Darn! Out of coffee

February 28, 2014

The Family Dollar sold out of the Maxwell house for $4.95 a can. I can’t say I’m all that surprised as I have told many people about the sale after I picked up 6 cans. I have learned I need to get mine first before I share info with others here locally. Fred Meyer’s has coffee for $5.99 a can so I can get a couple more cans for a good price.  It wasn’t a total loss since I got another big bottle of the Dawn dish soap. I think those two bottles should cover my dish soap needs for the year.

Today is Mom’s birthday and while it wasn’t much, we went for a little drive out of town, checked out a thrift store and had lunch.  I got some real gas at the Ferry and was chatting with the clerk about how fast the price was going up. I said I expected the gas prices to be $4.00 a gallon by the end of May and she said it would probably hit that in April as the supplier is raising the price weekly by 5-8 cents on each delivery.  Idaho tends to have high gas prices,  but if you have empty fuel cans to fill up I would not wait around hoping the  price will drop. This summer looks like it is going to challenging, so the more you stock up now the easier it should be to stay on or at least close to the budget.

We got a some rain and the trench did not settle much but I have about another 3 feet, a couple of inches deep or so to fill in. One of the strawberry buckets is putting out more new growth. Mom has a some lavender plants that needs  thinned out so I will get some of those plants for free. Still cleaning up the grape vines as it sort of race on weather I can get them done before they start putting on new growth. On using vinegar for a fabric softener I noticed that my dark clothing does not hold on to the dog hair and I don’t have to use a lint brush as much. If you have pets you know dark clothes are like a hair magnet so the vinegar has been a real winner in the laundry room.

If the weekend stays sort of dry I will work on the grape vines and yard, if it rains I’ll focus on the pantry organization. I will be programming the little handheld SW radios and studying for the Ham lic. test in March.  I was going to write that it is going to get busy here at Casa de Chaos but it always seems it is busy around here.


Strawberry plant peaking up through the dirt

February 26, 2014

If you have read this blog for awhile you know my luck at growing strawberries has been very bad. So I have to say I was very excited to see a little strawberry plant start to break through the dirt of the big party bucket I have sitting on the front porch.  This is one of the bunches of strawberry plants we dug up last fall for free.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to see that new growth.  One of the best things about gardening is seeing a plant poke up it’s head in spring and know you helped with that rebirth.  I’m buying more of the tomato trellis type cages so I can go a bit more vertical in my growing. A bit more expensive than the regular tomato cages but a lot more flexible to use.  I need to get some more of the “party buckets” for planting because I want to try out Kate’s idea of a year round tomato plant.  Since it will moved either to the greenhouse or the house over the winter anyway I might as well get it in the “bucket” to start this spring and see how it works out.

The next few days have rain in the forecast so I can see how well my trench filling works out and how much the soil settles. I think I can use some of the excess soil from the trench to build good soil for planting.  I would use my store bought garbage cans to store the soil since the city now requires us to use the big bin type cans to make garbage collection more efficient.  It’s a bit annoying but garbage cans are great multi-taskers so finding a use for them is not very hard.  Besides I need to eliminate all those humps and get some grass seed planted in those areas.

I am getting the last few parts I found I needed for the solar generator and the RV’s solar set up.  I ordered the small battery powered chainsaw for the RV and I’m starting up my yard sale list for spring. I need to get a couple of axes as well as a splitting maul and sledge for the wood. While I can’t do a lot of physical work by hand I can do some and if the SHTF I’m sure my neighbors would help out in return for some wood or a place by the fire on a cold day. I’m getting stocked up on the coffee while it is cheap and I finished up the meat for the freezer and still have room for more if a good sale comes up.

I know the news isn’t good, in fact it is downright awful but don’t get into panic mode or let your brain lock up. If you knew the SHTF next month what would you get first to help you survive?  It could be a book, a canner or a pocket knife it does not have to be expensive.  Next ask yourself how you could get “whatever” without going into debt or if there is a substitute that would work short term? Just today Mom broke a nail “Oh, great now that nail can annoy me all day”.  I handed her my Leatherman with a fine file that sort of cleaned up the jagged edges of the nail. Nothing big but that small thing made life a little less annoying. Start with taking care of the small things and it will help to take care of the big things.

Been thinking about Rob’s post on gardening

February 24, 2014

Rob in his bunker asked about gardening this year. He is in a rental so digging up the yard is a no go also he is a complete novice at gardening so he needs some thing a garden/plants that are somewhat simple and forgiving to a beginning gardener. I’m certainly no expert at gardening but I know I have learned a lot by making mistakes and feel somewhat confident I can grow a plant with a little help from Mama nature.

Starting any  garden isn’t cheap on cost, there is soil, tools, seeds and quite a bit of hours of physical work you will need to invest in your garden.  So thinking cheap and cruising the internet I found quite a few places that showed how you can grow new plants from the leftovers you may throw away of veggies you buy at your local mega mart. Most of the steps are simple and heck if you screw up you can always compost or throw away anything that does not work out.

Most of the veggies I see that can be regrown have a bit of the root or plant stem still attached such as:  Celery, regular and green onions, Bok Choy and Romaine and even things like ginger(long term) or mushrooms, basil and sage can be regrown from the stems. The basic procedure is to place the root end in water and place in a window with good light as the plant grows  you then place it a larger container with soil or plant in a garden.   Ginger and mushrooms are bit different as the need to be in a rich soil and kept moist but in the dark for awhile. I have regrown celery but haven’t tried the other veggies yet. The bok choy and green onions I bought for the  kymber’s Kim chee recipe will be my first try at this technique.

I think this is such a neat idea of using what would normal be cut off and thrown away as waste could be turned into a cheap and easy start of a “kitchen garden”.  I think if you can do this with plants like romaine lettuce and bok choy that a green leaf lettuce or even cabbage might re grow as well using the same method.  I figure there isn’t much downside of trying this out to see if it works. If the drought effects food cost as much as being hyped, every little bit you can grow yourself will help the budget.

Sorry I did not get all the websites that had instructions though a couple were on the instructibles.com site.  Do a search on regrowing some of the veggies and you will find the sites. I figure those that post these items need a hit on their site and I’m sorry I didn’t save the links.

Puttering in the house.

February 24, 2014

I got a little bit of clean up done in the house yesterday. The carpets have been hard to keep clean what with the dirt from the trench and wet weather.  Since it dried out a bit the carpets stayed fairly clean for a day. The weather is supposed to be dry for the next couple of days if I’m lucky I may make it till Thursday before I have to vacuum again. With the weather being nice I should get another bunch of the grape vines cleaned up. I’d like to finish cleaning up the area that I use to stack the apple wood. It still has a few items leftover from other projects and I want to use it for stacking more of the hardwood pile for next season.

Speaking of energy, I looked at my projected electric bill for March. I think I need to take back what I said about the water heater being a big energy hog.  It is a hog but not nearly as bad as I thought. Actually the Dish Sat. box seemed to draw a lot of power (heat) and I haven’t been watching as much TV lately, so the forecasted bill is looking about the same as February’s bill. All of those gadget that we use in our so called “modern life” add a lot to the electric bill. The electric bill will go up some this summer but using the small window air conditioner from last year the bill should be a lot lower compared to using the Central A/C unit. This summer I hope to use the solar generator to power some items to reduce electric costs.

I got a few good buys today that were not meat related.  Family Dollar has the Maxwell House Wake Up Blend $4.99 for a 30 oz. can.With the drought in Brazil and other civil unrest in Latin America if you drink coffee you need to stock up while the prices are low. Roasted coffee does not have a long shelf life compared to some other dry goods but I have used coffee from the pantry that was almost 2 years old and it still tasted good. My pantry area is just about optimal for storage so your coffee may not last that long, but even 6-12 months of coffee could really help out the food budget.  Family Dollar has the big 56 oz. bottle of Dawn dish soap for $3.75. Dawn is a great multi-tasker from doing dishes to treating grease stains on clothes or using it in a spray bottle for insect control on your roses or tomato plants. I will pay extra to get Dawn but it is nice to get a great price.

Only a small order for Amazon but I found a great price on the connectors for the solar panels and I want to check out the smaller Baofeng SW radio that is on sale for about $20.00. The radio does not have quite the range and freqs available to the Baofeng 5 series but I think they would make a good radio for neighborhood communications if the SHTF.  It’s hard to find a descent GRMS radio for that price and the little Baofeng can listen to SW 2 meter for info.  It seems like a lot of the prepping and survival websites are starting to focus on Ham radios lately. I think that  many have got a good handle on the basics on hand and realize just how dependent we are on the main stream media or government for information. With the talk of cell phone and internet kill switches the government wants to put in place people want a backup information and communication source that can’t be blocked so easily. Also these radios would be a handy means of communication in a natural disaster.

Back to work after recovery/lazy

February 22, 2014

I like to think I’m pretty tough mentally but I’ll tell you I got a bad case of the lazies after the water test.  Between the weather being a bit wonky, a bit of finacial stress and just plain worn out, my motivation level was very low. I did not stop getting ready but let us say buying stuff was a heck of a lot easier than getting physical.  The water main trench finally got a bit of dirt filled in. Your ankles and possibly a knee was at risk stepping on the mound breaking through the clay crust and dropping about 12 inches just walking through the yard.  I have enough challenges physically I don’t want to deal with a trench over 20 feet long, ready to to teach me all about “Newtonian physics”.  Got a few tools out and they actually made the job a bit easier for about 30 minutes of work,  I sort of filled up the trench and redirected the water from my gutters away from the foundation.  The soil will settle a bit after the next rain or snow but it isn’t to dangerous to walk around the yard for now.

My mind has not caught up with the concept I actually have tools that make tasks easier. If you move dirt you need a shovel but I found using my garden fork, a garden rake and sharp tine rake for cleaning up a lawn of grass clipping( I can’t remember the name) does a good job breaking up clay soil.  While not easy work I finally took the clippers to the grape vine that have overgrown with very little attention on my part.  But an hour or so of work I managed to fill a big trash bin the city requires me to have and cleared at least a small area of overgrown grape vines.

The easy stuff I did this week is trying out some cleaning ideas for the raw beeswax. Dad and I did another apple wood run and I should be good to go for the rest of this season and have good start on next season’s wood pile.  I finally found a store with Diakon radishes so I can try making some Kimchee and I got the hoses for filling the water barrels in the house.

I have always been a procrastinator of sorts. Usually I get the min. of what I think I will need and some times I sort of blow off the follow up of doing the work. This is a problem and I suspect many people do sort of  think the same thing as we can top off before an emergency of disaster.  I assume I’ll get a bit of a heads up via the news or the web but who can plan. I live in the west but a “New Madrid” earthquake would be devastating because of the transportation and lack of refining capabilities in my state.

Always look at your supply lines and logistics of having enough on hand to see you through a minor disaster. You probably can’t  stock enough gasoline for a year, but a couple of weeks would power a generator that would power a fridge and freezer until you canned, smoked or dehydrated all that food in your fridge and freezer.



Ham radios and stocking up some more stuff

February 20, 2014

Went to the local ham radio club meeting. While I was a little lost on some of the jargon it looks like good group and they do a lot of volunteer work. I think that says good things about them as a group. Dad seem to enjoy the meeting and gave me a hard time about getting him the info for the test and stuff.  I wasn’t sure if he was really interested or just sort of humoring me but he seems kind of excited about doing the Ham stuff.  Dad has a VHF base station for the Coast Guard Axillary so it probably wouldn’t take much for him to get going with the Ham radios. Mom said she had a good time and started remembering some of the radio training from the Coast Gaurd Aux.

Stopped by Albertson’s to get the chicken and the pork country ribs. The store had some nice looking pork steaks for $1.28 a pound so I got a big package each of the ribs and steaks.  Mom wanted one of the 10 pound packages of Chicken quarters I got for under $8.00 so I’m glad I picked up two bags.  If you have someone to split food with when you do your bulk shopping you get the savings, plus not have to store quite as much if space is limited.  Been a bit frustrating gathering the ingredients for the Kimchee. I could have sworn at least on of the stores I shop at regularly had Diakon radishes. No such luck, though I did get a great buy on some garlic.  I’ll swing by the Asian grocery store and see if they have some diakons.  I talked to the produce manager at Paul’s and she said she would add diakons to her produce order.

Paul’s Market had some of the big half gallon canning  jars so I picked up a case of them.  I figured since I want to do some sauerkraut and kimchee I should get a few extras jars for giggles. Plus I like using these jars for dry storage of staples. If you have the jar attachment on your vacuum sealer you can store your dry goods long term and I think they just look nice full of beans, rice and pasta. I have a several boxes of the regular canning lids but I have been adding the Tattler reusable lids since the local farm store and True value hardware store are now carrying them.  There is an Antique sale happening this weekend at the mall and I’d love to pick up an old fashioned crock for fermenting the veggies but they tend to be a little expensive for me. So the big canning jars are the cheap way to go for right now.

The budget is looking pretty good for paying back the cost of the water main, getting money saved as well as the greenhouse I want to purchase in March. Friday, Dad and I will add a load of the apple wood to the wood pile and the next couple of paychecks I can stack a bit more hardwood for the next season.  I wanted to buy a bit of silver but I think it’s best to purchase silver with excess funds and right now I don’t have excess.  Priorities are getting the basics, an emergency fund and paying down debt.  The news isn’t good financially but I think doing those three things is where you have to start. As things change then you adapt.

A big thing about preparing/self reliance is you can always learn all kinds of different skills. Working the brain learning new stuff makes your brain work better, just like exercise makes the muscles work better.  So far I have learned to have confidence that I can hire a contractor and get bids as I think I did pretty good with the wood stove installation. Working on an alternate means of communication, trying out some new recipes for storing veggies and adding some wood for the next winter. Add few jars of canned meats and things are going okay if just a bit different than I had planned back in January.

Stocking up on meats for now…

February 18, 2014

Not a lot of good news for food prices lately. We have all seen prices creeping up and container shrinking the last few years.  With all of the stories in the news lately I think the expected cost jump is going to be huge and the Main Stream Media is frontrunning the story to try and maintain a little credibility. Now more than ever you need to take advantage of the “loss leaders” and any good prices you find on meat and dairy.  For fresh veggies, your garden and farmers markets in season will have to sufice though there is supposed to be a glut of rice on the world market.  I haven’t seen a drop in rice prices so far but at least they are stable at $20.00 for 50 pounds of long grain white rice.

Last week I was able to get some nice sirloin steaks for 2.99 a pound and got those frozen. This week I’m focusing on pork and chicken. Paul’s market had a 10 pound package of leg quarters for 79 cents a pound and some pork chops for $1.38 a pound. I grabbed 2 of the bags of chicken and 3 packages of the pork chops. Works out to almost 30 pounds of meat for about $30.00. Albertson’s has a sale on chicken and pork starting the 19th and I’m going to add about 20-30 pounds to the freezer until I get the canner out for the chicken.  My plan of attack on the meat storage is to freeze the better cuts of meat and can the tougher cuts of beef and pork. For the chicken I’ll can the thighs and freeze the leg quarters and whole chickens. I have meat to make sure I can BBQ this summer!

It’s not all meat this week as I am getting the ingredients for kymber’s Kimchee.  Kimchee is a Korean version of sauerkraut and very spicy. I want to do some fermented veggies this year to add some variety to my food storage. Many people say homemade sauerkraut beats the canned stuff by a country mile for taste and it should be a great way to use cabbages from the garden or farmer’s market. I don’t have the garden space to grow enough to be self reliant but I can buy and stock ahead of time and use the garden to extend my basic supplies. On this year’s garden I’m planning to go vertical with more plants. My hope is I will get more production and it will be easier to take care of with my disability. I have very high hopes that I can use the green house to extend my growing season.

Been avoiding my beer making and even refilling the barrels I used for the water test. The last thing I want to do is even think about moving or boiling water. It’s a bit silly as I bought extra hose for filling the barrels after I filled my big water barrels using 5 gallon camp jugs. I’m just seriously lacking in motivation on anything water related!

Fixing the desktop and playing in the mud

February 16, 2014

Just for fun my Desk top PC died! A little annoying but I had plenty of spare parts and got it up and running again so no big deal.  Repairing or building your own desktop PC is fairly simple. Most of the parts can only be inserted the correct way and there are a ton of instructional videos to build your own desk top. Knowing some basic repair such as adding memory sticks, a hard drive or video cards can help save you a lot of money.  If you ever have to replace a dead hard drive I would recommend physically destroying it if you can’t format the drive.  Just scratch the platters (round mirror like discs) and hard drive won’t work. Don’t throw any parts in the trash! There is some very valuable metals like gold, silver and platinum used in small amounts on those computer parts that can be recovered and recycled! Some recycling companies will pay you a small fee or pick up and recycle those parts for free. Recycling  keeps the landfills  clean from toxic chemicals and the landfill has more space for trash.

Of course a Dead PC always brings up the subject of backups and how often you are backing up your data. With external hard drive so large and cheap now you don’t have a very good excuse not to do back ups of your data. But if you are like me you forget until you have problem with your PC/Laptop.  I prefer having an external hard drive that is physically in your possession rather than some of the internet/cloud based backups. Jump drives are great for your critical files that you might need if you have to bugout and you can carry one on a key chain. Copies of insurance policies, ID/driver licenses,  Birth certificates, SS cards, resumes and other critical documents can be saved on a 8-16 GB  jump drive for under $20.00 and would be a huge help if you ever have to recreate that documentation.  Even if an EMP happens it will be Line of Sight (LOS) so computers will survive somewhere and if you put  your external hard drive in your Faraday Cage the data should be recoverable.

It is amazing just how much mud has been created by digging the trench for the water main.  The soil here has a lot of clay so it is very sticky when wet and sort of humps up in some areas and washes out or undercuts in other areas. With the weather so warm I moved some of the dirt into low lying areas and cleared the back  gate that goes to my wood pile. With the gate cleared I was able to load up the party buckets with wood using the garden wagon and the gate no longer just pops off in my hands.  We have more rain/snow in the forecast but I got a the worst of the trench washed out areas filled in, stacked up wood for the week and even started the dirt and stuff for growing potatoes in a bucket in March. I should be able to add the green house this March and while it wont be a huge help starting plants early this year,  it should add a bit of help this fall to extend the growing  season.

The budget looks okay and I should be able to double the amount of money to pay back Mom and Dad for the leftover debt when I got disabled and now the cost of the water main. Dave Ramsey would probably say pay down the interest loans first but paying off my parents is important to me. I’ll keep working on my savings plan, plan for a little bit of money for repairing/replacing some of the older things around the house and hope that life/ karma and God don’t hand me any more challenges at the last minute.

No tap water test (AAR) After Action Review

February 13, 2014

I have taken a bit of time to consider all the things that went right as well as wrong on this water test and I want to share my lessons learned.

For anyone who does not read my blog regularly my main water line was leaking and I had a huge water bill that let me know this was a problem. Now this is a fairly mundane personal disaster but going without tap water is something that generally happens with most “natural” disasters so having a water plan and stored water is a must have in my book.

The first instant of warning you need to get to work on your plan. I had a bit of warning I needed to shutoff my water until the water main was fixed via my water bill.  If you have any sort of warning you need to get busy on your water plan. Do any water intensive cleaning such as dishes, laundry, floors, clean bathrooms and the kitchen while you still have tap water. Starting a disaster with a clean house may seem a little OCD but it saves a lot of effort in the long run as well as giving you a healthy and clean environment for few days until you work out your water plan.  You might not get any warning whatsoever but if you do take advantage of it!  I have gravity feed water bowls for my Pekes and cat so those got topped off right away. I knew I would only be without water for about five days and since it was a personal disaster I knew I could buy water or even hit up a neighbor or family member to top off any water jugs so I did not fill my tub full of water but in a larger disaster start filling every container you have with water, pots and pans, buckets, kiddy pools (depending on weather). Even if you store safe drinking water!  If the disaster misses you just dump the water on your yard/garden or in your washer and consider it a test.

Hot water: I love hot water and other than toilets I think it is a key to any civilization. You have to remember if the tap water stops the hot water on demand also stops. I have an electric water heater so I flipped the breaker to the hot water tank while the water was off. If you have a gas water heater you should know how to shut off the gas flow so the tank does not go dry. Plus a large tank offers another 30-50 gallons of water so it needs to be conserved. We humans tend to get in rut/habits and sometimes it takes a bit of time to break those habits so turn everything off. If you need it your pipes and tanks can be a reserve.

Heating water: From cooking to keeping yourself and home clean you need hot water and boiling water is one of the best ways to make safe drinking water so you might as well take advantage of all that hot water/energy/work if you have a way to store it.  This is where the insulated water jugs come into play on your preps.  I like the Igloo 5 gallon jugs as a good at keeping water bath warm for up to 36 hours when primed with a quart of hot water for about 10 minutes.  The Igloo type water jugs are just like an Ice chest and you could probably use an Ice Chest/camp cooler the same way and they all tend to have a spigot to access the water.  The insulation does not care if want it hot or cold it’s just insulated.

Heating the water: I have done two no tap water tests and I got to say having the wood stove made things a lot easier compared to heating the water on my electric stove. Having the ability to set a couple of big stock pots on the wood stove over night was a huge physical energy saver compared to my first no tap water test using just the electric stove.  Water is very heavy at about 8 pounds per gallon, moving even a five gallon camp jug can be a challenge for some people. I know at the the five day mark of this test my fatigue levels were getting pretty high with my disability. I like using half gallon plastic pitchers to fill my dish tubs and the Igloo jugs from the stock pots on the stove.  You can buy a small dolly or shopping cart that can make moving the water from where it is stored to where you need it.  I recommend you do things the easiest way possible at least until you toughen up a bit. You want a work out?  Go to the gym prior to any disaster and don’t think you can get tough/strong while you figure out your water plan!

Dish tubs and buckets: These are great ways to recycle water from using cooled water from cooking to rinse water from dishes. Grass, gardens and your toilets need water to work. Trust me, I have done the work and your toilet alone needs about 6-9 gallons a day just to flush even twice a day, if you are being frugal with water.  A gallon a day per person is not enough of stored water to keep a home or family going for over 3 days.  I think at a min. for stored water you should plan on 3-5 gallons per day and count your home as an extra person. You don’t have to store all drinkable water as water from a rain barrel is safe to flush a toilet or water a garden. But for 14 days a family of 4 plus a home I think you need about 210 gallons of safe drinking water stored and then augment your storage with rain barrels or some kind of backup supply.

I know most people will not like these numbers. I have got by on less water for 3 days but you never know how long a disaster may last. I have never read a story of a person that went through a disaster that wished the had less of the basics on hand.

Some very good news!

February 13, 2014

The water department gave me a adjustment on my bill. Basically they took off the massive sewage charge on the bill and I just have to pay for the water portion. The sewage charge was over $400.00 so I’m not complaining and I have to say the folks at the water department did a lot to help me with the whole water problem. They took extra readings and actually adjusted the bill so I don’t have to pay the $600.00 and then wait for a refund or a credit which is nice.

I finally found a toilet float that fits the arm for my older toilet. I had to buy the more expensive copper type float ball but for $15.00 I have both toilets filling with the correct amount of water. I am maually opening and closing the garage door. It’s actually very easy to manage since I had the large spring replace a year or two ago. I can wait to replace the garage door opener.  The last bit of savings I got notified of was my power bill. By turning off the Hot water heater while the water was shut off I saved quite a bit on my electric bill. I dropped a few other things that used electricity like the dish cable box and an always on laptop that used to connect the phone line to the cable box.  I’ll do another comparison of electrical usage next month and see how much power the water heater is using each month.

Things are working out okay and I learned a lot during this little disaster.