Cutting up wood for the fireplace. Shopping some good and some bad

October 31, 2015

It has not been all that cold yet, but both Mom and I like using the “mill ends”/box wood for a hot, fast fire that takes the chill off in the house. I filled up the porch small wood rick/wood pile with a mix of the old and new wood. I cut down a few older chunks of wood that were a bit large for the wood stove using the electric chain saw. I replaced the old circular saw blade on the Black and Decker circular saw and it work darn good on the “mill ends” filling up the 18 gallon buckets of wood.  Your saw should cut wood without a lot of pressure applied.  If you are forcing the cut it is time to buy a new blade or sharpen the blade. I filled 2 of the 18 gallon buckets, but I’m feeling the extra effort using the circular saw compared to a table saw.

I used the electric chain saw to cut down a few over sized chunks of wood.  I filled the little wood rick/ holder to the top and then some as well as two 18 gallon buckets of cut mill ends. Mom makes the fire first in the morning.  I tend to top off the fire at night if needed. But I need to find the “sweet spot” on burning wood.

Dad gave me a great Hobart table saw from his Dad.  It is great, but I’m having a   heck of a time finding any info, about proper blade  replacement. I can’t find a model number because of age. The blade is a circular 8 1/4 inch blade but the arbor is well above the  standard5/8ths arbor. My guesstimate on the arbor is in the 3/4 or 7/8″ range.  I know it might seem another “duh” moment but a sharp blade/chainsaw is something you need on hand to make quick work of your cutting jobs.  I really want to get a good miter/table saw for cutting the box wood quickly and for my future wood building projects.

I stopped by the local Ross store to see what they have and I was a bit surprised by how they have expanded from just clothing.  I picked up a set of those little doggie steps ($10.00) that help older dogs get up on beds or a couch as they get older and less mobile. I did not find the flat sheets I wanted, but Ross did have some nice sheet and blanket sets for a good price.  I found a couple of the larger jute/rubber door mats I  I got a jute/rubber mat for the backdoor and a rubber sort of an open mesh mat that I placed over the sand area in front of the chicken gate so the area drains. Each mat cost about $7.00, which is a pretty good price. Getting the door mats should give us a place to get rid of most the leaves,  dirt and other unpleasant items without having to “deface” some of my big decorative rocks by the back door. I don’t have pics but I think one of the bigger rocks shuddered with revulsion when we used it to scrape our boots.

The $4.99 can of coffee at Fred Meyer’s was a bust as they have shrunk the cans again, this time down to 24 oz. I’m so peeved by this nonsense, as a big can of coffee used to be a full 36 oz.  I had a feeling that last month’s sale of coffee was a setup/clear out of old cans to introduce “a new and improved” smaller can of coffee.   I understand grocery stores operate with razor thin margins but this sort of pricing irks me and it feeds into the US government paradigm that there is no inflation because a can a coffee only costs $4.99 yet that can of coffee is less than 2 pounds now compared to 2.5-3 pounds back 2-4 years ago.  Yes, I am that anal-retentive that I notice how all the packaging has shrunk, then we get a “sale price” on the new and improved item and in about the month the price will hike again to the “new” normal price.

I’m starting to get ahead of the power curve on the house payment and having a bit of cash on hand. Mom has been great for motivation on saving money for the “emergency fund.  I’m buying  $10.00 rolls of 50 cent  coins as my cash savings and hoping for a silver coin year of 40-90% silver.  So far no luck on silver but saving the coins is helping me to save cash for the future.

Great news Smokey the cat is coming  out more and Tucker the peke is starting to follow verbal commands. It’s not perfect yet but things are getting better via the pets behaving.



Shopping the bazaars, finishing up the windows using “old white flour”

October 25, 2015

At the bazaar, I got a great deep, 9″ cast Iron pan for $2.00,  that needs a bit of seasoning and care to be a first rate cooking dish.  Mom bought some lovely cut glass candle holders for her “candle garden”.  I’m glad I got my wood stove with a glass window, but Mom’s old fireplace had no window so she made a little “candle garden” so she could enjoy the look of a fire with a bunch of candles on stands that are some what safe. Heck you are prepping and you will probably have candles on your list of backups for light.  Buy some pretty candle holders that are safe for year round use and that you enjoy using!

I finished caulking two more windows on the South side of the house and Mom was correct about some good size gaps around the exterior kitchen window frame.  I can also state the caulk is doing it’s job sealing the windows and it is not just a “placebo” effect.  The temps in the backrooms is much higher via the temp. gauge Mom installed compared to last last year.  While we are having a “warm” fall my windows are not sweating at all and they seem warmer to walk by this year fully opened compared to last year when I had dropped the blinds and closed the thermal curtains.  I’m sure a few of you are thinking “well Duh!”  I had no idea how much difference caulking your windows could impact your home.  What is great the caulking that keeps the cold air out in winter will keep the hot air out in summer.

I have read many prep sites that say “white flour” can be stored for about 5 years.  I have been using white flour  that is 7-8 years old, both “bleached and unbleached, baking bread with no fall off in quality in my baked breads.  I use food grade buckets and add a bit of DE to keep away the bugs, but other than that I don’t take any extra storage precautions for White flour.  Perhaps the nutritional value has fallen off but I can’t see much difference in my “old’ stored flour and a new bag of flour buy at the local mega-mart.

A lot of good news on the cat, the dogs and taking out mice in the house.  We got 3 mice today in the sticky traps and Tucker the peke is great pointing filled mouse traps. Smokey the cat is roaming the house in the evenings and the basement daily for rodents.  For catching mice you need a little bit of patience and a lot of sticky traps in many areas. I think/hope with filling many of the exterior holes via caulk and foam I have stopped rodents entering my home.  Now we just need to get rid of those that have taken residence we will be good to go!


The house feels different after caulking the windows

October 21, 2015

Perhaps there is a “placebo” effect, that the house feels warmer after caulk and foaming all the gaps.  Mom stated that the house feels less damp and the backrooms are much warmer via thermometer Mom installed last year and I’m not seeing as much sweating/moisture around the windows in the back part of my house. I know it is early days yet for this little test/maintenance job.  But I feel like an “acid minded moron” for not caulking and sealing up holes around the house when those products are so cheap.

Mom and I still need to finish caulking all of the south side windows and put up the window insulation kits/plastic. I think we have eliminated much of the moisture and drafts coming through the windows. I managed to get the ladder setup and we have some sunny days coming up this week so we might be able to finish up the last three windows.

Bad news I think I need a new roof and new siding because many of the cheap lap panels are pulling loose from the basic structure of the house.  I figure it will take about $15 grand in repairs to make the house right long term. I can’t complain as this is a house built in 1940 and I ignored a few problems due to a lack of money to fix thing properly. So far I am doing stop-gap repairs to keep things from getting worse. The financial plan of attack is to keep working on the “emergency fund” and then take out a short term loan next year for each job. The roof should cost about $4-6 grand and I hope the siding will be about the same cost wise.  I’ll get one job done and paid off then get started on the next job. Nampa city has a low interest loan program that might be a good option for getting the jobs done.  Right now I am just doing research on the total cost of the repairs and the best way to pay for them. I really hate the idea of going into more debt on the house.

Gosh Jamie what if the “Zombie” Apocalypse happens while you are in debt?  Well, if it happens it happens and perhaps those contractors will work for beer, bread and silver.  I can’t stop taking care of stuff/ planning for the future just because I think an Economic collapse “might” happen in the near future.  I try to use debt in small chunks and get the best deal possible. But if a repair job costs over 5-9 months of your yearly income you almost have to go into debt to make the repairs.  It’s just another one of those thing that proves that being poor in the USSA can be darn expensive.

Something will always go wrong in your planning and you will have to deal with it. It might be an appliance that dies, a tooth ache or vet bill that blindsides you. That is why building that “emergency fund” is so critical to your preps.

Good news!  Smokey the cat is moving about the house and is not treating all dogs as evil incarnate.



Caulking the windows for winter and drying veggies.

October 19, 2015

My gosh, some of my windows had some big gaps and it is no wonder the house felt a bit drafty.  While caulking the windows of an older home takes some time and physical energy, I think it worth the effort.  Caulk is cheap and works great for all kinds of water/weather proofing jobs. Based on what windows Mom and I got caulked, you should be able to caulk the average size window exterior (30 in. x 36) with about a 1/3 of a large tube of caulk.  DAP brand caulk  was much easier and faster to use and get a clean “bead”, compared to the generic version caulk from Home Depot.  I recommend you spend the extra quarter per tube for DAP caulk rather than get the cheap generic caulk.   I used a cheap $2.00 caulking gun and Mom used a contractor grade gun and there did not seem to be a lot of difference in the quality of our work.

For me I got a bit better at caulking in practice and then my body got tired and I just wanted to finish the job no matter how it looked.  Cualking your windows should not be a huge job for some one that is physically capable and somewhat fit.  If you are disabled, caulking can be a bit of a challenge. Now we are looking for the correct paint color to touch up around the caulk.

True value has a great deal on some of that expanding foam $2.99 a can this week. I picked up 3 cans though I only used about half of one can filling in the bigger cracks around the house. One thing bad about the cans is they tend to clog up, I found using a bit of acetone to clean the nozzle worked very well. My hope is the can foam won’t go to waste.

A tool every prepper  needs is a good ladder you feel safe using!  While my multi-function ladder is a bit heavy compared to most ladders. I have used it cleaning out rain gutters to replacing light bulbs in my shop and I’m very pleased about the ladder’s functionality doing jobs around the house.

Dehydrating veggies: Mom got the roma tomatoes drying and I got all of the celery cleaned up and most of the leaves dying.  Home grown celery, knocks the socks off (flavor-wise) compared to any store bought celery I have used.  I dry most of the leaves and cut the celery stalks as needed through the summer. The new/old Magic Chef dehydrator is working great since we have learned it’s little bugaboos.

I know many people are afraid to try different methods of preserving food because they fear wasting food. I have screwed up on preserving many items and I have had a few little victories.  Now is the time to try new ways of preserving foods as you have the local mega-mart as backup. If you screw up and thing work less than well. Simply chock it up to learning and move ahead to the next thing.

I started out with food for two weeks goal at first, and keep slowly expanding my preps and skills. Now I spend more on tools and supplies to get repairs and maintenance jobs done around the house. Lumber is a low cost item to prep right now. Fiber/MDF panels are under $10.00 per 4 x 8 foot sheet and 8 foot 2 x4s about $2.50 each. My plan is to add a few full size panels plus have the big box store cut a couple panels same size as my windows just in case I need to do a quick window repair.

Last but not least, I’m trying to coax my cat back indoors and mouse the house.  Tucker, the peke is hell bent on chasing the cat. So far Smokey is starting to feel more comfortable and moving around the house at night, now that Tucker is restrained by the baby gate blocking off part of the house.  Between closing up holes in the exterior walls and getting Smokey the Cat patrolling the house, we can get rid of the the mice we have seen around the house.  I did catch one mouse using the sticky mouse trap.



More fall cleanup done

October 15, 2015

I got the backyard leaves and doggie poo raked up and filled the big garbage container about half full. I don’t add the back yard waste to the compost pile because doggie poo is full of bad stuff, and my compost pile does not maintain a high enough temp. consistently to break down that poo. The backyard looks a bit desolate this fall, while I figure how to do the whole perma-culture thingy for the future.

I’m still learning how to take advantage of the little micro-climates around my house.  I want my yard to look nice but it also has plenty of foraging/ plant beds that grow food. I am planning out my garden for next year using the garden stakes and labeling what plants go where in my garden. My plan is to get heavy duty plant cages and go more vertical with my plants.

Mom and I got the raised beds harvested and cleared of all plants.  We got a nice haul of winter squash, tomatoes, peppers and the two celery bunches were pretty spectacular.  Tucker, the peke went to work right away digging in the raised beds.   Tucker, turned over at least 1/4 of the soil in my tall raised bed with his love of digging. With Tucker and the chickens all of the raised bed soil will get turned over without me getting out the rototiller.

I learned a lot about gardening this year dealing with an abundant harvest that can overwhelm you if you are not prepared to process all those veggies. I need to work on my timing as my lettuce for salads bolted early and my tomatoes came on later than I had anticipated.  The “flowering” kale has done great in the front yard beds and the multi-colored swiss chard did great in the raised beds though I did not get much lettuce, Bok choy  or spinach.  Both the herbs and strawberries liked growing in the kiddy pool and while the raspberries like it’s sunny spot among the roses, the blackberry  plant still needs to find it’s “happy place” in the yard .

The front yard got mowed and de-thatched today. Cleaning up the grape vines has made a huge difference on how much sun is hitting the front yard.  While I was de-thatching the lawn, the grass is much stronger this fall and I did not get as much thatch this fall compared to previous years. I added a bit of straw around the flower beds and my garlic. I will mulch the rest of the frontyard beds with leaves as they fall.


Getting ready for winter…

October 12, 2015

The wood delivery did not happen this week and the wood guy is out hunting for a couple of weeks.  This is great for me as I wanted to pay cash for and have the  last cord of wood delivered after the 21st of October. But I thought the firewood guy wanted to deliver this week, so I have bit of cash on hand I did not anticipate. Now I can buy the pork bellies on sale and try out making some bacon in my (new) smoker.

Last winter Mom was huge help on sealing up the windows for the winter. I have to say I did not pay much attention to caulking and sealing off drafts around windows until Mom mentioned it. By golly, I sure noticed a big difference after Mom and I added plastic to the windows and started caulking around the wood frames to start sealing out the drafts.  This year we are going to start caulking around the frames outside while the weather is good and then move inside as the weather gets nasty. From what I have read on the DIY pages on the internet is you should figure using about a half tube of caulk around the average sized window but I’m not sure if that includes applying caulk inside and outside or if that is just on the outside of a window and frame.  DAP caulk is about $2.00-$3.00 per tube and the clear exterior type caulk is $6.00 + per tube. The plan of attack is Mom and I will caulk the windows outside while we have good weather this week. I will be able to give you a report about how much caulk you will need to to “winterize” your windows.

I have to say Mom is like many women and she notices that detail type stuff.  Like how she noticed some of my home siding caulked is cracked and needs to be replaced.  She is correct but it is going to be a big job to scrape off the old caulk and add new caulk to the seams.  Plus my home’s paint job is going to to look a bit odd as I don’t have any touch up paint in the correct color to blend in the caulk. I’m hoping the clear caulk will make the weather proofing look seamless but I think I will have to repaint the house in a new color.

I finally got the tulips and garlic planted, yes I’m a bit late as I should have planted the garlic the last week of September. I cleaned out some of the grape leaves as well as trimming back some of the tree limbs.  I was quite a surprise how much sunlight hit my front yard garden beds simply trimming the grape vines back. I am toast after my yard work on Saturday. I filled a large dumpster and a 25 gallon trash can full of yard waste. SW Idaho having a very warm fall this year via the El Nino and the jet stream going with a strong SW flow out of Cali/ Arizona weather pattern. A warm/wet winter would be great for the area. I’m stocking up just in case we see a -20 F. winter.

Mom and I used sales to top off my pantry. Paper goods, and got a bit low on coffee and some of my barter goods.  One thing nice about my plan of shopping at a six month supply, via sales is I have time to shop before I run out of stuff.  The local Fred Meyer store had the big can of store brand coffee for $4.99 each.  I always get a bit concerned when certain items go on sale at many stores because it seems the stores are clearing out old inventory before a new price hike or introducing a new smaller cans they want to stack on the shelf.  This isn’t a hard and fast “shopping rule” just something to be aware of when you shop.

An update on cooking with propane during the summer. I used about two 15 pound propane tanks grilling/ cooking most dinners over the summer months.

Fall cleanup is happening this week!

October 6, 2015

I got things organized in the shop and found the wood base of my work bench. I got the garden tool organizer( Lowes $13.00) built, filled with my garden tools and I love it.  I doubt I’m the only person that stacked garden tools in a handy corner of the garage or shop. Speaking for myself, I often get pummeled by tools trying to get the tool  I want, plus the “wanted tool” is always at the back of the pile.  While I can only speak for myself,  searching for tools or fighting them when the tools go into “avalanche mode”  is  a mild pain in the butt.  I think it is critical to reduce all stressors now before any disaster hits. During this cleanup I found my small garden shears, but Mom’s trowel is still MIA.

I hauled four loads of the free rock/gravel to my driveway area, donated to me by one of the neighbors. First lesson learned, is I love my new square, long handle shovel for loading up rock. I noticed when Mom and I were loading up the rock that I moved more rock with my small shovel compared to mom’s big scoop type shovel.  Second lesson learned, make sure the tires of your wheel barrow or garden wagon are aired up before you start hauling rock or any heavy load! Mom and I want to add a real air compressor to our tools but you can get a small electric compressor for about $20.00 used and they are great for keeping all tires aired up.  That saves gas on your automobiles and physical effort using your garden haulers like wheel barrows or wagon.  I don’t want to be greedy but the neighbors will let me haul off  more of their excess rock so I can fill in in front of my little RV or add the rock to the alleyway garden to kill out the weeds.

I took Pam’s advice and added a few concrete pavers on top of the tarp/roof over the wood shed and added a few rocks and pavers at the bottom of the tarp to keep the wind from getting under the tarp and trying to carry it away. With one more cord of wood delivered this week I’m feeling confident about my winter heat plan.  I would recommend getting the Igloo insulated drink  5  gallon jugs on sale  this time of year and you add them to your water storage plan. These jugs will hold hot water for 18-24 hours can be filled at the last minute with hot water via the tub/shower for any minor/local disasters and they are a real physical energy saver if your water is cutoff for any reason.

I got my patio cleaned and organized. That is not a big deal for most people that do not cook a summer’s worth of dinners on the grill.  Or just added a new smoker. I used the leaf blower  and made quick work cleaning off all leaves, spider webs and dirt  and lots of dust on the patio.  I used two 15 gallon propane tanks should last via cooking one meal per day for about 65-75 meals this summer.  Now this a meal planning number and not set in stone. I mostly grilled over propane and did not use a lot of charcoal this summer.  If you plan to cook on a grill or propane gas cook stove as a backup cooking system I would plan to use at least one 15 pound propane for cooking one meal a day per 30 days in good weather. If you want to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner on your propane gas grill the 15 pound fuel tank will last about 10 days,  depending on your choice of meals.  I feel using grill cooking dinners this summer cooking  was a good test. Hopefully you will get some idea about how much propane you will need on hand  for 30 days worth of meals. Remember how I prep is not the same as how you prep. You might be concerned about food smells if you cook outdoors and a small Butane hot plate you use indoors might be your “cooking “solution.

I cooked my first meal in the Romertopf and it turned out pretty good. Mom had seconds on the chicken and saved the sauce for Chicken and dumplings later this week. I used Progresso recipe starter Garlic sauce, and I tossed in a can of mixed veggies and mushrooms. I thought it turned out okay and Mom really liked it. The romertopf chicken recipe recommend adding few bacon strips for flavor and I think that would have made the meal  pop!


Big score at the thrift shop and shopping this week’s ads

October 1, 2015

The local thrift store did not have any sheets, but I finally bought a Romertopf, terracotta casserole dish/cooker.  The Romertopf is a an unglazed terracotta cooker that sort of recreates cooking foods wrapped in clay and tossed on hot coals of a fire. It is a slow cooker that works in an oven. What is great about using a romertopf is most meals require very little oil or water to make a dish and a make and forget sort of meal that can cook slowly in an oven.  You have to heat the terracotta slowly but the energy use should be very low for the pot.

I got a Magic Chef  dehydrator and need to get busy on drying the tomatoes and other veggies.  Mom did not have much luck dehydrating tomatoes.  With the new “Magic Chef” fan driven dehydrators, drying  the harvest should work faster/ better for storage.  I am learning and sometimes that includes wasted food as I learn.  Since I grew the plants,  I don’t have a big problem with it getting “wasted” and chucked in the trash/ compost bin if I screw up on preserving it. I screw up a lot and that is how I learn.

Albertsons has some great buys this week.  I picked up some shrimp, two pound bag for $10.00 and I had a coupon for butter $1.88 per pound with a limit of 2 pounds per coupon.  I have to make a few more trips to Albertsons to stock up on butter at this price. I’m not sure of why, but wholesale butter prices are starting to spike up.  Last week, reported that butter “futures” were up to $3.10 per pound. I think that butter is a great prep item to stock up. You can freeze it, bottle/can it for longer storage. Butter is natural fat plus a little bit of butter adds a lot of flavor to meals or bake goods.  Albertsons now has the tall bic lighters 5 for $5.00. I love bic lighters and from what I have read from  Selco (Survivor of the 1993 Bosnian war) and ferfal (surviving the economic collapse in Argentina) good lighters tend to be a great barter item.  I want to stock up on the lighters just for my own use and have plenty of extras for possible barter.

My sister loaned me a super sized tarp to cover the wood pile this winter. The tarp covers the wood pile area and will give me time to buy all the materials to replace the roof properly for a long term fix. I complain about how the roof was installed but it did an okay job protecting the area from rain for almost 10 years. Once I get the new roof installed it should last for another 15-20 years.  I am looking at adding a rain gutter system to keep the water run off out of my neighbor’s yard and should  re direct water part of my alley garden I have been working on this year. I ordered one more cord of wood to be delivered next week since I’m not sure how much I will use of this new wood if the winter gets cold.   Worse thing that could happen, is I have enough wood for a cold winter. Best outcome is I have a nice stock of seasoned wood for next winter. One of the things I did not think about heating with my wood stove is how much stacked wood I need to have on hand for a cold winter because I went cheap to start with the mill ends, augmented that with buying a quarter cord “box” of fruit wood and last year my aunt gave me free elm wood that Dad cut and split but I got a literal wood pile and I did not make a good stack of wood to estimate my usage over the winter months.

I got Mom’s laptop loaded with a nice bit of anti-virus software from Comodo , updated her  email contact list and updated to Service pack 1 finally on both laptops without a glitch.  So far, I really like Windows 7 OS as it seems to work well with my old Office 2003 install. Plus the desktop is not all that different compared to Windows XP. As far as I know I can’t create my own restore point in  Windows 7 like I did in Win XP. But the Win 7 software seems to create restore points that are solid. After using the laptops for a couple of weeks I would recommend both as good buys as a laptop for prepping/survival as well as a basic PC for most people.