Gutters cleaned, mowed up leaves and Mom doing some cleaning therapy

November 30, 2014

Cold and clear today and the good neighbor N. came over to clean the gutters in return for some beer and some mill ends for their fire pit. N. blew some of the leaves off my patio cover with the leaf blower. He really liked the new ladder since we can use it in A-frame mode ad it is tall enough to reach the roof.  The ladder can sit on solid/level concrete so that makes it a lot safer to use. Fred Meyers has the “Cosco” 5-1 ladder on sale this week for $129.00. I know it it is a little more expensive than some ladders but with all the positions and ease of use I think it is a great value.  N. brought my leaf blower so I got to clean my patio and moved a few of the items of Mom’s that sort of spilled over after running out of shop space. I moved Mom’s parkbench and got things so we can walk through as well as move stuff in the next week or two.  I think both Mom and I are a little burned out on that whole idea of lifting, moving and arraigning things for awhile.

I got the backyard mowed, mostly picking up leaves and added the leaf mulch to the small raised beds. I have my tall raised bed with a couple of plants that need to be pulled and add some straw and leaf mulch as cover. I ran out of trash bins and for tomato vines I feel a better throwing them away instead of adding them to the compost pile. I finished up the little doggie ramp for the dogs to navigate the step up into the house.  I’m kind of proud how well the little ramp works and looks as one of my first carpentry jobs with what is on hand and my own imagination. What I like the most is the little ramp is completly out of the way for us humans so we should not have any twisted ankles or falls from any missteps via the ramp.  Mom’s pekes are starting to settle in, but it kind of tough on the old dogs to adapt to a new home when they are short of sight and hard of hearing.  I believe that animals pick up on stress and they will get emotional charged when their humans are unhappy. These poor pekes have been under a lot of stress with the divorce and the move so it will take a few days for them to settle in.  Over all I’m surprised the pekes are starting to adapt after a day and we have got 3 eggs from the chickens in just two days including the move and roosting in small sheds in the kennel. I hope in another day or two, we can let the birds out to free-range a bit in the backyard. Overall the chickens seem happy and are showing very few signs of stress.

While I was out mowing leaves and helping a little with the gutter cleaning, Mom went on a cleaning binge in my house.  My kerosene lamp globes are not only dusted but cleaned as well as several my windows.  The big bathroom has been cleaned and disinfected within an inch of it’s life! I feel a little guilty, but for Mom cleaning is therapeutic. It is her way to exert a little control over her environment and it makes her happy to putter that way. Plus she is helping me in a sort of payback of taking her in. So it is something she needs to do for me.  I’m loving it! I can go do the yard work, make little doggie ramps and my home is clean I’m happy.

I don’t think many “folks” can adapt to a change in status. I believe if you are considering some sort of survival family or group you need to understand people’s strengths and weaknesses and let them do what they are best at.  A couple years back I did a post about a survival resume Now I did the resume from my point of view and bugging out. But you might want to consider the value of people and their skill sets. Perhaps you think anyone can bake, cook, clean or do a bit basic carpentry and plumbing.  How does your survival resume look and what are your skill sets?

Huzzah, the chicken pen is on site and the holly bushes are not!

November 28, 2014

I’m a little tired but a huge stress load has been lifted off my shoulders getting the chicken pen here and ready for the birds. Dad brought all of the panels for the pen on a flatbed trailer and helped me set it up, then he and I loaded up all the holly branches on the trailer that he hauled to the dump. I’m glad I had the holly stacked neatly as loading the trailer went very fast.  The chickens are a little crowded for now but the shed will be here in less than a week. The birds seem happy digging in some of the leftover compost/leaf clutter, Diana the peke is intrigued and Smokey the cat is ignoring the birds.  Thankfully we have a couple of warm days the birds to settle and I can run the power cord from the shop to the pen on Saturday.

I did not consider that we can sit and watch the birds from the patio when I picked the location. My estimates of the area of the pen were dead on and we have a good foot of clearance from the cherry tree branches. I had to sort of guesstimate the height of the kennel and was concerned about the clearance. While I whined about moving the mill end stacks of wood, I’m glad I got it done as one of Mom’s temporary chicken houses was a bit larger than I anticipated and it would have been much more difficult to move into place with the mill ends in the way.  The guys building the shed will have plenty of clearance for moving in the pre-fab walls and roof.  The tin snips made fast work trimming the chicken wire and should cut through the chain link fence with no problem. Buying tools through out the year has been a huge help with this project. Heck I even got to show off my new ladder to Dad while building the pen.

I tested out a small ramp that should help all the pekes go in and out the Doggie door. Diana is acting like she has a sprained front limb and is a little gimpy at times. Mom’s pekes are older than Diana and have a little trouble navigating steps so this ramp should make it easier for all the pekes.  All I need to do to finish the ramp is one cut with the saw then screw it together and paint it. Super easy job for the weekend. The trick will be getting the dogs to use the ramp!

I think Mom is close to hitting her wall. We have both been surprised she hasn’t had a bad Fybro flare, but I think she is getting close to turning into a puddle of goo.  Once her dogs are here and one more piece of furniture is moved to my place. I hope I can convince her to let it go and let the court divide the rest of the stuff.  With the world getting all crazy there is no reason to make yourself nuts about things you can replace. Things that are unique of have sentimental value are a little different, but a bed is no big deal. Heck, I’ll give her the bed in her room as I have a couple of German day beds and a futon that would work as guest room beds. As I told her today “this is not the hill you want to die on”. We need to move on, get  stuff organized not worry about scoring argument points or being pissy about minor stuff!

Feeling much better today

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey turned out superb. The temps were in the 40’s so keeping the BBQ up to temp was much easier compared to last year. I used a cup of kosher salt, a cup of brown sugar, 1/2 gallon of apple cider and about a gallon and 1/2 of water to brine the turkey for 2 days. This morning I rinsed off the brine, patted the turkey dry and added a New Orleans spice rub with no oil or butter under the skin. I let the turkey sit on the counter for about 20-30 minutes to warm while I started the coals in the BBQ. I set a small roasting pan under the grill to catch the drippings and stack the coals on each side of the pan. I rotate the bird every 20 minutes and flip it over every 40 minutes starting and finishing with the breast down. This year I used a local white wine in the roasting pan and occasionally adding wine to the cavity to promote cooking and add flavor. I think the white wine really helped keep the turkey moist. I let the bird rest covered for 20 minutes breast down before carving it to let all the juices settle back into the bird.  About 2 1/2- 3 hours cooking time for an 11.5 pound bird. The meat of the turkey will look a little pink under the skin because of the smoke from the charcoal so use a meat thermometer to make sure the bird is done.

The rest of the meal was Garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn on the cob, fresh baked bread and punkin pie. Though neither Mom or I had pie as we sort of filled up on the turkey. Paper plates and plastic utensils kept clean up super easy though I do have a couple of pans to wash. I got to try out my Black & Decker toaster oven baking the pie and it did a good job, there does seem to be one hot spot in the oven that browned a part of the crust a little extra. I can fix that by rotating the food at the half way point or dropping the cooking rack one level.  We finished dinner early and I got a good nap that helped erase some of my tiredness.

Mom brought over a small load of stuff and got her room sort of organized, while I tended to the turkey and bread. I have a small kitchen so it is easier for one person to do most of the cooking. Plus Mom doesn’t know where most of the stuff is at in the kitchen yet! My system isn’t the same as her’s but she will catch on after she moves in. Her coffee maker is all setup, Mom likes flavored coffees and I like very strong black coffee, so having separate coffee makers makes sense. I think she is going to like the flexibility of the toaster oven compared to just a toaster. You can’t bake a punkin pie in a toaster! I don’t have room for a dinner table, but next year I hope to replace my broken dishwasher with an 18 inch wide model and rearrange the kitchen to be more efficient if not an larger. Then I can add a small dinner table to the kitchen.

I moved a few light weight things of mine in the shop to give Mom a little more room for storage. Some good news maybe, on moving the chicken pen. Dad emptied his trash trailer and might help us move the pen to my house. That would be a huge help to me with setting it up and save Mom a little money on renting a pickup truck to move the last few items. I understand that emotions are a bit strained between them but if Dad can help with the last few items that will get them apart so emotions can cool down some between them. Once the chickens are moved Mom can officially move in.

I want to pick up some winter boots Friday though I really hate the idea of Black Friday shopping. If I find the right size I’ll get a pair but the store has New Balance sneakers on sale for $30.00 and I would not mind having another pair of sneakers to switch out daily to make them last longer. I brought up a pair of my Army galoshes and have a nice set of slippers that I can use to make a warm snow boot. Plus I kept my old army Goretex boots and while not stylish they will work for a winter boot.

Someone hit me with bag of “tired” and a full bucket of Hurt

November 26, 2014

I finally hit my mental/ physical wall with all of the work I have been doing to get Mom moved in to the house. The timing stinks as it was a beautiful day in the mid 50’s and no rain. I didn’t even need to start a fire this morning as the house was a warm 70 degrees when I woke up!  After the walk about halfway through unloading boxes I just started shutting down and the pain was pretty bad so I just have to take a couple of days to recover. Thanksgiving dinner was planned to be simple and easy so that is a blessing. Mom and I are sharing the cooking of the meal and I managed to get all the dishes done, the dough is ready for making bread Thursday as well as the house is semi-clean. Mom says she might putter around her room organizing her things but there won’t be much for me to do after the meal is done. I can take it easy for the rest of the day.

We will be moving the chicken run, chickens, Mom’s patio plants and a few small pieces of furniture this weekend. Mom is looking at renting a truck from U-haul for the big stuff for a day to finish up the move. After that everything will be on-site and we can do a better job of how things are stored. The last item will be the chicken shed and the area is already for it to be setup. I I will need to cut a small door for the chickens access between the shed and the kennel and run a power cord from the shop to the shed.  The new jigsaw should make those jobs easy to get done.

Mom will be adding 3 pekes as well as the chickens so Casa de Chaos will be very full of critters. I think Diana the peke will enjoy having a pack of dogs around for her to boss around and she has always gotten along well with these dogs. Smokey the cat might be a little put out but all of the pekes are good around cats so everybody should settle in quickly.  Some people have expressed concerns about Mom moving in but I don’t foresee any problems as we both have switched back and forth between who is in charge and responsibilities when we have worked and lived together as adults. One really great thing about this house is how it is setup and if anyone needs a bit of privacy or alone time it is very easy to retreat to our respective areas/rooms.  Mom has her heart set on getting her own place in the spring and I certainly hope she can do that, but I don’t want her putting herself in a bind financially to meet some arbitrary date to move out. Who knows what will happen in the future, we might have to recreate the multi-generational homes of the past in order to make ends meet.

Brining the turkey, finished the last of the chicken coop prep

November 25, 2014

I’m using brown sugar this year in the Apple cider brine. I think it might add a subtle enhancement to the BBQ turkey.  If your turkey is still frozen you can speed up the thawing of the bird by putting it a food safe bucket filled with cool water and set it in the fridge.  Having your turkey still frozen when you try to cook it is a disaster waiting to happen! I have a couple of new gadgets to try out on this meal. I can go back to using the coffee grinder for coffee since I got a neat battery powered pepper grinder at a yard sale that holds a lot of spice for my new spice grinder. I have a spice mix for rotisserie chicken that I will use as the dry rub on the turkey.

Since I have most of the stuff needed for the outdoor kitchen next year I might try a deep fried turkey. I don’t know if this happens to other preppers as they get stuff, sometimes I suddenly realize that I have many more options because of the equipment I buy. While the outdoor propane burners were bought for canning and beer making in the summer there is no reason why I can’t use it for deep frying a turkey. Alton Brown did a show on food network using an A-frame ladder so you could lower the turkey from a safe distance and not worry about the oil splashing out and burning you. Guess what I just bought such a ladder!  The safety factor has kept me from doing a deep fried turkey in the past, but now that I have the tools it might be an interesting food experiment.

I went ahead and removed one section of the compost bin and moved the small pile of compost to the main bin. The deepest part of the compost pile is staying hot which sort of surprised me after the little cold snap we had this month. The spent beer grains sort of super charged the compost pile and I still have plenty of leaves for the browns. With the leftover beer grains the chickens don’t eat, it might be possible to keep the compost pile warm and working this winter.  Moving the pile will give me more room for the kennel/chicken run. Mom said the chickens might tear up that part of the yard but I think they will be a great help on working the soil, garden beds and compost pile free ranging in the backyard this winter.  The chickens will spend about a week in the kennel/run and a small chicken house until the shed is built. The weather forcast is for warm temps but a bit of rain. I think we might have to use a few tarp to the kennel walls in order to keep them dry. I thank God for that warmer weather we needed it!  A big plus from my point of view is I get a free education about chickens that I can use for starting my own small flock in the future.

Dad drove by and saw the holly branch pile I made and sent me a text that was thinking a few branches hauled to the dump not a whole forest.  Exaggerations aside I have to say the holly branches do make a formidable fence/windbreak when stacked up. If he has enough room in the trash trailer to haul some of the branches away great! Otherwise I will work on cutting and throwing a few branches each week in the garbage bins. The alley area looks much better so I should not get a nasty gram from the city and Mom has a place to park her vehicle out back.  I have figured out a solution for my slash pile from the mill end dump and once the chicken shed is in place I can re stack the mill ends against the shed for a little insulation for the chickens and Mom can park her Ford sort of under the carport. The overhead cover might help keep at least the front windshield clear of frost and snow this winter. I have a section in the alley I’m dumping the wood ash from the stove in hopes of killing out a few of the surface weeds and add some carbon and nutrients to work into the soil.

I did a little more organizing of Mom stuff in the catch all room, put a couple of bins in the basement along with bags of shoes. I think I have a few more shelves in the shop we can use for the lighter items and that could free up shop floor space for the heavy stuff.  This move was done in a rush and it is hard to make thing organized when you are in a hurry. Hopefully Mom is getting towards the end of moving the small stuff and once the chickens are moved we can organize her things so they take up less space and also thing can be found as she needs them.

Extreme jenga stacking millends, holly branches and making pandemic buckets

November 23, 2014

I have been a little concerned about the guys having enough room to build the chicken shed.  So today I finished stacking up the last of the tossed elm, freeing enough room for about half of the mill ends in the elm wood pile. I surprised myself in how much of the wood I got moved today and the area for the shed is all raked up and the rock layer looks level and ready to go.  One of the neighbors said there is a racoon out and about and has killed a few chickens.  With the shed and kennel the chickens should be safe from any predators. I have a couple  motion detector/spot lights that are sensitive under the car port so any furry little bandits should be seen before they can attack the birds.  Mom and I have pellet/BB guns so we can persuade the racoon to hunt elsewhere.  I wonder if the holly branches might help the neighbors to make a barrier around their coops against the racoons?  Those holly leaves act like rose thorns when I was cutting them down. It would be nice if we could get another use out of the holly, rather than just send them to the dump.

Lovely weather right now in the Treasure valley.  Upper 40’s today and it looks like it will stay warm until Friday so the BBQ turkey looks like a go!  SW Idaho can get sort of crazy weather depending on if it comes out of Alaska and is cold or up from Cali and is warm. We might even see the low 50’s this week!  I am letting the stove go cold so I can finish cleaning out the ash. The glass window of the stove is staying cleaner so I think I’m doing a better job of using the wood.  Mom said if she needs to buy a replacement stove for her new “home” she will get one of the Pacific Energy type stoves as they are well insulated and you can place furniture very close with no fear of fire.

Since Mom is moving into my Sickroom, I moved most of my pandemic supplies into buckets moving the buckets to my medical storage area. I’m using my blue buckets as sort of a quick color coding and one bag full of the Tyveck suits and the light weight bulky items.  This will free up a shelf and some floor space for some of her stuff like blankets and bedding.  In the catch all room I did a little more rearranging and moving some item to the basement so we gained a lot more floor and storage space.  A new goal for 2015  is to add more wall shelving and going vertical with my storage. I have the tools on hand and making shelves will be a great way to improve my woodworking/carpentry skills.

While I’m doing a lot of work because of  Mom moving in, it has motivated me to square away many jobs I put off because I did not want to do the work.  Nothing like panic to get you motivated to get stuff done!  Plus if I was a little to conservative about the space for building the shed I’m sure the guys would have moved the wood and charged us big time for a time consuming but very simple job.  The shed will be built the first week of December so I still have some time and it looks like good weather to finish up getting things ready for the chickens.

Finished most of the chores today

November 21, 2014

Last of the cell phone transfer is done and I got the veterans discount added. Hopefully all the hoops have been jumped through and there won’t be any more problems.  Dad is keeping my sister on his plan but by taking off both my phone and Mom’s he will save at least $20.00 per month and if he goes with fewer minutes, he could save some more money.  I’m trying to stay as neutral as possible but with Mom moving into my place it is a tad more difficult to be seen as a neutral party.

I finished up the Thanksgiving shopping and I didn’t get as good of deal on the turkey as I had hoped so I only picked up one eleven pound bird. The weather forecast looks good for BBQing the bird. It’s supposed to be in the 30’s and calm winds that makes it easier to maintain the heat level of the coals. I think the bird is small enough that I can use my rotisserie if the weather doesn’t work for BBQing the bird. One thing nice about being a prepper and having alternative ways to cook food, is it can make cooking the holiday meals a lot easier. Plus it is good practice for a disaster.

Speaking of the weather there is an alert for freezing rain and 15 mph winds tonight and Saturday though the temp is warming up a bit.  I started moving the holly branches to a spot where I can cut and bundle them up for the garbage truck or Dad has better access to pick them up and load them in the trailer for the dump. I still have about 1/4 of the pile to move, I’m hoping with the warmer temps melting the snow on the branches the holly will be easier to stack up.  I stacked the mill ends up higher and if what the store told me about how much room is needed to bring in the walls and roof we are good to go. The wood rack on the porch is refilled and I have a few days to a week worth of wood to burn. I’m recharging my cell phone and the kindle and got most of the storm prep done last week. I finished shoveling the bad spots  for snow out and added more salt to the front side walk just in case we get freezing rain.  Over all I’m prepped for the storm.

Mom says she will be coming over Saturday and we can work out the placement of the chicken shed and the placement of the kennel and the food for the chickens. I think the chickens will be happy in this spot because it is very well protected from the wind. The carport does a pretty good job and protecting of rain and snow so the chickens will stay dry.  I know if the chickens stay dry and out any wind/drafts they can tolerate cold temps very well.  There will also be plenty of room for the metal cans that hold feed for the chickens that is close to hand.

Last but not least I stopped by the beer lady and picked up some black and chocolate malt along with some hops and yeast to make a black lager, a black ale and another amber ale. I like making the darker beers in winter and the basement cools to the perfect temp. in winter for making lagers. I paid a couple of bills ahead, picked up a few oz. of silver on sale and got a little bit of a buffer to see how much more it will cost in utilities with Mom moving in. She is pretty frugal with electricity but we have added another fridge so cost will go up though I hope to off set some of the cost with the LED light bulbs.  Mom is sort of cold blooded compared to me and my sister so she might need to use a small electric heater in order to fell comfortable and I’m okay with that as she has offered to make up the difference in costs.  Her rooms get warmed by the wood stove so she may not need the little electric heater at all. I’m doing a lot better this year at maintaining the temps with the wood stove this year and she prefers the wood heat compared to the constant on/off cycles of an electric furnace. The chickens will need some heat and lighting this winter so that will add a bit more cost to the electric bill.   If Mom needs to stay into summer she has a small window A/C unit that will keep her and probably the front part of the house cool and comfortable in summer.

One last thing for you all. I really like the tower fan and small table I am using this year to push the heat from the wood stove though the house.  The tower fan seems to do a good job moving the warm air and it has a small foot print compared to box fans.  Outside of installing a ceiling fan the tower fan is a good compromise on cost and easy to add where you need it.