Back to work on a beautiful day

November 17, 2013

Just about perfect day here in SW Idaho. Sunny and about 50 degrees can’t ask for a much nicer day in the middle of November. Supposed to be another nice day on Monday so I have two good days to work on the yard and get stuff done.  Had to do a little work on the garden cart as two of the tires won’t hold air very long. I tried out a small bottle of Slime to seal the tubes to see how it works out. My neighbor says he has a much better product that lasts a lot longer than Slime that he will get me this week. I’ll try it out on my wheelbarrow and give you an update on how the products work. I think having stuff on hand to repair tires could be important if the SHTF even if the repair is short term in nature. He also recommended staying away from getting  solid tires on my “trike” as the solid tires are very hard on the rims and can warp them.  Since he is a bicycle mechanic/restorer I think I can trust his judgement.

I got three buckets filled up with wood and started on a fourth one.  I still have three more I want to fill and store on my front porch so I have a few days worth of wood just in case I have a couple of ” bad days” when I can’t cut up wood.  The wood stove is working out great.  I have not had any problems with the spark arrestor clogging up and stopping the draft for the stove pipe.  I’m trying to burn my wood the smart way and so far it seems to be working.  The wood I got is dry and seems to burn clean so that helps out a lot.

I got out the little chain saw and it need the chain tighten and some oil added but since it is electric that was about it for maintenance. This spring I will get another chain and get the current chain serviced. I don’t use the chain saw a lot but little preventive maint. now will save a big repair later.  I cut up a little cherry wood and the saw did fine but I need a better set up for holding the wood while I cut.  I think making a saw “buck” to hold the wood should be fairly easy and I have the wood on hand though I need to get a bit of hardware to put it together.

I got the lawnmower out and mowed/mulched leaves of 3/4 of the back yard. That part of the yard is the worst for leaves so I think the rest should go pretty quick. Got the leaf blower out just to blow the leftovers over to the compost pile. I’ll use the vacuum/mulching  attachment that will cut everything very fine and add that to the planting beds. Monday is supposed to be another nice day and I can finish picking up most of the leaves in the front yard.  I have a lot of trimming/cutting I want to do to clean up the front yard and make larger planting beds for berries and herbs.  The trimming should make the front yard a little easier to take care of in the long run.

I want to finish up all the little odds and ends of yard work this week so that when the supplies come in for making soap next week I can focus on learning the soap-making process.  Mom found a great deal on some shea butter locally so we have local suppliers for most  ingredients, though a few items we will have to order over the internet.  Overall it was a very good week!

Just a nice easy day

November 15, 2013

Mom and I hit a couple of fruit stands and took a nice little drive out in the country.  Not looking to buy so much as to check prices of what was available plus an excuse to get out of town.  One fruit stand had closed down but is still running it’s winery and we tried out a couple of different wines. I want to get a bottle or two because it was very good, though I’m not a big wine drinker. Mom thought the wine would make good gifts for the holiday season and the winery was running a special if you bought 6 bottles or more I think they took off 10% or more.

The first little market we hit had great prices on apples and squash. We each picked up some red onions and I got some sweet peppers, but it was only a few of each. I think both Mom and I are kind of tired of doing any more food preservation at this time.  We have plenty of projects to keep us busy without adding anything more to our to-do lists. Did a little research on the soap and possible candle making Mom wants to do with the beeswax.  So far it looks like we will have a great product at a very competitive price. We are going to be small and  home based for awhile,  but we are hoping to have product ready to go for a few holiday markets.

Drove out to the orchards and stop by one more fruit stand and they had fruit woods in container that held about a quarter of a cord for $50.00.  I could borrow Dad’s truck and start adding some hardwoods to my wood pile a little at a time.  A big plus is it looks like the wood will fit in my stove with no additional cutting.  I am not sure how much wood it will take to last a cold winter and the wood I have now burns hot and fast.  If I could add some hardwoods, that would have a perfect wood pile for heating. I would like to have next year’s wood pile all ready to go before I need it next year.  The fruit woods are very good for smoking meats and just plain ole BBQ cooking and I want to try making my own bacon and curing hams.

I can’t get to crazy planning ahead because the debt ceiling will hit again in Feb. of 2014 and who knows what kind of idocy the PTBs have planned for us.  Getting the soap making/Beeswax business going has priority but I could afford to get a bit of the wood at $50.00 each month that would keep cash out go to a min. per month.  At this point I am saving enough on the electric bill each month that  $50.00 can be counted as part of my forecasted electricity budget numbers.  In order to plan and budget properly I need the PTBs to come up with a long term solution rather than a 2-3 month stop gap plan. I doubt I’ll  get that wish, so the next best thing is to stay as flexible and adaptable as possible.  You may not be able to buy as much in bulk to get the best price, but you will have the cash on hand short term that can protect you from some of the PTBs stupidity.

Did not get everything done I wanted for Grid Ex II

November 13, 2013

I got some of the normal pre storm checklist done and my cell phone and kindle were very low on power.  Keeping those devices charged is one thing I am bad at doing regularly.  I have extra USB chargers for the car, solar panels and my power paks so I do have a backup system of charging but keeping them charged is something I’m working on. I have been wanting to make up another batch of Porter so it seemed like a good time to get it done. I used a Black malt in place of the dark malt and I think it will add a bit more flavor when it is finished as it smells really good. I bottled up the wheat beer, not that I need power for that it was ready to go and I figured why not get it done?

I got the kitchen cleaned and all the dishes done and used the rotisserie to cook  a nice pork roast. The roast will be easy to reheat and make quick and easy  meals. The rest of the house did not get much attention, and while I got some laundry done. I did not get the vacuuming or bathrooms cleaned  like I normally do for the check list. Not a big deal I’ll just keep working on the list. All the batteries and flashlights seem to be doing okay, but since I tend to run through my checklist every time there is a major storm anywhere in the USA they get checked several times a year. I did get a big loaf of the Artisan bread baked today so that is done and I can make up a quick meal without electric power.

I did a little shopping, Paul’s had advertised some canned chicken 2 for a dollar but it turned out it was a misprint. Not a big deal as the hardware store I needed to stop at is right next door to Paul’s and I needed to pick up a little drain cleaner anyway. While I was at the hardware store the had a nice carbon monoxide detector, electric with a battery backup that I picked up for $16.00. That covers the house for alarms related to the wood stove and backup heat sources. I got a replacement wick for the Kerosene heater as the old wick seems to smoke and smells very strongly of fumes even after I trimmed it. A kerosene stove might smell a bit on start up or shut down but it should not smell much while in normal use.  My kerosene heater has been moved to a backup heat source and not a huge priority to fix right away, but I think it would work great in my shop to warm it up and since the shop is not insulated or air tight I don’t have to worry about the fumes.

I did a little price comparisons for soap ingredients and what other “homemade soaps” cost at a local natural health food store. A bit more expensive than Amazon but it does give the business a back up distributor if needed.  I did find some real Ceylon cinnamon for my herbal medicine kit, for maintaining blood sugar levels and all the other things that cinnamon is good for treating.  I have to say they had a very good selection of whole spices and herbs that can’t be grown locally. I stopped by the Beer lady and got a 15 gallon food safe water barrel along with a recipe for an Oat meal Stout that will be the basis of one of the soaps I want to make for the business.

If you didn’t get everything done on your test don’t beat yourself up! I think the most important thing is to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and taking steps to correct flaws or things you may have missed.  I had bad day with my CIDP that slowed me down, but you could have a cold, the flu or healing up from an injury so things take longer than usual. The disaster isn’t going to hold off or stop just because you are not feeling 100%.  So you just have to prioritize and do your best, I think you will still learn something on what you can get done ahead of time and where you will have to focus your energy.

Getting ready for Gridex II Nov. 13-14 2013

November 12, 2013

From what I understand is this will be a simulation of a massive grid Power failure that could happen via EMP/Solar Flare or a cyber attack. It is supposed to involve over 150 agencies from Canada, the USA and Mexico and makes it one of the bigger tests/simulations that I have heard of happening.  From what I understand is food distribution will be a focus point of the simulation not just the lack of power to the grid itself.  There does not seem to be any plans of physically shutting down the grid in any way, but more of a test of how the utilities and agencies will react to a massive power outage.

It is a good idea for you to do a test of your preps for a long term power outage that at least would cover a bad winter storm.  How far you want to take the test is up to you but I think doing your pre-storm check list would be a good start. You have one day’s notice that a fast moving storm is coming and you can do whatever you want to prepare if the power is out for a few days to a couple of weeks.

A few things to consider if the grid goes down for 10 days:

  1. No banking or the use of Credit, Debit card or even checks. Whatever cash you have on hand will have to last you for ten days at least. Smaller bills will be best and be able to make change. Cash will be king! Got any bills due that you can pay ahead  via the Internet? While that may not seem like a big deal it is one less worry for you.
  2. Gas pumps don’t work without electricity at best some gas station might have a generator for 24 hours after that forget about it. What you have on hand is what you will have to use. If you haven’t tried filling a car or generator with the new gas cans you are in for a mess.  Get extra funnels and those pump type siphon hoses to reduce spillage. Fill up as much as you can afford on the 12th.  I need to get another siphon hose myself for transferring from gas cans to my generator.
  3. Without electricity the city water system will stop. They won’t be able to get fuel for the backup generator either so you will need water on hand and while the water still flows you need to fill every container you got that will hold water safely. Fill with cold water and save the hot water tank as a reserve. You could check out how much water you could have on hand using whatever you already have that holds water. Then just dump the water into your washer so you don’t waste it.
  4. Lights: it will be very dark so you will need lighting for long winter nights. I like kerosene and LED flashlights and lanterns. Of course you need fuel and fresh replacement batteries for those items. If you use lanterns do a test, make sure wicks are trimmed and you have fueled up your lamps. If you are using a gas/propane lantern, check the  mantels and have some for backup.  You can get some great head lamps that clip to a baseball cap brim and you will be able to work with both hands. These cost as little as a$2.00-$5.00 and are great to have on hand.  Cut up some extra wood and have it standing by to use or if you use propane/kerosene for a backup heat source have it ready to go.
  5. Sanitation, I think most toilets will work as long as you have water to flush the toilet and pipes don’t freeze. Have a porta potty or bucket ready to go just in case.
  6. First aid you will need the basics for minor injuries and even just aches and pains. With people spending more times indoors you may have to deal with the cold or flu. Have medicine and the basics to support a sick person or two. Illness can spread very fast, be ready for it. Hospitals will be a madhouse and after a couple of days with out power they won’t be able to do much more than you can at home to support a patient. Think about gloves and masks as well as OTC meds on hand or homemade remedies. Do you have extra prescription medications on hand?
  7. Food and cooking,  keeping food cold won’t be a huge problem but having a few big camp cooler will help maintain temps. and avoid freezing. Cooking will be whatever alternative you pick for you back up from a butane burner, camp stove. These can help augment the heat in your house. Never use an outdoor grill indoors and turn off all stoves when you finish cooking. Do not run any heater overnight  for safety reason as well as saving fuel. Dress in layers and use extra blankets to stay warm. If you use electric blankets make sure you have backup blankets/sleeping bags.
  8. Make sure everything is charged up from cell phones to any other gadgets like radios or rechargeable batteries and power paks. Test out your extension cords and make sure they are in good condition. This time of year I tend to think of a snow storm or blizzard being the most likely cause of a power outage so having salt for melting ice, sand for traction and knowing my snow shovel is on the front porch ready to use is my thing for prepping.
  9. Clean the house and get all your chores done while you still have electricity that makes it easier to get done. If you bake bread,  bake a couple of loaves extra to have on hand in case the power goes out and the electric stove doesn’t work.
  10. Last but not least think about non-electric entertainment such as board, cards and dice games. Books, crossword puzzles, Sudoku or word find and brain teasers.  My kindle has great battery life and there is nothing wrong with using battery powered electronics for entertainment but if the grid goes down because of an EMP or solar flare/Carrington type event those gadgets will probably be “bricked”.  There will probably be plenty of hard work available for anyone that is “bored” so don’t be afraid to use that if someone starts to get a little “nuts” being disconnected electronically.

I know that what I have covered may seem like a lot to get done in just a day, but it’s not to much for anyone to do and you don’t need a lot of money for most of the items. A stop by your local dollar store and you can get most of the 1st aid items, flashlights some batteries and some of the brainteaser on crossword books along with dice and a couple of decks of cards.  Most of the items you get won’t expire and you will always have them on hand if needed.  If your car has a half a tank of fuel, you could top off the vehicle tank and rotate your fuel cans then fill the cans for the generator if you have one on hand.  Let’s say you stop by the local mega-mart and do some shopping a little earlier than normal for you. You are going to eat, use gas and need at least some OTC meds this winter so you are not wasting money just getting what you need a little earlier than usual and you are will fairly well prepared for any winter storms.

We Met Our Goal In Fundraising for Rob

November 11, 2013

I want to thank all of those who gave both money and prayers. This is an testement to how many great people are in this  blog community.

Odds and ends this weekend

November 10, 2013

The buying of soapmaking equipment went very well overall. I got a couple of good deals and the work area is starting to shape up. You all might know denimflyz from her blog and her comments here. Well she got my aunt’s goats milk soap and loves it! One of the best things about learning the soap making from my aunt is that she doesn’t cut corners or quality. I think we will have a competitively priced product with our soap making and while we hope people will want to buy it, the backup plan is it will be something I will store and use in the future.  I saw an interesting crock pot go on sale at Fred Meyers/Krogers this week,  it has a built in mixer. A little pricey at $55.00 but it might be worth the cost if we have several batches going at once.  I got several small (1.5 quart) crock pots on sale at the end of summer. I figured they might make nice gifts or could be used for barter, but it looks like at least one of those little crock pots will be used for melting the “super fats” needed for soap making. Mom is getting into the soap making too though she and my aunt are letting me lead the way so to speak for this business. In a way I think it is a good idea, if not super efficient we will have a lot of redundancy and one failure point can’t stop production.  Mom has Fibro and I have CIDP so with our disabilities we need to make sure we have extra redundancy for our bad days.

On to the wood stove and how it is working out.  It’s actually working out even better than I imagined from energy costs to how much better I feel not dealing with the electric central heat kicking on and off all the time.  As of November my wood is paid for just from the energy savings on my electric bill. If I wasn’t trying to start a new home business and stay somewhat cash rich for the next budget battle in DC after the first of the year I could have plowed those savings into paying off the stove loan. While the  wood I bought will not burn overnight, once the house is warmed up it’s still quite comfortable to wake up to the mid to upper 60’s.  One good thing about the wood I bought is that it does burn hot and is easy to start a fire. If I can start adding some longer burning hard wood I will be set for the rest of the year no matter how cold it gets!

A little bad news is I think I have a cracked tooth, hidden cavity or a molar is  impacted in a way I can’t see.  There was a some swelling and possible infection I cleared up with brushing with baking soda and rinsing with Hydrogen peroxide. While most of the heat/cold sensitivity has gone away the pain is still happening and facial nerves can be quite uncomfortable when stimulated.  I’ll have to find a good dentist as the VA does not consider any dental work health care for Vets. I’m not suggesting anyone avoid dental care, in fact you should get any issues treated as soon as money allows but you can use some home made products to treat an minor infection and I think adding clove oil, aspirin and even something like Oragel or the generic equivalent has a place in you home healthcare/first aid kit. Since I have been studying up on uses for beeswax, I found out that beeswax has been used as temporary fillings in the past.  Believe or not straight baking soda is actually less abrasive than most commercial toothpastes, and babies with teething pains can get on any ones nerves if you have to bug in, never mind any whiny family members with a a toothache.  I believe any infection should be treated aggressively as soon as possible before it needs anti-biotics that may or may not work.

Focusing on the soap and I need to catchup on the preps!

November 8, 2013

I finally tried out the new ceramic baking stone for my artisan bread. I have been a bit lazy on the bread making getting other stuff done so this was the first try out of the stone. I like the results and the stone is so large I could do a couple of loaves at a time. For the 5 minute artisan bread I usually do about 1 pound loaves so they are a bit smaller than most bread recipe loaves.  I made a four of the mini-loaves for Mom. She like the bread and has a bread maker but she can’t use up a whole loaf of homemade bread before it goes bad. A forum buddy at GTA recommends slicing up your homemade bread and storing it in freezer safe bags for things like French toast and such to get the maximum use from your bread. Single slices can be used in the toaster or used in cooking as it will thaw fast in single slice portions.

As of the last update for Rob:  Pioneer Preppy from “A small hold blog” says they are up to $400.00 in donations. That is fantastic and a great testament to the community of bloggers that we have! The goal is $1000. 00 by the 15th on November and Matt has added a $50.00 Wal-mart gift card as a gift to the biggest donor.  It’s easy to forget that there are many great folks out there ready to chip in with a little something. It might not be a lot individually but it adds up quick and we know we are just giving a hand up and not just a hand out.

I stopped by my aunt’s place and got her basic soap recipe along with some goat’s milk for about 40-50 bars of soap. I want my homemade beer soap to be my focus but it’s nice to know I can make a bit of goat’s milk soap over the winter. My aunt gave me a heck of a deal for the milk because I gave her some of the spent beer grains and some oats I had in storage but changed my mind about after using the steel cut/pin oats I prefer storing now.  The basic soap recipe is looking a lot like your basic beer and bread recipes as in once you get the basic ratios and techniques down you have a lot of room for doing your own thing and put your own little twist on the product that makes it unique.

I know it is very easy do get all doom and gloom and heading into winter makes it all that much easier because of the weather. Speaking only for myself,  I’m actually a bit stoked at how much I have accomplished this year and what I might make happen next year. Will it happen I don’t know but if I tend to be a very optimistic person. Give me a big pile of crap and I will start looking for a pony and if I can’t find a pony I see that big pile of crap as free fertilizer for my roses and garden.  Hell, if it was easy everyone would play!

Is it possible to have to many food grade buckets?

November 7, 2013

In theory I suppose it is possible but I haven’t found that magical number yet!  It seems my local grocery store is selling food grade buckets again and for only a dollar each.  Last year they were $2.50 each and the store often rationed the buckets. I love saving money, but I don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling that folks are not preparing more.  These food grade buckets are great multi-taskers from food  storage, water collection, filtration and storage to making a container garden.  I have a bad feeling that many folks have prepared a little bit and think they are protected from a disaster and all they have really done is create a false sense of security for themselves and their families.

Then again I doubt I would ever be classified as a typical prepper as I am working towards having a seven year stockpile of the basics of  long term goods that store for 10-25 years.  I think many people tend to be a bit to optimistic about how things will return to “normal”.  I don’t think many of us have clue just how difficult life will be if the it truly SHTF.  Just staying alive will take most of your energy and time. I don’t know how a person can prepare mentally for that eventuality, but there are steps you can take that may help mitigate how badly you are effected. Or time for you to come up with a plan without the worry of having enough basics on hand.

Of course my circumstances are somewhat unique because of my disability.  I think it’s better for me to store more ahead of time because I’m not physically capable of the daily physical work needed to grow food or haul water and all of those minor little details needed for survival. My skills,  knowledge and tools should help make me a valuable contributor to any SHTF group. While I may not be able to do heavy physical labor I could feed all those young strong healthy types that can do the work!

There is so much we take for granted here in the USA. Safe drinking water alone takes a lot of work, energy and a good roadway/rail system to deliver the chemicals to treat water.  Yet most water treatment plants and sewage systems have about a two week supply on hand of chemicals. The backup generators and pumps may last 3-7 days at best and without fuel they will stop. We tend to depend that any disaster will be small and local and the rest of the USA will rush in and help but in an economic collapse or Solar flare/killshot/EMP type event that may not happen.

For myself I don’t feel I am wasting my time, money or energy because I’m actually saving money and energy. My time is spent learning new skills and doing research which happen to be things I like doing anyway! Working my way towards self reliance and telling the PTBs to “Bite me” is worth the effort!

Oh, darn Rob needs a little help! Updated

November 7, 2013

You all might know Rob from his Rob in his Bunker blog

Well he has had a heck of a year with a move and now he is officially homeless getting by in a motel which is not cheap and they have a daughter with a baby waiting to be born on the 17th of this month. While they are working on getting a place they could use a bit of help getting the cash together for the security deposits and credit checks and I guess now landlords have added a criminal background check in his state.

Pioneer preppy at is offering some of his honey for the biggest donation. I’m a little cash poor myself but I will add two gifts for donations. A .999 pure 1 oz. of silver round based on the old Buffalo/Indian head coins and a 50 round box of .22 long rifle to those that make a couple of biggest donation.  I’ll let the guys sort out how to award the gifts.

Sad to say we will probably see more of this sort of thing in the future. I also think we have a great community of people and we can give directly to a person in need and bypass all the PTBs nonsense and take care of our own.  If you can afford to donate a couple of dollars please do what you can. If you can offer your prayers please do so and let Rob know that you are doing what you can. I’m a big believer in the power of prayer and there are times we all need little help.

Update: I forgot the postal consider ammo a hazmat item. But the Silver round will be my donation!

Been a little busy at Casa de Chaos lately

November 5, 2013

Well I shipped off the first order of soap and also made a local delivery of my aunt’s goat milk soap.  I can’t tell you how exciting this home based business idea is  for me.  I have tried a couple of other ideas for a home based business but they never really worked out for several reasons.  Mainly I wasn’t passionate about the products or even earning a bit of cash. I lacked motivation for those other business ideas and now I have a passion for the product that I make myself and some great motivation of the PTBs cancelling my disability check.  A big advantage of the soap making and cleaning beeswax is even if people don’t buy, I end up with stuff I need for prepping and self reliance.

So Mom and I have been shopping the thrift stores for basic equipment, checking out product prices locally and the internet. As well as doing classes via youtube and doing some book research to put out the best product we can make at home.  I’m doing my best to not get crazy and buy a bunch of gadgets and geegaws that don’t serve the higher purpose of becoming self-reliant. I don’t think having a couple of extra pans or crock pots, spatulas and measuring cups bought on sale or at the thrift store will break my budget.

I think in way that God has been sort of directing me into doing this business.  Oh nothing big like” burning bushes” but just little nudges of “hey, this is a good thing to buy” or “you may need this item a latter on”. Oh I suppose you can call it luck or coincidence, but I think it’s God pushing me along.  I’m not getting cocky, I have read the Bible and he uses anything and anyone for his purpose from con men to tyrants. I want to stay as humble and as inoffensive as possible when thanking God cause it’s not me, It’s his purpose.  I hope it doesn’t sound arrogant but I believe all of my life knowledge and challenges have led me to this point. What I’m doing now is my calling in life, what I was meant to do.

Anyway enough of the metaphysical claptrap as some non-believers put it. I got another 50 pounds each of wheat and corn(saved $3.00 a bag) and I even managed to get it in the house on the same day if not in the 55 gallon drums.  We got a few flakes of snow today here in the valley and a bit of snow on the mountains. While the weather isn’t working out so great for building the solar generator. I am getting a better idea about how much wood is needed for the stove.  My aunt froze a bunch of goat’s milk for us while she goes to AZ. and plays sunbird. We are getting a great deal on the goat’s milk from my aunt so I can’t complain much.

Big Lots is having a one day sale on Hamilton Beach crock pots for $15.00 on Wed. the 6th so I want to pick up a couple of them for soap making. I’m working on the soap making/melting beeswax work area and a few other odds and ends for the basics. I think by the end of next week I should be ready to go for the business.