A few fix-it jobs around the house got done

December 18, 2014

I found the leak but it is actually at the bathroom sink faucet rather than the pipe. In a strange sort of way it worked out that I could not get the kindle fire as I now have the money to pick up a nice faucet for the bathroom for about the same cost. I feel a bit silly cutting a small hole in the sheet rock looking for the leak but I have to say the reciprocating saw did a great job cutting the hole. I have a spot in my bedroom where the sheet rock was damaged from a roof leak and the reciprocating saw will make it much easier to cut out the damaged area and replace the sheet rock.

I added a small wooden latch to hold the chicken house door in place when Mom closes up the chickens at night.  I cut the plywood of the door to size so it is easier to move though I think we could add a couple of small hinges to the door and make it fit fairly tight. I still need to clean up the door cutout but so far the birds don’t seem to mind it looking a little messy. I have to say having the proper tools on hand sure make jobs around the house a lot easier and quicker.  With my limited physical energy and strength having these tools has a real blessing.  Of course I am running out of excuses of why I haven’t fixed things!

Speaking of the chickens Mom let them out to free range again and Smokey the cat watched the birds and even explored the chicken pen and house.  Smokey did not act like the birds were prey and was actually a bit timid around the chickens. Overall my pets have come to accept the chickens as another creature that is part of Casa de Chaos.  Mom is a bit dissappointed with the egg production so far, but I think the chickens seem happy and relaxed so eventually the eggs will come in time.  I enjoy watching the chickens scratch around the yard. They seem really happy hunting bugs they can find. A great thing about chickens is they get rid of many bad bugs like fleas and ticks as well as keep other bugs under control.

I got Diana the peke’s nails trimmed and for the first time I did not draw blood by cutting the nails to close to the quik. I also trimmed up the fur on her feet and that grows between her pads. I think one of the nails was making her a bit lame by pushing into the pad or perhaps in between the pads when she stepped wrong of jumped around. Any way she is much bettter and much less gimpy on that leg.

We have some damp, cold and generally dreary weather moving in.  Mom and I can work on getting stuff organized in the basement and shop.  I can’t afford the washer drain pipe fix right now since I have to install the faucet. I have a work around for the washer drain and I can afford to get the pipe next month. I’m letting Mom stay for”free” this month as I have not seen a big rise in my utility costs so far and she is on  a very restricted income until things get settled in the divorce.  I might be able to pay back more of the debt I owe by eating the costs and taking it off the debt so Mom doesn’t have to pay for living at my house for a couple of months.  If we both agree to this money system it should be a win/win for both of us.  The only utilities I’m a bit concerned about is electricity and water. If Mom has to run a heater to keep the chickens warm this winter that will add to my electric bill. So far the temps have been mild and adding the LED light bulbs seems to have mitigated any rise in lighting usage.  Mom and I are sort of water intensive so that cost will go up but that bill was paid ahead so we got a couple of months before we need to deal with that bill.

Speaking from my experience money is all about how much you keep, not how much you spend. When you spend it must be for something you need to survive first and then you look at lasting value for hard goods.  It does not matter if it is tools, silver or food and water as long as you keep building up those real tangible goods that help you survive.

Got most of the shopping done and one small glitch

December 17, 2014

I gassed up the car and it cost only $24.00 which is a nice change compared too having a 50 dollar bill used up this Summer.  I got an 11 pound chunk of Beeswax as the bee keeper busted apart an 18 pound chunk of wax for me. I need to make that chunk a bit smaller in order to clean it. I now know how to cut the wax into smaller chunks, you need a small pry bar and a hammer. Though I think a wedge and sledge hammer would work as well! Real beeswax is dense but that is what makes it so good for candles and for other craft items/projects. I can afford to spend the time to clean the wax for my salves as well as Mom’s candle making idea. It’s one of those jobs you can start and check on through out the day.  It’s not fast but you can get other things done while the wax melts.

I stopped by the pawn shop to pick up the tools on layaway. While I was there the shop had an older kindle fire with no cord pretty cheap. I could not register the kindle and it turns out the kindle fire was reported lost or stolen! I gave the pawn shop owner a heads up about the issue and they were very pro-active about saying bring the kindle back for a full refund and then tracking down the person that brought the kindle into their shop.  I learned a few things about identifying the kindles and I think I’d like a kindle fire with a camera and something I can use as a tablet via wireless around the house. I think a Tablet has a place in your preps as it can be a great electronic Multi-tasker. It takes less energy to power a tablet compared to a laptop computer and a desktop is an electronic power hog, at least based on what I build. I love my old kindle keyboard model as I have all kinds of books stored on it.

I stopped by the local hardware store and got another pair of the gloves I like so well.  I have an odd shaped hand large palms but sort of short fingers. So I can sort of use both small and medium gloves as one size will fit the palm and the other size fits my fingers. I picked up a saw blade for the reciprocating saw that cuts plastic and should help finishing up my plumbing repair.  I picked up a small space heater for Mom as her small SS check hits on the 24th this month and I don’t think shopping on that day will be fun! I have paid a few small bills ahead, so things are going fairly well overall and we both have a bit of time to build up some cash reserves. I’m a little bit cash-poor this month as I’m buying up silver on sale.  No, I don’t need any help as I have been cash poor in the past and I have learned to deal with it.  We will have a nice, if sort simple Xmas with a bit of Prime rib and the Holiday fixings. If you can afford Prime rib, you aren’t really poor!

Mom let out the chickens to free range a bit in the backyard. Talk about happy birds scratching through the leaf clutter and mulch. Diana the peke was very good with the birds, though Smokey the cat was in nap mode while the chicken free ranged.  Most of the chickens did very well when Mom called them to the kennel/chicken coop. I  can clean up the cuts around chicken door area with the reciprocating saw I bought and sort of get a feel for how it works. By this weekend I think I’ll be ready to tackle the plumbing repair jobs.

A lot of self-reliance and prepping is very mundane and sort of boring in many ways.  Speaking for myself, I get a huge thrill about meeting a goal or learning a new skill. Watching the grass grow, comes to mind and yes I have done that, as a measure of trying to improve soil. Some of the things are sort of entertaining. Watching Diana the peke with the chickens free ranging. Watching the chickens have a great time scratching through the leaf mulch of my raised garden beds is sort of entertaining to me.  I suppose I have always been a bit odd but that is okay. I like simple things and simple entertainments.

Last thing for the year is set up a crossbow/pellet gun range for practice of basic shooting skills.  I have about a 15 meter range with a good backstop. It’s a bit short range but it’s the best I can do on my city lot.


I’m excited to do my shopping on Wednesday

December 16, 2014

Not doing much food shopping though Cash & Carry has the boneless pork loin roasts for $1.88 a pound. I will stop by the Asian grocery store and pick up the marinade for pork and seeds. I saw a food tray made up of pork and seeds and thought it would make a nice change from your average meat or veggie tray for Xmas snacking. I can cook up the pork the day before on the rotisserie and stash the tray in the fridge.  I have all of the other Holiday foods on hand for Xmas.

I pick up the reciprocating saw and the plunge router off layaway at the pawn shop. I will stop by lowes and pick up a couple saw blades for the plumbing work and a wood blade to clean up the hole I cut in the chicken house.  I found a small leak in a pipe coming off the hot water tank but the leak is behind some sheet rock. I should be able to make a small hole in the sheet rock and wrap that pipe with some repair tape for a temporary fix. I was warned that the plastic pipe used in the house would eventually fail so the leak is not a big surprise. While I’m at lowes I will get some prices on replacing all those water supply pipes and the tools needed for doing the job next year. I have to get a bit of advice on how to install the ABS drain pipe for the washer. I would prefer to install the pipe with compression/threaded fittings rather than gluing the pipe so I can have easy access to clean any clogs.  I want to make everything I repair as neat and easy for future repairs even if it costs a bit more money up front, it should payoff in the long run.  I don’t think I’m getting cocky about taking on these repairs as most are fairly simple and straight forward if not always easy. I have done some work repairing pipes under my kitchen sink and replaced a drain so I’m feeling confident I can handle these repairs with a bit of knowledge.

Got a hold of the beekeeper and he will sell me a 10 pound block of wax for $50.00.  I will have to do another cleaning but that is simple and easy to do even if it is not fast. That 10 pounds of wax will give me plenty for making my pain salve and dry skin salve as well as some wax for Mom to start her candle making hobby. Beeswax candles tend to burn longer than other types of candles. Silicone pans for making candies work great for small chunks of clean beeswax that weigh between 1-2 oz. My aunt told me that clean beeswax is a very popular product at the Farmer’s Market and you can get a very good price selling it in units as small as an oz. Perhaps clean beeswax can be a good trade or barter item.

Critter update: Mom wants to start letting the chickens free range in the backyard. She thinks the birds are good knowing the chicken house is their “safe place”. We will have to see how Diana the peke and Smokey the cat react to the birds being out and about in the backyard. Mom had one of her older hens die this last week. The hen was over 8 years old so it wasn’t unexpected. There is another hen that is about the same age that may not make it through the winter but Mom wants to give her a chance.  Mom is not overly sentimental about the hens but these “hens” were a gift from her sister to start her flock so they are the flock “matriarchs” and sort of special.

A few odds and ends. The black belma ale turned out great if I do say so myself. The amber lager was very popular and I need to make another batch that should be ready by New Year’s Eve. Using the “Brew in a Bag” method I have found letting the grains steep/mash for 90 minutes works better than the average 60 minutes when you mash out, since you don’t actually mash out. The BIAB method is a sort of like creating a giant teabag for your grains and while a bit slower, it is a lot cheaper on equipment to buy, compared to most all-grain brewing methods.



Next week’s shopping list and Xmas lights

December 10, 2014

I put a couple of tools on layaway at the local pawn shop. I got a Skill reciprocating saw and a Black & Decker plunge router. Both tools feel solid and this pawn shop works with contractor type folks so the tools tend to be heavy duty compared to the your Harbor Freight cheap tools.  There is nothing wrong getting some tools cheap, but in the long run you should try to get the best quality you can afford. You can use your first set cheap tools as a barter item and keep the better quality tools for yourself, if you start on the low end of quality and prices. Sometimes the the cheap stuff is good quality and you can save a bit of money rather than paying for a “Brand Name” tool.  You might be betting your life on that tool doing what you want to do, so plan accordingly. What is very cool working with a local pawn shop is I don’t get charged for my layaway.  I have a personnel relationship with these folks and I pay off quickly.  I don’t haggle prices much as they are reasonable and they need to maintain a little profit margin to stay in business.  The pawn shop has a couple of concealed carry pistols I’m interested in and they are really stocked up on silver. So I’m working the budget to allow a a few long term purchases.

Called a local be keeper about buying a chunk of Beeswax. I’m down to my last couple of oz. and that is not a good thing for my pain relief salve and my dry skin salve is getting a few followers.  Natural beeswax is great and the beekeeper does a very simple cleaning and I run the wax through a finer cleaning but I don’t bleach the wax so it retains it’s slightly sweet aroma and I think a few of the natural healing properties.  Plus I think natural beeswax just smells nice!

We hung a few Xmas lights today.  Nothing fancy, just a few white and multicolored light strings in order to be festive. I never hung Xmas lights on the front of the house as I never had a ladder I felt confident using. The new Costco 5-1 ladder has changed that feeling. I was darned impressed how the white lights lit up my stairs, no porch light needed. I need to try out a couple of solar string lights to light the entry way in the future. Mom and I also stung up some colored lights and I have to say the new ladder rocks for a a safe and secure platform.

The chicken run and shed are working out well though Mom is only getting a couple of eggs per day. I think once the birds get used to their habitat egg production will go up and in a week or two we can let the birds free range in the backyard once they get used to their new home.

Dad stopped by and covered the roof of my RV with a tarp until I can buy some snow roof and seal it. My step Dad is wonderful man in many ways and has helped me from splitting wood to fixing my water main this year. We have sort of different mindsets about the future but that does not mean he is a bad person and I hope I’m not correct in my  prepping for “Doom & Gloom” at times.  We sort of disagree , I am preparing for the worst and he hopes things will stay the same.  It does not make him a bad person. Financially speaking he is about cash flow and I’m all about paying cash and getting out of debt. I think I’m correct in my outlook and he thinks outlook is best.  I can’t say he is wrong but I think my financial outlook works better no matter what happens. His financial depends on thing staying the same.  Like it or hate it change happens!


Mom’s move is done, the chickens seem to like their new house

December 8, 2014

Mom finished getting the last few items from Dad’s house. The only things that are left are the big items like the boat and camper that must wait until the divorce is final.  I hope both of them will feel better since there won’t be that on going emotional storm.  A little distance might ease some of the hurt feelings but who knows what will happen.

The chickens seem to like the new chicken house and are settling in nicely. Mom had only one of the older hens she needed to put into the house tonight. She is a hen that is sort of being picked on by the flock so finding her outside wasn’t a huge surprise.  I’m no expert on chickens but it seems that most of the flock are adapting well and seem less stressed. Several of the hens were up on the roost bar and did not “freak out” when I went in to close the door. Mom added a bit more sand to the kennel/run area to help with drainage along with fresh hay so the chickens have a nice bit of stuff to scratch in. The weather has been very warm and I have seen some lady bugs out and about. I’m sure the other bugs are out so the chickens are augmenting their diet. Hopefully we can let the birds do some free ranging in the backyard while it is warm.  We need too add another roost lower to the floor of the chicken house and Mom wants to add some insulation eventually, but over all I think the chickens will be happy with the new setup.

Today I was a bit surprised that my muscles were not that sore today. Of course my “bad” knee made up for that lack in the pain department. Not too surprising as most of the work I did on the chicken house was done by squatting and that is hard on my knees. Last night I gave myself a good rub down with the pain salve and it really helped with the pain from muscle soreness as well as the joints. Tonight I made a double batch of the pain salve and gave Mom 2 jars and kept 3 for myself. I have to call the local beekeeper and get another chunk of beeswax.  He sells the wax in 10-18 pound chunks so the up front cost is high but I had just over a pound of the wax and it it made several batches of pain and the dry skin salve.  A little beeswax goes a long way. Mom is interested in learning to make beeswax candles and I think my aunt will be interested in buying some clean beeswax from me this spring so I can defray the up front cost in a couple of months.

I got everything prepped for making some of the black ale on Tuesday. I don’t need to add humidity to the house as Mom set up a small humidifier in the living room. But humidity is a bonus making beer and I bet the chickens will like the extra grain which saves on feed costs. It is fascinating to me how you can use and reuse items that sort of feed another area of self sufficiency. Like how used beer grains can be used to feed life stock or go into the compost and super charge the heat process to break down your browns. Or how you can use free ranging chickens to work the soil and till your garden as well as insect control in your backyard.

I’m slowly getting into the idea of perma-culture and I really love the concept of a food forest.  While I have a few limitations on what I can do here at Casa de Chaos there are many ideas that I can try out and see how I can work with Mama Nature in making an attractive yard that will be sustainable long term.

Last but not least I added a few items that might work for the Mom’s pekes and Smokey the cat. I made a small ramp to help the pekes up a step by the doggie door.  It seems the the wood was just a little slick and made the older dogs scared. I got a small carpet at the Dollartree and the dogs have more secure footing using the ramp.  I also picked up a couple of small pillow covers and the have been kitty tested and approved by Smokey the cat!  I found out today we  have a Harbor Freight store moving into to old Big Lot’s store front.  With my 2015 goals of getting tools this is good news.

Chicken house is finished

December 7, 2014

Man, I’m sore and tired but the shed is finished!  It looks pretty good and I even managed to cut the correct angle for the ramp from the kennel up into the shed though I screwed up one framing cut. That is much better than I usually do on projects.  I added one brace across the top interior so Mom can hang a light as well as a small heater if it is needed this winter. Mom wants to add another dowel for a chicken roost but I did get one setup inside the shed.  Mom got a great deal on a linoleum remnent at Lowes that almost covered the floor of the shed. There is a small section of floor about 2 feet long and a foot wide that I can finish up with some leftover tiles I have on hand.  Overall the chicken’s have a nice little house that should be easy to clean.

I have a much better idea of some of the tools and fasteners to have on hand than before I started on the chicken shed. The reciprocating saw is a must have for my future projects.  I bought a pound of screws for the chicken house and have a lot left, but I will add a pound or two of screws and nails each paycheck. In a few months I will have several pounds of different nails and screws for building and repair projects. I need to add some tools for replacing pipe but it looks like I will be able to get that project done next paycheck. That should be the last of my tool/repair purchases for this year. The other tools I want to get can go on the 2015 goals page.

I watched the guys put the shed together on Friday and it was very educational just watch them work. It gave me a lot of pointers about getting things level and how to measure thing out making things nice and square.  Last month I bought a little speed square that was a huge help when I was making all the cuts on the frame of the door and ramp up to the chicken house.  While I’m not much of carpenter, I gained a lot of confidence in adding a few things to the chicken house today. This has been my year to build “fixit” skills around the house. From plumbing to carpentry. I have made a few mistakes but over all I’m very pleased by how much better I am at fixing things that not only work, but the jobs are fixed correctly and look good.

Of course now I see how things should be done correctly there are all sorts of jobs that are suddenly in need of attention! I figure it will take a few days of physical recovery for the the chicken house job then I will start on the “round tuit” list and start gathering materieals and supplies to get them done right.


Oh crap, Carpentry skills needed

December 6, 2014

I’m no carpenter, I know enough to know I don’t know enough.  Well guess what you need to figure things out and make them work. I have framed in the door for the chicken shed and my measurements were accurate. I did not want to cut the wire of the kennel till I had a plan. I have a plan and I will need to cut more wire to make things work. I want Mom’s shed to be functional and look good. We primed and sealed the MDF floor and the lower 2×4’s for chicken poo. Someone with good carpentry skills and or woodworking tools and skills could have knocked this out in a couple of hours.  I have neither, so it is taking a bit more time to visualize the fix needed.  I should be able to finish up the wood work for the coop/shed on Sunday.  But I have a few more power tools I want to add to my shop!

One of my goals this year is to add tools. I am going electric and or battery powered as much as possible because a gas generator will run a corded power tools and charge batteries But it is hard to adapt a gas powered tool too electric power. Solar energy is always an option for charging small batteries. No matter how much fuel you store, sooner or later it will run out,  unless you have an alternative energy supply.

I’m all about thinking long term, but a small gas generator can keep your fridge and freezer going for a week or two. Hey you have a couple of weeks to dehydrate, can or figure out a root cellar, in order to preserve food.  I have been running a an experiment on how long garden produce lasts on the kitchen counter and the results have surprised me. My patty pan/summer squashes are still firm and ready for cooking and a couple of cucumbers are showing some longevity with no refrigeration.  Heck it is December and Mom looks through my picked veggies to add a little” fresh veggies” to the chicken feed.

Times are tough and simple does not mean easy! I have worked on a 3 year plan of bulk goods sealed in 55 gallon drums. My water storage is fairly significant in a base of three 60 gallon water drums as well as four 15 gallon drums upstairs and easy to use.  I can’t tell you what you need for your basics. I think you need about a 6 month supply of your basics stocked up at a minimum. But what you choose to do is on you, and I am a Doom and gloomer “worst case scenario” sort of person.


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