Hope you are having a good holiday season! It is going well here at Casa de Chaos

December 28, 2014

Christmas was very low key this year. I did up a Prime rib and Mom added a few items like potatoes and punkin bread and pie. I baked up some of Sci-fi Chick’s 30 minute rolls and they were a big hit. I still get a little choked up at times because I miss her. The best tribute I can think of is carrying on and doing the things she has taught me.  I was a little worried about the prime rib sitting in the freezer so long. I used the Memphis BBQ spice rub and let it sit overnight then cooked it up in the rotisserie. It turned out really good if I say so myself.  I like to make use of the BBQ,  rotisserie and toaster oven when doing my Holiday cooking. It frees up the big oven and is good practice cooking/baking if you can’t use your oven. I have an electric stove that runs on 220 volts so there is no way I could use it during a power outage. Both my rotisserie and toaster ovens run on 120 volts so the generator could power those up with no problem.

On to the critters, I had a bit of a scare with Diana the peke. I took her to the groomer and when she came home her back legs didn’t function very well! She was not in pain but was very wobbly and had a hard time walking.  She had a rough couple of days healing up but she is doing much better and has a real bounce in her step.  Peke’s can have back problems and I think Diana must of twisted the wrong way while at the groomer. I added some baby aspirin to Diana’s food and tried to keep her movement somewhat restrained while she healed up. Thankfully she did not have pain while she was wobbly. In that case I would have got her to the Vet. right away!  My Mom has three pekes and Diana thinks Mom’s black peke “Bear” is just the greatest peke ever. Diana even shares her food bowl with him!  We are having a problem with the oldest dogs piddling in the house since they have not figured out the new doggie door.  Overall the dogs are doing okay.

Mom has been letting the chickens out to forage and scratch in the backyard. The birds are having a great time scratching  the leaf mulch in the garden as well as getting some bugs and stuff in the yard. Egg counts are starting to come up as the birds have settled into their new home. SW Idaho tends to turn off cold after the New year but Mom has the heat lamp and a small heater ready to go for the cold snap.  I’m sure many people will say that my Mom spoils her chickens and they are probably correct.  But so far Mom’s chickens produce many eggs, even in winter compared to most folks chickens.  Plus the birds seem happy with their lives. I still need to adjust the birds roosts, to add another as well as make things work a bit better for us humans but the shed is working out great.

Mom is working out great as a roommate. While this is my home and Mom recognizes that fact, we have sort of settled into how we did things when I was growing up. I prefer doing jobs working with tools and stuff outside. While Mom is all about cleaning and making a healthy “home” so to speak. I’m not sure I can explain it as Mom never treated me as a child when I was growing up. After my parents were divorced I sort of took on the yard work and stuff because I liked it. I cooked and baked because I liked eating good food, though I hated doing dishes!  Mom does the dishes now and I feel guilty, though she consider it payback for staying in my house.  This is not the same woman who raised me!  😉

I have a few little plumbing jobs to do but I’m holding off doing them until the Holidays pass. I get a paycheck and if I screw up I can call in a real plumber and pay him. That should finish up all the water works I have done this year.  It’s been a pain but I will have replaced about 70% of all supply lines with good pipes and valves as well as make my drainage pipes simpler as well as easy to clean.

2014 sucked for me.  I had a water main break, my dog died and I’m fighting plumbing issues that were done incorrectly.  But overall it was not a bad year.  I got the wood to heat this winter via barter and very cheap. I hit my silver goal with a little extra.  I got a few more tools as well as used them on stuff around the house.  I have worked hard and been blessed to meet most of my goals and while a few things went a bit sideways or were unexpected, such is life!



More adventures in Plumbing

December 21, 2014

I decided I would give the Drain King water pressure unclogging tool another shot, but this time I would put the drain king in the pipe under the kitchen sink rather than use the drain adapter. This worked out great for clearing the clog! One small problem one of the pipe fittings cracked and began leaking. Back to the hardware store to get a replacement… and it would not fit. So I finally had to cut off the old fitting and replace it by using some of the ABS cement and a brand new fitting.  Some lessons learned from this task:

  1. The reciprocating saw is good for rough cutting but sucks for detail work.
  2. My hack saw did a very good job cutting the 1 1/2 inch ABS pipe.
  3. I need a bench vice to hold things I need to cut securely. I have enough health problems without lopping off appendages I might want to use later.
  4. Don’t psych yourself out about doing certain steps needed for the job simply because you have not done it before.  Take your time and follow the instructions.
  5. Always dry fit or screw all pipe fittings before sealing the pipe with glue/cement.
  6. Have a backup plan just in case you screw up and need to call in a professional during regular business hours as well as the funds to pay for it.
  7. You might screw up a few things while learning a new skill and trial and error seems to be my “Learning Method” so expect that you might have to make a few trips to the hardware store if some of your DYI repairs don’t go as planned.
  8. In my experience most leaks tend to show up quickly but you should have a bucket or bowl you can put under the repaired section for a few days to make sure the leak is fixed.

It has been about 3 hours since I installed the new pipe with no leaks. I have run several full sinks of water though the drain pipes since the repair so I think both pipe and the clog are fixed.  I have a small bowl I will keep under the sink for couple days,  just in case a leak develops. I learned that cutting ABS pipe with a hacksaw isn’t as hard as I thought it would be and using pipe cement to make connections is pretty simple and straight forward.  A little steel wool and coarse sand paper will clean as well as get rid of any plastic burrs from your cuts.

I still have to replace the valves and water supply hoses for the bathroom faucet replacement but I can turn off the water from the hot water heater and make sure all off the pipe fittings work before I turn off the main water line to replace the cold water valve under the bathroom sink. I’m learning as I try out new plumbing jobs. A professional probably would be much faster on these jobs. But I don’t think I can depend on a Professional in the future so the more things I fix for the long term the better off I will be and the house hold will be somewhat solid for all those basic maintenance issues for a few years.

It has been somewhat warm for December in SW Idaho though quite damp. The MDF above the wood pile is starting to rot and I doubt I can save that wood. I think I can throw a tarp over the frame and save what is left of the MDF and keep fire wood dry this winter.  Mom has either caught a cold or is having a Fybro-flare now. It was amazing how much work she got done moving but all that effort is  catching up with the both of us.  So we will have a nice quiet Xmas with a good Prime rib and the fixings. I talked to Dad and things are still a bit unsettled with his side of the family. I can understand that, so I don’t want to add to that drama and I hope they all have a great Holiday in spite of what is going on.

I have added quite a few jobs around the house this month and my timing as well as a “maintenance fund”. I should have created has me a bit stressed.  I’m a bit “cash poor” for the moment because I paid a few utilities ahead and bought silver while it is cheap. While it is tempting to put off basic home maintenance,  I think it is best to invest in your shelter and do the best job you can afford on repair jobs.  If I want to work on plumbing in my house I will need shut off valves.  So I can’t lose out on this repair done properly and I’m getting a great education about plumbing as well as adding tools needed for those job.

Last but not least the critters are doing okay. Diana the peke is doing much better since I trimmed back that nail and is not so gimpy on her front leg.  I think that nail was sort of like a hang nail for us humans and quite painful to her.  Diana will go to the groomer this week and get a wash and cut of her stray hairs and she will feel great.


Jamie has a dough brain moment

December 19, 2014

I should have checked out if the valves under the sink actually worked to turn off water before my shopping trip to lowes.  Guess what the valves don’t work so I will have to replace them and I might as well replace the water supply lines at the same time. It will add a bit more to the cost of the repair but replacing the older lines and valves with good quality hardware will pay off long term. I want every water supply point to have a shut off valve as it will make all repairs much easier in the future.  When I replaced the guts of the toilets I had a bad valve on one of the toilets so I replaced both the valve and the old line and it has worked out very well replacing some of the “make do” repair/installation of things in this house.  Each of these small repair jobs I get done, adds to my knowledge base and makes the home better because the repair is done correctly.

While I was at lowes I saw they had all the tools for de-burring the cut drain pipes as well as making the chamfer angle to fit the pipes together. I found some threaded fittings I can glue in order to have access to the trap and a way I can use the “snake” for any clogs in the future.  My kitchen sink is draining slow and considering how the goomba installed the drain pipe for the washer I bet he just sort of hooked up the pipe with a bunch of left over elbows and short runs of pipe.  Rather than buy more pipe and create the straightest pipe runs possible.  After seeing how the former owner used 3  gaskets rather than a bit of “plumbers putty” to seal the kitchen sink drain, nothing surprises me.  It’s sort of like a person steps over a dollar to pick up a dime, using leftover pipe fittings.  I understand a person sometimes has to use what they have on hand in order to get by. What I don’t understand is being so cost ineffeceint that you use more costly hardware rather than do the job right. Black ABS drain pipe is cheap! Adding a bunch of elbows and fittings is not as cheap as straight runs of pipe. I need a trap I can access and a 90 degree elbow to tie into the existing stack. About 4-5 feet of ABS pipe cut to fit, one trap and one elbow, add in a couple of threaded fittings for access and the drain job is done and easy to clean as well as repair.

I really hate when people sort of half-ass in jobs. Do it right the first time and you save yourself from constant repairs as well as save money. Yes it usually costs a bit more up front but you will save time, money and trouble in the long term.

Enough whining about the past I can’t fix. It looks like I may just squeak by hitting my silver goal for the year.  While I was at lowes buying the faucet I picked up a LED bulb on sale that is a 60 watt equivalent for the main living room lamp. Huge difference as it almost doubled the lumens of the 40 watt equivalent bulb.  My electric bill is forecasted to be around a $100.00 but I did Xmas lights this year so I don’t think Mom is totally to blame for the rise in cost. If you can find the LED bulbs on sale I think they are a great way to save on energy costs. The LED bulbs are much better compared to CFL bulbs as far as quality of light and cost savings.

I have sort of moved in to sustainment mode. I don’t need to add too the basics I have on hand I’m sort of just tweaking and making sure the basics are rotated. I made most of 2014 goals though it was sort of odd. My garden went berserk growing and I did not expect that happening. I added many tools and gained a different mindset about self-reliance. I’m mentally going for a more proactive approach here at “Casa de Choas”. I’m still playing around with my goals as money is just a bit tight but doable.

A few fix-it jobs around the house got done

December 18, 2014

I found the leak but it is actually at the bathroom sink faucet rather than the pipe. In a strange sort of way it worked out that I could not get the kindle fire as I now have the money to pick up a nice faucet for the bathroom for about the same cost. I feel a bit silly cutting a small hole in the sheet rock looking for the leak but I have to say the reciprocating saw did a great job cutting the hole. I have a spot in my bedroom where the sheet rock was damaged from a roof leak and the reciprocating saw will make it much easier to cut out the damaged area and replace the sheet rock.

I added a small wooden latch to hold the chicken house door in place when Mom closes up the chickens at night.  I cut the plywood of the door to size so it is easier to move though I think we could add a couple of small hinges to the door and make it fit fairly tight. I still need to clean up the door cutout but so far the birds don’t seem to mind it looking a little messy. I have to say having the proper tools on hand sure make jobs around the house a lot easier and quicker.  With my limited physical energy and strength having these tools has a real blessing.  Of course I am running out of excuses of why I haven’t fixed things!

Speaking of the chickens Mom let them out to free range again and Smokey the cat watched the birds and even explored the chicken pen and house.  Smokey did not act like the birds were prey and was actually a bit timid around the chickens. Overall my pets have come to accept the chickens as another creature that is part of Casa de Chaos.  Mom is a bit dissappointed with the egg production so far, but I think the chickens seem happy and relaxed so eventually the eggs will come in time.  I enjoy watching the chickens scratch around the yard. They seem really happy hunting bugs they can find. A great thing about chickens is they get rid of many bad bugs like fleas and ticks as well as keep other bugs under control.

I got Diana the peke’s nails trimmed and for the first time I did not draw blood by cutting the nails to close to the quik. I also trimmed up the fur on her feet and that grows between her pads. I think one of the nails was making her a bit lame by pushing into the pad or perhaps in between the pads when she stepped wrong of jumped around. Any way she is much bettter and much less gimpy on that leg.

We have some damp, cold and generally dreary weather moving in.  Mom and I can work on getting stuff organized in the basement and shop.  I can’t afford the washer drain pipe fix right now since I have to install the faucet. I have a work around for the washer drain and I can afford to get the pipe next month. I’m letting Mom stay for”free” this month as I have not seen a big rise in my utility costs so far and she is on  a very restricted income until things get settled in the divorce.  I might be able to pay back more of the debt I owe by eating the costs and taking it off the debt so Mom doesn’t have to pay for living at my house for a couple of months.  If we both agree to this money system it should be a win/win for both of us.  The only utilities I’m a bit concerned about is electricity and water. If Mom has to run a heater to keep the chickens warm this winter that will add to my electric bill. So far the temps have been mild and adding the LED light bulbs seems to have mitigated any rise in lighting usage.  Mom and I are sort of water intensive so that cost will go up but that bill was paid ahead so we got a couple of months before we need to deal with that bill.

Speaking from my experience money is all about how much you keep, not how much you spend. When you spend it must be for something you need to survive first and then you look at lasting value for hard goods.  It does not matter if it is tools, silver or food and water as long as you keep building up those real tangible goods that help you survive.

Got most of the shopping done and one small glitch

December 17, 2014

I gassed up the car and it cost only $24.00 which is a nice change compared too having a 50 dollar bill used up this Summer.  I got an 11 pound chunk of Beeswax as the bee keeper busted apart an 18 pound chunk of wax for me. I need to make that chunk a bit smaller in order to clean it. I now know how to cut the wax into smaller chunks, you need a small pry bar and a hammer. Though I think a wedge and sledge hammer would work as well! Real beeswax is dense but that is what makes it so good for candles and for other craft items/projects. I can afford to spend the time to clean the wax for my salves as well as Mom’s candle making idea. It’s one of those jobs you can start and check on through out the day.  It’s not fast but you can get other things done while the wax melts.

I stopped by the pawn shop to pick up the tools on layaway. While I was there the shop had an older kindle fire with no cord pretty cheap. I could not register the kindle and it turns out the kindle fire was reported lost or stolen! I gave the pawn shop owner a heads up about the issue and they were very pro-active about saying bring the kindle back for a full refund and then tracking down the person that brought the kindle into their shop.  I learned a few things about identifying the kindles and I think I’d like a kindle fire with a camera and something I can use as a tablet via wireless around the house. I think a Tablet has a place in your preps as it can be a great electronic Multi-tasker. It takes less energy to power a tablet compared to a laptop computer and a desktop is an electronic power hog, at least based on what I build. I love my old kindle keyboard model as I have all kinds of books stored on it.

I stopped by the local hardware store and got another pair of the gloves I like so well.  I have an odd shaped hand large palms but sort of short fingers. So I can sort of use both small and medium gloves as one size will fit the palm and the other size fits my fingers. I picked up a saw blade for the reciprocating saw that cuts plastic and should help finishing up my plumbing repair.  I picked up a small space heater for Mom as her small SS check hits on the 24th this month and I don’t think shopping on that day will be fun! I have paid a few small bills ahead, so things are going fairly well overall and we both have a bit of time to build up some cash reserves. I’m a little bit cash-poor this month as I’m buying up silver on sale.  No, I don’t need any help as I have been cash poor in the past and I have learned to deal with it.  We will have a nice, if sort simple Xmas with a bit of Prime rib and the Holiday fixings. If you can afford Prime rib, you aren’t really poor!

Mom let out the chickens to free range a bit in the backyard. Talk about happy birds scratching through the leaf clutter and mulch. Diana the peke was very good with the birds, though Smokey the cat was in nap mode while the chicken free ranged.  Most of the chickens did very well when Mom called them to the kennel/chicken coop. I  can clean up the cuts around chicken door area with the reciprocating saw I bought and sort of get a feel for how it works. By this weekend I think I’ll be ready to tackle the plumbing repair jobs.

A lot of self-reliance and prepping is very mundane and sort of boring in many ways.  Speaking for myself, I get a huge thrill about meeting a goal or learning a new skill. Watching the grass grow, comes to mind and yes I have done that, as a measure of trying to improve soil. Some of the things are sort of entertaining. Watching Diana the peke with the chickens free ranging. Watching the chickens have a great time scratching through the leaf mulch of my raised garden beds is sort of entertaining to me.  I suppose I have always been a bit odd but that is okay. I like simple things and simple entertainments.

Last thing for the year is set up a crossbow/pellet gun range for practice of basic shooting skills.  I have about a 15 meter range with a good backstop. It’s a bit short range but it’s the best I can do on my city lot.


I’m excited to do my shopping on Wednesday

December 16, 2014

Not doing much food shopping though Cash & Carry has the boneless pork loin roasts for $1.88 a pound. I will stop by the Asian grocery store and pick up the marinade for pork and seeds. I saw a food tray made up of pork and seeds and thought it would make a nice change from your average meat or veggie tray for Xmas snacking. I can cook up the pork the day before on the rotisserie and stash the tray in the fridge.  I have all of the other Holiday foods on hand for Xmas.

I pick up the reciprocating saw and the plunge router off layaway at the pawn shop. I will stop by lowes and pick up a couple saw blades for the plumbing work and a wood blade to clean up the hole I cut in the chicken house.  I found a small leak in a pipe coming off the hot water tank but the leak is behind some sheet rock. I should be able to make a small hole in the sheet rock and wrap that pipe with some repair tape for a temporary fix. I was warned that the plastic pipe used in the house would eventually fail so the leak is not a big surprise. While I’m at lowes I will get some prices on replacing all those water supply pipes and the tools needed for doing the job next year. I have to get a bit of advice on how to install the ABS drain pipe for the washer. I would prefer to install the pipe with compression/threaded fittings rather than gluing the pipe so I can have easy access to clean any clogs.  I want to make everything I repair as neat and easy for future repairs even if it costs a bit more money up front, it should payoff in the long run.  I don’t think I’m getting cocky about taking on these repairs as most are fairly simple and straight forward if not always easy. I have done some work repairing pipes under my kitchen sink and replaced a drain so I’m feeling confident I can handle these repairs with a bit of knowledge.

Got a hold of the beekeeper and he will sell me a 10 pound block of wax for $50.00.  I will have to do another cleaning but that is simple and easy to do even if it is not fast. That 10 pounds of wax will give me plenty for making my pain salve and dry skin salve as well as some wax for Mom to start her candle making hobby. Beeswax candles tend to burn longer than other types of candles. Silicone pans for making candies work great for small chunks of clean beeswax that weigh between 1-2 oz. My aunt told me that clean beeswax is a very popular product at the Farmer’s Market and you can get a very good price selling it in units as small as an oz. Perhaps clean beeswax can be a good trade or barter item.

Critter update: Mom wants to start letting the chickens free range in the backyard. She thinks the birds are good knowing the chicken house is their “safe place”. We will have to see how Diana the peke and Smokey the cat react to the birds being out and about in the backyard. Mom had one of her older hens die this last week. The hen was over 8 years old so it wasn’t unexpected. There is another hen that is about the same age that may not make it through the winter but Mom wants to give her a chance.  Mom is not overly sentimental about the hens but these “hens” were a gift from her sister to start her flock so they are the flock “matriarchs” and sort of special.

A few odds and ends. The black belma ale turned out great if I do say so myself. The amber lager was very popular and I need to make another batch that should be ready by New Year’s Eve. Using the “Brew in a Bag” method I have found letting the grains steep/mash for 90 minutes works better than the average 60 minutes when you mash out, since you don’t actually mash out. The BIAB method is a sort of like creating a giant teabag for your grains and while a bit slower, it is a lot cheaper on equipment to buy, compared to most all-grain brewing methods.



Next week’s shopping list and Xmas lights

December 10, 2014

I put a couple of tools on layaway at the local pawn shop. I got a Skill reciprocating saw and a Black & Decker plunge router. Both tools feel solid and this pawn shop works with contractor type folks so the tools tend to be heavy duty compared to the your Harbor Freight cheap tools.  There is nothing wrong getting some tools cheap, but in the long run you should try to get the best quality you can afford. You can use your first set cheap tools as a barter item and keep the better quality tools for yourself, if you start on the low end of quality and prices. Sometimes the the cheap stuff is good quality and you can save a bit of money rather than paying for a “Brand Name” tool.  You might be betting your life on that tool doing what you want to do, so plan accordingly. What is very cool working with a local pawn shop is I don’t get charged for my layaway.  I have a personnel relationship with these folks and I pay off quickly.  I don’t haggle prices much as they are reasonable and they need to maintain a little profit margin to stay in business.  The pawn shop has a couple of concealed carry pistols I’m interested in and they are really stocked up on silver. So I’m working the budget to allow a a few long term purchases.

Called a local be keeper about buying a chunk of Beeswax. I’m down to my last couple of oz. and that is not a good thing for my pain relief salve and my dry skin salve is getting a few followers.  Natural beeswax is great and the beekeeper does a very simple cleaning and I run the wax through a finer cleaning but I don’t bleach the wax so it retains it’s slightly sweet aroma and I think a few of the natural healing properties.  Plus I think natural beeswax just smells nice!

We hung a few Xmas lights today.  Nothing fancy, just a few white and multicolored light strings in order to be festive. I never hung Xmas lights on the front of the house as I never had a ladder I felt confident using. The new Costco 5-1 ladder has changed that feeling. I was darned impressed how the white lights lit up my stairs, no porch light needed. I need to try out a couple of solar string lights to light the entry way in the future. Mom and I also stung up some colored lights and I have to say the new ladder rocks for a a safe and secure platform.

The chicken run and shed are working out well though Mom is only getting a couple of eggs per day. I think once the birds get used to their habitat egg production will go up and in a week or two we can let the birds free range in the backyard once they get used to their new home.

Dad stopped by and covered the roof of my RV with a tarp until I can buy some snow roof and seal it. My step Dad is wonderful man in many ways and has helped me from splitting wood to fixing my water main this year. We have sort of different mindsets about the future but that does not mean he is a bad person and I hope I’m not correct in my  prepping for “Doom & Gloom” at times.  We sort of disagree , I am preparing for the worst and he hopes things will stay the same.  It does not make him a bad person. Financially speaking he is about cash flow and I’m all about paying cash and getting out of debt. I think I’m correct in my outlook and he thinks outlook is best.  I can’t say he is wrong but I think my financial outlook works better no matter what happens. His financial depends on thing staying the same.  Like it or hate it change happens!