Storm Warning! What do I do to prepare

February 28, 2021

I am prepared for most disasters I can think up and lived through some small disaster of my own, like going a week without water. I know the last thing I want to do before any type of storm warning is go shopping!  I don’t always succeed but I want to stay home and get the house ready for possible problems that might happen during any seasonal storm. I’m always doing some sort of prep because disasters don’t always announce themselves ahead of time. This post is about what to do when I get a heads up of an incoming storm. 

Clean everything and get those chores done! I don’t think I’m unique in having daily cleaning chores like doing the dishes or weekly chores like cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry. You may have a larger household so some jobs need done more often but keeping a home somewhat clean needs doing on a regular basis. Cleaning a home is much easier when you have access to hot water and appliances like washer/dryers, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners. I tend to move up my cleaning schedule to get as many jobs that require energy or hot water done as quickly as possible. I tend to start with the laundry even adding towels, bed sheets to make up a load of laundry to wash and dry. Knowing you have clean clothes and other items that will last a few days without worrying about doing laundry when the power is out is worth the effort. Vacuum your carpets/rugs while you have power. Sweeping, mopping and dusting don’t require electrical power but you don’t want to try and sweep a rug clean in a no power situation. Do your dishes be it handwashing or using a dishwasher. You will have the maximum amount of dinner ware available before the storm hits your area. You can still use paper plates, cups and utensil but you won’t have a bunch of dirty plates sitting in your sink or dishwasher while you wait for power to come back on.

Test all your non-electrical powered lighting. Grabbing a flashlight that has dead batteries can be very aggravating when the power is out. Check your stockpile of matches, bic lighters, candles and if you use lanterns or oil lamps make sure the lamps have fuel and the wicks are trimmed and in working order. Take an inventory of the fuel for lamps, matches/lighters and batteries so you know how much you have on hand. While you may not want to shop, if those supplies are low you could make a shopping trip for these items early in the storm warning. If you can’t get these items add these item to your list of things to get in the future.

Charge up everything that needs charging via electrical power. While I like my little solar panel as a backup, it is usually faster to charge electronic items via your home’s electrical outlets. Don’t forget charging up those battery packs or if you have them rechargeable AA,C or d batteries if you have them on hand. Every thing you charge up now will give you more time to use those items without worry if the power goes out. Don’t forget setting up an emergency radio that gives weather reports and if it shortwave you might pick up some local conditions/news reports.

Laundry: I recommend having at least 2 weeks worth of undies, socks and other undergarment you need on hand. Clean clothes are not only warmer but help prevent potential health and odor issues wearing dirty clothes. Your washing machine does not require a lot of power as most appliance go. Many generators can power a washing machine. Washing Machine require a lot of water so if water is an issue hand washing might be your only option in a long term disaster. In the Army I used a reinforced plastic bag, some detergent and a gallon of water to clean some clothes.The results were less than optimal. It is difficult to rinse and squeeze the excess water out of hand washed clothes. I think an Industrial strength Mop bucket with it’s squeeze to drain water is a solution but I can’t afford the cost right now. I have an electric dryer and it is my biggest electrical energy hogs. I can’t even run the dryer via my generators because they can not handle the 240 volts power required for the dryer. I have drying racks but I was surprised about how much physical energy I used with dry clothing on racks compared to using a dryer over a couple of weeks I had my clothes dryer died and I could not replace it. I found that mental and cumulative stress of doing without that appliance very significant. I’m sure the stress would get much worse when dealing with disaster.

Generators: Check out your fuel situation and make sure all of your extension cords are in good shape. Test the generator and see if will start and run safely. Make sure you have oil on hand as most generators have an emergency shut off if the oil level gets low. Plan on using the generator for 2-3 hours at a time a couple times per day just enough to keep the food cold/frozen in the fridge and do some jobs that need electricity. If you run a generator 24/7 you will run out of fuel plus the noise of the generator may attract unwanted attention. Depending on the output of your generator you might be able to recharge all of your gadgets or even watch a movie while the generator powers your fridge/freezer.

Staying warm: I’m a huge fan of the Mr. Buddy heaters. I tested them in cold winters before I had my wood stove and those heater work great especially if you use a fan to move the heat. You can buy an adapter to hook a Mr. Buddy heater to a regular propane tank rather than just a 1 pound tank for about $15.00. Do not run any heater 24/7 in the cold because you will run out of fuel. Warm the house up then pile on the blankets at night. Start the heater up in the morning to about 50-65 degrees F. and put on a sweater to keep warm. It’s not about being comfortable it’s about not having freezing pipes or getting hypothermia. So you might be a little uncomfortable. If you have a decorative fire place, have the chimney cleaned at least every other year and build up a small stack of fire wood. The firewood will burn better the longer it has time to season and you can always use the wood for a little firepit/bonfire in summer and fall.

Cooking without electricity or gas. I had no idea that Nat. gas well heads could freeze up. So if I had a gas cooktop or hot water tank in Texas I would have been scrambling to find a way to cook and have hot water. I have a wood stove but it isn’t a cooking stove. It will heat a lot water to about 165 degrees F. but not to the boiling point of 212 degrees F. I have a propane grill, Charcoal/wood BBQ grill a fire pit all out on my patio. While I love BBQing a Turkey in November I’d prefer having my coffee indoors where it is generally warmer in the house. Butane hot plates or propane camp stoves can make cooking without power easier if not easy. There is a possibility the camp stoves might out gas to a dangerous level if you run them for hours at a time but I just want to boil some water to make coffee in a French press coffee maker or make some ramen, bacon, eggs for breakfast for breakfast. If I want to make a big meal or slow cook something in a Dutch oven I’ll use one of my grills! It’s not just about having the grills or burner plates it is about having fuel on hand to use those grills or burners.

Bugging Out: Sometimes the safest thing to do is leave the disaster area. If you think you might have to bug out and leave your home during a disaster. Bag up all your food in the fridge or freezer food in heavy duty/construction grade garbage bags. If the power stays on while you are away from your home great, but if the power goes out and the food rots all you have to do for clean up is throw that rotted food away and your fridge/freezer won’t smell like rotten food. Turn off all your power, gas, drain your water lines and if possible turn off your water main. Not everyone lives in a stand alone home so turning off the Main lines of power is not possible for apartment dwellers. I’d recommend turning off your main Electrical breaker, but I’m not sure if that is correct in an intermittent power grid situation. Turn off all excess electrical loads like lights, clocks, computers, TVs etc. and unplug sensitive equipment as there might be power spikes as the electricity comes back online. Ask your local power company what they recommend during a power outage as they are highly motivated to get the power back online.

I literally bought wood before I had a wood stove. Okay it wasn’t the best wood but I bought wood before I had a wood stove. I bought Butane before I got this little burner. I did buy little camp stoves that ran on canned butane fuel but I wanted a standard size burner I could use indoors and with my regular kitchen pans. My finding that little butane stove for $8.00 was a bit of serendipity. But I had planned for getting that type of stove in the future even if I had to pay full price for a new one. I bought a Camp Chef propane Camp oven/stove for about $100.00 that has a real oven and a 2 burner cooktop. This stove and oven combo is about the same size as most RV’s oven/stove. Not big but capable of baking and cooking as long as I have propane. I have built up a lot of redundancy for cooking and heat with different types of fuel. I have not gone through a disaster that required a week or two without electricity so I have done my best to anticipate cooking and lighting needs in every season.

Dealing with a disaster if you are prepared is easier but that does not make it easy. I found many things I thought would be easy to deal with manually became much more difficult mentally on day 5-7 compared to day 1-2. There was no change in the effort required needed for the job. I just got worn out dealing with the stress of doing the jobs the hard way. Based on my own reaction in a minor disaster day1-2 things seem okay. I’m keeping up or even getting a little ahead and days 5-7 hit and I’m just feeling worn out doing the work. I never had to make it past that 10-14 days of finding a new rhythm dealing with my minor little disasters. It seems people get into thinking about a new normal after about 10-14 days. I’m not trying to mitigate how people tend to deal with disasters it seems most people tend to hit stages before they find a new routine that takes about 10-14 days. Don’t get cocky if things go well the first couple of days and don’t get depressed if everything seems like it is falling apart at day 5-7. It is just a normal human reaction in having your world change dramatically in a short amount of time.

Remember most things are easy in theory it is doing those things daily when things can get a bit more challenging. I read a story about a family that got stuck in a winter storm in the mountains of Utah. This guy had an Emergency kit for snow country but he did a thing of heating up rocks via a fire pit he built outside the car. Then he kept the car warm via the rocks radiating heat rather than a heater that used fuel or might emit dangerous fumes in an enclosed space. I know I would not have thought of using rocks for heat rather than use my little mini camp stove. I can heat water via my wood stove and I have stored water. Why don’t I have a few hot water bottles on hand for easing aches and pains, warming up a bed or for someone suffering chills? I bought a hot water bottle! At $7.25 per bottle they are a bargain so I’ll be adding a couple more to my health care bins.

Did you know you can buy oxygen meters and 95% oxygen bottles at Fred Meyers and Walgreens? I know the Oxygen bottles are only 95% O2 and not the medically approved level of 98% O2 level of therapeutic oxygen. The Covid seemed to hit the lungs and ruined peoples O2 levels. I’m not recommending you don’t go to a hospital if you have low blood oxygen readings or treat that at home but, how would you know if you have low O2 readings without an O2 sensor. If your O2 readings are low it might be a good idea to have the option to breathe in some 95% pure O2 rather than the normal 20% Oxygen level in the normal atmosphere.

This post is getting to long and many folks will go TLDR but I think I have covered many concerns in one post. If it is to long of post come back and read the paragraphs as needed.

Battery packs and folding solar panel

February 23, 2021

I bet a lot of people would like to have an electrical back up system but can’t afford to install solar panels on their home or buy the solar combo set ups like Goal Zero and Jackery. You can put together a similar if smaller setup that costs a lot less that will give you a renewable source of electrical energy for power outages.

Battery Storage: You can go with a “Jump Starter” that you can buy for $50.00-$100.00 or even those small battery power sticks/packs $5.00-$20.00 that stores sell for extending the battery power of cell phones and other electronic gadgets. These battery power packs can be charged up via an electrical outlet so you don’t have to buy a solar panel right now in order to charge the battery packs. You can charge up or top off these battery packs ahead anytime you get a Storm Warning. You will have some power for charging phones, tablets, laptops or any small gadget that has a USB power cable. I have several of these power packs of different sizes that I have used to charge phones and my kindle. Heck I have even used them to jump start my 6cyl. Kia Mini-van!

Solar Panels: I have a folding 15 watt solar panel I bought a couple of years ago for around $60.00. Now you can buy that same size of panel for under $40.00 or buy a 25-50 watt folding solar panel for the price I paid for mine. I did a test of charging up my 18000mAh battery with the solar panel and I was amazed by how quickly the panel charged up the half empty battery bank to Fully charged in less than 2 hours with the panel just sitting in a south facing window on a sunny day. Of course if it is overcast it would take longer to charge up the battery. You can see that you could spend less than a $100.00 and have a renewable small portable power station that you have complete control over.

Lights: I have two Lithium battery powered LED florescent lights that I bought at Home Depot for $20.00 each. These lights put out a lot of light and are charged up via a USB cable and you can get about 10-12 hours of light before you need to recharge. You can cook, clean, read a book or even put on makeup using these lights. The lamps have magnets so you can hang the light under a cabinet or slap it on a metal surface like a fridge to move the light to where you need to do work. I also test a couple of different inflatable solar powered Camp lanterns and got 6 to 12 hours of light from each lantern. These Camp lanterns would be great for kids or around pets as they are safe and non-breakable! The inflatable camp lantern cost around $10.00-$15.00 and are in most camping stores.

You may have long shipping times now if you are trying to get some of these right now because a lot of other people are buying folding solar panels. You might check your local Auto parts or RV stores for the Jump Starter battery packs but almost every electronic store section has the smaller cell phone charger battery packs. Heck, my local Fred Meyer sells those packs by the candy bars next to check out stands. I recommend that you charge any items on the battery pack rather than directly from the solar panels because electronic devices prefer stable electrical current and most solar panels don’t always supply a stable current load.

All of these items will be useful even if you decide to get a permanent backup power solution for your home because all of the items are portable. You can use these items camping, tailgate parties or picnics. I think you will find having even a little bit of electrical power on hand can make all the difference in the world to your comfort level and morale.

Storing Hot water !!! Igloo Jugs

February 19, 2021

I’m not sure if Igloo jugs are available in places hit by these snow storms or if you happen to have insulated water jugs on hand. You can store heated water in these jugs for up to 48 hours!

I have tested this out when my water line was broken and it took about a week to get the line repaired. I used my wood stove to heat the water though the day in 2 large stock pots on my wood stove and at night I would “prime” the water jug with a quart of hot (NOT Boiling) water in two 5 gallon igloo jugs and a 2 gallon jug for use in the bathroom. In the morning I had plenty of very hot water (140-160 degree F.) to use for personal hygiene in the bathroom (2 gallon jug by the bathroom sink) and one of the 5 gallon jugs in the kitchen for cooking and cleaning.

Even if you have to heat up water in smaller batches the Igloo type insulated jugs will give you a place to store all that hot water while you heat more water through the day!

Starting with warm water for your daily water needs such as cooking or washing up save fuel and your own personal energy. If you store your hot water in the evening you have all night to recover from moving those heavy pots of water and jugs around so that when you wake up in the morning all your water needs are ready to be used without a lot of effort.

I have not tried using a regular cooler for staring hot water but the principle should be the same. I doubt a standard cooler would keep the water hot for more than 24 hours but that would be much longer than not storing that hot water at all. If you have hot water bottles ($7.25 at Fred Meyer/Kroger’s) You could add a hot water and sleep with the bottle under your blankets or sleeping bag to help with the cold.

A few tricks I learned about staying warm in cold weather while I was in the army:

  1. Drink water! Water helps your body regulate it’s temperature. Often in cold weather people don’t drink enough water to fully hydrated. If you are feeling cold drink water until you need to pee and if your pee is a very dark yellow, drink more water!
  2. Clean Clothes are warm clothes! I know it will be almost impossible to wash laundry but if your clothes get saturated with sweat change into clean dry clothes. I know many people despise cotton socks, undies or t-shirts as layer in the cold but I found it was easy to change out that sweaty cotton t-shirt or socks and then put on the warm layers of clothing. The Warm layers of clothing stayed cleaner and t-shirts, undies and socks are the easiest clothes to hand wash/dry!
  3. Keep your self clean as much as possible. If you can’t use water to cleanup, place a bag of wet wipes under your blanket or sleeping bag so the wipes a little bit warmer when you clean up in the morning.

Last but not least get your list started for things you need to have or want to have if you are ever in a disaster. Write down whatever you think you need as you go through the day. While a whole house generator and 5000 gallons of fuel might be one of your want to haves in a future disaster. You might want to start with smaller items like a French press coffee maker to use if the expresso machines has no power. A Butane hot plate with a case of fuel or propane camp stove so you can heat up soup or boil water. Heck if you can boil water you can make all kinds of food! A couple of 50 pound bags of sand for traction on ice. Camp lighting like propane or solar lanterns, always charging flashlights that are night lights most of the time but become flashlights when the power goes out. Water jugs, Water bob for the tub or water barrels. Card, dice, board games crossword puzzles and real books for non electric entertainment. This is just a few ideas for your list and don’t be afraid to write down things you have problems dealing with but don’t know the solution for right now.

I know the folks in Texas seem to be getting a lot of hate but I am keeping y’all in this winter storm in my prayers. Remember this to shall pass and you still have to rebuild so this will take some time to get things back to semi-normal. I’m positive there will be people selling of stuff/equipment cheap in a couple of months as they recovery. I don’t know why people always sell their disaster equipment off a few months after a disaster. Perhaps it is bad memories, lack of money or storage space, but it always happens. Now you will have a list and hopefully you can get some of your disaster equipment cheap in a few months. Those igloo jugs that keep water warm in winter can be filled with cool water or ice before a tornado or hurricane hits or be used for a tailgate party or picnic. That fire pit, grill or BBQ can cook food in the summer or boil water in disaster if you have fuel on hand. Solar power or generators used for camping or hunting can be use in a disaster again if you have fuel on hand to use it. Cash on hand is always good to have when the power goes out. It is also a powerful motivator when people want to sell, so having some cash on hand is another thing you need to add to your disaster supplies. I recommend $20.00 bills or smaller as that makes dealing with small change less of a hassle.

Most of the country got caught a bit off guard by this late winter storm. Here in SW Idaho got hit hard with snow but nothing like the Snowpocolypse of 2017. I was in good shape dealing with the snow and cold but even I dropped the ball on having enough canned cat food on hand so I didn’t need to go out and deal with traffic on icy roads. I have to say most city, counties and people dealt much better with the snow this storm. But the snow started melting quickly and the cold was only about 15 above 0 F. at night and the upper 30’s F. during the day. No freezing water or sewer lines as lines get buried deep below the frost line and no widespread power outages.

While I have no love for most power companies. I do think it is hypocritical to blame a power company not being prepared for freezing weather when many people did nothing to prepare themselves for freezing weather. If you are looking for a helping hand look at the end of your arm.

It was just a day full of dumb! Most of it was my fault.

February 16, 2021

There are just some days I will do dumb stuff and then have to scramble to fix all the things I managed to screw up. I had no emergencies and nothing critically went wrong. Just a lot of little things that showed I was not paying attention to my chores. Ironically when I screw up is when I learn the most about my weakness in preps.

I almost ran out of wet cat food because I did not account for the weather. I need to have a couple of cases of backups in storage so I can weather a disaster. I learned my young cats like some pate cat food though my older cat Smokey is all about the more expensive Friskies’s cat food with lots of gravy. I had plenty of dry cat food so the cats would not starve. But a little snow storm that we had here should not create that much stress in me about feeding my cats. Especially when all I needed to to do is add a couple of cases of wet cat food in storage.

Replacing a cell phone and upgrading plans is dumb! I don’t need a Data plan for my or Mom’s phones. But in order to have a cell phone you just about have to use a Smart phone and a data plan to use most cell phone networks. Surprise! you have to pay more money for access to the network even if you don’t want a data plan. You would think a cell phone networks would encourage people to have a cell phone that does not require data to clog up the network. Nope, cell phone plans encourage more data usage then throttle the networks when people think an Unlimited Data Plan means unlimited data. It’s dumb but that is cell phone service in the USA. One thing I loved about cell phone service in Germany when I stationed there in the early 2000’s, is people had to use their cell phone minutes to call your phone. I can tell you I never got any random robo-calls while I was stationed in Germany!

Food prices are going up especially in grains, eggs and dairy products. We have all seen the inflation cost hit our shopping lists but now the big food producers are admitting that food costs go up and will hit 2010/2011 levels and might go higher. I don’t know what you cook but I recommend focusing on storing meat, grains, and things like eggs and dairy products. I’m okay for most of those items but I need to add some more yeast and lard stored safely. Fresh veggies from garden would be a great supplement to your menu. If you can, freeze or dry foods you either buy or produce. All the better for you and your family.

Don’t wait, now is the time to get stocked up on all the stuff you can buy for a reasonable price. For you folks getting hit with this very bad weather SURVIVE now, then buy the used generators, heaters and lamps when they go on sale after the disaster . I doubt a Mr. Buddy heater or any full propane tanks in the Midwest could be be bought now for love, money or gold.

It is crazy out there. We thought 2020 was bad and 2021 said “Hold my Beer”.

First real world test of my Electric Snowblower

February 14, 2021

After 2017’s Snomeggedon hit Idaho and I had over 18 inches of snow in yard and a lot of water flooding my shop I got very serious about getting prepped for “extreme weather” rather than just the normal short term disasters that can happen to anyone at anytime. When I started that winter I had plenty of Ice melt so I did not buy any during the winter. Guess what I ran out of ice melt about the same time the stores did when the snow really started getting deep. NOTE: Buy when stuff is in the store to replace what you use if possible. What you have on hand/stored may not last through the “disaster” .

I added about 150-200 pounds of “sand tubes” I could use for sanding my sidewalks for traction or place over the back wheels of a vehicle for additional traction. 150 pounds of Ice melt to use on the front sidewalk to help with melting ice but also adding some traction if it is to cold for Ice to melt. A medium size electric snowblower (21 inch SNOJOE) and 100 feet of 12 gauge electrical cord to run the blower or power from the generator. I bought a snow rake to clear the roof of excessive snow but that was not needed for this little one day’s worth of snow.

I got about 6-8 inches total of snow in this one day. We had a some snow on Friday, the day prior that I shoveled clear and put Ice melt on the front sidewalk. No Ice melt was used on the backyard sidewalk. I figure I had about 6 inches of very wet and heavy snow to shovel so it was a good time to try out the sno-blower. Overall I am pleased with the results but I could not just push the blower through the snow and walk behind the machine like I was using a lawnmower. I had to push the machine to clear the snow in sections to start clearing the sidewalk but clearing the snow was much easier than using a shovel and I think much faster than if I had to use only a shovel to clear the sidewalks.

Downside of using an electric snow-blower is that electrical cord. Especially when it is a 12 gauge cord and it is cold outside. It is a pain to get the cord to lay out flat when the cord is stored in a cold place like my shop. Using the snow-blower was worth fighting the electric cord but it could be an issue for some people. I still had to use a snow shovel to get down to bare sidewalk after using the sno-blower. Clearing off the last skiff of snow the machine missed was fast and easy, but you will still need a snow shovel to clear places the snow-blower can’t access.

This is a snow blower for areas that might get a 6-12 inches of snow in 24 hours, 1-5 times per winter season. It will clear your sidewalks and your garage pad/drive way. 18-24 inches + in 24 hours this is not the snow blower you want. But for an occasional heavy snow during an average winter in your area and if you need to clear 8 inches or less of snow, I’d say the little electric SNOJOE is a good option for under $200.00.

If you want to make shoveling snow easier always put down a little ice melt on your sidewalk or drive way before the snow hits your area. The Ice melt makes it much easier to clear the sidewalk as the snow does not turn to ice and stick to the concrete.

I did screw up on the wet cat food I buy and keep on hand as I will almost run out before I get get paid and the weather threw a little wrench on me driving to go shopping for groceries. The cats won’t starve as I have a good quality dry cat food mix always on hand for the kitties to munch on, but the kitties do like having a daily treat of wet cat food for their routine. I’m peeved at myself as I did not stock up better on canned cat food before bad weather/roads may shopping more of a challenge.

People in the Midwest and east coast ard getting slammed with cold weather and wintery conditions that are extreme for them. I figure New England people should have well insulated home and a backup heat source. Folks in Texas or the SE may not know how to stay warm in the cold because they never had to keep warm. Staying cool in summer is what they excel at and getting multiple growing seasons from plants. This is not disrespect to any southern folks dealing with the cold this week. This from a person that dealt with staying warm when its cold and the power is out.

  1. Mr. Buddy propane heaters. These heaters cost from $70.00-$180.00 and run on small 1 pound propane bottles or you can buy an adapter for propane tanks that most BBQ’s use. I tested a M. r Buddy heater using a battery powered fan to heat my home at 19 degrees F. I placed the heater in the backside of the house and in 45 minutes the thermostat 3 rooms away from the heater was at 65 degrees. that thermostat was about 50 degrees before I started the Heater. A 1 pound propane tank will last 4-6 hours depending if you set the heater at low or high heat.
  2. I’m a big fan of Kerosene lamps and fuel storage. I’m not a big fan of kerosene heaters as the heaters let off a lot of carbon monoxide while burning. Any heater you use always shut it down while you sleep. Throw on a few more blankets and don’t trust any heater without an exhaust.
  3. Cooking indoors in the cold: Butane hotplates for heating up food. Butane is generally one of the safest fuels to store/ use in doors as the out gasses don’t kill you in low concentrations. They use a butane/propane mix of fuel for campers in cold weather as that fuel mix is relatively safe to use in an enclosed space for short times needed to heat a meal.

You probably don’t need a wood stove in many southern areas of the USA most of the time. But Mr. Buddy heaters and a few bottles of propane can make an cold spell a bit more comfortable. A couple of Butane fueled hot plates can heat up a can of soup, boil pasta or water for coffee and tea. These items are Multi-taskers in they are great for camping, picnics or tailgate parties.

Just puttering around, I’m a bit concerned about food prices going up.

February 9, 2021

I got a couple of little jobs done in the house. They weren’t big jobs, just some odds and ends that can be considered complete and marked off the TO-DO list.

The bed in the spare bedroom was place on “risers” to facilitate under bed storage for Mom. I don’t need that storage area so I added some simple wheels to the bed frame and it was easier to do that I had imagined. The bed rolls across the floor with just a simple push so it won’t take much effort to move the bed when I am ready to start painting that bedroom. The wheels have given me an inch or two leeway in bed placement. I know a couple of inches does not seem like a big difference but in a small room it is very noticeable.

I finally got the blind hung correctly in my bedroom window. These were a “cheap” blind that snapped into place in the brackets provided by the manufacturer. The brackets need a bit of space to allow the blind to SNAP into the holding bracket. I placed one bracket to close to the window frame and it did not have enough room to “flex” and grab the top of the blind. I moved the the bracket about 1/16-1/8th of an inch away from the window and the blind snapped into the holding bracket without a problem.

I cut up the last of the cherry tree limbs using a bow saw. The wood was so dry I was able to break a lot of the limbs into smaller pieces but I had to relearn how to use a bow saw efficiently cutting the larger pieces of wood. Using a bow saw is easy but you have to let the blade do the work and not try and strong arm/muscle the saw into cutting faster. It was not a lot of wood cutting up the cherry wood branches. A bit of kindling and a few larger branches to start a fire in the morning. Two or three days worth of easy start fires with free wood is worth the effort.

I cut up a box worth of kindling for Mom and cut the big chunks of wood for future kindling. I enjoy seeing wood cut into kindling, though it can be difficult to get started sometimes. Mom says she is doing okay for kindling, so any extra kindling I cut will go in my kindling box indoors or into the big box of kindling for next year. Having extra firewood on hand does not spoil. The longer wood has to dry/season the better/cleaner that wood will burn in your wood stove.

I’m a little worried the USA may see some food price inflation this year. I recommend you get your seeds early and plan to get your garden ready as soon as you are able based on your growing season. If you are reliant on grocery stores fore your meats and staple you need to stock up as much as possible.

My local Fred Meyer/Kroger has 3 pounds of bacon for about $12.00 of $3.49 per pound. Not a bad price if you like a salty bacon rather than a sweet tasting bacon. My local Grocery Outlet has 5 pounds of hamburger for $9.00 per tube. I know it is tough to stock up when all your money goes to just keeping your head above water financially. I’m just giving you some ideas about what you could buy on sale for under $20.00. You don’t have to buy everything all at once!

I like ramen noodles and you can buy a 12 pack for about $3.00. I like chicken thighs and in my area the price hovers around $1.00 per pound. Now you buy the sauce be it Tomato based or a bottle of Panda Express sauce or the local store equivalent and you have the makings of a meal. Make up a batch of beans and you have many ways to extend the meal. Nope, it is not easy to make new meals from the same basic ingredients. Now is the time to practice! It is okay to start small for your food storage. I know when I started I got all the prepper stuff done and I had no snacks stored. I like salty snacks rather than sweet and I bought a 12 pound bag of popcorn then I bought an Air popper. Pop corn is better tasting if cooked via oil in a pan but an Air popper is faster, cheaper (using real popcorn) and better than most microwave popcorn. I also have a bucket filled with “fun sized” little candy bars. You don’t have to buy those goods if you already have those goods on hand.

I got the new plant starting boxes early!

January 31, 2021

I bought these plant boxes and heating pads from Home depot and got free delivery. I was a little afraid that the boxes might be flimsy but so far I ‘m very impressed by the strength and rigidity of the boxes and dome covers. The boxes are strong enough to carry out to your garden for planting and the domes are substantial enough to place over plants out side to make a mini hot box/green house that should stand up to a small hail storm.

These staring boxes are not cheap! I spent about $135.00 for the 3 boxes and heating pads along some plant cells for the double box set up. Compared to the Jiffy seed starting plant boxes the difference is night and day. I can get a 2-3 years use of the Jiffy boxes at best before the cheap plastic starts breaking down. I’m not bashing the Jiffy boxes at $8-14 dollars they are a good buy especially for a starting gardener. These new boxes have a lot more height built into the domes compared to the Jiffy garden plant starting boxes. I’m still learning about when to start plants and last year most of my plants grew so tall in the Jiffy domes actually contained/stopped my plants from growing taller and stronger. My hope is I can start/grow plants that can grow to about the same as the plants I buy at the local plant stores.

I notice that the soil around my house is warming up and can be worked or at least is ready to be cleaned up and start prepping for Spring. I need to add some PVC framing around one of the long raised beds but with this mild winter it is nice to get an early start on prepping the beds for planting this year. Don’t get me wrong early planting in my area is starting most cole crops indoor with heat pads/lamps in March. This is a good time to clean out the garden, add soil/compost and get those seeds ordered you want to plant.

I have to clean up my mess of grape vines in order to have room for my greenhouse. It is my fault for letting the grape vines get out of control. If you have grape vines that are out of control the best time to cleanup/thin old grape vines is before they start putting on leaves. I can’t (kill) the grape vines as the more they are trimmed back the more they put on good healthy growth. Honestly cleaning out the old grape canes in winter and early spring produces more grapes in the fall. My grape vines are so thick they are a physical barrier to setting up the greenhouse. I have one more large Garbage bine to fill up with vines that should get most of the space cleared for the green house. Not a big problem but it is an issue and I needed to clean up the grape vines anyway.

I have a 4ft. x 4ft. raised bed to move to make room for the green house. I have some bark around that I’m going to place at the bottom of this raised bed when I move it to the new location. Sort of a modified Hügelkultur raised garden bed.

On the Gamestop/Reddit raid I’m totally for screwing the hedge fund/cooperate raiders that rape and run after destroying a business. Will I play they game? NOPE! I want something tangible and as they say possession is 9/10 of the law and the other side arguing you are wrong. I like buying/storing physical silver. It’s relatively cheap and costs nothing to own. It only costs you if you sell. I bought silver at all prices from $8.00 per ounce and as high as $35.00 per oz. I’m not buying silver to make money. I’m buying silver as an hedge against inflation. I would not mind taking a little bit off profit or paying off my mortgage if silver spikes up, but I’m not counting on that happening soon.

Get your basics on hand first. Food, water and heat. A/C might be a priority in your area but people can adjust to heat/humidity. Cold kills! You might love canning, I like drying food and freezing and that is all good for me as long as I have power. I don’t think that makes me wrong. I have just chosen a different focus for preserving food. The thing is some one will correct in all these areas of preservation and you can trade with others. Don’t get pissy about a certain way to prep. Embrace folks that do prep stuff that is different than you so you will have more options for trade. If some one can smoke fish/pork and you can dehydrate/can/pickle veggies. Why would you get upset about someone that did not follow what you did for preserving food?

Please all people concerned about the Covid please wear the mask, face shield or just stay home if you think the masses of unmasked people will infect you. If you wear a mask/face shield you are protected from those that don’t wear a mask. If you are so afraid of other people not wearing a mask I recommend you stay home. Your feelings are not my problem. Will I wear my face shield in stores and in a public gather place. Yep because I have a compromised immune system. Will I demand other people wear a mask because I have a compromised immune system. No, because I don’t trust other people to keep me safe. I have tools to keep me safe.

It boggles my mind that so many people attack other people for not wearing a mask. But if you are wearing a mask assure you are “safe” from the transmission of the Covid. If you are not safe what is the point of wearing a mask? Why should you care about other people that won’t wear a mask? I can’t imagine non-masking people are roaming nursing homes or stores in order to spread the covid. I’m not a big proponent of masks, But I like the face shields because the offer a physical barrier but you can still see people faces/ reactions. I have not caught the Covid but that might be just luck or it might just be I protected myself based on a rational assessment of my risk.

You can’t control what other people do, all you can control is what you do!

Table storage… and starter plants

January 24, 2021

I got the table from Bi-mart and it was from Viet Nam and not China so I’m Okay with the purchase. What is cool is the storage shelves have different heights. So I tested out a 1/2 gallon Mason jar on the top shelf and it fit! Huzzah Huzzah!

I have always liked the look of using glass containers for storage. I really like the 1/2 gallon jars with the wide mouth lids because I could seal the jars with the Food Saver attachment for lids. It’s a “country” look/display in the kitchen but I am very “country” in what appeals to me. With this table I was able to remove a less than attractive bit of rolling shelf storage and free up a bit more floor space. While the table still dominates the kitchen, getting rid of that small rolling cart does help make the kitchen feel a little bit more open.

Mom left a few tall Bar chairs and they fit well with the new table. The old bar like table was not built for using bar height chair and you always had to adjust the taller chairs to try and make yourself fit the table. For now I have set aside one of the “chairs that came with the table and I’m going with one of Mom’s bar chairs for use at the table. The chair seems to be working better for me so far since I have a bit more room to place my knees and get a more comfortable sitting position.

SW Idaho has had a mild winter and is teasing me about getting plants started early indoors. SW Idaho can fool gardeners into planting outside early in the year. May 8-12 is average last frost date but I have seen it snow as late as 18 May in the last 30 years so protect your plants outside just in case!

I have ordered a starter box that comes with a good size heating mat and 2 seed starting boxes with domed lids for the front bedroom that has a lot of natural light. I ordered a 15 inch wide heating mat for starting plants in my computer room that tends to be cool and I have a UV growing lamp to augment the sunlight I get from one window. I think growing and preserving as much of your own food will be critical in the in the next couple of years. If I’m wrong, then at the very least you have good veggies to eat.

I’m laying out the basics to put up the greenhouse on a good foundation but I’ll need to move a couple of raised beds and cut back more grape vines to prepare for the greenhouse foundation. I was leaning toward a mulch bed “floor” originally. While it it will be more expensive to build, I’m thinking I’d like a wood floor inside the greenhouse for enjoying cooler days in relative comfort. I’m making a big investment of money and time. I’d like to get the maximum use out of the green house.

This might sound a bit crazy but Joe Biden is pissing off a lot of the Unions with his EOs going after keystone pipeline and anti-fracking states that voted for him in the west as well as Pennsylvania, south Texas and other states. I wonder if slow Joe is being set up for the pariah of going full Green New Deal just so Kamala can reverse “some” of Biden’s EO’s in March and April after having Biden removed via the 25th amendment? I don’t like Joe Biden but it is not like the Democrats to piss off union workers or states that went hard democrat in the election. I’m sure the Democrats would screw the Union workers in a heart beat but they usually try not be so blatant.

How about those NG Troopers and how they were treated. You brought in 20,000 troop/ 2 divisions and no one thought abought having a cot to sleep on or setting up tents for first aid or how to feed the troops at least one hot meal per day? While marble floors are pretty and even concrete floors can be okay. I did not see one trooper with a sleeping pad or a sleeping bag, never mind the non-existent cots! Yes I’m a bit peeved. What NCO/officer forgot to tell the troops to bring a sleeping bag and pad at a minimum? Where are the warming tents? Hot KP tents issuing at least one or 2 meals per day?

I know being a soldier is not meant to be easy. For gosh sake these troopers deployed to DC in the USA and they don’t have a cot to sleep on? I’d be happy if the troopers set up tents with heaters all around DC with KP setups feeding them food. I’d like troopers to have at least a sleeping pad an sleeping bag in DC. What are you doing NG when you don’t give your troopers a packing list that includes a sleeping bag and pad?

This should go without saying but all people need to eat, drink water, sleep and poop and if you can’t do that safely for your troops you are a failure as a leader! Don’t blame the upper ranks. Stand up for your troopers. You states that sent the NG to DC and see how they are treated… Bring the NG home and don’t help the Federal government that treats any state citizen so badly.

Good job Biden administration: You have shown exactly what you think of the US military, The National Guard and every family or friend that can talk to a member of the National guard deployed to DC.

Personally I think Biden will go all EO and Double down on the liberal/socialist agenda. Then Joe Biden will be removed via 25th Amendment and Kamala will revoke the EO’s that don’t poll well with Americans and she will be proclaimed the “savior of democracy”. Never mind the USA is a Republic.

Update on the tea kettle cleanup

January 17, 2021

I can’t believe how good looking the tea kettle is now! The kettle looked very rusty coming out of the vinegar bath. I rinsed and let it dry naturally and on one section I rubbed the kettle with a little bit of lard. I wanted to see if adding lard would help clean up some of the rust before starting more aggressive methods of removing rust. That spot seemed some what promising so I used paper towels to rub down the exterior of the kettle and then placed the kettle upside down in theoven set at 550 degrees F. for 45 minutes to do the standard cast iron cure/bake.

The exterior of the kettle looks good. It has blackened up and no rust is visible nor is there any flaking of the new finish. There is still some sort of “goo” inside the kettle. I have seen this “goo” on some old cast iron pans. It is like the worst combination of grease, wax, dirt combined and very difficult to clean up. I tried boiling water for about an hour, changing the water once but the “goo” is still in the kettle. It is not a big deal as the kettle looks great and can sit on my wood stove as an humidifier. I really want to get the kettle clean out to use as a tea kettle. Plus I’m learning how to recondition old cast iron.

I have a couple more options to try out for the kettle. I need to clean my stove and the grills from my BBQs. I have a self cleaning oven that heats up well above 700 degrees F. and literally turns all burnt on stuff to ash. Perhaps that high heat will remove the “goo” and the worst thing that happens is my oven and all my BBQ grills will be clean.

If you use this method of a “curing” cast iron there will be some smoke and some hint of vinegar aroma coming from your oven. I used a high acid content vinegar of 20% for the first bath of the kettle and used a mixture of 20% , 5% and hot water for the second bath of the kettle. The high acid vinegar is very pungent and can make your eyes water and nose drip if you get a good whiff of it. Masks might be needed when working with it. Open windows, use the oven vent fan and there will be a little bit of smoke and vinegar aroma in the house. I won’t say the smoke and aroma was bad just that it was noticeable.

I recommend moving away from Amazon for shopping. While some small businesses are on Amazon exclusively many have there own websites ready for shopping. Many people say boycotts/buy cots don’t work in the long term. What does it hurt to try and find alternate methods to pay people directly if it only takes a couple of clicks on the internet. Many people set up an Amazon sales account for ease of use, but they also have an internet store front in addition to the Amazon store front. I’m good with doing business with anyone that subscribes to the “Don’t be an asshole or bitch” and don’t cheat me. A simple and easy way for any business to operate.

The National Guard in DC. This seems very strange that 2-3 divisions of the Army and some air National guard have been deployed to Washington DC. Without regard to feeding or even providing cots and a place to sleep. Weapons are laid against the walls of congress and there seems to be very few people guarding or securing weapons. I was in the NG and Active Army as an NCO. But we planned Field training exercises about two years in advance. I served as an Unit Armorer and we had all weapons stored in a Steel shipping crate in the middle of a National Military training area and not out in the open in a major metropolitan area!

I already see terrible weapon security in the halls of congress. Weapons leaned up against the wall and troopers/soldiers asleep and as far as I can see no guards. I have heard that the troops have weapons ready to shoot to kill and that no ammo has been issued because the Politicians don’t want an incident.

I don’t know, I was involve with deploying folks to Ruby Ridge, LA riots in the National guard. We got little info other that The Government said we THIS THAT AND THE OTHER THING and WE NEED IT RIGHT NOW!

These aren’t bad people in the National Guard. Most probably signed up for some college money and help their community in a disaster. They don’t get a choice where they are deployed. Here in Idaho 300 NG have deployed to Washington DC for what? You have 2-3 divisions worth of NG in DC. In Boise the Schools are closing campuses and going into lock down. The US postal services is removing Blue collection boxes for some reason.

None of this Government reaction makes sense. It is way over the top of reactions. Stay home, have a BBQ. Get stocked up on your favorite beverage, snacks and ignore the inauguration. I think the best reaction is to have no reaction at all and simply go on with your lives as normally as you can daily. I have a little plant starter kit that looks like a good buy. I’m going to work on the foundation of my green house. Clean up my garden. I have plenty of jobs and recreation to keep me busy.

Kindling, cleaning some or garden beds and cleaning a tea pot

January 15, 2021

We have had a couple of nice days to get some work done. I got all of the Xmas lights down and put away in the basement. I like using the clear plastic totes for storing items because it easy to see what is in the storage box. Plus those boxes fit on most storage shelves. I don’t have a great prepper “porn” set up in the basement. The area is much cleaner and I have more room to store/find stuff more easily.

Mom picked up a couple of good size boxes of kindling the other day. I think she has been over working and she started feeling the same. Nothing critical but Mom needs to reduce her physical work load a little bit and take some time to heal up. I’m very happy I was able to give Mom a couple of large boxes of kindling to help her out. Mom found a box of kindling in her shed that she had forgotten about, so with the mild weather we have had this winter that should get Mom about 4-6 weeks of her kindling needs this winter and I got to clear out two big boxes that were on the front porch. There is a lot of space on my front porch to use. I’m not sure what I want to use it for besides just a place for my freezer and my fire wood rack.

Back to the stored kindling idea. Perhaps I’m a bit slow and everyone that heats with firewood already cuts a lot of kindling before the wood heating season. I’ve never read anyone talk about splitting up a lot of kindling before winter firewood heating season. Cutting and splitting wood, but nothing about having a bunch of kindling ready to go before the wood heating season starts. Having boxes worth of kindling already cut and ready to go has been a huge blessing for myself and my Mom. While cutting kindling is not hard work it can be tedious. It makes more sense to cut a bit of kindling ahead of time in good weather rather than cut kindling when you need it. When you need to cut kindling tends to happen during unpleasant weather.

I use an 18 in. x 12 in. x 12in. box of kindling about every 1-2 weeks depending on the weather. I use less kindling in very cold weather as I keep the fire burning as long as possible. In warmer weather I use more kindling because I let the wood fire go out and have to restart it at night. I think there is a restriction on a lot of people that don’t want to take kindling from some one that does not have a lot of on hand kindling. Even though the person says they can cut up more kindling! I love my kindling box and it still has kindling wood that should last me at least a couple of weeks this winter. How many times have I cut kindling this winter? ZERO even with helping Mom with a couple of boxes. Even if you guess wrong about the amount of kindling you use in winter. You can always cut more kindling when you need it. Preferably in good weather.

I cleaned out the big raised garden beds. The plant cages are cleaned up and most of the leftover plants were pulled up. It has been an oddly warm winter in the treasure valley. I looks like some of my onions are starting to grow in the raised beds in January. There has been freezing weather but the plants are still coming up. I’ll need to move one 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed to make room for the green house. I also need to clean up the grape vine canes that are out of control. I’ll be setting up the greenhouse out side the back door with a southern exposure. This is the area that gets maximum sunlight in my backyard. A good thing I did not set up the green house on my first chosen spot.

I doubt most people can grow all the food they need on a small city lot if they own the lot. If you are a renter you are stuck with container plants. Remember ever bit of food you grow, eat or preserve is less food you have to buy in a store. Every plant you grow is a victory for three reasons 1. You learn you can grow a plant. 2. You learn you can eat that plant and 3. You can preserve the food of the plant or the seeds and the knowledge confirmed “you can garden/raise food” you can eat! When you see a plant grow that you planted it is thrilling to me to know I made that life happen.

I’ve been working on cleaning up an old cast iron tea kettle. I have it a soak in vinegar and while the inside is full of gunk the outside is looking very rusted. In a way I think the vinegar did clean the surface area though it left it looking a bit rusty. I’m not worried about a bit of surface rust. I just want to make it the tea pot clean of goo inside and out. I can cure a cast iron pan so the tea kettle should be simple over time.

If you are not allowed to win why would you play the game? I recommend anyone displeased about the Biden presidency to stay home and not acknowledge the inauguration in any form what so ever. Play Yahtzee or Fortnite or watch a dvd like Blazing Saddles and ignore the incoming administration. Biden might be the President but I don’t have support his administration. Don’t get riled up, just stay home and not play the game,