Cinnamon rolls turned out okay

January 30, 2016

I used my cheap ground cinnamon and I was a bit skimpy with the brown sugar since I was doing a test and did not want to invest the good stuff just in case the cinnamon rolls were a bust. S.Lynn, Mom want’s your yellow cake recipe for cinnamon rolls.

The Sci-fi Chick’s sweet roll dough recipe worked great for the cinnamon rolls!  I made the dough/cinnamon rolls in the evening, placed the plastic wrapped covered  pan in the fridge over night. In the AM, I let the rolls warm on the counter for about 30 minutes then set the oven to 400 degrees F. and baked for 20 minutes.  I think this a great yeast dough, similar to a Brioche dough and I think you  could make yeast donuts or a “monkey bread” sort of recipe but take a lot less time/effort and requires fewer fresh ingredients compared to most sweet yeast bread recipes.

I started prepping about 2006-2007 and many attitudes have changed about prepping. Very few sites worried about “food fatigue” or about morale in your food prepping.  As a beginning prepper I did not care for the you will store …. and you will be grateful for any food!  While that attitude does have it’s place. I prefer prepping so I have more options rather than less.

I don’t think you need to practice being miserable as a prepper. Misery will happen all on it’s own without any effort on your part, if you don’t wimp out on your tests.  For example on my first “water test” I got three 60 gallon water barrel I installed in the basement and filled via 5 gallon water jugs. Gosh, I was physically wiped out in about 2-3 days of moving water up a few steps and heating it up on the electric stove. Next test was “real world” and all water was shutoff while the water lines were replaced.  I was tired after 5 days but using Igloo type jugs to store hot water overnight “in my opinion” is the only to go for backup off grid  hot water. I’m a bit peeved with myself as I did not test out my battery powered shower water pump set up.  I think that using the Zodi water pump shower would have saved a lot of physical effort on my part and perhaps given me a better test if the water outage lasted more than a week.

I bought several food grade 15 gallon water barrels for storage on the main living level. The 15 gallon water barrel (125 pounds)can be moved easily via a small hand truck or loaded into a vehicle via a couple of strong backs or you can siphon the water into smaller 5 gallon water jugs. I can say from experience a gallon of water might keep you alive but it is not enough to keep a house running if you want to bug in.   It will be very hard to cut back on your water use in your home as  bugging is not like camping. Your home/apartment uses a lot of water to maintain a healthy environment, so you need to store water for your home.

Based on my water tests every person in your home should have 15 gallons of water stored in a bedroom closet, via three 5 gallon camp jugs or a 15 gallon food grade water barrel. Plus an empty Insulated Igloo five gallon water jug. In the event of “anticipated  disaster, all family members fill the Igloo jugs with hot water via the tub or shower.  Mom and Dad have a couple 2 gallon/8 quart stock pots for heating water/ boiling water on a propane stove/alternative heat source . You should also add larger water barrels for storage and rain barrels to augment your supplies along with water filters.

With 20 gallons of water per person you will have enough water for two weeks easily plus a buffer if things go south in a disaster. While I think a gallon of water per day is “wishful thinking” having stored 15 gallon of water for each family member plus and extra 5 gallon insulated Igloo jug filled at the last minute with hot or cold water, depending on the season,  strikes me as a good short-term water storage plan.

I have seen the bottles of water that are are orange and not clear coming out of Flint Michigan and that is not counting the lead or other “heavy metals” in the water. Most of the water filters we preppers can buy, can’t handle heavy metal or chemical contamination.  Time to invest in a water distillation process.  Tell me again how we should trust the government at any level. When they can’t even provide safe drinking water?

Shopping and the HUD loan looks good at 0%

January 28, 2016

I’m a little late this month buying up groceries and items for projects. I have really been slacking off on keeping the mini-van’s gas tank topped off, but gas has been added to the mini-van.  I had the guys at Les Schwab air up my tires and it seems I have a slow leak but the tire guys have not found the problem/leak.  I think the “slow” leak only happens when the tire has a weight load and does not show up after the tire guys take the tire off the mini-van and check for leaks.  While Les Schwab’s tires tend to be little more expensive compared to other companies. The customer service is above and beyond any other company I have used.

Ugh, I entered the “belly of the beast” at the local Wal-mart Super store to get some canned dog food. I’m reminded again why I don’t like to shop at Wally world.  I suppose I’m a bit of a throw back as I have always liked shopping local stores, even if I have to pay slightly higher prices at times. In my area I am seeing a new type of store coupon.  The new coupons are great for preppers, as you buy $20.00-$50.00 of  group of items and you you get $5.00 0r $10.00 off at the register.  Perhaps this, coupon is a way to get sales from the bulk good stores, but I have made it work for me stocking up.

For example: Mom and I scored on this coupon at Albertson’s getting a bit of beer, 7 bottles of wines Mom likes and upping the alcohol for use/ barter prospects.  These coupons are not the old $1.00 off or less coupons per item, so it takes a bit more planning and keeping a bit of extra cash on hand to take advantage of these types of sales/coupons. Paul’s market had a similar coupon of spending $20.00 on Hormel products like Spam, Chili or a big 64 oz. jug of La Victoria salsa and then you get $5.00 back at the register. I’m not any sort of “Coupon Queen” but I like saving money and sometimes you need a long term approach.  Especially if you won’t do the work/put forth the effort to be a coupon queen/king.

I got a call from the city and the HUD loan looks like a go and at a 0% interest rate.  I don’t know if the loan can be deferred until the home sells, but I can handle a $83.00 a month loan payment with no problem.  I have to drop off a copy of my home insurance paper work and then a “city inspector” will evaluate if I need the roof replaced along with the minor jobs of plumbing and electrical I want to have done. Then I will get bids on the work and then find out if I can finish up the loan contract for the work.

There are a few “hoops” you have to jump through for a loan from a .gov agency. Considering I started the loan process this month and the paperwork and inspections will be done in 4-6 weeks. HUD and Nampa city is trying hard to get the loans out and the money in the hand of contractors to get the work done.

I would recommend all of you to check out some of these types of government loans and grants. Especially if you are low income and have little debt, and low debt to income level. I would never recommend a person take on more debt/credit when debt is a big financial problem.  If you can get a 0% interest loan from the government and can repay it via your income I’d say go for it.  Now my income is SSD and a little VA disability, so if they don’t pay me, the HUD loan won’t get paid.

While I have ranted against the city of Nampa and Canyon County “politicians/bureaucrats”. They often want to do “good” but have can’t do much good with funds as they have rules and regulations they must follow to get any sort of Federal money in their budgets.  I’m a great for the city as I have a great credit rating, I’m female, disabled and a vet. I have proved I pay my debts and have 90 percentile credit rating.  I still can’t a another mortgage on some land in the country.

Do you have stock or invest in commodities?  Yes, I have about 5-7 years worth of food.  I have solar panels backup electricity and rain barrels for water supplies, I have wood for cooking and heating my house, and have invested in propane gas backups for cooking and heat. I have very little debt and my house is valued at more than I paid for it. My RV, and car is free and clear of all debt.  I don’t use credit cards and pay cash for any emergencies. Do you have any Facebook, Amazon, Google or Netflix as collateral?

So, no loan from a bank as my income is too low. Even though I pay my bills on time and can easily handle an emergency requiring $500.00-$3000.00. Unlike folks that make $50,000-75,000 per year, yet can’t come up with $500.00 in cash for a “minor emergency”.

Finance is not hard at a personal level, spend less than you earn and invest in real assets you want for your life. You have to decide what assets are important to you. Your income level is critical to your choices. I could pay off my house in about 9 years at my current income level. So anyone want to help pay off my house and give me a guarantee about USA economic performance for the next 10 years?  I’m not even sure I can grow grass in the backyard this upcoming Spring and Summer.  Never mind trying to anticipate the markets in 10 years.

Sorry to say if you have a low income level regardless of goods you have on hand or your “emergency funds” you are still at the bottom of the economic food chain. A big advantage of being low on the economic food chain is none of the PTBs notice you.

Trying out Sci-Fi chicks  quick yeast roll dough for cinnamon rolls.  I will see how the dough holds up over night and setting out to rise then bake.  I figure on my Recipes page you have a few different types of basic doughs

Miter saw and cleaning the stove cap

January 24, 2016

I got the new Miter saw up and working after much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I’m a newbie in regards to some of these new tools safety features so most of my cussing was in regards to releasing the lockdown bolt for the saw arm. If you push down on the saw arm to release the tension on the bolt the saw arm will move up and down easily.  I installed a new saw blade after some figuring out how to remove the safety guard. I have to say the instruction manual for this saw is not the best I have ever used.  I’m glad I got a premium saw blade for the saw. Especially since it is a bit of a pain to replace.

On the actual use of the miter saw for cutting up mill ends for the wood stove, It took much less physical energy compared to using the B&D circular saw. The saw blade made fairly clean cuts on the old mill ends and over all this miter saw makes does a decent job as a chop saw, plus less physical work than a circular saw for cutting mill ends for fire wood is a great thing for me.

The wood stove has not been drawing air via the chimney.  Mom and I have been dealing with two basic fires. The smokey smudge and inferno.  I got up on the roof and the chimney cap was clogged with a lot of creosote. I knocked out most of the creosote build up around the stove cap and the fire place is starting to draw air properly. From what my chimney sweep told me when exposed to cold air the stove cap/spark arrestor will build up creosote because of the change in temp. from hot air from the chimney to cold winter air outside.  My wood pile got wet, so I did not burn dry wood all the time. Wet wood will cause a build up of soot and creosote. I have covered my wood with additional tarps to keep the rain/snow off of the wood. I bought some metal brackets with the addition of 2x4s will let the wood dry naturally. In addition My hope is I can add a cord per month until June/July and that will give the wood a little extra time for wood for winter to dry.

Over all for my wood stove, it looks like I need to stock up about 6 cords of wood and correct the current wood pile arrangement to insure a thorough drying of the wood.  That would give me dry wood for the upcoming winter season and dry out the extra wood for the next fire wood season.  Buying six cords of wood seems a bit daunting at first but if Idaho has more warm winters, getting a cord of wood each month should keep costs manageable.  I’ll have enough wood on hand for 2 years. At worse I know with 6 cords of wood I will have more than enough wood on hand for a very cold winter.

The Home Depot class for making a storage shelf/bench using a wood storage crate (as a base) that was outstanding. Mom and I took home one of the example/finished storage project crates and fits perfectly in the backdoor entry way for a storage bench. I was surprised by how good the the little storage crate bench looked finished and I want to add a few variations on that concept here in the house for additional storage that is functional and looks great.  I look at the basic storage crate and I know I could build that with a bit of trial and error. Everything after building a simple box that is a matter of scale and angles. Simple does not mean easy, but getting the basics down in wood working and carpentry will make big projects doable.

Update on the radiant heat barrier in the chicken coop. On average the chicken house is at least 10 degrees F. above the outside ambient temperature. Mom is not using the electric heater, and the only heat is via a 100 watt light bulb used more for 12 hours of light rather than heat.  Egg production is increasing again though Mom has older birds of the 2-5 year range.  I think Mom is a bit over zealous about “protecting” her chickens, but I am very impressed by the how well the radiant heat barrier has preformed stopping drafts and retaining heat in the chicken house.

Garden planning, unexpected wood delivery

January 22, 2016

This is the first time I have started planning the garden in January.  Most years I tend to make a plan, but end up being behind the power curve for the rest of the growing season and into the harvest.  It isn’t bad to be flexible and adapt with your garden as the year progresses but unless you have a solid plan to start, you spend more time on “crisis management” rather than enjoying the garden.

I’m very excited about the greenhouses for starting plants and extending the growing season.  I think using starter plants is a great idea. It will be a lot cheaper if I can grow my own rather than depend on the local farm store. Don’t get me wrong, I figure spending a dollar or two on starter plants can pay off big at harvest time. Especially if you are a new to gardening or have limited space indoors to start plants.

This will be the first year I  have a plan to take advantage of the different types growing areas/micro-climates around my house.  The sun chokes did great in the alley way garden and the decorative kale proved out great in the semi-protected front yard garden bed with morning sun. The warm front yard garden bed garlic is looking good. This bed looks like a good spot for herbs as my sage plant survived the winter is looking great this year.

I am going to try out a 3 sisters garden mounds of pole beans, corn and squash rather than use the raised garden beds.  My squash always seems to take over my garden beds. By moving the the squash plants I hope I will be able to use my limited yard space better, plus the beans will add great nutrients to the soil I want to improve. I’m selecting drought tolerant plants as a test for the 3 sister mounds. If I can grow the plants they will probably do well on the “future farm” for improving soil and provide the basic vegetable food stuffs needed to survive.

I’m going to reduce the tomato plants to a roma, a beef steak and an Arkansas Traveler. The last couple of years I have had too many tomatoes in my garden and I did not keep up with harvesting/processing them. I want to add a couple of tomitillo plants and a hot pepper along with the sweet peppers to make salsa and sauces for Latino taste/recipes to my canned goods.

A few lessons I have learned doing raised bed/city lot gardening:

  1. You need a lot of good supports and cages to go vertical with your plants. Growing vertical maximizes your growing area, plus with my disability harvesting tall plants seems much easier rather than working at ground level.
  2. Have a plan to take advantage of micro-climates and incorporate edible landscapes. There are a lot of flowers that are edible like Nasturtiums or colorful Kale and lettuce that look great in a front yard garden bed.
  3. This a new idea for me, but use plants to shade your windows and house in summer. Lots of garden plants can reach 6-8 feet like corn or are climbers and the create natural shade in summer then die back in winter.
  4. Don’t be afraid to try new things or fear screwing up. I was one of the original “black thumbs” when it comes to plants or growing a garden.  Be persistent because when you fail, you learn. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help as there are a lot of very smart people that are more than willing to share knowledge.
  5. Use containers for plants: I really like the 18 gallon “party bucket” and a small “kiddee” pool for growing my herbs and strawberries. Just drill a few holes for drainage and you will have a an easy to work container garden. Most plants and herbs you cook with for “ethnic” recipes also tend to be great companion plants.

It’s your garden and if you learn, eat great tasting food and get some payback for your investment. I consider it all good!

Had unscheduled wood delivery this week, took me by surprised, but I think it worked out great. My wood guy called me up to take a cord of wood delivery “on sale” as he need a bit of cash for his power bill.  I had some cash on hand, so I took the cord of wood for $30.00 off his regular price. While the “new” cord did not replace all the wood I have burned this winter, the wood stack size is now good until spring even if it gets below zero F. cold. The house uses about 2-3 cords from Oct-Jan. during a generally mild winter. Ironically the wood guy call my step-dad before me  and he claimed to be too broke and could not afford to buy any wood even at a discount price.

I’m very sorry about how my step-dad is living.  Sad to say he is finding out that “credit” does not equal wealth in the long term.  I was helped by him and my Mom when I got disabled but I moved away from “easy credit’ and that has made all the difference in my life. I am now bouncing around a 760-800 plus credit rating and all I have done is get mostly out of debt (still have a mortgage) and taken out one small ($500.00) revolving credit at Les Schwab for tires and a short term signature loan via my credit Union for the wood stove. It might take awhile (5-7 years) if you “screwed the pooch” on your credit  rating like I did when I got disabled. If you pay cash, live on less than you bring in and always look/implement ways to save money every month.

Getting your financial house in order is simple, but that does not mean it is easy.




Got a good start on the shopping

January 20, 2016

I hit Harbor Freight to get the 10 inch miter saw on sale for $80.00. The saw is going to be a huge help on the small building projects around the house and will make cutting up the mill ends easier compared to using the circular saw.  It is starting to feel like I have the proper tools for projects rather than always trying to get by with “redneck” engineering.

Harbor freight had a nice little two shelf metal cart that I got for $30.00 that should make a great yard and garden work cart. I love my garden wagon and wheel barrow for moving loads of heavy items but the the 2 shelf cart will give me a mobile work area that won’t kill my back while I am working.  With my disability having the ability to use wheels move stuff rather than muscle power or simply a place for a work project I can roll into the shop to finish later if I get tired is great!

I have to wait on the mulch and the brackets for the firewood rick as both items are on back order. So far the backyard is drying out. The straw and a deck boards Mom and I laid out has cut down on the mud we bring into the house. I was a little surprised how much the dogs are trying to avoid the mud in the backyard. The dogs stay on the concrete, the wood mulch around the garden and the straw we tossed out in the yard in a couple of the muddier sections.  Laying out the new paths with mulch and getting the grass sections seeded will be the next big yard job.  Working out how I want the paths to look along with buying the border materials is taking a bit of calculating the cost/benefit ratio. Installing the right border can save a lot of energy on maintenance of your yard. Plus I want my yard to look nice and be inviting, rather than just another make do project.

The grocery stores have a lot of great sales and beef is starting to come down in price. Today I got a couple of nice London Broil cuts of beef for $2.88 per pound. Albertsons has 73/27 hamburger for $1.99 per pound  if you buy the 3 pound chub. Now these might be “loss leaders” like the eggs for $1.00 a carton but here in Idaho beef  prices are slowly coming down. While Turkey prices were pretty high for the holidays, Idaho did not get hammered on chicken prices via the “bird flu”  or pork prices via the “porcine virus” like the mid-west.

Last, but not least Home depot is having a class this weekend for a small storage bench and I think I have most of materials already on hand to make the bench. I know the point of the classes is to inspire people to spend money. Free classes on stuff I want to learn/make is just to darn good to pass up.  I learned a lot from the class I took last year at Home depot for drywall repair. I recommend that you take advantage of any free or cheap classes on home decorating/maintenance that interest you.  When building with lumber almost everything is based on a a box or rectangle. I’ll getting the basics down on making a box, then I can work on how to scale up the size. Oh I know that building something is not that easy. But if you can’t build the small things, you won’t be able to build bigger things.

While I sort of sucked at math(algebra) in high school, I loved learning geometry and  how it could be used in real life.


Doing little things working towards the big things

January 18, 2016

I used Sci-Fi Chick’s recipe for quick yeast rolls to make hamburger buns and it worked out great.  Mom loved the homemade hamburger buns but I thought the buns were just a touch on the sweet side for me. This recipe should  work great for homemade hot dog buns. Flavor-wise and looking at the texture of the dough, it reminds me of a sort Brioche/sweet bread dough. Though I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and prefer salty and savory foods most of the time. I may have to try this recipe for making a quick batch of cinnamon rolls.

When you look at the cost of store bought buns, Sci’s recipe can save you a bunch of money. I buy yeast by the pound and flour in 25-50 pound sacks but I figure the  ingredient cost for the buns around 50 cents for my first batch of hamburger buns. Plus this recipe is super fast to make!  The total time for making this recipe from start to finish is about an hour or less depending on your baking time. You can make a batch of home made rolls or buns in less time it takes your charcoal to be ready to cook, and that includes the rolls baking time.  This is a great recipe to introduce people to homemade breads, and it is a great prepper/homesteader type recipe as the only “fresh” ingredient required is one chicken egg.

Ugh! mud in the backyard. I am working on improving the soil and I let all the old (chemically maintained) grass die out in the backyard. Now the backyard is a bit of a mud pit and  most of the pups come in with very muddy feet.  Plus the critter don’t care for the mud and mostly tinkle and poo on the patio.  This is not a good situation!   While I was hoping to wait until Feb. to add more wood mulch walk/pathways the mud is bad enough I need to get paths started and start laying down good grass seed for this spring.  Where I laid down the wood mulch around the garden beds has not got at all muddy even with Mom’s chickens digging/kicking the mulch around.

I know that rock, sand ,straw and compost can add a lot/drainage to clay soil, but so far on my yard, wood and leaf mulch seems to be the most effective  mulch for my soil. Speaking for myself, I need to make the pathways of mulch and start seeding grass. I have all the tools on hand, now it is time to do the work.

I suppose that a few people will think if is a bit silly to keep working on a perma-culture/food forest when I want a loan to fix stuff up and sell the house.  But I have no idea what will happen in the future. I want to move to the country but I don’t know if my house will sell even at the price/profit if it gets a new roof and a bit of electric/plumbing work done. This still a great house in a pretty good neighborhood. Perhaps I can bring a few neighbors around this summer when they have a bit of time to relax and are not so busy.

For me I always try to keep working on the basics and improving my preps. I don’t live life as NO you can’t do it, sometimes it means just can not do it now. I always have the rest of my life to try! It might be a day or decades but I have yet to find an expiration date on any part of my body. So I might as well dream big as limited to my income/ situation allows.


HUD loan application looks good

January 13, 2016

The gal that helped me with the HUD paperwork said everything looked good.  My income level is low enough for a possible 0% and deferred payments until the home is sold.  I was surprised how quickly the people at the city moved to get all of the paperwork done.  Of course the paperwork will take time to work through the government system.  I suspect that it is difficult to find a low income person that needs major repairs done, but still has a good debt to income ratio and credit rating, it can be very expensive to be poor and in debt. Thankfully I have had time to learn how to live frugally and most of the improvements I have made save me money every month.  I still need to see the loan paperwork and read the fine print before I sign all the loan paperwork as there might be a government “poison pill” that makes the loan unacceptable.  Worse comes to worse, I’ll get a small signature loan from the credit union like I did for the fireplace.  The interest rate will be a lot higher but I won’t lose my house if my income gets cut.

I have been rethinking the idea of getting a used ATV this year. I could buy a used small yard tractor/mower for a lot lower cost and I could use around my house right away.  With the garden wagon attached to the lawn tractor we could move heavy loads but not invest as much cash upfront. Plus a small yard tractor would be useful on the “future farm” until we could afford the used ATV. I might be able to afford a small trailer and install a trailer hitch on the Kia for around a $1000.00 as a short term work around for buying the truck.  Plus it won’t hurt to have a trailer for the farm after I get the used pickup.  For the used 1/2 ton 4×4 pickup I am looking at a cost around $3500.00 for a dependable older vehicle.  It will take time to save up that much cash for the pickup, but once I have the truck I can put it to use right away hauling in rock, soil and other bulky items needed here at Casa de Chaos.

I need to keep adding more solar panels as they go on sale as well as adding some smaller panels and “power packs” that charge small electronics. Here at Casa de Chaos I have made a rule that things that need electrical power must not add to my power bill. So far Solar power seems to be the most practical backup electric power system for my budget.  I don’t think I can power the whole house but I should be able to keep a few lights on and power a small fridge and freezer along with a few small electronic items.

Last but not least I’m reworking the monthly budgets to have a monthly focus/goal. For example January seems to have a good sale on tools and I already got the rigid side greenhouse. February is shaping up for buying soil and planters for the green houses I will need to get the plants started. In March looks like getting the cistern/water tank will be the major purchase for the month.  April will be adding a few dwarf fruit trees and then May is planting the garden.

I consider myself a prepper, but I also seem to have a “homesteader” bent,  that needs to find a spot in the country.  This year I will be gathering the tools, skills and knowledge that will help me when I find a place in the country.  I have been blessed with having enough time to work and programs that have make things possible.  I want to make a small “food forest” on my city lot. Having Mom’s chicken house and run ha shown me how to raise birds.  I have made a lot of mistakes with my raised bed gardens but I have also learned a lot about raising plants. I have learned a lot about making minor repairs around the house and have been getting the right tools for the job.

I am an optimist, and I see how far I have come in the last few years. I’m in good shape on my preps and on most of my finances. I still have a bit of work to do but overall I’m very pleased with my progress.