Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inspired to work

I had a good day at work today.  I told the boss I was planning on holding his container of peanuts hostage since he missed a meeting with me.  He'd miss his peanuts and then we'd have to talk.  The only problem with that idea is the "hostile work environment" it could create since so many people are on edge.  But he has a good sense of humor and thought it was funny.  My boss said that as far as he knows my job is secure.  I'll find out on Friday morning when I check my email. But they will still do a second round of layoffs in December or January.  Still, I think I'm staying.

I told oldest daughter that I may have gone out with the severance package if I had a little more money on hand.  For example, if they bought their house that they are living in (that I own) rather than just renting it - something that they keep telling me they plan to do in two years - I'd have had enough money.  They only have to give me my down payment back.  No interest, not asking for more if the value of the house has gone up.  I just want back what I put in.  If they had bought the house then I'd be retiring in three weeks.  But they haven't.  Oldest daughter kind of laughed at that.  You aren't ready to retire, you like to work.  

She is so wrong!  I may like working but I'd rather be working at home.  Preparing this place for whatever may come.  That would be a full time job.  Spending more time with grand kids.  That, too, could be a full time job.  Commuting 100 miles round trip each day for work?  No, that's not my #1 goal of what I want to be doing with my life. 

I got home today and was inspired to do extra around the house until the grand kids got home.  Boy said he was going to make dinner (he bought some spicy frozen chicken wings with his own money) so I didn't have to stop what I was doing to get dinner started.  I made sure the chickens and chuckars had water.  Collected the eggs, that hadn't been collected since Sunday.  Watered the palm trees. Watered the raspberries.  Gathered up some leaves that fell outside of the sheep pen and fed them to the sheep.  Took down a load of laundry off the line.  Put a load of laundry up, started another load and got that one up too.  I cleaned out under the sink in the laundry room. 

It's amazing what gets stuffed into corners under a sink.  I still have a diaper trash container.  I can't remember which baby it was used for?  Maybe from Girl?  She's now 12.  I have a package of the plastic bags to go with it.  You put the diaper in, twist the top, and the bag knots just above the diaper.  This way you can keep a bunch of dirty, smelly, disgusting disposable diapers stored in your house!  You only have to take out the diapers a couple times per week.  No thanks!  I'll take them out each time, or at least after every dirty diaper, and at least once a day.  Why would people want to store dirty diapers in their house?  Unless they are stuck in the house?

If the SHTF, and we had a little one in the house we would use disposables rather than cloth.  At least if we knew about when they'd have a dirty diaper they'd go into the disposable for that.  I'd rather not have to spend valuable time washing diapers if at all possible.  But we do have a supply of cloth diapers around here and could put two kids into diapers full time if necessary.  We don't have too many disposables because all the grand kids are past that stage.  I remember at one point that we had hundreds of disposables.  I used most of them with the last grand kid.  We still do have a large box of each size, just in case. 

Also under the sink were a couple of bottles of bleach, a couple bottles of vinegar, and a container of Costco laundry soap.  Two bottles of baby shampoo were also under the sink.  Score!  The extra bleach and vinegar are going out into the garage.  So is the laundry soap.  The shampoo we will keep under the sink since the little ones all get their baths in that sink when they come for a visit.  The six year old is just starting to get too big.  It will be a sad day when nobody is small enough for that sink.

Dinner ended up pretty good.  We had the chicken wings, home grown potatoes, and the last of the garden fresh tomatoes.  We were all stuffed.  Boy was pleased. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Either I'm not getting laid off or I just got tricked into quitting - either way is a good time to hunker down and prep!

Work has been very tense lately.  I suppose it's good that they gave people several months notice about the layoffs.  Trouble is they said somewhere around 30% are either getting laid off or will transfer to LA.  I'm not going to LA.  About 10% decided to retire.  That's not me.  I've only been at this job for 10 months.  For those who decided to retire they are all getting a going away bonus of about a year salary on top of their retirement accounts.  Good for them. 

The company is being generous and even for very short time people like me, because of my age, I could raise my hand to have them choose me and get about 5 months salary as a gift when they boot me out the door, plus qualify for unemployment.  It was tempting.  Very, very tempting.  I figured out that I could live on my retirement from my other job, but there wouldn't be much for extras.  That's ok for now, but as the grandkids get a little older, I'd like to have a little more money, not settle for what will barely work now.  So I didn't raise my hand.  I almost did but my supervisor talked me out of it. 

He said that he was told if the company said move to LA or lose the job that they would give us the choice and give us the severance package.  Since that would really be my only reason for not wanting to stay I agreed not to say I'd leave.  As long as this is true...  We've been misled before.

It did get me to thinking though.  If I figured that I could live on my retirement then why am I not putting away more money each month, or at least, why am I not spending as much money on preps each month?  Where has the money gone these past 10 months? 

I bought the slug, I mean Prius, and it's 2/3 paid for.  It will be fully paid for in about five more months.  I gave a lot of money away to friends, family, and charities.  The charities will continue to receive. The friends and family money is getting cut back to nothing!  I'm tired of working hard so they can come over with their hands out.  Army daughter and son-in-law watched the grand kids for me from Friday after school until Saturday evening.  On Friday night they all went, along with son and his family, to the local pizza parlor/arcade.  They spent about $100 yet they all complain how broke they are and can barely pay their bills.  This year for their holiday gifts each kid (adult couple) is getting a Dave Ramsey book!  I don't think they will be happy.  Too bad!  If they follow his advice it will be the best gift they could get. The bank of parent is now closed.

Lately I put off spending money on preps.  I'm not sure why (adult kid moochers with their hands out?) but I'm making a new commitment to spend a certain amount of money each and every week.  Whether I buy something for the house, food storage, trailer accessories, protection, I do have a list.  I just stopped buying a while ago.  I think it was probably the uncertainty of the job.  But that's dumb. 

This weekend we aren't going anywhere other than the football game. The time got changed from 4:00 to 7:00 or 7:30 because one of the ESPN channels picked it up.  This will give me a day to shop and a day for yard work and chores.  Boy wants to dig a root cellar.  He wants to put it by the trees.  I told him the root cellar is a good idea but it can't be by the trees because their roots will get in the way.  He said he would dig around them.  He really thinks a root cellar should include tree roots.  He's 11 and never seen a root cellar, what can I say!  But he does have a good idea.  If I get laid off that would be a good project to tackle. 

Last night we had a huge windstorm plus a trace of rain.  It knocked over the clothesline which still had on it two loads of clothes.  Fortunately they were just about dry and most didn't get dirty from laying on the ground all night.  They got picked up and shaken off.  Only a few need to be rewashed.  More laundry is going on the line tonight.  Hope the wind doesn't repeat itself tonight. 

Because the weather has been warm I've had to supplement the feed for the sheep who are now penned up on our front "lawn".  They are doing a good job of roughing up the ground to get the weeds but the leaves aren't falling off the two mulberries as quickly as I was hoping because the trees having figured out that it's autumn.  Maybe with the change of weather last night the leaves will start to fall.  I hope so because I've been giving them a flake or two each day.  That's still not much, about $30 a month.  I did make a good profit from the sheep I sold even if I do have to buy some hay.  But come on leaves!  Fall already.

I started putting in the winter garden.  I planted onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce.  Mustard is a weed so that never has to be planted!  I'm still picking zucchini and eggplant but probably only for another week or so. 

We got about 6 inches of snow at the office today.  The roads were still warm so driving was fine.  The plows were also out.  Winter is coming.  Winter was one of the reasons I was thinking about raising my hand and leaving.  I don't like driving up 5000 feet in elevation to get to the office.  I won't be panicky about the driving like I was last winter.  I have learned to drive in the snow and ice, I just don't care to.  But for now I have a job.  They still are going to make more cuts and want to transfer some people.  Hope it's not me.  If it is, I will be out of a job but we will be ready. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chicken feed protein change and getting ready for winter when it's 85

I know winter is coming.  It says so on the calendar.  That and it's dark when I wake up at 4:45 each morning.  But you'd never know by the weather.  In the 80s all week is not winter is coming. 

The raspberries started dying last week.  I figured it was because it was the end of the season.  After all, it's supposed to be fall.  I am still watering a couple times per week because of the weather but something just didn't look right.  Some plants were green and others very brown.  I went out and took a look at my hose and found a section three inches long that had the entire top half chewed off!  The critters are at it again.  So I dragged 500 feet of garden hose out to the front and hand watered each plant.  It took a while to fully saturate the ground and each plant.  I bent each of the brown stems.  They were still very pliable and some had small leaves shooting out of the stalks.  They weren't dead, just very stressed.  I also noticed that on the plants that were still green they had just bloomed.  Even the plants are confused as to what season this is.  This is the second or third hose that's been eaten.  I think I'm going to have to trench the ground and put in PVC pipe and sprinklers.  I wonder if they will eat that too?  I'll have to look into it before I put out that kind of money and effort.  I just don't want to have to hand water the berries all year.  Now if I lose my job at the end of the month when they tell everyone who gets laid off, who gets transferred, and who has no changes, then I'd have lots of time and may not mind hand watering!   

I also climbed up onto the roof to sweep off leaves and dirt.  I'm amazed how much dirt ends up on the roof.  How does it get there?  I don't like being on the roof.  Well it's not really the roof but the ladder.  Most deadly or severely injurious accidents at home have something to do with ladders.  While I always use good practices while climbing up and down there is always a possibility of making a mistake.  My sister's neighbor across her street fell off a ladder while on the roof.  He died.  But all was well, the ladder didn't move, my roof is clean. 

I went to my local feed store to stock up on chicken lay pellets.  When the chickens stop laying during the winter I used to give them scratch and some greens since it was much cheaper than the lay pellets and they weren't laying anyway.  Now, the price is about the same.  I figured I'd stock up with several hundred pounds.  My local feed store only had three bags.  OK, I'll take those three.  I noticed that the bag was different and I commented on that.  The owner said it's the same company, which is local to the Great Central Valley (many different feed companies are local), just a different brand.  I looked at the bag and did see the same main company name.  When I brought it home the first thing I noticed was that the size of the pellet was halfway between the old brand's mash and pellets.  I always buy the pellets because there seems to be less waste by the chickens than using the mash.  The chickens seemed to like it.  Then I read the label.  Now I'm pissed.  This new brand by the same company has 14% protein rather than 16%.  Less protein, more filler, same price.  No thanks!  Are all feed companies going to this?  Is this the new marketing trick? A 50 pound sack is a 50 pound sack but if you change the formula you will make more money off the sack.  How many people are going to notice the change in protein?  Probably not many.  There are several feed stores around.  I'm going to be checking them out and hopefully I'll be able to find one that isn't switching the product. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

A day off?

Today I had the day off of work.  While most of the country does not take Columbus day off, other than the already vacationing federal government, the company I work for calls it a holiday.  A day off.  And the grandkids were in school.  How should I fill my time? 

First thought was sleep in.  I did.  Until 6:00.  That's an hour and fifteen minutes later than normal on a Monday. I couldn't really sleep later than that because the grandkids get up at 6:00.  I figured they'd like to have me sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee while they go about their morning.  I was right.  At 7:45 they were gone.  I had already watered the trees and animals.  I brought in the eggs, and fed the chickens, chukars, and sheep.  Time to go back to bed?  The thought crossed my mind until I remembered my list of things I needed to do.

First I put the left over chicken into a pot, filled it with water, garlic, onion, sage, savory, cumin, salt, pepper, celery seed, and baby carrots.  Put on the lid and put it into the Sun-Oven.  I directed the box toward the afternoon sun, since I didn't know when I was going to get home.  I knew it would heat up to about 200 with a little sun hitting it in the morning and to somewhere around 300 after lunch.  It's not really efficient if you don't turn it to face the sun, but since I was just simmering the soup it worked out just fine. 

Then I drove 40 miles to the seed store.  I didn't want to buy wheat, oats, and barley seed from the feed store.  I wanted good planting seed, and I don't know the variety of seed that is in the feed sacks.  I don't know of any seed stores that are much closer and this place sold me some great seed when I wanted seed corn a few years ago.  I need to keep an eye on the weather because I want to plant the seed the day before it rains, maybe two days at most.  Since it will be broadcast spread rather than drilled in I don't want the birds to eat it all.  If it is spread then the rain falls it will be pushed into the soil by the rain.  That would work out perfectly.  Or, if I knew someone with a driller...but I don't, or at least I don't know anyone who would plant the 1 1/2 acres for free.  (1 1/2 acres will produce over 1500 pounds of grain plus hay and straw.)

After coming back into town I went out to lunch with a friend.  I haven't done that in about five months: not since we went to five days per week instead of four.  After that I headed to Lowe's.  I had a couple of things I wanted to pick up - just a quick 10 minute stop.  Unfortunately I got lost in Lowe's.  Not really, but 1 1/2 hours later I was on my way home.  How did that happen?

I got home, took the laundry off the line, unloaded the seed, watered the berries, played with the sheep, dogs, and cats.  I wiped down the jars of applesauce and apple slices that I canned yesterday and put them into the home-store.  Then I noticed the clock.  How can it be 5:00 already?  I haven't done anything!  I was going to work on the trailer, sort through some things in the garage, put some stuff onto Craigslist, clean the barn and coop, and the list went on.  The kids are almost home.

I fried up some pan bread since I didn't make rolls to go with the soup.  Dinner was great. 

Tomorrow after work I'll try to get one thing on the list completed.   Who knows, by the end of the week I may get everything accomplished that I was planning on doing today. 
In three weeks our whole office learns who keeps their jobs, who loses their jobs, and who gets transferred to Southern California.  I am pretty sure that my job will stay local and there won't be any changes for me.  But the thought of losing my job brings a smile to my face.  That would be ok and I wish that they would lay me off.  Not what I had really planned, but it sure would give me time to get more of my chores done! 

Oklahoma friend is now making cheese and soap and is hoping those endeavors supplement their income.  They are also getting paid to tame down other people's cows and goats to be hand milked.  That's an interesting way to make extra money.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dried Peanut Butter

The other day I brought former Mrs. Bug-out renter to the store so she could get some groceries.  She wanted to go to Wal-Mart and shop there.  I don't normally walk up and down the grocery aisles at the store so it was going to be an adventure.  I was on grandchild duty, and while Boy and Girl were at Sunday School I had the 3, 4, and 6 year olds with me.  The 3 year old in Bug-out's cart and the 4 and 6 year old in mine.  They were perfect!  (Did I mention that they instantly fell asleep and slept the entire shopping trip?)

As I was perusing the aisles I noticed something I'd never seen in any grocery store.  Now that doesn't mean it's not carried everywhere, it's just that I hadn't seen it.  Dried, powdered peanut butter.  6 1/2 ounces for under four dollars by Bell Plantation.  It said the bottle made 15 servings.  I figure it costs about twice the price as if you bought a jar of Skippy or Jif.  That's not bad for something that you can store.

I didn't make it into peanut butter yet but I did open the jar and eat 1/2 a teaspoon plain and dry.  I liked it.  It will be good to throw into shakes, add to pancakes, brownies, or anything else that I'm cooking.  Give it a try.  If you don't like it you aren't out much money.  If you do like it, you can purchase it from food storage companies sealed in cans for really long-term storage or you can buy it in mylar bags or plastic bottles from the store. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Science Day

Many of the local schools had a science day field trip into the mountains today.  I was fortunate enough to be able to get the OK from my supervisor that I could go teach a portion of the class.  The kids were in groups of 5 to 10 kids, all in grades 4-6.  Each group had an instructor leading them on their rounds and at least one teacher and one parent.  They went on a nature walk and stopped at about 8-10 stations.  I was manning one of the stations.  I was assigned a perfect topic.  Food.

First I talked about how if we want some food all we have to do is go to the grocery store and buy some.  Even if we don't have much money we still can buy food.  In fact, we have to have food or we would die.  Then I asked if any of them had seen the TV show Survivor.  About half had.  We talked about that show.  You are sent to an island or someplace secluded.  You have to figure out how to get food and shelter.  If you don't then you get sent home and you don't get any money.  Here in the woods, if you don't figure out how to get food and shelter YOU WILL DIE! 

I talked a little about eating meat.  How many eat beef?  Chicken? Pork?  Then I started with some wild animals.  Deer, elk, antelope, bear?  How would you kill them if you didn't have a gun?  We talked a little about spears, darts, and bow-and-arrow hunting.  I had some spear points and arrow heads.  I had a very quick demonstration about making them, including sharpening a the point with a deer antler.  Then we talked about how to find the right reed for the arrow shaft and how to hook the arrow on to the shaft.  It was a quick discussion but it kept their attention.

Then I asked if they only eat meat.  No?  That's right, we eat fruits and vegetables and bread and tortillas (about half were Mexican).  So if we are out in the woods we would need to eat those types of food too.  I then gave a quick demonstration of shelling acorns and pine nuts, talking about how you need to leach acorns but the pine nuts you can eat straight.  We even found some hazelnuts in the woods.  They weren't any good because they are ready at the beginning of summer, but nevertheless, they now can recognize hazelnut bushes. 

I showed them some other seeds that I called medicine seeds.  They look a lot like acorns.  Just because they look similar doesn't mean you can eat them.  But I did crack that one open.  I used a flat rock for the bottom and a hand held rock to crack it with - mano and metate style.  I then ground it up in a mortar, using a pestle.  How many of you have mortars and pestles at home?  About 3/4 of the Mexican kids did and about 1/4 of the Caucasian kids did. None of the African-American kids did.  After grinding up the medicine seed I asked for a volunteer kid that had a cut or scratch on their arm.  Each group had someone with a fresh scratch.  I then rubbed the ground meal on the scratch.  See?  Just like a triple antibiotic ointment.  Only better because we just made it ourselves. 

I held up a cattail and asked them what it was.  I've written about cattail before.  http://whatifitistoday.blogspot.com/2010/10/cattails.html It's a great plant!  I told the kids that they should look for cattails and impress their parents by digging up some roots and bringing them home for dinner.

I had a bag of mustard seed.  They each got to eat a few.  It's good flavoring for food like acorn or cattail.  We also learned about mustard leaves and herb plantain.  I told them that you can eat the small leaves right from the plant or you could go to the grocery store and spend lots of money to buy the very same thing. Only at the grocery store it's called fancy salad!   

Then at the end of the talk I said I was getting a headache.  No problem.  Here's a willow branch. I took one of my rock blades and scraped off the bark of the willow.  I then put it into my mouth, chewed for a very short time, and spit it out!  Yuck, that tastes horrible!  Everyone laughed, every time.  Then I asked if they ever ate grape or cherry flavored children's aspirin.  They all said yes.  I then asked if they ever had adult aspirin.  That aspirin you are supposed to swallow whole.  You don't chew it.  If you did it would taste horrible.  In fact, just as bad as that willow bark I just chewed on.  Do you know why?  Because the first aspirin was made out of willow bark.  If you really are going to use willow bark for a headache, if possible make the bark into a warm tea and drink the tea.  It still doesn't taste good but it's much better than the acidic taste of chewing on bark.   

The kids had a great time. So did I.