Compost bins set in place and raised beds filled

May 31, 2014

The pallets are now in place for the three section compost pile. It ain’t pretty and I need to add a few more boards to strengthen as well as hold the compost in place but I think it will work much better than the little plastic bin I bought, because of  additional space for the compost to decay properly.  Getting the pallets in place for the basic structure was my priority. Now I can reinforce and improve the compost bins as I see what is needed to make it work.  There is more to be done as I am learning how to make healthy soil rather than just use chemical additives.  It seems that I am learning what it takes to make a healthy yard and garden and not just seeing green and think everything is good.

Home Depot’s sale was awesome for yard and garden stuff. I added some more mulch and grabbed a couple of bags of the garden soil. I finished filling the new raised bed with soil and planted some tomatoes, peppers and herbs.  I added a bit of of the garden soil to the potato buckets because they are growing like crazy and much better than I expected. I also added a bit of romaine lettuce to the front yard “shaded” bed.  Now it seems the front beds soil needs a bit of work to me. I think I have plenty of organic material that I can use to help the soil and the plants. It is a very different mindset for me looking at the soil rather than plants but I think that was my biggest mental block in gardening. I was trying to make the end of the process my focus rather than start at the beginning and working from making healthy soil and the plants take it from there.

While I still have a bit of work to do on the yard, I’m going to focus on the inside of the house this week. I bought the over the stove microwave at Home Depot and got a great deal on an Amana for only $152.00.  Having the exhaust fan working in the kitchen this summer will help keep things cool when I have to cook indoors.  Replacing the microwave will be the first appliance replaced as part of my 2014 goals and I want to get back the counter space the “backup” microwave is using.  Hopefully I can get a bit of help installing the new microwave because I can’t handle that kind of weight for installing it.  I want to work on some organizing and major clean up of things in the house to be as read as possible for any sort of “disasters” that can come up at the last minute. I “think” I have all that I need, but right now finding it can be a bit of a problem.  As they say in the Army “Just another opportunity to excel”!



New raised bed built

May 29, 2014

Good lord this was supposed to be easy!  Well it was a simple raised bed but the work certainly isn’t easy. I’m using the clay soil from the back yard and adding  in straw and rabbit poo instead of buying bags of soil. Cheaper than buying soil but a lot more work with the rotor-tiller. Without that little tiller this job would have been much harder as well as take longer to get done. This will be a true raised bed with it’s 8 inch depth and I dug into the soil with the rotor-tiller before setting the raised bed in place.  I will need to add some soil if I want to use the bed this year and I want to use it! The bed is not full even with the addition of straw and poo I added so I will need to buy some soil to get the bed filled enough to use this year.  I should know by now just how much it takes to fill a raised bed or even a large container but it always seems to surprise me.  If food prices were not going up so fast I would leave this bed fallow and work on building it up over the year.  I need to build a few of the smaller 2 ft. x 4 ft. beds and build the soil in those for next year but what I have already should be enough to add to my diet and keep me busy.

I did buy a lot of wood mulch that I spread around the garden beds.  The wood mulch should cut down on weeds as well as add to the yard soil. I’m experimenting using a weed blocker and going without to see what works best for me.  Plus the wood mulch gives the garden area a much cleaner and pleasant look over all. This wood mulch from Fred Meyers is consistent in price, so getting more to add to the yard should not be expensive to use in other sections of the yard to help build the soil. It cost a bit more in the long run compared to buying in bulk but it’s easier to come up with an extra $10.00 in the budget to do a section at a time rather than spend more to do the whole yard. Laying out the mulch a section at a time looks like more progress rather than saving up and dumping a large load all at once.  Plus it is easier to motivate myself to dump and spread mulch a little at a time  rather than see a big pile of mulch that is intimidating to spread over the whole yard.

I am slowly cleaning up the wood storage area while I work on the garden when I need to do a different job.  I got an offer from the new neighbors of some more wood they cut and split for the elderly/disabled as their charity. I don’t mind the offer but I am in really good shape for wood and heating that I already bartered and “paid for”. I will accept a bit of wood as payment for helping them out but I’m sure that plenty of people need that kind of help for winter heating. Now if they have no one they can find that needs the wood then I’ll take it.  One of my big “pet peeves” is people that suggest you go to the local food bank or some other charity as a part of prepping when they could pay for themselves if they got rid of some luxaries or changed their lifestyle and disciplined themselves. I don’t care if you have 250 channel cable/sat. TV or an Iphone/Ipad with all the bells and whistles data plans if you can afford it, but you don’t deserve “charity” because you don’t want to spend the money and effort required to become prepared.

Got the watermelon planted and added wood mulch around the beds

May 28, 2014

Only needed to make one stop for the mulch and watermelon plant. Not sure if it’s a joke on me,  but there was a basil plant in the watermelon section. At least I can recognize basil and manage to get the watermelon plant this time.  I picked up 6 of the bags of mulch and got most of the walkways between the beds covered.  I think the area looks very nice with the red of the mulch contrasting with the green of the garden plants.  Found some info about fixing clay soil and while it was talking about a 100 sq. ft. area for a garden, I think that will be good section of the yard for me to work on.  Where water main was dug is devoid of grass anyway so I can start there and work out towards the rest of the yard.  In the areas that have grass I am using my garden fork to poke holes in the soil while it is wet and after it drys I will add some gypsum that should  aerate the soil. This will be one of those long term projects!

The hard lemonade is bottled but instead of adding lemon zest I added a few drops of lemon essential oil. So far the taste is mostly alcohol but I hope it will improve after sitting in the bottle for a few days. The bootlegger bottle could be used to make herbal elixirs for your natural medicine chest.  I think I could make my favorite cough remedy using real lemon juice and honey as the ferment-able sugar.   This is a new way of making alcohol so there is a bit of a learning curve but this test shows that even using a powdered drink mix it is possible to make an Adult beverage.

June is starting to like a busy month doing work in the yard, setting up the outdoor kitchen and getting all the wood cut and stacked for this winter.  I have made a lot of progress on my 2014 goals even with the water main issue which kind of surprised me.

Replacement plant in the ground and digging in

May 27, 2014

I got the replacement plants in the big raised bed and that sucker is going to be full once everything starts growing. I wanted a sugar baby watermelon and accidentally grabbed a cantaloupe melon that was in the watermelon section at D&B.  I planted the cantaloupes and will hope they grow this year.  I tilled the big bed in April but I added some rabbit poo and tilled it again along with some weeding.  I think I’m working in some of my yard’s soil into the soil I bought for the beds and it everything needs to be worked in and mixed together. So I did another tilling today before planting.  The small raised bed will be needed for some plants so I need to finish building the bed and augmenting the soil.  I had a bit of bark mulch in the shop and I added it between the small garden beds and it looks very neat.  I’m going to pick up some more of the bark mulch to place around the raised beds and hopefully it will help to retain moisture and keep some weeds/grass from growing along the edges of the beds.

While I had the tiller out I tried digging in the clay soil where the water main was dug and tried to level it somewhat and it’s a tough job.  The clay soil is like a thick slurry that sticks to everything when wet or it’s nearly as hard as concrete when dry.  I’m trying to create a healthy soil and not just a green lawn and it’s not easy. I have a couple of ideas to try out where they dug the new water main.   Talk to the new neighbors and they are thinking about renting a little Bobcat tractor to clean and level their yard. I told them I would pay half of the day’s  rent if I could use it for my yard. It would be a good opportunity to start digging the “village outhouse” without looking out of place.

I think the “hard lemonade” will finish up on Wed. and be ready to bottle. I can taste the alcohol but the lemon flavor is a little lacking. I’ll add a little lemon zest to the bottles and that should give it a nice lemonade flavor. Using powder drink mix will work but I will have to test it using real lemonade and see if the end results are different.

A few good sales on meat at Paul’s and I want to get some of the whole salmon at Albertson’s. I’m trying to stock up on meats but if I save any more money I will soon be broke!

Trying out the Bootlegger bottle and setting things up for Summer

May 26, 2014

For my first Bootlegger bottle recipe I wanted to try out something that almost any prepper/survivalist might have in the pantry. Rather than just any old fruit juice I’m making a “hard” pink lemonade from Country Time powdered drink mix. I figure if I can turn something like this into a good tasting beverage then almost anything will work and will show  just what can be done with the Bootlegger bottle. It been less than a day and the yeast is converting the sugars in to alcohol.  While there is nothing wrong going with a more traditional type recipe for fruit wines, I like the potential for experimentation in small quick batches.  On the beer front the IPA I got from Beer Lady tastes pretty good but it is flat. I didn’t have much luck with the bottle carbonation. A good lesson on the difference in carbonating via a keg and the bottle. I’ll stick with sugar during bottling.

I got a little arrogant about my gardening skill and accidentally pulled out a few “good” plants in the big garden bed. So tomorrow I will go with Mom to D&B and get some replacements. Though my small beds look okay and the squash is growing very well in the big bed.  I’m moving to more of a row planting scheme rather than the Square foot method. I loose a bit of potential production but I think it will help me do a better job on weeding and taking care of the plants. The front shady bed should work for the smaller root veggies like carrots and radishes and should be somewhat safer from any over zealous weeding on my part.  It is amazing how much growing space and new plants I have been able to add using the front beds for the edible garden. The lavender and Mums look like the need to be moved to get more sunlight. The trees have filled in and I don’t think they are getting enough sun.  I have a nice spot along the sidewalk that those plants can be used to create a bit of a border and I can add some amendments to the soil to make it a happy place for them to grow.  The little electric rototiller is getting a real workout this year.  It’s still work to dig and make new beds but with the tiller it is so much easier than doing it all with muscle power.

It is just as well that I need to move those plants as I need the space along side my patio for the Outdoor kitchen.  The plastic table for the sink and work space is taking up a bit more room than I had anticipated when I made my plans. I’d prefer the big propane burners to not be against my house since I don’t have any heat protection on the wood siding. I can shift the grills around so that the Weber Gas grill and the propane burners could share a tank. Since the smoker/charcoal BBQ is fuel independent I can position it wherever it is convenient. All I need is a brick bread/pizza oven and the outdoor kitchen will be complete.  Not exactly stealthy but I can handle most types of food prep, cooking and preservation with this setup. I’m working hard on getting to know the neighbors and working to setup a sort of village/tribe within the neighborhood that is somewhat self-reliant and hope that I will get some protection because I run the “community kitchen”.

I’m not particularly brave by being out in the open on self-reliance. With my physical disability I must have help to survive, that is one of my challenges and we all have things that are less than perfect that we work to mitigate.  Perhaps I will be seen as a harmless old crank, but since I can’t run or fight the “Golden Horde”. I must have people see me as valuable and  my home a place of refuge.  Will it work? Not a clue,  just the best plan I can come up with my circumstances. If the economy recovers and everything in the world becomes all wonderful, I still have a great outdoor kitchen to use.

Feeling almost human again

May 22, 2014

Still a few twinges but I think I’m sort of healed up from all the work on Monday.  You would think I’d learn to pace myself better but you would be wrong.  I get to thinking that I’ll just finish this “one last thing and then stop” but that job leads to another and then I must stop!  Then I pay the price for a few days afterwards.  I got the new plants in the front beds and I’m trying to keep myself from overloading the beds as the look a little empty at the moment.  Once the plants start filling in the beds should look pretty good. Doing the expansion of the front beds gives me a lot of expansion of my planting space so I think I can actually take the time and improve the soil for new raised beds this summer.  Making more but smaller raised beds seems to help me mentally as weeding and doing the work on a small bed seems much easier than looking at that big 8 foot raised bed.  It’s sort of silly because over all you are still doing gardening work but it seems easier to weed the smaller beds rather than then the large bed.  “If it is stupid but it works it isn’t stupid”. Speaking for myself, often the hardest part of the task is just getting started.

Self-reliance and prepping is a very personal thing and what I value or think of as a priority may not work for you and that does not mean you have to follow my plan. What I do may not work for you but it should cover most of the “basic” things you need and then you can tweak your plan for what works for you and your situation. While I have used many ideas of others I have put my own personal spin on what I do to prepare.  While I can’t guarantee I will survive even the experts can’t guarantee that either because every person and situation is different. You do your best and you still keep on living life and enjoying it.  I read about people think of prepping as a chore and not much fun, but I am having a blast learning and doing new things.  Many of the things I have learned and done started off as something todo. Yet I find that I like doing it as a hobby and a skill I want to perfect. Somethings I sort of get by with because they don’t resonate as much with me.

For example I doubt I would have tried beer brewing or stuck with gardening if I hadn’t started working on self-reliance.  Many of the things I started doing was because I could save money in the long run. Sure the initial investment can cost a some money but it can really payoff every week, month or over the years.  As far as gardening goes this is the first year I feel somewhat proficient and I have been trying to garden for at least five years. I can walk into a nursery and recognize common garden plants by how they look rather than just reading the little tag. Trust me that is a very important skill to have especially when it come to weeding your garden.

Now some very good news and I got a nice little score for the RV. My parent got my sister an older van to replace an old Ford Taurus and the Van is almost ready to be a camper van with a few additions. Well the fellow that owned the van was sort of tall and he made a bed platform out of 1/2 particle/fiber board and it has hinges and made with supporting legs. This will work great for my lower bunk/couch for the RV once I get the crappy futon removed.  I have an extra “snoot boot” or windshield cover that should work for my sister’s van to add a bit of privacy for camping. This is going to work out great for my sister as she will have one vehicle but it is a multi-tasker. Plus she loved her old van but the diesel and parts were just to expensive to replace for a non-mechanic.  The “new van”  has the 5.0 liter/302 V8 which is has been around for decades so parts  should not be a problem and it should get okay gas mileage. My sister wants her porta-potty and camping stuff from the old van I stored back so I take that as a good sign.


A visit to the Beer Lady and more plants

May 21, 2014

I picked up the Bootlegger bottle and with the yeast it came with I will be doing beverages that are bit more like a wine rather than a beer. The company is working on a beer yeast and say they will have it out soon.  I’m looking forward to trying out and seeing what I can come up with for some additional beverages.  I could see the bottle becoming something preppers might like to have on hand for making alcohol especially since the “yeast” is reusable and lasts for so many batches.   At a min. you could make your own “adult” beverage and it should be a lot of fun.  Deb the beer Lady had some Cascade Hops Rhizomes so I will be adding some to the “sunny” front bed. Because Hops grow up and need a support structure I think the plants will help keep that side of the house cooler in summer which is a nice bonus.  I also got about a gallon of the pale ale we made on the 3rd of May. I’m glad we did not dry hop the beer as it has a pronounce hoppy flavor which is one of the characteristics of IPAs but I’m not a “hop head” and prefer a less hoppy flavor. This is the first time I have used the growler with beer that is carbonated with Co2 rather than using sugar and bottle carbonation so I will see if the bubbles hold or I may add a bit of sugar and let it bottle carbonate.  The cloth bags for hops were only 80 cents each so I picked up a couple for the cilantro water filter idea. I suppose now I should get a water testing kit to see just how much metals are removed from water and it it would be handy to test other filtered water to make sure it safe.

D &B farm store was having a sale and I got a few more plants for the “shady” front bed. Snow peas because I think the back yard bed gets to much sun and it killed off my first peas. I picked up a Russian kale and a greens mix called “Spicy Salad”  that adds a bit of color and some height to make the bed more interesting. Both beds should be pretty as well as functional and while I’m still a little sore I am really pleased how the beds are starting to look though it will takes some time for all the plants to fill the space.  Some thunderstorms and rain are moving through the valley so I caught a bit of a break in not mowing the front yard. I will putter around the yard this Memorial Day as it’s a little tough on me because of losing a few troops.  While I did not deploy or see combat many of my friends did and a few got hurt and one kid that worked for me died. Staying busy physically helps keep me occupied mentally.

Odds and ends and golly I’m sore from Monday

May 20, 2014

The neighbor came over on Monday and cut down two of the holly bushes.  It really opened up the front yard to additional sunlight especially on my garden beds.  I finally got both beds cleaned out and expanded them a little bit.  One bed had an old rose bush and volunteer maple tree that was spreading it’s roots under my porch and I got them both dug out.  That was a lot of work,  as the rose’s root ball was about 20 pounds when I got it out.  I got the very sunny bed planted with some herbs, the Day Lilly, edible flowers and some of the garlic my neighbor gave me has little purple seed tufts so I think it will grow.  The bed that does not get quite as much sun got some borage and the little flowering plant that I can’t remember the name so I’m not sure how well it will grow.  I read that planting your root veggies in a shaded area makes them less likely to bolt though they grow more slowly.  I’m going to try some carrots , radishes and few other root veggies in this bed and see how they do though it is a little late for planting.

Saw an interesting article that Cilantro and possibly parsley might remove heavy metals from water when used as a filter. Sort of like a charcoal filter but you use a something like teabag that you run the water through. Cilantro is a great plant to grow anyway but if it can be used as a water filter it’s definitely a must have for the garden.  I’m going to hit up the Beer Lady Wed. and get some of the food grade cloth bags she has for loose leaf hops and see how you could use cilantro as a water filter for heavy metals.

Speaking of beer, I used the Amber Ale as payment to my neighbor for cutting the Holly and he agrees it is one of my better beers. I did not change the recipe but it seems beer like bread is sensitive to weather conditions like humidity and sometimes it is a bit better or a bit worse based on weather conditions. It could also be that the basement is maintaining a lower and more stable temp. since I’m not using the electric furnace or Air conditioning.  The basement temp, seems to maintain about 55 degrees if I don’t use the furnace.  Beer yeast can be sensitive so I think it is a combination of weather and the cooler  more stable temp.

Dad picked up the Holly branches and took them to the dump and dropped off another load of the Elm.  I saw the wood pile through the back gate but lacked the courage to go out and stack  the wood properly.  I have a little bit more cleanup to do on the former rabbit area but it’s just about a perfect for wood storage.  I can whine about the work right now but having all this wood on hand ready to go for winter is going to make heating so much easier this year.

I can afford to replace the over the stove microwave next paycheck on the 30th. Lowe’s is having a sale and with my veteran discount the microwave will cost only $170.00 with tax. I will get two big bonuses with this microwave, one I will have an exhaust fan for cooking and I will free up counter space.  I will also start on the 2014 goal of replacing appliances with more energy efficient models.

Things have been a little crazy so far in 2014 but I think I’m getting on top of things here at Casa de Chaos.  I don’t want things to collapse and that WWIII sounds like it would suck overall. But, I’m still preparing for both to happen in the next few months. If they do not happen I’m ahead of the game and if the do happen I have done my best to be prepared to survive the aftermath.

We are Hams

May 17, 2014

Both Dad and I passed the test today, heck I was worried about him and it took me two tries to pass. LOL  Cost an extra $14.00 to retake the test but it’s worth it.  Mom is now studying for the general lic.  and Dad says he will have to study for it to keep up with Mom. Strange but kind of sweet in a way, as he explained Mom did Coast Guard Aux. with him so he will do the Ham radio stuff with her.  I recommend using the flash cards as I got blindsided by a couple of questions that were not covered in the 2010 study guide. Not the study guide’s fault because I must have missed a couple of questions that were covered.

I stopped by Nampa Brewers to fill a growler of the pale ale I brewed for the demonstration and it did not get filled. Just a trickle of customers but it kept Deb busy and making money comes first in a business. I did get to to sit around and chat with some of the customers and it’s always fun to talk to other brewers. I’ll stop by again on Wednesday when I get the “Bootlegger Bottle”  I’ll get the growler filled and perhaps a 2 liter soda bottle as my pay for the demonstration.  I want to do some experimentation with the Bootlegger Bottle before I recommend it to anyone but I tried some of Deb’s Cider and you can tell it is an alcoholic beverage and taste just a bit harsh not bad overall and with a little aging it would probably be smoother.  But not bad for 24 hours processing time.

I got the first load of the elm for this winter. After the Ham test Dad took his wood splitter out to my aunt’s and got some of the elm split. Dad only brought over a pickup load but it made the biggest stack of the hard wood I have had to date and there is more to come!  Now I have to clean out that area so I can have enough room for all the wood.  This is a very nice problem to have before summer officially starts.  I need to get busy cutting up the mill ends once all the garden beds are filled up and growing. That will make heating with wood this winter much easier to handle.

I got my official water bill and while it’s a bit higher than what was “normal” I think this clears me of most excess water usage for the water main and the irrigation pipe getting cut. I conserve, but with the beer brewing and stuff I do to prep I think I will just have a higher water bill until I get the whole rain water collection system up and working.  I’m not sure I can afford to do the whole rain collection system but I think I can swing the 525 gallon cistern this summer since I’m pretty well set for firewood.

One thing I have found is you can’t let yourself focus on those little disasters that happen to all of us from time to time. While I need to pay back my Dad I can’t let that be my only goal as other things need doing and most take some money to get going.  I have setup the payment plan and I’m adding in the emergency fund so I don’t get blindsided again. Water main thing is under control and I’m moving on to the next goal.


Huge score on wood for this winter!

May 16, 2014

I will be getting about 3 cords of elm cut and split for the price of my old gas mower and gas grill.  That will cover the next wood heating season and at no cash cost to me.  It looks like the elm puts out a good mid range fire between my mill ends and the fruit woods I bought last year. I will get some more of the fruit wood from the local orchards this summer and by August I should be set for the year or more for heating.  While the wood won’t be exactly “free” it will be cheap and sure help out with the energy costs for the year.

I have been a bit more bold about barter opportunities and it seems to be paying off in a big way. I’m going to stop by Nampa Brewers and fill my Growler with some of the pale ale I made during the brew in a bag demonstration. Deb is going to keg the beer as she is not fond of the bottling process.  I don’t really blame her as bottling the beer is not much fun but it is a lot cheaper based on up front equipment cost. has a cool thing of capture wild yeast in your area and building a database for brewing.  I think it might be fun to see how well a local yeast strain works for beer brewing.  I know that a local yeast makes a pretty good tasting sourdough bread.  It is amazing just how much stuff  Mama Nature will provide if you just learn a few skills.

The Ham radio test is on Saturday so I’m doing a bit of study and Dad has been cramming so he can get his tech Lic. for Ham radio as well.  I think it kind of shook Dad a bit that Mom passed her test and got some very nice congrats from several Ham operators.  Dad is is smart but he is a hands on sort of guy and not as good at memorization , but I think he will do okay if he just takes his time on the test.  Some of the questions need a bit of care that you don’t read into the question. At least that tends to be my problem, as well as the differences of Army communications and the civilian side of the house.  I think I will do okay but I’m not stressing out as I can always take the test again next month if I fail.

Things are not looking great for the global economy or that WWIII thingy but all you can do is keep working on what you can control and that tends to be a very small area.  If you are feeling a bit of unease or even panic I would write out what you are most concerned about and do an inventory of you basics. Focus on your weak points and if money is a bit tight your skills or a  short test or two. Those test should help build your confidence!