Saturday, December 6, 2014

The bug-out place

I guess I need to preface this post with a note about my children and grandchildren.  Although it doesn’t make things any different because these things happen in all kinds of families, it makes me feel a little better to remind myself that although you raise children the way you think is best, children and adults will do what they choose, not what you want.  Even if they do what you want it is because they choose to do so.  I came from a large family and really enjoyed childhood, and still enjoy having a bunch of brothers and sisters who are all my best friends.  We played together and fought together and against each other, but in the end we are there for each other and always will be.  I know that not everyone is fortunate to have that. 
I wanted to replicate that when I grew up and decided to adopt a bunch of kids.  They weren’t infants but older and abused or neglected.  I figured that loving them would turn them into the same type of family that I grew up with.  Boy, was I wrong!  They are all in their 30s now with families of their own.  I’ve always been their rock when they need advice or if something goes really wrong.  I don’t rescue them completely; they still have to swim to the life raft.   I’ve always felt an extra obligation to help out because they had such a difficult start.  Some turned out better than others.  Now I'm raising two of the grandkids because their father was abusive and their mother (one of my kids) would rather put drugs and her own fun life ahead of the children she has had.

As many know, son and his family lived at the bug-out place.  I bought that property about five years ago.  I put some improvements into it and two years ago son asked if they could move in.  The deal was that they would cover the taxes and insurance since the property is paid for.  They could do whatever upgrades or changes to the house or property they wanted as long as it was an improvement, and they couldn’t do anything major without discussion.  When they discussed any project with me, if I really liked it they could give me the receipts for the materials in lieu of rent.  I only had one rule.  No growing pot on the property.  After all, I have complained about some of the neighbor properties growing pot.  I don’t care if they use it or even grow small amounts but I don’t like the theft and fights that large crops brings. Also, in this county the landowner gets fined if they are caught growing on their property.  I could lose the property if someone grows on it.  So no growing pot.  Simple rule.

Simple for me.  Not so simple for son.  The first year on the property went well.  They enjoyed using the place.  Son cleaned up some of the dead trees and rewired some of the light switches.  The second year was a disaster.  While his wife left the bug-out place each day to go to her job in the city, he hung out at home with the kids.  They would spend half of their day playing video games and the other half working on the house and yard.  By working on the house I mean tearing things out and not finishing rebuilding them. 
He replaced the bathtub in the hall bathroom.  Tore out the old one and all the drywall near the tub.  Oops, he got too wide of a bathtub so the door wouldn’t close all the way.  Just bring it back and get the right size, right?  Wrong.  Instead he tore out the door and moved the door frame over three inches.  He rehung the door but because he built his own frame the door doesn't close.  He didn't care. He didn't wall in the tub.  Open  2x4s surround the tub and the wall with the door. The kids still used the tub, but not the shower. 

He tried to convince me that the wood stove wasn’t needed so he wanted to take it out.  It takes too much room up in the kitchen, he often complained.  Don’t touch it! So he didn’t.  Then he said the propane wall heater was leaking propane and making them all sick.  It’s old, buy a new one.  So he pulled out the old one and didn't want to pay rent for a few months to pay for the new one.  No.  I'm not replacing that.  Use the wood stove.  He asked if he could turn that space into a closet because we have the wood stove.  He took the heater out of the wall so now we have a big space because he didn’t turn it into a closet. 
Daughter-in-law came over one day and showed me on her phone how he’s opened up the old overgrown road on the property.  Now that is an improvement.  She said that he built a crossing over the creek.  Great.  Can’t wait to see it. 

The time came for me to go out to the property, since I hadn’t been there in over 6 months, but son had a fit.  He said he wasn't quite ready for me to see all the wonderful improvements.  He wanted it to be like those home fix-up shows where the person is away from the house for a while and comes back to a perfect model home.  OK, I’ll give you a bit more time.  Then when my brother came to visit son made up some excuse as to why brother couldn’t go out to see the property.  Then it was son’s birthday so I decided that we would go out there for his party.  Son called his sister and told her that she had to have the party at her house.  Absolutely no way could the party be at the bug-out place.  So daughter called me to tell me that the party was at her house. She told me why there was the change of venue but that she didn’t understand him being so adamant that I couldn’t go to my own property.  So we had the party at her house.  Son and his family spent the night at daughter’s house. 
That next morning I went to the bug-out house.  I knew it would be unoccupied so I had plenty of time to spend to assess exactly what was going on.  I was in shock.  The house was trashed.  Literally.  Trash filled every room.  How could they live like this?  The king-sized bed was in the middle of the living room floor so they could lie on the bed while playing the video games or watching tv.  The bathroom was so filthy I couldn’t use it and went behind a bush outside!  The master bathroom wasn’t any better.  The doors all had holes punched in them.  The back room, where sister, brother-in-law, and I worked rebuilding had never been finished.  It needed a couple more days of work on it to hang the rest of the drywall.  Instead the drywall was all broken. 

I needed some fresh air!  I wanted to go for a walk on the opened up road.  Son had told me that he had cut down quite a bit of brush and also got rid of the poison oak.  I needed to be cheered up after seeing the house.  At least the road all looked good on camera!  First I went to the outbuildings.  They were all filled with trash.  OK, on to the road.  It looked good.  He just pulled the brush off and didn’t dig down into the soil.  He ran the little off road vehicle on it to flatten it down.  Looks great.  I got to the creek crossing.  He covered the creek with logs and put the soil on top.  Not quite a Spitler crossing but close enough.  I noticed that the poison oak was gone.  He spent a good deal of time working outside.  Doesn’t make up for the disaster in the house but at least I know he wasn’t spending all day just playing video games! 

After crossing the creek I noticed a large pile of potting soil. on a bright blue tarp.  And further, a clearing under the trees…with little green plants growing happily in the late summer sun.  And further along, at the back of the property was an area about ½ acre in size that was filled with happily growing well watered pot plants.  No wonder he made the road so nice and got rid of the poison oak.  It was interfering with his pot garden.  I was pissed.  If the sheriff found this I would lose my property. MY property. MY bug-out place!

I went home and seethed.  I didn’t say anything to anyone so nobody else in the family knew that I had been out there.  A couple days later, during the week, I called son up to say that I was off work early and was coming over.  They met me in the front yard.  They didn’t invite me in and I did not ask to go in.  They did not offer to show me around and I did not ask.  Instead I handed them an eviction notice.  Sorry, but I have to do this legally.  Why, daughter-in-law asked?  Because I want the house back.  You have 60 days to move.  Yes, in California, even if the person is growing pot on your property or doing anything else that is illegal, if they have lived there for longer than one year you have to give them a 60-day notice to move.  Asinine!
They complained a bit wanting to know exactly why.  So I told them.  You trashed the house and are growing pot.  Son actually tried to deny that he was growing! He didn’t know that I was there and saw.  As a parting gift I gave him a snapshot from Googlemaps in which you can see the clearings and each individual pot plant. 

They moved out and we haven’t heard from them since.  We think they went up to Washington.  I took 60 bags of trash out of the house.  33 gallon bag size! It filled up my pickup twice!  There was still broken furniture and mattresses to remove. I still have the yard and outbuildings to clean up.  Then there’s the scrubbing of the ceilings, floors, and walls.  Then repainting.  And finishing the bathrooms.  Worst of all, on his way out he threw rocks in the front windows.  We have five windows to replace. 

Trying to do this cleanup while still doing things at our farm while dealing with Girl’s behavior and Boy just wanting some of my time means this is a very slow process.  I’m sure when son’s family hits rock bottom somewhere else they will be back. Our door will not be open. 
I wrote this a couple of days ago.  This morning Boy, Girl, and I went to the bug-out house to do some more clean up.  Boy and Girl worked hard today taking all the broken furniture out of the house and smashing it more (that was fun!) then putting it all into the back of the truck.  They cleared off the porch, which had more broken junk that didn't fit into the truck last time I was there.  I spent our three hours there just washing floors.  I was short of water because we had to haul our own since the power was off and the backup water barrels are missing. 
I am very pleased to know that although the house has been vacant for a few months now that nobody has taken anything from the property. I, on purpose, left Son's bb rifle on a chair.  If someone broke into the place the rifle would be gone. 
This week I will go to the dump and get rid of the 60 bags of trash, which have been stored in the little trailer, plus what's in the truck.  I'll also get the electricity turned back on so when we go out again next week I'll be able to have as much water as I need to get the ceilings and walls washed.  I'm going to tear out the kitchen and put in a new one.  That was something I wanted to do when I bought the place, so now's a perfect time to do it!  Then paint (or maybe paint before the new kitchen is torn out).   
More lessons learned! I can afford to keep this property without someone having to rent it from me.  No more renters!  It is in a secure location because, although empty, nobody has entered the property.  It's time to get serious with this property and get it set up for a true bug-out home.    

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nevada for Thanksgiving

We went to Nevada for Thanksgiving since one of our relatives lives there.  While we were there I decided to tour through some of the model homes for the new houses in Las Vegas.  Just for fun, because there is no way I would ever move there…of course, the grandkids asked if maybe we would move there and my response was if the company paid me enough then we would.  But the company isn’t paying me enough so there is no way I would voluntarily move to a city that has way too many people, way too many tourists, and not enough water or farmable land to sustain even a hundredth of the population on any given day.  The car was filled with bug-out supplies and I know of many ways to get out of that city.  We were also less than one gas tank away from home (spare filled gas cans are stored at the relatives house). 
We went to Hoover Dam just for fun.  We drove up and they were conducting vehicle searches.  Yes, actually making families with little kids get out of the vehicle as they were looking through luggage.  So, about a dozen cars from the entrance I turned the vehicle around and drove up the hill and parked the car.  (Nevada doesn't accept either California or Arizona weapons permits.) Sister and family picked us up in their car as mine sat in a dirt lot.  We drove past the guard station and observed another vehicle being fully searched.  That vehicle was filled with what looked with a bunch of hoodlums, which was much more understandable than the vehicle that I earlier witnessed.  Going on the tour I got stopped while walking through the metal detector.  Oops.  Forgot about the knife in my pocket.  The guard asked if I wanted to surrender the knife, you know, give it to them and not get it back, or I could go put it back into the vehicle.  Our tour was going to start soon. I didn’t really have time to even walk back to sister’s car.  I looked at the knife and noted that it was a cheap one so it was a donation to the federal government for them to sell.  Yes, that is how they get all those knives that they sell on line! 
This did get me to thinking about how many places do not allow you to bring in your own protection.  I am thinking that my New Year’s resolution is to not go to any entertainment location that doesn’t allow you to bring in legal to carry items.  Gun, knife, doesn’t matter.  I will make an exception for air travel, and even then you can put it into checked luggage.  It’s interesting because I go to the theater in LA and they check bags.  I have asked what they are looking for and they say weapons and food, yet even time I’ve ever carried in a bag it’s held both.  What about our local college sports team?  Again, they check bags.  They are looking for food and alcohol.  They don’t do any metal detection.  I will still attend their events.  But I am done with places like Hoover Dam or any place like that.  Will I miss out on some things?  Yes, but it’s my own stand.

I’m not even getting into the open carry debate but just because someplace may put up a sign that says no weapons allowed doesn’t mean that they will enforce it.  For example, a local Starbucks asks for no weapons at their store.  They are requesting, not requiring.  Also, they aren’t making people go through metal detectors, so as far as I’m concerned, concealed means concealed.  It’s on me, it’s not their business. 
Where I work there is no security other than each of us and our little ID cards which when swiped will open the office door.  Here at the office there are no security guards, no bag checks, no metal detectors.  This company has a policy of being allowed to search your bags, backpacks, cars, etc.  Anything on company property is fair game. I carry at work.  Sure it can get me fired but that’s a choice I make. 
I conducted a google search on our new employee prior to her starting.  She is a CCW instructor.  I thought it would be fun to bring up the subject one day during her first week.  We were sitting in the lunch room and the news was on about some gun violence.  I changed the subject and said how I once brought a weapon into Disneyland.  I was laughing about how it was sandwiched between the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my backpack.  She asked if it was legal, did I have a CCW permit?  Of course I do.  She then made the statement that she is an instructor. 
She didn’t say much after that but as she and I were walking back to our holes, I mean cubicles, she asked about company policy.  She noted that company policy said no weapons without approval.  She said she was concerned about a stupid policy like that and was debating as to whether she should ask for approval.  I advised her that one should not ask because they will not give her approval.  If she did and they said no, it would bring attention to her.  They don’t even let our security folks carry, even at the big city offices.  Only the outside hired security people carry. Never mind that several years ago there was a workplace violence incident where several employees were shot to death. 
As we were walking down the hall she said “so nobody carries?” I told her that I didn’t say that.  I said they don’t give permission.  I’m assuming she got my point.  Next week she has to go to the offices in the big city.  Everyone was telling her about different details down there. Me, I had specific things I needed to point out since I assume she carries.  When you work in a town with a population of under 500 people you don’t think about certain things.  So people were talking about freeways, traffic, getting into the parking structures, places to stay and eat, etc.  Me, I had more important things to tell her about.  In my best most excited voice I said, ”It’s so different down there.  When you go to the big city company office buildings you can't hold a door open for other people.  You have to individually swipe your name card into the metal detector walkway.  Here at small town office building one person swipes their name card in the door opener slot and everyone just walks through as you stand there holding open the door.  Not there.  Everyone swipes their individual card as they walk through the metal detector! “  About ten minutes later I got a huge thanks.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Another attack, that again is not making the news

Remember the 52-minute sniper attack on the Metcalf substation in the bay area last year?  Of course you don't.  It was barely reported when it happened, and when it was highly reported nearly a year later there are still non-believers that it was a terror attack.  Instead it was a news story that the "right-wing kooks" put out to try to discredit the government. Remember?  It ended up being a Republican Democrat fight rather than focusing on the terror attack.

An interesting thing about it wasn't that 17 transformers were knocked out.  What's interesting is that the transformers that weren't powered were not hit and the ones that were running power were.  That's not the luck of some random group of nighttime rabble-rousers.   

Sure PG&E was able to prevent a large scale blackout but the scary part of this hasn't been discussed.  More than 100 shots were fired but not one cartridge was found, they can't trace anything.  The weapons had the ability to catch them.  No fingerprints on anything.  No DNA from anything out in the hills.  No hair to test.  No tire tracks to trace.  No scents to track.  No, that's not the scary part.  The scary part is that the public has been so nonchalant about this.  Never mind that it took out the 911 system to hundreds of thousands of people. 

I do not believe that the purpose was just to shoot at this substation.  I believe that the purpose was just a practice attack for something much bigger.  If this attack was to take out not only the electricity but the phone company, through the loss of power, not only the 911 system but the alarm systems as well, imaging the havoc on San Francisco.  No power for the transportation system, the banking system, the water system, etc.  I know some of the investigators and this is their belief.  That it was a trial run. 

What about this week's attack on the grid here in California?  What have you heard about it?  Nothing?  Well, that's because it didn't cause a catastrophe.  We're not talking a substation, like last years attack.  No, this could have been much worse.  The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was doing some routine inspections and on some of their main transmission lines the main bolts were removed.  This was not accidental.  Was the plan was to cause enough tension that the towers or lines would come crashing down domino style?   Maybe in a year or so we will hear about this in the news. 

Are you prepared for the power to go down?  With winter storms there are many that find it routine to lose power.  Not here in California though.  We complain if the power goes out for more than a few minutes.  Last month our power was out for over a day due to a vehicle accident.  Sure we were inconvenienced and had to get out the candles and oil lamps during the evening hours.  It wasn't much of an inconvenience though as our biggest problem has always been water when the power went out.  Not anymore.  With timing that couldn't have been any  better, we finally had a good hand-pump installed on the well.  This isn't one of those cheap things you find at the local hardware store.  This is real heavy duty and will last longer than my lifetime. So we actually had some fun during that power outage hand pumping our water. 

Dealing with mental illness in good times, how is it going to be if the SHTF?

I love writing my blog.  It helps me stay focused on keeping safe and sound.  But as most who have followed me know, over the past two years I've hardly written at all.  All is good with me.  I am trying to continue forward on my plans for this place.  I am blessed that I have a good job that provides enough money to cover the bills, put some away for the future, take vacations, and still upgrade and work on this farm.  We are doing well with food storage, although there have been many bumps in the road on that topic, which someday I hope to delve into more.  What I have not been prepared for is issues with Boy and Girl.  Mainly Girl. 

It's hard enough for a single grandparent to raise two grandchildren.  It's even harder when one of them exhibits extreme signs of mental illness.  Girl, for half the time, is a normal teenage girl.  I know, many of you are cringing because that's often hard enough on its own.  But for those times that Girl is not behaving normal, she is completely bazaar and acts out violently at worst and confrontational at best.  Actually 75% of any conversation with her is confrontational.  It's very tiring for me!  

Some of her behavior has included kicking in the television, stabbing books, destroying our security system (so there'd be no evidence of her behavior!), leaving the hose on all night to flood the yard, breaking dishes, and the list goes on. 

Anyway, I packed up many items in the on the walls, knickknacks, books, etc. The house is looking bare.  On the other hand, it's more like living in previous generations when our homes weren't stuffed with stuff. 

She is on medication, and when she takes it she is still unpleasant and self-centered and obnoxious but not destructive.  The problem is when she fakes taking it, or takes it and then goes into her room and throws it up.  I don't like that she is on meds. I'd like to believe that if you eat properly, get lots of sleep, work hard, and pray, that you will be healthy physically and mentally.  Unfortunately, that's not always the case.  The type of meds she is on are restricted by the government.  You can't have more than a couple months worth at a time.  It's really hard to stockpile them. 

What would I do if the SHTF and her meds not being available was a reality?  I remember a few years ago when the meds for ADHD (and I do believe that most are overmedicated for this ailment) were in very short supply.  Instead of being able to get a two or three month supply everyone was limited to a few weeks to a month only.  ADHD is the least of Girl's issues.  How would we survive her angry outbursts?  In a time when we all have to pitch in to survive, she would be a liability.  Sure, it's easy to say you won't take in deadweight adults, but what do you do with mentally ill children?  So for now, I get her to her mental health sessions and try to keep her on her meds. 

It's just ugly around here most of the time.  I am constantly challenged to the point that I'd rather be at work or outside in the yard that within 20 feet of her.  Great-grandparent tried to soothe me one day by reminding me that I only have five more years until Girl turns 18.  Sure, if the house stays standing for that long.  Or me, for that matter.  That's not how I want to feel.  I want to enjoy these grandkids and enjoy life.   I have lots to say, we have lots of projects going on around here but this is the main reason I'm not writing. Any suggestions from others who also deal with mental health issues while also trying to prep for an uncertain future?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Food Bucket from Costco

The other week I saw an ad from Costco which had an emergency food bucket with 390 servings on sale for $99.  This amounts to about twenty-five cents per serving.  Can’t go wrong with that so I bought a bucket.   I didn’t even read the list of dishes.  I had no idea if it was all main dishes, some sides, some drinks, I just didn’t pay attention.  I was just stuck on the price.  I did know it was vegetarian and also said it contained 30 days of 2000 calories per day servings.  And it came in a large 7 gallon plastic bucket with a gamma lid.  Couldn’t really pass that up. 
I was thinking about 30 breakfasts, 30 lunches, and 30 dinners with maybe some snacks or drinks.  I really didn’t know what I was buying.  I was really surprised when I opened up the bucket.  There were 15 packages of dried or dehydrated mylar packaged foods.  The questions I had were these: 390 servings of what size?  A serving for a child or an adult? How did it taste?  How easy was it to make?  Would I eat only what was in the bucket for 30 days straight and keep my sanity and health? 
First things first.  Each of the 15 bags said it held 30 servings.  All main dish types.  No snacks, no drinks.  This comes to 15 servings per day of main dishes.  So I’d have to figure out if I was going to eat one thing each day or if I was going to eat 15 different things each day.  Or, I suppose, a combination of maybe some each day and alternate on some type of weekly menu plan. 
There are three breakfast type of bags.  There’s oatmeal with brown sugar.  That is not much different than the instant Quaker Oats except it’s in one bag rather than 30 individual little packs.  The second breakfast food was grits with cheddar cheese and green chili peppers.  The third is creamy cinnamon rice (which would be good with raisins added).  A serving of each of the breakfasts, and really almost all the foods were ¼ cup of the ingredients plus water.  Thinking about that, if you were eating oatmeal for breakfast would you only eat one little package?  Not around my house.  Girl wasn’t buying into my experiment.  She would rather have yougert for breakfast.  Fine, Boy and I will try it.  I said up to three servings for breakfast.  After all, if you get 15 servings per day splitting them into three at breakfast, five  at lunch, and 7 at dinner seemed reasonable.  We both had two servings for breakfast.  That means we have a serving in reserve.  It also means we wouldn’t quite be getting our 2000 calories per day.  The oatmeal he cooked in the microwave.  He complained that it tasted just like regular oatmeal.  I guess that’s good.  I made the grits.  I didn’t make it according to the directions.  You are supposed to simmer it for a long time.  If this was really emergency times I wouldn’t want to be simmering and wasting fuel for 15 minutes.  But because I didn’t make it to the directions it was runny and a bit gritty.  But it still tasted good and I was full after eating my two servings.  
When I finished my breakfast I thought about it.  I would not like to have this for breakfast every day. I don’t know if I would like the oatmeal one day, grits the next, then rice the next, and repeat every three days.  I would probably want to skip breakfast.  If this was all we had we could supplement well with the fruits and eggs from the yard.  Otherwise I’d be bored.
I went out to lunch today at work since I had to go out of town.  Hey, if work pays for my lunch then I’m game for eating in a restaurant!  The kids didn’t want to bring this to school for their lunches either.  Not daring enough yet. 
For dinner I got out two of the bags.  Black beans and rice and chicken flavored vegetable stew.  I made six servings of the black beans and rice and eight servings of the stew.  This meant 2/3 cup dried beans with 1 1/3 cup water for each of us for the bean dish and ½ cup stew mix and two cups of water for the main part of the meal.  I put the beans with its water into the rice cooker.  I cooked the stew mix in a pot on the stove.  Dinner for each was a plate of two servings of beans and rice and a bowl with two cups of stew.  Let me tell you, dinner was delicious – at least much better than I’d ever expected! 
I figured seven servings per person for dinner and we were full with four.  Now we did all snack during the day, but I don’t think we would have eaten seven servings no matter how hungry we were.  Although there are 12 lunch and dinner packages, one of the packages is cheese sauce so there’s really 11 different varieties.  Eating two varieties at lunch and two at dinner means a rotation of meals every three days.  Or every six days if one would eat a larger portion but only have one variety at each meal. 
I need to experiment with the cooking.  Each one says to boil them simmer for around 15 minutes.  That’s too long.  I am going to use my cooking in the ice chest method. Remember that?  You fill an ice chest with blankets.  Then you bring your pot of food to a boil on the stovetop.  As soon as you are sure that all the food is really hot you take it off the burner, put on the lid, and put the pot into the ice chest.  Put more blankets on top and close the ice chest.  It will slow cook all day and be ready many hours later.  So if I boil everything up in the morning and placed it into the ice chest it would be ready to eat at lunch and at dinner, with only a few minutes on the stove rather than 15-20 for each meal. 
$25 per week to feed one person.  That’s less than I spend on groceries.  Of course there’s nothing fresh but I would supplement the main dishes with fruit and vegetables from the garden.  I will probably buy more buckets. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoughts about my food storage. I just don't know how much or what is right.

Question number one.  How much food do I really need to store?  I suppose I need to ask the larger question. How much food will Boy and Girl raid from the cabinet during the middle of the night?  OK, not really the larger question…  How long do I think no food will be available or that I won’t have time or opportunity to grow my own food?  What’s the worst case scenario compared to the best?  What type of diet should I expect to keep in either of these scenarios?  Do I want to store food for the future (disaster times) that I’m not really rotating or do I want to rotate everything?  Money does come into effect here with some of my decisions.  Oh, and getting my food storage attacked by moths makes me rethink things too – how did they get into sealed containers that were frozen for weeks prior to packing?
 Let’s say I had as much money to spend as I wanted.  Then my solution would be easy.  I would buy a 10 year supply of freeze dried food.  Yes, 10 year supply for at least 3 people.  That would cost a hundred thousand.  Then I would go to the grocery store and purchase everything canned and packaged item that I would use for three years, maybe four.  Supplement this with fresh and frozen foods purchased on a biweekly basis and we’d be good to go.  And every six months I’d restock the house with new freeze dried and canned and packaged items that were used in the past six months.  Yes, we’d be set.  But that is not my reality and it is not my goal.    So then I have to define a realistic goal.  Am I still interested in having a 10 year stockpile of food?  Maybe.  OK, yes, doesn’t everyone wish for this?  Goals… Don’t forget to set realistic goals.  Measure, benchmark, improve, repeat – that gets pounded into us at work, how about if I use some of that training at home?  How about if I split up the food storage goals.  What do I really want in a 10 year, 5 year, 2 year, and 6 month plan?    Needs change.  For instance, right now one of our favorite things to eat is anything with cheese.  Cheese baked in crackers, cheese on tortillas, cheese on bread, cheese in noodles, cheese and eggs, and cheese with cheese!  Therefore I purchased six cans of freeze dried cheese.  That’s about 250 servings.  Not too many considering we use at least one 5 pound bag of shredded cheese every month, which is 80 servings. My six cans would last about 3 months if we used cheese the same way we use it now.  But would we?  See that’s the big question that I have to answer.  And it’s almost impossible to answer correctly because it’s all guessing and estimating.  Sure I want to believe that in a SHTF new lifestyle that we would eat exactly how we do now.  But that’s not really the case.  Circumstances change.  If TSHTF and I really needed to dig into my 5 or 10 year…or even my 2 year…food supply would I really need to buy that much cheese?  If things were that bad, I’m thinking that I wouldn’t be working an hour away from home five days a week.  I’d probably be home.  Gee, if I were home for the 55 hours a week that I’m either commuting or at the office I probably could be more self-supporting at home.  Would I be milking our animals and making my own cheese?  Probably.  I usually keep about 15-20 pounds of the shredded cheese at home between the fridge and freezer.  So do I really need more than the 250 servings of cheese in freeze dried form?  With the way my brain is, always wanting to be on the conservative side, I’d probably want to get another 6 pack.  But no more than that.   Cheese was an easy item to figure out.    What about tuna fish?  Or the canned beef and chicken that I buy rather than all meat being grown and butchered from home?  One year’s worth in the pantry should do it because then I would have the time to increase my livestock from what we have now.  OK, then I want two years to be conservative.  How much is two years worth really?  I don’t know.  Since we eat maybe three or four cans of meat or fish each month how much would that increase if I wasn’t buying it fresh from the grocery store?  700 cans?  Now one chicken lasts for two meals.  Would I really be butchering three chickens per week?  Would we butcher one chicken per week, and have fish or lamb or goat the other days? How much meat would we really eat?  How many cans of cubed freeze dried meat should I have in storage?  Right now I don’t have any.  Should I?  Or will our 35 chickens, 4 sheep (no spring lambs yet), or 1 goat be enough? Yes I know I need a second goat!    I kept a list of everything that we ate in a week.  Things sure are different on days I’m working and the grandkids fend for themselves compared to days I am responsible for all the food on the table.  The kids were very heavy into yogurt, sugary cereal, pop-tarts, cookies, crackers, Dinty Moore beef stew, and top ramen.  Throw in carrots, celery, and Koolaid and they are set.  I suppose it’s a good thing that I actually give them a good dinner and good meals on the weekends.  But their food is easy to store if I wanted to put up 150 cans of beef stew and 300 packages of top ramen.  I could buy that much and then they’d decide they don’t like that anymore and would pick something else to eat every day!  Wheat?  One pound per day per person.  1000 pounds for one year for our house.  Really?  In 5 gallon buckets this means 40 buckets.  That’s about one 55 gallon drum filled with wheat per person.  That will feed one person for a year with little or no additional food to supplement.  Well, if I really can grow it then I wouldn’t need to store as much.  But growing and gathering and threshing is a lot of work, especially if I am thinking about the worst case scenario.  Storing some 55 gallon barrels is an easy enough thing for me to do, and cheap enough too.  Plus, I have the space for something that size.    I haven’t really answered my first question of how much, have I?  I do know that I have about 400 canning jars.  That’s enough for one jar of food every day for a year, plus a little more.   But there are three of us.  Would 1 can of food be enough? Would there be refrigeration so we don’t have to eat everything in one jar and we could have a variety? We also have about 50 fruit trees.  On a good year, if I put up every single piece of fruit produced, we would have more than 1000 pounds of fruit.  The olives could produce all the oil we need.  How much would that be?  I have no idea.    I have about 40 cans of spaghetti sauce.  I was so happy to get them on sale for .88 each.  But if I had spent the time in the garden, I could have canned the tomatoes into spaghetti sauce and saved some money. Or is it easier right now to spend the $40 on spaghetti sauce? Obviously last year I chose the purchase from the store route.  I may do the same this year.  I don’t know.    Let’s go back to the wheat.  One acre of wheat will grow somewhere between forty and fifty bushels. That’s 2400-3000 pounds of wheat or 6-8 pounds per day.  That’s enough to cover the three of us if we ate 1 pound per person per day.    Sugar and salt for preservation.  I have about 150 pounds of sugar on hand.  I have about 30 pounds of salt.  Sure, I can use honey instead of the sugar.  We have hive.  All we have to do is get hit with a hive disease that kills them all.  Then what?  So we keep the sugar in the pantry.  Besides Koolaid with honey? I haven’t tried lemonade with honey.  I’m sure that will be good.  I could get more salt since I can imagine putting up a lot of pickled products if things go south.  If not, salt is cheap and lasts forever, so it’s not a total waste of money to keep it on hand.    Cookies and crackers and other wheat based junk food… The kids love eating their junky food.  I don’t really care if they do.  I know they eat well when I’m giving them the food.  I also know that the school provides free salad bar and they will actually eat salad every day, and not just for the dressing…along with their pop-tarts and cookies.  I bought a ton of crackers and cookies for them.  Then they didn’t like those and liked something else.  So those just sat in the pantry.  Then the oil or fat in them goes rancid or the moths attack and they all go to the chickens.  What a waste of money.  So I’m not doing it that way anymore.  I don’t have lots of time to bake cookies or crackers.  If TSHTF and I am home I will be able to bake those types of goods so I’m not really worried about having them on hand in super storage mode.  I usually buy three or four boxes of pop-tarts at the dollar store.  I also buy a box or two of crackers I like (mega-jumbo box of fishy crackers, plus Ritz).  If the kids don’t eat them then I will but I won’t buy more until those are gone.  So there’s never a real stockpile of crackers.  
My pantry has over 100 linear feet of shelving.  It’s also usually pretty full.  Plus I have food storage in the mud room, plus more in the kitchen.  Total over 150 linear feet.  That’s a lot of food, jars, and cans that can be stored.  But it’s also a large area for storing the wrong things.  How much is too much?  How much is not enough? I still don’t know.  I’m still working on it.    

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Shanty

I haven’t written in such a long time! I guess I was going through a combination of rethinking my survival preparation plans, dealing with work, not having great internet access, and also lacking time. I suppose the only good excuse of the four is not having great internet access. It’s hard to post when you can’t. Well, that’s not quite true. I can get onto my blog from the work computer and post whenever I want. The problem with that is work has a very intrusive email and internet system. We can’t get onto personal email, youtube, ebay, and the like but yes to blogs? Doesn’t make sense to me. Everything we send and receive through their system is documented as ours. I do not wish for them to document my blog.

Work has been interesting. I made it through my first year and didn’t get fired or laid off. About 10% of our division is now gone…most laid off or retired. My supervisor? Outright fired. It’s really ugly at the office. On the other hand, (and isn’t there always one when I write?) I do really like the group of people I work with. But I trust the executives in this company so much less than I trust the executives in this government… So I do my work, I cause minor amounts of irritation, and hopefully I will keep the position for another 3 years and 10 months until I am fully vested and can leave. Of course, I can leave before then (first goal is 18 months from now) but I will be leaving quite a bit of money on the table from the 401k. We will see…

I have done quite a lot of thinking and rethinking about my survival plans. You hear so much about needing to relocate to less populated places, and I agree that the middle of a big city during a total meltdown would be terrible, but I don’t think the less populated places are all that great either. I am not going to pack up and move out of state…probably. (You never know what twists and turns life brings.) I read stories about other states that are so much better for survivalists and those states have some totally crazy rules and regulations that I don’t wish to abide by either! And many of those states are getting worse by the year. So I’m settled here, I will plan for here.

What brings moving up? I had the opportunity to purchase my friend’s property. I like the place. It’s over 80 acres, with ponds, some fruit trees, a nice house, etc. But the political landscape of that state is as crazy as here. I also have the Bug-out property. Son is living there with his family. I was going to put time and money into that place. Then the drug dealers moved into the neighborhood. That area has always had some crime…amazing that a population of 250 people or so in a 10 mile area can spend their life “borrowing” things from their neighbors. But now it’s ugly. High fences going up. Guard dogs that get out and eat neighbor livestock. Hope it changes, but it’s not really going to be my go-to place anymore.

I may still purchase some other go-to Bug-out place. I have been spending more time in the wilderness and know where many backwoods camps are. They are great in years like now, with little snow. Put 10 feet or so of snow on the ground and I’m not wanting to be there either. So, for now, it’s my five acres of paradise in the Great Central Valley of California. Oh yes, I do have water unlike many of the farmers that are desperately in need.

So then what am I rethinking? Am I doing it right? While I love this property, as long as I have to work full-time somewhere else I just don’t have time to do everything that I want or need to do. So instead I decided to rethink the way I am prepping. Do I need the monster garden to grow all of our food? Do I need to can 600 cans of fruits, vegetables, and meats each year? Do I need to store 20 boxes of crackers only to have to feed them to the chickens when they get stale? Do I need 30 or 40 chickens? What changes to the house should I be making? What changes to the yard should I be making? Do I need more fruit trees? Should I be making olive oil now? Can anything be just for fun or does it all have to do with prepping? How should I balance contributing to a 401k compared to paying off the house compared to stocking up preps? Do we dare go on a vacation away from home? How far away is not too far? How do I really predict a collapse of society or is it just happening in front of us everyday and we as a whole can’t see that the flame is just being turned up underneath the dancing chicken?

I’m not going to go into all of my decisions today. Then what would I have to write about? Girl and Boy? They are growing up. Girl is in jr. hi. At least it’s a K-8 school so while there are jr. hi issues, it’s not the same as a real jr. hi. Still drama. Just got a text from one of her girlfriends…”If you are killed I won’t be at your funeral…I’ll be in jail for killing the person who killed you because I love you. Pass this email along so you will have good luck with everyone who loves you.” No, Girl won’t be passing that email along.

About a month or two ago girl decided to build her own house. She keeps asking for me to buy her a shed that she can move into. No, I’m not spending the money on a house for you. Earn or build your own. So she did. At the back of the property, under the fig trees, she built what I call “the shanty”. It’s a little homeless shelter looking thing built out of scrap she found in our scrap pile and in the neighbor’s scrap pile. The neighbors had a lounge chair frame which she fixed and covered with seat cushions. She built a table out of scraps of wood. She has a bookshelf, sealed boxes for food, and a container for clothes. She brought matches and a candle out there. I promptly brought it back into the house and told her no fires. She hasn’t though about taking one of the solar walkway lights to use for lighting. They would work just fine until about midnight or so when they would go out. If she put a good backup battery into it the thing would be able to stay lit all night.

Unfortunately for her, she is afraid of the dark so she won’t sleep in it. She does go out there on weekends during the day. The other day she left the phone in it so I told her she had to go get it. Unfortunately it had just gotten dark. Even with my best flashlight, she was not going to walk the ¼ mile on a moonless night. So I made her sit out on the back patio for about an hour until I was done with what I was doing. Then we walked together to the back. She got the phone and we started walking back to the house. I told her to close her eyes. She did. Then I turned the flashlight off. It took her about a minute to get her bearings but then we walked back to the house without the flashlight. The stars can light your way if you let them. If you adjust your eyes you can see quite well. The problem is when you have lights on or near the ground, these interfere with the light from the sky. When we were getting closer to the house the neighbor’s bright light really did make it more difficult to see right in front of us. Blinded by the light!

So am I. There is so much information being thrown at us that we are blinded. So stepping back and then figuring out how to look forward has been made a little easier. I will write about my changes. Just not today! I plan on making time to post at least once a week. I sure do miss writing daily but this new job does not allow me the free time.

Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm still here!

I do still exist.  I will be back to writing soon.  In fact, I think this weekend.  Sorry for the two month (almost three) break.  All is well...