Darn weather and still looking for a dog

July 22, 2014

Don’t get me wrong I love how it has cooled off but the changing pressure and T-storms rolling through has set up an ache in every part of the body I managed to break, sprain or ripped cartilage/bursa and major soft tissue damage I have done.  That’s not even counting my CIDP or the wonders of menopause that I seem to have the joy to experience now.  Yes! I am whining about how much I hurt!  I do seem to be getting back on top of  dealing with the pain, though this storm affected more than I had anticipated.  I have been a bit lazy and not doing enough work to keep the muscles and joints working at optimal levels.  I need to up my puttering in the yard level and cut back a bit on my TV/news watching level.

While the dog I was looking at in the shelter was “no joy” as he sort of treated Diana as an animated chew toy there are a couple of other dogs that have some potential and might go on sale this month.  I think the rotties I saw advertised might be a scam and so I’m playing that out. I can’t imagine that it is so hard to get rid of free Rottweiler pups in Michigan compared to Idaho.  Perhaps I’m doing these folks a disservice but I can’t imagine advertising free dogs in Idaho that must be shipped from Michigan is how most average dog owners want to get rid of free pups . It just feels wrong overall and as it is said when a deal looks to good to be true, it probably is…I  trust I will find the right dog if I’m patient something will show up that will be a good fit.  Now that I have watched Diana get such joy about meeting new dogs it is apparent that she really misses Tuffy and needs a doggy companion. While she is getting on at 11 years old and has a few health/genetic issues due to her breed she is pretty healthy overall.

Onto the first straw mulch experiment result. My Nasturtium flowers are already much happier along with the romaine type lettuces. Now that might be do to the slightly cooler temps but I think the straw mulch has shown results this fast and I did not expect it to do the work that quickly.  Now we have gotten a bit of rain but usually the front yard soil sucks it up like a sponge and that is not happening this time even just adding mulch to a somewhat small area. I’m sure that the folks that compost and mulch are thinking “Well Duh!” but this concept is new to me. Especially how laying mulch in one area will tend to improve water retention in adjoining areas of the yard.  I’m still learning and I don’t think I have laid out the mulch properly to kill weeds though it is a big help for water retention.  This is one area I can see that more is better and I will be laying out mulch and even compost in the garden beds starting at 4 inches thick and 6-8 inches would be better overall. On the grass growing area over the water main I think a good 4 inches of compost/mulch is a good start and at least a 2 inch depth of compost to regrow grass in a weedy yard is a good start.  This not the fastest way to build soil though I’m fairly surprised how well it helps with water retention if not actual growth.  Go thick with mulch as I have found that a thin layer helps with water retention but you need to go thick to kill weeds.  My garden is kind of going berserk with growth and I haven’t changed much besides adding a bit of rabbit poo and the mulch. I really need to thin out plants and that is not a problem I had in the past.

It can be difficult to check an attitude of superiority and listen to others that do the work.  I’m sure you have read or met many preppers that get all superior and talk a good game but do the work or show how things do not work to theory not so much!  I blog what I do and often I’m a slacker and I still can’t find the broccoli seeds I want to gatherer and did not think about before having an admired garden.  I’m still learning though I think I have turned the corner of hoping and planing.  I was not ready for a good garden harvest.  I’m not going to beat myself up about wasted food as I’m getting better with gardening but it does hurt a bit to see food go to waste.



I think I found the dog I want at the pound Updated

July 20, 2014

The Dog is a Char-Pei/Lab mix and is about 3 years old and seems very mellow and laid back. Walked him by the cat cages and all he did was give them a quick glance and walked right along and I had one of the people working there walk him through the small dog area and she said he did great around the small dogs.  One small problem is he started  dry coughing when I took him out for a little walk.  I know some dogs can cough like that when they get excited, but the pound will have him checked by the vet on Monday for Kennel Cough. This guy is a medium size dog and I didn’t have a problem controlling him though he does need a little training.  I hope that Diana the peke and his personalities will match up and I have been introducing Diana to larger dogs so she can get used to them. The pound calls him Scooter but I don’t think that name fits him very well but with a little luck maybe I can bring him home and give him a new name!

Dug up a few of the goathead/puncture vines in the alley way. I think I got these early enough that the “seed?” stayed attached and won’t spread. It does not look all that pretty but I have started making a difference on some of the worst of the weeds. I have been reading up on plants that could survive and thrive in that bad soil and I think a combo of lavender and sunchokes might be the way to go to make use of this area.  While I’m still learning about mulch I think a few bags of wood mulch could work best for this area for weed control, improving the soil as well as making the area look nice.  The water main area is looking better but I need to add a deeper layer of compost to most of it. I have one area that got a deeper layer of compost and it is very noticeable about how well it is breaking down and becoming soil. The places that I only put down a thin layer are not breaking down as well, even a thin layer helps with water retention.

Getting veggies out of this years garden seems like sort of a bonus rather than the main purpose of learning about/improving the soil and taking advantage of the natural features of the yard.  There is more to do especially taking advantage of mulch and planing out the garden so it produces and making it easier for me to work. It is going to be a very busy fall this year getting things all ready for the Spring planting season next year.  While the Water main going out threw a major monkey wrench at my goals for this year it has also offered many opportunities for learning and trying new things out here at Casa de Chaos.   I’m still making most of my goals though not exactly the way I had planned them out last year.  Because of those adjustments I will have a couple of complete misses but I will also have learned other things that will meet goals I had not even thought about doing.  Being mentally flexible and making the most out of any given situation will be a critical skill in any disaster.  In almost any situation there is something you can do to be pro-active.  Being mentally rigid in your goals can put you at risk, but if you are mentally flexible you can change focus and take advantage of changing circumstances.

For example: Everything you need to live daily is going up in price. Food, fuel even water but many hard goods have come down in price from tents to a kindle. You can still buy corn, wheat, rice, beans and meats for a good price if you shop loss leaders or in bulk.  Heck, Fred Meyers has a fairly good quality Toilet paper on sale 12 pack for under $4.00 a package with a coupon limit of 4 packages.  I’m not sure how you think about TP but this is a bargain and if you no longer shop week to week you should have a bit of cash to take advantage of that buy.  If you have enough TP already on hand think of the extra TP as a barter item.

Saving money is the fastest way you can put money in your wallet.  Now you will have to look at yourself and your family about the “whiny factor”.  I think getting rid of my dish sat. subscription and getting the Rokus was a great thing. I watch the shows I want to watch when I want to watch them. I did get Amazon Prime that will cost $120.00 a year in 2015 but I get quite few benefits besides just some movies and TV shows via Prime. I have watched a great documentary about WWI via you tube this weekend and the quality is great.  While I paid $99.99 signing up for Amazon Prime for the year I killed Dish and save over $30.00 per month on that subscription.  Overall savings is about $20.00 per month on TV and I can say that $20.00 per month can go a long ways buying bulk goods.  That is only one item that many people seem to think they must have to live. You don’t need TV to live though it is a “nice to have item”.  By the end of this year I will have saved enough money to pay back both of my Rokus and my Amazon prime.  Next year the only cost will be the Amazon Prime subscription which equals about $10.00 per month.

Some items are worth having on hand regardless of the payback. A gas generator for example will be extremely valuable in a short term grid down situation but you will spend a lot of money for gas and basic upkeep.  Now my wood stove may actually payoff in two years because I bartered for wood this year rather than paying cash for delivered wood.  My little A/C unit cost will be paid off this year simply by the savings on my electric bill compared to using the whole house A/C unit.  I use a 3-5 year payback as a general rule of thumb if something is worth buying for a long term replacement.  It is best to look/figure a total yearly cost before you decide on a replacement. A new fuel efficient car may look like a great savings until you count the extra interest on payments and the additional cost of insurance and the depreciation of a new car after you drive it off the lot. That old vehicle might be a better value compared to new car based on savings and payback.  Always crunch the numbers and don’t ever be fooled into “stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime”.  Also listen to the ads and how they play you. You might earn something but I don’t remember you deserving something just by being alive.  Do I deserve a vacation? Some people may think my life is a vacation since I’m100% disabled and don’t work for a living. I don’t see it that way but I will only go on a vacation if I can pay my way, but you can see how that term “Deserve” can play on your emotions.  Don’t let that “entitlement mentality” infect you no matter what your station in life you might be in at the present.  That is how the PTBs hook you in to their dependency slavery. You won’t dare rise up as you are afraid of what you might lose. It does not matter if it is a company, state or person. If you accept the money you are on the hook unless you get self-reliant.

Update: Nope the dog will not work so we will keep looking

That went well.

July 18, 2014

Got all of the fans set up and with the nights getting cooler the fans are  helping to cool off the house.  I did some laundry to test the new dryer vent hose and how well the washer drains. The dryer vent worked great, made a huge difference in the heat in the house coming  from the dryer. The washing machine drain is better but it looks like it needs another treatment to clear up the pipe.    I may give the “Drain King” another try to see if the pressurized water can finish clearing the pipe. I really don’t want to fight with the drain snake if I can clear the pipe using the drain cleaner.

Did a little clean up on the front beds and got the watering done.  I need to lay out more mulch as I have been astounded  how much it helps the yard retain water. Got some good growth on the grass under the compost I laid out. Bought some new grass seed to add to the water main area and reseed the rest of the backyard this weekend. The brussel sprouts just are not doing much of anything as far as edible veggies.  While I started the front beds as a test this year I planted my cool weather crops in the full sun beds and that has not worked out well with the hot temps we got this July.  I may lose a bucket of the potatoes because the drainage got blocked and the bucket sort of flooded. I’m going to give the tater bucket a chance to see if it can recover and my other two big potato buckets are doing good and have drained all excess water.  One strawberry bucket is doing great and I should be able to harvest at least a couple of strawberries this year.  My other strawberry bucket and the raspberries look like a NOGO but I’m sure it was my soil mix and possibly a drainage/placement issue for those buckets. Those are things I should be able to fix with a some time and working the soil.

This year I have learned so much about gardening, fixing the soil and value of mulch as well as compost.  I sort of poo-pooed the idea of mulch for my beds like it was sort of a easy way to garden which was stupid because I needed all the help I could get to grow a garden. Now that I can see how mulch helps with water retention for a garden in high desert I can see it is a critical component for a gardener try to grow anything.  If you are in a drought area get some mulch on your beds ASAP even if you can’t do the whole yard.  I think you might be surprised by how much it helps keep water in the  soil. Remember your science classes about osmosis where water tries to create an equilibrium. I have seen it happen in my yard that even the areas that are not mulched absorb and retain water from the areas that are mulched.  With a bit more mulch added to my beds and to the soil I will be able to go to water once a week easily even with the heat and as I keep adding mulch and compost  I think I could get by with watering twice a month.  Most of us in the USA take safe water for granted,  and having my water main go out and simply dealing with all of the physical energy required to move water and heat it is huge compared to just turn a valve.  Water is life and if you do not have stored potable water on hand and a way to collect more you will die in a matter of days. Conserving water is just smart from a survival or money saving perspective.

Diana the peke had a blast running through the sprinkler. Speaking of dogs the pound has a couple of dogs on sale that might be a good fit for me.  I’ll stop by and give them a look this weekend and see how they might do here at Casa de Chaos. Don’t forget to prep for your animals and feed them best food that you can afford. That does not mean you buy the most expensive feed but that you do you research for the best feed.  You must prep for your critters with basic medicines, vaccines and keep them vermin free of fleas, ticks and other little nasties.  Let us say for instance you must stay indoors for 3-5 days because of a disaster. What have you done for your animals to go poo, or how will you keep them entertained or physically active in a confined space? You know your pet better than I do but I think it is something you should think about and prepare for your critters. If you have to bug out do you have a crate/kennel that the pets are safe and used to being in? You got those pets because they help you and I think it is unacceptable to simply cast them out if they become inconvenient. If you can’t/won’t take care of animals when times get tough. Don’t get animals of any sort!

Starting to cool off, equipment, the economy and double checking your preps

July 16, 2014

It is starting to cool down to the lower 90s during the day but what will make the big difference is it will cool to the lower 60s at night.  That makes it much easier to cool off the house at night by opening windows and using fans to circulate the air. If I can get the house below 70 overnight I will use the A/C less and save on energy costs. I’m going to buy a box fan at Big lots for $16.50 and True value has an Oscillating tower fan for $18.00 that should work with the wood stove moving heated air in the winter.  Fans can be a year round tool that helps to keep you comfortable and most electric fans don’t take a lot of energy to run. Now I can return the small fan my Mom loaned me for use with the wood stove.

I got the stuff to replace the guts of the other toilet is has been running over and would not stop. Not a big deal as the shut off valve works on this toilet and the replacement is fairly simple and the guts only cost about $15.00.  I get to keep my old fashioned toilet that needs only one flush rather than the new “Water saving” toilets mandated by the government.  I pulled out the dryer to clean some lint build up I saw and noticed the vent hose was not attached. New longer vent hose has been attached that should cut down on heat as well as lint build up and reduce any fire hazards. My washer and kitchen sinks have slow drains so I added some hard core drain cleaner to get them back into shape. I hope I won’t have to run the 50 ft. snake but I got one on hand.  It’s amazing how much I have learned about plumbing and have  tools on hand to do a few basic repairs and replacements. Most of the tools and replacement parts have been a lot cheaper than I imagined when I started my projects.  It wasn’t on my 2014 to do list but fixing up the plumbing is turning out to be a major thing for the house this year. Replacement of the pressure hoses on the washer has been added to the list. Having one of those hoses blow can create a heck of a mess and I know the hoses on the washer now are at least 10 years old.  Most of these “jobs” have cost under $50.00 and with the cost of the just the “service call” for most plumbers it will save you money if you can do some of the simple jobs yourself.

Speaking of money, some very nasty rumblings are starting to happen on Wall St. as well as the BRICS starting a Mini-IMF that completely bypasses the US Dollar.  I think/hope that the economy will hold together until Fall and others suggest maybe 2-3 years but the crash is coming. I was very surprised that east coast utilities were scrambling to buy “Russian Coal” for this winter.  The USA is rich in coal but this administration has shut down many coal mines in the name of the environment or climate change.  This does not bode well for those that are dependent on Coal fired electrical  plants if we have a cold winter similar to last year.

You need to make sure you have a backup way to heat and cook if you are dependent on electricity. We are heading into one of the best times of the year to pickup camping supplies on sale and you should see items like propane camp stoves and heater go on sale.  In my area of SW Idaho propane prices are stable and it is easy to buy a small propane tank for a gas grill for $45.00-$50.00 filled, or do an exchange tank for under $20.00.  If you can afford it get all your tanks topped off if you use oil and start getting wood for the fireplace  now rather then wait for it to get cold and then try to buy it.  Even a small Butane burner for about $30.00 and 8-12 cans of fuel ($7.00 for 4 cans) can be your cooking set up during any short term disaster.  If you pay for your fuel and food now you will reduce your stress and have some cash on hand to deal with any rise of electrical costs.

Paying off debt and adding to your “emergency fund” should be a priority and if you can pay a little ahead on any small monthly bills like insurance if you are new to saving cash on like I am and find it easy to spend all you make on stuff.  This month I paid off the revolving credit account with Les Schwab and paid ahead on my insurance.  I added back to my  monthly saving envelopes that I used for some sales.  I can save money shopping and I think I get a lot of hard goods/needs for each dollar. But saving cash is hard for me and while I’m doing better, it is still a struggle at times.  Most of this prepping and self-reliance stuff is an ongoing experiment of sorts and I don’t think you should beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly to plan.  The trick is not to give up just because of a failure and get back on track as quickly as possible. I would also prioritize with shelter, security,  water, food then sanitation and first aid if you you are unsure of what you should do next.  If one priority is good to go, then focus on the next area.  When I started prepping I tried to get a bit of everything starting with food as my priority and that was wrong but I had enough time to correct my mistake.  I’m in pretty good shape for the basics but I sometimes go off track because of sales, so keep your focus on what  is critical and while you might miss out on a great sale you must prioritize and stick with your plan.


Tested the Kitchen vent/fan, prgresso recipe starter and a bug hunt

July 14, 2014

I had to bake some bread and did not feel well enough to set up the Propane camp oven so it was a good day to test  how well the kitchen fan worked at removing the heat of the oven.  The microwave vent I use feeds up through the roof rather than back into the kitchen.  I was very pleased how well the vent did removing the heat. Only when I open the oven door did heat seem to escape into the kitchen.  This was my first use of the vent to remove heat and it was a huge bonus baking bread while it is so hot outside not to heat the kitchen up.  The vent helps with removing the heat when cooking on the stove top but not as efficiently when compared to the oven.

I got some of the Progresso recipe starters from Big Lots at 50 cents a can and tried out the basil using a slight modification of the recipe on the can using chicken thighs rather than the cut up chicken breasts. Basically all I did was season the thighs with a garlic and black pepper spice mix, Browned the thighs and poured the basil/Parmesan recipe starter in the pan and let it simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Then you  serve it over rice or a pasta of your choice and get about 6-8 servings easily.  This should work equally well with canned chicken or even cubed pork for a meal ready in about 30 minutes or less and does not heat up the kitchen a lot.  Or you could use this as a sauce for cauliflower/broccoli , potatoes etc.  or even a casserole and you know I like multi-taskers.  I want to add a few more of these “recipe starters” to the RV as I think it is a great way to make a very nice meal using minimal energy.  I have improved on making cream sauces and gravies but if you are still learning the whole sauce thing these starters are a great way to “cheat”  time and still have a great meal.  Making a good tasting meal is very helpful in maintaining health as well as morale in a disaster situation and I believe cooking from scratch is a critical skill to learn but there is nothing that says you can’t add a few assists to save time and energy.

Bugs especially some types are bad this year and I use DE for most of my insect killing but I forgot to keep applying it. So I added DE to all of the window sills especially the ones that have fans, my A/C unit and around the Doggie door. I  used the dust pan brush to sort of spread the DE along the walls and sills to try and get all the bugs. DE does not kill the bugs quickly and needs to be re-applied regularly but it is very safe compared to most other insecticides.  I use DE in my bulk food storage and have yet had to deal with a single weevil and it keeps my dog and cat food fresh smelling for months as well as a use as a De-wormer for many animals.  Always get “food grade” DE to use in your food storage as cheap DE is used as a pool cleaner and has some added chemicals that are unsafe to ingest.  Food grade DE may seem expensive at first but a little DE goes a long ways. I bought one of those 3-4 gallon buckets of DE, I think it was about 10 pounds by weight over 4 years ago and I have used about half  to 2/3rds of it and I’m storing 55 gallon drums worth of grain and a whole bunch of buckets for long term storage.

The heat has been brutal this month as it is not cooling off at night that we can usually count on that here in the high desert. The mulch I have added is making a huge difference for water retention in the yard and garden and the little A/C  is keeping the bedroom cool enough for sleeping as well as electrical costs somewhat low for a heat wave. Funny the heat in the Inter mountain west is getting very little notice but it cools to 75 degrees F. in July in Chicago and east of the Mississippi and it “polar vortex II”.  I suppose the news needs some sort of “hook” to catch viewers  and stating the weather will be “mild and temperate” just won’t generate the the same angst as the words POLAR VORTEX even in July.

Got the lawn mowed, watered and setting up the drip irrigation for the edible beds

July 12, 2014

The heat is brutal but thank goodness for low humidity and A/C,  having a cool room or two has made a huge difference to me during this hot weather but I have to say my naps have gotten a bit longer since it got so warm.  The worse thing about this heat is we are not really cooling down at night like usual for high desert.  I got the both the front and backyard mowed, added a bit more compost to the water main area and fertilizer to some dry spots in the front lawn. I’m down to watering twice a week by adding the mulch even with 100 degree + heat.  So the compost and mulch are helping a lot on water retention.

The grapes are loving the heat and are putting on fruit already. I don’t remember the grapes coming on quite this early during previous years. This year I have a juicer and my “bootlegger bottle” so preserving those grapes should be very easy compared to previous years when I did nothing with the fruit.

One of the front beds rain barrel drip system is good to go and needs the straw mulch to retain the water. The other bed/rain barrel drip system is not working and I must have clog of some sort at the faucet of the barrel.  I have water cans to do the watering by hand but I would much prefer that my barrels, hoses and gravity do the work for me.  The hops in the front beds looks like a no go and the sweet peas did not do well at all, but the romaine and a few other plants like borage did very well this year.  The edible garden is a new project for me this year so there will be a bit of a learning curve with trying new things.  I know it’s tough not to get discouraged when a garden or plants do not preform to your expectations. Take it from a former black thumb that is getting a bit better at gardening each year.  I may not have a green thumb but I’m very persistent on skills I want to learn.

I think it is critical that self-reliant/preppers and survivalist embrace failure now and learn rather than avoid failure.  Trying and failing is often when I learn the most about any project. Failure is about learning and I’m not all that impressed by many people who claim the have never failed as it usually means they never try something new or think out of the box or never take a risk of any sort.  A good example is baking bread. I know many that have a less than successful first time attempt at baking bread. Goodness knows I have made a few flour/wheat bricks  that could compete with masonry bricks and stones. That does not mean you can’t bake bread, as making “flour bricks”  is part of learning process. I still have a devil of a time making biscuits or tortillas. The end product is getting better but it’s not what I expect as I have eaten good biscuits and tortillas and mine are lacking.  Practice and not giving up with any setback is what is required.  Don’t worry about failure, worry about learning from your failures to make the very best product you can. If you back slide a bit that is okay, heck even I occasionally buy bread or beer when thing don’t work out.

Losing weight and a busy weekend

July 11, 2014

I am finally starting to lose some weight since becoming disabled.  I have never been very good with dieting and I used to control my weight by running and working out and that is just not compatible with my body.  I have been cooking most of what I eat from scratch for a few years and that did not seem to make much of a difference until this year or at least the last 12 months.  I think the supplements have helped, not so much for losing weight in and of themselves but they help me to work longer and recover faster so I can put in a couple of hours of physical labor several days in a row instead of 15-30 minute bursts through out the day and then being completely wiped out physically.  I know to burn fat you have convince the body it needs to tap those fat reserves for energy and now I have learned to work with/around my handicap to do more physical work over a longer period of time.  Ironically I think many of the tools I bought to  save physical energy have allowed me to work longer and burn fat.  I’m not loosing nor trying  to lose weight quickly and it seems that it is a happy side effect of what I’m doing to get self-reliant.  I don’t think it such a bad idea to have a little extra body fat but being overweight and incapable of walking 5 miles or doing some gardening or clean up jobs around the house is bad and you need to be as physically ready as your body allows.  I walk 5 times a week with my Mom at the local mall and we do at least 1.5 hours of walking and some days the laps are bit less than others but on average we get in about 4 miles even with me using my walker. Many young people can’t even walk a mile or two at any speed as they have never had to do it.

I would be more concerned about building stamina and real world working skills compared to losing weight and hitting some ideal weight or body form. Can I run? Nope, not going to happen, that does not mean I should do nothing to make myself as strong as I can walking or building strength  and stamina within what limits my body can do.  There is a joke that 2 guys come up on a bear and one starts putting on sneakers. The guy asks why he is putting on sneakers as you can’t out run a bear and the guy says he isn’t interested in outrunning the bear he simply wants to out run him.  Sometimes survival decisions are that crass, dark and hard but it is your decision to make.

Lots of plans for a weekend of hard work. It’s been in the 100′s but I do have a few jobs to get done even though we are having a heat wave with a bit of help from the neighbors on Sunday. We are going to trim up the holly shrubs and while we are not cutting them back quite as much as the first two we did early this summer.  I have to say if you want a natural barrier, holly is a great plant that is pretty, easy to grow  and stays green year round.  Going to have a movie night, drink a little home made beer and sort of kick back after all that trimming.  Monday, Mom and I are going to make goat’s milk soap building skills class and since my neighbors gave three small bottles of essential oils the get a few of bars of soap in payment for work done and a good sort of payback.

I’m not sure how others incorporate barter in what they do daily but I do it in the neighborhood helping out people and being helped out myself.  It is sort of a gift/obligation to good people to give at least as much as they get in value. While we may disagree on “value” it is a great way to evaluate the makers and the takers.


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