Making more beer when it is hot outside

June 29, 2013

Idaho is having summer temps in the triple digits. Not unknown as this is high desert though it usually cools off more at night. My timing for making beer kind of sucks but it needs to get done. I’ve started doing an iodine test of the  starch conversion and so far I am getting a good conversion at 60 minutes. That saves me both 30 minutes of time and energy by getting the wort started more quickly. You can guesstimate and follow a beer recipe but having the equipment to test your beers can make things easier, faster as well as producing a superior product. I recommend keeping a beer journal for recipes especially if you are experimenting with different hops and yeasts. Keep track of your dates  and the alcohol content and if you like a beer and what you liked on the taste.

I’m starting to back off on how I use some the hops going for a milder flavor instead of the “Hop Head” beer recipes you often see online.  If you like hops have fun but I’m moving towards using the same amount of hops but just a 60 min. boil of my wort. I still get a nice hoppy flavor but it’s a bit more subtle.  Today I’m using up the last of my Bellma hops for an English style Ale that went over so well with many of my local beer testers/lovers.  This will be an entry in the county and state fairs.  I got my German style wheat beer done with Tettenger Hops and I’ll enter it in the fair, but it’s just a nice summer beer that is easy and pretty fast to make compared to most all grain beers I have done.

I’m trying out a new Lager type recipe using a hops called Zythos that has more of a citrus flavor instead of the sweet flavor of the Bellma Hops. My basement is just about the perfect temp for fermenting both lagers and ales. A little on the cool side for ales and a little on the high side for lagers but well within the temp. range of the yeasts that I use. I have made some very nice lagers and my beer lady asked how I do it?  It seems that many folks have a difficult time getting lagers at the right temp and giving them time to work.  My beer lady told me not to freak out if the air lock doesn’t bubble, sometimes the fermenting process is just not energetic enough to move the air lock. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening!  Use that Hydrometer to test your fermenting  buckets after five to seven days. I have had a few buckets that I thought would be a complete duds as far as the air lock bubbling but they fermented just fine when tested with the Hydrometer.  Trust your nose and your taste and if you drink beer you know when the smell or flavor is “off ” after you make a few batches.

I just follow the basic recipes, I try to stay consistent and watch my acid content of my hops. I make sure I sanitise properly and hopefully just do simple beers very well. I don’t like adding ingredients just for the sake of making the simple, complex. Making a few very good, yet simple(easy to brew)  beer as perfect as possible is my goal.  Two of my favorite breads consist of just three or four  basic ingredients. I can add whatever I like but the basic recipe is the same. I really like simple stuff in my life!


Looking back it’s been about five years since I started prepping. Long post

June 27, 2013

Of course I didn’t know it was called prepping when I started out after I got out of the VA from my illness. I just knew it sucked having my Mom have to do my shopping as I had no food in the house and it would be a couple more months before SSD would start paying my disability. That was an extreme wake up call of going nearly eight months with no income and I would have lost everything if not for my parents helping me out. As it was, I lost enough to realize many of thing I was making payments on were not mine but belonged to someonelse when the payments didn’t get paid.  That’s when I decided I would never be in that position again and started on getting prepared!

I suspect I followed how most people begin prepping buying food and stuff. I was still thinking like a consumer rather than rejecting the mindset of what got me into problems in the first place. I often read or hear people say the just need more time to buy more stuff.  Like if you store a magical number of months of food you get a “Get out of Armegeddon Free card”. I don’t think it works out that way and I know that I had a major shift in how I bought after I reached the six month point of  storage. That’s when I began to see a huge savings in nearly everything I bought because I was no longer paniced as I had a good start on everything and I could afford to wait for sales on the stuff I needed. I think many people think three to six  months is good enough and never get to see the massive saving you can get after you have reached your magical storage number.

If you are waiting for a sign or a date to start preparing or getting self reliant your looking at the panic buying and that’s when you decide to pay the highest prices if you are lucky enough to find a store with anything left on the shelf. All of the things you buy are simple tools for survival.  I hope if you shop for a hammer you try to get it on sale and don’t have a panic attack if the store runs out of hammers. You get a “rain check” and wait for the hammer to arrive at the store. If you missed out on that hammer you just wait to get the best deal you can and get by with your old hammer!

I did get blindsided by the “Guns and Ammo panic” after Sandyhook,  as Jan. 2013 I had planned to get started in reloading ammo. Nothing special, just the timeline for that goal and I had just set aside some cash for getting more of the components for making bullets. That money was just spent on other stuff on sale and I had enough bullets on hand that I could afford to wait for the prices to come down as we are already seeing with guns.

So much of what passes for finacial/economic education is complete crap. I was taught back in the mid 80’s I had to have a good credit score so I could use a credit card for an emergency. Now according to the latest Visa commercials  you are somehow stopping the entire economy by being so gauche to pay cash or write a check!  They always call it credit which has a nice positive sound but it is really debt and it’s what is starting to destroy the world economy. Debt is indentured servitude at best and slavery at it’s worse as I see it now!  I used Mary Hunt’s debt proof living to get rid of my debt and I really like her use of percentages of income for your budget. Dave Ramsey has a really good program that works very much the same with his “debt snow ball” and baby steps. Getting out of debt is simple but that does not mean it is easy,  but it is so worth the effort it takes.

When I first started on getting out of debt the first thing I did was look at ways to cut my budget. That meant cutting my costs anywhere I could afford it and always looking for more savings.  I stopped going out to eat and started baking from scratch instead of buying ready made food from the store. I went down to the lowest cost Sat. TV package and did not agree to a contract so I could cancel at any time. I did the same for phone though my parents wanted me on a cellphone in case I needed to call for help so they put me on their plan and I pay for the extra “Line”.  I got magic jack for my home phone for $20.00 a year because I kept my internet connection.  I got cheap on power especially eliminating vampire loads via power strips and turning off power on the switch on all electronics. I was surprised by cutting off those vampire loads I saved about $5.00 per month on my electric bill and I live in a low electric cost area. I bet you could see a lot more savings if you live in an are with high electric costs, and every chance you get to cut $5.00-$20.00 a month is huge amount you can dedicate towards tools for prepping or paying off your debt, and all you have to save that money is flip a switch.

The crazy thing I noticed is some friends and family will be a little peeved at you for prepping and getting out of debt. Some how you will become the “crazy, paranoid, fearful” person  and just a little unpopular with them.  I wanted to share just how well I was doing in my own little way and show them how they could do what I do and be at peace like I am. Don’t do it! They don’t want to hear how you can do it and they want to stay in that little bubble they have created. Call it normalcy bias or willful ignorance or the “Denial phase”.  Until they are willing to take the first steps to  break out of the “Matrix” all of your advice will fall on deaf ears.  Your actions will speak louder than any words.  If you drop a few hints around, for those that ask.   Be a bit of tease or matter of fact statements on how you are doing. To “woo” them so to speak to the idea you will get more participation rather than nagging or trying to pound the idea into their heads. If your family or friends are anything like mine, once you tell one person they will all know what you are doing even without the “social networks” of the internet. Remember how do you lead a pig?  Tie a rope to it’s back leg and pull in the opposite direction you want to go!


Massive energy investment begining at my little Casa de Chaos Part III

June 25, 2013

Long term goals: I don’t write about petrol- fueled generators much as I don’t see them as a long term solution to self-reliance.  Those generators can work as a short term solution for perhaps a week or two.  That will buy you some time and there is nothing wrong with that unless you think there will always be fuel available to buy when you run out. I know standing in line with a bunch of cranky and perhaps desperate people for gas is not something I want to add to my life to-do list.

I’m not saying those generators are bad or evil. They are a normal backup for most folks that go solar.  I myself have 2 gas  generators on hand and while I don’t use them much they are a bit of a security blanket to know I could use them if I needed too.  But those generators are not a part of my new energy plan! Based on where I live in Idaho my new energy plan will focus on wood for heat and cooking and Solar energy for most electrical items.

Wood and solar energy are much easier to come by in SW Idaho than any other fuel,  based on logistics.  I think wood will be the easiest fuel to replace/restock compared to something like propane or gas. Solar energy has a big start up cost and batteries will need to be replaced but I hope to get by long enough for the system to reset and start up again in five to ten years and hopefully I’ll survive that long. The immediate benefit is that I can control my energy use and not have the PTBs decide they don’t like me and shut off my power.

To install my wood stove I’m looking at a cost of about $1200.00. I will have professional install it to make sure it is safe and up to code. My first purchase will be the wood because in a long term disaster wood becomes instantly valuable and the longer wood dries usually the cleaner it burns.  I will be getting mill ends to start and then add apple and cherry wood trimmings from the local orchards for hardwood. That should give me some flexibility in the type fires I can make between a fast hot fire or a slower burning fire. I will be getting all the stove pipe and wall protectors next for safe installation and the the wood stove unless I find a great buy this summer.  I have a propane oven and heater as a backup for when I don’t want a wood smoke smell coming from my house though wood heat is used a lot here in Idaho.

My solar powered generator will cost about $1000.00 when it is complete but I can buy each item as I can afford it.  I have all the parts for a small 60 watt system that is a start on a little bit of  electrical power. One thing nice about the AGM batteries is they tend to have very high amp hours compared to other 12 volt batteries. The AGM I got is rated for 55 amp hours and has none of the out gassing that lead acid batteries have, so I can run the generator in the house safely.  By building a solar generator I will have the flexibility of using it with my RV or with the house. I will use a small hand cart to move the generator around because those batteries are heavy. My plan is to start with a small 1 battery system on the cart powered by the 60 watts worth of solar panels and a 1100 watt inverter then I will build a second with 2 batteries,  a 100 watt panel and a 2000 watt inverter. That should give me some flexibility as well as some redundancy in case something breaks.

I know the up front costs of getting the wood stove and solar power can be a little intimidating especially if you are on a limited income like me. But what I like about this plan is you can by a little at a time and pay cash and by starting with the wood you have a valuable trade item immediately even if you have a disaster or the SHTF before you finish getting the stove.  It’s the same for the small solar generator each of those items are valuable even if you just use the solar panel and inverter with your car battery or on a RV out camping or tailgating. As for the wood stove the heat from it just feels warmer to me compared to electric heat. It’s probably because I love the sight and smell of a burning fire and goes back to the days when fire meant life and kept the “wolves” at bay.

 

 


How much do I need to store or what’s the magic number?

June 25, 2013

There all kinds of numbers out there for how much you need to prepare. Anywhere from 3 days (FEMA) to seven years (Bible). I believe that six months is the bare minimum for storing most of the thing you need to live daily. That should get you from growing season to the next even if a disaster happens in fall or winter you should have stored plenty fuel for heat/lighting, water to drink and food to eat that will last into the late spring.  I could save a lot of money shopping once I hit that six month’s of storage and could shop loss leaders at the mega marts. It’s a lot easier to buy a 25-50 pound bag of beans on sale when you know you already have plenty of toothpaste, toilet paper and food items you need in your pantry.

FEMA recommends 3 days, now when have you heard or read about FEMA or any government agency actually showing up at a disaster in just three days? That just a few assessment teams if you are lucky, with no supplies at all. Some of the FEMA teams will just call the local “Waffle House” in the south and based what they supply depending on if Waffle House is serving a full menu or not!  No, I’m not joking from Wiki:   According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Waffle House is one of the top four corporations, along with Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and Lowe’s, for disaster response.[22] Waffle House has an extensive disaster management plan with on-site and portable generators and per-positioned food and ice ahead of severe weather events such as a hurricane. This helps mitigate the effects of a storm on the power grid and the supply chains.[23] The ability of a Waffle House to remain open after a severe storm, possibly with a limited menu, is used by FEMA as a measure of disaster recovery known as the Waffle House Index . I ain’t too impressed with FEMA as you can tell and 3 days is a complete joke as far as prepping is concerned unless we are talking about a BOB or your GHB(Get Home Bag) in your car and I still plan for at least a week.

The LDS consider one year of storage the absolute min. amount of food stored if I understand them correctly. I’m not a member of the LDS church so I might be wrong but,  I think 12 months should be your first major goal after you get your six month start on prepping.  I consider 6 months just a start on prepping as that is when you start to see the benefits and 12 months will get you through at least one bad harvest and see you survive to the next harvest.  You read that correctly 12 months is only the first goal!  I  mean everything you need to live from growing some of your food, harvesting water to creating energy and learning the skills needed to be as self reliant as possible. I have had a terrible harvest on my garden, critters will die for no apparent reason, the car’s transmission will crap out or a medical bill will pop up when you had an injury or disease. These things you can’t control any more than you can control Mama nature. If you start prepping and becoming self reliant you will have time to think what you will do next without the worry of where your next meal is coming from or will you have heat and a way to cook.

The last goal is from the Bible and it is seven years. I don’t think the number is quite as arbitrary as I once thought as a story telling device. I am a Christian and I believe the bible is the word of God as well as a fairly honest look at humanity for better or worse.  I started wonder why in the book of Genesis  Joseph in Egypt told the Pharaoh to store seven years of food for a famine and actually ended up saving his family and brothers who sold him into slavery. This number is repeated in Revelations as well in the tribulations. Here in America we have had a massive drought in the Midwest going on it’s third year with no relief in sight. The Dust Bowl that hit the plains back in the 1930’s lasted seven years and many cycles in nature tend to be seven years in duration.

I know seven years may seem like an impossible goal and guess what it I think storing everything you need for the next seven years is impossible.  But you could start becoming self reliant by getting water barrels to collect water, have a water filter and learn to purify it with just a few tools. There is no reason you can’t do like I’m doing and store basic long term storage foods like rice, beans and grains in 55 gallon drums. Even stored in silos, grains can last a few years under less than optimal conditions. They stored the grains in Egypt several thousand years ago during a famine I think we can do so as well with all we have learned since that time.

You will need to add in your garden, fruit/nut trees and bushes a way to cook and all kinds of other skills that you can barter or trade that will stretch all of your “stored supplies” a bit longer. No one person or even family can do everything that’s why us humans built tribes, clans and villages as well as some people that were revered and paid for special skills. Kellene at Preparednesspro.com calls it “Peace through preparedness”. Just ask yourself do you feel more peace and less stress when you pay all your bills and have a bit of cash leftover or when there is an emergency/disaster and you come up short on paying for your basics and have to rob Peter to pay Paul?


Massive energy investment begining at my little Casa de Chaos Part II

June 24, 2013

Now bringing the heat!  I really like solar because it will collect energy with no input from me besides my initial set up and cost.  I think you should work with the sun collecting heat passively in the winter and mitigate it in the summer. But solar energy sucks when it comes to powering any heating or cooling appliance unless you can afford a very big solar panel array and a huge battery bank.  So you have to go old school and look at wood and oil based products for staying warm.

My home is all electric  from light to heat,  hot water to my air conditioner and since I live in SW Idaho and most of our power is generated by Hydro dams, power here is very cheap compared to the rest of the country.  But I have no control over my power!  With the addition of smart meters I’m at the mercy of the utility and they can literally cut me off at anytime if they feel the need.

How many of us have seen a public utility beg the average customer to save and conserve and as soon as the customer saves and conserves the utility hikes the rates because “they” aren’t making enough profits? That doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about any utility companies.  So you need to have a back up plan for basic power and heat not just in a disaster, but for everyday life so you can control your environment.

For backup non-electric lighting I recommend Kerosene or paraffin oil lamps.  Not perfect, but with the use of mirrors to reflect the light it will do the job. Figure on storing about a gallon per month for a year and a little extra just in case. I store 15 gallons in mostly 5 gallon cans. In the summer you probably won’t use the lamps at all, but in winter you will use the lamps quite a bit and that should give you at least a couple of hours of good light to get stuff done.  If you read the post about using solar yard lights for night lights and charging batteries for flashlights you can be alright for lighting. If you make a small solar generator like I am doing you could add one low wattage light to the mix. Remember you don’t get as much sun in the winter so I would never depend on solar power in the winter.

Next comes staying warm as well as cooking and heating water. I started out kind of on the cheap side but propane is great for heating and cooking. It is one of the safest fuels to store and most people have used it via gas grills or with camp stoves. Now those items are fine for cooking you don’t want to use them indoors heating your house. For heating I would recommend the Mr. Buddy type heaters.  The Mr. Buddy heaters are chock full of safety equipment and sensors that make them safe for indoor use.  I have tested mine at 20 degrees F. and 0 degrees F. and they will keep a well insulated home at 50-65 degrees F. and a 15 pound tank will last about 5 days at 0 degrees outside and you turn it off at night. The Big Buddy Heater comes with a fan to circulate the heat and you will feel warmer if the heat is pushed out from the heater. These are all numbers based on my real world tests at the temps I had in winter in Idaho.

The Mr. Buddy heater costs about $80-$100 brand new and the average 15 gallon propane tank is about $45-50 filled with propane. It may not seem all that cheap to start out from having no back up heat source you control, but once you have the tanks they are much cheaper to refill. I have not found a cheaper,  more effective or safer backup heater than the Mr. Buddy type in all my five years prepping for low start up costs.  Don’t be cheap on being safe for heating and lighting. Getting dead because you didn’t pay attention basic safety precautions is as dumb as playing tourist during the Rodney King riots.


Massive energy investment begining at my little Casa de Chaos Part I

June 21, 2013

Okay it just massive for me, overall I’m planning to spend about $3,000 over time. I have looked at the cost of going with alternate energy and it is very expensive to replace the power for everything in your home. But unless you are relatively wealthy or building your own home with alternative energy features you are stuck retro fitting your house and most people can not see a way to make that happen within the budget along with all the other things they are prepping and doing to become self reliant.

Like everything I have done so far I look to accomplish a specific goal. I then start working on little goals that work towards accomplishing the “Big Goal”. You all know that life will occasionally try and kick your butt as you prep.  By having on overall goal and a bunch of small independent steps that can be attained quickly or stopped quickly when that demon “Murphy” shows up in your life has worked very well for me.  It’s not the fastest way to reach your goal, but is very flexible  and has a small start up cost.

My latest purchase of the motion detector solar lights is a very good example of a small start up cost and it will yield a small yet tangible result of lowering my electric bill by replacing some big  security spot lights in my yard.  After doing some reading from cops,  motion detector lights are more of a deterrent than big bright, always on spot lights to the bad guys.  The lights cost about $19.00 at Amazon and I got free shipping so you can order one or two and you get a start on solar lighting around your home.

I ordered a solar battery charger for $25.00. We all know how AAA-D cell type batteries always run out of juice  just when you need them. If things do get bad in a disaster there will be no going down to the local mega mart to buy more batteries as they will be sold out. Another way to have batteries is solar yard lights. Most of the lights I have bought have one or two AA or AAA batteries and you can buy them for as little as a dollar. You can charge those lights in a south facing window and use them as a night light or take the batteries out and run a flashlight or a small radio.

Your car is really big generator, though  it’s not an efficient one. But in an emergency you can use it to charge batteries, cell phones, laptops and even some small 12 volt DC appliances. I have a 12 volt cooler/ warmer in my car I can plug into the DC outlets. Add a couple of the USB charging adapters and you can use your car battery as a charging station. I have a small solar panel I can use to trickle charge my car battery. While it isn’t fast I have seen it charge a dead battery after a few hours in the sun.  A very useful item to buy is one of those portable jump-start battery packs. Most have an air compressor, light  as well as jumper-cables and a small DC/AC inverter in the 200-400 watt range. The new one I bought can be trickle charged via a small solar panel.  The old small one I bought used does not like being charged via DC power,  but I have ran a 12 volt fan for almost 48 hours on one charge and it had no problem running my router and modem for a couple of hours during a local power outage.  Now that I have used these little “power packs” I think everyone should have one as part of the car “Emergency kits” especially if you do winter driving.

You can get into solar energy fairly cheaply and see immediate benefits from saving energy costs to providing safety and security right away.  While the 12 volt cooler is a nice little gadget for tailgating or keeping soda cool without ice for most people. It could be an absolute lifesaver for a person that needs to refrigerate medicine but can’t afford to invest in a generator or solar/DC fridge.

For less than a couple of hundred dollars you can buy everything I have described and I have bought myself for my preps.  If money is tight start with the solar lights from $1.00-$20.00 depending on what you can afford. The little 12 volt DC cooler/warmer I got at Big Lots for $20.00.  My biggest cost was the “power pack” at $110.00 at Sportsmansguide.com. When you consider you are basically buying a car battery, a set of jumper cables, air compressor and a 400 watt  inverter in one package it is pretty cheap.  You might checkout the local pawn shops I have seen these little “power packs” for $50-$60.00 at my favorite pawn shop.

I was kind of impressed how many folks in the aftermath of the  Sandy storm set up charging stations for small electronic or used their cars as generators by adding an inverter for keeping the household powered up and working in a small way.  If you have not priced inverters or those small power packs lately I think you might be surprised at how much they have come down in cost and just how good a job than can do to make any disaster a little bit easier to go through.

This will cost some money because you are basically starting to replace the local power plant/utilities. You will have to make some sacrifices as you are gaining control of your own energy use.  But you will be sitting like a fat cat in a disaster because you are ready for it and you will control your energy not some public utility or the government.  Do you want control over your food, energy and water or do you want to trust the government?


Day started out a little rough but I had a good day shopping

June 20, 2013

Started off the day with a bad case of the dropsies and forgot to set the coffee maker to brew.  Then spilled the coffee grounds while trying to make coffee and that stuff is to expensive to waste so needless to say it was less than  stellar  start to the day.  After the rocky start it seemed to get better and I was a little surprised that the hands started working better as the day went along.  After the walk my niece cut my hair and it nice to hear that she is doing the Dave Ramsey get out of debt thing and buying with cash instead of credit cards.

Stopped by the coin shop and they had a couple of 1 oz. silver coins I picked up.  Then off to the pawn shop and got three boxes of 9mm and three boxes for sasha.  I’m finally seeing full ammo shelves at the little pawn shop and they have super at keeping the price low when they get ammo in stock. Only $17.00 for the 9mm an $8.00 a box for sasha.

Went out to fill up at the real gas station and it had dropped to just under $4.00 a gallon. Not great but I will take what I can get even if it is a couple of pennies per gallon.  Plus it’s good for me to get out of the city even if it’s a short little trip.

The Amazon order was mostly solar power stuff.  Four of the motion detector porch lights some connectors for the solar panels and a solar battery charger. That should get me started on solar generator. I want to add a couple more batteries to get me up to 150 amp hours total,  a 2000 watt inverter, a 100 watt solar panel and a 30 amp controller. With the 60 watts worth of solar panels, the 1200 watt inverter I already have on hand I should have a pretty solid setup to run my electric items in a limited way.

Went to the Macy’s outlet store and got a start on the Xmas shopping.  I got 3 different fleece caftans that come with a hood, one size fits all so I’m covered for whomever I have to buy a gift.  I’m focusing on ways a person can stay warm around the house with out cranking up the thermostat. I already bought up a lot of colorful t-shirts for summer and staying cool. Now I just got to listen to them talk and see who gets what and if I need to adjust the gift list.  I got a new mattress pad and two new pillows for myself.

No luck on getting the water barrels this week but the beer lady says she will set back two for me next week.  With that,  I will count myself as ready as I can be for water and have a little extra to help out the family.  Most of want help other prep but at a certain point I think you have to stop and focus on yourself once you got a few of the basics set aside for them.