Very strange weather in SW Idaho this year.

January 27, 2019

I will admit, I was wrong on the SW Idaho winter weather.  I expected a dry and very cold winter and we have Spring like temps in January.  In the first week of Feb. we will have daytime highs in the 50 degree F. range according to the weather forecasts. I don’t mind as the warm ‘winter” has helped me on the fire wood usage, as well as stock both myself and Mom with kindling and fire starters.  Ironically I’m using more fire starters and kindling for fires 2 times a day but I’m using less wood overall. I think I’ve used just a bit over a cord of wood so far this winter.  That is very good, as I have been sharing some of my wood with Mom to help her build her wood pile.

I really want to have at least 2+ years worth of seasoned wood on hand and with the warm winter that should be doable this year. I suspect that many people bought wood in fall 2018 won’t buy more wood in 2019 because the winter was so mild.  That is great for me as I’ll start stacking more wood in April to get a start my 2 years worth goal and buy early. While others think there won’t be another cold/snowy winter. I got both of my kindling boxes filled plus an18 gallon bucket full of kindling today.  If the winter weather stays mild I should be good too go through March!

I’m not stopping work on getting the kindling cut or making fire starters. But I need to focus more on getting everything ready for spring planting and getting the Greenhouse installed while we have this warm weather for at least the next 10 days. I’m looking at buying a lot of lumber, foundation stuff and leveling the soil for the Green house.  I have to cut down some smaller dead trees and clean up/ trim the healthy trees.  While I doubt I can grow enough food to be fully independent. I hope to grow enough fresh veggies not to be fully dependent on the grocery stores and 3 day supply cycle.

I have some irises in a protected corner of my front yard and there is about 2-3 inches of new growth in freaking January!  The greenhouse getting built is a priority to take advantage of this mild winter. I got some cleanup done on the backyard and garden beds.  I need Mom’s input on some of her plants/pots in my garden area.  I have a plan on how I will do the “cutting down a tree” work but I want a spotter before I try to limb a tree and cut it down.  Even if it is someone to call 911 if I screw up and get bonked on the head.

Update on the drainage rock so far there has been no flooding into the shop.  We have not had a lot of snow but we have had rain and so far the shop floor is staying dry.  Even the wood I stored in the Carport area has stayed dry.  So I hope that little water drainage problem is mostly fixed. The little bird feeders have a huge success, especially the bird baths.  While I have not attracted many of the rare or colorful birds. The sparrows and doves are fun to watch feeding and bathing.

Don’t get complacent or lazy.  I suppose I did this last year, as I did not keep my focus on all forms of prepping and let some things slide a little bit.  Sure, I had reasons why I slacked off but those reasons won’t matter if a disaster hits.  A great thing about spending so many years prepping is I have the basics in food, water, tools etc. I just need to top off a few basics and build on what I already have on hand.

I’m one of those people that has been almost 10 years and I started a bit before the 2008 melt down and even I’m still preparing today. Of course I’m worried I’m not prepared if things go sideways.  All you can do is the best you can do and hopefully not make many bad mistakes.

 

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Xmas lights removed and I fix my porch light.

January 6, 2019

Taking down the Christmas lights was easy as almost all lights were at ground level or only required a step stool to put in place.  I fell in love with the LED light nets for decorating my chain link fence.  Who would have thought there was a simple and relatively cheap way to make a chain link fence look festive.  I will be adding more of the light nets to my Christmas decoration for XMAS 2019!

I moved my mail box onto the left side of the porch railings.  Now Smokey the cat has much easier access to getting in the front porch. Smokey is getting a little older and jumping five feet is getting a bit more difficult so adding a platform so she only has to jump about 2.5 feet should be much easier for her this year.  Smokey also has a small cut on one of her front paws between her poly-dactyl toes. I guess she got it caught while roaming outside.  I’m bathing the foot in Band-aid Anti-Bacterial, antiseptic, anesthetic  wash and watching how it is healing.  I don’t think stitches are doable in that small area,  so I’ll try and keep the cat box super clean, keep her from jumping around and give her paw, some time to heal the next few days.  Smokey was a little displeased about getting squirted with the Band-aid liquid but after a minute or so she was putting more weight on the injured paw.

My front porch light is fixed and all it took was a new bulb.  My front porch light has been wonky in the past and I was a bit afraid I would have to rewire it to fix the flashing affect it had developed.  It was just the LED bulb base was  becoming separated from the bulb so the contacts were iffy.  I added a new bulb and made sure I got the cover on tight so no rain or snow could get to the light bulb.  The wiring still looked brand new so that won’t need to be replaced.

Some great news Mom will give me one of her old windows to start my cold frame experiment on one of my raised beds.  That will save me some money and we can trade wood for the window as Mom likes using the mill ends for starting a fire.  It will be interesting to see how much difference adding a bit of glass to a raised bed will raise the soil temp. in the nominal winter months, spring and how it holds heat in the late fall.

It is getting harder to trust the food supply in the USA.  I also think many of the food borne illnesses are happening because many people don’t know how to wash veggies and fruits or understand cross-contamination and basic food safety.  Many High schools eliminated Home Economics and Shop classes back in the late 80’s early 90’s to focus on English and Math core studies and then the PTBs dumb down that Math and English classes to make a quota of graduates.

I’d tell every kid today is learn skills you can use today or in the next week. Yes, work for no wages if you find a successful  person that can teach that skill.  Are you getting paid to learn in college?  I’m learning about what I can and can not do. I can’t slam dunk a basketball but I’m darn good at making kindling and fire starters.  I can’t tell you your priorities in life but staying warm is darn important to me.

How do you start?  Well you just start and you fail, learn and go on with the same cycle.  Failure is apart of learning.  You learn what you can do and what you can’t do.  Hell, I never thought I could replace a leaky toilet or replace some “dodgy’ electrical outlets.  I don’t mind paying the pro’s when I know I don’t know enough.

Last but not least don’t buy Cottenelle tissue.  It is at best adequate but every time I load the paper roller it sheds paper dust.  It is a low quality product at any price. Don’t buy it ever.  Even generics are more honest at a the same price point.


I cut kindling for Mom and myself.

January 5, 2019

I’m working on making kindling cutting easier for me and I’m getting a bit more efficient cutting kindling.  Trust me, starting a fire just using a match is nothing to be sneered at.  It really does not take many Doug fir logs to make kindling.  I am getting better about using using the hatchet to easily to split small chunks of wood into kindling.  I think with the big 18 gallon bushel bucket of kindling and another couple of egg cartons worth of fire starters, Mom should be “good to go” for starting wood fires through the month of January.  Now both of my wood boxes are full and I have a large box of kindling from my wood supplier as backup along with all the wood trimmings I collect from my trees. For me being able to start a fire quick and easy, ranks right up there with the new windows/siding for making this winter more comfortable.  Also if you pair a poplar chunk of wood in your stove with some Douglas fir prepare for a very hot fire box!  Overall if you live in the Pacific NW Doug fir is probably the most cost effective wood you will find for heating your home. You can also find black walnut, elm, lots of fruit woods and even some maple.  But most of those hardwoods also have a Premium price.  I think poplar is an good wood choice when paired with another wood and I have been very happy with my Doug fir/poplar wood mix this winter.

Personally I’d like to have at least 4 cords of wood on hand. It looks like a mild winter for heating for me so far. I have probably burned about 3/4 of a cord of wood through the fall, perhaps a full cord. I also gave/sold  Mom some of my Doug fir and she has received a little doug fir via kindling so I’m not sure about how much wood I have used so far this winter.  I could say I have emptied at least one of my wood racks that are 4 ft x 8ft x 18 inches, I think that is called a “face cord”.  Now I have also used quite a bit of my poplar wood. About another “face cord” of that wood.  I guesstimating, but I have used about 1 cord of wood so far this winter.  This has been a relatively warm winter so far as the coldest temps. in SW Idaho have been in the mid teen F. range.  So far I have not seen any 0 degrees F. at all this winter.  Next is learning my new windows and insulation. My house now holds in heat much better than I ever expected. I don’t concern myself about the wood stove burning over night.  Will the house hold the heat till morning from the wood stove heat is the thing I want as a result.

My stamina and physical strength still need some work.  I’ll never be as strong as was before I got disabled, but I can build up and be stronger and have more endurance overall. What I want to do, still has not caught up with what I can physically do.   That dichotomy can be a bit difficult to process when making plans for the future. My physical abilities is what it is but I think I can improve that base line in 2019.

I’m changing up the doggie food diet and adding a little greek yogurt and a little cheese to give the pups a little more calcium.  The pups actually seem to like a bit of variety and don’t mind a different menu as long as it isn’t to drastic of a change making wet food for the dogs. One of my dogs devoured the new wet food, one seems to need a bit more coxing.  I can’t say it a raw meat diet because I don’t trust  serving raw meat from a grocery store to my dogs. Not feeding my dogs canned dog food does cost a bit more but overall the dogs seem to be doing better and I know what food they are eating.

 


A New Year to get stuff done

December 29, 2018

It may sound a little crazy but I get a huge boost in December when I see the days start getting long even if it is only a few minutes per day.  Oh it can still be dark with clouds having day light last till 5:30 pm compared to 5:00 pm gets me think that Spring is coming and the daylight will last longer each day.

For today’s fire wood work I went back to cutting the Doug Fir for kindling rather than the mill ends.  I was a little surprised how easy it was to split the Doug fir compared to the mill ends even with the additional step of using the regular sized axe to split the logs into smaller chunks for the hatchet.  As of now I have both of my boxes full of kindling, so I should have about 3-4 weeks worth of worth stored on the front porch.  With the winter weather staying mild, I can start filling up the big 18 gallon buckets with kindling.

I seem to be getting a little better at staying ahead for this year’s wood heating but I’d really like to spend next year getting all the fire starters, kindling and fire wood I need for the winter season completed around July or August.  I did a little better in 2018 buying and stacking some of the firewood starting in April/May but I did not follow up getting the kindling cut or making the fire starters.  In 2019 I will do a better job  preparing now that I know what I  need for the winter heating season.

I have to recommend getting a garden cart/wagon for anyone that gardens or moves thing like firewood around your property.  Sure you can carry arm loads of  fire wood and make many trips daily or you could load up the wagon and make only a couple of trips filling the porch wood rack once a week.  I prefer using the wagon to carrying armloads of fire wood.  I can fill the wagon, take a little break, then unload the wagon.  I do that a couple of times and my porch wood rack is full for about 4-5 days.  Plus wagons can also move garden stuff in spring and summer.  I prefer a wagon to a wheel barrow because I don’t have to lift to move the cart!

Time to start thinking about your spring and summer garden plans. I have to finish building my garden beds, add better fencing to keep one of my dogs from digging in the garden beds. I need to take out a couple of dead cherry trees and start preparing the foundation for a new greenhouse. Plus I’m not a big fan of cherries. I prefer apples, peaches, plums or apricots for fruit trees

Perhaps you have trees that need some work or need to be removed for safety.  Start saving up cash because having pro’s  do the work costs some money.  I’m big into DIY but sometimes it is best to pay the money  for pros because they do the work and they take the risk.  What I can do is minimize any risk to the pro’s or my self if I decide to take on a job.  I hope once all the trees are cleaned up an healthy I can use my basic tools to keep the trees and plants healthy.

For New Year’s dinner I’m going simple.  The local grocery store had some nice steaks and lobster tails on sale and I can grill them in under 15 minutes.  A salad, corn on the cob from fall and homemade bread and you have a great meal.  One thing nice about cooking steak and lobster is the cooking time is minimal, even if it sort of expensive to purchase.  New Year’s only happens once a year so it won’t break the budget.

I am moving into storing twenty dollar bills for “Oh Darn!” money if the power or the internet goes out.  Locally I’ve seem folks unable to pay for grocery shopping because Century Link (ISP/Phone provider) went off line. I had cash and paid easily without depending on my “smart phone” that I don’t own.  For cash on hand I’d recommend $20.00 or smaller bills.  If your savings gets a bit bulky convert some of the cash into silver or gold.  Just a FYI about digital money and smart phones.  They can be convenient but when the ISP goes down or a power outage happens cash is King.

 

 


Merry Christmas I hope you are having a great Holiday Season!

December 25, 2018

My Christmas was a huge success though it was small with just Mom and myself for the Christmas eve dinner.  It was a simple meal compared to what I do for Thanks giving.

I cooked up a small Prime Rib (5.5 pounds) on the rotisserie. I seasoned the Prime rib with salt, pepper, garlic combo spice and then added Worcestershire sauce as sort of a light marinade over night.  The Prime Rib ended up being one of the best I have cooked.  The veggies, broccoli and cauliflower  I roasted (25 minutes at 350 degrees F.)in the Toaster oven with a little butter and Salad Supreme spice. For potatoes I went simple with pan fried hash browns rather than a baked/ mashed potatoes and gravy.  Last but not least was a homemade loaf of the artisan bread.  Mom brought a couple of veggie/meat trays for snacking and for dessert some pumpkin pie  and banana bread.

While I like to cook and bake, having a sort of potluck/buffet makes for a relaxed holiday meal for everyone including the primary cook!   Of course Mom and I are sort of old school, so we munched and talked in the kitchen while everything cooked. Mom had a couple of glasses of the wine I picked up in the mini-bottle packs that worked out great.  A regular sized bottle would have been to much wine and would have gone to waste since I’m not much of a wine drinker.  I’m going to pick up a few more of those little wine 4 packs of different types of wine to use in my cooking recipes.  The bottles are the perfect size for recipes without having to open a regular size bottle of wine and having half a bottle or more go to waste.

Speaking of cooking, Mom got me an awesome gift!  It is a new reprint of the 1950’s version of the Betty Crocker’s cookbook in binder form. I believe this is one of the best beginner’s cookbook a person can buy.  Some of the later versions include Meal planning, shopping, canning and other additional information.  Two of the best features of this cookbook is that the binder folds flat so the recipe page you are working with won’t slam shut on a page, like with many recipe books and because it is a binder you can add more recipes to this book.  I like using the internet to find new recipes and with this Binder I can print a copy of a recipe and just add it to the binder as a hard copy I can use in the kitchen.  Better Homes and Garden also has a good beginners cook book in binder form and the 1970’s era book binder rings match the Betty Crocker binder rings position.   To get these cook books cheap, for $1.00-$3.00 look at second hand stores, yard and bazaar sales. These books will teach you the basics of preparing food from scratch but also give you the information on how to upgrade your cooking level once you know the basics and built up your confidence.

Now for the gifts I gave Mom….  Yes, I bought her a 1.25 pound hatchet for splitting kindling.  I have to split kindling for myself and I like giving Mom some of that for many reasons but most of all it’s about paying her a little back for all the help she has given me.  The hatchet is for her so she can cut some kindling if I’m down physically and can’t cut enough kindling for the both of us. Mom does have some local people that have offered to help her all they need is for tools to be available to do the job.  I also gave Mom a couple of gift cards to the local farm store she shops at regularly.  So she can buy gloves or feed or even a dog or cat toy for her pets without spending any cash out of limited budget.

Overall it was a small but very redneck Christmas and I really enjoyed it. It is not often I can get my Mom a gift she needs, wants and enjoys. Oh I also got her a miniature rose plant for her yard this Spring.

I’m a hearing a lot more Merry Christmas greetings this year but the Xmas lighting on my block seems to be minimal at best.  I think I did the most overall for stringing lights and I’m hampered because of the vinyl siding.  Well if we ever have a Block competition for xmas lighting next year I have a good start on the competition.

Over all on the weather for my area it has been relatively warm this winter and not very wet.  This seems to align with a mild El Nino and the Farmers Almanac.  Now following the weather I experienced 30 + years ago we should have a “cold snap” after the 1st of the year but I don’t think we will see below 0 temps for long or a lot of snow in the valley. Buying a snow blower and stocking up a 100 pound + extra salt and sand has been the best investment I have ever made for a mild winter.  I think the real kicker was getting the Dragon propane torch to melt the ice and snow.  It always seems when I prepare for some disaster it does not happen for a few years. I don’t mind as it is cheap insurance and if the disaster hits I’m prepared.

 


A Blustery Day, puttering around to recover stamina

December 17, 2018

Yep, I over did it on the 13th getting the Xmas lights up and mowing up the leaves on the front lawn.  It did not help that SW Idaho had a wind storm of 30 MPH+ wind come through on Friday.  I know some of you live in places that sort of wind is considered  “breezy” but around my place it really seemed to wear me out.  Funny it wasn’t that cold but the wind would chill you down and seemed to cut right through me. All I had to do on the blustery day is make a “wood run” with my garden wagon to top off the porch woodpile.

Friday it was very calm with almost no wind to speak of and warm (40 degrees F.) so I could remove just a bit of ice,  clean out all the bird baths and add fresh water.  It seems the little birds enjoy having the fresh water in the bird baths almost as much as the bird feeders.  Fresh, unfrozen water in winter is probably more rare than finding food in winter. I have plenty of bushes and trees for the birds to find safe places from predators along with a good food supply.  I’m not saying a cat or a hawk could not take a small bird but the predator would have to work at it in spite of the provided food and water supply.  My dogs think chasing off any cats their duty.

Mom told me once the birds found a consistent feed source the birds would let all all of their bird friends know and when you add in a bird bath of fresh unfrozen water.  You will get a flock of the little birds to hang around.  I have a dove that stops by for a snack and drink of water again, though I doubt I’ll see different types of birds until this place becomes a known food spot during migrations or a safe place for the birds that don’t migrate.  Perhaps in the Spring I can add a few bird houses to give a migration stop off point.  Sort of an B&B for birds.

I’m trying to do the homemade dog food mix on the weekend.  I know many people avoid mixing up dog food as doggies gut get used to a type of food but I think I need to introduce more homemade dog food and give the dogs a few choices on what to eat.   One thing I have noticed is a higher protein, fat and veggie and lower grain mixture gets eaten quickly compared to a higher carb mix.  The veggies I add (broccoli, peas &carrots, corn) don’t seem to affect the dogs as far as eating the food.

Onto the wood stove update and kindling.  It looks like my little kindling box of wood will last about 7-10 days using the “egg crate” fire starter.  My kindling box is a small wood lat wood crate you can buy at most craft stores. My crate is much smaller than the wood crate Wranglestar uses for 2 weeks of kindling.  The wood stove is basically my only source of heat I use in late fall, winter and early spring.  I don’t have a lot of long burning hardwoods this year, so I depend on the the new windows and  insulation in my house to hold heat and keep everything warm and above freezing.  This is working great.  I have not only kept up with my fire starting needs but have kept Mom supplied at her house while she was recovering from a fall/injury.  One thing that is new for me is letting the wood stove go out during the day, once the house is warm.  Having the fire starters and kindling makes starting a fire so fast and easy I don’t mind starting a fire a couple times a day.

 


Feeling good today

December 11, 2018

I had a very good day today!  I got an 18 gallon bucket full of kindling today. I feel it was via improving stamina and working more efficiently.  I’m getting a lot better at picking straight grain chunks of wood for my kindling.  The axe is great for splitting wood into smaller chunks and then using the hatchet to make the actual kindling.  I’m trying to be conservative in my estimate on how much kindling I need to stock up on but I’m feeling very positive about how much kindling I have cut and how long it will last this winter.

Mom says she has plenty of kindling and fire starters. I have found that using a page of news print under the egg carton fire starter as the 1st layer of fire starter and then add kindling, I can start a fire in less than two minutes.  Overall I’m very happy that I could help out Mom with giving her a little kindling and fire starters.  I’m not sure how long the wood in my racks will last during winter and I want to buy  more wood because I want to over prepare for heating over winter.

I still think a Depression/inflation is coming and we have been given a long time to prepare.  That long time to prepare was what I wished for myself.  Trust me I thought the crash would come in 2011 but the power of mass delusion kept the stock market /globalism working.

I can do few jobs around the house but I can’t go and cut wood in the forest.  Hell I’m doing good if I can cut kindling for 30-45 minutes in a day.  How much can people do to prep when they work 40 + per week and try growing a garden or stacking wood just to stay warm or preserve food?  No, I don’t want US government help. I just want everyone to have the option of growing a garden or putting up a greenhouse if they want to grow a few veggies.