  Nobody and nothing was hurt except my truck.  It's just going to be an inconvenience having to bring it to the shop for the estimate and then repair.  I'll get a rental to use so I'm not without transportation at any time.  Just a couple hours of my time.  Not worth getting angry over. 

Last night I was thinking about the accident though.  I didn't get angry.  But, what if the driver was one of the grand kids?  I'd probably be pissed.  I'd probably complain that they were lousy drivers, distracted, grounded for life, etc.  Why do we give more leeway to strangers than our own family?  I don't know.  I guess this is something I have to file in the brain and then pull out when Girl or Boy gets into an accident! 

This weekend is my last bit of travel with my job.  Then I'm retiring.  At least from the state.  My new job, in the private sector, starts on Monday.  Gee, I get home on Sunday afternoon and I start the next day.  That wasn't very good timing.  I'm still on the books with the old job until just after the first of the year so for two weeks I'm going to make double pay.  That will be great!  I have to turn the truck, computer, cell phone, Internet connection, camera, GPS, and lots of other equipment in at the end of the month.  Thanks Max in Colorado for the computer so I don't have to buy one of those.  The only other equipment I will need to get is Internet here at the house because I have several of each of the other pieces of equipment.  I'm still trying to figure out what Internet service to get. 

When we go down to San Diego this weekend sister is going to have a get together.  I've been "ordered" to bring some of my hot sauce and salsa.  I spent this evening making more.  I thought I had made plenty to give out this holiday season but I was wrong.  I didn't have any left, not even for our own use.  Right now my nose is burning.  I cut up the hot peppers this morning and soaked them in vinegar all day.  This evening I whorled the entire batch into a wonderful green liquid and poured it into the bottles and capped them off.  At some point I touched the bottom of my nose.  It still stinging an hour later. 

I'm going to leave Girl and Boy down in San Diego next week so my first week on the job I don't have to worry about the kids.  Since they are off school for three weeks they may as well have fun.  At the end of the week (I think the 20th) sister and brother-in-law are going to bring them back home.  Next weekend we will all go up to the bug-out place to insulate the house.  Perfect timing to be at the bug-out place on 12-21-12, don't you think?  I'm not expecting anything major to happen around here, but there are some crazy people in crazy places in the country and I am glad I won't be around them! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finally starting my fish farming

Way back in June I wrote a blog about starting a tilapia pond in my backyard. I have been down in San Diego since that time but didn't have the opportunity to actually pick up any fish.  I am heading down to San Diego on Friday and on Saturday I'm going to pick up some tilapia. 

I don't know how many I am going to get, probably between 10 and 20.  We have a 10 gallon fish tank in the kitchen that would be a good place to raise the fingerlings until they get big enough to go into the pool.  The instructions say you can raise 12 fish in a 55 gallon barrel and my pool (Rubbermaid stock pond) is 625 gallons.  This means I should be able to raise over 100 fish at a time. 

Instead, I'm going to try my hand at raising the smaller amount and trying to breed them on my own.  There was another site which said if you put 5 or 6 females and a male into a 55 gallon tank with some 3" PVC pipe to hide in they will breed.   I think I have a 55 gallon aquarium in my barn. When my Oklahoma friend picked up her stuff that she was storing here for 3 years some things were left.  I'm pretty sure the fish tank is one of the items still in the barn. (That's terrible that I can't remember).  

Some of the things I'm reading say to put chicken manure into the water a week or two before the fish are put in.  Other sites don't mention that at all.  Some sites also state that you can add salt to the water since the fish can live in either salt or fresh water.  The higher the salinity, the less fry you will have.  Since I want them to reproduce I won't put salt in the water.  If I have too many fry I will scoop them up and put them into the ducks swimming pools.  That should make for some very happy ducks. 

My biggest problem will be keeping the pool warm enough.  During the winter we get days where the animal's water containers get a layer of ice forming.  That certainly is a lot colder than the 70s-80s that tilapia would prefer.  They can have cooler water, they will just not grow as quickly.  I can put plastic on top of the pool to help heat up the water during the day.  I wonder if I put hay around the sides of the pool if that will help keep it warmer during the night.  I know I can dig a hole and sink it partially into the ground.  The 50+ temp of the soil would keep the water from freezing.  The problem with that is my pool has a faucet and hose attached to the side of the pool about two inches from the bottom of the pool.  I put this in to make it easy to remove water.  I just open the faucet and the water will drain into my garden bed, providing lots of fertilizer water for the garden.  I then refill the pool with well water.  If the pool gets partially buried I won't be able to use the faucet and hose. 

I'm really excited about finally starting my fish farm adventure.  I know some of the local schools raise tilapia.  I just haven't had time to check out what they are doing.  So I'll go into this semi-blindly.  At least the fish aren't expensive, just in case I make a fatal error in this trial.  I'm sure it will go well enough, unless my ducks discover my fishpond! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Risk vs. Gain

Last week I had to pass along a safety memo to my employees.  It was an accident with some firefighters fighting a structure fire.  It wasn't a horrible accident but one person ended up with a concussion. Reading about the incident I was able to point out several missteps the group took because they didn't continue to size up the incident.  Situational awareness isn't something you take into account when something first happens and design all your plans from that.  You have to continually monitor and adjust your tactics/plans based on the incident driven needs. 

There are many safety issues one has to think about every day.  It can be as simple as pushing that yellow/red light, speeding on the freeway, or even walking away from something cooking on the stove to answer the door.  We are constantly thinking about safety, even when we aren't aware that we are doing so.  But, if a threat comes along, in this case it was a fire, then you have to keep your awareness levels more alert and realize that the threat is continuously changing. 

No matter what the situation, you need to quickly assess the risk versus the gain.  This is not only for yourself but your crew, family, home, everything.  It can seem like something very simple but end up causing a lot of trouble.  A simple example of this happened to me several years ago.  I was taking all my books off my bookshelf.  As I was pulling books off, the shelf (not the bookcase) tipped.  This meant the books on the shelf all started falling off the shelf.  I reached to grab the books.  I messed up my thumb and ended up with surgery on my hand.  Not that I had a lot of time to think about it, but was it worth trying to catch the books?  Looking back on the incident, of course it wasn't.  If I didn't try to catch them they would have fallen on the ground.  They still fell on the ground, I just had a messed up hand to go along with the books on the floor.  I guess my question is, would I naturally try to catch them if they fell once again?  I'd hope not!

Now that example was a simple one.  What about if your neighbors house is on fire?  Do you try to put it out?  Do you just try to protect yours?  It all depends on the situation.  Remember risk vs gain analysis.  Make sure it's balanced before you act.  If their house is on fire because they come running out of the house yelling the house is on fire, then it sounds like a good time to be able to go in and try to attack the fire.  On the other hand, if you see their house is on fire because fire is venting out of every door and window, then you call it a loss.  Even if someone is inside, you probably can't get them out if you don't have the proper safety gear.  Even if you do, you can't make a search of the place, you'd only be able to go straight in and out of a known location.  But that's beyond this blog today.  You just have to remember to risk a lot to save a lot but risk nothing to save nothing.  If the place is completely engulfed, then risk nothing.  Protect structures that are nearby. 

No matter what you do you need to act aggressively.  I'm not talking about beating people up.  I mean if you are going to do something then do it!  But you must insure that you balance your aggressive approach with your safety.  It doesn't do anyone any good if you are the dead hero.

Don't have too many in charge but make sure the person in charge is there!  If something is going on at my house and I'm at my office I can't be directing people on what to do.  I can suggest but someone at the house has to take charge of whatever the situation is.  If you don't have someone there assessing what's going on and analyzing changes then you will not succeed.  You can't just go by the book because the story may not always be the same.  Many incidents remind me of the stories my kids used to read.  It was "pick your own adventure" where you'd get to the end of a page and you could choose one of two pages to read next.  The adventure was always changing.  Same goes with any task you may be doing.  Practice well but expect the scenario to change without advance notice.  You must stay alert to potential and predictable change as well as the unexpected.  Changes in strategy must be well communicated to all those at your incident. 

You are probably a bit confused by all my gobbledygook that I just wrote.  OK, I'll give you some background.  Here's the description of the neighborhood.  It sort of sounds like TSHTF already...

The neighborhood was constructed in the 1950s with a mix of one and two story single family homes.  There are numerous small sheds and outbuildings in the immediate area.  The neighborhood is accessed by a single paved, dead end lane.  Over the years the neighborhood because unoccupied and abandoned.  The city bought the properties hoping to someday redevelopment the area.  They fenced the neighborhood and put a locked gate across the road.  All the homes were boarded up and over the years were vandalized and became a haven for homeless.  None of the yards were maintained and the trees were overgrown. The access lane because overgrown and inaccessible to emergency vehicles.  There were multiple downed lines across the road.    The fire hydrant at the end of the lane was inoperable due to extensive vandalism.  Sounds like a great neighborhood??

One of the houses caught fire.  Several engines responded.   Instead of making sure that the fire didn't spread to nearby structures, thereby keeping the crews safe,  they attacked the fire as if it was a lived in home in a fully functional neighborhood.  One crew got too close to the structure and the building had a partial collapse.  The fascia swung down and hit one person hard enough to knock him over and give him a concussion. 

But it was an accident that didn't need to happen.  They went into their regular attack mode: It's what they practiced.  Nobody brought up the suggestion to just contain and not fight.  After all, the structure was a total loss by the time they got to it!  I can't think of any gain unless someone was inside one of the abandoned homes. 

Are you going to run a red light, play Russian roulette, or pretend you are Rambo and run out and cut down 20 and come out without a scratch?  Of course not.  Situational awareness must be maintained by all people no matter who is in charge.  You must think about risk versus gain all the time and keep the communication open.  Just remember, "Risk a lot to save a lot, but risk nothing to save nothing." 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The real scoop on preserving eggs

I know that during the winter our egg production slows down so much that we don't have enough for daily or sometimes even weekly consumption.  There are other times that I have so many I can't seem to give them away fast enough.  How do I save them?  I've frozen them before.  That works.  Three ice cubes of egg equals one egg when I use my ice cube trays.  But freezing takes up freezer space which I'd rather not take up if I can dry them.  I tried dehydrating them once.  That was a failure.  There are two ways to dry eggs.  I only tried one.  At least until this week.  I am pleased to write that this way worked. 
 I had read on the Internet that there were two ways to dry eggs, slowly cooked then dried and raw dried. I tried the slowly cooked first.  Let's recap my first experience  I can't find the blog where I said they were horrible but they were horrible.  I'd rather never eat eggs than use those.  In my first try at dehydrating I slowly cooked the eggs then I dried them and powdered them.  I've read several places in blogs that you could do it that way.  DON'T!  I'm sure they never tried eating them! 
The other way to dry them worked.  I took the raw eggs, blended them up really well, then poured them into the dehydrator.  This is tricky since I don't own special fruit roll trays, which I'm assuming have a short lip on them.  I took plastic wrap and laid one piece across my tray.  It didn't completely cover the tray so I had to be really careful when I poured the egg onto the tray.  If I put on too much it would run off the plastic wrap.  I Mixed up a dozen eggs and ended up with about 2 eggs per tray.  I dried them at 135.  They dried pretty quickly on the edges.  Some of the middle still looked pretty shiny.  The eggs have a slick greasy feel because they have fat in them. 
I turned the dehydrator off in the morning.  They just sat in the dehydrator all day/night/day because I was busy.  Last night I remembered about them and they looked pretty good.  I crumbled them up and then decided to dry them a little more, just in case the thicker pieces weren't quite dry.  I crumbled up all the eggs and laid them on two trays.  I turned the dehydrator on to 85 and let it run all night. At 85, the only thing that will happen is take the last bit of moisture out.  It won't over dry them at all.
This morning they looked perfect.  They smell good. I even took a taste (yes, raw!). I didn't powder them, I just put them into the jar in crumbles.  I'm sure powdering them would be better.  I can't wait to use these eggs.  Even chunky, my dozen eggs fits into a pint canning jar.  I'm sure if they were powdered they'd only take a cup of space.  That sure would save space compared to an egg carton with dozens of eggs taking up space in the refrigerator all winter.  I don't know how long they would last powdered since they do seem to have a high fat content.  But, if my intent isn't keeping them for the long term since I do have chickens, instead to only tide us over the winter, I think dehydrating RAW eggs is an excellent solution to our food storage program. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dried Tomatoes = Easy Tomato Paste

I have tons of dried tomatoes.  OK, not quite tons but a lot.  I like them soaked in olive oil.  In fact, I love them soaked in olive oil.  The only problem is, I'm the only one around here who has such exquisite taste.  The grand kids don't like dried tomatoes. 

This doesn't mean the tomatoes are going to go to waste.  They will never see the inside of the chicken coop!  I just have to change them into something else.  What am I going to do with bags of dried tomatoes?  I probably filled the dehydrator two or three times.  What about tomato paste?  Making tomato paste is such a long process of cooking down the tomatoes.  When I do need paste I only need a cup at most.  How about taking the dried tomatoes and grinding them into tomato powder?

I put most of the tomatoes into the food processor and blended away.  My first batch that I tried blending had too many tomatoes in it and they just didn't powder well.  Too many chunks.  The next batch I used just a couple handfuls and it chopped better.  They blended down into a nice reddish orange chunky powder.    I didn't want to keep the processor going as I didn't think I needed to turn it into a fine powder.  I made about 3 cups of chunky tomato powder.  Now, if I need tomato paste, instead of using the store bought cans (OK, I have about 30 of them in storage) I can just use the powder and add hot water to rehydrate.  I can make the paste as thick or as thin as I need.  After all, don't most recipes say to use a can of tomato paste and add water?  Most tomato pastes are just tomatoes and salt.  I can add salt to taste. 

Years ago, when I lived a few hours north, I rented part of my yard to a grower. He grew crops on about 2 of my acres and then had a fruit stand set up in my yard. He went to the produce market and many of the items he sold didn't come from the yard. I didn't like that part of what he did, but he didn't hide it. He left the produce boxes sitting out for everyone to see. One of the things he did was dry tomatoes. He set up a piece of plywood on two sawhorses with the plywood at a slight slope. He then put a white bed sheet on the plywood, sprinkled salt on the bed sheet and then placed the sliced tomatoes on the salt. He covered the top with another bed sheet. This was set out in the hot, breezy sun. Each day he would turn the tomatoes over and sprinkle them with a little more salt. I do recall a couple of times that he changed the sheet but most of the time he didn't. In not too many days the tomatoes were dried. He'd then put them into olive oil and sell them at the fruit stand. They were a big hit.

Making my tomato paste by grinding up the dried tomatoes saves space, canning jars and lids, and probably energy since I don't have to dry the tomatoes in the dehydrator or cook them on the stove top or in the crockpot.  They can be sun dried by laying them out in the sun and sprinkling salt on them to help with the drying process.  I don't have to use the plywood method.  I can put them on the trays and cover the trays with netting and hang them on the clothesline like I did this summer for my other outside dried fruits and vegetables.  I can't wait for next summer.  I think I will grow a lot more tomatoes and dry my tomato sauce and tomato paste, not just tomato slices.  Why didn't I think of this sooner?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Creeks and Cars Don't Mix

Fortunately for me, my feeling sick only lasted for 24 hours.  Being the loving grandparent that I am I passed it along to Boy.  Neither he nor I ate dinner last night so Girl sat at the dining room table by herself.  Boy and I were camped out in the living room watching A Year in Provence.  I don't know if it was because I wasn't feeling well or if my french is fading but I could only understand half of what was being said by the french neighbors.  By 8:00 last night the entire house was in bed and asleep.  We slept peacefully until 1:30 this morning.  Then I heard Boy trying to scramble off the top bunk.  Didn't happen.  Good thing he didn't eat dinner!  I ended up having to take the sheets off the bed and throw them into the sink in the laundry.  Since the lower bed is a toddler bed for his cousins and he doesn't fit on that, I put a couple of layers of blankets onto the floor for him.  And a plastic bag lined bucket.  Too bad I didn't have that bucket on his bed when he went to bed. 
This morning I woke up feeling almost perfect and he woke with a fever.  Lucky me, he climbed into my bed.  Girl brought in her frozen water bottle and he's cuddling it.  He should feel better by tomorrow.  Girl is praying that he does.  Because she's being the wonderful, caring older sister?  Not in the least!  Tomorrow after religious school she was going to get her very own phone.  Not if we don't go to religious school.  So she's praying fervently.  Girl, in your prayers for your brother to recover don't forget to throw in a little one that you want to stay well!  Try to make it sincere.
Daughter-in-law called sometime this morning.  She left a message for me to call son as soon as possible.  They don't have long distance on their phone so someone has to hike about 1/2 mile for the cell phone to maybe work to call out.  It's really stupid on their part.  I told them if they really want to just wait for the long distance paperwork to come in the mail why don't they pick up a long distance phone card to at least be able to call out in the interim?  No, they'd rather be stupid.  But it's not this lack of intelligence that had me falling out of my sickbed with laughter this morning.  It's what they had to say.  I called back to hear that Daughter-in-law didn't stop at the parking lot above the creek last night on her way home from work.  She drove down the dirt hill and stopped right at the edge of the creek.  She realized, even at 11:00 at night that the creek was flowing pretty well.  She didn't want to take a chance crossing the creek.  She couldn't back the car up the hill because it was too slick.  She just parked it and walked the mile home. 
One of the things I love about the bug-out place is that you can't always cross the creek with a regular car or pickup.  When it rains or when there's lots of snow melt you have to park and walk.  One of the neighbors has made a parking lot on his property (generously and at no charge to the residents on the other side of the creek).  There's a walking bridge that you need to use to get across.  People who live there year round have what they call a one-mile vehicle.  It's a vehicle that doesn't even have to be registered and it's used to get from their house to the creek.  They then park it, walk over the bridge, get into their real vehicle and drive into town.  Or, you can just no go anywhere for the days that the creek is up.  The longest it's been uncrossable during the three years I've owned the place is for about a week.  In total, there are about 20 days a year that you can't drive across. 
Daughter-in-law blew it by not parking in the parking lot.  The creek wasn't too high to get out in the morning, so the thought didn't cross her mind.  It should have.  Anyway, at least she stopped and parked the car.  She didn't have a flashlight but since she wasn't scared of the dark, walking the mile in moonlight wasn't really a big deal.  All was fine until she got home.  Son decided that he had to take care of the car right at that moment.  After all, midnight is a perfect time to get your car, right?  He got in and realized that he, too, couldn't put the vehicle into reverse and get it back up the hill.  Even in 4 wheel drive, he couldn't do it.  What should he do?  I know, you all know what he did!  It was something I predicted prior to them moving in to the bug-out place.  Let's see.  Did he just leave the car there to deal with in the morning?  Of course not.  He decided to gun it and drive it across the creek.  Bad decision.  The car is still in the middle of the creek.  It's not going to float down the creek because there are boulders in the middle of the creek blocking it from going downstream. 
"Is it insured?"  What a stupid question.  Of course it was insured to pay the other guy, but not for their stupidity.  Son wanted to know if I could bring my truck there and pull their car out of the creek.  NO.  First I'm sick and am not leaving the house.  Second, my truck won't be able to pull it.  My work truck maybe but I'm not using the work truck to fix your stupidity.
I told him that two of his neighbors have tractors and I also have friends who have heavy equipment.  If he had left the car at the edge of the creek they could have pulled it up the hill this morning.  It's not like it's blocking anyone else from crossing the creek.  Who knows, someone may have already pulled it out for them.  If not, and he doesn't think this is a good time to get to know his neighbors, then he should call a tow.  If I was there I could use my AAA but I'm not coming.  Maybe he could call his sister.  Instead, he owns a flooded vehicle.  Little good that will do them. 
Once again, his rushing into action before thinking has put them into a huge bind that they can't fix themselves.  Someone else has to help bail them out.  They live 20 minutes out of the nearest small town and an hour out of the city.  It's also an hour from Daughter-in-law's work and she's their only source of income.  Their one and only car is sitting in the middle of a creek.  They need someone to bring them to the city so they can go find some overpriced used car that they will pay a little down and lots of interest.  Hopefully he will be able to talk his sister into helping.  It won't be me.  I'm staying home. I'm sick, Boy is sick, Girl is praying.