Laundry and stuff

January 30, 2014

The vinegar did not help the musty smell of some of my dish clothes and towels. I was very impressed how well the vinegar worked as a fabric softener so I thought I would try out a couple of ideas for laundry.  I’m trying out Marilyn’s suggestion using a borax soak for my whites/cotton towels and washcloths. I used a bit of hot water for this test as I normal wash in cold water. This gives the test the best shot of working.

I’m also doing a test of how well my clothes dry by the wood stove.  I don’t  normally use a lot of stuff for the laundry other than soap and cold water to wash my clothes. I’m not against clean, fresh smelling clothes but costs are a factor and many of the chemical fabric softeners and fabric treatment tend to be either hard on fabrics, the environment or both.  I’m a conservationist not an environmentalist. I figure we all should do the best we can using resources wisely as it saves money and it means our future generations have something to use to stay alive!

I was a bit stunned by how much electrical energy I saved by flipping the circuit breaker of my hot water tank and by not using the dryer during my five day no tap water test.  I know those appliances are energy hogs but it was staggering to see how much they cost to run. I figure those appliance are at least 20% or higher of my total electric bill.   If I can have nice fresh smelling, clean and comfy clothing while drying my clothes indoors during the winter I will do the work to make that happen!  Plus if you want to go with solar energy as you primary energy source. Reducing your total electric use is a big part of making a good transition.

The drying the clothes by the wood stove worked out great and went much faster than I thought it would take for dry clothes. The vinegar fabric softener made the clothes almost as soft as going through the dryer. Using the dryer on no heat tumble dry would finish up the clothes nicely. I’ll keep an eye out for another folding drying rack and clothes line setup for the future.

I was playing with the TV and wondered why I did not pick up more of the local digital channels. It helps the antenna work better if you actually plug it into the TV! The TV now picks up over 20 local channels using a small indoor antenna. So between the Roku box, DVDs  and antenna I have a very good selection of TV entertainment and I’m not missing the dish sat. at all, especially the monthly bill! I’m surprised that I still find ways to save a little money.  Though I tend to buy equipment and have to look at a longer term payback for my savings.


Got some shopping done for myself and Mom.

January 28, 2014

Albertson’s had some great deals on meat this week. Nice sirloins for $2.99 a pound, pork blade steaks for $1.49 a pound and some chicken thigh and leg quarters for .88 cents a pound.  So I loaded up on all three and grab Mom a bulk package of each for freezing.  I think it going to be critical to your food budget to search the ads for those great deals and “loss leaders” to keep your food budget as low as possible this year. I have manage to keep my food budget around $125.00-$150. 00 per month and put a few bulk staples away for long term storage, even I might have to add a few more dollars to the food budget this year. California is in the news for it’s Drought emergency, but most of the states west of the Rockies are suffering from drought and here in Idaho we have a lot of farmers and ranchers that contribute to the nation’s food supply and food will get more expensive.

If you can take advantage of the lower price now and look at adding different food items that may do well even in this wonky weather. Rice prices look stable and sugar has come down a lot in the last 12 months. If you put off buying those items when the price was high it would be a good time to add them back to your shopping list.  It looks like coffee prices have dropped a bit and ground coffee will still be good after a couple of years if stored in a cool, dark place.

Start thinking about growing a garden even if it is in big pots or look at foraging for some wild  foods and hunting. Things like lettuce and a few herbs grow well in a window with good sun.  With some of forecasts of a head of lettuce going for over $5.00 each this year. I can’t think of a better time to start a garden and learning to grow at least some of your food.  A packet of seeds will set you back a couple of dollars at most and even if you only grow a few heads of lettuce at $5.00 each you will have paid for your seeds,  the container they grew in and gained a lot of knowledge on growing plants for food.

Get rain barrels and if you can get them daisy chained together to collect as much water as you can if you are in a drought area!  Start getting your water storage plan active and plan how you can collect more water! Not having water and depending on the government is a very bad plan, just ask the people in W. Virginia or the people that have had pipes freeze during this “Polar Vortex”.  Don’t count on river and streams,  if you can’t touch it or stand in front of it to protect it, it ain’t yours! The PTB’s may still try and take it from you but at least they will have to work at it.

Fuel or energy you got to have some and best that you get several types. Propane is skyrocketing price in the areas affected by the “polar vortex”.  There isn’t a shortage of propane in the USA, as much as there is a local supply problem transporting propane and a lot more people are using propane to keep warm in very cold temperatures east of the Rockies.  I haven’t heard about a kerosene shortage or price gouging in any news stories. Yes, propane is better on BTU s , safety, storage and ease of use but kerosene/heater  is a good backup fuel for any prepper and relatively safe to store. This too shall pass and this spring/summer I bet you will see all kinds of small propane stoves, kerosene heaters and possibly generators show up and pawn shops, thrift shops and yard sales.  I would not be surprised that you could buy a stove that cost $150.00 retail go for $5.00-$20.00. Heck in my local pawn shop they have a 4000 watt generator for $90.00 and those are usually about $400.00 and up in price.

It is tough right now, but stay calm and work your plan. Look at the challenges you are facing as a test of your preps and take notes. Get that savings plan and your yard sale list ready for this summer so you can take advantage of those things that are cheap so you can pay for those things that are getting more expensive!

Woo Hoo! I have tap water again.

January 27, 2014

It wasn’t easy but I finished up the 5 day no tap water test without completely losing my mind or succumbing to exhaustion.  This water line isn’t going to freeze because the city code requires it to be buried 42 inches deep. That seems a bit much even for our winters but it’s almost done. The plumbers will be back to finish up the last of the back fill in the morning.  I will take it easy for a day maybe two and then I’ll catch up some of the weekly cleaning chores and start re-filling my water barrels.

One thing I want to mention is my 5 gallon camp jugs seemed to leak a bit around the spigot. A little bit of plumbers tape on the threads of the spigot did a great job stopping the leaks. Plumber’s tape is cheap and easy to use so adding a roll the toolbox is a good idea.  I will have a few more ideas and helpful hints for everyone once I have a chance to recover physically and evaluate how I could make things easier if the water is turned off for a longer period of time.

I don’t think many people know just how much work going without tap water is for more than a day or two,  I know I didn’t when I started my first water test. Though this test was easier it is a lot of work to move the water yourself. All I did was keep the house going if I had a garden that would have added a lot of work even with my rain barrels. Going without a sewage system is something I don’t want to think about as far as additional work.  I don’t want to see any kind of collapse though I think it is going to happen. I know disasters can happen to anyone and knowing you have things on hand and have tested has helped my confidence that I can things short term at least and gained the knowledge so that I can help others.

In a collapse I’m certain I can handle whatever comes my way for the rest of my life, however long or short that happens to be.

Only 24 hours to go on the water test. I hope!

January 26, 2014

Heading into the the last 24 hours of the test. Dad thinks  the plumber should get everything done by 3:00 PM on Monday. The RV is parked out front so the plumbers have plenty of room to dig the trench for the pipe.  Using the collapsible rain barrels need to be re- thought as the have bonded with the pallet I had them sitting on. I will empty the barrels once it warms up and add 2 to the RV for water collection in case of bug out and store the other in the shop that I’ll use for any last minute rain storm in addition to my rigid rain barrels.  It looks like the Ice house idea is a bit of bust for this year but I’ll keep thinking how I might be able to save some ice in the future.

Tried one of the little siphon hoses with the water barrels and while it worked, be prepared to age  filling a 5 gallon camp jug. I’m adding the small siphon to my BOB  it should be fine filling a water bottle.  I tried out some food grade plastic tubing that is a 1/2 in in diameter and it quickly filled a camp jug or stock pot. If you are using 15 gallon barrels or larger I would get some practice siphoning the water and use a large diameter siphon hose to make the water transfer go quickly.  Watching a bucket fill with water has to rank close to watching paint dry!

I’ve been taking a bath in the morning and while it use a lot of water I have put it to good use flushing the toilet. The water test shines a light on just how much good water is wasted to flush a toilet. I have seen some systems that diverts the drain water from a sink to flush and it’s something to think about doing that would save both water and money.  I didn’t go into ration mode doing this test as I wanted to see how much water I would use if I kept my day to day life as normal as possible and I figure I’m using an average of 15 gallons per day. It seems like a lot of water when you compare it the  standard of a gallon a day that most preppers/ FEMA recommend but 15 gallons is a small amount when you consider the average American uses 100-300 gallons a day.  Since I will be able to refill my water barrels and use the sewage system so the high usage isn’t a problem. If I had to go without the sewage system or I was unsure about replacing the water I would go to my 1-3 gallon a day plan.

Overall this water test has gone much better than the first one I tried to do.  The wood stove has been a huge energy saver for heating water. The two igloo jugs have worked out well as a backup hot water storage tank and last but not least using the 15 gallon water barrels and five gallon camp jugs have worked for moving water around efficiently.  I am looking forward to Monday and life getting back to normal because  things easier  on this test is not the same thing as easy.

With the West Virginia chemical spill and California declaring a water emergency having a solid water plan and making it work is critical.  Hopefully you can get some ideas that work for you.  Learn from what went right and what went wrong from my little test.  I feel much more confident on handling any short term water emergency and I can keep my life close to normal.

Life just keeps moving along.

January 24, 2014

I’m trying to think more gratefully about Dad helping me out with this little water problem.  I would prefer to pay as I go rather than add another debt to pay off but since this will happen anyway,  I might as well be thankful and a bit more gracious towards Dad.  Before the water pipe went bad I had redone my budget counting up some savings in order to payoff the wood stove loan ASAP.  I’ll just keep doing my normal wood stove payment and knock out the water main debt as quickly as possible instead.  Looks like the kindle fire will have to wait a little longer but that’s okay I have a couple of other items I wanted to get before the kindle anyway.

I did find a great deal on a slightly used Ruger 10/22. The rifle looks brand new and cost only $180.00. I put $35.00 down and the owner will hold it until the end of the month when I get paid. The Ruger will finish up the last of the basic guns I wanted for any SHTF type event.  I have a small order for Amazon of another Baofeng SW transceiver and the small Sawyer water filter. Paying the big water bill next month put a bit of a crimp in my original spending plan but once that bill is paid it will be out of my hair and I can rework the budget for paying off Dad.

Latest news on the water test is trying out the Zodi battery powered water pump portion of the camp shower.  The water pressure from the pump is on the low side but it gets the job done. I had no problems with the pump drawing water and I think it worked pretty well considering the pump is only using 4 D cell batteries (6 volts) for power. Instead of using the complete Zodi Camp shower I used bit of clear hose and a bucket of warm water and it worked fine.  Having 8 rechargeable D cell batteries and one of those solar battery chargers would be a better long term no power solution than a bunch of  normal D cell batteries.

The no tap water test is one test I think everyone should try even if it is for just a couple of days. Loss of water is common to a lot disasters, most wells don’t work with out electricity and as many folks hit by the cold weather this year freezing pipes are no fun at all.  My  broken water pipe and turning off the water has more of a minor inconvenience rather than a major challenge because I have stored plenty of water and the equipment that  makes moving water a lot easier on me physically.  You will be under enough stress as it is anything you can do to make life a little easier before a disaster will help you mitigate that stress.

Five days for this water test

January 23, 2014

Dad decided he would pay a plumber to replace the main water line from the meter to the house and then I could pay him back.  I hate this solution because I’m trying to do stuff for myself and I hate going into debt even to my parents, but I can’t win this fight as Dad has bypassed me and got everything going with the plumber already and I get to stand by while he “helps me”.  The plumbers will be out Monday and should get the new pipe installed in a day. Dad hasn’t told me the cost yet but I figure it will be a couple of grand at least.  No reason to bang my head against the wall on this situation as all I get is a headache and it annoys the wall.

On to how the no tap water thingy is going for the first 24 hours. I am a little muscle sore from moving the water but not like my first test which left me feeling completely exhausted. I’m not rationing my water other than by how much work I can do physically each day.  In the first 24 hours I used about 25-30 gallons of water since I didn’t really plan on going without tap water. I haven’t used paper plates/disposable products so I’m doing the dishes by hand and I managed to have enough hot water via the wood stove,  stock pots and igloo jugs I was able to have a hot bath this morning. I left the water in the tub to use for flushing the toilet via an old square laundry soap bucket that holds enough water for a couple of flushes.  Recycling your water from a bath to the rinse water from doing the dishes cuts down on some of the heavy lifting.

Tonight I made up a big batch of rice and for good rice you need to rinse it before cooking so I added the used rinse water to flush the toilet bucket.  A couple of empty buckets in the kitchen and bathroom makes recycling the water a lot easier. I am doing my dishes in a couple of small dishpans rather than the sink so I can add that rinse water to the flush the toilet bucket.  I can’t flush the toilet after every use but flushing it at least 3-5 times + a day is very doable. In the summer time I would  flush less and use some of that water for my plants or trees.

The wood stove has been a huge energy saver both physically and electrically. I can set my full stock pots on the lower part of my step top stove and have plenty of hot water in the morning.  With the two igloo insulated jugs I have about 20 gallons of hot water ready to go when I wake up.  Tomorrow morning I’m going to try out the Zodi Camp shower but I’m just going to use the pump in a bucket of hot water,  not the propane heater part because of the carbon monoxide risk using the stove indoors is a big NO GO.  The pump for the Zodi water heater is slightly to large to fit in the 15 gallon water barrel bung so I have to use a bucket or the igloo jug as the shower’s  hot water tank.

The 15 gallon water barrel seems to be just about the perfect size for my water storage and ease of use.  I have some of the large 55-60 gallon water storage barrels, but the 15 gallon barrel can be move more easily with a small  dolly into the kitchen or bathroom from it’s storage spot. It’s simple to siphon at least 10 gallons of water into a couple of the big stock pots or 5 gallon camp jugs for easy access and the last 5 gallons of water can be hand poured into a bucket or jug.   The half gallon plastic pitchers are working out great for adding water to dishpans and other smaller tasks. It might take few pitcher’s worth to fill containers but the weight is low enough (four pounds) that nearly anyone can handle that amount of weight.  If I was to recommend a basic water set up per person I would recommend one 15 gallon water barrel, one 5 gallon insulated igloo drink jug,  one five gallon bucket and one 1/2 gallon pitcher. I’d leave the igloo and 5 gallon bucket empty but fill up the 15 gallon barrel.   That would give each person a two week supply of water always on hand. The igloo jug could be filled with either hot or cold water depending on need and the season and the 5 gallon bucket could be used for gathering in rain water or as a potty bucket. Add a good water filter and that would give you a great set up for your water preparation that could fit in a closet and take up very little floor space.

One last thing for water is I keep a two gallon Rubbermaid insulated jug of hot/warm water by the bathroom sink. This jug isn’t as well insulated as the igloo type jugs but it works great for hand washing or brushing teeth and that sort of thing.  Good sanitation and hygiene are critical in an emergency or disaster. Having people balk at hand washing because the water is cold is a very bad thing. It’s a little extra work to fill up the small jug but it can payoff big time in no one getting sick from a filth disease.

No tap water test for ? days

January 22, 2014

It is my house that is running the water not the city. I have turned off the water at the water meter and flipped the circuit breaker on the hot water heater so I can stop the leak until I can find out where it is coming from.  Dad went though the house and he can’t find the leak inside so that means it is happening under the concrete slab of the patio or shop or it’s the sprinkler system. I have no clue about how the sprinker system runs because I never used it.  This will probably be a very expensive repair.

So I activated my no tap water plan and so far it seems to be going very well. I got all of the laundry done last weekend so I don’t have to worry about washing clothes for 1-2 weeks depending if I want to go with smaller loads or a a big load.  I have the Zodi propane camp shower in the bathroom for tomorrow and one of the big igloo jugs is filled with warm water for tonight and I will fill up the second big  igloo with hot water for the morning. I don’t think I will need to use the propane for the camp shower just the pump and the hot water from the big stock pot heated on the wood stove should work fine. I have a smaller two gallon igloo jug in the bathroom with warm water for hand washing and an extra bucket for my rinse water tubs to flush the toilet.  The wood stove and igloo jugs will take the place of the hot water heater so I  will probably see a small savings in my electric bill.

I cheated a little bit by getting the laundry done, filling both of my big stock pots and topping off the pet’s gravity feed water bowl jugs.  Just in case I was the one responsible for the excess water usage. I think Dad is a little concerned about the water being shut off but I’m not worried about the water as I have plenty on hand. My biggest concern is my physical energy levels having to move the water around mostly by muscle power.  I have a dolly and my garden wagon that will help with moving water around, so that will save a lot of physical energy.   If it becomes difficult I can always turn on the water main for a few hours and get any critical jobs done using the tap water.

This “situation” does have few upsides since I turned off the water main I can buy the parts and between Dad and myself I think we can replace a few old valves that are iffy. Remove the non-working dishwasher and replace it with the portable dishwasher I have sitting in the shop.  I can replace the old laundry hoses and make sure I can those valves turn off if I need to in the future.  I have older toilets with the big tanks and I could install new guts into that should make them good for years to come.  I think we  may have to dig a few feet down to find the leak.  I did want to setup the village outhouse idea and depending how much digging we need, I could get a couple of other projects done that require deep holes/trenches. I know this will be harder than normal but I think you should always try and find the positive thing you can do when life gives you a challenge.  Hopefully the city water department won’t get all “butt hurt” with me turning off my own water supply.

I can pay the high water bill when it is due with just a little adjustment.  Paying for the repair job is going to take a bit more work. I think I can pay at least some of it but we will have to see how everything shakes out. I’m not worried yet, peeved and annoyed with the situation but not worried!

A $600.00+ Water bill?

January 19, 2014

Either someone really screwed up reading my meter or I have a leak somewhere and I can’t find it! Since Monday is a holiday I won’t be able to contact the water dept. but if Dad isn’t busy I’ll have him turn off my water main and see if the meter still runs. My toilets seem fine but I’ll get a little food dye and double check for any leaks.  I have check the pipes in the basement and don’t see any water or leaks. It’s a bad time of year to check the yard as the snow has been melting  so it is saturated with water.  That being said I can’t see or feel an extra squishiness in the yard anywhere.  I have never turned on the sprinkler system but I suppose that could be a failure point but I don’t think that is it. I hope it is just a billing error but best to check out my stuff as quickly as possible and it’s not like I can’t get by a few days without tap water!

I got the laundery done” just in case” and added some white vineger to the cup for fabric softner. My towels and wash clothes have had a sort of musty smell after a couple of day’s use. While I haven’t tested to see if the musty smell is gone,  I was surprised by how much softer my clothes felt coming out of the dryer. I will update on how well the vingar does on the musty order as I try this out.  I finally finished up my laundry detergent bottle so now I can clean it out and use it as a handwashing station. This is one of those big bottles with a spigot and vent cap so it is just about perfect for the job. I would not use the laundry soap bottle for cooking or drinking water but for washing up I think it is fine.

Canceled the dish network and talk about getting the hard sell to try and keep me as a subscriber. I was offered all kinds of stuff from reduced payments or extra programming. Of course I wasn’t on any contract so dish didn’t have a lot of leverage.  I dismantled all the cables for the receiver box and it is ready to ship once I get the postage label. I shut down my laptop that I used to connect the phone to the receiver box and unplug  a a couple of TV related items so that should help a little on electricity costs.  I actually went through some of the programing offered from Amazon and Roku and I’m pleased with the variety offered. This is about as close as you can get to ala carte programming right now.

One bad thing is now my internet connection is critical for entertainment, news and  information as well as my house phone.  I have a cell phone along with some other backup communication stuff. A couple of shortwave and AM/FM radios along with plenty of books and DVDs so I think I have enough backups to get by without internet or power.  I figure if the internet goes down for the awhile, things are will be pretty bad and I will need to move to low/no power items anyway.

Roku 3 arrived and got some good deals

January 17, 2014

The Roku 3 arrived today and I got it setup for a little test on how well I could watch a program on both TVs at the same time.  I didn’t see any difference with using both Roku boxes as opposed to using one at a time and I set the Flat screen TV to 1080 p for the test.   I have watched some shows from Amazon prime and there was a little bit of lag using the PC or laptop but I don’t see that at all with the Roku boxes. The Roku recommends DSL or Cable modem  for use so that is about 128 kbs and higher, while my router can handle up to 1 Mbs total and it splits the data stream. I think  for someone with an “iffy”  internet connection you should buy from a local store with a good return policy and actually try using the Roku with the free channels to see how it works for you before you invest in Amazon Prime as a replacement for Sat. TV or cable TV.

I have thought of a couple more advantages of the Roku compared to cable/sat. connection. If you camp or have to bugout the Roku could work via wifi to get updates and information if you have to take a TV on camping trips. If you have Amazon prime and a kindle fire or higher you could also get info via the internet. I’m not sure about a TV while camping but I can totally see taking my kindle along to read a book while camping.  A lot of campgrounds offer wifi and there is always McDonald’s or Starbucks for a wifi connection.  I should see some energy savings in electricity by going to the Roku and ditching the big sat. receiver box.

Dad and I got another box of the apple wood and because of how the wood was cut into shorter but chunky pieces we got a bit more than is  normally in the boxes. Dad said this load of wood was closer to a half a cord instead of the quarter cord of wood and he knows how much a cord of wood is.  The apple wood stack is looking really good, so of course now that we know what to look for in the wood boxes I want to add a few more for next winter.  I tried out a creosote burning log since I cleaned out the spark arrestor and I think it also helped clear the chimney a bit judging by how smoky the wood stove is after I add wood.  It’s not a replacement for a good chimney cleaning but I think it will help keep the chimney cleaner between the good cleanings.  I  learned that a little Dawn dish soap in water and a magic eraser cleaning sponge does a great job cleaning the glass of my wood stove.

Got a few good buys on some stuff at the local True value hardware store. Bought a 25 foot heavy duty extension cord, a couple more of 1 pound bottles of propane for the Zodi shower, and a few small tools for the shop. The local dollar store had the big cans of Pedigree dog food so I got a case for the pups and I added the weeks worth of savings for the months of Feb. and Nov. a little early and paid a little extra on my loan/debt.  Overall I got quite few non physical prepping tasks up to speed.

I will be reworking the budget and see just how much dropping the sat. TV will make in my overall costs. In February I would like to get the greenhouse and get to work on some new gardening ideas I want to try out.

Ordered the 2nd Roku box and dish Sat. is raising rates next month

January 15, 2014

My timing for eliminating the dish sat. programming is just about perfect.  Dish network is raising rates another $5.00 a month starting February so I will have everything all setup and to cancel this month. From what I understand this is cost is hitting Directv and a lot of cable systems so if you are under a contract this might be a good time to cancel if those companies add the increase and you want out of the contract.  I’m sort of excited about using the Roku boxes and the Amazon prime for my TV watching. Not only will I be saving money every month but I get to decide when and what I want to watch.

The wood stove is working much better since the spark arrestor got cleaned out.  Dad and I will get one more load of apple wood this Friday and I think that should be more than enough wood for the rest of this season. January has been pretty mild so far as the temps are about 40 F. during the day and low twenty’s at night. Usually if we get a cold snap it will have started by now, so the extra wood is just in case but I think I am in the clear on any super cold weather.

I think I’m annoying the electric company because I get an “Adjustment fee” on my bill each month. I need to call the utility and have them explain what that fee is adjusting? I think it’s for not spending enough on electricity and it is hurting the bottom line.  Now more than ever I want to get the solar panels setup to start powering at least some electric items.  It’s annoying how the government and utilities beg people to conserve and as soon as you do the PTBs jack up the rates because you are not using enough energy and hurting the bottom line.  These little fees and adjustments suck, but saving money and getting at least semi-independent of the grid as well as the PTBs, makes me happy.

The weekly savings plan is working out even better than I had anticipated. I know I am just starting out with it, but the little mental trick seems to be working a lot better for me not to just spend it for any good deal I come across.  It seems like I look at the  cash savings as a commodity rather than just money.  It helps out a lot that I feel confident in my preps and have a plan to become more self-reliant this year. I have enough of the basics and backups that I could get through almost any disaster that does not injure me physically. In five years a few times have been tough but it all seems to be coming together and I am able to see the fruits of my labor. Getting prepared and self-reliant is not easy,  if it was everyone would do it.  Now that the results of all that hard work is starting to show, some  family and friends are starting to pay attention to what I have been saying and doing.

Be the change you want to see.  It takes awhile, but people are attracted to your peace of mind as well as what you actually accomplish. You can’t effectively debate someone that is still in the “Denial phase” or refuse to believe bad things can happen to them or the country.  Just plain ole Mama nature has smacked the eastern part of the USA repeatedly and people still believe they are somehow immune to what happens and don’t have 3-14  days worth of the basics of food, heat and water.