Huzzah front yawn mowed and playing in the yard

April 29, 2014

I can’t tell you how nice it was to get the electric mower out for the first time this year, push a button and get mowing.  No gas, oil, playing with the spark plugs, priming the carburetor and the electric mower is so quiet compared to a gas mower.  I do miss the “quiet hours”  when I was in Germany though I don’t like that a law is needed to enforce people to show a little courtesy.  One thing I like about my neighbor hood is most of the people are “good” people and are usually polite. One neighbor just had their house painted and I liked the yellow and dark green I’m not sure I like the avocado. But it’s not my house and if they like the colors great! I much prefer some interesting colors on homes rather than the “cookie cutter” house in most developments/suburbs. My neighborhood seems a lot more alive and real compared to the suburbs or the places controlled by HOAs.

I tried out the little B & D battery powered chainsaw on some small volunteer trees and my holly bushes. I think I got it set so the chain does not come off after a couple of cuts. Talk to a neighbor that is tall about trimming a few tree branches I can’t reach. He will be by Sunday or Monday.  It’s going to be a busy weekend as Mom and I want to can some chicken and watch soap and candle making  Youtubes on the big TV using the Roku 3 on Saturday.  Speaking of chicken Mom wanted a some before Albertsons raised the price to $1.39 a pound on Wed.  I got an even better price of .79 cents per pound as the whole chicken were reduced for quick sale.  Once I get the chicken canned I can freeze some pork roasts on sale at Paul’s next week.

I’m getting things done in the yard as it has been a bit neglected. I am going to give the back yard a little attention on Wed. as it will be warm and dry. Get the raised bed sort of laid out and use the rototiller to start digging in and rotating/augmenting for the soil for the beds.  Thursday will be shopping and do a fuel run day.  I’m not going to plan anything for Friday as I suspect I may need a rest day but if I feel up to it I may just putter around doing odds & ends.

Been thinking about the wood for this winter and I think I’ll go with having some pine & red fir mix delivered rather than the “mill ends” stuff I got last year. Add a bit of the fruit wood I should have a good combo for a hot fast fire and something that burns longer and slower. It will cost a bit more but I won’t have to cut up the wood and that will save me on physical energy. I have about 2 cords of the mill ends still left over that I need to cut this summer so I will have a buffer to experiment with the wood needed for heating next winter. That will take care of most of the energy needs for next winter other than gasoline and there isn’t much more  I can do about storing gas long term.

Economically we are probably somewhat safe from a crash/collapse historically speaking till September. Not to say prices won’t go up but the PTBs and players of the markets “Sell in May and go away”.  War is a different matter and things don’t look great in that department. War has a tendency to make things go all higgly-piggly so keep working your plan.

Cool and breezy but I got the weed wacking done

April 28, 2014

It’s supposed to get down to freezing tonight and then start warming up into the 80’s by Friday. I have a lot of plans to get things done once it warms a bit. I figure if I get half of them done I will be doing well. At least it was dry today and I was able to get the trimmer out to knock down a few weeds.  Thinking about getting a new trimmer that is cordless. Black & Decker is phasing out its 18 volt line of tools and they are a real bargain right now. The tool’s battery power is not very long but usually the battery last about as long as I do and I have three charges and 4 batteries so if one battery runs down I can switch to a charged one.  My old corded Toro is getting a little long in the tooth and while it still works I’d like to add a backup.

I wasn’t able to fix the chuck on the old Makita drill I got at the thrift shop for $2.00. Not a big deal I figure I got my money’s worth out of it. I will stop by my favorite pawn shop and see what he has in stock.  The fellow that runs the shop knows his stuff and I haven’t had any problems with anything I have bought there. A little more expensive than the thrift shop but more peace of mind and you get what you pay for.  Had a bit of luck digging around in my shop and found all the stuff to charge a 16.8 volt cordless drill I bought in Germany. I bought a steup/stepdown transformer when I came home from Germany so I can charge the battery even though it is 220 volts AC rather than the USA’s 110 volts. This cordless drill will give me a bit more power to drive the deck screws into boards for the new raised beds.  I have been thinking about Kimberly’s skinny raised beds that are 2 1/2 feet wide compared to the 4×4 foot raise beds. I’ll just have to lay things out to get an idea how it looks and how well it might work.

I have quite a bit of cleanup and rearranging to do in the shop but once it is done it should be much easier to work as things will flow better and the solar setup can start to power things in the shop first and as I can afford to add more solar it should be easier to expand without a lot of extra retro fit work. I feel like I am behind the power curve on the garden and yard work as well as accomplishing a couple of goals for the year. Honestly I am a little behind because of the water main issue. In the Army it is said “No battle plan survives after contact with the enemy.” As a prepper and into self-reliance I could say no plan survives contact with reality or at least that demon “Murphy”.

Blustery weekend so I worked inside

April 27, 2014

I finally got all the beer bottles cleaned up and bottled the black ale. I think the black ale is going to be good if very different to the porter. It’s fascinating how using a different yeast or hops can have such a huge affect on the taste of a beer. Perhaps it is psychological but I think my home made beer not only tastes better but is healthier than store bought beer.  I need to stop by the beer lady and get some more malted barley and some of the belma hops.  I need to look at building a bit of a stock pile of the beer making ingredients if I want to use it as a trade good.

Mom will be taking one of the watermelon plants and offer to help with the raised beds I want to add to the yard. While I have the wood stove going tonight it supposed to hit the 80’s this week so we should have a dry week to get some work done on the yard.  Pretty standard spring time weather in SW Idaho and it can trick you if you like to garden. Generally the last frost day is May 10th and even with that you should be ready to cover your plants. This is the first gardening season that I feel I am ready to protect the plants rather than just plant and hope for the best.  I have added some small trellis to my gardening inventory and they should work well not only for climbing plants but as a support structure for protecting the plants.  This will be the first year I will try succession planting and getting 2-3 harvests of hot and cool weather plants.

Reworking the budget for the paycheck this week. I don’t think I was in panic mode about rising food costs let’s say I am in very concerned mode.  I have been able to keep my grocery budget flat by buying loss leaders but I will have to up my food budget now and I think that shook me a bit.  I prepared for rising food costs and overall I don’t have any real worries but I can’t imagine how this is affecting people who have not prepared. With food and energy prices going up there will be some “mild discomfort” to real pain felt in the pocketbook for a lot of people this summer.  I  am so glad that I got the wood stove and air conditioner last year as they both reduced my energy costs by a lot.  Now if I can get a week of sunshine I might be able to setup the solar panels and see if they can reduce my costs a bit more.  I think my shop might be better for setting up and testing some of my energy and water systems.  Safer and cheaper at least since I won’t have to do any retro-fitting the house. Since the shop stands by itself  I don’t have to worry about toxic gasses seeping into the house or if a fire happens in the shop my home will be safe.

Radio Stuff

April 26, 2014

If you are interested in adding radio communications to your list of preps these refernce materials might help.


2010_Tech_Study_Guide    Practice test

I have the Baofeng 5 series and 888 and I would recommend the 5 series for the for the freqs it covers compared to the 888 series.  It’s not hard to program the 5 series by hand it is a bit tedious especially if you are programming several radios. The 888 only covers the MURS and GRMS freqs and you must have the USB programing cable to change freqs.  The chirp software also programs many radios besides the Baofeng.

If you go over the tech study guide and the the new Ham book a few pages per day. I’d say within 4 weeks you would be able to pass the test with no problems. Even if you are a complete newbie to radios.  If you decide you don’t want a Ham tech lic. there are plenty of other options via CB or GRMS that don’t require a Lic. to operate.

Mom passed the test and she is actually does good on most tests but usually is in a full stage panic because she lacks some confidence test taking. But the guys from the ham radio club must have thought she did pretty well as they encouraged her to get the much more difficult General Lic. I’m sure if she had just barely passed they would have gave her a nice pat on the back and said “good job”.  I’m guessing she did very well on the test though the proctors did not give her an actual score beyond the PASS/FAIL type.

Mom is not quite as cocky as I am with knowledge. I don’t fear tests as I figure either I know my stuff or I don’t, and need to work harder to pass. It’s just how my personality works and with a bit of reinforcement from the Army.  I’m not a big believer in “false modesty” and I don’t belive there is anything wrong in being confident in your knowledge/skills. The hardest thing to learn is to listen to others and not get to arrogant and think you know it all.

Four new plants and next time I need to read the coupon. Bacon!

April 25, 2014

Trying out a few new plants for the garden with the set of pony paks.  I added some onions, as last year the onions I planted did not grow very well. I think the onions needed to be in the big bed that gets a lot of sun. I added some small watermelons plants as the seeds I tried last year were a bit of a bust. I think a small watermelon will be just perfect size  for me and for sharing with Mom and Dad. This is the first year I’m trying celery in the garden. D & B farm store is pretty good about selling plants that can do well in this area and it’s the first year that I know of them offering celery.  With price of these pony packs if I can get a couple of pounds of veggies per plant they will pay for themselves compared to grocery store prices. Plus I know how the plants were grown.

Stopped by Albertsons to get some of the bacon I like so well. I could only afford a couple of pounds of it but it makes a nice treat. I ended picking up one of the fiora paper towel 8 pack along with the 12 pack of toilet paper. The coupon required you to buy 2 packages to get the $2.99 price each. Still a good bargain but I prefer being on top of these little details.  Reading the fine print is getting more and more important so you don’t get blindsided.

I tried out some stir fry using the canned Chinese vegetables I got at Big Lots. It turned out okay if not quite as good as using fresh veggies. Much better than the using the La Choy type canned mix of veggies. I could see adding a few cans for some veggie variety in the pantry if you can’t get fresh vegetables.  Since the Chinese grocery came to Nampa there has been a veritable explosion of not only Chinese but all kinds of Asian foods becoming common in the grocery stores.  This is great for me between the Latin and Asian influences locally it gives me a lot more options for meals and to fight food boredom using many of the same ingredients but different spices.

I got the Burlap bags cut up and using them as a screen over the opening of the rain barrels seems to be working out.  We are having some rain so I will be able to judge just how well the burlap holds up.  One of the things you need to control with your rain barrels is not giving mosquitoes a place to breed.  I’m going to do more planning on the space for the cistern/rain collection system for the shop. While I can’t afford to buy the cistern or even much of the PVC pipe I can start on some of layout and foundation work of where I want the tank to go and how I want it to work.  A 550 gallon cistern is going to weight over 2 tons so it needs a strong foundation to carry the weight.  Of course that is so true of many of the things I do here at Casa de Chaos. Now I think I’m getting a bit better at starting from the ground up rather than the other way around.

Mom and I got a bunch of plants on sale 4 pony packs for $5.00

April 24, 2014

I’m starting to get excited about the garden and adding these veggies at such a low cost will help get a good start filling in the raised beds.  I am trying out some new plants this year  egg plant and spaghetti squash are a couple of new plants. I haven’t cooked using these plants much but they tend to take on the flavors of sauces and will give me some different menu options. Trying out a yellow tomato experiment as one gardener said that birds don’t eat them because of the color. I have to small 4 ft.x 4ft. beds for the cool weather plants that is shaded by a cherry tree and then the big bed that gets full sun for the warm weather crops.

I have the wood for a few more raised beds but the drill I have had the chuck get hung up and didn’t want to close. I got the chuck free and I will be a bit more careful on using the drill on my Grain crusher.  The new 4 x 4 foot beds will be for the tomato and pepper plants. I’m trying out a Gypsy pepper this year and the plan so far is to do one raised bed with a Beef steak tomato and gypsy pepper as a companion plant with a few herbs and the yellow “Sun sugar” tomato with the sweet bell pepper and some herbs as companion plants.  These new raised beds will use more of the soil from my yard and will need a more augmentation to the clay soil rather than just dumping a bunch of bagged soil in the raised bed.  It’ll be more work but a bit cheaper on startup soil cost.  I would like to add some small melons to the garden for an ice cream or desert/fruit trays in the summer.

Cash is going to be a bit tight for the next pay day because I want to get the rice for the 7 year barrel and I’m trying to pay up on insurance and pay down my credit account for the tires plus rebuild the cash emergency fund. Sad to say I got a little complacent on debt before the water fiasco. It’s amazing how easy it is to get sucked back into the “debt slavery” cycle and how tempting  to believe if you can just make the payment everything will be fine.  One thing good about the new saving plan is it bothers me a lot when I use the “emergency fund” and want to replace it ASAP. I never felt that way before and always had an excuse to spend all the cash I had monthly. Now I don’t think I spent the money foolishly and I usually had something of value to show for what I spent, but in some ways I think it was a bit of a “cop out” for myself that I could not save cash because “I’m on a fixed income” excuse.

I worked very hard to get the tools I needed to do the work needed to grow a little bit of my own food, have a bit stored and the means to protect it. Now I have to do the work using those tools and get busy building some new skill sets instead of paying to do things the easy way.  I sort of forgot that simple and easy are not the same thing. Time to work on the simple things!

Finishing up the 7 year food barrels and some new water project ideas

April 23, 2014

I’m so excited that baring any more ” money disasters”  I can finish up the wheat barrel and get a start on the rice barrel.  One of the best bulk food buying sales coming up is for “Cinco de Mayo” and beans, rice, Masa and some meats/cheeses are either on sale or will be on sale at the start of May.  If you have been waiting for  good price to stock up on beans and rice the next couple of weeks should be a great opportunity!  Don’t forget about spices and jars of salsa/hot sauce to add some “flair” to your food storage.

Cash & Carry has a 50 pound bag of rice for $18.95 on sale till May 4th. I have budget the food budget to get 3 bags for the rice barrel. Adding that amount of rice to the barrel should give me a good idea of how much the barrel will hold.  I think it should be similar to the wheat barrel of about 300 pounds total.  Once all the barrels are filled and sealed shut I should have all of the bulk long term food I need for myself.  Cash & Carry has a case of coffee for just over $32.00 though the cans are on the small side at 27.5 oz.  Having a good supply of coffee before the prices go up again is very important not only for myself but as a barter/trade good.  Stocking up on the items before the new higher prices start can save a lot of money and give you time to adapt to the “new normal”.

Albetson’s is having another good sale on meats as well as the “fiora” brand toilet paper and paper towels. The fiora brand is 12 rolls of  TP or 8 rolls of paper towels for $2.99 with coupon. I prefer the 3 ply version of the TP for it’s strength and the paper towels are about average overall.  I’m trying to decide if I want to dip into my cash savings and buy up more meat. London Broil is $2.99 a pound and this is a great cut not only for a meal but for making jerky as it tends to be very lean. Bacon is also on sale at the “butcher block”  for $3.99 a pound. This is the bacon I like the best here locally and I noticed that even the cheap bacon/ends and pieces is starting to jump in price in the last week.  Local bacon I usually buy at Paul’s jumped over $1.25 a pound in the last week and the bacon ends and pieces is up $2.50 per 3 pound package in the last month.  Albertson’s has some pork chops for $1.88 per pound and about a month ago I could get them for around $1.29-$1.59 per pound. Chicken is still fairly cheap right now but I suspect it will also go up in price as people shift from beef and pork to chicken because of cost.  I think/hope that we will see somewhat low meat prices through the first part of May but I think by Memorial Day weekend all bets are off on meat prices and I expect a fairly large price jump.

On the water collection system I found a website that has some very cool ideas that make rain water collection easy if not exactly as cheap as setting up a rain barrel under a gutter . This sparked quite few ideas for me on collecting rain water efficeintly and moving it around as well as doing some basic filtering when gathering the rain water.  While doing this research I found there is a local company that makes custom molded water barrels and cisterns. The company makes a 525 gallon and a 550 gallon tank for $394.00 with only a 48 inch diameter footprint. Now that sounds sort of expensive untill you consider the cost of your basic 50 gallon water barrel and that you would need 10 + barrels to equal this one tank.  Another advantage of a larger water tank is the weight of the water itself would provide greater water pressure compared to a lot of smaller barrels. At 4 foot across these 500 +  gallon water tanks would take up about the same space as an average shipping pallet. Using 50-60 gallon water barrels I can only fit 3  on a pallet or about 150-180 gallons of water. For many people it’s not just money but storage space is a big consideration on how much we can afford to prep.  There is nothing wrong with starting off small and doing what you can afford. I’m a firm believer that taking the first step is often the hardest and being proactive. Don’t get complacent or be satisfied with that first step. I would have lost my my lawn if not my entire garden if that water main problem had hit me in July rather than in February.